[Afghan News] July 16, 2012 - 07-19-2012, 05:46 AM
By Warren Richey | Christian Science Monitor – Mon, Jul 16, 2012
One was a Yemeni businessman who was abducted while on a trip to Thailand. Another was a 14-year-old picked up in Pakistan and taken to Afghanistan four years ago. A third was at home with his wife and child in Pakistan when he was seized.
What they and one other man all have in common is they ended up in a US military prison in Afghanistan without being charged and with no way to challenge their indefinite detention.
On Monday, their lawyers went back to a federal court in Washington in their latest effort to convince a judge that their detention is a violation of a fundamental provision of the US Constitution.
US District Judge John Bates ruled three years ago that detainees can indeed challenge their detention, but was subsequently overruled by a US appeals court. Now he is examining whether he has jurisdiction to hear the renewed claims.
Lawyers for the detainees urged Judge Bates on Monday to allow their clients a new opportunity to prove that their indefinite detention at a US-built prison camp in Afghanistan violates the protections of habeas corpus.
The legal protection of habeas corpus is guaranteed in the US Constitution and by federal statute. It entitles prisoners within US borders to challenge their detention by forcing the government to justify the legality of the detention to a neutral judge.
Terror suspects at the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, won a decision at the US Supreme Court that they were entitled to challenge the legality of their open-ended detention in federal court in Washington. The court ruled that even though Guantánamo was outside the US, the government exercised de facto sovereignty over Guantánamo.
Lawyers for detainees in Afghanistan sought to extend that high court ruling to certain prisoners in Afghanistan. They argued that their clients had been seized by US officials in third countries and then transported against their will to Afghanistan without any legal process. These detentions were apart from battlefield operations undertaken within Afghanistan.
Bates ruled three years ago that detainees seized outside Afghanistan had a legal right to file habeas petitions in Washington. That decision was overturned in 2010 by US Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia.
The appeals court declared that protections of habeas corpus do not extend to foreign detainees held in an overseas war zone. But the appeals court left open an opportunity for lawyers to re-file their case and present any “newly discovered evidence.”
That’s what happened on Monday.
Washington Lawyer John Connolly told the judge that his client, Hamidullah, had been captured in Pakistan at age 14, taken to Afghanistan, and held without charge or explanation for the past four years.
Judge Bates questioned whether a detainee’s status as a juvenile would undercut the appeals court’s prior ruling. Does a juvenile receive habeas protections when an adult would not, he asked.
“I don’t think any law does that,” the judge said.
Mr. Connolly said the process afforded to a person in court is always different when that person is a juvenile.
“It is an emotional case for us,” he said. “I represent a father and mother who miss their child and they want an explanation [for his disappearance and incarceration].”
Bates said it was a moving argument, but one that would be better presented to Congress or the Executive Branch, rather than to the judiciary.
A Justice Department Lawyer, Jean Lin, urged the judge to dismiss the habeas petitions. Nothing substantial had changed since the appeals court issued its decision in 2010, she said.
The fact that one of the detainees was a juvenile when captured would matter for purposes of his treatment in detention, she said, but did not change the underlying legal analysis of the habeas issue.
Ms. Lin sought to answer arguments that the detainees were being held indefinitely without recourse to the courts. “The United States does not intend to hold anyone longer than necessary,” she told the court.
Bates countered that given the nature of the conflict with Al Qaeda there would never be a declaration that hostilities were over.
“The relevant question is not when hostilities end,” Lin said. It is whether the United States exercises de facto sovereignty over the detention facility, she said.
A second lawyer, Ramzi Kassem, argued on behalf of three other detainees – two from Yemen and one from Tunisia. He said his clients had been approved for release years ago, but are still being held.
Mr. Kassem added that a recent agreement between the US and Afghanistan to turn over control of the American detention camps to local officials, did not include the transfer of his clients to Afghan custody. He said the US government intends to continue to detain his clients indefinitely.
One of Kassem’s clients is Amin Al-Bakri, a Yemeni, who says he was seized by US authorities while on a business trip in Thailand. His lawyers say he was tortured at secret CIA black sites before being transferred to a US-built prison in Afghanistan.
Fadi Al-Maqaleh is a Yemeni who was transferred from Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq to the US-built prison in Afghanistan.
The third client is Redha Al-Najar, a Tunisian, who was seized at his home in Pakistan, where he lived with his wife and child. He was allegedly tortured at CIA black sites before being transferred to the US prison in Afghanistan.
