Foreigners among 60 insurgents killed in Afghanistan operation
(AFP) 12 November 2006 via Khaleej Times Online
KABUL - A NATO and Afghan operation that ended Sunday killed more than 60 Taleban-linked rebels over six days, a provincial governor said, adding that Chechen and Arab fighters were among the dead.
The operation was near the border with Pakistan in the province of Paktika, which has recently seen significant security force action against militants, some of whom have admitted to infiltrating from across the border.
NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed it had been involved in the operation in Barmal district of Paktika.
While it did not have an assessment of the casualties, it did not dispute the Afghan official’s figures, spokesman Major Luke Knittig said.
‘Over 60 Taleban have been killed in operations launched six days ago that ended today,’ Paktika governor Muhammad Akram Khoplwak told AFP. ISAF troops and air power assisted the local forces, he said.
The number of dead was estimated from surveillance and from bodies left behind after the clashes, he said.
The Taleban, which launched an insurgency after being removed from government in 2001, are thought to have removed some of their dead from the battle sites.
‘There were Arabs and Chechens and other foreign fighters among those killed. A number of weapons and missiles have been seized,’ Khoplwak said.
Barmal has seen major fighting in the past weeks, with 24 militants killed in a single battle there a month ago. Afghan army officials said those men were also of different nationalities, including Chechens, Pakistanis and Turks.
Some of the captured fighters said mullahs in Pakistan had persuaded them it was their Islamic duty to go into Afghanistan to fight foreign troops because they were invading ‘infidels’.
Kabul has been pushing Islamabad to do more against extremist groups in Pakistan which are said to train Islamist fighters in madrassas and then send them to fight in Afghanistan, where there are about 40,000 foreign troops and the government is backed by the United States.
International and Afghan officials agree the insurgency -- which has killed 3,700 people this year, most of them rebels but including scores of civilians -- will only abate if radical groups in Pakistan are curbed.
NATO air strike kills 10 militants in E. Afghanistan
via People's Daily Online, China
A NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) air strike killed ten insurgents in Afghanistan's eastern Kunar province, a spokesman of the NATO forces in the province Major Shul said on Sunday.
"Acting on received intelligence, we carried out an air raid on an insurgent hideout in Dagarmol village of Watapoor district on Saturday, killing ten enemies belonging to an Arab fighter named Abu Ikhlas," the spokesman told a press conference.
The militants were attending a meeting when the air strike was carried out, he added.
Abu Ikhlas, according to Shul, was the commander of Arab fighters in the area.
Kunar and the neighboring provinces of Nooristan, Laghman and Nangarhar have been the scene of increasing insurgency over the past year.
More than 2,700 people, mostly Taliban militants, have been killed since the beginning of this year in this post-Taliban nation.
Post-Taliban Kabul blossoms for the rich
BY KATHY GANNON Associated Press Sat Nov 11, 4:53 PM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Eight-year-old Sajjad's kite struggles upward. It's nothing grand — a plastic bag salvaged from a heap of garbage and fashioned into a diamond shape.
But it's a symbol of change in Kabul, five years after the Afghan capital was freed from a Taliban regime that believed activities such as kite-flying would distract youngsters from studying the Islamic holy book, the Quran.
The U.S.-led war and the Western-friendly government that followed eliminated that rule and a host of others. Girls have returned to school. Public beheadings and amputations as punishment for crimes came to an end.
The times have changed. But in Kabul today the question often asked is: How much and for whom?
Sajjad (he says he has no last name) lives in a neighborhood called Shirpur, a significant symbol of what has changed since U.S. and British bombs drove the Taliban from the city on the night of Nov. 12-13, 2001.
Part of it has been demolished and its inhabitants evicted to make way for a "new Afghanistan" of palatial homes — scores of four- and five-story mansions boasting gold-painted marble columns and floor-to-ceiling windows flanking grand wooden doors.
The owners are the successors to the Taliban — movers and shakers who in 2003 used their new power to seize and clear the land. About 250 of Sajjad's neighbors were tossed from their homes.
Miloon Kothari, the UN's housing representative, complained and Afghan President Hamid Karzai promised to investigate, but nothing has come of it.
Now, in the waning days of October 2006, Sajjad runs past a half dozen goats and a cow feasting on rotting garbage to get his flimsy kite airborne. He lives with seven brothers and four sisters in a single-story house of dried mud, straw and pebbles. He wears cracked plastic sandals and a torn brown shirt with only three buttons remaining.
One of his neighbors, Aziz Mohammed, a potbellied man with a speckled beard, stands ankle deep in the mud he is using to winterize his home of 25 years.
Mohammed says he has been told that his and his neighbors' houses will be flattened soon to make way for more mansions.
The owners of these mansions "are commanders, ministers. It makes me angry. These people use everything that isn't theirs and they ruin the houses of the poor people to build their homes," said Mohammed. "The Taliban were no good, they were just stupid people. But in this new life there is no job, nothing."
The man who ordered the first homes razed in 2003 was Kabul Police Chief Abdul Bassir Salangi. He has two houses in the ostentatious subdivision. Salangi has since been appointed police chief of eastern Nangarhar province and could not be reached for comment.
The big question, said Najibullah Siddique, director of the Afghan charity Afghans for Tomorrow, is why the billions of dollars in foreign aid that has poured into Afghanistan isn't making a difference. "Why doesn't the government help the poor? Why do the government people and commanders build big mansions and poor people still live in bad conditions?"
