The Associated Press Monday, May 14, 2007
BRUSSELS, Belgium: U.S.-led troops in Afghanistan need to change tactics to limit civilian casualties and prevent a backlash from locals, Germany's defense minister said Monday, reflecting European unease about reports of high death tolls in incidents involving American units.
"We have to make sure that in the future, operations do not take place in this way," Franz Josef Jung told reporters at a meeting of EU defense ministers. "We don't want the population against us. We have to prevent that."
NATO governments are concerned that recent reports of civilian casualties could undermine public support for the international security mission in Afghanistan, both among the local people and with public opinion in Europe.
Airstrikes called in by U.S. special forces fighting some 200 Taliban militants near Sangin in southern Afghanistan killed 21 civilians last week, Afghan government officials said, while villagers said nearly 40 civilians were killed.
The U.S.-led coalition — which operates outside NATO's force of 36,000 troops — confirmed that the battle caused civilian casualties, killing at least one child, and that a joint Afghan-U.S. team would investigate.
In March, U.S. Marines' special forces fired on civilians after a suicide attack in eastern Afghanistan, killing 19 civilians and wounding 50. Fighting late last month killed some 50 civilians in the western province of Herat, Afghan and U.N. officials say.
Jung made a distinction between the work of NATO's International Security Assistance Force and the U.S.-led counterterrorism mission, which was known until recently as Operation Enduring Freedom.
"It's not the way of going about it," he said. "I'm not talking about ISAF, I'm talking about OEF."
Jung said he had raised the issue of civilian casualties with NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer and added that NATO's top commander in Afghanistan, U.S. Gen. Dan McNeill, was "looking into the issue."
The German minister spoke after chairing the meeting of EU defense ministers, which approved plans to send about 160 experts on a mission to train Afghan police starting next month under the command of Brig. Gen. Friedrich Eichele of the German police.
NATO has long pressed for the EU to step up training for Afghan police, saying effective local security forces are essential to support international security efforts. Jung said building effective Afghan forces was an essential element of any eventual exit strategy for international troops.
European officials at NATO headquarters have expressed concern in recent days at the reports of civilian casualties, but they have refrained from publicly criticizing tactics of the American special forces who make up the bulk of the U.S.-led counterterrorism mission. They have, however, highlighted the need to improve coordination between NATO troops and the U.S.-led force of over 13,000.
Jung stressed the role of NATO troops in pushing through development projects such as irrigation networks, roads and schools. "We've got to win over the hearts and minds," he said.
NATO's troops were originally deployed to Kabul, the capital and the relatively peaceful northern and western regions to provide security and support for civilian reconstruction efforts. But the expansion of the allied mission into the volatile south and east last year has seen NATO troops also engaged in heavy fighting against supporters of the ousted Taliban regime.
However although the U.S. is the biggest contributor to the NATO force with 15,000 troops, mostly in the south and east, Washington has also maintained its separate special forces mission to hunt down Taliban and al-Qaida militants.
Several European nations — including Germany, France, Italy, Spain and Turkey — have refused to send their troops to NATO southern front lines except to provide emergency assistance to other allied units. Wary of unease back home, they prefer to focus on the reconstruction and development side of the mission.
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NATO troops in gunfight at Pakistan border meeting
By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - A NATO soldier was killed and four wounded in an ambush by "unknown assailants" while they were returning to the Afghan side of the border after meeting Pakistani counterparts, a NATO statement said on Monday.
"One ISAF service member was killed and four ISAF service members wounded when they were ambushed by unknown assailants near Teri Mangel, Pakistan, after leaving a border meeting," the statement said, referring to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force.
The NATO statement appeared to support Pakistan's version of the incident, and contradicted an Afghan defense ministry spokesman who had earlier accused a Pakistani officer of opening fire on Americans at the meeting, killing two and wounding two.
Major-General Waheed Arshad, Pakistan's military spokesman, said: "As the convoy (of U.S. soldiers) was moving back, some miscreants fired. Three to four U.S. soldiers and three to four Pakistani soldiers were injured."
A senior Pakistani security official, however, gave another version of events.
"A man disguising himself as a Pakistani paramilitary soldier opened fire," the official told Reuters.
The NATO statement issued from Bagram Airfield did not disclose the nationalities of the ISAF casualties.
The soldiers were returning from a flag meeting called to end border skirmishes between Afghans and Pakistani troops following a clash on Sunday that was the worst in decades between the neighbors.
The Afghan foreign ministry issued a strongly worded statement accusing Pakistani troops of invading Afghan soil, and said it went against the spirit of a meeting between Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf and Afghan President Hamid Karzai in the Turkish capital of Ankara two weeks ago.
The ministry said Pakistan's actions were "contrary to all international norms, good neighborliness, and against Pakistan's commitments during the summit between the presidents of the two countries in Ankara."
It said 13 Afghans had been killed, and 28 wounded in the clashes, and warned Pakistan that any similar action would "entail dangerous consequences for the stability of the region."
Pakistan said Afghan troops started "unprovoked firing" on border posts on Sunday, and Pakistani paramilitary forces retaliated and killed up to seven Afghan troops.
Distrust between Pakistan and Afghanistan has grown as the Taliban insurgency flared with renewed strength over the past 18 months. Afghan officials complain Pakistan is not doing enough to help stop insurgents crossing the border.
Pakistan says the core of the insurgency lies within Afghanistan.
The border incidents came hard on the heels of a major success in operations against the Taliban, as NATO announced that U.S.-led forces had killed Mullah Dadullah, the insurgent's top commander in southern Afghanistan, on Saturday.
The death of Dadullah, the one-legged fighter nicknamed Afghanistan's Al Zarqawi after the slain al Qaeda leader in Iraq, was considered the biggest blow to the Taliban since the start of their insurgency after coalition troops overthrew their radical Islamic government in 2001.
