General: GIs preserve Afghan freedom
By AHMAD SEIR, Associated Press Writer
BAGRAM, Afghanistan - The top U.S. operational commander in Afghanistan on Saturday told hundreds of troops at a Veterans Day memorial that American forces are preserving freedom from terrorism just as World War II veterans preserved freedom in Europe and Asia.
Maj. Gen. Benjamin Freakley thanked troops gathered at Bagram, the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, for pausing to remember veterans who lived and died before them.
"Veteran's Day recalls the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month, when hostilities ended in the first World War," he said. "And it gives us hope for our 11th hour and our 11th day, when peace will come to all peoples of the world and our wars will stop."
Some 20,000 U.S. troops are serving in Afghanistan, with about 12,000 of those serving under the NATO flag. At least 288 members of the U.S. military have died in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Uzbekistan as a result of the U.S. invasion in late 2001 to oust the Taliban regime for hosting Osama bin Laden.
"Veterans pay a tough price," Freakley said. "They've lost buddies in fighting. They've sacrificed so that others may enjoy life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, without threat or intimidation of violence. Veterans have earned this day."
In violence on Saturday, police in the southern province of Kandahar conducted an operation against suspected Taliban militants, killing three of them, said Dawood Ahmadi, the governor's spokesman.
Italy's foreign minister, Massimo D'Alema, told reporters that Italy would like to see an international conference on Afghanistan among neighboring countries, donor nations and military contributors to seek a comprehensive approach to Afghanistan's problems.
Italy has about 1,600 troops in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO review joint intelligence centre
(AFP) 11 November 2006 via Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
KABUL - Military commanders from Afghanistan, Pakistan and NATO reviewed plans Saturday to build a jointly staffed centre to share intelligence in their battle against extremist militants, an official said.
The commanders were in Kabul for the 19th meeting between the three forces that are together fighting unrest that spans the Afghan and Pakistan border and involves Islamist groups such as the Taleban and Al Qaeda.
Part of their discussions focussed on a planned joint military intelligence sharing centre expected to be based in the Afghan capital, an official with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force told AFP.
The centre will be staffed by Afghan, Pakistani and ISAF officials and will ‘work to understand what information can quickly be shared in a mutually beneficial fashion,’ he said.
The meeting -- led by Afghanistan’s General Sher Karimi, Pakistan’s Major General Ahmad Shuja Pasha and ISAF’s General David Richards -- also heard reports on border security and efforts to counter improvised bombs regularly used by the rebels.
The Taleban were in government from 1996 until 2001, when they fled the capital on November 12 after an offensive led by the United States and involving Afghan resistance factions now in the new government.
Members of the extremist group and their Al Qaeda allies fled across the border into Pakistan from where Afghan and international officials allege they are directing an insurgency against the current administration and its international allies.
The violence in Afghanistan has spiked this year -- with around 3,000 people killed, about two-thirds of them rebels -- and there has been similarly styled violence just inside Pakistan.
Italy wants US to press Israel, rethink Afghan war
By Phil Stewart
ROME, Nov 10 (Reuters) - Italy's Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema called on the United States on Friday to refocus its foreign policy following midterm elections, saying it was time to stand up to Israeli hawks over the Palestinian conflict.
D'Alema, on the eve of trip to Kabul, also called for a review and "relaunch" of international strategy in Afghanistan giving more weight to non-military solutions to the conflict.
"There is a need for a strong relaunch of the international initiative (in Afghanistan), and perhaps also a rethinking of the line of actions," D'Alema, who leads a leftist part in the ruling centre-left coalition, told L'Unita newspaper.
He ruled out a pullout of Italian troops, however, saying: "I don't see how one can leave Afghanistan in this situation." D'Alema will arrive in Kabul on Saturday for talks with Afghanistan government leaders.
A staunch critic of the Iraq war, D'Alema said he did not expect a sudden shift in President George W. Bush's foreign policy following his party's defeat in mid-term elections. But he called on Bush to press Israel, where he said the military was lashing out in Gaza to prove its might after failing to hurt Hezbollah in Lebanon.
"I'm referring to a government weakened from the Lebanon conflict, pressed by the right, with the accusation of not being determined enough in its military operation," he said. He said the United States should make the resolving the Palestinian conflict its priority.
"Until now, the Bush administration has always held that it was an issue that it couldn't touch because, in essence, it could not disturb Israel," D'Alema said.
"There is a dramatic situation, full of risks for a disintegration of the Palestinian society, with destabilising effects for the entire area. And there must be action to push Israel."
Speaking about Iraq, D'Alema said there was no easy solution, adding that negotiations would eventually be needed with groups too often "simplistically" branded terrorists in order to isolate imported al Qaeda fighters.
'Iran, Afghanistan, Pak. to share date on drug smugglers'
Tehran, Nov. 11 (AP): Iran and neighbouring Pakistan and Afghanistan must share intelligence on drug smuggling, the head of the United Nations agency against drugs has said.
Antonio Maria Costa, the director of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, finished a three-day visit to Iran by praising the government's efforts against drug trafficking, according to a statement issued by the agency yesterday.
Iran had seized 231 tons of opium in 2005, more than any other country in the world, the statement said.
But Costa warned the world's production of opium was far greater than what was being intercepted.
"Afghanistan has produced a record 6,100 tons of opium this year and about 80 per cent of this will flow through Pakistan and Iran," he said in his statement. "Only about a quarter of this is likely to be intercepted - about half the success rate with the world cocaine trade.
"I urge these three countries, and their international partners, to establish an intelligence-sharing platform," he added. "If counter-narcotics police in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran share intelligence, they could really hit the traffickers hard."
While in Iran, Costa met President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and other senior Iranian officials and made a helicopter trip to the Iranian border with Afghanistan and Pakistan, the statement said.
Ahmadinejad says Iran is ready to assist Afghanistan
Tehran, Nov 11, IRNA
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad here Saturday pledged assistance to Afghanistan in the education and reconstruction sectors.
"The Islamic Republic of Iran, as a friend and neighbor, has been and will continue to stand by the oppressed Afghan nation; and it is ready to help Afghan government in reconstruction and development, especially the reconstruction of the ruins of war and occupation; and it is also prepared to assist the country in educating Afghan youth and young adults," said Ahmadinejad in a meeting with two senior Afghan parliamentarians.
Ahmadinejad warned of enemy plots to destabilize and bring about insecurity in Afghanistan.
"Enemies of regional nations want to make Afghanistan unstable and insecure; people and officials in Afghanistan should nip the plots and conspiracies in the bud and tread the path to progress," the chief executive told Afghan speaker of house of representatives Yunis Qanooni and Senate speaker Sibghatullah Mojaddadi.
Ahmadinejad highlighted the significance of unity among the ranks of Afghan government and parliament, saying it is the key to the country's problems.
"Unity among different groups, government and parliament in Afghanistan serve as a highly important factor in helping the country get rid of problems, war, and clashes and to move towards progress," he said.
The president said that security, stability and progress in any of regional states would be in favor of its as well as that of all regional nations.
"Some domineering states' efforts to make the world insecure so as to plunder the wealth of nations, especially those of the Middle Eastern nations, are doomed to fail," he announced.
Describing Afghan nation as 'brave and resistant', Ahmadinejad said that the Afghan government and parliament should take united and speedy action to guarantee the solidarity, security and development of their country.