Gul Haider, a commander of the Northern Alliance that swept into Kabul after the Taliban's collapse, makes no apology for owning a mansion in Shirpur.
"This is the new Afghanistan. We are just beginning. All these houses are from the private pockets of Afghans and I hope one day that all of Afghanistan will be beautiful like Shirpur," he said in an interview.
"We are praying for the poor people to have houses like us," he said. "But everything belongs to God. God knows better who should be given property and who shouldn't. God gave us this property and we built our houses. We are praying that God will look more favorably on the poor."
In the months following the Taliban's collapse there were signs of a business renaissance. Barbershops, beauty salons and music stores reopened. Afghan exiles returned to start businesses.
But many have since been driven out by runaway corruption, lawlessness and the violence perpetrated by a resurgent Taliban, highlighted by a string of recent suicide bombings in Kabul.
Post-2001 Afghanistan has an elected parliament but it is criticized for its inclusion of warlords, commanders and mujahedeen leaders.
Last May, an outspoken lawmaker, Malalai Joya, attacked the warlords and rebel commanders in the chamber for their role in the civil conflict that destroyed Kabul and killed 50,000 civilians when they were in power between 1992 and 1996, a period of anarchy that gave rise to the Taliban.
The response from the floor was threats of rape and death.
A recent report by Womankind Worldwide, a British-based advocacy group, challenges the notion that Afghan women are better off now.
It said the scenes in 2001 of women throwing off their all-covering robes were misleading, and that except for a small elite in Kabul, women still have to cover their entire bodies.
It said up to 80 percent of all Afghan marriages are forced, 57 percent of girls are married off before age 16, some as young as 6, "and the number of women setting fire to themselves because they cannot bear their lives is rising dramatically."
While girls are back at school, the program is far short of where it should be, says Siddique.
"Girls education is like a car," he said. "During the Taliban there was no gas and the car didn't work. Now we are putting in gas and it is running but it isn't because of this government. Any government after the Taliban would have had girls education. But what guarantees do we have? Corruption in the government has delayed schools being built."
Meanwhile, schools are being destroyed, some by the Taliban but as many by tribal feuds, village animosities, and anger at the government for perceived injustices and corrupt practices, he said.
Kabul traffic is a nightmare, a huge contrast from the Taliban era, when only bicycles, yellow taxis and Taliban pickup trucks were running. Luxury SUVs, many driven by the 2,000 employees of the UN and aid agencies, remind the desperately poor how they have been left behind.
Mohammed Habib, an out-of-work laborer, carried his 1-year-old son Mujtaba as he walked the streets begging for food. He said the infusion of foreign aid hasn't changed his life.
"Money comes to help the poor people but the commanders and the government people take it," he said. With the Taliban gone "we thought our future will be better, but every day we are poorer."
Habib might not have noticed, but the culinary landscape of Kabul has changed.
In Taliban times, eating out meant roadside food stalls and rice and kebab restaurants. Now there are restaurants offering French, Italian, Lebanese, German, and Indian cuisine — but at prices out of the reach of most Afghans.
Alcohol, banned by the Taliban and still offensive to most Afghans, is served, although more discreetly now than in the first post-Taliban years. The government is cracking down by banning the sale of booze at the duty-free stores frequented by foreigners.
Visitors can spend up to $500 a night to stay in the new Landmark Suites hotel, which has a shopping mall and the country's first escalator.
Afghans flocked to the complex and its glass-enclosed shops when it opened, though many couldn't afford the prices.
Hajji Sadiqullah says he is two months behind on the monthly rent of $1,500 for his cosmetics and hair supplies store. "Another month like this and I will die," he said.
In contrast to the Landmark Suites, the Allauddin Orphanage with its hundreds of poor children has a new coat of paint, a few computers, a ration of food from the government and electricity most of the day. But in winter heat still comes from wood stoves, one for each room where nine or more children sleep. And elsewhere in Kabul there is electricity for barely three hours on most days.
Corruption is so rampant that it can take a $50 bribe just to get the tax collector to register payment of your taxes.
On a street corner, a traffic policeman sidles up to a car window, palm out for money. On a small side street, five women in burqas hold out their babies to passing cars, begging food.
Habib, the laborer, looks at the new mansions in Shirpur and sees injustice.
"These people are very bad people. That money was for us and they took it," he said. "The Taliban time was very bad and now it is very bad for the poor. Where is the difference?"
Amir Shah, an Associated Press correspondent in Kabul, contributed to this report.
The face of Afghanistan five years after fall of the Taleban
By Anthony Loyd and Tahir Luddin The Times (UK) November 11, 2006
On November 13, 2001, rebel forces marched on Kabul to oust the Taleban. But the triumph and hope have given way to despair and disappointment
IT WAS nearly five years to the day since I had last seen Gul Haider. Sitting in a Kabul garden with the trilling of caged songbirds drifting across the rose beds, that last encounter seemed a lifetime away. Then, on the morning of November 13, 2001, the Mujahidin commander was about to lead his victorious Northern Alliance forces to recapture Kabul from the Taleban.
