[Afghan News] October 12, 2011 - 02-16-2012, 05:25 PM
Afghanistan has rich seams of minerals, worth up to $3tn, but systems to ensure transparency and control of revenue flows must quickly be put in place in the extractive sector
Guardian.co.uk By Eleanor Nichol Wednesday 12 October 2011
For all the column inches and hours of negotiations spent discussing Afghanistan's recent past, present and future, one of the most pressing parts of the puzzle remains largely overlooked and poorly understood. The country sits on top of vast mineral deposits, which, if properly managed, offer the best chance of lifting a generation out of poverty and weaning the country off international aid.
Afghanistan houses rich seams of copper, iron, gold, lithium and rare earth deposits worth up to $3 trillion, according to the Afghan government. Unsurprisingly, the government and international community are eager to see these resources exploited. The plan is to sell off rights to access many of the country's mineral deposits over the next three years in the runup to transition in 2014 – potentially releasing a vast amount of revenue for the Afghan economy.
What happens to that money will largely depend on the decisions taken by the Afghan government, its international allies and investing companies over the next three years. With the right systems in place to govern a fast-emerging extractive sector, these revenue streams could bridge the funding gap left by a cash-strapped OECD community that is looking to reduce Afghan dependence on its money post-2014.
But it could just as easily go the other way. The billions of aid dollars invested over the past 10 years have not produced the intended results. As of this January, an estimated $286.4bn had been invested in Afghanistan since the invasion – that's $9,426 per head of population. Despite this spending, the country remains hugely dependent on aid, with many Afghans living on less than $1 a day. Meanwhile, allegations of massive diversion of funds and grand corruption abound. There is very little in place to stop the benefits of the extractive sector following suit. This would not only let a priceless opportunity for much-needed development pass; it could turn the mining sector into a fresh axis of conflict and instability.
So the stakes are high, and there is not much time to act. The next three years leave a narrow window of opportunity to shape the sector and embed transparency before exploration and extraction starts, and revenues begin to flow in bigger numbers. Once bad practice sets in, it takes decades to undo, by which time the benefits have been lost to the civilian population.
Countries such as Cambodia, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville have all emerged from conflict with huge potential resource wealth, but the benefits have been squandered while basic services have been propped up by donor aid. Meanwhile, the civilian population remains impoverished. Afghanistan can avoid this fate, but must act quickly if it is to do so.
The next few months will be crucial. Before the year is out, conferences in Istanbul and Bonn will decide international strategies on Afghanistan for the coming years. Participants must take this chance to bring together all actors – private and public – to devise a system of checks and balances to ensure that the drive to generate alternative financing for development doesn't end up fuelling conflict or corruption. This means embedding clear processes for the award of extractive concessions; requiring extractive companies to disclose revenue paid to the state on a project-by-project basis; setting up sound legal, regulatory and contractual frameworks that safeguard social, environmental and human rights; publishing beneficial ownership details of companies engaged in the sector; and ensuring Afghans are consulted on, and can monitor, mining activities.
In the country itself, there are promising signs – it is a candidate for the international Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, a voluntary scheme that brings together government, civil society and companies to build a transparent and accountable extractive sector. The minister of mines, Wahidullah Shahrani, has gone on record in support of greater transparency.
Capitalising on these encouraging signs as well as the opportunities over the next few months could mean Afghanistan can turn the tide and become a world leader in transparent resource management. But if these small but significant gains are to be consolidated, the country's western donors also need to step up. Piling in billions of dollars more without making sure one of the country's biggest potential future industries is in good shape makes no sense for Afghans or for cash-strapped donors.
Donors must use their influence to shape a vibrant, transparent and sustainable economy. This means putting governance and transparency at the heart of their interventions across the board – and linking their aid to this.
It is a well-recognised paradox that some of the world's poorest countries are rich in the natural resources that drive the global economy. Afghanistan fits that profile, but it has the chance to be an exception to this depressing rule because its extractive sector is not properly formed and its minerals have not yet been sold. The international community's legacy in this region will be the subject of fierce debate for a long time to come, so getting to work with the Afghan government on sorting out the mineral sector could prove decisive in the ultimate shape of that legacy.
• Eleanor Nichol is a campaign leader for the corruption team at Global Witness
U.S. open to Afghan peace deal including Haqqani
Reuters By Warren Strobel Tue Oct 11, 2011
WASHINGTON - Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Tuesday signaled the United States remains open to exploring a peace deal including the Haqqani network, the militant group that U.S. officials blame for a campaign of high-profile violence that could jeopardize Washington's plans for withdrawing smoothly from Afghanistan.
"Where we are right now is that we view the Haqqanis and other of their ilk as, you know, being adversaries and being very dangerous to Americans, Afghans and coalition members inside Afghanistan, but we are not shutting the door on trying to determine whether there is some path forward," Clinton said when asked whether she believed members of the Haqqani network might reconcile with the Afghan government.
"It's too soon to tell whether any of these groups or any individuals within them are serious," she said in an interview with Reuters.
Inclusion of the Haqqani network in a hoped-for peace deal -- now a chief objective in the Obama administration's Afghanistan policy after a decade of war -- is a controversial idea in Washington.
Officials blame the group for last month's attack on the U.S. embassy in Kabul and a truck bombing that injured scores of American soldiers.
