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Afghan Report: January 30, 2003

30 January 2003, Volume 2, Number 5
By Amin Tarzi

Attacks against U.S.-led international coalition forces (ICF) in Afghanistan have increased dramatically in the past few months, and security in general throughout the country is tenuous if not outright nonexistent in some areas (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 January 2003). Even in Kabul, which has enjoyed relative peace and security due to the presence of some 5,000 International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops, there have been increasing attacks against ICF and ISAF forces as well as a significant rise in crime. Most of these attacks can be attributed to a resurgence of dormant Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces. Other factors increasing insecurity include the unstable and volatile situation along the Afghan-Pakistani border, which predates the emergence of Al-Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and involves elements within the Pakistani military. This past week (see below), the most intense fighting in the past 10 months took place near Spin Boldak, in Kandahar Province, between ICF forces and fighters loyal to Hekmatyar, according to U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King.

One major reason for this widespread security problem is the inability of the central Afghan government to exert its control over the entire country. A necessary key to diminishing the reach of terrorist groups or disenchanted local populations, therefore, is to provide the Transitional Administration of President Hamid Karzai with the proper tools with which it can gain legitimacy and establish its rule. These include the ability to provide security, the rule of law and economic opportunities for the local population. These tasks, of course, are more easily said than done. The most problematic issue at this point, however, is maintaining security -- a necessary precondition if justice and economic recovery are to be achieved.

The long-term plan for maintaining security in Afghanistan is to enable the Afghan government in Kabul to wield the necessary force and resources required to protect its boundaries and prevent either any internal threat to its security or the reemergence of international terrorist cells in the country. The backbone of this plan is the resurrection of the Afghan National Army, a plan detailed by Karzai in December that calls for a force of 70,000 to be deployable by 2009. However, critics estimate that, at the current rate of training new army recruits, it would take 25 years for Afghanistan to create the army envisaged by Karzai. French estimates -- a country involved with the United States in the training of the Afghan Army -- indicate that under the current circumstances, Afghanistan can only hope for an army of 20,000 by the target date. Therefore, unless a major overhaul is done in the recruitment, training, and planning of the new Afghan Army -- a task hampered by the presence of rogue elements within Afghanistan who are more powerful than the Karzai administration and have no incentive to relinquish their power -- there is need for an alternative force to keep the peace and help with the reconstruction of the country.

The United Nations, most nongovernmental organizations, and, until recently, Karzai himself first demanded that the ISAF mandate be expanded beyond Kabul into at least the major Afghan cities. This, they argued, would enable the central government to exercise its authority. There has also been discussion about NATO taking the lead in ISAF and helping it to expand beyond Kabul, giving ISAF the military strength it requires while retaining its international character. However, for many reasons that include unwillingness on the part of major NATO troop contributing states, a perceived conflict between the mandate of ISAF and ICF -- the latter still engaged in a protracted fight against terrorism -- and the feeling that an expanded ISAF would hamper the formation of an Afghan National Army and police force, the issue of ISAF expansion is not on the table at present.

Nevertheless, such a force does now exist, in the form of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs). PRTs consist of U.S. military and civil-affairs personnel and civilians working for U.S. aid agencies, along with forces from ICF deployed throughout Afghanistan. They are tasked with helping to maintain security on the ground while assisting the local population with reconstruction projects. PRTs will comprise 50-100 individuals per team, and about 10 teams are being planned for deployment. Thus far, one PRT has been deployed since December in Gardayz, the capital of Paktiya Province in the volatile eastern region of Afghanistan. The next phase of PRT deployment is scheduled for Bamiyan in central Afghanistan, and another team is to be positioned in Kunduz in northern Afghanistan.

This formula is, however, being questioned by some international aid organizations, who say it is blurring the line between military operations and aid projects. Still, if successful, PRTs might be the key to providing the central government in Kabul time to extend its influence outside the capital while security is maintained long enough for the Afghan Army to take charge. Ideally, the reconstruction aspect of PRTs would establish a mechanism, enabling them to work in tandem with international aid agencies. Also, it would be beneficial for a working mechanism to be established between the central administration in Kabul and PRTs, through which not only security is maintained and reconstruction projects implemented but also legitimacy is gained for the Afghan national government.

