View Full Version : [Afghan News] December 6, 2011


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02-26-2012, 05:11 AM
Revealed: Karzai's secret plans to cling on to power in Afghanistan
Western intelligence report claims President is hoping to change constitution and rule indefinitely
The Independent By Kim Sengupta is Defence Correspondent Tuesday 06 December 2011
Bonn - Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, is secretly planning to stay in power when his second and constitutionally final term ends in three years' time, according to a Western intelligence report seen by The Independent.
Mr Karzai, it is claimed, wants to emulate Russia's Prime Minister Vladimir Putin who, similarly blocked from holding office for a third consecutive term, handed the Presidency to Dmitri Medvedev in 2008. Mr Putin is seeking a return to the Kremlin in March.
The supposed plans of Mr Karzai are set out in a document compiled by Germany's foreign intelligence service, the BND. It comes on the day an international summit in Bonn, chaired by the Afghan president, is seeking to chart the future of Afghanistan after Nato ends its combat mission in 2014.
The disclosure will raise questions in the international community, which is expected to donate up to $10bn (£6.4bn) in aid to Afghanistan for a decade after the withdrawal. Mr Karzai is due to leave office in 2014 and there had been hope among Western governments of a fresh start with a successor who would not be dogged by allegations of corruption and human rights abuses.
The BND report, produced two months ago and marked "top secret", is said to be based on information supplied by Afghan public figures, including allies of Mr Karzai. The Afghan President is believed to be considering holding a loya jirga, or grand council, to change the Afghan constitution and allow him to remain in power.
It is claimed that Mr Karzai had wanted special dispensation to run for a third term and guide the country through the period of uncertainty following Western military disengagement. However, he was told this would be unacceptable both within the country and internationally. Instead, he has decided to establish the post of prime minister, to which he will aim to be appointed.
Mr Karzai's first choice for a figurehead president was said to be Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president of the country. But, following his assassination in September, with the alleged involvement of the Pakistani intelligence service, the ISI, the Afghan leader is said to have sounded out a number of other potential candidates.
Foremost among them are former commanders of the Northern Alliance. Negotiations have been held, it is claimed, with Younis Quanoni, the speaker of the lower house in the Kabul parliament; Marshal Mohammad Qasim Fahim, a former defence minister and vice-president, and Mohammed Atta Noor, the governor of Balkh province in the north of the country.
General Atta, who was sent to the north of the country by the Afghan government as a counterweight to the Uzbek warlord Abdul Rashid Dostum, is said to be disinclined to return to the internecine politics of Kabul. The German intelligence service also maintains that Mr Quanoni was at first suspicious of the Afghan president's overtures, believing it was "an attempt to drive a wedge through the Northern Alliance", but that he is now "having second thoughts about it". Marshal Fahim, it is claimed, has been discussing the offer with his officials.
All three men are Tajiks, while Mr Karzai is from the majority Pashtun community, and thus would provide an electoral ticket with an attractive ethnic mix for Afghanistan.
Western states, however, will have concerns about the potential running mates: Marshal Fahim had been accused of human rights abuses by US officials. Mr Quanoni and General Atta have been accused of corruption, charges they both deny.
Although President Karzai has faced frequent criticism from politicians in Western Europe and the US – especially following his election victory in 2009, which was mired in allegations of fraud – he has shown resilience by staying in power and has taken an increasingly combative stance against Nato, condemning air strikes which have resulted in deaths of civilians and demanding an end to "night raids" in which Taliban targets are captured or killed in their homes.
Western officials acknowledge privately that, despite concerns about Mr Karzai, there remains a lack of an alternative leader. Javed Ludin, the Afghan foreign minister, insisted yesterday in Bonn that Mr Karzai had no intention of seeking a third term. "I am convinced that he will go when the time comes, after all that is what he has always said." The Afghan president stated on the eve of the conference that he intended to retire in 2014 as "a pensioner and happy citizen".
The Foreign Secretary, William Hague, said at the summit yesterday: "President Karzai has said himself that he will be going in 2014, let us take him at his word." The US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said she looked forward to "inclusive, fair and credible presidential elections and a peaceful and democratic transfer of power in 2014".

Afghan president: Pakistan's boycott not to stop cooperation
ISLAMABAD, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai said that Pakistan's boycott of the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan will not stop bilateral cooperation, reported local TV channel Geo on Tuesday.
"We very much wished Pakistan to attend Bonn Conference. It would have been a good opportunity for Pakistan to speak its mind, to convey its message to the world honest on conditions and on Afghanistan and how they would like to see things to move forward, but unfortunately they did not come," said President Karzai in an interview with Geo.
Karzai said in the interview that Pakistan's boycott of the Bonn Conference "will not stop us from cooperating, this will not stop us from working together."
He said Afghanistan will continue to engage Pakistan and to work with them and to see the two countries to reach the objective of peace and reconciliation.
Asked if he believes Pakistan can join the Bonn process on Afghanistan, President Karzai said that this process is definitely open to all to join.
Pakistan had boycotted the conference in protest against the Nov. 26 NATO raids on its two border posts which had killed 24 soldiers and injured 13 others.
World leaders, including host German Chancellor Angela Markel and U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, had appealed to Pakistan to change its boycott decision, but Islamabad stayed away from the assembly held on Monday.
Pakistan Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar told her German counterpart late Monday in a telephonic call that her country would carefully examine the Bonn declaration, said a statement of Pakistan Foreign Ministry on Tuesday.