The State Department is facing heat from Capitol Hill for refraining, at least so far, from officially designating the Haqqani group, which U.S. officials say is based in western Pakistan, as a terrorist organization.
The White House has backed away from assertions from Admiral Mike Mullen, who was the top U.S. military officer until he retired last month, that Pakistani intelligence supported the Haqqani network in the September 13 embassy attack.
But President Barack Obama and others have put their sometimes-ally Pakistan on notice that it must crack down on militants or risk severing a key relationship.
According to media reports, U.S. officials have held meetings with Haqqani network representatives as part of their efforts -- which have not yet yielded any visible results -- to strike a peace deal, but the State Department declines to discuss details of the reconciliation process.
In recent months reconciliation has become a more prominent feature of Obama's Afghan strategy even as U.S. and NATO soldiers continued to battle the Taliban and Haqqani militants in Afghanistan's volatile south and east.
Earlier this year, Clinton advanced a peace deal as a key plank of regional policy for the first time, saying Washington would support a settlement between the Afghan government and those militant groups that meet certain requirements, including renouncing violence and supporting the Afghan constitution.
Despite the conciliatory signals, Clinton said the United States would stick to its military campaign that the White House hopes will make militants more likely to enter serious negotiations.
"Now, it is also true that we are still trying to kill and capture or neutralize them (the Haqqani network)," Clinton said. "And they are still trying to, you know, kill as many Americans, Afghans and coalition members as they can."
"In many instances where there is an ongoing conflict, you are fighting and looking to talk," Clinton said. "And then eventually maybe you are fighting and talking. And then maybe you've got a ceasefire. And then maybe you are just talking."
It is unclear how quickly a peace deal could be had, as it remains unclear how military commanders can achieve and defend security improvements as the foreign force in Afghanistan gradually grows smaller.
While parts of the Taliban's southern heartland are safer than they were, Obama will be withdrawing the extra troops he sent to Afghanistan in 2010 just as commanders' focus turns to the rugged eastern regions where the Haqqani group are believed to operate.
Clinton did not directly address the question of designating the Haqqani network as a 'foreign terrorist organization,' but suggested the United States would want to keep its options open as it seeks peace in a region known for historic merry-go-round of political and military alliances.
"It's always difficult in this stage of a conflict, as you think through what is the resolution you are seeking and how do you best obtain it, to really know where you'll be in two months, four months, six months," Clinton said.
"We are going to support the Afghans and they want to continue to see whether there is any way forward or whether you can see some of the groups or their leaders willing to break with others."
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Andrew Quinn; Writing by Missy Ryan; Editing by Warren Strobel and Paul Simao)
Afghan, NATO forces kill 118 insurgents in 18 days as pressure mounting on Taliban
by Farid Behbud, Abdul Haleem
KABUL, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- Afghan and NATO-led Coalition forces have killed 118 insurgents in 18 days as mounting pressure against Taliban outfit continues, spokesman for Afghan Defense Ministry General Zahir Azimi said Wednesday.
"One hundred eighteen insurgents have been killed, 30 injured and 930 more suspected insurgents have been detained during the joint and independent operations carried out by Afghan National Army (ANA) and Coalition forces over the past 18 days in different parts of the country," Azimi told journalists here in Kabul at a joint press conference with the spokesman of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Brigadier General Carsten Jacobson.
According to Azimi, the joint forces have also seized 64 pieces of different kinds of weapons and ammunition including Improvised Explosive Device (IED) over the mentioned operation from across the war-battered country.
The Taliban-led insurgency has been rampant since the militant group launched spring offensive from May 1 against Afghan and NATO- led troops stationed in Afghanistan.
Azimi also admitted at the press conference that the Taliban- led clashes and IED blasts had claimed the lives of 31 Afghan soldiers and left 134 others injured over the past 18 days.
Speaking at the press conference, General Carsten, Jacobson the spokesman of NATO-led troops, expressed the alliance commitment towards Afghan government to enable it ensure its security.
"We have managed to chase the insurgents out of the most populated areas, out of large parts of Afghanistan and we will continue to do so to deny them sanctuaries," the spokesman of over 130,000-strong NATO-led forces said.
As a sign of exerting pressure on Taliban, the Afghan police have also been hugely contributing in war on insurgents to stabilize security in the militancy-plagued Afghanistan.
"Afghan National Police (ANP) have discovered and confiscated four anti-vehicle mines, 11 boxes of automatic machine gun bullets, 20 rounds of mortar mines, four hand grenades, 78 BM-1 rockets, 14 artillery shells, four rocket launchers and explosive devices during series of operations from across the country over the past 24 hours," Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement on Wednesday.
A Closer Look at the Haqqani Anniversary Attack on American-Afghan Outposts
New York Times By C.J. CHIVERS October 11, 2011
FORWARD OPERATING BASE ORGUN-E, Afghanistan - Last Friday, on the 10th anniversary of the start of the Afghan war, at least several dozen fighters from the Haqqani insurgent network launched a complex attack against multiple American-Afghan outposts near the Pakistan border.
Firing scores of high-explosive rockets and mortar rounds, they struck nearly simultaneously at outposts occupied by the 2nd Battalion, 28th Infantry Regiment, and, using a tactic that has succeeded elsewhere, they tried to breach one of the positions with a suicide truck bomb and a contingent of gunmen on foot.