Afghan House of Representatives Speaker Qanooni in turn called on Iran to share experience with his country for promoting education, development and reconstruction of the country.
Senate Speaker Mojaddadi also criticized some states for interference in Afghan affairs and attempting to destabilize it.
He said Iran's contribution to job creation projects would guarantee the repatriation of Afghan refugees.
Speaker: Iran hopes to witness peace, stability in Afghanistan
Tehran, Nov 11, IRNA
Parliament Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel in a meeting with his Afghan counterpart, Younis Qanooni, here Saturday said that Iran hopes to witness peace, stability and progress in Afghanistan and declared Iran's readiness for full cooperation with the country towards expansion of mutual relations.
He said that Iran can provide Afghanistan with a wide range of scientific facilities needed for the country's progress, which can hardly be availed by any other country, given that Afghan students understand Persian language and therefore can easily use this knowledge.
The Majlis speaker hoped for broader cultural exchanges between the two countries and that a academy of art will be established in Afghanistan to take care of scientific words required by the Afghan community.
Turning to the country's advancement in various sciences, he said, that Iran is on the threshold of a scientific leap.
Haddad-Adel noted that access to nuclear technology for peaceful purposes as well as progress in medical and biological fields are a few examples of such advancement.
"The US troops are in the region not to save the regional people, but with the intention of gaining more power," he added.
The speaker hoped that Afghanistan's problems will be solved in the near future and that foreign forces will withdraw from the country.
He referred to narcotics as one of the major difficulties facing both countries and said, "A large number of Iranians are annually martyred in the campaign against drugs."
Haddad-Adel hoped that the problem will be solved in the region by banning cultivation of poppy and replacing it by another product.
Afghan Parliament speaker is visiting Iran to attend the 7th Conference of Assembly of Asian Parliaments Association for Peace in Tehran (November 12-14).
Afghanistan takes tough measures to counter narcotics: official
Xinhua / November 10, 2006
The Afghan government is taking various tough measures including the sacking of governors, possible ground chemical spraying, to prevent the rocketing poppy cultivation in this country, a senior Afghan officer said Friday.
"If governors and district chiefs are not able to reduce poppy cultivation, at least they will lose their jobs," Said Mohammad Azam, director of Public Relation and Public Information of Afghan Counter Narcotics Ministry, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview.
District and police chiefs of Daryam in the northeastern Badakhshan province had been sacked for incapability in fighting drug, he added.
Azam said an eight-member anti-narcotics committee, grouping district and police chiefs, has been established in 108 districts of 11 provinces where poppy cultivation is rife.
The committee would supervise poppy crops closely and find ways to reduce it, he added.
In 2006, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached a record 165, 000 hectares, up 59 percent from last year, according to a report by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime issued in September.
Opium production reached 6,100 tons, witnessing a 49 percent rise over 2005 and accounting for 92 percent of the world's total supply, the report said.
The Afghan government has been severely criticized by the international community, especially Western countries for its failure to curb the booming opium industry.
Azam said "Ground chemical spraying would be the last option if all other options do not work. But no decision of using chemical spraying has been made."
It is the first time that the Afghan government accepted that chemical spraying could be considered to curb poppy cultivation.
But Azam said aerial spraying is out of the choice, as it would do great harm to water resources, cattle, human being, etc.
The number of 6,100 tons of opium is "not acceptable and not tolerable," and it "brings a bad name for the country," said Azam, adding Afghanistan is pushing the national anti-drug campaign led by President Hamid Karzai.
However, analysts say it is a daunting task to curb opium production in Afghanistan as insecurity, official corruption and poverty there are providing fertile soil for the industry.
Moreover, as Azam said the government would not provide job opportunities, crop seeds, and other compensation for those who are forced or persuaded out of planting poppy, it is extraordinarily difficult for farmers to abandon the industry, which many tightly tie their lives to.
Afghanistan: Karzai Wants Closer Ties Between Pashtuns On Both Sides Of Border
By Ron Synovitz
President Hamid Karzai spoke at length on November 9 about his proposal for a jirga (council meeting) that would bring together Pashtun tribal leaders from both sides of the Afghanistan-Pakistani border. In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul, Karzai says such a council could help end terrorism and bring peace to the region. Karzai also explained his opposition to a proposal by Pakistan to erect a fence and place land mines along the border, saying the plan would only divide "one people" that live in the two countries.
PRAGUE, November 10, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the Taliban regime and its supporters "abused" Afghanistan for years and are now using "tricks and hypocrisy" to sabotage progress in the country.
"The terrorists not only occupied us -- they killed our people, martyred our sons, burned our vineyards, destroyed our villages and towns, and tried to create hostility among the people of our country," he said. "They also were humiliating our history and our cultural identity. So it was very important for us that an [international] force enter this country and help to save us. This was the reason that the Afghan nation decided to join hands with the international community and that we cooperated with them. This was also the reason that we have accepted a very high number of sacrifices." "Nearly 200 tribal elders and religious scholars have been martyred in this part of Waziristan. Who is doing that? Why are such atrocities being committed against these people?"
Terrorism's Root Causes
With violence escalating this year to its worse level since the overthrow of the Taliban regime -- especially in areas along the border with Pakistan -- Karzai says Kabul must work together more with Islamabad to attack the root causes of terrorism. He says a progressive step would be to bring together ethnic Pashtun tribal and religious leaders from both sides of the border for a jirga -- a council with legal authority in the name of the tribal community and a traditional manner of resolving internal disputes in the Pashtun tribal-border areas.
"I have told the government of Pakistan -- my brother the president of Pakistan, Mr. [Pervez] Musharraf -- that Afghanistan is a brother of his country," he said. "Afghanistan is his friend and his partner. And the interests of Afghanistan lie in a progressive, stable Pakistan. And the interests of Pakistan are in a stable and progressive Afghanistan. So let us join hands and save Afghanistan and Pakistan from this evil. I am hopeful that the jirga I have proposed -- which will be convened by people from both countries -- will investigate the roots of all the evil and get rid of terrorism. So we are hoping the jirga will reach this conclusion."
Karzai told RFE/RL that he proposed the cross-border jirga during a dinner at the White House in Washington last month with U.S. President George W. Bush and President Musharraf. Ultimately, he says Pakistan and Afghanistan must have a formal dialogue about how to bring and end to the war and destruction -- how to fight terrorism in a better way.
"The purpose of convening this jirga is quite clear," Karzai said. "It is to bring peace to the region. To bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result of that, peace will be established in the whole region and terrorism will disappear. The purpose is that no explosions take place in Afghanistan which cut our young boys into pieces."
Durand Line Not On Agenda
Afghanistan's border with Pakistan, known as the Durand Line, was created by the colonial British during the 19th century. Since that border subsequently was inherited by Pakistan when it became a country through the partition of British colonial India, Afghanistan has never formally recognized the border. Karzai says discussions about the Durand Line is not on the agenda of the cross-border jirga he has proposed.
"The agenda of the discussion is about peace and the removal of terrorism," he said. "There is no place for any other issue in it and there will be no talks on any other issue. This jirga does not have the authority to discuss the Durand Line or to make decisions about it. This is a question that goes higher than the authority of such jirgas. This issue cannot be decided on the basis of my signature or the government's approval. This is a question for the people of the two nations. It is beyond the authority of a jirga that is convened for the purpose of peace."
