U.N. spearheads Afghan aid on 3 fronts
KABUL, Afghanistan, Nov. 21 (UPI) -- U.N. agencies in Afghanistan are busy this week on three fronts: Flood relief, an anti-polio drive and food aid.
Spokesman Adrian Edwards of the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said helicopters began airlifting emergency aid to nearly 6,000 flood victims in Badghis province where flooding has left 58 people dead, about 100 missing and affected some 5,500 others.
The U.N. World Health Organization has dispatched medical teams and 13 tons of medical supplies, the U.N. World Food Program has rushed in 30 tons of mixed food aid and UNICEF is sending supplies, including 3,200 jackets and 15 drums of chlorine powder, he said.
The U.N. Children's Fund and WHO, together with Rotary International and other partners, are supporting the latest three-day round of a polio vaccination campaign that aims to vaccinate all children in Afghanistan under the age of 5 years, the spokesman told reporters in the Afghan capital, Kabul, Monday.
Rikki Maliklali of WFP voiced concern at the food situation in other parts of the country due to drought.
"The commitments for both winterization and drought are coming in very slowly. We require $48 million, which is equivalent to 74,000 tons of food, for the next six months," he added, noting WFP has only about 12,000 tons and needs three to four months for the arrival of food into the country.
Asked what would happen if the shortfall, which amounts to 46 per cent of the $70- million drought appeal, is not filled, the spokesman replied: "It will be a humanitarian crisis, undoubtedly, which will be very sad for us and very sad for the country ... Roughly between 2 to 3 million people will be severely affected."
Volume of Iranian goods exported to Afghanistan hits 228m dollars
Tehran, Nov 21, IRNA
The Iranian goods exported to Afghanistan over the first seven months of the current Iranian year (started March 21) compared to last year's figure for the same period hit 228.443 million dollars.
According to a report released by the Public Relations Department of Iran's Customs Administration on Tuesday, various sweets, detergents or washing liquids, biscuits, mats and clothing were the major products exported to Afghanistan.
The report added that the goods exported over the period weighed 267,354 tons.
"Over the same period, dlrs 11.18 million worth of sweets, dlrs 10.773 worth of various detergents or washing liquids and dlrs 376,000 worth of biscuits were exported to Afghanistan."
The weight and value of Iran's exported goods to Afghanistan over the same period last year stood at 568,257 tons and 316.535 million dollars.
Meanwhile, over the same period, 7,086 tons of goods worth 5.476 million dollars were imported to Iran via Afghanistan.
The imported products include construction machinery and sesame oil among others.
Last year's imported goods from Afghanistan weighed 4,564 tons and their value amounted to 3.917 million dollars.
Taliban committing atrocities in Afghanistan
Daily Times (Pakistan) Tuesday, November 21, 2006
WASHINGTON: The resurgent and regrouped Taliban are committing atrocities in Afghanistan’s Helmand province, according to a report based on eyewitness accounts published in the Washington Post on Monday.
Pamela Constable writes from Kabul, “Clutching scarves nervously around their faces, the women whispered details of Taliban atrocities in their native Helmand province: a translator’s body found in a sack, carved into pieces; a police officer taken hostage, blinded and garroted with wire; a woman shot and hanged by the thumbs.”
Ma Gul, an Afghan woman from Helmand, told the newspaper, “All our lives are in danger now. Our schools are shut, and anyone who works for the government is branded an infidel.”
A new report by Afghan and foreign officials confirms that insurgent and terrorist attacks nationwide have increased fourfold in the last year, reaching 600 in incidents per month in September and causing 3,700 deaths since January.
In Helmand, where much of the worst fighting has taken place, thousands of people have fled their homes and contradictory signals are being received from elders and residents about how to restore peace.
The Post report said that President Hamid Karzai, who has criticised the deal signed by Pakistan with tribal elders in South Waziristan, was praising a similar deal signed by his people with Afghan radical elements in Helmand’s district of Musa Qala. Others have seen the deal as a major concession to the Taliban. Karzai said in a radio interview that he had complete trust in the tribal elders and in their promise not to allow any saboteurs in Musa Qala.
Constable wrote, “Karzai’s embrace of the agreement stands in marked contrast to the scepticism he and other Afghan officials have shown toward two similar peace deals reached this fall between the Pakistani government and tribal leaders in districts abutting the Afghan border.”
The narcotics industry is flourishing in Helmand, and according to the women who spoke to Washington Post, the Musa Qala agreement was a “frightening example of authority caving in to powerful miscreants”. One woman said the Taliban and their criminal allies had already built a plane runway and a heroin laboratory in Musa Qala. However, a local member of the Afghan parliament drew a line between “foreign” and local Taliban. “The foreign Taliban are terrorists, but the local Taliban are the sons of Afghanistan. They will speak with us and live under the flag with us. If the government cannot bring security and stop this terrible bombing, they should let the elders try,” he said. khalid hasan
‘Spy cleric’ was not Afghan’
Daily Times (Pakistan) Tuesday, November 21, 2006
PESHAWAR: A spokesman for the FATA Civil Secretariat has clarified news reports on the killing of Muhammad Hashim Khan in North Waziristan on suspicion of spying for America, saying that Khan was not an Afghan national. The spokesman said that Khan was a resident of North Waziristan, and a member of the Mussaki Tribe. The reports suggested that Khan was killed for his links with Maulana Salahuddin who was killed recently on the same charge, but the spokesman said Khan’s murder had nothing to do with the killing of Salahuddin, who was a resident of S Waziristan. app
Hekmatyar has a role for Afghan stability’, says Senator Mushahid Hussain
Pakistani Newspaper - Nov 20 9:34 PM
KARACHI, Nov 20: Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, who heads the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee, is of the view that in the evolving Afghan situation Gulbudin Hekmatyar, and not Mullah Omar, may have a role in stabilising the country.
