NATO airstrike in Afghanistan kills 9
By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan - A NATO airstrike hit a house during a firefight between Western troops and militants, killing nine Afghans who lived there, Afghan officials said Monday.
Militants overnight fired on a NATO base in Kapisa province, just north of Kabul, said Deputy Governor Sayad Mohammad Dawood Hashimmi. When soldiers returned fire, they hit a home, killing five women, three boys and a man, he said.
A deputy Interior Ministry spokesman also said nine civilians had been killed. He asked not to be identified because the ministry hadn't yet prepared a statement.
Maj. William Mitchell, a U.S. military spokesman, said officials were looking into the incident. The NATO base in Kapisa is staffed by U.S. forces.
The news of the airstrike came one day after wounded Afghans and witnesses said U.S. Marines fired on civilian cars and pedestrians after a frenzied escape from a suicide bomb and gunfire attack in eastern Afghanistan. The violence sparked angry anti-U.S. demonstrations by hundreds of Afghan men.
Up to 10 Afghans were killed and 34 were injured during Sunday's violence in Nangarhar province. A delegation of Afghan officials on Monday visited the site of the suicide bombing as part of investigation into the attack and its aftermath.
The back-to-back incidents of NATO or U.S. forces killing or wounding so many Afghans was likely to cause further grief in a country that has seen scores of civilians killed by international forces since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has pleaded repeatedly for Western troops to take care not to harm civilians, and in December wept during a speech lamenting civilian deaths at the hands of foreign forces.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result of NATO and coalition assaults in 2006. An AP tally, based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials, puts the overall civilian death toll in 2006 at 834, most from militant attacks.
Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said gunmen may have fired on U.S. forces at multiple points during the escape Sunday. He said it was not yet clear how the casualties happened, though he left open the possibility that U.S. forces had shot civilians.
"It's not entirely clear right now if the people killed or wounded by gunfire were killed or wounded by coalition forces gunfire or enemy attackers gunfire," he said.
Nine witnesses — including five Afghans recuperating from bullet wounds in the hospital — told The Associated Press that U.S. forces fired indiscriminately along at least a six-mile stretch of one of eastern Afghanistan's busiest highways — a route often filled not only with cars and trucks but Afghans on foot and bicycles.
"They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," said Tur Gul, 38, who was standing on the roadside by a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand. "They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."
The tolls varied. The Interior Ministry said 10 people were killed, while the provincial health chief said eight died.
The U.S. military said eight civilians were killed and 34 wounded after earlier saying 16 were killed and 24 wounded. It did not explain the revised, lower death toll, saying only that the new figures were "the most accurate numbers to date." A U.S. Marine also was injured in the suicide blast.
At the Jalalabad hospital, several victims said the American convoy approached them on the highway and opened fire. As the convoy neared, many cars pulled over to the side of the road, but were still hit by gunfire.
"When we parked our vehicle, when they passed us, they opened fire on our vehicle," said 15-year-old Mohammad Ishaq, who was hit by two bullets, in his left arm and his right ear. "It was a convoy of three American Humvees. All three humvees were firing around."
Mohammad Karim, an 18-year-old employee at a hotel near the blast site, said he ran outside after the explosion and saw American forces fire a stream of bullets at a four-wheel drive vehicle.
"I ran to the vehicle to see how many people were inside. We found three dead bodies, and one wounded, but he was also in a very critical condition," he said. "All four people were from one family. The one who was wounded was about 20 years old."
The U.S. forces involved in the attack and ensuing gunfire were part of the U.S.-led coalition, not NATO's International Security Assistance Force. An official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information said the troops were Marine Special Operations Forces.
Back to Top
Karzai slams Afghan deaths after raid on U.S. force
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Monday condemned U.S. troops for shooting dead 10 civilians at the weekend as officials said nine more -- five women, four children and an old man -- had been killed in an air strike.
The nine were killed on Sunday in Kapisa province, barely 90 minutes' drive northeast of Kabul, the deputy provincial governor, Sayed Dawood Hashimi, said on Monday. That strike followed a rocket attack on a U.S. base.
Both NATO and the U.S.-led coalition which also operates in the area said they were investigating.
U.S. marines also shot dead 10 civilians in the east on Sunday, which Karzai condemned, in what the U.S. military said was a "complex" Taliban ambush involving a suicide bombing and gunfire in a populated area outside Jalalabad city near Pakistan.
The military said the soldiers fired in self-defense and 16 civilians were killed in the suicide raid and subsequent firing.
No provincial or central government official has confirmed the U.S. military's account that the convoy came under rebel gunfire. Analysts say killing of civilians by NATO and U.S. troops is sapping public support for the foreign mission here.
NO JUSTIFICATION - WITNESS
Two provincial government officials said on Sunday 10 civilians were killed and more than 25 wounded as U.S. soldiers fled the scene of the attack.
Wounded in hospital said U.S. soldiers just opened fire.
"The Americans fired at us without any justification," said Sayeda Jan, a passenger in a passing vehicle who was shot.
"Karzai should raise his voice and intervene about it, but he won't because he is thinking about his power. We were in the car and saw the convoy coming from the opposite direction and they fired at us."
Hospital doctors say 30 people were wounded in the shooting.
"Karzai strongly condemned the incident that took place," the palace said in a statement on Sunday. Karzai has ordered an inquiry, but previous such investigations by NATO and the Afghan government have done nothing more than confirm witness accounts that those killed were civilians.
Despite hundreds of civilian deaths, no foreign soldier has ever been found guilty of any wrongdoing.
There was no immediate official comment on the air raid deaths.
The Taliban have threatened an offensive in coming weeks after the bloodiest year since their 2001 overthrow. More than 4,000 people died in 2006, a quarter of them civilians. Dozens of those were killed by foreign troops, mainly in air raids.
Back to Top
Marines Open Fire After Afghan Ambush
At Least 8 Civilians Dead; Witnesses Fault Troops' Response to Assault on Convoy
By Griff Witte Washington Post Foreign Service Monday, March 5, 2007; 10:14 AM
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 5 -- At least eight Afghan civilians were killed Sunday in eastern Afghanistan when U.S. Marines traveling in a convoy were hit by a car bomb and responded by firing in a way that some witnesses called reckless.
The incident, which the U.S. military said resulted from a "complex ambush," was followed by angry demonstrations in which hundreds of Afghans took to the streets, many chanting anti-government and anti-American slogans.
According to Afghan and U.S. accounts, the Marine convoy was struck by a van packed with explosives as it traveled along a roadway connecting the eastern city of Jalalabad to the Pakistani border, in the district of Mohmand Dara. The portion of the road where the explosion occurred is flanked by shops and was crowded at the time of the blast.
Immediately afterward, the convoy was attacked by "small-arms fire from several directions," said Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman. "The coalition forces returned fire in self-defense. It's unclear whether the casualties were from the car bomb blast or from the small-arms fire."
