Karzai meets Indian Foreign Minister
NEW DELHI, Nov 17 (Pajhwok Afghan News): President Hamid Karzai on Friday met Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee and discussed relations between the two countries.
President Karzai thanked India for its cooperation during the previous five years and hoped India would continue assisting Afghanistan in different fields in the future as well.
He said he was grateful to the Indian government for organising the two-day regional economic conference on Afghanistan and inviting him to that conference. He hoped the holding of the conference would bear positive results for India, Afghanistan and the region.
Karzai also recalled the assistance extended by India in electrifying Afghanistan's central capital Kabul.
Indian Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee, on this occasion, said his country values its relationship with Afghanistan and they were eager to further boost their ties with that country. President Karzai will also meet his Indian counter-part Abdul Kalam.
Ahmad Naim Qadiri
Nearly 50 people killed in Afghanistan floods
HERAT, Afghanistan (AFP) - Flash floods caused by heavy rains have killed nearly 50 people in western Afghanistan with 60 more missing, the Afghan health ministry said.
Does your company have a process for updating customer records from returned mail?
Forty-seven bodies had been recovered after floods hit the western province of Badghis on Thursday, health ministry official Ahmad Shah Shokohmand told AFP, citing information forwarded by provincial health authorities.
The bodies were being kept in a mosque in Balamurghab, a town about 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border with Turkmenistan, Shokohmand said.
The governor of Badghis, Mohammad Nasim Tokhi, had said earlier that at least 13 people, including children, had drowned while nearly 100 more were missing.
The floods washed away villages along the Murghab River, he said, warning that thousands of people were still in danger.
"It was a huge flood. We have 13 bodies recovered and dozens, nearly 100, are missing," he told AFP, citing information about the missing from their families.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said it was aware of the "serious situation" and was working with the government to send disaster relief, including eight tonnes of medical supplies, to the area.
Afghanistan, including the west, has been in the grip of drought but heavy rains started falling in several parts of the country in the past week.
Badghis has been especially hard-hit by a lack of rain with reports that hundreds of families had left their land.
PM, Karzai to discuss security, Taliban Friday
By IANS - Thursday November 16
New Delhi, Nov 16 (IANS) India's concerns about escalating Taliban violence in Afghanistan will figure prominently during talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Afghan President Hamid Karzai here Friday.
Karzai, who comes here Friday on a five-day visit with seven cabinet ministers and parliamentarians, is likely to seek further enhancement of India's already substantial contribution for the socio-economic reconstruction of the war-ravaged country.
Manmohan Singh and Karzai will jointly inaugurate a two-day regional economic conference here Saturday that is aimed at accelerating regional cooperation for rebuilding a stable and prosperous Afghanistan.
President A.P.J. Abdul Kalam will confer on Karzai the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development at the Rashtrapati Bhavan Saturday.
India, which has vital stakes in a 'stable, democratic and prosperous Afghanistan', is concerned about the re-grouping of the Taliban militia, with its linkages to Al Qaeda and terrorist outfits targeting Jammu and Kashmir.
India has already pledged $650 million for the socio-economic reconstruction of Afghanistan and sees the strategically situated country as not just a security issue but also a crucial link in promoting economic and cultural integration between South Asia and Central Asia.
A UN team, which visited Afghanistan recently, has warned that resurgence of Taliban-led violence could pose a serious threat to the security of that country.
Karzai has blamed Pakistan for instigating the Taliban in Afghanistan - a charge that has been rejected by Islamabad.
New Afghan police force deployed
By Matt Prodger BBC News, Kabul Friday, 17 November 2006, 12:38 GMT
The Afghan government has begun deploying more than 11,000 auxiliary police in the south of the country to combat worsening lawlessness.
President Hamid Karzai says the move is aimed at curbing the insurgency there.
But there is growing opposition to the auxiliary police from ordinary Afghans complaining of corrupt behaviour.
One diplomat has described the auxiliary police as legalised militias loyal to their warlords, and not the central government in Kabul.
Afghanistan has a problem with lawlessness and nowhere more so than in the south.
On paper it has a 60,000-strong police force, but many believe it is much smaller than that.
When in June President Karzai announced his intention to supplement the force with auxiliary police, alarm bells started ringing.
There has been a concerted effort to persuade the private armies of warlords to hand over their weapons in recent years.
But the formation of auxiliary police units has, in places, effectively re-armed those private armies and put them into brand new uniforms.
The training they have received has been basic and, some complain, overly militaristic.
To compound matters their pay is low and, as in the regular police force, endemic corruption is expected to be a problem.
The auxiliary police are also supposed to plug the gaps left not only by the regular police, but the Afghan army and foreign troops in an area caught in the throes of a violent insurgency.
In Helmand province, public confidence in a new 1,500-strong auxiliary force is low, with residents already complaining of extortion and theft by uniformed gunmen.
And yet the Afghan government is under intense pressure to impose if not law, then at least order, in such places outside its complete control.
NATO Apologizes as Troops Kill 2 Afghan Civilians, Injure Child
By Ed Johnson
Nov. 17 (Bloomberg) -- International troops shot dead two Afghan civilians and injured a child in a vehicle that drove toward a patrol at high speed and ignored warnings to stop, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization said.
The incident happened two days ago in southern Helmand province, where the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force is battling Taliban and al-Qaeda insurgents seeking to destabilize President Hamid Karzai's government.
