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February 2, 2007 


Pakistan's Musharraf admits lapses in terror war

by Danny Kemp
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan (AFP) - Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf conceded that some border guards had turned a "blind eye" towards Taliban militants launching attacks in   Afghanistan.

But Musharraf, a key US ally, angrily rejected allegations that Pakistan's intelligence services or the army were fostering an increasingly deadly Islamist-led insurgency in the neighbouring country.

The president also said that Pakistan was starting to fence a stretch of its mountainous northwestern border with Afghanistan in an effort to stop infiltration by the rebels.

"We had some incidents I know of that in some posts, a blind eye was being turned," Musharraf told a press conference when asked about criticism of Pakistan's cooperation in the US-led "war on terror."

"So similarly I imagine that others may be doing the same."

The president said it would be difficult for two guards at a typical border checkpost when faced with a group of "20 well-armed, well-trained and well-motivated people challenging them."

"There is no question of anyone abetting but there are people at the tactical level who turn a blind eye and that needs to be corrected," he told around 100 journalists at Camp House, his official army residence in Rawalpindi.

His remarks came two weeks after outgoing US intelligence director John Negroponte said that Pakistan was harbouring Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents.

Musharraf became a close US ally in fighting terrorism after the September 11 attacks on the United States but his country -- including the ISI intelligence service -- has been repeatedly accused of helping militants.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai in December openly accused Pakistan of backing the insurgency by the Taliban, which claimed more than 4,000 lives last year in the country's bloodiest phase since 2001.

"To cast aspersions on the army or ISI is absolutely wrong," Musharraf said. The Pakistani leader said during a visit to the United States in October that he was investigating possible support to the rebels from retired Pakistani intelligence officials. He made no comment on the matter on Friday.

But he called on   NATO and US forces based in Afghanistan to do more to tackle the cross-border movement of militants, adding that Pakistan could not win the fight against militancy on its own.

"It is also up to NATO, ISAF (international troops) -- and we refuse to take full responsibility for crossing of the border," Musharraf said. "They must increase their (border) posts and hold the border more strongly."

Musharraf also insisted that while there was some support coming from inside Pakistan his country could not be blamed for the resurgence of the Taliban movement.

A controversial peace deal struck with militants and tribal elders in Pakistan's Taliban-dominated North Waziristan tribal region was working, he said.

He added that he was "500 percent sure" that Taliban supremo Mullah Omar was Afghanistan.

However Musharraf said that Pakistan had tried and failed three times to kill or capture senior Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah after he crossed over from Afghanistan.

It is the first time that Pakistan has acknowledged that the one-legged Dadullah had been on its territory.

"We know that Dadullah came to Pakistan," Musharraf said, without giving any dates. "Thrice we tried to get him and thrice we failed."

Attempts to target Dadullah were carried out with "total intelligence cooperation" with foreign forces in Afghanistan, he said.

Musharraf also said that Pakistan would fence 35 kilometres (22 miles) of its border but had deferred a plan to lay mines. It also planned to fence 250 kilometres in the southwestern province of Baluchistan at a later date.

"We are doing it, we have decided. The movement of logistics has taken place," Musharraf said, adding that it "will take few months to execute".
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12 militants killed in west Afghanistan
Fri Feb 2, 5:46 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan police clashed with suspected militants in western   Afghanistan on Friday, killing at least 12 of the fighters, officials said.

Gen. Abdul Rahman, head of Afghanistan's border police, said 12 militants died in the fight. However, Gen. Mohammad Daud Ahmadi, a border police official in Farah province, said 25 were killed. The reason for the discrepancy was not immediately clear.

Three policemen were wounded during the six-hour battle in Delaram district of Farah province, said Ahmadi.
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Airstrike kills up to seven in Afghanistan
KABUL (AFP) - US-led troops and aircraft attacked a group of militants preparing to launch a rocket attack in eastern   Afghanistan and killed up to seven rebels, the military said.

The attack happened in eastern Paktika province's Bermel district, the coalition forces said in a statement on Friday.

"Coalition forces spotted a group setting up rockets and engaged the group with indirect fire ... Coalition aircraft dropped two munitions on the site and then another one on five personnel moving into a wadi (valley)," it said.

"A ground patrol moved to the site and confirmed that two were killed and another five are suspected dead," the statement said.

Separately a militant was killed and another was injured when a bomb they were planting on a roadside went off prematurely in eastern Kunar province late Thursday, a police official said.

The injured man was detained by US-led troops for questioning, the official told AFP on condition of anonymity.

The fundamentalist Taliban have waged a bloody insurgency in Afghanistan since they were toppled from power in a US-led offensive. The violence claimed more than 4,000 lives in 2006, the worst year since the invasion.
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Taliban militants overrun Afghan town, destroy government center
The Associated Press February 2, 2007 via International Herald Tribune
KABUL, Afghanistan: Taliban militants overran a southern Afghan town where a peace agreement had been negotiated last fall, roaming through the town center, burning its government compound and threatening elders, officials and a resident said Friday.

A resident of Musa Qala said 200-300 Taliban fighters had seized the town, taken weapons from the police and destroyed the government center late Thursday.

Col. Tom Collins, a spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force, said an "unknown number" of militants had apparently entered Musa Qala and that NATO had conflicting reports about tribal elders temporarily being taken hostage.

Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand province, said the militants came into the town Wednesday, disarmed the police force and then returned Thursday and destroyed part of the compound housing the district's governor and police.

"People have closed down the shops this morning and those living near the area have moved out of fear," he said.

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Mohammad Wali, a resident of Musa Qala who estimated that between 200-300 fighters were in the town, said residents were fearful that fighting between NATO and militants would resume.

Collins said no ISAF forces were involved in the incident. He said he did not know how many Taliban militants had entered Musa Qala.

British forces are based in Helmand province but pulled out of Musa Qala in October after a peace agreement was signed between local elders and the Helmand governor with the support of the British troops. According to the deal the security responsibilities were turned over to local leaders, while NATO forces were prevented from entering the town.

The deal has been criticized by some Western officials as putting the area outside of government and NATO control. The town was the center of fierce clashes between British troops and resurgent Taliban militants last year before the peace deal was reached.
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US to retake abandoned Taleban town
Michael Evans in Kabul The Times (UK) February 01, 2007
Rift over deal with tribal elders
American general to send more troops
American forces in Afghanistan are poised to attempt to recapture the town of Musa Qala, which was abandoned by British forces in November after more than two months of heavy fighting against the Taleban General Dan McNeill, who is about to take over as commander of Nato’s International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, is believed to be ready to order US troops into the town — a key spot in the opium smuggling route in northern Helmand — amid fears that it is now back under Taleban control.

About 30 paratroops from 16 Air Assault Brigade Regiment were ordered to withdraw from Musa Qala in November as part of a deal with tribal elders and the governor of Helmand. The American military were said to be “absolutely furious” at what they saw as a pullout by their principal partners, complaining that it left Musa Qala under Taleban control.