There were no trimmed beards or birdsong in that battle. Instead, clothed in a grimy combat smock, his head wrapped in a dismal scarf, Gul sat on the wall of a shelled strongpoint on the Shamali frontline. His peg leg stuck out accusingly toward the Taleban positions — like so many Afghans he had his foot blown off by a mine. Binoculars around his neck, radio in hand, he looked like a raiding pirateer, a Makarov pistol in place of a cutlass.
“Go, go, go,” he screamed at his men as the Taleb lines broke beneath the punches of airstrike and artillery fire. “Don’t let them escape.” And from the walls beneath him thousands of Mujahidin had swept forward to fight. It was all over within 24 hours. Dawn of Kabul’s liberation day revealed dead and dying Taleban on the heights above the city, as the Mujahidin regrouped to enter the capital. “For years we had waited for that moment,” he recalled. “It was all we had wanted, and it was a great day: my finest fight. I thought at last we may have a broad-based government and peace in Afghanistan.”
His optimism was shared. It seemed at last, that after nearly a quarter century of war, Afghanistan may be about to find peace. The Taleban were finished, foreign troops welcomed, and billions of dollars assigned to reconstruct the shattered country. But after five years of squandered opportunity and missed chances, Gul is no longer sure that he has fought his last battle against the Taleban.
His Mujahidin fighters were disarmed and demobilised nearly two years ago, replaced by fledgeling units from the Afghan National Army, and technically Gul has no more command. But he sits and waits, looking at the situation with increasing doubt.
“Believe me, I haven’t closed my eyes to what is going on. I study it every day,” he said. “And I am worried. It all seems open to question again. A weak Afghan Army, weak police, governmental corruption, burning schools, enemies everywhere, instability in the provinces. Once more it feels like it is coming into our homes. Next year, if the mistakes continue, it will be even worse.”
Last month in Washington Nicholas Burns, the American Under Secretary for Political Affairs, said that the Taleban posed no strategic threat to the Kabul government. While correct in the assumption that the Taleban remain militarily weak, and that the majority of Afghans have no natural desire to see them return, Mr Burns appeared to have forgotten that the Taleban first appeared in 1994 as an apparently insignificant force of little more than a few hundred men along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Their subsequent rise to power originated not from force of arms or rapturous popular support, but owing to the stability they offered to an exhausted population sick of corruption and tired of their criminalised local leadership.
In southern Afghanistan now, those same dynamics are in play, illuminating Gul’s fears. Foreign officials share his concerns. “Everywhere we’ve gone downhill here,” said Talatbek Masadykov, head of the UN assistance mission in Afghanistan’s southern headquarters in Kandahar.
“We’ve never improved the situation. The security issue isn’t just to do with the Taleban — it’s to do with bad, weak governance. Fifty per cent of this problem is internal. People don’t naturally want the Taleban back, not at all, but they increasingly think the Government offers them nothing but insecurity, and that though the Taleban offer them nothing either, they may perhaps give them some stability and an end to corruption.”
Pakistan bears a strong degree of responsibility in the resurrection of the Taleban, but the Kabul Government carries equal blame. Dithering and inefficient, its corruption is legendary, and the country’s leadership is riven with druglords and profiteers. Efforts to create a police force have produced an organisation regarded as predatory and cruel, not dissimilar to the bandit officialdom toppled by the Taleban.
And riding the uneasy raft of its alliance with these stained authorities, Nato is beset by problems of its own. On paper its forces may look strong, but the Italian, French, German and Turkish contingents in Afghanistan are shy of fight, reluctant to go south, and governed by their own unilateral rules of engagement prioritised by force protection concerns.
Reconstruction has taken a back seat in the deflated hopes of most Afghans. Though Kabul is a relatively stable and affluent oasis, its post-Taleban experience is shared by few other centres of population.
Kandahar still has only enough electricity for a maximum six hours in every forty-eight. Bad roads, open sewage systems, and a lack of fresh water are seen in the city as inconveniences very low down on the list of complaints. Kidnapping, banditry and police corruption rank much higher.
“When we saw the Taleban go and the foreign soldiers come we were so full of hope,” said Abdul Shakoor, a 24-year-old shopkeeper. “We were 100 per cent sure that, with the world behind it, our Government would improve our lives. But now our hopes are crushed.
“Since then, in this city we have had three different governors. None of them has done anything for us. Our problems are getting worse. Now we are not interested any more in reconstruction. We don’t need roads, schools, and buildings. All we want is peace.”
The Taleban still have a huge credibility problem. More than 4.7 million Afghan refugees have flooded back into the country from Pakistan and Iran since the Taleban’s downfall, demonstrating the strength of the remaining hopes of Afghans for a future without their ultra-fundamentalist Government. Yet the Taleban know that they have time on their side, and that it is much easier to destabilise than stabilise, and that instability brings power. Interviewed by The Times in the province of Ghazni last month, one Taleban commander, Mullah Safurrahman, made a telling remark.
“We are in no hurry,” he said. “But look at how far we have come from nothing. We’re in a guerrilla war. It isn’t a matter of two or three years. It might take us ten, even thirty-five years. Will the foreign soldiers last that long here?” Gul insists that he will join celebrations on Monday for the fifth anniversary of Kabul’s liberation, but he has reservations. “The Taleban are almost knocking on the door of Kabul. They are not so far away from us as we sit here,” he concluded, looking around the peaceful garden. “There is sometimes fighting now in districts right at the edge of this city. But if they get too close my Mujahidin will not tolerate it. We would take up our guns and fight for Kabul again. And right now it feels like we will have to.”