Mr Hussain who chaired the first session of the Ideas 2006 seminar on ‘Expanding global security environment’ was answering a question about the situation in Afghanistan after the seminar. He also said that he personally believed that use of military might would not lead to a solution. Only negotiations would lead to stabilisation, he added.
He said that scores of people having links with Mr Hekmatyar had been elected in the recent Afghan elections. Mullah Omar was one of the top figures of Taliban but Mr Hekmatyar had his own following.
It may be pointed out that during the America-led Afghan jihad against the former Soviet Union, Mr Hekmatyar was the key figure with a formidable force of fighters. He enjoyed support of the ISI, and later of Iran. Mr Hekmatyar’s first claim to fame, however, was throwing acid at women students in Kabul’s educational institutions. Earlier, speaking at the seminar, Mr Hussain spoke about the transformation of Saarc and regional collective environment and said that no country had a greater stake than Pakistan in the security and territorial integrity of Afghanistan.
Osama and Zawahiri received share from US aid for Afghan Jehad: Mushahid
The Pakistan Link - Nov 20 10:36 AM
KARACHI: Federal Defence Minister, Rao Sikandar Iqbal has said that if the injustices as regards to Kashmir, Palestine and the Muslim world were not redressed, then the reining in of the terrorism would be difficult, while the PML Secretary General, Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed said that American CIA provided $2.1 billion financial support for Afghan Jehad also shared by Osama bin Laden and Ayman alZawahiri.
Rao Sikandar Iqbal in his keynote address and Mushahid Hussain Sayed in his paper expressed these views at a seminar on ‘Expanding Global Security environment’ held here, as a precursor to the inaugural of ‘Ideas-2006’, a high profile defence exhibition.
The defence minister said that Pakistan stands firm on its stance against terrorism for ensuring the world peace and security, despite heavy sacrifices made by its army. He told that if the injustices relating to Kashmir, Palestine and the Muslim world were not stamped out, then the control over the terrorism would be difficult.
Rao Sikandar Iqbal told that the Pakistan-make arms were more dependable and effective besides being low-cost, meeting the demands of the developing countries.
PML Secretary General, Mushahid Hussain Sayed in his address told that the world needed to revise its attitude and views regarding international terrorism. He said that the Muslim world strongly feels that it was being targeted.
He said that Pakistan has paid heavy price of instability in Afghanistan. CIA provided $2.1 billion financial support for Afghan Jehad, in which Osama bin Laden and Ayman alZawahiri were also given shares but now only Pakistan being accused about it.
Senator Mushahid Hussain told that there shouldn’t be double standard on matters relating to atomic energy and pointed out sanctions slapped on N. Korea, on the one hand, while US-India signing nuclear cooperation agreement. He said that the world situation has become more volatile since it’s turning uni-polar, while the double standard has forced to think about many things.
He said that Pakistan’s relations with India were being paved on a new course and the Kashmir on both sides has been included in the solution of Kashmir conflict.
Take your refugees back and stop complaining, Islamabad tells Kabul
Daily Times (Pakistan) Tuesday, November 21, 2006
ISLAMABAD: The only solution to Afghanistan’s complaints of alleged cross-border terrorism from Pakistan is that it should take back the three million Afghan refugees who live in Pakistan and move freely between the two countries, Foreign Office spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam said on Monday. Addressing a weekly press briefing, Aslam said that Pakistan was making all possible efforts to stem the movement of the Taliban and had set up 97 check posts on its side of the border for this purpose.
However, she said that the Taliban were Afghan nationals and it was not easy to distinguish them from ordinary Afghans. Aslam said that only the Afghan government could resolve the problems inside its territory, adding that Pakistan had proposed fencing and selective mining of the border, but Afghanistan had rejected these suggestions. She said that the international community must encourage national reconciliation in Afghanistan and should prepare a plan for the economic rehabilitation of south and southeastern Afghanistan similar to the one being made for other parts of the country. About Gen Abizaid’s remarks that the war on terrorism could become a third world war, Aslam said that challenges existed, but they could not be faced through military action only.
The FO spokeswoman said that Britain would provide Pakistan $900 million in development assistance spread over a period of three years. Aslam said that the Pakistani and Indian foreign secretaries had discussed the opening of consulates in Karachi and Mumabi during their recent meeting, adding that progress on the issue was hindered by the fact that Pakistan had yet to find a location for its consulate in Mumbai. staff report
PAKISTAN: Afghan registration hits 343,000
20 Nov 2006 19:01:17 GMT
More KARACHI, 20 November (IRIN) - Halfway into a 10-week exercise to register Afghans living in Pakistan, more than 343,000 Afghan refugees have now taken part after an initial slow start, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) said on Monday.
The process is aimed at providing millions of Afghan exiles in Pakistan with identity cards valid for three years. The campaign is to continue until the end of the year.
The US $6 million exercise that began on 15 October, is a follow-up to a comprehensive Afghan census conducted in Pakistan in February and March 2005, which found more than 3 million Afghans were still living in the country.
However, according to UNHCR, more than 580,000 Afghans have returned home with UN assistance since the census, leaving an estimated 2.4 million Afghans still living in Pakistan.
