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Default [Afghan News] October 4, 2011 - 02-14-2012, 02:04 PM

Afghanistan signs strategic pact with India, likely enraging Pakistan
By Associated Press, October 4 The Washington Post
NEW DELHI — Afghanistan signed a strategic partnership with India on Tuesday, a move likely to enrage neighboring Pakistan at a time when its relations with the Afghans and the West are sharply strained over alleged links of its spy agency to militants blamed for high-profile attacks across the border.

The Pakistanis consider India their chief adversary in the region, and the two countries have fought three major wars since the two were carved out of British India in 1947.

The strategic pact is Afghanistan’s first with any country, and its timing sparked speculation of a shift in regional alignments after Afghan President Hamid Karzai chastised Pakistan for failing to act against Taliban-led insurgents based in Pakistan.

The announcement in New Delhi came as an Afghan government commission investigating the assassination of the country’s former President Burhanuddin Rabbani accused Pakistan of not cooperating, after alleging that Pakistani intelligence officials also had advance knowledge of the plot.

Pakistan says it is cooperating and denies involvement in the Sept. 20 killing of Rabbani, who was trying to broker peace with the Taliban. Its spy agency has been accused of backing the Taliban-linked Haqqani network, blamed for a series of attacks in Afghanistan including a recent assault on the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters in the capital, Kabul.

Karzai had said over the weekend he was giving up on negotiating with the Taliban directly, and accused Pakistan of doing little to help rein in terrorists.

It’s an allegation familiar with Indians, who blame Pakistan-based insurgents for the 2008 Mumbai attacks that killed 166 people and accuse Islamabad of doing little to bring the perpetrators to justice.

After meeting Tuesday, both Karzai, who was educated in India, and Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh spoke about the need for regional peace and prosperity, saying their countries envision a shared future free of extremism and violence.

“Afghanistan recognizes the danger that this region is facing through terrorism and the radicalism that’s been used as an instrument of policy against civilians, against innocent citizens of our countries,” Karzai told reporters.

But he also emphasized the need for broad regional cooperation, saying his country would “aspire to a life that is free of violence, and will seek cooperation and understanding from the members of this region, including our other neighbors.”

Singh emphasized the countries’ historical and cultural links and said the two leaders discussed terrorism in detail. “The people of Afghanistan have suffered enough. They deserve to live in peace and decide their future themselves, without outside interference, coercion and intimidation,” Singh said.

The strategic partnership — “based on mutual understanding and long-term trust” — outlines areas of common concern including trade, economic expansion, education, security and politics.

The two sides also signed deals to boost cooperation in mining, oil and gas.

“Afghanistan will benefit from India’s expertise,” Karzai said, while thanking India for years of economic aid without conditions.

The timing of Karzai’s visit, which followed days of sparring with Islamabad, was a coincidence, analysts said, noting the countries upgraded his trip to a bilateral meeting only after Karzai agreed to deliver a lecture Wednesday at a New Delhi event organized by a think tank.
Karzai had softened his tone on Monday by asking again for Pakistan’s help in bringing terrorists to task. The allegations, coupled with the calls for continued help, illustrate Afghanistan’s frustration in trying to end a decade of fighting that began with the U.S. invasion after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks: Even as Pakistan has ties to groups behind the insurgency, it would be of central importance in any effort to bring about a negotiated peace.

Analysts said that negates the speculation about a strategic realignment, even though the friendship with India was bound to grow as the U.S. looks to scale back its military presence in the region over the next few years.

“Everybody keeps options open depending on how the solution evolves,” said a former Indian diplomat in Pakistan, G. Parthasarthy, adding that it would serve no one’s interest for Afghanistan and India to join together in snubbing their volatile neighbor.

“That sort of pressure would only unite people in Pakistan behind the military, and we don’t exactly love the military,” Parthasarthy said. “The Afghans are pragmatic people. There is a dependence on Pakistan they can’t wish away,” including the need for access to the sea, he said.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been uneasy allies against the Taliban insurgency, largely because of a long history of Pakistani governments backing insurgents as a way to keep a check on Afghan administrations.

India’s policy on Afghanistan, meanwhile, has been to support international action led by the United States over the past decade while staying out of political and security issues so as not to antagonize Pakistan.

However, the U.S. has signaled a readiness over the past year for India to play a more active part.

“The U.S. is now willing to let India play a larger role in Afghanistan, and certainly Afghanistan wants it,” said analyst Lalit Mansingh, a former Indian foreign secretary and ambassador to Washington. “After years of being sidelined, India is now regarded very much as part of the solution.”

Afghanistan Favors India and Denigrates Pakistan
By JACK HEALY and ALISSA J. RUBIN The New York Times October 4, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan — Fuming over what they have called the Pakistani role in exporting terrorism across the border, Afghan officials signaled on Tuesday that they had little interest, for now, in healing a rift with Pakistan, their eastern neighbor.

Two developments set the tone: In New Delhi, President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan signed a wide-ranging strategic partnership with India, which Pakistan regards as its principal adversary. Mr. Karzai’s visit also underscored the growing economic and security ties between India and Afghanistan.

And here in Kabul, intelligence officials investigating the assassination of the head of Afghanistan’s peace process said that Pakistan was refusing to cooperate with their inquiry and that it had failed to crack down on Taliban leaders who, the Afghans say, planned the killing from inside Pakistan.

The moves were all but certain to draw further ire from Pakistan.

The strategic agreement signed Tuesday by Mr. Karzai and the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had been in the making for more than five months.

Perhaps most provocatively for the Pakistanis, it paves the way for India to train and equip Afghan security forces to fill what the Afghanistan government fears will be critical gaps as NATO troops leave in the years ahead. Pakistan and India, nuclear-armed neighbors, have long suspected each other’s motives in Afghanistan.

There is evidence that Pakistan’s spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, has used militant groups as proxy fighters in Afghanistan, and may have been behind the bombing of the Indian Embassy here in 2009. Pakistan has denied such accusations. But it has questioned why India opened consulates in Mazar-i-Sharif, Kandahar and Jalalabad in addition to its embassy in Kabul, suggesting that they are surveillance posts.

Over the past 10 years India has spent nearly $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, mainly on reconstruction, road building, health clinics and an array of small development projects. India also runs a scholarship program for Afghan students, not unlike the American Fulbright program.

Wealthy Afghans often travel to India for medical treatment. The number of flights weekly from Kabul, the Afghan capital, to New Delhi has risen steadily over the past several years as young professionals journey there for training programs and trade.

Although Mr. Karzai’s trip had long been scheduled in advance, it fell at a particularly strained moment for relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, coming two weeks after a suicide bomber assassinated the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.

His killing threw the peace process into disarray and stirred tirades against Pakistan, as officials in Parliament and Afghans in the streets of the capital accused their neighbor of fostering insurgent groups suspected of orchestrating the assassination.

Just a week before Mr. Rabbani was killed, militants from the Pakistan-based Haqqani network conducted a brazen attack against the American Embassy in Kabul, transforming the capital into a battle zone for 20 hours. Adm. Mike Mullen, the just-departed chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Pakistan’s spy agency had supported the attack.

Afghan investigators say the plot to kill Mr. Rabbani was hatched in the Pakistani border town of Quetta, a stronghold of the Taliban leadership. Some Afghan officials have publicly accused Pakistan’s spy agency of complicity in the killing — charges that Pakistan has rejected as baseless. On Tuesday, intelligence officials in Kabul jabbed yet another accusatory finger toward Pakistan. They said Pakistani officials had scuttled a meeting to discuss Mr. Rabbani’s assassination and would not cooperate in the investigation.

At a news conference, intelligence officials showed satellite images of Quetta, highlighting three houses with yellow circles. Those, officials said, were the homes of so-called shadow governors of the Taliban and other officials whom Pakistani security forces had not arrested.
Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to the latest complaints, but in a statement released a day earlier, the ministry cast doubt on “the so-called evidence” tying Pakistan’s spy agency to Mr. Rabbani’s killing.

“Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani was a great friend of Pakistan and widely respected in this country,” the statement said.

'Afghanistan Can't Be A Suburb Of Pakistan'
October 04, 2011 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty By Tanya Goudsouzian
COMMENTARY
The contentious Afghan peace process finally came to a grinding halt when Afghan President Hamid Karzai announced on September 30 on local Afghan TV that there was no point in dialogue with the Taliban after its peace emissary turned out to be a suicide bomber.

By abandoning talks with the Taliban and speaking directly with Pakistan, Karzai is essentially pointing the finger at its southeastern neighbor as the primary source of Afghanistan's woes. By some accounts, this was precisely the move that the Afghan president had been itching to make since the July assassination of his half-brother, Ahmad Wali Karzai, reportedly by neo-Taliban extremists. But what clenched Karzai's resolve was the brazen assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani on September 20 -- the latest in a wave of assassinations that began about six months ago, targeting influential Afghan figures.

"At the time, most of [Karzai's] advisers, including my father, advised the president against making statements against Pakistan, or alluding publicly to Pakistan's hand in this string of assassinations," said Jalal Rabbani, son of the slain leader. "My father told him that it would be better not to antagonize Pakistan at the time, but right now it seems there simply isn't any other option."

The consensus in the power circles of Kabul is that Pakistan, fearful of losing influence in Afghanistan, has covertly agitated the security situation in order to force Afghans to the negotiating table with Islamabad.

Exposed

Prince Abdul Ali Seraj, head of the National Coalition for Dialogue with Tribes of Afghanistan, says: "Pakistan wanted this all along but it did not want to be exposed as the backer of the Taliban. Now the world hears Karzai saying, 'You are backing Taliban so we will talk to you directly for you to stop the Taliban.'"

But Seraj cautions against the pitfalls of negotiating with a meddlesome neighbor. "Karzai has to be careful. We should not succumb to Pakistan's demands to play a major role in Afghanistan's future," he says. "Afghanistan is an independent country. They can always play a role as neighbor. But Afghanistan cannot be a suburb of Pakistan."

