Greetings U.S. military and government visitors!
"We've seen the pictures of joy when we liberated city after city in Afghanistan," George Bush crowed on Dec. 12.
Photo from the 2001-11-14 Guardian of the 'welcome' being given on the streets of Kabul, Afghanistan to Northern Alliance forces after the US bombing campaign. If you look carefully at the leftmost part of the photo, and at what direction the two leftmost soldiers sitting on the front of the tank are looking in, you'll notice why some members of the crowd have their hands in the air. What are those pieces of paper floating down above their heads?
Money, that's what! The photo-opportunity involved bills being dropped from above, to create the appearance of an enthusiastic welcome by an excited crowd.
CIA's Cash Toppled Taliban
New Book Details Bush Advisers' Doubts and Rivalries
By Mike Allen
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, November 16, 2002; Page A01
A new book says President Bush's advisers had grave doubts about the early course of the war in Afghanistan and suggests that the ultimate defeat of the Taliban was due largely to millions of dollars in hundred-dollar bills the CIA handed out to Afghan warlords to win their support.
"Bush at War," by Washington Post assistant managing editor Bob Woodward, draws on four hours of interviews with Bush and quotes 15,000 words from National Security Council and other White House meetings in reconstructing the internal debate that led to U.S. military action in Afghanistan.
Resurgent Taliban closing in on Kabul: report
By Luke Baker Nov 21, 2007
LONDON (Reuters) - The conflict in Afghanistan has reached "crisis proportions," with the resurgent Taliban present in more than half the country and closing in on Kabul, a report said on Wednesday.
If NATO, the lead force operating in Afghanistan, is to have any impact against the insurgency, troop numbers will have to be doubled to at least 80,000, the report said.
"The Taliban has shown itself to be a truly resurgent force," the Senlis Council, an independent think-tank with a permanent presence in Afghanistan, wrote in a study entitled "Stumbling into Chaos: Afghanistan on the brink."
"Its ability to establish a presence throughout the country is now proven beyond doubt," it said. "The insurgency now controls vast swaths of unchallenged territory including rural areas, some district centers, and important road arteries."
Senlis said its research had established that the Taliban, driven out of Afghanistan by the U.S. invasion in late 2001, had rebuilt a permanent presence in 54 percent of the country and was finding it easy to recruit new followers.
It was also increasingly using Iraq-style tactics, such as roadside and suicide bombs, to powerful effect, and had built a stable network of financial support, funding its operations with the proceeds from Afghanistan's booming opium trade.
"It is a sad indictment of the current state of Afghanistan that the question now appears to be not if the Taliban will return to Kabul, but when," the report said.
"Their oft-stated aim of reaching the city in 2008 appears more viable than ever."
A Forgotten Nation On The Brink
April 19, 2006
In a visit last month to Afghanistan, President Bush depicted the country as an unqualified success story, describing it as "inspiring." The reality is much more complicated and troublesome. A report released this month by the Council on Foreign Relations provides the grim details. The Council describes a country "challenged by a terrorist insurgency that has become more lethal and effective and that has bases in Pakistan, a drug trade that dominates the economy and corrupts the state, and pervasive poverty and insecurity." Last year "was the deadliest [year] in rebel violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001." With the country on the verge of becoming "a disastrous situation," the United States is withdrawing troops and disbursements of financial assistance are declining. Counter-terrorism expert Steven Simon predicts, "There will likely be a crescendo of violence, focused largely on Kabul, this summer." It's time to face reality and change course.
THE SECURITY SITUATION: Even the Bush administration "has now admitted that the insurgency [in Afghanistan] is growing and becoming more effective." Attacks "have increased in lethality, with increased use of tactics seen in Iraq, including suicide bombings, which...have quadrupled in the past year, and improvised explosive devises, whose use has doubled." (This trend was on full display just last week.) Some experts attribute the spike in violence to "a vast canvas of weakly governed and unprotected territory in which drug traffickers, feuding tribesmen and opportunistic criminals -- as well as Taliban gunmen on motorbikes and mysterious suicide bombers -- operate with increasing ease." Last year "1,600 people, including 91 U.S. troops, were killed...more than double the total in 2004." Violence is expected to increase further as "insurgents will try to test the NATO forces that are moving in to take over from more seasoned US military troops.
THE DRUG ECONOMY: In 2005, Afghanistan produced 87 percent of the world's opium. With the exception of 2001, when coalition forces deposed the Taliban, opium production has steadily increased since 1995. Last year, the export value of the illicit opium was $2.7 billion, accounting for more than 50% of the Afghan economy. About 2 million Afghans (about 9% of the population) is involved in opium production. It's not hard to understand why. The average yearly gross income for an opium-growing family ($1800) is about nine times Afghanistan's average per capita GDP ($226). Ultimately, "efforts to stabilize Afghanistan will fail if the licit economy does not expand fast enough to provide enough employment, income, and investment to more than balance the loss of income from opiates."
COMMITTING TO RECONSTRUCTION: The key to economic expansion in Afghanistan is reconstruction. In 2002-2003, per capita economic assistance in Afghanistan "was far below all Balkan operations, East Timor, and Iraq, and even below Namibia and Haiti" during the first two years of stabilization operations in those countries. While pledges of economic assistance from the United States have risen rapidly over the last two years, "the United States was not able to match disbursements to its pledges and commitments." One big problem: "much of the increase in aid has gone to the security sector, which has cost far more than projected." Richard Holbrooke, former Ambassador to the UN, noted, "With so much at stake, it is surprising that the administration asked for a pittance (about $40 million) for Afghan reconstruction in its recent supplemental, after the State Department and the U.S. Embassy requested about 10 times as much. Still worse, Congress compounded the lowered funding request by cutting the appropriation to $4 million."
THE WAY FORWARD: Now is not the time to cut-and-run from Afghanistan. As part of a plan to redeploy 80,000 troops from Iraq in 2006, American Progress recommends sending up to 18,000 troops "to bolster US and NATO efforts in Afghanistan." More troops are "urgently needed to beat back the resurging Taliban forces and to maintain security throughout the country." Former Sen. Bob Graham said, "I think we have been understaffed in Afghanistan since about December of 2001, when we began to pull troops out to prepare to send them into Iraq."
U.S. Official Says Taliban Is on the RiseAttacks by members of the ousted Afghan regime and other groups have surged, threatening the fragile government, senators are told.
WASHINGTON — Escalating insurgent violence in Afghanistan has placed the fledgling government there in greater peril than at any time since the aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, a senior American intelligence official testified Tuesday.
The stark assessment comes as sectarian violence soars in Iraq, underscoring the daunting challenges the United States and its allies face years after invading the two countries.
In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Lt. Gen. Michael D. Maples, director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, said attacks in Afghanistan by remnants of the ousted Taliban government and other groups had surged 20% in the last year.
"We judge insurgents now represent a greater threat to the expansion of Afghan government authority than at any point since late 2001 and will be active this spring," Maples said in a statement submitted to the committee. The DIA is the Pentagon's main source for analysis of military threats around the world.
Maples pointed out that Afghanistan held national and provincial legislative elections in September, and he said the country's efforts to disarm private militias had "steadily progressed over the last year." But he warned of a persistent and growing threat from forces loyal to the Taliban, whose regime was supported by Al Qaeda and allowed the terrorist network to operate training camps in the country before a coalition of U.S.-led forces invaded.
"The Taliban-dominated insurgency remains capable and resilient," Maples said.
His testimony was part of an annual threat assessment the nation's top intelligence officials provide to members of the Armed Services Committee. Maples appeared alongside National Intelligence Director John D. Negroponte and his principal deputy, Lt. Gen. Michael Hayden.
Negroponte was cautious in his assessments of the situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, where the recent bombing of a Shiite Muslim mosque touched off a convulsion of reprisals and sectarian violence.
Negroponte stressed that religious and political leaders in Iraq had been "a force of restraint," and said that although Iraq's newly elected government had yet to meet, its existing interim government was "functioning and will function."
Negroponte also touched on the controversy over the Bush administration's decision to grant control over some U.S. ports to a company owned by the government of Dubai. Negroponte said the U.S. intelligence community had reviewed the proposed deal and found the potential threat to American security to be low.
"We did not see any red flags come up in the course of our inquiry," Negroponte said, though he added that "there is no such thing, in our view, as zero risk."
Maples was more blunt in many of his assessments, saying at one point that he agreed with those who believe that Iraq could be on the edge of civil war.
"I believe that the underlying conditions are present," he said, "but that we are not involved in a civil war at this time."
Maples' comments about Afghanistan followed numerous attacks and bombings in recent months that have underscored the government's inability to control territory beyond the capital of Kabul, particularly in southern areas that have long been Taliban strongholds.
On Tuesday, an American was killed and two were wounded in a clash with insurgents in Oruzgan province, wire services reported.
One of the most disturbing trends has been a surge in the number of suicide bombings, which were rare in Afghanistan before the Taliban regime was toppled. Maples said that suicide attacks in Afghanistan had almost quadrupled in the last year and that the violence could accelerate as winter gives way to spring.
Maples also cited a rise in the use of improvised explosive devices, typically roadside bombs that can be detonated remotely. He said that the number of attacks using such bombs had doubled and that insurgents had "increasingly used beheadings to terrorize the local population."
U.S. Chinook military helicopter shot down in Afghanistan
June 28, 2005
By David Brunnstrom
KABUL (Reuters) - A U.S. military helicopter carrying up to 20 American troops crashed during an anti-guerrilla mission in eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday, U.S. officials said.
Afghan officials said the Chinook helicopter was hit by a rocket, but a U.S. military statement said it was not known what caused the crash in Kunar province near the Pakistani border.
A Taliban commander, Mullah Rauf, said Taliban guerrillas shot down the aircraft while it was flying close to the ground but he did not know about casualties.
"Using only small arms and simple rockets, we shot down this helicopter," he said by satellite phone.
Bush warns Blair he must boost UK forces
June 26, 2005
BRITAIN is coming under sustained pressure from American military chiefs to keep thousands of troops in Iraq - while going ahead with plans to boost the front line against a return to "civil war" in Afghanistan.
Tony Blair was warned that war-torn Iraq remains on the brink of disaster - more than two years after the removal of Saddam Hussein - during his summit with President Bush in Washington earlier this month.
"Scotland on Sunday revealed last month that Blair is preparing to rush thousands more British troops to Afghanistan in a bid to stop the country sliding towards civil war, amid warnings the coalition faces a "complete strategic failure" in the effort to rebuild the nation.
The grim prognosis was underlined last night by Afghanistan's defence minister, who warned that Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network was regrouping and planned to bring Iraq-style bloodshed to the country.
Rahim Wardak warned of the threat as the Taliban said they had captured 11 Afghan troops, a senior policeman and a district chief in a district of Kandahar where US and Afghan forces staged an anti-guerrilla operation just days earlier.
Britain's military chief in Kabul last week confirmed that the 8,000-strong UK presence in Iraq would be scaled down to enable more troops to be diverted to the struggle against a resurgent Taliban.
But despite fears that the security situation in Afghanistan was deteriorating, the Americans have now launched a determined rearguard action to ensure Iraq does not suffer from a switch in Britain's military focus.
"The Prime Minister was given a pretty depressing run-down of the prognosis for Iraq while he was in Washington," one senior Ministry of Defence source said last night. "The Americans are pushing for at least a maintenance of the troop numbers we have there now. Our latest intention is to reduce by at least half the number of our troops in Iraq within a year.
"It's difficult to see how we can square that circle."
Medecins Sans Frontieres to quit Afghanistan over security fears
July 28, 2004
KABUL (AFP) - International aid organisation Medecins Sans Frontieres said it would pull out of Afghanistan after 24 years, blaming the government for an increasingly fragile security situation.
The medical charity, known in English as Doctors without borders, also accused the US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan of using humanitarian aid for political purposes, in explaining its withdrawal.
The charity delivers aid in some of the world's most troubled areas but said in a statement that poor security was "rendering independent aid for the Afghan people all but impossible."
It had been subjected to "killing, threats and insecurity," it said.
Five MSF aid workers were killed in a targeted attack in the northwest Afghan province of Badghis on June 2, an area previously considered safe.
Four U.S. Special Forces Killed in Afghan South
May 29, 2004
KABUL (Reuters) - Four U.S. military personnel were killed in action in Afghanistan on Saturday, one of the biggest losses for American forces since the fall of the Taliban which comes amid signs of a growing militant insurgency in the south.
A brief statement from the U.S. military in Kabul said that the four service members were from the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force, Afghanistan, suggesting that it was special forces troops who were killed.
The service members died in the southern province of Zabul, where remnants from the ousted Taliban have staged a series of attacks in recent months.
They have declared a "jihad," or holy war against foreign and Afghan troops and aid organizations. The U.S. military has admitted that an insurgency concentrated in the south and east of the country has gathered pace in the last two months.
Ex-US Football Star 'Friendly Fire' Victim
May 29, 2004
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Cpl. Patrick Tillman, killed in Afghanistan last month after spurning a $3.6 million football contract to join the special forces, was probably shot by his own comrades in the confusion of battle, the military said on Saturday.
Previous military statements had suggested Tillman, perhaps the best-known U.S. casualty of the Iraq and Afghan campaigns, had been killed by enemy fire.
Afghan Aid Crucial to Prevent Chaos
Jim Lobe, OneWorld US
WASHINGTON, D.C., Mar 29 (OneWorld) - On the eve of a meeting this week of Afghanistan's major international donors, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) active in the war-battered country are calling on wealthy countries to devote more attention to human rights, security, and the growing threat posed by opium production.
In a letter sent Friday to the major donors, Amnesty International said it was most concerned about continuing insecurity for the vast majority of Afghanis who live outside the capital, Kabul, and particularly ongoing abuses committed against women and girls in much of the country.
Similarly, the international relief group CARE urged in a new policy brief that donors take four specific steps to ensure Afghanistan's stability. It stressed that the burgeoning drug trade, which is fueling violence and insecurity, needs to be addressed more aggressively.
The brief also called for donors to commit the full amount of reconstruction assistance requested by the government of President Hamid Karzai--$27.5 billion over seven years--noting that 70 percent of the country's 25 million people live in poverty after a quarter century of warfare that ended only two years ago with the U.S.-led ouster of the Taliban government.
The recommendations were made just days before donors' meeting set for Berlin on March 31 and April 1.
On Sunday Karzai announced that presidential elections originally scheduled for June will instead be delayed until September and held along with parliamentary elections. The delay, he said, was necessitated by the ongoing insecurity in various parts of the country where potential voters could not be registered in time.
Only about 1.5 million of an estimated 10.5 million eligible voters have so far been registered, and UN workers helping organize the elections have warned for months that the June date would be very difficult to meet under current conditions.
"The international community is fully aware of the need in Afghanistan to make it more secure for the Afghan people to have free and fair elections," he told reporters.