One plan to increase the international image of the primarily U.S. PRTs is to increase the number of ICF members within their ranks. There is even talk of assigning countries other than the United States full charge of some of the PRTs.

With plans for PRT expansion, there is an urgent need to define their area of responsibilities, and their relationships with local Afghan authorities and the central government in Kabul. Moreover, a more transparent planning of PRT agendas might lessen the worries of the international aid agencies about working with a new system. This would also provide a clear mandate for their work, with the goal of providing security to enable the reconstruction of Afghanistan while the central government in Kabul improves its abilities to maintain peace and administer justice throughout the country as a whole.

The longer it takes to implement a plan pursuant to a long-term vision for security in Afghanistan, the harder it is to fight terrorism, local warlords, and their international sponsors -- all of whom could fill the power vacuum and, in effect, remove Afghanistan from the course of recovery. Empowering individual Afghans so that they feel safe in their own country and have a chance to invest in their future is necessary to rebuild the nation. Afghanistan might be compared to a human body that suffers from many wounds and diseases: While tending to the wounds is a necessary first step toward recovery, only by making the structure of the body itself stronger can all of the ailments be healed in the long run.

Vice President Nematullah Shahrani, who chairs the Constitutional Drafting Commission (CDC), told Radio Free Afghanistan on 29 January that the preliminary draft of the new Afghan constitution will be ready by 1 March. After that draft is reviewed, the text will be circulated to legal scholars in the provinces and discussions will be held with religious scholars, tribal leaders, and jurists. Shahrani said the system of government envisaged in the new constitution is based on the republican model, but that the Afghan people must decide whether it will be presidential or parliamentary republic. Shahrani said the new constitution will guarantee press freedoms and allow the formation of political parties, adding that laws relating to those rights must conform to the constitution. One stipulation in the draft constitution, he said, states that no action can oppose the tenets of Islamic religion, key national interests, or the national unity of Afghanistan. Afghans have been voicing concern about their inability to influence the new Afghan constitution, and the CDC so far has been reluctant to address some of the more controversial issues -- such as the form of the future Afghan government, the role of Islam in the constitution, the rights of women and minorities, and the relationship between the central government and the provinces (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Asserting that the constitution is a country's most authoritative document, the Kabul daily "Nega-e Naw" on 23 January commented that the new Afghan constitution must be acceptable to all Afghan citizens. The paper wrote that, while much has been said about the drafting of a new constitution, such a document may only be accepted "when every member of the community takes part in its drafting and approval" process. "Nega-e Naw" added that the new Afghan constitution should pave the way for the advancement of Afghan society, which in turn would steer away from conservative views and the tradition of conflicts stemming from cultural differences. The paper recommends that the new draft constitution reflect all customs prevalent in the country and respect the traditions of all tribes and religious groups, especially non-Muslim Afghans; be flexible enough to respect all the customs in Afghanistan while allowing for progress and change and avoiding becoming a "chain to tie Afghanistan in dark and blind beliefs"; and be forward-looking and prepare Afghanistan's next generation for democracy and respect for human rights. "Nega-e Now" commented that such a document would be acceptable to all communities in Afghanistan.

While non-Muslims -- namely Hindus and Sikhs -- compose about 1 percent of the Afghan population, their rights and privileges (along with Afghan Jews, most of whom left Afghanistan after 1978) were addressed in most of previous Afghan constitutions. But in the current process, the rights of non-Muslims have been sidestepped, at least publicly. A proposed constitution presented by former President Burhanuddin Rabbani in 1993 did not address the rights of non-Muslims in Afghanistan and made sharia (Islamic jurisprudence) the sole law of the country. Subsequently in 2001, the Taliban required Afghan Hindus to wear patches to distinguish them from Muslims. As such, the call by "Nega-e Naw" for CDC to respect the rights of non-Muslim Afghans in the new constitution must be viewed as a welcome note. (Amin Tarzi)

Former Afghan Presidents Burhanuddin Rabbani and Sebghatullah Mujaddedi, National Islamic Front of Afghanistan leader Sayyed Ahmad Gailani, Islamic Movement of Afghanistan leader Mohammad Asef Muhseni, and former Education Minister Ahmad Shah Ahmadzai attended a meeting in Kabul on 27 January with members of the CDC to discuss the new Afghan constitution, Afghan state television reported. CDC Chairman Shahrani said the new constitution will be "the guardian of social justice and will reflect the will of the people," the station reported. (Amin Tarzi)

