Afghan, Pakistani Officials Agree On Tribal Assemblies
March 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Afghan and Pakistani officials have agreed to convene Pashtun tribal assemblies on both sides of their border in an effort to contain terrorism.
Delegates from both countries agreed after three days of talks in Islamabad today to work together on the basis of "mutual respect for each nation's national sovereignty and territorial integrity."
ARCHIVE: In April 2006, RFE/RL spoke at length with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.The delegates plan to meet again in April to finalize dates for the tribal assemblies, or jirgas.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf first agreed on a tribal approach against militancy during a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush in Washington in September 2006.
Islamabad, which is concerned about possible territorial claims upon Pakistan's tribal border regions, opposes the idea of a single assembly of Pashtun tribal leaders from both sides of the border.
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Afghanistan says Pakistan has started fencing border
Tue Mar 13, 2:50 PM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Pakistan has started fencing parts of its border with Afghanistan, the Afghan defence ministry said Tuesday as the government raised objections, saying the unmarked frontier was disputed.
Pakistan officials denied they had done any fencing, but said work was set to begin.
Visiting US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher said meanwhile efforts to control the movement of militants across the rugged border should be agreed by all sides.
"According to Afghan military intelligence, they have started fencing the border in an area opposite to Barmal," defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.
Barmal is in Afghanistan's eastern Paktika province. President Pervez Musharraf said in February Pakistan would fence 35 kilometres (22 miles) of its northwestern border to restrict the movement of Taliban militants.
"The Islamic government of Afghanistan strongly opposes this," the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It also denied that the erection of barbed-wire fencing on parts of the 2,500-kilometre (1,500-mile) border would do much to prevent militants trained and equipped in Pakistan from crossing over to carry out attacks.
"This won't help the war on terrorism," the ministry said. "The other reality is that the (current) border is not acceptable to both countries ... so here the question is in which country this barbed wire would be erected."
Afghan officials still refer to the border as the Durand Line, its name when it was drawn up in 1893 by British India, which once included Pakistan, to divide powerful ethnic Pashtun tribes.
"We should bear in mind that in most areas, the so-called Durand Line is not clear," the defence ministry said separately. A fence in the area would separate tribes and families living on either side, it added.
But Pakistan's foreign ministry said the border between the two countries was not in question.
"There is an international border between the two countries and there should be absolutely no doubt in anyone's mind about that," ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam told AFP.
"When we say we will not allow our territory to be used for militancy in Afghanistan we are very serious," she said.
"Our decision to fence some areas on our side of the international border reflects our determination not to allow our soil to be used against Afghanistan."
Musharraf has also dismissed the Afghan concerns, saying the frontier is "very, very clear" and that "Pakistan will never, never allow any change of that border."
A Pakistan security official in Islamabad strongly denied that any fencing had taken place, but said areas were being identified and some work was about to start.
He said some areas would be fenced to "divert the people towards authorised routes and restrict the movement of miscreants."
Boucher, who was in Afghanistan for talks with officials, said he hoped to raise the issue in Pakistan this week.
"The US, NATO, Pakistan, Afghanistan need to work together to control the border area and we need to discuss these things...if various steps can be effective, whether they can be acceptable to both sides," he told reporters.
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BearingPoint Gets $219M Afghanistan Pact
Tuesday March 13, 1:50 pm ET
BearingPoint Receives $219M Contract to Help Support U.S. Aid Activities in Afghanistan
WASHINGTON (AP) -- The U.S. Agency for International Development said Monday it has awarded a $219 million contract to BearingPoint Inc., a management and technology consulting firm, to help rebuild Afghanistan.
The contract, which runs through January 2012, is one of the largest U.S. contracts awarded to help rebuild that country, according to the agency.
The McLean, Va.-based company will support governments, businesses, universities, and non-governmental organizations. It will also help build the skill level of key personnel in the country's public and private sectors through scholarships.
The company has been providing similar activities in Afghanistan since 2002.
Shares of BearingPoint dipped 20 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $7.53 in afternoon trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
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EU sends 18 million euros in aid to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran
Wed, 14 Mar 2007 13:02:01 GMT | Author : DPA EARTHtimes.org
Brussels - The European Commission on Wednesday said it was giving a multi-million-euro aid package to Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran to help victims of the decades-long war and severe droughts in the region. Some 18 million euros (23 million dollars) in EU aid will be used to finance shelter, food, water, sanitation and air transport for returning refugees and displaced persons of the war in Afghanistan.
EU funds would also be used to help their host communities in neighbouring Pakistan and Iran.
The commission said that international support to Afghanistan to help rebuild the war-torn country was only slowly showing results.
In addition, international efforts had been offset by the needs of the large numbers of refugees returning to Afghanistan.
More than 19 per cent of Afghanistan's current population of 23 million returned home in the last four years, the commission said.
Last year's severe droughts worsened living conditions in the war- torn country which had already seen successive years of drought between 1998 and 2004.
With increasing attacks by the Taliban forces last year, the security situation in Afghanistan also deteriorated.
Since 2004, the European commission has allocated nearly 100 million euros in humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.
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O'Connor meets with human rights director in Afghanistan
Graham Thomson, Edmonton Journal Wednesday, March 14, 2007 via Canada.com, Canada
KANDAHAR AIRFIELD, Afghanistan - Defence Minister Gordon O’Connor says he’s reasonably confident local human rights officials in Afghanistan will be able to monitor the treatment of Taliban suspects captured by Canadians and handed over to Afghan authorities.
O’Connor made the comment after finally having his eyeball the eyeball meeting with Abdul Noorzai, head of the Afghanistan human rights commission in the country’s four southeastern provinces, including Kandahar.
“He’s a very honest man, he’s really dedicated to human rights,” said O’Connor. "We will watch with time, we learn with time how things occur. I guess some of the proof will be if, down the line, they find something wrong in the Afghan system we will wait to see if they tell us. We have separate sources too, unofficial sources, that tell us what’s going on and we will be able to compare these things.”
He wouldn't reveal what those unofficial sources are.'
O’Connor offered Noorzai help in keeping track of detainees to make sure they are not abused by Afghan authorities after being transferred by Canadian soldiers.
“If some of our detainees are moved to let’s say a detention centre 50 kilometres from here and he can’t get there we will help him get there we will give him the transportation to get him there and support him," said O'Connor.