The deaths, which follow the killing of at least 12 civilians in fighting on Oct. 24, are a potential set back for NATO, which is trying to win the support of Afghan locals as it seeks to quell the insurgency.
``We do have a problem,'' U.K. Lieutenant General David Richards, who heads ISAF, told lawmakers in the Afghan parliament yesterday as he apologized for civilian casualties, Agence France-Presse reported.
``The people who are trying to impose a different way of life on this country hide and fight from amongst your people,'' Richards said, adding it is difficult to distinguish between civilians and enemies ``when the bullets start flying.''
The civilians were killed seven kilometers (four miles) north of the town of Gereshk when their van sped toward a ISAF patrol and failed to stop when troops tried to flag the vehicle down, the alliance said in a statement.
``The troops subsequently fired in self defense,'' the e- mailed statement said. ``ISAF deeply regrets the loss of life and injury to civilians.''
Demands for Inquiry
The United Nations last month demanded an inquiry into the number of civilians killed Oct. 24 when NATO troops clashed with Taliban fighters in southern Kandahar province.
ISAF spokesman Major Luke Knittig said at the time at least 12 civilians were killed. Local Afghan officials said as many as 85 civilians died.
Fighters loyal to the Taliban regime that was ousted in 2001 have stepped up their guerrilla war as NATO pushes into the country's southern and eastern provinces.
Attacks by the Taliban have doubled this year, with an increased use of suicide bombings, U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency Director Michael Maples told the Senate Armed Services Committee two days ago.
``Al-Qaeda remains committed to re-establishing a fundamentalist Islamic government in Afghanistan,'' he said, according to a U.S. government transcript of the hearing.
The network has ``strengthened its capabilities and influence'' in Pashtun tribal communities in the country's east and south where central government influence is limited, Maples added, according to the transcript.
``We will not be defeated,'' AFP cited Richards as telling Afghan senators yesterday. ``I can assure you there is no chance of it as long as you continue to give us your support.''
Afghanistan's Bid for Foreign Investment a Tough Sale
By Gary Thomas Washington 16 November 2006 Voice of America
More than 20 years of foreign occupation and civil war has left much of Afghanistan in ruins. As part of its rebuilding effort, the Afghan government is trying to lure foreign investment. But as VOA correspondent Gary Thomas reports, Afghanistan is not an easy sale to potential investors.
In 2004, three years after the Taleban regime was toppled, Afghan President Hamid Karzai told a joint meeting of the U.S. Congress the doors to Afghanistan were open to investors.
"To succeed we ask for your continued investment. Afghanistan is open for business, and American companies are most welcome," he said.
Today the Afghan capital Kabul boasts a gleaming shopping mall and one new luxury hotel. Unfortunately, it also has a reinvigorated insurgency inflicting new attacks, a booming drug trade, and what one U.N. official labeled "endemic corruption", any one of which makes potential investors nervous.
Yet Afghanistan continues an aggressive campaign to attract foreign investment. At a recent Afghan trade fair in Washington, Atiq Panjshiri, president of the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce, said Afghanistan poses potential risks for investors, but also holds great potential rewards.
"The recent surge in the level of violence and security issues, that's a concern of any businessperson anywhere in the world. You have to be concerned. You have to protect your investment. But it should not be a deterrent. Afghanistan has great opportunities for the investor. The government is probably the most friendly in that part of the world for an open market system, and they have a great partnership with the private sector," he said.
The government scored a major business coup when the Coca-Cola Company opened a $25 million state-of-the-art bottling plant in Kabul in September, with President Karzai himself inaugurating the plant. Kedri Ozen, the company's communications manager for Eurasia and the Middle East, said Coke already had distribution and manufacturing facilities across Central Asia, and Afghanistan was what he calls the "missing link" in Coca-Cola's regional network.
Proponents of Afghan investment tend to downplay security concerns and underscore what they say is the stability of a democratic government in Kabul.
Commerce Minister Mohammad Amin Farhang says the media overstates the level of violence.
Karl Inderfurth, former U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asia, agrees, saying the security problems of the resurgent Taleban are local, not national.
"The central government is certainly doing all it can to attract investment. An agency has been established for precisely that purpose. A great deal of Afghanistan is also stable and secure. The problem areas right now are in the south," he said.
But Barnett Rubin, who was a special U.N. advisor during the 2001 talks that produced an interim government, says the Kabul government is shaky because its inability to provide basic services to much of the population has fuelled resentment.
"I think we saw it last May, when riots took place in Kabul, how unstable the government was. People at the very top of that government were afraid that the government might be overthrown, that there was a danger to the government. They saw how easy it was for a group of rioters to attack the central government," he said.
But what is the business climate in Afghanistan? A recent World Bank study ranked countries around the world on the ease of doing business. Of the 175 countries ranked, Afghanistan came in near the bottom at 162. Melissa Johns, a World Bank investment policy specialist who worked on the study, says they found that while it was relatively easy to start a business in Afghanistan, there was still plenty of red tape bureaucracy and no legal framework to protect investors.
"Afghanistan just frankly doesn't have any legal protections against these matters. Not only are there no disclosure requirements, but the directors can't be held liable for any misdeeds that they do while running the company," she said.
She adds that Afghanistan implemented no real business reforms in the past year.
