View Full Version : [Afghan News] March 31, 2012


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04-04-2012, 01:47 AM
Lawyer says U.S. blocks investigation of Afghan massacre
Reuters By Bill Rigby Fri Mar 30, 2012
SEATTLE - The lawyer defending the U.S. soldier accused of murdering 17 Afghan civilians claims U.S. authorities are blocking his ability to investigate the incident.
John Henry Browne, the lawyer for Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, said U.S. forces in Afghanistan have prevented his team from interviewing injured civilians at a hospital in Kandahar, and are allowing other potential witnesses to scatter, making it difficult to track them down.
"My gut is the reason is they don't have much of a case," said Browne at a press conference at his downtown Seattle office on Friday.
Bales was formally charged last week with the murders of eight adults and nine children in a pre-dawn shooting rampage in southern Afghanistan on March 11, which further eroded U.S.-Afghan relations already strained by a decade of war.
He could face the death penalty if convicted.
No date has been set for a trial, but U.S. military prosecutors are putting together their case while Browne is preparing his defense.
Browne said he has a team of investigators in Afghanistan now, but they are receiving little cooperation from military prosecutors who filed the charges.
"We are facing an almost complete information blackout from the government, which is having a devastating effect on our ability to investigate the charges preferred against our client," he said in a statement released earlier on Friday.
A reliable account of the events of the night of the massacre has not yet emerged. A recent report indicated Afghan villagers doubt Bales acted alone. Other reports suggest Bales left his base twice during the night.
"I don't believe that's the case, but we can't say that for sure," Browne said on Friday.
Browne said his investigators had spoken to U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan but had not managed to contact any witnesses.
"When we tried to interview the injured civilians being treated at Kandahar Hospital we were denied access and told to coordinate with the prosecution team," Browne said in the earlier statement.
"The next day the prosecution team interviewed the civilians injured. We found out shortly after the prosecution interviews of the injured civilians that the civilians were all released from the hospital and there was no contact information for them." That means potential witnesses will scatter and could prove unreachable, Browne said.
Browne said it was too early to say whether his defense would rely on post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, or other psychiatric problems Bale may have suffered as a defense against the charges.
The next step in the case is for Bales - who is being held at a military detention center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas - to undergo a mental assessment by Army doctors independent of both the prosecution and defense, to determine if he is fit to stand trial, known as a "sanity board" in the Army. That could take several months, Browne said.
After that has occurred, the military justice system requires a preliminary hearing, known as an "Article 32" hearing, to establish whether there is a strong enough case to proceed to a court martial.
(Reporting By Bill Rigby; Editing by Todd Eastham and Paul Simao)

Report: U.S. Seeks Guarantees Before Freeing Taliban Prisoners
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan March 31, 2012
KABUL – An Afghan High Peace Council member said that the United States had agreed in principle to set free four or five Taliban prisoners from its detention center in Guantanamo Bay.
“The United States has decided to set free some five or four Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo Bay," Ismail Qasimyar said. "Meanwhile, however, some U.S. circles are worried and seek guarantees from Qatar’s government that these [Taliban] leaders will not join the insurgency again.”
There was no confirmation of the report from U.S. officials.
Qasimyar said the issue of the release of Taliban prisoners was the main obstacle to the opening of a liaison office in Doha, from where the group could negotiate with those actors involved in the Afghanistan war.

Analysis: The Afghan balance sheet – a transition to ‘good enough’
CNN By Tim Lister March 30th, 2012
The balance sheet for the first quarter of 2012 in Afghanistan does not make for cheerful reading. In fact, it is steeped in red.
In the debit column: a spike in attacks on NATO troops by Afghan soldiers, the Kandahar massacre allegedly carried out by a U.S. soldier and deadly protests prompted by the burning of Qurans.
Add to that slow progress in subduing the Taliban (especially in east Afghanistan), the glacial revival of the U.S. relationship with Pakistan and the growing impatience of NATO members, from Ottawa to Paris, to head for the exit and the outlook doesn’t seem bright.
On the credit side, some of the goals laid out by President Barack Obama in his 2009 speech at West Point, when he announced an increase of 30,000 in U.S. troop numbers, are within sight.
The president said then that the overarching goal in Afghanistan was to "disrupt, dismantle and defeat al Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan."
Since then, Osama bin Laden has been killed, and other senior al Qaeda figures have been taken off the battlefield. Intensive nighttime raids in Afghanistan by U.S. Special Forces and the drone campaign in Pakistan’s tribal territories have degraded al Qaeda and associated jihadist groups – even if other al Qaeda franchises in places such as Yemen, Somalia and the Sahel are a growing challenge.
In his West Point speech, Obama also said the additional U.S. troops would "increase our ability to train competent Afghan security forces, and to partner with them so that more Afghans can get into the fight."