German Foreign Minister Dr Guido Westerwelle called Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar Monday night to take Pakistan into confidence on the outcome of the Bonn Conference on Afghanistan, the statement said.

Afghanistan's allies pledge to stay for long haul
Reuters By Myra MacDonald and Hamid Shalizi Tue Dec 6, 2011
BONN - Foreign governments pledged on Monday to support Afghanistan long after allied troops go home, with or without a political settlement with insurgents once seen as the best way to prevent a new civil war.
At a conference of more than 80 countries but boycotted by Pakistan, they said even after most foreign combat troops leave in 2014, the Afghan government will not be allowed to meet the fate of its Soviet-era predecessor, which collapsed in 1992.
"The United States intends to stay the course with our friends in Afghanistan," U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said. "We will be there with you as you make the hard decisions that are necessary for your future."
Hosts Germany sought to signal Western staying power in the country, where al Qaeda sheltered under Taliban protection before the September 11 attacks, at the gathering in Bonn.
"We send a clear message to the people of Afghanistan: We will not leave you on your own. We will not leave you in the lurch," said German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle.
Ten years after a similar conference held to rebuild Afghanistan, the Afghan war is becoming increasingly unpopular in Western public opinion -- especially since U.S. forces found and killed al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden in Pakistan on May 2 in a raid that removed a central pretext of the 2001 invasion.
Western countries are under pressure to spend money reviving flagging economies at home rather than propping up a government in Kabul widely criticised for being corrupt and ineffective.
And as expected, delegates at the Bonn conference steered clear of making specific pledges to make up a shortfall in funding for Afghanistan estimated by the World Bank at some $7 billion a year from the end of 2014.
For now, nobody wants to show their hand too clearly in the hope that someone else -- from the United States to Europe, the Gulf to Asia -- will come forward to foot a share of the bill.
Brewing confrontations pitting Washington against Pakistan and Iran, two of Afghanistan's most influential neighbours, have also added to despondency over the outlook for the war.
Pakistan boycotted the meeting after NATO aircraft killed 24 of its soldiers on the border with Afghanistan in a November 26 attack the alliance called a "tragic" accident.
But delegates from Russia to Iran to China, all uneasy about the U.S. military presence in their neighbourhood, were nonetheless able to agree with Western powers "the main threat to Afghanistan's security and stability is terrorism."
"In this regard, we recognise the regional dimensions of terrorism and extremism, including terrorist safe havens, and emphasise the need for sincere and result-oriented regional cooperation..." a conference statement.
Pakistan is accused by Washington and Kabul of providing "safe havens" to insurgents to use to counter the influence of rival India. Pakistan says it being used as a scapegoat for the U.S. failure to bring stability to Afghanistan.
SCALING BACK OBJECTIVES
The mood at the Bonn conference was a far cry from the early days of the Afghan war when, fresh from toppling the Taliban, Western powers hoped to bring permanent peace to a country which has now been at war for more than three decades.
But with problems of insecurity, governance, corruption and narcotics inside Afghanistan, compounded by insurgent sanctuaries in Pakistan, objectives have been scaled back.
By the time of a conference in London on Afghanistan in January 2010, Western governments had agreed insurgents could be brought into peace talks if they were willing to cut ties with al Qaeda, give up violence and respect the Afghan constitution.
But even that goal has proved elusive. Embroynic contacts with the Taliban have yielded little, and foreign governments have been preparing increasingly for a scenario in which there is no peace settlement with the Taliban even before the before most foreign combat troops leave in 2014.
The aim now is to leave behind a government which is just about good enough to survive, even if fighting persists in parts of the country and the Taliban insurgency remains active.
Some are still hoping Pakistan will use its influence to deliver the Afghan Taliban into a political settlement.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai told reporters Pakistan had missed a good opportunity to discuss its own issues and the future of Afghanistan by not attending the Bonn conference. "But it will not stop us from cooperating together," he said.
Asked what he wanted Pakistan to do to help bring peace in Afghanistan, he said: "Close the sanctuaries, arrange a purposeful dialogue with those Taliban who are in Pakistan."
Clinton said she expected Pakistan to play a constructive role in Afghanistan, even as she voiced disappointment that Islamabad chose not to attend the conference.
But British Foreign Secretary William Hague said that Afghanistan could still have a bright future even if the Taliban were not brought into a political settlement.
"It may take a longer time to bring about our objectives but we should not be deterred at all by Taliban reluctance to come to the table..." he told the BBC.
Foreign governments were also determined to try to dispel at least some of the pessimism seeping into the Afghan project.
Indian Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna, whose country became the first to sign a strategic partnership agreement with Afghanistan -- much to the irritation of Pakistan -- pledged India would keep up its heavy investment in a country whose mineral wealth and trade routes made it "a land of opportunity".
In a rare positive development, Clinton said the United States would resume paying into a World Bank-administered Reconstruction Trust Fund for Afghanistan, a decision that U.S. officials said would allow for the disbursement of roughly $650 million to $700 million in suspended U.S. aid.
The United States and other big donors stopped paying into the fund in June, when the International Monetary Fund suspended its programme with Afghanistan because of concerns about Afghanistan's troubled Kabul Bank.
IRAN ROW OVERSHADOWS CONFERENCE
In a sign of quite how difficult it will be to bring peace to Afghanistan, the conference was nearly overshadowed before it started by a row with Iran -- increasingly at odds with the United States and European powers over its nuclear programme.
Tehran said on Sunday it shot down a U.S. spy drone in its airspace and threatened to respond. [ID:nL5E7N40D9] International forces in Kabul said the drone may have been one lost last week while flying over western Afghanistan.
