Mon Oct 29, 8:14 AM ET
KABUL (AFP) - The United Nations on Monday urged Afghanistan's warring factions to give safe passage to food aid convoys before the harsh winter cuts off people in remote parts of the country.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said more than 100 aid workers were either killed or abducted this year, with 55 humanitarian convoys looted.
Afghanistan is wracked not only by a spiralling insurgency led by the Islamist Taliban militia but also growing lawlessness blamed on drug gangs, criminal organisations and powerful local warlords.
"Those responsible for these attacks are pushing the most vulnerable people outside of our reach," Tom Koenigs, the UN's special representative for Afghanistan, told reporters.
"We need all parties to recognise that the humanitarian needs of the Afghan people must come first, above fighting and above politics," he said.
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) estimates that more than four million Afghans need food assistance each year.
Southern, eastern and parts of western Afghanistan have been hard hit by a wave of Taliban violence. The militants target foreign and Afghan forces as well as UN, government and non-governmental organisations.
"Security now prevents us from travelling in the southern ring road. It is vital that our staff be allowed safe passage," said Koenigs.
WFP representative Rick Corsino said the organisation had not been able to move food to southern Kandahar and Helmand provinces for six weeks, despite the fact that they have more food stocked this year compared to last year.
Last year five incidents involving WFP trucks were recorded, but so far this year there have been 30 incidents against WFP vehicles, Corsino said. In most cases the food was looted.
"Afghanistan is one of the fifth poorest countries in the world and food shortage in the winter could produce a human catastrophe. The situation is dramatic," said Koenigs.
"The next six weeks will be crucial for our humanitarian efforts. Work is under way -- but the security situation continues to complicate our efforts," he added.
Back to Top
Back to Top
UN warns of humanitarian crisis in inaccessible areas
KABUL, 29 October 2007 (IRIN) - The Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General in Afghanistan, Tom Koenigs, and the head of World Food Programme (WFP) mission have warned of humanitarian crises in some parts of the country if food is not delivered before winter.
"Food shortages and the winter could produce a human catastrophe" in food-insecure parts of Afghanistan, if food is not delivered promptly, Koenigs told reporters in the capital, Kabul, on 29 October 2007.
"We want and need a humanitarian space to reach communities," Koenigs said.
Badghis, Daikundi and Ghor provinces most urgently need food aid before the first snowfall, said the head of WFP in Afghanistan, Rick Corsino.
Aid agencies have recommended 14,000 metric tonnes (MT) of mixed food be delivered to Ghor before late November.
Potential displacement may occur in Ghor and other food-insecure provinces should food assistance fail to reach needy people before December, aid agencies warn.
"Time is running out"
About 400,000 vulnerable people are in urgent need of food assistance before winter starts and snow blocks routes in the mountainous regions of central-west, central and northeastern Afghanistan, WFP officials said.
"Time is running out and we need to move the food quickly," said Corsino.
However, WFP faces serious problems in moving food convoys in the restive parts of the country, particularly through an important ring road that connects southern and western Afghanistan.
In 2006, five attacks on trucks carrying WFP's food aid were reported, while 30 attacks have been reported this year, according to Corsino.
At least 40 aid workers have been killed this year (34 national, seven international); 76 humanitarian workers abducted (44 national, 25 international); 55 humanitarian aid convoys and 45 humanitarian facilities attacked, ambushed or looted by gunmen, Koenigs said.
The UN's top official in Afghanistan called on all warring parties in the country, including Taliban insurgents, to "stop attacking humanitarian workers" and "ensure a safe passage for humanitarian convoys" in volatile and inaccessible areas.
"This is not a political question. This is a question of moral obligation," Koenigs said.
Because of repeated attacks, 1,000MT of food aid has been wasted, while transportation prices have also risen by up to 50 percent, affecting annual budget expenditures.
But WFP says in terms of resources it is better prepared than in 2006 and has adequate food supplies. The biggest obstacle, however, is "how to deliver" and reach food-insecure people in areas with accessibility problems, Corsino added.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Bomber Kills Policeman, 2 Civilians In Afghanistan
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
October 29, 2007 -- A suicide bomber has killed a policeman and two civilians in an attack on an Afghan police convoy in southern Afghanistan. Reuters says three policemen and two civilians were also wounded in the attack at Lashkar Gah bazaar, in the southern Helmand province. Lashkar Gah is home to the headquarters of the British-led battle group in Helmand which has been involved in some of the heaviest fighting in Afghanistan in the last 18 months.
