[Afghan News] July 29, 2012 - 08-09-2012, 04:40 PM
By Lawrence Bartlett | AFP
Afghan security forces are dying at five times the rate of NATO soldiers as Taliban insurgents step up attacks ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops in 2014, the latest figures show.
While deaths among NATO's troops are regularly chronicled in the 50 countries that contribute soldiers to the war, the daily casualties among the Afghans they are fighting alongside rarely make headlines.
A total of 853 Afghan soldiers and police were killed in the past four months, government figures show, compared with 165 NATO troops, according to a tally kept by the website icasualties.org.
President Hamid Karzai warned in May that the Afghan death toll would increase as the US-led troops start withdrawing and hand increasing responsibility for security to Afghan forces.
Both NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) and Afghanistan's interior ministry have noted a surge in attacks in recent months since the start of the Taliban's annual summer offensive.
"Enemy-initiated attacks over the last three months (April-June) are 11 percent higher compared to the same quarter last year," ISAF said in a report last week.
The month of June alone saw the highest number of attacks in nearly two years, with more than 100 assaults a day across the country, including firefights and roadside bombings, the US-led coalition said.
Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said at the weekend that there had been a surge in casualties suffered by police in the past four months, with 635 killed and 1,246 wounded.
"This year, the enemies of Afghanistan have intensified their attacks against Afghan security forces," he said.
"We have increased our operations against the enemy and they also intensified their attacks," he said, adding that 1,730 insurgents had been killed over the same period.
The upturn comes as NATO countries have already started to withdraw their 130,000 troops after more than 10 years of war and ahead of a 2014 deadline for an end to combat operations.
Politicians in NATO countries, where polls show that most voters want their soldiers out of Afghanistan, regularly refer to "ending the war in 2014".
But all signs point to the fact that the war will not end for the Afghans -- and could get much worse.
"The Taliban are sure that at the end of the day the foreign forces will leave and the only force that will remain to fight them is the Afghan force," author and analyst Waheed Mujda told AFP.
"Since they started their new summer offensive their goal has been to target Afghan forces, to demoralise them and to create fear so that no one could join them," he said.
Mujda also suggested that the government underplayed casualties in their statistics because "they don't want to demoralise the forces".
He said a more realistic figure had been presented earlier this month by a former chief of the National Directorate of Security, Amrullah Saleh, who said more than 1,800 members of the Afghan security forces were killed in the previous three months -- well over double the official figure.
Defence Ministry sources told AFP that in the four months since the start of the Afghan solar year at the end of March, 218 Afghan soldiers had been killed.
Police, who play a paramilitary role in the war-torn country, are more exposed to insurgent attacks in local areas where they are always on the roads or manning small checkposts while the army operates out of fortified bases.
ISAF said one reason for the increase in the number of attacks over recent months was an earlier start to the summer fighting season because of an early end to the harvest of opium poppies -- a major source of income for Taliban Islamist insurgents.
Another was the increased presence on the battlefield of Afghan security forces as they take more responsibility from NATO troops ahead of the drawdown.
Despite the rise in attacks, the number of coalition deaths in the first six months this year -- 220 -- was down on the same period last year when 282 died, according to icasualties.org.
About half of all deaths in both periods were due to roadside bombs, the statistics show.
The homemade bombs are also responsible for most civilian deaths -- which run higher than those for either army.
According to the United Nations, the number of civilians killed in the war has risen steadily in the past five years, reaching a record 3,021 in 2011 -- the vast majority of the deaths caused by insurgents.
Afghan District Governor, Son Killed In Attack
July 29, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghan authorities say a government official and his son were killed in an attack by armed insurgents on July 29.
A government spokesman in Afghanistan's central Wardak Province said Ismael Wafa, the governor of the province's Chak district, was killed when gunmen opened fire on his car.
Wafa's adult son was wounded in the attack but died as he was being taken to the hospital.
The Taliban militia has claimed responsibility for the incident.
The provincial governor's office in Helmand said in a statement that the Taliban also attacked a police outpost in the province. Three police officers and three civilians were killed in the fighting.
The incident took place in the volatile district of Greshk.
The statement says that the commander of the outpost and two others were wounded.
Based on reporting by dpa, AP, and AFP
Outgoing envoy to Afghanistan tells U.S to learn lessons from past
Kabul, July 29 (ANI): Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker has said American policy makers need to learn the lessons of the recent past as they weigh military options for the future, including for Syria and Iran.
"You better do some cold calculating, you know, about how do you really think you are going to influence things for the better," the New York Times quoted Crocker, as saying.
Crocker, one of the pre-eminent American diplomats of the past 40 years, said he could not help keeping his mind at work on the crisis spots that have defined his career- in Pakistan and Afghanistan, Iran and Syria, Iraq and Lebanon.
