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Afghan Report: October 2, 2003

2 October 2003, Volume 2, Number 34
By J.M. Ledgard

The Afghanistan donors meeting held in Dubai on 21 September offered few sparks of hope or excitement about reconstruction in Afghanistan. While a few successes were cautiously appreciated, there was also much to lament. Afghan officials said invisible mechanisms had been set up, particularly for the disbursement of money to ministries, which would yield tangible results in the near future. And according to a member of the U.S. delegation to the conference, the Afghan Transitional Administration is extending its reach -- yet gruesome evidence in the south and east of the country points to the contrary.

There wasn't much to report about real economic progress in Afghanistan. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) tempered good news of economic growth -- a whopping 30 percent last year, and maybe 20 percent this year -- with a warning that Afghanistan's economy is distorted and threatened by the drug trade. Its bean counters believe that the export of opium and its derivatives, which yielded about $2.5 billion last year, now accounts for half of Afghanistan's GDP. Production is fast recovering to its 1999 record level (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003). Without major intervention, it said, the country will slide into being a "narco-state where all legitimate institutions become penetrated by the power and wealth of drug traffickers." Afghan Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai agreed (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 September 2003), saying several ministries are already approaching "narco-mafia" status. The World Bank was scarcely more upbeat, noting that life expectancy in Afghanistan still hovers around 40.

There was at least some determined talk, and money to back it up. The head of the World Bank, James Wolfensohn, gave a pep talk, saying his organization will spend $300 million in Afghanistan in 2004 on reconstruction and micro-financing. The bulk of the money will come from the United States, EU members, Japan, and Canada. The U.S. delegation came out of the meeting in high spirits. By their own account, they managed to get other donors to match Washington's boosted funding for Afghanistan next year. Half of the $1.2 billion the United States plans to dole out will be targeted to rebuilding the national police and army. The rest will be spent on reconstruction and improving ministries.

The United States and others may also make use of an existing scheme that funnels money in the form of block grants to villages where, at least, funds get stolen at the micro level. Ahmadzai sang a depressingly familiar tune: spend now or pay later. All donations have been gratefully received, went his chorus, but how about some more. He reckons his country needs $30 billion over the next five years to make a go of it. He will be lucky to get half that.

A good chunk of the money promised over 15 months -- $1.8 billion out of $2.1 billion -- actually materialized. Yet, that amounts to an annual $67 per Afghan, which pales in comparison with what was spent on each East Timorese and Bosnian following their civil wars. Afghans have good reason to wonder why they receive so much less.

Hovering on the fringe was the Russian Federation, which claims to be owed money by Afghanistan. Russian diplomats say Kabul is in debt to them for close to $10 billion -- by what calculation is unclear (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 25 September 2003). They say Russia would be ready to settle, in deference to hard times, for 20 percent. No chance, say diplomats. But Russia does not really expect to be paid. The issue is one of leverage. By forgiving Soviet-era debt, it hopes to win favorable agreements on mining, oil exploration, and the import of machinery.

In conclusion, while the Afghanistan donors meeting tried to put a brave face on the realities on the ground, unless peace, security, and a departure from a culture of warlordism is enforced, Afghanistan may find itself again at the mercy of drug dealers and terrorists.

J.M. Ledgard is a journalist who covers Afghanistan and a freelancer for RFE/RL.

Five people have died thus far in armed clashes in three northern Afghan provinces that began on 28 September between commanders loyal to two major Afghan military commanders, Radio Afghanistan reported. One side is loyal to General Abdul Rashid Dostum, who is special adviser on security and military affairs to Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai, while the other reportedly defends the interests of Afghan 7th Army Corps commander General Ata Mohammad. Unconfirmed early reports from the area of the fighting -- including the Sar-e Pol, Balkh, and Faryab provinces -- blamed forces loyal to Dostum for inciting the clashes. A source with the Afghan Defense Ministry said delegates representing both Dostum's Junbish-e Melli party and Ata Mohammad's Jamiat-e Islami are to discuss a cease-fire. Dostum and Ata Mohammad have clashed intermittently since the Taliban forces were defeated in Afghanistan in late 2001. In May, Karzai named Dostum as his special adviser and requested that Dostum be based in Kabul. Karzai threatened to resign if he is unable to impose government control on the country's warlords (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 May 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