Brigadier Jerry Thomas, who took over as commander of the British Task Force in the province after the withdrawal deal was agreed, denied that the Taleban had been involved in the consultations over the future of Musa Qala. The British insist that the deal could point the way for future security arrangements, giving tribal elders a greater role in keeping the Taleban in check.

But the withdrawal caused a rift between the American and British military. The American view is that northern Helmand has become a no-go zone and needs to be dealt with aggressively. There is now every expectation that General McNeill may try to reverse the deal and put even more troops back into the town to expel the Taleban.

Critics of the so-called British “Platoon House” concept — planting a small unit of soldiers inside the reinforced district centre in Musa Qala and other towns across northern Helmand — said that it was an open invitation to the Taleban, who attacked the sites day and night throughout the summer.

Announcement of the withdrawal deal was delayed for three days, according to a senior defence source, to prevent the Taleban from instantly claiming that they had driven the Paras out. Responding to American criticism of the deal, a senior British officer said: “I know they hated it, but we may well need to do slightly dirty deals to get local communities more involved in their own security.”

In support of the British position, Assadullah Waffa, the Helmand governor, has drawn up a series of protocols, setting out restrictions to keep the Taleban under control. Under the Musa Qala deal, Taleban were banned from living within 5km (3 miles) of the town. Locals have claimed, however, that known Taleban individuals are operating inside the zone.

Yesterday General Abdul Rahim Wardak, the Afghan Defence Minister and a former Mujahidin commander, said: “The [Afghan] Ministry of Defence was not involved in the decision on Musa Qala, but I think it is premature to judge whether it was good as a pilot project. We must see if it works but I think we will need more intelligence to come to a conclusion.” Back to Top

Pakistan to Fence Border With Afghanistan
Friday February 2, 7:46 PM AP
Pakistan will erect fencing to reinforce parts of its porous mountain border with Afghanistan, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf said Friday, while acknowledging for the first time that some outgunned Pakistani frontier guards have allowed militants to cross.

However, Musharraf denied that the Pakistani army or intelligence service was actively supporting Taliban militants, who have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan over the past year, sparking fighting that has killed thousands.

"There is no question of anyone abetting, but there are people at the tactical level who turn a blind eye ... and that needs to be corrected," Musharraf told reporters at his army office.

Musharraf had proposed fencing and mining the border under Western pressure to do more to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida militants from using Pakistan's wild borderlands as a base for operations against Afghan and foreign troops on the other side.

A first phase would see fencing erected along seven or eight locations _ a total of 22 miles along Pakistan's northwest frontier _ and would take "a few months," Musharraf said. "The decision has been taken and movement of logistics must be taking place at the moment."

He said mines would not be used in the initial phase because of concerns raised by the international community. However, he said plans for a second phase still foresaw using both fencing and mines to secure 150 miles of the frontier further south, in Pakistan's Baluchistan province.
 
"No one has the right to criticize unless they come up with an alternative solution ... if there is no (other) solution, we will do it our way," Musharraf said.

There was no immediate comment from Afghan officials Friday.

Musharraf also repeated Pakistani complaints that it is being used as a scapegoat for the resurgence of Taliban-led militants. Afghan authorities and U.S. and NATO-led troops in Afghanistan shared responsibility for the border, he said.

"A misperception is being created that the resurgence of Taliban is from Pakistan. This is absolutely wrong. The resurgence of the Taliban is in Afghanistan, but some support goes from Pakistan," he said.

Pakistan had helped foreign forces "eliminate" Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani _ a top lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar _ in Afghanistan's southern Helmand province, just across the border from Pakistan, Musharraf said.

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan have privately said that Pakistan helped them locate Osmani, who died in an airstrike in December. He was the highest-ranking militant killed there since the ouster of the hardline regime in 2001.

"You could not have done this unless ISI cooperated," Musharraf said, referring to Pakistan's powerful Inter-Services Intelligence, which is accused by Afghanistan of backing the militia.

Musharraf, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, revealed that three times a top Taliban military commander, Mullah Dadullah, had been inside Pakistan but evaded capture.

"Thrice we tried to get him, and thrice we failed," he said, adding that the attempts were the fruits of intelligence cooperation with Pakistan's anti-terror allies.

"It was a combined failure," he said.

While he denied any official Pakistani collusion with militants, Musharraf acknowledged that there had been cases of security forces at isolated posts at the frontier letting fighters pass.

"We had some incidents and I know that in some posts a blind eye was turned, so similarly I would imagine that others may be doing the same thing," he said, adding that he had personally chaired a meeting that examined such reports.

He cited an example of two guards, located 500 yards from their section base, being outnumbered by around 20 highly trained and motivated al-Qaida militants.

Pakistan would give extra security to such frontier troops so they "feel strong enough and secure enough to check (people at the border) and that they won't be killed," he said.
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Afghan refugees fear war, reluctant to go home
By Saeed Ali Achakzai
PIR ALIZAI CAMP, Pakistan (Reuters) - Pakistan says its Afghan refugee camps are a hotbed of support for a resurgent Taliban and they should be closed, but it seems no one in the Pir Alizai camp wants to go home.

A sprawling settlement of about 150,000 refugees crammed into mud houses about 50 km (30 miles) from the Afghan border, Pir Alizai was set up soon after Soviet forces invaded   Afghanistan in 1979.

Nearly 30 years later and Afghanistan is still at war, but Pakistan is now determined to close the camp, and other similar settlements, saying they have become sanctuaries for Taliban battling the Afghan government and U.S. and   NATO troops across the border.

"There's no peace in Afghanistan, we can't go there in this situation," said Haji Zardad Khan, a 55-year-old resident of the camp. "We'd even be willing to go to Pakistani jails rather than go back to our country."

Violence surged in Afghanistan last year to its most intense since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. Afghanistan and its allies say the Taliban's strength is partly a result of safe havens in Pakistan.

NATO and Pakistan agreed this week that three million Afghan refugees in Pakistan posed a security threat and needed to be repatriated.

Afghanistan has struggled to cope with the return of more than 4.6 million refugees since the Taliban were overthrown.

Afghanistan, Pakistan and the U.N. refugee agency agree repatriation of the remainder will be voluntary and gradual. Afghanistan would be overwhelmed if Pakistan started forcing back large numbers, aid officials say.

Four camps in Pakistan are due to be closed soon but there are numerous others -- small and large -- scattered across border provinces.

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf told a news conference in the city of Rawalpindi on Friday the camps, particularly those in Baluchistan province, like Pir Alizai, were Taliban havens.

"We don't want them here, take them away, let them go back to Afghanistan," he said.

"NOBODY KNOWS"
But residents of Pir Alizai denied Taliban militants were hiding in the camp, although some people appeared sympathetic toward the Islamists battling to expel U.S. and NATO troops and defeat the Western-backed government of President Hamid Karzai.

"There's unrest in Afghanistan and there's no system there," said Mohammad Tahir Agha, 35, a cleric at a religious school in the camp. "The government is corrupt so they level these allegations that the Taliban and al Qaeda have headquarters here."

One young man said angrily that foreign "infidel" troops must leave Afghanistan.

"How can we go back when America is there?" asked the man, Mateen Jan, 26. He said he was eight years old when he came to Pakistan with his family.

