Early poll count shows Afghan opposition leader top
By Sayed Salahuddin September 25, 2005
KABUL (Reuters) - With about a fifth of votes counted nationwide in Afghanistan's legislative elections, opposition leader Yunus Qanuni headed the field on Sunday in a race for one of 33 national assembly seats in the capital Kabul.
A preliminary count showed Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq, a factional leader and a close Qanuni ally, second, and Ramazan Bashardost, a French-educated technocrat who quit the cabinet last year complaining of a failure to deal with corruption, third.
All three served as ministers in the government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, who easily won last October's presidential elections, but they have since become his opponents.
While the election commission said only about 20 percent of the vote had been counted, the figures so far in Kabul could still be indicative since votes from various parts of the city are supposed to be mixed together before being counted.
While all candidates in the elections stood as independents rather than as party representatives, Qanuni, runner up in the presidential elections, heads a loose bloc of parties opposed to Karzai called the Understanding Front.
Qanuni he has predicted the Understanding Front will win half the seats in the 249-seat national assembly.
A senior Northern Alliance leader who helped U.S.-led forces topple the Taliban in 2001, Qanuni served as interior and education minister under Karzai. He has warned that his parliamentary bloc might not approve all of Karzai's cabinet.
Analysts expect the parliament to be conservative, fragmented and locally focused and possibly more on a hindrance than a help to Karzai's attempts to strengthen central rule.
About 6.8 million of Afghanistan's more than 12 million registered voters cast ballots on Sept. 18 for national assembly candidates and councils in 34 provinces.
The turnout was significantly lower than in the presidential vote, with analysts blaming the presence of warlords on the ballot and disappointment at the slow post-war reconstruction.
Kabul's turnout was only about 36 percent.
Provisional results are expected by the first week of October and final, official results by Oct. 22.
Pakistan Says Bin Laden Is Isolated
By SADAQAT JAN Associated Press / September 25, 2005
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Osama bin Laden is hiding out with a small core of mainly Arab supporters, and the al-Qaida leader now only sends messages by courier because his communications network has been destroyed, senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials said Sunday.
There have been no fresh clues to bin Laden's whereabouts, but he generally is believed to be in the border region between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
"In our opinion, the reports on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden are more speculative stories rather than based on accurate intelligence," said Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, chief spokesman for Pakistan's army.
Pakistan has deployed some 80,000 troops to its rugged border regions running along Afghanistan, fighting intense battles with al-Qaida-linked militants.
CBS' "60 Minutes" will report Sunday that Pakistani officials believe bin Laden may be hiding in Afghanistan, where he is protected by a very small number of people to keep a low profile.
A Pakistani intelligence official in the northwestern city of Peshawar, near the Afghan border, said bin Laden probably is accompanied by "dozens" of mainly Arab supporters. He spoke on condition of anonymity, citing the secretive nature of his job.
Security officials in Pakistan — Washington's front-line Muslim ally in the war on terrorism — also believe bin Laden's communications network has been destroyed.
"For a very long time there are no intercepts about Osama bin Laden giving instructions to his regional commanders, either through radio, telephone, satellite phone or the Internet," a senior security official said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the subject.
"If he is unable to give orders physically or otherwise, it clearly indicates that his communication has been severed."
In the past, bin Laden would be surrounded by up to 500 people, the Peshawar-based intelligence official said, adding that his communications network has been reduced to human couriers, where a message "changes several hands" between its point of origin and final destination.
"This is a very slow and exposed way of communicating," the official said.
Security forces seized a letter from bin Laden during a raid in Rawalpindi in 2003 in which al-Qaida's then-No. 3 leader Khalid Shaikh Mohammed — a suspected planner of the Sept. 11 attacks — was captured. Mohammed is believed to have received the letter via the courier network, the official said.
Pakistani officials say more than 700 al-Qaida suspects, including senior figures like Mohammed, have been arrested.
Officials also say that information gleaned from al-Qaida has led to the arrests of militants outside Pakistan and helped prevent terrorist attacks abroad.
"The arrest of Naeem Noor Khan led to the arrest of a big gang ... ahead of the British elections," Sultan said, claiming that the people arrested in Britain planned to attack Heathrow Airport.
Last year, intelligence agents arrested Muhammad Naeem Noor Khan, 25, an alleged Pakistani computer expert for al-Qaida. A reported tip-off from Khan led to the arrest of Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani, a Tanzanian on the FBI's most-wanted list for his alleged role in the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed more than 200 people.
There were media reports that Mohammed Sidique Khan — one of the suspected bombers in the deadly July 7 explosions in London — may have had ties with members of an alleged terrorist cell that matched information from Noor Khan's computer.
Associated Press reporter Riaz Khan in Peshawar contributed to this report.
Catch Bin Laden 'somewhere else'
Monday, 26 September 2005, 12:35 GMT 13:35 UK BBC News
President Pervez Musharraf has said he would prefer Osama Bin Laden captured outside Pakistan - and by someone else.
He told Time magazine he did not know where the al-Qaeda leader was, but thought the "safest" hiding place for him was on the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Gen Musharraf did not say why he wanted Bin Laden caught outside Pakistan.
But many observers expect a backlash from Pakistanis opposed to the US-led "war on terror" if the world's most wanted man is arrested in Pakistan.
President Musharraf has played a pivotal role in the "war on terror" ever since the 11 September, 2001 attacks on the US, for which al-Qaeda is blamed.