The significance of the attack was, as is often the case, a matter of uncertainty and dispute. The American-led NATO command framed the Haqqani attack as a failure. In the tactical sense this might be so. For all of the effort, the attackers managed to wound only one American soldier, and his wounds were not serious. American machine guns, artillery, attack helicopters and aircraft, firing munitions throughout much of the day, stopped the advancing fighters short of an outpost they apparently had hoped to overrun.
But as a strategic matter, the attack came with a message some soldiers found startling, if grudgingly so. It showed that even after the Pentagon has had its troop levels at a peak for two full so-called fighting seasons, the insurgents who crisscross between Pakistan and Afghanistan remained able to plan complicated attacks and to mass fighters and weapons against multiple American bases at once. And their rocket and mortar fire was accurate. Many rounds, fired from the distance, struck squarely within the outposts – a feat that suggested a considerable degree of training and skill.
Moreover, though all of the Haqqani firing positions were within Afghanistan, some of them were within hundreds of yards of the border with Pakistan – a fact pointing toward the sanctuary from where, soldiers said, the coordinated assault was likely planned and where the dozens of 107-millimeter rockets fired against the American soldiers were probably acquired.
And then there was this question: What might happen in a similar attack against Afghan outposts without American military presence?
The relative weakness of the Afghan security forces was on full display. This battle was fought with American communications networks and American firepower. The distant Haqqani firing positions and an apparent cluster of Haqqani fighters were stopped or silenced by a suite of modern American weapons systems — helicopter gunships, artillery, attack aircraft and GPS-guided bombs — that the Afghans either do not possess or do not know how to use. One example: Lt. Col. John V. Meyer, the battalion’s commander, said that 14,000 pounds of munitions were dropped from aircraft during the daylong fight.
(At Forward Operating Base Tillman, where the photographer Tyler Hicks and I were present for the fighting, the Afghan soldiers did not participate at all. As the rockets came in and American officers and noncommissioned officers tracked the battle in an operations room, and coordinated and calibrated their return fire from the gun line, the Afghan Army representatives in the room excused themselves, left the room for roughly 30 minutes and returned with plates of food. Beyond that poorly timed display of appetite, they did nothing further that could be observed.)
But for the moment, let’s set the larger analysis aside, and be reminded of something else. It is one of the things that conventional infantry soldiers are often told, and sometimes get to see: that there are moments in war when one or two alert people, properly equipped and willing to act, can determine the local outcome of a fight.
In this case, those two people, several officers said, were Sgt. Bekzod Alimbekov and Pfc. Jorge Garcia, who were assigned to machine-gun duty with the battalion’s Company C at Combat Outpost Margah.
When the day began, there was no indication that machine guns would matter as much as they did.
The first sign of the attack was a sole 107-millimeter high-explosive rocket, fired from near the border with Pakistan, that slammed to the ground and exploded beside Forward Operating Base Tillman shortly after 6 a.m. The 105-millimeter howitzer section at the base began to return fire with a mix of high-explosive and white phosphorous rounds — the start of a long-range duel in which infantrymen typically have a limited role.
This was only the beginning. By 7:50 a.m., the incoming barrage had expanded and was escalating. Combat Outpost Boris and Combat Outpost Margah were also reporting that they were taking fire. At Margah, officers said, the fire was intense and coming from several positions.
Over the next several hours, 127 high-explosive rockets or mortar rounds in all would be fired on the American positions, including 111 that were directed at Margah, according to the counter-battery radar records. Rounds would also land near Observation Post Twins and beside an Afghan post near Forward Operating Base Orgun-e.
During this time the attack on Margah, officers said, developed into something potentially much worse – a coordinated ground assault, including an effort to breach the outpost’s walls.
Margah was the hardest hit with rockets and mortars. And as the continuous explosions there boomed, the attackers had several ambitions, including, according to Colonel Meyer, pinning down the outpost’s defenses so that other Haqqani fighters, in hiding nearby, might rush the walls.
“They thought it would make us keep our heads down,” Colonel Meyer said. “Obviously we were not quite that stupid.”
A few buildings stand several hundred yards from Combat Outpost Margah, and, at shortly after 8 a.m., as the rocket attack continued, a black truck pulled out from behind one of the walls. It began to accelerate toward one of the outpost’s gates. In the confusion of the rocket barrage, the attack had a new element: a truck bomb.
Two American soldiers posted with machine guns on a rooftop bunker — Sergeant Alimbekov and Private Garcia — saw the truck speeding toward them. As it drew close, Colonel Meyer said, they opened fire with M240 machine guns.
A review of the security-camera video at the outpost would later show what happened next. One of the bursts ruptured one of the truck’s rear tires. Others penetrated the truck’s cab, where the driver sat. About 50 yards from the gate, the truck came to a stop.
Next the soldiers turned a Mk-19 machine gun on the truck. This is a weapon that fires bursts of 40-millimeter grenades. As the grenades hit the truck, one of them detonated the vehicle’s payload – which an ordnance disposal specialist later estimated to be an explosive charge weighing a few hundred pounds. The result can be seen below.
The truck vanished in a thunderous flash, and a blast wave slammed into the walls. One soldier was wounded, suffering an apparent concussion. But the defenses had held.