"Musharraf is now our president. Hamid Karzai brought infidels to our country and unless they are expelled we won't recognize Karzai as our president," he said.

Police and other security agencies have no presence in the camps, which are run by shuras, or councils, made up of residents.

"Nobody knows exactly who is in the camps," said a security official.

Bibi Fatima, 56, said she didn't want to face U.S. bombing back in Afghanistan.

"We just want to be allowed to live here," she said. "Pakistan tells us to go back but instead of being killed by American bombs there it would be better if Pakistani bombs killed us here."
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Ban mulls increasing UN presence in Afghanistan
THE HAGUE, Feb 1, 2007 (AFP) - UN chief Ban Ki-moon said Thursday he was considering increasing [UN presence in Afghanistan this] year.

"I am considering increasing the presence of UNAMA (UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan) offices in southern Afghanistan," said Ban after lunchtime talks with Dutch Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende and senior cabinet ministers.

Foreign Minister Ben Bot, who also attended the meeting, had raised the issue with Ban after Dutch lawmakers had pressed for an increase in the UN presence in the area, where some 1,600 Dutch troops are deployed.

Up to now, the UN believed the region too troubled to consider increasing the presence of UNAMA, set up to strengthen the rule of law across the war-torn country and to reform the police force.

Ban, wrapping up a nine-day inaugural visit to Europe and Africa as the new UN secretary general, thanked the Netherlands for its support, emphasising that The Hague was the fifth biggest contributor to the organisation.
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NATO to step up efforts to control Afghan border: general
Fri Feb 2, 2:03 AM ET
LONDON (AFP) -   NATO forces are getting ready to step up efforts to take control of the Afghan side of the country's border with Pakistan, the alliance's military chief said in an interview published in the Financial Times.

"NATO needs to work with Pakistan for a reduction if not elimination of the unlawful and illegal movement across the border," General John Craddock, NATO Supreme Allied Commander Europe, was quoted as saying by the business daily on Friday.

In an interview conducted on a flight back to Europe after a visit to Pakistan and   Afghanistan, Craddock was also asked if NATO was planning any military action to temper the flow of insurgents across the border.

"ISAF is developing plans for that very effect," he responded, referring to the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led grouping made up of about 33,000 troops from 37 nations.

During his visit to Pakistan, Craddock met with Pakistani military commanders in Islamabad, describing the discussions as "frank, candid and promising."

He also said that he was not aware of any problems along Afghanistan's border with   Iran, commenting: "As far as the west is concerned, the border with Iran, I have not heard of any untoward problems there."

"Obviously we are very vigilant. We watch that closely."
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Gov't to send 800 more troops to southern Afghanistan
Thu Feb 1, 12:11 PM ET
LONDON (AFP) - Britain is to send an additional 800 troops to southern   Afghanistan, where they are bracing for a spring offensive by Taliban insurgents, Defence Secretary Des Browne has said.

The increase will bring its force in the south, where Britain has spearheaded a   NATO-led offensive against insurgents, to some 5,800 by late summer.

But overall Britain's deployment in the country will rise by only 300, as London will withdraw 500 troops from Kabul when it hands over command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) to the United States this weekend.

The extra troops will be heading for Helmand province, where the bulk of British forces in Afghanistan are based, and which has in recent months seen the worst of a Taliban-led insurgency which claimed over 4,000 lives last year.

It is also the area where the bulk of the 46 British soldiers killed during the war have died.

While recent months have been relatively calm compared with last year, military chiefs fear that Taliban fighters are preparing for a massive spring offensive, as snows melt allowing them to renew attacks on NATO targets.

The government is turning to reservists to supply a large portion of the necessary manpower -- it is issuing some 600 call-out notices in order to fill around 420 positions in Afghanistan.

Thursday's announcement comes following wrangling within NATO about some countries' willingness to commit troops to areas experiencing high levels of violence.

British former secretary-general Lord Peter Carrington last month accused France and Germany of "not pulling their weight".
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UN opposes Afghanistan bill giving immunity to war criminals 
By IANS Friday February 2, 04:27 PM
Kabul, Feb 2 (DPA) The United Nations office in Afghanistan has voiced strong opposition to the Afghan parliament's approval of a bill granting immunity to war-criminals and exempting them from judicial proceedings.

The parliament, with a strong warlord presence and after a week of heated debates, approved a bill Wednesday that grants immunity to all individuals involved in atrocities in the past two-and-a-half decades, including the Taliban and war criminals from the country's 1992-1996 civil war.

'For any process of national reconciliation to succeed, the suffering of victims must be acknowledged and impunity tackled,' the United Nations' political office said in a statement, adding, 'No one has the right to forgive those responsible for human rights violations other than the victims themselves.'

'Afghanistan's constitution guarantees for its citizens the right to freedom of expression,' the statement said, adding that the Afghan people 'have the full backing of their internationals partners, including the United Nations'.

The resolution, which was posted on the body's website, has been drafted in 11 articles, and states that it was aimed at bringing peace by reconciling all the opponents of the government.

'For bringing peace and reconciliation among various stratum in the society and starting a peaceful life in Afghanistan, all those political and belligerent sides who were involved during the two-and-half decades of war will not be prosecuted legally and judicially,' it said.

'No group or political party is excluded from amnesty,' the assembly's passed motion said, raising fears that the perpetrators of human rights crimes would be granted immunity.

'I am totally against it,' said Shukria Barekzai, one of the few legislators who walked out of the session as a sign of protest while the lower house was voting for the bill.

'It is not right for the parliament members or even the right of Afghan president to forgive the war criminals. The legislation violates the constitution,' she said, referring to rights of Afghan citizens assured in the constitution.

'It is the act of some warlords who try to bury their past atrocities by approving such a bill.'

Afghanistan is also a signatory to the Geneva Convention, which obligates all states to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against humanity, grave breaches of international humanitarian law (war crimes), and international crimes, such as torture, genocide and piracy.

The New York based Human Rights Commission warned on Tuesday in a report that some Afghan warlord-MPs had been trying to grant themselves 'blanket immunity against accusations of perpetrating war crimes'.

'After three decades of suffering abuses, Afghans have repeatedly called for accountability for those responsible for serious human rights abuses, whether communists, warlords, or the Taliban,' the commission's report said, adding, 'There can be no sustainable peace and security in Afghanistan without respect for the rule of law.'

The bill also asks for an extraordinary reconciliation commission to be formed within the assembly to accelerate the talks with opposition groups that include Taliban militants who have waged a stubborn insurgency against Afghan government and international allies since their ouster in late 2001.

The offer by the legislative body comes days after President Hamid Karzai once again offered an olive branch to Taliban extremists to lay down their arms and join mainstream society.

While Karzai made no distinction, the bill says any individual who 'accepts the constitution of the country' could be benefited by the amnesty.

Taliban leaders in the past snubbed the offers and vowed to continue their war until the withdrawal of the foreign forces from Afghanistan.