"The pace of the registration has seen a gradual pick up, as we're now registering about 18,000 Afghans a day against some 7,000 in the initial days," UNHCR spokeswoman Vivian Tan said in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Monday.
A provincial breakdown of Afghan registration so far suggests that more than 162,000 have registered in North West Frontier Province (NWFP), 81,000 in Balochistan, 55,000 in Punjab including Islamabad, 37,000 in Sindh and some 5,000 in Pakistani-administered Kashmir.
"The registration centres at some 45 locations have closed after completing operations while the drive is continuing in 39 centres… a few more points are in the process of opening," the UNHCR spokeswoman added.
Some 33 percent of Afghans counted in the 2005 census have been registered in Punjab's provincial capital, Lahore - where the drive finished on Saturday.
Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) is conducting the exercise using fingerprints and photos to record information through 70 static and mobile registration centres across the country.
However, many Afghans in Pakistan appear to be suspicious of the registration drive, fearing it is a prelude to forced repatriation. UN officials have tried to allay fears and have appealed to Afghan refugees to participate in registration.
"With only weeks to go till the end of registration, we are urging all Afghans counted in the 2005 census to come and be registered," Indrika Ratwatte, assistant representative of UNHCR, said in the southern port city of Karachi last week.
A range of factors has meant that the registration process has not proceeded as rapidly as officials expected. These include the inability to access a national registration database, mistakes in spelling names, a delayed mass information campaign, a lack of registration centres and inadequate training of staff.
"NADRA has amended the software to make it easier to find names from the census. While we are also streamlining the process to speed up the printing and distribution of [identity] cards," UNHCR's assistant representative told IRIN.
The UN refugee agency is in negotiations with Islamabad and Kabul on new return arrangements beyond 2006, possibly moving from individual travel assistance to area-based reintegration assistance.
According to UNHCR, any future return assistance will only be given to Afghans who hold valid ID cards issued on, or after, registration.
Afghan Defense Minister Calls For More Help
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
November 21, 2006 -- Afghanistan's defense minister has asked for more American and NATO help to equip, train, and arm the country's young army so it carry out more operations on its own.
General Abdul Rahim Wardak also said Kabul aimed to speed up the recruiting and training of the army, to raise the force to a strength of 70,000 by 2008.
He was speaking in Washington on November 20 on the eve of talks with outgoing U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld.
Meanwhile, the commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan says a recent NATO offensive in the southern province of Kandahar has set back the Taliban.
But Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie said on November 20 that he expected the Taliban to regroup and mount further attacks on western forces.
NATO forces launched a major operation against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in September, killing hundreds of militants.
Leslie made his remarks on November 20 in Ottawa before a parliamentary defense committee.
Also speaking to the committee was Brigadier-General Al Howard, a leading Canadian army strategist. He said NATO forces in the south would press ahead to set up so-called development zones. These zones, Howard said, would allow reconstruction work to go on under conditions of safety.
Howard stressed that the southern Kandahar region remained dangerous and said the zones would not work immediately. (Reuters)
Olympics could hurt Canada's Afghan military tour
Mon Nov 20, 3:30 PM ET
OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada might not be able to extend the life of its 2,500-strong mission to Afghanistan beyond February 2009 because many troops will be needed to ensure security at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, according to a document released on Monday.
The mission was supposed to end in February 2007 but the ruling Conservatives, who won the election this year in part by promising to boost the overstretched and underfunded military, pushed through a parliamentary vote approving a two-year extension.
Although the government has said little about whether Canadian soldiers will stay beyond February 2009, a formerly secret military briefing document prepared for Defence Minister Gordon O'Connor casts doubt on this possibility.
"Planning and mounting the Vancouver 2010 Winter Olympic Games security operation is a high priority activity that will represent a major commitment for the Canadian forces and will have a significant impact on domestic operations in 2009 and 2010," the document says.
"Security commitment for the Games could also affect the Canadian forces' ability to deploy a large number of forces overseas," it continued.
The 2010 Olympics will be held from February 12 to 28 in a series of venues that stretch 75 miles from southern Vancouver to the mountain resort of Whistler in the Pacific coast province of British Columbia.
The report from top officials was made available to Reuters under access to information legislation. It was dated February 5, the day before the Conservatives formally took power.
"We recognize there is an Olympics in 2010. We have not been formally requested by the province to provide troops but we are sort of advancing our plans now," O'Connor told Parliament on Monday.
He did not give further details, much to the irritation of Dawn Black, a British Columbia legislator from the minority New Democratic Party.
"Is the minister telling ... (us) that he has no plans for the largest domestic security deployment Canada has seen in decades? Is he actually saying that?" she asked.
Since 2002, 42 Canadian soldiers have died in Afghanistan, most of them in battles in the south of the country over the past few months.
Recent opinion polls have largely shown most Canadians are pessimistic about the future of the Afghan mission and want the troops to come home.
No evidence to support claim of execution-style killing of Afghan teen: NATO
Mon Nov 20, 11:44 AM By Bill Graveland
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CP) - NATO apologized Monday for civilian casualties in a deadly raid on a village west of Kandahar last month, but said it found no proof to substantiate claims that a wounded Afghan teen was killed execution style by alliance soldiers.
The boy's father, Abdul Karim says his wife, son and two daughters were instantly killed when a bomb ripped through their mud home in Ashogha. Another son, aged 16, was only wounded in the blast.
Karim said he tried to conceal him under a blanket but when soldiers searched the home they found his son and shot him execution style.
