View Full Version : [Afghan News] November 24, 2011


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02-25-2012, 03:25 AM
Karzai Condemns Latest Deadly NATO Airstrike
VOA News November 24, 2011
Afghan President Hamid Karzai has condemned a NATO airstrike that reportedly killed seven civilians, mostly children, in southern Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai's office said Thursday that reports by local officials indicate that an airstrike conducted by international forces in the Zheri district of Kandahar province killed seven people, including six children. Two young girls were wounded.
The Afghan president's office says Mr. Karzai was saddened when he heard the news and has designated a team to investigate the incident.
The governor of Zhari district, Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, told the French news agency that the strike was aimed at Taliban fighters planting roadside mines but missed its target and hit nearby residential areas.
NATO officials have not yet commented on the incident.
Civilian deaths have long strained the relationship between the international forces and Afghan government.
In western Afghanistan Thursday, Afghan officials say Taliban militants killed at least seven local guards in an attack on a convoy carrying goods for international forces.
A spokesman for the governor of Farah province said insurgents destroyed at least nine trucks in Thursday's raid. Afghan police arrived at the scene to intervene.
The Associated Press quoted the provincial spokesman as saying no foreign troops were involved in the attack.
While the Taliban did not immediate claim responsibility for the assault, attacks on NATO convoys have been a major tactic in the militant's 10-year-long insurgency.
The major land routes for NATO supplies to landlocked Afghanistan also go through Pakistan, where militants there frequently target the trucks.

At Least 7 Afghan Security Guards Killed In Ambush
November 24, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
An Afghan provincial official says at least seven Afghan guards working for a private security company were killed in the west of the country when Taliban militants ambushed a convoy carrying goods for NATO.
The convoy came under attack in the Bakwa district of the western Farah province on November 24.
A spokesman for the provincial governor said the battle lasted two hours and ended after Afghan police intervened.
He says no foreign troops were involved.
Ten vehicles were destroyed in the attack.
The spokesman said he did not know if there were any Taliban casualties.
compiled from agency reports

Lawmakers, Twitter locked in dispute over Taliban tweets
Members of Congress want Twitter to stop hosting pro-Taliban tweets that bash U.S. troops, but the company is resisting.
By Brian Bennett, Los Angeles Times November 23, 2011
Reporting from Washington - Some members of Congress are urging the popular website Twitter to stop hosting pro-Taliban tweets that celebrate attacks against American and allied forces in Afghanistan.
Twitter executives have told lawmakers that the micro-posts do not violate the website's terms of service because the Taliban is not listed by the State Department as a foreign terrorist organization. That designation would make it illegal to provide "material support or resources" to the militant group.
Twitter feeds, apparently from the Taliban, first appeared last year in Arabic and Pashto, one of the official languages of Afghanistan. An English-language feed started in April. Many of the posts refer to U.S. troops in inflammatory terms.
"Mujahideen fighter kill 4 American cowards, hurts several more in encounter: GHAZNI," read one. "US terrorists martyr 12-year-old boy, detains many others: PAKTIKA," read another. And, "American criminals martyr 5 innocent civilians in raid: KANDAHAR."
Twitter officials did not respond to requests for comment. According to rules on the website, Twitter does not allow users to publish "direct, specific threats of violence" or use the website "for any unlawful purposes or in furtherance of illegal activities."
The move against the pro-Taliban Twitter feeds is part of a larger effort by Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), chairman of the Senate homeland security committee, to persuade Internet companies to remove videos and blog posts that he says promote terrorism or offer instructions on how to commit violence.
Pressure also is coming from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Kabul, the Afghan capital. This year, the ISAF began battling the pro-Taliban messages with tweets that countered insurgent claims. As a result, the two sides sometimes exchange a dozen tweets a day.
"I applaud ISAF for stepping into the breach and not ceding the vacuum to the Taliban," said Frank Cilluffo, who was a domestic security advisor to President George W. Bush.
U.S. intelligence agencies are also known to track suspect bloggers and tweeters on the Internet to help identify Taliban fighters or terrorist operatives.
Some legal experts contend that the pro-Taliban messages are protected under U.S. law.
"The Taliban feeds, although they use incendiary language, are essentially a news feed of attacks" that doesn't violate free speech, said Jeffrey Rosen, a law professor at George Washington University. Rosen said Twitter could "only ban feeds that post specific and immediate threats of violence."
Lieberman has pressured other U.S. websites to keep out content that he says could inspire terrorist acts.
On Tuesday, Lieberman complained in a letter to Google Chief Executive Larry Page that the company is failing to keep extremist videos and blogs off its servers. Google has restrictions on posting pro-militant videos on its YouTube site, but Lieberman said those restrictions do not apply to its Blogger blogging site.
Lieberman said Jose Pimentel, who was arrested in New York on Saturday for allegedly planning attacks with pipe bombs, published a website with links to bomb-making instructions and "hate-filled writings" using Blogger.
"Google's inconsistent standards are adversely affecting our ability to counter violent Islamist extremism online," Lieberman wrote.
A Google representative said the company does not allow content on Blogger that encourages other people to take violent action. Pimentel's Blogger website was disabled after his arrest.
brian.bennett@latimes.com