The bill is yet to be endorsed by the upper house of parliament and signed by President Karzai, which are necessary steps for it to come into force as a law.
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NATO troops injure 2 Afghan civilians
People's Daily - Feb 01 10:12 PM
Two Afghan civilians have been injured when NATO forces fired on a vehicle approaching their patrol in eastern Afghanistan, the military said a statement received on Friday.

The incident happened Thursday morning south of Methar Lam, capital of Laghman province, the statement said. The vehicle continued toward the soldiers after a member of the dismounted patrol used signals to warn the vehicle to stop, it added.

The soldiers fired warning shots into the ground in front of the vehicle, injuring the driver and a passenger, the statement said. NATO forces provided medical treatment at the scene and the injured were taken to a local hospital, it added.

An investigation is underway into the incident.

NATO troops on patrol have accidentally killed or injured Afghan civilians in vehicles from time to time.
Source: Xinhua
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Clashes claim 33 lives in Afghanistan in two days 
www.chinaview.cn 2007-01-31 21:23:21 
KABUL, Jan. 31 (Xinhua) -- Conflicts between militants and security forces have killed 33 persons including 30 Taliban insurgents and three Afghan soldiers over the past two days, local officials said Wednesday.

Afghan forces backed by NAT air-power eliminated 30 Taliban militants including their commander Mullah Shir Agha in Kajaki district of the southern Helmand province on Tuesday night, provincial police chief Mohammad Nabi Mullahkhil told Xinhua. He did not give other details.

In another development, which occurred in the eastern Paktika province, three Afghan soldiers were killed and a similar number was wounded.

A group of armed Taliban militants raided a checkpoint in Shakin area of Bermal district close to Afghan-Pakistani border on Wednesday morning, leaving three soldiers dead and three others injured, provincial governor Mohammad Akram Khapalwak told Xinhua.

Violence have claimed the lives of more than 300 people so far this year in Afghanistan and military officials expect more Taliban attacks when the weather gets warm.
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Afghan rebels behead 'spy'
The Scotsman - Feb 02 4:20 AM
SUSPECTED militants beheaded a man and dumped his body in a tribal region near the Afghan border, leaving a note on the corpse accusing him of spying for the United States.

Villagers found the man's decapitated body in a ditch at the side of a road near Ghulam Khan, a frontier town in the North Waziristan tribal area.

A note found with the body said:

"Those who spy for America will meet this fate."
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Afghan registration in Pakistan tops 2 million mark
02 Feb 2007 11:39:55 GMT Source: UNHCR
More  The number of Afghans registered by the government of Pakistan with support from UNHCR will pass the 2 million mark today following the resumption of the registration operation after the break for Ashura and Muharram.

The 2 million people registered since the start of the exercise in October 2006 account for over 80 percent of the target population of 2.4 million Afghans in Pakistan. Nearly 65 percent of those registered are in North West Frontier Province (NWFP); 20 percent in Balochistan; 10 percent in Punjab/Islamabad; 5 percent in Sindh and the rest in Pakistan-administered Kashmir (AJK). Registration is conducted by Pakistan's National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) with help from the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) and UNHCR.

The exercise has been completed in large parts of the country. It is scheduled to finish by mid-February in the remaining sites in Islamabad, NWFP and Balochistan.

Only Afghans who were counted in the Pakistan government census of February/March 2005 are eligible for registration. Those registered receive Proof of Registration (POR) cards that recognize them as Afghan citizens temporarily living in Pakistan. The PoR cards have a validity of three years.

UNHCR estimates that some 2.4 million Afghans remain in Pakistan, 70 percent of them women, children and the elderly. Approximately 60 percent are living in Pakistan's cities and towns, while the remainder live in 85 refugee villages and settlements, mostly in NWFP and Balochistan.

UNHCR, in close cooperation with the governments of Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iran, has supported major voluntary repatriation movements since 2002. Over the past five years, 4.8 million Afghans have returned home, predominantly from Iran and Pakistan. A total of 3.7 million of them returned with UNHCR assistance. Of these, 2.8 million have returned from Pakistan.

To assist the policies, planning and implementation of voluntary repatriation programmes, UNHCR and the governments have established Tripartite Commissions which meet on a regular basis. The next Tripartite Commission meeting with Afghanistan and Pakistan is set for 6-7 February in Lahore, Pakistan.

After four years of exceptionally high repatriation levels, the assisted return figures (139,000) in 2006 from both Pakistan and Iran decreased significantly. In UNHCR's view, there are three main factors contributing to this trend – the fact that 80 percent of the remaining Afghan population in those two countries has now been in exile for more than 20 years; the limited absorption capacity of Afghanistan's economy; and the recent rise in insecurity in provinces from where many Afghans originate.
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38 Afghans deported
Dawn (Pakistan)
KHAAR (Bajaur Agency), Feb 1: The political administration of the Bajaur Agency on Thursday deported 38 Afghan nationals who were living illegally in the Loisum area. The deported men were found involved in terrorist activities.

The political tehsildaar of Khaar, the headquarters of the Bajaur Agency, told journalists that the political administration deported the Afghans to the Kunar province of Afghanistan with the help of members of Levies force.

The political authorities had launched an operation in Sadiqabad, Inayat Kallay and Khaar against Afghans residing illegally after reports that they were involved in terrorist activities.

Shakil Qadir, the Political Agent, has appealed to tribal elders to help the political administration in maintaining law and order.—Correspondent
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The Taliban's flower power
By Syed Saleem Shahzad Asia Times Online / February 1, 2007
KABUL - Western officials involved in counter-narcotics operations in Afghanistan estimate that this year the country will produce its biggest poppy crop in history.

Nevertheless, Taliban-dominated Helmand province, which contributes a major chunk in poppy cultivation, houses drug-processing labs and serves as a main route for trafficking and transportation, will be largely spared anti-narcotics operations.

In Helmand, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) will be preoccupied with an expected major Taliban offensive come spring, rather than with drug-eradication programs.

The United Nations estimates that Afghanistan's opium production jumped by nearly 50% in 2006 to a record 6,100 tonnes to supply more than 90% of the world's heroin. About a third of the country's economy was based on opium last year. Of the 164,700 hectares of poppies that were cultivated in 2006, 70,000 hectares were in Helmand province, according to UN figures.

Sitting in a heated room of the British task force's base in Helmand near the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, a British anti-narcotics officer spread a map detailing just what a drug heaven Helmand is.

"Undoubtedly, Afghanistan will produce its best bumper poppy crop ever this year, but there is no shortcut to control this monster," said the official, who asked not to be named.

"At least, it will take three to five years for any significant reduction, given that development projects are launched and the people are provided alternative means of earning a livelihood and if the security situation is improved."

The official added that one cannot expect any improvement in the poppy situation when security is such a problem and counter-narcotics teams cannot operate freely. "You need to understand that in Thailand it took 30 years to make counter-narcotics operations successful," said the official.

The official said he believed that spraying is not an option as it can make people and animals ill.

His position was endorsed last week by President Hamid Karzai, who, despite months of US pressure, decided against using herbicides - in this case glyphosate - to spray heroin-producing poppies. A spokesman for the Ministry of Counter-Narcotics said that this year the government will rely on "traditional techniques" such as sending people into fields to trample or plow opium poppies before they are harvested.