The Associated Press quoted several wounded Afghans as saying that the Marines fired indiscriminately as they fled the scene. "They were firing everywhere, and they even opened fire on 14 to 15 vehicles passing on the highway," Tur Gul, 38, told the AP. Gul was standing on the roadside near a gas station and was shot twice in his right hand. "They opened fire on everybody, the ones inside the vehicles and the ones on foot."
The AP also quoted an Afghan police official who supported the civilian accounts.
It was the latest incident to spark public outrage over the perception that foreign troops are not taking enough precautions to avoid civilian casualties. Last May, for instance, a U.S. military cargo truck lost control and struck 12 vehicles, killing one person and injuring six. A riot ensued in Kabul, the capital, and 20 people died, 160 were injured and dozens of buildings were damaged or destroyed.
In a separate incident Sunday, local Afghan officials reported, U.S. bombs killed nine people after insurgents fired rockets on a coalition base.
Sayed Mohammed Daud Hashimi, deputy governor of Kapisa province in northeastern Afghanistan, said two local Taliban members had sought shelter inside one of the member's homes after firing their rockets.
Hashimi said nine people from the Taliban member's family were killed -- including three children, five women and one elderly man -- when the U.S. dropped bombs on the house. Hashimi said the two Taliban members were injured in the blast, but managed to escape.
In contrast to the incident near Jalalabad, Hashimi said, local public reaction to the bombing in Kapisa was muted Monday. "The people knew these men were constantly attacking security and coalition forces. The people asked them to stop, because we don't want any problems for our village," he said. "But they didn't listen to the people. They kept attacking."
The provincial police chief, Gen. Raz Mohammed, said his forces had also come under attack from the Taliban, and that the U.S. response was justified.
In a statement, the U.S. military acknowledged dropping two 2,000-pound bombs on the building where the insurgents were believed to be hiding.
"Coalition forces observed two men with AK-47s leaving the scene of the rocket attack and entering the compound," Accetta, the U.S. military spokesman, said. "These men knowingly endangered civilians by retreating into a populated area while conducting attacks against coalition forces.
The U.S. said that none of its forces were injured in the initial rocket attack. The incident was under investigation late Monday night.
Accetta said that the allegations that Marines in the first incident fired indiscriminately also would be investigated but that "at this point we don't have any information that there was any wrongdoing by the coalition forces."
Noor Agha Zuwak, spokesman for the provincial governor, said the roadway to Jalalabad was shut down for two hours by the crowds of protesters that formed after the incident. They were shouting "Down with the U.S.!" he said, and "Down with Karzai!" a reference to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The U.S. military at one point said 16 civilians were killed but later changed that estimate to eight. An official at a local hospital said late Sunday that 14 people had died. The military said 35 people were wounded, among them a coalition service member.
Baz Mohammed Shirzad, deputy director of the hospital where the wounded were treated, said doctors saw both bullet and shrapnel injuries. He said four patients were in critical condition Sunday night, but others were lucid enough to talk about what they saw. "An explosion took place, then firing took place. After that, they don't know what happened," he said.
Accetta said the anger aimed at the foreign troops following the incident was misdirected. "It should have been directed against the extremist forces who initiated this attack in a crowded area when they knew there would be civilian casualties," he said.
The United States has 27,000 troops in Afghanistan, 15,000 of whom are under NATO command. The incident Sunday involved Marine Special Forces who are not part of the NATO mission.
Also Sunday, the NATO-led force said that two of its soldiers were killed Saturday during a firefight in southern Afghanistan. Officials later said the soldiers were British.
Special correspondent Javed Hamdard in Kabul contributed to this report.
Back to Top
Afghan journalists say U.S. soldiers deleted photos, video after bomb attack and shootings
The Associated Press Sunday, March 4, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan: Afghan journalists covering the aftermath of a suicide bomb attack and shooting in eastern Afghanistan said U.S. troops deleted their photos and video and warned them not to publish or air any images of U.S. troops or a car where three Afghans were shot to death.
Afghan witnesses and gunshot victims said U.S. forces fired on civilians in cars and on foot along at least a 10-kilometer (six-mile) stretch of road in Nangarhar province following a suicide attack against the Marine convoy. The U.S. military said militants also fired on American forces during the attack.
The U.S. military and Afghan officials said eight Afghans died and 34 were wounded in the violence. One Marine was also injured.
A freelance photographer working for The Associated Press and a cameraman working for AP Television News said a U.S. soldier deleted their photos and video showing a four-wheel drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death about 100 meters (yards) from the suicide bombing. The AP plans to lodge a protest with the American military.
The photographer, Rahmat Gul, said witnesses at the scene told him the three had been shot to death by U.S. forces fleeing the attack. The two AP freelancers arrived at the site about half an hour after the suicide bombing, Gul said.
"When I went near the four-wheel drive, I saw the Americans taking pictures of the same car, so I started taking pictures," Gul said. "Two soldiers with a translator came and said, 'Why are you taking pictures? You don't have permission.'"
It wasn't clear why the accredited journalists would need permission to take photos of a civilian car on a public highway.
Gul said the U.S. troops took his camera, deleted his photos and returned it to him. The journalists came across another American, showed their identification cards, and he agreed that they could take pictures.
A Western military official who asked not to be identified because he was not authorized to release the information said the troops were Marine Special Operations Forces, the Marine Corps component created in February 2006 of the U.S. Special Operations Command.
"The same soldier who took my camera came again and deleted my photos," Gul said. "The soldier was very angry ... I told him, 'They gave us permission,' but he didn't listen."
Gul's new photos were also deleted, and the American, speaking through a translator, warned him that he did not want to see any AP photos published anywhere. The American also raised his fist in anger as if he were going to hit him, but he did not strike, Gul said.
Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman, said he did not have any confirmed reports that coalition forces "have been involved in confiscating cameras or deleting images."
Khanwali Kamran, a reporter for the Afghan channel Ariana Television, was in a small group of journalists working alongside Gul. Kamran said the American soldiers also deleted his footage.
"They warned me that if it is aired ... then, 'You will face problems,'" Kamran said.
Taqiullah Taqi, a reporter for Afghanistan's largest television station, Tolo TV, said Americans were using abusive language.
"According to the translator, they said, 'Delete them, or we will delete you,'" Taqi said.
A freelance cameraman for AP Television News said that about 100 meters (yards) from the bomb site, a U.S. officer told him that he could not go any closer to the scene but that he could shoot footage. The cameraman asked not to be named for his own safety.
"Then I started filming the suicide attack site, where there was a body and U.S. soldiers, and farther away, there was a four-wheel drive vehicle in which three people were shot to death," he said.
As he was filming, he said, a U.S. soldier and translator "ordered us not to move." The cameraman said they were very angry and deleted any footage that included the Americans, as well as part of an interview from a demonstration. Hundreds of Afghans had gathered to protest the violence.
Reporters Without Borders condemned the actions of the U.S. forces, saying they dealt with the press poorly.