CDC Chairman Shahrani met on 26 January with Iran's ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, who expressed his country's readiness to assist Afghanistan in drafting its new constitution, the "Iran Daily" reported on 27 January. Taherian said CDC members have a "heavy burden vis-a-vis the current developments" in Afghanistan and should take into account the realities of Afghan society when drafting the new constitution. Iranian President Mohammad Khatami said on 12 January that the new Afghan constitution must take Afghanistan's religious and national identities into account while considering Afghans' understanding of democracy in relation to their culture (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 13 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

President Karzai on 23 January told the commission charged with creating a new National Assembly (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 22 January 2003) that it should include all segments of Afghan society, Bakhtar news agency reported. "Efforts should be taken to ensure that that the leaders and the representatives who have risen from among the people are elected to the [National Assembly]," Karzai said. He also made it clear that he expects the commission to achieve timely results and to ensure that the nationwide elections for choosing the assembly's representatives are held under UN supervision. (Kimberly McCloud)

Soraya Popal, one of two female members of the 19-member commission tasked with forming the national Loya Jirga (National Assembly) (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 January 2003), told Radio Free Afghanistan on 27 January that she has resigned from the commission because the process for forming the National Assembly is unconstitutional. Popal, who is a member of the country's Academy of Sciences, said that after she attended 10 commission meetings she realized that Article 43 of the 1964 Afghan Constitution -- which, according to the Bonn Agreement of 2001 is to serve as Afghan law during the transitional period -- stipulates that members of parliament are to be elected by secret ballot. In the current process, members are being "handpicked" by the commission, she said. Popal added that, according to Article 44 of the 1964 Afghan Constitution, members of parliament are to be chosen for four-year terms, while 93 members of the planned National Assembly have already been selected for one-year terms.

The Bonn Agreement stipulates that, until the adoption of a new constitution for Afghanistan, the 1964 Constitution will be the law of the land. Exceptions included in that document are provisions inconsistent with the Bonn Agreement itself and any clause dealing with the monarchy. (Amin Tarzi)

The Kabul-based "Erada" in a commentary on 27 January stated that "a number of Afghans are of the opinion that" the Transitional Administration was set up based on the Bonn Agreement, which does not call for "the formation of the national...assembly." The paper adds that, since the current system was created on the basis of political agreements rather than elections and since armed factions still control large parts of the country: "If a national assembly is formed with the powerful job of being the country's legislature, then we should say that, one, the members of this assembly will not be elected on the basis of social justice, and, two, the transitional administration government will" need to deal with the problem of the armed factions that are not part of central government before fair elections can be held. (Amin Tarzi)

The Afghan Judicial Reform Commission and the UN Development Program (UNDP) on 26 January signed a two-year, $30 million project to revamp Afghanistan's judicial system, UN News Service reported on 27 January. According to Manoel de Almeida e Silva, spokesman for the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, the initial phase of the project will involve reconstructing and equipping courthouses across Afghanistan, training judges and other court officials, and increasing the capacity to administrate justice. "Particular attention will be given to ensure gender equity and a firmer role for women through the judicial system," Almeida e Silva said. The agreement followed a December roundtable called "The Role of Law in a Modern Afghanistan" on Afghan judicial reform that was held in Rome. Italy is tasked with helping the Transitional Administration in its efforts to reform the country's judicial system. The roundtable was organized by the International Development Law Organization and included members of the new Afghan Judicial Reform Commission. (For more on the roundtable, see (Amin Tarzi)

The Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) issued a 30-page report on 28 January titled "Afghanistan: Judicial Reform and Transitional Justice" in which it concludes that while the international community has been hesitant to improve Afghanistan's collapsed judicial system, factions within the Transitional Administration that are in control of the judiciary have consolidated their position. The ICG report points to Chief Justice Fazl Hadi Shinwari, whom it describes as "an ally of the Saudi-backed fundamentalist [and former Mujahedin] leader Abd al-Rabb al-Rasul Sayyaf." The report adds that Shinwari was appointed to his position in December 2001 by former Afghan President Rabbani and reappointed by President Karzai in June 2002 even though the constitution of 1964 requires that the chief justice be under 60 years of age and have knowledge of both religious and secular law practiced in Afghanistan. Shinwari is "believed to be in his 80s and does not have formal training in secular sources of law," the report asserts. The ICG calls on Karzai to "request the retirement of...Shinwari as chief justice and appoint a successor who meets the constitutional requirements on age and education." Shinwari recently issued an edict banning cable television in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" 23 January 2003). (The full text of the report can be found at ( (Amin Tarzi)