Like many of the country’s institutions, Afghanistan’s human rights commission works on a shoestring budget. However, O’Connor said he didn’t want to give the group money for fear that would taint its impartiality.
He had been hoping to meet Noorzai since arriving here for a surprise visit on Sunday — but the meeting was cancelled on Monday when Noorzai couldn’t make it. O’Connor invited Noorzai to the main Canadian base at Kandahar Airfield on Wednesday where the two toured Canada’s detainee transfer facility where Taliban suspects are held for up to 96 hours before being handed over to Afghan’s version of the FBI.
O’Connor flew out of Afghanistan shortly after the meeting.
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Suicide attack in Afghanistan kills 4
By RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A suicide bomber struck near a police convoy Wednesday in eastern Afghanistan, killing four people and wounding 35, officials said.
The officers were patrolling in the city of Khost when the attacker, who was on foot, detonated his explosives, said deputy provincial police chief Mohammad Zaman. The commander of the patrol unit and three policemen were among the wounded.
Khost provincial health chief Gul Mohammadin Mohammadi said that four civilians were killed and another 35 people wounded, most of them shopkeepers and pedestrians. He said that 12 of the wounded were in critical condition.
Earlier Wednesday, at least six people were killed in a gunpowder explosion in shops selling hunting ammunition, police said. Nine other people were injured by the blast, which left a huge crater.
Police, soldiers and crying relatives used their hands and shovels to dig frantically through the debris for more victims. At least three of the injured were pulled from the rubble.
Deputy city police chief Zulmay Khan said the explosion was caused by gunpowder in the shops selling ammunition for hunting rifles. Police have not said what might have ignited the gunpowder.
Most of the shops were shut at the time of the blast around 6:30 a.m. in a part of the city where many buildings are already ruined from years of conflict.
Khali Abdul Wahid, a community leader in the area, said that there were 400 shops near the blast site, and at least 100 were destroyed or damaged.
Meanwhile, NATO said its forces in Kandahar fired at a truck that came too close to their convoy Wednesday, killing the driver.
Suicide attacks have become a key weapon for Taliban insurgents who made 2006 the bloodiest year in Afghanistan since U.S. forces drove the hard-line militia from power in late 2001. The tactic has also put NATO and U.S. troops on edge, resulting in a string of mistaken shootings.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said in a statement that NATO troops had signaled for the driver to stop, and when he failed to heed their warnings they fired at the truck's engine three times, and the driver was killed by a ricochet.
Afghan and Western officials have pleaded with foreign forces to use caution to prevent civilian casualties. NATO and U.S.-led coalition forces have shot at least 10 people who have driven close to their convoys since January, according to an Associated Press tally. The figure includes the latest shooting.
In other violence, suspected Taliban fighters attacked a police checkpoint near Qalat in the southern province of Zabul early Wednesday. The ensuing gunbattle left a policeman wounded, said Zabul highway police commander Ghulam Jailali. Two militants were arrested.
In a similar incident, Kandahar provincial police chief Esmatullah Alizai said two police were killed and one wounded in a gunbattle that followed a Taliban attack on a checkpoint Tuesday night on the Spin Boldak-Kandahar highway.
In the relatively peaceful north, an attack on a convoy carrying officials in Faryab province left a district chief and one attacker dead, said Gov. Amer Latif. Another district chief and a policeman were wounded. The motive for the attack was unclear.
Associated Press Writers Noor Khan in Kandahar and Fisnik Abrashi in Kabul contributed to this report.
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Big shop blast in Afghan capital kills 6
By Zeeshan Haider
KABUL (Reuters) - A huge blast in an ammunition shop in the heart of the Afghan capital on Wednesday killed at least six people and wounded 10, officials said. A suicide attack killed six more in the country's southeast.
Several Kabul shops were razed by the early morning blast. Bystanders tore at rubble with their hands to haul out survivors.
"Two of my nephews were killed. We don't know what caused it but it was a loud and terrible explosion," a weeping Haji Qutubuddin said at the scene. "God knows better what was the cause."
An Interior Ministry spokesman said at least six people were killed and 10 hurt, and rescuers were combing the site looking for more dead or injured.
"The blast occurred in a shop selling gunpowder and other ammunition for hunting rifles," said Ali Shah Paktiawal, Kabul police crime branch chief.
In southeastern Afghanistan, meanwhile, two suicide bombers killed six people in the town of Khost in an attack on a senior policeman, a provincial government spokesman said. The officer was wounded.
In the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban heartland, rebels killed at least one policeman in an attack on a patrol.
And in the northwestern province of Faryab, suspected Taliban militants riding motorcycles killed a district chief and wounded another in a drive-by shooting.
One of the assailants was also killed when guards of the district chief returned the fire while other attackers fled.
The Taliban has vowed to step up suicide attacks across the country this year. NATO, meanwhile, has launched a big southern offensive in what analysts say is a crunch year for both sides.
Three Taliban suicide bombers killed two people and wounded a dozen on Tuesday in separate attacks in southern Afghanistan.
A senior Taliban commander, Mullah Jamaluddin, was killed along with several of his followers in a ground and air strike in Helmand last week, NATO said.
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U.S. allies meeting over Iraq, Afghanistan
SEOUL, March 13 (UPI) -- Three U.S. allies with troops in Iraq and Afghanistan are meeting soon to review and coordinate deployment policies.
The Korea Herald Tuesday said Kim Kyu-hyun, chief of the Defense Ministry's international cooperation bureau, was to arrive in Australia Thursday for talks with his Australian counterpart.
Both governments are committed to maintaining troops in Iraq and Afghanistan despite the withdrawal or downsizing of other national contingents.
Australia has more than 1,000 troops in the region, and South Korea has 2,300 in Iraq alone, plus an additional 200 in Afghanistan. Seoul has indicated, however, it may downsize its commitment in Iraq by about 1,200 before the end of this year.
The South Korean contingent in Iraq is located in the Kurdish north and is primarily engaged in reconstruction efforts.
Australia's troops in Iraq include commando units.
Following talks in Canberra, the Australian capital, the Korean would travel to Wellington, N.Z., for two days of discussions. New Zealand has about 120 personnel in Afghanistan, which is bracing itself for a spring offensive by the Taliban.
The Korea Herald said Tuesday the talks would be the ninth in a series of bilateral policy discussions.
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NATO troops continue to target Taliban leaders in Afghanistan
People's Daily Online, China
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) would continue to attack Taliban leaders in Afghanistan, an ISAF spokesman told a press conference on Wednesday.
