24 September 2004, Volume
HERAT: A PRELUDE TO THE END OF WARLORDISM?
By Amin Tarzi
On 11 September, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai finally did what he had long been promising to do: He officially sacked one of Afghanistan's most colorful warlords, Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan of Herat Province in western Afghanistan.
One day later, roughly 1,000 of Ismail Khan's supporters torched several offices belonging to the United Nations and nongovernmental organizations. The mayhem left seven Afghans dead and forced many international organizations to close shop in the city of Herat in what is seen a temporary measure (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" 17 September 2004).
Karzai announced the appointment of Herat's self-styled "amir," or ruler, as minister of mines and industry -- an offer the governor has thus far rejected, instead opting to stay in Herat, apparently as a private citizen. Meanwhile, the newly appointed governor of Herat, Sayyed Ahmad Khairkhwah, seems to be administrating the province with little difficulty. The new governor has appealed to international organizations to return to Herat.
Relationships between Karzai's central administration in Kabul and Ismail Khan's virtual fiefdom of Herat have been less than cordial since the demise of the Taliban in late 2001. Upon the establishment of the Afghan Interim Authority following the Bonn agreement in December 2001, Ismail Khan established himself in his former position as the virtual ruler of Herat and parts of adjoining provinces.
In the early months of post-Taliban Afghanistan, as coalition forces concentrated on flushing out remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda from the country, any anti-Taliban force that had brought stability in a given region of Afghanistan was regarded as an ally. Ismail Khan's presence in Herat was no exception.
By the end of 2002, human rights organizations began to pay more attention to Ismail Khan's methods of rule. For example, the New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) report released on 5 November 2002 documented widespread abuses by the military, police, and intelligence services under the command of Ismail Khan. The 51-page report, titled "All Our Hopes Are Crushed: Violence and Repression in Western Afghanistan," listed abuses including arbitrary and politically motivated arrests, intimidation, extortion, and torture, as well as serious violations of the rights of free expression and free association. Other reports listing Ismail Khan's policies of segregation of sexes and his increasingly heavy-handedness on the media followed.
In the same month, reports of armed clashes between Ismail Khan's militia and forces loyal to Amanullah Khan Naykzad, a Pashtun commander in southern Herat Province, became more violent. While the governor accused Naykzad of being a "Talib," Naykzad charged that Ismail Khan was on an anti-Pashtun witch-hunt under the pretext of fighting the Taliban.
Clashes between the two sides in Herat's Shindand District gradually became more violent as both sides began using battle tanks and heavy artillery. Despite reported requests by Naykzad, Kabul was mostly absent from the Herat quagmire. However, after U.S. forces patrolling the main military airfield in western Afghanistan situated in Shindand, came under attack by one of the warring militias, the U.S. Air Force bombed the frontlines in early December.
The show of force prompted the antagonists to sign a cease-fire in which Kabul finally began to play a mediating role. However, later in January 2003, the Afghan Defense Ministry said that it was not going to try to disarm the warlords by force, thus allowing Ismail Khan and others to keep their military units intact. As a result, skirmishes continued between the respective militias of Ismail Khan and Naykzad.
In March, Ismail Khan's influence reportedly reached to Badghis Province, northeast of Herat, where some Pashtun residents complained of harassment. Analysts at the time believed that the apparent timing of Ismail Khan's military operations in Badghis suggested he might be trying to deflect the increasing international attention away from allegations of rights abuses.
Then, in May, Chairman Karzai called a meeting of provincial governors who had refused to send customs-tax revenues to the central government -- Ismail Khan chief among them. In an apparent display of his frustration, Karzai vowed to resign in three months' time if his administration proved unable to bring outlying provinces under Kabul's control.
Karzai managed to obtain written pledges of cooperation from those governors and warlords who had thus far refused to deliver customs revenues to the coffers of the central administration in Kabul. These individuals also pledged to follow and implement the laws, regulations, and legislative documents of the country and entailed in their job descriptions; not interfere in the affairs of other provinces; implement internal and external policies as directed by the central administration; and not hold military and civilian posts concurrently. They also pledged to dismantle special "zones" created in the northern and western parts of the country, and agreed that titles such as "amir" would carry no legal weight and would be unlawful and invalid.
Almost immediately after the meeting in Kabul, Governor Ismail Khan stated that he would retain, in contradiction to his pledge, his position as the military commander of Herat. In August, in official defiance of Karzai and of his own pledge, Ismail Khan organized a Herat Province loya jirga that issued a manifesto calling for the "esteemed al-Haj Amir Mohammad Ismail" to hold two posts: governor and commander of the military corps of Herat.
