Pakistan Offers to Fence Afghan Border
Pakistan, Under Pressure to Keep Militants Out, Offers to Fence Off Afghan Border
By SADAQAT JAN
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Nov 5, 2006 (AP)— Pakistan, under international pressure to stop militants from crossing over its border with Afghanistan, said Sunday it was willing to fence off the frontier.
Foreign Minister Khursheed Kasuri made the offer during talks with his Dutch counterpart, Bernard Bot. Bot arrived in the Pakistani capital after visiting Kabul, a ministry statement said.
Kasuri also said both Pakistani and Afghan security forces should jointly monitor the border to prevent movement by militants, according to the statement.
"Bot welcomed Pakistan's readiness to seal the border … and said that he would discuss this with other NATO partners," the statement said.
Pakistan has repeatedly said it is willing seal its border with Afghanistan. But officials say Afghanistan has rejected proposals to build a fence or mine the frontier.
Pakistan's government has come under increasing pressure from Afghanistan, the U.S. and NATO to crack down on militants operating along the Pakistan-Afghan frontier where al-Qaida and Taliban militants are thought to roam freely. Osama bin-Laden is believed to be hiding somewhere along the porous border.
Afghan officials have repeatedly said remnants of the Taliban militia are hiding in Pakistan, but Islamabad denies the charge.
In Afghanistan, where the Netherlands has assumed command over NATO-led troops in the country's troubled south, Bot said Saturday that Islamabad needed to be pressured to block Taliban fighters based in Pakistan from crossing into Afghanistan.
Pakistan an ally in America's fight against militant Islamic radicals has deployed some 80,000 troops along its border with Afghanistan to hunt down militants.
NATO not in favour of mining Pak-Afghan border
Islamabad, Nov 6: NATO countries in-charge of Afghanistan's security are apparently not in favour of Pakistan's proposal to mine the Pak-Afghan border to stop the infiltration of Taliban and al Qaeda militants but might consider the idea of fencing the porous area.
Pakistan's proposal to fence the border would be taken up at the annual NATO summit meeting later this month at Riva in Latvia on November 28-29, Dutch Foreign Minister Bernhard Bot reportedly indicated to Pakistan Foreign Minister Khurshid M Kasuri during their meeting here yesterday.
Afghanistan has already rejected the proposal on the ground that it is not ready to legitimise the over 2,200km border called Durand Line in view of disputes over certain areas with Pakistan.
Though Islamabad has said it deployed over 75,000 troops to man the border, both NATO and US commanders in Afghanistan besides the government have been periodically complaining of Pakistan not cracking down hard enough on Taliban militants.
"It came up very broadly," press secretary to the Royal Netherlands Embassy, Heleen Saaf van der Beek said.
Van der Beek was quoted by local daily 'Dawn' as saying that Kasuri brought it up when the Dutch foreign minister underscored the need for sealing the border and enhancing border controls.
Dutch FM praises Pakistan's fight against Taliban
Mon Nov 6, 1:01 AM ET
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Dutch Foreign Minister Bernard Bot praised Pakistan for its efforts in the fight against the Taliban, who have waged a bloody insurgency in neighbouring Afghanistan.
"Minister Bot expressed appreciation for Pakistan's efforts in the fight against the Taliban," the Dutch embassy said in a statement released after his meeting with Pakistani counterpart Khurshid Kasuri in Islamabad on Sunday.
Bot "encouraged Pakistan and Afghanistan to further strengthen and deepen their good neighbourly relations," it said.
The Dutch foreign minister, who also visited the Afghan capital Kabul on Saturday, asked Pakistan to seal its border with Afghanistan to stop the infiltration of militants and also called on NATO nations to send more troops.
Afghan officials allege that Taliban and other insurgents have training facilities in Pakistan and find support and finance among extremist circles there.
They say the government is not doing enough to crack down on these groups, a a claim Islamabad rejects.
The violence has peaked this year in Afghanistan, where more than 3,000 people have been killed, most of them rebels said to be with the Taliban movement ousted from power in a 2001 US-led invasion.
"Both ministers agreed that a stable, peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan is of vital interest to the countries in the region and the world at large," the statement said.
Bot also told Kasuri the Netherlands was interested in stepping into development efforts in Pakistan's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Kasuri "stressed the need to seal the Pakistan-Afghanistan border," the Pakistani foreign ministry said in a statement.
"He (Kasuri) said that the border could be fenced and jointly monitored," it said.
Bot welcomed Pakistan's readiness to seal the border between Pakistan and Afghanistan and told Kasuri he would discuss this with other NATO partners, the ministry said.
The Netherlands has 1,700 troops in the NATO-led force in Afghanistan. Some 1,500 Dutch soldiers are deployed in the southern province of Uruzgan to help stabilise and develop the province.
Pakistan, regarded key ally by the United States as a key ally in the "war on terror" has deployed 80,000 troops along the frontier to stop militants launching attacks in Afghanistan.