Karzai's decision to bypass Taliban emissaries and speak instead with Pakistan may also be viewed as the result of pressure by zealous Afghan opposition figures, who were quick to capitalize on the Rabbani assassination to discredit Karzai's policy of engagement with the Taliban. Karzai's decision to make this declaration on Noor TV, owned by Rabbani's eldest son, may have fostered this impression.

After all, the late Rabbani's appointment to the helm of the High Peace Council in 2010 was in part an attempt to placate the mainly ethnic-Tajik opposition who were vehemently opposed to negotiating with the Taliban -- a process they dubbed "appeasement" -- but this move only served to fuel simmering tensions in the Jamiat-e Islami party headed by the slain leader.

Ahmad Wali Masud, head of the Massoud Foundation and former Afghan ambassador to the U.K., is skeptical of any major shift in policy on the part of Karzai. "Let's not forget that Karzai has always insisted on holding talks with the Taliban, calling them 'brothers', 'sons of Afghanistan,' and even on one occasion claiming they were better than the mujahedin. And let's not forget that he has been in contact with the Taliban for years; it's just that it has been made public recently."

Masud, an ethnic Tajik, adds: "Why has he maintained these relations with the Taliban? Because he wanted a force on his side to counter the opposition he faced from the United Front, those who fought against the Taliban in the first place. Karzai needed foot soldiers to skew the balance of power between ethnic Pashtuns and non-Pashtuns in the country. All this was to consolidate his own power base, which is south of the country, among the ethnic Pashtuns."

Members of the Jamiat-e Islami party reacted variously to the Rabbani assassination, with some pledging bloody vengeance, and others somberly reflecting upon the possibility that this was a plot that extended far beyond the Taliban.

'Shameless Opportunism'

Jalal Rabbani expressed "disgust" at the "shameless opportunism" displayed by some former members of Jamiat-e Islami, who he believes have used his father's assassination to further their own agendas. "The nature and intentions of these individuals were known, even while my father was alive," he says without naming names. "It is no surprise that they have now jumped at the chance to further their own stagnant political careers, using my father's martyrdom as a springboard."

For the Jamiat-e Islami, a party that has long been plagued by internal division and rivalry, the task at hand is to select a successor to the late Rabbani, whose legacy -- however controversial and hotly debated -- spans half a century, notably his key role in the Afghan war against Soviet occupation.

"Fortunately, my father had already put in place a mechanism for succession, by appointing a hundred or so representatives to hold a kangara [party congress] and select the most suitable candidate," Jalal says, adding that this congress would take place when "things have settled."

There are a few contenders vying for the party's top job, including Rabbani's son-in-law Ahmad Zia Masud and a number of former jihadi lieutenants, notably General Atta Mohammad, governor of Mazar-e Sharif. Although there are doubts over the ability of these contenders to fill the shoes of the late Rabbani -- widely regarded as a savvy politician and an "elder" -- the likely successor is by all accounts Rabbani's eldest son, Salahuddin, who is currently Afghanistan's ambassador to Turkey, and holds a degree from Columbia University in New York.

"After every situation like this, there will always be a power struggle," says Seraj, who does not forecast an ugly contest over the leadership of Jamiat-e Islami. "The final draw is likely to be between the son and the son-in-law because the general is too controversial a figure."

Jalal goes on to deny rumors of tensions in the family as a result of his brother-in-law's reported bid for succession. Ahmad Zia Masud, brother of the slain mujahedin commander Ahmad Shah Masud also known as "The Lion of Panjshir," served as vice president for a term, and previously as Afghan ambassador to Russia. Some feel that Masud's ascension to the helm of Jamiat-e Islami might allay reported tensions between the Panjshiri contingent and those at the party's core.

"There is no basis to these rumors," Jalal says. "Ahmad Zia loved my father and he is very much a key member of Jamiat. He has no aspirations to succeed my father, and there would never be a family rift over such an issue."

Mastermind

For now, Jalal's primary concern lies in finding the masterminds behind the assassination of his father, which he believes is fundamental to the peace and security of Afghanistan. "The probe into my father's martyrdom has been concluded on the Afghan side, and we are satisfied with the findings," he says. "But there are still a lot of unanswered questions on the Pakistan side. We hope that the Pakistani authorities will be cooperative."

Jalal, who met Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani a few days ago at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, adds: "It is time Pakistan stopped playing the game with two faces in Afghanistan. They are playing a dangerous game in my country, by looking after their own interests vis-a-vis India in a way that is devastating to Afghanistan. This must come to an end now."

Whatever the outcome of the Pakistani investigations into the Rabbani assassination, Afghan public opinion has already -- for the most part -- been made up. In a land where hearsay carries more weight than official statements, Pakistan's all-pervading Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency is widely believed to have masterminded the audacious suicide attack on the former president, who was tasked with brokering a truce with the neo-Taliban.

By offering a sample of what would ensue as a result of Pakistan's marginalization from Afghan affairs, Islamabad has muscled Kabul to the negotiating table. As such, it remains to be seen whether a terrorized Afghanistan can further any of its own national interests faced with an emboldened Pakistani goliath.

Never before have Karzai, scrutinized at home and abroad, and the fragile Afghan state, been in greater need of Washington's support. If the United States and the international community do not throw their weight behind Afghanistan, the eventual "peace settlement" will no doubt skew in favor of Islamabad, and Afghanistan will once again become Pakistan's suburb, as it was during the rule of the Taliban.

Tanya Goudsouzian is a journalist who has covered Afghanistan since 2001. The views expressed in this commentary are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect those of RFE/RL

Afghanistan-Pakistan ties frayed by assassination
By DEB RIECHMANN and RAHIM FAIEZ - Associated Press
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghanistan issued harsh words against neighboring Pakistan on Tuesday, accusing it of refusing to help investigate the assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani and alleging that Pakistani intelligence officials had advance knowledge of the plot.

Afghanistan and Pakistan have long been uneasy allies against the Taliban insurgency, and relations have become increasingly strained since the death of Rabbani, who was appointed by the government to try to broker peace with the Taliban.

If Pakistan does not help, Afghanistan will appeal to the United Nations to get involved, said a spokesman for the government commission investigating the assassination who goes by the single name of Dr. Zia.

Pakistan's government said it was cooperating and denied involvement in the Sept. 20 killing, which dealt a severe setback to efforts to negotiate a political solution with the Taliban after 10 years of war.

"Prime Minister (Reza Yousuf) Gilani had offered cooperation in the investigation into professor Rabbani's assassination during his visit to Kabul," said Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tehmina Janjua. "Pakistan stands by this commitment."

The assassin gained entry to Rabbani's home by claiming to be a peace emissary from the Taliban's governing council, which is based in Pakistan. As he neared Rabbani he detonated explosives that were hidden inside his turban.

The Taliban has not claimed responsibility for Rabbani's death.

Speaking to reporters, Zia said the sophistication of the bomb hidden in the attacker's turban pointed to a link with Pakistan.

He said the commission was also basing its accusations of Pakistani involvement on the confession of the suspected mastermind, Hamidullah Akundzadeh, an Afghan who was arrested 18 hours after Rabbani was assassinated.

"Why are we claiming Pakistan government is behind this attack? Because the explosive that was in that hat was not the idea" of a few Taliban leaders, said Zia, who is also deputy chief of the Afghan intelligence service. "It was a very sophisticated device inside that hat."

He said the Pakistani government delivered a message through its embassy Tuesday informing "us that they are not ready to cooperate with us."

He added that their explanation suggested Pakistan was upset with remarks about the case that Afghan officials had made to the media.

"Now we have to go to the U.N. for help," he said.

At the Kabul news conference, the commission gave reporters a 20-minute digital video of Akundzadeh's alleged confession. He talks of meeting members of the peace council in Kabul and then returning to Quetta, Pakistan, to brief Taliban leaders based there on the conversations.

Later, he accompanied the bomber, a Pakistani man named Esmatullah, on a bus trip back to Kabul, stopping along the way to stay at the home of Akundzadeh's relatives in Kandahar.

Afghan authorities might have been close behind at one point, because they arrested two relatives who hosted Akundzadeh and the bomber, the suspect said.

Once in Kabul, the two men parted ways, and Akundzadeh said he learned of the attack on Rabbani in a phone call from a friend.

Zia stopped short of directly accusing Pakistani intelligence authorities of being behind the explosive device, but Afghan Interior Minister Bismullah Khan Mohammadi said Oct. 1 in an Afghan parliamentary session that the ISI was involved in the killing.

Zia said the Afghan government has arrested suspects but that other Afghans are hiding in Quetta.

"We want them arrested and handed over to us. We have all their photos, home addresses and even their contact numbers. Our requests (to Pakistan) are very clear, but they are not helping us."

Zia said that according to Akundzadeh's confession, the plan to assassinate Rabbani was hatched six months ago and that he was targeted for being both a high-ranking official and the head of the peace council. He alleged that the Pakistani agency knew about the attack, which he said also had the involvement of the Taliban's Quetta-based leadership council.

"They have the full support of the Pakistan government," he said.

Pakistan has denied the allegation and has argued that the evidence the Afghans have given to Pakistan consisted solely of the confession of Akundzadeh.

"Instead of making such irresponsible statements, those in positions of authority in Kabul should seriously deliberate as to why all those Afghans who are favorably disposed toward peace and toward Pakistan are systematically being removed from the scene and killed," said Pakistan's Foreign Ministry in a written statement issued on Sunday.

Critics have accused the Pakistani government of protecting Taliban leaders to maintain good relations with the group in anticipation of Western forces' eventual withdrawal from Afghanistan — an allegation denied by Pakistan.

Many analysts also believe the Pakistani intelligence agency's alleged support for insurgent groups is an attempt to promote Pakistan's interests in Afghanistan and counter the influence of archenemy India.

On Tuesday in New Delhi, Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a strategic partnership with India, which could further strain Afghanistan's relations with neighboring Pakistan.