Back to Top
Back to Top
More than 30 Taliban killed in Afghanistan
Mon Oct 29, 7:35 AM ET
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AFP) - Afghan and NATO troops killed more than 30 Taliban fighters during a battle lasting several hours in southern Afghanistan, police and the defence ministry said Monday.
The fighting erupted in Uruzgan province on Sunday after the joint forces launched an operation based on a tip-off about a hideout occupied by the Taliban, who are waging a fierce insurgency.
"Thirty Taliban were killed in the battle which lasted up to midnight. Two Afghan police and a soldier were also wounded," provincial police chief Juma Gul Himat told AFP.
"NATO forces called in air support to destroy the Taliban positions. There are Taliban bodies under dust and rubble in the area," he said.
Defence ministry spokesman General Zahir Azimi said more than 30 Taliban were killed, while another 25 were wounded and 13 others arrested in the operation near Tirin Kot, the provincial capital.
A statement from the ministry said that the bodies of the dead militants were left on the battlefield. It gave a figure of 50 "terrorists" killed or wounded.
International military forces helped to remove the extremist Taliban from government in late 2001 and are now fighting the insurgency led by the hardline group and joined by other radical factions.
Another 80 Taliban were killed on Saturday in southern Helmand province when they tried to ambush a patrol of Afghan and foreign soldiers, the US-led coalition said.
The coalition earlier said it had killed "several" militants and arrested five in an operation launched to disrupt Al-Qaeda and foreign fighters in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday.
Back to Top
Back to Top
US intensifies fight near Taliban-held town; talks under way to oust Arab fighters
By JASON STRAZIUSO Associated Press Monday, October 29, 2007
KABUL, Afghanistan - Days after Taliban fighters overran Musa Qala in February a U.S. commander pledged that Western troops would take it back. Nine months later, the town is still Taliban territory, a symbol of the West's struggles to control the poppy-growing south.
But a string of recent battles, won overwhelmingly by American Special Forces, signal a renewed U.S. interest in the symbolic Taliban stronghold, and an Afghan army commander on Sunday said talks are being held with Musa Qala's tribal leaders to help win back the town from the Arab, Chechen and Uzbek fighters who roam its streets.
U.S. Special Forces soldiers accompanied by Afghan troops killed about 80 Taliban fighters during a six-hour battle outside Musa Qala on Saturday, the latest in a series of increasingly bloody engagements in the region. Special Forces troops have killed more than 250 militants around Musa Qala over the last 60 days, according to coalition statements.
"Musa Qala is part of the overall concept here, denying the Taliban the ability to control northern Helmand," said Maj. Chris Belcher, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition. "Our goal is to stop them from accomplishing that."
"We're in Musa Qala and we're going to stay there. We're going to continue to do patrols and when we find Taliban, we'll continue to engage them," he said.
It was only days after the Taliban overran Musa Qala last Feb. 1 that a U.S. military spokesman, Col. Tom Collins, said NATO and Afghan forces would take back the town "at a time and place that is most advantageous."
That time could finally be coming. Saturday's fight in Helmand province _ the world's largest poppy growing region _ is at least the fifth major battle in the area since Sept. 1.
And the top Afghan army commander in Helmand, Brig. Gen. Ghulam Muhiddin Ghori, revealed for the first time on Sunday that negotiations are being held with the town's tribal leaders.
"Afghan and coalition forces have surrounded the Musa Qala district center. We have started negotiations with tribal leaders there to take over Musa Qala from the Taliban," Ghori told The Associated Press. "The tribal leaders are also worried about these Taliban because the foreign fighters _ Arabs, Chechens, Baluchs and Uzbeks _ they are in Musa Qala."
The foreign fighters are running training camps near Musa Qala to teach militants how to carry out suicide and roadside bomb attacks, Ghori said. But he said no big military operations are being carried out to overtake the town itself because of a fear that many civilians would be killed.
"That's why we're working through negotiations with tribal leaders," he said.
Taliban militants overran Musa Qala in February, four months after British troops left the town following a contentious peace agreement that handed over security responsibilities to Afghan elders. The deal has been implicitly criticized as a failure by some U.S. commanders in Afghanistan.
