23 January 2003, Volume 2, Number 4
GAUGING THE THREAT OF TERRORISM IN AFGHANISTAN
By Kimberly McCloudA flurry of recent reports indicates serious security problems in Afghanistan, not the least of which is the rise in reported terrorist activities. As if to remind them that the widespread U.S. bombing campaign did not eradicate terrorist elements entirely, U.S. and international coalition troops are coming under fire nearly every day in small rocket and small arms attacks throughout various regions in the country.
The United Nations released a report on 18 December claiming that Al-Qaeda was regrouping and forming some training bases in the eastern region of Afghanistan, close to the border with Pakistan. While it acknowledged Osama bin Laden's infrastructure and vast financial network were severely damaged in the U.S.-led war against terrorism, the UN report said that the international terrorist network still enjoys significant support and has "access to substantial funding from its previously established investments." Alarmingly, the UN concluded: "The measures adopted by the international community have had a marked impact on al Qaeda, causing it to go to ground, to reposition its assets and resources and to seek new recruits.... Nonetheless, the organization is by all accounts 'fit and well' and poised to strike again at its leisure."
To compound matters, alleged messages from bin Laden and his lieutenant Ayman al-Zawahiri in the last few months indicate that Al-Qaeda leadership is alive and active. Even if the messages are not genuine and those two individuals are no longer alive, the affect is scarcely altered. Followers are energized; the civilized world is infused with fear -- just what the terrorists are counting on.
Other news accounts have focused on internal opposition within Afghanistan. There are reports that some former Taliban members in hiding, both inside Afghanistan as well as in Pakistan, are active in trying to stir up resistance to the international coalition forces and to the Afghan interim administration. At the same time, while a faction of the opposition party Hezb-e Islami has stretched out a conciliatory hand to Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul, its notorious leader, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, supported first by Pakistan then during Taliban rule by Iran, and now by elements of Pakistani military intelligence, claims that "his party" is leading a jihad against U.S. forces and, in effect, Karzai's government.
With all this bad news coming from the former terrorist haven, how can the international community ensure that Afghanistan continues rambling down the right road to a peaceful normalcy? Importantly, how can the U.S. and its allies see to it that terrorism does not again take deep roots in this war-ravaged country? In asking this question, it is wise to dissect the threat.
Assessing the terrorist threat requires an analysis of two basic sets of questions. First, how capable are the terrorists of perpetrating attacks? What sort of training do they have, and what resources do they have at their disposal? Second, how motivated are the individuals involved? What conditions motivate them, and do those conditions exist currently?
With respect to the first set of questions regarding capabilities, one could fairly judge that each primary terrorist threat in Afghanistan -- Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Hekmatyar -- is alone rather weak and lacking in capabilities.
Al-Qaeda, by all accounts, has been seriously weakened as a result of America's war against it, Operation Enduring Freedom. But as the UN report pointed out, it still retains much strength, the extent of which lurks in the unknown. Within Afghanistan, this strength is likely limited at this point in time, in terms of both material and human resources, and capabilities.
The same is true for the Taliban, although assessing just how much support the group may still retain within Pakistan's Interservices Intelligence (ISI) agency is difficult. Recent discoveries of weapons caches near the border with Pakistan may indicate that some elements within Pakistan are assisting the Afghan opposition.
With regard to Hekmatyar, his strength has been increased some since the beginning of the war on terrorism and against the Taliban, as he became an indirect beneficiary of international support. All in all, each group still possesses rather limited resources, probably making it difficult for them to muster large-scale attacks against U.S. and Afghan government forces.
A report in "The Christian Science Monitor" on 13 January, however, raises concern. Correspondent Scott Baldauf, based in Afghanistan, indicated that remnants of the Al-Qaeda network and the Taliban, combined with Hekmatyar's group, are uniting, and said they are recruiting disgruntled Afghans who have, for example, lost family members in U.S. bombing raids. This merging of outlaw and opposition factions, if allowed to continue, could prove to be quite dangerous and increase the relatively low capability levels that each group currently possesses on its own.