NGOs in Afghanistan fear backlash over NATO's humanitarian role
by Sylvie Briand Mon Nov 6, 1:18 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Nongovernment groups in Afghanistan are worried about the growing role NATO forces are playing in reconstruction, fearing people will not differentiate between soldiers and aid workers as security deteriorates.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) is putting a lot of emphasis on "civilian military" projects, such as the building of bridges and schools or distribution of aid, in what is as much a hearts and minds campaign against the Taliban insurgents as a military one.
But their efforts "put aid workers in danger", says the head of the Afghan mission of the French NGO Action Contre la Faim (Action Against Hunger), Thomas Loreaux.
"People cannot tell the difference between aid workers and soldiers," he told AFP. "And that challenges our neutrality and independence."
The confusion is dangerous as the Taliban direct most of their attacks against troops, although scores of aid workers have also been killed in the increasingly deadly insurgency launched after hardliners were toppled in 2001.
Loreaux says his group treasures its neutrality because "we are here to help people and if we need to negotiate with the Taliban, we will."
This year at least 14 Afghans working with NGOs have been killed, most of them in the north of the country which does not see as much of the Taliban violence that is gripping the south, although banditry and territorial rivalries are rife.
The Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) last week closed a district office in the eastern province of Paktia after unknown gunmen attacked the premises, killing a security guard.
"The security situation is always getting worse and, in this context, we are rather worried about NATO humanitarian projects," says the DACAAR head of mission, Erik Toft.
"They should put all their efforts on security," he says.
Such concerns have also been raised among NATO nations, such as France and The Netherlands, where there have been calls for humanitarian work to be the sole responsibility of groups such as the United Nations and European Union.
But ISAF says it is in a race against time to rebuild, in order to stem a growing tide of public discontent. Water, electricity and other essential services are, for many, still but a wish in a country devastated by more than 20 years of war.
On top of this is a crippling drought which is affecting the harvest and the 65 percent of the population working in the agriculture sector. According to the United Nations, two million Afghans are facing food shortages.
"We are conscious of concerns of the aid workers," an ISAF spokesman says.
"But we act on the same map and with the same aim: to quickly obtain concrete results for the population," he says, adding that the soldiers are often in areas where the NGOs are absent.
Many foreign NGOs have little presence in the volatile southern provinces like Kandahar, the heartland of the Taliban movement that was in power between 1996 and 2001, and which sees regular attacks and clashes between insurgents and ISAF.
Others, like Oxfam, have adapted to the threat by only employing Afghans who dress like the locals to avoid attention, says an Oxfam security official who did not want to be identified.
Mohammad Kadir, Kandahar province director for Afghan Health and Development Services group, says security is "every day becoming worse."
"In all of Afghanistan it is like this, not only Kandahar. In some areas where the situation is more serious, maybe we will leave."
One of the group's employees, a pharmacist, was kidnapped at gunpoint Thursday in the province's Panjwayi district which has seen some of ISAF's most intense battles.
The man was released a few hours later but the incident was still a major scare for the group, which had four employees killed in the same area four years ago.
Progress 'wafer thin' as Afghan army built painfully slow: colonel
Sun Nov 5, 5:49 PM By Sue Bailey Canada Press
KABUL (CP) - It will be at least 10 years before Afghan troops can handle national security without help from Canadians and other foreign soldiers, says a top military trainer here.
British Col. Paul Farrar, deputy commander of the international assistance wing of the Kabul Military Training Centre, says the four-year-old Afghan National Army is making real but painfully slow progress.
"It's superficial," he said in a candid interview. "It's wafer thin - that's the way I describe it. But it's better than it was last year and the year before that.
"It's really been struggling on to its feet, and it's probably not even now fully on them. But there is potential."
His assessment isn't exactly good news for countries, including Canada, who pin their exit strategies from Afghanistan on the ultimate hand-over of security duties.
The challenges are monumental. American, British, Canadian and French soldiers are helping to build a modern force almost from scratch after the Taliban's iron-fist rule. Comparison with Western military standards is simply unfair, they say.
Most Afghan recruits can't read, write or add; some officers left over from the vestiges of a class-based army system think they're entitled to a job; and the rate at which soldiers desert, go absent without leave or decline to renew their three-year, volunteer contracts hovers between 20 and 50 per cent, depending on circumstances.
Afghans clearly have a mind of their own.
"One thing we've learned is they don't work on time," says Canadian Warrant Officer Todd Hunt. "They show up when they show up."
At 7 o'clock on a Saturday morning, Hunt was searching in vain for a very late sergeant major and doing his best to herd cats.
"I have work to do. You have work to do. You have to disperse," he told a crowd of trainees that was more interested in a couple of foreign visitors than in preparing for live-fire exercises.
After almost 15 weeks of basic and advanced training, their marching skills weren't much better. Their AK-47s slung in all directions as they stepped to no particular rhythm despite the occasional shriek from a drill sergeant.
About 31,000 Afghan soldiers have so far come through the training centre, but the army's total fighting strength is only about 18,000, Farrar says. The ultimate goal is an Afghan National Army of 70,000.
After just 16 weeks in class and in field drills, many Afghan recruits are deployed.
By comparison, a Canadian soldier wouldn't be sent on a mission without at least four to six months of training.