For Afghan Street Kids, Abuse Lurks On Every Corner
By Frud Bezhan November 24, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Thousands of children roam the dusty streets and grimy alleyways of Afghanistan, working to earn desperately needed money for their families.
The sight of shabbily-dressed children, sometimes as young as three years old, is a common one around the military bases and shopping areas where they ply their trades under the blazing sun of summer or the biting cold of winter.
Many sell merchandise -- chewing gum, magazines, or even International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) memorabilia. Others polish shoes, wash cars or dispense good luck from a can of burning herbs known as an "espand."
Poverty and insecurity is forcing an increasing number of Afghan children to work and beg on the streets. And with the rising number of street kids -- estimated at 50,000 in Kabul alone, according to the United Nations -- comes an increase in cases of child abuse.
Sexual Assaults
Mohammad Yousif heads the Afghan nongovernmental organization Aschiana, which provides services, support, and programs to underprivileged children. He says his organization has witnessed a significant rise in the number of working street children who have been sexually assaulted.
Yousif says national surveys and documented cases are rare in Afghanistan, where rape and sexual abuse is a cultural taboo. But he maintains that the visible increase is a major cause for concern.
"The families don't want to make a lot of the cases public, [or go] to the media," he says. "It is not easy to know how many cases happen, but there is sexual abuse ongoing for the children without protection, and without support from the family, and without the support of the government."
Yousif says the number of street children has risen from 38,000 in 2003 to over 60,000 this year, and attributes the spike to mass influxes of refugees fleeing Iran and Pakistan, drought, and insecurity, which has forced many families to leave their homes.
And in many cases, Yousif says, the burden of supporting the family has fallen on children.
That was the case for on 12-year-old boy from Kandahar, who declined to give his name when speaking to RFE/RL.
As a result of his family's tough financial situation, he has been forced to quit school and work on the streets.
Like a growing number of street children in Afghanistan, he says he has been sexually assaulted.
The boy claims to have been stopped one day by two policemen along the side of a road. He says they accused of stealing 20,000 afghanis (approx. $415), bundled him into a police car, and whisked him away.
"But before we reached the district center, the driver took a turn and went on another road to where the police commander was," he says.
"He told me that I hadn't stolen any money and that I was brought there to be raped. They threw me into a room. I told them what they were doing was not what a Muslim would do."
The boy says he was repeatedly raped by the three men, after which they abandoned him by the side of the road bloodied and in tears.
Endemic Poverty
Children are among the biggest victims of Afghanistan's endemic poverty.
Thirty years of continuous war means that many children do not have fathers, or have fathers who are unable to work because of horrific injuries suffered in combat.
Moreover, their mothers are not able to work due to cultural constraints preventing them from working outside the home.
In Amin's case, his father was killed during the civil war when he was only a few years old. Although he was taken in by his relatives, he maintains that he must work to survive.
"I can't go to school because I'm an orphan," he says. "My father was killed by the Taliban. I have to work every day so that I have something to eat."
According to UNICEF, more than 30 percent of schoolchildren are working on the streets in Afghanistan and are often their family's sole breadwinners. This means that more than 3 million children are not receiving an education.
More fortunate children, like Hasib, who is eight years old, attend school in the morning and work in the evenings.
"I wake up early in the morning and go to school," he says. "I spend half of the day at school and the second half I sell tea on the streets. We don't have money at home. The money that I earn, we use to buy food."
Limited Access To Education
The international community has spent billions of dollars over the past decade to rebuild the country and improve the lives of Afghans.
But Nader Naderi, a commissioner at the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says that this money has not benefited the country's children.
"Children haven't benefited from the development and improvements other Afghans have witnessed," he says. "Many children are still deprived of basic education and are killed because of the fighting. The future of Afghan children, therefore, is a mixed picture of both hope and fear."
Yousif, meanwhile, says the Afghan government and the international community must invest more in education -- a step he hopes will decrease the number of street kids.
"Children should have access to education and vocational training," he says. "When they have skills and an education, in the future, their lives will be secure. No one will be able to abuse these children."
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report