Crocker will retire at the end of July after a career that began as the last American troops were leaving Vietnam and is ending as the curtain closes on an era of American state-building that has mostly fallen short of the results policy makers had hoped for, the paper said.
In the years ahead, Crocker sees, if anything, an increasingly fraught foreign landscape in a world set afire by war and revolution, a chapter bound to frustrate the best intentions and most sophisticated strategies of the U.S., the paper said.
Although he speaks Arabic and has spent a lifetime immersed in the Arab world and Afghanistan, Crocker is deeply skeptical that Americans on foreign soil can be anything other than strangers in a strange land.
"We are a superpower, we don't fight on our territory, but that means you are in somebody else's stadium, playing by somebody else's ground rules, and you have to understand the environment, the history, the politics of the country you wish to intervene in," he said. (ANI)
Crocker Looks Back on a Decade in Afghanistan
New York Times By ALISSA J. RUBIN July 28, 2012
On July 22, a few days before Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Afghanistan, retired from his post, The New York Times interviewed him in his residence in Kabul.
Mr. Crocker had been a Foreign Service officer in the State Department since 1971, and served extensively in the Arab world, including stints as ambassador to Lebanon, Syria, Kuwait and Iraq. He has also been ambassador to Pakistan. He retired on Friday as ambassador to Afghanistan, where he had previously served as deputy chief of mission and in 2002, he reopened the American Embassy in Kabul after the Taliban regime fell.
The following is a transcript of his answers to some of the questions posed by The Times. Brief explanations have been provided in brackets where necessary.
On the likelihood of a peace deal with the Taliban:
I am increasingly persuaded there is no “the Taliban.” I think it is an increasingly factionalized movement, some of whose members stand totally against any form of reconciliation and others who want to pursue it.
If a reconciliation comes, it’s not going to be a grand bargain, I don’t think. It’s going to be piecemeal: individuals here, individuals there. I consider that a realistic possibility. I don’t think you’ll ever get the Haqqanis or Mullah Omar and those closest to him. [The Haqqanis are a family-run insurgent and criminal network based in Miran Shah, Pakistan, in the largely ungoverned tribal areas. They are believed to be responsible for some of the more complex terrorist attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in the country. Mullah Mohammed Omar is the leader of the Taliban and is believed to be in hiding in Pakistan.]
On whether, in retrospect, it was a mistake to include warlords in the government at the beginning after the Taliban were ousted:
There’s no question it’s a problem. It’s limits of influence. There were so few forces here, allied forces, back in ’02 that we weren’t really in a position to control or influence very much of anything.
That said, we saw the problem early on. And you know, this was back in the day when we had an authorized channel with the Iranians. It started right after 9/11 and I ran it for our side and at that time, this was something my Iranian counterpart and I talked about.
When were the talks? The talks went from September ’01. I was on a flight to Geneva because [the talks] were under the auspices of the U.N., and they ran until the beginning of May ’03 off and on. We broke them off after the Riyadh bombings in that month. We had warned the Iranians [the bombings] were being planned by Al Qaeda figures in Tehran under Iranian protection. They didn’t do anything about it and we lost Americans.
But in the early months, we had a fair meeting of the minds. They were very, very anxious to get on with the war: ”Will you guys please hurry up?” And then subsequently we talked about the problem with the warlords and one of the discussions was, “Well, maybe we Iranians could do something about Ismail Khan and you Americans could do something about Dostum.”
[Ismail Khan, an ethnic Tajik, was the power broker who ran Herat and a broad swath of western Afghanistan on the Iranian border. Abdul Rashid Dostum, an ethnic Uzbek, dominated a broad swath of the north, but especially the areas around Mazar-i-Sharif, Jowzjan and Sar-i-Pul.]
And for a while that worked. Dostum was given some kind of position here in Kabul; that kind of removed him from his base in the north, and Ismail Khan went through a period of significantly reduced influence.
The problem persists. The actuarial tables will, I think, affect this over time; these guys are getting older. Some of them have decided, like Marshal Fahim, that he’d rather be part of the establishment than operating away from it. Some have taken themselves out of the game, like Sayyaf.
[Marshal Muhammad Fahim, an ethnic Tajik, is the first vice president of Afghanistan and was a powerful commander from Panshir Province before joining the government. Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a former leader of a mujahedeen faction during Afghanistan’s civil war, is now a member of Parliament and a confidante of President Hamid Karzai.]
On whether warlords are operating from within the government:
That’s also part of the problem of the compromises that need to be made to produce a relatively stable, or at least relatively unified, nation. Fahim was, I think, critical in the aftermath of the Rabbani assassination in keeping the northerners on our side. He stuck right by Karzai; he made some very positive statements for national unity.