Still, desperately needed Afghan troops fighting in the field alongside NATO soldiers have proven to be a valuable asset, Farrar says.
Retention problems have been acknowledged through pay raises and more chance for promotion.
Salaries for the lowest-ranking troops have now been increased to the equivalent of C$110 from C$78 a month, and benefits improved. There are also plans to rotate the best soldiers from combat in southern Afghanistan's hot insurgent zones, back to Kabul for training or teaching breaks. Burn-out became a growing issue in recent months amid fierce anti-government guerrilla attacks.
Afghan soldiers also go missing for days just trying to get money back to their remote villages. There is no reliable national banking system.
At the Kabul training centre, Afghan recruits and officer candidates gather for classes in an aging complex of 1950s buildings, some of which were bombed to rubble as the Americans chased the Taliban from Kabul in 2001.
Farrar, who has helped train foreign armies from Sierra Leone to Belize over a 32-year career, says Afghans are fighting diamonds in the rough. From the Soviet invasion, to a devastating civil war followed by anti-Taliban uprisings, warfare has steeped Afghan culture for more than 25 years.
"They're quick on their feet," Farrar says. "And they're quite hardy and enduring.
"The basic material is as good as I've seen anywhere in the world."
Ashiqullah Abdul Sallam, 23, signed up because he wants to help build a country that can at last enjoy peace, said the married father of a two-year-old boy.
"It's my hope that Afghanistan will be secure and my son educated."
Afghan group accepts Quetta blasts' responsibility
The News International 5 November 2006
QUETTA: Mir Vice Baba Movement of Afghanistan accepted the responsibility of Thursday blasts in Balochistan capital.
A spokesperson for the movement in Kandhar, Ubaibullah Afghan said Pakistan would be targeted in near future, while accepting the responsibility of last Thursday bomb blasts in Quetta.
He denied to be known as Taliban, saying "his movement is to safeguard Afghans, and are totally different than Taliban".
Asfandyar Wali urges Afghanistan to invite all notables of Frontier for peace accord
Paktribun November 05, 2006
PESHAWAR: The chairman of Awami National party (ANP), Asfandyar Wali has said that a Pakhtoon Peace Jirga would be held at Bacha Khan Markaz on 20th November, whence efforts would be made to stem the vicious tides of bombardments and attacks.
Speaking at the Bacha Khan Markaz, on Saturday, he said that all the notable Ulema, polity and others would be invited to attend and efforts to mull over the ways of containing the fire (cruelties), which endangers the homeland, would be discussed.
He cautioned that more acts of violence would follow and their area of action would methodically be increased over a wider territory of Homeland, from its initial of Wazirstan to its current Bajour with Khyber Agency and onwards to follow.
He also announced his intentions to visits the affected region for condolences with families of the martyred, and condemned the regime bent on sowing the seeds of distrust and hatred in the Country.
He said that an accord was due a day after the bombardment on the area, and the martyred Maulana Liaqat would have been a signatory to it. He expressed his surprise at the fact that the very possible signatory has been dubbed as a terrorist, and questioned as to why had Maulana Liaqat been freed if he was a terrorist.
He urged the Pakhtoons to unite for a joint struggle against such cruelties if they wanted an end to such discriminations. He said that under these circumstances it is quite evident that Afghanistan is not ready to assist for peace moves and is rather inviting Maulana Fazlur Rehman out of sheer formality.
Meanwhile, a committee has been formed under the auspices of Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour, which would undertake all the necessary preparations for the forthcoming Jirga, and contacts with all the political parties.
Replying to a question, he said that he would also keep up his struggle for attaining the basic rights of Pakhtoons and change of Provincial title, among other factors.
Different lobbies view Waziristan deal differently: CSIS
By Khalid Hasan - Daily Times 5 November 2006
WASHINGTON: The Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in a commentary on the Waziristan deal points out that critics of the accord are “extremely sceptical of the official Pakistani claims”, but depending on where they come from, they have different reasons for their views.
The author of the report, Jan Cartwright, noted in the 100th issue of the South Asia Monitor — a CSIS monthly publication — that many commentators saw the accord as a face-saving measure that allowed the military an exit strategy from a conflict that had begun to feel like a quagmire.
Also, President Musharraf feels increasing domestic pressure to scale back overt cooperation with the US ahead of the 2007 elections. Some voices in Pakistan, however, describe the government’s agreement with the militants as a “defeat for the army”. Observers have argued that the agreement was actually formed between the government and Taliban personalities, with the tribal leadership simply serving as “camouflage”. Still others see the cessation of operations by the military as a sacrifice of territorial integrity.
The report noted that despite Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s reference to Musharraf as “my brother”, the Afghan leader clearly had misgivings over the prospects for success of the Waziristan peace accord. Some Afghan critics believe that the Waziristan deal is evidence of an underlying Pakistani policy of “tacit support” for the Taliban in the hope that a Taliban government, friendly to Islamabad, might one day regain power in Afghanistan. For the US — the primary issue being gaining control over the insurgency-prone areas of Afghanistan — the agreementnt’s impact on border enforcement is a key issue. The US worries that the deal, if ineffective, will exacerbate the difficulty of NATO operations in Afghanistan.