Standing up the Afghans
The training of local forces has accelerated, and in several provinces leadership has been handed over to Afghan security forces. Afghans are now responsible for securing areas where about half the population lives.
Paula Broadwell, author of “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” spent much of the past two years in Afghanistan. She said Afghan security forces have come a long way in a relatively short period of time.
But she cautioned: "We can’t expect to stand up more than a basic force in just two years of effort. The question is whether it will continue on a pace that is fast enough to ready them to assume the lead by 2014."
She said, "About 40% of the Afghan units I visited in 2010 and 2011 are capable of operating ‘effectively with advisers’ – but that means they’re still dependent on U.S. coalition partnership or support."
In remarks at the Brookings Institution this week, Gen. John Allen, commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, described the quality of that military and police leadership as "mixed."
Complicating the transition is a spike in attacks on NATO forces this year by their supposed allies in Afghan uniforms – what are known as “green-on-blue” attacks. So far this year, 16 NATO soldiers have been killed by their Afghan allies – that’s almost one-fifth of all allied casualties. These attacks have led the U.S. military to reinforce protection measures such as a “guardian angel” program where sleeping coalition soldiers are guarded by fellow soldiers.
Such measures don’t exactly enhance mutual trust. Peter Bergen, CNN’s national security analyst, says, “NATO's withdrawal strategy requires a high degree of trust between small numbers of military advisers embedded with much larger units of Afghan troops in order to succeed. This trust has now been eroded to a dangerous degree.”
Taliban on the defensive
In southern Afghanistan especially, the surge has forced the Taliban to adopt new tactics, engaging NATO-led forces less frequently and increasingly relying on roadside bombs and suicide attacks. According to coalition figures, in the last year, insurgent attacks overall have decreased some 22% and in some parts of southern Afghanistan by much more. But thanks to the devastating effects of such attacks, civilian casualties rose to their highest level last year since 2001.
There has been progress in pushing the Taliban out of areas of Helmand and Kandahar in the south, with schools built and low-level Taliban fighters coaxed back into civilian life. But effective local government has been more difficult to stand up, according to observers in the southern provinces – and assassinations of local officials continue.
And there are still vast tracts of the country where neither government forces nor NATO-led forces hold sway. Reporting in the U.S. military newspaper Stars and Stripes this week from Ghrak district in Kandahar, Heath Druzin wrote that the struggle won’t be won in model villages but by "gaining control of lawless regions like this mountainous, rock-strewn corner of Kandahar province, where opium is the currency and the Taliban (are) the law." Despite huge efforts, "much of the Taliban’s spiritual homeland is still violent and largely out of reach of the Kabul government," he wrote.
And not just the Taliban's spiritual homeland. To the east, a forbidding collection of mountainous provinces along the Pakistani border represents if anything a more formidable challenge.
Allen told Brookings the focus this year would be on "consolidating our hold in the south while we'll continue to employ our combat power to take care of the insurgency as it has continued to boil in the east."
Insurgent attacks increased some 20% in eastern Afghanistan over the last year, and NATO-led forces intend to boost combat power in the region this year, while pushing two corps of the Afghan National Army into the lead.
Helping to keep that insurgency boiling in the east is the resilient Haqqani Network. A recent paper by the nonpartisan Institute for the Study of War described the group as "Afghanistan’s most capable and potent insurgent group, and they continue to maintain close operational and strategic ties with (al Qaeda) and their affiliates."
The report’s authors said the network had "expanded its reach toward the Quetta Shura Taliban’s historical strongholds in southern Afghanistan, the areas surrounding Kabul, (and) the Afghan north."
Pakistan: Spoiler or supporter?
Senior U.S. officials have persistently accused elements in Pakistan's military intelligence service of aiding the Haqqanis as a way of ensuring Pakistani influence in Afghanistan. (It's no coincidence that Indian interests in Afghanistan have frequently been the Haqqanis' targets.)
In the current edition of The New Yorker, author Steve Coll surveys what has happened to the aims of the much-heralded “strategic dialogue” between the United States and Pakistan, developed in 2009. "Three years later, those ambitions are in tatters," he writes, "undone by the Raymond Davis affair (the CIA contractor who shot dead two men in Lahore last year), the killing of Osama bin Laden, and continuing drone strikes."
Coll, author of “Ghost Wars: The Secret History of the CIA, Afghanistan and Bin Laden,” says that the senior Pakistani officers he met on a visit in February "were unyielding in their resentment of American unilateralism, and the violations of Pakistani sovereignty and dignity that drone strikes represent."
Pakistani-U.S. relations were also dealt a critical blow by NATO airstrikes that accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last fall. Only in the last week have high-level, military-to-military talks resumed, with the accent on improving border coordination.