Iran has been accused in the past of providing low-level backing to the Taliban insurgency, and diplomats and analysts have suggested Tehran could ratchet up this support if it wanted to put serious pressure on U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi on Monday also reiterated Iran's opposition to the United States keeping some forces in Afghanistan after 2014.
Simon Gass, NATO's senior civilian representative in Kabul and former British ambassador to Tehran, downplayed the prospect of Tehran acting as a spoiler in any Afghan settlement.
He recalled Iran was a historic foe of the Taliban, which has a record of hostility to Afghan Shi'ites, Iran's co-religionists.
Despite its dislike of the Taliban "Iran has a history in Afghanistan of supporting some Taliban groups in different ways. That could continue. We shall have to see," he said.
"But what I would say is that my quite long experience of Iran is that Iranians are realists, and once the international agreements are in place which define the security architecture for Afghanistan after 2014, my belief is that Iran will begin to adjust to those new realities," he told Reuters.
(; Additional reporting by David Brunnstrom, Arshad Mohammed, Sabine Siebold, Missy Ryan and William Maclean; Writing by Myra MacDonald; Editing by William Maclean)

Afghanistan conference leaves strong wish but rocky way ahead
by Han Mo
BONN, Germany, Dec. 6 (Xinhua) -- The international Afghanistan Conference closing here paved the way for the so-called Transformation Decade of the war-torn country, with renewed promises from both Kabul and international donors, but lacking precision and details.
Nonetheless, the host Germany and chair Afghanistan are satisfied with the meeting, which saw the absence of Pakistan and Afghan insurgents, adding that the original purpose of the meeting is to collect political will and set principle, while concrete words are left to conferences in the future.
TRANSFORMATION DECADE
Ten years ago, in the same city, the first major Afghanistan conference after the Western toppled the Taliban regime laid ground for "a transition decade" -- Hamid Karzai was chosen as a interim government leader and international troops began their decade-long presence in the war-devastated region.
Now with the then-fresh man Karzai leading the country for ten years, delegates from 85 nations and 15 international organizations gathering in Bonn are setting their sights to the next ten years, drawing up a roadmap till 2025 after the foreign troops' departure in 2014.
In the former German former capital, another key word emerged from horizon - the "transformation decade."
According to world leaders, it has at least two meanings. First, Afghanistan has been far from a fully-functioning modern country and it has the duty to change itself, and the international community is committed to the engagement of the process. Second, the long-term foreign involvement has to be defined and clarified, and a ten-year period, long enough but also a limited time, would be appropriate for both sides.
From U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Karzai, many delegates have highlighted "another ten years" in their statements and speeches, as well as the promises of strong and steadfast support for the Afghans' brighter future. The "transformation decade" was written into the conference conclusions later.
MUTUAL ACCOUNTABILITY
The continued support and aid to Afghanistan is based on mutual commitment, delegates stressed, urging Kabul to do its own homework as a return.
Hillary said that the U.S., which has more than 100,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, is "prepared to stand with the Afghan people for the long haul." Meanwhile, "mutual accountability will be at the heart of the commitments" made by Afghanistan and the international community.
Westerwelle said that Afghanistan's allies hoped to hammer out their long-term engagement on the basis of "mutual credible commitments".
"This renewed partnership between Afghanistan and the international community entails firm mutual commitments in the areas of governance, security, the peace process, economic and social development, and regional cooperation," the conference's conclusions stated.
The protection of civilians, strengthening the rule of law, enhancing public governance, embracing institutional reform, and fighting against corruption remain key priorities for the Afghan government, it added.
For an exchange, the international community promised to provide consistent financial support to "help Afghanistan address its continuing budget shortfall to secure the gains for the last decade, make transition irreversible, and become self-sustaining."
STAND ON ITS OWN
The words "Afghan-led" and "Afghan-owned" were commonly cited by delegates during the Bonn meeting, showing the world's expectation that the central Asian country, which experienced years of wars and bloody conflicts, could stand on its own feet, politically, economically and militarily, in the near future.
However, it might be an extremely tough mission.
Afghanistan currently receives about 16 billion U.S. dollars a year from the outside. About two thirds of the funds go to security sectors, which is a huge public-financed department and will boast some 352,000 personnel by the end of 2014.
A recent World Bank report said that Afghanistan needs about 7 billion U.S. dollars per year to foot its security and other bills until 2021. Afghanistan estimated that it has to obtain some 10 billion U.S. dollars of foreign contributions of in 2015 and onward, nearly half the country's annual gross national product.
Despite years of outside financial assistance, Afghanistan still ranks among the world's poorest. According to data from the UN, up to half a million Afghans are currently displaced, while three million were left with hunger, malnutrition and disease.
However, the world's blood transfusion to Afghanistan is facing its own difficulties. The debt crisis and austerity move in Europe, the fragile recovery and budget rifts in America, have weakened the western's firepower in financing Afghanistan.
In Bonn, except that the U.S. decided to redistribute its some 700 million dollars of reconstruction aid for Afghanistan, which was suspended earlier due to irregularities in Afghanistan's Kabul Bank, no new and specific pledge were made by participants in Bonn.
Officials said the donation issue will be fully examined in the next major Afghanistan meeting, to be held in Tokyo in July 2012.
REGIONAL UNCERTAINTIES
The one-day Bonn meeting was largely overshadowed by Pakistan's boycott, following a cross-border NATO bombing that left 24 Pakistani soldiers dead in late November.