Cartwright said that there was “considerable concern” in Washington over the vagueness of the enforcement mechanisms and the Pakistani government’s implied retreat from exercising full sovereignty in Waziristan.
The jirga system that produced the agreement is an unknown entity from Washington’s perspective. Nevertheless, the US remained intent on preserving its relationships with both Pakistan and Afghanistan and did not want to undercut the agreement with public criticism, he said. According to the author, “Observers in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the US are saying, in different ways, that the jury is still out on whether this agreement advances the peace and stability of the region. Measuring success is relatively easy: if the agreement is followed — fairly soon — by a reduction in violence in and near Waziristan and an expansion of Pakistan-Afghanistan cooperation, whether through tribal jirgas or through the governments, it will be a plus.” ”
However, argued the report, for Musharraf himself, the deal was “something of a gamble”. Pakistan’s elections are scheduled for late 2007. A successful agreement will boost both Musharraf and the party he supports. Continuing violence in and near Waziristan, however, could damage Musharraf’s credibility, he wrote.
The author said that another concern for Pakistan was the impact on the refugee problem. There are reports that, in contrast to the trend in recent years, refugees had once again begun entering Pakistan rather than trickling back towards Afghanistan. The stability of Afghanistan and Pakistan is a top priority for the US, which is prepared to serve as a diplomatic link to facilitate coordination and cooperation. The Waziristan agreement could very well be an acid test of Karzai and Musharraf’s commitment to brokering peace in the area, he said, adding that ultimately, the success of US objectives in these remote territories would depend on the commitment of all parties to ensure stability in the region.
Waziristan deal prompted by internal army concerns
By Khalid Hasan - Daily Times 5 November 2006
WASHINGTON: The decision to do a deal with tribal leaders in North Waziristan was prompted in part by concerns about the effects of the continuing conflict on Pashtun elements in the Pakistan army, according to an analysis published here.
Hassan Abbas, a former police officer from Pakistan, now a Boston-based academic, writes for the Jamestown Foundation that the Pakistan army stands today as the most organised, powerful and influential institution in the country. It has a cohesive and task-oriented profile with a strong esprit de corps. The composition and ethnic make-up of the Pakistan army have a long history.
Recruitment to the army from traditional areas in the Punjab and the NWFP continued after independence until the late 1970s. From then onwards, it officially discarded this concept and tried to expand its recruitment base, but the base remained unchanged.
Abbas writes that there are 520,000 personnel on active duty in the army, which makes it one of the world’s largest. There are no official figures about the ethnic background of officers or men, yet according to Stephen Cohen of the Brookings Institution and Prof Hasan Askari Rizvi, Pashtun representation in the army is between 15-22 percent among officers and between 20-25 percent among men. Pashtuns from the NWFP and tribal areas together comprise only 16 percent of the country’s overall population, while Punjab, which represents 56 percent of the population, provides 65 percent of officers and 70 percent of men. Balochistan and Sindh make up the balance. While the army is often disdainfully dubbed the Punjabi army by the minority provinces, it is actually a mix of Punjabis and Pashtuns.
A more insightful fact is that out of the 11 chiefs of the army, four have been Pashtuns.
Although there are no all-Pashtun regiments, and only one corps in a total of nine is headquartered in the NWFP, many important training centres for soldiers, as well as the Pakistan Military Academy are located in the NWFP. “Hence, Pashtuns are very well placed within the Pakistan army’s infrastructure. Although there is no such thing as a Pashtun grouping, their opinion certainly matters … What happens in the NWFP and the tribal areas directly affects their views to which the military hierarchy is not oblivious. In 2004, when military operation began in the area, there were desertions from the Frontier Corps. Pashtuns refused to fight Pashtuns, creating serious unrest. Consequently, at least one Pashtun major-general from the Orakzai tribe was prematurely retired, while more than a dozen colonels have had to be posted elsewhere. Recently, a well-known senior police officer hailing from Waziristan has also put in his papers in protest. The Globe and Mail wrote in September 2001 that “Musharraf has earned particular praise for bridging differences between the Punjabi and Pashtun officers who dominate Pakistan’s 520,000-strong army.”
Pakistani groups stoking Afghan insurgency: expert
From our correspondent - Khaleej Times 5 November 2006
ISLAMABAD — While the US government continues to "lavish praise" on President Pervez Musharraf for his role in the war on terror, many Pakistani groups and Islamic institutions seem to be operating with "near impunity" and fuelling the insurgency in Afghanistan, according to a veteran observer of the area and an acknowledged expert.
Marvin G. Weinbaum of the Middle East Institute, who recently visited Afghanistan and Pakistan, wrote in the Newark Star Ledger that Pakistan and the US were increasingly questioning the benefits of their strategic partnership.
Musharraf's commitment to a peace process with New Delhi had earned him praise in Washington, yet Pakistan's security services were blamed for complicity in terrorist acts against India, he said. The Pakistani president was applauded for his moderate vision in the face of reported violations of civil liberties, and a federal government powerless to enact reforms, he said.