The second part of the threat analysis, regarding motivation, is somewhat more difficult to assess without any accurate data or actual interviews with the terrorists themselves. Continuing attacks around the world tell us that the larger Islamist terrorist network has not ceased in targeting its enemies. Surely Operation Enduring Freedom has further angered residual Al-Qaeda and Taliban members in Afghanistan and the region. From his statements and his jihad declaration, we do know that Hekmatyar, too, is highly motivated to attack U.S., international, and Afghan forces.
While motivation is sometimes difficult to gauge, it is this part of the equation that is generally more flexible and may be greatly affected by the eventual outcome of reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. Combating material capabilities is a straightforward military mission. Fighting the motivation of terrorists is not so straightforward. And this is where the two sides of the threat assessment equation fuse, because if motivation is knocked off, then terrorists will lack the human capital necessary to continue their violent attacks.
The United States and its allies have a golden opportunity to pull the rug from under the terrorists feet and delegitimatize the basis upon which they gather their support in Afghanistan, which could have wider ramifications internationally as well. If the world can help Afghanistan to stand on its feet again so that its children no longer starve and freeze to death, terrorism will lose its appeal there. When people are sheltered and fed and have vested interests in a functioning society, they are far less tolerant of forces that could destroy such an environment.
Indeed there is news that the United States seems committed to achieving successful reconstruction in Afghanistan. Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz visited Kabul for a day and stated clearly, "Whatever happens in other parts of the world, the U.S.A. will not let Afghanistan down." This is a welcomed promise in light of the situation surrounding Iraq right now. Lieutenant General Dan McNeill, commander of U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, was less sanguine and more direct in expressing the U.S. military's mission when he said, "The military's shift in focus from combat to reconstruction is aimed at reducing the number of havens for terrorists in Afghanistan and producing intelligence that will guide coalition forces to them."
The good thing is that effective reconstruction in Afghanistan produces a win-win situation. Afghans win their right to normal lives with food and shelter and the absence of constant warfare or terror, and the United States strikes a blow against the heart of the Al-Qaeda phenomenon. Even minor improvements in Afghanistan will be hailed as great achievements in a land that has known near-incessant warfare and terror for nearly a quarter of a century.
HERAT TEACHERS MEET TO DISCUSS EDUCATION.A three-day seminar was held at the education department in Herat to discuss "financial management and logistics," Iranian Radio reported on 19 January. In attendance were "dozens of teachers from Herat, Farah, Ghowr, and Badghis provinces." In addition to administrative tasks, the meeting was also to discuss "how to deal with the inaccessibility of education and to put schools back in operation, especially those for girls," according to Iranian Radio. The meeting came in the wake of international criticism of Herat's new educational regulations segregating males and females (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 and 16 January 2003). Representatives from both the United Nations International Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) and the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) were present and reportedly pledged their cooperation. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHANISTAN'S CHIEF JUSTICE SAYS COEDUCATION IS UNLAWFUL...Supreme Court Chief Justice Mullah Fazl Hadi Shinwari said on 21 January that, "I think the coeducation of adolescent boys and girls is unlawful and prohibited [under Islamic law]...[and] should be stopped in Afghanistan," AIP reported. Shinwari was commenting on Herat Province Governor Ismail Khan's decision to implement new educational regulations segregating the sexes (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13, 16, and 21 January 2003). "Coeducation is prohibited according to Islamic law and ethics and stopping it will violate no one's rights," he said in response to international criticism over the new measures. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND BANS CABLE TV IN AFGHANISTAN...The Supreme Court on 21 January banned cable television nationwide, international media reported. Chief Justice Shinwari "said cable television programs are against Islamic laws and values," according to Radio Afghanistan. Although the Supreme Court issued the decree, it has acknowledged that it is the government's job to implement the ban. Information and Culture Minister Sayyed Makhdum Rahin told RFE/RL on 21 January that the central government is currently reviewing the court's decision. "The freedom of cable is a part of the freedom of our press," Rahin said. "None of the cable operators had broadcast anything objectionable," "The Guardian" of 22 January quoted Rahin as saying. Rahin added that he hopes the judge's decision will be reversed at a cabinet meeting next week. In the meantime, Rahin said, all cable television companies operating in Afghanistan must register with authorities, RFE/RL reported. (Kimberly McCloud)
...BUT AFGHAN MINISTER OF INFORMATION ANNOUNCES THAT THE BAN WILL BE LIFTED.Afghan Minister of Information and Culture Sayed Makhdum Rahin announced on 22 January that the ban on cable television networks, imposed this week by the Afghan Supreme Court led by Mullah Fazl Hadj Shinwari, would soon be lifted, according to Iranian Radio. Rahin claimed that the ban was intended to be temporary, in order to give the government a chance to form relevant laws regulating cable television. Mullah Shinwari, however, insists that current "smutty" programming on cable television is against Islamic law. Shinwari told Iranian Radio the same day that the regulation of cable television networks should be done within the framework of specific standards set by Afghan law. (Kimberly McCloud)
CABLE TV COMPANIES IN AFGHANISTAN WILL FORM ASSOCIATION.In an interview with RFE/RL on 22 January, Mohammad Zalmay, the owner of a small cable television company in Nangarhar Province, announced that cable television companies in Afghanistan would form an association in order to unite in fighting for their right to form part of Afghanistan's media. Zalmay complained about the Supreme Court's decision to ban cable television in Afghanistan. He said that such restrictions were "harking back to the days of the Taliban." Companies that are legally registered with government authorities should be allowed to continue providing programming that gives Afghans information on international and domestic news, cultural and historical topics, and sports, among other subjects, Zalmay argued. (Kimberly McCloud)
CHIEF JUSTICE ALSO ANNOUNCES THAT AFGHAN ULEMA WILL FORM NATIONAL COUNCIL.Preparations are being made to establish a central council of Afghan ulema (Islamic scholars) comprising two ulema from each province who would, in turn, run subcommittees in their own provinces, Chief Justice Shinwari told AIP on 21 January. "The council will work for Islamic order, Islamic government, and Islamic regulations, and will try to prohibit moral corruption and actions contradicting Islamic law and directed against Islam," Shinwari said. The council will also work to combat "Western [cultural] influence," according to the Hindukosh news agency. (Kimberly McCloud)
FORMER AFGHAN PRESIDENT CALLS FOR PARTICIPATION OF POLITICAL PARTIES IN NATIONAL ASSEMBLY.Former President Burhanuddin Rabbani has called on the Afghan Transitional Administration to allow political parties to participate in the National Assembly (Jirga-ye Melli in Dari, Melli Jirga in Pashtu), Afghan and international news agencies reported on 21 January. A spokesperson for the commission tasked with forming the National Assembly recently said political parties will be prohibited from participating in the body for the time being. "If the purpose of the [National Assembly] commission is to establish a parliament, the parliamentary rules are [already] explained in the 1343  constitution, which is currently being applied," Rabbani said. "Lawmaking is above the authority of the government. How can a commission take such a step?" he asked. The rationale for the ban on the participation of political parties is to reduce friction and divisions within the future National Assembly. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN DEPUTY DEFENSE MINISTER SAYS MUJAHEDIN SHOULD BE FOUNDATION OF NATIONAL ARMY.The new Afghan National Army should primarily be composed of former Mujahedin fighters, Deputy Defense Minister General Atiqollah Barialay said in an interview with Iranian Radio on 20 January. The former Mujahedin "were the real inheritors of the Afghan nation because they were the ones who defended the honor, religion, and territorial integrity of Afghanistan," Barialay said. He also suggested that a "national resistance force of Afghanistan" might be formed within the Defense Ministry, although he did not specify what the purpose or task of such a force would be. (Kimberly McCloud)