Afghanistan's Dirty War: Why the Most Feared Man in Bermal District Is a U.S. Ally
By Julius Cavendish / Kabul time.com Tuesday, Oct. 04, 2011
On Nov. 30, 2009, in the shadow of mountains that crumple up 9,000-ft. ridges, an Afghan mercenary bankrolled by the U.S. military and hell-bent on the destruction of Taliban rebels allegedly stopped three men heading home to celebrate 'Id al-Adha with their families. According to an elder from Bermal, the Afghan district where the incident took place, Commander Azizullah and his men bound their hands. Then, the elder told TIME, Azizullah drew his pistol and shot them. There was no evidence that these men were insurgents, the elder says. "But he killed them anyway."

The story, corroborated almost word for word by an internal U.N. report dated January 2010 and calling for Azizullah's removal from the U.S. payroll, is one of numerous accounts of atrocity laid at his door. As part of a secretive U.S. Army program responsible for some of the most effective fighters in Afghanistan, Azizullah has risen from nothing to command a ferocious 400-man militia of Afghan security guards. Stocky, bearded and seemingly implacable, he's credited with bringing some kind of security to a few square miles of southeastern Afghanistan. "[I've] conducted lots of operations, seen lots of stuff, been blown up by a suicide bomber," he told TIME during a phone call earlier this year. But if testimony from four Afghan sources in Bermal, two businessmen with interests in Bermal, two Afghan officials and two Western diplomats is to be believed, the cost has been a spate of bloodletting that makes little distinction between enemy combatants and ordinary civilians — despite legislation forbidding U.S. taxpayer dollars from funding units where there is credible evidence of human-rights violations.

The U.N. report cites seven other instances in which Azizullah and his men appear to have overstepped the bounds of their authority. In late September or early October (the Afghan month of Mizan) 2009, they searched a house "belonging to Ahmad Gul" following a clash with insurgents. Gul "was killed in his home along with his brother Omer Khan" and a third person, who had been working the fields nearby. Azizullah strapped "their bodies to the hood of [his] vehicles" and paraded them through the Margha Mandi bazaar — in a country where burial rites hold deep cultural import. "The bodies were kept for eight days until they started to rot," the U.N. report claims. A maulawi (a senior cleric) from Bermal gives a similar account, placing the event in early October 2009 and naming the third victim as Mir Nawab, although rather than tilling a field, he says, Nawab was helping Gul build a mud wall. "Witnesses say the Taliban were nowhere near there and the ambush was far away," the maulawi told TIME.

In another incident detailed in the U.N. report and corroborated by two independent Afghan sources from Bermal, Azizullah and his men raided a house in Tangarhi village, "killing all nine people there," according to a Waziri elder from the district, who added that the names of three of the victims were Ajab Khan, Salaam and Gul Nawaz. According to the U.N. report, three other victims were children. A former schoolteacher from Bermal tells TIME: "Somebody reported to Azizullah that the house owner had hosted insurgents. That was wrong. His guests had come from Dubai. So Azizullah ... was supposed to arrest and detain the people so he could investigate them. But what he did was open fire."

There are a dozen similar examples, including a rape, theft and the desecration of a mosque, some related to TIME by terrified villagers during an investigation lasting several months, others painstakingly documented by U.N. officials in two separate internal reports seen by this reporter. "Elders from a number of districts in the area have provided independent accounts of Azizullah's involvement in criminal activities (theft), indiscriminate killings and ... detaining young boys [and] reportedly sexually abus[ing] them," the January 2010 report complains. It identifies Azizullah as "an Afghan Security Guard employed by SOF [special-operations forces]" and recommends that he be stripped of his position. WikiLeaked battlefield reporting also identifies Azizullah as an Afghan security guard.

Meanwhile, an assessment carried out for a reconstruction firm working in the region credits the fear and loathing Azizullah has inspired with driving civilians toward the insurgency. "The presence of Azizullah as the head of militia has led to better security, but the rural population voices serious concerns about the disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force by his men," it says. "People in Pirkuti have joined the Taliban because of Azizullah's atrocities ... Azizullah uses his rapport with the Special Forces to bomb the [Pashtun] areas ... Azizullah's security measures in rural areas have been counterproductive because of his disproportionate and indiscriminate use of force." According to the assessment, "He killed an old woman in Pirkuti because he thought she was the mother of a suspected insurgent ... These acts are amplified by the insurgents to increase disaffection for the state." The concern that U.S. sponsorship of Azizullah is driving civilians toward the insurgency is repeated by a local Afghan analyst. "The Americans are the ones to blame," he says, echoing a pervasive sentiment. "They could stop him, but they don't."

They've certainly had the opportunity. U.N. officials raised their concerns about Azizullah over a year ago. But a NATO spokesman says the organization's informal investigation of their protégé led nowhere. "There was a derogatory report via U.N. channels last summer, but when we tried to research it, there was really little information to substantiate what were essentially claims," Lieut. Colonel John Dorrian, chief of operations at NATO's public-affairs unit in Kabul, told TIME earlier this year. "Thus, no action was taken."

That's hardly surprising, say human-rights experts. Getting to the bottom of allegations like these is difficult at the best of times. It took me months to organize meetings with sources from the area and persuade them to speak out. Terrified as they are, villagers are going to be even less likely to complain to the U.S. forces they hold responsible for empowering Azizullah. Exacerbating that, NATO "doesn't bring a great deal of healthy skepticism" to investigations, which might include statements by troops on the ground, a review of video footage or signals intelligence — and not much else, says Erica Gaston, a human-rights lawyer for the Open Society Foundations. "That's not a bad methodology to start out with," says Gaston, "but if you really want to get the whole story on accusations of misconduct — particularly when they involve local warlords — you need to get out and talk to the community. That just isn't how [NATO] investigations work generally."

Meanwhile, a blistering report by Human Rights Watch, published last month, provides credible evidence that far from being the exception, behavior like Azizullah's is commonplace in Afghanistan. It found that militias, many of them created by NATO despite reservations by President Hamid Karzai, are murdering, raping and torturing civilians (including children), extorting illegal taxes and smuggling contraband. In one instance, Afghan paramilitaries allegedly abducted two teenagers and drove nails through the feet of one. The 102-page report titled Just Don't Call It a Militia documents how parts of the Afghan establishment and the U.S. military have provided guns and money to paramilitary groups without adequate oversight or accountability. Because of their links to senior Afghan officials or U.S. special-operations forces, many of these groups operate with impunity.

In Azizullah's case, the allegations and the military's response offer an uncomfortable glimpse of the clandestine war that Afghan paramilitaries bankrolled by the U.S. are waging against al-Qaeda and the Taliban — and the lack of accountability they're subject to. The dirty war is "very poorly understood," says Michael Semple, a Harvard fellow and leading expert on Afghanistan, even though it's been "a central part of the strategy for the past decade." A Special Forces captain called Matt, who has served in Afghanistan but has no involvement with Azizullah, described Afghan security guards — which is a generic term — as "the most effective fighting formation in Afghanistan" for the extent of the war. "This is undisputed fact," he said. Yet groups like the Afghan security guards have remained steadfastly off the radar. Semple says that, when he was working on security-sector reform in Afghanistan, it was only "with great difficulty" that you could get the NDS — the country's security service — on to the agenda. As for the private militias run by special forces or the CIA? "Never."

On paper, Azizullah and his Afghan security guards exist to protect Firebase Lilley, a remote outpost in eastern Paktika province that doubles as a listening post for the CIA and a training hub for some of the agency's 3,000 private troops (known as Counterterrorism Pursuit Teams). But the Afghan guards do a bit more than pull guard. Battlefield reporting published by WikiLeaks suggests they act with a degree of autonomy, sometimes running their own missions despite Azizullah's claim that he can't go "10 meters" without a Green Beret in tow. And whatever the degree of oversight he's subject to by his military advisers, even Azizullah accepts that his main job is killing Taliban. "Recently I was injured again when we set an ambush for people firing rockets onto [Firebase Lilley]," he said in his February phone interview with TIME. "When we saw them, we started shooting at each other and I was hurt [along with] Nick, a U.S. special-forces guy, and a soldier called Shazaman." He also used the interview to deny all allegations of wrongdoing.

"Since the Taliban and al-Qaeda couldn't kill me with their suicide attacks or land mines, they're now using propaganda against me. I have never killed anyone innocent. I'm a very religious person; I respect my religion, so how could I desecrate a mosque or kill a civilian? ... You won't find a single person who can prove that I've done anything you mention, like raping boys, desecrating mosques or killing innocent people."

During the interview, the leader of the U.S. special-forces detachment supporting Azizullah, who called himself Dan, came on the phone. "We've gone a huge way as far as collateral damage and civilian casualties [go]," he said. "That's gone down quite a bit. We have quite a bit of control over our partner's force and ... we do everything we can to [avoid civilian casualties]. There's been really no civilian casualties, at least since I've been here."

Azizullah's relationship with U.S. special forces began soon after the 2001 invasion, when he was one of the first Afghan security guards to sign on. As an ethnic Tajik born and bred in a largely Pashtun area, Azizullah had suffered under the predominantly Pashtun Taliban — and possessed the kind of social geography that may have appealed to his new American mentors. "Right from the early days, the Americans seemed to work with people from that enclave," says Harvard's Semple. Special forces "want to work with people from a minority community that's never going to go over to ... the Haqqanis, that [has an] interest in maintaining the patronage of the outside force."

But if the upside of working with collaborators from Urgun, Azizullah's home district, is that they will never go over to the insurgents, then the downside is that patronage bestowed on them by American forces stirs ethnic jealousies. Friends say Azizullah saw American patronage as a sign that his time had come, and battlefield reporting from 2007 allegedly had him intervening in local business disputes. Analysts, merchants and villagers say the Pashtun majority feels marginalized by what they see as an unfair distribution of the money pouring in, in the shape of contracts from Firebase Lilley. "The perception is [the Tajiks] get all the contracts, all the jobs," one source said. That perceived hoarding of the spoils, and Azizullah's apparent impunity, are paving the way for violent repercussions. "People are so angry with him that when the U.S. Army stops supporting him, his body will be hacked into 1,000 pieces by the people," an acquaintance of Azizullah said. Vengeance will likely be visited on the whole Tajik community.