"Why did the soldiers do it if they don't have anything to hide? The situation is very tense in Afghanistan, and the media should be able to report about it freely and safely," said Jean-Francois Julliard, a spokesman for the Paris-based Reporters Without Borders.
Back to Top
Two Afghan rangers killed, seven captured
Mon Mar 5, 5:38 AM ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) - Taliban insurgents attacked a forest ranger unit in eastern Afghanistan, killing two guards and capturing seven others, an official said Monday.
Three other members of the tribal militia force which guards a mountain forest in Khost province against wood smugglers were injured in the attack late Sunday, a district chief said.
"The Taliban attacked a forest guard post made up of tribesmen and killed two, injured three and took with them seven others," Mohammad Akber Zadran, the governor of Gorboz district, told AFP.
He said the fighting was started by the Taliban and lasted nearly an hour before the militants pulled back to neighbouring Pakistan, where Afghan authorities allege the rebels have bases.
Gorboz faces Pakistan's semi-autonomous tribal region of North Wazirstan, where US officials say that Al-Qaeda and Taliban insurgents forced out of Afghanistan in 2001 are regrouping in new sanctuaries.
Drug smugglers and traders in wood for construction -- banned under Afghan law -- are also active in the border region.
Back to Top
Winning Afghan hearts mired in corruption, civilian deaths
March 4, 2007 via CNN
SPIRWAN, Afghanistan (AP) -- Abdullah Shah and his son made a pilgrimage to the holy Muslim city of Mecca this January, courtesy of the Afghan government. President Hamid Karzai himself arranged the trip to Saudi Arabia.
The invitation came after Shah's wife, two daughters and three other sons were killed by a wayward NATO bomb in Lagarnai, a village near here in southern Afghanistan.
Shah, in his 70s and wearing the white turban of a religious man, accepted the trip, but not the message.
Before the deaths, "I wasn't with the Taliban and I wasn't with the government," he said. "But, I tell you, now I am Talib."
In the sixth winter since the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban government, the radical Islamists are making a comeback. Their bold confidence was apparent last week, when a suicide bomber killed 23 outside an air base during Vice President Dick Cheney's visit there.
There are many factors. But citizens like Shah, the Afghan government and key NATO commanders agree on this: The use of force is sometimes excessive and errant. In Afghanistan's tribal society, a single death -- no matter if NATO labels it "enemy" -- can create scores of sworn foes. And NATO, like the Taliban, has killed hundreds.
On Sunday, U.S. Marines fleeing a suicide bomber and militant ambush opened fire on civilian cars and pedestrians on a busy highway in eastern Afghanistan, wounded Afghans said. (Full story)
Lt. Col. David Accetta, a U.S. military spokesman, said officials were sorting out the chain of events and could not yet say who caused the numerous deaths and injuries.
The U.S.-based Human Rights Watch estimates that more than 100 Afghan civilians died as a result of coalition assaults in 2006. An AP tally, based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials, puts the overall death toll of civilians in 2006 at 834, most from militant attacks.
"Killing Taliban is not going to get this country sorted out. That is not going to fix the problem," said Brig. Gen. Tim Grant, commander of Canada's 2,500 troop force, stationed in southern Kandahar, heartland of the resistance to Karzai's government. What's needed, he says, is an Afghan army.
" There is no discipline among the police, no direction. We are given nice uniforms and weapons but that won't feed our family. We are compelled to be corrupt."
- Wali Mohammad
While troops go after Taliban fighters, Grant says that's not a priority for ordinary Afghans; they are frustrated by insecurity and lawlessness, which they blame on a corrupt and inept government whose police extort, threaten and make them feel less secure.
The international troops are there to support Karzai's government. When they do that aggressively, even in response to deadly Taliban tactics, they are seen as brutes protecting an unpopular regime, he said.
"Are we stuck between a rock and a hard place? Yes. We are here at the request of the government and the government has issues and corruption is leading amongst them," said Grant.
The head of an Afghan human rights advocacy group, Nader Nadery, told The Associated Press that Afghans are turning away from the government and the international forces.
Yet most Afghans don't want the foreign soldiers to leave, he said. They keep local warlords and commanders -- some now in government -- from turning their guns on each other. Such feuds killed thousands of Afghans in the 1990s, destroyed much of the capital, Kabul, and eventually gave rise to the Taliban.
Grant said his priority, higher than chasing Taliban, was training and equipping Afghan forces to provide security on their own by 2009, when the Canadian mission ends.
There's much work to be done.
Wali Mohammad is a police officer in Kandahar, looking smart in his gray woolen hat and pants. He told the AP that a policeman's salary of $60 is so low it drives police to corruption.
"There is no discipline among the police, no direction," he said. "We are given nice uniforms and weapons but that won't feed our family. We are compelled to be corrupt."
The police chief of Zabul province, Noor Mohammed Paktin, earlier told the AP that criminal gangs abetted by the police and military are as big a threat in some parts of Afghanistan as the religious militia.
With the spring thaw, fighting is sure to intensify.
U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates promises NATO and coalition forces will go after the Taliban rather than wait for them to strike.
"What we want to do this spring is have this spring offensive be our offensive," he said.
But aggressive action risks a backlash.
In 2006, NATO and coalition forces mounted blistering offensives, including the strongest called Operation Medusa in Panjwayi district of southern Kandahar.
Residents of Spirwan, a village in the heart of the district, fled before last year's operation and had only recently returned when the AP visited this January.
Mohammed Khan, a villager in his 50s with dirt-caked hands from scrounging through the rubble of his home, screamed abuse when he saw a Westerner approach.
"What are these foreign soldiers doing?" he said. "One day they are dropping bombs on us and then they come with three or four dishes of food. What is that? What do they think?"
The offensive against the Taliban left the common people with nothing but problems, he said.
"We hate the world community. We hate America. We hate NATO," he said. "What good are they doing for us? What good is our government doing?"
In what appeared to be the only concrete structure in the otherwise mud-brick village, local elder Dur Mohammed warned that the bombing of villages was creating more Taliban. He sat in the corner of the room, smoking and stroking his artificial leg, lost in the 1980s war against the invading Soviet Union.
"People don't like the Taliban coming into the villages, because then the bombing will come," he said. "But why are they (NATO) killing the Taliban? They are from this country. Why should the foreigners come and kill Afghans?"
Grant said the war is lost if the international community loses the hearts and minds of Afghans. More foreign troops aren't the answer, he said, and when assaults are needed they must be accurate.
A study of the Afghan war released Tuesday by the U.S.-based Jamestown Foundation reached a similar conclusion.
"As coalition troops continue to use close air support and superior artillery firepower to flush Taliban insurgents out of provinces like Kandahar, the real contest for the hearts and minds ... may well hinge on the competing sides' "collateral damage" statistics," it said.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies, another Washington-based group, said that NATO and the U.S. military were wrong to emphasize their ability to kill Taliban. "The ensuing collateral damage in a culture that emphasizes revenge has created ten enemies out of one and has disillusioned most Afghans," it said.