"We will continue to target known Taliban extremist leaders, the enemies of peace, in order to drive them out," said Tom Collins, the spokesman.
He made these remarks amid the ongoing insurgency in southern Afghanistan.
About 4,500 ISAF and 1,000 Afghan troops launched a major operation dubbed as Operation Achilles in the southern Helmand province last Tuesday against Taliban militants.
Collins said Mullah Jamaludin, a senior Taliban commander in Garmsir district of Helmand province, was killed by NATO troops recently.
The Taliban claimed 2,000 suicide bombers would launch a bloody spring offensive against foreign troops in this country.
More than 400 people, mostly militants, have been killed this year in Afghanistan.
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ANALYSIS-No easy way out for Italy's Prodi on Afghanistan
14 Mar 2007 13:01:54 GMT By Phil Stewart
ROME, March 14 (Reuters) - Italy is paying a higher political price than other NATO partners for keeping troops in Afghanistan, but analysts say the cost of withdrawal would be even greater for Rome and its closest allies.
Prime Minister Romano Prodi, already forced to resign briefly last month over foreign policy, including the Afghan mission, still faces major tests on the peacekeeping issue.
The Taliban are piling pressure on Prodi by holding an Italian reporter hostage and demanding Rome withdraw its forces. Closer to home, leftist senators who oppose the mission will vote this month on a bill financing Italy's 1,900 troops there.
Keeping troops in Afghanistan may seem unnecessary given that Italy has a smaller contingent than even the Netherlands and operates in the safer, western sector of the country.
But military strategists and political analysts say any meaningful pullout would ostracise Italy from its allies abroad and anger moderates at home.
From a military perspective, the size of Italy's contingent belies its strategic importance, they say. Withdrawal would leave a gaping hole in an already understaffed force so far unable to defeat the Taliban.
"Italy is essential," said Colonel Christopher Langton, defence analysis head at London's International Institute for Strategic Studies. "If Italy were to pull out now, another nation would have to start from scratch in a new area."
Italy's force is divided between Kabul in the east and Herat in the west. It heads a regional command in western Afghanistan, with U.S., Spanish and Lithuanian troops under its command.
It also heads a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Herat, where the military components aim to ensure security for civilian-led reconstruction and anti-narcotics efforts.
NOT LIKE IRAQ
Although Prodi made speeding Italy's pullout from Iraq one of his first tasks when he became prime minister in May, his support for the Afghanistan mission has been unwavering, despite polls showing most Italians want the troops to come home.
Prodi's arguments are mainly political. He says Italy will not abandon NATO or equate the Afghanistan mission, which has U.N. backing, to the 'go it alone' Iraq war.
Italy also has a unique connection to Afghanistan, whose former king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, who now holds the symbolic title of "Father of the Nation", spent decades in exile in Italy before returning home in 2002.
For Antonio Satta, the brigadier general heading Italy's regional command in western Afghanistan, withdrawal would also be difficult from a military perspective.
"It wouldn't be like pulling out of (Iraq)," he told one paper. "There, we turned the mission over to an Iraqi brigade that had two battalions. Here ... there isn't anybody yet who can take charge of the area assigned to the Italians."
A NATO source said any reduction of Italian troops would be a major setback for the mission, already short of troops. Italy provides the bulk of forces in Regional Command West.
"That is a large area and is already under-manned ... the point is, the west is relatively safe because they are active in it -- if they weren't, it wouldn't be," the source said.
FUTURE OF NATO
British Prime Minister Tony Blair wants allies to send more troops. NATO allies have refused and Italy is one of them.
Analysts say NATO's inability to secure enough troops has already created a de facto, two-tier alliance -- with Italy in a second-tier that shuns the heavy military engagement.
Even partial withdrawal would deal a blow to NATO and raise difficult questions about its usefulness after the Cold War.
"The mission is sort of a coalition of the willing anyway, even though it says NATO. There are some members who effectively opted out of doing the heavy lifting," said Michael Williams of the Royal United Services Institute in London.
"So I think it would be a pretty terrible symbolic blow .. What's the point of having NATO there if the allies aren't really going to remain committed?" (Additional reporting by Mark John in Brussels)
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Australian helicopter narrowly avoids attack in Afghanistan
People's Daily Online
An Australian helicopter carrying Australian troops and reporters has narrowly avoided an attack by a rocket in Afghanistan, Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) radio reported Wednesday.
Karen Middleton, a reporter of Special Broadcasting Service (SBS), Australia's multicultural and multilingual public broadcaster, said a rocket-propelled grenade (RPG) was fired at the chopper Monday but missed by about 20 meters.
She has told ABC radio that nobody on board was aware of the attack at the time.
"The way we discovered this was that my colleague, Jamie Kidston, the cameraman, was in a harness at the back of the helicopter, beside the rear gunner, shooting vision of the trip," she said.
"When he reviewed his tape, he discovered what he'd captured and he didn't actually see it happen because you can imagine it's very windy and noisy, and we were being buffeted around," she said.
Middleton said an Australian Defense Force officer who was shown the tape has confirmed the attack.
Australian commander at Kandahar of Afghanistan Kevin Humphries has said that the strike on the chopper, traveling from Taren Kaut to Kandahar, could have had dire consequences.
"An RPG has the potential to destroy an aircraft," he told Australia's Nine Network television.
"It has done so in the past," he said.
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AFGHANISTAN: New contract to curb child marriages
More KABUL, 14 March (IRIN) - The Supreme Court of Afghanistan has approved a new marriage contract which is expected to help stop child and forced marriages in the country.
The new 15-page formal marriage contract, the 'Nikah Nama', has been welcomed by women's rights NGOs in a country where 60 to 80 percent of marriages are forced, according to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
"The new marriage contract is a strong legal instrument that will end child marriages and will empower women's legal status after marriage," said Nibila Wafiq, a women's rights programme officer for German NGO Medica Mondiale.
In Afghanistan, the legal age for marriage is 16 for girls and 18 for boys, but human rights groups say every year thousands of Afghan girls are forced to marry at a younger age.
According to the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), 57 percent of marriages in Afghanistan involve girls below the legal age of 16.
The new marriage document stipulates that if a man wants to marry, he should make sure that his would-be wife is at least 16. Marriage certificates will not be issued for underage brides.