The vast majority of Western forces in Helmand are British, though U.S. Special Forces troops are also active in the province. A British military spokesman couldn't be reached for comment Sunday.
Situated in northern Helmand, Musa Qala and the region around it have been the front line of the bloodiest fighting this year. It is also the heartland of Afghanistan's illicit opium poppy farms.
Violence in Afghanistan this year has been the deadliest since the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. More than 5,200 people have died this year due to the insurgency, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Afghan and Western officials.
The latest Musa Qala battle began Saturday when Taliban insurgents attacked a combined U.S. coalition and Afghan patrol with rockets and gunfire, prompting the combined force to call in attack aircraft, resulting in "almost seven dozen Taliban fighters killed," the U.S.-led coalition said.
The coalition said four bombs were dropped on a trench line filled with fighters, resulting in most of the deaths. It said there were no immediate reports of civilian casualties.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, Maj. Gen. David Rodriguez, declined to talk about Musa Qala at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday. Speaking on a separate topic, he said it could take between 18 months and two years for Afghan forces to be able to conduct major operations on their own.
Rodriguez said Afghan forces excel at small unit tactics and coordinating with the Afghan people but still need to improve their command structure, the use of air power, their logistics support and medical capabilities. He declined to talk about the fighting in Musa Qala.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force, meanwhile, said an investigation into allegations of civilian casualties following an attack in Wardak province on Oct. 22 found that no civilians had been killed. A provincial council member at the time said 12 civilians had been killed, but ISAF said the investigation found that the allegations were "without merit."
Associated Press reporter Noor Khan in Kandahar contributed to this report.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Abdul Bari, Afghanistan: “I go to school risking my life and my parents’ lives”
October 28, 2007 (IRIN) - LASHKARGAH, Abdul Bari, 13, and his two brothers have had to leave their home in Nad Ali District and rent a room in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan, in order to go to school. Taliban insurgents have attacked and closed down over 100 schools in different parts of Helmand Province, including one in Abdul Bari’s village that he used to go to. Abdul Bari told IRIN about the problems he faces in his quest for education.
“My father is a doctor and wants us to be educated and become doctors and engineers. After the Taliban burnt a school in our village and told villagers to send their children to Madrasas in Pakistan for their education, my father sent us to Lashkargah to continue our studies.
“We have rented a room in a market [in Lashkargah]. It’s so noisy here that I can’t concentrate on my studies. I’m also scared because I see people from my village that come here to buy things and I’m afraid that when they see us going to school they will tell other villagers and that will endanger our parents.
“My family can’t move to Lashkargah and live with us because our home, our land and our cows are in our village and they can’t abandon everything.
“I miss my parents. I haven’t seen them for over three months now. We wanted to go to our village for the recent Eid holiday but we changed our plans after a dreadful incident occurred.
“One of our classmates, who was coming from Musa Qala District, was identified by the Taliban on his way to Lashkargah by bus. The Taliban cut his neck and wanted to kill him but passengers on the bus begged them not to and so saved his life. He’s now in a hospital in Lashkargah. When I visited him there he cried and said he missed his classmates and school. But he said he couldn’t come back to school because the Taliban made him swear that he wouldn’t go to school again.
“The Taliban have also told people in rural areas not to send their children to schools in Lashkargah or they will kill them. The Taliban say schools drive Muslims to profanity and Christianity. I know this is untrue... but people are frightened by their threats. Some people have stopped their children from going to school.
“My father says we should continue our education even if the Taliban kill him. My father says gaining knowledge is good and will secure our future. He says it’s better to die while gaining knowledge than die illiterate.
“I want the Americans and other foreigners to defeat the Taliban and restore peace and security in our village and in all our country so that we can go to school freely and without fear.“
Back to Top
Back to Top
'Truce' halts Pakistan fighting
By Barbara Plett BBC News, Islamabad Monday, 29 October 2007
Pakistani security forces and militants in the north-western Swat Valley have begun observing an unofficial ceasefire after three days of fierce fighting.
The battles broke out after militants ambushed extra troops sent in to curb a radical cleric and his armed followers.
There are conflicting accounts of casualties from the weekend's fighting.
The army has not confirmed reports that around 20 soldiers were killed. It says up to 60 militants died - but the Taleban denies this claim.