Hundreds of alleged al-Qaeda members have been arrested in Pakistan, among them a number of key suspects.
Bin Laden has evaded capture ever since US-led forces invaded Afghanistan and toppled the Taleban, who had provided al-Qaeda sanctuary.
Many observers believe he is somewhere in the rugged no-man's land between Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Asked if Bin Laden would ever be caught, President Musharraf told Time he hoped so.
But he added: "One would prefer that he's captured somewhere outside Pakistan. By some other people."
As to the whereabouts of the world's most wanted man - "We don't know anything at the moment," President Musharraf said.
"The reality is that about a year ago, we had some identification of a rough area where he was, through technical means, but then we lost him. That is how intelligence works."
He said he thought the "safest" place for Bin Laden to hide was on the border with Afghanistan.
"This line we are not including in each other's areas, so therefore you can easily switch sides."
'High and dry'
President Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, became a close ally of the US after the 11 September attacks.
Many Pakistanis have been angered by his decision to side with the US and his attempts to prevent a radicalisation of Muslim groups at home.
The president said Pakistan had been left "high and dry" after the Soviet pull-out from Afghanistan in 1989.
"The United States then started to have a strategic relationship with India, which was in the enemy camp."
Asked if he lost sleep over anything, he said "nothing" - not even after two attempts on his life in 2003.
"If I was the kind who took to tension, I would be dead by now.
"I've fought wars. I've attacked positions in a hail of fire. My men have died in my arms. So maybe I've become thick skinned."
US left Pakistan high and dry after Soviet war: Musharraf
Daily Times Monitor Monday, September 26, 2005
LAHORE: President Pervez Musharraf has said the US left Pakistan “high and dry” after the war in Afghanistan against the former Soviet Union, and later entered into a strategic partnership with India, the website Rediff.com reported on Sunday.
Quoting an interview in the upcoming issue of Time magazine, Rediff said Musharraf admitted that the common man in Pakistan had a bad opinion of the US. ‘“We were a strategic ally of the US and fought a war in Afghanistan for 10 years. Then, we got left high and dry. What would the man on the street think,”’ Rediff reported Musharraf as saying.
However, the majority of Pakistanis supported his policies, as they considered them beneficial for the country, he maintained. In the same interview, the Hindustan Times newspaper reported, Musharraf said he would like Al Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden captured outside his country and by “some other people”. Denying knowledge of Bin Laden’s whereabouts, Musharraf said he thought the safest place for Bin Laden to hide would be “on the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan”.
Afghanistan not ready for legal opium - minister
By David Brunnstrom
KABUL, Sept 25 (Reuters) - Afghanistan, the world's biggest producer of illicit opium and heroin, is not ready to adopt a controversial proposal to use its opium to help ease a global shortage of painkillers, its counter-narcotics minister says.
The Senlis Council, a Paris-based non-governmental organisation, has suggested licensed Afghan opium production could be used to produce morphine and codeine and is to a launch a feasibility study on the proposal in Kabul on Monday.
Speaking to Reuters on Sunday, Counter-Narcotics Minister Habibullah Qaderi said he was happy for Senlis to do studies, but it was too early to consider such a proposal when Afghanistan was still struggling to cut massive illegal production.
"As far as the licensing at this moment is concerned, I am saying no," he said. "I'm not in favour because it jeopardises the whole of our effort ... There would be anarchy in this country now. It would create a lot of problems."
Qaderi said internationally backed efforts to control drug production had led to a 21 percent reduction in the area under opium cultivation, but there was still a long way to go.
The area sown with opium poppies was 103,000 hectares (255,000 acres) this year compared with 131,000 hectares (325,000 acres) last year.
Afghanistan is the world's main source of opium and its refined form, heroin, producing 87 percent of global supply.
Qaderi questioned the timing of the Senlis report.
"We don't want to confuse the Afghan people, because the Afghan people would be confused, because while the government on the one hand wants to control and stop cultivation, we are talking about licensing.
"I think it's too early to talk about licensing."
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has also rejected the Senlis Council proposal, saying it risked creating confusion among farmers and raising false expectations.
Senlis has estimated the worldwide shortage of morphine and codeine at about 10,000 tonnes of opium equivalent a year, while Afghanistan produces roughly 4,000 tonnes of opium a year.
However, the UNODC, while conceding there is a shortage of narcotics for medical purposes, says lawful production of opiates worldwide had considerably exceeded global consumption in the past years and could be increased should demand increase.
The U.N. body argues that licit production of opium would send the wrong message to farmers in Afghanistan, would be impossible to control, and would not offer a viable economic alternative.
The United Nations has warned that the country risks becoming a "narco-state" and the multi-billion dollar drugs economy is seen as the biggest threat to its long-term stability and U.S.-led nation-building efforts.
The UNODC says the opium cultivation area fell this year largely due to government efforts to persuade farmers to stop, including a threat to destroy fields, and low prices.
However, it says good weather boosted productivity of fields still planted with opium and total output of about 4,100 tonnes is down only 2.4 percent over last year.
Qaderi said Afghanistan needed to concentrate on improving rural infrastructure to provide farmers with alternative livelihoods and said a lot would depend on a continuation of international assistance to the anti-narcotics effort.
With the new planting season about to start, the minister said he was hopeful for a further fall in the area under cultivation after religious leaders in the key growing province of Kandahar vowed to support the government's campaign.