Grant says there is more anger today toward the foreign soldiers than in 2005, when he also was stationed in Afghanistan. To turn around that perception means taking risks, he said.
"I tell the troops that there are 55,000 drivers in Kandahar city and maybe five among them are suicide bombers. But if we treat all the other 54,995 drivers like they are all suicide bombers then we have lost," he said.
Some, like Abdullah Shah, who lost so much of his family, can't be won back.
"I don't care. They can kill me. What are the foreign soldiers doing but killing us?" he said, recounting the day his wife and children were struck as they tried to flee. His youngest child, a 10-month-old baby, died with his mother.
"From whom can they protect us? The looters? The looters are the government and they are with the government."
Back to Top
Rocket attack kills two British soldiers in Afghanistan
· Casualties bring UK death toll to 50 since 2002
· Street protests after US forces fire on civilians
Richard Norton-Taylor and Declan Walsh in Islamabad Monday March 5, 2007 The Guardian
Two British soldiers were killed on Saturday in a Nato-led operation in southern Afghanistan where they have been engaged in heavy clashes with Taliban fighters in recent days. The soldiers, from the Royal Artillery's 29 Commando regiment were killed during a rocket attack in Sangin, a drug-producing corner of Helmand province. The attack came as tensions were rising in eastern Afghanistan after stone-throwing crowds protested against American soldiers who shot and killed several civilians.
The deaths of the British soldiers takes the number of UK troops killed while on operations in Afghanistan since 2001 to 50. Twenty-eight were killed in action. They will not be identified until later today.
Brigadier Jerry Thomas, commander of the UK taskforce in Afghanistan, said to lose two men in one incident was a "deeply saddening blow". The deaths came less than a week after the defence secretary, Des Browne, announced a 1,400-increase in the number of British troops in Afghanistan to more than 7,000 - more than the number in Iraq - in anticipation of escalating violence by the Taliban over the coming months.
British officials say they are pursuing a twin-track policy of engaging Taliban fighters while at the same time trying to persuade Afghans to lay down their arms as part of a "reconciliation" programme. British military commanders are concerned about what they consider provocative US tactics against Afghan opium poppy cultivation.
In the east of the country, at least 16 people were killed and 25 wounded after the shooting incident that the US military called a "complex ambush" but which angry Afghans described as the slaughter of innocents. The shooting was sparked by a suicide attack on a US convoy on the main road east of Jalalabad, near the Pakistani border. There were few casualties from the initial blast but US marines special forces opened fire on vehicles and bystanders as they sped away afterwards, several witnesses said.
"They were firing everywhere," Tur Gul, who was shot twice in the hand, told an AP reporter from his hospital bed. He claimed to have seen US soldiers open fire on "14 to 15 vehicles".
The US military blamed the insurgents for the deaths, saying they had mounted a complex ambush by firing on the soldiers with small arms from "several directions" after the suicide bombing. "We believe it's possible the incoming fire from the ambush was wholly or partly responsible for the civilian casualties," said Major William Mitchell.
The minister of interior and two western officials in Kabul said initial reports indicated the Americans had not come under fire. A senior police officer in Jalalabad said he believed eight of the dead were shot by US soldiers. However, all officials stressed their findings were unconfirmed, and the incident was being investigated by US and Afghan forces.
Hundreds of Afghans who took to the streets in Jalalabad blamed America for the attack, blocking the main road, throwing stones at police and shouting "death to America!" "death to Karzai!"
A man claiming to speak for a faction of Hizb-i-Islami, a militant group rooted in the south-east, claimed responsibility for the suicide attack. In early December, British soldiers fleeing a suicide bombing in Kandahar shot several people, prompting a public admonishment from the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai.
One Nato official said the timing of yesterday's incident, at the start of the fighting season against the Taliban "could not be worse". "We need the whole-hearted support of the population to operate and this sort of thing drives carthorses through it," he said. At the scene of the attack American soldiers deleted photos and video footage taken by freelance Afghan reporters. The US military did not issue an explanation of its actions.
Back to Top
AFGHANISTAN: Fighting a losing battle against opium production
KABUL, 5 March 2007 (IRIN) - Afghanistan is set to produce record volumes of opium this year because the government’s eradication efforts are constrained by insecurity in the volatile south and southeastern regions.
“If we do not have peace in the coming months, we will probably end up with another boom in opium production for 2007,” warned Zalmai Afzali, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Counter Narcotics.
In 2006, Afghanistan produced a record 6,100 tonnes of opium, a 49 percent increase over the previous year, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, accounting for one-third of gross domestic product (GDP). This was 92 percent of the world’s supply.
More than five years since the collapse of the hardline Taliban regime in October 2001, Afghanistan faces an insurgency in the remote poppy-growing region that for the past weeks has kept Mosa Qala district and other popular poppy-growing areas of Helmand province largely under Taliban control.
“This year we have given a strict message to farmers,” stated Zemarai Bashari, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior. “We will destroy all poppy fields.”
About 550 policemen have been sent to Helmand and neighbouring provinces, including Kandahar, where they have successfully eradicated more than 3,000 hectares of poppy fields.
However, such a figure could prove minuscule compared with the 172,600 hectares that experts believe were under cultivation last year.
Moreover, officials concede that insecurity will likely frustrate counter-narcotics efforts, particularly in Helmand, where 40 percent of Afghanistan’s illicit opium is cultivated.
“We have some problems in Helmand,” Bashari admitted, “and we know Helmand has the largest number of poppy fields in the country.”
In addition, government forces and local poppy farmers who have yet to be provided with alternative sources of income frequently come to blows.
On 27 February, clashes between eradication forces and local farmers in Nangarhar province, in the east, killed one and wounded three. Such incidents serve only to fuel growing concerns that poppy farmers - deeply disenchanted with the government’s eradication strategy - could find common ground with anti-government elements, including the Taliban.
In an effort to address such fears, Afghan officials say this year’s eradication push is being launched earlier to provide farmers with adequate opportunities to plant alternative crops.
A question of strategy
However, the government’s strategy has been criticised for being ineffective and incompatible with the realities of impoverished Afghans, millions of whom are largely dependent on poppy cultivation.
“This is a strategy promoted by the US and the UK,” asserted Gulalai Momand, deputy country manager for the Paris-based Senlis Council, a policy and development group, which recommends licensing poppy cultivation in Afghanistan. “It alienates Afghan farmers from their government.”
The government has imposed restrictions on the council’s activities in the country, warning the organisation not to advocate for the authorisation of poppy cultivation, which the council says could be used for legitimate medical purposes.
Yet in the absence of tangible alternative livelihoods that could realistically meet the basic needs of destitute Afghan farmers, explained Momand, “it is counter-productive to emphasise solely eradication and a narrow-minded strategy”.
Afghan and international aid organisations created a Counter Narcotics Trust Fund in 2005, which has received US$33 million to finance alternative livelihood projects this year alone. However, with farmers profiting $775 million from the country’s $3.1 billion poppy industry in 2006, according to a US State Department report released on 1 March, it is clearly not enough.
