By AMIR SHAH, Associated Press Writer Thu Sep 13, 10:28 AM ET
KABUL, Afghanistan - Fighting in Afghanistan killed some 75 people as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began, including 45 suspected Taliban militants who died in airstrikes and Afghan army gunfire, officials said Thursday.
In the southern province of Uruzgan, insurgents attacked a joint Afghan army and U.S.-led coalition patrol Wednesday with rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire, the coalition said in a statement.
Afghan soldiers "cleared" Taliban fighters from firing positions within the village of Aduzay, while attack aircraft destroyed some fighting positions, it said. The coalition said more than 45 Taliban were killed.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force said Wednesday that insurgents increased attacks during Ramadan last year and that the same may happen this year.
"On the eve of the holy month of Ramadan, the enemies of Afghanistan have shown they will shun peaceful coexistence in favor of attacking government forces," said Army Maj. Chris Belcher, a coalition spokesman. "Fortunately for the citizens of Afghanistan, the (Afghan National Army) is improving their tactics."
The coalition said no Afghan or coalition soldiers or civilians were wounded or killed in Uruzgan. It was not possible to confirm the death toll independently because of the remote location of the fighting.
Fighting has increased dramatically in the last several weeks in Afghanistan, with more than 300 suspected Taliban fighters killed since late August, according to the U.S.-led coalition.
More than 4,300 people — mostly militants — have died in insurgency related violence this year, according to an Associated Press count based on figures from Western and Afghan officials.
In fighting elsewhere in the country, an Afghan-NATO patrol discovered and defused three roadside bombs Wednesday in the Zhari district of Kandahar province and shortly after was ambushed by Taliban fighters. A helicopter gunship joined the ensuing battle, which left 12 militants dead, said Syed Agha Saqib, the provincial police chief said Thursday.
In Zabul province, 11 Taliban fighters were killed during a battle with NATO and Afghan soldiers on Wednesday, said Gulab Shah Alikhail, the governor's spokesman said Thursday.
Three police were killed in Herat province during a five-hour fight on Wednesday, and one Afghan soldier was killed in Farah province Thursday, officials said. Two civilians were killed by a bomb hidden in a cart that exploded near a police station in Takhar province, in the north.
Police in Helmand province shot and killed a would-be suicide bomber before he could detonate his explosives on Thursday, said Gen. Mohammad Hussein Andiwal, the provincial police chief.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Suspected suicide bomber killed in Afghanistan: NATO
Thu Sep 13, 7:28 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghan police shot dead a suspected suicide bomber in the southern province of Helmand, a NATO spokesman said on Thursday, amid fears of a surge in violence during the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
"The Afghan national police shot a suicide bomber who ... we believe was heading to carry out a bombing," the spokesman said.
There was no independent confirmation of who was shot, and the resurgent Taliban, who are resorting increasingly to suicide bombings against Afghan and Western troops, were not immediately available for comment.
The shooting came after U.S.-led coalition airstrikes killed more than 45 Taliban fighters in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday, the U.S. military said.
In separate incidents on Wednesday, an Afghan security guard was killed in a roadside bomb attack in the eastern province of Paktia, while a Bangladeshi national was shot dead in the north-eastern province of Badakshan by suspected insurgents, officials said.
Afghan and U.S.-led coalition troops called in close air support after their patrol was attacked by Taliban fighters in a village in the Deh Rawood district of Uruzgan province, the U.S. military said.
That fighting in turn came after a suicide bomber rammed a U.S. security firm convoy in the southern province of Helmand on Tuesday, killing two local staff and wounding eight people.
The U.S.-led military says coalition forces have killed hundreds of Taliban militants in a series of confrontations in recent weeks. The Taliban have admitted some losses, but say Afghan and foreign troops vastly exaggerate enemy death tolls.
More than 7,000 people have been killed during the past 19 months in Afghanistan, the bloodiest period since the militants' 2001 ouster.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Gunmen free last three kidnapped Afghan deminers
Thu Sep 13, 1:42 AM ET
KABUL (Reuters) - Gunmen have freed the last three of 13 Afghan deminers abducted last week, their employer said on Thursday, but it was not immediately clear who was behind the abduction.
The deminers belonging to Afghan Technical Consultants were abducted while traveling in a convoy in the southeastern province of Paktia a week ago. The Taliban, who have been behind a series of abductions of foreign nationals and Afghans in recent months, have denied any involvement.
"The last three kidnapped deminers were set free by the gunmen on Thursday morning. No ransom was paid," demining consultancy head Kefayatullah Eblagh told Reuters.
"We are very thankful to tribal elders who got them freed."
The mass-kidnapping came days after the Taliban vowed to abduct and kill foreign nationals from countries that have troops in Afghanistan, and after the insurgents' high-profile kidnapping of 23 South Korean missionaries.
Back to Top
Back to Top
NATO force chief suggests new ways to fight Afghan opium production
Wed Sep 12, 2:43 PM ET
BRUSSELS (AFP) - The head of NATO's military force in Afghanistan said Wednesday he had proposed new ways to crack down on opium production, which is a major source of income for Taliban-led insurgents.
US General Dan McNeill, on a visit to NATO headquarters in Brussels, said he had made suggestions about what else the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) could do to NATO's top military and civilian commanders.
"I am satisfied that talking to members of the alliance they will come to some decision that will say: 'mandate stands as it is' or they will want some adjustments," he told reporters, without going into detail about his proposals.
"You can make the debate that there could be other things the ISAF force could be doing that would have more effect, and indeed the members of the alliance ... (are) likely to do it," he said.
But he insisted that ISAF, whose aim is to provide security so that Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government can spread its influence throughout the insurgency hit country, should not start destroying poppy fields.
"I'm not desirous of the force becoming an eradication force. We're not manned. We're not trained. We're not equipped," he said.
NATO officials acknowledge privately that the sight of soldiers ripping up opium crops would probably undermine their efforts to win the confidence of ordinary Afghans and turn them away from their former Taliban rulers.
"The fundamental principle is that the Afghans must take the lead for very obvious political reasons," added NATO spokesman James Appathurai.
Afghanistan produces about 93 percent of the world's production illegal opium, the raw ingredient for heroin.
The crop jumped by a third this year, helped by good rainy weather, despite international efforts costing millions of dollars. Most of the production is in southern areas where the Taliban-led insurgency is at its fiercest.
The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime appealed for ISAF to get involved when it released a survey last month showing that opium production had risen to a record high.