GOVERNORS IN SOUTHEASTERN AFGHANISTAN MEET TO IMPROVE SECURITY...The Ghazni Province governor has met with his counterparts from Khost, Loghar, Paktiya, Paktika, and Vardak provinces to discuss the southeastern region, Radio Free Afghanistan reported on 20 January. The topics ranged from reconstruction to improving security and fighting terrorist elements in the region. In an exclusive interview with Radio Free Afghanistan, the governor of Ghazni said the purpose of the meeting was to establish cooperation in the region in order to improve security and to foster a better environment for reconstruction efforts. The five governors agreed to secure the roads in the region by establishing security checkpoints to monitor travelers. In addition, the governor said the private sector is contributing by providing supplies, such as cement, to facilitate the reconstruction of roads and other infrastructure. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AS AFGHAN SECURITY FORCES FOIL MISSILE ATTACK AGAINST PAKTIYA MILITARY DIVISION.Afghan security forces on 21 January prevented a rocket attack by opposition elements against the Afghan military's 30th Division, Bakhtar news agency reported. The incident came just a day after the governors of six eastern Afghan provinces, including Paktiya, met to ensure cooperation in improving the security situation in southeastern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2003). Two rockets, ready to be fired, were discovered in the mountains surrounding the 30th Division's base in Paktiya Province. Security forces claimed they had prevented a "terrorist attack" and blamed remnants of "Al-Qaeda and the Taliban" for preparing the rockets, according Bakhtar news agency. International coalition forces in the region have been targeted by multiple rocket attacks in recent months. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN COMMANDER WARNS OF POSSIBLE RETURN TO CIVIL WAR...Hamid Karzai's government in Kabul must be wary of opposition factions and the possibility of the country reverting back to a state of civil war and anarchy, warned the Afghan tribal leader, Haji Mohammad Zaman Ghamsharik. Ghamsharik told reporters that "Ascending to power is one thing, but maintaining it and running the government is quite another," according to the 21 January edition of the Pashto daily Wahdat, published in Peshawar, Pakistan. He complained that the transitional administration was imbalanced and weak internally, although "successful in its foreign policy." Nonetheless, the tribal leader denounced those who would oppose the government and said, "They should give time to Mr. Karzai to reunite and consolidate Afghanistan, which has been destroyed by two decades of civil war." He added that Afghan leaders had chosen Karzai to lead them and that they should fulfill their promises to support the central government. "The time of jihad has now gone and instead it is the people who are demanding the fruits of the previous jihad from the jihadi leaders," said Ghamsharik. Ghamsharik also called upon the international community to support Afghanistan in strengthening central rule, and said that priorities should be disarmament, establishing law, and giving the people a voice in government affairs. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AS AFGHAN MILITARY VEHICLE IS ATTACKED NEAR PAKISTANI BORDER.An Afghan military vehicle was destroyed in a rocket attack in southern Afghanistan near the Pakistani border town of Chaman, according to Reuters on 23 January. Chaman residents reported hearing large explosions on the evening of 22 January; witnesses claimed that a rocket was fired on an Afghan military vehicle, which was blown up. Local Afghan officials confirmed the blasts occurred but declined to comment further, Reuters reported. There were no reports of casualties. Local residents claimed that after the explosion took place, U.S. aircraft were seen flying in the area. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND AFGHAN FORCE IN KONAR STRUGGLES TO RETAIN ITS SOLDIERS IN REGION OF ISLAMIC MILITANT ACTIVITY.With a poorly trained force of 1,800 men and little in the way of resources or arms, the Afghan commander charged with guarding the northeastern province of Konar, identified only as Najibullah, is nervous, according to a report on 22 January in "The Christian Science Monitor." Unable to even provide his soldiers with a meager salary of $1 a month, he is concerned that radical Islamists -- from Al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Afghan opposition factions, especially those involved in Hezb-e-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar -- will buy them off. "In this region, Hizb-I Islami is very strong, because the local people fought with Hekmatyar against the Soviets," Sher Hassan, the local deputy chief of the Afghan intelligence agency Amniat, tells "The Christian Science Monitor." Hassan also added that Hekmatyar is believed to be receiving funds from "neighboring countries." Hassan noted that attacks against U.S. and Afghan forces in the region up to this point have been minor, but expressed concern that if other countries continue to provide assistance to the opposition larger scale conflict might erupt. (Kimberly McCloud)
U.S. ENVOY SAYS PAKISTAN-U.S. PARTNERSHIP TO BOOST SECURITY ON PAKISTANI-AFGHAN BORDER.U.S. Ambassador to Pakistan Nancy Powell announced on 21 January the creation of the joint U.S.-Pakistan Border Security Program (BSP), which is to improve security on the 2,400-kilometer Afghanistan-Pakistan border. At a function to publicize the creation of the BSP, Powell announced the U.S. donation of surveillance equipment to Pakistan's Baluchistan Frontier Corps as part of the $73 million BSP partnership, the Pakistan news agency reported on 21 January. In addition to the surveillance equipment, the United States will provide more than 400 fully equipped vehicles and 600 radios to "patrol the rugged terrain and remote locations in order to maintain law and order at the [Pakistani]-Afghan border and to check terrorist activities, narcotics trafficking, and other forms of criminality," according to the agency. "Baluchistan covers almost 44 percent of the total area of [Pakistan], with 2,100 kilometers of borders with Afghanistan and Iran," said Major-General Syed Sadaqat Ali Shah, the inspector-general of the Baluchistan Frontier Corps. "The vastness and difficult terrain coupled with linguistic and cultural homogeneity of the border belt offers a challenging environment to our efforts. We, therefore, deeply appreciate the assistance provided by the U.S. government in this regard," he added. (Kimberly McCloud)
BUT ATTACKS AGAINST US FORCES CONTINUE: U.S. HEADQUARTERS FIRED UPON...The U.S. military headquarters at Bagram Air Base came under rocket and small-arms attack in the morning of 22 January, Reuters reported. One attacker was reportedly injured when U.S. troops returned fire and a U.S. military statement reported no U.S. casualties or equipment damage. On 21 January, U.S. Special Forces fired on three armed men near a U.S. base in Shkin in Paktiya Province, according to a U.S. military statement. Two of the men were detained and one escaped, and no injuries on either side were reported. "The U.S. military says 26 American servicemen have been killed by hostile fire and 28 in non-hostile incidents since U.S. operations were launched in Afghanistan in late 2001," according to Reuters. (Kimberly McCloud)
...TWO U.S. TROOPS INJURED IN BLAST NEAR KHOST...Two U.S. soldiers were injured on 18 January in an explosion that occurred as they were driving through the Salon-e Now area near the city of Khost, according to Colonel Roger King, the U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, Iranian Radio reported. Attacks against U.S. soldiers by opposition elements in Afghanistan have increased over the last two weeks. "The eastern and southeastern areas of Afghanistan are a geographical zone of the most active opposition to the U.S. military presence," Iranian Radio commented on 19 January. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND U.S. FORCES COME UNDER ATTACK TWICE IN CENTRAL AFGHANISTAN.U.S. forces were attacked twice on 22 January in the central Afghan province of Uruzgan, according to Radio Afghanistan on 22 January. In the first attack, U.S. forces came under light artillery fire in Dehraud District, and the second incident occurred in Tarinkot, about 30 km away. The U.S. military spokesperson in Afghanistan reported that the attacks did not cause any casualties. (Kimberly McCloud)
AFGHAN MINISTRY TO BEGIN REGISTERING FOREIGN EXPATRIATES FOR SECURITY REASONS...The Afghan government plans to start requiring foreigners living in Afghanistan to register with the Interior Ministry, the Hindukosh news agency reported on 19 January. "The Interior Ministry has taken the measure after a number of NGO personnel were attacked and injured by gunmen in Zabul [Province] and in Mazar-e Sharif [in Balkh Province]. According to the pronouncement by the Interior Ministry, details of all foreign expatriates working in various capacities will be registered with the Interior Ministry and will be utilized when necessary," the news agency reported. (Kimberly McCloud)