Gender activists see the new marriage contract as a courageous reform in a society where only six years ago women were deprived of education, work and political participation. However, officials note that only one to three couples apply for formal marriage registration per day in a country of about 25 million people. This would suggest that the vast majority of Afghans are not officially registering their marriages.
To counter this, the Ministry of Women's Affairs has launched a marriage registration awareness campaign to boost the number of legally registered couples. Officials say that one of the messages they will be trying to get across is that an Afghan man will not compromise his traditionally dominant position in the family by officially registering his marriage.
In Afghanistan, men can have up to four wives as allowed by Islamic law. Abdul Wakeel Omari, an official at Afghanistan's Supreme Court, told IRIN that it would be possible for any Afghan man to have four marriage contracts, all valid at the same time.
Under Afghan civil law, the right to divorce is the prerogative of men. However, Medica Mondiale has lobbied officials in the country's Supreme Court to grant the right of divorce to women whose husbands marry another woman without their approval.
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Afghanistan's First Agro Fair In 20 Years Invites Malaysian
By R. Ravichandran March 14, 2007 17:04 PM Bernama, Malaysia
KUALA LUMPUR, March 14 (Bernama) -- Afghanistan has invited the Malaysian business community to participate in the Afghan Agriculture Trade Fair 2007 (AgFair 2007) to be held in Badam Bagh, Afghanistan this April 22-23.
This is the first time an agriculture fair is being held in Afghanistan which is undergoing reconstruction after almost 20 years of war, AgFair 2007 Senior Advisor Rahman Habib told Bernama in an interview here today.
He said the fair would provide Malaysians the opportunity to explore the possibility of tapping the huge potential in the country's agriculture sector.
The fair will be held at Badam Bagh, about five kilometres from Afghanistan's capital city Kabul.
About 250 booths from 12 countries are expected to participate in the fair with an estimated 50,000-60,000 visitors.
Among the countries to take part are Britain, China, Germany, India, Pakistan, Turkey and the United States.
"There is good potential for the Malaysian business community in various fields of the agriculture sector and they must come and see for themselves," said Rahman who is also Senior Program Planning Advisor to Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock.
Rahman said that registration to participate in the AgFair would be open until end of this month.
The AgFair is being jointly organised by Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock and Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce (AICC).
Participants at the event would include representatives from the ministry's departments and regional offices, equipment manufacturers, agro-processing firms, fertilizers and seed dealers, carpet dealers, dried fruit and nut processors, livestock and poultry businesses, wool and cashmere traders, irrigation suppliers, storage vendors, transportation and telecommunication companies, banks and universities.
Rahman said the AgFair would also feature farming techniques and equipment demonstrations, on-site processing as well as agriculture produce displays.
Afghanistan's major agriculture exports include dried and fresh fruits which are well known in the world for their fine quality and taste. Its other agro-based popular exports are carpets, wool and nuts.
Some 85 per cent of Afghanistan's 26 million population are employed in the agriculture sector and the sector accounts for 53 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
For more details on the AgFair 2007, please send email to firstname.lastname@example.org or visit its website at www.agfair.af.
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Afghanistan an 'Almost Mission Impossible'
Embassy, Canada March 14th, 2007 By Lee Berthiaume
Russian Ambassador Georgiy Mamedov says success in the Central Asian nation will be a long, tough fight, and recommends getting Iran and China on NATO's side.
Canada and its allies have a much greater chance of achieving success in Afghanistan than the Russians did 20 years ago, but the mission will take longer than two years and will likely involve a "helluva fight," Russia's ambassador to Canada said last week.
In a meeting with Embassy's editorial board, Georgiy Mamedov recalled the harrowing flight he experienced during his one and only visit to Afghanistan in the 1980s. At the time, Mr. Mamedov was head of the Soviet foreign ministry's North American desk, and mujahideen fighters were using American-supplied Stinger missiles to shoot down Russian aircraft.
"They targeted every incoming plane with anti-aircraft missiles that they procured from United States," he said. "Now the Americans are concerned about them a little bit, just like Canadians and others.
"History has its own jokes that it likes to play on people."
Besides the presence of Stinger missiles, Mr. Mamedov can see many similarities between the Russian and NATO experience in the Central Asian country.
"The similarity is we were trying to prop up a government that didn't enjoy huge support and popularity," he said.
"We had some militants who certainly wouldn't have come to any agreement with us, propped up by the United States. And at the same time, we had independent warlords who were dealing in drugs, as they are doing now, with whom we tried to establish certain relationships, like NATO is doing now. So there are a lot of similarities."
The Soviet Union deployed its first combat troops to the country in 1979 after the mujahideen threatened to topple the pro-Soviet government. Over the next 10 years, an estimated 600,000 Red Army troops would fight in Afghanistan.
Supported by the United States, Pakistan and other countries, the mujahideen would kill an estimated 15,000 Soviet soldiers, who conducted extensive combat operations–some of them with devastating effects upon the population–throughout the country. An estimated 1 million Afghan civilians and combatants were killed.
Mr. Mamedov said that while the reasons behind the Russian invasion and the NATO mission in Afghanistan were very different, many of the challenges–such as drug lords and foreign support–as well as tactics employed to fight the mujahideen, run along the same lines.
"What we were trying to do there, to harness support from the population, was exactly the same. Building schools, building roads, irrigation," he said. "I see a lot of similarities."
The ambassador said one major challenge that the Russians faced and NATO is facing is the use of Pakistani territory by insurgents, which has been made even worse over the years. Coalition partners have become increasingly frustrated with Pakistan as insurgents have set up bases and training facilities in parts of the country along the border with Afghanistan. They then cross the mountainous border to stage attacks on coalition forces before retreating back.
While Pakistan's president, Pervez Musharraf, has repeatedly stated his country is working to eliminate the insurgents from its territory, Mr. Mamedov said that not only is the president in a precarious position of trying to balance domestic and international interests, but that the country's security establishment has a history of supporting so-called freedom fighters in Afghanistan.
"And with years they grew certain personal and commercial connections," he said. "Narcotics sold in Afghanistan and finding their way into Russia, and Europe and Central Asia, part of the proceeds find their way into the coffers of some important people in Pakistan. Let's face it, it's a very troublesome situation."
Despite the challenges and the Soviet Union's failure in Afghanistan, Mr. Mamedov said he was not writing off NATO's chances for success in the Central Asian country.