The Afghan government has made a similar call, saying it had asked the international forces based here to clear insurgents from opium-growing areas so its own forces can move in to destroy the illegal crop.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Muslim world celebrates start of Ramadan
Thursday, September 13, 2007
JAKARTA (AFP) — Most of the world's 1.2 billion Muslims celebrated the start of Ramadan on Thursday as Indonesians prayed for the victims of a huge earthquake and Iraq was on high alert for fear of attacks.
The beginning of Ramadan, the holiest month of the Muslim calendar, is traditionally determined by the sighting of a new crescent moon, often dividing rival Islamic countries and sects over the exact date.
In Libya the festivities started on Wednesday, the same day as Nigeria, while in Pakistan Ramadan starts on Friday.
During the month Muslims have to abstain from food, drink, smoking and sex from dawn until dusk. Activity peaks between "iftar," the breaking of the fast at sunset, and "suhur," the last meal of the day before sunrise.
In Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim nation, Ramadan began under the shadow of a massive 8.4-magnitude quake which rocked Sumatra island and killed at least 10 people.
Muslims in some quake-hit areas were unable to attend their regular evening prayers on Wednesday night as emergency teams assessed the damage.
"The imam had prepared for it but we cannot go to prayers as the mosque is damaged," resident Slamet Purwanto told the Detikcom online news agency from a village in Bengkulu district, among the areas worst hit.
Hundreds of kilometres (miles) away from the epicentre in Medan, Indonesia's third-largest city in North Sumatra, blackouts forced the faithful to pray by candlelight, kerosene lamps and light bulbs rigged to car batteries.
Pakistan -- whose population of 160 million is dominated by Sunnis -- will be on high alert because of a wave of attacks since early July in which hundreds have died, mostly in suicide bombings.
Ramadan began in Afghanistan on Thursday after confusion the day before that led some to wake up in the pre-dawn hours for a meal -- only to discover they had to wait for another day.
The Taliban have threatened to launch new attacks on government and Western military targets during Ramadan, and there was no let-up in violence with nearly 60 dead in 24 hours.
In Baghdad, where thousands of US troops are deployed, the US military put a holiday amnesty in effect, with 50 to 80 detainees to be released each day during the month.
The Iraqi authorities have stepped up security measures for Ramadan, which has seen brutal insurgent attacks since the US-led invasion in March 2003.
But the calm was shattered when a bomb ripped through a crowd of civilians at a public square in eastern Baghdad, killing at least four people and wounding up to 20 more, Iraqi officials said.
Ramadan began for minority Sunnis on Thursday and will start a day later for the majority Shiites.
In neighbouring Syria, authorities said a recent visa requirement imposed on Iraqis would be lifted for Ramadan. The visa demand was introduced to slow the entry of Iraqis fleeing violence in their homeland which has burdened Syria with nearly 1.5 million refugees.
In Jordan, King Abdullah II joined thousands of worshippers at a mosque in Amman for special evening prayers on the eve of the first day of Ramadan.
Iranian state television reported that Ramadan had officially started on Thursday in the Islamic Republic. To mark the month, Friday prayers at Tehran University will be led by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Top clerics in Indian Kashmir -- scene of nearly 20 years of Muslim insurgency against New Delhi's rule -- said they would pray for peace and reconciliation in the divided Himalayan region, claimed in part by Pakistan.
In the predominantly Catholic Philippines, separatist Muslim rebels said they were ready to resume stalled peace talks with the government but also warned they were prepared for "martyrdom."
In Thailand, the army on Wednesday lifted a night curfew meant to smother a separatist insurgency in Muslim provinces, where people also began fasting on Thursday.
In Cairo, traffic police have been banned from taking time off, with extra wardens deployed to control pre-iftar accidents as people race home to break the fast.
Gaza residents spending their first Ramadan under Hamas, which seized control of the territory in June, are bracing for clashes after Fatah and other Palestinian groups called for sunset street prayers despite a Hamas ban.
In a traditional gesture, Hamas announced the release of 84 prisoners.
Saudi Arabia, the birthplace of Islam, is preparing to receive around one million pilgrims to perform the "umrah" or smaller pilgrimage to Mecca.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Bangladeshi aid worker shot dead in Afghanistan
13 Sep 2007, 1706 hrs IST, AFP
MAZAR-I-SHARIF: A Bangladeshi aid worker was shot dead by unknown gunmen while travelling through remote northeastern Afghanistan on a motorbike, police and his organisation said on Thursday.
The man was working on a microfinance project in the rugged, underdeveloped province of Badakshan and had gone to a remote village with a colleague to collect a loan when he was attacked, the provincial police commander said.
Two gunmen opened fire on them as they approached the village on Wednesday, commander Aqa Noor Kendoz said. The Bangladeshi was killed and his Afghan colleague was wounded.
The attackers were arrested and claimed to be robbers, Kendoz said. He cast doubt on the claim however, saying the pair had made no attempt to steal anything.
The police chief suggested the attackers may be linked to the insurgent Taliban movement, which targets any one helping to support the new Western-backed Afghan government.
The Taliban did no claim responsibility. The victim as employed by the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee (BRAC) as an area project manager, an official with the organisation told AFP, refusing to give his name.
He was the first foreign national with BRAC to be killed in Afghanistan although some of the group's Afghan employees had been targeted,he said, confirming the police version of the incident.
BRAC has been in Afghanistan since 2002 and works on development projects, including building schools, roads and clinics. Its microfinance programme in Afghanistan work largely with poor and disadvantaged women.
via The Times of India
Back to Top
Back to Top
Insecurity main obstacle for Afghan returnees
PESHAWAR, 13 September 2007 (IRIN) - Growing insecurity in Afghanistan is the main impediment to the return of more than 2 million registered Afghans still living in Pakistan today.
"No, I won't go," Ghayassudin, a 26-year-old taxi driver in Peshawar, the provincial capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and home to most of the country's Afghan refugee population, said. "There is no peace there. It's simply not safe."
Raqibullah, 36, another refugee who came to Pakistan following the Soviet invasion of his country in 1979 and hasn't returned since, echoed that view.
"I came when I was a child, so Pakistan is my home. Why would I go if it continues to be dangerous?" he asked.
A change in mindset
According to a joint report by the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Pakistani government earlier this year, of the 2.15 million registered Afghans in the country, the vast majority (82 percent) indicated they did not intend to return to Afghanistan in the near future.
The most important factors cited for their reluctance to return were security (41 percent), shelter (30 percent) and livelihoods (24 percent).
This marks a change in the mindset from the 2005 census, when security was the third biggest reason for not repatriating, after lack of shelter and livelihoods.
Lack of access to land was also a major impediment to return, with 89 percent of registered Afghans in the country claiming to be landless.