The shadowy war waged along Afghanistan's eastern border is certainly no place for armchair morality. The conflict "is not pretty," cautions Matt, the Green Beret captain. "It insults our Western morals and perspectives on life, [which are] a modern luxury, born of hundreds of years of vicious fighting and ... not shared by 80% of the world today."

But the allegations of persistent human-rights abuses aren't just embarrassing from a moral perspective. They also showcase the biggest drawbacks of militias — which NATO wants to expand aggressively across Afghanistan in the shape of "Afghan local police," and has made a hallmark of its exit strategy. Critics say that although the plan may temporarily help dent the Taliban, the consequences are too awful to contemplate: resurgent warlords, deepening ethnic tensions, widespread bloodletting and the erosion of what little authority the government in Kabul has left. The cost of some short-term success in the military fight against the Taliban could, over time, become a return to Afghanistan's darkest days.

Australian defense minister visits troops in Afghanistan
CANBERRA, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Australian Defense Minister Stephen Smith on Tuesday said he has made a surprise visit to Australian troops in Afghanistan.

Smith, who on Monday flied out of Australia for North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) talks on Afghanistan in Belgium, made a quick drop in Afghanistan to visit soldiers at forward operating base Wali in the Mirabad Valley, as well as at the multinational base in Tarin Kowt, on Monday local time in Afghanistan.

He praised Australian special forces and their Afghan partners, saying that they continued to make progress in disrupting the insurgency by taking their leaders, facilitators, revenue streams and bomb makers off the battlefield.

Accompanied by defense force chief General David Hurley, Smith met Australian and U.S. operational commanders in Afghanistan. The pair also met top Afghan officials, including Oruzgan Governor Shirzad and his provincial security chiefs, the Commander of the Afghan National Army 4th Brigade Brigadier Zafar, the provincial chief of police Brigadier Mattiullah Khan and the Provincial Chief of the National Directorate of Security Colonel Khan Muhammed.

Australia currently has about 1,550 troops in Afghanistan, mainly based in Oruzgan province. So far, 29 Australian soldiers have died in Afghanistan since 2001.

A Leader’s Death Exposes Disarray in the Afghan Peace Process
New York Times By ALISSA J. RUBIN October 3, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - In the two weeks since the leader of Afghanistan’s peace process was assassinated, an intense power struggle has opened among the nation’s ethnic groups — and within them — as well as among other powerful factions here, laying bare a crisis that is buffeting President Hamid Karzai from every side.

Though the peace process had made little headway, the figure at the head of the High Council for Peace, Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president, had given the body stature. He had also protected Mr. Karzai from the rival camps within his government.

But with Mr. Rabbani’s assassination on Sept. 20, the lack of a national consensus on how to make peace has become increasingly apparent. In successive statements over the last two weeks, Mr. Karzai’s government appears to be scrambling to appease various domestic factions. But it has done little to assure Afghans that despite the serious breaches of security evidenced in the number of high-level assassinations this year, the government is able to control the country and has a plan for how to end the fighting.

In a speech to the nation on Monday evening, Mr. Karzai tried to modulate the different messages, giving a little bit to all sides but hardly laying out a vision for the road ahead, other than to say that he planned to hold a traditional jirga, or tribal assembly, to discuss the Strategic Partnership with the United States, the peace process and relations with Pakistan.

A traditional jirga, compared with a constitutional loya jirga, has no legal standing and will probably be viewed as an effort by Mr. Karzai to give a populist stamp to policies he has already decided on.

In the context of the last two weeks, amid a series of inconsistent statements from Mr. Karzai’s government about the peace process and Pakistan, a jirga offers scant hope of bringing clarity. The apparent receding of peace efforts at a time of persistent violence and a steadily diminishing American role is a bleak prospect for all Afghans and the Westerners who support them.

“The message from the Taliban couldn’t be bolder. What else needs to happen for the president to understand it?” said Abdullah Abdullah, who ran against Mr. Karzai in the 2009 election.

“Where is it that he is leading?”

Not unlike the chaotic streets of Kabul, it looks increasingly as if each faction is pursuing its own agenda with little sense of the national interest, said Mahmoud Saikal, a former deputy foreign minister under Mr. Karzai.

“If you take away the traffic lights, you have a lot of accidents, you can’t guarantee the security of people on the roads, so they take their own initiative,” said Mr. Saikal, who is a proponent of a tough-minded approach to reaching out to the Taliban that would require them to renounce their past.

The problem, according to several Afghans and Westerners, is that the government allowed a free-flowing reconciliation process, which was ill defined from the start, and operated outside government institutions through the High Peace Council, which was itself something of an ad hoc creation.

Not least, some of those joining the process were not vetted by either the intelligence service or the Interior Ministry, according to officials at each department.

As a result, many Afghans were left uncertain about what kind of deal might be made and uneasy about whether Mr. Karzai would decide to bring back the Taliban and give them power.

The opaqueness of the peace process — only a handful of people, including Mr. Rabbani, appear to have known who was being talked to — is now being amplified as the different circles around Mr. Karzai all push different messages into the public debate, but with little explanation of their intentions

“The confusion is within the president’s team,” said an Afghan who is close to the presidential palace. “Some have been lobbying for a change in the policy towards Pakistan, some have been trying to downplay it, but there is no one policy in the president’s team.”

The former members of the Northern Alliance, most of whom are ethnic Tajiks and Hazaras and distrust the Taliban and hate Pakistan, include the first vice president, Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, and the interior minister, Gen. Bismullah Khan Mohammadi. They appear to be pushing for a tough stance toward Pakistan, accusing the country of direct involvement in the assassination of Mr. Rabbani, who was also a former member of the Northern Alliance.

The Pakistanis vehemently denied the charge that their spy agency, the Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, was linked to the killing. “Pakistan strongly rejects the baseless allegations of the Afghan interior minister of ISI’s involvement in the assassination of Professor Burhanuddin Rabbani Shaheed,” read a statement from Pakistan’s foreign ministry.

The statement went on to say that Mr. Rabbani had been a great friend of Pakistan and that the “so-called evidence” of Pakistan’s involvement is based on the confession of an Afghan national who is suspected of being the mastermind of the plot.

The Haqqani clan — a faction of the insurgency that operates in southeastern Afghanistan, has been accused of several deadly attacks and took credit recently for the attack on the American Embassy in Kabul — denied any involvement in Mr. Rabbani’s assassination in an audio message sent to the British Broadcasting Corporation.

Even as some officials lashed out at Pakistan, some of Mr. Karzai’s fellow ethnic Pashtuns in the government tried to soften the language toward Pakistan. They included his chief of staff, Abdul Karim Khurram, and his education minister, Farouk Wardak, who both have links to the insurgent leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is believed to move between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Though they may not trust the Pakistanis, they are more inclined to reach out to them.

For now it seems from Mr. Karzai’s speech that the status quo will rule, with an asterisk: Pakistan is being portrayed more negatively in public than before, but other than that, little has changed.

The Pakistanis are playing a “double game and using terrorism as a tool against Afghanistan,” Mr. Karzai said in his speech on Monday.

“The Islamic Republic of Pakistan has not cooperated with us to bring peace, which is a matter of regret to us,” he added. “We hope that the Pakistani government realizes its people’s interest and helps us bring peace to both countries.”

Sangar Rahimi and Sharifullah Sahak contributed reporting from Kabul, and Salman Masood from Pakistan.

Polish Soldier Killed in Afghanistan
VOA News October 4, 2011
A roadside bomb has killed a Polish soldier who was on patrol in Afghanistan.

Poland's defense ministry says the 30-year-old serviceman was killed Tuesday when his vehicle hit an improvised explosive device in Ghazni province.

Two other Polish soldiers were wounded in the blast.

Tuesday's death brings the number of Polish troops killed in Afghanistan to at least 29.

Poland has some 2,600 troops deployed in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led force.

Bomb blast kills 3 Afghans, wounds 12
KABUL, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Three people including two children were killed and 12 others sustained injuries in the Taliban birthplace of Kandahar province, 450 km south of Kabul on Monday, a press release of the provincial administration said Tuesday.

"The tragic incident happened in Malo village of Shah Walikot district Monday evening when a police team was on a routine patrol, leaving three people including one police and two children dead," the press release said.

Two more policemen and 10 children of the village were injured in the blast, it added.

The press release put the attack on the enemies of peace, a term used against Taliban militants and condemned it.

Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have yet to make comment.

BBC:Haqqani says US wants him to join Afghan gov't
AP – Mon, Oct 3, 2011.
LONDON (AP) — A BBC report quoted Afghan insurgent leader Siraj Haqqani on Monday as saying he's been approached by the United States to join the Afghan government and denying that his militant group was behind the killing of the top Afghan peace envoy.

The Pakistan-based Haqqani network is affiliated with both the Taliban and al-Qaida and has been described by U.S. and other Western nations as the top security threat in Afghanistan. The group has been blamed for hundreds of attacks, including a 20-hour siege of the U.S. Embassy and NATO headquarters last month. The group is led by Jalaludin Haqqani, but the ailing leader has relinquished most operational control to one of his sons, Siraj.

Last week, U.S. officials accused Pakistan's spy agency of supporting the Haqqanis in attacks on Western targets in Afghanistan — the most serious allegation yet of Pakistani duplicity in the 10-year war.

The United States and other members of the international community have in the past blamed Pakistan for allowing the Taliban, and the Haqqanis in particular, to retain safe havens in the country's tribal areas along the Afghan border — particularly in North Waziristan.

The outgoing chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, has also claimed that Pakistan's military spy agency helped the group.

However, Haqqani told the BBC Pashtu service that while the group had contacts with a number of spy agencies, including that of Pakistan, during the Soviet invasion, there are now "no such links that could be beneficial."

"Right from the first day of American arrival till this day not only Pakistani but other Islamic and other non-Islamic countries including America, contacted us and they (are) still doing so. They are asking us to leave the ranks of Islamic Emirates," he said referring to the Taliban leadership.