If the United States is to bring the "good Taliban" to the negotiating table, it needs the goodwill of Pakistan, which according to many outside observers continues to provide sanctuary to the movement's senior leadership in Quetta and Karachi. Attempts to find interlocutors among the Taliban have made – at best – stuttering progress.
Tortuous negotiations are said to be continuing about the release of five senior Taliban figures held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, so that they can represent the movement in Qatar. But the Taliban said in a statement this month that the "atmosphere for negotiations" had been soured by the burning of the Qurans, the killings in Kandahar and video of U.S. Marines apparently urinating on the corpses of Afghans.
‘Good enough’ for Afghanistan
Above all, time is short. Some 23,000 U.S. troops are set to leave Afghanistan by the end of September. The intensive pace of operations by U.S. Special Forces will in part make up for the erosion in numbers, but the curtain call for combat operations may be just 18 months away.
There is also the psychological impact of growing hostility toward the war back home, fueled in part by the negative headlines of the last few months that author Broadwell calls "the near perfect storm." According to a CNN poll out Friday, support for the war in Afghanistan has fallen to an all-time low in the United States, with the majority of Americans saying the United States should withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan before the 2014 deadline set by the Obama administration. The CNN/ORC International survey released Friday indicated 25% of Americans favored the war in Afghanistan, with 37% saying things are going well for the U.S. in Afghanistan.
History suggests that the Western presence in Afghanistan may be a brief interlude before the remorseless logic of ethnicity and tribe, and the competing interests of neighboring states, reassert themselves. So it was with the British and Soviet occupations in centuries past. Lofty ambitions of reconstruction and democracy have faded. When he was NATO commander in Afghanistan a year ago, Gen. David Petraeus told a congressional hearing: "We are after what is, in a sense, good enough for Afghanistan."
Part of that “good enough” is a financial commitment that will not be popular in Congress or on Main Street.
"Afghanistan cannot sustain the training and equipping of its security forces – our ticket out and the ostensible guarantor of Afghanistan’s future security – with its own sources of revenue," Broadwell said.
It also means progress toward a strategic partnership with Afghanistan, one that faces hurdles over the leadership of nighttime raids and who controls detention policy. Successive U.S. administrations have found Afghan President Hamid Karzai to be a mercurial partner. After the Kandahar killings, he called for U.S. troops to leave Afghan villages, and, referring to the Taliban and the U.S. presence, said: “There are two demons in our country now.”
As combat winds down in Afghanistan over the next two years, and the accent shifts to a transition to Afghan leadership, there are faint echoes of what U.S. broadcaster Walter Cronkite said in February 1968 after a visit to Vietnam.
"It is increasingly clear to this reporter that the only rational way out will be to negotiate, not as victors, but as an honorable people who lived up to their pledge to defend democracy, and did the best they could."
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War’s suffering falls on Afghan civilians and U.S. soldiers alike
The Washington Post By Sarah Chayes March 30, 2012
It’s a nightmare image: A hulk of a man, his head inflated by an outsize helmet, a flak jacket puffing up his chest, his hands clenching an M-4 rifle, violates the intimacy of Afghan villagers’ homes, their living quarters shielded by thick mud walls, bony children sleeping jumbled in a single vaulted room with their careworn parents.
The sleeping Afghans and Staff Sgt. Robert Bales, charged with murdering 17 civilians in Kandahar province, could hardly be less similar. Yet the irony of the recent tragedy is how alike are the alleged killer and the killed. I know them both. I grieve for them both. For both are called to bear the brunt of a war whose basis in falsehood and self-deception is growing daily more untenable.
Six years ago, I was working with villagers to plant roses in the same area where the March 11 massacre took place. Zingawat is the local name for the group of hamlets. Arghand, the manufacturing cooperative I founded in 2005, produces skin-care products from the stunning variety of flowers, fruits, nuts, herbs and pungent roots that miraculously flourish on that arid ground. Rosa damascena — with its sparse and fragile petals of vivid magenta — is one of only a few varieties in the world from which precious rose oil is extracted, the base of most fine perfumes. It is indigenous to Kandahar. I dreamed of replacing opium poppies with fields of roses.
In the spring of 2006, a different atrocity was visited on Zingawat. Up to 30 civilians were killed during a battle between NATO forces and the Taliban. Back then, Kandaharis were still giving the international presence the benefit of the doubt. Women from my cooperative came back from a visit to the hospital seething at the Taliban-style black turbans worn by the wounded there.
But so many mistakes have been made in the intervening years. So many apologies have been tendered, only for a fresh mistake to shatter more lives. In January 2008, for example, Canadian soldiers shot dead the sharecropper of one of my cooperative members, an old man who helped cultivate the pomegranate trees, and his 7-year-old son. They were returning from the orchard, where they had been digging irrigation channels for wheat. The Canadians mistook the spade on the man’s shoulder for a rocket launcher and fired, cutting the two of them down in the mud.