Karzai also spoke with RFE/RL at length about why he continues to oppose a proposal by Pakistan to build a security fence along the border to stop cross-border infiltration by militants.
"Barbed wire and mines can only separate people," he said. "In this matter, we can say that one brother would be living on one side and another brother would be on the other side. One cousin would be living on this side and another on the other side. One of our girls would be married on this side and another would be married on the other side. So people come and go to both sides. This is one people living in this area. So raising barbed wire there would only separate families and tribes. It will only be a physical separation and it will not prevent terrorism. We have told [Islamabad] this very clearly. In order to get rid of terrorism we should address the root causes of it and find the real source of these evils."
Terrorism On Both Sides Of Durand
Karzai says the international community needs to reexamine the way it is fighting terrorism. He says the Afghan people, particularly the ethnic Pashtuns living in the provinces near Pakistan, are victims of terrorism.
"It is the same in Pakistan," Karzai said. "There, the Pashtuns are hunted by terrorists. They are killed at the hands of terrorists. And also, they are being accused by the terrorists. This is a conspiracy. This is cruelty being imposed upon Afghans and Pashtuns. And we should prevent that. These people are suffering a lot. We must protect these people from such cruelty. This is not only the duty of these tribes. It is also the duty of this region. And it is the duty of the international community to pay attention to this issue -- so that the historical people of this area are not wrongly accused."
Karzai says he continues to pay close attention to the impact of the war on terror upon ethnic Pashtuns on both sides of the border. He says that is the reason he has sent letters to government officials in Pakistan as well as several key Pakistani political leaders. They include the chief of the National Awami Party in Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, Mahmud Khan Ackzai; a Pashtun leader in Baluchistan Province; and to Maulana Fazoolu Rahman, leader of a coalition of conservative Islamic parties in Pakistan. He says the letters ask all to join together in order to end the suffering of Afghans and Pashtuns in both countries.
"If you look, the Afghan clerics are being killed," he said. "In Kabul, innocent people are being martyred. They are killed in suicide bombings. In Kandahar, the religious leaders are being assassinated. In Konar Province, the elders are being martyred. And in Paktia, teachers are being martyred. And in the same way, the same things are happening to the Pashtuns in Pakistan. Especially in North Waziristan. The tribal elders and religious scholars are being martyred. Their heads are being cut off. Recently, they took a religious scholar out of a madrasah and they cut off his head -- saying he is a spy of the United States. Nearly 200 tribal elders and religious scholars have been martyred in this part of Waziristan. Who is doing that? Why are such atrocities being committed against these people? Is the purpose to suppress these people? To make them become poor and desperate? What are the reasons for this and who is doing it? It is quiet clear that serious measures should be taken to save the Afghans in Afghanistan and the Pashtuns in that area."
(RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan Director Akbar Ayazi in Kabul and Deputy Director Hashem Mohmand in Prague contributed to this story.)
Karzai Discusses Worsening Security In RFE/RL Interview
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
KABUL, November 9, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai met with the director of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan, Akbar Ayazi, for a wide-ranging interview in Kabul on November 9.
RFE/RL: Mr. President, the people of Afghanistan have different concerns. So far as we know and read in the reports, security is the top concern of the Afghan people. In the past 18 months, the security situation in the southern and eastern provinces -- even in the Tagau and Nejrab areas close to Kabul -- has deteriorated. From your point of view, why has the security situation become so bad? Why are the opponents of the central government attacking and committing suicide bombings?
Hamid Karzai: In the name of God the all merciful and forgiving, without doubt the security situation in Afghanistan in the past 1 1/2 to two years has deteriorated. And there are different reasons for this. This situation also is a cause of concern for us. One reason is that our security forces in different areas and districts -- and particularly in those areas where we are facing attacks -- are very weak. Two or 2 1/2 years ago, the people of Kandahar informed me, and the people of Helmand informed me, that the police forces in the districts are very weak. Their numbers are limited and they are not well-equipped.
I started talking with the international community about it and tried to get more support for our police forces. At first, it was decided that the number of police in the [Afghan National Police] force would be 62,000. We told the foreigners that the material and financial support that they are offering is limited and should be increased. We told them that the amount of support is not enough to train so many police. These discussions continued for a long time. Finally, six months ago, the international community was convinced that our security forces in the districts are, indeed, very limited -- and that they would give us more support in this regard.
And so it was decided that we hire local people in the districts and train them to be police because this is our tradition -- that people take care of their own security. In this way, the number of police was increased from 62,000 to 82,000 people. Furthermore, it was decided that the income of these people would be increased and that they would be given better equipment. This means we have increased the size of our police force by 20,000. This means it was our own weakness -- the weakness of our system and the weakness of our government. We did not have enough police and our police were not trained.
RFE/RL: And all these efforts caused new problems and people began complaining that you have created new militia forces. Is that correct?
Karzai: Yes. While we were talking with the foreigners I told them that if you don't agree very quickly, we will be exposed to attacks. People are crossing our borders. They burn our schools. They kill our children. They destroy our houses and assassinate our clerics and our tribal leaders. So [I told the international community] if you don't agree with me soon to raise the number of our police and give them better training and equipment, then I will be forced to use local measures. Local measures means that I invite the local elders and ask them for their help -- to send their young people to defend the country. The foreigners had the impression that we were going to create local militia forces. The fact is that the Afghan people don't like militia forces at all. But the foreigners didn't realize this. They couldn't differentiate between the local people and the militia forces. This was the first reason.
The second reason is that Afghanistan over the past 30 years was always faced with foreign interference -- the meddling of the neighboring countries. Little by little, Afghanistan lost its sovereignty. Every neighboring country had its own interests and their own people in Afghanistan. And Afghanistan itself had no voice. It appeared that Afghanistan was an independent country. But in reality, it wasn't independent at all.
When the new government was established, when the international community entered Afghanistan, and when Afghanistan stood again on its own feet in the international arena as an independent and respected country, those elements who were supported by foreign [neighboring] countries -- and were governing this country and were abusing this country -- it was hard for them to accept the new realities. [It was hard for them] to tolerate a new and independent Afghanistan with its own identity and flag and whose leaders would appear as the equals of other leaders in the world and delivering speeches like the leaders of the rest of the world.
So in order to weaken this development and progress, to end the improvements that were introduced to the life of this country and change Afghanistan back to a country that they could govern again, they started sabotage acts in our country. So they sent their bombs, their destructive weapons, and most of all, they used our own sons -- those who were uneducated and poor. With lots of tricks and hypocrisy, they deceived our sons and sent them back to Afghanistan to fight against us. They started broad propaganda. For example, in neighboring Pakistan they are creating propaganda that there is no Islam in Afghanistan -- that there is no call to prayer in Afghanistan. And, God forbid, they are saying that there are only infidels in Afghanistan and that Afghanistan is not moving toward progress and prosperity. [They say] that the Afghan people are becoming hungry and facing calamity.
From the other side, our own publicity was very weak. So, to make it short, I can tell you that the first reason was foreign meddling, terrorism, and the creation of fear in Afghanistan. This means the foreigners were training extremists and terrorists against us and making negative propaganda against us. The other reason was our own internal weakness.