Judge Bates offered no guidance about when he might rule.
Afghanistan may attract more energy firms as Exxon shows interest
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman and Ramya Venugopal Mon Jul 16, 2012
KABUL/SINGAPORE - More top-tier energy companies are likely to join the race to explore for oil and gas in Afghanistan after the world's biggest publicly traded firm, Exxon Mobil (XOM.N), changed perceptions of what the country may hold by showing interest in drilling.
Energy majors are exploring new frontiers in pursuit of fresh reserves as they exhaust existing fields and Afghanistan, after decades of conflict, remains little explored.
While the U.S. government estimates the country holds a fraction of the reserves of surrounding giant Middle East producers, its potential is enough to attract Exxon Mobil and that factor, by itself, is likely to lure more.
Kabul, which has long depended on international donations to finance its economy, now hopes revenue from raw materials will help the country stand alone, especially as an impending pullout of most foreign troops by the end of 2014 is creating donor fatigue.
"Exxon would not go into an area unless the areas are very promising. They are not looking for potatoes," said Chakib Khelil, former Algerian oil minister, now an energy consultant in Paris.
The search for fresh assets by big companies such as Exxon, which produce a lot could mean "going to the Arctic, going deep off-shore and going into new areas like Afghanistan," he added.
Eight firms including Exxon this month expressed interest in an oil and gas auction of six blocks in the Afghan-Tajik basin, after a tender was won by China National Petroleum Co (CNPC) late last year.
Afghanistan has about 1.9 billion barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable crude reserves, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) said in 2011, although it didn't say how much of it was economically recoverable.
That compares to Equatorial Guinea, which has proven reserves of 1.7 billion barrels and produces about 250,000 barrels of crude a day, according to BP's (BP.L) latest annual statistical review.
With oil hovering around $100 a barrel, an output of 250,000 bpd would earn Afghanistan about $9.1 billion a year. That would be roughly half the country's gross domestic product of $20 billion in 2011, according to the World Bank.
The country also has an estimated 59 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, about half that of the proven reserves in neighboring Iraq, according to BP.
The Tajik basin, for which Kabul invited bids earlier this month, has about 946 million barrels of crude and 7 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves, the survey found.
The Amu Darya basin, which CNPC, China's biggest oil and gas producer, is exploring after it won the tender last year, has 962 million barrels of crude and 52 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, according to USGS.
However, drilling in Afghanistan is fraught with risks, most notably those related to security, and sovereign risk is a serious concern.
Violence in Afghanistan was at its worst this year since the Taliban regime was toppled 10 years ago, United Nations said.
Besides violence, companies operating in the country also have to deal with the still prevalent infighting between groups, which could disrupt their operations.
For instance, CNPC's Amu Darya project has met with severe interference from militia loyal to former warlord and army chief of staff General Abdul Rashid Dostum, the government says.
Dostum's supporters have been allegedly demanding a share of the proceeds, a claim the general's National Front party denied.
Still, for the oil companies, which operate in some of the world's most conflict-ridden areas, including Iraq, Nigeria and Sudan, this is just an occupational hazard.
"Security is an issue but it's not an issue that will bar them from being involved in the country," said Khalil, citing cases such as Iraq, where companies continue to operate and provide their own protection, with the help of the government. "But you need to have a good return to justify the risk."
The country, among the world's poorest, will need around $6 billion to $7 billion of aid a year to grow its economy, on top of a $4.1 billion bill for security forces to maintain peace after foreign combat troops leave, the head of Afghanistan's central bank said last month.
Mining reserves "is not a magic solution. And we're going to have to see this develop over the longer term. Many of these are very large projects... so it will take time before you see those benefits," said a U.S. embassy official in Kabul.
Still, exploration in the country will be an uphill task as the geology has not been closely studied or well understood, said Alan Troner, head of the Houston-based Asia-Pacific Energy Consulting.
And Kabul has still to put its own house in order before it becomes a destination for more energy companies.
"Looking at the lack of transparency, widespread corruption and no security, I am not optimistic that other powerful companies in the world would invest in Afghanistan," said Yama Torabi, executive director of Integrity Watch Afghanistan, a civil organization promoting transparency.