"I'm not pessimistic," he said. "I believe when we act together and have a clear goal in mind...not to mould people in our image, not to create Switzerland, or Montana, but simply to neutralize the most inhumane, the most militant forces that are out to get everybody, including Afghanis themselves, I think together we have a reasonable chance of success.
"But it doesn't mean you won't face a helluva fight and you will need a lot of internal resolve. It's going to be tough, and sorry to say so, it's going to take longer than two years.
"Can I guarantee it will be a success?" he asked. "I can't. Our practical experience of being there, fighting there, taught us it was almost mission impossible. But again, we were alone, and we were facing not just the Taliban, but United States, NATO, other countries who believed they were supporting their friends and partners."
Mr. Mamedov, however, has one piece of advice for coalition members.
"They should involve more all countries of the region. Talk to Iran. Talk to China."
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Kabul copes with lots of people, little water
By Mark Sappenfield, Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor Tue Mar 13, 4:00 AM ET
KABUL, AFGHANISTAN - This is a city under siege, not from the Taliban, but from itself.
Kabul is home to 3.4 million people but has no public sewage system. Piped city water reaches only 18 percent of people. Daily power cuts last from dawn until 4 p.m. in the winter – longer in the summer.
Once renowned for green gardens and quirky bazaars, Kabul is sinking under the weight of its own citizens. More than a million migrants have flooded into the capital city since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, seeking a job and a better life in the big city.
In all, the population of Kabul has nearly doubled in seven years, straining a metropolis still riddled by the bullet holes and bombed-out roofs of many years of civil war.
Larger than the next 10 largest Afghan cities combined, Kabul estimates its most basic needs require $55 million this year; its budget is $4.5 million. Residents complain, but they cope. Despite the smell of sewage and mile-long walks to get drinking water, Kabul finds ways to function.
Yet more than five years after the international community pledged to help rebuild this tattered capital, the hard work has hardly even begun.
"Thirty years ago, everything seemed to work here, but there were not the population pressures we see now," says Pushpa Pathak, an adviser to the Kabul Municipality. "And since then, there has only been destruction, not construction."
Thirty years ago, Kabul was a charming city of 750,000 that drew hippies and exotic travelers to its quiet streets lined with pines and poplars. By 1999, however, the population had hit 1.8 million, and from 1999 to 2004, the city grew at a rate of 15 percent a year, according to World Bank estimates.
The fall of the Taliban triggered a flood of newcomers – both refugees returning from Pakistan and rural poor who saw few opportunities in Afghanistan's villages. Though Kabul's population growth has slowed during the past two years, it still lingers near 5 percent – adding 150,000 people a year.
Yar Mohammad is one of them. He came here two years ago, unable to scratch out a life in the stony fields of the Panjshir Valley after his father and two uncles died fighting the Taliban. "I couldn't stay there, because I couldn't [find enough] work and it was hard to cover the expenses for the children," he says.
So he is here, trudging along the sloping, muddy street to his hillside home, his sun-blackened hands clutching a sloshing, 32-liter (8.5-gallon) container of water slung over his shoulder. Since there is no water at his house – and he doesn't always have money to buy water from the tanker trucks that rumble up the hill – he often spends 3-1/2 hours walking up and down the hill to fill seven containers of water at a government pipe. If that is closed, he has to go to another pipe two-thirds of a mile away.
The situation is a symptom of Kabul's chaotic growth. During civil war and Taliban rule, the city was first parsed among warlords and then ignored, creating an administrative void. Since the new government emerged six years ago, population surge has overwhelmed the city.
Some 80 percent of Kabul residents – including Mr. Mohammad – live in informal settlements never approved by any government authority. But at least even the poorest families have mud houses with doors and windows. "The housing stock is pretty good," says Soraya Goga of the World Bank.
But the municipal services for formal and informal settlements alike don't even meet 20th-century standards. About 9 of 10 Kabul residents live on unpaved paths or streets. One-quarter get their water from potentially polluted shallow wells. Two-thirds use underground vaults for sewage that must be periodically emptied.
Years ago, farmers came to take the waste for fertilizer. Now, as farmlands shrink and Kabul grows, the system has collapsed, and waste collects in the streets.
There are slow signs of progress. One foreign-funded $187-million program aims to bring the percentage of citizens with piped water to 30 percent. Another $468-million project will string power lines to Uzbekistan by 2009, easing power woes.
But there is no easy answer, either in the short or long term, say experts. Federal and local officials still fight over who runs Kabul, leaving the city in administrative gridlock. Moreover, the prize is a relatively small sum of money, since most business here is informal – therefore untaxed – and most aid is earmarked for security.
For a city essentially building its services from scratch, it is a daunting challenge. "In the formal areas, they were destroyed by war and never rehabilitated," says Ms. Goga. "In the informal areas, they never existed to begin with."
Up on the hillside, however, at least it is secure, and at least there are jobs. One man who declines to offer his name says he also came here after the fall of the Taliban. He has a home, and he owns a shop in town that sells construction supplies.
"We are a poor people, we are happy here," he says with a grin. More seriously, he adds: "In the small villages, there are sometimes rivalries. I am safe here."
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NATO Battles Rising Hostility in Afghanistan
By Susanne Koelbl Spiegel Online - Tue, Mar 13, 2007
The fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan continues this spring. But as the number of civilian casualties rises, support for Western troops is dropping.
The grave is 14 meters long. The white flags with golden characters flutter in the wind at the tops of bamboo poles. The inscriptions are verses from the Koran meant to guide the dead into the afterlife.
The NATO offensive against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan got underway in February. Here, a British helicopter supplying a patrol in the region.
Abdullah Shah stands alone in the Da Mirwais mini Hadira cemetery in western Kandahar, his hands raised to the sky. After completing his prayers, the old man strokes his face and his white beard, as ritual requires.
Twenty people are buried beneath the mound of earth at Shah's feet: his wife Miamato, his three sons, 13 grandchildren, two daughters-in-law and a cousin. They died in Lakani, a village in the embattled Panjwai district in southern Afghanistan, at 2:30 in the morning on October 25, 2006. Their lives were extinguished by fire from the 30 mm guns of an American A-10 ground attack aircraft, aka Warthog.
Prior to the killings, helicopters had already been circling the skies over Lakani for days. When the bombs began falling, patriarch Abdullah Shah ordered his family to seek shelter in a remote mud hut. By 2 a.m., when things had calmed down, the family decided to return to the village. But the A-10 gunners, peering through their night-vision goggles, couldn't tell the difference between civilians and fighters. Anything that moved was their target. The orders were clear: The Taliban were to be removed from the region.