"This government that has been in place for a couple of years now has been very optimistic and very open to change and improvement. But I was surprised not to have seen any reforms in Afghanistan last year. I hope we find something different for next year's report. I hope that we see that more legislation has been passed, that more steps have been taken to improve the business environment," she said.
Analysts also cite the slow rebuilding of infrastructure, such as roads and electricity, and corruption as impediments to luring more investment to Afghanistan. During a just-completed U.N. fact-finding mission to Afghanistan, delegation head Kenzo Oshima called on the government to do more to fight what he called "endemic corruption" as well as the flourishing illicit drug trade in the country.
NATO chiefs to urge world re-think on Afghanistan
By Mark John
BRUSSELS (Reuters) - NATO leaders meeting in Riga this month will call on the international community to revamp a haphazard strategy for rebuilding Afghanistan to plug shortcomings in aid efforts, alliance diplomats said on Friday.
Ideas being floated ahead of the November 28-29 summit of the U.S.-led defence pact include stricter monitoring of donor pledges, and greater roles for the local U.N. mission and World Bank in coordinating development and reconstruction.
Taliban insurgents have fed off growing frustration among Afghans at the slow pace of reconstruction and anger about civilian casualties as NATO troops seek to root out Islamist fighters often hiding within local communities.
Leaders at the summit are expected to call for the United Nations, the European Union and other agencies to work more closely with NATO but will stress the alliance wants to stick to security tasks and seeks no coordinating role for itself.
With support at home for the Afghan mission at risk as casualties mount, NATO countries see the international aid effort and the extension of President Hamid Karzai's authority across the country as their eventual way out.
"We can be an entry strategy, but we can't do the exit strategy. We are only as good as our partners," NATO's director of policy planning, Jamie Shea, told a Brussels conference.
This has been the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since a U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban's hardline government in 2001. Some 3,100 people have died in violence as the Taliban, boosted by drugs money and safe havens in Pakistan, fight back.
Multiple agencies are working to alleviate dire conditions in one of the world's poorest nations, but inefficiencies mean aid is often not going fast enough where it is most needed.
DELIVERING ON PLEDGES
"If we are to succeed, our military engagement must be accompanied by a more efficient civilian effort," a NATO diplomat quoted Norwegian Foreign Minister Jonas Gahr Stoere as telling his alliance counterparts in a letter this month.
Norway wants the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) to have a greater remit to manage civilian efforts and the World Bank to be "more vigorous" in overseeing development.
It called for a greater effort to train the Afghan army, police and judiciary, where corruption is still widespread, and proposed a "special envoy" to better coordinate donor funds.
The EU decision this week to send a fact-finding team to explore the scope for a small police training mission is seen in NATO as an encouraging sign that others are willing to do more.
Other proposals being floated include new mechanisms to ensure donors deliver some 10 billion dollars of aid pledged at an international conference on Afghanistan in January, and naming a high-powered official to lead international efforts.
"It would be a strongly political special representative in the mould of Lakhdar Brahimi," said one diplomat of the veteran U.N. trouble-shooter who helped broker the transition to Iraqi self-rule after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion.
The Netherlands has proposed that military commanders be given greater access to funds to kick-start development in areas too dangerous for aid agencies to enter.
The idea has won guarded backing from some such as Britain, fighting alongside the Dutch in the south, but is opposed by others keen to keep civilian and military efforts separate.
"But there is a clear consensus we cannot win this purely militarily," said one envoy.
How Did U.S. Woman Get the Name 'Afghanistan's Grandmother'?
ABC News By Gretchen Peters
The World's Largest Collection of Recent Afghan History
An American Woman Has Devoted Her Life to Afghanistan
When American Nancy Hatch Dupree found out she had been dubbed "Afghanistan's grandmother," she "went into orbit," she said.
The Afghans she worked with didn't understand her fury. She remembers one who said, "We all know we can come to you for advice."
"That's when the penny dropped," she said. "You don't advertise somebody's age in my culture, but for an Afghan, this was a great honor."
After 60 years in Afghanistan, Dupree, now 78, knows a thing or two about Afghan culture.
Half a century ago, she wrote five guidebooks on the country's rich antiquities, traveling to study ancient relics like the Buddhas of Bamyian — which he Taliban later destroyed — and the towering Minaret of Jam. Her guides are still widely used today.
Dupree came to Kabul as the young wife of an American diplomat. But when that marriage quickly fell apart, she fell in love with Louis Dupree, then the world's pre-eminent Afghan scholar.
"It was a grand scandal," she said with a shrug, adding, "I was a young chicken then."
To clear her head, she'd ride her stallion across empty rolling plains — now teeming Kabul neighborhoods — to visit a crumbling palace she was helping to restore.
She and Louis later married at the palace grounds. "There was deep, deep snow, which was considered good luck," she said. "And it was because we had a very good marriage."
Her husband traveled around the country researching Afghan history, she said, "and I tagged along with my notebook."
When civil war erupted, the couple fled to the Pakistani frontier town of Peshawar, along with millions of Afghan refugees. They launched education programs for refugee children and held court with the various mujahedeen factions fighting the Soviet-backed regime.
Over time, Dupree met just about everybody who came through the Afghan theater. Diplomats, jihadist leaders, journalists, researchers: Everyone came to seek her advice. Even a young Osama bin Laden once turned up at her door.
"Those were in the early days, when he was a very shy character and didn't even have a beard," Dupree said.
She didn't end up helping bin Laden, but her reputation as someone you could go to earned her her sobriquet.