In the fall of 2010, as part of the troop surge into Kandahar, U.S. forces built a road through another cooperative member’s land, opening a swath through his grapevines. Because it broke their line of sight, they blew up the family’s raisin house, a thick-walled building used to dry perfumed local grapes. All of nearby Zingawat — Zingawat, again — suffered similar destruction that autumn: Empty buildings that the Taliban had booby-trapped were smashed, mulberry trees cut down, ancient irrigation channels filled with rubble. Kandahar’s economy has not recovered.
As for the men who wrought that destruction — men much like Bales, sentenced to spend a year in a tiny outpost, their pup tents sunk in inches of talcum-powder dust, youngsters whose watchful eyes dart to the surrounding fields just a slender coil of razor wire away — I know them, too. From 2009 to 2011, I was a special adviser to two commanders of the international troops in Afghanistan and to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. I have visited hundreds of troops in their outposts and trained hundreds more before their deployments to Kandahar.
They are the best our country has to offer. Like Bales, his past marred by alleged financial fraud, and like some Zingawat villagers who may have helped the Taliban, many of them are not untarnished. But I have found them to be remarkable men and women: generous, driven to serve a greater cause than personal comfort or advancement, and straining to acquit themselves in everything that is asked of them, from local government to preindustrial agriculture to — right — killing other human beings.
And this war is chewing them up, just as it’s chewing up the villagers in Zingawat. Never before has so much been asked of such a small segment of the American population. A startling proportion of the troops I’ve seen in Afghanistan have deployed three or more times: They make up less than 12 percent of the less than 1 percent of us in uniform. They endure multiple tours, layering scars on top of scars, becoming strangers to their children, unable to readjust to family life before shipping out again, bearing physical and psychological wounds in aching loneliness.
If only there were a clear reason for such suffering. But the worst of this tragedy is that these ordinary people — U.S. soldiers and Afghan civilians — are absorbing the cost of a failing policy that is increasingly divorced from the reality it is creating on the ground. That divorce makes dramas such as the Kandahar massacre almost inevitable.
We are told that Pakistan is a difficult ally with which we have to work. But how can a country that funds, equips, trains and directs the very militants our soldiers are fighting be considered an ally? Imagine Washington openly financing North Vietnam in 1970.
We’re told that the Afghan government is democratically elected and legitimate. But what legitimacy can derive from a 2009 presidential election in which the fraud was so egregious — the sale of voter-registration cards such as the ones I bought that March, the ballot box stuffing and the assaults by uniformed police at polling places were so ostentatious — that the actions seemed designed not just to ensure a victory for Hamid Karzai but to send a message to the people that their voices will never count? U.S. officials never grappled with this massive violation of trust.
We’re told that Afghanistan is too poor even to pay for its own army. What about the estimated $2.5 billion extorted from Afghans in bribes in 2009, not to mention the diverted customs revenue, smuggled natural resources, influence-peddling, and international contract and banking fraud? The U.S. government has explicitly decided not to address this massive corruption. How can we blame Afghans for suspecting our motives?
U.S. soldiers are expected — by military as well as civilian officials — to make up for these political and diplomatic failings. The troops’ efforts to improve Afghan forces are called the linchpin of the U.S. strategy. For another year or so, soldiers will stay camped out in places such as Zingawat, holding ground taken from the Taliban. We are told that any damage done is necessary, for U.S. soldiers are protecting the population — in other words, that if they destroyed the village, it was to save it.
What is the cost of a policy explained in such terms as these — a policy based in such delusion? It is no wonder that it drives men mad, Afghans and Americans alike.
Bales will stand trial. Afghan civilians will pay, too, dying as U.S. forces draw down and leave a government so rotten with corruption that many predict its implosion. But what accountability is there for the leaders, Afghan and American, whose poor decisions brought about such tragedies?
schayes@arghand.org
Sarah Chayes lived and worked in Kandahar for most of the past decade, then was a senior adviser to the U.S. military. She is the author of “The Punishment of Virtue: Inside Afghanistan After the Taliban.”

Afghanistan presses for answers on long-term U.S. military bases
Reuters By Sanjeev Miglani and Hamid Shalizi March 31, 2012
KABUL - Afghanistan wants the United States to clearly spell out what sort of military presence it will leave behind once most of its combat troops leave by the end of 2014, a senior Afghan official said.
It is also pressing Washington in talks over future cooperation to detail to be more forthcoming on what will be on offer for Afghan forces as they ready to take over responsibility security in the country that is still at war.
"These are issues that concern us. We want to know how many bases will be there, how many soldiers and what will be their mission. And what will we get from the United States for our security forces," President Hamid Karzai's chief spokesman Aimal Faizi told Reuters, without specifying what levels he thought would be appropriate.