"I am hopeful we will have a further reduction," he said. "It can be the same percentage, hopefully, maybe more."
Border fencing idea a hogwash, says Babar
ISLAMABAD, September 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Describing suggestions regarding border fencing and renewal of the Durand Line agreement with Afghanistan as a hogwash, Pakistan's former interior minister Naseerullah Khan Babar feared such statements would further vitiate the already tense relations between the two neighbouring countries.
"The fencing proposal is impracticable and unacceptable to thousands of tribals living on both sides of the 2,400-kilometre porous Pak-Afghan border." Babar said.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan New, Naseerullah Babar said the border fencing would restrict free movement of the Shinwari, Momand, Afridi, Bangash, Kakar, Achakzai, Baloch and Wazir tribes and hence they would not accept it.
Lashing out at Pakistani authorities for their lack of knowledge about Durand Line agreement, he said it was renewed by the then governments of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan in 1976. At that time, both sides agreed to maintain the status quo for the time being.
He said such statements would further sour relations between the two governments as well as prompt a backlash from people who would be directly affected by such a step.
Deliberating on the sharp rise and fall of Taliban in Afghanistan, the former interior minister said Afghans were fed up with years of war and civil strife. They wanted peace and the student militia ensured stability, he added.
As far as their fall is concerned, it was because of their narrow-mindedness, he observed, adding Taliban refrained from sharing power with other ethnic groups like Tajiks, Uzbeks and Hazaras and no one came to their rescue in difficult times.
Regarding their origin, Babar de-linked himself from the extremist militia arguing they were the product of widespread lawlessness, injustices and highhandedness of warlords and commanders.
Ruling out his role in creation of Taliban, Babar said he had only advised the Hizb-i-Islami and other outfits not to resist them. "It was because we wanted them to restore peace to the war-devastated country."
About the clout he enjoyed in Afghanistan during the rule of Taliban, Babar said it was because his government used to give them fruitful advice on promotion of trade, diplomatic and military ties with the neighbouring countries.
Asked about the strained ties between his government and former Afghan president Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani, Babar said their relationship worsened due to the failed policies of General Ziaul Haq.
He also termed the late general responsible for an extended internecine bickering among various Afghan groups as he did not want the mujahidin leaders to unite on a single platform.
He said Pakistan always tried to hold talks with all leaders and governments in Afghanistan for improved relations between the two countries. He said last effort was made when they invited Dr Najeeb for talks to Pakistan but later the negotiations were held in Geneva.
Asked about the US invasion of Afghanistan, Babar described it an effort on part of the world sole super power to establish its hegemony in the region. The United States also wanted the Taliban to sign the gas pipeline agreement with Unocol instead of Bridas, he pointed out. The 2001 US invasion, he said, was a war to realise its economic objectives which was still going on.
Asked about the long-term presence of the US-led coalition in Afghanistan, the former interior minister said it was impossible as the situation might further worsen after the parliamentary elections.
Babar expressed dissatisfaction over the existing relations between the two neighbours and said Afghanistan enjoyed closer ties with India than Pakistan. He added it was due to the failed Afghan policy of Pakistani government.
He rejected involvement of religious parties in fanning militancy in Afghanistan. When reminded of President Musharraf's statement in this regard, Babar said the general and his advisors were military personnel whose statements should not be taken seriously.
To a question about the recent parliamentary elections, he expressed his dismay, saying the process was tantamount to the 1971 polls in Pakistan which split the country into two halves.
The election, he added, would bring no change in the country as more than half of the registered voters stayed away from polling.
In his message to Afghans, Babar said they should promote unity in their ranks to defend their country against all odds. The Afghans had kept their country united during the Russian invasion and now that all had been over, they should work together for the progress and stability of Afghanistan, he concluded.
Reported by Pakhtun Sahar and translated by Daud
U.S. Military: Afghan Rebel Tactics Change
By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - Heavy casualties inflicted by U.S.-led coalition forces have forced Afghan rebels to recruit younger fighters and change their tactics, but the insurgency is far from broken, a U.S. military spokesman said Monday.
Four years after U.S.-led forces drove the hard-line Taliban from power, insurgents are no longer able to carry out large-scale attacks and have resorted to payments and threats to bring younger men into a fighting force that is not centrally coordinated, Col. James Yonts said.
"What we are seeing is a change in tactics," Yonts said. "They no longer have that pool of resources that they can mount a serious offensive against us."
Instead, he said, small pockets of insurgents are resorting to roadside bombs, often targeting civilians, and harassing attacks on police posts.
"You see a hit-and-run approach instead of major combat operations," he told a news conference in the wake of Sept. 18 legislative elections that went off without major rebel attacks.
A rejuvenated Taliban insurgency has led to the deaths of more than 1,200 people in the last six months — many of them rebels killed in fighting with the 20,000-strong U.S.-led coalition force and the fledgling Afghan security forces.
"They have changed their normal operations and included a different kind of combat soldier," he said, adding that coalition forces are seeing fewer "hard-core" fighters. "We also do not see a lot of the seasoned, trained leadership as much as we had in the past."
Yonts said insurgents are recruiting fighters by paying them or threatening them or their families, as well as relying on militants who recently arrived from outside Afghanistan — through he would not say where they were coming from.
President Hamid Karzai has suggested militants come from Pakistan, which Islamabad vehemently denies.