According to Weinbaum, US policymakers may believe that President Musharraf is indispensable, but many critics balk at continuing to give him a "virtual pass" to perpetuate the military ascendance and resist a full probe of its past nuclear-related transfers. Even if many in Washington are willing to accept that his assurances to the US are sincere, they believe Musharraf's domestic constraints make it doubtful he can deliver on his promises. In Pakistan, the president's cooperation with the US, he argued, had become a "growing liability".
Weinbaum wrote that Washington's offer of nuclear cooperation with India and its denial of the same to Pakistan were seen as testimony that the US had cast its lot economically and strategically with India. The Musharraf government's unpopular, failed militarisation of the tribal agencies is generally seen in Pakistan as having been undertaken at the behest of the US.
Weinbaum sees the shoring up of US-Pak relations as increasingly problematic. He argued that if "Washington must alter some policies, so too must Islamabad".
Weinbaum wrote, "The US has too much at stake to remain as passive as it has. Washington refrained from criticising Musharraf when he claimed the presidency through referendum, enhanced his constitutional powers, pre-cooked elections, and then reneged on a pledge to take off his uniform. ''The US thereby managed to reinforce the impression it prefers military governments to democratic ones.''
ICG for strengthening Pak-Afghan progressive forces
By Mariana Baabar The News International (Pakistan) November 05, 2006
ISLAMABAD: The International Crisis Group (ICG) has called for a need to strengthen democratic, progressive forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan as an end goal but also as a means to counter the radicalised climate that feeds the insurgency.
“In the Pakistan’s context, this requires robust international support for free, fair and democratic elections in 2007. Such elections would most likely marginalize pro-Taliban Islamist parties and bring moderate forces into power, committed to good neighbourly relations with Afghanistan,” says the ICG latest report: “Countering Afghanistan’s Insurgency: No Quick Fixes”.
The ICG says that one of the two moderate national parties, the centre-left Pakistan People’s Party or the centre-right Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, would likely to form governments in Islamabad and, in alliance with like-minded regional parties, in NWFP and Balochistan.
“However, if the international community again turns a blind eye to elections rigging, the military’s religious allies and the Taliban’s mentors and supporters will continue to control Balochistan and NWFP, the two provinces that border the main theatre of the insurgency in Afghanistan,” warns the ICG.
The report criticizes the Pervez Musharraf government for its Afghan policy, calling Pakistan a grudging ally.
“Wrong-headed choices of allies, within Afghanistan and across the border, have contributed greatly to the current crisis. Pakistan has been at best a most grudging ally. The Taliban and al-Qaeda found refuge there and regrouped. Actions against them by the Pakistani military government have been non-existent or ineffectual. President Musharraf has devoted more efforts to consolidating alliances of convenience with Islamist parties than fighting the jihadis.
International efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will be about containment at best until the international community puts real, sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to tackle militant leaderships and reverse policies that feed extremism, including reform of the extremist madaris,” says the report.
It says that it is clear to most long-time observers that President Pervez Musharraf is playing a double game, gaining international support as an ally in the “war on terror” while failing to change policies of his government that feed extremism. The Pakistan military government’s political survival rests upon accommodation with the very Islamaist parties, which supported and continue to support the Taliban. Balochistan, in particular, has become a sanctuary where spokespersons and Taliban leaders brazenly operate.
Looking into the insurgent attacks together with a new campaign of terrorist violence, targeting urban centres, the ICG advocates urgent measures, which include putting substantially more international forces into the battle zones, and removing national restrictions so that all those in the country can be used where they are most needed.
However, efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will be about containment at best until the international community puts real, sustained diplomatic pressure on Pakistan to tackle militant leaderships and reverse policies that feed extremism, says the ICG.
“The Afghan government and the international community must accept that some short-term pain is inevitable and hold their nerve to pursue deep-rooted, substantive reform,” says Samina Ahmed, ICG’s Asia Project Director. “There is nothing inevitable about failure in Afghanistan, but without rethinking policies, there is equally nothing inevitable about success.”
The report examines the insurgency in Afghanistan as fierce battles rage in the south, insurgent attacks in the east creep towards the provinces surrounding Kabul, and a new campaign of terrorist violence targets urban centres. Having regrouped within Pakistan, the Taliban and other anti-government elements have stepped up pressure, and disillusioned, disenfranchised and economically desperate people are responding again to the call of extremists in a region radicalised by decades of conflict. Self-interested spoilers, particularly in the rapidly expanding narcotics trade, further fuel the violence.
“The desire for a quick, cheap war followed by a quick, cheap peace has brought Afghanistan to the present, increasingly dangerous situation,” says Joanna Nathan, ICG’s Afghanistan analyst.
Taliban said to have ‘de facto sanctuary’ in Pakistan
Daily Times 5 November 2006
WASHINGTON: The Pakistani leadership, particularly the leadership of religious parties, offers support and “a de facto sanctuary” to the Taliban in Pakistan. The Taliban also take advantage of financial and military resources they receive in Pakistan to reorganise and strengthen themselves, according to Pamela Constable of the Washington Post.