Of greatest concern are the Pashtun areas of southern and eastern Afghanistan, particularly along the Pakistani border where the Taliban has reasserted its presence in part by carrying out attacks against aid workers, government officials, and Afghan police and army units.
The Pentagon announced last week that it was sending 2,000 Marines to join about 11,000 U.S. troops who are deployed mainly in the Pashtun areas as part of a major operation to prevent the infiltration of Taliban forces and coordinate with Pakistani forces across the border that are trying to flush out al Qaeda remnants believed to be hiding there.
NGOs have been calling for months for both the U.S. and the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF)--which has so far been confined almost exclusively to Kabul--to expand its operations to other parts of the country, including the predominantly Pashtun areas and other regions where warlords continue to rule. That message was underlined last week in fighting that broke out between rival forces in the western city of Herat, previously one of the secure and prosperous parts of the country.
In its letter, Amnesty warned that failing to provide security and ensure the human rights of all Afghans posed a major danger to the country's future.
"We have seen some positive steps emerging, such as the building of a professional police force, training of the judiciary, police and lawyers, legal reform and physical rehabilitation of prisons and courts in Kabul," the London-based group noted. "However, it is extremely worrying that progress is being limited to the capital while human rights remain far from realized for Afghans living in other provinces."
Among the most important issues to be tackled, it said are violence against women and prison conditions, areas in which the group recorded some of the gravest human rights violations during its most recent visit to Afghanistan in February.
"Violations of the rights of women and girls, including physical abuse, underage marriage, exchange of girls to settle feuds were widely reported to Amnesty International during the visit," it said. "It is particularly worrying that the Afghan government has not addressed these issues in any substantial way so far..."
The group also called for donors to press the government to end impunity to both past and current serious human rights abuses. "Human rights violations are likely to continue as long as people reasonably suspected of being responsible for gross human rights violations are allowed to escape criminal responsibility and to hold positions of authority," Amnesty said.
In its report, 'The Cost of Doing Too Little,' CARE echoed some of Amnesty's concerns, noting in particular that ISAF and U.S.-led military forces should focus their efforts on enhancing security while training and building up Afghanistan's police and army forces.
"Lack of security will slow reconstruction undermine confidence in the government, facilitate expansion of poppy production and the criminal economy more generally, and create more favorable operating conditions for terrorist elements in Afghanistan and along its borders," it said.
Insecurity, it went on, derives from the continuing activity of Taliban, al Qaeda and related groups, abuses committed by warlords who are not under Kabul's control, conflicts between rival warlords as in Heart, and armed criminal gangs.
Local rivalries are increasingly being fueled by the fast-growing drug economy, according to the report, which noted that Afghanistan's opium crop currently accounts for a whopping 75 percent of global production, up from just 12 percent in the year 2000, when the Taliban regime banned poppy production.
CARE said that drug trade was making it far more difficult for the Afghan government to promote legitimate economic reconstruction and development. Poppy farmers currently earn about $2,520 a year, while farmers who cultivate legal crops average only about $670 a year. Similarly agricultural workers earn some $6.77 a day harvesting opium, as opposed to $3.01 a day for wheat.
As a result more farmers are planting more of their land with poppy, and more laborers are diverted into drug production.
"Once entrenched, this industry will become increasingly difficult to uproot and will pose a growing threat to the Afghan state over time," according to the report.
That threat underlines the need for greater investment by the international community in projects and development that offer attractive alternatives to the country's rural population, according to the report. It also means strengthening the government's ability to offer development alternatives, as well as greater security.
Like Amnesty, CARE also noted that attacks against aid and humanitarian workers--11 of whom were killed in February and early March--appear to be rising and require a strong response.
"The long-term costs of failure in Afghanistan are likely to greatly outweigh the short-to-medium-term costs of increased investments in reconstruction and peacekeeping," it said.
Afghan Aviation Minister Killed in Ambush
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Civil Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadiq, the son of the powerful governor of Herat province, was killed in an ambush in the provincial capital on Sunday, a local government official said.
Fighting erupted in the western city of Herat immediately after the assassination, which a spokesman for Governor Ismail Khan blamed on forces loyal to a senior government commander in the province, Zahir Nayebzada.
"Fighting is going on near the house of the commander," he said. "I cannot give you more details because I am in the area."
Sadiq was the third member of President Hamid Karzai's cabinet to be assassinated, and the second civil aviation minister to die since Karzai's government came to power in place of the Taliban in late 2001.
In February 2002, Sadiq's predecessor Abdul Rahman was assassinated at Kabul airport. Vice President and Public Works Minister Haji Abdul Qadir was shot dead at his office in July of that year.
In February last year, Minister for Petroleum and Mines Juma Mohammad Mohammadi died when his plane was shot down off Pakistan.
Minister Killed, Tank Battles Rage in Afghan City
KABUL (Reuters) - An Afghan cabinet minister was killed in the western city of Herat on Sunday, provoking ferocious tank and gun battles in which the city's military commander said more than 100 people died.
There were conflicting accounts of the killing of Civil Aviation Minister Mirwais Sadiq, son of powerful Herat provincial governor Ismail Khan. Khan's spokesman said he was ambushed but officials from both sides said he was killed trying to enter the house of a local government commander.
The fighting looked to be the worst between pro-government factions since President Hamid Karzai was installed after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001, and comes as he struggles against resurgent Islamic militancy.
Reports from both factions suggested an intense struggle for control of Herat was underway between Khan's forces and those of the central government in several areas of the city about 100 km (60 miles) east of the Iranian border.
Residents reported heavy fighting late into the night.
"The fighting is still going on, they are using tanks and artillery," said an Afghan aid worker, who did not want to be identified. "I'm taking cover in the basement with my family. The electricity's just gone off. It's very frightening."
Khan's spokesman Ghulam Mohammad Masoan blamed said Sadiq died after a rocket-propelled grenade hit his car in the city center and blamed forces of the city's military commander, Zahir Nayebzada, who was recently appointed by Karzai.
'We May Lose Afghanistan' Without More Troops -UN
Dec. 18, 2003
UNITED NATIONS (Reuters) - World governments must send more peacekeeping troops to Afghanistan or risk seeing the central Asian nation crumble into chaos, U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Thursday.
If the security situation does not improve, "we may lose Afghanistan," he told a news conference.
Annan had been asked whether he agreed with his special envoy, Lakhdar Brahimi, who said recently the United Nations might leave Afghanistan if security could not be ensured.
"I think it was legitimate that he sounded the alarm, and I urge member states to pay attention to it and help us in improving security in Afghanistan so that we can get on with our work," Annan said.
U.S. Kills Six More Children in Afghan Attacks
Dec. 10, 2003
KABUL (Reuters) - The U.S. military said on Wednesday six children and two adults were killed in a U.S. attack in southeastern Afghanistan, the second incident in less than a week in which children have died.
Nine children were killed in a bungled air strike on Saturday that raised fears of a backlash from Afghans.
The bodies of the six children were found after a U.S. air and ground attack last Friday on the town of Gardez in Paktia province, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Hilferty said.
The news is an embarrassment to the U.S. military, coming days after it said it had killed another nine children in a bungled airstrike in the neighboring province of Ghazni meant to target another militant.
On Monday, Hilferty said the military was concerned Saturday's bungled attack could alienate Afghans in the troubled south, a concern shared by the United Nations (news - web sites) which has already had to curtail aid work in the region because of militant violence.
The United Nations said it was "profoundly distressed" by the Ghazni incident and called for a swift inquiry with the results made public.
In both incidents, the military did not reveal the children's deaths until it was asked specific questions by journalists.
It has been criticized in the past for failing to reveal civilian deaths promptly, most notably in July last year when a helicopter gunship fired on a wedding party in Uruzgan province.
The Afghan government said 48 people were killed and 117 wounded. The U.S. military eventually said 34 died and 50 were wounded -- mostly women and children.
Mistaken U.S. Attack Upsets Afghans
Dec. 8, 2003
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Afghan officials warned Monday that an American military attack that mistakenly killed nine children playing in a remote village could make it harder to persuade ordinary people to support Afghanistan's U.S.-backed government.
"Every innocent who is killed has brothers, uncles, sisters and nephews - and behind them the tribe," said Sadokhan Ambarkhil, deputy governor of Paktika, one of the most dangerous provinces for coalition troops and their Afghan allies. "If ten people are killed, how many people are saddened?"
Saturday's warplane attack came as coalition forces are fighting a growing Taliban insurgency across the southern and eastern provinces, and as Kabul, the capital, prepared for this week's loya jirga, or grand council, to debate and approve the country's new constitution.
The attack, aimed at a local Taliban militant accused of attacking aid workers, also was criticized outside Afghanistan.
U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan was "profoundly saddened" by the children's deaths and called for a thorough investigation. "The fight against terrorism cannot be won at the expense of innocent lives," Fred Eckhard, Annan's spokesman, said in New York.
Seven boys and two girls, the oldest aged 12, died when the A-10 warplane sprayed a dusty field with 30mm high-explosive rounds in Hutala village, 150 miles southwest of Kabul, the Afghan capital.
The attack also killed a man that U.S. officials say was Mullah Wazir, a former district Taliban commander suspected of attacking aid groups and workers on the Kabul-Kandahar road - a top U.S.-funded reconstruction project.
But villagers say the dead man was Abdul Hamid, a laborer in his twenties who had returned from Iran just days before his death, and that Mullah Wazir cleared out days before.
Residents and local officials suggested the Americans were fed bogus intelligence - a suspected cause of earlier deadly bombings of civilians - and criticized what they called a careless use of military might.
"I don't know why the U.S. forces did this," said Khial Mohammad, the deputy governor of Ghazni province where the attack took place. "Mullah Wazir wasn't there. He's not a famous commander, but he is famous for smuggling."
Child deaths in US attack add to sense of fear in Afghanistan: UN
Dec. 7, 2003
KABUL (AFP) - The US military faced mounting criticism as it began its investigation into the accidental killing of nine children in an air attack on an alleged terrorist in Afghanistan.
The United Nations called for a swift inquiry and its results to be made public since the blunder "adds to a sense of fear and insecurity" in the country following similar killings of innocent civilians.
UN special envoy Lakhdar Brahimi said in a statement that the protection of civilians is an "obligation" that any military organisation must have.
"The special representative and the United Nations family in Afghanistan have been profoundly distressed at the news that nine children were killed Saturday in Ghazni as a result of coalition military action," said UN spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, reading a statement to reporters from the envoy.
"This incident, which follows similar incidents, adds to a sense of insecurity and fear in the country," he said.
"We are aware that caution is taken but these kinds of mistakes ... do have a negative impact among the population. We have seen this before so it's not as if were speaking without experience," de Almeida e Silva said.
Washington has previously said it is not its policy to offer compensation to families of innocent victims killed in a "war zone."
Thousands of civilians have been killed by the coalition since the start of the campaign against the Taliban regime and al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan in October 2001.
U.N. Agency Begins Afghan Withdrawl Post
Nov. 18, 2003
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - The U.N. refugee agency began pulling foreign staff out of large swaths of southern and eastern Afghanistan on Tuesday in the wake of the killing of a French worker, a decision that could affect tens of thousands of Afghan returnees.
Some 30 foreign staff members were being withdrawn, and refugee centers in the Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Paktia, Khost and Kandahar were being closed, said Filippo Grandi, the chief of mission in Afghanistan at the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
"We are taking today a painful decision to temporarily reduce staff in the eastern and southern provinces," said Grandi.
Taliban Say They Killed U.N. Woman, Threaten Turk
Nov. 18, 2003
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Taliban guerrillas said on Tuesday they killed a French U.N. worker in Afghanistan at the weekend and threatened to execute a Turkish road engineer unless the government freed jailed comrades.
A guerrilla commander also warned that anyone seen to be assisting U.S. interests in Afghanistan would be targets for future attacks, including journalists and aid workers.
Taliban has de facto control in some districts: UN
Oct. 25, 2003
United Nations (PTI): Expressing serious concern over resurgence of Taliban in Afghanistan, a top United Nations peacekeeping official has said the militia has established de facto control over administration in several border districts and that could affect the electoral process in the war-torn country.
Because of deteriorating security situation, all UN missions have been suspended in Nimroz, Helmand, Uruzgan and Zabul provinces which, in turn, has greatly restricted reconstruction process and world body's ability to monitor the political process in the south, he said.
The primary sources of insecurity remained terrorist attacks and cross-border infiltration by suspected Taliban, al Qaeda and Hizb-I-Islam insurgents, Under-Secretary General for Peacekeeping Jean-Marie Guehenno told the Security Council yesterday, days before a UNSC mission to the country.
What good friends left behind
Two years ago, as the bombs began to drop, George Bush promised Afghanistan 'the generosity of America and its allies'. Now, the familiar old warlords are regaining power, religious fundamentalism is renewing its grip and military skirmishes continue routinely. What was the purpose? John Pilger reports
Saturday September 20, 2003
At the Labour party conference following the September 11 attacks, Tony Blair said memorably: "To the Afghan people, we make this commitment. We will not walk away... If the Taliban regime changes, we will work with you to make sure its successor is one that is broadbased, that unites all ethnic groups and offers some way out of the poverty that is your miserable existence." He was echoing George Bush, who had said a few days earlier: "The oppressed people of Afghanistan will know the generosity of America and its allies. As we strike military targets, we will also drop food, medicine and supplies to the starving and suffering men and women and children of Afghanistan. The US is a friend of the Afghan people."
Almost every word they spoke was false. Their declarations of concern were cruel illusions that prepared the way for the conquest of both Afghanistan and Iraq. As the illegal Anglo-American occupation of Iraq now unravels, the forgotten disaster in Afghanistan, the first "victory" in the "war on terror", is perhaps an even more shocking testament to power.
It was my first visit. In a lifetime of making my way through places of upheaval, I had not seen anything like it. Kabul is a glimpse of Dresden post-1945, with contours of rubble rather than streets, where people live in collapsed buildings, like earthquake victims waiting for rescue. They have no light and heat; their apocalyptic fires burn through the night. Hardly a wall stands that does not bear the pock-marks of almost every calibre of weapon. Cars lie upended at roundabouts. Power poles built for a modern fleet of trolley buses are twisted like paperclips. The buses are stacked on top of each other, reminiscent of the pyramids of machines erected by the Khmer Rouge to mark Year Zero.
There is a sense of Year Zero in Afghanistan. My footsteps echoed through the once grand Dilkusha Palace, built in 1910 to a design by a British architect, whose circular staircase and Corinthian columns and stone frescoes of biplanes were celebrated. It is now a cavernous ruin from which reed-thin children emerge like small phantoms, offering yellowing postcards of what it looked like 30 years ago: a vainglorious pile at the end of what might have been a replica of the Mall, with flags and trees. Beneath the sweep of the staircase were the blood and flesh of two people blown up by a bomb the day before. Who were they? Who planted the bomb? In a country in thrall to warlords, many of them conniving in terrorism, the question itself is surreal.