Caught between NATO and the Taliban
Abdullah Shah survived the attack because he stayed at home to guard the house. His four-year-old granddaughter Aqida also survived, but she was hit in the spine by a piece of shrapnel and will never walk again. The child is now in Germany. Near the end of last year, the German military flew her to Cologne, where she was first treated in a children's clinic and later taken in by an Afghan couple in Germany. Aqida could be returned to Panjwai by the end of the month -- to a place that has become a war zone caught between NATO and the Taliban.
The Western alliance hopes to make this year a turning point in the Afghanistan conflict. With the offensive it launched last week in Helmand Province, the alliance plans to head off its opponents' expected spring offensive. Alliance members agree that the terrorists cannot be allowed to regain control of the country it liberated from the Taliban and al-Qaida. But NATO's double-pronged strategy of reconstruction and military strikes comes at a high price. As civilian casualties mount, so too does animosity against Afghanistan's Western liberators.
Five adults and four young children were killed last Monday in Kapisa Province north of Kabul when a NATO fighter jet dropped a 900-kilogram bomb on a mud house. According to a NATO spokesman, rebels had fired rockets at the NATO base in Kapisa and taken refuge in the building before NATO forces launched their counterattack.
A day earlier, US troops killed nine civilians and wounded 34 bystanders, some critically, on the road to the Torkham border crossing into Pakistan, 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Jalalabad.
"The Americans shot at everything that moved," says an eyewitness who was also wounded. "They aimed at people in cars and at pedestrians." Immediately before the attack, a suicide bomber had been driving a minibus loaded with explosives toward the US patrol.
Of the 4,000 people who died violent deaths in Afghanistan last year, about 1,000 were civilians. Most of the victims were killed when Western soldiers found themselves in "complex ambushes," the expression military spokesmen use to describe the Taliban's strategy of using civilians as human shields.
Most of the suicide bombings are also intentionally committed in civilian surroundings, part of their purpose being to create ill will within the population against the foreign troops. The strategy seems to be working, at least in the Pashtun region where very few reconstruction projects have materialized. Last week thousands of angry protestors marched through the streets of Jalalabad, furiously shouting "Death to America! Death to Karzai!"
The fronts of this new war are difficult to define, but it is still -- as Abdullah Shah and his family discovered -- possible to become caught in between them. Shah, a native of Kandahar, is 68 and illiterate, and yet he led his extended family through the country's various crises and periods of unrest for 40 years. His clan survived the Soviet invasion and the civil war in the early 1990s. He even reached an understanding with the Taliban, even if the Islamists forced him to hand over one of his sons for the fight. Had he not done so, he would have been driven from his land.
Now, though, Abdullah Shah's farm in Lakani is abandoned. The chickens, sheep and cows are gone, and Shah doesn't even know whether they were stolen or simply ran away. Distant relatives in a neighboring village have taken him in temporarily.
Caught as they are in the middle of the conflict between the Taliban and international forces, life has become difficult for the residents of southern Afghanistan, who don't know to whom they should turn for protection. The government is too weak, NATO is often fighting primarily to preserve its own security and the Taliban is infiltrating the villages.
Key to Afghan opium production
"If there is to be a spring offensive, it must be our offensive," US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said in late January at a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. That offensive began last Tuesday at 5 a.m. local time, when 5,500 troops -- the British, Canadians, Dutch, Americans and 1,000 Afghans -- launched "Operation Achilles" in the southern Helmand Province, a predominantly Pashtun region. The aim of the NATO operation, led by Dutch Major General Ton van Loon, is to liberate villages in the region from extremist rule. The area is key to Afghan opium production and is one of the Taliban's most important strategic and economic bases.
Five months ago, the British signed a regional truce after heavy fighting and many losses. Under the terms of the agreement, tribal elders agreed to keep the Taliban out of the region. But when the British withdrew, the agreement fell apart and, by early February, the Taliban were back in control.
From his hideout in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's one-legged military leader, recently issued the self-confident announcement that 6,000 fighters were ready for the spring offensive. That number is said to include up to 2,000 suicide bombers.
Likely, much of this is propaganda meant to make the allied troops nervous. At 40, Mullah Dadullah is already one of the Taliban's more seasoned veterans. He is considered especially violent and is known to have ordered videotaped beheadings of "infidels" and "collaborators" alike as a scare tactic. His boastful announcements are intended primarily to intimidate NATO and the government in Kabul. At the same time, he hopes to encourage young Pashtun men, among the country's poorest residents, to join the fighters. It has also become difficult for the Taliban, which has lost hundreds of fighters, to recruit new blood each year.
In the 1980s, the Taliban's predecessors, the mujaheddin, found popular support for their struggle against the Soviet invaders. But today, few families are willing to sacrifice their sons. They sense that the international troop presence, as unpopular as it is, is probably their last best chance to escape a vicious cycle of oppression and poverty. Nevertheless, many face a daily struggle to survive, creating a perfect climate for recruiting mercenaries. If they are to fight, many Afghans reason, it will mainly be for money. The Taliban currently offers 30,000 Afghani a month -- roughly €500 -- and a motorcycle to those willing to fight for pay. The government in Kabul pays its civil servants --- teachers and police officers alike -- barely €50 a month.
Tribal leaders, feudal lords
The new offensive in Helmand will also serve as an acid test for whether the Western allies can continue their reconstruction projects in the most fiercely contested regions of the country. More than five years after the US invasion, Afghanistan is still among the world's poorest countries, a place where countless people live like slaves indebted to warring tribal leaders or feudal lords.
The main objective of the new NATO offensive is to secure the Sangin Valley and the Kajaki dam in northern Helmand Province. If the plan succeeds, they hope to repair a major power plant that could supply electricity to almost 2 million Afghans. The NATO-led ISAF troops, and even the Americans, have now realized that they can only win the "hearts and minds" of their Afghan allies by significantly improving their standard of living.
The Taliban, for its part, is trying to impede technological progress at all costs, knowing full well that its power will dissipate as soon as Afghans see improvements in their lives or be able to find jobs. But if the extremists manage to up the number of civilians killed in battle, the Afghans will be more likely to stand behind the Taliban.