As Pakistan is seen as a crucial mediator in the peace talks between the Afghan government and military insurgents such Taliban, the absence of such a key player raised doubts over the effects of the gathering.
However, some experts said that Pakistan's staying away is not only a response to NATO's airstrike, but also a typical reflection of the current situation - the westerns still did not figure out how to deal with the Pakistanis while Islamabad seemed restrained and lukewarm to Afghanistan's reconciliation process.
Tensions date back long between Kabul and Islamabad, as the two countries kept accusing each other of their inability to fight against military groups.
"The wider regional dimensions of the terrorist threat have been neglected and the problem of sanctuaries outside Afghanistan has remained unaddressed," Karzai said in the conference.
For western allies, another uncertainty came from Iran.
Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi told delegates that Tehran stands ready to support Afghanistan and an Afghan-led reconciliation process, while demanding that all international troops leave Afghanistan without any kind of long-term military presence after 2014.
Peace and security in Afghanistan "could only be successful if they discard the presence of foreign military forces and especially ... the founding of foreign military bases in Afghanistan," Salehi said.
As for Taliban, although Karzai said he remained open to talks, but the ground for resuming a peaceful negotiation has been severely wrecked after assassination of Karzai's peace envoy, former president Burhanuddin Rabbani. Until now, neither side has a clear action towards pushing the Restart button.
With so many challenges, the rebuilding of Afghanistan would be a giant and complicated project in coming years, both for the insiders and outsiders. "The road ahead will remain stony and difficult. It will require endurance and tenacity," Westerwelle's comments might be a right conclusion.

My Long, Strange Journey to Afghanistan
I was almost sent there as a Soviet soldier. Now I am the EU's ambassador.
Wall Street Journal By VYGAUDAS USACKAS DECEMBER 6, 2011
In the spring of 1983, I boarded a train for Kazakhstan along with other Lithuanians drafted into the Soviet military. Once there, we were to receive our orders for deployment to Afghanistan, where the Red Army was bogged down in what was to become one of the most notorious wars of the modern age.
As luck would have it, our commanding officer liked a drink, so once we got to Almaty, then Kazakhstan's capital, we plied him with as much vodka as poorly paid conscripts could afford. He got so drunk that he passed out and didn't wake up until our transport to Afghanistan was long gone.
We let him sleep, of course, and we never did get sent to fight the Afghans. We sat out the war, which helped bring down the Soviet Union, in Karaganda, far from the fighting.
Almost two decades later, I was sent to Kabul as the European Union's ambassador to Afghanistan. Every conversation I have with the Afghan people is informed by the intervening years, when I was on the frontline of Lithuania's fight for independence from the Soviet Union. It is that experience, fighting for the freedom and future of my own country, that helps me understand where Afghanistan finds itself today, on the precipice of despair.
My country, today among the smallest in Europe, was once among the biggest and richest. From the 13th to 15th centuries, it included in its territory Belarus, Ukraine and parts of what are today Poland and Russia. My father comes from a wealthy landowning family, my mother from simple farming folk. Despite representing different ends of the social spectrum, both families faced fierce persecution when the Soviets invaded in 1940. We had a few years' respite from the communists while the Nazis were in control during World War II. The Soviets re-occupied Lithuania in 1944.
My father and his parents were on the first train of deportees sent to Siberia, and they spent five years in the frozen labor camps between Kasnojarsk and Irkutsk. My mother was shot twice and has carried the bullets in her chest all her life—as souvenirs, we like to say. The family's land was confiscated.
During my two years as a Soviet soldier, I had to attend regular political indoctrination sessions, where we were told that the war in Afghanistan was one of "liberation." We had heard that one before, when the Soviets supposedly "liberated" Lithuania after the war.
After returning home, I studied law at Vilnius University, where I discovered Thomas Jefferson, who swore "upon the altar of God eternal hostility against every form of tyranny over the mind of man." To this day I keep a picture of the man who drafted the U.S. Declaration of Independence on my desk as a reminder that freedom is everyone's right.
In 1990, a year before the Soviet Union disintegrated, Lithuania became the first Soviet republic to declare independence. But it was almost two years before Washington recognized Lithuania as an independent country. During that time, my colleagues and I feared that it would all unravel, that freedom was for others but not for Lithuanians. History, it turns out, was on our side.
It is my belief that history will also prove to be on Afghanistan's side. Now, two decades later, we can look back and understand how painful the Soviet war in Afghanistan was, but we can also see that it helped to undermine the Soviet Union. Afghanistan shook the foundations of the communist giant and enabled the Baltics to become free again. It is an achievement Afghan people can be proud of.
They can also be proud of the achievements of the past 10 years, since the Taliban were pushed from power and the Afghan people once more became masters of their own destiny. Many Afghans tell me that they worry their gains will be lost, given the 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of U.S. and NATO combat troops and knowing that violent insurgency will continue for some time after that. One young man, citing the doomsayers, told me that if Afghans are constantly told their situation is hopeless, eventually it will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that they will lose hope.
He has no reason to lose hope, but he does need to be vigilant. Only Afghans can determine the type of country they want for themselves and for their children. In pursuing freedom from tyranny, they have the wholehearted support of the international community, and the goodwill of all right-thinking people.
Mr. Usackas is the European Union's ambassador and special representative to Afghanistan. He previously served as Lithuania's foreign minister and its ambassador to the United States and the United Kingdom.

USAid faces challenge over Afghan budget cuts
Financial Times By Matthew Green December 5, 2011
Islamambad - As Afghanistan pleaded for long-term global support at a conference in Germany, USAid, the development agency, was grappling with the task of slashing spending at one of the most controversial missions in its 50-year history.