In negotiations for a Strategic Partnership Deal on long-term cooperation, one of the stumbling blocks is the U.S. plan for a limited military presence to ensure members of al Qaeda and other militant groups do not find a sanctuary again.
Countries such as Russia, China and Pakistan are wary of an indefinite U.S. military presence in the region. Neighboring Iran strongly opposes the plan.
"Ultimately, it is we who are responsible for our security. We are moving towards taking full control. If there will be foreign military, then it has to be put clearly in a future security document," another senior Afghan official said.
The issue comes at a time of growing sensitivity over the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan after a series on incidents involving U.S. troops.
In January a video surfaced showing U.S. Marines urinating on Taliban corpses, followed by burning of copies of the Koran at the main American base in Bagram.
Then this month 16 people, mostly children and women, were killed in two villages of Kandahar in an unexplained shooting rampage blamed on a U.S. soldier. Karzai called for NATO forces to pull out of rural areas and stay in their bases, saying he was at the "end of the rope."
A spike in so-called green-on-blue attacks on foreign forces by Afghan army and police has stoked concern that some of that anger is spilling over into the security forces and turning them against their western allies.
The talks halted after the Kandahar killings but have since resumed.
Because of Afghan concerns, both sides have agreed to separately discuss the issue of military bases while pressing on with the strategic partnership deal they hope to wrap up by May when a NATO summit in Chicago is scheduled.
"Right now negotiations are taking place, almost on a daily basis. We think we will have an agreement soon," Faizi said.
Afghanistan, which earlier had sought a blanket ban on the night raids by foreign troops, says it is ready to consider them as long as they are "Afghanized" or conducted by Afghan forces and in accordance with the laws of the country.
"You just can't have a situation where a bunch of people land up somebody's house, break open the door and go in," Faizi said.
The United States says the night raids are a key element in the fight against the Taliban who it says operate in many parts of the country from within population centers.
(Editing by Jonathan Thatcher)

Local Taliban leader captured in Afghanistan
MAIDAN SHAR, Afghanistan, March 31 (Xinhua) -- A local Taliban leader was captured Saturday in the eastern Afghan province of Wardak, a provincial government spokesman said.
"An Afghan and coalition security force captured a Taliban leader named Sayf-ul-Rahman and two of his comrades during a night raid operation in Jahadkhil area of Sayyedabad district in the wee hours Saturday," spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told Xinhua.
He said Rahman was responsible for several attacks on security forces and murdering civilians in the province, some 35 km west of capital city Kabul.
Meantime, the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed in a press release issued here on Saturday that a Haqqani leader and two other insurgents were detained in Wardak province.
A Taliban-affiliated group of militants, the Haqqani network mostly operating in eastern Afghan provinces and capital Kabul, has been responsible for many high-profile attacks including suicide bombings and improvised explosive device (IED) against security forces.

In Afghanistan, Businesses Plan Their Own Exits
New York Times By GRAHAM BOWLEY and MATTHEW ROSENBERG March 30, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - America may be struggling to come up with a viable exit plan for Afghanistan, but Abdul Wasay Manani is sure of his.
The broad-set Afghan butcher spent the past seven years trucking cattle in from the Pakistan border and building a thriving business for himself and his family, serving up some of the best hamburgers in Kabul for the embassies and expatriates and their barbecues.
But this month, Mr. Manani, 38, flew to India for 14 days to scout out a new business, and a new home, ready to leave Afghanistan and everything he worked to build here, just in case things fall apart when most Americans and other foreign troops leave in 2014. “If the Taliban come like last time, ordering people around with whips, I can’t stay here,” he said. “I have to leave this country to keep my family safe.”
Many Afghans share his concern. Interviews with business owners, analysts and economists paint a picture of extreme anxiety in both the domestic and international business communities here as the Afghan-United States relationship deteriorates and as the Western drawdown begins.
In this environment, troubling indicators are not hard to find. More than 30,400 Afghans applied for asylum in industrialized nations in 2011, the highest level in 10 years and four times the number seeking asylum in 2005, according to provisional figures from the United Nations. Meanwhile, the number of displaced Afghans outside the country seeking to come the other way slowed to 68,000 last year, down from 110,000 in 2010 and a big decrease from the 1.8 million Afghans who repatriated in 2002, the year after the Taliban were driven out of power.
The only Western bank operating here said on Wednesday that it would be leaving. Piles of cash equaling about a quarter of Afghanistan’s annual economic output were physically carried out of Afghanistan last year. Fewer foreign companies are seeking to do business here, and those already here are downsizing and putting off new investments. And there are businessmen like Mr. Manani who already have a foot out the door, working actively toward a Plan B for life and business outside Afghanistan.