Minutes after the explosion, the outpost began to take gunfire from buildings near where the truck had begun its failed rush. Shortly before 9 a.m. Colonel Meyer directed aircraft to drop 4 GBU-38s – the military’s acronym for 500-pound, GPS-guided bombs — on one of the buildings from where much of the gunfire was coming.
Fighting continued for several hours, including an airstrike against fighters fleeing toward Pakistan. But at this point the battle had probably turned. The threat of Combat Outpost Margah being breached was likely to have passed.
Colonel Meyer has recommended that Sergeant Alimbekov and Private Garcia each be awarded an Army Commendation Medals with a Valor Device. The award submissions are under review, officers in the task force said, and, if approved, could be presented to the soldiers as soon as this weekend.
Different people will assess the meaning of the Haqqani attacks on Oct. 7 in different ways — as a sign of Haqqani strength or weakness, an indicator of robust logistics and meticulous coordination or of end-of-the-fighting-season desperation. Some elements of the attack didn’t make clear tactical sense, including the decision to attack Margah by daylight across open flat ground – conditions that allowed the most important thrust to be thwarted by two men with machine guns.
“What does it all mean? We’re still trying to figure it out,” said Col. Edward Bohnemann, commander of the 172nd Infantry Brigade. “We’re trying to put Oct. 7 together and into context.”
Wherever one stands on those questions, two young enlisted soldiers in a bunker appeared to have stopped the crucial component of the attack, and potentially saved many lives. Colonel Bohnemann said he expected to approve their battlefield awards, which will reinforce something every grunt hears when training for war: some days a couple of guys with rifles or machine guns decide how a fight ends.
Afghanistan Sees Increase in Poppy Cultivation
New York Times By JACK HEALY October 11, 2011
KABUL, Afghanistan - Despite increased efforts to destroy fields of opium poppies and wean Afghan farmers off the country’s biggest cash crop, poppy cultivation in Afghanistan rose in 2011 and spread into areas once declared “poppy free,” according to a United Nations survey released Tuesday.
The United Nations drug control agency said that insecurity and soaring opium prices in Afghanistan — the world’s largest opium producer — were the driving factors in a 7 percent increase in the amount of land sown with poppies. It was the second year in a row of rising poppy cultivation.
The increase amounts to a troubling signal for Afghan and Western officials who have spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to disrupt opium-smuggling operations and the insurgent networks that profit from them, while also cajoling poppy farmers to switch to legal crops like wheat, pomegranates or saffron.
Their efforts have run headlong into the increasingly powerful economic incentives behind poppy growing, whereby one acre of land can produce more than $4,000 worth of opium. Officials are also confronting rising levels of drug addiction as more Afghans take advantage of relatively cheap, high-quality heroin and opium.
The value of the opium produced in Afghanistan is set to more than double this year to $1.4 billion — equal to 9 percent of Afghanistan’s entire economy — as prices continued to rise and fields rebounded from an infection that blighted last year’s poppy harvest.
“It had a very serious effect on persuading farmers, drug smugglers and landlords to cultivate poppy,” said Zarar Ahmad Muqbil, the Afghan counternarcotics minister.
Counternarcotics officials say that much of the money from opium production and smuggling flows to insurgent groups, drug traders and warlords, as well as corrupt politicians and security forces, undermining the Afghan government’s influence and the rule of law in wide swaths of the country.
Troublingly, the footprint of poppy cultivation continued to expand across Afghanistan, as it spread outside the southern and western regions where the overwhelming majority of opium is produced. The northern provinces of Baghlan and Faryab and the eastern province of Kapisa, which is just north of Kabul, lost their status as “poppy free” areas this year.
In all, 17 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are now declared free of substantial poppy growth — a distinction that qualifies them for $1 million in funds from the American and Afghan governments.
The expansion of poppy cultivation comes even as eradication efforts led by the Afghan government rose by 65 percent from last year. But the measures touched only the tiniest sliver of the farmlands where the brilliantly colored flowers bloom, and they increasingly put eradication teams in the cross hairs of militants and armed groups. The United Nations reported there were 48 attacks on eradication teams this year, compared with 12 attacks in 2010.
In one bright spot, Afghan counternarcotics officials said they had reduced poppy cultivation in the southern Helmand Province, the epicenter of opium production, which accounts for about half of Afghanistan’s 131,000 cultivated hectares of poppies.
The United Nations drug control agency said that the acreage of poppy fields in Helmand shrank by 3 percent from last year, in large part because of cooperation from the local governor and targeted international aid.
But the agency said it lacked the resources and political support to replicate that progress across the country. In Kandahar Province, adjacent to Helmand, cultivation went up 5 percent.
At a news conference on Tuesday, Afghan officials ticked off the obstacles they face: corrupt police officers and commanders in various districts who support smugglers, a lack of counternarcotics police officers and dwindling time to confront the problem before international forces leave.
NZ promises strict monitoring of Afghan detainee treatment
WELLINGTON, Oct. 12 (Xinhua) -- New Zealand has pledged to monitor treatment of people detained by its forces in Afghanistan, following a United Nations report exposing torture in Afghan jails.
The report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) detailed inappropriate behavior against and mistreatment of prisoners in detention facilities of Afghan security agencies based on interviews with about 380 prisoners.