A hundred yards away, men in blue move stiffly in single file: mine-clearers. Mines are like litter here, killing and maiming, it is calculated, every hour of every day. Opposite what was Kabul's main cinema and is today an art deco shell, there is a busy roundabout with posters warning that unexploded cluster bombs "yellow and from USA" are in the vicinity. Children play here, chasing each other into the shadows. They are watched by a teenage boy with a stump and part of his face missing. In the countryside, people still confuse the cluster canisters with the yellow relief packages that were dropped by American planes almost two years ago, during the war, after Bush had prevented international relief convoys crossing from Pakistan.
More than $10bn has been spent on Afghanistan since October 7 2001, most of it by the US. More than 80% of this has paid for bombing the country and paying the warlords, the former mojahedin who called themselves the "Northern Alliance". The Americans gave each warlord tens of thousands of dollars in cash and truckloads of weapons. "We were reaching out to every commander that we could," a CIA official told the Wall Street Journal during the war. In other words, they bribed them to stop fighting each other and fight the Taliban.
These were the same warlords who, vying for control of Kabul after the Russians left in 1989, pulverised the city, killing 50,000 civilians, half of them in one year, 1994, according to Human Rights Watch. Thanks to the Americans, effective control of Afghanistan has been ceded to most of the same mafiosi and their private armies, who rule by fear, extortion and monopolising the opium poppy trade that supplies Britain with 90% of its street heroin. The post-Taliban government is a facade; it has no money and its writ barely runs to the gates of Kabul, in spite of democratic pretensions such as the election planned for next year. Omar Zakhilwal, an official in the ministry of rural affairs, told me that the government gets less than 20% of the aid that is delivered to Afghanistan - "We don't even have enough money to pay wages, let alone plan reconstruction," he said. President Harmid Karzai is a placeman of Washington who goes nowhere without his posse of US Special Forces bodyguards.
In a series of extraordinary reports, the latest published in July, Human Rights Watch has documented atrocities "committed by gunmen and warlords who were propelled into power by the United States and its coalition partners after the Taliban fell in 2001" and who have "essentially hijacked the country". The report describes army and police troops controlled by the warlords kidnapping villagers with impunity and holding them for ransom in unofficial prisons; the widespread rape of women, girls and boys; routine extortion, robbery and arbitrary murder. Girls' schools are burned down. "Because the soldiers are targeting women and girls," the report says, "many are staying indoors, making it impossible for them to attend school [or] go to work."
In the western city of Herat, for example, women are arrested if they drive; they are prohibited from travelling with an unrelated man, even an unrelated taxi driver. If they are caught, they are subjected to a "chastity test", squandering precious medical services to which, says Human Rights Watch, "women and girls have almost no access, particularly in Herat, where fewer than one per cent of women give birth with a trained attendant". The death rate of mothers giving birth is the highest in the world, according to Unicef. Herat is ruled by the warlord Ismail Khan, whom US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld endorsed as "an appealing man... thoughtful, measured and self-confident".
"The last time we met in this chamber," said George Bush in his state of the union speech last year, "the mothers and daughters of Afghanistan were captives in their own homes, forbidden from working or going to school. Today, women are free, and are part of Afghanistan's new government. And we welcome the new minister of women's affairs, Dr Sima Samar." A slight, middle-aged woman in a headscarf stood and received the choreographed ovation. A physician who refused to deny treatment to women during the Taliban years, Samar is a true symbol of resistance, whose appropriation by the unctuous Bush was short-lived. In December 2001, Samar attended the Washington-sponsored "peace conference" in Bonn where Karzai was installed as president and three of the most brutal warlords as vice-presidents. (The Uzbek warlord General Rashid Dostum, accused of torturing and slaughtering prisoners, is currently defence minister.) Samar was one of two women in Karzai's cabinet.
No sooner had the applause in Congress died away than Samar was smeared with a false charge of blasphemy and forced out. The warlords, different from the Taliban only in their tribal allegiances and religious pieties, were not tolerating even a gesture of female emancipation.
Today, Samar lives in constant fear for her life. She has two fearsome bodyguards with automatic weapons. One is at her office door, the other at her gate. She travels in a blacked-out van. "For the past 23 years, I was not safe," she told me, "but I was never in hiding or travelling with gunmen, which I must do now... There is no more official law to stop women from going to school and work; there is no law about dress code. But the reality is that even under the Taliban there was not the pressure on women in the rural areas there is now."
The apartheid might have legally ended, but for as many as 90% of the women of Afghanistan, these "reforms" - such as the setting up of a women's ministry in Kabul - are little more than a technicality. The burka is still ubiquitous. As Samar says, the plight of rural women is often more desperate now because the ultra-puritanical Taliban dealt harshly with rape, murder and banditry. Unlike today, it was possible to travel safely across much of the country.
At a bombed-out shoe factory in west Kabul, I found the population of two villages huddled on exposed floors without light and with one trickling tap. Small children squatted around open fires on crumbling parapets: the day before, a child had fallen to his death; on the day I arrived, another child fell and was badly injured. A meal for them is bread dipped in tea. Their owl eyes are those of terrified refugees. They had fled there, they explained, because warlords routinely robbed them and kidnapped their wives and daughters and sons, whom they would rape and ransom back to them.
"During the Taliban we were living in a graveyard, but we were secure," a campaigner, Marina, told me. "Some people even say they were better. That's how desperate the situation is today. The laws may have changed, but women dare not leave their homes without the burka, which we wear as much for our protection."
Marina is a leading member of Rawa, the Revolutionary Association of the Women of Afghanistan, a heroic organisation that for years tried to alert the outside world to the suffering of the women of Afghanistan. Rawa women travelled secretly throughout the country, with cameras concealed beneath their burkas. They filmed a Taliban execution and other abuses, and smuggled their videotape to the west. "We took it to different media groups," said Marina. "Reuters, ABC Australia, for example, and they said, yes, it's very nice, but we can't show it because it's too shocking for people in the west." In fact, the execution was shown finally in a documentary broadcast by Channel 4.
That was before September 11 2001, when Bush and the US media discovered the issue of women in Afghanistan. She says that the current silence in the west over the atrocious nature of the western-backed warlord regime is no different. We met clandestinely and she wore a veil to disguise her identity. Marina is not her real name.
"Two girls who went to school without their burkas were killed and their dead bodies were put in front of their houses," she said. "Last month, 35 women jumped into a river along with their children and died, just to save themselves from commanders on a rampage of rape. That is Afghanistan today; the Taliban and the warlords of the Northern Alliance are two faces of the same coin. For America, it's a Frankenstein story - you make a monster and the monster goes against you. If America had not built up these warlords, Osama bin Laden and all the fundamentalist forces in Afghanistan during the Russian invasion, they would not have attacked the master on September 11 2001."
Afghanistan's tragedy exemplifies the maxim of western power - that third world countries are regarded and dealt with strictly in terms of their usefulness to "us". The ruthlessness and hypocrisy this requires is imprinted on Afghanistan's modern history. One of the most closely guarded secrets of the cold war was America's and Britain's collusion with the warlords, the mojahedin, and the critical part they played in stimulating the jihad that produced the Taliban, al-Qaida and September 11.
"According to the official view of history," Zbigniew Brzezinski, Presi dent Carter's national security adviser, admitted in an interview in 1998, "CIA aid to the mojahedin began during 1980, that is, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan... But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise." At Brzezinski's urging, in July 1979 Carter authorised $500m to help set up what was basically a terrorist organisation. The goal was to lure Moscow, then deeply troubled by the spread of Islamic fundamentalism in the Soviet central Asian republics, into the "trap" of Afghanistan, a source of the contagion.
For 17 years, Washington poured $4bn into the pockets of some of the most brutal men on earth - with the overall aim of exhausting and ultimately destroying the Soviet Union in a futile war. One of them, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a warlord particularly favoured by the CIA, received tens of millions of dollars. His speciality was trafficking opium and throwing acid in the faces of women who refused to wear the veil. In 1994, he agreed to stop attacking Kabul on condition that he was made primeminister - which he was.
Eight years earlier, CIA director William Casey had given his backing to a plan put forward by Pakistan's intelligence agency, the ISI, to recruit people from around the world to join the Afghan jihad. More than 100,000 Islamic militants were trained in Pakistan between 1986 and 1992, in camps overseen by the CIA and MI6, with the SAS training future al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in bomb-making and other black arts. Their leaders were trained at a CIA camp in Virginia. This was called Operation Cyclone and continued long after the Soviets had withdrawn in 1989.
"I confess that [countries] are pieces on a chessboard," said Lord Curzon, viceroy of India in 1898, "upon which is being played out a great game for the domination of the world." Brzezinski, adviser to several presidents and a guru admired by the Bush gang, has written virtually those same words. In his book The Grand Chessboard: American Primacy And Its Geostrategic Imperatives, he writes that the key to dominating the world is central Asia, with its strategic position between competing powers and immense oil and gas wealth. "To put it in terminology that harkens back to the more brutal age of ancient empires," he writes, one of "the grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy" is "to keep the barbarians from coming together".
Surveying the ashes of the Soviet Union he helped destroy, the guru mused more than once: so what if all this had created "a few stirred up Muslims"? On September 11 2001, "a few stirred up Muslims" provided the answer. I recently interviewed Brzezinski in Washington and he vehemently denied that his strategy precipitated the rise of al-Qaida: he blamed terrorism on the Russians.
When the Soviet Union finally collapsed, the chessboard was passed to the Clinton administration. The latest mutation of the mojahedin, the Taliban, now ruled Afghanistan. In 1997, US state department officials and executives of the Union Oil Company of California (Unocal) discreetly entertained Taliban leaders in Washington and Houston, Texas. They were entertained lavishly, with dinner parties at luxurious homes in Houston. They asked to be taken shopping at a Walmart and flown to tourist attractions, including the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida and Mount Rushmore in South Dakota, where they gazed upon the faces of American presidents chiselled in the rockface. The Wall Street Journal, bulletin of US power, effused, "The Taliban are the players most capable of achieving peace in Afghanistan at this moment in history."
In January 1997, a state department official told journalists in a private briefing that it was hoped Afghanistan would become an oil protectorate, "like Saudi Arabia". It was pointed out to him that Saudi Arabia had no democracy and persecuted women. "We can live with that," he said.
The American goal was now the realisation of a 60-year "dream" of building a pipeline from the former Soviet Caspian across Afghanistan to a deep-water port. The Taliban were offered 15 cents for every 1,000 cubic feet of gas that passed through Afghanistan. Although these were the Clinton years, pushing the deal were the "oil and gas junta" that was soon to dominate George W Bush's regime. They included three former members of George Bush senior's cabinet, such as the present vice-president, Dick Cheney, representing nine oil companies, and Condoleezza Rice, now national security adviser, then a director of Chevron-Texaco with special responsibility for Pakistan and Central Asia.
Peel the onion of this and you find Bush senior as a paid consultant of the huge Carlyle Group, whose 164 companies specialise in oil and gas and pipelines and weapons. His clients included a super-wealthy Saudi family, the Bin Ladens. (Within days of the September 11 attacks, the Bin Laden family was allowed to leave the US in high secrecy.)
The pipeline "dream" faded when two US embassies in east Africa were bombed and al-Qaida was blamed and the connection with Afghanistan was made. The usefulness of the Taliban was over; they had become an embarrassment and expendable. In October 2001, the Americans bombed back into power their old warlord friends, the "Northern Alliance". Today, with Afghanistan "liberated", the pipeline is finally going ahead, watched over by the US ambassador to Afghanistan, John J Maresca, formerly ofUnocal.
Since it overthrew the Taliban, the US has established 13 bases in the nine former Soviet central Asian countries that are Afghanistan's resource-rich neighbours. Across the world, there is now an American military presence at the gateway to every major source of fossil fuel. Lord Curzon would never recognise his great game. It's what the US Space Command calls "full spectrum dominance".
It is from the vast, Soviet-built base at Bagram, near Kabul, that the US controls the land route to the riches of the Caspian Basin. But, as in that other conquest, Iraq, all is not going smoothly. "We get shot at every time we go off base," said Colonel Rod Davis. "For us, that's a combat zone out there."
I said to him, "But President Bush says you liberated Afghanistan. Why should people shoot at you?"
"Hostile elements are everywhere, my friend."
"Is that surprising, when you support murderous warlords?" I replied.
"We call them regional governors." (As "regional governors", warlords such as Ismail Khan in Herat are deemed part of Karzai's national government - an uneasy juxtaposition. Karzai has pleaded with Khan to release millions of dollars of customs duty.)
The war that expelled the Taliban never stopped. Ten thousand US troops are stationed there; they go out in their helicopter gunships and Humvees and blow up caves in the mountains or they target a village, usually in the south-east. The Taliban are coming back in the Pashtun heartland and on the border with Pakistan. The level of the war is not independently known; US spokesmen such as Colonel Davis are the sources of news reports that say "50 Taliban fighters were killed by US forces". Afghanistan is now so dangerous that it is virtually impossible for reporters to find out.
The centre of US operations is now the "holding facility" at Bagram, where suspects are taken and interrogated. Two former prisoners, Abdul Jabar and Hakkim Shah, told the New York Times in March how as many as 100 prisoners were "made to stand hooded, their arms raised and chained to the ceiling, their feet shackled, unable to move for hours at a time, day and night". From here, many are shipped to the concentration camp at Guantanamo Bay.
They are denied all rights. The Red Cross has been allowed to inspect only part of the "holding facility"; Amnesty has been refused access altogether. In April last year, a Kabul taxi driver, Wasir Mohammad, whose family I interviewed, "dis-appeared" into Bagram after he inquired at a roadblock about the whereabouts of a friend who had been arrested. The friend has since been released, but Mohammad is now in a cage in Guantanamo Bay. A former minister of the interior in the Karzai government told me that Mohammad was in the wrong place at the wrong time: "He is innocent." Moreover, he had a record of standing up to the Taliban. It is likely that many of those incarcerated at Bagram and Guantanamo Bay were kidnapped for ransoms the Americans pay for suspects.
Why, I asked Colonel Davis, were the people in the "holding facility" not given the basic rights he would expect as an American taken prisoner by a foreign army. He replied: "The issue of prisoners of war is way off to the far left or the right depending on your perspective." This is the Kafkaesque world that Bush's America has imprinted on the recently acquired additions to its empire, real and virtual, rising on new rubble in places where human life is not given the same value as those who perished at Ground Zero in New York. One such place is a village called Bibi Mahru, which was attacked by an American F16 almost two years ago during the war. The pilot dropped a MK82 "precision" 500lb bomb on a mud and stone house, where Orifa and her husband, Gul Ahmed, a carpet weaver, lived. The bomb killed all but Orifa and one son - eight members of her family, including six children. Two children in the next house were killed, too.