He said that the outsiders have promised an "important role in the government of Afghanistan," as well as negotiations.

Haqqani also denied that his group took part in the Sept. 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani. He headed the country's High Peace Council, set up by Afghan President Hamid Karzai to work toward a political solution to the decade-long war.

"We haven't killed Burhanuddin Rabbani and this has been said many times by the spokespersons of Islamic Emirate," he said.

Karzai's office has said a special commission investigating Rabbani's death had concluded the attack was planned in Quetta, the Pakistani city where key Taliban leaders are based. The delegation also said the primary assailant was a Pakistani citizen.

The BBC said it did not interview Siraj Haqqani directly. Working through an intermediary, the BBC drew a list of questions and received in return an audio file which it was able to verify as being him.

In Brussels, NATO chief Anders Fogh Rasmussen said he did not have information on who killed Rabbini, but that nevertheless "it's obvious that the Haqqani network constitutes a threat both to the Afghan people and to our troops in Afghanistan."

"We encourage the Pakistani government and military to deal with the safe havens in border regions. It's obvious that there is cross-border traffic by Haqqani network and other terrorist groups there," he said.

Analysis: China seeks profit, shuns politics, in Afghanistan
By Zhou Xin Tue Oct 4, 2011 8:24am EDT
KABUL (Reuters) - The Chinese passengers boarding the weekly Ariana Flight 332 from the remote western city of Urumqi to Kabul speak volumes about ties between a rising China, the world's number two economy, and its desperately poor and unstable neighbor, Afghanistan.

Of at least nine Chinese, six were heading for a China-funded copper mine, two were working for a Chinese telecom equipment maker and one was the boss of a Chinese restaurant, struggling to check in several boxes of illicit supplies, from alcohol to frozen pork.

"The situation is not as bad as news reports suggest, and I am hoping to make money," said Li Xiaofeng, the restaurant owner, who is from the eastern Chinese province of Zhejiang and opened his restaurant in Kabul last year.

He is contributing to a tiny but growing trade flow between China and Afghanistan, which many in Kabul hope could be the country's financial salvation as Western troops head home.

Bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan is currently just a fraction of trade with other "stans" -- the turnover of $114.9 million in the year through July was 2 percent of Sino-Pakistan trade.

But the rich mineral reserves lying untapped in Afghanistan after decades of war are a tempting and potentially lucrative lure for resource-hungry China, whose companies have already shown an ability to operate profitably in hostile environments.

A Chinese consortium in 2008 won Afghanistan's first major mining contract, a deal to develop the Aynak copper deposits.

The state-owned parent company of Metallurgical Corp of China Ltd (MCC) and China's largest copper producer, Jiangxi Copper, are developing the mine, estimated to hold up to nine million tonnes.

The project is the biggest component of plans to wean Afghanistan off foreign aid that currently makes up most of the government budget. But progress has been slower than expected.

"Officials in Kabul always said yes, but on the site, there are always a lot of problems to handle," one MCC official, who asked for anonymity, told Reuters.

MCC said in a statement that construction workers were currently idle as archaeological preservation works on a Buddhist monastery were under way.

NO POLITICAL, MILITARY COMMITMENT

The slow development may actually suit some officials back in Beijing, who are anxious to avoid a military or security role in the central Asian country.

China wants to stay out of the diplomatic spotlight in Afghanistan, said He Ming, deputy dean at East China Normal University's international studies college, who recently held an academic conference on Afghanistan.

"It's quite dangerous for China to play an active role in Afghanistan," he said, referring to the expense and controversy that followed most foreign intervention in Afghanistan in recent decades -- whether Soviet or Western-led.

"It's okay for Chinese companies to start up projects there, but if you are talking about political influence ... I don't think China has the necessary conditions and abilities."

Beijing's ambiguous attitude to Kabul shows in official hesitance to open the border with Afghanistan. The frontier lies on a remote 76-km (47-mile) stretch of land at the end of the narrow valleys of the Wakhan Corridor.

But a dirt road leading up near China's side of a high pass -- reputedly used by Marco Polo -- is not matched on the Afghan side, where farmers and herders still live much as they did centuries ago.

China fears the spread of Islamic militancy from Afghanistan into its restive Western Xinjiang region, home to millions of Uighur Muslims, and instability in Afghanistan.

So it has an interest in Afghanistan's future, but has also watched the Soviet Union and the United States flounder there. As a result, Beijing plans to steer well clear of serious political or military engagement.

"China hopes there will be peace in Afghanistan, but as for what conditions there should be for peace, China has no seat on the negotiating table," said Ye Hailin, a researcher with the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in Beijing.

He added that Pakistan, rather than Afghanistan, was always Beijing's top choice for exerting influence in the region.

"In China, the phrase 'Af-Pak' does not exist," he said, referring to a term often used by Western diplomats and policy-makers, who consider the neighbors and their problems so closely linked they should be tackled together.

"Pakistan is a big Muslim sovereign nation; Afghanistan is a war-torn country eagerly awaiting reconstruction."

RESOURCE HUNT MUST GO ON

But the wait-and-see stance of Beijing when it comes to politics and security has not deterred Chinese firms' hunt for precious resources and profit.

In September, the China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), China's state-owned oil giant, was chosen as a preferred bidder for an oil field in northern Afghanistan.

"China has no choice, it has to go out to find resources to ensure energy security," said Lin Boqiang, director of think-tank the Center for Chinese Energy Economics Research.

"For China's state oil giants, they know clearly that they must take the risks, including risks in Afghanistan."

Chinese firms already have a stake in nearly 40 projects in Afghanistan, with contracts worth nearly $500 million at the end of June, according to Wu Gangchen, the commercial counselor at the Chinese Embassy.

"Reconstruction means markets, reconstruction means opportunity," Wu was quoted as saying in a recent interview with Beijing-based newspaper the International Business Daily.

He urged Chinese investors to keep their eyes open for possible deals in Afghanistan, particularly in the sectors of "energy, infrastructure, trade, service and processing."

CNPC appears to agree, and if it can finalize its intended oil deal with Kabul as expected in mid-October, it would be a good news for national airline Ariana as well. On the sunny Thursday flight, only about a third of the seats were taken.

Balkh Governor Eager to Lead Afghanistan's Jamiat-e-Islami Party
TOLOnews.com Monday, 03 October 2011
Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor has expressed an interest in leading Afghanistan's Jamiat-e-Islami party.

Jamiat-e-Islami was led by Burhanuddin Rabbani, a former president of Afghanistan and President Karzai's senior peace envoy, who was assassinated at his home by a man pretending to be a Taliban peace envoy.

Mr Noor said he will take the lead of the party to prevent it from splitting up.

For two months Salahuddin Rabbani, the elder son of Mr Rabbani, will lead the party; after that party members will vote to choose a new leader, Mr Noor said.

"There has been a lot of support [for me] from senior party members and if that continues I will take the lead," he said.

"If there are other candidates, I will accept the job after consultations in a bid to save the party from recession," Mr Noor added.

Jamiat-e-Islami party was established by Mr Rabbani 40 years ago and he was its leader until his death last month.

13 insurgents killed, 15 detained in Afghanistan
KABUL, Oct. 4 (Xinhua) -- Afghan security forces, backed by NATO-led Coalition forces, have eliminated 13 insurgents and detained 15 others in different parts of the country over the past 24 hours, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

"The Afghan National Police (ANP) in collaboration with the Afghan National Army (ANA) and Coalition Forces launched four joint operations in surrounding areas of the Laghman, Parwan, Faryab and Helmand province killing 13 armed insurgents and arresting 15 other suspected insurgents," the ministry said in a statement, providing daily operational updates.

Five more insurgents were injured in the same period of time, it said.

The ANP also discovered and confiscated 13 AK-47 assault rifles with 15 magazines, 606 light bullets, two explosive devices, 45 kg hashish, 5 kg heroin, 5 bags of opium and one motorbike, during the mentioned operations, the statement added.

Afghan officials often use the word "insurgents" referring to the Taliban militants.

The insurgent group, who stepped up their attacks on Afghan troops and about 130,000 NATO-led Coalition troops stationed in the country since a spring rebel offensive was launched in May this year in the country, has yet to make comments.

Separately, a soldier with the NATO-led Coalition forces was killed in an explosion in Afghanistan's eastern region on Tuesday, the ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) confirmed in a statement issued here Tuesday.

"An International Security Assistance Force service member died following an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in eastern Afghanistan today," the ISAF said in the statement without revealing the nationality of the causality under ISAF policy.

Over 460 NATO soldiers, most of them Americans, have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of this year.

Aid group pleads for medical supplies in Afghanistan
By Carmen Chai, Postmedia News October 4, 2011 7:02 PM canada.com
On most days, Julia Wight sees more than 800 kids with their mothers visiting a children's hospital situated in the heart of Kabul, Afghanistan.

Most patients have travelled to the Afghan capital from remote rural areas, hoping to cure illnesses that were too severe to treat at their local hospitals.

But Wight said that basic medicine, such as antibiotics, antiseptics and IV injectables, would be sufficient to help the hundreds of sick patients filing into doctors' offices across the impoverished, war-ravaged country.

The problem is that only 10 per cent of Afghan hospitals have access to limited supplies of medicine.

"Every time I come, there's news of less and less medicine getting to the hospitals. We're not talking about complicated medicine but basic things we take for granted at home but are necessities (in Afghanistan)," said Wight in a telephone interview from Kabul.

She and her aid work colleagues with the Capacity Building and Access to Medicines project are appealing to Canadian pharmaceutical companies to help by donating medical supplies to Afghanistan, where total expenditure on health care per capita is a meagre $29.

The five-year initiative, which received $10 million in funding from the federal government's Canadian International Development Agency, is focused on increasing the direct supply of basic medications to hospitals across Afghanistan.

Afghanistan has the world's highest infant mortality rate, with 311,000 kids — or one in four — dying before the age of five each year while one in every eight mothers die from pregnancy complications.

