30 October 2003, Volume 2, Number 38
NATO'S FIRST MISSION TO THE GREATER MIDDLE EASTBy Amin Tarzi
A team of 27 German troops arrived on 25 October in the northern Afghan town of Konduz to lay the groundwork for the expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) under the leadership of NATO. Germany is expected to provide around 450 troops to serve in ISAF outside of Kabul, where the 4,500-strong force has been providing security since January 2002.
According to the German Colonel Kurt Schiebold, the unit of German troops in Konduz "will cooperate with the Afghan security forces to ensure that there is a safe environment for Afghans, United Nations staff, and members of other international organizations to do reconstruction work and provide humanitarian aid." In short, the Germans will be working as part of a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) -- an idea formulated mainly by the United States, to provide security for aid workers under military protection (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 30 January 2003).
Currently there are four PRTs in Afghanistan, two of which are led by the United States in Gardayz, Paktia Province and Konduz, Konduz Province. One PRT is commanded by the United Kingdom in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh Province, and one by New Zealand in Bamiyan, Bamiyan Province. NATO hopes to increase the number of PRTs to eight or 10. Germany's assumption of leadership of the PRT in Konduz will allow the United States to relocate its troops to more volatile regions, such as southern and eastern Afghanistan.
NATO's First Out-Of-Area Challenge
When it took command of ISAF on 11 August, NATO embarked on a mission outside of Europe for the first time in its 54-year history (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 14 August 2003). As such, NATO officially began to engage the Greater Middle East -- an area usually understood to extend from Morocco in the west to Afghanistan in the east. Taking command of ISAF, limited to Kabul initially, was not such a difficult task for NATO, as ISAF had already established itself and was operating in a relatively secure environment.
Moreover, the four countries that commanded ISAF -- Turkey, the United Kingdom, Germany, and the Netherlands -- are all NATO members, making the transition in ISAF's chain of command virtually seamless.
Expansion of ISAF to Konduz and to other potentially more dangerous locations in Afghanistan may, however, test NATO's planning and foresight.
Konduz, by Afghan standards, is a relatively safe zone. The Germans may not have to deal with fighting the remnants of Al-Qaeda, the neo-Taliban, or the array of warlords in their island of peace. But unless all of Afghanistan becomes warlord and terrorist free, the Germans -- trying to ensure a safe environment for aid workers -- may be drawn into an unknown, murky battleground.
Konduz is an important narcotics zone in a country that tops the world in production of poppy cultivation (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 February, 29 May, and 5 June 2003). Even if it remains safe, and the presence of the German troops allows the United Nations and other organizations to tackle the poppy cultivation problem there, NATO will not have accomplished its mission. NATO officials have already stated that the main challenge for the alliance is success in Afghanistan bringing about more stability throughout the country as a whole. The alliance is well aware of the need to expand into the southeastern parts of the country if it is to truly attain this goal.
Is NATO Ready?
It was Afghanistan, the last battlefield of the Cold War, that led to the tragic events of 11 September 2001. NATO's first challenge in the war on terrorism began in Afghanistan as well. At the dawn of the 21st century, terrorism is the most important immediate threat to the Western world. Most of the anti-Western terrorist activities have had their origins in the Greater Middle East, especially if this geographical concept is extended to include Pakistan. As such, NATO's shift of attention from the threat posed by the former Soviet Union to terrorism seems a natural and logical progression. A major question that remains unanswered, however, is whether or not NATO is facing this challenge with solid unity of purpose and action.
To be sure, NATO has more than sufficient military capability to eventually overcome the challenging situation in Afghanistan. It may not have the force structure to deal with small pockets of resistance in the mountains of Afghanistan as of yet, but an alliance decision in Prague in November 2002 offers a hint of what may come. The alliance decided to create a "NATO Response Force (NRF) consisting of a technologically advanced, flexible, deployable, interoperable and sustainable force including land, sea, and air elements ready to move quickly to wherever needed, as decided by the Council." NATO decision makers may have had situations such as the mission in Afghanistan in mind. If NATO is forced to engage militarily in Afghanistan, this NRF concept may also be tested.