"We are seeing a very young, inexperienced, lack of leadership type of force," he said. "There doesn't seem to be any overarching or underlying infrastructure between these elements that we're fighting here. It appears to be pockets of small numbers."
Yonts said coalition and Afghan forces "are winning this battle."
"Afghanistan is much more secure than it was two years ago, but there's still an enemy out there," he said. "The war is not over. They're still there and they're still armed, resourced, well-equipped, fed. So you've heard the term 'broken back' or 'on the ropes' — far from it. We don't see that at all."
U.S. Official Praises Afghan Elections
By STEVE GUTTERMAN, Associated Press Writer Sun Sep 25,12:29 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - The U.S. national security adviser on Sunday praised Afghanistan's legislative elections and said they sent neighboring countries a message that "democracy and freedom are possible today."
As officials began releasing partial preliminary results from the vote a week ago, Stephen Hadley urged winning and losing candidates to accept the outcome peacefully in a country still struggling to emerge from decades of bloodshed.
Standing beside the chairman of the U.N.-Afghan body that ran the country's first parliamentary elections since 1969, Hadley praised organizers for handling logistical and security challenges.
He called the poll "a tribute to the courage of the Afghan people" and a "remarkable success story."
When the outcome is final, "there will be a burden on the candidates — both those who won and those who lost — to accept the results peacefully and to show responsible behavior," Hadley said.
U.S. and other Western officials hope the elections will help Afghanistan move toward stability after decades of war. But there is concern that its legacy of violence could persist, deepening divisions that have worsened past conflicts.
More than 5,600 candidates contested 249 seats in the Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of Parliament, and 420 seats in provincial councils.
There has been some concern over a rule that says a winning candidate who dies is replaced by the next-highest vote-getter.
The voting was the last formal step on a path to democracy laid out after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, when the hardline Islamic group's leaders refused to hand over al-Qaida leader Osama bin laden after the Sept. 11 terror attacks.
Hadley was upbeat about the estimated turnout of 6.8 million, or about 55 percent — though it was a significant drop from the 70 percent for U.S.-backed Hamid Karzai's election as president last October.
Afghans "turned out in impressive numbers to vote," said Hadley, who later met with Karzai.
He said the election was "terribly important, not just for the future of Afghanistan, but also for the region as a whole. Because it says to every country in this region that democracy and freedom are possible today."
Afghanistan borders Pakistan, U.S. foe Iran and Central Asian countries with have authoritarian governments — including Uzbekistan, whose leadership has been at odds with Washington after a bloody government crackdown on protesters in May.
The U.N.-Afghan electoral board began releasing partial provisional results Sunday, and chief electoral officer Peter Erben said the count was nearly finished in some of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, but only about 10 percent complete in others. The board hopes to issue complete provisional results by Oct. 4 and certified results by Oct. 22, after a complaint period.
US military rejects Taliban's claim on shooting down chopper in Afghanistan
People's Daily - Sep 26 1:59 AM
The US military in Afghanistan on Monday termed the Taliban claim about the shooting down of army helicopter in southern Afghanistan as groundless and flatly rejected it.
"There is no evidence to prove the involvement of hostile fire in helicopter crash. We have no evidence to support the claim of Taliban," spokesman of the US army here James Yonts told reporters at a news conference.
A US army CH-47 Chinook helicopter crashed in Deh Chopan district of Zabul province Sunday morning killing all five on board.
Hours after the incident, Taliban's spokesman Mufti Abdul Latif Hakimi claimed from undisclosed location that militants loyal to the former fundamentalist regime shot down the chopper in Deh Chopan of Zabul province.
"Right now we cannot say that the crash took place because of hostile fire," the US army spokesman noted.
However, he added that an investigating team from the United States would arrive within a couple of days to probe into the cause of the crash.
Three US military helicopters have crashed since beginning this year.
Deh Chopan, a stronghold of Taliban in south Afghanistan has been the scene of increasing insurgency since last year and currently clash is going on between the US-backed Afghan troops and Taliban-linked militias there.
Four killed in Afghanistan bomb blast
Australian Broadcasting Corporation
Two civilians and two policemen were killed when a bomb ripped through their vehicle in restive south-west Afghanistan, a provincial official said.
The remote-controlled device in the insurgency-hit Helmand province was believed to have been planted by rebels allied to the ousted Taliban regime, provincial government spokesman Mohammad Wali said.
"Two of our police and two civilians travelling with them were killed," he said. "We believe it was the work of the Taliban."
Helmand, on the border with south-west Pakistan, is one of the areas hardest hit by a Taliban insurgency launched after the hardline group was toppled in a US-led invasion at the end of 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden.
The focus of the insurgency has been government targets and the US-led military coalition.
More than 1,300 people, many of them militants, have been killed in attacks since January.
The toppled militia threatened to disrupt Afghanistan's parliamentary elections held more than a week ago but the vote passed off without major violence.
The results of the parliamentary election, the first in more than three decades, are due late next month.
Afghanistan Holds Meeting to Review Its Progress
Monday September 26, 2:34 PM
PESHAWAR, Sept 26 Asia Pulse - A meeting on reviewing the progress made in Afghanistan under the Karzai-led administration in the wake of the historic Bonn Agreement will be held in NWFP's capital city on Monday.
The September 18 parliamentary elections to decide a 249-seat Wolesi Jirga (lower house) and 34 provincial councils in the strife-torn country marked the culmination of the accord signed in Germany after the Taliban regime's ouster in 2001.