The beginning of Ismail Khan's end began in March 2004 with the tragic death of his son, Afghanistan's Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Mohammad Mirwais Sadeq, under circumstances that remain unclear. Sadeq's killing, apparently by troops loyal to General Abdul Zaher Nayebzadah, commander of the 17th Division that is based in Herat, led to large-scale fighting between Nayebzadah and Ismail Khan's supporters in the city of Herat (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" 25 March 2004).
In an attempt to defuse the tension, Kabul decided to dispatch (against the wishes of Ismail Khan) a contingent of around 1,500 men from the nascent Afghan National Army to Herat. At the time, reports suggested that U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had urged Ismail Khan to accept a cabinet post in Kabul in lieu of the governorship of Herat. In defiance, Ismail Khan, purporting to act as the Afghan Ministry of Defense, appointed a new commander for the 17th Division.
In August, militiamen loyal to Ismail Khan engaged troops loyal to Mohammad Ebrahim Malikzadah, the governor of Ghor Province to Herat's east, further stretching his military forces.
The straw that broke the camel's back came in mid-August when forces of Naykzad overran Ismail Khan's defenses and reached, according to some reports, within 30 kilometers of the city of Herat. Units of the National Army -- backed by U.S. air forces and a few U.S. advisers on the ground -- managed to create a buffer zone, keeping the antagonists apart. Khalilzad managed to broker a cease-fire in a conflict that had left more than 130 people dead and Ismail Khan finally at the mercy of the National Army and its U.S. backers.
Compared to other warlords roaming Afghanistan as ministers, governors, presidential candidates, or commanders, Ismail Khan's presence arguably had a positive side. He was not merely interested in enriching himself and his immediate associates. Under Ismail Khan's dictatorial "emirate," Herat witnessed a reconstruction boom that included clean and efficient roads -- something that Kabul dearly misses. While Ismail Khan initially kept all -- and later at least a large portion -- of the tax revenues generated by Afghanistan's main border crossing with Iran, he spent a portion of it on public projects.
With respect to his past compared to other warlords, Ismail Khan apparently was not engaged in wholesale massacres or sexual abuses. He reportedly was a tough, even ruthless, commander during the jihad period (1978-92). But he was always a mujahed -- unlike some other warlords who turned chameleon, changing sides and selling their allies at will.
Such traits made Ismail Khan a sort of legend -- one bolstered by his escape from a Taliban prison. As a legend with a solid local backing, Ismail Khan arguably was the toughest of the warlords to crack.
It is still early to predict what might happen in Herat. More than a week after his ouster as governor, the amir is living in the domain over which he once ruled, but as a citizen. If this affair lasts, Ismail Khan's ouster is a crucial victory for Afghanistan's central government -- and for whomever the Afghans choose as their first elected president in October.
If Ismail Khan could be removed with little resistance -- although the circumstances leading to this ouster took lengthy steps and unfortunately involved the spilling of blood -- then why couldn't the Afghan central authorities and their international backers use this example and begin working on other warlords who, unlike Ismail Khan, do not enjoy popular support? On the contrary, some of the warlords might easily be referred to a court for crimes against humanity, if such an institution existed for Afghanistan. (At the first hint of a move against them, they would likely leave the country.) Ismail Khan's ouster clearly illustrated that the warlords, whose services might arguably have been needed in the early days after the demise of the Taliban, are no longer necessary and are the most visible obstacles on Afghanistan's march toward stable statehood.
This author wrote immediately following the May 2003 pledge that Karzai obtained from Ismail Khan and others that the Afghan leader "has obtained a good working document from the renegade governors/warlords. However, implementation of this agreement needs to be backed by force -- something that Karzai does not have" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" 23 May 2003). It appears that Karzai today has the services of the National Army, backed by its international supporters.
The removal of a single warlord is insufficient. What Afghanistan urgently needs is an international security arrangement to ensure both that terrorists and domestic and international spoilers are kept at bay throughout the country and that ordinary Afghans are allowed to voice their opinions in vital decisions for the country (such as the election of a president and later a parliament) free of intimidation by this or that warlord -- whatever title they are afforded these days.
NEO-TALIBAN ROCKET ATTACK FORCES KARZAI TO CANCEL CAMPAIGN VISIT TO SOUTHEAST AFGHANISTAN.
Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai's planned visit to southeast Afghanistan was canceled on 16 September when a rocket landed two kilometers from a school in Gardayz on 16 September, barely missing the helicopter carrying the Afghan leader, international news agencies reported.
Karzai's spokesman Jawed Ludin said the rocket was fired from Ghazni Province, west of Paktiya, AFP reported on 16 September.
A neo-Taliban commander claimed that his group targeted the U.S. military helicopter carrying Karzai, the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported on 16 September. Commander Mawlawi Abdul Samad, speaking from southern Afghanistan, told the news agency that neo-Taliban militants were aware that Karzai was coming to Gardayz to launch his presidential campaign for the 9 October election, and thus "installed an antiaircraft rocket launcher in a house and targeted Hamid Karzai's helicopter." Abdul Samad noted that while the rocket missed its intended target, Karzai's "helicopter was forced to return to Kabul."
Karzai, who rarely ventures out of Kabul, was scheduled to inaugurate a road and deliver a speech in at a local high school, later told reporters in Kabul that he wanted the helicopter to land despite the attack, but his request was not granted by his security detail, "The New York Times," reported on 17 September. "So I am thinking of that now, that on a trip like that I should take my own measures," Karzai said in what the newspaper described as a possible joke. The daily commented that the incident "revealed how little" Karzai "is in charge," as he "clearly had no control over his return to Kabul."
Three Afghan nationals, reportedly not from the area, have been arrested in connection with the attack, according to AFP on 17 September. (Amin Tarzi)
KARZAI WANTS HIS MAIN RIVAL TO JOIN HIM...
Chairman Karzai on 16 September called on his main challenger in the 9 October presidential elections to join him in a new administration, AFP reported. "I will be happy if [Mohammad Yunos] Qanuni becomes a friend with us in the government -- already we are friends privately -- and if he comes back and gives up his candidacy I will be more happy," Karzai said.
Qanuni previously served in Karzai's government as an interior and later education minister before resigning in July to run in the upcoming presidential elections (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 31 July 2004). An unidentified source close to Karzai's presidential campaign told AFP that Qanuni recently approached Karzai for talks and that the Afghan leader apparently intends to signal that he is prepared to cut a deal. Earlier reports indicated that a coalition of presidential hopefuls tabbed Qanuni to represent them in the elections, pledging to withdraw their candidacies (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 September 2004).
Qanuni, however, announced on 20 September that he will remain in the race and will present his own political agenda soon, "The New York Times," reported the next day.
Qanuni's two main supporters, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and Defense Minister Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim, apparently favor an alliance with Karzai in order to secure positions under a Karzai presidency. In the deal offered by Karzai's camp, Qanuni reportedly would retake the education portfolio, while Abdullah would remain as the foreign minister and Fahim would be appointed as the head of the yet-to-be-formed Senate. Qanuni's supporters from the provinces, however, have discouraged him from joining Karzai's camp. "There were some proposals made but when we put them to my supporters...we didn't get a positive response," Qanuni said on 21 September, the "Financial Times" reported. Qanuni's spokesman Hamed Nuri said that a deal between the two could be made in "as little as one hour before the election," and discussions would continue between them.
According to a comment by AFP on 16 September, the run-up to the election is developing more into a series of "backroom deals" between the 18 candidates "than large-scale campaigning to attract votes from the general population." (Amin Tarzi)
...AS AFGHAN JOURNALIST SAYS KARZAI WOULD LACK LEGITIMACY WITHOUT QANUNI...
In an interview with Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran on 17 September, "Kabul Weekly" Editor in Chief Fahim Dashti said that a future presidency of Hamid Karzai would lack legitimacy if it did not include Yunos Qanuni and his allies. Dashti said that talks are under way between Karzai and his former education minister and current chief rival in the elections on forming a coalition. A coalition government between Karzai and Qanuni and his allies (see above) "may ensure stability in the country," Dashti said. According to Dashti, both sides are under "international pressure" to form an alliance.
Observers believe that Karzai's international backers are keen to have him elected by more than 50 percent of the vote, thus avoiding a second round. As such, the presence of 17 challengers to Karzai may result in him securing less than the required percentage, but with Qanuni's camp on his side, he is likely to receive more than 50 percent. (Amin Tarzi)
...WHILE 13 CANDIDATES REQUEST POSTPONEMENT OF ELECTION.