Residents of the scenic Swat Valley say militants announced over the radio that a ceasefire had been reached to allow both sides to collect and bury the dead.
Local officials confirmed there was a mutual understanding to hold fire unless attacked.
The fighting started after extra troops were sent to the region last week to curb a pro-Taleban cleric who had set up his own system of Islamic law.
Tensions escalated when militants bombed a security convoy and later beheaded around a dozen hostages.
The fierce fighting has brought this tourist destination to a standstill.
Government offices, schools and markets are closed. Hundreds of people have fled.
The strength of militant Islamists in the Swat Valley suggests that the influence of pro-Taleban forces is spreading outwards from the tribal areas along the Afghan border.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Japan halts Afghan refueling mission
Associated Press / October 29, 2007
TOKYO: Japan has refueled its last warship in support of coalition forces in Afghanistan before the mission expires later this week, a defense official said, in effect ending Tokyo's support of U.S.-led operations there.
Japanese tankers refueled a coalition warship in the Indian Ocean on Monday and has no further plans to refuel ships before a contentious law authorizing the mission expires Thursday, according to a Defense Ministry official who spoke on condition of anonymity, citing protocol.
The official refused to give further details. Kyodo News agency said the last ship refueled by the Japanese was a Pakistani navy destroyer.
Japan, America's top ally in Asia, has refueled coalition warships in support of U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan since 2001, and U.S. officials have clamored for an extension of the mission. Tokyo also sent humanitarian ground troops to Iraq in 2004-2006.
But Japan's pro-U.S. ruling coalition has struggled to renew the deployment in the face of a resurgent opposition, which demands that Japan withdraw, and has slowed parliamentary debate on the matter.
An influence-peddling scandal involving former Vice Defense Minister Takemasa Moriya, who acknowledged in parliament Monday that he was treated to golf and other outings by a defense equipment trading company, has also complicated government efforts.
The ensuing delay has made an approval unlikely before the mission expires on Nov. 1 — making a gap in Japan's activities inevitable.
In arguing for an extension, Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda has argued that pulling out would leave Japan — which depends on the Middle East for almost all of its oil imports — sidelined in the fight against global terrorism.
The government has also introduced a new law to parliament earlier this month that would more strictly limit Japan's mission. The new bill would allow Japanese ships to refuel and supply water to ships on anti-terrorism patrols, but not to vessels involved in military or rescue operations.
The country's main opposition, Democratic Party of Japan, says Japan should not be helping U.S. operations in Afghanistan because they were not properly approved by the United Nations.
The Democrats say the mission violates Japan's war-renouncing constitution and have alleged the oil supplied by Japanese ships was diverted to the U.S. war on Iraq.
The Defense Ministry refused to confirm local media reports that Japan's defense chief, Shigeru Ishiba, will soon order the withdrawal of Japan's contingent, saying the ministry still hoped the government would secure a last-minute passage of the law.
Media reports say Tokyo's fleet could return to Japan in mid-November.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Kite Runner Kids Moving To Dubai
Fox News Sunday, October 28, 2007 By Roger Friedman
The three boys who star in The Kite Runner, a new film with Oscar potential, will be moved from their homes in Afghanistan to new ones in Dubai thanks to Paramount Vantage, the studio releasing the movie.
The boys, two aged 11 and one 12, plus their parents, are going to be relocated in early December, right after their school sessions let out and before the film opens in the US on December 14th. Once they’ve been moved to Dubai, Paramount Vantage hopes to bring them to the US to do publicity for "The Kite Runner."
'The Kite Runner,' directed by Marc Forster and based on the bestselling novel by Khaled Hosseini, has caused a lot of concern in Afghanistan because it concerns the forced rape of one of the boys and how it changes their lives. Hut I saw the film last night (Saturday) at a special screening and call tell you the scene is handled with great restraint and conveyed without any graphic revelations. Yet, in Afghanistan, and most of the Arab world, such a story could cause problems for the families involved.
Once the moves are made, 'The Kite Runner' will open here on December 14th and be considered a contender for Oscar and other award nominations. 'There’s no question that it will be a hard sell with or without the publicity surrounding the boys. The Kite Runner' is told mainly in Pashtun and Dari, Afghan dialects, with English subtitles. There are no movie stars on the screen, not even a cameo by anyone recognizable. The actors are all Afghan, Iranian or some mixture thereof. Almost no English is spoken in the two-hour film and there are no Western actors. But all of the actors give outstanding performances, including Homayon Ershadi, as the young Amir’s father in the 1978 section. He is a possible Best Supporting Actor nominee. The other principals—Khalid Abdalla as the adult Amir, Atossa Leoni as Soraya, his wife, and Shaun Toub—are all excellent, just unknown.