Dadullah was the architect of suicide bombings, kidnappings, beheadings and a rise of violence, and while the Taliban searched for a new commander in the south, many Afghans were relieved by his death.
"Dadullah was very bad man and he was a cruel man. He beheaded many Afghans," said Bahadur, a 30-year-old man from Spin Boldak, a town near the border with Pakistan.
Meantime, the violence from the Taliban insurgency continued.
Near the western Afghan city of Herat on Monday, a roadside bomb ripped through a convoy carrying Western troops as it passed over a bridge, witnesses said. Several soldiers were wounded.
(Additional reporting by Saeed Ali Achakzai in Spin Boldak)
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NATO, Pakistani soldiers killed in border incident
by Rana Jawad
ISLAMABAD (AFP) - A NATO soldier and a Pakistani soldier were killed in an ambush by unidentified gunmen Monday after a meeting aimed at ending two days of clashes on the Afghan-Pakistan border, officials said.
The attack happened after Afghan, Pakistani and NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) officials met at a school in a mountainous Pakistani tribal region close to the frontier.
Pakistani and ISAF statements said gunmen attacked the troops as they left the talks and headed to their respective helicopters, but Afghan officials insisted a Pakistani soldier had caused the carnage.
"One ISAF servicemember was killed and four ISAF servicemembers wounded when they were ambushed by unknown assailants near Teri Mangel, Pakistan, after leaving a border meeting," an ISAF statement said.
It did not give the soldier's nationality in accordance with the normal policy of the 37,000-member ISAF, more than half of which consists of American troops.
The wounded were airlifted for treatment, it said.
Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP the dead man was a US soldier and that a Pakistani soldier had also died and three Pakistanis were wounded.
"After the meeting the US forces were heading back to their helicopters in a convoy together with Pakistani officials when some miscreants opened fire on them with automatic weapons, it was a sudden attack," Arshad said.
Pakistani officials use the term miscreants to refer to Islamic militants, especially Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked rebels who hide out close to the rugged Afghan frontier.
Arshad added: "We don't know the identity of the attackers. We have ordered an inquiry. We have cordoned off the area."
But Rahmatullah Rahmat, the governor of Afghanistan's Paktia province, gave a different version.
"When the results of the talks were announced and the delegation was getting back on helicopters, a Pakistan military militia officer opened fire at us," said Rahmat, who said he was part of the Afghan delegation at the talks.
He said two soldiers from the 12,000-strong US-led coalition that operates separately from ISAF in Afghanistan were killed, but this was contradicted by both foreign forces.
Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Mohamad Zahir Azimi gave a similar account, telling Afghan television that "in the course of the meeting, one Pakistan officer opened fire and unfortunately two American officers were killed."
Pakistan's Arshad said the Afghan version of events was "completely incorrect."
The meeting was held after two days of clashes between Afghan and Pakistani forces on the border which left at least a dozen people dead and were described by Afghanistan as the worst in the region for decades.
Pakistan and Afghanistan have been at loggerheads in recent months over allegations that militants based on Pakistani soil are launching attacks in Afghanistan with the backing of Islamabad.
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Twelve killed in Afghan-Pakistan border clash
by Emranullah Arif Mon May 14, 7:35 AM ET
KHOST, Afghanistan (AFP) - Afghan and Pakistani forces traded fire across their disputed border for a second day Monday, as officials announced that eight policemen and four civilians had died in the fighting.
The clashes, described by the Afghan defence ministry as the worst for decades between the two countries, erupted early Sunday in Paktia province, about 120 kilometres (74 miles) southeast of Kabul.
"Eight policemen and four civilians have been killed since yesterday," Afghan army general Sami-Ul Haq Badar told AFP.
Reinforcements armed with artillery and armoured tanks were dispatched to the area Monday, as "scattered firing" continued, he added.
A provincial police official, Ghulam Dastgir, gave the same death toll.
The interior ministry in Kabul said the clashes "erupted due to a misunderstanding between two Afghan and Pakistani border posts." It did not give details.
Pakistani troops had occupied two Afghan border posts for two hours on Sunday but were later repelled, it said.
Afghan troops and tribesmen later seized and held two Pakistan posts for four hours. The ministry did not give any information about the casualties.
Both sides accused each other of initiating the clashes on Sunday. The Afghan defence ministry said Pakistan forces had pushed up to four kilometres into Afghan territory.
The two sides had exchanged fire into the night, Pakistani military spokesman Major General Waheed Arshad told AFP in Islamabad. He said there had been no casualties.
Commanders from both militaries and their counterparts in the NATO and US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan met Monday to solve the issue, said Arshad.
NATO's force in Kabul confirmed it was facilitating a meeting.
Arshad on Sunday rejected Afghan allegations that Pakistani soldiers or helicopters had crossed the border.
"Our position is very clear -- there is no question of entering into Afghan territory and there was no such attempt made," he said.
The rugged 2,500-kilometre frontier between the Islamic neighbours is one of the main sources of tension between them.
Afghanistan does not accept the frontier, which it calls the Durand Line after the British colonial official who involved in its drawing up in the early 1890s.
It says the line was demarcated when Pakistan did not exist and cuts through Pashtun tribal land that had once been part of Afghanistan.
Kabul also accuses Islamabad of not doing enough to stop Taliban-linked militants from crossing the border to carry out attacks as part of a growing insurgency.
The weekend's clash was the second in less than a month.
On April 19 security forces from both sides fought for several hours after Afghans tore down part of a 38-kilometre fence being erected by Pakistan that it says will stop the movement of militants.
The Afghan government objects to the barrier, saying it will not help stop the rebels. Analysts say Kabul is also wary of any effort to formalise the border.
There have been minor clashes between security forces on the border in the past years.
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Taliban formally confirm Dadullah's killing
KANDAHAR CITY, May 14 (pajhwok Afghan News): Taliban have confirmed the killing of their top strategist Mullah Dadullah in a US-led Coalition operation in the southern Helmand province.