"We have checked our procedures since we became aware of this report in early September and are confident that we have robust systems in place," said New Zealand Defence Minister Wayne Mapp.
New Zealand has a legal officer at the NATO/ISAF (International Security Assistance Force) headquarters in Kabul to ensure proper monitoring, said Mapp.
"The key point from this report and its recommendations to contributing nations is that the United Nations wants us to stay in Afghanistan and continue to train the people we are working with in professional and humane conduct of their duties.
"This is the most important thing we can do to increase respect for the rule of law in Afghanistan," he said.
New Zealand was working with its Afghan partner, the Afghan National Police Crisis Response Unit (CRU), to ensure that detainees were not transferred to facilities where they might be tortured.
"We have no information that any persons arrested by the CRU have been tortured," said Mapp.
The NATO/ISAF team had been working with the Ministry of the Interior to ensure people arrested by partnered units were treated in accordance with international law.
The New Zealand Defence Force already had a process under which only the Chief of Defence Force could authorize the transfer of a detainee to any other authority in Afghanistan, and he would not authorize such a transfer if there were any credible evidence that the person was likely to be tortured.
"We would rigorously monitor the wellbeing of a person transferred to any Afghan authority," said Mapp.
New Zealand forces in Afghanistan had taken only one detainee since 2009 and he was held in a joint U.S./Afghan facility, while the UNAMA report only related to Afghan government facilities, said Mapp.
"This detainee says he has been well treated and is monitored regularly."
Mapp said he would review a New Zealand Defence Force report on the role of New Zealand special forces in transferring detainees to Afghan authorities in light of the UNAMA report before releasing it.
New Zealand has a peacekeeping unit, the Provincial Reconstruction Team, based in Bamiyan, which has been there since 2003 and is to pull out in 2014, as well as the Special Air Service Group (SAS) which is mentoring the Afghan Crisis Response Unit.
In July, a New Zealand Herald-DigiPoll survey found 63.3 percent of respondents wanted the SAS forces out of Afghanistan, while 23.1 percent thought they should remain beyond March next year, and the rest said they did not know.
Afghan poll body says hunger strike MP not cheated
REUTERS By MIRWAIS HAROONI Oct 11, 2011
KABUL - Afghanistan’s election commission said on Tuesday an ousted member of parliament protesting against her removal with a hunger strike was beaten fairly in an election last year and ruled out foul play in a recount of the votes.
Semin Barekzai, a 32-year-old from the western province of Herat, won a seat in September last year but in August the Independent Election Commission (IEC) removed her and eight other members, saying other candidates had actually won.
Barekzai started her hunger strike on Oct. 2 at a tent close to the parliament and her health is deteriorating.
The ousted MPs have all held demonstrations against their removal, but former journalist and beautician Barekzai has vowed to fast to the death, if necessary. Doctors have said her kidneys may be suffering permanent damage.
Barekzai has said that if she does die, President Hamid Karzai and the heads of IEC and the lower house of parliament would be responsible.
The IEC’s decision to unseat the nine MPs came after a special election court established by Karzai ruled that 62 MPs won their seats through fraud and should be replaced. The IEC only endorsed a fraction of the changes.
Many MPs say they do not recognize the court, arguing it is a tool for the president to meddle in the legislature’s make-up.
More than 100 lawmakers are boycotting most assembly sessions, which is preventing a quorum, to protest the IEC ruling.
Fazl Ahmad Manawi, head of the IEC, said decisions taken by the special court were lawful and the IEC had acted transparently.
He said the IEC could not be held responsible for Barekzai’s health, or her death.
“With all these efforts, if she still thinks the commission has acted unlawfully, then anybody can have access to the information about her votes,” Manawi told reporters.
“The IEC is responsible for what it has done according to the legal authorities. Beyond that, we won’t take responsibility for anything else.”
Disputes over the election have added to worries among Afghanistan’s backers about the country’s prospects as it battles an increasingly violent Taleban insurgency and tries to rein in rampant corruption.
Interior Ministry Dismisses UN Report on Inmate Torture
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 11 October 2011
Afghanistan's Ministry of Interior on Tuesday rejected a UN report on use of torture in Afghan-run detention facilities.
Speaking at a press conference, Interior Ministry Spokesman Sidiq Sidiqi said the publication of such reports could destroy trust between the population and police.
The report's findings were also rejected by the National Directorate of Security, which said that the forms of torture mentioned in the report had never been used on suspected militants.
While refusing to deny some mistreatment of inmates by the police, Mr Sidiqi said: "We have not witnessed such cases in police-run detention centres and that is why we reject them."
The United Nations on Monday said that prisoners handed over by foreign troops into Afghan custody are being subjected to systematic torture by Afghan interrogators seeking intelligence in the war against the Taliban.
The report paints a picture of prisoner abuse by Afghan authorities on a scale far wider than previously known.
It is likely to complicate American efforts to increasingly hand over responsibilities to Afghan forces as US troops begin to steadily leave Afghanistan.
The report finds that brutal beatings and electric shocks were used at several Afghan-run centres to extract confessions from detainees. The account, based on interviews with detainees conducted as recently as August, raises questions about whether US officials knew or should have known about abuses involving prisoners turned over to the Afghans.
George Little, a Pentagon spokesman, said the United States is reviewing the "serious allegations" in the UN report.