...AND AFGHANS WILL BE ISSUED IDENTITY CARDS.Interior Minister Taj Mohammad Wardak told journalists in Kabul on 22 January that Afghans will be issued identity cards and that a company had been contracted to make them, IRNA reported that day. Wardak stated that the cards would be printed and distributed upon approval of the Afghan cabinet. In addition, households will be surveyed in Afghanistan in order to establish a census for the country. The head of the Central Statistics Department, Mohammad Ali Watanyar, told IRNA on the same day that preliminary work on the census began last week. (Kimberly McCloud)
FIRST-EVER WOMEN'S AFFAIRS DEPARTMENT OPENS IN JALALABAD.The first Women's Affairs Department in eastern Afghanistan was opened in Jalalabad on 20 January, the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. The department, which is subordinate to the Women's Affairs Ministry, will be headed by Fatima Mojaddedi. Governor Hajji Din Mohammad and other provincial officials attended the opening ceremonies. According to AIP, Mohammad "said [Afghan] women [should] be seen by the international community in the light of Islamic ethics. He added that [Afghan] women should not follow Western women but pursue Afghan culture and traditions." Mohammad also criticized the former communists as well as the Taliban, "saying that both went to extremes," according to AIP. (Kimberly McCloud)
PAKISTANI REPORT CLAIMS PRESIDENT KARZAI WILL INSTITUTE HIGH-LEVEL GOVERNMENT CHANGES."High-level changes are expected in [the] Hamid Karzai-led transitional government in Kabul to strengthen the Afghan president and put checks on the powers enjoyed by warlords, especially the self-acclaimed army generals and commanders of the Northern Alliance," the Pakistani daily "The News" reported on 20 January. Karzai intends to begin by replacing at least two of his cabinet ministers, including Interior Minister Wardak and Higher Education Minister Sharif Fayez, according to the report. "The News" claimed that Ali Ahmad Jalali, a former army officer and most recently head of Voice of America's Dari, Pashtu, and Persian services, will return to Kabul to take over for the aging Wardak. In addition, the government in Kabul also plans on sending incumbent governors to other provinces in a bid to weaken powerful warlords, according to the commentary. If Karzai does, in fact, make such moves, he is likely to irritate many, including Defense Minister Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, whose powers would also be reduced under the reshuffling. Suggesting that a coup against Karzai could result, the report concluded that "only time will prove if Karzai's plans [materialize] the way he wishes." (Kimberly McCloud)
REPATRIATED AFGHANS SUFFERING.Repatriated Afghans are suffering due to a lack of housing and the unavailability of jobs, factors that are compounded by severe winter temperatures, the Kabul daily "Anis" reported on 18 January. According to a report published by the UN on 31 December, more than 2 million Afghan refugees have returned to Afghanistan, the majority of them to the capital, Kabul, which cannot sustain the influx. "The repatriation comes following the destitution inflicted by the war that has destroyed the economic and social infrastructure. In addition, the four years of drought have intensified the misfortune by contributing to the devastation in the spheres of agriculture and livestock," "Anis" reported. "The hardship of homelessness and other handicaps of the refugees are visible to the government authorities and donor agencies, but as the refugees are scattered, and the Refugees and Repatriation Ministry lacks facilities, no effective steps have been taken to overcome their problems," according to the newspaper. (Kimberly McCloud)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY18 January 1958 -- A treaty is signed by Afghanistan and the Soviet Union regulating the Afghan-Soviet border.
18 January 1985 -- The United States announced that it would increase its aid to the Afghan Mujahedin in 1985 to approximately $280 million. Saudi Arabia, Israel, and China were also reportedly assisting the Afghans in their resistance to Soviet occupation.
21 January 1989 -- Anticipating the fall of President Najibullah's government, the West German government is the first to pull out its diplomatic staff from Kabul. Other countries, including the United States, followed shortly thereafter.
Source: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1991).