(Additional reporting by Luke Pachymuthu; Editing by Manash Goswami and Clarence Fernandez)
Taliban-led attacks rise by 10 percent in Afghanistan: NATO
KABUL, July 16 (Xinhua) -- The Taliban-led attacks has increased by 10 percent within the past three month compared with the first three months this year, a NATO spokesman said on Monday.
"In terms of enemy initiated attacks I can confirm that if you look at the last 12 weeks we had a slide increase of enemy initiate attacks of about 10 percent," Brigadier General Gunter Katz, a spokesman for NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told reporters at a weekly press briefing.
His comments came hours after an insurgent attack left two ISAF soldiers dead in restive southern Afghanistan earlier Monday morning.
"If you compared the numbers (of the attacks) beginning from this year to now and to 2011, the numbers are almost the same," Katz added.
The Taliban insurgents, who have been waging more than a decade- long insurgency, launched an annual spring offensive starting from May 3 to target security forces including Afghan government forces as well as U.S. and NATO troops across the country.
Afghan and NATO military officials said recently that impressive Taliban-led attacks would occur in the coming weeks and months as spring and summer, known as "fighting season", are drawing near.
Currently over 130,000 NATO-led ISAF troops with the majority of them Americans have been serving in Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was toppled in late 2001.
Taliban militants have been using Improvised Explosive Device or roadside bombs and suicide bombers in their attacks, which also inflicted casualties on civilians.
Six Afghan civilians were killed and six others injured in two separate roadside bombings in southern Kandahar province Monday morning.
Afghanistan to start first premier league football in August
KABUL, July 16 (Xinhua) -- Afghanistan's first premier football league will begin nationwide in August, the country's football officials said Monday.
Hailed by the officials as a new chapter for Afghanistan, the competition is expected to increase football fans throughout the war-torn country and help towards stronger bonds of unity.
"Afghan football is entering a new chapter, and will increase the quality of football players in the country," head of Afghanistan's Football Federation Keramuddin Karim told at a press conference in Kabul.
"I am sure it will help in strengthening the national unity between the Afghan youth," he added.
The competition, named "Green Ground", will see football clubs across the country travel and compete against each other.
It is being sponsored by Roshan Telecommunications Company and will be broadcast on Afghanistan's networks Tolo TV and Lemar TV, owned by the same company as TOLOnews.
"Football is a game which unites people from different nations, we want to unite Afghanistan through this league," head of Tolo TV Massoud Sanjar said.
The competition will also help screen out the best players to make a stronger national team, they said.
Thousands anti-NATO marchers gather along Pak-Afghan border
Xinhua July 15, 2012
ISLAMABAD - Thousands protesting Pakistan's decision to reopen the land supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan Sunday gathered at a border town as part of their campaign to mount pressure on the government to withdraw its decision.
The two-day march was organized by a Pakistani alliance of dozens of religious and political parties in southwestern Balochistan province, bordering Afghanistan.
It was the second long march by the Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC) as part of its countrywide protest against the July 3 decision by the government to reopen NATO supply line after nearly a seven-month suspension.
The first march between the eastern city of Lahore and the capital Islamabad ended on July 10 and the DPC plans a third march on the NATO's main supply route in the country's northwest on July 16-17.
Pakistan had closed NATO supply line over the killing of 24 soldiers in a NATO airstrike last November. The supply line was unblocked following apology by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the losses of Pakistani security personnel.
The decision promoted strong criticism from main religious and several opposition political parties and they are organizing marches and rallies in major cities against the reopening of the NATO supply routes.
"There is a flood of people in the march," Chief of the DPC, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, told Xinhua on phone from Chaman, the border town in Balochistan province. Chaman, bordering Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, is the one of the main two NATO supply routes in Pakistan.
"The march is successful than the previous one," he said, adding that the public will "force the government to stop serving the interests" of the U.S. and its NATO allies.
The second march started from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, on Saturday and the marchers reached Chaman Sunday afternoon after passing through several cities.
Haq said that the "massive participation" of the people in the Balochistan's march reflect the people's sentiments against the reopening of NATO supply line.
Central leaders of the DPC spoke to gatherings at different cities on the march's route and condemned reopening of NATO supply line and said the rulers surrendered to the "U.S. pressure". They asked Pakistan to desist from "helping the foreigners to shed blood of Afghans".
The authorities had taken tight security measures for the marchers in view of the on-going wave of target killings and sectarian attacks, which have killed dozens of people over the past few weeks. Police vehicles escorted vehicles of the central DPC leaders and other hundreds of vehicles in the caravan.