The government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai pays $70 a month to its poppy eradication police, who destroyed less than 10 percent of the poppy fields in 2006.
“They [the eradication police] destroyed my small field only because I did not have money to bribe them,” Shahzada, a farmer in Helmand, complained. “For those who know officials or have the means to bribe them, their fields remain safe.”
“Police chiefs accused of corruption in 13 districts of Nangarhar province have been fired,” countered Bashari, adding that more provincial officials would be sacked if found guilty.
But despite the rhetoric, it is clear the clock is ticking, with most analysts predicting a bumper harvest this year.
Back to Top
EU vows to help Afghanistan tackle drugs
(DPA) 5 March 2007 Khaleej Times, United Arab Emirates
BRUSSELS - The European Union on Monday vowed to help Afghanistan combating drug production and trafficking and pledged further support for strengthening the country’s justice sector.
The country’s flourishing drug business has a ‘significant and detrimental impact...upon the stability and security of Afghanistan and the surrounding regions, as well as internationally, including on the EU member states themselves,’ EU foreign ministers meeting in Brussels warned.
They said that the bloc would support Afghanistan’s efforts to promote the development of the police, courts, prisons and the justice system with a focus on counter-narcotics activities.
EU defence ministers last week gave the green light to a police mission in Afghanistan to train local policemen as part of a renewed international drive to stabilize the war-torn country.
The United States warned recently that insurgents of the radical Islamic Taleban movement are benefiting most from Afghanistan’s illicit drug trade, which again reached record levels in 2006.
Afghanistan produced 90 per cent of the world’s opium in 2006, during which time the number of hectares dedicated to opium cultivation increased by 61 per cent to 172,600, according US data.
Back to Top
EU welcomes cooperation between Afghanistan and neighbours to combat drug trafficking
Brussels, March 5, IRNA
The EU Foreign Ministers' Council meeting in Brussels Monday said it recognises the significant and detrimental impact that production and trafficking in drugs are having upon the stability and security of Afghanistan and the surrounding region as well as internationally, including on the EU Member States themselves.
The Council in a statement expressed its support to the Government of Afghanistan in its efforts to tackle drugs through the National Drug Control Strategy.
It called on all EU Member States to continue their support, in particular through rapid implementation of the recommendations in the EU's Action-Oriented Paper "Increasing EU support for combating drug production in and trafficking from Afghanistan, including transit routes."
The Council welcomed the European Commission's current and planned activities in support of existing justice programmes, in particular an initiative under the North-South Drugs budget line to strengthen cooperation between Afghanistan and its neighbours against precursor diversion and to combat drug trafficking.
Back to Top
PAKISTAN: Slow start to Afghan repatriation
05 Mar 2007 15:17:38 GMT
More ISLAMABAD, 5 March (IRIN) - Afghan refugees living without documentation in Pakistan after fleeing their war-torn country have given a lukewarm response to a United Nations-assisted voluntary repatriation programme.
"What will people do in the long run when there isn't even any security?" Saida Jan, an Afghan elder living in the outskirts of Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, asked.
Many of the refugees have lived in Pakistan for decades – and Jan is not alone in his hesitation over going back.
Just 20 families, comprising 97 people, have so far been repatriated since the programme began last Thursday, officials at the office of the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) in Islamabad confirmed on Monday.
Having registered some 2.1 million Afghans in a four-month long countrywide drive that ended on 15 February, Pakistani officials have asked all unregistered Afghans to leave the country before 15 April.
About 400,000 Afghans are believed to have not registered with the Pakistani authorities, officials at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad said.
"Afghans with no PoR [Proof of Registration] cards should return before 15 April. [Otherwise] they will be subject to the laws of the land after this date," warned Nayyar Agha, head of the Commissionerate for Afghan Refugees (CAR) in Islamabad.
Dr Aluzai Ghazi, a representative of the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation at the Afghan embassy in Islamabad, told IRIN that hundreds of Afghans were coming to the embassy every day to see whether officials could persuade Pakistani authorities to extend the six-week amnesty period.
Ghazi added that the majority of the unregistered Afghans were daily wage labourers and workers in Pakistan's informal industries.
"At least 50 Afghan nomad families work here at a brick kiln and not a single person has got a PoR card," said Saida Jan.
"These poor unskilled labourers survive on their daily wages and live in mud houses. They do not have any means to move to Afghanistan and start anew in a situation when there are no job opportunities," he added.
In an effort to address this issue, UNHCR has increased its assistance package three-fold from US $30 to $100 per Afghan repatriating.
But Afghans on the street said extra money alone would not help them start afresh in their homeland.
"This is a one-time assistance, and there is so much inflation inside Afghanistan," said Paida Din, an Afghan labourer at Islamabad's main vegetable market.
After first singling out unregistered Afghans, the UNHCR programme will on 16 April be thrown open to registered Afghans who want to return to their country, according to agency spokesman Babar Baloch in Islamabad.
More than 2.8 million Afghans have voluntarily returned from Pakistan since 2002 under UNHCR's voluntary return assistance programme.
By comparison, the number of returns in 2006 was low, with only 132,000 Afghans having repatriated, far less than UN expectations of 400,000.
This year, the agency expects upwards of 250,000 Afghans to return from Pakistan and Iran, the primary host countries of the Afghan diaspora.
Back to Top
Afghan defence minister will shortly visit Moscow
MOSCOW, March 5 (Itar-Tass) - The defence minister of Afghanistan will shortly pay a visit to Moscow, an official of the Russian Foreign Ministry told Itar-Tass on Monday.
“The defence minister’s negotiations in Moscow may take place already this March or in the following two months,” he said. “At present, both sides are timing the visit and coordinating it with the working schedules of the leaders of the ministries concerned. It is necessary to give solid substance to the negotiations and we believe the concrete applications of the Afghan side and our replies to them should be ready by the time of the visit,” the diplomat noted.
Director of the Second Asia Department of the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Maryasov said “Russia had rendered technical aid to Afghanistan in the period from 2002 to 2005. However, military-technical assistance was later suspended because Russia wanted to avoid duplicating the actions of the Americans,” he noted.
Today, due to the growing activity of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda movements, as well as of other extremists, President Karzai and the Afghan government have asked the Russia to resume its deliveries of armaments and equipment” to their country, the diplomat divulged.
Back to Top
US should recognise Pakistan’s interests in Afghanistan
By Khalid Hasan Daily Times, Pakistan
WASHINGTON: The Bush administration has been urged to recognise Pakistan’s legitimate interests in Afghanistan, such as its concerns about India, while remembering that it is an “article of faith” with Islamabad and part of its national security doctrine that the US is an “unreliable ally”.