The major test for NATO is how it will handle operations out of its traditional domain, namely state building. The enemy in Afghanistan is not just the remnants of Al-Qaeda and the neo-Taliban forces. The forces that threaten that country are opposed to the current state-building process underway there. The trickiest part is that some of these forces are made up of the very people on which NATO has to rely on to accomplish its mandate of establishing security.
NATO took a first and daring step when ISAF commander German Lieutenant General Goetz Gliemeroth said on 21 October, "ISAF strongly supports the removal of heavy weapons from Kabul" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 October 2003). What General Gliemeroth said is very much in line with the 2001 Bonn Accords, but the only Afghan faction that possesses heavy weapons in Kabul is headed by the Defense Minister of the Afghan Transitional Administration Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim.
For the political maneuverings that are required to establish the necessary security to move the state-building process in Afghanistan forward, NATO needs full commitment of all of its members, if it is going to succeed. It requires not only the political backing of its members collectively, but also troop commitments not only for the expansion of its force beyond Kabul and Konduz, but also for ISAF in Kabul itself. So far at least three members of the alliance -- Canada, France, and Greece -- have publicly declared their unwillingness to contribute more troops than what they already committed either within ISAF or serving within the U.S.-led coalition forces outside Kabul.
Before NATO agreed to commit fully to Afghanistan, in Prague it indicated its willingness to "provide support in selected areas for the next ISAF lead nations [Germany and the Netherlands]." However, the statement concluded, "the responsibility for providing security and law and order throughout Afghanistan resides with the Afghans themselves" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 20 December 2002).
If NATO policymakers still truly believe that Afghans bear the responsibility for providing security in their country, then the very first mission of the alliance to the Greater Middle East has begun on the wrong footing. However, if NATO addresses the challenge in Afghanistan with determination and planning, just as it tackled its problems during the Cold War, it may very well prevail in the war on terrorism -- an important component of which is building viable and democratic states.
NATO CALLS AFGHANISTAN 'THE CHALLENGE.'While NATO is willing to help coalition forces in Iraq, "the challenge for NATO is making a success of Afghanistan," NATO spokesman Jamie Shea said on 28 October, according to Reuters. NATO most likely will decide in November on the level of expansion of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) from its current strength of 5,500 troops, Shea added. Shea said NATO is hoping to increase the number of Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) in Afghanistan from four to eight or 10. NATO agreed in October to expand ISAF beyond Kabul (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 October 2003). Shea said it is obvious that NATO needs to "take on more missions in the south of the country," Reuters reported on 28 October. (Amin Tarzi)
GERMANS STUDY DEPLOYMENT TO KONDUZ PROVINCE...An advance team of 27 German troops arrived on 25 October in the northern Afghan town of Konduz to launch the expansion of a NATO-led peacekeeping force beyond the capital Kabul.
German Colonel Kurt Schiebold said the unit will work with local Afghan forces to aid security and reconstruction efforts -- everything from protecting aid workers to rebuilding schools, hospitals, and roads. "Our main task and our aim is, of course, to cooperate with the Afghan security forces to ensure that there is a safe environment for Afghans, United Nations staff, and members of other international organizations to do reconstruction work and provide humanitarian aid," Schiebold said. "And once we have completed our part of this task we want to return safely."
The troops are replacing a team of U.S. coalition forces working as part of a Provisional Reconstruction Team (PRT) The troops are currently under direct German command, but by 1 January they are due to come under the command of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).
The UN Security Council earlier this month approved expanding ISAF beyond the capital Kabul, where some 5,000 multinational troops are currently based. The arrival of the advance German team comes just a day after the German parliament voted to approve their deployment and to extend its troops' ISAF mandate by one year. Up to 450 German soldiers are expected to be serving outside Kabul by next spring, with Germany contributing a total of 1,800 troops to ISAF.
The deployment has been welcomed by Afghan residents of Konduz. The city, with an ethnically mixed population of Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Hazaras, is largely free of the factional fighting plaguing other regions of Afghanistan. But as one Konduz resident said, the arrival of the German troops will make the city even more secure. "The security situation is absolutely fine here, but we want even better security in our city. So it is important that they are coming here," the resident said.