"Oftentimes children are coming to the hospital as a last-ditch effort, so patients are much more sick than they would typically see," said Wight, who has been travelling between Canada and Afghanistan for the past two years. She is the acting senior director of the initiative.

So far, Health Partners International of Canada, which is spearheading the program, is collaborating with about 20 to 25 Canadian pharmaceutical companies and Afghanistan's ministry of public health. About two years into the project, supplies worth just over $1 million have been provided through the initiative. About 19,000 people have been treated — 90 per cent of them were children, Wight said.

"We appreciate what has been done and we understand the limitations that exist but more needs to be done and interest needs to remain in Afghanistan. (The companies) are shipping (supplies) through the project, but we do have the capacity to send more medicine. There's just a lot more we'd like to do," Wight said.

The public health system in Afghanistan is "similar" to Canada, in that both nations offer free health care, she noted, but hospitals in Afghanistan don't have enough free medicine to distribute. Instead, patients are sent to buy their medication at local pharmacies, where the remaining 90 per cent of supplies are sent.

"This is frustrating for physicians who are trying very hard to diagnose these patients, because once they diagnose, there's no option for care," Wight said.

The program will run into 2014. Wight said that, by then, her team hopes medicine and supplies will be more readily available to health care facilities across Afghanistan.

Afghanistan was the top recipient of federal funding through CIDA, receiving $214 million in 2010-11, according to a development assistance report tabled in the House of Commons Monday.

"Through this work, Canada helps Afghan health professionals respond to illnesses such as bacterial meningitis, various pneumonias, septicemia, measles, infected fractures, dysentery, typhoid and other types of infections," Justin Broekema, press secretary to Bev Oda, the minister of international co-operation, said in an email.

The report said the government is continuing with its priorities on developing basic services, including health care, humanitarian assistance and repairing dozens of schools in regions of Kandahar province.

Afghanistan: Banned Filmmakers Find Warm Welcome in Kabul
October 4, 2011 - 2:01pm, by Aunohita Mojumdar EurasiaNet's Weekly Digest
Jafar Panahi may be stuck in an Iranian prison, but his film is playing in Afghanistan.

The popular Iranian neo-realist filmmaker was sentenced to six years last December for his alleged role in protesting his country’s contested 2009 presidential election. Panahi’s films are banned at home, but one – “Accordion,” an insightful short about two young buskers who have their accordion confiscated, only to find their oppressor trying to earn money with it – made its way across the border for Afghanistan’s inaugural Autumn Human Rights Film Festival in Kabul on October 1.

The festival, Afghan filmmakers hope, will become an annual showcase for films that are suppressed elsewhere around the region. “Though there are 33 human rights film festivals worldwide, there are none in this region. Bahrain was supposed to have one, but it was cancelled following the protests [in the spring] there,” festival director and filmmaker Malek Shafi’i told EurasiaNet.org.

Shafi’i said the international response has been heartening. Approximately 200 films were entered in the competition, of which 50 from 18 countries will be screened and considered for prizes. Beyond entries from neighboring states, films from Canada, Liberia, France, Saudi Arabia, Sweden and the United States are in the competition.

It has been difficult to get the directors to attend, given safety concerns. Though several had confirmed their participation, most westerners cancelled following the attack on the Kabul offices of the British Council in August. The film festival is being held at the French Institute of Afghanistan, a cultural hub run by the French Embassy.

Organizers had to strike a balance between security concerns and the need for publicity: they sent out detailed information only days before the opening to avert potential violent disruptions.

The themes of the festival – human rights with a focus on discrimination, injustice and violence – touch on sensitive topics in Afghanistan, where many powerbrokers have been accused of such wrongs during the country’s three decades of nearly uninterrupted strife. Afghanistan continues to suffer from “war, impunity and discrimination of all forms,” said James Rodehaver, the deputy director of the Human Rights Unit at the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan.

The documentaries, Rodehaver said, are intended to “inform, spark debate, provoke activism, and inspire people that were formerly inactive.”

Afghan filmmakers’ fiction and documentary contributions cover a range of issues: the alienation of Afghan refugees in Iran; child labor and poverty; rape; drug addiction; disability; and ethnic persecution. A chilling biopic, “Before I Was Good,” follows a young disfigured woman, Zahera, who immolated herself to protest against a forced marriage. “Half Value Life” documents the struggle of Maria Basheer, the first and only provincial chief prosecutor, as she deals with the violence faced by women in abusive domestic situations.

The films do not only cover dismal topics, however. “Look Who Is Driving” examines the director’s own efforts to challenge social taboos by enrolling herself in a Mazar-i-Sharif driving school.

In remarks made at the festival’s opening ceremonies, US Assistant Chief of Mission David Pearce praised the “courage” of the filmmakers “who took a stand” to better their communities and countries.

“Definitely people who are working on this are very courageous,” said Marianne Huber, country director of the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), Bern’s official aid arm. Both the SDC and the US government funded the festival, organized by the Afghan Cinema Club (BASA Film), which supports experimental filmmakers.

Asked whether she was worried the event could provoke violence, Diana Saqeb, the festival’s program director, told EurasiaNet.org that such concerns are too incapacitating to consider. “If I worry about what could happen to me, or my family, it would take all my energy so I don’t think about those things. I need that energy in order to do things like organizing this film festival,” Saqeb said.
Editor's note: Aunohita Mojumdar is an Indian freelance journalist based in Kabul.

The Man Behind Pakistani Spy Agency's Plot to Influence Washington
By Kim Barker, Habiba Nosheen, and Raheel Khursheed / ProPublica via theatlantic.com Oct 3 2011, 11:35 AM ET10
Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai came to the U.S. on Saudi money with hopes of helping people in the disputed Indian territory of Kashmir. But he found himself spending millions on behalf of Pakistan's notorious Inter-Services Intelligence and, now, under arrest

The night should have been a coup for Syed Ghulam Nabi Fai. Once a poor villager from halfway around the world, Fai had become the go-to man in Washington, D.C., for his cause, Kashmir, the Himalayan region long caught in a tug of war between Pakistan and India.

And there he was on March 4, 2010, hosting a fundraiser for Rep. Dan Burton, the Indiana Republican who had been the chief supporter in Congress of Fai's Kashmiri American Council for 20 years. In some ways, the event inside Fai's home in Fairfax, Va., symbolized everything that Fai had become, featuring speeches in the living room and kebabs and curries in the basement.

But it barely camouflaged how Fai's carefully built world was collapsing.

The FBI was monitoring almost every move Fai made, every e-mail he sent, every call he received. Investigators believed Fai's main donors were not well-meaning idealists, but members of the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, the most powerful of Pakistan's spy agencies.

Within weeks, the Justice Department would send Fai a letter of warning. Within months, he would be pulled over by New York police with $35,000 in cash in his car. And by the next year, Fai would be arrested, the unlikely central character in a scheme by a foreign government to pay more than $4 million to sway U.S. politicians and policy on Kashmir, the Justice Department says.

Fai's tale of rags to riches to arrest this summer is a lesson in how easy it is to win influence in Washington. Fai mingled with some of America's top politicians, meeting President Bill Clinton and drawing as many as 32 members of Congress to his annual conference on Kashmir. His access to power illustrates an issue that could become even more significant in this election cycle: foreign money illegally coming into U.S. political campaigns.

But the case, the first known criminal prosecution of its kind, could also involve much more. It is unfolding at a particularly sour moment in the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan, once a key ally in the war on terror. Fai's alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad, is a prominent Pakistani-American who runs one of the nicest hospitals in Pakistan. The FBI has allegedly questioned at least one witness about Ahmad's ties to a Pakistani nuclear scientist who once met with Osama bin Laden.

Fai long denied being an agent of Pakistan to the Indian press, the FBI and the Justice Department. That changed the day he was arrested. Then, the FBI says, he told an agent that for 15 years, the ISI had funneled money to him and directed him to attend certain conferences and even to report back on certain people.

"He was living a lie," Assistant U.S. Attorney Gordon Kromberg said at Fai's initial court hearing. "When he spoke to politicians, when he spoke to members of Congress, when he spoke to heads of state, he didn't say, 'I get my money from the ISI.'"

A Pakistani embassy official in Washington, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the case, said allegations that Fai and Ahmad were working for the ISI were false. "The ISI has no connection with these two persons," he said, adding that the FBI has not talked to anyone at the embassy about the investigation.

So far, Fai, 62, and Ahmad, 63, have been accused of failing to register as foreign agents, punishable by a maximum of five years in prison. Fai also has been accused of making false statements. But Ahmad--who is free in Pakistan--and Fai, released on $100,000 bond and under house arrest, may soon face other charges. A grand jury has been hearing evidence, and a recent deadline to indict the men or drop the case was extended by two months.

Typically, people at the center of such cases remain a mystery, refusing to speak about their predicament or what led up to it. Fai, a birdlike man with a sing-song voice and thinning hair combed to the side, declined to talk about the case against him. But in his only interview since his arrest, Fai offered a detailed account of his journey from being a victim of world events to, in some small way, a shaper of them. Another U.S. ally, Saudi Arabia, played a pivotal role in his transformation, he explained. Mostly, though, Fai spoke about Kashmir, which remains his focus even as his legal troubles rise.

"[My wife] said, 'You are not doing anything wrong, so you are helping your people of Kashmir,'" said Fai, sitting on a floral-patterned couch beneath a framed verse of the Holy Quran. "And we know it's not an easy job, but we have to live with it."

Fai was born in 1949, just after the first war between Pakistan and India over Kashmir. India had held onto the Muslim-majority territory during its partition with Pakistan, even though Pakistan claimed it. The U.N. brokered a truce and called for a plebiscite for Kashmiris, which never happened. Kashmir remained split.

Fai grew up in a poor farming village near poplars and rice paddies about 25 miles outside Srinagar, the summer capital of India's state of Jammu and Kashmir. His father was an Islamic cleric.