The Afghan Transitional Administration appointed a commission on 29 September to bring an end to an ongoing armed conflict in three northern Afghan provinces, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 30 September. General Abdul Sabur, a spokesman for Ata Mohammad, said fighting is continuing in Sar-e Pol Province, where he claimed seven fighters have been killed. (Amin Tarzi)

An Afghan aid worker was killed and his driver injured on 24 September when their vehicle was attacked while traveling in a convoy in Awz-e Khushk, Helmand Province, AP reported on 25 September. It is not known who carried out the attack. The aid worker was an employee of the Voluntary Association for the Rehabilitation of Afghanistan (VARA). Mohammad Ismail, who is in charge of security for the VARA convoy, said only that the assault was the "work of terrorists who do not want peace and stability in Afghanistan" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 12 June 2003). VARA works primarily on restoring Afghanistan's agricultural sector. (Amin Tarzi)

Mullah Abdul Samad, a neo-Taliban intelligence official, said on 26 September that the militants are responsible for the recent killing of an Afghan aid worker in Awz-e Khushk, Helmand Province, Reuters reported. Abdul Samad accused VARA of "undermining the Islamic faith of the Afghan people," claiming that VARA and other nongovernmental organizations are actively "preaching Christianity and distributing books on Christianity among the people." Abdul Samad added that anyone working in Afghanistan "for the interests of America and the crusaders deserves to be killed." (Amin Tarzi)

Unidentified gunmen killed seven soldiers in the Sangin District of Helmand Province on 28 September, Radio Afghanistan reported. All seven men were bodyguards of Helmand Province Governor Mullah Shayr Mohammad Akhond, who was not with his bodyguards at the time of the attack. Akhond's spokesman, Haji Mohammad Wali, accused neo-Taliban forces of the attack. There have been no arrests so far in the case. (Amin Tarzi)

One U.S. solider was killed and two were wounded during combat against "anticoalition soldiers" in the Shkin District of the southeastern Paktika Province on 29 September, Radio Afghanistan reported the next day. This was the 31st U.S. casualty reported since military operations in Afghanistan began on 7 October 2001. U.S. military spokesman Colonel Rodney Davis said, "The deceased soldier was engaged in combat maneuvers against anticoalition soldiers, or I shouldn't say soldiers -- anticoalition personnel -- when he was wounded," RFE/RL reported. Shkin has been the scene of violence -- blamed by numerous Afghan officials on neo-Taliban or remnants of the former Taliban regime -- that has resulted in dozens of U.S. and Afghan troop and civilian deaths since December (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 2 January and 1 May 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

Armed robbers on 23 September stole equipment and cash from the office of the Kandahar-based weekly magazine "Khaled," Hindukosh news agency reported on 24 September. Meanwhile, the news agency reported the same day that armed men recently forced a woman to get on a motorcycle in central Kandahar and then took her to the outskirts of the city and raped her. The crime rate in Kandahar city has risen since the appointment in August of Governor Mohammad Yusuf Pashtun (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 21 August 2003), according to Hindukosh. (Amin Tarzi)

Unidentified perpetrators burned down girls' schools in Balkh and Nangarhar provinces in separate incidents on 27 and 28 September, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 29 September. Two tents that were being used to house classrooms for girls were destroyed in the Chahar Bolak District of Balkh Province, AP reported on 29 September. The report did not specify the location of the damaged schools in the Nangarhar Province. The arsonists reportedly left notes in the vicinity of the fires warning villagers not to send their daughters to school. The former Taliban regime in Afghanistan banned all women from attending school. (Amin Tarzi)

U.S. forces in Afghanistan said a U.S. military convoy was attacked on 27 September in Gardayz, the capital of Paktiya Province, Radio Afghanistan reported. There were no reports of casualties in the attack, and the perpetrators have not been identified. The United States operates a Provincial Reconstruction Team in Gardayz. (Amin Tarzi)

Shah Zaman Warez-Stanakzai, head of publications for the Information and Culture Ministry and publisher of the political journal "Palwasha," told the Kabul daily "Erada" on 22 September that he has been the target of death threats for the past month. Warez-Stanakzai said he has received telephone calls from unidentified individuals who threaten to kill him because of articles he has published in "Palwasha." Warez-Stanakzai said the callers have objected to articles criticizing former mujahedin leaders for destroying Kabul during their power struggle (1992-96) and for plundering the country's national wealth. The callers have said such articles are tantamount to "an insult to Islam," he added. (Amin Tarzi)

Violence across Afghanistan during the past week has targeted U.S. troops, humanitarian aid workers, the bodyguards of an Afghan provincial governor, and at least four schools for girls. Fresh fighting also has broken out between rival factions of the former Northern Alliance.