"Eradication is only possible by forcing people to eliminate the poppy and grow other crops," the British official said. "We don't offer any compensation for poppy elimination. In 2002, people were offered money to eliminate poppy, and it played havoc. All the money went into people's pockets and they did not eliminate poppy cultivation."

Flower power

Afghanistan has for many years been the world's hub of poppy cultivation and the narcotics trade. When the US Central Intelligence Agency supported the mujahideen resistance against the Soviets in the 1980s, it turned a blind eye to - or even actively aided - drug money flowing into the resistance's coffers.

Drug kingpins were born, often from Pakistani Pashtun areas, and their money helped shape the dynamics of Pakistan's social, religious and political fabric - some were said to have become members of Parliament.

When the Taliban came to power in 1996, they clamped down on poppy cultivation, at least in the early years before they were ousted by the US-led invasion in 2001. But now it is business as never before.

"Five kilograms of heroin is sold for US$90 in Helmand province, and the district of Sangeen is the main hub of narcotic-processing labs," the British official said. He estimated that there are no fewer than 150 such laboratories in the area. About 10 tonnes of opium produces approximately a tonne of heroin.

"The finished produce of the Sangeen laboratories is sold on the British market for anywhere between $120 and $160 per gram," the official said.

I put it to the official that the Taliban are not directly involved in the drug business, other than receiving "contributions" for providing protection to the growers and processors. The Taliban's business is fighting occupation forces, I suggested.

"I don't agree with you. It is correct that the Taliban don't like poppy cultivation and the narcotics trade in principle, but it is impossible that narcotics could be traded without their consent, and we are even aware of some big names among the Taliban directly overseeing narcotics trade operations," the official said.

The official was lost for a while in his own thoughts, and then spoke. "The international buyers sit at the border areas between Pakistan and Afghanistan [Gardi Jungle near Pakistan's Balochistan province] and send local buyers to Lashkar Gah. A full-blown mafia operation runs this business, which includes the Afghan National Police, the Afghan National Army and the local administration. Their connivance goes all the way to assisting the local buyers to get the consignment of heroin to the Gramsir district.

"From Gramsir, the Taliban's area starts and a new cartel then transports the consignment up to the Pak-Afghan border. From there they use many deserted coastal points in Balochistan to ship the consignments to the UAE, Europe and other international destinations. Nevertheless, from the Gramsir district nothing can pass through without the consent and connivance of the Taliban ... it is impossible," the official said.

"Some marijuana is smuggled into Iran and some of the heroin is also marketed in Pakistan," the official added.

More than a handful

Helmand is the Taliban's most strategic province, where it raises resources and exerts widespread influence over the population. The province also serves as access to western Afghanistan's Tajik belt and to Pakistan's lawless border areas to the south.

Within the province, Gramsir district is perhaps the only region in which British troops actively pursue targets (beside Gresikh, where there is limited patrolling and occasional operations). Operations in Gramsir are based on sketchy information-gathering that leads to air strikes.

Similarly, British forces do not know how to choke the drug routes, especially as from Lashkar Gah to Gramsir a cartel allegedly headed by the Taliban includes local police and army personnel.

The Afghan Eradication Force led by US and British forces simply does not have any idea how to tackle this unlikely joint venture between the Taliban and Afghan security forces and the local administration.

And critically, in Sangeen district, where most of the processing labs are located, the Taliban and the ISAF have agreed to a ceasefire, in effect allowing the Taliban to go about their business - whether military or otherwise - unimpeded.

Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Helmand, has been entrusted by the British to establish tribal councils to build bridges between the Taliban and his local Kabul-backed administration. Money will also be funneled into numerous reconstruction projects.

For Sangeen district, the governor has only recently started negotiations with tribal elders and clerics to form councils. Until these are in place - and it could take months - the ceasefire between the Taliban and foreign forces will stand.

Yet the Taliban's planned mass uprising for spring is only a few months away, as is another lucrative bumper poppy crop that would provide the money to keep the uprising going for a long time.

Syed Saleem Shahzad is Asia Times Online's Pakistan Bureau Chief.
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62 kilograms of drugs recovered from fuel tanker
KABUL, Feb 2 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Security officials said they had recovered 62 kilograms of drugs (Cristal heroin) from an oil tanker on Kabul-Kandahar Highway on Friday.

Spokesman for Zabul Governor Gulab Shah Alikhel told Pajhwok Afghan News security officials arrested one man on charges of smuggling the contraband.

He said the drugs were packed in secret cavities of the fuel tanker. The spokesman said the smuggler wanted to smuggle the drugs outside the country.

Police and other security organs have seized more than 800 kilograms of drugs in the southern province of Zabul over the previous few months.
Sher Ahmad Haidar
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An Afghan’s Path From Ally of U.S. to Drug Suspect
By JAMES RISEN February 2, 2007 New York Times
WASHINGTON, Feb. 1 — In April 2005, federal law enforcement officials summoned reporters to a Manhattan news conference to announce the capture of an Afghan drug lord and Taliban ally. While boasting that he was a big catch — the Asian counterpart of the Colombian cocaine legend Pablo Escobar — the officials left out some puzzling details, including why the Afghan, Haji Bashir Noorzai, had risked arrest by coming to New York.

Now, with Mr. Noorzai’s case likely to come to trial this year, a fuller story about the American government’s dealings with him is emerging.

Soon after the invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, Mr. Noorzai agreed to cooperate with American officials, who hoped he could lead them to hidden Taliban weapons and leaders, according to current and former government officials and Mr. Noorzai’s American lawyer. The relationship soured, but American officials tried to renew it in 2004. A year later, Mr. Noorzai was secretly indicted and lured to New York, where he was arrested after nearly two weeks of talks with law enforcement and counterterrorism officials in a hotel.

In fighting the war on terrorism, government officials have often accepted trade-offs in developing relationships with informants with questionable backgrounds who might prove useful. As with Mr. Noorzai, it is often not clear whether the benefits outweigh the costs.

The government’s shifting views of Mr. Noorzai — from sought-after ally to notorious global criminal — parallels its evolving perspective on Afghanistan’s heroin trade.

In the first years after the United States invasion in late 2001, military and intelligence officials mostly chose to ignore opium production and instead dealt freely with warlords, including drug traffickers who promised information about members of the Taliban and Al Qaeda or offered security in the chaotic countryside. But in more recent years, as poppy production has soared and financed a revived Taliban insurgency that is threatening the country’s stability, the Americans have begun to take some more aggressive steps.

“In Afghanistan, finding terrorists has always trumped chasing drug traffickers,” said Bobby Charles, the former top counternarcotics official at the State Department.

He and other officials acknowledge that the United States initially may have had little choice other than to turn to tribal leaders with murky motives for help in bringing order to an essentially lawless society. But Mr. Charles pushed for the Bush administration to recognize suspected drug lords like Mr. Noorzai as a long-term security issue. “If we do not now take a hard second look at counternarcotics,” he said, “we will not get a third look.”