In short, this is far from a holy war and never was here in the permanently ungovernable south. The Taliban has entered into a strategic alliance with the powerful smuggling mafia that operates between Pakistan and Afghanistan. Far from supporting the establishment of a caliphate, the smugglers are only interested in drugs, weapons, women and holding on to power.
The population, for its part, wants piece -- but is preparing for a lengthy war of attrition. Fear of the international troops is palpable; when a NATO patrol walks around a corner in Kandahar, every child remains frozen in place. The Afghans know that any unexpected movement could produce a deadly reaction. Most young NATO soldiers sit in their armor-clad vehicles, their fingers on the triggers of their machine guns, watching the outside world on a monitor. A red target marks every potential danger -- and death is never more than two clicks away.
Just what the foreign soldiers are good for is difficult for the rural population to tell. They speed through the dusty landscape in their outlandish vehicles, periodically engage the enemy, and then return to their fortified bases. In the strategically important Panjwai district in Kandahar Province, entire villages have been leveled because Taliban fighters were using them for cover.
Poor security is still the Afghans' biggest problem. The police, rarely on hand when they are needed, make convenient targets for the Taliban, interested as they are in intimidating the locals. Miserably trained and poorly paid or not paid at all, Afghanistan's police officers often abuse their power to extort bribes from the very people they are meant to protect. It's a situation that results in many villagers preferring to see the Taliban keep the peace. They say that although the Taliban may not have brought development to the country, it did provide stability. The current government has been able to offer neither.
Examples are many. Since the Taliban government was thrown out in late 2001, many rural areas no longer have judges to address the countless disputes over land or water. Cases of murder or robbery go unpunished. In some places where the Taliban has regained control, many believe that harsh justice is better than no justice at all. And those places are multiplying. The Taliban has already recaptured entire regions in the southern Kandahar, Helmand and Zabul provinces, and it is also making inroads in the country's east, primarily in the Khost region, and in Paktia and Paktika provinces. Taliban fighters infiltrate these areas in small groups, either from neighboring Pakistan or from the Hindu Kush Mountains, forcing villagers to hide them in their houses -- and turning local residents into human shields.
Anyone suspected of cooperating with the government in Kabul or with foreign troops lives in mortal danger. In the space of just 10 days last month, extremists murdered seven government officials in the city of Kandahar, including two mullahs and two lower-ranking police officials. The murderers waited for their victims on motorcycles in front of their houses and shot them with Kalashnikovs as they drove to work in the morning. Not even the employees of public transportation companies can feel safe. Anyone seen as a collaborator risks being punished.
Meanwhile, the increasingly courageous members of private aid organizations are demonstrating that development and reconstruction are possible in war zones. Senlis Council, a British aid organization, provides assistance to refugees throughout most of the country's southern portion. German engineers recently completed an important 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) connecting road in the embattled Panjwai district. Non-governmental organizations are offering their assistance to anyone, friend or foe. It's a strategy that usually works, but not always. Last week, unknown assailants shot and killed German aid worker Dieter Rübling, who had worked for Deutsche Welthungerhilfe (German Agro Action), in Sar-i-pul in northern Afghanistan.
It's a difficult balance and the challenge facing NATO is huge. On the one hand, it must prevent the Taliban from recapturing the country. On the other hand, it cannot afford to gamble away its last remaining support among the population. As have the Americans. Once celebrated as liberators, the US has largely lost its credibility among Afghan civilians as a result of its not-always considerate behavior. Now the Europeans are likewise on the verge of losing respect.
This dilemma sometimes prompts diplomats and military officials in Kabul to consider radically new approaches. "Why don't the Americans pull out altogether and leave reconstruction to the Europeans?" high-ranking European officials ask themselves in private. But they don't dare express their ideas openly -- for fear that someone could actually take them seriously.
But if the numbers of civilian casualties cannot be reduced, the West could face a serious backlash in Afghanistan. Widower Abdullah Shah, who lost almost his entire family to NATO fire, has become something of a symbol in that struggle. When his fate became known throughout the country, President Hamid Karzai met with Shah in Kabul. Karzai sent him on a pilgrimage to Mecca and made arrangements for his paralyzed granddaughter Aqida to receive treatment in Germany.
Abdullah Shah took advantage of his meeting with the president to ask Karzai who would compensate him for the loss of his family. Karzai offered Shah two pieces of property and encouraged him to look for a new wife and remarry. Since then the widower has been in negotiations for the hand of his new bride-to-be. The woman he has chosen is only around 30 years old, and because of the advanced age of the now largely toothless groom, her family is demanding a high price: 800,000 Afghanis, or about €12,000.
"Men are always in such a hurry," the Afghan president said when asked by SPIEGEL whether he would pay Abdullah Shah's bride money. "I promised him I would, and I will keep my promise."
The Afghans are apparently capable of solving at least some of their problems in their own way -- the way they have been doing it for centuries.
Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan
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Pakistanis held in Kabul
KABUL, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Interior Ministry on Monday said security officials had arrested four Pakistani nationals for their alleged involvement in disruptive activities.
The ministry's spokesman Zmaray Bashari said police detained the four suspects in this capital city on Sunday. Some documents recovered from them showed their involvement in anti-government activities, he believed.
Speaking to Pajhwok Afghan News, Bashari said the documents contained material for anti-government propaganda. They have been handed over to the intelligence department for further investigations.
Meanwhile, Kabul police officials say they have discovered 20 pieces of light weapons in the capital during a search operation last night.
Alishah Paktiawal, head of the crime branch of Kabul police, said five people, including foreigners, had been arrested for keeping the weapons in their possession. They were being interrogated. Paktiawal did not disclose identity of the foreigners.
Habib Rahman Ibrahimi
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Parliament unable to fulfill public expectations: UN
KABUL, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The United Nations said the parliament of Afghanistan had failed to live up to the expectations of Afghan people and the international community.
Jean Marie-Guehenno, the UN Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, said at a press conference on Monday in Kabul, that Afghanistan "has come a long way" in the last five years, during which the UN has supported the Afghan government.
However, he said the Afghan Parliament had not lived up to the expectation of the people or the international community, in terms of achievement.
However, both the upper and lower houses of Parliament considered their activities a success, as they stated upon the commencement of the new parliamentary year.
Jean Marie said he has discussed the new approved bill of reconciliation with Karzai.
He insisted the bill should be in favor of Afghan people and the international community.
According to the bill, the parties involved in war-crimes in the last three decades in Afghanistan, would be free of any judicial proceedings against them.