The Kite Runner, if you don’t know, is pure fiction, based on nothing but the novelist’s imagination. It takes place in two times—1978, before Afghanistan is overrun by the Russians—and 2000, when the Amir, the main character, must face the childhood he left behind. The book has something of a soap opera-ish twist that feels unnecessary in the film. But Forster and screenwriter David Benioff have stayed true to the material, for better or worse. Mostly it’s for the former.
Forster deserves kudos simply for making a film in two complex dialects of a foreign and—to Americans—obscure language. The overall effort of making The Kite Runner seems impossible while you’re watching it. Somehow, Forster and his team make life in 1978 Afghanistan seem frighteningly real and true. None of it feels forced either, another remarkable achievement for the director of Finding Neverland, Monsters Ball, and Stranger than Fiction.
The title of the film, by the way, comes from the novelist’s metaphor used through the book and depicted by Forster in the film with great beauty. The children’s favorite hobby in 1978 is flying beautiful kites high in the air competitively. It’s a recurring theme that could have been heavy handed, but Forster—who made the children in “Finding Neverland” so appealing—keeps aloft with a subtle touch.
How exactly 'The Kite Runner' will stack up when it comes to Academy Awards and such is still very much of a question mark, and similar to the situation that attached itself to Memoirs of a Geisha a few years ago. 'Kite Runner' is not a foreign film even though it’s in a foreign language. This year we have a couple of movies like that, with Julian Schnabel’s mesmerizing Diving Bell and the Butterfly foremost in that category. Mira Nair’s “The Namesake” is in English but large chunks of it take place in India.
“The Namesake” and “The Kite Runner” are similar in other ways too. And if it comes down to some kind of choice, I think “The Namesake” is the more likely choice for a Best Picture nomination. Other Best Picture titles in the mix right now, realistically, are Tamara Jenkins’ “The Savages”; Sidney Lumet’s “Before the Devil Knows You’re Dead”; “Michael Clayton” directed by Michael Clayton; Sean Penn’s “Into the Wild”; Joel and Ethan Coen’s “No Country for Old Men”; Schnabel’s “Diving Bell” and Shekar Kapur’s “Elizabeth The Golden Age.”
Still unseen: “Charlie Wilson’s War,” “Sweeney Todd,” “There Will Be Blood,” and “The Great Debaters.”
Back to Top
Back to Top
ISAF concludes investigation into civilian casualties
Source: North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) October 28, 2007
ISAF has concluded a thorough investigation into allegations of civilian casualties during an operation in Wardak Province on Oct. 22, and has found the allegations to be completely without merit.
“We take all allegations of injuries to Afghan civilians very seriously and have a dedicated team to ensure that a timely and thorough investigation is conducted in such cases, even if the allegations may be due to insurgent propaganda”, said Maj. Charles Anthony, ISAF Deputy Spokesman.
On the morning of Oct. 22, ISAF positively identified a large group of anti-government militants in Jalrez District setting an ambush intended for ISAF soldiers. ISAF forces called in airstrikes on the militant positions. Based on the stories of local villagers, a district official contacted several news media organizations the following day and stated that more than 11 civilians had been killed. The investigation found that there was no credible information to support such claims and this was confirmed by Wardak Provincial Governor Naimi.
This is the second unsubstantiated claim concerning civilian casualties to surface from Wardak Province this month. On Oct. 15, a police official was quoted by several media organizations as saying that three to seven civilians had been killed in an airstrike. The officer later denied ever making such statements.
ISAF Public Information Office
Tel: +93 (0)79 51 1155 - Mobile: 0093 (0) 799 55 8291
email@example.com - www.nato.int/isaf/
Back to Top
Back to Top
Bamiyan's Buddhas revisited
By Roger Cohen, The International Herald Tribune Sunday, October 28, 2007
BAMIYAN, Afghanistan: People still speak of the Buddhas as if they were there. The Buddhas are visited and debated. A "Buddha road" just opened. It boasts the first paved surface in Afghanistan's majestic central highlands and stretches all of a half-mile.