39 per cent of children under the age of 5 were malnourished last year
61 per cent relied on untreated drinking water
16 per cent did not survive to the age of 1
two million girls in schooling, none under Taleban
$21.5 billion GDP (£11.3 billion) in 2004, $0.5 billion more than under the Taleban
Iran's deputy FM in Kabul for talks with senior Afghan officials
Kabul, Nov 12, IRNA
Iran's Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia, Pacific and CIS affairs Mehdi Safari arrived in Kabul on Sunday afternoon to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai
Safari, who is heading a delegation, was welcomed at Kabul airport by Iran's ambassador and embassy staff as well as Afghan Foreign Ministry officials.
Safari in his two days stay in Kabul will meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar Spanta and Finance Minister Anwar Ul-Haq Ahady.
The two sides will examine ways of expanding bilateral ties in different fields.
Safari is accompanied by head of the headquarters for reconstruction of Afghanistan and a number of Foreign Ministry experts.
Kite industry thriving in Afghanistan
Sunday, November 12, 2006 (Kabul): via NDTV
Five years after the fall of the Taliban, the kite industry - banned under the hardline regime - is once again flourishing in Afghanistan.
Kite flying has become a national pastime, especially in the capital Kabul.
Made from paper and thin wooden struts, they have become a symbol of change.
The Taliban believed activities such as kite flying distracted youngsters from studying the Islamic holy book, the Quran, but now the hobby is once again booming.
Twelve-year-old Abbas has been saving his pennies for weeks to buy a new kite.
"I love flying kites, especially on Fridays when I have nothing to do. I can fly kites and enjoy myself. It's my hobby," he said.
Symbol of change
Many shops sell the reels, line and other cheap paraphernalia needed for this simple sport.
Kabul's top kite maker is Noor Agha. With exquisite skill and care, he makes as many as 30 kites in a day.
He had to go underground to make his kites in the Taliban days, but now his work can be sold openly.
"Kabul has changed a lot compared with how it was in the Taliban time. During their regime, if a child was even caught flying a (cheap) plastic kite, his father would be thrown in jail," he said.
"But fortunately now, we live like kings. We can do whatever we want. We can fly kites wherever we want. We can enjoy our hobbies."
The popular book The Kite Runner by Khalid Hosseini has made Kabul's kites famous worldwide and Noor Agha's creations now sell internationally, sometimes for many hundreds of dollars each. (AP)
US not allowed to fire missiles into Pakistan to kill terrorists: PM
(AP) 12 November 2006 via Khaleej Times Online
WASHINGTON - Pakistan’s prime minister said in an interview broadcast Sunday that his country does not allow the United States to use unmanned aircraft to fire missiles into Pakistan to kill terrorists.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said Pakistan is very capable of tackling such activities ourselves.’
US President George W. Bush has said he would absolutely’ order military operations inside Pakistan if Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden or other top terrorists were found to be hiding there.
Aziz said in an interview conducted Friday with CNN’s Late Edition’ that Pakistan is committed to fighting terrorism, but it has to be fought together. And if we go into each other’s countries and take unilateral action, that does not help the cause of fighting terrorism.’
In January, 13 civilians died when an unmanned US drone fired missiles into a Pakistani village in an unsuccessful attempt to hit Al Qaeda deputy chief Ayman Al Zawahri.
Pakistani critics say the military helped US forces based in Afghanistan carry out an airstrike on a religious school that killed 80 people last month.
Aziz said claims that Taleban supreme leader Mullah Omar is based in Pakistan are totally incorrect.’ We understand that the command and control network of the Taleban is very much deep inside Afghanistan,’ he said.
On bin Laden, Aziz said: We have no clue where he is. If he were ever in our territory and we found out, we would go after him.’
Four arrested after arms cache finds in Afghanistan
(AFP) 12 November 2006 via Khaleej Times Online
THE HAGUE - Dutch troops have arrested four people, including two suspected Taleban, after the discovery of two arms caches in southeastern Afghanistan, the defence ministry in The Hague said.
A tip-off led to the discovery of the weapons stores in Uruzgan province containing small-calibre firearms and ammunition, hand-grenades and anti-tank rocket-launchers, a statement from the ministry said.
The suspects have been detained at a Dutch military base until they are handed over to the Afghan authorities.
The Netherlands has deployed 1,550 soldiers in Uruzgan to serve with the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) which is battling to restore security in Afghanistan after the 2001 US-led invasion.
This year has seen an upsurge in violence in southeastern and southern Afghanistan, blamed on Taleban insurgents. More than 3,000 people have died, mostly militants.
Taliban insurgency major Afghan challenge: UN team
Sun Nov 12, 2006 11:50am ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's biggest challenge remains the Taliban insurgency, the head of a visiting U.N. mission said on Sunday on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the overthrow of the Taliban's puritanical Islamist government.
The intensity of the Taliban's fightback this year has surprised NATO and U.S.-led troops in the bloodiest year since the group's ouster in 2001. More than 3,100 people, a third of them civilians, have died so far this year.
"I think the single most important challenge facing this country is insurgency, fighting the Taliban insurgency," Japanese Ambassador Kenzo Oshima told a news conference in Kabul after talks with government officials.
The illegal drug industry in the world's largest producer of heroin was another major challenge, he added.