The DPC had also deployed its own volunteers on security duty and there had been no untoward incident during the two-day march.
Pakistan's major Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami also took out a procession in the port city of Karachi on Sunday to oppose the reopening of NATO supply line. The Jamaat chief, Munawar Hasan, asked the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) to join the anti-NATO protest.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, tribal elders at a jirga or council on Sunday opposed reopening of NATO supply line. The jirga also condemned U.S. drone strikes in the tribal region and said the attacks kill innocent people.
Editor: Wang Yuanyuan
Afghan teen murder spotlights growing violence against women
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman and Mirwais Harooni July 16, 2012
CHARIKAR, Afghanistan - Pressing her cheek against the fresh grave of her newly married teenage daughter, Sabera yowls as she gently smears clumps of dirt over her tear-stained face.
"My daughter! Why did they kill you so brutally?" the mother screams in the sparsely filled cemetery in Parwan province, 65 km (40 miles) north of the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Sabera says her daughter Tamana was killed by a relative in a so-called "honour killing", in what officials link to a wider trend of rapidly growing violence against women in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan's independent human rights commission has recorded 52 murders of girls and women in the last four months, 42 of which were honour killings, compared to 20 murders for all of last year.
Activists and some lawmakers accuse President Hamid Karzai's government of selling out to the ultra-conservative Taliban, with whom it seeks peace talks, as most foreign troops prepare to leave the country by the end of 2014.
During their 1996-2001 reign, the Taliban banned women from education, voting and most work, and they were not allowed to leave their homes without permission and a male escort, rights which have been painstakingly won back.
But there are signs the government is backsliding on women's rights. Earlier this year, Karzai appeared to back recommendations from powerful clerics that stated women are worth less than men and can be beaten.
"Karzai has certainly changed, and women's issues are no longer a priority for him," said outspoken female lawmaker Fawzia Koofi.
Last week, Hanifa Safi, head of women's affairs in eastern Laghman province, became the first female official to be killed this year when a bomb planted on her car exploded.
A spokesman for Karzai said the government is committed to women's rights. "Unfortunate incidents against women do occur. The government is doing what it can," said Siamak Herawi.
Fifteen-year-old Tamana died not far from where a young woman was publicly executed for alleged adultery last month, touching off an international outcry.
Tamana's parents say she never returned from a trip to the local bakery in March, located near their home in Parwan's capital Charikar.
The next time they saw her was one week ago, lying dead on a hospital bed. A video filmed on their mobile phone last Monday at her funeral shows the teenager's bruised face swathed in white sheets.
"My daughter always said she wouldn't stop studying, and would one day become important, having to travel to work in a convoy of cars," Sabera told Reuters in her spartan living room, where flies buzzed over ruby red carpets.
"But now she is under a tonne of clay," she said, prompting her husband, retired intelligence official Abdul Fatah, to wipe a tear from his wrinkled eyes.
Tamana was forcibly married to her cousin after refusing his advances for months, they say, adding she was beaten and killed for being a "disobedient" wife, unable to hide unhappiness at her plight.
Reuters could not independently verify the family's claims, but police in Charikar said they believe Tamana was intentionally poisoned, although cannot say with certainty until the results of the autopsy come later this month.
No one has been arrested over Tamana's killing, but the alleged killer's sister was given as a bride to Tamana's brother as compensation, abiding by the brutal Afghan practice 'baad', which is widespread despite Karzai criminalising it in 2009.
She is one of eight women killed in Parwan since March including two in Bagram, home to a major U.S. base, who were shot to death. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)
Taliban mounts new wave of violent attacks in Afghanistan
Xinhua By Farid Behbud July 15, 2012
KABUL - Taliban insurgents have been mounting a new wave of violent attacks over the past couple of weeks since they launched the annual spring offensive against Afghan government forces and NATO-led troops.
A total of 18 people were injured Sunday morning when Taliban carried out twin blasts in eastern Logar province, some 60 km south of capital city of Kabul, a provincial police source said.
"Our report said that a total of 18 people with majority of them civilians were injured in two back-to-back bomb blasts in provincial capital Pul-e-Alam this morning," deputy provincial police chief Rahis Khan Saddiq told Xinhua.
He said a number of police and army soldiers were among the injured.
The attackers seems to have followed old tactics which depends on creating initial blast to attract security forces and people, then they set off another blast to get higher casualties.