RFE/RL: Mr President, you mentioned that foreign countries -- especially Pakistan -- are meddling in the internal affairs of Afghanistan and that they are using Afghan youth to carry out terrorist attacks against Afghanistan. Recently, you said that you invited [former Taliban leader] Mullah Mohammad Omar and [former Prime Minister and head of the Hizb-e Islami] Gulbuddin Hekmatyar for talks. You said that if they are ready for talks, that you would open a dialogue with them. This happened at a time when the chief of Afghanistan's Peace and Reconcilliation Commission, Sebghatullah Mujaddedi, called Hekmatyar a murderer. And the international forces call these people terrorists. The people of Afghanistan are asking how this can happen. What is your comment on this?
Karzai: Mr. Mujaddedi said that these people can come and talk. And we are ready to talk about peace with them. But the government of Afghanistan and the Peace and Reconcilliation Commission cannot take responsibility for their past or for what they have committed. Rather, the people of Afghanistan and the parliament should make the decision about what they have done in the past. So it is up to the people and the parliament to decide whether to forgive them or not.
RFE/RL: Some of your opponents claim that the agreement between the government and the tribal elders of the Musaqala District of Helmand Province is a compromise with the Taliban. What is your reaction to this?
Karzai: This is really an important issue. There are some suspicions in society about this. And these suspicions should be removed. Two or three months ago, the governor of Helmand Province approached me and said that the British forces want to leave this area. [He said] the elders of this district told the [provincial] government that they have problems with air strikes and military operations -- which were really going on there. These people suggested that they will ask the Taliban to stop their operations in this district. The elders said that the Afghan government should also do something so that the Taliban would not have any reason to carry out attacks in this district. These elders had drafted an agreement. [The governor of Helmand said that] he, himself, had read that agreement. And then [the governor] added that some tribal leaders and elders want to see me.
So they came [to Kabul] at the beginning of the month of Ramazan. And I talked with them. Afghanistan is fundamentally a democratic country. Our life is based on jirgas [councils] and talking with tribal elders. In every part of our country where the elders, the tribal leaders, and the religious leaders who guide society all cooperate, there is peace and the government will function. If they do not cooperate, then nothing will work. It is like this in every democratic society in the world. So I am deeply convinced that the people could organize their lives better and advance their situation and bring peace to society. If they want this, they can achieve it. That is the reason that I accepted the advice of these tribal elders.
So I agreed with them and I told them: 'Fine. Do your preparations. But the schools must remain open. There should be peace and the local police will be trained and sent to your districts.' The elders [of the Musaqala district] promised me that there will not be any saboteurs allowed in this district. They said they would return to Musaqala and see how things work. They said that if things are not working, they would let me know. Later, they sent me a video from there. The video showed that they had convened a big meeting there. It was a big jirga. And the elders and the tribal leaders spoke at this jirga and they said in their speeches that they want peace. They don't want destruction. And they said they will not let those who destroy Afghanistan enter their district. These elders asked the government for more help in reconstruction. They asked for the reconstruction of their mosque. And we accepted all of that.
This means that I trust everything these elders say. I trust them and I accept them. They are the true sons of this country and they are more faithful than anyone else in this country. But I have received two reports recently. One report says that a very respected religious leader named Nurul Haq Akhundzada has been threatened by people who seem to be Taliban, or are Taliban. They have not only threatened him, but also humiliated him. I talked about this with the governor [of Helmand]. And now, I am going to talk about this with the elders who have come to Kabul again. Another tribal leader has disappeared. These two incidents need to be investigated. If it is proven that the Taliban entered this district and have committed these crimes, in that case, there will be lots of suspicion about this agreement. And the elders of this district should answer to me about why this has happened. There should be peace in that district and the rule of law should be practiced. There should be governmental institutions and the constitution of Afghanistan should be implemented. If that is not the case, then there will be doubts about this agreement. In that case, the government will be forced to intervene and get rid of these destructive elements.
RFE/RL: Now that we are talking about the security problems in the southern part of Afghanistan, I'm sure that in your private discussions with NATO that you have asked them to bring some changes to their strategies to avoid the killing of innocent local people. However, this has not been done. Rather, the number of civilian deaths have increased. Even recently, many innocent people were killed in Helmand Province. How can this be avoided?
Karzai: Yes. Unfortunately, in this war against terrorism, ordinary Afghans have suffered a lot. They were sacrificed and they tolerated a lot of suffering. After the tragedy of September 11[, 2001] in New York, when the international forces entered Afghanistan and started the war against terrorism, we began to say that this war is in our interest because the people of Afghanistan wanted to free themselves from the visible and invisible foreign occupation, from the the calamity of terrorism, and from foreign interference. This was the reason that we have joined hands with the international community.
The terrorists not only occupied us -- they killed our people, martyred our sons, burned our vineyards, destroyed our villages and towns, and tried to create hostility among the people of our country. They also were humiliating our history and our cultural identity. So it was very important for us that a force enter this country and help to save us. This was the reason that the Afghan nation decided to join hands with the international community and that we cooperated with them. This was also the reason that we accepted a very high number of sacrifices. Many parts of our country were bombarded. In different operations of the war against terrorism, many houses were destroyed. But the people accepted all this.
Now, the more progress we make and the more our system is established, the degree of our tolerance toward terrorist activity is decreasing. This means that we expect such terrorist activities will decrease. And that is the reason that we, for the past 3 1/2 years -- if not every day then certainly on a weekly basis -- discuss the issues of terrorism with the international community. And to find out how we can lower the threats of terrorism in this country. It is normal that in antiterrorism operations there are casualties. But we are trying very much, by developing and using new mechanisms, to avoid casualties. Many things have decreased. For example, the number of searches of Afghan houses [by coalition forces] has gone down. And many other problems are being reduced. But it is true still that air strikes are killing people. We have asked [NATO and the United States] to avoid such casualties.They are also trying very hard. We all try our best to reduce casualties as much as possible. Especially through air strikes. But this can only happen if, instead of looking for terrorists on Afghan soil, we look to the real sources of terrorism -- which is outside of Afghanistan -- and get rid of them. Afghanistan proposed this long ago -- that we should look for the real sources of terrorism outside of the country. We once again propose that we should go to the real sources, to the places where the terrorists get their financing, to the places where they are getting their training. There are no terrorists in Afghanistan. There are no extremists or destructive people in this country. Yes, there are thieves. It is true that there are insecurities because of criminal activities there. But we don't have terrorists in Afghanistan. And we hope that the international community will focus on the real sources of terrorism.
RFE/RL: It is good that you mentioned the real source of terrorism. Many people think that it is Pakistan. But in recent days, and particularly on November 8, there was a big suicide attack against recruits at a military training center in Pakistan. There was also an explosion in Quetta, Pakistan. Is this a result of the actions and reactions of terrorist groups?
Karzai: I am not saying that. The Afghan government does not say that the source of terrorism is in Pakistan. No matter where the source of terrorism is, the Afghan government says that the world should [support us]. A lot has been done in this regard. And we have reached agreements. Wherever the source of terrorism is, wherever the terrorists are financed, we should stand against them. If these centers are in Afghanistan, the world should come and tell us. You see that [NATO and coalition forces] go out every day in Afghanistan in search of terrorists. But if these centers are in Pakistan or in another country, then we should approach those areas and take measures to stop them. I am very sorry about the events [of November 8] in Pakistan that caused the deaths of 42 Pakistani soldiers in a suicide attack. This must show us very clearly that this campaign, this jihad against terrorism, is the duty for all of us. And we should fight this jihad together.