The cabinet on 27 January formed a special commission headed by Vice President and CDC Chairman Nematullah Shahrani to review the Supreme Court's recent ban on cable-television networks in Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report" 23 January 2003), Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported from Mashhad on 28 January. According to presidential spokesman Sayyed Fazel Akbar, the new commission will consult with religious scholars to formulate regulations for cable television that would allow such broadcasting "within the framework of Afghanistan's high national interests and take into consideration respect for the holy religion of Islam and the customs and cultural values" of Afghanistan, the Iranian state-radio network reported. (Amin Tarzi)

A spokesman for Kandahar Province Governor Gul Agha Sherzai told Radio Free Afghanistan on 28 January that the province will not implement the Supreme Court's ban on cable television. Spokesman Khaled Pashtun stressed the province's loyalty to Kabul, but he said the world is moving forward and cable television can help advance Afghan society. He added that the province's citizens will thus be allowed access to cable television. Pashtun added that only films and programs deemed potentially harmful to children and society -- namely, those showing sexually explicit scenes -- will be banned in the province. He noted that most of those programs are available not on cable but via satellite television. Pashtun further said that neither cable programs or videos showing women singing nor Indian movies will be banned.

It is noteworthy that Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban, has chosen not to ban cable while the political environment in Kabul has given the strict Islamists the upper hand in deciding the fate of media and entertainment in Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)

Afghan troops were attacked on 20 January in the vicinity of Spin Boldak near the Afghan-Pakistani border, Radio Afghanistan reported, citing Bakhtar news agency. "On 30 Marghumi [20 January], a border checkpoint in Boldak District, Kandahar Province, came under heavy artillery attack from two unidentified vehicles," said Defense Ministry Chief of Operations General Abdurrahman. "The border [military] personnel retaliated, and the unidentified attackers fled. None were injured in the incident," he added. (Kimberly McCloud)

An Afghan official from Zhawar military base in Khost said on 26 January that six long-range artillery rockets were fired at the base, Radio Afghanistan reported. No casualties were reported from the attack, which the international antiterrorism coalition has blamed on Taliban and remnants of Al-Qaeda. Two U.S. soldiers were injured in a bomb blast near Khost on 18 January ("RFE/RL Newsline," 21 January 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

U.S.-led coalition forces and Afghan rebels clashed on 27 January near Spin Boldak in Kandahar Province, CNN reported on 28 January. Eighteen rebels were reportedly killed, while no coalition casualties were reported. According to U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King, intelligence reports indicate that the rebels "are most closely aligned with [Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's] Hizb-e Islami." He added that the United States has received "reports over the last several months that [Hekmatyar has] been attempting to consolidate with remnants of Al-Qaeda and they would all go under the heading of enemy forces -- anticoalition forces," Reuters reported on 28 January. According to BBC, the fighters involved in the battle are under the command of former Taliban commander Hafez Abdul Rahim. The fighting near Spin Boldak was the largest coalition operation in the past nine months and involved U.S. and allied aircraft, including B1 bombers that dropped 19 900-kilogram bombs, CNN reported. (Amin Tarzi)

At least two Afghan nationals were killed on 26 January when the UNHCR convoy they were escorting came under attack in Nangarhar Province, the BBC reported. The UNHCR subsequently confirmed that the two were working for the agency, though initial reports indicated no UN employees were killed. An Afghan security commander said the attack was carried out to protest reconstruction projects the UN is carrying out in eastern Afghanistan. However, an anonymous UN source indicated that the attack might have been linked to tensions resulting from local commanders' opposition to UN programs to eradicate opium poppies, the BCC reported. Nangarhar Province is one of the main areas of opium-poppy production in Afghanistan and, in the absence of authorities to control cultivation, local commanders are encouraging farmers to plant the illegal crops and pocketing most of the profits. Attacks on international forces in Nangarhar Province have risen considerably in the last few months. (Amin Tarzi)

