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Default [Afghan News] October 14, 2012 - 10-16-2012, 03:09 PM

Operations underway to locate 2 missing foreigners in Afghanistan
MAIDAN SHAHR, Afghanistan, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Search operations are underway to locate and rescue two foreign nationals who reprotedly went missing in Wardak province 35 km west of Kabul couple of days ago, police said Sunday.

"Police have launched search operations to locate and rescue two foreign nationals who have gone missing days ago," Wardak's provincial police spokesman Abdul Wali told Xinhua.

However, he declined to provide more details.

Two foreign nationals reportedly an American and a Canadian have gone missing during a journey on Ghazni-Kabul highway couple of days ago.

Meantime, Mohammad Ali Ahmad, the deputy governor of the neighboring Ghazni province, told Xinhua that both the foreigners and their Afghan driver went missing in Shashgao village of Sayed Abad district in Wardak province last Tuesday on their way to Kabul.

Zabihullah Mujahid who claims to speak for the Taliban outfit in talks with media via telephone from unknown location expressed ignorance over the subject.

Karzai: Afghanistan, Pakistan Should Coordinate Anti-terrorism Efforts
VOA News October 14, 2012
Afghanistan's president says he wants Afghanistan and Pakistan to mount a collaborative plan of action against terrorism and extremism.

Hamid Karzai has sent letters to Pakistan's political and religious leaders about the terrorist attack on 14-year-old Pakistani schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who was shot in the head and neck last week by the Taliban.

The president said in the letters that neighboring Afghanistan and Pakistan face "a dangerous enemy" who seeks to doom the present and the future of their countries to "darkness and ignorance."

Yousafzai was attacked Tuesday as she left school. She has been internationally recognized for promoting education for girls and documenting Taliban atrocities in the area near her home in the northwestern Swat Valley.

Yousafzai remains unconscious and on a ventilator.

On Saturday, children across Pakistan and Afghanistan prayed for her recovery.

On Friday, Pakistani police arrested several shooting suspects in Swat Valley.

Yousafzai wrote a blog published by the BBC, describing life under the Taliban in 2008 and 2009, when militants carried out beheadings and other violence in the Swat Valley.

A Taliban spokesman in the Swat Valley said Friday the group's leaders decided a few months ago to kill Yousafzai, and assigned gunmen to carry it out. The Taliban has said she is "pro-West," and that she denounced the militant group and called U.S. President Barack Obama her idol.

Kabul Criticizes Pakistani Politician Who Called Insurgency 'Jihad'
By RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan October 14, 2012
KABUL -- Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry has criticized a Pakistani politician who characterized the fighting in Afghanistan as a "jihad," or Islamic holy war.

Imran Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehrik-e Insaaf (Movement for Justice) party, said last week that "the people fighting against foreign occupation in Afghanistan are engaged in a jihad."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Janan Musazai said on October 14 that Khan's comments were dangerous and shameful.

Musazai said the comments showed that Khan is "either dangerously uninformed or has bad intentions" about the fighting in Afghanistan.

Khan is among the top Pakistani political and religious leaders who received a letter from Afghan President Hamid Karzai on October 13 asking for help to battle extremism in both countries.

Karzai invited the Pakistani leaders "to help both countries take a coordinated, collaborative, and serious action with strong determination against terrorism and extremism."

Karzai was quoted as saying in the letter that the recent Taliban attack on a teenage peace campaigner in Pakistan showed that the countries in the region face a "dangerous enemy who seeks to doom the present and future of their people to darkness and ignorance."

The statement was issued as millions of students in Afghanistan prayed on October 13 for the recovery of 14-year-old Malala Yousafzai.

She remains on a ventilator in a military hospital in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi after she was shot in the head and neck on October 9 by a gunman as she returned home from school in the northwestern Swat Valley.

Australian PM says to continue supporting Afghanistan after 2014
KABUL, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- The visiting Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard on Sunday said that the country will continue supporting Afghanistan after 2014 when the NATO-led coalition forces leave the country.

"The Australian Prime Minister in a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai today reaffirmed her country's support for Afghanistan after 2014 particularly in the field of health, education and training of Afghan security forces," the Karzai's office said in a statement.

Gillard paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan, where more than 1, 550 Australian soldiers are stationed to fight Taliban-led insurgency of more than a decade.

The two leaders also discussed the so-called green-on-blue insider attacks, when Afghan security forces or gunmen in their uniform turned their weapons against their NATO partners, the statement added.