Her face engraved with grief and anger, Orifa told me how the bodies were laid out in front of the mosque, and the horrific state in which she found them. She spent the afternoon collecting body parts, "then bagging and naming them so they could be buried later on". She said a team of 11 Americans came and surveyed the crater where her home had stood. They noted the numbers on shrapnel and each interviewed her. Their translator gave her an envelope with $15 in dollar bills. Later, she was taken to the US embassy in Kabul by Rita Lasar, a New Yorker who had lost her brother in the Twin Towers and had gone to Afghanistan to protest about the bombing and comfort its victims. When Orifa tried to hand in a letter through the embassy gate, she was told, "Go away, you beggar."
In May last year, the Guardian published the result of an investigation by Jonathan Steele. He concluded that, in addition to up to 8,000 Afghans killed by American bombs, as many as 20,000 more may have died as an indirect consequence of Bush's invasion, including those who fled their homes and were denied emergency relief in the middle of a drought. Of all the great humanitarian crises of recent years, no country has been helped less than Afghanistan. Bosnia, with a quarter of the population, received $356 per person; Afghanistan gets $42 per person. Only 3% of all international aid spent in Afghanistan has been for reconstruction; the US-led military "coalition" accounts for 84%, the rest is emergency aid. Last March, Karzai flew to Washington to beg for more money. He was promised extra money from private US investors. Of this, $35m will finance a proposed five-star hotel. As Bush said, "The Afghan people will know the generosity of America and its allies."
© John Pilger, 2003
Afghanistan: Current Trends Spell Disaster, Warns CARE
Wed Sept. 17, 2003
Jim Lobe, OneWorld US
WASHINGTON, D.C., Sep 17 (OneWorld) -- The United States and other donors must do far more in Afghanistan if the country is to avoid renewed conflict, if not disintegration, according to an unusually frank new policy brief released Wednesday by the U.S. relief organization, CARE and the Center on International Cooperation (CIC).
The eight-page brief finds that Afghanistan's stability and reconstruction are increasingly threatened by violence, especially against aid workers; the rise of a "neo-Taliban" movement, particularly in Pashtun parts of the country; and narco-trafficking by regional warlords and others.
And it argues that donors have failed to follow through on earlier promises of desperately needed reconstruction assistance. Moreover, what aid is being provided is becoming increasingly expensive due to growing insecurity outside Kabul, the capital--the only part of the country that is patrolled by the NATO -led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
"Putting Afghanistan on the road to peace needs more than good intentions; it needs urgent action," according to Atlanta-based CARE, which stressed that only $192 million worth of projects were completed in the 18 months after U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban regime. That constitutes "roughly 1 percent of Afghanistan's reconstruction needs," according to the report.
CARE's brief coincided with the publication of a second report by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) Tuesday which confirmed that human rights abuses, including summary executions, arbitrary detentions, and the use of unofficial prisons by warlords, are also the rise throughout the country.
"There is no rule of law, (and) the police that are responsible for the rule are themselves violators and are acting against the law," said Nadir Nadiri, an AIHRC spokesperson, told reporters. She said many people across the country were being held unofficially in prisons by local warlords or authorities due to conflicting land claims and forced evictions. Those detained, she said, often "don't have money to pay or don't have any influence with the authorities."
The new reports come amid new concerns about the situation in Afghanistan, even as Iraq has claimed the media spotlight for most of the past six months.
Washington has been particularly concerned about the resurgence of the Taliban along the border with Pakistan and in the Pashtun areas. While U.S. and allied forces have largely succeeded in turning back ever-bigger offensives by the Taliban and other Islamist groups along the border, security in much of the largely Pashtun areas in southern and eastern part of the country Afghanistan has deteriorated sharply in recent months.
In addition, the central government headed by Interim President Hamid Kharzai has not yet succeeded in extending its authority over key regional leaders and warlords who control most of the countryside, while renewed cultivation of opium poppies is contributing to their ability to resist demands from Kabul.
Each of these developments poses a "serious threat" to the country's security, but together, according to the CARE report, they make for a far more dangerous situation and one that threatens the delivery of desperately needed aid, as well as hope for reconstruction.
"Many areas of the country are now off limits to the aid community," according to CARE, while half of Afghanistan's 32 provinces are deemed "high risk" areas for aid work. In the worst incident to date, four aid workers for a Danish relief agency were executed and a fifth badly wounded by suspected Taliban rebels in southern Afghanistan last week.
As a result, reconstruction work cannot proceed over large areas of the country, with potentially disastrous political consequences.
"The longer Afghans are made to wait for concrete signs of greater progress, the easier it will be for extremists to exploit their resentment and for criminals to profit from the institutional vacuum that results," said Kevin Henry, CARE USA's advocacy director.
The deteriorating security situation is also illustrated by the rising number of armed attacks against civilians outside of Kabul. During the summer of 2002, according to the report, the ratio of armed attacks outside Kabul to inside the city was approximately 2:1. This past summer, however, the ratio rose to 7:1, CARE said.
This is due primarily to the failure of ISAF to extend its presence beyond Kabul, the report said. While the recent request by Germany and the U.S. to NATO members to contribute to such an expansion constitutes a "positive step," CARE says "it is time to move from good intentions to action."
Instead of expanding ISAF, the U.S. has appointed Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs)--groups of between 40 and 100 military and civilian personnel deployed to areas in the countryside for small-scale reconstruction projects--their mandate is far too narrow to provide meaningful security required for regional development.
"Unless they are significantly scaled up in size and mandate, they should not be portrayed as an adequate or even 'second-best' alternative to a serious investment in peacekeeping," the report said, noting that there remains only one peacekeeper in Afghanistan for every 5,380 people. In recent post-war situations, such as Kosovo, Bosnia, Croatia, and East Timor there was one peacekeeper for every 65 people.
"NATO must urgently expand peacekeepers outside the capital before the security situation gets any worse," said Paul Barker, CARE's country director for Afghanistan.
More peacekeepers would also help deal with rising opium production, which is fueling the power of warlords and pro-Taliban forces, as well as drug-traffickers, at the expense of the Karzai government. Afghanistan's share of global opium production skyrocketed from 12 percent under the Taliban to 76 percent in 2002, according to the United Nations .
Above all, says the pooicy brief, donors must not only follow through on their promises last year to provide $4.5 billion in reconstruction funding over five years; they should add substantially to that total. A far more realistic estimate--particularly given the extra costs caused by continued insecurity--would be $20 billion over the next four years, CARE suggests.
The brief noted that the populations of Iraq and Afghanistan are roughly equal, while needs are greater and natural resources fewer in Afghanistan. Yet the Bush administration recently committed an additional $20 billion dollars for Iraq for this year, while Afghanistan is to receive only $800.
"The longer the international community waits to take action, the higher the price will be," the relief group warns.
Al-Jazeera Airs New Bin Laden Videotape
Sept. 10, 2003
BEIRUT, Lebanon (AP)- The Arabic satellite channel Al-Jazeera aired video and audio tapes of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden and his deputy on Wednesday. The footage - the first video image of bin Laden in nearly two years - was aired on the eve of the second anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The tapes were produced in late April or early May, the broadcaster said.
In the audiotape, a voice said to be that of bin Laden praises the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States two years ago for causing "great damage to the enemy" and mentions five of the hijackers by name. A religious song could be heard in the background of the tape.
Another voice on the tape, attributed to bin Laden top aide Ayman al-Zawahri, calls on Iraqi guerrillas to "bury" American troops in Iraq
In the audiotape attributed to al-Zawahri, the speaker refers to U.S. troops in Iraq — an indication that it was made after American troops entered Iraq last March.
"We salute the mujahedeen brothers in Iraq and press on their hands and ask Allah to bless their sacrifices and valor in fighting the Crusaders," the speaker says. "We tell you that Allah is with you and the (Islamic) nation supports you. Depend on Allah. Devour the Americans just like the lions devour their prey. Bury them in the Iraqi graveyard."
The voice attributed to al-Zawahri also referred to the Sept. 11 anniversary.
"On the second anniversary of the raids on New York and Washington we challenge America and its Crusade, which is teetering from its wounds in Afghanistan and Iraq," the speaker says. "We tell them that we do not seek to kill, but we will chop off the hand which seeks to inflict harm on us, God willing."
In the audiotape, translated from the Arabic by The Associated Press, the voice said to be al-Zawahri's threatened more attacks on Americans.
"What you saw until now are only the first skirmishes," the voice says. "The true epic has not begun."
It says that the mothers of American soldiers should demand that the U.S. government return them home before they "return in coffins."
He accused the Americans of hiding the true number of their casualties.
Five Afghan Troops Killed, Two U.S. Hurt in Attacks
Sept. 8, 2003
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) - Five Afghan government soldiers were killed and two American soldiers wounded in a series of attacks in south and east Afghanistan, officials said Monday.
Commander Haji Grony said five Afghan soldiers were killed and five wounded when their car was hit by a rocket or rocket-propelled grenade fired by Taliban rebels in the Shah Wali Kot district of the southern province of Kandahar on Sunday.
An American soldier was shot in the right leg during an exchange of fire with "enemy forces" near the Shkin base in southeastern Paktika province Sunday, close to the Pakistani border, the U.S. military said.
Another was shot in the arm in a gunbattle at the Bari Kowt base in eastern Kunar province, Colonel Rodney Davis told reporters at Bagram air base, the headquarters of the U.S.-led forces hunting for Taliban and al Qaeda suspects.
The attacks were the latest in a wave of violence largely blamed on the ousted Taliban militia, and came on the same day Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld visited Afghanistan.
Taliban Teaming With Al-Qaida Again
September 3, 2003
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - The Taliban are no longer on the run and have teamed up with alQaida once again, according to officials and former Taliban who say the religious militia has reorganized and strengthened since their defeat at the hands of the U.S. led coalition nearly two years ago. The militia, which ruled Afghanistan espousing a strict brand of Islam, are now getting help from some Pakistani authorities as well as a disgruntled Afghan population fed up with lawlessness under the U.S.-backed interim administration, according to a former Taliban corps commander.
"Now the situation is very good for us. It is improving every day. We can move everywhere," said Gul Rahman Faruqi, a corps commander of the Gardez No. 3 garrison during the Taliban's rule.
"Now if the Taliban go to any village, people give them shelter and food. Now the people are tired of the looters and killers," Faruqi told The Associated Press, referring to regional warlords aligned with Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government.
In most parts of Afghanistan regional powers operate with relative impunity, terrorizing residents, extorting money, dealing in drugs and running lucrative smuggling routes.
"Before people didn't believe the Taliban were around. They thought we were finished so they were afraid. But now they see that we are active and they see there is no other alternative to the looters and killers," said Faruqi, who was interviewed Monday in neighboring Pakistan.
"We know they don't like the Taliban, but they hate the looters and killers even more."
In the Afghan capital, a Western diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the religious militia, working with al-Qaida, has regrouped, changed tactics and now operates in Afghanistan and in Pakistan.
Faruqi scoffed at suggestions that coalition forces have them on the run.
"We have new bases all over Afghanistan. We have just reached to Faryab province. There are 10,000 American soldiers. They can't be everywhere. We are not afraid.... we know we can move freely," Faruqi said.
The Taliban have appointed military councils in each Afghan province, re-established military bases in the country, developed a command structure and injected discipline into the ranks, he said.
On the newest battlefield in southeastern Zabul province - where U.S. special forces, the 10th Mountain division and Afghan government soldiers are waging "Operation Mountain Viper" - Faruqi said the Taliban's military command structure is fixed: Abdul Jabbar, a former aide to the Taliban's Balkh governor, is in charge. His field commanders are Amir Khan Haqqani and Ghulam Nabi. All three are from Zabul province.
The Zabul provincial chief of intelligence for Karzai's government, Khalil Hotak, agreed that the Taliban have strengthened.
"The Taliban are regrouping, having meetings in districts. In Zabul province 80 percent of the people in every district are loyal to the Taliban," Hotak told AP on Tuesday.
"They are uneducated people," he said. "They are close to the religious people. The Taliban are preaching in the districts and have convinced people that the U.S. people are infidels and that the Afghan government is supporting infidels against Islam."
An incident one month ago in a village in southern Afghanistan was evidence of the Taliban's propaganda campaign.
When the U.S. military entered the village to search for suspected Taliban, residents wrapped copies of the Quran, the Muslim holy book, in white cloth and hid them in a dry riverbed. They were frightened the American soldiers would arrest or kill them because they were Muslims, said a U.S. military statement.
American soldiers reassured village elders that they had nothing to fear because of their religion.
In recent months the Taliban have targeted Afghan police, blowing up their vehicles, ambushing their patrols and attacking their stations.
Before attacking a police station, the Taliban send a letter. "We tell them that the Americans are their enemy and that they should let us cross. If they say yes we don't attack if they say no we attack," Faruqi said.
He said they draw support from some conservative tribal people and from some in the Pakistani military and intelligence community.
"There are some in the army who are under the influence of the CIA and they will hand us over, but there are many who are Muslims and will not," he said.
About two months ago, the Pakistani military captured several Taliban, including a former deputy governor.
However, Faruqi said, "One of the big intelligence men in Pakistan sent a letter to a local ISI (Pakistan's spy agency) person and said 'If you are Muslim you will release the Taliban you have arrested and if you don't release them then know that you are still a human being and they will kill you.' They remain in jail, but Faruqi said, "I can tell you that they will be released."
Small training camps exist in Pakistan and Afghanistan, he said.
"We don't need to learn about jihad, we know how to fire our guns. It is to teach about explosives, and bombs and ambushes," he said.
The theory of bomb making is taught in camps in Pakistan, he said, gesturing to indicate the explosions are carried out in Afghanistan.
A second former Taliban, who speaks Arabic and identified himself only as Abdullah, was interviewed in northwest Pakistan, where he had come from Afghanistan to buy old, broken radios and televisions and circuitry to use in making remote-control devices.
"There will be more explosions," the man said. "You should know we will not stop. We are stronger."
US launches military offensive to crush growing Afghan opposition
August 28, 2003
In reply to a sharply rising level of guerrilla attacks, US and Afghan forces launched large-scale operations on Monday against armed opposition militia in the south east of Afghanistan. The attacks and the repressive response underscore the growing hostility and resistance to the US-led military occupation of the country and its client regime in Kabul.
US Special Forces soldiers and hundreds of Afghan troops, backed by massive US air support, have been sweeping mountainous areas of Zabul province where between 600 and 1,000 Taliban fighters were said to be entrenched. The operation began on Monday with the bombardment of an alleged Taliban camp using A-10 gunships, F-16s and AV-8B Harrier attack jets, which killed at least 14 people according to a US military spokesman.
US Forces presence cause of growing Taliban's attacks: Afghan General
August 27, 2003
KABUL, August 28 Pak Tribune: The presence of the American forces in Afghanistan is the real cause of growing Al-Qaeda and Taliban attacks and insecurity in the country. This was said by Corps Commander of the 3rd Corps of Southeastern Afghanistan General
Atiqullah Lodin while giving an interview to Radio Tehran on the other day.