Ahmad Saeedi, a senior official at the Afghan Consulate in Peshawar, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Sunday the meeting would confer on the headway achieved by the incumbent rulers and major reconstruction projects executed so far.
Saeedi said Afghanistan's deputy education minister Sadiq Patman, deputy water and power minister Eng. Mohammad Amin Munsef and senior officials of foreign and commerce ministries had been invited to the event being organised by the consulate.
Speakers would brief the participants on the rebuilding effort and the measures taken for the promotion of trade and agriculture in Afghanistan, said Saeedi, who added some of the invitees had already reached Peshawar while the rest would arrive tomorrow.
Confirming the meeting, a Peshawar-based official of the Foreign Office, Nadeem, told this news agency the Pakistan government had given the Afghan Consulate the go-ahead for arranging the session.
Training an Afghan Army, slowly
By Eric Schmitt The New York Times via The International Herald Tribune SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 25, 2005
JALALABAD, Afghanistan U.S. and international efforts to train Afghanistan's security forces began in 2002, about a year before a similar program for Iraqi soldiers and police officers. Yet the Afghan model seems to have lagged behind the troubled Iraqi program.
The reasons include having to rebuild the Afghan Army from scratch and differing priorities among the allies on developing a national Afghan police corps.
All this says much about the very different circumstances each program has confronted, as well as how U.S. trainers in both countries are trying to learn from one another's mistakes and successes, senior army commanders said.
Training Iraqi security forces to replace U.S. troops is the linchpin for the Bush administration's Iraq exit strategy.
Shoring up Afghanistan's fledgling security forces to prepare them to conduct counterinsurgency operations on their own has far-reaching implications for security here, too, particularly in many provinces and villages that still face violence from Taliban fighters.
By September, the Afghan Army had grown to about 26,000 troops and the Afghan police force to more than 50,000. In contrast, the Iraqi Army and special police forces have 87,300 troops, and the Iraqi police force has about 104,300 officers.
Lieutenant General Karl Eikenberry, the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, defended the approach that U.S. and allied forces have used to develop the Afghan forces. He said trainers have had to overcome the lack of a professional army for the past 13 years, a 20 percent literacy rate among recruits, no barracks or modern equipment with which to start, and other hurdles.
"When you're trying to put the pieces back together again, you need a lot of time and a lot of patience," Eikenberry said, noting that Afghan forces now operate in all regions of the country.
U.S. commanders with experience in both Afghanistan and Iraq note that Iraq has a much higher literacy rate, more of a tradition of professional soldiering and vastly better infrastructure.
On the other hand, they say, the Afghan effort is carried out in a much less lethal environment and with people who are grateful for whatever aid they receive.
But senior U.S. officers acknowledged in recent interviews that the development of both the army and national police forces had stumbled at times.
Worries about persistent problems with logistics and other support for Afghan Army units in the field recently prompted Eikenberry to slow the creation of new battalions, from about two a month to one.
"One of the main vulnerabilities of the Afghan Army is their logistics system," said Major General Jason Kamiya, the U.S. commander of daily tactical operations here. Other U.S. advisers say the Afghans are making slow but steady progress.
"They are fearless on the soldiering side, and they learn very quickly," said Colonel Ron Welch, a National Guard officer who is the senior U.S. adviser to the Afghans in this region.
But Welch, a 27-year army veteran, said it would be a while before the Afghan forces could operate without U.S. assistance.
"They don't have the ability to do close-air support, artillery support or medevac flights," he said, referring to medical evacuation.
A move to set up what U.S. advisers call "partnering" between Afghan and U.S. units to encourage on-the-job training - a strategy commanders in Iraq have employed for two years - is just now starting.
The first joint operation between a U.S. battalion and an Afghan one took place in early September in the northeastern province of Konar.
"This question of partnering is something we've now aggressively adopted," Eikenberry said, "but perhaps we could have moved on that piece a little bit earlier."
But another program to have U.S. military trainers live with and work alongside Afghan soldiers is more developed here than a similar one in Iraq.
About 650 U.S. military advisers now live and train with Afghan units. About three times that number of advisers are in Iraqi units, but the program did not become widespread in Iraq until it was recommended earlier this year to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Of greater concern to the Americans are the police forces, which suffer shortages of vehicles, radios and even basic weapons. Until early September, many police recruits were training with wooden rifles.
"It's more or less a hollow force," said Major General John Brennan, who oversees the police development effort.
He said that the United States would spend $860 million this year to train and equip the police but that it would not be until late 2009 that the force was fully trained and outfitted.
Overall, the United States has spent more than $2.5 billion in the past two years on training, equipping and paying Afghan security forces.
5 die in U.S. helicopter crash
A U.S. Chinook helicopter crashed Sunday in the remote mountains of southern Afghanistan, killing all five crew members, the U.S. military said. It did not appear to have been shot down, The Associated Press reported.
The CH-47 helicopter was supporting military operations when it went down in southern Zabul Province, a military statement said.
"There is no indication at this time that this is a result of hostile fire," a U.S. military spokesman, Lieutenant Colonel Jerry O'Hara, said.
Gulab Shah, a spokesman for Zabul's governor, said there had been no fighting in the area at the time of the crash.