A man in Afghan army uniform shot dead three Australian soldiers with the NATO-led coalition in southern Uruzgan province, where majority of the Australian forces are deployed, on Aug. 29.

Up to 52 NATO and U.S. soldiers have been killed in such attacks in 2012.

Afghan Boys Eke Living Amid Peril at Gorge
New York Times By GRAHAM BOWLEY October 13, 2012
MAHI PAR PASS, Afghanistan - Beneath the soaring faces of rock, on a treacherous road flanked by gaping drops, lines of trucks crawled up from the Pakistani border, groaning under impossible loads of house-size metal containers and boxes tottering under tarps.

Past them and between them nudged cars, vans and other trucks carrying furniture, women in burqas, open loads of cows and donkeys.

Amid the tidal wave of traffic, piercing the cacophony with their yelps and whistles, stood the Pepsi bottle boys. They earn their meager living by keeping the contractor trucks flowing on this section of the Jalalabad road, one of the main NATO supply routes to Kabul and one of Afghanistan’s deadliest stretches of road.

“I don’t like it, but I have to work and make some money,” said one of the boys, Samiullah, a grimy-faced 12-year-old wearing a red baseball cap.

He was guiding traffic at one of the scariest hairpin bends, where cars rushed two abreast down from a tunnel through the mountain and three rusted tankers lay upside down in the gorge below. “I can get killed at any time.”

Like all of the children on this road, Samiullah waved a flattened plastic soft drink bottle, the only tool of trade for these self-appointed traffic police.

The bottle was a symbol of his poverty; these children possess almost nothing else in the world. And it was also a signal to the truck drivers that they might want to toss a few afghanis down to him in return.

“Without us there would be a car crashed every day,” he said.

The war economy touches everybody in Afghanistan and will leave a desperate hole when it is gone — not least for the Pepsi bottle boys, a prime example of how Afghans have fit their lives around America’s military presence here.

These children flock from the bazaars of Pul-i-Charkhi in the poor eastern suburbs of Kabul to work for a few infernal hours on the Mahi Par Pass, but it is better than anything else they could have.

Late last year, they began to experience what life may be like after the Americans leave in 2014.

When Pakistan closed the border to NATO supply trucks in November, the trucks stopped coming, and business for these children slowed to almost nothing. Suddenly, they were out of jobs.

“Business was very low at the time,” said one young man, Ziaullah, who did not know his age but looked about 20. He cut a lonely figure in a dirty green tunic amid billowing fumes on the edge of the cracked road.

“It hurt our business a lot, because usually the drivers of the trucks are paying us money, not the small cars; they usually pay 10 to 20 Pakistani rupees,” or 10 or 20 cents, he said. “At that time I was earning 100 to 150 afghanis a day,” $2 to $3, “so I was dividing the money for different things: 50 for bread, 50 for sugar.”

Pakistan reopened the border in July, and the NATO supply convoys, driven by Pakistani and Afghan contractors, have resumed.

“I am happy if the road is open,” Ziaullah said. “It is good for my business and my family.” Ziaullah is the only person in his family who has a job, and he works so that his five brothers can go to school.

All of the boys up and down this five-mile stretch of winding switchback about 45 minutes east of Kabul tell life stories of deprivation and crushing poverty.

Samiullah has worked here every day for five years since his father was paralyzed and a family enemy killed his elder brother. His friend Jan Agha, 13, a quiet boy with a sad, dirty face, lost both his mother and father.

Not all of the Pepsi bottle boys are actually children.

Mohammedullah, 70, whose face is as craggy as the mountain rock looming above him, lost a leg in a mine blast during the Taliban’s rule. Now he perches by one of the curving tunnels for six days a week, taking only Fridays off.

He said the drivers are crazy, and if they ignore his advice and the road gets blocked, even for a short time, “it is like the end of the world here.”

“The small cars occasionally give me money, but sometime if I am lucky to catch a good and rich businessman or governor or a big military officer, then I am calling my home and telling them to cook meat soup,” he said. “That day my luck is flying in the sky.”

Two months ago he did not come to the road for 10 days because he had to take a family member to the hospital, and when he returned someone had taken his spot.

With the help of some soldiers and a local stall keeper, he persuaded the interloper to go farther down the mountain.

“It is like a chain,” he said. “Everyone gets his part of the chain.”

Most of the traffic shunters, old and young, seemed to resent their hard existence.