Her husband's death from lung cancer, in 1989, left her briefly despondent, until she embarked on a mammoth project he conceived: a library for Kabul University.
"I am a historian, and I love libraries," she said. "I believe this project is germane to the development of this country."
She has helped amass a collection of 37,000 books and documents: history tomes, works by Afghan writers, reports by aid groups during the Afghan War, even newspapers put out by the jihadist groups.
The Afghan Center at Kabul University, when complete, will bring together the world's largest collection of recent Afghan history. To serve researchers around the globe, a catalog of the entire collection has been put online, in English and Dari.
The university has already given her a plot of land where Dupree hopes to raise $2 million to build the library and research center, plus additional funds for its annual running costs.
It may sound like a daunting project for a woman who's almost 80. She travels back and forth between Kabul and Peshawar, constantly networking to raise money and to find new material for the center.
"I'm going out with my begging bowl," she said. It's hard to imagine her slowing down.
For now, the Afghan Center operates out of cramped, temporary space leant them by the university, where Dupree and her staff work to organize the collection and catalogue new acquisitions. Upstairs, a reading room for students is packed with young people, who can scan the catalogue for relevant material, or just browse the Web.
"At first, they just came to surf the Internet," Dupree says. "That is how we lured them."
But just two months since their opening, they are getting 900 users a month on their catalogue. Slowly but surely, Kabul University undergrads studying everything from animal husbandry to medicine are learning how to research.
The Afghan Center has also produced several dozen mobile libraries of about 200 Dari- and Pashtun-language books that it dispatches to the provinces. Only about a third of Afghans can read, according to UNICEF statistics. Literacy among rural women stands at an appalling 4 to 5 percent.
Dupree geared her mobile libraries to people who have recently learned to read: The books are short and filled with colorful pictures.
"When we started this, I said we have to produce books people cannot resist picking up," she said.
She sends rural people mainly self-help books — how to improve health care and nutrition, how to get better results farming, how to care for farm animals.
"If you are too busy thinking about survival, you don't really pay much attention to politics," she said. "If I can help advance their livelihood, maybe they'll have time to start thinking about democracy."
In a year when Afghanistan's security and political situation took a clear slide, Dupree said it's sometimes hard to remain optimistic about the future.
"I will not minimize the problems they have, which include weak, weak leadership, corruption, opportunists and all kinds of bad stuff," she said. "But I meet Afghans every day who are doing things that matter, and they haven't lost heart. They aren't despondent yet, and I don't think we should be."
For Afghanistan's grandmother, there can be no better tribute to her and her husband's life's work than a library for Afghan students.
UN calls for urgent food help for millions of Afghans
KABUL (AFP) - The UN World Food Programme (WFP) renewed calls for urgent funds to buy food for millions of Afghans facing shortages this winter, with drought taking hold in some parts of the destitute country.
"Our stocks are empty," a spokesman for the United Nations programme, Ebadullah Ebadi, told AFP on Friday.
The world body needed 30 million dollars for its winter food delivery to 3.5 million Afghans who relied on its help, he said.
Another three million who were not covered by the WFP were also "severely and chronically affected" by food shortages, Ebadi said.
"In addition to this, 1.9 (million people) have been affected by drought," he said.
The WFP has received only 34 percent of the funds it requested for programmes that include food distribution across the war-ravaged country, he said, adding though the shortages did not mean the population faced starvation.
The world body this month cut one of its programmes -- providing enriched food to school children -- because of a lack of money, Ebadi said.
The programme also covers women in refugee camps and remote inaccessible areas during winter.
Trying to recover from nearly 30 years of war, Afghanistan is heavily dependent on aid in every arena, from fighting the resurgent Taliban movement toppled from government in 2001 to rebuilding its shattered infrastructure.
Drought in the south and west has meanwhile almost entirely wiped out the rain-dependent wheat harvest in some areas, the Christian Aid agency said in September.
The UN said last month that around 20,000 families -- some 100,000 people -- had also been displaced by conflict in the south, which sees the worst of clashes between the Taliban and foreign and Afghan security forces.
The country's population is estimated at between 26 and 30 million, with the last official census taken in 1979.
Bearing the burden in Afghanistan
PAUL KORING Globe and Mail, Canada
U.S., British and Canadian forces are locked in a deadly struggle with the Taliban in Afghanistan. But while the three countries are left to the heavy soldiering, their NATO allies elsewhere in Afghanistan have seen little, if any, action. PAUL KORING reports on the questions being asked where the boots hit the dirt
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- Troops from most major European nations are kept far from the fighting in Afghanistan, crippling NATO's effort to defeat the Taliban and secure the embattled south, according to NATO officers and independent analysts.
That leaves U.S., British and Canadian soldiers doing most of the fighting and dying in the battle with the fierce Taliban insurgency, a review of casualties shows.
Germany, France, Italy, and Spain -- all major military powers with significant troop contributions -- have stayed far from the Taliban fighters, deploying thousands of combat-capable troops, but keeping them hunkered down in the mostly peaceful northern and western parts of the country.
The starkest indicator of the imbalance is the body count, with three countries -- the United States, Canada and Britain -- accounting for 90 per cent of NATO's combat casualties.
Americans killed in action account for half of the total, followed by Canada with 25 per cent and Britain with 15 per cent.
But the unwillingness of many European nations to allow their troops to be sent into combat is only part of the problem.