Thirteen presidential candidates have demanded that the 9 October election date be postponed for one month, AIP reported on 16 September. Candidate Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai said the group decided at a meeting that day in Kabul that more time is needed to campaign, saying the "time provided is not sufficient." The second point made by the group "is that Afghanistan's election may have an effect on the [presidential election] in the United States." Therefore, the group "would like Afghanistan's election to be held after the U.S. elections [on 2 November]," Ahmadzai added. The report does not specify which 13 candidates comprise the group.
In an editorial on 19 September, the Kabul daily "Erada" said that the demand by a number of presidential candidates election be postponed for one more month is not in the interest of Afghanistan.
According to the editorial, the candidates' reason for postponing the election is the short period for campaigning. However, "Erada" argues that these candidates voiced their concern after various dates concerning the elections were already announced and campaigning had begun, not before it. Moreover, according to "Erada," if the elections were pushed back one month, cold weather would make it difficult for many Afghans to travel to polling stations.
"In addition, if the elections are postponed, the presence of too many presidential candidates and their conflicting opinions and platforms will psychologically affect our countrymen," the editorial added. (Amin Tarzi)
TWO PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATES VIEW ISLAM AS CENTRAL TO AFGHANISTAN...
In a campaign speech, presidential candidate Abdul Hafez Mansur said, "Afghanistan could not have a successful and healthy government if there is no respect for Islamic principles in the country," Afghanistan Television reported on 16 September. Experience has shown that any kind of activities against Islam in Afghanistan will fail, Mansur added. He said that he favors an independent judiciary system in Afghanistan that is not appointed by the government, but he did not say who should appoint the judicial branch, which is currently dominated by conservative clerics. Mansur accused Karzai's administration of "carrying out antireligion and anti-jihad activities and humiliating the mujahedin."
Presidential candidate Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai said that he wants to "establish an Islamic system in Afghanistan because 99.9 percent of the people in the country are Muslims, and it is not possible to establish any other kind of system in Afghanistan," Afghanistan Television reported on 19 September. According to Ahmadzai, "the official identity of the people of Afghanistan" is first their religion and then their nationality.
Mansur is a member of the Jami'at-e Islami party and Ahmadzai is a member of the Harakat-e Enqelab-e Eslami party -- two former mujahedin parties -- but both are running as independent candidates. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS U.S. ENVOY URGES AFGHANS TO VOTE FOR UNITY.
Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad has called on the people of Afghanistan to "vote for a person who aims to implement national unity in Afghanistan, and not promote bigotry," Radio Afghanistan reported on 16 September. While Khalilzad did not name a candidate who fits his description, the official Afghan radio station said that the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan "explicitly voiced support for Hamid Karzai some time ago." (Amin Tarzi)
KARZAI DEPUTY ESCAPES ASSASSINATION ATTEMPT...
Afghan Transitional Administration Deputy Chairman Ne'amatullah Shahrani escaped an attempt on his life on 20 September in the northern Konduz Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. Shahrani, one of four deputies to Chairman Hamid Karzai, was on his way to inaugurate the reconstruction of the Takhar-Badakhshan road, when a land mine exploded, hitting his vehicle. Shahrani was unhurt, but reports indicated that one security guard was injured. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS NEW MILITANT GROUP TAKES RESPONSIBILITY, ARRESTS ARE MADE.
An unidentified spokesman for a group calling itself Jaysh al-Muslimin al-Afghani (Afghan Army of Muslims) has claimed responsibility for trying to kill Shahrani, Al-Jazeera reported on 20 September. In a related development, 15 unidentified people have been detained on suspicion of detonating a land mine as Shahrani's motorcade was passing by, Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press reported. The identity of the suspects has not been released. (Amin Tarzi)
THREE U.S. TROOPS KILLED IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN...
According to two press releases by the U.S. Defense Department (http://www.defenselink.mil) on 22 September, three U.S. troops were killed in clashes in Paktika and Paktiya provinces on 20 September.
"We have had an unfortunate day," Major Scott Nelson, a spokesman for U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on 22 September, referring to the incident two days earlier, AFP reported. In addition to the three deaths, Nelson said that 14 U.S. soldiers and six members of the Afghan National Army sustained injuries in several engagements in southeastern Afghanistan on 20 September.
A statement from the coalition forces in Kabul did not elaborate on the details of the incident, Hindukosh News Agency reported on 20 September. Coalition forces indicated that their troops came under separate attacks from "enemies" on 20 September in the Dehrawud District of Oruzgan Province and Qalat District of Zabul Province, both in southern Afghanistan. There were no reports of casualties in these two engagements. (Amin Tarzi)
...AS NEO-TALIBAN CLAIMS RESPONSIBILITY FOR KILLING U.S. TROOPS.