The country, long one of the world's poorest, also must build institutions such as a professional and independent judiciary, police and army and extend the rule of President Hamid Karzai's government.
Karzai has led Afghanistan since U.S.-led troops toppled the Taliban on November 13, 2001, after they refused to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden following the September 11 attacks on the United States.
He was elected president in a national election in 2004 but has struggled to extend the government's writ in the face of more fighting and slower reconstruction and development.
The U.N. Security Council delegation arrived on Saturday to review the progress and challenges Afghanistan faces as it strives to cement peace and stability after decades of conflict and the Taliban's rule.
It is expected to meet ordinary Afghans and travel outside Kabul, including to the dangerous southern city of Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace and capital of a province which has seen some of the worst fighting this year.
Insecurity has badly affected reconstruction work and forced many aid workers to stop operations in most parts of the south and east, the focus of the insurgency and Taliban main's bastion.
Most aid groups in Kandahar have stopped work or slowed to virtually nothing, officials there say.
Italy proposes international conference on Afghanistan
People's Daily Online, China
Visiting Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema proposed Kabul on Saturday an international conference on Afghanistan be held to seek more support for this post-Taliban nation.
At a joint press conference with his Afghan counterpart Rangin Dadfar Spanta, D'Alema said "We feel the need of holding an international conference, during which the problems of terrorism, narcotics and reconstruction in Afghanistan should be discussed."
D'Alema brought forward this idea amid increasing militancy in this country, particularly in the southern and eastern regions and record opium production this year.
Such a conference, he added, would provide an important opportunity to discuss the achievements and problems in Afghanistan.
However, he did not suggest the time and place of the conference.
The Italian top diplomat stressed military actions alone cannot solve all problems in Afghanistan. "The international community ought to give more weight to non-military solutions in political and economic fields."
It would be the 4th international conference on Afghanistan if accepted by the world community.
Previously, donor nations had contributed billions of U.S. dollars to Afghanistan at international conferences in Tokyo, Berlin and London in the past five years.
Meanwhile, D'Alema ruled out the possible withdrawal of Italian forces from Afghanistan, saying "Italy wants to stay in Afghanistan to help support the anti-terror war and boost reconstruction activities."
Spanta said Kabul accepted Rome's proposal for holding a international conference on Afghanistan.
About 1,700 Italian troops are serving in Afghanistan as part of NATO forces, with the majority in Kabul and the western Herat province.
Rival factions enter peace agreement in Herat
HERAT CITY, Nov 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Two feuding factions involved in bloody fighting in the western Herat province three weeks back have signed a peace agreement after mediation from officials and legislators.
The clash erupted on October 23 when men of the deceased commander Amanullah Khan and his rival Arbab Basir attacked each other in the Shindand district. The fighting left 32 people dead, including the two commanders.
Some 20 representatives from the two factions met President Hamid Karzai in Kabul a few days back and signed the peace agreement. Haji Mohammad Naeem Karimi, chief of the Shindand district said the two sides agreed not to engage in fighting again.
He said the two factions would compensate families of the victims of the October fighting. At the same time, the president promised to help representatives of the two sides to perform Hajj.
The district chief said the evidence collected by officials in the case revealed that not only tribal issues and factional rivalry was involved in the last month's bloodshed, but conspiracy from a neighbouring country also played vital role in adding fuel to the fire.
He said the foreign hands were creating troubles in the name of religion, ethnicities and by fanning tribalism in the province to fulfill its nefarious designs. He stopped short of naming the country.
Dr Humayun Azizi, head of the Herat provincial council, who was member of the delegation shuttling between the two sides to achieve the peace agreement, said a Jirga comprising six tribal elders from Shindand and five members of the delegation which visited Kabul, would soon met families of the October fighting.
Hailing the peace agreement, Herat Governor Sayed Hussain Anwari hoped security would improve in the province. Soon after the clashes, a peace agreement was signed by the two sides but it was once reportedly broken by some people.
Soldiers from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), Afghan army and police force have been deployed to the Zir Koh area, where the fighting had taken place, to maintain security by keeping vigil on the two sides.
Amanullah Khan, who died in the clashes, was a former mujahideen commander and a staunch rival of former provincial governor Ismail Khan. The two had fought several battles.
The fighting erupted when another commander Arbab Basir was shot dead by unidentified gunmen. Basir's son Mohammad Naseem blamed commander Amanullah for the murder of his father and attacked his convoy on October 23.
Commander Amanullah was killed along with his more than a dozen men while the ensuing battle left a total of 32 people dead from both sides.
Haddad Adel: America seeks to interfere in Afghanistan on pretext of insecurity
Tehran, Nov 12, IRNA
Majlis Speaker Gholam-Ali Haddad-Adel said here Sunday that with the efforts of Afghan's government and people, the roots of insecurity and instability would be eradicated in the country.
He made the remarks in meeting with Afghan Senate Speaker Sebghatollah Mojaddadi on the sidelines of the 7th General Assembly of the Association of Asian Parliaments for Peace (AAPP).
Referring to historical, cultural and religious commonalties between the two countries, Haddad Adel said that Iran seeks security, stability and development in Afghanistan and is ready to fully render all-out assistance to Afghan government and its noble nation.
Given the extensive presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan and their role in the country's insecurity, he said the Americans, under the pretext to rampant insecurity in the country, are to attempting to extend their presence in Afghanistan and the whole region.