In an extended testimony before the Senate Armed Service Committee on March 1, Barnett R Rubin of the Centre on International Cooperation, New York University, said the US should try to encourage greater transparency concerning Indian activities in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He suggested that as the US increased pressure on Pakistan through the military assistance package, it needed to develop a multilateral approach with China because Pakistan, when it felt that the US was not supporting it, had tended to turn to China. “It tried to do that after the US-India nuclear deal last year, and China turned it down. So it would be very important to have a joint approach with China and the other NATO members on this as well,” he added.
Rubin said Pakistan also needed assistance in building of its capacity to integrate the tribal areas into the country’s political and economic system. In the absence of integration, Pakistan had been unable to do anything about “safe havens” it was believed to provide to the Taliban and others, he said, adding that the US also needed to help Pakistan and Afghanistan address their bilateral relationship. “This is not a personal problem between Hamid Karzai and Gen Pervez Musharraf. There are a whole set of issues regarding the border, trade, transit, ethnic relations, that have gone un-addressed for 60 years, but we can no longer afford to allow them to go un-addressed.”
He said if the US did not deal with the sanctuary problem, it would not succeed in Afghanistan, but it should be remembered that this was a “region problem”. He said that it was not that Pakistan was pro-terrorist, pretending to be anti-terrorist. Islamabad perceives the situation in Afghanistan in terms of its interests. Pakistan and Afghanistan have had antagonistic relations since the beginning. Rubin said the infrastructure built with US and Saudi help during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, was still there and being used by the same people to fight against the US, “including the same people in the Pakistan military and intelligence on the ground level who have been involved in this thing for 20 years, and are still there on the ground level and have not changed, even if their orders have changed”. Rubin said Musharraf’s “political problem” was that he was the head of the “largest political party in Pakistan, which is the Pakistan military”.
“The Pakistani military is not a military organisation in the sense that we understand a military organisation. The Pakistan military is the ruling organisation in Pakistan. Musharraf is the president and he’s the chief of Army Staff, and he’s running for election this year ... the Pakistani military has always been aligned with Islamist parties in Pakistan. Currently, the party that was founded and supported by President Musharraf is in alliance with an openly pro-Taliban party in the provincial government of Balochistan. Now in anticipation of this year’s upcoming elections, Musharraf has been conducting discussions with other political parties. He has not been able to reach an agreement with any of the Pakistani civilian political parties that support our efforts in Afghanistan. So he is going to be running either by himself or de facto, again, in political alliance with those jihadi parties,” he added.
He said military rule in Pakistan was not the solution. “Military rule in Pakistan is the problem.” He said the way that Pakistan could build up a political base for to support the US effort was through a process of civilianisation of the political system. He said not all Pashtuns supported the Taliban. There are political parties that democracy in the area – parties that have always been in opposition to the military regime. He said that as such, they continued to be treated as opposition. “So until and as long as the military is in control, it will be difficult to change the political orientation of those regions,” he added.
Back to Top
‘Everyone in Afghanistan is a Taliban’
Daily News & Analysis (India) Sunday, March 04, 2007 Seema Guha DNA Analysis
NEW DELHI: Are the rules of the game changing in Afghanistan? At a time when President Hamid Karzai unable to unite his people under his leadership and making a desperate bid to woo the Taliban, the Afghan government is making a distinction between the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda. Afghanistan’s Parliamentary Affairs Minister Ghulam Farooq Wardak , in India for a week-long visit clearly articulated the distinction.
After a lecture at the Indian Council of World Affairs recently in New Delhi, Wardak, was asked about the resurgence of the Taliban in his country. The minister replied. “Taliban, everyone in Afghanistan is a Taliban. Talib is a student.The mullahs, or teachers are everywhere in Afghanistan and is part of our society.” Was he merely quibbling with words or trying to tell India that now Taliban is no longer a dirty word or the symbol of terrorism worldwide. Or in their desperation to make peace with the Taliban, the ruling regime in the country is now willing to temper their past criticism.
“If you mean terrorists, that’s something else. We are a Muslim country and killing people is against Islam. The international terrorists who are now targeting us are not Muslims….You know that at one time these terrorists occupied a part of our territory and made this a haven for terrorists around the world,” Wardak said, without naming Al-Qaeda.
He blamed the “international terrorists” a euphesim for Al-Qaeda for the suicide bombings in the country. “Suicide bombers are alien to Islam and to Afghanistan. I was a holy figher, part of the Jihadi army which fought the Soviet occupation for 14 years, but we never resorted to suicide attacks.”
The suicide attack at the Bagram airbase at a time when US Vice-President Dick Cheney was there, is an indication of the Taliban’s resurgence. President Karzai realises how deep is the penetration of the Taliban and knows even with NATO and US forces, it will be quite impossible to counter this all pervasive force. This is why all the talk of reconciliation. In the early years of the Taliban’s rise, the US was willing to play ball with them, and negotiated with the Taliban government in Afghanistan for a seat in the UN. But before much progress could be made, the Taliban’s links with Bin Laden made it impossible to really come to an understanding.
The British in Helmund province also had an understanding with the Taliban. Though the international community were critical about Pervez Musharraf’s deal with tribal elders in Waziristan, nobody questioned the British forces for doing exactly the same thing. President Karzai would not be making overtures to the Taliban without the nod of the US.
Back to Top
AFGHANISTAN: Gov't bid to boost police in south
KANDAHAR , 4 March (IRIN) - Abdul Bari has just quit his job. Recruited into the auxiliary police in Kandahar, part of a temporary supplementary force to meet Afghanistan's shortfall of security forces in the south, the 23-year-old said the job was simply too difficult and dangerous.
Despite the resurgence of pro-Taliban forces in the area, there has been little commensurate increase in security forces. Funding and support for the Afghan national police and the army are being stepped up only now, while an increase in the deployment of international forces has been incremental.
The Afghan national army has experienced high rates of desertion and it has only half the force of 70,000 it was expected to reach by 2010.
As a result, police in the volatile south have no choice but to take on anti-insurgency duties, which prompted the government to set up an auxiliary force.
According to Interior Ministry spokesman Zemarai Bashary, the auxiliary police will comprise an additional force of 20,000 for two years for the six southern provinces of Uruzgan, Kandahar, Helmand, Farah, Zabul and Ghazni.
"We needed a temporary increase because we did not have enough police in the remote districts of the south," Bashary said.
However, critics say the force could create yet another source of long-term instability in the country as re-arming of local communities has proved counter-productive in the past.
The auxiliary police are drawn from the community and deployed in their own towns and villages, as living with their families in their own areas is supposed to prevent them from deserting.
In Helmand, more than 700 of the 1,050 mandated auxiliary police have been trained and deployed, while in Kandahar the original force of 1,300-plus is likely to be increased to 2,000.
There are questions, however, over the integrity of the training these men receive as it is a fraction of what regular police are given, allowing for quicker deployment, but sceptics remain concerned over its quality.
The International Crisis Group (ICG) says that after just 10 days of training the auxiliary police were given the same weapons and salary as the regular police.
"Weak vetting and questions over command structures raise concerns that the new force will be little more than militias," the ICG said.