Mullah Abdul Latif, purporting to speak on behalf of the neo-Taliban, said that its militias killed two U.S. troops and injured five others in Paktika, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 20 September. Abdul Latif also claimed that a U.S. battle tank was destroyed by a remote-controlled bomb in Dehrawud District of Oruzgan injuring three U.S. soldiers. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. TO INCREASE NUMBER OF TROOPS IN AFGHANISTAN FOR ELECTIONS.
An unidentified spokesman for U.S.-led coalition forces said on 20 September that an additional 1,000 U.S. troops will be dispatched to Afghanistan in order to ensure security in the southern part of the country, Radio Afghanistan reported. The spokesman said that a number of these troops have already arrived in Afghanistan and, once the entire contingent arrives, it will be sent to southern Afghanistan. The additional troops will leave Afghanistan after the elections, the report added. It is not clear whether the additional troops will leave after the 9 October presidential election or after the parliamentary elections scheduled for spring 2005. The additional troops are part of the U.S. Army's 82nd Airborne Division, the BBC reported on 20 September. The United States has around 18,000 troops in Afghanistan battling neo-Taliban and remnants of Al-Qaeda. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. MILITARY APOLOGIZES FOR KILLING AFGHAN TEENAGER.
Scott Nelson, a spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan, apologized on 18 September for the killing of an Afghan in the southern Zabul Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. In an incident that occurred on 17 September, U.S. forces killed one Afghan teenager and wounded another in Oruzgan Province, north of Zabul, Reuters reported on 18 September. In an apparent mistake, Radio Afghanistan identified the place where the incident occurred as Zabul. A statement released by the U.S. military said that the "coalition deeply regrets and apologizes for the death of one juvenile and wounding of another." In 2003, U.S. forces in Afghanistan came under criticism for killing 15 children in botched operations, Reuters commented. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN LEADER TELLS UN TERRORISM IS MAIN CHALLENGE.
Speaking before the UN General Assembly in New York on 21 September, Chairman Karzai said that terrorism remains the main challenge for his country, Voice of America reported. Karzai said unless the terrorist threat is eliminated, neither his country, nor the world as a whole, will be safe. Karzai highlighted the upcoming 9 October presidential elections as the most significant achievement of his administration. Karzai also lauded the return of almost 3.5 million refugees to Afghanistan and the opening of schools as positive steps. The Afghan leader did, however, acknowledge that his country remains one of the poorest and least literate in the world and called for continued international support. (Amin Tarzi)
SECURITY OFFICIAL SAYS SITUATION 'IS NORMAL' IN WESTERN AFGHAN CITY...
The security situation in the city and province of Herat has returned to "normal" following the appointment of Sayyed Mohammad Khairkhwah as provincial governor, Mohammad Amin, chief of security for the Security Command of Herat Province, said on 15 September, Radio Afghanistan reported. On 12 September, a mob attacked offices of UN and nongovernmental organizations in Herat after Chairman Karzai fired Governor Mohammad Ismail Khan a day earlier (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 September 2004 and feature above). (Amin Tarzi)
...AND REASSURES HIS WESTERN NEIGHBOR.
Governor Khairkhwah, met with the Iranian consul in Herat, Ali Najafimanesh, on 15 September, Herat TV reported. Khairkhwah described the government's objectives and stressed the importance of bilateral ties, while Najafimanesh discussed Iranian reconstruction projects in the province and hoped that stability would be established soon. Also in attendance were security commander Brigadier General Ziaudin Mahmudi, the National Security Department's General Mayel, and Mohammadullah Afzali, the head of the Foreign Ministry office in Herat.
Meanwhile, Iranian Ambassador to Kabul Mohammad Reza Bahrami told reporters on 13 September that it is natural for his government to be concerned about the situation along Iran's eastern border, Iranian state radio reported on 14 September. Bahrami said that former Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan had important roles in the struggles against the Soviet invaders and then the Taliban, but now there is an Afghan central government that is responsible for the entire country. Bahrami added that Iran supports the Afghan government's promotion of domestic security. Iran has traditionally had a close relationship with Ismail Khan, who spent time in Iran after fleeing a Taliban jail. A U.S. intelligence officer once described him as an Iranian intelligence asset, and after 2001 he traveled to Iran several times and reportedly was the beneficiary of Iranian arms and money (see "RFE/RL Iran Report," 17 December 2001; 28 January, 11 February 2002; 10 March, 15 December 2003; and 6 September 2004). New Herat Province Governor Khairkhwah served as an ambassador to Iran until March 2002. (Bill Samii)
STARVATION, MATERNAL AND CHILD DEATHS STILL A PROBLEM IN AFGHANISTAN...