But some aid workers are wondering why peacekeeping troops have been sent first to one of Afghanistan's safest provinces when they are urgently needed in other parts of the country. "We are concerned with these kinds of initiatives. Putting large numbers of troops in fairly safe areas -- the international community may perceive that as an adequate commitment to Afghanistan's security needs, but actually it's not really adequate. What we need to see is appropriately sized and mandated forces being put in the areas of the county where there are serious security concerns still," said Paul O'Brien, the Afghanistan coordinator for CARE International, which fights global poverty.
The German deployment comes as Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai officially inaugurated the disarmament process in Konduz, where hundreds of armed men handed over their weapons.
Although Konduz has been largely peaceful since the Taliban regime was forced from power in late 2001, the area remains one of the prime drug-producing regions in Afghanistan, the world's largest opium producer. Fighting the drugs trade is not part of the Germans' mandate, but General Mohammad Daud, the local Afghan military commander, said the German troops will be asked to help fight local opium poppy farming. Daud told the AFP news agency, "We don't need them for security, we need them because of opium." (Antoine Blua)
...WHILE GREECE REJECTS NATO REQUEST FOR FURTHER HELP IN AFGHANISTAN.Greek Prime Minister Costas Simitis on 23 October turned down a NATO request for helicopters to assist the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) expansion beyond Kabul, dpa reported. Simitis said his country "has substantial financial needs related to the Olympic Games, and there is a greater need in 2004" to keep Greek forces at home to ensure security during the summer games. NATO Secretary-General Lord George Robertson said that while he is "disappointed" at the Greek rejection, he understands, "because there is never enough security for the Olympics." Greece currently has around 120 troops serving with ISAF in Kabul. (Amin Tarzi)
ISAF COMMANDER SAYS HEAVY WEAPONS MUST BE REMOVED FROM KABUL.The commander of the NATO-led International Assistance Security Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan has demanded the removal of tanks and other heavy weapons from the capital, Kabul. German Lieutenant General Gotz Gliemeroth, speaking to reporters in Kabul on 21 October, said the weapons should be collected at special sites on the outskirts of the capital. "ISAF strongly supports the removal of heavy weapons from Kabul," he said, adding that the Bonn Accords indicates very clearly that Kabul should be demilitarized and currently, Kabul is not demilitarized (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 October 2003).
Gliemeroth did not identify any group or faction by name, but the order was seen as being directed toward Afghan Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim's Jami'at-e Islami faction. Its militia forces still occupy strategic points in and around the city after having fought as part of the U.S.-led coalition in Afghanistan to oust the Taliban regime from Kabul in late 2001.
Fahim's critics say he has used his military position in the city to win influential posts for himself and faction members in the new government. They also say he is continuing to strengthen his own militia, while lagging at building up a national army.
Fahim denies that he has a private militia. In a rare interview earlier this month, he said the thousands of mostly ethnic Tajik fighters under his command are the core of a future Afghan national army. He admitted to stockpiling heavy weaponry at his home base in the remote Panjsher Valley, but said those weapons are for the national army -- not a Panjsheri militia faction. Fahim's militia fighters still play a key role in the U.S.-led coalition as it continues to fight against remnants of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in the Afghan provinces.
General Gliemeroth also said what he called a "new species" of well-trained terrorists had infiltrated Kabul and pose a growing threat to an already shaky security situation in the country. The ISAF commander said intelligence reports suggest the terrorists are citizens of Saudi Arabia and Yemen or come from the Russian republic of Chechnya." Additionally, fighting in the south and southeast has intensified and infiltration of Al-Qaeda [is increasing]," he said.
He didn't elaborate, but the comments echoed those in recent weeks by U.S. officials in Iraq who say they are also facing a new breed of better-trained and well-coordinated terrorists.
Gliemeroth's remarks come as the UN launches a program that aims to disarm and demobilize 100,000 militiamen across Afghanistan during the next two years. Paul Cruikshank, operations manager for a pilot project called the "Afghan New Beginnings Program," said nearly 200 Afghan militia fighters this week turned in AK-47s and rocket-propelled-grenade launchers to a mobile disarmament unit in the northeastern Afghan city of Konduz.