I have told the government of Pakistan -- my brother, the president of Pakistan, Mr. [Pervez] Musharraf -- that Afghanistan is a brother of his country. Afghanistan is his friend and his partner. And the interests of Afghanistan lie in a progressive, stable Pakistan. And the interests of Pakistan are in a stable and progressive Afghanistan. So let us join hands and save Afghanistan and Pakistan from this evil. I am hopeful that the jirga I have proposed -- which will be convening between the people of both countries -- will investigate the roots of all the evil and get rid of terrorism. So we are hoping the jirga will reach this conclusion. Afghanistan is looking for a solution and knows that there is no other way than to destroy the roots of terrorism. Superficial measures today or tomorrow cannot rid us of this problem. We should go to the root cause of extremism that brings about terrorism and get rid of it.
RFE/RL: You mentioned an interesting point -- the jirga between the tribal elders on both sides of the so-called Durand Line. The majority of people in Afghanistan do not know exactly what this proposed jirga is about. Can you please explain it to the people of Afghanistan what its purpose is and what you want to achieve?
Karzai: The purpose of convening this jirga is quite clear. It is to bring peace to the region. To bring peace to Afghanistan and Pakistan. As a result of that, peace will be established in the whole region and terrorism will disappear. The purpose is that no explosions take place in Afghanistan which cut our young boys into pieces. Why did I propose this jirga?
RFE/RL: So it was your proposal for this jirga?
Karzai: Yes. I proposed this jirga in Washington during a formal dinner party that was organized by President [George W.] Bush for myself and President Musharraf. I made the proposal there to convene such a jirga.
Why did I propose it? Five years ago, when the foundations of the new Afghanistan were laid down, life returned. Hope returned to the people of Afghanistan. But at the same time, there were also problems. What we wished was to be able to live in peace inside our country and in peace with our neighbors. But our wishes did not materialize the way we expected -- that the removal of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda would bring an end to terrorism. In defeating these elements, our hope was for absolute peace in Afghanistan. We hoped that the mothers and sisters of Afghanistan would be free from bombs and attrocities and war.
But unfortunately, it did not happen that way. There was peace all over Afghanistan. But in areas that lie close to the border of Pakistan, those provinces faced dangers again after one or two years. Again, they were faced with war. So we started talking about this with the world community, with the neighboring countries, and particularly, with our brotherly country Pakistan. I have visited Pakistan five or six times and there, during my first meeting with the president, he said at a press conference that Pakistan apologizes for any mistakes it may have made. And I told him in response that the Afghan nation thanked the nation of Pakistan -- that Pakistan had taken us in its arms and allowed us to live for 30 years in the country as refugees. We did live there for many years under good circumstances. The nation of Pakistan honored us and treated us like their brothers. They opened the door of their soil to us. They opened the doors of their houses where we lived. We started our jihad [against Soviet occupation] from Pakistani soil and they cooperated with us. So we thank Pakistan for all of that. We want to improve our lives and live with each other in a peaceful and brotherly atmosphere.
Unfortunately, that peace and prosperity that we wished for did not materialize. In less than two or three years, at least 2,000 of our people have been martyred. My government and I, in order to avoid such casualties, worked very hard. I talked with America. I talked with the United Nations, with European countries, with NATO, and with our neighboring countries. I went to every country [that I could]. I talked to China, to Islamic countries, to Arab countries, and to Pakistan. There have been five or six rounds of negotiations. Different delegations have been sent at different levels. But the result that the Afghan people wanted has not been achieved so far.
So, at the meeting of the president of the United States with myself and the president of Pakistan, I decided to present specific proposals. And one of these important, specific proposals was the convening of a jirga. And this was a demand of the Afghan people. Three months before that, I met with the representatives of all the provinces of Afghanistan. At that meeting, it was [first] proposed that we should convene such a jirga in order to find a way to bring an end to the war and to the destruction -- a war that is going on but which we do not know where it is coming from. To bring this out into the political scene and expose it and talk openly about it. Who is complaining about Afghanistan? Who is scared of Afghanistan? If they have complaints, why do they have complaints? And what Afghanistan wants is that the two nations have a formal dialogue about all of these things. We hope to resolve these problems through dialogue. That is why I have made this proposal for this jirga. To fight terrorism in a better way and in a clearer way so that we are able to get rid of terrorism in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, and in the region.
RFE/RL: Some Afghans fear that Pakistan will try to put the Durand Line issue on the table during this jirga. Is Afghanistan ready to discuss the issue of the Durand Line at such a jirga? Is this possible? Or is the agenda of these discussions already prepared in advance?
Karzai: The agenda is prepared ahead of time. The agenda of the discussion is about peace and the removal of terrorism. There is no place for any other issue in it and there will be no talks on any other issue. This jirga does not have the authority to discuss the Durand Line or to make decisions about it. This is a question that goes higher than the authority of such jirgas. This issue cannot be decided on the basis of my signature or the government's approval. This is a question for the people of the two nations. It is beyond the authority of a jirga that is convened for the purpose of peace. So there is no place [there] for discussions on this issue.
RFE/RL: Another main concern of the people of Afghanistan is the issue of corruption. So far, we are watching the situation and reading the reports. After security, people are complaining about the high rate of corruption. You have announced a campaign against corruption several times. The prosecutor-general has even declared a jihad against corruption. But no results have been achieved. We all hope that this issue will be resolved very soon. So, do you still hope for results and positive conclusions soon?
Karzai: This is a very good question. From the very beginning of the establishment of this government, we started different efforts. We discussed the reasons for the increase in corruption -- why and how it has happened. But getting rid of corruption in the Afghan administration is an absolute necessity. This is not only necessary for the survival of Afghanistan as a nation that is hopeful for progress and development and for an accountable system that Afghanistan is going to create. It is also very important for the reputation of Afghanistan within the international community. It is also important to ensure the continuation of aid that Afghanistan is getting.
If we don't get rid of corruption in Afghanistan, the progress and development that we hope to achieve -- the prosperity that we wish for our people -- will not be achieved in Afghanistan. So, in order to improve our lives from the conditions that we have today, it is necessary for our administration to become healthier. This means that corruption must be removed from all national, provincial, and local administrations. Honesty and transparency must be established. We have made different efforts in this regard. There were some results, but not what we had hoped for. So our prosecutor-general has launched a very good campaign. It is a broad campaign. And I absolutely support his efforts. We should take steps in accordance with the laws of Afghanistan and remove corruption from the Afghan administration. This effort is continuing. The prosecutor-general has made these efforts and there are some good results, too. In many cases, these measures will be even broader and stricter.
RFE/RL: Sometimes it is alleged that Afghan officials themselves are blocking the efforts of the prosecutor-general to root out corruption in Afghanistan. The recent reaction of the governor of Balkh Province in Mazar-e Sharif -- accusing the prosecutor-general of having a political agenda and trying to settle personnal vendettas -- is one example of this.