The violence in the south, east, and north of Afghanistan comes as NATO considers the feasibility of expanding the UN-mandated International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) into areas beyond Kabul.

Ultimately, the UN Security Council must alter ISAF's mandate before the NATO-led mission can operate outside of Kabul Province. But NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson suggested during a visit to Kabul on 26 September that the military alliance first needs to express its willingness to expand operations in order to bolster political will within the Security Council.

"We've listened very carefully to the voices of those who have said that bringing security to Kabul alone is not enough. And that is why only six weeks after NATO took the leadership of ISAF, the North Atlantic Council -- NATO's supreme governing body -- has asked the military to give advice on how or whether we should go beyond Kabul to other parts of Afghanistan," Robertson said.

Robertson and Afghan leader Hamid Karzai met privately in Scotland for 90 minutes on 28 September to discuss a possible expanded ISAF mission. Karzai officially requested both NATO and the countries in the Partnership for Peace to consider wider assistance under the ISAF mandate -- including police, army, and administrative training. A NATO statement issued on 29 September said Robertson is conveying a request from Karzai to extend ISAF operations beyond Kabul.

In Kabul last week, Robertson suggested that NATO ultimately will aim to establish conditions for free and fair national elections next year. "The North Atlantic Council took on this obligation [as the leader of ISAF] with its eyes wide open. And NATO does not take on any mission other than to succeed. So we are here to help the [Afghan Transitional] Administration. And we won't leave until it can be handed over to the democratic representatives of the Afghan people," Robertson said. He added NATO would announce its position on ISAF within weeks. (Ron Synovitz)

In a 23-page report titled "Disarmament and Reintegration in Afghanistan" that was released on 30 September (see, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) writes that the domination of Afghanistan's political landscape by armed parties and individual commanders is still the principal obstacle to implementation of the political process that was agreed at the Bonn conference in late 2001. The report adds that without a credible process of disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration of former commanders and fighters into society, it is inconceivable that any of the key elements of that political process -- including the adoption of a new constitution, judicial reform, and elections -- can be meaningfully implemented. (Amin Tarzi)

The ICG, in separate 22-page report titled "Peacebuilding in Afghanistan" ( that was released on 29 September that the world's attention is drawn to threats from neo-Taliban but Afghanistan's security "requires a greater effort to deal with local disputes." The ICG suggests that particular attention should be devoted to conflicts over resources, namely land and water; ethnic disputes and conflicts between political parties; and family-based disputes, mostly revolving around women. The ICG also recommends that the Afghan Transitional Administration make the disarmament, demobilization, and reintegration process "a key prerequisite to reconciliation at all levels." The group urges Chairman Karzai to remove governors, police chiefs, and other officials who "pursue factional, rather than central government, interests and/or who are corrupt." (Amin Tarzi)

The ICG report released on 29 September also urges "key international actors, particularly the United States, Russia, India, Pakistan and Iran," to ensure that their actions and resources bolster reconciliation processes at both the national and local level and to end support for factional leaders, which actively undermines such processes. (Amin Tarzi)

A meeting on the sidelines of UN General Assembly on 26 September between the Afghan, Iranian, and Pakistani foreign ministers brought an agreement to establish three-way consultative committees on political, intelligence, and counternarcotics issues, according to the Afghan Foreign Ministry and Iran's IRNA news agency. "The region should not be taken hostage by past thoughts, and we should identify new thoughts and policies to meet our interest and regional security in line with modern circumstances," IRNA quoted Iranian Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi as saying on 28 September. Kharrazi's statement was a presumed allusion to perceived interference by both Islamabad and Tehran in Afghan internal affairs in the past. (Amin Tarzi)

Foreign ministers from UN Security Council powers and Central Asia states have called for greater support for Afghanistan's reconstruction efforts and welcomed moves to expand security outside Kabul in a meeting on 24 September.