Bashary says the auxiliary police are only mandated to carry out law-enforcement duties and not combat, although they must defend themselves if attacked.
But for most policemen serving in the south, carrying out their duties involves confronting and usually engaging anti-government elements.
For this reason Bari did not believe community policing was an advantage. "I quit because I was commissioned to serve in my own area where everyone in the community knew I was a policeman. I am a resident of Panjwayi district - control of which changes hands between the government and insurgents - so it is difficult and dangerous for me to serve in such an area," he said.
Moreover, for a salary of just US$70 a month, Abdul's family thought the risks were not worth it.
Back to Top
Russia to resume military aid to Afghanistan
Moscow, March 5 (RIA Novosti) Russia is willing to discuss the resumption of military aid to Afghanistan during the upcoming visit of the country's defence minister to Moscow, a Russian diplomat said Monday.
"In the light of increasing Taliban and Al Qaeda activities, President Karzai and the Afghan government have asked Russia to resume supplies of military equipment to Afghanistan," said Alexander Maryasov, a department head at the Foreign Ministry.
In Dec 2002, Russia's Defence Ministry signed a contract with Afghanistan to provide military-technical assistance to the Central Asian state with deliveries of motor vehicles, fuel and lubricants, communication equipment, topographic maps, truck-mounted repair workshops and automobile and armour equipment spare parts.
However, deliveries of Russian weaponry to Afghanistan were suspended in 2005 presumably in order to avoid "the duplication" of US aid to the country, which that year totalled over $929 million, more than 80 percent of which was earmarked for the military and the police.
"In 2002-2005, Russia's military-technical assistance to Afghanistan exceeded $200 million," the Russian diplomat said.
"We have delivered airport maintenance equipment, a missile defence system to protect the Kabul airport, communication equipment, trucks, repair equipment, spare parts and manuals," Maryasov said.
Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Feb 23 that Russia and Afghanistan have coordinated the terms of settlement of Afghanistan's debt to the former USSR, which, according to Russian experts' estimates, totals $10 billion.
"The problem of Afghan debt settlement has been coordinated, and only some formalities remain to be settled," the minister said on a working visit to Afghanistan.
Lavrov said Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with the regional security bodies, the Collective Security Treaty Organisation and the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation, to fight terrorism and drug trafficking.
Afghanistan has regained its position as the world's top drug producer since US-led forces toppled the Taliban in 2001. Illegal drug production and trade is the only source of income for many in the war-torn southwest Asian nation, and is a major source of financing for Islamist militants.
Back to Top
Pakistan braces for backlash after Obaidullah’s arrest
The News International (Pakistan)
March 4, 2007 - ISLAMABAD: Pakistan was braced on Saturday for reprisals from militants after the capture of one of the Taliban’s three most senior leaders earlier this week.
The arrest of Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a member of Taliban supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar’s inner circle, was disclosed to Reuters by several security officials, though it has not been confirmed by Pakistani authorities.
“It could lead to security problems, as Taliban present in the country could react,” said a security officer in Balochistan. The other reason for withholding the news by Pakistani press was to buy time for interrogators to extract information, officials said.
“Disclosing the arrest could jeopardise an ongoing investigation and allow other Taliban figures to escape,” the security officer said. The country has been in the grip of a security scare for the past few months, as Jihadi groups sympathetic to al-Qaeda and the Taliban have carried out a series of suicide and bomb attacks in cities around the country.
Akhund’s arrest came as the Bush administration faces a wave of scepticism over Pakistan’s role as an ally in the war on terrorism. Cheney during his visit last weekend asked Musharraf to do more to stop al-Qaeda from rebuilding its infrastructure in Pakistani tribal areas.
Back to Top
Robert Fisk on Bin Laden at 50
The most wanted man on the planet was 36 when our veteran correspondent met him for the first time in the desert
The Independent (UK) / March 4, 2007 By Robert Fisk, Middle East Correspondent
He was 36 when I first met him. Osama bin Laden's beard had no trace of grey in 1993. He was a young man, building a new road for poor villagers in Sudan, a trifle arrogant perhaps, very definitely wary of the Western journalist - 10 years older than him - who had turned up in the cold Sudanese desert one Sunday morning to talk to him about his war against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan.
Was I going to ask him about "terror"? No, I wanted to know what it was like to fight the Russians. A Soviet mortar shell had fallen beside him, Bin Laden said. Nangahar province, maybe 1982. "I felt Seqina as I waited for it to explode," he said. Seqina means an almost religious calmness. The shell - and many must curse it for being a dud - did not explode. Otherwise Osama bin Laden would have been dead at 25.
When I met him again in Afghanistan in 1996, he was 39, raging against the corruption of the Saudi royal family, contemptuous of the West. When Saddam Hussein invaded Kuwait in 1990, Bin Laden told the House of Saud that his Arab legion could destroy the Iraqis; no need to bring the Americans to the land of Islam's two holiest places. The King turned him down. So the Americans were now also the target of Osama's anger.
Has he grown wiser with age? The next year, he told me he sought God's help "to turn America into a shadow of itself". I wrote "rhetoric" in the margin of my notebook - a mistake. Age was giving Bin Laden a dangerous self-confidence. But as the years after 11 September 2001 went by, I watched the al-Qa'ida leader's beard go grey in the videotapes. He talked about history more and more: the Balfour Declaration, the Sykes-Picot agreement, the end of the Ottoman Caliphate. His political speeches appealed to Arabs whose pro-American dictators would never have the courage to tell George W Bush to take his soldiers home.
There was no contrition. Age - if it bestows wisdom - did not allow Bin Laden to question his own motives, to express any self-doubt. In the tapes, his robes were embroidered. He appeared like a Mahdi, a seer. But I wondered, as the years went by, if he was any longer relevant. Nuclear scientists invented the atom bomb. What would have been the point of arresting all the scientists afterwards? The bomb existed. Bin Laden created al-Qa'ida. The monster was born. What is the point, any longer, in searching for 50-year-old Bin Laden?
Five years ago, Time magazine offered to buy one of my photographs of Bin Laden in Afghanistan for its front cover. I refused to sell it. Time wanted, so their picture desk told me, to use a computer to "age" him in my snapshot. Again, I refused. "So how much do you want?" the Time picture desk asked. They didn't understand. Bin Laden may have no integrity, but my pictures did: they showed a man in his 30s and 40s, not in his 60s or 70s.
But now he is 50 years old. I don't think he'll be celebrating in his cave. Just reflecting that, white-flecked though his beard now is, he remains the West's target number one, as iconic as any devil, so embarrassing to Mr Bush that the President dare no longer pronounce his name, lest it remind his audience that Bin Laden is the one that got away.
I read the "experts", telling me that Bin Laden has cancer, that he needs medical machines to survive. But we say this about all our enemies. Bin Laden uses now a stick to walk - unusual for a man of 50 - but we know he was wounded in Afghanistan. The truth is - and forget the "experts" who might tell you otherwise - that Bin Laden is still alive. Like the Scarlet Pimpernel, he may be damned and elusive, but he remains on this earth. Aged 50.