Those intending to return originated primarily from the provinces of Nangarhar, Laghman, Kabul, Baghlan, Kunduz, and Logar. The majority (84 percent) were of Pashtoon ethnicity currently resident in NWFP, the report said.
Since the collapse of the Taliban regime in December 2001, about 3.2 million Afghans have returned to their homeland from Pakistan - the vast majority with assistance from UNHCR.
Uneven pattern of return
Hopeful of their country's future peace and stability, in 2002, the first year of the voluntary repatriation programme, 1.6 million Afghans repatriated from Pakistan.
However, those numbers have since dropped off, as more and more Afghans find themselves increasingly disillusioned with the rate of progress being made back home - both on the security and socio-economic fronts.
In 2003, around 340,000 Afghans returned, more than 380,000 in 2004, around 450,000 in 2005, and around 132,000 in 2006.
To date, 340,000 Afghans have returned in 2007, but this was due largely to an increase in the monetary grant provided per returnee, as well as an announcement by the government that those Afghans that did not register with the authorities and did not leave the country within a designated period would be deemed illegal.
The refugee agency launched a grace period of assisted repatriation for unregistered refugees on 1 March that ended on 15 April. More than 200,000 Afghans, mostly unregistered, left Pakistan for Afghanistan in this period.
Concerns about security, access
For Afghans like Ghayassudin and Raqibullah, given prevailing security conditions back home, going back now simply does not make sense - a fact the UNHCR is well aware of, and continues to monitor.
"Currently there are major concerns about security developments in Helmand, Kandahar and the Ghazni area," Maryann Maguire, a UNHCR spokeswoman, told IRIN from Kabul, referring to those areas where a strong Taliban presence has emerged. "In recent weeks there has also been a stark deterioration of security in Kunar Province, as well as in [the provinces of] Wardak and Logar and the central region in general," she said.
Citing issues of access, she added: "It is difficult to assess the needs, provide information and carry out the mandate of the UNHCR with returnees as well as IDPs [internally displaced persons] in conditions where the safety of staff cannot be guaranteed."
Also of great importance was the restricted access that UNHCR was increasingly experiencing in areas considered "safe" until a few weeks ago. "This is having a direct impact on our ability to reach returnees who potentially need help the most," Maguire said.
Moreover, with security appearing to deteriorate further, the agency noted a lack of objective information in helping people consider their options.
The priority for the UNHCR is to have safe and unfettered access to all regions of Afghanistan where there are returnees or a potential for returns.
"Many initiatives have taken place on a local level between UNHCR and key players to ensure that security is guaranteed. But this is a long and complicated process and much more needs to be done. Furthermore, security is a collective effort which is the primary responsibility of the government of Afghanistan," Maguire said.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Afghanistan: Female Soccer Star Achieves Goals
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty
Six years ago, Shamila Kohestani of Afghanistan threw off her burqa and ran as fast as she could to escape a Taliban member who was whipping her because she was not wearing it properly. Today, Kohestani has another reason to run -- she's the captain of Afghanistan's national women's soccer team. She's scoring goals and winning games for her country, as correspondent Omid Marzban of RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan reports.
KABUL, September 13, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Shamila Kohestani says she had just begun wearing a burqa when a Taliban member saw her and whipped her for not wearing it properly.
"I was out wearing a burqa, but because I had just started to wear it, I did not have the practice to cover all my body," Kohestani says. "[The Talib] asked me why I had not covered the front part of my body. So he beat me and I threw the burqa off and escaped."
Twenty-year-old Kohestani is the captain of the first Afghan national women's soccer team. She and her 15 teammates traveled to Islamabad last month to play in a tournament held by Pakistan's national women's soccer league from August 16-24.
The Afghans won three of five games to find themselves in the final against a team from Karachi. Though they lost 1-0, they still consider themselves to be champions and a source of pride for their country.
'A Name In The World'
"We Afghans are very proud today that our team placed second in this tournament," Shafiq Hamidi, an Afghan refugee living in Islamabad, said shortly after the Afghan women lost their final match. "I always thank God, and I am so proud that now Afghanistan has a name in the world." He continued by shouting, "Long live Afghanistan, long live Afghanistan!"
Having scored five of the Afghan team's 11 goals in the tournament, Kohestani received more attention than any other player.
"The captain was the star of our team," says Saboor Walizada, the coach of the Afghan women's soccer team, in an interview with Radio Free Afghanistan.
The Afghan women often play their games with both long pants and long-sleeved shirts, regardless of the weather. They also often wear head scarves, especially when they play in Afghanistan. Women were forbidden to play football during the reign of the radical Islamic Taliban regime. Men were allowed to play, but at halftime the players and all of the spectators were expected to pray.
Kohestani studied secretly in a house in Kabul during the rule of the Taliban, when girls were not allowed to go to school. As a girl, Kohestani says she dreamt of going to a public school and running on a soccer field.
"I asked myself how long will I have to stay at home [for school], not go outside and not get [a real] education?" Kohestani recalls. "Then I was convinced that the situation will not remain as it is and maybe one day I will go to school, play soccer, and do whatever I like."
Kohestani's first dream -- to go to a public school -- came true in 2002 shortly after the Taliban was ousted by U.S.-led coalition forces. But she had to wait two more years to reach her second one, which was to play soccer.
In order to receive money from FIFA -- world soccer's governing body -- the Afghan Football Federation had to promote soccer among women in the country. The job of hunting for female soccer players was given to Saboor Walizada -- a former Afghan national player -- who began his search in Kabul's girl schools.
Hard To Convince Families
"I went in their classes, and they were very willing to join a soccer team," Walizada says. "But to convince their families to let their daughters play soccer was the most difficult part of the job. Not every family I met agreed to let their daughter join my soccer team. Shamila's family was one of them. So far, some 500 girls have gotten the chance to play soccer in Kabul and the three northern provinces of Parwan, Jawzjan, and Sar-e Pul."
Since the end of the Taliban's reign, there have been some slight changes in the lives of Afghan women, at least in big cities. But for most Afghan women the atmosphere is not as green and open as a soccer field.
"In a soccer game, Shamila is always less than 100 meters away from the goal, and she has a soft, green field under her feet," says Fatema Hussaini, a law student at Kabul University and a women's rights activist. "But in the game of gaining freedom, she and other Afghan women might be 100 years away from the goal, and the field is full of difficult barriers."
(Radio Free Afghanistan's Sayed Feridon Ibrahimi contributed to this feature.)