The ministers issued a communique after the meeting expressing their support for the reform efforts of Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai. They called on his government to intensify efforts to achieve national reconciliation and national unity and to move forward on the drafting of a constitution.

The communique said the lack of security outside Kabul threatened the reform process and it welcomed NATO's discussions on expanding the UN-mandated security force beyond the capital. NATO currently leads the international force deployed in the capital. The ministers also expressed concern over the continuing rule of factional commanders in some regions and the need for quick reforms to security services.

The statement followed a two-hour meeting attended by the top diplomats of nearly 20 states, including the five permanent Security Council members, leading donor nations, and Afghanistan's neighbors.

Karzai afterward called it a "wonderful" meeting and recounted the encouraging signals. "In terms of the support for the expansion of ISAF, in terms of the announcement of support from countries, in terms of the support announced yesterday by [U.S.] President [George W.] Bush for us, in terms of other countries supporting that and pledging more help for Afghanistan. It was good," he said.

Bush told the UN General Assembly on 23 September that he had asked the U.S. Congress for an extra $1.2 billion for Afghan reconstruction aid. Afghanistan also received pledges of support from Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, whose country holds the rotating European Union presidency, and Canada, among others.

German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder yesterday told the General Assembly that Afghanistan's political reform effort needs sustained international support. Germany is training a new Afghan national police force. Schroeder indicated that his country might contribute troops to an expanded force there. "Our top priority is our commitment to peace in Afghanistan," he said. "Germany is willing to maintain its commitment there in the long term and to increase it."

Germany has drafted, but not yet circulated, a Security Council resolution that would authorize an expansion of the ISAF. It is expected to aim for such a move at the end of the year, when the ISAF mandate is up for renewal. Council members have been generally supportive of the idea of expanding the force under NATO's direction.

In the meantime, countries have begun contributing to provincial reconstruction teams, which are civil-military projects designed to aid in reconstruction, boost security, and extend the influence of the central government. UN and Afghan officials have welcomed the teams but have repeatedly said a more robust security presence is needed outside Kabul. The United States leads a separate coalition of about 10,000 troops concentrating on pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters.

Karzai told the General Assembly's opening-day session that Afghanistan continues to face a threat from cross-border terrorism and extremism. There have been reports of Taliban forces massing in Pakistan for a new offensive, but Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf dismissed the reports.

He told a press conference on 24 September that Pakistan's forces control their borders with Afghanistan. But he stressed the difficulties in pursuing Al-Qaeda and Taliban fighters. "There are Taliban and there are Al-Qaeda -- probably on our side of the border -- but they are not in the form of holding lines, holding defenses where an army can launch an offensive and eliminate them or arrest them and take them into custody," he said.

Musharraf said there is a mistaken impression that Pakistan could end the threat by taking conventional security measures. But he said the region in question, Pakistan's Northwest Frontier Province, is still largely without roads and inaccessible. "There is no military operation here," he said. "The operation that is being conducted or required is an intelligence operation. Through an effective intelligence network you locate targets. Once you have located and confirmed them, you act with a quick reaction force, attack them, and get back."

Musharraf said his government needs to improve its aerial operations but that it is becoming increasingly effective in dealing with armed groups in the region.

The 24 September ministerial meeting at the UN, while stressing security, also urged countries to renew funding for Afghanistan's vast reconstruction needs. The communique said it would be useful to hold an international reconstruction meeting early next year to review Afghanistan's reconstruction progress. (Robert McMahon)

Paktika Province Governor Mohammad Ali Jalali said on 29 September that up to 500 troops loyal to the Afghan Transitional Administration are being deployed in the Barmal District on the country's border with Pakistan, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) reported. Jalali said that Afghan authorities decided to deploy more forces in the area after "taking into consideration the eastern border's current situation." General Dawlat Khan, security commander of Paktika, added that the deployment is a response to "increasing attacks in the area." Unidentified forces presumably loyal to the former Taliban regime have increased attacks on Afghan and coalition forces in Barmal and nearby Shkin, AIP reported. (Amin Tarzi)