U.S. and Afghan security forces arrested three unidentified men in Kabul on 30 January on charges of possessing explosives and bomb-making equipment, the BBC reported. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Roger King alleged that the men "were trying to blow up a U.S. or coalition facility in Kabul with a bomb," the BBC reported. According to the report, the number of attacks on international forces stationed in Afghanistan has increased in recent weeks. The report did not indicate the group with which the arrested men might have belonged. AT

Five people were killed and an undisclosed number injured in fighting on 26 and 27 January between rival commanders in the northern Afghanistan's Faryab Province, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported from Mashhad on 28 January. The fighting reportedly began when a local commander in the village of Almar refused to surrender weapons in accordance with the disarmament program in northern Afghanistan (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 28 November 2002), the Iranian state radio network reported. Fayzullah Zaki, a spokesman for Deputy Defense Minister and Presidential Representative for Northern Afghanistan General Abdul Rashid Dostum, described the fighting as "not serious" and said it resulted from "a misunderstanding."

Forces loyal to Dostum's Jumbish-e Islami party and its rival, the Jamiat-e Islami party, which is represented in northern Afghanistan by General Mohammad Ata, have fought against each other on different occasions but have cooperated as of late in the joint disarmament program. (Amin Tarzi)

Prior to the fighting that broke out between fighters loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum and those belonging to General Mohammad Ata on 26-27 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 29 January 2003), General Dostum made a number of provocative statements about his rivals. Balkh Television reported on 25 January that General Dostum, a deputy defense minister and presidential representative for Northern Afghanistan, said during his 25 January visit to the 200th Army Corps in Faryab Province that General Ata, "who talks of Islam and holy war [jihad], [in fact] has weak beliefs." In the same speech, Dostum warned radical Hizb-e Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar that "I will eliminate [Hekmatyar] as I did the Taliban" if his former ally does not stop his propaganda campaign against him, Balkh Television reported. Regarding the assassination attempt against him on 15 January (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 15 and 16 January 2003), General Dostum said: "By the grace of God I passed through danger, and I tell all the enemies of Afghanistan that they cannot do anything [to destabilize the country] while I am alive." (Amin Tarzi)

In the same 25 January speech reported by Balkh Television, General Dostum called on fighters in the 200th Army Corps to surrender their arms and to work toward peace. He advised the Afghan population to "stop the fighting and end the misfortune in the country," but added that he understands that the "gun is sometimes necessary in a country," Balkh Television reported. (Amin Tarzi)

A local commander belonging to the Wahdat-e Islami party was assassinated on 28 January in the Dara-ye Suf District in northern Afghanistan's Samangan Province, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported from Mashhad. Mohammad Sarwar Sayyedi, an official from Wahdat-e Islami, said commander Gholam Nabi and three of his bodyguards were killed while traveling to Mazar-e Sharif, the capital of Balkh Province, the radio station reported. The report did not provide information on the assailants' identities or their possible motives. (Amin Tarzi)

President Karzai on 28 January appointed Ali Ahmad Jalali as the country's new interior minister, replacing Taj Mohammad Wardak, who was appointed ministerial adviser on tribal affairs and named a member of the National Security Council, Radio Free Afghanistan reported. Jalali completed his military studies in Afghanistan, the United Kingdom, and Turkey and served as an army officer in Afghanistan until the communist takeover in 1978, the report added. Prior to his appointment, Jalali served in Washington, D.C., as the head of Voice of America's Pashto service. After the conclusion of the 2001 Bonn Agreement, Mohammad Yunus Qanuni was selected interior minister, but following the Loya Jirga in June he stepped down as part of a compromise to balance the ethnic representation within the Afghan cabinet. Qanuni now serves as education minister. During Wardak's tenure, criminal activity increased in Kabul, and he was criticized for his handling of the 11-12 November student protests at Kabul University (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 14 November 2002). (Amin Tarzi)

30 January 1977 -- Afghan President Mohammad Daud convenes a loya jirga to approve a new draft constitution for the republican regime.

28 January 1989 -- Soviet Defense Minister Dmitrii Yazov ends two days of talk with Afghan President Najibullah in Kabul and says that Moscow will "not abandon its friends," even after the Soviet troops leave Afghanistan.

25 January 1996 --Amnesty International criticizes the United States for indifference toward deteriorating situation in Afghanistan.

(Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghanistan" by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997); Voice of America)