Most of the 37 "troop-contributing" nations to the International Security and Assistance Force have sent too few soldiers to make any meaningful military impact.
Some are just token contributions. Austria has five soldiers, fewer than the number of Austrian flags at ISAF headquarters. Canada has more troops in Afghanistan than the combined total from 23 nations. Many of those contributions, ranging from a few dozen soldiers to a couple of hundred, are too small to be effective in combat even if they were deployed in the south.
The shortfall and the unwillingness of most NATO nations to allow their soldiers into combat, is expected to dominate next month's alliance summit in Riga.
NATO's Dutch Secretary-General, Jaap de Hoop Scheffer, has taken aim at the big countries whose troops are kept from combat by political restrictions.
"We need to better configure our forces in Afghanistan," he wrote in a German newspaper last week. "That also means removing the limitations individual nations have placed on their troops."
Pleas from top NATO commanders for more troops or the loosening of tight leashes that keeps most European soldiers from the fighting have fallen largely on deaf ears.
"Only a handful of NATO members are prepared to go to the south and east and to go robustly -- mainly the U.S., U.K., Canada, the Netherlands, Romania, Australia and Denmark," the International Crisis Group concludes in a blunt report published this month.
"Hard questions need to be asked of those such as Germany, Spain, France, Turkey and Italy who are not, and who sometimes appear to put force protection, not mission needs, at the fore."
A senior Canadian officer is more blunt. "How many battalions does it take to protect Kabul airport?" said Colonel Fred Lewis, the deputy contingent commander.
It's not just Kabul. In relatively peaceful northeastern Afghanistan, Germany has 2,700 troops, the third largest contingent in Afghanistan. Yet not a single German soldier has been in a firefight this year and there have been no German combat casualties.
Italy has 1,800 troops -- a contingent almost as big as Canada's -- in Herat in the northwest, a region more restive than the Germans.
In 2003, the Canadian government considered -- and eventually rejected -- deploying troops to Herat. Instead, the government opted for the far more dangerous Kandahar province, heartland of the Taliban.
Spain, another big, continental military power, has sent its soldiers to Badghis, adjacent to Herat, and also far from the insurgency.
French troops are mostly in Kabul, although it has about 200 special forces fighting in the south.
Not only are many European troops in relatively safe zones, their presence in Afghanistan is predicated on deals with NATO that they not be sent into combat.
"Indeed, troop presence in Afghanistan often appears to be about demonstrating an alliance with the U.S. rather than meeting the country's needs," the Crisis Group report says.
Of the roughly 31,000 NATO troops in Afghanistan, the United States provides more than 11,000. Another 10,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan remain under direct U.S. command.
Only the United States, Britain and the Netherlands have deployed a full array of combat capability, with warplanes and helicopter gunships to back up ground troops.
Although NATO won't reveal those secret national caveats, they effectively tie the hands of top commanders.
Some prevent troops from being sent south to where the fighting takes place. Others are so specific that they preclude certain national contingents from venturing beyond their heavily fortified bases after dark, according to NATO officers who spoke on condition that they not be named.
Canadian Brigadier-General David Fraser, who until earlier this month commanded all U.S., Canadian, British and Dutch troops in NATO's southern region, said he wanted more troops moved south. "The fewer national caveats, the more flexibility we would have to deal with the Taliban," he said.
ISAF's overall commander, British Lieutenant-General David Richards, has said he needs an additional rapid-reaction force of 2,000 soldiers in southern Afghanistan. No country stepped forward. Poland offered about 900 troops, but they won't arrive until spring.
Coalition of the unwilling?
There are 37 countries contributing troops to NATO's mission to stabilize Afghanistan, but most of the fighting falls to a handful of nations, while the others have too few troops to take part in battles or are keeping their soldiers out of the most dangerous areas.
Czech Republic 100
New Zealand 100
SOURCE: ISAF, ICASUALTIES.ORG
Al Qaeda is against India's work in Afghanistan: Official
PTI | November 16, 2006 | 20:21 IST
Global terrorist network Al Qaeda is opposed to India's reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, a senior government official said on Thursday.
"India is associated with the stabilisation of peace and reconstruction works in Afghanistan. Al Qaeda is opposed to India's efforts in that country," said K S Singh, additional secretary in the external affairs ministry.
"Because of India's works in Afghanistan, Al Qaeda is looking at India," he said, noting that three Indians had been killed in the war-ravaged country in the recent past.
"Al Qaeda mentioned India in its public statement in 2006," Singh told reporters on the sidelines of a seminar on 'Bridging the gap between peacekeeping and peace-building'.
He, however, asserted that India would continue its reconstruction and development efforts in Afghanistan.
His comments came as Delhi prepares to host a two-day conference from Saturday to discuss enhancement of cooperation in rebuilding Afghanistan.
The event will give impetus to the world community's efforts to substantially strengthen cooperation and partnerships with Afghanistan as that country endeavours to write a new chapter in its history -- one of durable peace and sustainable development and prosperity, Singh said.
India is committed to contribute to the reconstruction and rehabilitation of Afghanistan and has pledged $650 million since 2001. Of this, $645 million has been committed for various projects. Over the past four years, $220 million has been utilised, he said.
Addressing the seminar, Singh said despite all measures taken by different international agencies, peace-building has been a challenge in Afghanistan.