Back to Top
Back to Top
U.S. troops push Afghan elders to resist rebels
After Operation Khyber, focus shifts to local governance.
By Scott Peterson | Staff writer of The Christian Science Monitor
Forward Operating Base Wilderness, Afghanistan
In a rock-strewn valley so remote that US and Afghan forces here call their base "Wilderness," tribal elders met under a dusty tent with Afghan politicians and American officers in a bid to turn recent military gains against insurgents into progress in local governance.
Ringed with layers of military security, the jirga, or tribal meeting, Monday marked the close of Operation Khyber, a joint US-Afghan operation of nearly three weeks that is applying a refined counterinsurgency strategy to three tough districts in southeast Afghanistan's Paktia Province.
But while US and Afghan commanders say they have forced out insurgents – "creating effects," in their jargon, that they hope will last at least 60 days – getting government to the people is far from assured.
"Today it is your task to sustain the good situation in your area," Arsala Jamal, the provincial governor of Khost, cajoled scores of turbaned elders. Praising the "achievements" of the operation, he said it was now the duty of the tribes to turn against an "enemy [that] burns your school and your clinic." He told the crowd that the result would be "rewards" of reconstruction from the government and the US, a "golden opportunity" that may never come again.
"We want to live free; we don't want to live in slavery," said Mr. Jamal, who survived a fourth assassination attempt that killed three bodyguards the day Operation Khyber started, on Aug. 22. "And that can only happen when you say 'no' to the enemy and fight the enemy."
US military cash earmarked for development in these poverty-stricken districts adds up to hundreds of thousands of dollars and a US-funded project to pave the important Khost-Gardez Pass road adds at least $60 million. They are meant to be the fruits of better security.
"This is the big plan of the government," Maj. Gen. Abdul Khaliq, the top Afghan regional commander, told the elders. "We should provide a situation where the people and the government should connect together."
"I believe the government did not have an opportunity to see each village individually," said General Khaliq. "Right now we have the opportunity to meet with all the elders, all the district commissioners, and all the members of parliament ... because we have good security right now."
"Do not let terrorism come and reside in your place," the general warned. "Do not allow your children to grow up as terrorists. We will help. We will build roads. All this is for your benefit."
But nearly six years after the fall of the Taliban, these elders from the sizable Zadran tribe, living in an area of significant insurgent and criminal influence not far from the border with Pakistan, have heard such promises before.
Convincing them to side with the government – despite its often negligible presence in their lives – may be harder to achieve than militarily clearing the insurgents. But it is meant to be the long-term result of the US counter-insurgency strategy.
"The challenge with all these operations is the nonkinetic phase," says Thomas Gregg of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who has worked three years in the southeast. He says it remains unclear if the government – the police and district officials – can fill the "power vacuum" created after militants are forced out by Operation Khyber.
"So the question mark remains over whether or not the government is in a position to properly harness the potential to expand its influence," says Mr. Gregg.
The problem presents a Catch-22 for US and Afghan forces, here and elsewhere, as they shift focus to the needs of the population.
Was Operation Khyber premature, because local government is not well rooted in these remote communities? Or was the clearing operation necessary now, to give the government the best chance of sinking such roots before winter sets in at these high altitudes?
"This is not a battle of bullets; this is a battle of ideas," says US Army Col. Martin Schweitzer, commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, in southeast Afghanistan.
"The Taliban message is clearly one of threat and intimidation" that targets women, local officials, schools, and clinics, says Colonel Schweitzer. The government's message, he says, can "beat it" by offering education and jobs, and by encouraging Afghans to "look to your government for the solution, versus the Taliban."
But to do so, effective government must extend into rarely reached villages and offer an alternative. Until now, the writ of the weak Afghan government – widely seen as corrupt and focused on Kabul – has made only limited progress.
Still, Schweitzer says that of the 83 districts that he tracks, 58 are now in "direct support" of the government, up from 30 districts a year ago. The year before that, he says, only eight or nine were so closely aligned.
Schweitzer also says that even though US casualties are up 10 percent in Afghanistan this year, in eastern areas they are "significantly reduced" by two-thirds in his area, compared to last year. He confirms about a two-thirds drop in kinetic operations, also, with softer, nonviolent tactics that include using an anthropologist to learn more about Afghans.
But delivering on government promises, or even maintaining security, is hard in these remote mountains near the Pakistani border.
"In almost all districts ... there is a desire to receive the practical benefits of reconstruction," says Gregg of the UN. "They want a functioning government. They want functioning, impartial courts. They want [the Afghan National Police] to play their policing role."
But that does not mean all districts support the government or that all others are in "active opposition" to it, says Gregg, who questions how US officers calculate the level of support.
"Are the people just being sufficiently coerced [by militants], where they can't be part of the political process, because of the degree of intimidation they are under and the absence of police?" he asks.
At the jirga under the tent of broad white and blue stripes, some men – including a handful of parliament deputies brought in from Kabul – expressed gratitude for Operation Khyber, which yielded more than 30 arrests, including that of a 6-foot 4-inch Russian with a red beard and wearing a black burqa, whose truck was full of explosives.
But others were unconvinced. Nadir Khan Katawazai, a member of parliament from nearby Paktika Province, was grateful that no civilians were killed in Operation Khyber, but said there were few achievements because militants had left and would return "refreshed" after hiding in the mountains.
And, he says, extending government rule is going to be tough. "When I was first elected by the people of Paktika, I made a lot of promises, because the government made me promises," Mr. Katawazai, told the elders, his head wrapped in a vast, gold-silk turban. "But all these promises [weren't kept], and today ... the people think that I am a liar."
And so far, militants have an advantage: "Today the enemy are fully active [and] can easily go to each village, can go to mosques and preach to people," says Katawazai. "By contrast, the government is weak ... [and] never gets the word out to the people."
Back to Top
Back to Top
Author Khaled Hosseini calls for long-term commitment for Afghanistan
KABUL, Afghanistan, September 13 (UNHCR) – Best-selling author Khaled Hosseini has warned that the international community needs to remain committed to Afghanistan and give the country time. Failure to do so would see his native land sliding backwards with disastrous consequences.
The UNHCR Goodwill Envoy, who flew out of Kabul on Thursday after talking to refugee returnees during a 10-day tour of northern Afghanistan, called on the international community to deepen its commitment in the country as it strives to rebuild after more than two decades of strife and chaos.
"Afghanistan is at a crossroads. There are some signs of disillusionment both in Afghanistan and within the international community. But a long term engagement is absolutely critical if the country is to continue moving in the right direction," Hosseini, who is a naturalized US citizen, said here on the eve of his departure.