But not Ihsanullah, 10, another boy who stood on a high arc of road so steep the trucks struggled to a standstill and looked as though they were about to tumble backward.

A small, plump boy with a beaming face, wearing dirty sandals and a dirty gray tunic, he sported a luminous green traffic policeman’s vest and gave himself the name Traffic. He said he had been working on the same spot since he was 6.

Every day, he arrives here at 5 a.m., leaves for school at 8 a.m., and then returns in the afternoon, though sometimes his head is “twisting” from the fumes and noise, he said.

He pays 10 afghanis for a bus from his house in Pul-i-Charkhi to the Jalalabad station and then jumped a ride with the truckers.

His father, a watchmaker, died two years ago from diabetes. He gives the money he earns to his mother, who divides it among his four sisters and three brothers.

American military vehicles drive this road, but he said they usually do not give him money, only Pepsi, cookies and chocolates. It is the bigger commercial trucks that give him cash, though on this day he had gotten nothing.

When a truck nosed around the corner, Ihsanullah grew excited, striding out between the cars, waving his green plastic bottle, whistling the traffic around it.

“Go, go, go!” he cried. But the cars sped by without stopping.

Then a minibus driver held a note from a window. Another truck driver tossed a 10 Pakistani rupee note into the air with a wave.

Ihsanullah scuttled and swept it up. He strode back, his chubby face lighted up. “If I am not here for a few minutes or one or two or three days, then I miss being here. I enjoy being with my friends,” he said, turning back as another brightly painted truck growled over the hill. “I love it.”

Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting.

3 local Taliban leaders killed in Afghanistan: coalition
KABUL, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Afghan forces and the NATO-led coalition troops have increased military operations in post- Taliban Afghanistan and killed three Taliban leaders in the latest search operations, the coalition forces confirmed on Sunday.

"Afghan and coalition forces confirmed the death of a Taliban leader, Shafiullah, in an operation in Ghazni province Sunday. Shafiullah was a Taliban leader accused of planning and executing the May 29, 2011 attack that killed three coalition members," the coalition said in a statement providing daily operational updates.

In addition, the coalition confirmed the death of Taliban leader, Zafar Khan, in an operation also in eastern Ghazni province, 125 km south of Kabul on Wednesday.

"Khan, a Taliban leader who exercised command and control of the insurgency in a portion of Ghazni province, was also believed to be involved in the Sept. 9 attack on Jaghatu District Center."

In neighboring Logar province, 60 km south of Kabul, the joint forces killed a Haqqani leader Rahmatullah during a security operation on Saturday, according to the statement.

The Taliban-linked Haqqani network mostly operating in eastern Afghan provinces and capital Kabul is responsible for many high- profile attacks against the security forces.

"Rahmatullah, also known as Qari Moktar or Mohammad Qasim Qari, was responsible for coordinating direct fire and improvised explosive device attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Pul-e Alam district."

Separately, the joint forces arrest a Taliban leader in Helmand province, 555 km south of Kabul on Friday, the statement said, adding "he is allegedly responsible for directing multiple attacks targeting Afghan and coalition forces throughout Helmand province. "

The Afghan forces and some 100,000 NATO-led coalition troops have intensified cleanup operations against Taliban and other militants recently but the insurgents in retaliation responded by carrying out suicide attacks and roadside bombings.

Up to four Afghan intelligence agency personnel, two coalition soldiers and a civilian employee with the coalition were killed and three other people were wounded in a Taliban suicide bombing in Maruf district of southern Kandahar province on Saturday morning.

Viewpoint: Strategy shift for smooth Afghan transition
BBC News 14 October 2012
As Nato forces prepare to exit Afghanistan in 2014, the relevant players need to change tactics to ensure a peaceful future for the country, writes Ahmed Rashid.

Around the world and even in Afghanistan, there is an epic level of despondency and despair about the country's future, as US and Nato forces prepare to leave by 2014.

Pundits and politicians, as well as think-tanks and military officers have been full of doom and gloom. They predict continuing civil war, ethnic strife and the fragmentation of the Afghan army. They also see hordes of hungry Afghans streaming across borders, the unrest spreading to Pakistan and Central Asia.

Afghans themselves are voting with their feet. The wealthy are buying apartments in Dubai and government ministers are moving their families out.

Such analyses and fears are very similar to what happened in 1989 before the Soviet troops departed.

I was one of few journalists who at the time dismissed the US CIA assessment that the Afghan communist regime would last just three weeks.