A historic meeting with the world's pariah
'Anti-Soviet warrior puts his army on the road to peace'
Published in 'The Independent', 6 December 1993
Osama bin Laden sat in his gold-fringed robe, guarded by the loyal Arab mujahedin who fought alongside him in Afghanistan.
Bearded, taciturn figures - unarmed, but never more than a few yards from the man who recruited them, trained them and then dispatched them to destroy the Soviet army - they watched unsmiling as the Sudanese villagers of Almatig lined up to thank the Saudi businessman who is about to complete the highway linking their homes to Khartoum...
With his high cheekbones, narrow eyes and long brown robe, Mr Bin Laden looks every inch the mountain warrior of mujahedin legend...
"I helped some of my comrades to come here to Sudan after the war," he said. Was it not a bit anti-climatic for them, I asked, to fight the Russians and end up road-building in Sudan? "They like this work and so do I."
Back to Top
US Funds for development not enough: Afghan Chamber
NEW YORK, March 3 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Welcoming the recent decision of the Bush Administration to give $11.6 billion aid to Afghanistan in next two years, the Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce said Friday that allocation of funds for developmental activities is grossly inadequate.
This is not enough. Afghanistan requires much more money for developmental activities than what has been announced now, Ajmal Ghani, chairman Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce told Pajhwok Afghan News.
Established in 2002, Afghan-American Chamber of Commerce is the apex body of Afghan businesses in the US This is for the first time that the chamber has come out with its view on financial aid to Afghanistan by the Bush Administration.
Ghani, successful businessmen, said members of the chambers are now planning to mobilize support both in the administration and the Congress to increase the aid for developmental activities in Afghanistan. It has to be done right now. We would like to see substantial increase in the funds, he said. The Congress is now discussing the budgetary proposals by Bush.
Of the $ 11.6 billion only $1.4 is slotted for developmental projects. The rest is for defense and increasing the size of the Afghan National Army and Police.
This (modernization of security forces) was long overdue. It is great opportunity to equip and train security forces to make them truly national and strong enough to defend the country, he said.
At the same time, it would be good those in-charge of the ministry of interior are more qualified and competent, he observed in an apparent reference to the large scale corruption in the ministry.
Referring to the fund allocated for various developmental activities under this aid, Ghani said the amount -- $700 million per year is not enough to stimulate the Afghan economy and generate employment on large scale. This would result in all round development and peace in the country, he said.
Representing the voice of the Afghan businesses in the US, Ghani felt the need of more involvement of private sector in the development of the country. Implementation of these developmental projects by involving private sector, he said should be the cornerstone of this new initiative, he argued.
Lalit K. Jha
Back to Top
'Terrorist squad' arrested in Kabul
KABUL, March 03 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A squad of six suspected terrorists has been nabbed in Kabul city, officials said Saturday.
Kabul police chief Brig-Gen. Esmatullah Dalwatzai, told the parliamentary committee on security and defence in the upper house that the six suspects were arrested during a joing operation by Afghan and US-led coalition forces from a hotel in the capital.
He said the squad detaied two days back was not only a threat to the security of Kabul, but to provinces, too.
The police chief added that they had been searching for the squad since long and finally caught it in Hotel Kabul Palace while they were attending a wedding party.
Esmatullah was addressing the security and defence committee of upper house as he was summoned up to brief senators about security situation, that they said has worsened recently, in the capital.
He told the committee about the security of members of the parliament that security and safety of MPs was a top priority of the polices work.
He added that a special police unit will be formed by the interior ministry soon to protect MPs.
Concerns over security of MPs increased when an MP from Samangan province was shot dead in Kart-i-Parwan area of Kabul city on January 26.
Back to Top
Economic security committee to be formed
KABUL, March 3 (Pajhwok Afghan News): An economic security committee will soon be established in order to deal with security issues, which is the greatest problem faced by the business community in the country.
The decision was made during a conference held to facilitate cooperation between private sector investors, national traders and governmental security organs, which was attended by a number of national traders, security and business officials in Kabul on Saturday.
Attendants of the conference also discussed other issues including increasing the strength of the police corps, police salary and monitoring registration plates of vehicles, besides recruiting professional security personnel and guaranteeing security of vehicles carrying cash money as well as of residences of investors.
According to interior ministry officials, the economic security committee will be opened at the provincial level at first and would later be extended to the district level.
Posing a great threat to the work of investors, the insecurity has frequently been the major question investors have always had reservations about and for which have often sought government support.
Azarkhsh Hafizi, chief executive officer of the Afghanistan International Chamber of Commerce, in a brief speech in this conference described the increasing insecurity as a great problem for their businesses and said some investors have been killed, abducted and many others have even lost their investments due to the insecurity.
The insecurity has forced many investors to leave the country, he said.
He blamed the poor economic condition of the law enforcement agencies, lack of police personnel, corruption and the lack of law and order as reasons for insecurity.
"All these problems lead the private sector to face breakdown and hopelessness" he said.
The speaker of the Upper House of the parliament present at the conference termed the lack of punishment for outlaws as a major factor behind insecurity and said that in order to address this issue, the government and legislature should take serious measures to implement law and order.
Deputy interior minister, Abdul Hadi Khalid, while highlighting the capability and preparedness of the police to maintain security, said the nterior ministry has been instructed to assess and address security problems of the private sector.
"The Police is getting stronger on a daily basis and we hope to create a more peaceful atmosphere for investors in Afghanistan," he concluded.
Back to Top
Protesters complain ill-treatment by police in Helmand
LASHKARGAH, March 3 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Hundreds of the protesters, mainly mechanics, flooded to the streets in Lashkargah capital of southern province of Helmand to complain ill-treatment and torture by local policemen.
The demonstrators complained police forcibly took money and tortured them on usual basis.
Jan Agha one of the local mechanics in Lashkargah city told Pajhwok Afghan News they staged the demonstration because they were fed up from corrupted police and their ill-treatment.
"If paid police leave a person even he is arrested red-handed with explosives in his vehicle." He claimed:" police dont pay us for repairing their vehicle."
Another mechanic and protester, who wished to remain unnamed, told this news agency that policemen beat up a mechanic for asking for remuneration after fixing police vehicle.
The victim was shifted to Quetta of neighboring Pakistan for medical treatment because of the strokes by police, he added.
Representing other protesters he urged the government to focus on the issue.
Haji Abdul Sattar representative of the Mechanics union told this news agency that they had discussed the issue with provincial governor's secretary Haji Pir Muhammad and he promised solve their problems.
They will change the policemen who have taken bribes from mechanics, he promised.
There were 1600 mechanics in Lashkargah.
Bashir Ahmad Nadim
Back to Top
|Back to News Archirves of 2007|
Disclaimer: This news site is mostly a compilation of publicly accessible articles on the Web in the form of a link or saved news item. The news articles and commentaries/editorials are protected under international copyright laws. All credit goes to the original respective source(s).