Karim, who along with his 18-year-old son, Sakhi Jan, were the only members of the family to survive, said at the time he was unable to identify the nationality of the soldiers, only that they looked foreign.
Canadians had also taken part in the attack, but NATO spokesman Maj. Luke Knittig said Monday in defending the operation that the soldiers in question were from a "European country and contributor to the mission."
He refused to be more specific.
Knittig said an investigation by the alliance had found that the operation against the village was carried out "within the rules of engagement and the village was a legitimate target."
"That doesn't mean for a minute that didn't hit us in the gut that a father has had to bury his son and that a teenage boy who had a future ahead of him was denied that," Knittig added in a telephone interview with The Canadian Press from Kabul.
Nine civilians were killed and several more wounded when a coalition air strike rained bombs and rockets on their mud homes in the village just west of Kandahar.
Karim has been released from hospital but his surviving son, Sakhi Jan, is facing an operation on his foot this week.
"I am not feeling well," he said. "My father was better than before and has been sent home."
The NATO attack to root out rebels blamed for a spate of roadside bombings came as villagers were stirring for their pre-dawn meals.
The NATO troops had reason to believe the mission had been compromised, said Knittig. "They ended up having to take some quicker actions than they had otherwise anticipated."
But as for the claims that the teenager was executed by a foreign soldier, the investigation found no proof of that, he said.
"The actions the soldiers took within that compound were against known insurgents. I don't know if we can completely know whether the 16-year-old boy was an insurgent," Knittig said.
"The father says he wasn't and there is no indication that he was, so that's truly a tragic consequence."
Knittig says investigators met with the boy's father immediately after the attack. The investigation is now complete and no action will be taken against the soldiers involved he said.
"I don't think anybody likes how the operation went down because it didn't go down as intended because of a compromised situation," said Knittig.
Knittig said he believed that Karim was given compensation for his loss, but Sakhi Jan denied that Monday.
"We are not paid by anyone yet," he said. "But the rest of the civilians who were bombed, they have now been paid."
"At the end I am requesting ISAF (the International Security Assistance Force) pay us please. We have lost five family members-two sisters, my two brothers and my mother," said Sakhi Jan.
Meanwhile, Knittig said lessons were learned in the October attack and that future operations will involve more co-ordination between NATO forces and those in the Afghan army.
He said that would include situations where "every security person in uniform is operating off the same set of orders and that by its very nature lends itself to a great deal of co-ordination," said Knittig.
"That's where we want to be in the future where these kind of operations against a compound are done jointly with Afghan forces who can move quickly and work with us," he added.
Canadian Commander Says Taliban Down But Not Out
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
OTTAWA, November 21, 2006 -- The commander of Canadian forces in Afghanistan says a recent NATO offensive in the southern province of Kandahar has set back the Taliban.
But Lieutenant-General Andrew Leslie said he expected the Taliban to regroup and mount further attacks on western forces.
NATO forces launched a major operation against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan in September, killing hundreds of militants.
Leslie made his remarks Monday in Ottawa before a parliamentary defense committee.
Also speaking to the committee was Brigadier-General Al Howard, a leading Canadian army strategist. He said NATO forces in the south would press ahead to set up so-called development zones. These zones, Howard said, would allow reconstruction work to go on under conditions of safety.
Howard stressed that the southern Kandahar region remained dangerous and said the zones would not work immediately.
Pakistan arrests 47 suspected Taliban
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 21 (Xinhua) -- Pakistani police arrested 47 suspected Taliban militants in raids Tuesday in the southwestern Balochistan province bordering Afghanistan, state-run APP reported.
The raids were conducted at different places in the provincial capital Quetta and its suburbs, Senior Superintendent of Police Qazi Abdul Wahid said.
The police also recovered literature from the custody of the arrested people indicating their strong links with Taliban movement in Afghanistan, Wahid said.
"They are all newcomers who crossed the border illegally over the past one week," he said.
Police last month rounded up more than 50 suspected Taliban, six of them from a hospital in Quetta where they had been receiving treatment.
Hundreds of Taliban and al-Qaeda militants sneaked into Pakistan in late 2001 after the Taliban regime was ousted in the U.S.-led operation for sheltering Osama bin Laden following the Sept. 11 attacks.
Pakistan has deployed around 80,000 troops along the border with Afghanistan to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaeda fugitives in the tribal areas.
US Calls on Germany for Riskier Afghanistan Missions
Deutsche Welle (Germany) November 20, 2006
The US administration is increasing pressure on Germany to lift restrictions on its Afghanistan directive and help reinforce combat troops in the south to stop Taliban insurgents.
Several German dailies reported at the weekend that the United States wants to see German combat troops in the south of Afghanistan, where Taliban insurgents are threatening to destabilize the already shaky situation even further.
The Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper quoted a high-ranking US defense official as saying that German troops based in the relatively peaceful north must be able to move to the south at short notice. The unnamed official said allied commanders should be able to call the Germans in the morning, asking for a battalion, and it should be there by the evening.
He said Washington was frustrated by the mandate restrictions which were confining several foreign armies to the sidelines of conflicts in southern Afghanistan.
US unhappy with obstacles
The US defense official was quoted in reports as saying that he did not like these stumbling blocks and that such a restrictive policy showed no solidarity with those western troops fighting the Taliban in the south of the country.
At present, there are some 2,700 German troops in the north of Afghanistan where they hold the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) contingent.
However, US and some European NATO member countries feel German troops should also be deployed in the more dangerous southern parts of Afghanistan.