Karzai: Yes. It should be clear, perfectly clear, that I have given the prosecutor-general the authority to act according to Afghan law -- to work with full authority and all the possibilities available to root out corruption. And I am standing absolutely behind him. I have made that absolutely clear.
RFE/RL: Another important issue in the news recently is that Pakistan wants to mine the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan -- or even build a fence there. This has captured the attention of the Afghan people and is a very important issue to them. What is your position on Pakistan's proposal to build a fence and mine the border region?
Karzai: This issue was raised once before in the past. The position of Afghanistan is very clear about this. That is, that barbed wire or [land] mines cannot get rid of terrorism. Barbed wire and mines can only separate people. In this matter, we can say that one brother would be living on one side and another brother would be on the other side. One cousin would be living on this side and another on the other side. One of our girls would be married on this side and another would be married on the other side. So people come and go to both sides. This is one people living in this area. So raising barbed wire there would only separate families and tribes. It would only be a physical separation and it would not prevent terrorism. We have told [Islamabad] this very clearly.
In order to get rid of terrorism, we should address the root causes of it and find the real source of these evils. And I'm very hopeful that we will work even more together on this. We are in touch with the Pakistani regime and government.
The recent measures that [Pakistan] has taken show that they are going to act seriously. They are also sacrificing their people in this campaign and we are very sorry about that. So we share this grief with them. We should look at this question in a different way. We should see whom terrorism affects, who has been hurt by terrorism, who is grieving as a result of terrorism, and who has been destroyed by terrorism. It is the Afghans and the Pashtuns who are the victims.
It has been 30 years now that the Afghans have been burning in this fire. It is the wars, the interferences -- and in the last 10 to 12 years, terrorism -- that have harmed every household in Afghanistan.
It has been 30 years now that the Afghans have been burning in this fire. It is the wars, the interferences -- and in the last 10 to 12 years, terrorism -- that have harmed every household in Afghanistan. Kandahar is suffering from these pains. Jalalabad is suffering from these pains. Badakhshan, Bamiyan, Mazar-e-Shariff, Fariyab, Herat, Paktia -- every household in Afghanistan has been burned by this fire. Their children have been killed by terrorists. Their houses have been destroyed by terrorists -- particularly, in the last four to five years. And particularly, in those provinces of Afghanistan that are neighboring Pakistan. Their children are deprived of going to school. Almost 200,000 children in Helmand, Farah, Kandahar, Nimroz, and Zabol, Oruzgan, Paktika, Paktia, and Konar -- they cannot go to school. In Tagab [a district northeast of Kabul] and other areas as well. It is the same in Pakistan. There, the Pashtuns are hunted by terrorists. They are killed by the hands of terrorists. And also, they are being accused by the terrorists. This is a conspiracy. This is cruelty being imposed upon Afghans and the Pashtuns. And we should prevent that.
So these people are suffering a lot. We must protect these people from such cruelty. This is not only the duty of these tribes. It is also the duty of this region. And it is the duty of the international community to pay attention to this issue -- so that the historical people of this area are not wrongly accused. They are suffering from terrorism and are also accused by terrorists. I am paying very close attention to this issue.
And that is the reason that I have sent letters to the people and to the government of Pakistan, as well as to Esfandiar Wali Khan [the chief of the National Awami Party in the North West Frontier Province of Pakistan] and to Mahmud Khan Aczkzai [a Pashtun leader in Balochistan Province]. I have also sent a letter to Maulana Fazoolu Rahman, [leader of the coalition of Islamic parties in Pakistan] asking him to join hands and save Afghans and Pashtuns from this suffering and these calamities. If you look, the Afghan clerics are being killed. In Kabul, innocent people are being martyred. They are killed in suicide bombings. In Kandahar, the religious leaders are being assassinated. In Konar Province, the elders are being martyred. And in Paktia, teachers are being martyred. And in the same way, the same things are happening to the Pashtuns in Pakistan -- especially in North Waziristan. The tribal elders and religious scholars are being martyred. Their heads are being cut off. Recently, they took a religious scholar out of a madrasah and they cut off his head -- saying he was a spy of the United States. Nearly 200 tribal elders and religious scholars have been martyred in this part of Waziristan.
Who is doing that? Why are such atrocities being committed against these people? Is the purpose to suppress these people? To make them become poor and desperate? What are the reasons for this and who is doing it? It is quiet clear that serious measures should be taken to save the Afghans in Afghanistan and the Pashtuns in that area.
RFE/RL: What will be the effects on Afghanistan as a result of the resignation of the U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the success of the Democratic Party in the U.S. legislative elections? And particularly, what effect could this have on your foreign policy?
Karzai: The results of the U.S. election in which the Democrats won a majority in the House of Representatives is an internal affair for the United States. It shows the freedom and democracy of America. It should be a matter of pride for the American people. We consider this an internal matter of the United States.
Fortunately, Afghanistan enjoys the support of the whole U.S. nation. Both big political parties in the United States -- the Democrats and the Republicans -- are supporting Afghanistan. And we thank them both for their help. President George W. Bush gave me the assurance that any change occurring in the peoples' institutions of the United States will not have an effect on Afghanistan. Rather, they are all supporters of Afghanistan. The resignation of Mr. Rumsfeld is their decision and we respect their decision. However, Mr. Rumsfeld is a friend of Afghanistan -- a good ally and supporter in the war against terrorism. I have great respect for him. He is a very knowledgeable man, a very smart person, and a very resolute person. And I am proud to have his friendship.
RFE/RL: When you started your term as president of Afghanistan, you were one of the most popular presidents in the world. Some critics believe now that you are not as popular with your own people as you were before. Do you agree with this? And what are your thoughts about this as the country faces increased corruption and insecurity?
Karzai: I am very happy that I was so popular among the Afghan people. God should bless the Afghan people for voting for me. They liked me. But it is true that there are difficulties in the country. There also will be difficulties in the country in the future.
There is no doubt that people are angry. When a family is hit by a bomb and I am the president here with the responsibility -- when a suicide bomb takes places and murders the people of this nation -- I am the president of this country and it is my responsibility to bring peace to these people. The people know that such tragedies make me very, very sad. Very, very sad. It is certain that the people expect me, and ask me as the president, to bring protect them against the bombs and suicide attacks and against the corruption. They want protection against abusive officials. I am making an effort every day to do what I can. I do everything within my physical and legal powers. But if the nation does not stand behind me the way it was before, and if there is discontent among the people, I know they are right. We must accept that and try to implement all the promises that we have made to the people -- to improve their security and to improve their lives. This means that the nation is always right and the government is always to be blamed.
RFE/RL: Imagine that your term as the president was over. Can you describe how you imagine it will be?
Karzai: If our jirga with our brother country Pakistan is successful and we agree on security in our fight against terrorism, life will be prosperous. Every country has some internal problems. We will also have them. We will not worry too much about it. We will manage that. There will be an end to corruption. There will be an end to the problems of drugs. There will be reforms within our administrations. We will have more schools and education. It all will happen. But what is important is that the relations in the region improve. Between ourselves and Pakistan, there is this one problem; there is a problem of terrorism and extremism in which our Afghanistan has been damaged a lot. So if we get closer with Pakistan, and if we fight terrorism in the right way so that terrorism is finally removed from this area, things in Afghanistan will change dramatically -- no matter who is governing the country, myself or somebody else. They will have an easy job and the country will be progressing.