Fears that the Afghan government will be unable to pay its bills as allies cut funding in line with troop numbers have revived memories of the abandonment, state collapse and civil war that ensued after the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Western powers pledged to avoid a repeat performance at the gathering of more than 90 countries in Bonn on Monday, but economic crises in the US and eurozone have raised questions over how far words will translate into money.
”The United States intends to stay the course with our friends in Afghanistan,” said Hillary Clinton, the US secretary of state. “We will be there with you as you make the hard decisions that are necessary for your future.”
USAid, which has been at the forefront of the Obama administration’s Afghan state-building enterprise, has seen its budget halved to $2bn this year from the exceptional $4bn it was awarded in 2010 to support the US troop surge.
The agency might face further tightening as a sceptical Congress reviews its allocation for next year.
In a measure of the concern among donors, the World Bank warned last month that Afghanistan could face economic collapse if assistance is abruptly cut as most foreign contingents withdraw ahead of a handover to Afghan forces in 2014.
“There are things that we can do between now and then that would buffer Afghanistan from the full impact of the drawdown,” said a senior US official. “As we see these budgets going down, obviously we’re going to have to make some choices.”
USAid must balance the risk that winding down some programmes will alienate beneficiaries against its longer-term objective of building the Afghan government’s ability to take the lead in service delivery.
With the country still facing a resilient insurgency, the cuts in aid, in tandem with President Barack Obama’s decision to bring home 33,000 troops by September, have renewed fears that the west’s exit strategy is being shaped more by domestic calculations than ground realities.
As a first step to balancing its books, USAid plans to cut some of the cash-for-work programmes it set up in former Taliban strongholds last summer, the US official said.
The projects aimed to bolster support for the state in the volatile south, but some experts say the sudden infusion of money can do villages more harm than good.
Instead, USAid will increase its focus on bolstering the capacity of the government of Hamid Karzai, the president, to maintain existing road and power projects and to extend its reach in key districts. The organisation also wants to cut red tape stifling small businesses to boost employment.
The budget conundrum poses a fresh challenge for an agency that has faced stinging criticism for its performance in Afghanistan. In 2009, Mrs Clinton pronounced the US aid effort a “heartbreaking” failure. A report by a Senate committee released this year raised familiar questions over whether the assistance was having much of a durable impact.
USAid argues that it is buttressing the Afghan state by channelling about 35 per cent of its aid directly to ministries in Kabul. Progress towards meeting a target of 50 per cent has been slowed by a lack of trained officials and the Afghan government’s own struggle to spend its development budget.
Some insiders argue that less aid may present an opportunity to trim rampant waste and fight the culture of graft that flourishes in poorly monitored projects. Others fear that USAid’s shrinking budget signals the tacit abandonment of the ambitious plan to rebuild the Afghan state that Mr Obama had once deemed necessary to contain the Taliban.
“Afghan security forces have a fair chance to be successful,” said a former senior official with the Nato-led mission. “The Afghan government will probably crater."

Aid Agencies in Afghanistan Fear Reversals After U.S. Exit
New York Times By ROD NORDLAND December 5, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - Even as President Hamid Karzai beseeched nations at a conference in Germany on Monday to continue aid to Afghanistan for another decade, the American withdrawal from Afghanistan is already being felt among civilian aid workers, raising anxieties that Afghanistan will be abandoned and that the hard-earned development gains will be reversed.
The United States, which provides two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, slashed its $4 billion aid budget to $2 billion in the 2011 fiscal year, which ended on Sept. 30. The budget for 2012, being considered in Congress, may be cut further.
CARE, which is deeply involved in setting up schools and improving life for Afghan women, has lost 80 percent of its budget here. As a result, it has had to lay off 400 of its 900 employees in Afghanistan, only a tenth of whom are non-Afghan staff members, according to the group’s country director, Brian Cavanagh. Other American-based charities that are suffering steep cuts are Mercy Corps and the International Rescue Committee.
So far the $2 billion decrease in aid over the past year has not resulted in cutbacks of continuing programs, according to a senior American official, because unspent money from previous years is still available, cushioning the blow.
And some aid workers say the cutbacks may not turn out to be devastating, at least in the short run, because some agencies had been unable to spend money quickly when large new amounts of aid came pouring in over recent years. Some Western donors have also indicated misgivings about the Afghan government’s ability to spend aid money efficiently and without corruption.
But the recent cutbacks at a number of charities have struck a nerve here and raised concerns about the long-term implications, especially because aid work has always been emphasized as a critical part of the Americans’ long-term counterinsurgency strategy. The timing has only exacerbated those worries, coming as the American troop withdrawal has gotten under way: 10,000 troops are due to withdraw by the end of December, and 4,000 of those have already left, according to a senior NATO official.
“There is a fear that all this could be cut and Afghanistan could be left alone as it was in the ’90s, which will have very bad consequences this time,” said Hashim Mayar, a special adviser to the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief, which represents many of the major relief groups in Afghanistan. “What we have gained should not be lost.”
Programs that have closed this year were already coming to the end of their contracts, the American official said. The aid groups disputed that, however, saying they had hoped to renew them.
“Our hope is that what we will be able to do is continue on what we call a soft-landing approach, a gradual decline over time,” the official said, speaking anonymously in line with his agency’s policy. “We’ll see what comes forth from the Congressional process.”