"The first day, we verified 192 soldiers, we processed and registered 192 soldiers at the mobile disarmament unit, and we collected their weapons. There were 181 weapons collected yesterday because some weapons are entitled to be allocated to more than one soldier," Cruikshank said. Militia fighters taking part in the project at Konduz are from the 6th Corps of the former Northern Alliance -- a mostly ethnic Tajik unit that ultimately falls under the command of Fahim.
Correspondents in Konduz, however, say that doubts remain about whether some warlords will really cooperate with the United Nations-backed Disarmament, Demobilization, and Reintegration program. (Ron Synovitz)
UNHCR OFFICIAL SAYS AFGHANISTAN NEEDS MORE MONEY, TROOPS.UN High Commissioner for Refugees representative in Afghanistan Filippo Grandi said on 27 October that the worsening security situation in Afghanistan is hampering reconstruction efforts, and the country needs more money and troops to achieve economic and political stability, AFP reported. "There are worrying signs in Afghanistan," Grandi told a news conference in Tokyo. Commenting on the UN's 25 October announcement that it has suspended operations in four southern Afghan provinces due to increasing violence, Grandi said it has become to dangerous for UN workers to travel anywhere they want in Afghanistan, as they did prior to the U.S.-led war against the Taliban. Grandi said worrying signs include political divisiveness; the emergence of increasingly independent, low-ranking but rich commanders who have profited from the drug trade; and slow progress in postwar development. Referring to the approximately 4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran, Grandi said, "If you ask refugees, they will say they will not come back until the commanders are disarmed." (Tanya Goudsouzian)
AFGHANISTAN ACCUSES UN OF EXAGGERATING SECURITY RISKS.Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai on 26 October responded strongly to a top UN official's criticism of the security situation in Afghanistan, saying the official was mistaken and exaggerated the extent of the Taliban's resurgence, AFP reported. In a recent report to the UN Security Council, Undersecretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations Jean-Marie Guehenno said "many fundamental, structural causes of insecurity" remain unresolved in Afghanistan. Guehenno on 25 October announced the suspension of UN operations in four provinces and said the chief sources of insecurity are "terrorist attacks and continued sizeable cross-border infiltration by suspected Taliban, Al-Qaeda, and Hizb-e Islami insurgents." Karzai said small pockets of Taliban fighters "carrying out cross-border operations in the border districts" have been disruptive, but are "not capable of posing any significant threat, either in military or political terms, to the administration of government in the relevant areas." "There is not a single district in the areas referred to in the report where the central government does not exercise full control over administration and security," Karzai said. (Mike E. Scollon)
LARGE-SCALE MILITARY OPERATION AGAINST NEO-TALIBAN UNDER WAY.A combined force of Afghan and coalition personnel supported by tanks and aircraft are carrying out operations against neo-Taliban forces in Zabul Province, Reuters reported on 23 October. Local military commander Haji Sayyed Mohammad said the operation, which is being carried out in the province's Arghandab, Naw Bahar, and Shinki districts, involves "around 100 troops of allied forces and over 1,000 Afghan soldiers." In the past several months, Zabul Province has been the scene of several neo-Taliban attacks and some of the province's districts have been controlled for short periods of time by the opposition. (Amin Tarzi)
TWO CIA OPERATIVES KILLED IN EASTERN AFGHAN PROVINCE...Two U.S. nationals contracted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) were killed in Shkin in Paktika Province on 25 or 26 October, international news agencies reported. The CIA identified the two as William Carlson and Christopher Glenn Mueller and said they were killed while "tracking terrorists operating in the region" of Shkin, "The New York Times" reported on 29 October. The CIA reportedly did not provide details of how the two were killed or the exact nature of their operations. Shkin has been the scene of violence -- blamed by some Afghan officials on Al-Qaeda and 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, 1 May, and 3 October 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