General Lodin said only the Afghan forces can maintain security of the country and not the foreign forces. "The Afghan nation is very sensitive about the presence of foreign forces in their country," he added.
General Lodin stressed that Kabul should provide weapons and financial resources to the police and armed forces so that the Afghans themselves could maintain security in the country.
Taliban guerrillas retake areas of southern Afghanistan
August 28, 2003
KABUL, Aug. 27 (Xinhuanet) -- Elusive Taliban fighters have recaptured some areas of a southern Afghan province despite a ongoing massive joint operation by government troops and US-led coalition forces to hunt them down, an Afghan military official said on Wednesday.
"Two districts of Larzahwa, Chanaraha and a part of the district of Dai Chupan in Zabul province were fallen to the hands of Taliban guerrillas on Tuesday afternoon," Haji Janan, a commander of the Afghan Army's 7th Corps stationed in Kandahar, told Xinhua.
He said that such a situation occurred after a new Taliban commander and more Taliban fighters arrived on Tuesday in the area,where some 40 suspected Taliban have been killed earlier this week.
Attacks by Taliban Forces IncreaseAugust 21, 2003
KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban guerrillas have killed 10 policemen, including a provincial police chief, taking the death toll to more than 90 in one of Afghanistan's bloodiest weeks since U.S.-led forces overthrew their strict Islamic regime in 2001.
Abdul Khaliq, police chief of Logar province, and several other senior police officers from the province south of Kabul were among those killed in an ambush on Monday, Logar's military commander Fazlullah Mojadidi told Reuters.
He said the police chief had been returning from a funeral for two family members of a police officer who were killed in a rocket attack blamed on the Taliban.
"They were in their cars when the incident happened," Mojadidi said. "There is no doubt that the Taliban were behind it."
News of the attack came after police said two Afghans working for British aid agency Save the Children Fund were wounded in a Taliban attack west of the northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif on Sunday, the second such incident there in two weeks.
And early on Tuesday a group of about 20 armed men raided a base of an Afghan mine clearance agency 22 miles southwest of Kabul, beat up some of its staff and stole an ambulance which they later set fire to. Afghan Insurgents Fight Police; 22 Killed
Sunday August 17, 2003
By TODD PITMAN
Associated Press Writer
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) - Insurgents attacked a police headquarters in southeastern Afghanistan, sparking a battle Sunday that killed at least 15 fighters and seven Afghan police, a police chief said. It was part of a disturbing new surge of violence in the country.
The siege began shortly before midnight Saturday when about 400 guerrillas attacked the police headquarters in the town of Barmal in Paktika province, about 125 miles southeast of Kabul, said provincial governor Mohammed Ali Jalali.
The fighters, firing rockets, grenades and heavy machine guns, took over the office and held it until 5 a.m. Sunday before destroying the building and retreating amid a gunbattle with police, said police chief Daulat Khan.
The attack was the latest in a wave of violence that has underscored just how unstable Afghanistan still is after the Taliban were toppled in late 2001. Sixty-four people were killed in various attacks last Wednesday, believed to be the single deadliest day in the country since the Taliban's ouster.
Anti-government insurgents - a mix of Taliban militants, al-Qaida fighters and supporters of renegade warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar - are waging a hit-and-run war in much of southern and eastern Afghanistan. The United Nations' top envoy for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, has asked the Security Council to expand the 5,000-strong NATO-led peacekeeping force to ensure security outside the capital ahead of national elections due in June 2004.
Jalali said more than 20 insurgents and seven police were killed by the time the latest fighting ended Sunday.
Afghan resistance takes shapeAfghan Political Violence on the Rise
By Syed Saleem Shahzad
August 16, 2003, Asia Times Online Co, Ltd.
KARACHI - Notwithstanding the changing of the guard in Kabul, which sees the North Atlantic Treaty Organization taking over command of the International Security Assistance Force, the resistance network that covers large swathes of the country is firmly in place.
This consists of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan, the Taliban and fighters of Osama bin Laden's International Islamic Front grouped under the banner of the Saiful Muslemeen (the Sword of Muslims). Previously restricted to the countryside and attacks on foreign soldiers, the resistance has now targeted cities.
This week has been the bloodiest in Afghanistan for more than a year, with more than 50 people killed in bombings and fighting across the country in incidents orchestrated by the Saiful Muslemeen, which in turn, according to security sources, is run by senior Taliban leaders holed up in the southern Pakistani city of Quetta and its outskirts. Currently, their main targets are the southern regions of Afghanistan, including Zabul, Hilmand, Kandahar and Urugzan.
The resistance does not necessarily want to take control of towns, rather it wants to send a message to the embattled interim administration in Kabul headed by Hamid Karzai that local governments are at their mercy. This happened in Zabul, as reported in Asia Times Online on May 1 (Afghanistan, once more the melting pot ) when the town was overrun, then abandoned.
Subsequently, Taliban guerrillas again captured Zabul and hoisted their white flags on government buildings. And once again they melted into surrounding mountains after a short time, where this time they held their positions. The mountains are such that for people with local knowledge, they provide excellent coverage, even from aerial bombing. The apparent aim is to be in position to cut the supply lines of southern Afghanistan from Kabul. Already, some districts, including Hilmand and parts of Kandahar and Urugzan, have to rely on tortuous routs for supplies, or wait for air drops.
Another, and very new, part of the strategy adopted by the resistance involves the use of remote-controlled devices. These include the remote manipulation of missiles and bombs, which will significantly increase the effectiveness of the guerrillas. The arrival of this new technology also indicates that the resistance has established supply lines to the outer world, which will make the job of the coalition forces even more difficult.
The evolving situation in Afghanistan - and Iraq for that matter - represents the designs of the International Islamic Front, which aims to draw the enemy (US) to battlefields, where it will be engaged in protracted warfare that will reap a heavy human and economic toll - much as happened to the former Soviet Union in its misadventure in Afghanistan in the 1980s.
To this end, the Front is recruiting fighters from around the world - and especially from Pakistan and the Central Asian republics - to become its new martyrs on the killing fields of Afghanistan.
Now we pay the warlords to tyrannise the Afghan people
The Taliban fell but - thanks to coalition policy - things did not get better
Thursday July 31, 2003
Diehard defenders of military intervention in Iraq argue that it's too soon to carp, that time is required to restore order and prosperity to a country ravaged by every type of misfortune. Time, certainly, is needed, but is time enough? If the example of Afghanistan is anything to go by, time makes things worse rather than better. More than 18 months after the collapse of the Taliban regime, there is a remarkable consensus among aid workers, NGOs and UN officials that the situation is deteriorating.
There is a further point of consensus: that the deterioration is a direct consequence of "coalition" policy. Some 60 aid agencies have issued a joint statement pleading with the international community to deploy forces across Afghanistan to bring some order. While waiting for the elusive international cavalry, they have been forced to reduce operations in the north, where the warlords fight each other, and in the south, where the "coalition" forces try to fight the Taliban. Privately, many aid workers fear that it is too late. Even if the political will existed, foreign troops may no longer be in a position to restore order. To do so would require going to war with the warlords themselves.
The warlords, of course, as friends of the "coalition", are also part of the government. They have private armies, raise private funds, pursue private interests and control private treasuries. None of these do they wish to give up. All of them threaten the long-term future of Afghanistan, the short-term prospects of holding elections, the immediate possibilities of reconstruction and the threadbare credibility of Hamid Karzai's government.
It is not Karzai's fault. He is a prisoner within his own government: a respected, liberal Pashtun who nominally heads a government in which former Northern Alliance commanders - and figures like the Tajik defence minister Mohammed Fahim - hold the real power.
In the country that is fantasy Afghanistan - or the Afghanistan of western promise - a national army is being created which represents all ethnic groups, and elections next year will produce a representative, democratic government. In real Afghanistan, Fahim does not want to admit other ethnic groups to his army, which could create the conditions for a future civil war.
The new national army is supposed to be 70,000-strong. Last year, only 4,000 men were trained. The new recruits were vetted for Taliban connections and drug trafficking, but not for past human rights abuses. The defence ministry is a Tajik fiefdom; arms and cash, including British taxpayers' money, continue to be funnelled to the warlords; and senior UN officials have publicly doubted whether the elections will happen at all.
The funds offered to Afghanistan for reconstruction have been slow to arrive and less than promised, but aid agencies argue that the most urgent problems are not primarily a question of money. The bad news is that they are, therefore, not problems money will solve. What is needed is a fundamental change in the power structure. But this continues to be supported, on grounds of security, by both the British and the US governments.
There is money in Afghanistan, but it is in the wrong hands. Local warlords control local roads and exact crippling tolls that impede trade. Karzai is not able to exact the remittance of this money to Kabul.The government therefore, depends on funds from outside, part of which it uses, in turn, to buy off the warlords. At no stage of this dismal process do funds trickle down to the people of Afghanistan. The only dependable source of revenue for many returned farmers is the opium poppy.
Two million refugees have returned to Afghanistan, encouraged by the UNHCR and their weary host countries. For many this has been a tale of woe. There are few jobs; poverty and hunger continue.
Development and reconstruction experts agree that postwar reconstruction should begin with security and include the early encouragement of labour-intensive infrastructure projects which help the country and put wages into the pockets of those who need them. But this has not been applied in Afghanistan. Security never came because, when the Taliban fell, the US would not agree to the deployment of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) outside Kabul. Why? Because the US defence secretary, Donald Rumsfeld, was already planning the invasion of Iraq and did not want men tied down in peacekeeping.
The Pentagon prefers to pay the warlords to run the country outside Kabul, dressing up the exercise with a loya jirga in which 80% of those "elected" were warlords. Washington sources report that when Karzai appealed to Rumsfeld for support to confront one of the most notorious warlords, Rumsfeld declined to give it. The result has been that reconstruction is crippled, political progress is non-existent and human rights abuses are piling up.
Even straightforward reconstruction projects fail to bring maximum benefit to the Afghan people. To give only one example: road repair could be an opportunity to spend money usefully and to provide employment. But on the key road from Kandahar to Iran, which had not been repaired for 30 years, the central government failed to gain the cooperation of local powers. The stalemate was resolved when the repair contract was awarded to a US firm that brought in heavy machinery instead of using local labour.
What progress there has been is now threatened. The proportion of girls in school - never more than half - has begun to decline again: girls' schools have been attacked, and girls threatened and harassed on their way to classes.
A Human Rights Watch report published on Tuesday documents crimes of kidnapping, rape, intimidation, robbery, extortion and murder, committed not in spite of the government but by its forces - by the warlords and their police and soldiers, who are paid, directly and indirectly, by US and British taxpayers.
The British have been shipping cash to Hazrat Ali, the head of Afghanistan's eastern military command and the warlord of Nangahar, who worked with the US at Tora Bora. His men specialise in arresting people on the pretext that they are Taliban supporters and torturing them until their families pay up.
If paying warlords had been an emergency measure, there would be room to hope that it would no longer be necessary once elections were held and a legitimate government in place. But this is a policy the consequence of which is that there is unlikely to be long-term peace or a democratic government.
The promised election date is less than a year away. The choice is to allow these local tyrannies to be painted over by a voting exercise conducted for propaganda purposes, or to challenge the warlords. Is Nato, which takes over ISAF in August, really prepared to do so? Somehow I doubt it.
Instability in South Grows as Pro-Taliban Fighters Attack Allies of U.S.-Led Forces
By April Witt
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, August 3, 2003; Page A01
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- There is an armed guard in the house of God.
At the front gate of the Abdurrad Akhunzada mosque, a turbaned watchman paces warily in the dusty twilight, hiding his Kalashnikov beneath an outsized scarf so he doesn't frighten men arriving for evening prayers.
A remote-controlled bomb exploded at the mosque last month, injuring the mullah and 24 worshippers as they knelt, hands outstretched in supplication. Two days later, a mullah, who had hung the Afghan flag in his mosque and said good Muslims support the nation's central government, was shot to death as he sat praying, a book open in his hand. A third Kandahar mullah was attacked this week, executed outside his mosque by gunmen on a motorcycle.
All three clerics served on a religious council that recently decreed that, contrary to pronouncements by the Taliban Islamic movement, there is no legitimate jihad, or holy war, against the central government or the foreign troops that support it.
A year and a half after the United States and its allies drove the Taliban from power, acts of politically motivated violence have become frequent and fierce in the key southern province of Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban and the source of countless shifts in Afghan politics and culture over the centuries.
Bands of 50 or more pro-Taliban fighters have begun appearing around Kandahar, both along the border with Pakistan and in the interior of the province. Just over the border in the Pakistani town of Chaman, high-ranking Taliban officials are meeting openly and handing out guns, money and motorbikes, according to a witness and Afghan police officials. Poor Afghans who don't share the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islam or its mission of jihad are nevertheless accepting Pakistani money to plant land mines and bombs in Afghanistan, they said.
In addition to Taliban fighters, other men with guns -- warlords -- dominate much of Kandahar, allowing the trade in illegal drugs to flourish. Civic activists who once hoped to provide an alternative to both radical fundamentalists and marauding militiamen feel silenced and afraid.
"If someone rises up to say something about democracy or social equality, then tomorrow he won't exist anymore," said Mohammad Wali Hotek, head of one of the largest tribes in the Pashtun ethnic group, which is predominant in the south. "As there is no rule of law in Afghanistan, the gunmen can do anything they want.
"We are tough people," said Hotek, who was praying at the Abdurrad Akhunzada mosque when the bomb exploded there last month. "The experiences we are having now make us lose our hope for the future."
Kandahar police also say they feel demoralized and targeted. In July alone, one district police chief was shot to death on his way home from work and another was killed along with five of his officers when a band of about 20 armed men stormed their compound, police officials said.
This past week, five or six government officials were ambushed and killed along the same isolated road where a Red Cross water engineer was executed in late March.
The mood in the province is so tense that when a major dust storm developed earlier last week, blotting out the sky with mustard-colored sand, some Kandaharis read it as a portent.
"It just feels like something is building," said Sarah Chayes, an American former journalist who now runs a pro-democracy group called Afghans for Civil Society. "One year ago I didn't have any problem driving around Kandahar by myself. Now I feel it is a lot more dangerous."
Kandahar's mounting security problems have dire consequences for the province's poorest people. In the four months since the execution of the Red Cross engineer, the number of nongovernmental organizations with foreign workers in Kandahar has dropped from 22 to just seven or eight, said Talatbek Masadykov, head of the Kandahar office of U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. Those who have remained often stick close to the city of Kandahar rather than risk traveling to outlying districts. Crucial reconstruction and humanitarian aid, from bridge repairs to food distribution, have slowed or stopped as a result, he said.