Afghan president meets Australian DM
SYDNEY, September 26 (Itar-Tass) - Issues of rendering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan, including deployment of additional units of the Australian military contingent, were discussed during a meeting between Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Australian Minister for Defence Robert Hill who is staying in Afghanistan at the invitation of the government of this country, a statement of the Australian Foreign Ministry distributed here on Monday says.
The statement notes that Kabul highly assesses Australia’s contribution in combating international terrorism, as well as building democratic society in Afghanistan.
During the meeting, Robert Hill, on his part, stressed that he sees considerable progress in the reconstruction of Afghanistan which becomes a freer and more independent state. He also noted that by the end of this year the Australian government will take a decision on sending an additional detachment of 200 people to Afghanistan which will be directly engaged in restoring the infrastructure of the country’s southern regions.
Arrested Afghan sent to Peshawar
Staff Report Monday, September 26, 2005 Daily Times
PESHAWAR: An Afghan national arrested for alleged links to Taliban has been transferred from Bannu to Peshawar for interrogation.
Hamidullah, 35, was picked up by security agencies from his home in Dhirmakhel, a village on the outskirts of Bannu, late on Friday night. “He is wanted by the agencies for his links with Taliban,” an intelligence official on Sunday told Daily Times on condition of anonymity.
Afghanistan zoo's confines slightly friendlier
BY KIM BARKER Mon, Sep. 26, 2005 Chicago Tribune
KABUL, Afghanistan - (KRT) - The man picked up a rock and threw it at the monkey cage in the zoo. "Stand aside," he yelled, before grabbing four more stones and chucking them at the monkeys.
Nearby, workers set up a new climbing frame on the monkey island and put up higher fences to protect the animals. But visitors crowded into the one spot that had not yet been fenced and tossed rocks and garbage inside.
"Most people do that," said Bahruddin, 21, a fortuneteller who like many Afghans uses only one name. "I throw stones because I want to have fun."
These are the two faces of the Kabul Zoo, made famous by the plight of its one-eyed lion and other animals after the fall of the Taliban. Since then there have been many positive changes - new animals, new fences, more veterinary help, more workers and less filth. The two new lions look healthy. The birds now have perches to sit on instead of concrete floors.
A sign reads: "Dear citizens. Animals are the creation of God. While you're watching, do not bother them."
But problems remain. People throw rocks, cigarettes and trash, primarily at the monkeys and bears. In the past year, six pigs have died. A bear died after swallowing plastic bags thrown into its cage. A gazelle died. The bear's mate broke out of her cage in July.
In many ways, the Kabul Zoo is a microcosm of all that has happened in Afghanistan since the Taliban fled in late 2001. The world's attention has turned elsewhere. Violence still is ingrained in people. Large amounts of money have been donated, and large amounts have been spent. But change is slow.
"If we're serious about this place, we've got to be in for the long haul," said veterinarian David Sherman, the country program director for the relief agency Dutch Committee for Afghanistan, who also has helped set up veterinary services at the zoo. "Things are not going to change overnight."
The zoo had more than 700 animals 20 years ago, but that number dwindled during the country's wars. Fighters killed the two tigers for their pelts. They made kabobs out of a flamingo and a crane. One day they wanted to see how many bullets it would take to kill the elephant. The answer: 40.
People stole the wooden fences from the zebra enclosure to feed fires. The zoo museum and restaurant were rocketed, along with other buildings. Animals died of starvation. Marjan the lion was largely blinded in a grenade attack.
By the time the Taliban fled, all that remained were a few vultures, owls, wolves, a bear and Marjan. The bear and Marjan later died.
The North Carolina Zoo spearheaded international help for the Kabul Zoo, collecting about $400,000 from 6,000 donors, mainly in the United States, said David Jones, director of the zoo in Asheboro, N.C.
The London Zoo and other animal-welfare groups sent experts to Kabul. Some said the zoo had received more than enough money for reconstruction.
But it was not so. A major complication was the decision of the Chinese government in 2002 to donate animals against the wishes of the international zoo community. The Afghans agreed, though, and took two lions, two bears, two pigs, two deer and one wolf. The pigs mated, giving birth to five more.
The first Chinese bear died a year ago, after swallowing a plastic bag filled with banana peels and a man's shoe heel, said Abdullatif Shahnouri, the deputy zoo director.
In January, three of the Chinese pigs suddenly died. A fourth died three weeks later, and Sherman sent samples to the U.S. Army that tested positive for rabies. Experts believe stray dogs bit the pigs. The Army later provided rabies vaccines for all the zoo animals.
Other animals died, including a gazelle that Sherman initially treated successfully. The gazelle most likely suffered from a systemic infection, but Kabul has no equipment to make such a diagnosis. It does not even have scales to weigh the animals, let alone modern medicines.
In April, South African zoologist Brendan Whittington-Jones arrived in Kabul as a contractor for the North Carolina Zoo. "This was kind of like the last roll of the dice to see if we could get something going," he said.
His first reaction: "Oh my God." He was amazed at how dirty the zoo was, and at how busy it was - up to 5,000 people visit on Fridays, the weekend holiday here.
Since then, the zoo has become cleaner, fences have been set up and painted and some animals have nicer cages. But in July, the second Chinese bear broke out of her cage and killed two of the three remaining Chinese pigs.
Whittington-Jones, out of the country at the time, said this episode actually showed the zoo had improved; zookeepers surrounded the bear with torches and forced it back into a cage.
"I would've thought that the bear would have just got shot," he said.
Only $50,000 remains from the money from North Carolina.