The Afghan government challenged the findings, saying that some depictions were "not close to reality,'' but it also pledged to investigate the allegations of torture and abuse.
"Maybe there are deficiencies with a country stricken by war and a wave of suicide attacks and other terrorist crimes, we do not claim perfection and that we are doing things 100 per cent in accordance with how things should be," the Afghan government wrote in its response to the UN findings, which was included as an annex to the report.
The report reveals serious deficiencies in Afghan security institutions, primarily the intelligence agency known as the National Directorate of Security and the Afghan National Police, organisations that are set to increasingly gain responsibility as the US military begins its withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Afghan Prisoner Abuse Could Trigger Some Aid Suspension
VOA News October 11, 2011 Gary Thomas
A new United Nations report says Afghan police and intelligence officers are systematically torturing some detainees in their custody. The abuses detailed in the report were found to be so widespread that the U.S. and its allies have suspended turning over suspected Taliban detainees to Afghan government control in some areas. The U.S. may also have to suspend some security aid to units involved in the abuses.
In a detailed report drawn from interviews with over 300 detainees, the United Nations found torture to be widespread at detention facilities run by the Afghan National Directorate of Security, or NDS, and the Afghan National Police, the ANP.
The U.N. mission found that police and intelligence officers routinely beat suspects, subjected them to electric shock, wrenched out their toenails, and sexually abused them. The report says the abuse became so pervasive that in July U.S. and NATO forces stopped handing over suspected Taliban members to Afghan-run detention facilities in several provinces.
The Afghan government denies the worst of the allegations, but acknowledges what it calls "deficiencies" in the detainee system.
The ANP and the NDS are being trained by U.S. and allied forces. As Tom Malinowski, Washington director of Human Rights Watch, points out, the U.N. report puts the U.S. in an awkward position. “This report clearly implicates the NDS, the intelligence service in Afghanistan, and also some police units. So the implication of that is that those units are going to have to clean up their act. And the U.S. embassy is going to have to work very hard with the Afghan government to ensure that that happens, if U.S. assistance is going to continue," he said.
As the U.N. report itself points out, torture and ill-treatment could spark invocation of the so-called “Leahy law.” That law, named after its sponsor, Sen. Patrick Leahy, stipulates that the U.S. cut off funding, training, and weapons to any unit of a foreign country if they have committed gross human rights violations.
Malinowski says the Obama administration has no choice but to invoke the provisions of the law. “Well, they have to invoke it. It’s not an option. It’s not something that they will or will not do based on me calling on them to do it. It’s something that they have to do under the law. And I imagine that they will because the evidence here is so clear," he said.
Mike Gerhardt of the University of North Carolina, who has served as a legal advisor to Senator Leahy among others, says that does not mean the U.S. would cut off security assistance to Afghanistan, only to specific units. “If you take its language literally, it has to do with withdrawing support for a particular unit that is found to be committing violations. So that might be a very specific thing, and the money could be moved elsewhere. So it’s hard to say how much of an impact it would have. Much depends on the extensiveness of the violations," he said.
But there is a loophole.
According to the language of the law, its provisions to cut off aid may not be invoked if the secretary of state determines that the concerned government is taking effective remedial measures.
Mike Gerhardt says the decision is not a cut-and-dried legal one. “Well, it would be both a political and a legal decision. Obviously they’d probably want to ensure that they’re doing something that’s consistent with the law. And at the same time, they’ve got to take into account the political and other ramifications of their decisions," he said.
Tom Malinowski says the Afghan intelligence service as a whole could be sanctioned, but adds that it could escape punishment if its assistance comes from the CIA and other intelligence agencies. “I think the NDS would count as a unit under the Leahy law. What’s less clear to me is what assistance the NDS gets. And I think it may well not be - and this is maybe where things get a bit murky - it may not be assistance that passes through the State or Defense Department budget. It may be something that passes through the intelligence budget," he said.
U.S. officials say the Embassy in Kabul is devising a monitoring system for Afghan-run detention centers, and a NATO statement says allied officials are working with the U.S. to establish new safeguards to prevent detainee abuse.
Abducted aid workers freed in Afghanistan
Washington Post By Joshua Partlow and Sayed Salahuddin October 11, 2011
KANDAHAR - Four Afghan employees of a French development agency who had been abducted by gunmen were released unharmed Tuesday afternoon, according to the country director of the organization.
The four men, who worked for the aid group ACTED, spent a day in the custody of a local militant commander in northwestern Faryab province before a delegation of elders from the area negotiated their release, said Ziggy Garewal, ACTED’s top official in Afghanistan. Afghan officials said they believed the kidnappers were Taliban fighters, but Garewal said their affiliation remained unclear.
The Afghan team had been training residents about clean water and were traveling back to their office Monday morning when they were stopped at gunpoint. The kidnappers initially demanded ransom but eventually released the staff members without payment, although they kept their car, Garewal said.
“This was done completely on the basis of negotiation of local community elders,” she said.
Kidnapping of Afghans and foreigners has become a lucrative business for both insurgents and criminal groups in recent years in Afghanistan. ACTED has carried out rural development projects in Faryab for a decade and has had Afghan staff members abducted before. Garewal said the latest incident could limit the group’s work.