"Afghanistan needs time, patience and relentless effort. This is not the time to give up. It is the time to remain fully engaged so that the positive developments can be built upon and produce long-term results."
Hosseini was in Afghanistan for the first time since gaining international recognition for his best-selling novel, "The Kite Runner," in 2005. His second book, "A Thousand Splendid Suns," was released earlier this year and has also proved a major hit worldwide. Both are set in Afghanistan and reflect its history over the past 40 years.
His last visit came in 2003, less than two years after the 2001 fall of the Taliban regime. Since then, UNHCR has helped more than 4 million refugees come back to Afghanistan and this latest trip gave Hosseini the opportunity to see first hand what difficulties they continue to face.
The qualified medical doctor, who left the country in 1976 and now lives in California, visited UNHCR projects and talked to returnees in the northern provinces of Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Parwan and Kabul.
In Darkhat, near the Baghlan capital of Pul-i-Khumri, Hosseini heard about how a cluster of 24 families have bought their own land and are rebuilding their community after a quarter-century of war. The community is just one of hundreds UNHCR is assisting with shelters and building material. By the end of this year, UNHCR will have supplied more than 170,000 shelters to homeless families across the country.
"We are rebuilding our lives but we need help," a village elder said, adding: "We get our drinking water from a village across the river. This often makes us sick. And when we get sick we cannot see doctors or get medicine." Hosseini said that communities like Darkhat showed that it would take time and effort for Afghanistan to provide returnees with adequate infrastructure and services.
In the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif, Hosseini listened to the grievances of people forced to return after the closure of settlements in Pakistan. "In Pakistan we could get work, we had a house and our children went to school", said one of the villagers. "Look at us now. If we can't find jobs some of us will have no choice but to go back to Iran or Pakistan."
Hosseini said that despite encouraging signs the conditions faced by returnees were much more difficult than he had anticipated. "There are of course signs of progress, but many are frustrated at the slow pace of change and difficult living conditions. Homelessness, landlessness and lack of jobs continue to be major problems."
But after touring a UNHCR transit centre in Kabul where returnees are given landmine awareness training, medical help and a cash assistance package, Hosseini said he was struck by how hopeful people were about their future.
"Afghan people are by their nature optimistic and resourceful and they continue to believe that the future holds better things for them," said Hosseini, who felt buoyed by their attitude.
Hosseini was not able to visit the south and parts of the east where conditions are very dangerous. Such insecurity is impacting on the ability of UNHCR to assess needs and provide assistance to those who need it the most. It has also caused secondary displacement and prevented many refugees from returning home.
The author was grateful for the opportunity to see first-hand one of UNHCR's largest and most complex operations. This year, some 300,000 Afghan refugees have returned from Pakistan. More than 900,000 remain in Iran and 2 million in Pakistan.
"My books have been a source of personal success. I hope that I can use the opportunity I have been given to keep Afghanistan in the public consciousness and to raise awareness about those who are amongst the most vulnerable in Afghanistan today," Hosseini said.
By Maryann Maguire In Kabul, Afghanistan
Back to Top
Back to Top
Germany to keep troops in stable Afghan areas
By Louis Charbonneau
BERLIN, Sept 13 (Reuters) - Germany, under pressure to send troops to Afghanistan's troubled southern regions, said on Thursday it had no plans to change its Afghan peacekeeping mandate that confines its soldiers to the more stable north.
"We will maintain the predominance of our military presence in the north, and regarding the specific tasks, we will focus on training the Afghan army," German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier told reporters after meeting NATO Secretary-General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer.
The United States and other NATO members have been urging Germany to abandon the restrictions on deploying German soldiers to help fight Taliban guerrillas, who have enjoyed a resurgence over the last year.
Scheffer denied that NATO was putting any pressure on Germany to deploy troops in the southern heartlands of the Taliban insurgency though he acknowledged that NATO commanders would prefer not to have limitations on deploying soldiers.
"The commanders and the NATO secretary-general always say the fewer restrictions the better," he told reporters.
Steinmeier said Germany would continue to help out in emergency situations in southern Afghanistan as well as with civilian aid and reconstruction work. Berlin also plans to continue surveillance flights over southern Afghanistan.
The German parliament will debate a renewal of Germany's Afghan mandate later in the fall. Although it is expected to renew most parts of the mandate and keep troop numbers steady, a number of lawmakers would like to restrict it further.
NATO wants to accelerate training of Afghan army cadets both to take the strain off its 40,000-strong International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and as part of a longer-term strategy eventually to pull out of the country.
The alliance hopes a new strategy of embedding trainers directly in Afghan units will boost the effort. Steinmeier made it clear that Berlin backs efforts to boost training activity.
But Germany and a number of other countries are reluctant for their trainers to accompany their charges into the south, where the fighting is toughest.
The Taliban are leading a dogged insurgency four years after being ousted from power. The Afghan army training effort is all the more vital given growing domestic pressure on Canada and the Netherlands to scale back their presence or pull out altogether.
Scheffer also met with German Defence Minister Franz Josef Jung and Chancellor Angela Merkel to discuss the issues of Afghanistan and Kosovo.
Germany has around 3,000 troops in Afghanistan.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Canadian soldiers brace for bombings in Afghanistan as Ramadan begins
Thursday, September 13, 2007 | 10:46 AM ET CBC News Canada
Canadian soldiers were on alert for a possible increase in suicide bombings in Afghanistan on Thursday, as the Muslim holy month of Ramadan began.
Lt.-Col. Claude Fournier, chief of operations for the Canadian military in Afghanistan, said while most Muslims in the wartorn country will likely spend the holiday focused on their faith and their family, some may see it as an opportunity to sacrifice themselves in a suicide bombing.
A few believe such an act during Ramadan could send them directly into heaven, the CBC's David Common explained from the Canadian military base in Kandahar.
Last September, during Ramadan, there was an increase in suicide bombings in Afghanistan, although the month also coincided with major Canadian operations there, Common said.
This year, Canadian soldiers are on the alert, Common said.
"In that sense, there is concern that there might be an upsurge in the number of suicide bombings," he said.
"We've not seen any evidence of that at this point, but certainly Canadian troops will be a little more vigilant when they're out off of this base in forward positions, and driving along the roads and the highways, they will be particularly careful."
For most Muslims, Ramadan is a time of worship and contemplation, with the faithful concentrating on their religion and blocking out the concerns of their everyday lives. Many fast during daylight hours, believing that through prayer and fasting one can achieve salvation and be relieved of past sins.
Seventy soldiers have died in Afghanistan since Canada's mission there began in 2002. A Canadian diplomat was also killed.