"There is a degree of back-sliding in Afghanistan. A Shakespearean tragedy is unfolding in Iraq. These are among the few countries where peace-building is a real challenge," he said.
In its bid to step up efforts in this field, the United Nations set up a Peace-Building Commisison in December, 2005.
India, a major troop contributing country to UN peacekeeping missions, has been selected as a member of the organisational committee of PBC under the category of top five providers of military personnel and civilian police for peacekeeping operations.
India announced an initial commitment of $2 million to the peacebuilding fund set up under PBC. It has contributed over 85,000 troops for UN peacekeeping and participated in 42 missions so far.
A total of 119 Indian soldiers have died while serving under the UN flag, he said. "Today there is the new dimension of global jihad also," he said, adding that people are looking at India on how to keep a tab on such forces.
NATO failed Canada in Afghanistan, British MP says
Thursday, November 16, 2006 - CanWest News Service; Montreal Gazette
QUEBEC - A British Labour MP praised Canadian troops Wednesday for their ''superb gallantry and valour'' in Afghanistan, but said they were let down by their NATO allies.
Frank Cook is one of 340 parliamentarians from countries belonging to the North Atlantic Treaty Organization who have gathered here this week for the NATO parliamentary assembly.
He recalled the wave of shock that went through a NATO delegation in Kabul last May on news that Capt. Nichola Goddard, of the 1st Royal Canadian Horse, had been killed early in the Panjwaii campaign. Goddard is the senior Canadian officer killed to date in Afghanistan and the first Canadian woman to die in combat since the Second World War.
After the Canadians drove the Taliban from safe havens in Panjwaii, killing about 200 of the enemy, Cook said, Canada sought help from its NATO allies with troops already in Afghanistan to consolidate the gain.
''Five NATO countries refused,'' he said, explaining they invoked ''national caveats,'' defined by their legislators to limit the scope of their commitment to the Afghan mission. Cook did not identify the countries.
Canada took 12 of its 42 fatal casualties in Afghanistan to date in the Panjwaii campaign, Cook noted.
Canadian Maj.-Gen. Joe Hincke said the issue of ''national caveats'' is the subject of ongoing discussions within NATO. ''I can't say much more,'' Hincke said, adding that it was an issue of national sovereignty involving ''nations' blood and treasure.'' ''That is the reality of operations in a NATO environment.''
Laurie Hawn, a Conservative MP from Alberta, agreed with Cook. ''It is profoundly disappointing when something like this happens,'' Hawn said.
Hincke said training Afghan National Army troops to relieve NATO would be a better way to use resources. Ran Cohen, a Meretz member of the Israeli Knesset, asked Hincke how NATO troops can distinguish between the Taliban and the civilian population.
Hincke said the task is difficult and will take time, but what Canada is trying to do in Afghanistan is to offer civilians an alternative, so the Taliban will be isolated.
And that means showing NATO is committed and will not leave in the short term, he added. ''It takes time and there will be setbacks, but that's the way to go,'' Hincke said.
He reminded delegates that Afghanistan has been devastated by nearly 30 years of war, leaving the country with little infrastructure. The country is also divided by tribal loyalties, making it difficult for the central government to establish its authority.
''It's going to take a long time to put it back together,'' he said and the first step is establishing hope by creating a stable environment.
In the absence of economic alternatives, the Afghans are turning to drugs as a cash crop, growing marijuana and poppies used to make heroin and opium. ''There needs to be an alternate economy,'' Hincke said, suggesting vineyards. Montreal Gazette
Defence minister says lack of Taliban leaders likely making things more quiet
The Canadian Press - Published: Wednesday, November 15, 2006
CALGARY -- Canada’s defence minister says a lack of leadership within the Taliban is probably why things have been calmer for Canadian troops in Afghanistan.
Gordon O’Connor says the Taliban lost a lot of leaders during September’s bloody clash with Canadian and NATO troops in Operation Medusa. He says the Taliban are having troubles “finding sufficient leadership” because so many of them were killed during the battle earlier in the fall.
Although 42 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan so far, it’s been more than a month since the last casualty. Five soldiers were killed in October and 10 died in September.
O’Connor is currently on a cross-Canada speaking tour to try to build up support for the Afghanistan mission.
Support for Taliban grows in rural Afghanistan as villagers lose hope: elders
By SUE BAILEY November 14, 2006
QALAT, Afghanistan (CP) - Five years after the Taliban's fall, tribal leaders from the sun-baked mud villages around Qalat, an ancient town east of Kandahar, say life isn't much better.
They enjoy neither peace nor the benefits of new development, they say. And they blame the growing popularity of violent anti-government militants on the failure of international forces to keep their word. "There is no security here," says Neamat Khan, 35, director of a local construction agency.
He made the comments at the base for the local Provincial Reconstruction Team where members of the United Nations Security Council met local elders Tuesday.
The visit to gauge progress and plot strategy is the council's first trip to Afghanistan in three years. Promised roads, wells, schools and medical clinics have been slow in coming, especially in the isolated rural areas where they are arguably most needed.
"Day by day, support for the Taliban is increasing," said Khan, his blue eyes intense and a long turban draped over his shoulder.
The bleak assessment hardly matches much rosier scenes drawn by NATO commanders in recent weeks. Coalition leaders have repeatedly stressed that the South is increasingly safe, the Taliban is on the run, and aid projects are on track.