80 Afghans arrested for illegally entering Pakistan
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- A total of 80 Afghans were arrested for illegally entering Pakistan through Charman, a town in southwestern Pakistan's Balochistan province, that connects with southeast Afghanistan, said local officials on Thursday.
The detained Afghans entered Pakistan from near the Babe Dosti gate of the Chaman border without legal travel documents, said an official with the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary unit in the country, which is responsible for the border security.
All the detained people were handed over to the Federal Investigation Agency for further investigation, said the official.
Since the breakout of the Afghan war about a decade ago, millions of Afghan refugees have fled their homeland into Pakistan, creating a big social headache for the Pakistani government.
Under a UNHCR-sponsored repatriation program, over five million Afghan refugees have reportedly been repatriated from Pakistan. However, there are still an estimated 1.7 million Afghan refugees remaining in Pakistan.

Withdrawal from Afghanistan would not hurt our US ties
The Age By Tom Switzer November 24, 2011
We were right to invade; we're wrong to stay in the 'graveyard of empires'.
While the past week's coverage of the enhanced military co-operation between Canberra and Washington may suggest otherwise, the most urgent item on Australia's foreign policy agenda is how to extricate ourselves from the depressing and endless war in Afghanistan. The conflict has dragged on for 10 years and never have so many people on both sides of the Pacific been questioning its value.
According to an Essential Research poll this week, support for Australia's withdrawal from Afghanistan has increased from 47 per cent to 64 per cent in the past year. And according to a CNN/ORC International poll last month, a record high 63 per cent of Americans now say the war is no longer worth fighting.
And yet in his 3000-plus-word address to Parliament last week, President Barack Obama dedicated only one paragraph to the conflict. (Prime Minister Julia Gillard skipped the subject altogether.) One is left with the impression that our political leaders increasingly find it harder to justify a war that involves more blood and treasure and no promise of a happy ending.
Make no mistake: we were right to invade Afghanistan in October 2001 in order to hunt down Osama bin Laden and his cohorts as well as topple the black-turbaned tyrants who gave al-Qaeda shelter and support.
But as the then foreign minister, Alexander Downer, has recognised, that mission has mainly been accomplished. Other issues - the routing of the Taliban and the building of a viable democratic state - are simply beyond our reach.
Almost all trends are moving in the wrong direction: the corruption-plagued Afghan government remains a basket case, our ally Pakistan can't be trusted, the occupation is costing the Americans $10 billion a month, and Australian deaths have nearly trebled in the past 18 months.
American hegemony should not be confused with American omnipotence. If the experience in Iraq and Afghanistan has taught us anything, it is to recognise that when it comes to defeating tribal warlords in alien societies, the US finds itself wrong-footed and outwitted, not so much an eagle as an elephant.
No wonder Obama wants to withdraw as much as a third of the US occupation presence before next November's presidential election. In fact, in mid-2012, before the fighting season concludes, he will pull about 35,000 troops out of Afghanistan.
To what extent will such a rapid withdrawal expose our Diggers to even greater risk? Gillard has failed to answer this.
No one should doubt the skill and bravery of our armed forces in Afghanistan. But our war aims are incoherent, our exit strategy is never explained, and our presence is exacerbating the problems we went in to solve, serving to destabilise Pakistan rather than to stabilise Afghanistan.
No one wants Afghanistan to once again become a Club Med for terrorists. But as distinguished US conservative columnist George Will asks: ''If US forces are there to prevent re-establishment of al-Qaeda bases - evidently there are none now - must there be nation-building invasions of Somalia, Yemen and other sovereignty vacuums?''
Moreover, the Afghan Taliban do not yearn for global martyrdom; they merely want to restore Pashtun rule in Afghanistan. That may not be ideal for the people of that war-torn country, but it hardly represents a threat to vital Australian interests.
Would Canberra precipitate a crisis in US-Australia relations by withdrawing our 1550 troops from the war? Hardly. Most NATO leaders have rejected Obama's appeals for extra troops in the south, where most of the fighting is occurring, and other allies - Canada, the Dutch - have pulled out.
History also shows that the alliance can survive. Robert Menzies and Dwight Eisenhower bitterly clashed over the Suez crisis in 1956. Gough Whitlam's ministers Jim Cairns and Tom Uren called Richard Nixon and Henry Kissinger ''maniacs'' and ''murderers'' for the Christmas bombing in 1972. Bob Hawke's left-wing Labor comrades rejected Ronald Reagan's MX missiles in 1985. None of these episodes damaged ANZUS.
The US alliance should remain the centrepiece of Australian foreign policy, under a Labor or Coalition government. But one can agree with that assessment and still believe there is no silver lining to this war.
We should leave Afghanistan to the drones and the US elite and specialised forces, search for a negotiated political settlement and withdraw our troops from what is known as the ''graveyard of empires''. That is what most Australians want. But political pressure needs to grow stronger if withdrawal will be achieved any time soon.
Tom Switzer is editor of Spectator Australia and a research associate at the United States Studies Centre, Sydney University.