According to a study conducted by the UN World Food Program (WFP), Afghanistan continues to suffer from acute food shortage and malnutrition, oneworld.net reported on 21 September.
According to the WFP, about 1.4 million Afghans continue to be affected by the drought that began in 1999. "Due to the drought there is no cultivation," Roya Mutahar, national nutrition officer at the Health Ministry, added. Hedayatullah Stanekzai, the ministry's policy and planning director, said, "Food is available but the prices are so high, it becomes difficult for people to purchase it." Ahmad Shah Salehi, the ministry's external-coordination director, said that most Afghan farmers "are not producing wheat, but are moving towards poppy cultivation." Growing poppies is more profitable to farmers "since it needs a small piece of land" and does not need much irrigation, Salehi added (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003, and 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). Afghan health officials estimate that their country suffers from 45-50 percent prevalence of chronic malnutrition.
According to the WFP report, the mortality rate for Afghan children under five is 257 per 1,000 live births and the maternal mortality rate is 1,600 per 100,000 live births, oneworld.net reported on 21 September. Patrick Webb, chief of nutrition at WFP, said Afghanistan has not only the highest mortality rates in Asia, but the world. Afghanistan spends only 3 percent of its gross domestic product on health care and very few doctors are available outside urban areas. (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. PRESIDENT EXPRESSES CONCERN ABOUT AFGHAN DRUG PROBLEM.
U.S. President George W. Bush expressed his concern about Afghanistan's status as a major source of illicit drugs in a statement released by the White House on 16 September (http://www.whitehouse.gov). In his annual report to the U.S. Congress on major drug-producing and drug-transit states, Bush named Afghanistan among the 22 countries that made the "Majors List." Bush said that, "despite good-faith efforts on the part of the central Afghanistan government," he is concerned "about the increased opium-crop production and the government's lack of capacity to prevail in the provinces." According to recent UN reports, more than three-quarters of the global opium supply originates from Afghanistan, however, neither U.S.-led coalition forces nor the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force have made counternarcotics part of their operational mandate (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003; and 12 February, 2 and 10 June, and 1 September 2004). (Amin Tarzi)
U.S. CITIZENS AND THEIR AFGHAN COHORTS SENTENCED FOR RUNNING PRIVATE PRISON.
An Afghan court has sentenced three U.S. citizens and four Afghans to various jail terms for running a private prison in Kabul, Radio Afghanistan reported on 15 September, citing the official Bakhtar News Agency. Jonathan Idema, the ringleader of the group, and Brent Bennett each received 10-year sentences for "running a private jail, forming an illegal group, illegally detaining people, torture," and violating Afghan law (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 September 2004). Edward Caraballo, the third U.S. citizen charged, was handed an eight-year prison sentence. The group's Afghan translator, Abdul Wahid, received a five-year jail term, while two men who worked with Idema, Zemaray and Sohail, were given two-year jail terms each for "concealing information about the crime." Idema's servant, Sherzai, was sentenced to a one-year jail term. "Justice was not served today. I blame the U.S. government...and the Afghan legal system," said Idema's lawyer, John Edwards Tiffany, the BBC reported on 15 September. Idema's group has claimed that they were working for U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense Lieutenant General William Boykin -- a charge the U.S. government has denied, "The New York Times" reported on 16 September. Caraballo said the trial could only have been "staged by the U.S. government -- we were an embarrassment." According to the New York daily, a videotape allegedly connecting the group with U.S. authorities was "barely" watched by Abdul Baset Bakhtiari, the lead judge in the case. (Amin Tarzi)
20 September 1967 -- Abdul Rahman Pazhwak, Afghan representative to the United Nations, elected president of the UN General Assembly.
22 September 1981 -- Egyptian President Anwar al-Sadat says that the United States has been buying old Soviet-made arms from Egypt and sending them to resistance groups fighting Soviet forces in Afghanistan. U.S. officials make no comment.
17 September 2001 -- A Pakistani government delegation at Kandahar demands the surrender of Osama bin Laden within three days. Mullah Mohammad Omar refuses.
Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan," Third Edition, by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 2003).