'Germany has played a big part already'
Martin Schulz, leader of the Social Democrats in the European Parliament, rejected the US criticism which had also been echoed more recently by NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
Schulz insisted German troops have been doing a great job in the north, where they have played a significant role in reconstruction efforts and contributing to resolving the conflicts, and this is where they should stay.
He added that German has been active in "many peace-keeping missions abroad," and resources can only go so far.
"We have a large contingent on the Balkans, we're part of the UNIFIL mission in Lebanon, and German troops are also at the Horn of Africa to prevent the smuggling of weapons by sea to terrorists," Schulz said. "It's justified to say that the German armed forces are taxed to their limits, and any criticism of their commitment in Afghanistan is unfounded."
Miliary efforts "not enough"
Schulz admitted the situation in the south of the country was bordering on chaos but said military operations alone would not resolve the problem.
"Perhaps more troops are needed to fight the Taliban in the south, but the Karsai government is also called upon to ensure that the resources being pumped into the country do not end up in the pockets of warlords and are distributed more evenly," Schulz said.
"What sense would it make to withdraw some of our northern troops who've done a great job there, and deploy them in the south? This would only result in a partial destabilization in the north so that nothing would be gained by such a move," he added.
The US State Department meanwhile has confirmed President George W. Bush has raised the issue with German Chancellor Angela Merkel.
German Defense Minister Franz Josef Jung said there will not be any change to Germany's Afghanistan mandate.
Southern troop deployment a possibility
But reacting to the pressure from Washington, other conservative lawmakers have indicated a partial deployment of German troops in the south of Afghanistan is no longer out of the question. They have said that if the capabilities of the German troops are needed to rescue friendly forces in emergency situations in the south, then they should be dispatched there.
Eckart von Klaeden, foreign policy spokesman for Merkel's Christian Democrats, said up to 100 special forces soldiers could be deployed anywhere in the country at any given time but added this had not been requested for over a year.
Germany's commitment to the Afghanistan mission will be discussed at the NATO summit in Riga, Latvia, on Nov. 28 and 29.
Gas pipeline project Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India approved
Turkmenistan.ru (Turkmenistan) November 20, 2006
The participants of the regional conference held in New Delhi supported the project for constructing a gas pipeline between Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India (TAPI), ITAR TASS reported.
During the final press-conference, Afghanistan's Foreign Minister Rangin Dadfar urged Islamabad to give his country a transport transit through the territory of Pakistan to India. "We hope that Pakistan will open its territory for an international pipeline to India as soon as possible, so that we can strengthen cooperation in the region and implement recommendations of the conference," he said.
According to the minister, it would allow Afghanistan to realize its potential as an "energy bridge between Central and Southeast Asia". The two-day forum in the Indian capital was attended by officials from 18 countries, including Russia and about 10 international organizations. The delegation of Afghanistan was headed by Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
As Turkmenistan.ru already reported, in 2005, Asian Development Bank submitted to the ministers of oil and gas industry and mineral resources of Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India the final version of feasibility study of the Trans-Afghan gas pipeline designed by British company Penspen. The pipes will be 1,420 mm in diameter and will transport gas at a working pressure of 100 atmospheres. It will have a capacity of 33 billion cu m of natural gas per year. The 1,680 km pipeline will cost an estimated US $3.3 bln (2.5 bln euro). TAPI will run from the Dovetabat gas deposit in Turkmenistan to the Indian town of Fazilka, near the border between Pakistan and India. 6 compressor stations are to be constructed along the pipeline.
In Afghanistan's South, Mixed Signals for Help
Residents Differ on Strategy Toward Taliban
By Pamela Constable Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, November 20, 2006; A01
KABUL -- Clutching scarves nervously around their faces, the women whispered details of Taliban atrocities taking place in their native Helmand province: A translator's body found in a sack, carved into pieces. A police officer taken hostage, blinded and garroted with wire. A woman shot and hanged by her thumbs.
"All of our lives are in danger now. Our schools are shut, and anyone who works for the government is branded as an infidel," said Ma Gul, 52, a teacher who traveled to the capital this week with 20 other women from Greshk, a town in Helmand 300 miles south, to demand better protection and the removal of weak regional officials.
Gul's woes echo across this country's four southern provinces, where the Taliban insurgency is on a fierce rebound five years after U.S. and Afghan forces toppled the Islamic militia from power in Kabul. Months of aggressive ground combat and NATO airstrikes have failed to halt continuous violence in the south, as well as some sporadic attacks in other parts of the country.
According to a new report by a commission of Afghan and foreign officials, insurgent and terrorist attacks nationwide have increased fourfold in the past year, reaching 600 incidents per month by September and causing 3,700 deaths since January.
The report was issued by a group called the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board, set up in February under U.N. auspices to promote and measure Afghan government performance. It said the violence threatens to reverse recent economic and political gains across the nation, and has led to a partial or total withdrawal of foreign aid in some provinces.
In Helmand, a vast and arid region where much of the worst fighting has taken place and thousands of people have fled their homes, residents and elders have been sending urgent but contradictory signals about how to restore peace.
While the delegation of women recounted Taliban abuses, a group of visiting elders from another Helmand district described local Taliban fighters as "brothers" and said their worst problem was the devastation from months of bombing by foreign military forces. If the authorities would allow tribal leaders to administer their district, they said, they would guarantee no further Taliban attacks.
"This bombing has destroyed hundreds of shops and many vineyards, but it has not driven the Taliban away," said Mohammed Rahim, a bearded farmer from Helmand's Nau Zad district. "We know the local Taliban; they are fighting against corruption and abuses. Once we have our own administration and the bombing stops, we trust they will obey us and the central government."