Senior Afghan officials are acutely aware of it, and are alternately worried and angry. “Sometimes I hear that some businessmen are fleeing and moving their businesses to outside Afghanistan,” President Hamid Karzai said at a news conference this month. “Curses be upon such businessmen that made tons of money here and now that the Americans are leaving they flee. They can leave right now. We don’t need them.”
Given the importance of trying to bolster economic independence in the overall plan for Afghanistan, the skittish responses and decreasing investment and hiring strike right at hopes that this impoverished nation, still barely on the cusp of modernity, can thrive on its own.
Large companies are expressing worries about security. One of the most significant is Standard Chartered, the only big Western bank with a branch in the country, which said Wednesday that it was turning over its operations to a local Afghan bank and withdrawing mainly because of deteriorating conditions.
Mohammad Qurban Haqjo, chief executive of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said the head of one of the country’s four big cellphone companies had told him that he planned to take his investments out of the country after 2014.
“It is still two years to go, but we are hearing from our businesses that everybody is raising this question,” Mr. Haqjo said.
Even those who are trying to stay, foreign companies in particular, have become very conservative. According to the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, capital spending by foreign companies newly registered in the past year, at $55 million, was the lowest rate in at least seven years, and about one-eighth the rate’s peak in 2006.
According to Masuda Sultan, an Afghan-American businesswoman who grew up in Queens, the caution is expressing itself in businesses that are downsizing work forces, for example, or holding off on new investments.
“Among the people I know, there is planning going on in terms of investment decisions,” she said. “They are not packing up their bags just yet, but people are looking to diversify abroad or into other business sectors within Afghanistan.”
Some of the companies that are more heavily dependent on the military and the aid economy, like construction and logistics businesses, are trying to stay put by reconfiguring toward the few areas where analysts feel Afghanistan might have growth potential, like mining or trade.
But others are nervous that Afghanistan’s nebulous private sector will not be enough to fill the gap left by the United States’ military and development spending. World Bank figures back up those fears: the bank estimates that outside aid is equivalent to more than 90 percent of the country’s total economic activity, and forecasts a slowdown in growth in the coming years to 5 or 6 percent from about 9 percent, or much lower if security worsens.
That is in part because, despite the billions in reconstruction and aid money poured into Afghanistan, there still is no major manufacturing or technology base that could be a driver of future prosperity. A new Pepsi bottling plant on the outskirts of Kabul is trumpeted as one of the few new investment triumphs.
“There is a sense that they have to change from a war economy to a postwar economy, and people definitely expect it to contract,” said Thomas Rosenstock, a lawyer, originally from New York, who helps foreign companies entering the Afghan market. “It’s uncertain how dramatic the contraction would be.”
Then there are those who are voting with their cash.
Each week tens of millions of dollars — some thought to be diverted American aid or drug money — are packed into suitcases or boxes and loaded onto planes leaving Kabul International Airport for destinations like Dubai, capital flight that is increasing steadily ahead of the 2014 deadline, officials say.
Noorullah Delawari, the central bank governor, recently imposed restrictions limiting the amount a passenger can take out of the country to $20,000 a trip.
But the mountain of departing cash that is officially declared — about $4.6 billion last year, the same size as the Afghan government’s annual budget — may be matched by money fleeing through other airports and over borders, or seeping out through the black market, an Afghan official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity. “We really don’t know how much is being moved,” the official said.
Security officials are still struggling to ensure that people passing through the V.I.P. area of the Kabul airport put their bags through X-ray machines installed a few years ago in part to keep people from sneaking cash out, the official said.
For Mr. Manani, the butcher, and others like him who do not have huge amounts of capital as a safety blanket, the hopes that they can stay at home and still expand their businesses are being tempered by the need to ensure their families’ safety.
His plan is rooted in an effort to start a second business in New Delhi with his local Sikh business partner there, he says. That would enable him to get a long-term visa, and so a way out for his wife and five children, as well as his parents, brothers and a sister and their children, all of whom depend on him and would have to move with him, he says.
“Every businessman is just thinking about how to move from here, about how to be safe,” Mr. Manani said as he stood in front of a big cooler where sides of beef and lamb were hanging. Through the doorway into another room, four workers were busily cutting and packing.
He grew up in the north of Afghanistan and fought in the bitter civil war of the 1990s. There is no way he wants to relive that experience, he said.
“I don’t have the energy to take the gun again and start fighting,” he said. “That’s why I am looking for a way out.”
Habib Zohori contributed reporting.

Former Afghan Governor Denies Role In Killing U.S. Soldiers
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan March 31, 2012
KABUL -- A former Afghan governor has denied allegations that he was involved in the May 2009 killing of a U.S. colonel and a female U.S. soldier in Kapisa Province.