The former South Asia correspondent and the current deputy foreign editor of the newspaper, who recently returned form the area and is making another visit this month, told a meeting at the Johns Hopkins University that the situation in Afghanistan was “bleak”, but it also had some “bright” spots. Referring to the Taliban insurgency, she pointed out that the majority of Afghans did not want the Taliban in power. However, given the leadership void in the central government in Afghanistan, the Taliban see an opportunity for assuming power, and have now re-emerged from villages and stepped into leadership roles.
The role of Pakistani President Gen Pervez Musharraf in Afghanistan, she stressed, was “significant”. The recent peace deal he signed with tribal leaders in Waziristan could be interpreted in a number of ways. One perspective is that Musharraf is acting on the belief that the security of Pakistan is inextricably intertwined with the security of Afghanistan. Another view is that he is responding to the enormous international pressure his nation faces to cooperate in the war on terror. She noted that talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan were predicated on a “timeless tradition” to solve problems by negotiating deals. However, although Musharraf is a “tough and smart leader, with his heart in the right place”, he has “not been able to make progress” in a number of cases ranging from tax reform to honour killings.
Constable also observed that there was a “growing globalisation of the Taliban’s message”. Empowered by technology, the Internet and the global pop culture, “the Taliban have become more sophisticated as the world has become more sophisticated”.
At the same time, the Achilles’ heel of Afghanistan is not simply the Taliban insurgency, but rather an institutionalisation of corruption. She said weak institutions and a lack of public support and conviction in the central government were the root causes of Afghanistan’s instability.
Constable also highlighted some promising signs of progress in Afghanistan. Universities in Kabul are “bursting with female students,” and economic and social development is taking place in some areas. The work of mobile rural midwives has been very successful, as it emphasises training and learning in communities. Japanese aid and UNICEF projects are making headway in building and financing elementary schools. Unfortunately, local conflict often kept children home, thus undermining these development efforts, she added. khalid hasan
NYC Marathon a challenge for blind runner from Afghanistan
Karen Matthews Canadian Press Monday, November 06, 2006
NEW YORK (AP) - Nooria Nodrat's legs and hands went numb in the 24th mile in the New York City Marathon on Sunday. So she rested for half an hour before finishing.
"I'm very obsessed with challenges," said Nodrat, an immigrant from Afghanistan who has been blind since 1997, when she was attacked in the New York subway by a mentally disturbed teenager who punched her in the head, destroying her retinas.
The 45-year-old Nodrat ran and walked the course through the city's five boroughs tethered to a rotating team of supporters with a dish towel. She finished in about seven hours.
"I want to continue my running until the age of 90," she said, undeterred by the numbness, which she thought might have had to do with hunger or her asthma. "Every year I want a marathon."
A record 38,368 runners started the race, which began on Staten Island and ended in Manhattan's Central Park.
Long after winners Marilson Gomes dos Santos and Jelena Prokopcuk had finished and been crowned with laurel wreaths, recreational runners streamed out of the park wrapped in metallic capes, many hobbling in pain.
"It's harder than I thought it would be," said Gareth Nicklin, 30, of Bristol, England, who ran his first marathon to raise money for a hospital in London.
Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, wearing No. 110 to represent how much weight he's lost, finished in a little over 5 1/2 hours, a time that he attributed to a sore knee.
"Certainly, this was not my best run," Huckabee said. "But it was an amazing experience to run through the boroughs of New York, ... to be a part of an event that was just so incredibly large and very well-organized."
The governor finished with a time of 5:33:43 - more than an hour slower than his career-best 4:26:05, set last March at the Little Rock Marathon.
Huckabee - who once topped the scales at nearly 300 pounds - became serious about exercise and healthy eating after he was diagnosed with diabetes in 2003.
It was a first marathon for Bernie Muller, 23, a graduate student in education at Harvard University who ran shorter distances as an undergraduate at Haverford College. His time of 2:37:02 was good enough for 90th place but not good enough to satisfy him.
"It's a long way," he said, grimacing. "I'm glad I got it over with."
Anna Thornhill, of Manhattan, has run more than 50 marathons including a warm-up race two weeks ago in Mystic, Conn. The 66-year-old Thornkill, who looked closer to 36, finished Sunday's race in 3:38:18.
"Including a pit stop," she said. "I'm very pleased."
An estimated two million spectators lined the marathon route to cheer on the runners.
Upper East Side roommates Cory Warfield and Stephanie Tsay spotted champion cyclist Lance Armstrong running on First Avenue and on Fifth Avenue.
"We love him," Warfield said. "I just wanted to see him in person."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg presented awards to the winners in a televised ceremony but said everyone who participated was a winner.
"If we could get everyone in the world to do this," he said, "we'd all be better off."
Road construction in Paktika
SHARAN, Nov 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Construction work of two-kilometre road was launched in Delai district of the southeastern Paktika province on Saturday.
Provincial Governor Dr Akram Khpalwak inaugurated work on the road construction. He said the road would be built at the cost of $15 million.
The governor said fund for the project would be provided by the US-led provincial reconstruction team (PRT). The work would be completed in three months.
He said besides facilitating the people, the project would provide employment opportunities for a number of jobless youths in the district.
He asked the people to join hands with the government in establishing peace in the country to accelerate the ongoing reconstruction process.