Experts agree that $50,000 is not enough to fix everything at the zoo. Much more needs to be done. And some zoo officials are talking about expanding and even getting more animals, from countries such as Russia. It's not clear where more money will come from.
But still, the zoo is one of few places in Kabul where people go for fun. On a recent afternoon, a family laid out a picnic on a blanket near the lovebirds. Three sisters ran through the zoo, with smiles on their faces and no head scarves. A 6-year-old boy saw a lion for the first time.
"It's gotten so much better here," said Safiullah, 30, a baker who visits weekly. "And really, we don't have any place else to go."
SAARC nations discussing making Afghanistan a member
New Delhi, Sept. 26 (PTI): SAARC countries have been discussing taking on board Afghanistan in the seven-member regional grouping.
"We have been talking to each other about the possibility of Afghanistan joining as a new member," Foreign Secretary Shyam Saran, who returned from the US last night, told reporters here today.
This figured during the meeting of SAARC Foreign Ministers on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly. All the Ministers agreed that SAARC meet in Dhaka in November would be a "landmark" summit.
He said it was agreed that there should be a "substantive" agenda for this summit. "Our effort should be to move SAARC from a stage of declaratory statements to a stage of actually doing some collaborative work," he said.
The Minister had an exchange of views on the setting up of the Poverty Alleviation Fund as also on specific proposals dealing with disaster management in the light of the tsunami that affected several SAARC nations.
Afghanistan's $10 billion debt yet to be settled -- Russian minister
10:15 | 26/ 09/ 2005
WASHINGTON, September 26 (RIA Novosti, Alexei Berezin) - Russian Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin has said that a decision will still have to be made on restructuring and partially writing off Afghanistan's $10 billion debt to Russia.
The minister, who was in the U.S. capital Sunday to attend a session of the International Monetary and Financial Committee at an annual meeting of the World Bank and International Monetary Fund boards of governors, said: "We have been holding difficult discussions on a partial debt write-off. A solution has not yet been found."
Kudrin said after a meeting with his Afghan counterpart that Afghanistan's Soviet-era debt to Russia was non-performing. When asked whether Afghanistan was able to pay debt, he said: "This possibility is being discussed."
Kudrin also met with finance ministers from Angola, India, Moldova, and Britain during the session.
On Monday, Kudrin is scheduled to meet with his Iranian counterpart. The minister refused to reveal topics to be discussed, adding that the meeting had been initiated by Iran, and Russia had no financial problems with the country.
Afghanistan discussed between Annan & Rice
Monday, 26 September 2005, 7:55 pm Press Release: United Nations
Afghanistan discussed in meeting between Annan and US Secretary of State
United Nations Secretary-General Kofi Annan said United States Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and he touched on many issues, including developments in Afghanistan, at their meeting in Washington today.
“We talked about Iran, Iraq, Afghanistan, now that they've had successful elections, which I'm very pleased the UN team helped with and helped to organize; what happens for the longer term, what do we do, as an international community, to help the new Afghan Government develop its economy.” he told journalists after the meeting. They also reviewed UN reform, peacekeeping operations in Africa and the situation in Haiti, where the UN also has a peacekeeping mission, he said.
In answer to another question, Mr. Annan said he hoped the World Summit’s outcome document last week would persuade members of the US Congress to drop a dues provision introduced by House International Relations Committee Chairman Henry Hyde, a Republican from Illinois. Approved in the House of Representatives, it said that if the UN failed to adopt 39 reforms within two years, half of the US dues would be withheld. The annual US payment is about one-quarter of the UN’s annual operating funds.
The outcome document “shows determination and seriousness on the part of Member States to move ahead with reform across the board and I think we should all work together to press on and reform the Organization. And, quite honestly, we need to be careful not to take any initiatives that will stall the reform – any initiative that will get a negative reaction from all the Member States,” Mr. Annan said.
Treaty on basis for cooperation between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan submitted to Majilis passage
ASTANA. September 26. KAZINFORM /Zhiger Baitelesov/ - The main aim of the Treaty on basis for mutual relations and cooperation between Kazakhstan and Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan is to provide for preservation of security and stability in Afghanistan. Majilis Bureau fell into line with the Committee for Foreign Affairs, Defense and Security concerning the introduction of the Draft Law for ratification of this document to the Chamber’s plenary session on September 28.
Taking into account the fact, the collaboration in the framework of the international organizations provides for the consolidation of regional and international security, the Treaty envisages the cooperation under United Nations Organization, Organization of the Islamic Conference, Organization for Economic Co-operation, Conference on Interaction and Confidence-building Measures in Asia.
The Treaty states mutual concernment in the development and extension of trade and economic collaboration. The sides intend to create all favorable conditions for this purpose in accordance with the national legislation and the international treaties’ provisions in which they participate.
They agreed to determine the priority projects, directed to the establishment of contacts and trade and economic cooperation between business circles of Kazakhstan and Afghanistan.
The Treaty was delivered April 15, 2004 in Astana during official visit of the President of Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai to Kazakhstan.
Passport Department's inertia angers Afghans
KABUL, September 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): About a hundred people protested in front of the Passport Department on Monday, resenting what they called an inordinate delay in issuance of the travel documents they had applied for two months ago.
But the officials concerned, responding to the allegation, explained they would soon receive fresh passport copies, whose shortage had caused the delay. Now that the fresh copies have arrived, they say, issuance of the passports will start in a week.