Then too there were predictions about civil war, the army fragmenting, the break-up of the country and ethnic bloodshed.

In fact, the communist government lasted three years and only fell apart when its main benefactor, the Soviet Union, collapsed.

Today there are still alternatives to a better future if all the players realise the gravity of the situation and adopt strategies, with the major aim of stabilising Afghanistan and the region rather than cutting corners and concentrating on the military aspects of withdrawal.

Internal rivalries

The most important required change is for Washington to have a more strategic vision than it has shown so far.

Despite this summer's bloody Taliban offensive, I still firmly believe that the Taliban do not want the continuation of the war beyond 2014, nor do they want to seize total power.

Yet the Obama administration, beset by internal rivalries, has refused to prioritise the on-off two-year-long dialogue it has had with the Taliban.

The US military has failed to offer meaningful, confidence-building measures that could reduce the conflict and taper down the violence from both the US and the Taliban side.

The next US president will have 18 months to make talking to the Taliban his number one priority and aiming for a ceasefire with them before 2014.

This is only possible if the US has the will and a comprehensive strategy that brings in neighbouring powers, the UN and all the Afghan factions.

Moreover, the US and Nato also have to ensure a detailed dialogue with the Afghan government on constitutional and legal issues which will ensure a fair, fraud-free presidential election in 2014.

Likewise, President Hamid Karzai has to prioritise preparations for the elections which are way behind schedule - a move that is only intensifying speculation about his true intentions.

Filling the empty places in the Independent Election Commission, the Supreme Court and registering voters all need to happen in the next eight weeks.

Security crisis

Mr Karzai has to build confidence through a national consensus with parliament, leaders of major ethnic groups and the warlords to agree on the terms and conditions for the election, but there is no sign as yet that he is doing so.

The longer he delays the preparations for elections, the weaker he will become internally in the months ahead.

The potential crisis within the 350,000 security forces, which suffer from 90% illiteracy and a 20% desertion rate, as well as the recent killings of Nato soldiers by Afghan soldiers, need to be rapidly addressed.

Recent recruits deemed dangerous need to be quickly re-vetted, while the government needs to foster a national spirit in the army and inspire the officer corps.

Mr Karzai has so far failed to take sufficient interest in building up the army esprit de corps. Serious US-Taliban talks could also lead to a dramatic reduction in such deaths because clearly, many of these killings are orchestrated by the Taliban.

The US and Mr Karzai have also failed to build what Mr Obama promised in 2008 - a regional consensus among Afghanistan's neighbours not to interfere in the country's internal affairs after 2014.

With present US tensions with Pakistan and Iran - its two most influential neighbours - building such a consensus needs to be farmed out to the United Nations or any other global body as quickly as possible.

Taking initiative

The Pakistan military and its Interservices Intelligence (ISI), which decide on Pakistan's Afghan policy also need to change their attitude, as most Taliban leaders live in Pakistan and fuel the insurgency from there.

Rather than sit on the sidelines until 2014, the Pakistani military needs to take the initiative, pushing the Taliban into talks, containing their activities and logistics and giving them a deadline by which they must return home.

But this cannot be done in isolation without the US military also winding down their military operations.

More than any other neighbour, Pakistan has the ability to both ensure a final settlement or to sabotage one. There are signs that the Pakistan military is ever so slowly trying to change course. Productive discussions have taken place between army chief, Gen Ashfaq Kayani, and senior US officials.

But the military also needs to understand the overwhelming dislike of Pakistan that now affects Afghans of all political stripes, including the Taliban.

The army must act humbly and in a modest way that genuinely places the Afghan government in the driving seat.

Until now Islamabad has produced bluster and rhetoric about helping the peace process, but in reality it has delivered little.

Iran needs to be quickly bought into dialogue despite the tensions between Tehran and the West over its nuclear program.

If the US is unable to talk to the Iranians, others like trusted Nato allies who have a dialogue with Tehran or the UN can do so.

Clearly what is needed for a peaceful outcome by 2014 is a change in strategy, tactics and a more visionary approach by all players.

Although recognising that many of these desirable policy changes are still a wish list, all of them can be relatively easily implemented.

There is no rocket science involved. All these issues have been talked about and discussed for years in countless forums. What is needed now is implementation.

The players need to trust each other and help fulfil the political rather than the military needs of the next 18 months.

Above all, the next US president needs to make a peaceful Afghan settlement his top foreign policy agenda and Mr Karzai needs to prepare his departure with grace, elegance and consensus.