Sayed Jamal Asifkhel
Elders demand removal of governor, police
KABUL, Nov 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Local elders from Helmand Saturday demanded of the central government and the parliamentarians to replace the governor and police chief of the province.
A delegation of some 80 people, including 30 women, presented their demanded in a meeting with speaker of the lower house Younus Qanuni at the parliament house.
Press officer for the parliament Haseeb Noori told Pajhwok Afghan News the delegation had come to Kabul to search a solution to the security problem in the lawless province. They will also meet President Karzai and some other senior officials to brief them about the fresh situation.
The elders said security had deteriorated with the taking of charge of the incumbent governor and police chief. They said the province was in dire need of experienced people at the senior level to improve the situation.
Some of the elders accused the governor of having links with the Pakistani intelligence agency ISI.
The speaker listened to their gripes and assured he would convey it to the relevant officials. He said he would also discuss the issue with the president.
Roshan, Siemens' agreement on cooperation
KABUL, Nov 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan's leading GSM mobile provider Roshan signed a cooperation accord with Siemens here on Saturday.
Roshan, one of the three cellular companies operating in Afghanistan, signed the agreement with Siemens, the worldwide known telecom manufacturer for future cooperation.
A press release issued here said Roshan had purchased telecommunication equipments worth $45 million from Siemens over the past three years making up to 50 per cent of the network's infrastructure in use.
Karim Khoja, Chief Executive Officer of Roshan, said the agreement requires Siemens to provide more equipment to the mobile phone company and train some of its technical staff.
Gholam Hassanzada, Chief Executive Officer of Siemens in Afghanistan, said they had organised trainings for about 900 Afghan engineers and technicians in different countries. He added Siemens would provide more modern equipments to Roshan under the agreement.
President of Siemens in Austria Dietmar Appeltauer, who attended the accord signing ceremony said: "Siemens has a long and historical relationship with Afghanistan. It is committed to participation in the reconstruction of the country.
He said Siemens had a strong relationship with Roshan, which is one of the top customers of this internationally recognised electronic manufacturer.
Communication Minister Eng Amirzai Sangin appreciated both Roshan and Siemens for their 'effective' work in Afghanistan. He said communication was quickly spreading across the country with 70 per cent of people benefiting from the mobile phone facility.
In addition to the minister and senior representatives of the two companies, German ambassador to Kabul and some members of parliament also attended the ceremony.
'Terror gang' busted in Kabul
KABUL, Nov 4 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Police said they had captured members of a 'dangerous terror gang' during three-day of intensive search operation in and around this central capital.
Spokesman for the Kabul police headquarters Ahmad Fahim Kohdamani told Pajhwok Afghan News on Saturday members of the alleged terror gang were apprehended from separate areas.
The spokesman said arrest of one of the gang member Qari Mumtaz led the investigators and police to dismantle the band and capture its other affiliates. Qari Mumtaz was detained for planting 12 kilograms of explosives under a bridge in Qara Bagh district of Kabul on Wednesday, said the spokesman.
The operation, kicked off on Wednesday, continued for three days during which some more alleged criminals were apprehended on tips squeezed from Qari Mumtaz.
Kohdamani said all other members of the gang were nabbed from different parts of Kabul. Those detained included Qari Borhan, Abdul Baqi and his brother Azimuddin, both prayer leaders at two mosques, and Qari Abdul Baqi. He said various kinds of explosives and bomb-making equipments were recovered from the latter.
Turkey to open 27th provincial reconstruction team in Afghanistan
American Forces Press Service
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5, 2006 – Turkey will open the 27th of 34 Provincial Reconstruction Teams planned for Afghanistan later this week, officials in Bagram, Afghanistan announced today.
The new PRT, in Wardak province, will assist Afghan authorities with reconstruction efforts and enhance development and stability within the province, according to Army Col. Thomas Collins, spokesman for Combined Forces Command Afghanistan.
The PRT will focus on providing health care, education, police training and agricultural alternatives to local farmers, Collins said. Its projects will be structured to meet the benchmarks of the Afghanistan Compact Document and the Interim Afghanistan National Development Strategy.
Although the PRT won't open officially until Nov. 9, Turkish representatives already have started what they call "quick impact assistance projects" before the official opening ceremony, officials said.
These include construction of:
- Primary girls' schools in Nirkh, Jalriz and Saidabad districts;
- A childbirth and comprehensive health-care center in the Desti Dut region of Saidabad district;
- A recreational sports center;
- A children's park in Maidan Shar;
- A vocational agriculture school and student dormitory; and
- A water tank and cold storage facility.
These projects are valued at about $3 million U.S. dollars, officials said.
Turkey also has started a humanitarian assistance project for the Wardak people, officials said. The first phase of the project, which cost $300,000, will deliver 150 tons of flour, 150 tons of rice, 150 tons of beans, 30 tons of sugar, 30 tons of oil and 6 tons of tea to some 6,000 needy families in eight districts.
An official ceremony today at the Wardak Governor's Building will launch the delivery of this humanitarian aid, officials said.