CARE’s biggest loss was the shutdown of an education program it ran in remote areas for 21,000 boys and girls; hundreds of small schools were closed, with 5,000 students, mostly girls, unable to find alternatives, said Jennifer Rowell, head of advocacy for CARE here. Some of the schools were turned over to the Afghan Ministry of Education, but it could not take all of them. Girls are less likely to be allowed to travel long distances to another school.
Mercy Corps, another major American-based aid organization, has had a $32 million “Cash for Work” program in northern Afghanistan brought to an end. And the International Rescue Committee’s budget for Afghanistan next year is only $9.5 million, compared with $18 million last year, although the agency is still hopeful it can cover the shortfall.
All are troubling losses in a country where rampant unemployment, especially in more remote areas, is seen as a real security risk.
“Aid is decreasing very rapidly and markedly,” said the International Rescue Committee’s country director, Nigel Jenkins. “We’re trying to move to areas where money is still available.” That would mean, for instance, starting projects in more dangerous parts of Afghanistan, like Kandahar and Helmand Provinces in the south, rather than other poorer areas, he said.
Aid cutbacks come as Afghanistan has instituted the second stage of its transition plan, taking over responsibility for security in 24 provinces or cities, areas accounting for half the country’s population. In theory, that is meant to make it possible for the United States and its coalition partners to begin stepping up their withdrawal of forces, which is meant to be completed by 2014.
Ashraf Ghani, the Afghan government’s transition chief, has said it hopes to see a “transition dividend,” in which those countries that benefit by reducing their military spending would return part of that savings to Afghanistan by increasing aid for reconstruction and development.
At a time of economic crisis in Europe and America, that may prove politically unpopular.
Many aid groups, even those hard hit by the cutbacks, are not sure they are devastating losses, at least in the short term. In an effort to use aid money to help the military’s counterinsurgency strategy, money sometimes poured in faster than it could be spent. Now, at least, many hope it will be spent more effectively.
“Within the aid community there’s a general feeling that less could actually be better, because the amount of money poured into Afghanistan is absolutely ridiculous and not sustainable,” Mr. Jenkins said. “Last year there were huge amounts of development money, but there is no question that not much of that has trickled down to those who were in need.”
Referring to nongovernmental organizations, Mercy Corps’ departing director for Afghanistan, Christine Mulligan, said: “You can do more with less. Will you see a lot of NGOs lamenting the budget cuts? Maybe not. That two billion was almost like new money, and it was all about the burn rate, how much they could spend and how quickly, not what they could do for people.”
American officials and many traditional nongovernmental groups have been at odds in recent years over the American strategy of concentrating development aid in conflict areas, as an avowed part of the military’s counterinsurgency strategy. Some derided it as the “weaponization of aid,” and many charitable groups refused to take on projects in conflict areas, leading to an American reliance on mostly for-profit private contractors.
“While we were looking at needs, they were looking at how much money they could get out of it,” Mr. Jenkins said.
A report in June by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee noted that 81 percent of the United States Agency for International Development budget in the 2011 fiscal year was spent in southern and eastern Afghanistan, where the insurgency was strongest and the American troop presence greatest, while poverty and lack of development has been worse elsewhere.
“What we say is that really development and security must go hand in hand,” the American official said. “I understand that there’s concern about things such as weaponization of development or whatnot, but we would posit that really the two need to go hand in hand.”
The large outlays of the past two years, however, were aimed at stabilization, a term the military uses to mean rapid-fix projects intended to undermine insurgents and deliver local government services, for instance. Future aid programs will go beyond that, the official said, focusing on sustainable efforts to set up and improve Afghan institutions.
While some aid workers may welcome that shift in focus, many Afghan officials are deeply worried. “People think they will keep cutting and then desert us,” said Sayed Habib Ahmadi, the Afghan head of the Joint Coordinating and Monitoring Board, which brings Afghan and global officials together to discuss aid priorities.
Already, Afghan officials complain that, as Mr. Ahmadi put it, “the main problem is that international donors have not delivered what they’ve pledged.” Western donors, however, say that pledged money is still available, but the Afghan government lacks the capacity to spend it efficiently and free of corruption. The result is that of budgeted American relief aid, only 18 percent to 20 percent has actually been spent over all, American officials say, with the rest still in the “pipeline.”
While that has a cushioning effect, it is also true that most aid programs in Afghanistan now operate with money from a few donor countries and agencies, rather than broad-based contributions from individuals and foundations. Many fear that as troop commitments fall, so will nonmilitary-aid commitments.
Total foreign aid to Afghanistan in 2010 was equal to the country’s entire gross domestic product, $15.7 billion, which the World Bank said in a recent report “cannot be sustained.” By 2018, the report predicted, 90 percent of that aid will be gone.

U.S.'s Afghan Headache: $400-a-Gallon Gasoline
Military Air Drops Fuel Barrels to Avoid Dangerous Convoys
Wall Street Journal By NATHAN HODGE DECEMBER 6, 2011
OVER EASTERN AFGHANISTAN - Parachuting a barrel of fuel to a remote Afghan base takes sharp flying skills, steady nerves and flawless timing.
It also costs a lot of money—up to $400 a gallon, by military estimates.
But the Pentagon is stuck with the expense for the foreseeable future, especially given the recent deterioration in U.S.-Pakistani relations.
"We're going to burn a lot of gas to drop a lot of gas," said Capt. Zack Albaugh, a California Air National Guard pilot deployed with the 774th Expeditionary Airlift Squadron. He spoke just before a recent mission to supply a remote base near the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, scene of cross-border rocket attacks that have heightened regional tensions this fall.