As a result of the mixed messages from victims of the conflict, and the growing public resentment over civilian casualties from bombing, NATO and Afghan officials now confront a strategic question: whether to keep pressing to forcibly defeat the Taliban, or begin accepting its presence in areas where tribal elders promise to rein in the militia.
Much of the south is still at war, with attacks and armed clashes occurring daily in Kandahar, Zabol and Uruzgan provinces. But in Helmand's Musa Qala district, NATO has cautiously agreed to test the tribal approach. Under a deal brokered in September by the provincial governor, NATO agreed to pull back British forces from Musa Qala, and local elders pledged that Taliban attacks would cease.
So far, reports from the isolated region, which is also a major center of opium smuggling, are confusing and contradictory. Some residents and visitors say the district is effectively under Taliban control, and a recent BBC video report showed squads of armed insurgents patrolling Musa Qala in fast pickup trucks, much as they did during the era of repressive Taliban rule that ended in 2001.
But both NATO and senior Afghan officials say they are largely satisfied with the arrangement, which they said has brought fighting to a halt and allowed foreign troops to focus on creating a central zone for security and development around Helmand's capital city, rather than manning scattered outposts and chasing after bands of insurgents.
"Musa Qala has proved to be a very good deal," said Maj. Luke Knittig, a U.S. Army officer and the chief NATO spokesman in Kabul. "After the agreement, there were 34 days of calm, which led us to believe the elders had made good on their word." However, he added: "We have our eyes closely on Musa Qala. If we see it being used as a launching pad for attacks, we will go back and address that."
President Hamid Karzai defended the pact last week against criticism that it has been a major concession to the Taliban. Speaking on Radio Free Europe, he said he had complete trust in the region's elders and in their promise not to allow any "saboteurs" in Musa Qala. However, Karzai also expressed concern about reports that a local Islamic cleric was humiliated by Taliban fighters and that a senior tribal leader had disappeared.
Karzai's embrace of the agreement stands in marked contrast to the skepticism he and other Afghan officials have shown toward two similar peace deals reached this fall between the government of Pakistan and tribal leaders in districts abutting the Afghan border. Those districts are widely believed to serve as havens for Islamic extremists and al-Qaeda fugitives who train insurgents and send them across the border to fight against Afghan and NATO forces.
Some observers here worry that the Musa Qala deal is not only setting a tone of conciliation toward the insurgency, but that it also means Karzai and his foreign defenders are falling back on Afghanistan's tribal system of jergas, or informal consensual agreements, at the expense of modern democratic institutions.
"This is the wrong way to solve things," said Noorulhaq Olemi, a member of parliament who chairs its security and defense committee. "Our problem is that we have a weak government. We need a better national army and police. We need reconciliation with the people, not with terrorists. If we go back to the tribal system and jergas, we could end up with the country divided into pieces."
Although Helmand residents disagree on the issue of negotiating with the Taliban, many express common anger and disillusionment with regional authorities. Both the Greshk women and the Nau Zad elders said that many police and civilian officials in Helmand are abusive and corrupt, and that this problem is creating local support for the Taliban.
The diplomats and academics on the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board agreed, stating in their report that the factors driving the insurgency in the south include poor government services, corrupt officials and lack of law enforcement. In Helmand especially, they added, the "scourge of the narcotics industry" has significantly helped fuel the insurgency.
"When there is an absence in basic service delivery by the government, people inevitably look to alternative sources," the report said. "Only by eliminating corruption can the government diminish the freedom of operation that insurgents and drug traffickers now enjoy."
To the women from Greshk, who include government teachers and professionals, the Musa Qala agreement is a frightening example of authority caving in to powerful miscreants. One member of the delegation said the Taliban and its criminal allies had already built a plane runway and a heroin laboratory in Musa Qala.
But to the elders from Nau Zad, mostly poor farmers whose homes and livelihoods have been savaged by months of fighting, Musa Qala represents a model for peace that they desperately hope can be replicated in their district.
"Some people call it a Taliban agreement, but that is wrong," said Mohammed Anwar, a member of parliament from Nau Zad who hosted the visiting elders in Kabul. "The foreign Taliban are terrorists, but the local Taliban are the sons of Afghanistan. They will speak with us and live under the flag with us. If the government cannot bring security and stop this terrible bombing, they should let the elders try."
Work on terminal at Kabul Airport starts
KABUL, Nov 20 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Reconstruction of terminal at the Kabul International Airport started on Monday with $35 million funding from Japan, officials said.
President Hamid Karzai laid the foundation stone of the project and appreciated Japan aid. He said the terminal would be reconstructed in a better shape and would give a modern touch.
The Japanese ambassador Masakaza Pikogochi, who was also present on this occasion, said this showed his country commitment for the uplift of Afghanistan. Japan has given $1.1 billion aid to Afghanistan in different fields of rebuilding so far," the Japanese ambassador said. He added stability in Afghanistan could strengthen peace in the entire region.
Minister for Transportation Niamatullah Ehsan Javed said reconstruction work of the Kabul airport terminal was supposed to start in 2005 and to finish in 2007, but the project was delayed till now due to some technical problems. He said the project would be completed by 2008. A Japanese company called DMC has won a bid for contract on the work. The terminal will have all important blocks.
$92m needed for mining clearing operations
KABUL, Nov 20 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The de-mining programme in Afghanistan will require $92.2 million during the coming year.
A statement released by the UNMACA office here on Monday said the amount was needed for survey of mine-infested areas, mine-clearance, campaign to create awareness among people, help for victims and training of mine clearing workers.