A total of 14 civilians were killed and nine injured in similar bomb attacks in southern Kandahar province on July 8.
Earlier Sunday morning, Afghan Higher Education Minister Obidullah Obid, who was travelling to northern Kunduz province, escaped a bomb attack in neighboring Baghlan province in an attack that injured two policemen.
"The blast took place at around 08:50 a.m. local time in Jari-e- Khoshk area of Baghlan-e-Markazi district but minister Obid was unharmed and keep on his trip to Kunduz province shortly after the blast," police chief of the district, Colonel Mohammad Kamin, told Xinhua.
Meantime, Afghan police, army and NATO-led coalition forces have been mounting pressure against the Taliban.
Up to 15 Taliban insurgents have been killed and six others detained in operations carried out by the joint forces within the past 24 hours, the country's Interior Ministry said Sunday morning.
"A total of seven armed Taliban insurgents were also wounded during the 10 raids launched by the joint forces in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunduz, Uruzgan, Wardak, Ghazni, Herat and Helmand provinces throughout the past 24 hours," the ministry said in a statement providing daily operational updates.
On Saturday, a suicide bombing against a wedding party in the northern province of Samangan left 17 people dead and 43 others injured. An influential parliamentarian and a province intelligence chief were among the killed.
On Friday, a bomb attack killed an Afghan woman official and her husband in the eastern province of Laghman. Another 11 civilians, including her daughter and her driver, were also injured in the assault. A senior provincial officer was shot and killed in western Herat province on the same day.
A police officer and his 17-year-old son were also killed after militants broke out into his house in northern Baghlan province early Friday morning.
The Taliban stepped up their attacks on Afghan and NATO-led troops since a spring offensive was launched in May in the war- ravaged country.
The Taliban insurgents has warned the civilians to stay away from official gatherings, military convoys and centers regarded as the legitimate targets by militants besides warning people against supporting government and foreign troops.
Afghan Sports & Culture in Washington DC - Afghan Cup 2012
July 16, 2012, 11:01 a.m. EDT
WASHINGTON, July 16, 2012 /PRNewswire via COMTEX/ -- The Afghan Sports Federation (ASF) held its 15th annual sporting & cultural event "Afghan Cup 2012" in the Washington DC metro area from July 5th to July 8th.
The events were preceded by a formal dinner reception hosted by ASF for team representatives, event sponsors, Afghan community leaders, Afghanistan's National Olympic Committee representatives, Afghanistan's National Football (Soccer) Coach and Afghan Diplomats and athletes. This dinner reception outlined the schedule, rules and agenda for all participants in the 4 day event.
Soccer teams from all over the United States and Canada played in matches spread out over 4 days. Many Afghan players from Europe and Afghanistan participated in the event despite the grueling heat experienced in the region.
Basketball teams also participated in the tournament, which has become the premier destination for Afghan athletes across the world.
A tournament for Table Tennis was also organized this year as per the request of players with experience on the Afghanistan national team so that the top 2 players could be selected to join Afghanistan's National Squad.
The presence of Afghanistan's National Football (Soccer) Head Coach Mr. Yusuf Kargar encouraged the participation of Afghan athletes in an attempt to scout out new talent to add to the Afghan National Squad, as per prior agreement with ASF and Afghanistan's National Football Association.
Afghanistan's National Basketball General Secretary Mr. Ghous Nikbeen similarly participated in the event in order to add to the already successful number of US basketball players who represented Afghanistan in its first Gold Medal win in 2010 in Dhaka. The President of Afghanistan's Tennis Association Mr. Azim Niazi was also in the delegation to scout athletes from all over the US in the coming days.
Afghanistan's Red Crescent Society, one of the event sponsors, was given an opportunity to introduce themselves to the Afghan-American community through its presence in these events. Their President Mrs. Fatima Gailani's video message was broadcast to the thousands in attendance. The Bayat Foundation, which has been one of ASF sponsor for years, was represented by its Executive Director, Mrs. Fatema Bayat, who also presented trophies to the winners while emphasizing women's participation in ASF events, which continues to be a long-standing policy of the organization.
ASF also held a soccer clinic for young players and announced the creation of a new ASF Youth Soccer Academy to be run by its team of expert coaches: Jawed Sanie, Jamil Faryadi and Abdullah Monawer. This year ASF supporters worldwide benefited greatly from new innovative score reporting and immediate updating of results on the ASF website ( www.afghansportsfederation.com ) and the ASF Official Facebook page ( www.facebook.com/afghansportsfederation ), which was managed by ASF Creative Director Faiz Behgoman and Social Media Coordinator Aimal Ahmadzai.