Such security issues were addressed Monday at an international meeting over Afghanistan in Bonn, Germany, where President Hamid Karzai appealed for continuing international funding well after most coalition forces withdraw in 2014.
But for now, nearly 100,000 U.S. troops are on the ground in Afghanistan, often stationed in difficult-to-reach outposts that depend on pallets of food, water, ammunition and fuel that are dropped by parachute out of cargo planes.
Capt. Albaugh's recent supply flight over the country's Paktika province underscored a simple fact of the U.S. military presence: War is inherently costly, and that is keenly felt when the military's budget is under growing strain and vital supply lines come under pressure.
That happened last month when Pakistan closed key border crossings to North Atlantic Treaty Organization supply convoys following a deadly coalition airstrike that claimed the lives of 24 Pakistani troops. The crossings remain closed.
Since 2005, the Air Force has increased by nearly 50 times the amount of supplies it air-drops to remote bases, partly as a way to avoid dangerous land-based fuel convoys.
The astronomical expense represents the "fully burdened" costs of fuel, including transportation and security.
The cost and difficulty of fuel deliveries in places like Afghanistan is one major reason the Pentagon is working to overhaul the way the armed forces use energy, from developing aircraft that can run on biofuels to powering remote bases with solar panels or wind turbines.
But those efforts are in the early stages, meaning troops still require expensive—and hair-raising—cargo flights to keep them flush with gas.
On Capt. Albaugh's run, two C-130 cargo planes flew in close formation, hugging the Pakistani border as they circled toward their target. The drop zone—the general area where the troops will pick up their cargo—was about the length of three football fields. Within that zone, the crew of the C-130 aimed to hit a smaller target: 60-feet-by-150 feet.
As the planes approached, a voice crackled over the radio network warning everyone else to stand by: "Everyone stay off the net for the next 10 mikes [minutes] until the bird drops."
The planes dipped over the landscape, laden with pallets of fuel. A small parachute deployed from each C-130's cargo door, sending 34,000 pounds of fuel clattering across the loading ramp, like the Coney Island Cyclone.
In the sky, parachutes blossomed, and the crates floated to the ground below. Aircrews based in Afghanistan fly missions around the clock to keep troops on the ground supplied. "We've been pretty busy," said Capt. Jose Ariza, Capt. Albaugh's crewmate.
The sheer volume of air-dropped cargo is swiftly rising. In 2005, Air Force planes dropped around two million pounds of supplies to troops in Afghanistan. Last year, they delivered around 60 million pounds by airdrop. By the end of this year, officials say, they expect to drop around 90 million pounds of food, water, ammunition and fuel to bases in the country.
Air Force Gen. Raymond Johns, who heads the service's Air Mobility Command, said the December 2009 surge in U.S. troops has made resupply more challenging, particularly because of the threat of roadside bombs.
"They [troops] are in places where getting them their supplies is very risky to go by land conveyance," he said. "So they've become more and more dependent on our airdrop."
This particular launch was successful: a total of 36 bundles reached the drop zone.
But two parachutes did not fully open, and pallets stacked with barrels of fuel slammed into the ground, lost or badly damaged—"burned in," as crews say.
"That's the cost of doing business," said Lt. Col. Bill Willson, the squadron's commander.
A single airdrop represents the tail end of a complex supply chain. The U.S. military has multiple routes to keep supplies delivered to landlocked Afghanistan, and had been working to reduce dependence on supply routes that go through Pakistan before last month border closing.
Besides air drops and Pakistani delivery routes, the U.S. military can transport cargo overland through a road and rail network called the Northern Distribution Network, which brings non-lethal supplies in through Central Asia.
But some supplies—certain kinds of weaponry or other sensitive cargo—must be moved by air.
And that means Air Force planes will keep burning more fuel, and their crews will keep flying long hours.
"If you want us to drop something on a postage stamp, by God we'll do it," said Maj. Richard Carter, a C-17 pilot, on a recent cargo flight to Afghanistan. "But there's only so many crews." —Keith Johnson in Washington contributed to this article.

What could Iran learn from the "Beast of Kandahar"?
Foreign Policy By Joshua Keating Monday, December 5, 2011
The Iranian media reported today, and U.S. officials are now confirming, that a U.S. stealth spy drone was shot down over Iran. The Iranians claim the drone sustained only minor damage.
The top-secret RQ-170, which reportedly played a role in monitoring Osama bin Laden's compound, was nicknamed the "Beast of Kandahar" by Aviation Week editor Bill Sweetman when photos of it first emerged in the media in 2009. There are unconfirmed reports that the drone has been regularly used over Iran monitoring the country's nuclear program.
I spoke briefly with Sweetman today about the significance of the drone, which he says may already be obsolete:
What made the RQ-170 so cutting edge?
When it entered service a few years ago it was actually the only operational stealth drone that we had. There may well be others, but they're kept more under wraps.
Just the fact that this thing was out and allowed to tumble around a very busy airbase in broad daylight indicated that although this thing was secret, what's secret about it wasn't its shape. It wasn't covered up the way things at Groom Lake are covered up.
There are little tell-tale things like the shape of the leading edge and the shape of the landing gears that indicate that this wasn't really an ultra-stealthy thing. Looking at it and talking to people about it, after a while you came to the idea that what's important here is more what it's doing that's secret than what it's actual capabilities are.
Do we have any sense of what that might be?
I think it likely started off as a platform for an experimental sensor of some kind, which probably has something to do with those strange bulges on the upper surface. Having been around for a while, it's probably been adapted to other things. It probably has an optical sensor on it.