Administration officials say that they are working to develop a more effective drug strategy in Afghanistan, which now accounts for 82 percent of the world’s opium cultivation, according to a United Nations report last September. That could include broader eradication programs, alternative crop development and cracking down on drug lords, but any such efforts are complicated by fears that they could increase instability.

Federal prosecutors in New York handling Mr. Noorzai’s case refused to comment for this article, as did spokesmen for the Drug Enforcement Administration, Central Intelligence Agency and United States Central Command.

Mr. Noorzai, who has been held in a New York jail for nearly two years, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he smuggled heroin into New York and denies any involvement in drug trafficking. His New York lawyer, Ivan Fisher, argues that the arrest hurt the government’s ability to gain information about the escalating Taliban insurgency.

“Haji Bashir has been making efforts to reach working agreements with the Americans in Afghanistan since the 1990s,” Mr. Fisher said.

Several intelligence, counterterrorism and law enforcement officials confirm that American officials met repeatedly with Mr. Noorzai over the years. Because they provided few details about the substance of the talks, it is difficult to determine how useful Mr. Noorzai’s cooperation proved to be. He was not paid for his information, and the relationship was considered more informal, the officials said.

At times, there was confusion within the government about what to do with Mr. Noorzai. In 2002, while he was talking to the American officials in Afghanistan, a team at C.I.A. headquarters assigned to identify targets to capture or kill in Afghanistan wanted to put him on its list, one former intelligence official said. Like others, he would only speak on condition of anonymity because such discussions were classified.

The C.I.A. team was blocked, the former official recalled. Although he never received an explanation, the former official said that the Defense Department officials and American military commanders viewed counternarcotics efforts in Afghanistan at the time as a form of “mission creep” that would distract from the fight against terrorism.

Mr. Noorzai, a wealthy tribal leader in his mid-40s who lived with three wives and 13 children in Quetta, Pakistan, and also owns homes in Afghanistan and the United Arab Emirates, is from the same region that helped produce the Taliban. A native of Kandahar Province, he was a mujahedeen commander fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s. In 1990, according to his lawyer, he agreed to help track down Stinger missiles provided to the Afghan resistance by the C.I.A.; agency officials were worried about their possible use by terrorists.

D.E.A. officials say that at the same time, Mr. Noorzai was a major figure in the Afghan drug trade, controlling poppy fields that supplied a significant share of the world’s heroin. He was also an early financial backer of the Taliban. Agency officials say he provided demolition materials, weapons and manpower in exchange for protection for his opium crops, heroin labs, smuggling routes and followers.

Mr. Noorzai was in Quetta when the Sept. 11 attacks occurred, and he returned soon after to Afghanistan, according to his lawyer. In November 2001, he met with men he described as American military officials at Spinboldak, near the Afghan-Pakistani border, Mr. Fisher said. Small teams of United States Special Forces and intelligence officers were in Afghanistan at the time, seeking the support of tribal leaders.

Mr. Noorzai was taken to Kandahar, where he was detained and questioned for six days by the Americans about Taliban officials and operations, his lawyer said. He agreed to work with them and was freed, and in late January 2002 he handed over 15 truckloads of weapons, including about 400 antiaircraft missiles, that had been hidden by the Taliban in his tribe’s territory, Mr. Fisher said.

Mr. Noorzai also offered to act as an intermediary between Taliban leaders and the Americans, his lawyer said. Mr. Noorzai said he helped persuade the Taliban’s former foreign minister, Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil — the son of the mullah in Mr. Noorzai’s hometown — to meet with the Americans. In February 2002, the Taliban official surrendered after what press accounts described as extensive negotiations and was sent to the prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba. He was freed in 2005.

Mr. Noorzai also persuaded a local tribal figure, Haji Birqet, to return to Afghanistan from Pakistan, the lawyer said. But he said the Americans, falsely warned that Mr. Birqet and Mr. Noorzai were plotting to attack United States forces, killed Mr. Birqet and wounded several family members in a raid on his compound.

Saying that his credibility had been hurt by the imprisonment of Mr. Mutawakil and that he was angered by the attack on Mr. Birqet, Mr. Noorzai broke off contact with the Americans and fled to his home in Pakistan, according to Mr. Fisher.

The government officials could not confirm whether Mr. Noorzai had in fact played a role in those negotiations. There may be another explanation for his exile, however. In May 2002, one of his tribal commanders was killed in an American raid along a drug-smuggling route that the Americans suspected was used to help the Taliban, and Mr. Noorzai may have feared for his own safety.

Nearly two years later, in January 2004, Mr. Charles, the State Department official, proposed placing him on President Bush’s list of foreign narcotics kingpins, for the most wanted drug lords around the world.

At that time, Mr. Charles recalled in an interview, no Afghan heroin traffickers were on the list, which he thought was a glaring omission. He suggested three names, including Mr. Noorzai’s, but said his recommendation was met with an awkward silence during an interagency meeting. He said there was resistance to placing Afghans on the list because countering the drug trade there was not an administration priority. Mr. Charles persisted, and in June 2004, Mr. Noorzai became the first Afghan on the list.

Two months later, a team of American contractors working for the Federal Bureau of Investigation contacted Mr. Noorzai and arranged a series of meetings with him in Pakistan and Dubai, according to several government officials and Mr. Noorzai’s lawyer. They wanted to win his cooperation and learn about Al Qaeda’s financial network and perhaps the whereabouts of the former Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar. The Americans met with Mr. Noorzai, but the talks fizzled because F.B.I. agents who were supposed to join them were unable to do so, one official said.

In 2005, the contractors, by then working for the D.E.A., reconnected with Mr. Noorzai and once again met with him in Dubai.

This time, however, the objective had changed. Mr. Noorzai had secretly been indicted by a federal grand jury in New York on drug smuggling charges in January 2005. Now the contractors needed to persuade Mr. Noorzai to come to the United States.

Mr. Fisher said the Americans were particularly interested in gaining Mr. Noorzai’s help in tracking the flow of money to the Taliban and Al Qaeda. They were seeking information about Mullah Omar and other Taliban figures. The Americans asked Mr. Noorzai to come to the United States to meet with their superiors, he added.

Mr. Noorzai’s lawyer said his client agreed to make the trip only after receiving assurances that he would not be arrested. Mr. Fisher also says that he has obtained transcripts from tape recordings made by the government at the sessions.

Mr. Noorzai flew to New York in April 2005 and was taken to an Embassy Suites hotel, where he was questioned for 13 days before being arrested, his lawyer said.

Mr. Noorzai has been charged with conspiring to import more than $50 million worth of heroin from Afghanistan and Pakistan into the United States and other countries. The indictment says that he imported heroin to New York in the late 1990s and that unnamed co-conspirators also did so in 2001 and 2002.

Carlotta Gall contributed reporting from Kabul.
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New Film Opens Old Wounds in Afghanistan
Actor flees Afghanistan after “Kabul Express” creates uproar.
Institute for War & Peace Reporting By Hafiz Gardesh in Kabul (ARR No. 240)
It may be conventional wisdom that there is no such thing as bad publicity, but for Afghan actor Hanif Hangam the furore surrounding the film Kabul Express has been very unfortunate indeed. He has been forced to flee his homeland because of lines uttered by his character in a new Indian-American-Afghan film.