With files from the Canadian Press
Back to Top
Back to Top
We're losing in Afghanistan too
Contra Donald Rumsfeld's rosy assessment, the country looks a lot like it did on Sept. 10, 2001.
By John Kiriakou and Richard Klein September 13, 2007 Los Angeles Times, CA
Former Secretary of Defense Donald H. Rumsfeld says in the current edition of GQ magazine that the war in Afghanistan has been "a big success," with people living in freedom and life "improved on the streets."
To anyone working in the country, there is only one possible, informed response: What Afghanistan is the man talking about?
In reality, Afghanistan -- former Taliban stronghold, Al Qaeda haven and warlord-cum-heroin-smuggler finishing school -- feels more and more like Sept. 10, 2001, than a victory in the U.S. war on terrorism.
The country is, plain and simple, a mess. Al Qaeda and its Taliban allies have quietly regained territory, rendering wide swaths of the country off-limits to U.S. and Afghan forces, international aid workers and even journalists. Violent attacks against Western interests are routine. Even Kabul, which the White House has held up as a postcard for what is possible in Afghanistan, has become so dangerous that foreign embassies are in states of lockdown, diplomats do not leave their offices, and venturing beyond security perimeters requires daylight-only travel, armored vehicles, Kevlar and armed escorts.
Fear reigns among average Afghans in Kabul. Street crime, virtually unheard of in Afghan culture, has increased dramatically over the last three years as angry, unemployed and often radicalized young men settle scores with members of other tribes and clans, steal and rob to feed their families and vent their frustration with a government that appears powerless to help them. Taking a chance by eating in one of Kabul's handful of restaurants or going shopping in one of the few markets left is a new version of Russian roulette.
For U.S. officials and diplomats, Kabul is simply a prison. Embassies are completely closed to vehicular and even foot traffic. Indeed, at the American Embassy, the consular section issues visas only to Afghan government officials. If an average Afghan wants a visa to the U.S., he or she must travel to Islamabad, Pakistan, to apply. To allow Afghans to stand in line for visas at the embassy in Kabul would invite terrorist attacks or attract suicide bombers.
Consider that an American Embassy staffer going to the U.S. Agency for International Development office across the street is required to use an underground tunnel that links the two compounds. Even though the street is closed to all traffic other than official U.S. or U.N. vehicles and is patrolled and guarded by armored personnel carriers, tanks and Kalashnikov-carrying security personnel with a safety perimeter of several blocks, the risk from snipers, mortars or grenades is ever present.
Working in Supermax Afghanistan makes the USAID's performance all the more heroic. Since 2003, the agency has overseen the investment of more than $4 billion in Afghanistan, has built more than 500 schools and an equal number of clinics and has paved more than 1,000 miles of roads, all while suffering about 130 casualties at the hands of the Taliban and Al Qaeda.
By some measures, Afghanistan should be a feel-good story by now -- the Taliban is, officially at least, out of power, Al Qaeda has been chased to the wilds of the Afghan-Pakistani border and U.S. forces are on hand to consolidate and solidify a peaceful new order.
But the truth is very different. By any measure, this remains a "hot" war with a well-armed, motivated and organized enemy. Village by village, tribe by tribe and province by province, Al Qaeda is coming back, enforcing a form of Islamic life and faith rooted in the 12th century, intimidating reformers, exacting revenge and funding itself with dollars from massive poppy cultivation and heroin smuggling. As Al Qaeda reestablishes itself, Osama bin Laden remains free to send video messages and serve as an ideological beacon to jihadis worldwide. The country's president, Hamid Karzai, meanwhile, is in effect little more than the mayor of Kabul.
The war in Afghanistan is a political and military one-step-forward-two-steps-back exercise. The work there isn't just unfinished, it is more dangerous and less certain than policymakers in Washington and talking heads in New York studios can imagine. Those suggesting otherwise are either naive or flacking a political agenda.
John Kiriakou, now in the private sector, served as a CIA counter-terrorism official from 1998 to 2004 and recently returned from Afghanistan. Richard Klein, a former State Department official, is managing director for the Middle East and Arabian Gulf at Kissinger McLarty Associates in Washington.
Back to Top
Back to Top
What the increasingly confident Taliban want in exchange for peace
GRAEME SMITH – Globe and Mail, September 12, 2007
KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN -- The Taliban and their allies say they are ready to accept President Hamid Karzai's invitation to peace talks, but with tough conditions that show the insurgents' rising confidence about bargaining with the embattled Afghan government.
The Taliban's demands include an immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops and a rewrite of the Afghan constitution, according to interviews The Globe and Mail has conducted with key figures who would be integral to any political settlement.
Hope for negotiations surfaced after Mr. Karzai said on Sunday that he wants to talk with the insurgents - a statement he has made with increasing frequency as the violence rises. But this time, the Taliban took the unusual step of answering the President, issuing a statement on Monday saying they are prepared to meet with him.
Kabul is investigating the Taliban's invitation, a presidential spokesman said yesterday, adding that insurgents who want to negotiate will not be arrested.
But Kabul will need to make more substantial promises to get talks started, said Qari Yousef Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, reached by telephone at an undisclosed location.
"The government hasn't made any serious attempt to talk with us," Mr. Ahmadi said. "If they want to talk, we have two demands: All foreign troops must leave, and we must have an Islamic democracy in Afghanistan."
The Taliban spokesman was vague about his definition of Islamic democracy. Afghanistan's constitution already defines it as an Islamic republic, but it also sets aside a quarter of seats in parliament for women and makes other provisions that give the country a more moderate character than it had under the Taliban.
"The United States brought democracy to Afghanistan, but it was un-Islamic," Mr. Ahmadi said. "We need democracy, but under the laws of Islam."
Although he did not elaborate, he mentioned that another insurgent group has been thinking along similar lines: Hizb-i-Islami, the largest band of gunmen that fights alongside the Taliban.
That group's leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, recently gave a video response to questions from a researcher for The Globe and Mail, outlining his requirements for a ceasefire.
Like the Taliban, the old warlord listed the removal of foreign troops as his first demand.
But he also offered a more detailed political scheme: "Afghan people must sit together and reach the decision that the foreign troops should leave," he said. "The Americans must accept this, and they must leave. We will never participate in meetings in which they don't discuss this issue."
He continued: "Power should be handed over to a temporary government, and they will have a meeting of tribal elders, a new constitution, and work under Islamic rules. We should have real and fair elections, which follow Islamic rules. Under these circumstances, I am ready for negotiations."