The growing instability in Kandahar has ominous implications for the rest of Afghanistan. As the heartland of the Pashtuns, whose monarchs ruled Afghanistan for much of the past three centuries, and the place where the Taliban began its rise to power in the early 1990s, Kandahar has long been the trendsetter for the rest of the country.
"Kandahar was the first capital of Afghanistan," said Masadykov. "Historically, those who know Afghanistan say that if you can solve the political issues in Kandahar, you can solve the issues in the whole country. If you can't do it in Kandahar, it means that you are lost."
To be sure, Afghanistan is more stable than it was during recent decades of war. Factional fighting has also plagued the north, but in the capital, Kabul, people can go to sleep at night without worrying that rival warlords' stray rockets will kill them in their beds. Observers say the Taliban does not seem to have mass support or the capacity to recapture the country.
During a one-day stop in Afghanistan this past week, Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, played down recent Taliban attacks and declared "security and stability are increasing."
But some unresolved threats to the peace appear serious -- and may be worsening.
Human Rights Watch released a report this past week saying that warlords, whom the U.S. military helped put in power so they could fight the Taliban and al Qaeda, are terrorizing much of the country. Their gunmen are intimidating journalists and political opponents as well as robbing, detaining and raping ordinary Afghans with impunity, the report said.
At the same time, cooperation between the U.S. military and regional leaders has not always succeeded in thwarting the Taliban and al Qaeda -- notably in Kandahar. Twice in recent months, large Taliban groups have attacked U.S. or allied forces, and Kandaharis are increasingly critical of the United States for not acting more aggressively to stop terrorism and protect the populace.
Recent efforts to flush out Taliban forces have brought some tangible results, but have failed to stop them from regrouping over the Pakistani border, beyond the reach of coalition forces.
In early June, Kandahar provincial soldiers killed about 40 people they identified as pro-Taliban fighters during a clash six miles north of Spin Boldak, near the Pakistani border. Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali later said many of the dead carried Pakistani identification cards or mobile phones.
On July 19, a large group of pro-Taliban fighters fired on a convoy of U.S. Special Forces and other coalition soldiers patrolling near Spin Boldak. The coalition soldiers returned fire and called in AH-64 Apache helicopters, killing between 22 to 24 enemy fighters, the U.S. military said. A Kandahar police official said the dead men were killed as they fled over the border into Pakistan.
Mohammad Anwar, an Afghan trader who grew up in Spin Boldak and now lives in the Pakistani town of Chaman, said he is perplexed that high-ranking Taliban officials live openly in his prosperous neighborhood. In late June, he saw guns, money and motorbikes being dispensed at a local mosque, he said. "Everybody knows there are terrorists there, but they don't take action," Anwar said. "It scares me."
Gen. Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal, the Afghan central government's highest-ranking police official in Kandahar, said he too has watched with alarm as remnants of the Taliban grow more visible and active.
After coalition forces routed them, Taliban leaders fled and hid for six months, he said. Then they started appearing openly in Pakistan. "They wanted to know what the reaction would be," Akram said. "After there was no reaction from the coalition or the government, they started regrouping."
Before long, he said, the Taliban and its allies began slipping into Afghanistan to disseminate anti-government, anti-coalition propaganda fliers, which Afghans call "night letters."
"Then they started burning schools and, again, no one said anything," he said. "The third phase was explosions. . . . Now they are targeting mullahs and police officials."
To Akram, who fought the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, the progression looks ominously familiar. "It is dangerous," he said. "During the Russian invasion, we did the same thing: step by step. These Taliban have been organizing step by step.
"Now that they have not been stopped and they are in larger numbers, they will make the situation worse for the coalition forces and the Afghan government."
Most Kandaharis, however, say they are sick of war and don't support the Taliban. Many remark wistfully though that they miss some of the law and order that came with the repressive regime.
UN: Afghanistan New Villain in Illicit Drug Trade
June 25, 2003
PARIS (Reuters) - Illicit drug production is on the wane in Myanmar, Laos, Colombia and Peru but flourishing in Afghanistan feeding a growing heroin market in Central Asia, Russia and Eastern Europe, U.N. drug experts said on Wednesday.
"Growth of opium production in Afghanistan has increased the heroin market in the region and in Central Asia, the Russian Federation and Eastern Europe. The HIV/AIDS epidemic has been expanding at an alarming rate due mainly to the increase in intravenous heroin abuse," UNODC head Antonio Maria Costa said.
The resumption in Afghanistan of large-scale poppy farming since U.S.-led forces ousted the ruling Taliban at the end of 2001 has lifted world output back above 2001 levels, and made Afghanistan the main global producer with 76 percent of the market against 12 percent in 2001.
Afghanistan's former Taliban rulers clamped down on opium growing, but it has since flourished under the protection of warlords.
Taliban Names Anti-U.S. Leadership Council
Tuesday June 24, 2003
SPIN BOLDAK, Afghanistan (Reuters) - The shadowy leader of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, Mullah Omar, has named a 10-man leadership council to organize resistance against foreign troops in the country, a news report said on Tuesday.
Pakistani newspaper, The News, quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying Mullah Omar announced the formation of the body in an audio tape sent from his hiding place in Afghanistan.
In the tape, Mullah Omar called on the Taliban to make sacrifices to drive out U.S. and other foreign troops and the "puppet" government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, the paper quoted Mohammed Mukhtar Mujahid as saying.
The paper said members of the Rahbari Shura, or leadership council, were mostly Taliban military commanders and most were from the southwest of the country.
The paper said the council included former defense minister Mullah Obaidullah and military commanders, including the one-legged Mullah Dadullah and Akhtar Mohammad Usmani.
Mullah Abdul Rauf, a provincial governor in the Taliban regime ousted from power by a U.S.-led coalition in late 2001, told Reuters the council was formed after five days of talks that ended Monday between senior Taliban officials at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan.
"The Shura was formed to expedite jihad (holy war) against occupation forces and strengthen the Taliban movement," he said.
Mullah Abdul Samad, a Taliban intelligence official, said the council had already begun its work.
"Now jihad will be waged against the U.S. and allied forces under a new military strategy," he said, but gave no details.
Saturday, U.S. forces launched an air assault in the southeast to prepare for a deployment of troops on the border with Pakistan to stop Taliban and al Qaeda fighters crossing and carrying out attacks.
Afghan and U.S. officials have blamed a spate of attacks in Afghanistan this year on "terrorists" crossing from Pakistan.
Afghans Protest Shootings at U.S. Embassy
May 24, 2003 Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan - Angry Afghan demonstrators hurled stones at the U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Saturday to protest the deaths of three Afghan soldiers shot by U.S. Marines outside the heavily guarded compound this week.
Carrying banners that said "Death to America, Death to (President Hamid) Karzai," about 80 protesters marched through downtown Kabul for several hours. On a street near the embassy, they threw rocks at several passing vehicles belonging to the 5,000-strong international peacekeeping force that patrols the city, shattering windows in at least two of them.
"Why are Americans killing us inside our home, inside Afghanistan?" said Gul Ahmad, a 20-year-old taking part in the protest. "What about human rights? We want the killers to be handed over to the courts."
As stones were lobbed at the U.S. Embassy's large main gate, U.S. Marines stood in a fenced guard tower, speaking into walkie-talkies. One American soldier filmed the demonstrators with a video camera.
On the roads of ruin
Tony Blair vowed that the West would not walk away from Afghanistan. But in a remarkable journey, meeting militia leaders and the heavily guarded President, Peter Oborne found a nation left to fend for itself - and Taliban thugs undeterred
Sunday May 25, 2003
To begin with, post-conflict Kabul looks a success story. It is true that massive areas of the town still resemble Dresden after World War II. The wreckage of war is everywhere - gutted buildings, uncleared minefields, crashed planes, burnt-out tanks and the human wreckage of hobbling landmine victims and the war widows in blue burqas extending their hands for alms at every street corner. But this pitiful background of destruction and carnage only makes the surrounding economic and social activity all the more remarkable. Everywhere there is testimony to the tenacity of the human spirit, from the little shops that have sprung up in the ground floors of smashed houses to the taxi trade: up from barely 200 under the Taliban to an amazing 40,000, it is credibly said, today.
Restaurants open every week: a new Iranian kebab house is currently all the rage. The Aga Khan is building a five-star hotel. Rents - stimulated by the diplomatic and United Nations presence - are sky high. In some parts of town, a four-bedroom house at the end of a potholed road can earn $10,000 a month. The free and secure country promised by Tony Blair and George Bush in late 2001 looks to be emerging smoothly. But you do not need to be in Afghanistan long to sense the forces that undermine the gilded café society of aid-workers, diplomats, businessmen, spies and westernised Afghans.
This spring the Taliban and al-Qaeda, who have never been eradicated, and still lurk murderously in the mountains, gathering strength, moved on to a new strategy. They are no longer content with the robberies, hi-jacking, rocket attacks and roadblocks that have formed the standard method of disruption since the eyes of the West turned towards Iraq. They have now adapted a new tactic: execution.
The international community was not shocked by the first menacing news that filtered up to Kabul from the lawless south during our early hours in the town: the killing of two coalition soldiers. They were part of a platoon driving along the main road from Kandahar to Herat. A group of motorcyclists ranged up alongside their convoy, waved in friendly fashion, suddenly produced machine guns, opened fire and sped away. This was seen as unfortunate, but merely another deadly moment in the merciless private war the Americans are fighting against terror. The next news from the south, a day or two later, was not so readily dis missed. Bandits held up a convoy moving through the province of Oruzgan, just north of Kandahar. They went through each vehicle, robbing those inside but leaving them unharmed. At length they found an 'international', Ricardo Munguia, an El Salvadorean Red Cross worker.
Munguia was hustled out of his car. The bandit commander used his satellite telephone to speak to an unknown third party, thought to be in Pakistan. The moment the call finished, Munguia was thrown into a roadside ditch, and shot. What gives this wretched episode extra poignancy is the fact that the bandit commander's life had been saved by the Red Cross a year earlier.
A few days later the same fate met a stray Italian motorcyclist, apparently on an eccentric private journey through the south. These killings, and others, have appalled Afghanistan's international community. They have been followed by warnings from Taliban leaders that all 'internationals' will be targeted. The UN immediately placed a blanket ban on travel through much of the south, while several aid organisations pulled out completely from Kandahar and adjacent areas. The new mood of jittery nervousness may well have been behind the accidental killing of three Afghan soldiers by US embassy guards in a friendly fire incident last week.
The Taliban exudes confidence. In February its leader Mullah Omar - like Osama bin Laden, coalition forces have never flushed him out - issued his first defiant message since the fall of his government in December 2001, calling on Afghans 'to rise up and use your sword against infidels and their puppets'. Slogans such as these are now secretly distributed in propaganda flyers through Afghan refugee camps in Pakistan, in southern cities and sometimes in Kabul itself.
In March, Gulbuddin Hetmatyar, now a close ally of bin Laden and high on the FBI's 'most wanted' list, issued a warning blast from his hide-out. He denounced Afghanistan's pro-Western President Hamid Karzai as the 'showboy of the US', and declared that the Americans would be 'reduced to rubble'. Hetmatyar's vainglorious pronouncement contained a typical Afghan irony. Back in the 1980s, during the long Mujahideen struggle against the Russians, he was the CIA's warlord of choice and lavishly supplied with US cash and military hardware.
Eighteen months have now passed since the West made a series of unequivocal promises to Afghanistan. As invasion loomed before the Labour conference in 2001, Tony Blair promised: 'We will not walk away from Afghanistan, as the outside world has done so many times before.'
The following month the Prime Minister told Parliament that he supported 'an inclusive, democratic political structure' for the country. Last month, during the Iraq war, Britain and America held up Afghanistan as the model for the elimination of a rogue state.
As British and coalition forces closed into Baghdad, documentary filmmaker Paul Yule and I flew into Kabul for Channel 4. We wanted to find out whether Britain and the West are keeping the pledges we made. We wanted to find out whether Afghanistan is on course for the secure and prosperous future promised by Tony Blair, or whether it is heading back into the horror and barbarism of the past 25 years, which has killed 1 million Afghans and spawned the terror movement that struck at New York on 11 September. To find out we visited warlords, ranged out far beyond Kabul, spoke to soldiers, policemen, farmers, refugees, aid-workers and diplomats. First we visited acting President Karzai in the presidential palace.
Karzai is one of the most protected men in the world. We have to pass through five heavily guarded checkpoints before reaching the palace. Opposite the formal entrance is a large yellowish office block: it houses the CIA. Even in the tranquil courtyard outside the palace, machine-gun toting American guards wearing body armour and slacks stand at every 50 paces. Hetmatyar likes to gibe that Karzai 'does not trust Afghan guards'. But say what you will about Karzai, he is a brave man, subject to constant assassination plots. When I ask him about them, he brushes them aside as 'just part of life'.
We interviewed the interim President on the day Baghdad fell. Karzai is tall, good-looking and articulate. He dresses in immaculately pressed shalwar kameez and waistcoat - sheer Afghan chic. The awesome task of creating a modern, democratic Afghan state - and in the process turning 3,000 years of historical development on its head - devolves on him. He is a friend of the West, and that is what makes his criticisms, when they come, so much more devastating. I ask him whether the $5 billion pledged to Afghanistan at the Tokyo donors' conference of 2002 was enough to rebuild his country. 'Definitely not,' says Karzai. 'We believe Afghanistan needs $15-20bn to reach the stage we were in 1979.'
He complains, too, that the money has gone to the wrong places. Rather than make over funds to Karzai's central government, Western donors have preferred to act through outside agencies. 'Last year,' says Karzai, 'we had no control over how this money was spent.' He warns that this lack of trust 'does weaken the presence of the central government in the provinces of Afghanistan'.
It is hard to disagree. Even the niggardly World Bank accepts that Afghan reconstruction requires $10bn rather than the $5bn made available at Tokyo, while US Senator Joseph Biden argues that $20bn would be nearer the mark. Earlier this year the aid organisation Care International produced a devas tating study which contrasted Afghanistan to other post-conflict zones. In a table of aid per person donated by the West, Bosnia came up top, receiving $326 per head. Kosovans received an average $288 while citizens of East Timor got $195 each. Afghans are scheduled to receive just $42 per head over the next five years. This is despite the fact that Afghanistan is almost, as Karzai says, 'the poorest country in the world' and in a far worse state than either Bosnia or Kosovo.
Take roads. After 23 years of war Afghanistan barely has any. The bandit-infested journey between Herat and Kandahar - once one of the world's great trading routes - takes on average 17 hours today, requiring a perilous overnight stay at a local town or village. Back in the 1970s it lasted a carefree six hours. There are no meaningful plans to rebuild this vital route.