The struggle over Kashmir consumed Fai: He listened to speeches from Pakistan on an illicit transistor radio. He waited outside for eight hours to see a leader just released from jail. By 1965, India and Pakistan were again at war over Kashmir, and Fai recalled watching his family slaughter sheep and chickens, then taking food and clothes to Pakistani soldiers hiding in the forest.

That same year, at age 16, Fai married, his first wife said. The couple had two children. Both died young.

Fai attended college in Srinagar and fell in with the Jamaat-e-Islami, a fundamentalist South Asian Islamic group later linked to militant groups. He worked as the executive assistant to the local Jamaat founder, said Syed Atiqullah Ashiq, a Jamaat colleague and friend.

In 1976, shortly after India's prime minister declared an emergency and banned groups like Jamaat, Fai left home for a university outside Delhi and eventually for Saudi Arabia.

There, his life changed with one chance encounter in July 1980. A university dean encouraged Fai to reach out to the imam of Kaaba, the cleric who leads prayers at the holiest site in Islam. Fai recalled inviting the imam to a Kashmir conference sponsored by Jamaat in Srinagar. The cleric agreed. At the age of 31, Fai returned to Kashmir, escorting perhaps the most influential Islamic leader in the world.

Tens of thousands of people showed up to hear the imam give a series of speeches. At one point, the scene was so chaotic, Fai lost a shoe.

"It really revolutionized the whole thinking of the people of Kashmir: We are not alone," Fai recalled.

Fai and the imam of Kaaba played a pivotal role in introducing the strict Saudi vision of Islam to Kashmir, which traditionally had been more moderate, said Arif Jamal, a Pakistani journalist who has written a book on the shadow war in Kashmir and researched Fai's role.

After that visit, Fai left Kashmir and never returned to India. He said he heard he would be arrested for treason. Several family members said they hadn't heard from him since.

"No phone, no letter, nothing, no correspondence right from 1980 until now," said Syed Ghulam Mohiuddin Habib, Fai's half-brother.

"Ghulam Nabi never wrote to me, never sent any money," said Peera Bano, his first wife.

Fai said he didn't write or call because he didn't want to endanger his family. He also said he divorced his first wife, which she denies.

By the end of 1980, Fai landed in the U.S. Through the King Faisal Foundation, the Saudis agreed to pay for his schooling and living expenses, at least $50,000 a year. The Saudis even chose where he studied.

"They told me that you should to go to Temple University, because one of the giants of Islamic scholarship was there, in fact two giants," Fai recalled.

Ismail al-Faruqi had founded the Islamic studies program at Temple and would soon help found the International Institute of Islamic Thought. (The Institute later came under investigation in a federal probe into funding of anti-Israel terrorism, although no charges were filed.) Another professor, Seyyed Hossein Nasr, a respected Shia Islamic scholar, was trying to "Islamicize" the social sciences, Fai said.

At Temple, Fai became president of the Muslim Students Association of the U.S. & Canada, an organization started in part by members of the Muslim Brotherhood, which had spread from Egypt through the Middle East. Some branches of the Brotherhood were hardline; others, more moderate.

Fai also started working for the ISI in about 1985, while at Temple, according to correspondence cited by the FBI, although the affidavit does not make it clear what he was doing.

After earning his doctorate in 1988, Fai joined the advisory council for the Islamic Society of North America, or ISNA, an umbrella Islamic group started by the Muslim Students Association that also received Saudi funding.

Soon, violence bloomed again in Kashmir. The Indian military cracked down on indigenous groups. Pakistan's ISI was blamed for sponsoring insurgent groups across the border in Kashmir.

A confidential witness allegedly told FBI agents that in 1989, the ISI picked Fai to run the Kashmiri American Council because he had no overt ties to Pakistan. Similar groups were set up in London and Brussels, the FBI said.

Incorporation documents filed in Maryland in April 1990 show Fai was one of three people who established the Kashmir center. A second founder was Rafia Syeed, the wife of Sayyid Syeed, one of the organizers of ISNA. The third founder's father, who retired from the Pakistani military, also held a key post in a charity run by Fai's alleged accomplice, Zaheer Ahmad. None replied to requests for comment.

IRS filings show the group got start-up funds from two board members and a $20,000 loan from the North American Islamic Trust, an ISNA-linked group that hold titles to about 300 U.S. mosques, Islamic centers and schools.

Fai rented an office suite about three blocks from the White House, IRS records show. The Kashmiri American Council was open for business.

Within weeks of establishing the group, Fai made his first campaign contribution, $500 to Burton. Neither man would say how they met, but Burton--who later gained fame for investigating the Clintons as chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee--was a natural friend for Fai. The congressman had just sponsored a bill aiming to curtail aid to India until human rights abuse investigations were allowed, particularly in Punjab and Kashmir. "Not even the Red Cross has been allowed access to Kashmir," Burton announced on the House floor.

Months later, Fai invited people to the council's first delegates meeting at a Holiday Inn in Dayton, Ohio. Burton, Fai announced, had agreed to be the keynote speaker.

Over the next 20 years, Fai became the face of the separatist Kashmiri cause in the U.S. He never advocated publicly for Kashmir to join Pakistan, calling instead for "self-determination."

At first, Hafiz Mohammad Sabir--now an imam of one of the largest Pakistani mosques in Brooklyn--said he doubted Fai's commitment to Kashmir. "On that time, believe you me, he was alone," recalled Sabir, from the Pakistan side of Kashmir. "He cannot even come to the Kashmiri community and gather 10 Kashmiris."

But in about 1994, when Sabir was working as a cabdriver, he spotted Fai in midtown Manhattan, lugging a large bag through more than a foot of snow. Fai was handing out fliers about Kashmir, Sabir realized. He grabbed the bag, put it in his taxi and drove Fai wherever he wanted to go. After that, Sabir said, he helped Fai however he could, bringing busloads of mosque members to conferences in Washington and helping to spearhead protests in New York.

At about the same time, Fai was making inroads with U.S. politicians. In 1993, Fai wrote President Bill Clinton about the suffering of Kashmiris, winning news coverage when Clinton wrote back. In 1996, Fai met Republican presidential nominee Bob Dole at the Republican National Convention. In 2000, he met Clinton in Chicago, just before Clinton visited India.

Fai grew particularly close to a handful of House Republicans. In 2002, an ally of Fai's, Pennsylvania Rep. Joe Pitts, helped form a congressional forum on Kashmir. In an interview, Pitts said he met Fai after becoming interested in Kashmir, and felt that Fai wanted Kashmiris, Indians and Pakistanis to come up with a peaceful solution together. "Dr. Fai is an old gentleman, an American citizen interested in giving back to his homeland, interested in peace and peace talks," Pitts said.

Fai's most significant relationship was with Dan Burton. In 2004, Fai testified in front of Burton's subcommittee hearing on human-rights abuses in Kashmir. Burton introduced him personally, saying, "I've known Dr. Fai for a long time."

In 2007, Fai was given the American Spirit Medal, the highest award from the National Republican Senatorial Committee, for being committed to conservative principles.

Fai also leapt onto the world stage. He traveled to more than 40 countries, from Indonesia to Spain. Fai said he met with more than 1,000 ambassadors from around the world.

In Pakistan, Fai was treated like a visiting dignitary. In June 2009, Fai stayed at the best hotel in Islamabad and met the president, the prime minister and the foreign minister. A video from the trip showed Fai and President Asif Ali Zardari sitting in white armchairs, flanking a photo of Zardari's late wife, Benazir Bhutto.

Each year, starting in 2003, Fai co-hosted a Kashmir peace conference, usually on Capitol Hill. The 2007 conference drew Pitts, a dozen other members of Congress, and various Pakistani dignitaries, as well as a handful of Indian and Indian-American human-rights activists and scholars. Fai covered the expenses of almost all the attendees who traveled to Washington.

About 20 of Fai's guests then flew with him to Montevideo, Uruguay's capital, for a one-day conference on Kashmir. They met with a group of Uruguayan generals and attended sessions that ran over familiar ground.

"(Fai) spoke about the usual things," recalled Angana Chatterji, an Indian-American scholar who attended the event. "He has this list of dignitaries he brings up and issues like the UN treaties and self-determination."

Fai paid for the group's flights. He also covered accommodations at the Radisson, one of Montevideo's nicer hotels, having about $13,000 wired to him to cover the tab in cash, Sabir said.

By last year, Fai was in some ways living the American dream. His second wife, whom he met at Temple, had found a good job at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. They had bought a four-bedroom brick house in the Virginia suburbs, for more than $650,000. They had raised two children, one who studied at Ohio State University, the other at Stanford University.

But behind the scenes, things were unraveling.

As far back as 1991, stories in the Indian press referred to Fai as an "agent." The Indian embassy refused to send anyone to his conferences. Others were also suspicious: How did Fai have so much money? How could a shoestring nonprofit afford an office near the White House and a top-notch PR firm?

"I have always felt, and I know my view is widely shared by others working on the Kashmir issue in the Washington area, that Dr. Fai's Kashmiri American Council was subsidized by the Pakistan government," said Howard Schaffer, a former U.S. diplomat and Kashmir expert who has known Fai for about 15 years.

The Kashmiri American Council never operated like an ordinary charity, according to nonprofit experts. Money--sometimes in large increments of cash--passed through it in unusual ways.

Several council supporters said they had donated regularly, maybe a few thousand dollars at a time, and were unaware of the ISI's purported role in funding the group. But the FBI says the largest donations came from a group of at least 13 "straw donors," Pakistani-American doctors and businessmen who gave cash to Fai or wrote checks to the Kashmiri American Council. Several received tax write-offs for their contributions.

The straw donors were allegedly reimbursed by Zaheer Ahmad with money he received from the ISI.

At minimum, the write-offs violated U.S. tax laws, experts said. "That's not allowed," said Eli Bartov, a research professor of financial accounting at the Stern School of Business at New York University. "You can only get the deduction if you make the contribution."

But there was a larger mystery.