[Burhanuddin Rabbani, an ethnic Tajik, was the president of Afghanistan from 1992 to 1996, when the mujahedeen dominated the country. He was appointed head of the High Peace Council by President Karzai. Mr. Rabbani was assassinated by a suicide bomber with a bomb in his turban on Sept. 20, 2011, which deeply angered members of the former Northern Alliance, who formed the main opposition to Mr. Karzai.]
You know this better than almost anybody: Afghanistan is enormously complicated, more so than Iraq, and it rivals Lebanon and it’s a lot bigger and has a lot more actors. Karzai has had to play a very difficult balancing game.
On the likelihood of a soft partition after the NATO withdrawal in 2014, with the Taliban influential in the south, warlords dominating the north and west, criminal families influencing the east, and government control primarily in and around Kabul Province:
The key determinant here is the  election, and of course everything that runs up to it. Look, anything is possible here; you know my hackneyed line that an extreme long-range prediction is a week from Thursday. But what I see going on talking to the president, talking to other officials, talking to political leaders of all stripes, persuasions and ethnicities suggests several things.
First, the northerners want to play significantly in Kabul. A soft partition or otherwise could happen, but I think for the major northern political figures, that’s not where their minds are. It’s figuring out how they are best postured for the post-2014 administration and how to be part of it, and some have said so explicitly in conversations with us.
Another scenario is the election of a Pashtun president from the Hizb-e-Islami party, which is linked to Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, another of the warlords who was a leader during the civil war that tore the country apart in the 1990s. The military wing of Hizb-e-Islami has continued to be active in the armed opposition to the Afghan government and especially to its American and European allies.
In terms of a Hizb-e-Islami victory, you would have solid northern opposition, and not just northern non-Pashtun opposition. You would divide the Pashtuns. A serious Hizb-i- Islami effort probably more likely than anything is going to guarantee that somebody else wins this.
On President Karzai:
He certainly has his critics and he certainly has a number of challenges to deal with, but one quality I noticed in him when I first got here in January ’02 that still I think is very prominent in his thinking: He’s an Afghan nationalist. He’s not blind to ethnic differences and tensions, but he is constantly thinking: “How do I keep people basically linked up together in a unified state?” And he’s told me that among other things, it’s absolutely critically important for 2014 to produce a president that all Afghans and all the communities can accept, so that equilibrium is maintained and national unity is maintained. And I do believe him when he says that.
On what role the United States should play in the Arab Spring uprisings:
I worry. It’s not that I think that we’re making bad policy judgments, I think we are running into resource constraints. Development budgets get cut and cut and cut and more and more countries arise that need the support. And there’s a growing delta between need and resources that is troubling.
Karzai's Decree Is Useless if Corrupt Officials Remain: Anti-Graft Official
TOLOnews.com Saturday, 28 July 2012
Afghan President Hamid Karzai's attempts to reform the government will be in vain if corrupt officials are not sacked, the head of High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption (HOO), Azizullah Lodin, said on Saturday.
Pressure from the international community has forced Mr Karzai to look as if he is serious about tackling the corruption that has infested every layer of his administration. On Friday, he issued a degree ordering government officials to be transparent in their activities.
"The decree should be implemented in an honest, responsible manner by government bodies otherwise it will be a piece of old paper," Mr Lodin told TOLOnews.
Corrupt officials have always been a major concern for Afghanistan's anti graft organisations. Mr Lodin wants to see those found guilty of corruption to be fired.
The decree also demands the removal of weapons from illegally armed groups involved in fighting, land grabs, breaking the law and destabilising local communities.
"The police is responsible for enforcing laws and we have already started to work on the issue of stolen land," a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior told TOLOnews.
Members of civil society are also skeptical about whether the decree can be implemented in an honest fashion, and say that many of those who break the law the very people in charge of fixing corruption.
"Those who are accused of seizing land are the relatives of high-ranking government officials and/or officials themselves, so there is no hope for implementation of this decree," civil society activist Mir Ahmad Joyenda told TOLOnews.
MPs Call Karzai's Reform Plan ‘Ridiculous'
TOLOnews.com Saturday, 28 July 2012
Afghan lawmakers on Saturday called President Hamid Karzai's plan for sweeping reforms "ridiculous" and "deceiving."
Mr Karzai on Friday issued a decree setting out measures to curb corruption. He is under pressure from international donors to curb the rampant corruption that riddles his administration at every level. At a recent conference in Tokyo, donors pledged $16 billion in aid for Afghanistan but demanded that it be tied to a new monitoring mechanism to prevent the money being stolen by government officials or misused.
Lawmakers said that if Mr Karzai was serious about fighting corruption and introducing government reforms, he should have started from the presidential palace.