But the 1,500-year-old Buddhas of Bamiyan are gone, of course, replaced by two gashes in the reddish-brown cliff. They were destroyed in March 2001, by the Taliban in their quest to rid the country of the "gods of the infidels." The fanatical soldiers of Islam blasted the ancient treasures to fragments.
"It is easier to destroy than to build," Mawlawi Qudratullah Jamal, then the Taliban information minister, noted on March 3, 2001. True enough, but few in the United States or elsewhere listened.
Memory, however, is another matter. It is stubborn and volatile and hard to eradicate. The keyhole-like niches in the rock face are charged. Absence is presence. The visitor is drawn into the void as if summoned, not by vacancy, but by the towering Buddhas themselves.
Yet they are in pieces. Nasir Mudabir, 29, a director of the site, ushered me into a makeshift shelter where boxes filed with sandstone and plaster fragments from the two Buddhas are kept. Metal remnants of the bombs that destroyed them are preserved separately: They are jagged where the stones are smooth to the touch.
Why keep evidence of the barbarians' arsenal? "It's part of the story," Mudabir said. "It's history, bad or good. Instead of going forward, we went backward."
Bamiyan, an island of peace in an uneasy land, lies half-forgotten in its sacred valley. Oxen plow potato fields. Pale poplars trace golden lines. A war-blasted bazaar lies in dusty ruin. Mud-colored mountains, their geometric folds and pleats as intricate as robes by Vermeer, rise to snowy peaks.
Hazara refugees, who have returned from Iran after Afghanistan's decades of conflict, eke out an existence in Taliban-despoiled caves once covered with bright murals.
That this is a holy place, sought out by Buddhist pilgrims over the centuries, is written in light, form and stone.
The smaller, eastern Buddha, known locally as "Shamama," stood 125 feet tall and has now been dated to the year 507. The larger, called "Salsal," rose to 180 feet. It was constructed in 554. One theory holds the builders were dissatisfied with the first and erected its neighbor in the pursuit of perfection.
I climbed the steep staircase in the rocks beside Shamama's absence, reaching a rickety platform at the level of the vanished Buddha's head. "The head was comfortable," said Mohammed Qassim, my guide. "Ten people could sit and sip tea."
They could. I sat on the Buddha's head myself in 1973, gazing in wonder. The Afghan king, Mohammad Zahir Shah, had just been ousted after a 40-year reign. The coup would soon usher in the turmoil that has taken Afghanistan backward.
We knew nothing of that. We were travelers without a map. The "hippie trail" had taken us, at the wheel of a Volkswagen kombi called "Pigpen" (named for the Grateful Dead drummer who died that year), from London across Iran to this noble, generous country.
Looking again, after 34 years, at this beautiful place, first from the top of the smaller niche and then from the larger, ("Twenty people could sit on this head," said Qassim), I wondered: Was it my own innocence that was gone or the world's?
Nobody could make that journey now. Nobody could even drive from Kabul to Kandahar in safety. The unknown shrinks. Fear spreads. Experience gets diluted.
The Cold War ended, only to be replaced by the explosive conflict of secular and theocratic worlds. What began here in March, 2001, has spread. The Taliban are back, sort of, seeping across the Pakistani border in a campaign fed by an Internet-borne jihadist message. The Web is a force multiplier for any guerrilla movement.
This was the Afghan burning of the books. The Nazis burned Brecht. The Taliban, then sheltering Osama bin Laden, bombarded the "un-Islamic" Buddhas. The burning presaged war. The destruction presaged 9/11: two Buddhas, two towers.
Heinrich Heine noted that "When they burn books, they will, in the end, burn human beings." When Buddhas buckle, people will be crushed.
There is talk of reassembling the Buddhas, or of using solar power to beam laser holograms of their forms onto the cliff. I say, reassemble one, for hope, but not both. Absence speaks, shames, reminds.
Peace and love was our mantra back in 1973. So what I take from Bamiyan revisited are children in the early morning, the girls in white hijabs, walking toward a newly-built primary school, dust dancing behind them. I fear for their world, and ours, but fear is not the answer.