Internal budget documents confiscated by the FBI show far more money flowing through the Kashmiri American Council than reflected in the group's annual IRS filings. In its 2008 IRS filing, for example, the group reported spending $291,807, while the budget documents say it was more than twice that much, $690,380. In 2009, the council's reported spending was $332,706, while its internal records said $662,730.

So far, the government has not offered an explanation for these discrepancies. Fai did not answer questions on the matter.

Pablo Eisenberg, an expert on philanthropy and a senior fellow at the Georgetown Public Policy Institute, said there could be several reasons for the conflicting information.

"One is, he wants to downsize for public consumption," Eisenberg said of Fai. "Or ... he's taking the money to use for his own purposes, whether spending it on himself or giving it to some other organization."

It's also possible Fai reported money he received by check, but not in cash, particularly cash transferred to him outside the U.S., said Marcus Owens, the former head of the IRS unit that oversees nonprofits.

Fai's internal budget documents spelled out plans to spend $80,000 to $100,000 a year on campaign contributions to members of Congress, the FBI said.

But donations made by Fai, his associates and board members appear to fall far short of those amounts, campaign finance records show.

Fai has given $28,165 to federal candidates and political parties since 1990, including $10,290 to Burton and $9,500 to the National Republican Senatorial Committee. Others connected to Fai and to the Kashmiri American Council's board of directors donated at least $92,556 during those years, including $28,951 to Burton.

So far, the FBI has identified only $4,000 in ISI money that went into campaign contributions, from Ahmad and his nephew. Pitts and Burton received $2,000 each, the FBI said.

Ultimately, the affidavit may only tell part of what the FBI was actually investigating.

Agents first learned of the case in 2005, from an informant who wanted to reduce his jail sentence. The FBI's counterterrorism field office in Washington D.C. started looking into Fai--and more troubling allegations against Ahmad.

A Pakistani-American doctor, Gul Chughtai, who specializes in cancer treatment and clashed with Ahmad while head of the cancer department at Shifa hospital, said he first talked to the FBI about Ahmad four years ago.

Chughtai said he met with four agents at the FBI's Philadelphia office, including one from Washington's counterterrorism field office already investigating Ahmad. Chughtai said the agent has talked to him since, asking several times about a trip that Ahmad allegedly made to Afghanistan with an eccentric Pakistani nuclear scientist named Sultan Bashiruddin Mahmood.

Mahmood and another colleague had met with Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri in Afghanistan in August 2001, when the Al Qaeda leaders had allegedly inquired about nuclear weapons. Mahmood was later placed under house arrest and has been largely isolated in Islamabad since.

Chughtai, who in the 1990s had set up a MRI machine next door to Mahmood and knew that Mahmood and Ahmad were friendly, said he had heard rumors that Ahmad had once accompanied a nuclear scientist to see bin Laden, but had forgotten the scientist's name. And that was what the counterterrorism agent was most interested in.

"(He) called me and said, 'Dr. Chughtai, I have done more research about Zaheer than anybody else. I could do a thesis,'" Chughtai recalled. "He wanted me to send everything possible on Shifa. I faxed and faxed. One day he called and asked about Zaheer going with a nuclear scientist to see Osama. I said, 'I heard the story, don't remember the guy.' He asked if I would recognize the name. I said 'maybe.' He said 'Bashiruddin.' And that was the name I remembered."

Chughtai said the FBI agent also asked about people working in the Pakistani embassy in Washington, but he didn't recognize any names.

An FBI official confirmed that the agent met with Chughtai. but refused to discuss the investigation. The official also verified to ProPublica that the agent who talked to Chughtai worked on the same team as Sarah Linden, the FBI agent who signed the affidavit against Fai and Ahmad. The FBI requested that ProPublica not name the agent, to avoid compromising the investigation.

The FBI first questioned Fai in 2007, but seemed to step up its scrutiny in 2010.

That March, the Justice Department sent Fai a letter, telling him that the Indian press had reported that he was a Pakistani agent, and if so, he needed to register with the department as a foreign agent. Fai responded after several weeks, denying he was an agent of Pakistan.

Three months later, New York police pulled Fai over and found $35,000 in cash in his car. Fai claimed the money was from a man identified by the FBI as "Straw Donor B." After getting advice from Ahmad, the donor allegedly told the FBI that the money was from Sabir, the Brooklyn imam. But the cleric wasn't even in the U.S. when Fai was pulled over, the FBI said. In his interview with ProPublica, Sabir identified Straw Donor B as a man in his 30s named "Akif" and called him "a stupid boy." Sabir denied giving Akif money for Fai. ProPublica could not find Akif.

Despite the growing pressure, Fai kept traveling the world and kept asking the ISI for more money, the FBI said. Fai's lawyers have pointed out that Fai repeatedly chose to return to the U.S., despite knowing he was being watched.

To some, Fai's behavior indicated that he believed that he was protected.

"The ISI probably told him: 'Don't worry, you're taken care of, you're part of the tacit agreement we have with the CIA,'" said Vijay Sazawal, who is from the Indian side of Kashmir and started a rival Kashmiri group in the U.S. "He's not stupid. I have to believe he was confident he was shielded."

In February, Fai traveled to Pakistan, right about the time that U.S. and Pakistan relations were starting to fall apart. CIA operative Raymond Davis had been arrested for allegedly shooting two men in Lahore--the arrest and fallout heightened tensions between the countries.

When Fai returned home, his luggage was searched. Customs agents found what appeared to be excerpts of a court filing on Davis from the Lahore High Court. Within days, Linden, the FBI agent, visited Fai at home. She asked whether he knew anyone in the Pakistan government. Yes, he admitted. But he then suggested that none of them knew him, the FBI affidavit said.

Fai also allegedly showed Linden the court filing, which had a photocopy of a photograph of Fai on the back.

Linden testified that she e-mailed Fai on July 13, asking to meet again "to talk about the situation in Kashmir." Fai agreed.

She showed up at Fai's house after he returned from a trip to the United Kingdom, on the morning of July 18. Fai again denied working with the ISI.

That night, Fai went out to dinner with family and friends. After coming home, Fai or a family member called the police to report a suspicious car parked near Fai's driveway. FBI agents were in the car.

The next morning, Fai was arrested as he drove his wife toward the subway.

Before charges were publicly announced against Fai and Ahmad, agents fanned out across the U.S., questioning about 18 men linked to Ahmad, said Shafqat Chaudhary, who serves on the boards of Ahmad's hospital and his U.S. charity, the Society for International Help. Chaudhary, a Long Island businessman, said the FBI questioned him but declined to say what they asked. He said he wasn't involved in transferring money for Ahmad and had done nothing wrong. Chaudhary said none of the men questioned by the FBI had been arrested, as far as he knew.

Sabir said law-enforcement agents--he wasn't certain which agency they were from--also questioned him, showing him photographs of Chaudhary, Akif and Ahmad, alongside several photographs of men he didn't know. He said he had not moved money to Fai.

In a phone conversation, Ahmad said he was free and working at Shifa. "Until this case is finished, I can't discuss this," Ahmad said to a ProPublica reporter. "And it could be dangerous for you, too."

Some of Fai's supporters defended him. They pointed out that Fai was arrested the same day U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was in India, where officials had long complained about his group. They pointed out that Kromberg, the assistant U.S. attorney on the case, has been accused of anti-Muslim bias. They said they believe Fai was a victim of the chill in U.S.-Pakistan relations.

"They say that when two elephants fight, it's the grass that gets trampled," said Mirwaiz Umar Farooq, the leader of a moderate separatist group in Kashmir who always traveled with Fai when visiting the U.S. "Similarly, poor Fai has been a victim of these cross-agency wars."

At a detention hearing on July 26, Fai's lawyers indicated that they will argue that even if Fai got money from the ISI, he didn't follow their directions. "His message was always his own message," said one lawyer, Khurrum Wahid, in a press conference after the hearing. "It was never the message of the Pakistani government."

Some legal experts said the case raised questions about why the Justice Department would so aggressively pursue Fai--even asking for pretrial confinement--considering the relatively light charge. Charles Swift, a former military defense lawyer who has represented high-profile terror defendants in private practice, said he researched the registration law and could not find another case where criminal charges were pursued.

Even when the Irish Northern Aid Committee in New York was accused of being a front for the Irish Republican Army, the group was only sued civilly and eventually forced to register. A group of 10 Russian spies was charged with failing to register last year but were allowed to leave the country as part of a spy swap.

Several Kashmiris said they worried that the real victim in the case would be their struggle for self-determination.

"The Kashmir movement, as we talk about it in Washington D.C., was identified with Dr. Fai," said Mumtaz Wani, a lawyer in Washington from the Indian side of Kashmir. "And we find it's a huge setback to us. At this stage I don't feel that many in Congress will be willing to talk to us. Not even Dan Burton."

Burton and Pitts announced they would donate any campaign contributions linked to Fai and Ahmad to charity. The FBI affidavit says there's no evidence any politician knew Fai's money came from the ISI. "I was really stunned that he might be an agent, undisclosed and unregistered," Pitts said. "I was shocked."

After his arrest, Fai sat down for another interview with Linden.

This time, Fai admitted that he had been affiliated with the ISI for 15 years, and that no one on the Kashmiri American Council's board had known the group was funded by the ISI, Kromberg said at the detention hearing. Fai also allegedly wasn't just bankrolled by Pakistani spies. Instead, Kromberg said, Fai "agreed that the ISI directs him, Mr. Fai, to go to certain conferences and to report on certain people, including some that were mentioned in the criminal complaint."

Fai told ProPublica he's stopped talking to Ahmad, or anyone else in Pakistan. He said he doesn't want anyone else to get in trouble.

While under house arrest, Fai keeps working, even as he reports all his meetings to the FBI. He goes to the mosque to meet friends. He edits a new 54-page paper on Kashmir, focusing on topics such as the U.N. resolution from 1949 and the visit of the imam of Kaaba in 1980. He sends out emails to the Kashmiri American Council's mailing list, saying he will keep fighting for Kashmiris to decide their future.

"God willing!" he wrote in one. "I will continue to do that in days, weeks, months and years to come."

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