However Hamid Karzai brought some amendments to the bill, to ensure that individuals would have a right to seek justice against human right's violations.
Jean Marie arrived in Afghanistan after visiting Pakistan, where he met President Pervez Musharraf.
Jean Marie told Pajhwok Afghan News an environment of trust should be established between the two states and that every country has a responsibility of establishing closer relations with other countries in the interest of peace.
Ahmad Khalid Mowahid
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27 cases of suicide registered in Logar province
PUL-I-ALAM, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Twenty-seven cases of suicide and self-immolation among women have been registered in Logar province during the current Afghan year, the Department for Womens Affairs said.
Zakia, 45, resident of Charkh district in Logar province told the department in Logar that her 22-year-old daughter, Zakira, was murdered by her in-laws two weeks ago.
She added that her daughter was married 9 months ago and that her in-laws did not allow her to visit her parents house.
Zakia said, "My daughter came to my home telling her in-laws that she wanted to go to a health clinic. She stayed one night and when she returned she was killed by her brother-in-laws with an axe."
She asked the Womens Affairs Department to investigate the case and arrest the murderers.
Bibi Saleema, 47, resident of Azra district in Logar provinces said her 20 year old daughter had committed suicide.
The Womens Affairs Department told Pajhwok Afghan News that Saleema had also come to register a complaint about the behaviour of her daughters in-laws and husband, which she claimed drove her to commit suicide barely a year after she was married.
Saleema added, My daughter was tied up with string and was beaten every day.
There are dozens of such cases of violence which end up taking the lives of girls and women.
Najeeba Sayed, the Head of the Womens Affairs Department told Pajhwok Afghan News that violence against women has increased in the province, with 27 cases of suicide and self-immolation having been registered already in the current year.
Najeeba expressed dissatisfaction with the authorities and said they were not cooperative in arresting the criminals.
She added: "We have established local Womens Councils to work out their problems."
Najeeba Sayed asked Mullahs and elders to come forward and help end violence against women.
Maulvi Hazratullah, Mullah of Pul-i-Alam mosque however said this was beyond the Ulema and Mullahs authority to achieve.
He said the government should take accurate measures and make use of the local media to inform the public.
Rozi Khan, a tribal elder condemned violence against women and said tribal elders could play key role in this regard, although he said tribal elders and Mullahs could do nothing without government support.
Qudsia, a teacher in Porak girls school in Pul-i-Alam criticized NGOs supporting women, saying they were only interested in acquiring money for themselves.
She told Pajhwok Afghan News, that if they truly wanted to help women they should conduct awareness training in remote areas.
A report by United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated that there is an incidence of violence against women every three days in Kabul.
The Head of Human Rights for UNAMA, Richard Benat, said Afghan women continue to suffer violence despite the ouster of the Taleban.
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Dara-i-Souf coal mine revenues register 70% growth
AIBAK, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The revenues from the Dara-i-Souf coal mine in the northern Samangan province have increased by 70 per cent compared to the last three years, engineer Nazar Mohammad, head of the mine told Pajhwok Afghan News.
He said the income in 2006 was 40 million Afghanis (Afs), whilst this year it increased to 69 million Afs.
He attributed the growth in revenue to increased production of coal and transparency in the procedure. Coal is primarily used here for heating as well as in the production of cement.
According to Nazar Mohammad, there are two big coal mines in Dara-i-Souf district, employing about 500 people and producing 115 tonnes of coal daily.
He said the coal extraction work was carried out by the private sector, which pays 1,400 Afghanis as tax for each tonn.
He said the research launched in 1967 by Russian experts showed that there is over 150 million tonnes of coal in the two mines.
Dara-i-Souf is located 140 kilometres from Samangan city and access to the coalmines is made difficult by the fact that the roads are unpaved.
Abdul Haq Bakhshi, provincial governor of Samangan, said he expected that once the road was asphalted, the revenue from the coal mines would increase.
He also said that he had proposed a plan to president Karzai for the use of coal for generating power.
Coal mines have also been identified in Herat , Bamyan, Baghlan and Takhar provinces.
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Road closure causes problems for commuters
GARDEZ, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Minister for Public Works Sohrab Ali Safari on Monday visited the Sato Kandaw area on Khost - Gardez Highway where hundreds of vehicles were trapped due to snow and rains.
Hundreds of passengers and motorists have been trapped in the area for the previous three days and faced with inclement weather conditions.
Accompanied by Paktia Governor Rahmatullah Rahmat, the minister listened to the complaints of the people and assured they were going to move heavy machinery to open the route for general traffic.
The people informed the minister that the road was closed for the previous 12 days and transportation of goods had virtually become impossible pushing up prices of essential commodities like flour, cooking oil, sugar, rice and vegetables.
Some passengers and motorists complained they were paying as much as 50 afghanis for a nan (bread).
Haji Mohammadi Gul, a Khost-bound passenger, told Pajhwok Afghan News he had been confined in the area for the previous 12 days. "I have not eaten anything for three days."
A cabby Shafiq Zadran says they are paying 50 afghanis for a single nan (bread). The road is blocked due to snow and mud and takes more then one hour for a vehicle to pass through the area.
Roads have also been blocked in several districts of the southern Ghazni province due to the snow and rains.
Javid Alami, spokesman for Ghazni governor, said roads leading to Nawar, Malistan, Ajristan and Nawa district were closed and the provincial government was so far unable to open it.
He said people of those areas were faced with shortage of food and medicines due to the closure of roads.
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Afghan trader kidnapped in Peshawar
PESHAWAR, Mar 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Unidentified armed men kidnapped an Afghan trader in Peshawar, capital of Pakistan's North-Western province, on Monday.
Haji Dad Gul, father of Nasir Alokozay, owner of the Alokozay tea company, was on way to the Karkhano market from the upscale Hayatabad residential area when waylaid by two armed motorcyclists.
Yasin, driver of the abducted trader, lodged the First Investigation Report (FIR) with the Hayatabad police.
In his report, Yasin said their car was stopped by two armed motorcyclists. They dragged Haji Dad Gul into another car coming behind them and ran away.
An eyewitness Ghulam Sakhi said the kidnappers fired shots into the air to harass the people and warn them from presenting any resistance.
Nasir Alokozay, son of the abducted trader, was kidnapped by armed men in Kabul in 2005. He was later released in exchange for taking ransom from his family.
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