Both Mr. Hekmatyar and Mr. Ahmadi remain in hiding; the former has been designated by the United States as a terrorist and supporter of al-Qaeda.
The name Ahmadi is likely a pseudonym, sometimes assumed by different Taliban spokesmen in hopes of avoiding the fate of their predecessors who have been killed or captured.
This points to one of many hurdles for a political settlement: The United Nations has formally designated the Taliban and other insurgent groups in Afghanistan as terrorists, making it politically and legally difficult for the Kabul government to reach a compromise.
"If they're labelled as terrorists, how can they talk?" said Maulana Fazlur Rahman, who heads one of Pakistan's largest religious parties, the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which voices support for the Taliban but disavows any direct link with violence.
"The key lies in the hands of the Americans," Mr. Rahman said during an interview earlier this month in Islamabad.
"They should empower the Afghan government to talk with the Taliban. But the atmosphere is not yet conducive."
The Taliban spokesman agreed that the terrorist designation might hamper talks. During recent negotiations with the government of South Korea for the release of hostages, Mr. Ahmadi said, the Taliban believed that the United States was trying to stop the discussion because it violated the principle of not negotiating with terrorists.
In the end, however, the success of the Korean talks shows pragmatism can overcome such objections, Mr. Ahmadi said.
Canadian military officials in Kandahar have said they do not talk with the Taliban under any circumstances, although their NATO allies have not been as firm. The Dutch military in neighbouring Uruzgan province openly describe talks with insurgents as part of their strategy, and many observers viewed the British military's failed peace deal last year in Musa Qala district as an agreement with the Taliban.
In Ottawa, the Conservative government's Foreign Minister, Maxime Bernier, recently criticized the South Korean government for negotiating with the Taliban for the release of hostages.
"We do not negotiate with terrorists, for any reason," he said. "Such negotiations, even if unsuccessful, only lead to further acts of terrorism."
New Democratic Party Leader Jack Layton, however, has long called for negotiating an end to the war, while the Liberals have not been vocal on the issue.
So far, the only publicized method for reaching out to the Taliban has been the Peace Through Strength program, a mediation effort aimed at encouraging defections from the insurgency. The program has suffered a lack of funding, however, and cannot offer the Taliban very much except a written promise of immunity from prosecution.
"Karzai wants us to get letters, and be free to sit at home," Mr. Ahmadi said. "This is silly, it's not acceptable."
Whatever compromise might eventually be accepted by the Taliban would probably be hard for the international community to swallow, Mr. Rahman said.
"The West accepts Islam as a religion, but not as a state system, and this is unfortunate," he said.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Stick by Afghan refugees, author urges West
By Hamid Shalizi
KABUL, Sept 12 (Reuters) - Millions of Afghan refugees who returned home after the overthrow of the Taliban desperately need help to rebuild their lives and are counting on the West, best-selling novelist-turned UN envoy Khaled Hosseini said on Wednesday.
Wrapping up a 10-day visit to assess the plight of around 5 million refugees who have returned from Iran and Pakistan since 2002, Hosseini urged the international community to pledge long-term commitment to his native Afghanistan.
"I think sometimes there's a tendency in the West to think, wow, millions of people have come back to Afghanistan, things must be just wonderful and great," Hosseini, author of best-seller "The Kite Runner" and goodwill envoy for UN refugee agency UNHCR, told Reuters in an interview.
"Often they have come back to very difficult conditions ... there's a lack of jobs, they don't have homes, they don't have land," he added. "I hope that the West listens to their voice and stays committed to them."
Hosseini, who lived in Afghanistan as a young boy but then went into exile with his family through the Soviet occupation of the 1980s and is now based in the United States, visited returnees in far northern Afghanistan.
"One of the main problems that people have is joblessness. That's really at the top of everybody's list of priorities," he said.
He last visited Afghanistan in 2003, shortly after the U.S.-led defeat of the Islamist Taliban in 2001, and was struck by how the country's infrastructure had developed in the interim.
But a Taliban insurgency is raging, there are near daily clashes and ambushes, suicide bombings are rising and over 7,000 have been killed since early last year.
So much so that a film based on "The Kite Runner" -- a tale about the troubled friendship of two Afghan boys -- due to be released later this year had to be shot in western China.
"There was some talk about making the movie here, but I think the studio had some concerns about security," said Hosseini, whose second novel "A Thousand Splendid Suns" published earlier this year is also a runaway best-seller.
Promoting that novel, a story of two Afghan women thrown together by forced marriages to the same man, coupled with his work as a UN envoy are taking up all of his time.
And for his next novel?
"I haven't started writing anything in terms of a third novel," he said. "Mainly I have been touring for the second novel and now have become involved with the UNHCR office here in Kabul about the situation of Afghan refugees."
Back to Top
Back to Top
Pakistan crisis 'hits army morale'
By Ahmed Rashid, Lahore - BBC
Ahmed Rashid, guest journalist and writer on Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia, reflects on mounting political drama and militancy in Pakistan.
Pakistan's worst ever political crisis that has divided the nation also appears to be having a dramatic impact on the morale of Pakistani troops on the Afghan-Pakistan border who are engaged in the "war on terror" and fighting the Taleban.
Talebanisation along Pakistan's border regions has escalated even more rapidly since the political crisis began.
As people flee their villages to escape armed extremists, the state has been unable to protect the population and is rapidly losing credibility and authority.
Moreover, the army's insistence that a pro-Taleban Islamic party once again be part of any future government that may emerge after expected general elections will only lead to a further lessening of state control, an increase in the pace of Talebanisation and further divisions in the nation.
The surrender of an estimated 280 soldiers, including a colonel and nine other officers, on 30 August in South Waziristan to just a few score Taleban fighters who blocked their supply convoy on the road to the main town of Wana shocked the nation.
The Pakistani Taleban, ostensibly belonging to the group led by Baitullah Mahsud, persuaded the troops to surrender without firing a single shot. The group comprised more than a dozen mid-ranking officers, including a colonel.
The militants then split the soldiers into groups and took them into the high mountains as hostages - much as the Afghan Taleban did six weeks earlier near Ghazni to a group of 23 South Koreans who were subsequently freed.
A jirga of tribal elders who met the Pakistani Taleban for two days returned empty handed. The Taleban demanded the release of 10 of their prisoners held by the government and insisted upon all troops leaving the Federally-Administered Tribal Area or Fata, which comprises the seven tribal agencies.
After the hostage-taking, the government arrested 100 Mahsud tribesmen - but was quickly forced to free them in order to appease the militants.
The army attempted to cover up the disaster by making conflicting statements, none of which appeared logical and all of which were contradicted by the militants and local tribal elders.