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, the movements spokesman who denied the prominent commanders death yesterday, told Pajhwok Afghan News on Monday that Mullah Dadullah had been killed in the air raid.
Talibans elusive leader Mullah Muhammad Omar and their entire leadership council were deeply shocked at Dadullahs killing, Ahmadi said in a phone call from an undisclosed location. The movements head and other leaders condoled with the bereaved family.
Ahmadi quoted Mullah Omar as saying that every fighter of the movement would become a Dadullah, and that the operational commanders removal from the scene would not undermine the military might of the guerrillas.
NATO and some Taliban sources Sunday confirmed the killing of Dadullah blamed for a slew of deadly attacks on Afghan and foreign forces, beheadings and kidnappings of foreigners.
A Helmand-based senior Taliban figure, familiar with the commanders schedule for that fateful day, revealed to Pajhwok Afghan News a day earlier that Dadullah had gone to Sra Qala village of the Nawa district to meet friends and relatives.
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Dadullah's death not a fatal blow to Taliban: observers
Mon May 14, 4:15 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The killing of the Taliban's chief military planner is a blow to the rebels but its effect on the insurgency engulfing Afghanistan will be limited, an analyst and military officers said.
Mullah Dadullah's death may see some fighters give up their guns but its impact will be largely confined to Helmand province where he was based.
"There were people who were with Dadullah," analyst Wadir Safi said Sunday, after the government and NATO-led forces confirmed the commander had been killed in the southern province.
"If they were not Dadullah, I'm sure they have learnt to be Dadullah. They can just take over. He's gone but his men are still there," said Safi, a former government minister who now teaches politics at Kabul University.
Dadullah, aged about 40, is the most senior Taliban commander to be killed since the hardline regime was toppled nearly six years ago.
Like other top leaders of the Taliban and its Al-Qaeda allies, Dadullah had managed to evade thousands of foreign troops, representing the military might of the West, who are propping up the fragile Afghan government.
But on Friday his corpse was discovered among 10 others on a battlefield in Helmand. The defence ministry said it was found in insurgency-hit Sangin district while the interior ministry and NATO said he was killed in Grishk.
Dadullah's removal may bring some fighters to the negotiating table, Safi said. Military forces are redoubling their efforts in Helmand and scores of rebels have been killed in Operation Achilles, launched early March.
"If there are some elements with a desire for peace talks with the government in Dadullah's front who were fearing to express themselves in his presence, no doubt they would express themselves now," he said.
Otherwise, "we can say that his death will not affect the insurgency."
But the removal of Dadullah's firm hand could provoke rivalries among Taliban commanders in Helmand, said Afghan defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi.
"He was a key Taliban figure who had the ability to centre Taliban efforts under one single command," he said.
"We know that there are already some rivalries among Taliban commanders in that (Helmand) region and Dadullah's absence will intensify this.
"This will lead to some Taliban figures joining the government ranks."
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) acknowledged in a statement Sunday that Dadullah "will most certainly be replaced."
However, spokesman Major John Thomas told AFP that the loss of "Someone with that much history and experience in leading an insurgency and contributing to instability and terrorism," is a serious blow "because it is going to take some time to find someone to replace him."
On Monday, Afghan media hailed the killing as a boost for the security forces of embattled President Hamid Karzai and a serious setback for the rebels.
"Mullah Dadullah's death was a great success for the security forces and a major blow for the Taliban," government-run daily Hiwad said in its editorial.
"Now the security forces and NATO troops must intensify their efforts," said Islah daily.
Two months before his death, Dadullah acknowledged the superior strength of foreign forces in a telephone interview with AFP, but said he was undaunted.
"No one in the world has better weapons than NATO," he told an AFP reporter who had spoken to him several times and knew his voice.
"They have got better weapons, but we will defeat them with the power of faith and belief," he said.
"The entire nation is with us: the people give us food, fruit and money. The people are fed up with infidel, invading troops and their puppets," he said.
"We have enough men to fight this battle."
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Death of Taliban chief leaves void
The killing of charismatic Taliban leader Mullah Dadullah on Sunday in a US-led operation may cripple the insurgent group.
By Rachel Morarjee | Contributor to The Christian Science Monitor
and Mark Sappenfield | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor from the May 14, 2007 edition KABUL and NEW DELHI
Nearly one year ago, American forces killed Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the mastermind of Al Qaeda in Iraq in a strike that President Bush hailed as a "severe blow" to the insurgency. In the intervening year, the chaos in Iraq has only risen.
Yesterday, NATO and Afghan officials announced that they had killed Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's top commander and a man sometimes called Afghanistan's al-Zarqawi. The coming months will reveal whether his death proves to be more significant than that of Mr. Zarqawi.
It could be, experts say. Since the fall of the Taliban in 2001, Mr. Dadullah has become the unquestioned leader of the Taliban resistance, blending his charisma as a one-legged "holy warrior" with equal measures of brutality. He is believed to have presided over more than a dozen beheadings and several kidnappings and acted as the primary proponent for bringing more suicide bombers to Afghanistan.
It is an important moment for the Taliban, who relied on Dadullah to provide some sense of unity to its eclectic mix of Islamist ideologues, village malcontents, and petty criminals.
"It's almost a test of competing hypotheses about the Taliban," says Barnett Rubin of the Council on Foreign Relations in New York. "Is it a group driven by radical extremist leadership," or is it a loosely-connected band of village rebels?
The strike is sure to be a boost for the Afghan government in its efforts to project a sense of progress in a controversial war. In recent weeks, the public's attention has turned to a series of NATO and US attacks that have killed dozens of civilians, Afghans say. Now, it can show results.
"He was responsible for all the fighting in the south and also for the media operations," says Ahmad Shakhi Achikzai, a minister of parliament from Kandahar. "For the Taliban, it is very dangerous to lose him, because it will undermine them."