The statement said the demand had been presented to donors in Geneva after assessment of the requirements. Pajhwok Afghan News could not contact UNMACA officials to get details.
The demand had been made according to the Afghanistan national strategy as well as Ottawa convention, the statement said. This amount would help Afghanistan to fulfill its national and international commitment regarding elimination of mines.
According to Ottawa convention, the areas that are facing mine risk should be cleared until 2013 and all anti-personnel mines should be cleared till the end of 2007.
The convention suggests that area having risks of live mines should be cleared up to 70 per cent by 2010.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai awarded peace, development prize by India
NEW DELHI, Nov 19 (KUNA) -- Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai was Sunday presented the Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2005 by Indian President A P J Abdul Kalam. Presenting the award at Delhi Sunday evening, Indian President Kalam said, "Definitely, India and Afghanistan can further cooperate in empowering the villages in education and healthcare and creating more employment potential. India is with you in your missions.'' Late Indira Gandhi was the former Prime Minister of India and her 89th birth anniversary was celebrated today. The award, named after Indira Gandhi, who was assassinated in 1984, is given for extraordinary accomplishments in peace and development.
"We are committed to the welfare and well-being of the people of Afghanistan. We will walk, hand in hand, helping the Afghan people build a New Afghanistan," Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was also present on the occasion, said. "An Afghanistan of peace, an Afghanistan of prosperity. An Afghanistan of plurality," he asserted. Dr. Manmohan Singh said, "Afghanistan has had many great leaders in its history. In that long lineage, President Karzai occupies a special and privileged place as a modernist, a liberal, and a democrat with a deep understanding of his nation's place in the modern world." (end) dr.
Regional conference on breastfeeding in Kabul
KABUL, Nov 20, (Pajhwok Afghan News): A regional forum launched Monday in Kabul to encourage breastfeeding in mothers for better health of their infants in the South Asia.
Entitled as South Asia Breastfeeding Partners Forum-3, the three-day conference is organised by the Public Health Ministry with collaboration of the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF).
Regional-based organizations, including, International Baby Food Action Network (IBFAN), World Alliance for Breastfeeding Action (WABA), UNICEF and local NGOs were the active participants of the conference, said a press release from the Public Health Ministry.
Representatives from the UN agencies, mother support groups, professional bodies and activists of breastfeeding organizations from the SAARC member countries; India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka also took part in the conference.
The forum will discuss its action plan for 2006, with special concentration on formation of a national partnership on breastfeeding, endorsement of the Code by the cabinet and development of communication strategy, policy on HIV and infant feeding, the statement added.
"It will also deliberate on means to promote optimal infant and young child feeding, specially early and exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months, prevention of malnutrition and young child health, survival and development." A message of President Hamid Karzai read out to the conference said that chance of survival of children who are fed through breastfeeding is higher than those fed by alternative way.
Minister for Public Health Dr Sayed Mohammad Amin Fatimi in his address to the opening ceremony said one reason of the high child mortality rate in Afghanistan was bottle-feeding. "Mothers must feed their children in the first six months with their own milk and after that they can use complementary stuffs with it," said the minister.
Pajhwok Afghan News has provided media advisory for organizing the conference, according to the press release.
South Asia has recorded the second highest number of deaths in under-five and also babies of this age are mostly underweight. Afghanistan actively participated in the first forum held on the same subject in November 2004 in Dahaka and the second in Nepal in October 2005. While this time the conference was held in Kabul on proposal of the Afghan government and is a follow-up of the earlier two.
Two Taliban commanders detained in Uruzgan
KABUL, Nov 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Interior Ministry Sunday claimed arresting two Taliban commanders during a joint operation in the southern Uruzgan province.
Col Dad Mohammad Rasa, press in charge of the Interior Ministry, told Pajhwok Afghan News Mullah Wali Jan and Mullah Asadullah, the two commanders were detained during a joint operation by Afghan National Army (ANA), Afghan national police and NATO-led ISAF forces in Chak Joi area of Khas Uruzgan district of the province.
Eight more suspected militants were also apprehended in this operation besides the two commanders, he added. Rasa said the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) was investigating the detainees. He said one Kalashnikov, two hand grenades and two other guns were recovered from a fleeing commander Mullah Barat's house.
However, Defence Ministry spokesman Col Sayedd Ishaq and Major Luke Knittig spokesman for ISAF would not confirm arrest of any Taliban commander. Despite many efforts this agency failed to get Taliban comment.
'People will not support corrupt officials'
Pajhwok By Abdul Mueed Hashmi
JALALABAD - Attorney General Abdul Jabbar Sabit has said people of eastern zone will never extend support to officials involved in embezzlement.
Addressing a news conference here, Sabit said: "I have arrived in Nangarhar in connection of Jihad I have declared against corruption."
He said that people of Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar had demanded him to pay a visit to the eastern zone. Sabit said: "I am convinced that Mazar-i-Sharif and Herat like situation will not be created here."
The Attorney General Sabit in September visited Herat and sacked few provincial attorney generals there. Sabit said there were some cases in Herat and Balkh that caused problems.
He termed administrative corruption a dragon that bites government organisations beyond healing. He said: "I fight with this dragon, but it cannot be killed by one stroke, I will strike it again and again until swollen of its wounds that may kill it." However, he would not flesh out the style of his work. Writers, observers and tribal elders have announced their support with the Attorney General.
Kabul mayor appointment illegal: Residents
KABUL, Nov 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A number of Kabul residents Sunday termed appointment of Kabul mayor against the constitution. They suggested such appointment should be made through fair election.