...WHILE 20 SUSPECTED AL-QAEDA MEMBERS ARE KILLED IN SAME PROVINCE.U.S. troops and Afghan militiamen killed 20 suspected members of Al-Qaeda in the Gomal District of Paktika Province on 25 and 26 October, Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported on 27 October. According Paktika police chief General Dawlat Khan, "Arab nationals, Chechens, and Afghans were among those killed in the gun battle." Mohammad Ali Jalali, the governor of Paktika, on 28 October put the number of dead in Gomal at 10, "The New York Times" reported the next day. Gomal is approximately 25 kilometers west of Shkin. (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN ADMINISTRATION AGAIN DENIES RELEASING, HOLDING TALKS WITH FORMER TALIBAN MINISTER.The Afghan Transitional Administration in a statement obtained by RFE/RL on 22 October refuted recent reports that former Taliban Foreign Minister Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil has been released from U.S. custody or that the administration has opened discussions with him (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 23 October 2003). The statement said: the Transitional Administration "has not entered into any form of discussion or negotiation with members of the former Taliban movement. It has been confirmed that a number of individual contacts have been received from some members of the former Taliban movement -- including Mawlawi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil -- expressing interest and readiness to side with the government and offering assistance. The government, however, has not responded, either positively or negatively to these." The statement added that the Transitional Administration "has not initiated any contacts with, or authorized the release" of Muttawakil, who "continues to be held in detention by the coalition forces." Reports that Muttawakil "has been released or is being held under house arrest are false," the statement concluded. (Amin Tarzi)
TALIBAN SPOKESMAN DENIES TALKS WITH AFGHAN ADMINISTRATION.A statement faxed to newspapers in Pakistan in the name of Hamid Agha, who identified himself as a spokesman for the Taliban, denied that the group has held talks with the Transitional Administration, Reuters reported on 23 October. "No responsible [member of the] Taliban has come to an understanding with [Afghan Chairman Hamid] Karzai," the statement said. "Rather, Karzai and his allies want to hide their military and political failures from the public by baseless reports about dramatic talks with the Taliban." Karzai said in a 30 April speech that a "clear line" has to be drawn between "the ordinary Taliban who are real and honest sons of this country" and those "who still use the Taliban cover to disturb peace and security in the country." His statement is seen as the beginning of his efforts to win the support of many disenchanted segments of the population who could be swayed to join the neo-Taliban (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 3 July 2003). The case of Muttawakil, who is widely considered a moderate, illustrates the difficulties posed by opening dialogue with "ordinary Taliban." (Amin Tarzi)
PAKISTAN REPORTEDLY BUILDING FENCES TO STOP INFILTRATIONS INTO AFGHANISTAN.In order to prevent the remnants of Al-Qaeda and Taliban forces from crossing into Afghanistan from Pakistan, Islamabad is erecting fences at different points on the states' border, the Pakistan daily "The Nation" reported on 23 October. Major General Shaukat Sultan said on 22 October that new checkpoints and light towers are being erected around the town of Chaman in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province. General Sultan said the border reinforcements are being installed only at strategic points along the border, rejecting Kabul's claims that Pakistan is building a 40-kilometer wall along the border. According to the report, Afghanistan Television has reported that Pakistan began construction of the fence without informing Afghanistan. In response, General Sultan said that "Pakistan does not need the permission from any other country to take security measures on the border specifically aimed at countering the scourge of terror." (Amin Tarzi)
AFGHAN INTERIOR MINISTER RESHUFFLES BALKH PROVINCE ADMINISTRATION.Ali Ahmad Jalali on 26 October dismissed several top Balk Province officials after some of the worst factional fighting since the fall of the Taliban broke out in that northern province (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 16 October 2003), AP reported on 26 October. During a visit to the provincial capital of Mazar-e Sharif, Jalali appointed a new provincial governor and deputy governor, and replaced the city's mayor and police chief, local officials said. The reshuffle is part of unpublished measures passed by Afghanistan's National Security Council aimed at "bringing more security to the north and finding a solution to some of the security problems," presidential spokesman Jawed Ludin said. In one of the more startling appointments, ethnic Pashtun Mohammed Akram, a former police chief of the southern city of Kandahar, was named top police official in Mazar-e Sharif, according to Sultan Ali Sultani, a spokesman for an ethnic Hazara faction. (Tanya Goudsouzian)