As of press time, the details of his death were also unclear. NATO said he was killed in a US-led operation when he "left his sanctuary into southern Afghanistan."
Intelligence officials said he was killed in the southern province of Helmand. But it remained uncertain whether Dadullah had been killed by an airstrike or in ground combat, western military officials said.
A purported Taliban spokesman denied that Dadullah was dead, even though the government displayed to the press what is believed to be his body, naked to the waist under a pink sheet with a missing left leg.
Dadullah clearly represented a Taliban driven by radical extremists. Indeed, in recent years, he had become the face of the Taliban's extremist core – the hero who lost one leg in the war against the Soviets now taking the fight to the Americans. Of the 10 members of the Taliban's leadership council, he was by far the most recognizable, releasing videos of beheadings, and sending invectives to the press claiming he had thousands of suicide bombers at the ready.
Without him to rally around, the Taliban could struggle to maintain whatever cohesiveness it has, experts say.
"After the fall of the Taliban, all the Taliban escaped to different areas, and he was the only one to marshal them and bring them together as a cohesive force," says Waheed Mujda, author of a number of books about the Taliban.
Moreover, the Taliban's tactics could shift, says Dr. Rubin. "Dadullah was the main organizer behind suicide bombings," he says. "It's unclear the extent to which he trained successors."
Some say his ruthlessness precluded rivals or successors. "He killed the guys above him, so quite a lot of capable or respected leaders have disappeared in his move up the ranks of the Taliban," says a Western intelligence official in southern Afghanistan.
In that sense, Dadullah's insidious rise may leave a leadership void. "This indicates that there was a bit of a gap below him," the official adds.
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Afghanistan: Killing Of Taliban Commander Seen As Setback For Insurgency
By Ron Synovitz Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
May 14, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- NATO said the killing of the Taliban's top operational commander in Afghanistan, Mullah Dadullah, is a major setback for militants there, but security analysts interviewed by RFE/RL countered that there are many local Taliban commanders who are willing to succeed him.
The Afghan Defense Ministry said Dadullah's bullet-ridden corpse was discovered on May 12 after a battle in Afghanistan's southern Helmand Province.
His body was surrounded by the bodies of 11 other Taliban fighters also killed in the clash with U.S., NATO, and Afghan government troops.
Afghan officials had claimed several times in the past that they thought they had killed Dadullah. But on all previous occasions, Dadullah later surfaced in Taliban videos released over the Internet.
On May 13, Kandahar Province Governor Asadullah Khalid put Dadullah's body on display for journalists skeptical of the latest reports on his death, and images of the corpse have appeared in the media.
"We are sure he is Mullah Dadullah," Khalid said. "I told you [that] this operation was based on very good information and he is the killer," Dadullah said. "He killed a lot of Afghans, and he cut the heads off [of] a lot of Afghans and our police soldiers and many other innocent, Muslim, Afghan people."
Close To Mullah Omar, Al-Qaeda
Dadullah was one of the Taliban leaders most sought after by NATO and the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan.
He was close to the Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, and he also maintained close links with Al-Qaeda.
In one video earlier this year, Dadullah claimed he still had personal contacts with Osama bin Laden. He also said bin Laden had personally ordered a suicide bomb attack at the front gates of Bagram Air Field during a visit by U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney.
Military and intelligence officials say Dadullah was responsible for organizing and supplying Taliban fighters across much of southern Afghanistan.
He has been blamed for orchestrating many Taliban attacks -- including kidnappings, beheadings, and a wave of suicide bombings.
Waheed Mozhda is a Kabul-based analyst who had worked in the Taliban's Foreign Affairs Ministry before the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States.
Mozhda told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that Dadullah's death is a major psychological setback for the Taliban.
"It was Mullah Dadullah who gathered together all the remnants of the Taliban after the collapse of the Taliban regime [in late 2001]," Mozhda said. "It was a struggle to gather them together after they had been defeated and they didn't have the ability to carry on their fight. He (Dadullah) brought them together into a force that was able to occupy many districts in Afghanistan. So the elimination of such a person will no doubt effect the Taliban."
Mozhda said he thinks there already is infighting among local Taliban commanders to replace Dadullah. He said such competition could manifest itself in the form of increased Taliban violence.
"We should see how the morale of the Taliban is affected," Mozhda said. "The Taliban have strong feelings of revenge. Local Taliban commanders had been in the shadow of Mullah Dadullah and were unable to prove themselves. Now they have the opportunity to fill his position. They will try very hard to prove themselves in the battlefield so that they will become known as Mullah Dadullah's successor."
Rahul Bedi, a journalist who covers South Asia for the London-based "Jane's Defence Weekly," said he thinks local Taliban commanders will quickly fill the void left by Dadullah's death.
But Bedi said local insurgents are too unified by their hatred of foreign forces in Afghanistan to fight among themselves.
"The death of Mullah Dadullah, whilst it is a tactical victory for the allied forces and the American forces and the NATO forces operating in Afghanistan, it doesn't really make much of difference on the ground because the leadership of the Taliban over the last four or five years has been dissipated," Bedi said. "The leadership is now in the hands of local commanders -- not the big ones known in the West. The fight continues, and the challenge that the NATO forces and the American forces face in Afghanistan is not going to diminish with his being killed."
That view contradicts proclamations by Kandahar's Governor Khalid as he displayed Dadalluh's body to journalists.
Khalid claimed that Dadullah's death is a huge loss for the Taliban that will weaken their activities.
He says the people of Afghanistan have been rescued from the cruelty of a "wild butcher" who had ordered numerous assassinations of Afghan clerics, government officials, and health and education workers.
(RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report.)
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A look at Mullah Dadullah's life
By The Associated Press Sun May 13, 2:15 PM ET
A look at the Taliban's most prominent military commander, Mullah Dadullah:
• 1980s: Fights against the Soviet occupation of his native country, Afghanistan. Loses a leg during fighting.