UN Security Council spokesman Adrian Edwards seemed to back the local viewpoint. "Security this year has certainly got worse," he said. Suicide bombings and roadside blasts have soared, while the national opium trade - supplier of much of the world's heroin - broke records.
Edwards quickly noted that Afghanistan has made obvious progress in the last five years "from less than zero." There is now an elected government, a new constitution, hundreds of new schools and wells, and long stretches of freshly paved highway.
But the battle for the "hearts and minds" of local people is being lost, says Khan.
Villagers are increasingly bitter over the rate at which young men are mistakenly rounded up as insurgent suspects and detained by foreign troops, he said.
"People are very angry about this." Hundreds of civilians in the South have also been displaced from their homes and vineyards flattened by NATO bombings in recent combat missions. "In general, people are not happy with the United Nations or NATO," said Khan.
Farmer and tribal elder Hakim Khan says foreign troops should woo local support by diverting huge sums away from military operations and into local projects. Clean water, improved roads and better salaries for Afghan security forces would go farther to bolster government support, he suggests.
Dutch Maj.-Gen. Ton Van Loon recognizes that battle-fatigued Afghans are sick of fighting after almost three decades. But troops can't pack up just yet, he said. "We cannot accept insurgents taking control," and sabotaging aid efforts, Van Loon said.
"If we need to fight the Taliban, we will fight the Taliban. There is no doubt whatsoever about that." Still, Van Loon said it's "crucially important" that momentum shift from combat to reconstruction.
Also vital is the involvement of anyone who is committed to building a democratic Afghanistan, he added. Even former Taliban should be included if they've genuinely changed tack, he said. "What they've been in the past, to me, is less relevant. We need to talk to the Afghans."
Local guidance is indispensable in a notoriously complex political realm. NATO forces must be ever wary when acting on tips to avoid being used as pawns in time-honoured tribal feuds.
"They are the experts," Van Loon said of local elders. "We are like the blind boxer. We can hit very hard, but they will need to talk to us to make sure that we hit the right targets."
Karzai on back foot
Josy Joseph November 14, 2006 DNA India
The active support of Pakistani state machinery for the Taliban fighters isn’t anything new and surprising to India, but what has them now concerned are the moves by Karzai regime to buy peace with Taliban. That could have further cascading effect on the already chaotic situation in Afghanistan.
While global attention has fully shifted to Iraq, Afghanistan has been spiralling out of control, with over 600 terrorists attacks in October alone. The intensification of terrorist attacks in Afghanistan is directly linked to the resurgence of Taliban, based and trained in Pakistan and now proven to be receiving active state support from Pakistan.
For long India has been expressing its concern over covert support being extended to Taliban by Pakistani intelligence agencies, but of late they have been talking of a more dangerous trend. Karzai regime is on the back-foot, desperately trying to buy peace with the insurgents in regions close to Pakistan border.
Indian intelligence and security establishments are abuzz about the negotiations similar to the one Pakistan signed with pro-Taliban terrorists. The September 5 deal of Pakistan has brought peace to North Waziristan, while carving out a safe haven for the terrorists to regroup and train for attacks across the border in Afghanistan.
The Karzai regime’s move involves a pull out of its security forces from those areas where the peace treaty would be implemented. Such havens of terrorism could have unexpected, and deep impact not just on future of Afghanistan but also on rest of the region, officers here argue.
The frightening reality unfolding in Afghanistan may take more time to sink in for a politically divided and Iraq-centric US strategists, but the Musharraf regime’s ongoing efforts at de-stabilising Afghanistan would have by then sown the seeds of events worse than 9/11. There is no clear indication that Musharraf is committed to peace in Afghanistan, but enough proof to show his intelligence agencies carry on supporting Taliban.
The stabilisation of Afghanistan is an uphill task. According to a study done in 2005 by James T Quinlivan, a mathematician with Rand Corporation, over 20 soldiers are required per thousand civilians for nation building. Unfortunately, there is less than a soldier for every 1,000 Afghani. That should give enough idea of what is in store around the Hindu Kush.
Work on road starts in Nangarhar
JALALABAD, Nov 15 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Asphalting of a 27 kilometres road linking Sarerod and Khogiani district was started on Wednesday in the eastern Nangarhar province.
Head of Public Works Department Engineer Mohammad Arif told Pajhwok Afghan News the road was extending from Bawli area of the Sarerod district to TarKarim khel area of Khogiani district.
United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded $3.5 million for the project. He said Jamal Baba construction company would implement the project that would be completed in a year.
Gul Agha Sherzai, Governor of Nangarhar and some other local elders and officials inaugurated the project. Braind Bekare, local head of the USAID told this news agency the scheme would be accomplished in this year.
He said USAID had completed projects worth $80 millions in the province. He said 4,222 kilometres roads were constructed in the province funded by USAID.
Abdul Mueed Hashmi
Journalists boycott parliament session
KABUL, Nov 15 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Journalists of independent media Wednesday boycotted covering the parliament sessions to protest the MPs harsh treatment.
Deputy speaker of the lower house Mohammad Arif Norzai expelled the reporters from the parliament hall when MPs insisted to discuss certain privileges in absence of media men.
Norzai, who was presiding the Monday session, told reporters to leave the parliament session as legislators wanted to discuss their rights and privileges. Addressing a news conference, chief of Afghan Journalists National Union announced Tuesday a boycott of covering the session until the MPs sought formal apology from the reporters. Responding to the decision, no journalist attended the Wednesday session of parliament. "We will never cover session of the parliament until its leadership officially seeks our apology for the mis-conduct," said Zalmay.