The government has banned all journalists from the region since 2004 so real information is sparse.
In case anyone doubted the militants' intentions, 10 Frontier Corps paramilitary soldiers and a major were kidnapped in Fata's Mohmand agency on 1 September, while two deadly suicide bombings killed several soldiers in Bajaur agency on the same day.
After a US intelligence estimate in mid-July that South and North Waziristan had become Terrorism Central and were the headquarters for al-Qaeda and the Taleban, President Pervez Musharraf sent 20,000 troops into the region breaking a ceasefire and a troop withdrawal treaty agreement the army had signed with the Pakistani Taleban in 2005.
The Pakistani Taleban are now demanding the army returns to the status quo. But that is impossible with the Americans breathing down Gen Musharraf's neck and threatening to attack al-Qaeda hideouts in Fata if the army does not move first. However, that is looking increasingly difficult.
Many of the army and Frontier Corp personnel serving in Fata are Pashtuns, the ethnic group that lives on both sides of the border and from which the Taleban in both countries originate. Pakistani Pashtun soldiers are now loathe to fire upon their fellow Pashtuns.
The last time the army attacked Fata in 2004 more than 700 soldiers were killed and dozens of Pashtun soldiers and Frontier Corp men deserted, while some army helicopter pilots refused to bomb their own fellow citizens. As a result, Gen Musharraf was forced to do a deal with the militants that took the troops out of Fata - much to the chagrin of the American forces based in Afghanistan.
This time the situation is much more serious. Apart from the Taleban there is widespread public anger against the army which could make the loss of morale amongst the troops much more serious. People have lost faith in the political system and in the army's attempts to concoct a new one.
In such a political vacuum it is only natural that extremism should grow and the Pakistani Taleban face only a modicum of resistance from the military.
Gen Musharraf has failed to convince the general public that the struggle against extremism is not just President Bush's war, but a struggle that all fair-minded Pakistanis must wage.
In the meantime, the army is insisting that Maulana Fazlur Rehman, who leads the Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI), be part of any future government, whether it is led by Benazir Bhutto or the ruling Pakistan Muslim League.
The JUI has been the mainstay for the revival of the Taleban in both Pakistan and Afghanistan.
With supervision from Pakistan's intelligence services, thousands of JUI-run madrassas in Balochistan and North West Frontier Province have provided shelter to tens of thousands of extremists from both sides of the border.
As long as the JUI is a part of any future Pakistani government it is impossible to imagine how that government will be able to move against the Taleban.
Thus, by insisting that the JUI does become part of a future government, the army appears to be directly boosting the fortunes of the Afghan Taleban, even as Pakistani Taleban kidnap or kill Pakistani troops.
This is only part of a wider tragedy that is a result of eight years of military rule when Gen Musharraf appeared to be running with the hares and hunting with the hounds - following a deeply contradictory policy course that has now caught up with him and helped plunge the country into its present chaos.
Ahmed Rashid is a Pakistani journalist based in Lahore. He is the author of three books including Taliban and, most recently, Jihad. He has covered Pakistan, Afghanistan and Central Asia for the past 25 years and also writes for the Far Eastern Economic Review, the Daily Telegraph and The Wall Street Journal.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Democrats say Bush policies responsible for rise of Taliban
Lalit K. Jha
NEW YORK, Sept 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): A senior Democratic leader has said that the resurgence of the Taliban in Afghanistan is because the US diverted its resources to Iraq.
This is the second time in less than a week that a Democratic presidential hopeful has made a similar observation and indicated that if elected in the 2008 presidential election, Democrats would focus more on Afghanistan than Iraq in the war against terror.
Participating in Democratic presidential debate over the weekend, Senator Christopher Dodd said he supported the idea of withdrawal of troops from Iraq. "Later we're going to take advantage of the resources . to have a serious force to find Osama bin Laden," Dodd said in the presence of other star Democratic presidential aspirants including Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.
"This mission has been a disaster. Now we have less participation in Afghanistan. As a result, we have Afghanistan where Taliban and bin Laden are rising again," Dodd said.
Amidst several round of applause from the audience, Dodd said: "We have to change this and rebuild a coalition to have international cooperation against terrorism."
Last week, another Democratic presidential candidate John Edward in a speech in New York had criticized Bush for diverting resources to Iraq and reducing its attention from Afghanistan as a result of which the Taliban and the al-Qaeda forces gained strength in Afghanistan in recent past.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Afghan envoy calls on Pakistani PM
ISLAMABAD, Sept 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): Afghanistan newly-appointed ambassador to Pakistan Muhammad Anwar Anwarzai called on Pakistan Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz at the Prime Minister's House the other day.
Talking to the ambassador, the Pakistani premier said his country was playing a stabilising role in a region facing many challenges. It had been moving towards promoting mutually beneficial economic linkages across the region, he added.
Aziz called on the international community to do more to support Afghanistan through Marshall Plan-type assistance programme and helping to eradicate poppy cultivation through crop substitution and employment generation.
Talking to the newly-appointed ambassador, Aziz said Pakistan was eagerly waiting for the establishment of reconstruction of opportunities zones (ROZs) in the border areas with Afghanistan.
The products manufactured in these zones will be exported duty free to the United States. The zones will be established following the passage of a law by the US Congress, which has been pending for the last few months.
The Pakistani premier said that the establishment of such zones would help increase economic activities in the areas and would create new jobs and improve the standard of living of the people.
Back to Top
Back to Top
Two dist, police headquarters inaugurated in Nangarhar
JALALABAD, Sept 11 (Pajhwok Afghan News): The newly-constructed buildings of two district and police headquarters were opened and handed over to officials on Monday.
District and police headquarters of Ghanikhel and Bhatikot were inaugurated in presence of provincial officials, tribal elders and influential.
The two buildings were reconstructed with the help of the National Solidarity Programme of the Interior Ministry.
Each of the buildings had 28 rooms for district and police headquarters. The new constructions also contain conference halls, dining halls and rooms for the administrative staff.
Deputy head of the NSP, Interior Ministry, Ghulam Dastagir Sidiqyar told Pajhwok the two buildings had been completed in one year.
He said more than 27 million afghanis were spent on construction of the two structures. The amount was provided by the World Bank and the Interior Ministry.
Sidiqyar said buildings of nine more district and police headquarters were being constructed in the province.
Talking to this scribe, chief of Ghanikhel district Hazrat Khan Khaksar said construction of the new complex had addressed their problems up to a large extent. He hoped it would also bring improvement in routine work of the district officials.
Abdul Mueed Hashmi
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).