“If they’re going to keep threatening to abduct staff . . . the situation is untenable,” she said.
Largely active in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, the Taliban in recent years have managed to open pockets of resistance in Faryab and other parts of the north.
Also Tuesday, Afghan and international officials said that the country’s struggle with narcotics continued as opium production rose sharply because of high prices for the crop, which is used to produce heroin. A joint annual survey by the United Nations and the Afghan government showed a 7 percent increase in the plant’s harvest.
Afghanistan’s counter-narcotics minister Zarar Ahmed Moqbel said that the profit from producing one hectare, or 2.5 acres, of opium rose from $4,900 last year to $10,700 this year. The area under cultivation in 2011 covered 131,000 hectares and produced 5,800 tons — up 61 percent from the 3,600 tons produced the previous year.
The top official for the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, said that insurgents, fighting to drive NATO-led troops from the country, were making tens of millions of dollars from the drug trade.
“We cannot afford to ignore the record profits for non-farmers, such as traders and insurgents, which in turn fuel corruption, criminality and instability. This is a distressing situation,” he said.
Salahuddin, a special correspondent, reported from Kabul.
Tribal Dispute in Afghanistan Benefits Taliban
Warring tribes rely on Taliban insurgents to support deadly feuds
VOA News October 11, 2011 Bethany Matta
Jalalabad - After 10 years at war, coalition forces are still struggling to bring peace to Afghanistan.
In some places, the effort is being undermined by tribal rivalries that draw away attention and resources.
The main road that runs through Achin district of Afghanistan is closed to all traffic except border police. It is near the vital highway that links Pakistan’s Khyber Pass to the Afghan capital, Kabul.
The Shinwari tribe dominates Achin and two sub-tribes, the Sepai and Ali Sher Khel, live on either side of the road.
They are at war with each other.
During the day, tribesmen guard their territory. At night, they hide behind rock mounds that cover the land and fight.
Sayeed Hakim from the Ali Sher Khel tribe says that, because of the fighting, they have moved many of their women and children out of the area.
He says when we sit here in our village; we sit close to the walls where our animals are. We take cover with these walls. We find a place where the bullets cannot hit us directly.
The dispute has gone on for years, but has escalated in recent months.
Malik Mahamoud is a tribal leader from Sepal who says just yesterday tribal leaders said that if the fighting continues, the insurgents will use it to their advantage, undermining security and attacking coalition forces.
In January 2010, Achin did not appear headed for conflict. The Shinwari tribe had pledged to support the Afghan government, oppose the Taliban and ban opium growing. In return, U.S. commanders pledged $200,000 for small development projects and promised an additional $1 million for future projects.
To try to minimize corruption, the senior U.S. commander in eastern Afghanistan decided to disperse the aid through the local government and fund projects approval by a tribal shura.
But bypassing the central government drew complaints from senior Afghan officials who argued it undermined the Karzai administration. The U.S. State Department later drafted a policy prohibiting officials from working with tribes. The promised aid was never distributed.
Since the pact fell apart, all schools in Achin have closed, the only clinic has shut its doors and the local bazaar is deserted.
While some tribal leaders say despite their dispute, they are continuing to keep out the Taliban, others concede they are accepting help from insurgents.
An Ali Sher Khel tribesman, who asked not to be named because he fears retribution for speaking out, says the Shinwari’s reliance on the Taliban boils down to money.
He says when there is fighting we have to buy weapons. Our harvest just lies in the field because we cannot collect it peacefully. He says we are losing money and because of the dispute, we have contact with the Afghan Taliban. They help financially and with weapons.
The ongoing fighting is draining critical resources away from other missions. Some 600 Afghan police protecting the border area near Pakistan are now in Achin trying to contain the violence.
General Aminullah Amerkhil, the border police commander in eastern Afghanistan, says there are powerful forces behind the land dispute. On one hand, the dispute is a political issue and, on the other, the Taliban have taken advantage of the situation. The Taliban is not only threatening Jalalabad, he says, but the entire eastern region of Afghanistan.
Members of the Sepai and Ali Sher Khel tribes say they want the government to resolve their differences, but little is being done. Both sides threaten to join the insurgents if the government does not step in. But, for now, they continue fighting and the Taliban keeps encouraging them.
Ex-Afghan central bank chief slain while driving cab
Reuters By Marty Graham Tue Oct 11, 2011
SAN DIEGO - Forced by civil war from his post as governor of Afghanistan's central bank, Mir Najibullah Sadat Sahou was granted political asylum in the United States in 1992 after fighters in his native country seized his home.
Almost two decades later, the French-trained former economist turned full-time cabby and part-time TV commentator was shot to death while working a late-night shift driving his taxi in San Diego's upscale La Jolla community. He was 68.
Police investigating last month's still-unsolved murder have revealed little about the case except to say the slaying appears to have stemmed from a robbery of Sahou, presumably by a man who was a passenger in his cab at the time. Others are not so sure.
A woman who lives near the crime scene says she heard two men bickering loudly in a foreign language before three gunshots were fired, and she disbelieves robbery was a motive.
Some friends and associates of Sahou have raised questions about whether his views on the Afghan government and economy, as aired on a talk show he hosted on the Ariana-Afghanistan International TV network, may have cost him his life.