PUBLICATION OF DRAFT AFGHAN CONSTITUTION DELAYED...A member of Afghanistan's Constitutional Commission has confirmed delays in the planned publication for public scrutiny of the country's draft constitution, Voice of the Islamic Republic of Iran reported on 22 October. Mohammad Mosa Marufi said the commission needs more time to discuss a number of issues, but he did not provide details. According to the Iranian broadcaster, disputes revolve around the role of Islamic jurisprudence, national languages, and regulation of the establishment of political parties. Meanwhile, Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai met with members of the Constitutional Commission on 23 October to discuss the draft document, Afghanistan Television reported. The televised report added that the draft constitution will be made public "within the next few days." The draft was originally supposed to be made public on 1 September (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 18 September 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
...AS HRW WARNS OF THREATS TO AFGHANISTAN'S CONSTITUTIONAL PROCESS...Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged Karzai to condemn violence and minimize "the number of warlords and their proxies" at the Constitutional Loya Jirga scheduled for December, according to an open letter dated 29 October and summarized on the group's website (http://www.hrw.org). HRW said it has conducted dozens of interviews since the beginning of October "documenting regional military commanders and troops threatening Loya Jirga candidates and regional representatives, issuing death threats, and nominating themselves for the Loya Jirga, in violation of a July 2003 decree from President Karzai forbidding military commanders and local government officials from attending the Loya Jirga" (see "RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 17 July 2003). (Amin Tarzi)
...AND URGES KARZAI TO ENSHRINE RIGHTS PROTECTIONS IN DRAFT CONSTITUTION.In a private letter sent on 22 October to Hamid Karzai, Human Watch Rights asks the chairman of Afghanistan's Transitional Administration to work with his cabinet and the country's Constitutional Commission to ensure that key human rights provisions are incorporated into the country's draft constitution.
HRW also calls on Karzai to include language giving the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) a meaningful mandate.
The long-delayed draft constitution, which is expected to be made public in the coming days, is due to be debated and voted on by a Constitutional Loya Jirga, or Grand Council, in December.
John Sifton is a U.S.-based researcher on Afghanistan at Human Rights Watch (HRW). Sifton told RFE/RL that, according to several preliminary drafts of the constitution that have been circulating, several key provisions suggested by the AIHRC have been left out.
Sifton said HRW wants Karzai to make sure these suggestions are included in the final draft constitution. "There are several [provisions] that the Afghan Human Rights Commission has suggested, several provisions protecting specific human rights, including due process rights, the right to challenge your detention [in a court of law, that is] 'habeas corpus,' rights about discrimination against women and ethnic, linguistic, and religious minorities, and more specific protections for asylum seekers. Things like that," he said. "And these suggestions have not been incorporated. Without them, I don't think we're going to have a constitution that adequately protects human rights for the future."
But Sifton stressed that the most important thing Karzai himself can do at this point is to make sure the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is given an "adequate" role, as required by the Bonn agreement, which set up the current Afghan government.
"The draft constitution does maintain the [Afghan Independent Human Rights] Commission, but it's not given adequate powers to do its job. We believe a human rights commission should have the power to investigate all human rights abuses, and specifically issue subpoenas to bring witnesses before it, and to initiate court cases in any Afghan courts to remedy [human rights] abuses," he said. "Right now, the constitution doesn't give the commission that power."
Sifton said this is what he calls the "last moment" for this issue to be meaningfully debated and for human right provisions to be included. "When this draft goes before the public, we believe the debates are going to be about more symbolic and more large-scale issues, like how big the parliament is, how many powers it has, [or] the official language of Afghanistan," he said. "Those are going to be debated in the convention that takes place -- the Loya Jirga. We don't think that [the human rights] issue will be dealt with then. So it has to be dealt with now."
Sifton deplored that Loya Jirga candidates who are interested in debating these issues are being threatened. The current climate of intimidation and fear around the country, he insisted, may have indirectly affected the overall drafting process. "That does not allow an open debate. That just allows one side -- the side with the guns, the side with the power -- to write the constitution, literally."