RAF head says Afghan civil war possible when Nato leaves
BBC News 23 November 2011
The head of the Royal Air Force has acknowledged that civil war could break out in Afghanistan when Nato withdraws.
Nato countries with troops in Afghanistan have agreed to hand control to Afghan forces by 2015.
Air Chief Marshal Sir Stephen Dalton told BBC Radio 4's the World at One that the success of the handover could not be judged until at least 2020.
He said civil war was "a possibility" but that local forces were increasingly showing they could defend their future.
Air Chief Marshal Dalton said it would be five to 10 years after international troops withdrew before it would be possible to look back and say: "Did we do enough to provide them the space and opportunity to take on that governance and fulfil those roles?"
Asked whether the country could be in civil war by that time, he replied: "Of course, that is always a possibility."
But he said: "Apart from the odd spectacular - which will happen as we develop the full capability within the Afghan national security forces - we can see more and more examples of where there is capability to defend and to safeguard their own future." 'Learn from lessons'
Air Chief Marshal Dalton told the programme mistakes had been made during the air campaign in Afghanistan, some resulting in civilian deaths.
"Mistakes do get made but what we have to make sure then is we understand what mistakes were made and to learn from those lessons."
Air Chief Marshal Dalton also said Royal Air Force (RAF) aircraft could be asked to provide support to the Afghan government beyond the Nato withdrawal date.
"I am not sure exactly how long we will be required to stay and help. It would certainly be a possibility and an opportunity which our government will have to make a decision on on what it needs to do," he said.