President Hamid Karzai ordered appointment of the Engineer Rohullah Aman to replace Ghulam Sakhi Noorzad as Kabul mayor about four days back. While the 141 article of the constitution suggests that the mayor and members of the municipal councils should be elected through fair, free and impartial election.
However, head of Congr-e-Mili party and managing editor deputy Bashir Bizhan, who wanted to contest election for the post, told Pajhwok Afghan News:" I am sure, Karzai appointed Aman as the president knew that I have great vote and can win election for the post."
He termed the act of presidential office as mocking the country law. By the same token, head of the Afghan TV Ahmad Shah Afghanzai also wanted to contest the poll for the mayor position. He said mayor should be appointed through constitution. Residents also believe that mayor should be appointed through election.
Mohammad Amin, a resident of the company area of Kabul, said:" Former mayor did not make much progressive work, except constructing some roads in Khair Khana locality." He said:" We dont pin much hopes with the new mayor." Kabul residents should have been given the chance to elect their mayor, he argued.
Bamyan farming system to be mechanised: Governor
BAMYAN CITY, Nov 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Governor of the central Bamyan said Sunday the agriculture system in the province would be mechanised that would help in raising ratio of per acre yield.
Addressing a ceremony in this regard, Governor of Bamyan Dr Habiba Sarabi said the agriculture system would be mechanised that would help the farmers to get greater produce of their fields than the past.
According to provincial Agriculture officials, the foundation stone of a project in this regard was laid on a 4.5-acre land. Iran has granted $123,000 fund for the scheme to develop farming system in the war-torn country.
Engineer Mohammad Tahir Ataie, director of the Agriculture Department in Bamyan, said: "The project will help in changing the traditional system of farming into a modern mechanised form."
Ataie said Iran had also helped in setting up four agriculture cooperatives that would soon start functioning. He said Iran donated four tractors to each organisation. Engineer Ghulam Hussian Faqirzada, head of the Murtaza Shelter Company, said the new project would be completed by spring of next year.
Nationalists' peace jirga in Peshawar tomorrow
Bashir Ahmad Nadim
QUETTA, Nov 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Awami National Party said it would hold a peace jirga in Peshawar on Monday (tomorrow) to resolve problems faced by Pashtuns in Pakistan and Afghanistan. This may be a beginning of the joint jirga presumed by leaders of both the countries in Washington.
It is supposed that following the directives of head of ANP Asfandyar Wali, the jirga for peace would be held on Monday (tomorrow) to discuss problems of Afghanistan. Tribal elders, leaders of other political parties will also attend the jirga.
President Hamid Karzai has already suggested formation of joint jirga to resolve conflict in the two neighbouring countries. Provincial leader of ANP Khudaidad, who will be a participant to the jirga, told Pajhwok Afghan News the meeting would have positive results for both people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said currently Pashtuns were passing through a critical juncture and were being killed in different pretexts. In addition to problems of Afghanistan, the limiting of war only to Pashtun region would also be discussed in the jirga, he added.
He said recently the international community was briefed that extremists or Taliban had roots in Pashtun. Rejecting such claims, he said Taliban would never be considered a creation of Pashtun.
Abidullah Abid, former head of the Pakhtun Students Federation (PSF), also dubbed the results of the jirga as fruitful that would help in resolving problems in the region.
He told this news agency the elements which did not want peace in Afghanistan would be forced through the jirga. Abid said nationalists and religious groups should struggle for bringing peace to Afghanistan.
Provincial secretary of the Pakhtunkhwa Mili Awami Party (PMAP) Mohammad Usman Kakar also dubbed the jirga as beneficial for resolving problems in the region. He said his party was invited to the jirga and like others, their party representatives would also attend the meeting. Kakar appreciated the move such jirga and said it would bear positive results in restoring peace to Afghanistan.
Kabul-Ghor Highway closed due to snowfall: Governor
KABUL, Nov 19 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Governor of the central Ghor province said on Saturday Kabul-Ghor Highway was closed since a week due to heavy snowfall, however, Ministry of Public Works would not confirm the report.
Shah Abdul Ahad Afzali told Pajhwok Afghan News Kabul-Ghor Highway was closed for vehicular traffic at Lal-o-Sar Jangal district and at Sadbarg Kotal area of Punjab district of the central Bamyan province.
He said the highway was closed due to torrential rains started last Saturday. Afzali said they were busy in clearing the highway with help of machinery provided by the government vehicles and cooperation of the local people.
The governor said the total distance from Chaghcharan, capital of the province to Kabul was 385 kilometres, but people first had to reach Herat after covering a distance of 380 kilometres and then reached Kabul after covering another distance of 1,057 kilometres.
He said people were affected due to drought and blockage of the highway had hampered delivery of aid to the region. He said: "If the road was not opened soon, it might cause numerous problems for us."
Shah Muhammad, a resident of Chaghcharan, said while going to Kabul they reached Dawlat Yar district two days back, but road was blocked at Lal-o-Sar Jangal area and they had to return.
He said: "Few cars loaded with items from welfare NGOs are stranded on the highway." However, deputy minister for road construction at Public Affairs Ministry Mohammad Akram Jalalzada said the highway was not closed at any part .
He said the highway was closed the other day at Band Bayan area that was later opened. Flurry has been started in Bamyan, Ghor, Ghazni and hilly areas of southern provinces since a week. Though the torrential rains have caused some problems, but still some people have welcomed it for ending the long drought in the country.
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