Turkey has participated in the International Security Assistance Force since its inception and was in command of ISAF II and ISAF VII. On Aug. 7, Turkey also took command responsibility for Regional Command Central, with the help of partners France and Italy.
(From a Combined Forces Command Afghanistan news release.)
Afghan jihadi leader unhappy with behaviour of foreign troops
Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 4 November
[Presenter] Borhanoddin Rabbani, leader of Hezb-e Jamiat-e Eslami Afghanistan Party, who is in Turkey at the invitation of former Turkish Prime Minister Necmettin Erbakan to attend a conference discussing Islamic issues, has told the Turkish newspaper Vakit that Usamah Bin-Ladin has no problems with Afghanistan, but wants to destroy America.
[Correspondent] A number of Northern Alliance groups have held low-level talks with the Taleban, Borhanoddin Rabbani said.
The behaviour and activities of the foreign troops have changed in comparison to the past as they have somehow become against the culture and people of Afghanistan, Rabbani said on the subject of the presence of foreign troops in the country. According to Rabbani, the people of Afghanistan are in favour of the withdrawal of NATO and coalition forces from their country.
Borhanoddin Rabbani has also said that a number of incompetent people are in control of the government. Speaking to Tolo television about the issue, a spokesman for the Jamiat-e Eslami Party, said:
[Party spokesman Waqef Hakimi] Administrative corruption is of course a result of the activities of incompetent people.
[Correspondent] Political analysts say Borhanoddin Rabbani has made his recent remarks to register his presence in Afghan politics.
[Waqef Hakimi] No one can refute the important political and social presence of Ustad Rabbani.
Afghan MPs discuss reducing number of presidential advisors, ministries
Text of report by Afghan independent Tolo TV on 4 November
[Presenter] MPs discussed the organizational structure of the government at their meeting today.
The MPs approved by a vast majority that the consultative judicial board of the president's office should be dissolved and that the number of presidential advisors should be decreased from 40 to nine.
[Correspondent] The absence of a number of MPs is still an unresolved problem. The agenda for today's meeting of the Lower House included very important points for discussion, but more than 100 MPs were absent.
The parliament approved six articles of the law on the organizational structure of the government in the absence of a number of MPs.
[Sayed Hosayn Alemi Balkhi, head of the parliamentary committee for legislative affairs] MPs approved the elimination of the presidential consultative judicial board and a reduction in the number of presidential advisors from 40 to nine.
[Correspondent] The existence of the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs was also one of the hot topics for discussion at today's meeting. MPs decided to continue discussions on the structure of this ministry on Monday [6 November].
[Sayed Hosayn Alemi Balkhi] There are three separate departments doing one job. The secretariat of the council of ministers, the Ministry of Parliamentary Affairs and the [presidential] office of administrative affairs are the three departments. What is needed is a single structure for the three departments. Our committee specifically proposed that these three departments should be merged.
[Correspondent] A number of parliamentary committees have proposed the elimination of six ministries, including the ministries of women's affairs, town planning, counter-narcotics, economy, border and tribal affairs, and refugee affairs.
[Sayed Hosayn Alemi Balkhi] Not all parliamentary committees are in favour of this proposal. We will discuss it at the general meeting of MPs. Any proposal winning a majority of votes will be implemented as the organizational structure of the government.
Afghan district chief arrested
Text of report by Afghan independent Ariana TV on 3 November
[Presenter] Officials of the Attorney-General's Office have arrested Mohammad Omar Jalal, the chief of Daulatabad District of Balkh Province. The attorney-general issued the arrest warrant for the district chief during his recent visit to Mazar-e Sharif.
Subsequently, the district chief went hiding in an unknown location.
Gen Abdol Qadir, the head of the Prosecution Department of the Interior Ministry, said Mohammad Omar was in prison right now. He also sharply criticized the recent comments of Atta Mohammad Nur, the governor of Balkh Province.
[Correspondent] In a press conference, Gen Abdol Qader, the head of the Prosecution Department of the Interior Ministry, and the head of a delegation of 40 prosecutors, informed journalists about the detention of Omar Jalal, the chief of Daulatabad District.
He told reporters that Jalal was in prison. He also criticized the recent comments of Atta Mohammad Nur and said such words were inappropriate for a personality like Atta Mohammad Nur.
Atta Mohammad Nur recently rejected allegations of embezzlement levelled by the Attorney-General's Office against the mayor and the head of the technical affairs department of the Balkh administration. Atta Mohammad Nur also accused a number of prosecutors of accepting bribes.
[Gen Qadir] Unfortunately, the governor of Balkh, in a press conference that was broadcast on television, insulted a number of our committee members who are inspecting the activities of government offices. I think that as a representative of the central government and an intellectual it is not appropriate for him to make such comments.
[Correspondent] We tried to get the governor's reaction to this but we did not succeed in catching him. The head of the delegation also said they had gathered acceptable evidence to prove the involvement of the mayor and the head of the technical affairs department in cases of embezzlement.
He urged the governor to help them arrest the two officials. He added that they had discovered fresh evidence revealing cases of corruption in the Oil and Gas Departments, Kod-e Barq Factory and Hayratan border town.
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