So far donor countries have committed just $300m to road-building in all Afghanistan, by coincidence exactly the same amount of money as is being spent on reconstructing the US embassy in Kabul. Much of that $300m is being spent on building an 80km stab of road south from Kabul towards Kandahar. The contractor is Bechtel, the US construction giant whose Kabul representative says that 1km of road costs almost $400,000 to build in Afghanistan's hostile environment. That means that more than $1bn is required just to recreate the 3,600km main ring road linking the country's main cities: Mazar, Herat and Kabul. That money is not forthcoming, let alone the cash needed to pave over the numerous smaller roads.
Nor will the West put in the resources to provide safety. There are a number of different security organisations, each with distinct and contradictory objectives. Some 11,000 US troops, mainly Special Forces, still prosecute the war against terror. This is now an unending conflict, with echoes of Vietnam, fought in the untracked wasteland of the southern mountains and around the Pakistan border. But its aim is emphatically not the protection of the population at large. General security is the responsibility of the International Security Assistance Force. But Isaf confines its peacekeeping to Kabul, and has repeatedly turned down requests from President Karzai to stretch its tentacles around the country. Currently manned by Spanish and Italian troops, Isaf's local nickname is the international shopping-a-lot force.
Karzai's pressure for countrywide security has been urgently supported by Lakhdar Brahimi, the UN special representative in Afghanistan. Brahimi told us that even a few thousand troops, placed at key trouble spots around the country, would have prevented the lawlessness that drags down the reconstruction operation. 'If we had had this kind of support,' he claimed, 'the Afghans would have been able to look after themselves after one or two years.'
Once again, statistics highlight the staggering scale of the Western betrayal. In Bosnia there was one peacekeeper for every 113 people, in East Timor every 66, in Kosovo every 48. There is one Isaf soldier for every 5,380 Afghans. Without an international security presence the Afghan countryside has fallen back into the hands of the warlords and their militias, conservatively estimated at some 200,000 strong. The international presence is feebly trying to counter-balance the power of the warlords by building up the central government security framework. So far those attempts have been at worst disastrous and at best meaningless.
The rudiments of a police force now exist, supposedly being trained by Germans. We visited the District Four police HQ in centralKabul. Downstairs a young Bavarian with a wispy beard studied papers at his desk. Upstairs the local police chief, a gnarled veteran of the Mujahideen wars against Russia, offered green tea and almond sweets and spoke of his despair that there was no money to pay his officers.
He spelt out the consequences of this neglect: 'There's a proverb in our country that a hungry stomach doesn't know any logic or any reason. So since he is hungry, he's collaborating with criminals.'
One rainy morning we travelled to District Fourteen, an outer suburb of Kabul where Afghanistan's underclass, the Hezzara tribe, gather together for mutual protection. To them the local police HQ was simply a place of terror. The Hezzaras told us how the police had not even attempted to solve any of the 20 murders that had taken place over the past few months. They were certain that police officers were behind a spate of recent burglaries. There were claims that some policemen were really agents for a powerful local warlord, and exacting revenge on the Hezzara people for being on the wrong side during the Kabul wars.
This inability to pay the police reflects a wider problem. There is no money for the civil service, so government officials too are forced into corruption. President Karzai is a brave man. But he is facing intractable problems, few of which are of his own making. The West's refusal to give adequate financial aid or security has castrated the President: it means that he has little direct authority outside Kabul. The remainder of the country is in the hands of warlords and local commanders. Gul Agha Shirzai is dominant in the Kandahar area, Generals Dostum and Atta in the north, and in the west Amir Ishmael Khan of Herat.
Our plan was to drive from Kabul to Herat to visit Khan. But all security experts advised against, so reluctantly we flew. On arrival we found Ishmael Khan hard at work. He was sitting at a small table in his Governor's Hall ministering to his people. They came up to him one by one, and were invited to sit next to their warlord. He listened intently, brow furrowed, as he took in their problems. One woman needed assistance to set up a workshop: he ordered her to be given some money.
Another woman, the widow of one of his Mujahideen heroes, was at her wits' end because the hospital would not admit her sick son. Khan called the hospital personally to secure admittance. Apart from the armed guards with machine guns who surrounded the hall, it was a scene that could have come straight from the Bible. The warlord was dressed in white robes and grey headdress. He is a small man, with a face that has seen and experienced everything. Watching him, you realise how a successful medieval English monarch must have looked. He fought against the Russians, and then the Taliban, who held him prisoner for three-and-a-half years before he sought exile in Iran. He came back to claim the governorship after the US invasion of Afghanistan.
From Herat he pays nominal fealty to Hamid Karzai - a portrait of the President hangs in his office - but in practice he runs his own fiefdom. Ishmael Khan's well-equipped private militia, estimated at some 50,000 strong, easily outnumbers the 4,000 soldiers in the national army. He runs his own schools, hospitals and public parks. He finances it all by customs imposts taken at the Iranian border worth up to $800,000 a day. Practically none gets passed back to a despairing Karzai. The depth of the problem is so bad that last week Karzai threatened resignation unless warlords such as Khan start to pass their revenues back to the central treasury.
Ishmael Khan plays a delicate political game. In the west neighbouring Iran tries to suck him into its sphere of influence, while the central government tries to claim him from Kabul. He has developed his own doctrine of Islamic rule, but he is a moderate compared to the Taliban. We joined Khan on a Friday morning progress through some country villages. Not only did he open a girls' school - the Taliban banned girls' education - but at the end he gave a stern lecture to his warriors about the benefits of educating women.
Western human rights groups condemn him - a Human Rights Watch report recently claimed that single women who stray into his public parks are vulnerable to crude virginity tests. We found it impossible to verify these reports in Herat. Opposition figures whom we met were literally quivering with fear, so much so that they were scarcely able to speak. In at least one case they were followed by the secret police. Recently a human rights group set up an office in Herat. Ishmael Khan's chief of police beat one of the guests, a journalist, unconscious at the launch. The journalist is now in exile in Iran, and in fear of his life.
While we were in Herat the same chief of police launched another thuggish personal attack, this time on a doctor who refused to allow him to commandeer one of Herat hospital's two ambulances for his private use.
But there is no doubt that Khan is a popular and successful ruler of his own people. He is a more attractive figure than most warlords. But he, and others like him, do pose a giant challenge to the modernising project upon which Karzai and his British and American backers are engaged. A centralised state cannot function without the revenues which Khan withholds. It is impossible to establish law and order while private armies flourish.
Karzai knows that one part of the solution is the Afghanistan National Army. 'If you want a better Afghanistan,' insists Karzai, 'a peaceful Afghanistan, a stable Afghanistan, we must have a national army. The ambition is that we should have a 70,000-strong force, professional, well-trained, well-equipped, well-paid and mobile.' That ambition is a long way from being realised. Currently, it is just 4,000 strong. It has been plagued by desertions as recruits slough off back to their homes, though instructors insist that this retention problem is improving.
Many of the new entrants into the ANA are battle-hardened Mujahideen with embedded tribal loyalties: the art is creating a national allegiance. But progress is being made. We watched a platoon from the Royal Anglians instructing trainee NCOs at a military base outside Kabul. There was a palpable esprit de corps. I asked Ghulam Farook, a Pashtun from Wardak, whether he would fight against his fellow tribesman. 'I have to work for my country,' he replied. 'My country has rights on me. If the enemies of peace and my country are my brother I am going to fight against him.'
Building an army is one thing: even more complex is destroying the militias. We attended the signing of the historic demilitarisation agreement, overseen by Brahimi in the UN compound. The aim is to disarm 100,000 militiamen within a year. Some will be absorbed into the army, others found jobs. The mechanics of the scheme are simple. Troops hand over their rifles, and a certificate from their warlord, in return for a sum of money. Administrators of the scheme have not decided how much. 'One thing is certain,' says a UN official drily. 'It has to be less than a rifle costs on the open market.'
The scheme is fraught with problems. Marshall Fahim, Karzai's Defence Minister and a powerful warlord in his own right, failed to attend the signing ceremony amid rumours of sharp disputes.
There are fears among the Pashtuns in the south that the scheme is merely a device by the Northern Alliance to rob them of their weapons. No one will say when the attempt to disarm Ishmael Khan will be made. Publicly Khan supports the scheme, but privately is said to be bitterly opposed.
But that is not the biggest problem. Out in the provinces the US army continues to arm and to pay the warlords who help them in their battle against al-Qaeda. Even as Hamid Karzai battles to establish his national army, he is being undermined by his allies. Hopelessly under-funded, without the security he pleads for, crippled even by his American backers, the Afghan President is perilously isolated. He, and Afghanistan, are being daily betrayed by Britain, America and the West.
· Peter Oborne's documentary: Afghanistan: Here's One We Invaded Earlier
U.S. puppet Karzai Vows to Quit
Mon, May 19, 2003
KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan's President has vowed to quit should he fail to bring unruly provinces into line in the next few months, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.
"Day by day the people of Afghanistan are becoming disappointed with the government," the Arman-e-Millie daily quoted Hamid Karzai as saying.
Addressing a religious function Sunday, Karzai conceded ordinary Afghans were losing faith in his government -- installed after a U.S.-led military coalition overthrew the fundamentalist Taliban in late 2001.
Afghanistan Seen Far from Stability Under Karzai
May 13, 2003
LONDON (Reuters) - Eighteen months after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban, Afghanistan remains beset by ethnic inequity, weak central government and warlordism, according to a leading London think tank.
"This unfinished business...could put the coalition in the position of defending a narrowly based and unpopular regime against widespread hostility or opposition," the International Institute of Strategic Studies said in its annual world review.
Strategic Survey 2002/3, published on Tuesday, painted a gloomy picture of political stagnation, with Afghan warlords back in the driving seat and a vibrant opium economy taking off in the absence of major economic reconstruction.
05/23/03 Afghan leader Hamid Karzai has held top secret talks with members of the former Taliban government. The dramatic move could see a return to power of some of the most senior members of the Taliban, once described by Tony Blair as the most evil, brutal regime in the world.
However President Karzai praised the Taliban's "good elements and said the movement had done a "great service to our war torn country". The interim leader, who is becoming increasingly isolated, has lost all power and influence outside of the capital Kabul. However, news of his attempt to broker a peace deal with his old enemies is bound to cause shock waves across the world.
The Taliban delegation was led by the former Health Minister Mullah Abbas who was last in the capital as British and American bombs rained down out the outbreak of war in October 2001. The meeting will certainly cause huge embarrassment to British Prime Minister Tony Blair who celebrated the demise of the Taliban so publicly after the fall of Kabul
" A senior delegation of Taliban, led by Mullah Abbas, slipped in to Kabul for the top secret several days ago after being given assurances of their personal security as some are thought to be on America's "wanted" list.
"President Karzai appeared to be delighted to see his old Pashtun adversaries in the room. There were a number of respected Afghan scholars also present just to try and keep things civilised in case old arguments got out of hand.
"Karzai saluted some of the Taliban and said that their movement had done a great service for the country. It was a very tense, and at times emotional, meeting and one of many to come", a Taliban source told Globe-Intel. He said the interim leaders main bodyguards, all American, were kept outside of the meeting, adding: "It was just as well because while there was praise for the Taliban there were few good words for the United States." - More...
Saturday, April 12, 2003
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Bush evoked upbeat images of Iraqis celebrating their freedom from Saddam Hussein on Saturday even as looting and lawlessness swept through major cities and threatened humanitarian relief efforts. Bush made no reference to the rampant looting in his radio address.
Recalling television pictures of a giant statue of the Iraqi president being toppled in the heart of Baghdad, Bush said the world this week witnessed a nation released from 24 years of iron rule by Saddam.
The capture of Baghdad has boosted President George Bush's popularity at home, with a new Newsweek poll showing his popularity rating at 71 per cent.
That is 18 percentage points higher than the 53 per cent approval rating he had on the eve of the war – the result, in part, of the poll's timing as television images were showing Saddam Hussein's statue brought down in central Baghdad to cheers from the crowd.
Why wasn't this the shot that was seen around the world?
Does the scene below look like the fall of the Berlin Wall?
The area circled in red is where U.S. marines, the press, and a small group of Iraqis gathered to pull down the statue of Saddam Hussein. No more than 150 people were involved.
The plaza was empty and sealed off by the Marines. It all occurred just opposite the Palestine Hotel where the international media are based. This was a carefully staged media event.
The pro-American Iraqis involved were members of Ahmed Chalabi’s Free Iraq Forces Militia... recently flown into Iraq by the Pentagon. Chalabi is a Washington favorite to head the new government.
The toppling of the statue was promoted as a massive uprising... does this event look massive to you?
Above Left: Chalabi and his “Free Iraqi Forces” militia are flown into Nasiriyah by the Pentagon on Sunday April 8th. Above Right: Same miltia member seen with Chalabi contingient greets US Marines in center of Baghdad moments before Saddam's statue is pulled down on April 9th.
"As people throughout Iraq celebrate the arrival of freedom, America celebrates with them," President Bush said, recalling the moment that symbolized U.S. victory -- a giant statue of the Iraqi president being toppled on Wednesday in the heart of Baghdad.
See the huge crowd of Iraqi people celebrating:
Another view, showing almost as many US Marines and reporters as Iraqis in the crowd:
How the Evening Standard Doctored a Photo
This photo appeared in the evening edition of the Evening Standard, Wednesday, April 9, 2003
The front page had this photo on it with the heading 'Jubilation on the streets of Baghdad FREEDOM'
The photo is a still taken from BBC News 24. This massive image has been very obviously doctored in a programme such as Photoshop. The image features a massive crowd of Iraqi's celebrating in the streets, HOWEVER in the mid and background it is possible to see how numerous photo's have been cut and pasted together to create the illusion of there being a massive crowd present.
In the background there is a white object (very possibly a turban) that appears three times. In the background exactly the same bent tubular object (possibly an arm in a white shirt) appears twice. In the mid to background section (to the right hand side) a man in a white shirt appears facing the camera, further on to the left the man appears with his head facing the left. This man has been photographed twice, one shortly after the other.
In the background it is possible to see a 'blurring tool' has been used to blur the cut and pastes used to doctor the photograph. It is also possible to see the usage of numerous photographs (as least 2) as they have been taken at slightly different angles and strange lines of sight appear in the image.
The repeated elements are circled, colors indicating the separate elements. Additionally the green line shows the obvious 'seam' there appears to be in the image where the entire area has been constructed as a composite of other elements. There is a definite repetition of one element on the right side too (purple), the elements that have been circled are those which are obvious and definitely matching.
Critic Accuses Media of Aiding U.S. War Propaganda
Thu May 1, 2003 ET
By David Morgan
PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - It is one of the most famous images of the war in Iraq: a U.S. soldier scaling a statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad and draping the Stars and Stripes over the black metal visage of the ousted despot.
But for Harper's magazine publisher John MacArthur, that same image of U.S. military victory is also indicative of a propaganda campaign being waged by the Bush administration.
"It was absolutely a photo-op created for (U.S. President George W.) Bush's re-election campaign commercials," MacArthur, a self-appointed authority on U.S. government propaganda, said in an interview. "CNN, MSNBC and Fox swallowed it whole."