"The Wall Street Journal" quoted U.S. investigators on March 29 as saying that Ghulam Ghous Abu Bakar, former governor of Kapisa and Takhar provinces, had ordered a suicide bombing that killed the pair.
"This political conspiracy should be revealed by those who are plotting such things and those who are commenting and participating in it," Abu Bakar told RFE/RL's Parwan-based correspondent Ahmad Hanayesh on March 30. "They should follow this, and I want to confront them and stand up against them. Whoever says this should say it to me face to face."
The newspaper also reported claims that the ex-governor plotted to kill U.S., British, and French ambassadors in 2009 during a visit to Kapisa that was ultimately canceled.
Abu Bakar categorically denied the allegations or links to insurgents.
"This is absolutely wrong. I was sick at that time and was going to make a trip to India," he told RFE/RL. "When I was told that [the ambassadors] were coming, I postponed my operation in India in order to receive them in Kapisa. I made arrangements for them to come visit the province, but unfortunately they were told something else that I am hearing from you now.
"This is not true. A governor would never do such a thing," Abu Bakar continued. "And why should a governor work in this government if he commits such an act and is such a traitor? I completely reject this."
Abu Bakar said Kabul's Western allies are "friends who have sacrificed their blood, lives, and money" for Afghanistan.
U.S. officials reportedly want Abu Bakar prosecuted, but no charges have been filed.
Abu Bakar, a former mujahedin commander, was sacked in 2010 amid corruption allegations.

UK says report of Afghan plot to kill envoys is credible
Reuters By Mohammed Abbas Fri Mar 30, 2012
LONDON - Britain's outgoing ambassador to Afghanistan said on Friday there was "some credibility" to reports that an Afghan governor plotted to kill the U.S., French and British envoys to Kabul in 2009, but that there was not enough evidence for a trial.
U.S. investigators allege former governor Ghulam Qawis Abu Bakr ordered a 2009 suicide bombing that killed two U.S. soldiers, and that he plotted to kill the U.S., French and British ambassadors in November 2009, the Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.
The investigators also accuse him of involvement in acts of extortion and corruption, according to a summary of the investigation shown to the newspaper. U.S. officials are pressing the Afghan government to prosecute him.
Abu Bakr denies the allegations and does not wish to speak to the media, the Wall Street Journal quoted his son-in-law Mohammed Iqbal Safi, a member of the Afghan parliament, as saying.
President Hamid Karzai has rejected requests for a trial because of the lack of evidence, the newspaper said, a stance echoed by outgoing British Ambassador William Patey.
"I think there is some credibility to the story ... I don't think there was ever sufficient evidence to initiate a prosecution against the governor, but I know that governor was subsequently removed by President Karzai," Patey told reporters in London by video link from the Afghan capital.
A series of killings by Afghan forces of foreign troops, the alleged massacre of 17 Afghan civilians by a U.S. soldier, the burning of copies of the Koran at a NATO base and other recent incidents have strained ties between Washington and Kabul.
Three foreign soldiers, two of them Britons, were shot dead by Afghan security forces personnel on Monday in the latest round of so-called insider killings which have raised deep concerns about the reliability of NATO's local allies.
On Friday, police said an Afghan policeman drugged nine colleagues and shot them dead as they slept.
Patey labeled the insider killings "isolated incidents".
"I think there is a tendency in a country where there has been so much violence for so long, that disputes, individual issues, tend to end in violence in a way that wouldn't be true of other countries," he said.
"I'm not sure you can discern a pattern," he said.
(Editing by Tim Pearce)

Two Afghan Children Killed In Acid Attack
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan March 31, 2012
GHAZNI PROVINCE, Afghanistan – Afghan officials say a girl and a boy have been killed in an acid attack in central Afghanistan.
The girl was believed to be 12 years old and the boy 15.
Provincial police chief Zorawar Zahid said their bodies were discovered on March 30 in wasteland in the Esfandi area of Ghazni Province.
Provincial Governor Musa Khan Akbarzada told RFE/RL that no one has claimed the bodies and that the motive for the attack remained unclear.
“Unfortunately, a large amount of acid has been poured on them and both are dead," Akbarzada said. "The reason for [the attack], who has committed it, and who their parents are is not clear yet. We are waiting for detailed information.”
The French AFP news agency quoted witnesses who found the bodies as claiming the two were probably killed because of their friendship.
The attack is the latest incident to highlight the dangers faced by many young people in the ultra-conservative country 10 years after the U.S.-led invasion ousted the Taliban from power.
Late last year, a 17-year-old Afghan girl and her family were sprayed with acid in the northern city of Kunduz after they rejected a marriage proposal.
In January 2011, veteran Afghan journalist Abdul Razaq Mamon was hospitalized after an acid attack on the streets of Kabul.