Governor Jalali said on 30 September that the planned deployment of 500 troops loyal to the Afghan Transitional Administration in the Barmal and Shkin districts has been delayed, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 1 October. Jalali cited financial and security obstacles to the troop deployment. He added that the security situation in Paktika is unsatisfactory and people in the province expect the central authorities in Kabul to ensure peace and security there. A U.S. solider was killed in Shkin on 29 September (see above) and unconfirmed reports indicated that the neo-Taliban are in control of Barmal District. (Amin Tarzi)

Pakistani Interior Minister Faisal Saleh Hayat accused India of establishing camps inside Afghanistan to train Afghans and Pakistani dissidents for terrorist activities, the London-based, Arabic language daily "Al-Hayat" reported on 28 September. Hayat said his country "comes under brutal, subversive attacks by Indian intelligence agencies that sponsor camps inside Afghanistan, particularly in areas where India [has] opened consulates, such as Herat, Jalalabad, and Kandahar." Hayat added that Islamabad has "clear evidence" that "there is a link" between Indian consulates and "camps where dissident Pakistanis and Afghans are trained." Since April, Islamabad has voiced concern at the reopening of Indian consulates in Afghan cities (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 1 May 2003). Afghanistan had no official relations with India during the Islamabad-backed rule of the Taliban regime. One of Pakistan's strategic objectives in supporting the Taliban was to foment disagreement between Afghanistan and Islamabad's archenemy, India. At the time, New Delhi accused Pakistan of training Kashmiri terrorists inside Afghanistan. (Amin Tarzi)

The Herat-based newspaper "Etefaq-e Islam" observed on 23 September that there is an increase in abuses of children's rights in Afghanistan. The most serious threat Afghan children face is kidnapping by armed gangs, according to the daily. In addition, the commentary criticized teachers' practice of beating children in schools and mosques and parents who force their children to work instead of attending school. (Amin Tarzi)

Authorities in Takhar Province have rescued more than 50 boys who were abducted from neighboring Badakhshan Province, the BBC reported on 25 September. The boys, some of whom were as young as four, were apparently abducted with the intention of trafficking them to Iran and Pakistan for induction into religious schools or for sale as sex slaves. UNICEF spokesman Edward Carwardine said his organization suspects "there may be other children who have been abducted." He added that UNICEF has "unconfirmed reports" from southern Afghanistan that many children have disappeared. As the Afghan Transitional Administration has struggled to exert its authority beyond greater Kabul, children in Afghanistan's regions are often at the mercy of local leaders or warlords. The international coalition in Afghanistan is focusing on immediate security concerns posed by the neo-Taliban and other attackers, while Afghanistan's future generation continues to face uncertainty and danger. (Amin Tarzi)

The European Commission has decided to provide $17.8 million to cover the salaries of Afghanistan's police force until March 2004, when the country is scheduled to hold general elections, Reuters reported on 25 September. Karl Harbo, the commission's representative in Kabul, said Afghans "deserve an accountable police force, one that respects and defends their rights. This will not happen in one day, but the process must go as fast as possible." The Afghan police force has been frequently criticized for widespread corruption, incompetence, and abuse of power. (Amin Tarzi)

Nadir Khan Berdil was beheaded in Jeddah on 24 September on charges of smuggling heroin into Saudi Arabia, the Saudi Press Agency reported. The Saudi Interior Ministry said in a statement that Berdil was "convicted by the Shari'a court," adding that the beheading demonstrated the determination of the Saudi government to prevent narcotics from entering the country. Afghanistan accounts for about 70 percent of the world's opium-poppy cultivation (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003). (Amin Tarzi)

30 September 1948 -- Afghanistan casts only vote against admitting Pakistan to the United Nations on the grounds that Pashtuns living in that country have not had a fair plebiscite.

27 September 1991 -- President Mohammad Najibullah again proposes forming of a coalition comprised of Watan Party, monarchists, and mujahedin parties.

28 September 1996 -- Taliban introduce strict Islamic dress code in Kabul: turbans or skull caps for men, head-to-toe covering for women; men are to grow beards, women to stay indoors. Radio Kabul announces death penalty for adulterers and drinkers.

Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghan Afghanistan," by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997); AFP; Sueddeutsche Zeitung.