Referring to rise in production of poppy in Afghanistan, he called for more efforts by Afghan government to eradicate this scourge.
Mojaddadi, for his part, thanked Iran for hosting the 7th AAPP General Assembly and said common language, culture and religion have led to deep bonds between the two nations.
Lauding the support of the Iranian government and people for the people of Afghanistan in the past, he said the Islamic Republic of Iran has always backed Afghan nation during hardship.
The 7th AAPP General Assembly kicked off here Sunday in presence of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Majlis speaker.
Parliament speakers and representatives from 39 Asian member states and 20 non-members are taking part in the meeting.
Flashfloods hit another district in Nangarhar
JALALABAD, Nov 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Flashfloods caused by torrential rains hit another district of the eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday.
At least 19 mud houses were washed away and some 20 cattle were drowned when floods hit the Sra Rod district, officials and residents said.
Water inundated several villages and houses in the district causing material losses, said Shafiqullah, resident of the district. He said Sultanpur and Ziarat villages were the most affected areas.
Besides losses to residential houses, the flood water also washed away some 300 acres of farmland in the district, he added.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News chief of the emergency assistance branch of the Afghan Red Crescent Committee (ARCS) Sherzad confirmed the losses.
He said they had rushed humanitarian aid, including blankets and food items, to the area for distribution among the affected people.
A day earlier, floods had hit the Behsud district of the same province. Nine people were killed and hundreds displaced as their mud houses were swept away by the water.
UN delegation voices support for Afghan govt
KABUL, Nov 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The visiting delegation of the United Nations Security Council on Sunday said the Afghan government was facing problems.
Speaking at a news conference here, Kenzo Oshima, Japan ambassador to the UN, who is heading the delegation, assured the world body would help in overcoming those problems.
He said the delegation had met President Hamid Karzai and discussed the whole gamut of challenges and problems faced by his government. He added the delegation would also met representatives of the Afghan people to listen to their suggestions as well as travel to some of the provinces.
Foreign Minister Dadfar Rangin Dadfar Spanta termed the visit of the UN delegation as important. He said terrorism was posing threat to the peace of the world and it was the responsibility of the international community to combat the threat.
The UN delegation arrived on Saturday in Kabul on a four-day visit to review security in the war-torn country, which has been witnessing Taliban resurgence in the southern region over the past few months.
The delegation included ambassadors of Argentina, Britain, Denmark, France, Greece, Japan, Qatar, Russia, Slovakia and the United States to the United Nations.
JCMB meets to review progress on Compact
KABUL, Nov 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Body (JCMB) on Sunday held its third quarterly session which was also attended by the visiting delegation of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC).
The high-level meeting examined progress on the Afghanistan Compact and ensured continued momentum despite the surge in insurgency in the southern and eastern parts of the country.
Speaking on the occasion, Professor Ishaq Nadiri, senior advisor to the president on economic affairs and the JCMB's co-chair, said there was recognition on all sides that the Compact must remain on track.
"Good progress has been made in reconstructing the country despite increased insurgency in the south and southeast," said Nadiri, who stressed the need for more work in this direction.
The JCMB oversees implementation of goals of the Afghanistan Compact - the five-year blue print for reconstruction that was signed in February 2006 at the London Conference on Afghanistan.
The meeting observed that security and financial bottlenecks and government capacity were the major problems need to be overcome. "We need to see a strong and coordinated effort by the Afghan government and the international community to meet the challenges ahead," said Professor Nadiri. "They need to be met directly and immediately and that will require a firm commitment," he added.
Substantial new resources and energies have been deployed over the previous months through the Policy Action Group (PAG), a high-level task force formed by President Karzai to address security situation in the south.
"The international community must give strong backing for the government's anti-corruption measures and focus on improving aid effectiveness so that more people benefit as development projects roll out across Afghanistan," said Tom Koenigs, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan and another co-chair of the JCMB.
"We can and must cement peace, stability and progress for all Afghan people," he added.
Pakistan: singed by its own terror tactics
By Amulya Ganguli Telugu Portal (India) November 11, 2006
The Pakistani military and Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), the state within a state as it has been called, must have realized after the suicide attack on an army camp how dangerous it is to play with fire. Yet, for decades, starting from the time of another dictator, Zia ul-Huq, Pakistan has been encouraging the fundamentalists to marginalize the mainstream political parties and to needle India with jehadi attacks.
The Afghan war gave an added impetus to these retrogressive forces by lending a spurious legitimacy to the battle against the Soviets, the atheistic infidels. Unwisely, the US went along with the Islamic radicals and was an ally of Osama bin Laden at the time.
After the Pakistani "conquest" of Afghanistan via the Taliban following the eviction of the Soviets, Islamabad turned its full attention to organising terror attacks in Jammu and Kashmir and elsewhere in India, secure in the knowledge that Afghanistan gave it "strategic depth" in the event of a war with India.
As is known, these endeavours to bleed India with a thousands cuts went swimmingly till 9/11. After that, a reluctant Pakistan pretended to join the US war against terror on being threatened by Washington that, otherwise, it would be bombed into the stone age.
But while Pakistan's mind told it that it would be prudent to distance itself from terrorism, its heart wouldn't listen.
Since the country remained a "nursery" of terrorism, in the words of India's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee - a charge which would be endorsed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai - it was inevitable the US would have no option but to carry out bombing raids itself on the hideouts and training camps or ask Pakistan to do so.