• 1990s: Emerges as commander of Taliban forces while fighting against the Northern Alliance in northern Afghanistan. Helps the Taliban capture the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif.
• 1999: Leads a massacre of ethnic Hazaras in Bamiyan province, where the Taliban in 2000 destroyed two large, ancient Buddha statues carved into a hillside cliff.
Dadullah came from the southern province of Uruzgan and was an ethnic Pashtun, the group that makes up the core of the Taliban.
A top lieutenant of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, Dadullah was responsible for the militia's operations in Afghanistan's eastern and southeastern regions. After the Taliban's ouster in late 2001, he became the group's most prominent and feared commander.
Rahimullah Yusufzai, an editor for the Pakistani newspaper The News and an expert on the Taliban, said many Taliban fighters had been unhappy with Dadullah because of his beheadings, kidnappings and boastful videos.
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Afghan warlord says Bin Laden alive
Mon May 14, 1:08 AM ET
DUBAI (AFP) - Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is still alive but keeping a low profile, notorious Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said in a video released on Arab television.
"According to my information I think that Osama is still alive," Hekmatyar said in the video broadcast by Al-Arabiya television late Sunday.
He said Bin Laden, wanted by the United States over the September 11, 2001 attacks in New York and Washington, would be better off "not multiplying his appearances in the media or in publishing statements and videos."
Hekmatyar earlier this year claimed that his men had helped Bin Laden and his deputy, Ayman al-Zawahiri, to escape US special forces searching for him in the eastern Afghan mountains at the start of 2002.
The Sunni warlord is a former Afghan prime minister who carries a multi-million-dollar US bounty on his head.
His men have attacked coalition forces in Afghanistan but he conducts his business separately from the Taliban militia which sheltered bin Laden until it was ousted from power in a US-led invasion in late 2001.
Hekmatyar is believed to be hiding in eastern Afghanistan or Pakistan while leading his Hizb-i-Islami (Islamic Party) faction in attacks against foreign and government targets.
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Taliban leader Omar says jihad continues
By NOOR KHAN Associated Press / May 14, 2007
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The Taliban leader Mullah Omar said the killing of the group's top field commander "won't create problems" for the hardline militia, a spokesman said Monday.
Qari Yousef Ahmadi, who claims to speak for the Taliban, told The Associated Press that Omar and other top Taliban leaders offered condolences to Mullah Dadullah's family over the killing by the U.S.-led coalition — the first Taliban confirmation of Dadullah's killing.
Ahmadi read a statement attributed to Omar insisting that Dadullah's death "won't create problems for the Taliban's jihad" and that militants will continue attacks against "occupying countries."
Dadullah, a one-legged militant who orchestrated Taliban suicide attacks and beheadings, died of gunshot wounds after a U.S.-led operation over the weekend in the southern province of Helmand. Analysts called the killing the most significant Taliban loss since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion.
Ahmadi said Omar and his council of top Taliban leaders decided against naming an immediate replacement for Dadullah.
"Mullah Dadullah was the commander of all the fighting groups. Now all of the mujahedeen will carry on his same type of jihad. They will carry out attacks just as Mullah Dadullah did in his life," Ahmadi quoted Omar as saying.
Ahmadi spoke by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Dadullah was the second top-tier Taliban field commander to die in six months, after a U.S. airstrike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani in southern Afghanistan in December.
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Blast hits Western forces in Afghanistan, several hurt
Mon May 14, 2007 4:05am ET
HERAT, Afghanistan (Reuters) - A roadside bomb ripped through a vehicle in a convoy of Western troops as it passed over a bridge outside the Afghan city of Herat on Monday, wounding several soldiers, witnesses said.
The incident, part of rising violence in recent months following last year's bloodiest fighting since the Taliban were ousted in 2001, prompted the troops to briefly seal off the bridge.
One vehicle was badly damaged in the blast.
Both NATO and U.S.-led troops operate in Herat, regarded as one of a handful of safe areas in Afghanistan until recent weeks.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility, though the Taliban have been behind most of the attacks against Afghan and foreign forces.
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Nine police, 55 rebels said killed in Afghanistan
Sun May 13, 11:36 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - Nine policemen lost their lives in fresh attacks in Afghanistan Sunday as a provincial governor said around 55 Taliban fighters had been killed in two battles near the Pakistan border a day earlier.
Eight policemen were killed when a hail of bullets ripped into their vehicle in a Taliban ambush in the western province of Nimroz, which is on the border with Iran, provincial governor Ghulam Dastgir Azad told AFP.
Another policeman was killed in the eastern province of Nangarhar in a blast caused by a remote-controlled bomb, provincial police spokesman Abdul Gahfoor said.
The attack was in the Bati Kot area where US-led coalition troops were accused of firing on civilians after a suicide bombing. They have admitted 19 were killed.
The governor of the eastern province of Paktika announced that around 55 Taliban militants were killed in two separate battles with Afghan and international forces on Saturday.
Up to 40 died in Gayan district and 15 in Barmal, provincial governor Mohammad Akram Ikhpolwak said.
In Barmal, "a big number of the Taliban came from Pakistan with the aim of attacking. We retaliated and killed up to 15 of them. The rest crossed back to Pakistan," Ikhpolwak said.
"Foreign forces helped with air support," he added.
The toll was the highest in that area since NATO-led and Afghan forces in January bombed groups of militants spotted crossing from Pakistan, killing 150 of them.
Afghan and Western officials have heaped pressure on Pakistan to do more to stop militants from crossing into Afghanistan to take part in a growing insurgency aimed at toppling the government of President Hamid Karzai.
The rebel campaign was launched months after the Taliban regime was driven from power in a US-led operation after it refused to surrender Al-Qaeda allies blamed for the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.
Last year was the deadliest in Afghanistan since then. About 4,000 people, mostly rebels, were killed in 2006 in insurgency-linked violence, according to officials.