Kabul Express, directed by Indian filmmaker Kabir Khan, paints a portrait of post-Taleban Afghanistan, telling the story of two Indian journalists who come to cover the conflict and are taken hostage by the remnants of the fundamentalist faction.

In the course of their adventure, they meet a variety of people including one character, a truck driver played by Hangam, who complains loudly about the Hazara ethnic group. According to the character, Hazaras are dangerous bandits who kill people by driving nails into their skulls.

“I just read my lines,” said Hangam, appearing on Tolo television, where he is a presenter on the popular Alarm Bell show. He was bewildered by all the fuss, he said, but in mid-January he fled Kabul and took refuge in India.

The wounds of Afghanistan’s civil war years run deep in Afghan society. Following the fall of Najibullah’s communist-backed government in 1992, rival groups tore the country apart in an attempt to fill the power vacuum. It is, in part, popular revulsion against their excesses that led to the rise of the Taleban.

Many of the political factions centred around ethnic groups: Hazaras flocked to Hezb-e-Wahdat, while Jamiat-e-Islami was largely Tajik. Hezb-e-Islami was Pashtun, as were the Taleban.

The enmity between Pashtuns and Hazaras runs particularly deep, fuelled by mutual vicious massacres by armed factions during the conflict. Many Afghans are incensed that people they see as perpetrators of civil war atrocities are now in positions of power.

Kabul Express has angered many in the Hazara community, some of whom are very prominent figures in the current government. They are calling for the film to be banned, and in addition are demanding that the actor, the director, and others involved in it be brought to trial.

“The enemies of Afghanistan are behind this film,” said Karim Khalili, second vice president of Afghanistan and an ethnic Hazara. “They are trying to provoke another bloody conflict.”

Khalili called on the government to investigate the matter, without specifying who he believed was fomenting conflict.

Haji Mohammad Mohaqeq, a former Hazara military commander who is now a leading member of parliament, was not so reticent. He insisted that members of Jamiat-e-Islami were behind the film.

"I don't say the whole Jamiat party or all people from the north were involved in this,” he said. “But certain members have kept hatred in their hearts from the civil war era, and, contrary to our national interests, have given false ideas about Hazaras to the filmmakers.”

According to Mohaqeq, his constituency, which is largely Hazara, has been putting pressure on him to do something.

“They come to me every day and say, ‘what have you done about this?’ I think if we do not take action soon, the whole issue will spiral out of control,” he told IWPR.

The film was shot in Afghanistan and took just 45 days to complete. It was launched in Indian theatres in mid-December, and pirate DVDs began circulating in Afghanistan soon afterwards.

The ministry of information and culture declined to be interviewed by IWPR, but an official communiqué issued mid-January condemned the film for “insulting scenes and words which offend an ethnic group. In fact it is an insult to the whole nation”.

The ministry banned Kabul Express, saying, “Unless the script is approved by [the ministry] citizens are required to avoid showing, selling, or purchasing this film.”

But some argue that the ministry does not have the authority to issue such a ban.

“According to the constitution, it is for the courts to decide what is or is not against the national interest. Only then can punitive decrees be issued,” said Nasrullah Stanikzai, lecturer at the law faculty of Kabul University, and a former deputy minister of information and culture. “The ministry’s ban on showing, buying and selling this film is in contravention of the media law.”

“This is a political question as well as a legal one,” he added.

Ali Ahmad Fakoor, a member of the government Media Commission which investigates alleged violations of media legislation, insisted that the ministry’s action was perfectly legal.

“The media law states clearly, in articles 31 and 32, that a publisher is responsible for any text which contains an insult to Islam or the people, and any infringement is punishable according to the law,” he said.

According to Fakoor, the film offends the culture and beliefs of the Afghan people, and must be banned. The matter should be handed over to the courts, and, if found guilty, the culprits punished.

Director Kabir Khan, in an interview aired on Tolo TV, said that his final version of the film did not contain scenes that might be found offensive to any group. He maintained that the copies for sale in Afghanistan were pirate DVDs edited in Pakistan.

“If people see my version and find it offensive, then I am sorry,” he said.

In an interview with Pajhwok Afghan News, the director of Afghan Film, Engineer Latifi, said that the text that had been submitted to the national film studio prior to filming did not contain dialogue that was insulting to any nationality.

“But it happens the world over, directors include scenes after the script has been approved,” he said.

One political analyst, who did not want to be named, said that it was unfair that the whole Hazara community should be denounced in the film.

“Instead of [blackening] Hazaras, the filmmakers should have talked about those people who committed crimes,” he said.

Ordinary people have joined the debate, and their opinions may be just as divisive as the film itself.

A government employee who did not want to be named told IWPR that he applauded the film.

“Two of my relatives were killed by Hezb-e-Wahdat in a particularly vicious way during the civil war,” he told IWPR. “I say well done to the stars of the film, who broke the silence protecting these criminals.”

Safia, a student at Kabul University, said that given the present situation, the kinds of issues raised in the film are best avoided, because they only fan the flames of discord.

“Peace and security are very fragile,” she said. “We have to wait until rule of law comes to our country. Now we have the same gunmen in the government who caused all the problems. Even [President Hamed] Karzai is afraid of them.”

Despite bans on buying and selling the film, shops in Kabul are doing a brisk trade.

One merchant, who wanted his name withheld, was enthusiastic about the film.

“In my opinion, [the Hazaras] are now partners in my company,” he laughed. “They caused a fuss, made the film famous, and I’m now selling 30 or 40 DVDs every day.”

Hafiz Gardesh is IWPR’s local editor in Kabul.
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U.S. gives eight Cobra helicopters to Pakistan
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -The United States handed over eight Cobra attack helicopters on Friday to Pakistan, which is under growing pressure to stop Taliban guerrillas crossing into   Afghanistan to fight   NATO forces.

Pakistani army helicopters, including Cobras, struck a suspected Taliban and al Qaeda hideout in the South Waziristan tribal region last month, killing up to 20 militants, according to intelligence sources.

Around 80 men and boys were killed in October by a similar strike on a militant-linked madrasa, or Islamic school, in another tribal agency on the border.

The eight AH1-F Cobras, equipped for night flying, are part of a $50-million foreign military sales program that will provide 20 refurbished helicopters to the Pakistani army.

"These helicopters are important weapons in our common fight against terrorism," U.S. Ambassador Ryan C. Crocker said at the handing-over ceremony in the garrison town of Rawalpindi.

Pakistan had already acquired 19 Cobras from the United States, a U.S. embassy statement said.

Crocker said the Cobras and the sale of F-16 warplanes to Islamabad agreed late last year "demonstrated the long-term commitment of the United States to all aspects of our strategic partnership with Pakistan."

In June 2004, the United States declared Pakistan to be a major non-NATO ally, making it easier to supply arms.

Relations between the United States and Pakistan have once again come under scrutiny, because of comments by U.S. and Afghan officials that the Taliban has bases in Pakistan.