The attack on a madrassa (religious school) in Bajaur near the Afghanistan border might have been carried out by the Pakistani Air Force, but the militants believe that it was the Americans. In any event, they suspect America's hand behind the incident in which more than 80 people, mainly children, were killed.
The retaliatory attack by a suicide bomber on a Pakistan Army camp in Dargai, in which nearly 50 soldiers were killed, was an event waiting to happen. In the "eye for an eye" and "tooth for a tooth" world inhabited by the fundamentalists, the attack on the madrassa could not go unpunished.
Nor could it have been too difficult for the terrorists to carry out the attack because the Taliban has perceptively grown stronger in recent months, as Hamid Karzai would vouchsafe. And their success in bouncing back cannot be unrelated to the truce Islamabad concluded with the tribal leaders of Waziristan, which is Taliban country.
Arguably, the Dargai episode is the first serious terrorist attack on a Pakistani target. True, there have been several attempts on the life of President Pervez Musharraf. But he escaped unhurt, a fortunate reprieve which may have convinced him that the terrorists did not pose as much of a danger to Pakistan as they did to the rest of the world. After all, they could not afford to burn down their own "nursery", especially when US and NATO presence has made them lose their earlier sanctuary in Afghanistan.
However, the Waziristan truce must have convinced them that Islamabad can be made to yield ground because of two reasons. First, it cannot court the risk of antagonizing the religious parties, which are a force to reckon with in the northwest of the country. Secondly, Pakistan hasn't yet abandoned the use of its terrorist option against India lest the world should forget about the Kashmir "problem" if genuine peace and friendship prevail between the two countries.
The fidayeen attack in Dargai is therefore a reminder to Pakistan that it has to go much further than merely reach an agreement in Waziristan, about which the US is known to be uneasy. It has also to refrain from carrying out the kind of attack in Bajaur, where an American Predator drone is said to have detected the presence of Ayman al-Zawahri, Al Qaeda's No. 2 man.
The delicately balanced double game which Pakistan has been playing, therefore, by doing little to control the anti-Indian jehadis while assuring the US that it is with it in the war against terror, is obviously running into troubled waters.
Not surprisingly, voices of reason have begun to be heard inside Pakistan as well.
Writing in Dawn, well known commentator Ayaz Amir has said that "encouraging or assisting the Taliban is not in our interest ... We should curb the cross-border movement of militant elements ... If there are training camps of any sort on our soil, we should do what we can to uproot them".
But if this wise advice falls on deaf ears in the Pakistani military and ISI, the reason is not only the adherence to fundamentalism which Zia ul-Haq encouraged among officials in these organisations but also the belief that in a nuclear age where a war is out of the question terrorism is Pakistan's only weapon against India.
If the Dargai incident sends the message about the double-edged consequences such dangerous tactics, it will have served a purpose.
Queen leads annual tribute to war dead, including those in Iraq and Afghanistan
by Lachlan Carmichael
LONDON (AFP) - The Queen has led thousands of veterans and war widows in solemn tribute to British and Commonwealth troops killed in two world wars and in other conflicts such as Iraq and Afghanistan.
Dressed in black, the 80-year-old monarch stood among them for the annual two minutes of silence before the Cenotaph, the white marble war memorial in central London, after Big Ben chimed 11 times at 11:00 am Sunday.
The queen, suffering from a bad back, crouched gingerly as she laid a wreath of blood-red poppies at the base of the monument between Trafalgar Square and the Big Ben clock tower at the Houses of Parliament.
Thousands of elderly veterans, with medals pinned to their scarlet coats or other uniforms, then marched past the Cenotaph to the strains of military music.
Among them were the wives and children of British servicemen killed in Iraq and Afghanistan, though the solemn event masked how much angry debate these latest conflicts have stirred nationwide.
Also paying tribute were Prime Minister Tony Blair, whose office is opposite the Cenotaph, along with other politicians, military officers, Commonwealth representatives and clerics from the Christian, Muslim and other faiths.
Iraq war widow Raqual Harper-Titchener, 31, laid a wreath of autumn leaves -- rather than the poppies symbolizing World War I battlefields -- on behalf of the families and friends of troops killed since World War II.
The names of the 16,000 British soldiers killed since 1945 will now be engraved on a new armed forces memorial in Staffordshire, central England, the ministry of defence said.
Unlike the World War memorials nationwide, there had been no place that records those names.
"It's an honor and a privilege to be here," said Harper-Titchener, the mother of a six-year-old son and two-year-old daughter, who was born shortly after her father's death.
Her husband Major Matthew Harper-Titchener, Commanding Officer of 150 Provost Company The Royal Military Police, was killed in Iraq on August 23, 2003.
A total of 121 British troops have died in Iraq, most of them in combat, since the US-led invasion was launched in March 2003, a war that is increasingly unpopular in Britain.
The defence ministry said some of the widows and relatives of the 41 British soldiers killed in Afghanistan since the US-led war began there in 2001 also took part in the ceremony.
The events come after a series of solemn ceremonies held at home and abroad, including in Iraq and Afghanistan.
On Saturday -- Armistice Day -- the queen, Blair and his New Zealand counterpart Helen Clark opened a war memorial in London's Hyde Park to the New Zealanders who gave their lives for the Commonwealth.