More than 1,500 have been killed this year, according to an AFP tally based on reports.
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AFGHANISTAN-IRAN: UN, Afghan gov’t call for humane deportations from Iran
ZARANJ, 14 May 2007 (IRIN) - The United Nations (UN) and the government of Afghanistan have called on Tehran to ensure that the thousands of Afghans who live and work illegally in Iran are deported in an orderly and humane manner.
Since 21 April about 85,000 Afghans have been deported to Afghanistan, Iran’s deputy interior minister, Mohammad-Baqer Zolqadr, told the Iranian IRNA news agency on Saturday.
A joint UN and Afghan government assessment team visited a deportation centre on Thursday in the southwestern province of Nimruz, bordering Iran, where hundreds of deportees were in urgent humanitarian need.
“We agree that Iran is within its rights to deport illegal migrants, but it should ensure the process is carried out in an orderly and humane manner,” said Fernando Arocena, Afghanistan country director of the International Migration Organisation (IOM) who headed the joint assessment team.
An Iranian diplomat in Kabul who spoke to IRIN on condition of anonymity rejected the criticisms: “Iran has not deported hundreds of thousands of illegal Afghan migrants all at once. The deportation process has been gradual”.
However, the UN says “never before have families been deported in such numbers”. Over 55,000 Afghans have been deported from Iran since late April, according to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Some 920,000 Afghans are registered as refugees in Iran, which, according to the UNHCR, means they can live and work in the host country for the foreseeable future.
Many deportees accused Iranian security forces of inhumane treatment, including beatings and torture in detention.
A young man hospitalised in the western province of Herat said Iranian police beat him with batons until his arm broke.
“During my 48-hour detention I was given no food and was repeatedly insulted and harassed,” said another young Afghan deportee.
Iranian diplomats in Kabul did not deny violence might have been perpetrated in a few cases. “We have asked Afghan officials to send us evidence which should prove allegations of violence against deportees. We will take appropriate measures,” said a diplomatic source.
So far the government of Afghanistan has not submitted a formal petition to their Iranian counterparts about maltreatment of Afghan deportees, according to the Embassy of Iran in Kabul.
However, 130 cases of physical violence by Iranian security forces against Afghan citizens have been documented by deportees in Nimruz province, provincial officials said.
Many deportees say they could not collect their belongings and finalise their financial affairs in Iran due to the abrupt nature of the deportation process. Consequently they could not afford transportation to their final destination in Afghanistan.
In Zaranj city, the provincial capital of Nimruz, an emergency transition centre has been set up where deportees – said to be arriving at the rate of 400-800 per day - can stay for up to 48 hours.
The Afghan Red Crescent Society has provided about 20 tents and the provincial health department has established a temporary health clinic.
Although the local community has so far provided free food for the deportees, a confidential UN report has warned: “the goodwill of the local community is waning”.
“Food assistance is needed immediately,” said the report.
Ghulam Dastgeer Azad, the governor of Nimruz, told IRIN the scale of humanitarian demands among deportees is beyond his administration’s capacity.
“If deportation continues and every day hundreds of people swarm into Nimruz, obviously neither local hospitality nor the provincial administration will be able to respond to the deportees’ needs,” Azad said.
Meanwhile the deportation of Afghans from Iran has become a sensitive political issue in Afghanistan. Last week MPs sacked two ministers for failing to tackle the issue adequately.
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Iran, Afghanistan stress expansion of bilateral ties
Kabul, May 14, IRNA
Iran and Afghanistan here Sunday discussed the latest developments in bilateral relations and ways for bolstering ties.
Visiting Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia-Pacific and Commonwealth Countries Mehdi Safari, who arrived in Kabul Sunday on a two-day visit, held talks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
During the meeting, the two sides stressed gradual and regular repatriation of Afghan refugees living in Iran who have no legal documents.
Safari said Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has agreed with gradual and regular return of Afghan refugees to their homeland.
During the meeting, it was also decided to dispatch an Afghan delegation to Tehran to discuss return of Afghan nationals living illegally in Iran.
Karzai once again invited President Ahmadinejad to visit Afghanistan.
Ahmadinejad is scheduled to pay a visit to Kabul at the head of a top-ranking delegation in mid June.
In related developments, Safari met with Afghan Parliament Speaker Mohammad Younis Qanooni on Sunday.
In the meeting, Safari and Qanooni called for consolidation of mutual relations and establishment of Iran-Afghanistan Parliamentary Friendship Group.
Qanooni is planned to visit Iran in the near future.
Iran and Afghanistan enjoy ethnic, religious, linguistic and cultural commonalties. The two states are pleased with the very good level of bilateral political ties.
The volume of exchanges between Iran and Afghanistan hit 500 million dollars in the past Iranian calendar year (ended March 20, 2007). The figure is expected to be doubled during the current year.
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A Mixed Report in Afghanistan
By Kevin Whitelaw US News & World Report - May 14 7:11 AM
From high over the remote border between Afghanistan and Pakistan, U.S. spy cameras spotted a group of Taliban commanders leading a column of scores of men into Afghanistan several months ago. To avoid detection, the men--clad in rags and wearing plastic bags on their feet instead of shoes--were walking in a double-file line that stretched for almost a mile. U.S. officials believe these peasants were recruits. "It was clear that this was the fodder for the suicide bombs," says one official.
This extremist pipeline is helping to fuel a broader resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan. The pace of suicide bombings hit a record in the fall of 2006, and insurgent violence in January more than doubled from the previous year. More than five years after U.S. forces ousted the Taliban, the militants are mounting another strong spring offensive. U.S. and coalition soldiers are also paying a higher price?51 were killed in the first four months of 2007, versus 36 in the same 2006 period.
Civilian toll. U.S. military operations continue to draw protests amid accusations of their causing civilian deaths. Afghan officials said U.S. airstrikes last week aimed at Taliban targets killed at least 21 civilians. U.S. officials acknowledged the incident, which came a day after the military paid compensation to the families of 19 people who were killed by indiscriminate U.S. gunfire after a suicide bombing in March.