Back to Top
Back to Top
India eyes Turkmen gas link, Qatari deals
Mon Oct 29, 2007 7:50pm IST By Simon Webb
DOHA (Reuters) - India is keen to receive gas from Turkmenistan via a planned pipeline and is also considering investments in gas and oil producer Qatar to meet rapidly rising domestic demand, India's oil minister said on Monday.
Murli Deora said he was is interested in joining Turkmenistan, Afghanistan and Pakistan in building the link and said the Indian cabinet had already passed a resolution on this.
"India is very interested in becoming formal partner. I am not sure if now is the right time because of the elections (in Pakistan)."
An Indian oil ministry official told Reuters in Delhi energy ministers of the four countries are expected to hold talks on the pipeline in the Pakistani capital Islamabad on Nov. 28 and 29.
"India, which been enjoying observer status, is expected to be inducted as a member country in the project after a formal approval by the remaining three nations," said the official who did not want to be named.
India was hoping to get 40 million standard cubic metres through this trans-national pipeline but the final offtake depends on certification of reserves in the fields, he said.
The idea of building a pipeline through Afghanistan has been floating for more than a decade, but conflict has hampered efforts to get it off the ground.
The project aims to export gas to Pakistan and India, both also talking to Iran on the possibility of a similar deal. Deora said this project will not affect a possible Iran link.
"Joining this project will have no effect on India's plan to participate in Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline project," he said.
India and Iran are also expected to start building a 300,000 barrels per day refinery in southern Iran early next year.
Doera, who was speaking at an energy conference in the Qatari capital, also said both Indian state-run and private firms were interested in taking equity stakes in Qatar energy projects.
"We are looking at building plants in Qatar, and in other heavy industries," he said.
India already has agreements of 7.5 million tonnes of liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar for 2009. It currently imports 5 million tonnes.
"That makes India one of Qatar's largest customers, the (Qatari) oil minister said he would like India to become the number one buyer of Qatari gas," said Doera.
Indian firms have signed contracts with Qatar to import liquefied natural gas (LNG) from Qatar's Rasgas and to construct a pipeline worth $99 million.
(Additional reporting by Nidhi Verma in India)
Back to Top
Back to Top
Bhutto wants ISI restructured to curb extremism
PESHAWAR, Oct 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has underlined the need for restructuring of Pakistan's premier intelligence agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) to curb extremism and militancy.
The reconciliation process was being damaged by some elements within the powerful outfit, Benazir Bhutto told newsmen at her Bilawal House residence in the port city of Karachi on Friday. She urged the government to effectively discharge its responsibility of preventing such intelligence operatives from illegal acts.
In the same breath, however, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chairperson explained the ISI had many good, dutiful and responsible officers and she did not criticise it as an institution. She alleged some elements in the agency were hatching conspiracies against civilian rulers to strengthen the hands of extremists.
Separately, Bhutto told a private TV channel the democratic process in Pakistan could be hindered if extremism was not contained. She insisted dictatorship was the main factor behind the sharp rise in militancy, which could be discouraged by political unity.
Every second day a blast claims the lives of innocent people. So we have to fight against these elements to save the country from falling into the hands of extremists, argued the ex-prime minister, who said she did not want to risk the lives of people traveling with her.
If she skipped campaigning, Bhutto pointed out, militants and their supporters would succeed in impeding Pakistan's return democratic rule. She maintained security in northern Pakistan had collapsed because terrorists, once restricted to the semiautonomous tribal zone, had been able to expand their activities to settled areas. Back to Top
Back to Top
Kabul Airport Customs get latest X-ray machine
KABUL, Oct, 27 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Germany has donated sophisticated X-ray equipment for use of customs staff at the Kabul International Airport.
The machine worth 100,000 euros was handed over to Afghan officials by representative of Germany's Federal Customs Authority Wolfgang Maierhofer during a ceremony here on Saturday.
The donation package includes a branded X-ray machine 'Rapiscan 528 HR' as well as special equipment for effective car searching. An expert introduction and maintenance are also cared for by the German partner.
The equipment will help in detecting drugs, weapons, explosives and other illegal goods, said Wolfgang Maierhofer. He added the contribution was part of the efforts of the German government to assist the rehabilitation and modernisation of infrastructure in Afghanistan.
Speaking on the occasion, head of the Kabul Airport Customs Authority Farid Nazari said the equipment in use was not working properly. Installation of the latest machinery would help improve performance of the customs officials at the airport, he hoped.
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).