Nabil Miskinyar, who owns the Irvine, California-based TV channel, said Sahou's commentary for the bi-weekly show, "To Find the Truth," struck a very "neutral" tone, and he doubted the killing was political.
But he said homicide investigators asked Sahou's wife for a copy of her husband's final program, broadcast the week he died, focusing on the September 20 assassination of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, leader of the High Peace Council, at his home in Kabul.
Sahou ran the central bank under Rabbani and prior to his administration, Miskinyar said.
His daughter, Savitar Sahou, 26, said she is keeping an open mind about the investigation, though she acknowledges relatives are divided over whether to openly dispute the initial determination that Sahou's death was a robbery-murder.
WAITING FOR JUSTICE
"We are going to wait to get justice for my father," she told Reuters in an interview last week. "If I voice my opinion and say it was a robbery or a political assassination or a hate crime, it might make the investigation more difficult."
Either way, the slaying marks a tragic end to the story of a highly educated, once-powerful man from a strife-torn country forced by civil war to make a fresh start in the United States in a working-class occupation.
"What we have is a noble immigrant, a scholar, a father who was shot to death while he was trying to bring home food for his family," Savitar Sahou said. "He ... started over and worked very hard to make something of himself here."
Although Sahou eventually became a U.S. citizen, he maintained close ties with Afghanistan and was urged to return to his homeland to seek political office after the Taliban were driven from power, his daughter said. He chose instead to stay and build a new life in the United States.
With two older daughters and a son living in Germany, Sahou, his wife and their youngest daughter, Savitar, now studying in preparation for medical school, settled in the San Diego suburb of Poway.
Despite master's degrees in finance and economics from the Sorbonne in Paris, he was unable to find work in his field. He ultimately purchased a taxi cab and began working double shifts, though his daughter said he remained very much a scholar, reading during breaks on the job and writing poetry during rare moments of free time.
"My mom would pack him lunch in a picnic basket, and he left at 8 a.m., came home from work at 1 a.m.," his daughter recalled. "I tried to go clean his room, and all I found was books and writings everywhere."
A STRANGER AND AN ARGUMENT
Tragedy struck on September 28, at about 11:35 p.m., when, according to police, Sahou stopped his green-and-white cab along a street in La Jolla, and witnesses saw two men emerge from the vehicle.
A nearby resident, retired teacher Pat Sell, said she was awakened by male voices speaking in a foreign language.
"I heard a loud and angry argument," she said. "The one voice sounded like it was scolding. Then I heard two shots, and a few seconds later, a third shot."
Sell and other neighbors called the police, who found Sahou dead on the walkway. His taxi was discovered abandoned a few miles away, apparently driven there by Sahou's assailant.
No arrests have been made. San Diego police detective Brian Pendleton declined to discuss the case other than to say it was under investigation as a robbery-homicide, a notion strongly disputed by Sell.
"I never thought it was a robbery. I heard an argument, and then he was killed," Sell said.
Adding to doubts about robbery as a motive, friends and family were told at Sahou's funeral that his wallet and a ring were left behind by the killer, Miskinyar said.
If his role as a television commentator were to prove a factor in the slaying, it was not because Sahou had inflammatory opinions, the TV station owner said.
"He was against corruption, we are all against corruption," Miskinyar said. "But he was very wise and neutral, not a hot-head like me."
(Editing by Steve Gorman and Jerry Norton)
UN chief names special representative for Kosovo
UNITED NATIONS, Oct. 11 (Xinhua) -- UN Secretary-General Ban Ki- moon on Tuesday announced the appointment of Farid Zarif of Afghanistan as his special representative for Kosovo and head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) , Ban's spokesman said here.
Zarif succeeds Lamberto Zannier of Italy, who served in UNMIK until June 2011.
"The secretary-general expresses his deep appreciation to Mr. Zannier for his successful management of the Mission in a challenging political environment and his dedicated efforts to furthering peace and stability in Kosovo and the region," the spokesman said in a statement issued here.
"Mr. Zarif has extensive experience in diplomatic, international and United Nations affairs," the spokesman said.
During his diplomatic service, Zarif served in various positions inside and outside Afghanistan, including as permanent representative to the United Nations in New York from 1981 to 1987; deputy foreign minister from 1987 to 1989; and presidential advisor on international affairs from 1989 to 1991.
Zarif joined the United Nations in 1993. Since then, he has served at UN headquarters in New York as well as UN political, humanitarian and peacekeeping operations in Eritrea, Liberia, South Africa, Iraq and Sudan in various capacities, including chief of section, director of division, deputy humanitarian coordinator and chief of staff.
He was appointed as director of Europe and Latin America Division, in the Office of Operations in the UN Department of Peacekeeping Operation (DPKO) in August 2010, and served as acting special representative of the UN secretary-general in Kosovo since August 2011.
Afghan Beekeeping to Get Boost
VOA News October 12, 2011
Afghan orchards and honey makers are hoping to get a boost from millions of dollars in aid from France.
Afghanistan's Ministry of Agriculture announced the almost $9 million aid package at a signing ceremony Wednesday. Agriculture Minister Mohammad Asif Rahimi said $4 million will go to promote beekeeping so that the country has more hives to help with pollination and the production of honey and wax.
He said the rest of the money will be used to help diversify the country's agricultural sector, promote Afghanistan's livestock industry and improve food security.
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