EDITORIAL: Rise of Pakistani Talibanism
Daily Times Lahore
President Pervez Musharraf told the 99th Corps Commanders’ Conference at the General Headquarters (GHQ) on Tuesday that the government would not only tackle militancy with force but would also pursue peace through political means. ‘We will never close the option of dialogue and political settlement and it will continue despite these actions. We will undertake action wherever we find such militant activity’. He briefed the conference on the Bajaur-2 madrassa strike and claimed that the seminary was training militants and was actively involved in terrorist activities. He added that extreme care was being exercised to ensure that there was no loss of innocent lives or collateral damage while combating terrorists. This caution was exercised particularly in the case of the Bajaur strike, he stated.
He had hardly paused to take a breather when a suicide bomber avenged the Bajaur-2 strike by killing 42 unarmed soldiers in Dargai yesterday. The tragedy was foretold because the Pakistani Taliban in Bajaur had vowed to launch suicide attacks against the army. The prognosis is that such attacks will increase in the days and weeks to follow. So the operational plans of the army that were aimed at stopping the Taliban from attacking Afghanistan will now have to change in anticipation of Taliban attacks on the army in Pakistan. Indeed, a new category of armed resistance to the Pakistan army may now be in the offing led by Pakistani Taliban as opposed to Afghan Taliban.
Well-wishers of President Musharraf and Pakistan had always hoped that the president’s claims about the war against terror and Talibanism were credible and could be finally proved on the ground. After all, anywhere in the world, wisdom allows application of force against extreme situations, the only precondition being that the action taken should be swift, surgical and helpful in normalising the situation for the political process to take charge.
Unfortunately, however, the action taken against extremism and outlawry in Pakistan has not really worked so far. In fact, it can be shown that the application of force without sufficient politics has actually boomeranged, with the result that most people who sincerely wished the president to succeed in rescuing the country from extremism have stopped backing him and supporting his policies. More dangerously, they have stopped believing him whenever he announces that he is embarking on a new plan of action.
Consider. President Musharraf took the army into the Tribal Areas to purge foreigners who are supposed to be sheltering and training on Pakistani soil. But after many months of this policy, during which his supporters stood by him, nothing has been achieved. The ‘peace deal’ that was initiated in Waziristan some months ago has followed the failure pattern of many similar deals done earlier with different bands of tribesmen. It was undertaken by the army, we were told, after the Taliban-Al-Qaeda opponents had been ‘softened’ up; but in fact it was soon revealed that it was the government which had been softened up instead and compelled to bow before the terrorists.
That is a major reason why the world did not believe that the ‘deal’ in Waziristan would effectively end Talibanisation and its consequent spike of militancy. Had the ‘deal’ been clinched after a ‘victory’ on the ground, there would have been no speculation about what subsequently happened the second time in Bajaur. The president’s domestic support base is dwindling. Internationally, too, more and more people are now thinking and saying that Bahjur-2 happened only because the Waziristan deal was based on a false pretext and that is why the Americans wanted to sabotage the ‘deal’ from being replicated in other parts of the Tribal Areas.
Yet the government had a fairly good chance of reinstating itself in the hearts of the people by undertaking Bajaur-2 with care, provided of course that it was true that foreign terrorists were congregating there and training to make their raids into neighbouring Afghanistan. But the fact is that in the wake of the operation the government has spoken with many tongues and has not even begun to supply timely credible evidence of its contentions. This is bad planning. After Bajaur-1, public reaction became intense because the government failed to prove its own case or refute the case made by the inhabitants of Damadola that innocent people had been killed.
This time around too the proof is missing or belated, which is the same thing in terms of missing the bus and allowing misperceptions to harden. The ID cards of the Bajaur dead produced so many days after the event show that most of the 80 who died were Pakistanis and not below the age of 20. This is a mixed “blessing” because one perception is that the government went after foreigners and the other is that there were many children among the dead.
It is very important for any ruler to have political support when he undertakes such ‘clean-up’ operations. In our day, not even a tyrant can ignore this aspect of military operations undertaken by him. In the case of President Musharraf, who is not a tyrant, there is an elected government in place which isn’t fully backing his war against terror and there is also a very vocal parliament which simply doesn’t believe what he says. Also, the media have, by and large, refused to go along with him because all the military operations remain sealed to the press and they have not been made privy to any proof offered by the ISPR and the Ministry of Information after the fact. The truth is that the PMLQ government — internally fragmented as it is — finds it difficult to go along with the policy being followed in the Tribal Areas. We have seen many cracks appear following the president’s hard-line policy on Balochistan.
Force should work even for democracy when there is an emergency and a danger to the security of the state. But if force doesn’t work again and again it is not wise to insist on applying it. The president should realise that Pakistan’s situation on the western border is far more serious than the army is traditionally used to thinking. He should forthwith remove the deadlock in the east against India and focus more single-mindedly on the west against Afghanistan. And instead of applying force, he should concentrate on applying political solutions based on a greater national mainstream consensus rather than a diminishing parochial one.
American Strike in January Missed Al Qaeda’s No. 2 by a Few Hours
By CARLOTTA GALL and ISMAIL KHAN The New York Times PESHAWAR, Pakistan, Nov. 9
A strike by an American Predator drone in Pakistan’s tribal areas in January missed Al Qaeda’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, by just two hours, an intelligence official here says, disclosing that the hunt for Al Qaeda’s leaders had come much closer to killing him than was previously thought.
Mr. Zawahri left a dinner in the village of Damadola at 10:30 on the night of Jan. 12, with Maulavi Liaqat, a local supporter, an intelligence official with knowledge of the incident said in an interview. The house where they had eaten was hit at 12:30 that night, the official said.
At the time, amid an angry public backlash in Pakistan over the strike, which killed a reported 18 people, American and Pakistani officials said only that Mr. Zawahri was expected at the dinner that night, but had failed to appear. The official spoke anonymously because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.
The details emerged in the aftermath of a new strike on Oct. 30 on a madrasa, or religious school, in the same district of the tribal region of Bajaur, close to the Afghan border. That strike killed a reported 83 people. Among them was Mr. Liaqat, the madrasa’s leader, and three of his sons.
Despite the Pakistani government’s announcement that it had conducted the precision-guided strike on the madrasa, residents of the area said that they believed that it was also carried out by a United States Predator drone, which they heard overhead.
Helicopters arrived 10 to 15 minutes later and fired several rockets into the hillside, said Haroon Rashid, a member of Pakistan’s Parliament representing the religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, and who lives nearby. A Pakistani security official confirmed that pilotless drones were flying over the area in the days around Oct. 30.
The strike set off rallies and demonstrations in the tribal areas and Pakistan’s cities, protesting the high number of casualties and the perceived American involvement.
It also is believed to have prompted a revenge attack on Wednesday, when a suicide bomber killed at least 42 army recruits and wounded 20 more by blowing himself up at a military training ground. It was the deadliest terror attack ever against Pakistan’s military.
In an effort to quell the public anger over the madrasa bombing, Pakistani officials disclosed more details about the strike and the activities of Mr. Liaqat.
President Pervez Musharraf and his chief military spokesman, Maj. Gen. Shaukat Sultan, have said that the men killed were militants in terrorist training and that they were in no way innocent students.