UN chief names new envoy for Afghanistan
UNITED NATIONS, Nov. 23 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Wednesday announced the appointment of Jan Kubis of Slovakia as his special representative and head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Ban's spokesman said here.
Kubis succeeds Sweden's Staffan de Mistura, who will complete his assignment as the special representative on Dec. 31, the spokesman said.
"The secretary-general is grateful to Mr. de Mistura for his dedication and leadership of UNAMA, serving in one of the most challenging duty stations during a period that has seen important developments, including parliamentary elections, a high-level international conference held in Kabul, and the beginning of the transition of security responsibilities to the Afghan government," the spokesman said.
"Kubis, who from 2009 served as the executive secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), brings with him more than three decades of experience in the areas of diplomacy, foreign security policy, and international economic relations, both in his own country and internationally," the spokesman said.
Kubis served as the minister for foreign affairs of Slovakia from 2006 to 2009, as chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe from 2007 to 2008, and as secretary-general of the Organization for Security Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) from 1999 to 2005.
Kubis prior assignments include serving as the European Union's special representative for Central Asia with the office in Brussels and as the personal representative of the chairman-in- office of OSCE for Central Asia.
He has also served with the United Nations as the special representative of the secretary-general for Tajikistan and head of the United Nations Mission of Observers in Tajikistan from 1998 to 1999. Prior to this he was the director of OSCE's Conflict Prevention Center.
Kubis worked at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the former Czechoslovakia from 1976 to 1992 and thereafter at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Slovakia. In 1993 he served as permanent representative of Slovakia in Geneva to the United Nations Office and other International Organizations.
A graduate in international economic relations of the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, Kubis was born in Bratislava on Nov. 12, 1952, and speaks Slovak, Czech, English, French and Russian. He is married and has one daughter.

Kyrgyzstan Sees Instability at End of Afghan Mission
New York Times By RICK GLADSTONE November 23, 2011
The departing president of Kyrgyzstan, the small but strategically important Central Asian country that houses a vital American air base for supplying the NATO war effort in neighboring Afghanistan, expressed deep concern on Wednesday about the potential for a contagious economic collapse in Afghanistan when foreign military forces withdraw.
The president, Roza Otunbayeva, whose term expires in a week, said she feared that Afghanistan had grown so accustomed to protracted deprivation and war that it was unprepared for adjusting to life without the enormous foreign military presence, which has also become an important economic underpinning in Afghanistan. The American-led NATO forces, which have been battling a Taliban insurgency for more than 10 years, are scheduled to depart in 2014.
Without the development of businesses in Afghanistan besides its illicit but lucrative opium trade, Ms. Otunbayeva said, the economic impact of the NATO pullout could destabilize Afghanistan and its neighbors by unleashing a flood of unemployed Afghan refugees, armed extremists and crime.
“I think the region is in dismay over what will happen, how to cope with all these problems,” she said in an interview at The New York Times. If the NATO strategy to defeat the Taliban consisted of “only military operations, and withdrawal in 2014, of course it will be worse,” the president said.
Ms. Otunbayeva said that Kyrgyzstan had been helping to train Afghan civilians in customs protocols and microfinance — efforts that have been appreciated by the United States — and that other countries should be doing “everything possible to integrate Afghans into a normal life.”
Her concern echoed a World Bank report, released on Tuesday, that warned that Afghanistan could suffer a devastating recession in 2014 and beyond because of the impending vacuum created by the military withdrawal and dwindling aid. More than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s annual budget comes from foreign donors.
Ms. Otunbayeva, 61, has held a number of political posts in Kyrgyzstan, one of the poorest, most isolated and politically volatile of the former Soviet republics, which nonetheless has enormous strategic importance to Russia and the United States. She has led an interim government there since an uprising that forced out a predecessor, Kurmanbek S. Bakiyev, in 2010, and has won compliments for overseeing changes that have led to a stable parliamentary democracy.
Almazbek Atambayev, the interim prime minister, is Kyrgyzstan’s first elected leader since the country gained its independence a decade ago. He was elected in a vote that international monitors considered clean and fair.
Mr. Atambayev said after his election last month that he would seek to close the American-run base that ferries supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan when its lease expires in 2014, partly because he feared it could become a security risk. The base, officially known as a transit center, is at the Manas airport near the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek.
Ms. Otunbayeva had a more flexible view of the base, suggesting in the interview that it was premature to say what would happen until much closer to the lease expiration date. She also said the base could be put to other uses. “We could turn this transit center into a civil transit center in the future,” she said. “I think it’s one of the options, how to use this infrastructure.”