Pakistani MPs oppose NATO arms transportation via its territory
Xinhua March 30, 2012
ISLAMABAD - The Pakistani parliament Friday formally opened the debate on whether or not to reopen the supply line for the U.S.-led NATO troops in Afghanistan and the majority of lawmakers urged the government not to allow transportation of arms and ammunition to foreign forces.
All parliamentarians who took part in the debate demanded the United States to stop drone attacks and respect Pakistan's sovereignty.
The U.S. has so far rejected Pakistani calls to halt drone strikes and even fired missiles into North Waziristan tribal region on Friday and killed at least four people.
The opposition members of parliament also called for a mechanism to search all NATO trucks to check what the vehicles are carrying for NATO forces via Pakistan.
Pakistan closed the supply line in November 2011 after the U.S. fighter jets raided two of its border posts and killed 24 soldiers.
The government called for a parliamentary review of relationship with the U.S. and also to decide on the NATO supply line.
Deputies from the Islamic groups strongly opposed the reopening of the NATO supply line while members of the treasury benches said that only food items could be allowed for foreign troops in Afghanistan.
Mushahid Hussain Sayyed, a senator from the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-Q) party taking part in the debate said that the U.S. drone attacks should not be allowed at any cost and Pakistan should take responsibility for its territory.
About supply to foreign forces in Afghanistan, he categorically said that supply of ammunitions through NATO containers should be strictly banned while Pakistan should talk to the United States regarding supply of other things to the NATO.
He criticized what he called the U.S "double standard" regarding establishment of peace in Afghanistan while bombing Pakistan's territory and preparing itself to fight with Iran.
He said Pakistan would strongly oppose the U.S. use of force against Iran. "We have to ensure that our relations with our neighbors, particularly Afghanistan and Iran are not spoiled," he said.
Maulana Abdul Malik, a member of the National Assembly from the tribal region, said that NATO supply should be halted at any cost.
Maulana Khan Muhammad Sheerani, a lawmaker from Balochistan province, said that the concept of terrorism was introduced by imperialist forces to achieve their hidden agenda. He said that the so-called war on terrorism has created more conflict zones in the world and promote violence. He also opposed restoration of the NATO supply line.
Taking part in the discussion, Senator Saeed Ghani of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party said that it is the first government in the democratic history of the country which brings foreign policy in the parliament in order to frame it according to aspirations of the people.
The parliamentarians were unanimous in calling on the government to adopt an independent foreign policy, resist foreign pressure on issues of national interests and cement relations with all neighbors.

U.S. Military Commander Discusses Security Cooperation With Tajik President
By RFE/RL's Tajik Service March 31, 2012
DUSHANBE -- The head of U.S. Central Command, General James Mattis, has met with Tajik President Emomali Rahmon in Dushanbe to discuss security cooperation.
At the start of the talks, Rahmon said: “Tajikistan would like to see further strengthening of the development of ties with the United States in the sphere of security and the establishment of peace and stability in the region."
A statement released by Rahmon’s office quoted Mattis as saying Washington would continue providing assistance to Tajik security forces.
Tajikistan is allowing the transit of nonmilitary supplies intended for NATO-led troops in Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, Mattis held talks with the Turkmen and Uzbek leaders.
U.S. forces are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, when Afghan forces will take control of the country's security.
With reporting by AFP

Al-Qaeda 'plotting another 9/11’ from Afghanistan
Al-Qaeda fighters have returned to Afghanistan and will use the country as a base to launch September 11-style attacks on Western cities, according to the American ambassador to Kabul.
Telegraph.co.uk By Con Coughlin 30 Mar 2012
Ryan Crocker told The Daily Telegraph that if the West was to leave Afghanistan too early, al-Qaeda would be able to increase its presence.
With the US preparing to withdraw the majority of its combat forces from Afghanistan next year, Mr Crocker warned: “If we decide we’re tired, they’ll be back.
“Al-Qaeda is still present in Afghanistan. If the West decides that 10 years in Afghanistan is too long then they will be back, and the next time it will not be New York or Washington, it will be another big Western city.”
Mr Crocker, 62, who previously served as ambassador to Iraq, said that while progress had been made, Afghanistan would need Western support for years to come.
Nato officials believe that up to 100 al-Qaeda fighters have returned to the country, based mainly in the Kunar and Nuristan provinces near the border with Pakistan. Hundreds more are based in Pakistan and could return if circumstances were to change.
Following the shootings in Toulouse this month by an al-Qaeda-inspired gunman, British intelligence officials believe the group is planning a wave of attacks against Western targets, including the London Olympics.
Mr Crocker, who took up his post in Kabul last year, said al-Qaeda remained a potent threat despite suffering setbacks. “We have killed all the slow and stupid ones. But that means the ones that are left are totally dedicated,” he said.
“We think we’ve won a campaign before our adversaries have even started to fight. They have patience, and they know that we are short on that.”
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