Pakistani intelligence officials have briefed journalists and released copies of infrared camera film showing the compound and its inhabitants in the days before the bombing. In the film, lines of men dressed in loose tribal clothes are seen exercising in the yard of the compound early in the morning. In one part of the film, a bonfire is burning in the center of the yard.
The men, who appear as shadowy figures because the camera picks up their body heat and shows it as black, filter out of a building, which an intelligence official said was their living quarters, and line up in rows. Trainers walk among the rows of men, who appear to do stretches, jog in circles and at one point lie motionless on the ground.
American security officials have said that they shared intelligence of the target with Pakistan prior to the strike, which suggests that the surveillance footage came from an American drone.
The men would start their exercise at 4:30 a.m., said a Pakistani intelligence official, who gave the briefing and provided the film on a DVD and would speak only on condition of anonymity.
The strike occurred shortly after 5 a.m., hitting the men as they were exercising in the yard, causing maximum casualties. Many of the bodies were in pieces after the strike, witnesses said. Most of the dead were local tribesmen from Bajaur, with some more from adjoining areas.
Bajaur is a mountainous tribal agency north of Peshawar that runs along one of the most inaccessible areas of Afghanistan, bordering the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, where American troops are based. It has been a base of Islamic militant fundamentalism since the 1980s, when religious tribal leaders created a local movement, Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammadi, aimed at setting up Shariah, or Islamic law, and supporting the jihad that was being waged in Afghanistan against the Soviet occupation at the time.
Later, two local militant leaders, Mr. Liaqat and Maulana Faqir Muhammad, members of the now-banned movement, were heavily involved in logistics, recruitment and training of fighters who were sent to fight United States and Afghan forces in Afghanistan, the intelligence official said. Sufi Muhammad dispatched 600 local tribesmen to support the Taliban in 2001 during the American intervention, most of whom were captured or killed, the official said.
The information on the two local leaders was gleaned from the arrest in Pakistan in May 2005 of Abu Faraj al-Libbi, who was described as an important Qaeda operative. The local leaders were known to have received funds from Al Qaeda for their activities, the official said.
Recently, American and Pakistani security officials and diplomats say, foreign militants, including Mr. Zawahri, have been using the area since Pakistani military operations pushed the foreign militants out of North and South Waziristan, to the south. Even though the Pakistani government was close to signing an agreement with the tribal elders of Bajaur aimed at curbing militancy, Pakistani officials and Western diplomats admit that Mr. Liaqat was far beyond the control of the government and expressed satisfaction that he has now been removed from the scene. President Musharraf, at a dinner last week in Islamabad for Prince Charles, vowed to conduct more such strikes if necessary.
“In July, we started observing Liaqat training a few people, some 15 to 20 people,” the intelligence officer said in his briefing. “He was warned to close the facility, this madrasa. He refused to close it and vowed to continue.”
“It was a big decision for us,” he added. “There were two options. One was sending in ground troops, the other a precision strike.” Approaching the compound from the ground would have forfeited any element of surprise, he said.
“It would be like going into a hornet’s nest, and would have caused a lot of casualties to troops and civilians,” he said. “There would have been collateral damage and a long drawn battle.”
A precision airstrike, which appears to have killed only people inside the compound, would also have provided a warning to others running similar compounds in the area. “This would send a clear message that this cannot go on,” the official said. “They will meet the same fate.”
Mark Mazzetti contributed reporting from Washington.
Minn. congressman is Muslim trailblazer
By PATRICK CONDON Associated Press Thu Nov 9, 6:21 PM ET
MINNEAPOLIS - Keith Ellison, the first Muslim ever elected to Congress, sees it this way: Osama bin Laden no more represents Ellison's religion than Timothy McVeigh represented Christianity.
Ellison, a 43-year-old Democrat, won election to the House on Tuesday and will represent all of Minneapolis and several close suburbs — a deeply Democratic, mostly white and largely liberal district that includes the University of Minnesota campus. Ellison is also the first black congressman from Minnesota.
He ran on a call for an immediate withdrawal from Iraq, universal health care, a higher minimum wage and a more progressive tax code.
The criminal defense attorney and state lawmaker suddenly finds himself among the most prominent members of his faith in the United States, at a time when terrorism by Islamic fundamentalists has focused unwanted attention on many American Muslims.
Ellison, who converted from Catholicism to Islam as a college student, insisted in a radio interview that he is "a politician who happens to be a Muslim" and that "there are people in a better position to speak on all things Muslim than me."
But having said all that, he acknowledged Thursday that his new prominence may bring a responsibility to speak for peaceful Muslims.
"Killing innocents is un-Islamic. Suicide is un-Islamic. Committing suicide to kill innocents is extremely un-Islamic," he said. "These people you read about, these Osama bin Ladens, they don't represent Islam any more than Timothy McVeigh represents Christianity."
Ellison rose quickly to prominence with fiery speaking skills and a tenacious approach to policy that for many recalled the late Sen. Paul Wellstone, a sainted figure among many Minnesota Democrats.
When longtime Democratic Rep. Martin Sabo announced his retirement earlier this year, Ellison immediately distinguished himself from a large crowd of Democrats who wanted the seat, and easily won the party endorsement.
But his candidacy stumbled over the summer with a string of missteps that included disclosure of unpaid parking tickets and late tax payments, as well as past associations with Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan.
Ellison, a local organizer of Farrakhan's Million Man March in 1995, said he did not know of Farrakhan's anti-Semitism at the time and has disavowed it. He was supported by Jewish friends and colleagues.
Voters said Ellison's background was not much of a factor in their decision to vote for him.
"I'm a fairly progressive voter, so a lot of Ellison's positions were attractive to me," said Chris Strunk, a graduate student at the university. "I'm happy to send a Muslim to Congress, but I would've voted for him regardless of what his religion is."
Ellison said his main message concerning Islam is that Muslims are not much different from anyone else. "It's just one religion among many," he said. "Our folks are quite ordinary, they care about the same things you care about."
He said he does not regard the rise of Islamic fundamentalism as "a clash of civilizations."
"If there's a clash in this world, it's between people who believe they can use horrendous, awful violence to achieve a political goal, against the rest of us," he said.
Ellison said he hopes more Muslims seek office around the nation in the next few years. "The fact is folks probably already know a lot of Muslims," he said. "They just don't know they're Muslims."
Afghan mother charged with killing adult daughter
KXAN 36 Austin - Nov 11 1:17 AM
HOUSTON An Afghan refugee who came with her family to the United States almost two years ago has been charged with killing her adult daughter. The woman's head was smashed in with a sledgehammer.
Forty-nine-year-old Najia Omar Mohamad was arrested yesterday. That's after police investigated the November Fourth death at the southwest Houston apartment Mohamad shared with her daughter, Rohia Abdul Ali and Ali's four-year-old daughter.
Police found the sledgehammer under Ali's pillow. Mohamad is being held at the Harris County Jail on 100-thousand dollars bail and is due to appear in court on Monday.
Police say Ali's daughter, who was in the apartment at the time, was placed with Child Protective Services.
The Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, a refugee resettlement agency, helped the family with driving lessons, applying for Medicaid and food stamps. That's according to the director of the alliance's refugee division. Ali was taking a sewing class through the refugee agency.
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