They were joined by 2,000 troops from New Zealand, including 34 veterans of past wars -- the largest such contingent to travel to Britain since World War II.
Earlier Saturday, thousands of people crowding into Trafalgar Square fell silent for two minutes at 11:00 am as a lone bugler played "The Last Post" and hundreds of pigeons fluttered overhead.
The crowd then placed thousands of traditional poppy petals -- evoking the poppy fields of Flanders in northern France where so many fell -- into one of the fountains, turning the water into a sea of red.
In Paris President Jacques Chirac led France's ceremonies at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.
Armistice Day marks the end of World War I on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month but has since been expanded to commemorate the deaths of all service personnel in wars of the 20th and 21st centuries.
Meanwhile, the relentless debate over Iraq continued after Blair's office said Saturday that the prime minister would give evidence next week to a US bipartisan committee looking at future policy in Iraq.
However, William Hague, the foreign affairs pointman for Britain's opposition Conservative Party, said on television that hopes of involving Iran and Syria in formulating a new policy to stabilize Iraq could prove "naive."
The bipartisan committee headed by former US secretary of state James Baker has reportedly proposed such an approach.
Canadian women pull their own weight in Afghanistan's danger zones
Sat Nov 11, 3:27 PM By Sue Bailey Canadian Press
PANJWAII, Afghanistan (CP) - Medic Angela Townsend erupts into her trademark laugh when asked about the most unusual gift she has received from well-wishers back in Canada.
"I got a package of 30 Freezies and it's 42 degrees here I think," she said. "So I'm going to have to save those for a rainy day.
"If I get to freeze them somewhere, I'll be able to share them with all the guys here."
Townsend, 31, was stationed during a recent interview at a dusty military outpost surrounded by sun-bleached mountains of rock and sand. The other-worldly scene conjures images from Mad Max movies.
Canadians are dug into the former Taliban heartland here, holding crucial ground won during bloody battles last summer.
Cool water is a luxury, let alone anything frozen.
But Townsend is clearly touched that someone cared enough to try sending a bit of relief from the searing daytime heat.
The Cape Breton native is one of few Canadian women doing every job from medic to front-line infantry in Afghanistan.
Women make up about 15 per cent of the Canadian Forces but only around seven per cent of the 2,400 soldiers deployed here. Troops are serving six-month tours that will continue through 2008.
There are now almost 8,000 women in Canada's military and another 4,800 with reserve units.
Townsend says she's treated much like any other soldier.
"I find if you portray yourself as someone who can do the job, and you put in the effort to help them out as well, you'll gain the respect from the guys."
Women are equally expected to unload heavy deliveries of food and water, and to fill and haul the endless sandbags needed to fortify positions against insurgent attacks.
Townsend joined the military full time because she liked the people she met. It also seemed like a good way to see the world.
"The relationships you form are relationships you'll have forever," she said. "Just the experiences, telling people about what you've done, what you've seen. It's amazing."
Townsend has completed missions in Bosnia and with the Disaster Assistance Response Team, or DART, in Sri Lanka and Turkey. This is her first tour in Afghanistan.
By far, the hardest part is leaving family and friends.
"It's a sacrifice," she said. "I wonder sometimes how some people do it with children, being married. I applaud them so much."
The support of people back home helps more than Townsend can say.
"Sometimes it's overwhelming because you don't really realize how much and how many people are actually back there praying for you and wishing you well."
As a medic, Townsend was attached to A Company, 2nd Battalion of Princess Patricia's Light Infantry based in Shilo, Man.
Sgt.-Maj. John Hooyer said gender makes no difference to him as long as every soldier is there to work and be part of the team.
"Each one of them brings their own personality. So it's the personality that's going to allow them to integrate smoothly, or they may have difficulties from time to time."
The presence of women, however, does change the dynamic in some ways, he said.
"Honestly? The nice part about it is, when you talk to (male) soldiers you normally talk about work. When you have a woman here, you talk about things that you like back home. You talk about your family, you talk about your children.
"You talk about something that brings a level of normalcy back to your life while you're sitting here working on a defensive position or you're waiting to go out on an (observation post) or on patrol. That's the nice side of it."
Local Taliban deny attack on security fort
Daily Times (Pakistan) November 12, 2006
PESHAWAR: A spokesman for the local Taliban on Saturday denied responsibility for a rocket attack on a security fort in North Waziristan saying the attack had been carried out by those trying to worsen the situation in the agency.
Militants fired five rockets at an army fort near the town of Mir Ali that borders Afghanistan on Thursday night, but there were no casualties as the rockets missed the target and landed in a field.
Spokesman Abdullah Farhad, while speaking to reporters from an undisclosed location over the telephone, said he did not know who was involved in the attack. “We respect the peace agreement (with the government) and have not broken it. It (the attack) was carried out by elements that do not want peace in the region.” Farhad also denied that the local Taliban had imposed taxes in the area saying pamphlets distributed in Miran Shah on various types of taxes were “bogus”.
The rocket attack was the first one in North Waziristan following the September 5 peace accord between the government and the local Taliban.
Farhad said if the Taliban ever decided to return to militancy, they would first renounce the peace agreement. He said that both parties were respecting the peace agreement and there had been no violations. The local Taliban were no longer going to Afghanistan to fight the US and its allies, he added. Farhad was unaware of the abduction of a tehsildar in North Waziristan, and said the local Taliban were looking into the matter.
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