That way he goes down in history books as the father of modern-day Afghanistan, living at peace with itself and its neighbours.

Ahmed Rashid's book, Taliban, was updated and reissued recently on the 10th anniversary of its publication. His latest book is Pakistan on the Brink: The future of Pakistan, Afghanistan and the West.

Afghanistan Tests Out New Civil-Service Hiring System
By Farangis Najibullah, Zarif Nazar Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty October 14, 2012
If you were appointed a district governor in Afghanistan, how would you tackle security challenges?

For that matter, how would you provide equal rights for women in a deeply conservative society? And how would you implement government policies in an area where there is not much trust or support for government?

Those are the types of questions currently being posed to hundreds of job candidates as Afghanistan tests out revamped hiring procedures for civil-service positions.

The effort is part of the country's larger effort to fight corruption, and is aimed at changing a firmly entrenched culture of favoritism when filling government positions ranging from lofty gubernatorial posts to more modest secretarial roles.

Whereas the well-connected, or those willing to pay bribes, often got the inside track to gaining employment in such positions, the emphasis now is to hire based on merit.

The organization tasked with overseeing the new procedures, Afghanistan's Independent Administrative Reforms and Civil Service Commission (IACSC), says it has taken every precaution to ensure there will be no room for fraud.

Steps taken include an evaluation process under which tests are graded with the applicants' names kept anonymous to leave no room for favoritism.

The results are to be released within days, and applicants are given the right to appeal -- or even take legal action -- if they are dissatisfied with the testing and interview processes.

Finally, outside advisers culled from various government and private entities are brought in to monitor every stage -- from the short-listing of candidates, to the written tests, to personal interviews.

Removing Bias

Since the new system was launched last month, the IACSC says it has received nearly 2,000 applications from candidates looking to become deputy provincial governors, district governors, or administrative positions in various central or provincial departments.

In the case of the 11 deputy provincial governorships, and 100 district governorships advertized, the IACSC organized two separate tests to select the best candidates.

Azizullah Ariyafar, department head at the IACSC, says some 300 candidates -- shortlisted based on their educational background and job experience -- took part in each test.

"In written tests, candidates answered six questions relevant to the jobs they had applied for -- including on strategy and planning and other managerial issues," Ariyafar says. "The questions were prepared literally an hour before the tests began."

According to Ariyafar, job applicants' ethnic backgrounds and political affiliations played no role in the selection process.

For those who successfully pass the written tests, the next and final stage is a personal job interview. Successful applicants are to be hired immediately after the interview.

Kabir Ahmad Rahil traveled to Kabul from his village of Dawlatshahi in the northern Parwan Province in hopes of landing a job as a district governor.

Unemployed for the past three months, the 50-year-old father of eight says he first found out about the tests through advertisements broadcast on national television and radio for the past several months.

"God willing, I will successfully pass the test and get the job I applied for," Rahil says. "I am confident."

Written and reported by Farangis Najibullah, with additional reporting by RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan's Zarif Nazar

15 Convicted Afghans Return from Tajikistan Saturday, 13 October 2012
Fifteen Afghans who were imprisoned in Tajikistan were handed over to the government Saturday to serve their sentences in Afghanistan.

Afghan Ambassador in Dushanbe Abdulghafoor Arezoo said Saturday that the prisoners were sent to Kabul today, following a prisoner exchange agreement between Afghanistan and Tajikistan which allowed Afghan nationals to carry out their jail terms in Afghan prisons.

Arezoo added that most of these prisoners were convicted after being accused of forging or duplicating documents and trafficking drugs.

Arezoo said there are more than 80 Afghan citizens serving their time in prisons in Tajikistan and efforts to transfer the remaining prisoners to Afghan jails continue.

400,000 blinds live in Afghanistan
KABUL, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- As the Afghans are observing the World Sight Day, some 400,000 blinds are living in the conflict- ridden Afghanistan, the spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health confirmed Sunday.

"Presently around 400,000 blinds exist in Afghanistan and some 25,000 Afghans lose at least the sight of one of their eyes annually in the country due to illness and other problems," Kaneshka Baktash told Xinhua.

However, he stated that the number of blinds in the war-torn country is going to drop down due to providing health services for the citizens, saying since establishing health clinics in rural areas over the past decade, the number of blinds is going to go down.

More than 80 percent of Afghanistan's some 28 million populations have access to health services in the post-Taliban Afghanistan, according to officials.
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