The championship games were played on July 8th at the Discovery Center Soccerplex in Germantown, Maryland. The soccer finale was played between Afghan Premier of California & defending champion Brishna of New York. Brishna was able to win the competitive match with a score of 1-0 and were thus crowned Afghan Cup 2012's soccer champions.
The basketball championship game was played between Virginia's "The City" & New York's "Afghan 5". The City of Virginia successfully defended their title and won the championship game by a score of 43-40 in order to become Afghan Cup 2012's basketball champions.
The champion of Table Tennis was Mustafa Nawbi of Virginia who beat Basir Subati of Afghanistan.
All guests, including former US Ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq & Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, as well as this year's featured artist Ehsan Aman joined ASF Executives, Atiq Panjshiri (Vice President), Esmael Husseini (Basketball Commissioner), Zia Panjshiri (Soccer Commissioner), Mrs. Hassina Ansary (events coordinator), Ms. Awista Zazay (women program Coordinator) and Esmat Abbasi (assistant Soccer Commissioner) on the stage to award trophies to team captains. Atiq Panjshiri in his welcoming remarks announced that ASF is in discussion with Afghanistan National Olympic Committee and National Football Federation to host similar events inside Afghanistan, an effort to revive the old tradition of hosting sporting events of the 60s and 70s in Kabul. ASF President Ajmal Ghani A. in his remarks dedicated the games to the memory of Afghanistan's former Olympic Committee President in the 70's, late Mr. Wahid Etemadi, who had passed away a few weeks ago in Kabul. He also noted that the Afghan Sports Federation (ASF) has successfully held these annual sporting & cultural events since 1998 with its team of volunteers, administrators and officials who dedicate much time and efforts to ensure the Afghan community in the US is connected to Afghans all over the world, specifically those inside Afghanistan.
SOURCE Afghan Sports Federation
Spy planes help detect roadside bombs in Afghanistan
USA TODAY By Tom Vanden Brook 15/07/2012
WASHINGTON - Images from spy planes and sensors that detect wires that trigger explosives have helped to mitigate the No. 1 threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan — roadside bombs — over the past year.
The Pentagon has filled the skies over Afghanistan with high-tech sensors, and the effect has been measurable. From March through May, troops in vehicles found 64% of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) before they blew up, an 11 percentage-point increase over the previous quarter. Troops on foot patrol discovered 81%, a 4 percentage-point increase, according to the Pentagon's Joint IED Defeat Organization (JIEDDO).
The rate of discovery before bombs exploded hovered around 50% for years. The most important measure of progress: IEDs caused less than half of troop deaths for the first time in five years.
"We are, in terms of detection of all types of IEDs, vastly better than we were a year ago," Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter told USA TODAY in an interview. He credited airborne surveillance with driving progress against IEDs.
Detectors on aircraft, first used in Iraq, have successfully assisted troops in locating wires attached to bombs, which allows them to be defused. Radar is trained on the Afghan-Pakistani border, giving commanders a view of bombmakers' escape and supply routes.
"Where we still have a problem is in the use of Pakistani territory: safe haven, safe supply," Carter said. "But we've gotten better at interdicting those sources of supply with, for example, airborne radars to watch people as they come over the desert or over the mountains. Those have been introduced during the last year." He did not specify the aircraft or detection systems used. But the Pentagon has fielded new systems in the past three years aimed at finding command wires or ground that has been disturbed to hide IEDs. They include:
•Desert Owl. JIEDDO started deploying this ground-penetrating radar in 2009, according to the department's annual report released in 2010. It is deployed on a piloted aircraft, Army records show.
•Copperhead. This was developed at the same time as Desert Owl. Both systems "use unique radar for command wire detection, complemented by advanced image-processing algorithms," according to congressional testimony in 2008 by Lt. Gen. Thomas Metz, who led JIEDDO at the time. It is deployed on an unmanned drone.
The United States' technological edge appears to be overwhelming the Taliban's blunt force, says John Pike, executive director of Globalsecurity.org, a defense policy organzation. Cameras and sensors have become cheaper and faster, and computing ability has increased to sort through the growing amounts of data collected, Pike says.