UK 'may return Afghan asylum children next year'
By Angus Crawford 24 November 2011 BBC News
Afghan children whose asylum claims have failed may be sent back to Kabul by the UK from next year.
European refugee groups have warned they risk ending up in orphanages in a war zone.
One children's rights organisation says the move may be unlawful because of a recent Supreme Court ruling.
But the Home Office, which is working with three other European countries, says it will affect only 16- and 17-year-olds whose families can be traced.
More Afghan children than any other nationality seek asylum in the UK. Last year they made 547 applications.
At present, unaccompanied asylum-seeking children (UASC) from Afghanistan are not removed from the UK before their 18th birthday.
Most have their asylum applications refused but are given discretionary leave to remain. Those under 16 usually go into foster or other local authority care. Traffickers
It costs £95 a day to look after a young asylum seeker.
The government is concerned that more are being sent to the UK by their families, risking danger and hardship at the hands of traffickers.
Last year the Home Office tried and failed to set up a system to return 16- and 17-year-olds to Afghanistan.
But BBC News has learned it has now teamed up with the governments of Sweden, Norway and the Netherlands to create the European Return Platform for Unaccompanied Minors (ERPUM).
It hopes to start repatriations next year, with 100 children going through the process by 2014.
It has received an £845,000 grant from the European Union.
ERPUM says its objectives are "to develop methods and contacts in order to find the parents of the minors who shall return home, but also to find safe and adequate shelter in the country of origin".
"No minor shall return home without a safe and orderly reception," said a spokesman.
It says the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) "will be the co-ordinator".
But BBC News has learned of serious objections to the scheme.
An IOM spokesman said: "IOM is not and will not be involved with the return of unaccompanied minors under the ERPUM project."
The Afghan ministry of refugees opposes all forced returns.
In statement it said: "We don't support the repatriation of children because a lot of them left at an early age so we are not sure we can find their parents or relatives.
"They could fall into the hands of drug addicts, Taliban or criminal gangs."
According to a report commissioned by the EU and obtained by BBC News, the Afghan government has not accepted any returned children "because of the security situation and a lack of a satisfactory child protection system". 'Little training'
The report also states "there are no reintegration programmes in place" and "the authorities seem to receive little or no training on children's' rights".
ECRE - The European Council on Refugees and Exiles - says family tracing is almost impossible and the risk is that "children are returned to orphanages in a war zone".
Some claim the ERPUM is being used to send a message to Afghanistan that children are not welcome in the West.
Syd Bolton, a lawyer at the Coram Children's Legal Centre in London, says a recent judgement by the Supreme Court means any decision about a child seeking asylum must be taken "in the best interests of the child".
"An ongoing war situation is not a place to experiment with the lives of children," he added.
In a statement the Home Office said: "We have taken no decision on whether we will return any unaccompanied minors to Afghanistan.
"Returns will only occur if their families can be located or appropriate support and care arrangements are in place."

Pakistan to take up U.S. drone strikes in UN
ISLAMABAD, Nov. 24 (Xinhua) -- Pakistan has decided to take up the issue of strikes by the CIA-run unmanned aircraft in the country's tribal regions, which the government, rights groups and tribesmen said killed innocent people, reported local TV channel Dawn on Thursday.
The U.S. drones routinely fire missiles into Pakistani tribal regions which the American officials have claimed to be bases for the militants who launch cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
Pakistan repeatedly asks the Unites States to stop drone strikes but Americans have ruled out any change in the policy. The issue of drone attacks is one of the irritants in the bilateral relationship.
After the U.S. refusal to halt the strikes, Pakistan has decided to approach the UN to seek its help to stop these attacks, which Pakistan insists is counter-productive in the war on terror.
Dawn reported Pakistani government has started collecting data about the U.S. drone attacks and casualties.
The government has directed the administrative officials in the tribal regions to provide details about the strikes to vigorously pursue the case.
Pakistan is discussing its new strategy to be adopted in the UN, the report said.