The Taliban's gains threaten to undermine several encouraging glimmers of progress. Afghanistan's economy is averaging an annual growth rate of nearly 14 percent since 2002. And the U.S. troop presence remains improbably popular. More than 80 percent of Afghans want American soldiers to stay, according to recent State Department polls.
Since 2001, Washington has spent $15.5 billion on reconstruction and on training and equipping Afghan security forces. Now, the Bush administration is proposing a major boost in funding--to nearly $12 billion for the next 18 months.
This story appears in the May 21, 2007 print edition of U.S. News & World Report.
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First Day of Classes at New Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute Marks Important Economic Milestone
Contact: Beth Parker, +1-202-955-5578, email@example.com, for Knowlogy International
VIENNA, Va., May 14 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- The Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute (ATVI), built and administered by Knowlogy International, has opened its doors to 600 new students from Kabul and other urban and rural regions in Afghanistan. The Institute is the first post-war vocational school designed to educate both men and women in skills critical to the future of Afghanistan. The school expects to eventually graduate 5,000 students per year.
ATVI was developed in response to the Afghan Ministry of Education's desire to address Afghanistan's critical skill shortfall in construction, horticulture, automotive mechanics, and information technology. Presently, jobs in these areas are being filled by foreign labor, or simply not at all.
"The Institute will help graduates gain employment and salaries far above their current level, and place them in positions of responsibility so they can take a more active role in the rebuilding of Afghanistan," said Knowlogy Chairman A. Huda Farouki, "It is so encouraging to see young people coming out in droves to take advantage of this opportunity."
The brand new facility is the first of its kind in Afghanistan, with 17 classrooms, seven workshops, a large vehicle maintenance facility, and state- of-the-art computers.
The concept of ATVI was developed by A. Huda Farouki, Chairman of Knowlogy International, and Ishaq Shahryar, former Afghan Ambassador to the United States and now Chairman of ATVI. The Institute is led by its Director, former Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan and Afghan Minister of Education, Sardar Mohammed Roshan.
Knowlogy International (KI) is the leading provider of training and development programs and related services worldwide. Since its inception in 1995, KI has been creating and supplying training solutions to governments, businesses, organizations, and educational facilities on a global scale.
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Afghanistan's jailed women
By Zeina Khodr in Kabul Al Jazeera / May 14, 2007
When the Taliban were in power, Afghan women were denied many basic human rights. They were not allowed to work, needed a male escort if they wanted to leave the house and were forbidden from consulting a male doctor.
The recently adopted Afghan constitution says men and women have equal rights but, as Zeina Khodr reports, this is far from the case.
For the women in Kabul's Pol-i-Charki prison, their only crime is running away from an abusive husband, or committing adultery.
But in Afghanistan, it is enough to keep a woman behind bars.
Massouda Hashimin, a 30-year-old mother of seven, told Al Jazeera she ran away because she was desperate.
"My husband was not a good person. He brought women home and he drank alcohol," she said.
"He took me to the police and the police told me that the allegation against me was kidnapping the children and moral crimes."
"Moral crimes" means simply defying their family's wishes. Most of the women in the prison have been locked up, accused of adultery or of marrying a man of their own choosing.
It means their children are disgraced and some end up in prison with their mothers, because there is no one willing to look after them.
"These women are criminals according to the law, but not their children," said Colonel Shirshah, a prison guard.
"These children range from babies to 12-year olds. The prison environment is not good for them."
Still, some women see prison as a better alternative to their lives. They are protected from family members who would kill them for making their own choices.
At least in the prison, they are safe for now.
"What happens in prison [is that] she loses her credibility within her family and there is no one to support her," says Orzala Ashraf, founder of Hawca (Humanitarian Assistance for Women and Children).
"That woman is always at risk from her family - they are the ones who forced her from her home."
This is why Ashraf's organisation has set up a few safe houses to help these victims of domestic violence.
Lives of despair
But there is only so much she can do. There are not enough shelters and many women are left to fend for themselves.
There are some laws and practices that condemn Afghan girls to lives of despair. Many of Afghanistan's girls are likely to be forced into marriage at a very young age and most of the time to much older men.
Families chose this option for many reasons – to settle disputes, for example, or even to pay off debts.
That is the story of one 13-year old Afghan girl whose father handed her over to repay a gambling debt.
He owed $5,000 to a 50-year old Kabul man named Mohammed Assef. Mohammed says he is not sure if she is happy about the marriage, but that it is not up to her.
As for the young girl herself, she is too traumatised to speak, or even give her name.
One third of Afghan women get married before the age of 18. Of these, more than half involve girls below the legal age of 16. Around 60 to 80 per cent of them are forced.
The doors to better lives have still not swung open for many Afghan girls. They are still not free, and it may be a long way before they will be able to choose their own paths.
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Afghan envoy welcomes humanitarian aid
Online - International News Network, Pakistan
OTTAWA: Afghan Ambassador Omar Samad has welcomed more than $1.5 million medicines and supplies donated to his country by Health Partners International of Canada (HPIC).
The ambassador participated in a ceremony held in Mississauga, Ontario, where the medical supplies shipment to Afghanistan was announced .Samad thanked donors and financial supporters of the shipment.
According to a press release issued from the embassy, Samad said: Your generosity will touch the lives of thousands of Afghans who are, in most cases, deprived of quality medical supplies including medicines.
He lauded 13 Canadian health-care companies and the Bridgeway Foundation for donating the medicines and providing financial support to deliver the shipment to CURE International Hospital in Kabul.
The shipment includes anti-infectives, vitamins, diabetes treatment and anti-virals. At a press conference, HPIC President John Kelsall highlighted the significance of the program for Afghans.
Mrs. Carol Peterson, representing the Bridgeway Foundation, explained the humanitarian motivation for participation in the Afghan medical project.