A U.S. bill which was passed in the House of Representatives and is due to go to the Senate has proposed linking military aid to Pakistan to its efforts to tackle Taliban.

The U.S. embassy said this week the Bush administration was opposed to provisions in the bill on linking military aid.

Pakistan concedes there are Taliban fighters on its soil, but insists the insurgency is based in Afghanistan. Back to Top

Afghan, local students play blame game, trade attack charges
By Indian Express via Yahoo! India News  Friday February 2, 01:56 AM
A group of BA students from Afghanistan studying in Lucknow University gave an application to the university administration on Thursday, claiming a group of local students harassed and attacked them.

The application came after a local student filed a complaint at Hassanganj Police Station earlier in the day, alleging that the Afghan students had manhandled him.

Both groups of students are from BA first-year course.

According to the complaint filed by Sanjive Kumar, the Afghan students' group attacked him while he was sitting at the university's Tagore lawn on Thursday. The complaint said the foreign students threw stones on him, causing injuries to his eyes.

Kumar's complaint blamed one Bahraj Daijai as being instrumental behind the attack.

But the foreign students' application claimed that they have been harassed for a group of 20 to 25 local LU students from time to time, and were attacked today. The application claimed that the local students used abusive language when they protested at the mistreatment.

University proctor A N Singh admitted that the varsity administration has received both set of complaints. "We will investigate both set of complaints individually before taking any action," Singh said.

The claims and counter-claims incidentally come at a time when Lucknow University seems to have come past its hoodlum days, following the much-publicised recent purge of criminal elements from the campus, and is looking to bolster its academic image by tying up with various foreign universities.
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Runway at Helmand airport being reconstructed
KABUL, Jan 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Work on reconstruction of runway at the Helmand airport was launched on Wednesday.

Reconstruction of the landing strip will be completed at the cost of $70,000 provided by the British-led provincial reconstruction team (PRT).

Helmand airport was constructed 40 years ago, but it was bitterly damaged during jihad or holy war against the Soviet forces and the years of internecine.

Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, provincial Governor Asadullah Wafa said the airport would be opened for civilian flights once the airstrip was constructed. He said the government-owned Ariana Airlines would resume flights between Kabul and Helmand.

Spokesman for the Ministry of Transportation and Tourism Mohammad Anwar Hidayat said there were 40 airports across the country. Of them, only 17 were in use. The rest are either closed or used for military purposes.
Samad Rohani
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Private sector investment reaches $4.5b in 5 years
KABUL, Jan 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The national exchequer has received $4.5 billion in the form of foreign as well as local investment over the previous five years.

According to officials, the three telecommunication companies, including the Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC), Roshan and Areeba are on top of investment list, whose total investment amounts to $800 million.

Omar Zakhelwal, president of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA), told Pajhwok Afghan News, besides the telecommunication sector, the industrial sector attracted more than 600 million US dollars.

He said the Coca Cola Company invested 25 million US dollar and the Crystal and Aria mineral water spent $20 millions and $14 millions respectively.

In the construction sector, he said, over three billion US dollars had been invested. Of this amount, the Kabul Serena and Safi Landmark Hotel are on top with $37 million and $15 million investment respectively.

He said the Afghan Investment Company had spent $300 million to reconstruct the cement companies in the northern province of Baghlan and Jabal Saraj district of Parwan. Another entrepreneur in the name of Safi Brothers had invested $50 million to erect a cement plant in the western province of Herat.

Karim Khwaja, chief of the Roshan telecommunication company, said the company had more than one million customers across the country. He said Roshan had paid more than $65 million in taxes to the government during the previous three years.

Sher Khosti, spokesman for the AWCC, said the company had about one million customers in 92 cities and 20 provinces. He said they had paid $35 million in taxes to the government during 2006.

According to officials of the third telecommunication company, Areeba, it had over 200,000 customers in 13 provinces.
Zainab Mohammadi
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Japan donates anti-tetanus vaccines
KABUL, Jan 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The government of Japan will donate 400,000 anti-tetanus vaccines to the Ministry of Public Health to be administered to people across the country.

In this connection, an agreement was signed between deputy minister for public health Dr Sadruddin Sahar and first secretary at the embassy of Japan Tomoko Otsuka on Wednesday.

Speaking on the occasion, Sahar said each doze cost one USD. Hence, the amount of the Japanese donation reaches $400,000. He said tetanus was one of the reasons behind high mortality rate among mothers.

According to official figures, one woman dies during delivery in every 30 minutes, while an average 70 under-five children die every day due to curable diseases across country.

Dr Riyad Musa Ahmed, director World Health Organisation in Afghanistan, said his agency and the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) were jointly supporting the vaccination programmes of the Ministry of Public Health.
Zarghona Salehi
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Taliban resurgence failure of US, Karzai govt
NEW YORK, Jan 31 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The resurgence of civil war is due to failure of the United States, Karzai government and the international community to take advantage of the lull in the conflict that followed collapse of the Taliban regime in late 2001.

It is also because of their failure to strengthen the capacity of the new Afghan government to project its authority and provide public services, including security, to the population beyond Kabul, James Dobbins, who served as the first US envoy to Afghanistan following the 9-11 attacks, said Tuesday.

Analyzing the resurgence of the Taliban, Dobbins said in his testimony before the House Armed Services Committee in Washington: "The second cause is the fragmentation of the international coalition that the US put together in late 2001 to stabilise and reconstruct."

Observing in the aftermath of the fall of Taliban, the US and global community had a "golden occasion" to help Afghans build an effective government, he said: "We failed to seize this opportunity. During those early years, US and international assistance was minimal."

Responding to the question from the House Armed Services Committee Chairman Ike Skelton, Dobbins said: "The more American money and manpower is committed to Afghanistan, the more important it becomes to address the principal source of the ongoing civil war, which remains, as it has for most of the past 20 years, largely external, and in present circumstances, largely in Pakistan."

Dobbins said the Pakistani government be persuaded to abandon its relationship with extremist elements within its society, halt its support for terrorism, provide its youth an educational alternative to fundamentalist madressas, extend effective

governance into its border provinces, and curtail their use by insurgent movements.

He told the Congressmen that the conflict in Iraq has diverted American attention from the real central front in the war on terror, which neither in Iraq or

Afghanistan, but in Pakistan. "Al-Qaeda, after all, is headquartered in Pakistan. The Taliban is operating out of Pakistan, as are several other insurgent and terrorist groups seeking to expel international forces from Afghanistan," he alleged.

Dobbins argued that the US should intensify efforts to encourage both India and Pakistan to resolve their differences over Kashmir, as this, he said, was the root cause of radicalisation in Pakistani society and governments use of terrorism as an instrument of state policy.

"Second, our assistance programmes need to address the economic and social needs of the Pashtun populations on both sides of the border, not just in Afghanistan," he said.

"Third, we need to encourage both the Afghan and Pakistani governments to establish an agreed border regime and legitimise the current frontier. And finally, the US should encourage Pakistan to move back toward civilian rule via free elections," Dobbins concluded.
Lalit K. Jha
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