UN Appoints New Special Representative for Afghanistan
Voice of America Wednesday, November 23rd, 2011
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has appointed Slovak diplomat Jan Kubis as his special representative and head of the U.N. mission in Afghanistan.
Kubis succeeds Staffan de Mistura of Sweden, who will complete his tenure on December 31, 2011.
In a statement Wednesday, Mr. Ban said he was grateful to Mistura for his dedication and leadership of UNAMA, serving in one of the most challenging duty stations during the most challenging times.
The statement said Kubis, who has served as the executive secretary of the U.N. economic commission for Europe since 2009, brings with him more than three decades of experience in the areas of diplomacy, foreign security policy, and international economic relations.
In violence Wednesday, joint Afghan-coalition security forces captured several Taliban and Haqqani network leaders across the country.
A NATO statement says Taliban leader Wali Mohammad and four of his associates were detained in Nahr-e Saraj district of southern Helmand province. Mohammad was behind numerous suicide and other attacks against local civilians. The security force also seized a large quantity of bomb-making materials.
Another Taliban leader was apprehended in the eastern province of Nangarhar, while at least two Haqqani network leaders, along with multiple suspected insurgents, were intercepted in eastern Logar, Khost and Paktika provinces bordering Pakistan.

Fast-Track Trials for Afghan Insurgents
Officials argue need for special court to clear backlog of security-related cases.
IWPR By Mina Habib 23 Nov 11
Afghanistan - A special court to try suspected militants is to be set up in Afghanistan, after complaints that the standard judicial process is too long-drawn-out and inefficient to keep pace with rising levels of insurgent violence.
The special courts are the brainchild of Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate for Security, NDS, which requested them in August on the grounds that hundreds of individuals detained by it have yet to face trial, and all too often walk free.
Sayed Zohur Rasuli, a legal adviser to the NDS, said the special court would be based in Kabul, because experience showed that neither prosecutors nor judges were safe from the Taleban and local warlords outside the capital. Some had even been killed for pursuing cases against suspected militants.
Rasuli said the NDS’s own pre-trial detention facility was too small for the 670 suspects it had on it books, and increasing numbers of arrests over recent months had further strained the judiciary’s ability to try cases.
“One important reason for setting up the special court is to put suspects on trial quickly and decide their fate, so as to reduce the numbers held in detention centres,” he said.
NDS spokesman Lotfollah Mashal said that in addition to addressing the backlog of cases, another reason for getting suspected militants to trial as quickly as possible was to prevent other officials quietly securing their release.
When suspects walked free because of corruption or nepotism, Mashal said, “it lowers morale among NDS employees. They risk their own lives to arrest terrorists, but because decision-making [on cases] is delayed, criminals and terrorists have an opportunity to get released by various means.”
Mashal warned that without special legal arrangements to try militants, the sense of impunity was likely to encourage further insurgent attacks.
The Afghan judiciary is supportive of the NDS’s position, and Abdol Malek Kamawi of the Supreme Court said the structure of the special court had already been agreed and its judges appointed, and it only needed final approval from the presidential office to start work. The court will have a trial chamber of 12 judges and an appeals chamber with 14.
Kamawi pointed out that Afghanistan used to have a special court to handle national security crimes, but it was shut down in 2007.
He acknowledged that the mainstream criminal courts had struggled to cope with the ever-increasing number of cases since then, and also noted the risks when trials were held outside Kabul.
“The [Afghan] National Police are unable to ensure the physical security of courts in the provinces,” he said. “Some time ago, when a case was being heard in court, the terrorists killed the judge that very evening.”
As the Afghan government navigates a route between fighting the Taleban and finding militant leaders it can negotiate with, it has sometimes been accused of showing excessive leniency towards captured insurgents. In August, for example, President Hamed Karzai was criticised for pardoning and releasing 18 young men arrested while allegedly about to carry out an attack.
Government spokesman Siamak Herawi rejects allegations of untoward prisoner releases, saying, “No one can name a single terrorist who has been arrested and then released by the government, when all the relevant evidence and documents has been furnished.”
Political analyst Ahmad Sayidi agrees that the special court could prove an effective way of holding insurgents accountable.
“Since the number of cases is too high for the other courts to deal with, and this court is only for war criminals and terrorists and only has judges specifically appointed to try such cases, it will be able to function efficiently,” he said. “This court is a good thing for both the government and the people.”
Faizollah Jalal, a law lecturer at Kabul University, was less convinced, arguing that the court might just be a way of deflecting criticism over recent security failures.
“Karzai faced harsh criticism after repeated killings carried out by terrorists, so he’s made this move to get round these accusations and sustain his position,” he said.
Based on the authorities’ performance over the last ten years, Jalal said, “I do not believe this court is going to handle cases in a serious manner or do much to control terror and lawlessness, because our government’s policies don’t include serious punishment for terrorists. Officials don’t want to create problems for themselves, or affect their future relationships with their political and military opponents.”
Mina Habib is an IWPR-trained reporter in Kabul.