The Embassy has been working with HPIC, a non-governmental organization, since 2004 to provide health-care assistance to Afghanistan. In 2004, HPIC shipped more than $2 million worth of medicines to the country.
In February, HPIC announced a multi-million dollar diversified programme to help the public health sector in Afghanistan.
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ISPR rejects Afghan officials allegation
RAWALPINDI, May 14 (APP): A spokesman of ISPR on Monday outrightly rejected the allegation of the Afghan officials that two US soldiers were killed and few other were injured due to firing by a Pakistani officer.Giving details of the incident, the spokesman said that a Flag meeting was arranged in Teri Mengal in Kurram Agency as a follow up of the exchange of fire, between Pakistani and Afghan security forces, which had taken place early Sunday.
The officials from Pakistani Security Forces, Afghan National Army and ISAF departed after the meeting at about 1500 hours, in the vehicles.
While they were moving to their area they were fired upon by some miscreants from an unknown direction.
Three to four US soldiers and four Frontier Corps soldiers were wounded. Later a US soldier and a Frontier Corp Jawan succumbed to injures.
Security Forces have cordoned the areas and inquiry has been ordered to ascertain the facts.
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Contracts for $5m development projects signed
KABUL, May 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The Ministry of Counter-Narcotics (MCN) will soon launch seven key development projects, costing around $5 million, in different provinces.
MCN Minister Engineer Habibullah Qaderi, after inking contracts for the uplift schemes with relevant ministries here on Saturday, said the funding would be made through the Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund (CNTF) and Good Performance Initiative.
He added the projects were essentially aimed at boosting the rural development effort, improving capacity-building of government organisations and reducing widespread dependence on illicit poppy cultivation in Afghanistan.
The Qala-i-Gaz Canal in Nahresaraj district would be reconstructed in six months to ensure irrigation water supply to more than 32,000 acres of land in the southern Helmand province. The project will be implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development (MRRD).
A 200-metre suspension bridge would be built in Qaghi village of Darqad district in the northern Takhar province, the minister said, adding the project would provide a permanent road link to around 36,000 residents. Darqad is an isolated island surrounded by Amu River.
A countrywide mosque-based drug abuse prevention programme will be implemented by the Ministry of Haj and Auqaf to raise awareness among members of the general public, particularly drug addicts and their families.
In the initial phase, the anti-drugs plan will involve as many as 121 main mosques across the country - 71 in provincial capitals and 50 in districts.
For capacity-building of government institutions, Qaderi said, the MCN would execute a project with an 18-month timeline to equip ministries and agencies with the capacity to identify, design and deliver effective programmes in support of the National Drug Control Strategy (NDCS).
In the health sector, a scheme will commence to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, hepatitis-B and C in Balkh and Herat provinces. Public Health Minister Dr. Syed Muhammad Amin Fatemi said there were 71 known HIV-positive cases but the total number of Afghans infected with the deadly disease could be 2500.
Two other projects will help Paktia and Maidan-Wardak provinces achieve sustained progress towards poppy elimination. Similarly, nine greenhouses will be established in all 9 districts of Maidan Wardak.
In Paktia, a three-storey university building with 30 rooms, a corridor and a septic tank would be constructed. When completed, the university will serve around 2,000 students and 400 staff members.
The Counter-Narcotics Trust Fund (CNTF) was established in 2005 by the Afghan government and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fight poppy cultivation and drugs trade. Of the $65 million grant pledged to CNTF by various countries, only $33 million has been received so far.
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Move to make Ankara Declaration part of UN document
NEW YORK, May 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Turkey has requested the United Nations to make the 'historic' Ankara Declaration part of the UN document, sources told Pajhwok Afghan News.
The declaration was issued after meeting between President Hamid Karzai and his Pakistani counterpart Pervez Musharraf in the Turkish capital on April 30.
The meeting was held at the initiative of Turkish leadership to put an end to the diplomatic deadlock and blame-game between the two neighbours and close allies of the United States in its global war against terror.
Turkey's permanent mission at the UN, the sources said, had informed the world body that the joint statement issued by presidents Karzai and Prevez Musharraf would help in bringing peace and stability to the region and in resolving disputes between the two countries.
According to the Ankara Declaration, Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to jointly fight the menace of terrorism and drug commerce in the larger interest of peace and stability in the region.
The request for making the Ankara Declaration part of the UN document was made early this week, said diplomatic sources at the UN.
Though, the UN has not taken any decision so far, officials of the Turkish embassy are hopeful their request would be accepted.
"This is not only significant, but also historic in the sense that this declaration would bring an end to the conflict between the two leaders and result in establishing long term peace in South Asia," said the officials.
Sources said Afghanistan had already given its consent to the request made by the Turkish permanent mission at the UN.
Lalit K. Jha
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Festival showcasing food, handicrafts underway in Kabul
KABUL, May 12 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A weeklong festival showcasing food and handicrafts from the eastern provinces of Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar and Nuristan is underway at the high-end Le Bistro Restaurant in this capital city.
Cabinet ministers, MPs, ambassadors and representatives from several donor agencies were present at the opening ceremony for the festival, arrange by USAIDs Alternative Livelihoods Programme.
For six days until May 16, fruit and vegetable traders from the eastern region will supply fresh produce to the restaurant, where women entrepreneurs are exhibiting their handicrafts.
With support from USAIDs ALP/E, entrepreneurs have been supplying fruits and vegetables, under the brand Pride of the Eastern Region, to restaurants and supermarkets in Kabul, said a statement from USAID.
It added the eastern region entrepreneurs had already successfully shipped fresh produce to airport catering businesses and supermarkets in Dubai.
ALP/E is a four-year USAID initiative aiming to accelerate broad-based, sustainable economic development in eastern Afghanistan and reduce poppy cultivation by providing legal sources of revenue to those currently dependent on the opium industry.
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