Rahimullah Samandar, who leads a separate journalists' defence committee, told Pajhwok Afghan News all non-govt media outlets had been instructed not to publish any report of the parliament till the MPs change their behaviour with journalist.
Mohammad Ghani Mudaqqiq of Ariana Television, Muhammad Amin Mudaqqiq of Radio Liberty Radio Free Afghanistan and Daud Shamil of the Internews Network, said they would follow the decision of not covering the parliament proceedings.
Interview: New governor offers olive branch to dissidents
KABUL, Nov 15 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The newly-appointed Governor of the southeastern Paktia province Rahmatullah Rahmat has asked all the dissidents to lay down their arms and settle disputes at the negotiation table.
Rahmat was appointed by President Hamid Karzai at the recommendation of the Interior Ministry. He was introduced to the provincial officials in Gardez, capital of the province, during a meeting on Wednesday.
In an exclusive interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, the governor said maintaining security in the province was his top priority.
The most important steps to strengthen security were ending administrative corruption, improvement in efficiency of all the government departments, eradication of drugs, launching of reconstruction projects and collection of arms from irresponsible men.
The new governor said he would start negotiations with the dissidents to bring them into the folds of government by addressing their valid demands and grievances.
He said a large number of irresponsible armed men still existed in the province who will be asked to surrender arms under the second phase of the Disarmament of Irresponsible Armed Groups (DIAG) programme.
Regarding the reconstruction projects in the province, the governor said he would push the international community to start small and large welfare and reconstruction projects in the province to improve social and financial condition of the people.
The foremost among the problems faced by the people of Paktia was non-availability of electricity, said the governor, who vowed to start electricity generation projects with the help of the Ministry of Energy and Water.
As a second option, he pointed out, they could import electricity from the neighbouring Pakistan on temporary basis.
"I'm not against import of electricity from the neighbouring country." However, the country should rely on its own means and resources as for as longstanding goals are concerned.
Regarding other reconstruction projects, the new governor said his plans included construction of paved roads, a big seminary in Gardez and preservation of forests. He said all citizens could approach him any time for solution of their problems.
Before picking up as governor by President Hamid Karzai, Rahmatullah Rahmat was in charge of political affairs wing of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). He worked on that position in Khost, Paktia and Paktika provinces. The 51-year-old is resident of the Rodat district of the eastern Nangarhar province.
Uncle assumes role of father for Afghan girl
By ANNE MARIE KILDAY Houston Chronicle Nov. 16, 2006, 9:26PM
A 4-year-old girl whose Afghan refugee mother was slain earlier this month was reunited Thursday afternoon with her 19-year-old uncle.
Wahid Abdul Ali greeted his niece with a teddy bear as he fought back tears, said Child Protective Services spokeswoman Estella Olguin. They will live, for the time being, with an Afghan couple who opened their home to the refugees.
Ali had been concerned about his niece's well-being in foster care. The girl was placed in the agency's care after her 22-year-old mother, Rohina Abdul Ali, was found slain Nov. 4 in her apartment in southwest Houston.
The woman's mother, Najia Omar Mohamad, 49, was charged with murder last week in the slaying. Police say Mohamad beat her daughter in the head with a sledgehammer as she slept in their apartment at 8701 Gustine. Mohamad remains in the Harris County jail in lieu of $100,000 bail.
A judge on Wednesday approved Ali's bid to care for his niece. CPS still has legal custody of the child, but she was placed in her uncle's care. A status hearing on the case is scheduled Jan. 3.
Peter Stranges, director of refugee services for the Alliance for Multicultural Community Services, said the uncle had "strong support" from the Afghan community in his bid to be reunited with the little girl.
''Wahid and the little girl are very close. She already saw him as a father figure," Stranges said.
Ali, who was working in Louisiana at the time of his sister's death, had a job interview Thursday morning, Stranges said. He had been employed by a company which contracts with the U.S. Army, training soldiers being sent to Afghanistan.
"He was beaming this morning," Stranges said. "He went for a job interview, and he was so happy. It's the first time that I've seen him alive again. He was driven to be with this little girl again, to be reunited with her."
Ali initially declined assistance from the alliance, and also has declined to grant interviews.
The couple taking in the young man and his niece are from Afghanistan, but moved to Houston about 30 years ago, Stranges said.
The close-knit community of Afghan refugees in Houston has been "very sensitive" about talking about the case, Stranges said.
"But they are very supportive of this young man and want to help in any way they can," Stranges said. The Alliance's refugee services will help Ali and the little girl with housing, job-training and day care, as well as school enrollment, Stranges said.
"I've never been involved in something like this. It is tragic, but at the same time it is very touching to see the community rally around them," Stranges said.
CPS spokeswoman Olguin said the child had been "eating well and is very, very bright."
Although the little girl speaks "a little English," Olguin said she had been able to communicate with her foster family. "She had been asking for her mother, but she only cried the first day," Olguin said.
The alliance is asking for donations to help the Ali family, Stranges said.
The account is "For the Benefit of the Rohina Abdul Ali Family" at the Bank of Texas. Donations can be made at any of the bank's locations throughout the Houston area. For more information, contact the Alliance at 713-776-4700.
|Back to News Archirves of 2006|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).