"Everywhere we turn, we're producing sensors that are cheaper, faster, better," Pike says. "The enemy's stuck with that damn fertilizer bomb. It is an unequal contest. It is not a level playing field."
Nearly 90% of the IEDs are fashioned from homemade explosives, according to JIEDDO. A 110-pound bag of calcium ammonium nitrate, a common fertilizer produced in Pakistan, can produce 82 pounds of explosives, enough to destroy an armored truck or 10 smaller bombs targeting troops on foot. An IED, detonated with a wire, punctured the hull of a Mine Resistant Ambush Protected (MRAP) truck on July 8, killing six soldiers.
Biometric data - fingerprints and retinal scans, for example - have been collected from a growing number of Afghans, including those joining security forces or applying for benefits or licenses, Carter said.
"What that means is that, if you have a checkpoint and you start stopping people randomly, it's much easier to pick out the people who are malefactors," Carter said. "We take latent fingerprints off of IEDs and later associate them with the guy who made them."
Success hasn't been cheap. JIEDDO has spent more than $18 billion to counter the threat.
Council of Ministers Still to Discuss AISA Officials' Claims
TOLOnews.com Sunday, 15 July 2012
The upcoming Council of Ministers session will decide about the resignation of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) officials and their claims of rife corruption in the agency, the presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told TOLOnews on Sunday.
"The issue [of corruption] is still a claim by the seven staff of AISA who resigned, so it needs more investigation to see how much is correct. We still need to collect all the evidence and then discuss it in the next cabinet meeting," President Hamid Karzai's spokesman Faizi said.
AISA is considered to the major organisation for the development of the private sector as it offers support to foreign investors and is responsible for distributing trade and business investment licenses, legalising the activities of the Afghan and foreign private companies.
Deputy head of the Afghanistan Industries Association Abdul Jabar Safi believes that any delay or inconsistency in the activities of AISA will harm the business sector in the country
"AISA is a important economical centre which gives license to investors. Its problems need to be solved completely. Everyone should come under the investigation to find out who is correct," he told TOLOnews.
Deputy Chief Executive of Afghan Chamber of Commerce Khanjan Alokozay said that the issues raised within AISA will not be solved unless President Karzai himself intervenes.
"Besides our security problems, administrative problems will not be beneficial for the country. It affects economics, the private sector and business investment, so the President should intervene," he said.
The seven AISA officials resigned Thursday in a letter to Karzai, citing corrupt practices including improper hiring and promotions under the direction of the new president Wafiullah Eftekhar who was appointed in May.
Eftekhar refuted the claims on Thursday, telling TOLOnews that they were baseless and called for proof.
Anti-Graft Efforts Thwarted at the Top: Lodin
TOLOnews.com Sunday, 15 July 2012
Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight and Anti Corruption chief Azizullah Lodin said that the efforts of the corruption watchdog have been undone by others in positions of authority.
He gave the example, without details, of a case where two officials were caught "red-handed" receiving bribes, but when they were handed over to the relevant authorities, they were released on bail.
"We arrested two prosecutors red-handed while receiving bribes in Kabul and handed them to the Attorney General's office, but unfortunately I heard that they were released on bail," Lodin said, adding that such corruption does not exist anywhere else in the world.
Speaking at an advisory meeting in Kabul on Sunday, Lodin urged the government to do more in taking corruption seriously in order for Afghanistan to gain its financial independence from donors.
He also added that massive corruption exists within governmental organisations saying some 114 corruption cases related to government officials had been handed over to the Attorney General's Office. The cases generally show the embezzlement of millions of dollars, he added.
He also criticised the high expenses of the government groups, saying such expenses are not necessary.
"If you have a look at most governmental organisations, you can see the most modern furniture which doesn't even exist in the American officials' offices," he said.
He urged Afghan President Hamid Karzai to be more cautious in appointing ministers and other government officials.
"Most people ask me if the government has any political commitment to fight corruption. I want to say that when the officials are appointed they swear by the Holy Quran and the laws of the country. I ask the president to more precise in his selections," he said.
He said there is documented evidence of corruption among government minister, suggesting Karzai's government does not have the commitment to fight corruption.
"Look at these documents which are signed by the Ministry of Agriculture. They demonstrate the amount of land-grabbing that has been done, and asked the council of minister to take action on them, but they did nothing. This clearly shows lack of their commitment," he said.
Lodin said it was the failure to enforce the law which has driven corruption in the country.
|2012, afghan, july, news|