My impression is that this is something that has been built in small numbers, and certainly there are more capable staffed drones in the pipeline behind it, even there aren't some already existing in the black world.
So what can these newer drones do that the RQ-170 can't?
Probably two things. One is lower [radar] signatures. The other would be the capability to carry other types of sensors, including radar, and possibly weapons as well. This thing is quite small. That gives you limitations in a couple of areas, including quite simply how big a camera you can put on it. If you want images of a certain resolution, you still need the optics. It also doesn't have a lot of electrical power available if you want to run radar.
When you go to stealth with a UAV, it's not quite the same as putting it on a manned aircraft. On a piloted aircraft, you're going to have sensors on board that tell the pilot when he's being illuminated by radar. So it has a sort of responsive capability. With a simple UAV like this, you're really flying a course based on where you think the other guys radars are, and trying to avoid the peak signature, trying to keep it off the other guys radar.
If you really want a stealthy drone, you need to achieve as low a signature as possible all around. Future stealth drones will have much better signature. Look at the Northrop X-47 they've just flown for the Navy: If you look at that shape versus the RQ-170, you'll notice that its edges are a lot sharper, that the RQ-170 is a little more rounded around the nose.
But again, if you're building a simple aircraft, you don't necessarily want to put all the latest on there, because sooner or later you know it's going to go down somewhere.
So if it turns out to be true that the RQ-170 has fallen into Iranian hands, how big an intelligence coup is that for them?
I shouldn't think so. Under the skin, this is a fairly simple airplane. I doubt if there's anything radical in terms of reconnaissance equipment on board. There aren't that many examples of a huge intelligence haul of that kind coming from one particular aircraft.
For more, see Sweetman's latest piece on why the intelligence gained from the RQ-170 may be limited. We'll keep following this story as well.

Pardoning a Victim: How Afghanistan Continues to Fail Its Women 10 Years After the Taliban
The Huffington Post By Ahmad Shuja Writer, blogger, analyst 05/12/2011
An Afghan rape victim and her two-year-old daughter have been finally freed after 6,000 signatures on a petition and help from a tenacious American lawyer and many activists. Her daughter, conceived as a result of the rape, has spent her entire innocent life in prison.
Their example is illustrative of the flaws in the Afghan justice system and in how rape victims are viewed by a society obsessed with morality, especially as it pertains to women.
Like Gulnaz, many other women hopelessly languish in Afghan jails for moral crimes -- falling in love with a man, eloping, indecency, marrying the man of their choice and, in this case, being raped.
Afghanistan not only polices morality but also legislates it, so their captivity is the result of a law enforcement and justice system that is flawed on several fundamental levels. The rudimentary court system churns decisions with little regard for proper due process. On top of that is the problem with implementation of decisions. And implementation, where it exists, is flawed and often throws women in deplorable jail conditions, where their basic rights are often ignored and they remain vulnerable to secondary abuse from authorities.
Gulnaz is not going to jail, but her freedom is restricted to only two other options: she can either spend the rest of her life as an outcast or marry the person who raped her. Sources say that Gulnaz has agreed to the second option, perhaps in part because she wants her daughter to have a father and, thereby, a slightly more acceptable social existence. But her new life is still going to be complicated because her future husband is serving a jail sentence for raping her. And owing to how Afghan family structures work in cases like these, she will certainly have difficulty dealing with in-laws in a joint family where multiple generations live together. The shame of having been raped will also be with Gulnaz for the rest of her life.
Afghans as a people treat morality extremely seriously, but the often unspoken codes apply with far graver consequences to women than men. A man may cheat, steal and kill and his family can still be accepted in society, but a woman's crime can go beyond her individual self and bring shame upon the entire family.
Victims of rape and sexual assault are often not viewed as victims at all. What happened to Gulnaz is a clear example. After she was freed, rumors began to surface that she wasn't really raped in the first place because she had an affair with the perpetrator. It is implied that she used rape as a pretext to hide the shame of her pregnancy out of wedlock. Among the many things that are flawed about this perspective is the view that an affair necessarily means that a woman wants to have sex, and that non-consensual sex between people having an "affair" is not rape.
To be sure, there are many Afghan families where women are valued and respected. It's not always men's fault alone when abuse occurs, because other women often spread allegations and participate in community enforcement of moral standards. Afghanistan is not alone in miserably failing to secure women's rights, and secondary victimization of rape sufferers is not unique to Afghanistan. For example, the attitude that "she asked for it because she wore short skirts" is found even in the United States and elsewhere.
But what is unique to Afghanistan is the moral victimization of women to devastating effect and the system often serving to perpetuate women's suffering. In this way, society makes it difficult for women who are raped, assaulted or harassed to gain acceptance, marry and turn over a new leaf.
Many good, morally upright women have had to leave their jobs and abandon dreams because they are often vilified by allegations of moral corruption or are harassed and sexually assaulted. Despite their tremendous courage, the system simply does not offer enough protections for Anita Hills to emerge and push for greater rights.
Gulnaz, however, has exhibited exemplary tenacity by knocking on all possible doors in her search for justice, despite discouragements and the unwanted publicity that it brought to her and her family.
But her past courage does not guarantee a good future. She and her daughter will face many difficulties as they attempt to rebuild their life.
Their start has already been shaky so far. As some have pointed out, Gulnaz has been "pardoned" by the president instead of what she truly deserves as a rape victim - exoneration, acceptance, help and justice.

www.afghanistannewscenter.com (http://www.afghanistannewscenter.com)