The Constitutional Commission, Sifton noted, is very reluctant to support provisions that are opposed in Kabul by powerful leaders, such as radical Islamist leader Abdur-Rabb al-Rasul al-Sayyaf, or groups like the Shura-ye Nezar. The former Northern Alliance faction is the military wing of Jamiat-e Islami -- a political party that includes Defense Minister Mohammad Qasim Fahim, Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, and Education Minister Yunos Qanuni. (Antoine Blua)
AFGHANISTAN LEADER IN GLOBAL OPIUM PRODUCTION.The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reports in its "Afghanistan Opium Survey 2003," released on 29 October, that Afghanistan now produces three-fourths of the world's opium output. Opium production increased from 2002 to 2003 by 6 percent, from 3,400 tons to 3,600 tons, and the area under opium-poppy cultivation increased by 8 percent, from 74,000 hectares to 80,000 hectares, according to the UNODC.
Twenty-eight of Afghanistan's 32 provinces now produce opium, the report asserts. The increase in production has been accompanied by a drop in prices: from $350 per kilogram in 2002 to $283 per kilogram in 2003. Speaking at a press conference in Moscow on 29 October, UNODC Executive Director Antonio Maria Costa warned that the situation could lead to the creation of "narco-cartels and other forms of organized crime that undermine [Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid] Karzai's effort to promote democracy and the rule of law," according to a UNODC press release. Costa called for "surgical drug-control measures." The survey was produced jointly with the Afghan government's Counternarcotics Directorate and Costa noted Karzai's ban on opium cultivation and trafficking, the adoption of a 10-year National Drug Control Strategy, and the adoption of a new drug-control law. (Bill Samii)
AFGHAN WARLORD TO BE TRIED IN UNITED KINGDOM...Zardad Faryadi Sarwar, an Afghan commander charged in July by a London court with multiple counts of torture and kidnapping, will be put on trial, Afghanistan Television reported on 20 October. Sarwar, who allegedly committed the crimes while serving as a commander in the area of Sarubi in Kabul Province in the 1990s, has resided in the United Kingdom since 1996 (see " RFE/RL Afghanistan Report," 24 July 2003). The charges against Sarwar mark the first time the International Convention on Torture, which was incorporated into British law in 1988, has been employed by prosecutors. Afghanistan Television asked anyone who might have been injured by Sarwar's forces to contact the Foreign Relations Department of the Afghan National Security Council by 1 November. (Amin Tarzi)
...WHILE AFGHAN COURT WANTS HIM EXTRADITED.The Afghan Supreme Court requested Zardad Sarwar's extradition from the United Kingdom on 21 October, Reuters reported. Deputy Chief Justice Fazl Ahmad Manawi said that "since, according to allegations, [Sarwar] committed the crimes on Afghan soil, we ask [Britain] to extradite him so he can be tried" in Afghanistan. Sarwar's case might also prompt prosecutors in the United Kingdom and other European countries -- with Afghan help -- to bring charges against members of Afghanistan's communist-era (1978-92) secret police and other warlords from the civil war (1992-2001). (Amin Tarzi)
MISS AFGHANISTAN: FROM BURQA TO BIKINITwenty-five-year-old Vida Samadzai will represent Afghanistan in the Miss Earth title in Manila in November, the BBC and international news agencies reported on 23 October. Samadzai will be the first Afghan beauty queen to compete in a beauty contest since 1974. Samadzai said she "would like to make people aware" that Afghan women are "talented, intelligent, and beautiful." Samadzai, who has lived in the United States since 1996, is also involved in charity efforts to raise awareness of the plight of Afghan women. (Amin Tarzi)
THIS WEEK IN AFGHANISTAN'S HISTORY28 October 1879 -- Amir Mohammad Ya'qub abdicates as British forces take over the government in Kabul.
24 October 1965 -- Prime Minister Mohammad Yusof's presentation of his cabinet to the parliament postponed when spectators crowd into deputies' seats and refuse to leave.
24 October 1987 -- Shi'ii groups based in Iran announce the formation of a new coalition of muhajedin groups -- Hizb-e Wahdat-e Islam-ye Afghanistan.
Sources: "Historical Dictionary of Afghan Afghanistan," by Ludwig W. Adamec, (Lanham: The Scarecrow Press, Inc., 1997).