In 1992, MacArthur wrote "Second Front: Censorship and Propaganda in the Gulf War," a withering critique of government and media actions that he says misled the public after Iraq's 1990 invasion of Kuwait.
In MacArthur's opinion, little has changed during the latest Iraq war, prompting him to begin work on an updated edition of "Second Front." U.S. government public relations specialists are still concocting bogus stories to serve government interests, he says, and credulous journalists stand ready to scarf up the baloney.
"The concept of a self-governing American republic has been crippled by this propaganda," MacArthur said. "The whole idea that we can govern ourselves and have an intelligent debate, free of cant, free of disinformation, I think it's dead."
White House spokesman Scott McClellan denied the existence of any administration propaganda campaign and predicted the American public would reject such notions as ridiculous.
A Pentagon spokesman also denied high-level planning in the appearance of the American flag in Baghdad. "It sure looked spontaneous to me," said Marine Lt. Col. Mike Humm.
In fact, a recent survey by the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press found that Americans were happy with Iraq war coverage, though many wanted less news coverage of anti-war activism and fewer TV appearances by former military officers.
But MacArthur insists that both Gulf wars have been marked by phony tales calculated to deceive public opinion at crucial junctures.
BABIES AND BOMBS
On the eve of the 1991 Gulf War, Americans were asked to believe that Iraqi soldiers tossed Kuwaiti infants from hospital incubators, leaving them to die. Not true, he says.
This time, MacArthur says the Bush administration made false claims about Iraqi nuclear weapons, charging Baghdad was trying to import aluminum tubes to make enriched uranium and that the country was six months from building a warhead.
The International Atomic Energy Agency found those tubes were for artillery rockets, not nuclear weapons. And MacArthur says a supposed IAEA report, on which the White House based claims about Iraqi weapons-making ability, did not exist.
"What's changed is that there's no shame anymore in doing it directly," MacArthur, 46, said of what he views as blatant White House and Pentagon propaganda campaigns.
Cynthia Kennard, assistant professor at the USC Annenberg School of Journalism, said the Bush administration has mastered the art of building favorable public images and shaping messages to suit its own interests.
"It's put the journalism profession in somewhat of a paralysis," said Kennard, a former CBS correspondent who covered the 1991 Gulf War. "This is not a particularly glowing moment for tough questions and enterprise reporting."
As Harper's publisher, MacArthur oversees a 153-year-old political and literary magazine he helped save from financial ruin 20 years ago with money from the foundation named for his billionaire grandparents, John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur.
While MacArthur accuses news outlets generally of avoiding opposition stands, his own magazine has been vitriolic toward Bush, describing the president in its May issue as a leader who "counts his ignorance as a virtue and regards his lack of curiosity as a sign of moral strength."
But MacArthur is not troubled by the thumping patriotism displayed by cable TV news outlets like Rupert Murdoch's Fox News Channel, which leads CNN and MSNBC in viewer ratings.
"All that means is that Murdoch knows how to run a circus better than anyone else. War and jingoism always sell. But the real damage was done by the high-brow press," MacArthur said.
"On the propaganda side, the New York Times is more responsible for making the case for war than any other newspaper or any other news organization."
He blames the Times for giving credence to Bush administration claims about the aluminum tubes. And when Bush cited a nonexistent IAEA report on Iraqi nukes, he says, it was the conservative Washington Times -- not the New York Times or Washington Post -- that wound up refuting the assertion.
The New York Times also reported an Iraqi scientist told U.S. officials that Saddam destroyed chemical and biological equipment and sent weapons to Syria just before the war.
The only trouble, MacArthur says, is that the Times did not speak to or name the scientist but agreed to delay the story, submit the text to government scrutiny and withhold details -- facts the Times acknowledged in its article. "You might as well just run a press release. Let the government write it. That's Pravda," he said.
Times spokesman Toby Usnik dismissed MacArthur's claims regarding the Times' war coverage as a whole: "We believe we have covered the story from all sides and all angles."
Fox had no comment on his remarks.
Editors across the nation also worked hard to avoid the grisly images of war, especially scenes of dead Iraqi civilians and Americans, while Europeans saw uncensored horrific images.
The Pentagon's decision to embed journalists with U.S. forces produced war footage that the 1991 war sorely lacked. But the coverage rarely rose to the standard MacArthur wanted.
"Ninety percent of what we got was junk ... I think probably 5 or 10 percent of it was pretty good," he said.
MacArthur says the character of the news media, and the government's attitude toward it, was best summed up by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld at a Pentagon "town hall" meeting.
Asked by an audience member what could be done to reverse the media's "overwhelmingly negative" war coverage, Rumsfeld said: "You know, penalize the papers and the television ... that don't give good advice and reward those people that do give good advice."
MacArthur said that translated as: "You punish the critics and you reward your friends. That's what he means. That's the standard currency of Washington journalism ... To show reality becomes unpatriotic, in effect."
Operation Enduring Failure
Thu Oct 3, 2002
By Ted Rall
"Dead or alive," said George W. Bush, squinting hard at Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. If we couldn't get those two, we'd settle for any other high-ranking Al Qaeda or Taliban official we could find. A year later our highest-profile prisoner is alleged Al Qaeda senior field commander Abu Zubaydah. Zubaydah was not involved, says the U.S., in any of the major attacks--Sept. 11, our East African embassies, the U.S.S. Cole--but rather in two Y2K plots that never came off (blowing up LAX and a tourist hotel in Jordan). Hardly a big fish, he's just a little minnow--and we wouldn't even have him if the Pakistanis hadn't tossed him into our boat.
We blew it. U.S. taxpayers are spending between $500 million and $1 billion a month to occupy Afghanistan and fight its Islamist guerrillas (in the `80s we called them "freedom fighters"), yet we haven't caught any of the people we blame for Sept. 11. Al Qaeda remains operational. They're moving money, weapons and men around the Middle East and Central Asia, preparing for their next attack. Not only are you no safer than you were on Sept. 10, but you've spent billions of bucks along the way.
But wait a minute, Bush said, beginning to distance himself from Operation Enduring Failure: the Afghan war was never about finding Osama and his coconspirators. No, we actually went to Afghanistan to liberate its people.
"We've seen the pictures of joy when we liberated city after city in Afghanistan," Bush crowed on Dec. 12. "And none of us will ever forget the laughter and the music and the cheering and the clapping at a stadium that was once used for public execution. Children now fly kites and they play games. Women now come out of their homes from house arrest, able to walk the streets without chaperons."
Beautiful imagery, nicely written by a talented but sadly anonymous White House speechwriter and echoed by TV reports filed from the Kabul Intercontinental. Too bad that, except for the part about games and kites, it's a lie.
Public executions continue. Sharia law--stoning adulterers and chopping off the arms of thieves--remains in effect, enforced by the same judges who ruled under the Taliban. Judge Ahamat Ullha Zarif told Agence France Press on Dec. 28: "Public executions and amputations would continue in accordance with Sharia law but justice would be applied fairly and with mercy. `There will be some changes from the time of the Taliban,' he said. `For example, the Taliban used to hang the victim's body in public for four days. We will only hang the body for a short time, say 15 minutes.' Kabul's sports stadium, where the Taliban used to carry out public executions and amputations every Friday, would no longer be used. `The stadium is for sports. We will find a new place for public executions.'" Now that's civic improvement.
Aside from a tiny minority of the residents of Kabul, ruled by Hamid Karzai's U.S.-protected city-state, the "liberated" women of Afghanistan still wear the burqa. A May report issued by Human Rights Watch says that women are subjected to "sexual violence by armed factions and public harassment" and that gang rapes are commonplace, particularly in the north. Not one inch of road has been paved. Writing for the Lexington Herald-Tribune, Sudarsan Raghavan notes: "The fall of the Taliban has left a power vacuum in mostly ethnic-Pashtun southern Afghanistan that has been filled by scores of shuras, from provincial ones to others in small villages. Elsewhere, warlords such as Abdul Rashid Dostum in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif and Ismael Khan in the western province of Herat are now firmly in control of their fiefdoms, just as they were before the Taliban emerged in 1994. Along one stretch, the road is dotted with armed men at checkpoints controlled by tribal shuras. Often, they are nothing more than highway robbers preying on commercial trucks and taxis."
What about all the money that we promised to spend to rebuild the country we bombed into freedom? The West welched. The Karzai government is already so broke that it can't pay its employees; it's already running a budget deficit--$165 million by early next year. $2 billion has already been spent--much of it likely stolen by corrupt Afghan officials--while the lives of ordinary Afghans continue to be plagued by poverty and starvation.
It doesn't take an expert on Central Asian politics to discern the obvious: occupation by a rich country that makes poor people even poorer is a recipe for resentment. Afghans are among the world's most fiercely independent people. A self-indulgent Western superpower propping up a band of third-rate puppets isn't helping to reduce anti-Americanism there. Never doubt that similar sentiments are spreading through other Muslim countries.
Onward to Iraq
One might ask why our Generalissimo is going after Saddam Hussein's Iraq when the war in Afghanistan has worked out so poorly, but one would be missing the point: Trotsky's theory of permanent revolution is at work. It is precisely because we botched Afghanistan that we're moving on to Iraq.
(Ted Rall's latest book, a graphic travelogue about his recent coverage of the Afghan war titled "To Afghanistan and Back," is now in its second edition. Ordering and review-copy information are available at nbmpub.com.)Women forced to have chastity tests
Afghan warlords still enforcing Taliban oppression
Tuesday December 17, 2002
Women in the western Afghan city of Herat are often arrested, taken to hospital and subject to abusive gynaecological examinations just for walking in the street with a man or riding in a taxi without another passenger, Human Rights Watch reports today.
In Herat, every woman has to wear the burqa while TV stations substitute pictures of flowers during foreign programmes when women appear with any hair uncovered.
After conducting more than 100 interviews between September and November in Herat and Kabul, the watchdog shows how little life has changed for women in Herat under the hardline governor, Ismail Khan.
Although particularly bad in Herat, the reports says similar abuses are found all over Afghanistan. In the capital, Kabul, the Taliban's Vice and Virtue squad has been reconfigured under the name "Islamic Teaching" and harasses women for wearing make-up.
Elsewhere, the troops of rival warlords with close military ties with US and other foreign forces have committed gang rapes. The abuses are not confined to Pashtun areas where the Taliban was strong. Mr Khan is a Tajik who opposed the Taliban.
Troops loyal to General Mohammed Fahim, a senior Northern Alliance commander and the central government's defence minister, "have been enforcing Taliban-era 'moral' restrictions" such as "forbidding families from playing music at weddings and dancing, and in some cases arresting and beating musicians", Human Rights Watch says.
"Many people outside the country believe that Afghan women and girls have had their rights restored. It's just not true," says Zama Coursen-Neff, co-author of the report.
"The US-led coalition justified the war against the Taliban in part by promising that it would liberate Afghanistan's women and girls ... The international community has broken that promise."
While conditions in Herat are better than under the Taliban, Mr Khan has pressured women not to work for foreign non-governmental organisations, has urged them to stick to teaching in girls' schools, and has ordered them not to drive.
Women and girls are afraid to go out except on essential business because of tight restrictions enforced not only by the police but by adolescent boys trained to spy on them.
A doctor at Herat's only hospital told Human Rights Watch that police bring in about 10 girls and women a day for "chastity" tests.
In one case in October, police arrested a girl and her cousin in the bazaar. The girl was taken to the maternity ward with such a commotion that at least 100 people saw her. Two doctors examined her and determined she was "perfectly healthy and untouched".
Attack on America
September 11 one year on
Britain after September 11
Out of Pakistan
Tuesday, February 25, 2003; Page A22
The Washington Post
TO THE LIST of threats coinciding with the crisis in Iraq add the possibility that U.S. troops in Afghanistan will face an offensive this spring from revived forces of the Taliban and al Qaeda based in Pakistan. Already, in the past few weeks, American units deployed in the southeastern border provinces have been engaged in the heaviest fighting in nearly a year, and attempted ambushes of patrols and rocket attacks on bases have steadily increased. Senior officials of the Afghan government say former Taliban and al Qaeda militants have joined with those of another Islamic extremist, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and are amassing funds, weapons and communications for a concerted campaign once the worst of winter is over. The staging grounds are two Pakistani provinces populated by the same Pashtun ethnic group that dominates southern Afghanistan. Even more disturbing, several reports say that the regrouping has been supported by elements of Pakistan's military intelligence agency, which helped to create the Taliban and backed it until the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.
The enemy concentrations may not be able to seriously challenge U.S. forces. But they could have the effect of driving international aid agencies and even Afghan government officials out of the southern region and further delaying any effective reconstruction programs in the area. They also confirm the steady unraveling of commitments by Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, to support the United States in the war on terrorism. Just over a year ago, Gen. Musharraf was vowing to rid his country of violent Islamic extremists; now he stands by as Afghan and Arab radicals, likely including Osama bin Laden, establish bases on Pakistani soil from which to attack American troops. Meanwhile, Pakistani militant leaders who were jailed a year ago operate freely again. Gen. Musharraf is back to the dangerous game of challenging Indian rule in disputed Kashmir through tolerance of Pakistani-based terrorism. Moreover, some intelligence officers in his own army may have returned to their previous strategy of using the Taliban to extend Pakistani influence in Afghanistan, at the expense of Afghanistan's pro-Western government.
The Bush administration's reaction to this mounting danger has been to play it down, at least in public. During a visit to Washington several weeks ago, Gen. Musharraf's foreign minister, Khursheed Kasuri, blithely suggested that the United States simply withdraw its troops from rural bases in the southeast to the cities -- a tactic that presumably would allow Taliban-al Qaeda forces to move in without opposition. The aggressive sweeps recently carried out by U.S. and allied soldiers, backed in some cases by heavy bombers, show that U.S. commanders have no intention of such a surrender. But responding to enemy attacks in Afghanistan probably will not be enough. Sooner or later the administration must face the fact that Pakistan has become the base for terrorists who seek to undo everything that has happened since Sept. 11 in Afghanistan. Gen. Musharraf and his intelligence services must get the clear message that such staging grounds cannot be tolerated. If he is unwilling to act against them, the Bush administration must reconsider whether its attenuated alliance with the general is worth the growing cost.
© 2003 The Washington Post Company
Who Will Count the Dead?
U.S. Media Fail to Report Civilian Casualties in Afghanistan, By Marc W. Herold
Associate Professor of Economics Education: B.S., Swiss Federal Polytechnic University, 1967;
M.B.A., University of California at Berkeley, 1970; Ph.D.
A Dossier on Civilian Victims of United States' Aerial Bombing of Afghanistan:
A Comprehensive Accounting By Professor Marc W. Herold
Updated on 12-6. For most current statistics please see excel chart 2.6MB
The Rise and Fall of the Holy Roller Empire
Fundamentalist Christians are in control of the White House,
and U.S. foreign policy. God help us all!