Respite for Troubled Afghan Province
People in Uruzgan say security situation definitely getting better.
IWPR By Ahmad Shah Jawad 23 Nov 11
Afghanistan - Life in Uruzgan province in central Afghanistan has taken a turn for the better over the last couple of months, according to local residents interviewed by IWPR.
As recently as July, the Taleban were able to mount a complex, concerted attack on the governor’s offices in Tarin Kowt, Uruzgan’s administrative centre. But the number of insurgent attacks has since falllen, and people say it has become safer for them to go about their business.
Agha Mohammad, whose job selling vegetables requires him to travel around the province buying farmers’ produce, described how it risky that was until recently.
“I’d be scared of the Taleban all along the way. They might accuse me of bringing in groceries for the infidels [foreign troops]. Plus there was the threat of roadside mines,” he said. “We would invoke the name of God every step of the way until we got home. It was as if we’d cheated death.”
With better security, shopkeepers like Agha Mohammad are getting more custom.
“Many people wouldn’t dare come to the market for fear of suicide attacks or clashes. Now the town of Tarin Kowt is growing more crowded day by day,” he said.
“Brother, peace is a great gift from God. Uruzgan experienced shooting, bombardment, killing and bloodshed on a daily basis, but now it is peaceful. Life is normal. People have come to realise what a good thing peace is. They won’t allow anyone to disrupt security here any longer.”
Another resident, Abdol Samad, agreed that the improved security environment had brought an increase in commerce, business activity and reconstruction work in the province.
He said the insurgents might still be present in some areas but they were no longer capable of carrying out attacks.
“The best thing is that no one is talking about killings, explosions and war,” he added.
Farid Ayel, a spokesman for Uruzgan’s police force, said government forces had even succeeded in capturing some areas where the Taleban had been in control for the last decade.
“People are tired of fighting, so they are helping the security forces restore stability,” he said.
This IWPR reporter tried to get a comment from the NATO troop contingent in Uruzgan, mainly drawn from Australian soldiers, on why security seemed to be getting better, but the was unable to do so as force’s spokesperson was away from the province.
The head of Uruzgan’s provincial council, Amanullah Hotaki, ascribes the improvements to the appointment this summer of Matiullah Khan as police chief for the region.
“The police chief was appointed by popular demand so people are cooperating with him” he added.
Matiullah Khan has long been a powerful figure in Uruzgan, controlling a militia unit that provided security on the main road south to Kandahar.
Residents say he has won their confidence through measures such cash hand-outs to the poor and an informal council of elders which identifies the major issues that need to be addressed.
Provincial counter-narcotics chief Nurollah Hotak said better security had helped slash opium poppy cultivation, while drug trafficking had fallen away to next to nothing.
Hotak showed IWPR a warehouse containing 1.5 tons of narcotics, most of it unprocessed opium, which he said his officers had seized in raids in Tarin Kowt and also in the Chura and Dehrawud districts.
“We made these drug seizures thanks to cooperation from the public,” he said. “By next year, poppy cultivation should be reduced to zero, or to five per cent of what it was.”
One local farmer, Khair Mohammad, said he was switching from opium to wheat, and he too ascribed the change to the new police chief.
“Matiullah Khan has told us not to grow poppy, and we will do whatever he says. He has closed down all the shops that used to sell opium and he’s arrested the smugglers,” Khair Mohammad said. “People have realised that growing poppy is no longer to their advantage, so they’ve decided to grow other crops.”
Ahmad Shah Jawad Is an IWPR-trained reporter in Uruzgan province.

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