One protestor, Najeebullah Saeedi, told Pajhwok Afghan News: "I have visited the office at least 50 times to obtain my passport, but in vain. Why dont the officials take serious steps to resolve our problems? It's strange our democratic government too is unable to address major public concerns."
The protestors also slammed the officials' rude behaviour. Mohammad Alam Amini said a large number of people, coming here from different provinces, had to spend a lot of money on their stay in the capital city in the elusive hope of getting their passports.
He added the authorities concerned, unmoved by the plight of applicants, had no qualms about breaching their promises and keeping the people waiting. Some alleged passports sold for 15,000-20,000 afghanis as recently as two months ago, but the officials rejected the charge as groundless.
They angry Afghans warned they would stage a protest before the presidential palace if their demands were not met.
The government had inked an agreement with India on the provision of 3,000 passport copies, officials said. Finance Ministry spokesman Aziz Shams said the new passports had reached Kabul and the interior ministry would collect them shortly after meeting the requisite formalities.
Pak-Afghan trade volume registers sharp rise
ISLAMABAD, September 26 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Pakistan said on Monday its bilateral trade volume with Afghanistan had registered a huge increase over the last few years - going up from $30 million to $1200 million.
Foreign Minister Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri told newsmen here the Islamabad-Kabul political links too were fast expanding alongside their trade relations. He saw enormous prospects for the growth of commerce between the neighbours.
"We are mulling exporting to Afghanistan all trade items manufactured in our country. By the same token, we are importing from Afghanistan goods that are demanded in Pakistan," the foreign minister said.
Kasuri added thousands of Pakistani troops had been deployed along the border with Afghanistan to prevent miscreants crossing into the strife-wrecked Central Asian country. As a result of tight border security, he observed, parliamentary elections in Afghanistan were held in a peaceful manner.
He underlined Pakistan's proactive role in the war on terrorism, insisting Islamabad was extending all possible cooperation to Washington and Kabul in the ongoing campaign. He assured operations would go on till the region was purged of terrorists.
Reported by Pakhtun Sahar & translated by Mudassir
450 kilograms of opium seized in Helmand
LASHKARGAH, September 25 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Counter-narcotics force in the southern Helmand Sunday seized 450 kilograms of opium during an operation.
Provincial police chief Colonel Abdur Rahman Sabir told Pajhwok Afghan News the cache was recovered from houses in Tortaink, Safian, Karatalagan and Bushran villages.
The officer added the opium was torched on the spot. No one has been arrested. It is pertinent to recall that security officials had seized 470 kilograms of opium in Baramchi area of the province some time back.
Abdul Samad Rohani
Six perish in two accidents in Maidan Wardak
GHAZNI CITY, September 25 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Six people were killed in two separate accidents on the Kabul-Ghazni Highway in Maidan Wardak province on Sunday, officials and witnesses said.
Three men died when two Mazda trucks collided in Shash Gaw area of Saidabad and as many occupants of a Corolla car were killed as it crashed into a truck laden with grapes around 10am in another area of the same district.
The first incident left two wounded who were rushed to a Ghazni City Civil Hospital for treatment. Maidan Wardak traffic police chief Colonel Wakil told Pajhwok Afghan News the victims of the first incident were from Mirbacha Kot district.
Regarding the second accident, Wakil said it was impossible to identify the victims whose body pieces were scattered all over the place.
Naqibullah Khan, an eyewitness, told Pajhwok that at least three people were traveling in the car that was extensively damaged and the occupants had their bodies badly mutilated and charred beyond recognition.
Vote count completed in Zabul, Nimroz; Bamyan JEMB chief resigns
KABUL, September 25 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Vote count in Zabul and Nimroz provinces was completed on Monday as a senior JEMB official tendered resignation in Bamyan while another was suspended on fraud charges in Nangarhar.
JEMB regional chief in Zabul Qudratullah said the counting process ended today and the final results had been sent to Kabul. But a top JEMB official Peter Erben told a news conference here that ballot count in Zabul and Nimroz would be completed in the coming two days.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News Qudratullah said 16 ballot boxes were counted on the last day while one suspected box was sealed. He said the JEMB would declare the results on a prescribed day.
Qahir Wasefi, JEMB regional chief in Kandahar, told Pajhwok Afghan News counting had been completed in Nimroz. He did not give further information but said it would be released later.
Earlier, some 18 candidates from Zabul demanded re-election in the province. The demand was made during a joint press conference in Kandahar on Sunday afternoon.
Meanwhile, chief of the provincial electoral office in the central Bamyan Daud Shujazada has resigned after widespread complaints of rigging and fraud from the candidates.
In a chat with this news agency, Shujazada said he had resigned in face of mounting complaints from candidates and their observers regarding the counting. "I stepped down due to lack of transparency and incorrect counting," said Shujazada.
Elsewhere in Nangarhar, an election officer was suspended on charges of fraud during the counting. JEMB's liaison officer in Jalalabad Mia Malang Qaderi said he was suspended after complaints by candidates and their observers. The official was accused of drawing an extra mark on ballot papers to prepare a case for their rejection.
A Wolesi Jirga candidate Abdul Majid told Pajhwok Afghan News the accused official invalidated his votes by drawing an extra tick on them. Majid further said the official was caught red-handed while noting 15 instead of 20 in the vote counting list.
Reported by Zabuli, Zawab and Ghafari
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