Parliamentarians derided the decree saying it will not benefit Afghanistan unless he sacks corrupt minister and officials.
"If Karzai is committed to fighting corruption, he should decrease the number of his advisors. We condemn the decree. He is trying to deceive the people," Farah MP Mohammad Sarwar Osmani said during Saturday's parliamentary session.
"This decree is really ridiculous and funny; such decrees will not help bring reform or help anti-corruption efforts," Badakhshan MP Fauzia Kofi said.
Several other parliamentarians blamed each other for corruption and for making deals with Afghan government officials. They said anti-corruption efforts should begin from within parliament and traitors should be exposed.
"If parliamentarians are committed, they should start combatting corruption from inside parliament," Sar-e Pul MP Sayed Mohammad Sharif Balkhabi said.
Separately, several other MPs raised concerns over violence in the country.
"Insecurity in Wardak province has reached its peak; we condemn the carelessness of the government in this regard," Maidan Wardak MP Ghulam Hussain Naseri said.
"The Ministry of Interior is dismissing professional officials and bringing in under-qualifed people they have personal relations with," Jawzjan MP Enayatullah Farahmand said.
MPs also warned the government that more protests are likely if insecurity and chaos persist.
17 insurgents killed in Afghanistan within 24 hours: gov't
KABUL, July 29 (Xinhua) -- A total of 17 Taliban insurgents have been killed and 18 others detained in five cleanup operations carried out by the Afghan police, army and the NATO-led coalition forces in deferent provinces within the past 24 hours, the Afghan Interior Ministry said on Sunday.
"The joint force also found and defused five different mines besides seizing four RPG-7 or rocket propelled grenades, five PK machine guns, eight pistols, 25 rounds of shells and a hand grenade in the above operations," the ministry said in a statement providing morning operational updates.
Separately, Afghan police found and defused an anti-vehicle mine in western Farah province on Saturday, it said.
In another development, up to 12 Taliban insurgents were killed during a cleanup operation in Gilan district of eastern Ghazni province late Saturday; provincial police chief Zarawar Zahid told Xinhua Sunday, adding two local Taliban commanders named Mullah Aghajan and Mullah Abdul Haleem were among the killed.
The Taliban insurgents, who launched in May this year spring offensive against Afghan and NATO forces, have yet to make comment.
Afghan forces and some 130,000 NATO-led coalition troops have intensified cleanup operations against insurgents recently. More than 432 insurgents have been killed and over 280 others detained since July 1 by the joint forces.
Afghans in Pakistan face a perilous future
By Sanaa Alimia | Aljazeera
Millions of Afghan refugees in Pakistan fear attempts to force them from homes in which some have lived for more than 30 years. They say they have dealt with discrimination and harassment at the hand of Pakistani authorities, who no longer "find them useful", and are anxious for them to face mass deportations before official residency permits expire at the end of this year.
Mass arrests and deportations already took place three years ago. Now individual arrests and deportations, as well as daily humiliations - seen through stop and searches, verbal and physical abuse, and requests for bribes - continue unabated, in what can only appear to be efforts to "encourage" continued repatriation - a policy that is in line with broader US-led aims of winning "hearts and minds" in Afghanistan through "reconstruction" efforts.
Many Afghans in Pakistan cannot return to Afghanistan and are in fact an integral part of Pakistan. However, once revered as the heroic "mujahid", Afghans in Pakistan are now constructed as the destructive "talib" - a complete 180-degree turn from the 1970s-90s, when Afghan migration was actively encouraged by Pakistan, the US and other international actors to defeat the Soviet "menace". Having a sizeable Afghan population in Pakistan, including militarised resistance groups, was strategically beneficial. One former engineer and mujahideen fighter from Kunar province, now a daily wage labourer, told me how Pakistani-sponsored announcements on local Afghan radio promised "free land in Pakistan for Afghans to settle on", and that "at that point, it was a big deal to be an Afghan refugee. We had recognition - we had the attention of the world on us".
Now the situation is starkly different. "[Why is] there is no legitimacy to our status? [Is it] because the war [in Afghanistan] is directed by the US?" the former fighter wondered. "Now these people say that our land is free so we should return [to Afghanistan] ...but we have been here for over 30 years!" As state relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have deteriorated, so too has the status of Afghans in Pakistan.
Mass arrests and deportations
Surprisingly, little is reported about the shift of Afghan experiences in Pakistan. All too often commentators assume the hospitality that the Pakistani state engendered throughout the 1970s-90s has continued, albeit grudgingly because of the protracted burden on Pakistani state resources. However, the reality is more startling.
In 2009 and 2010 mass arrests and deportations took place, amid discussions of renewing identity cards. That experience has left many Afghans worried this could happen again in the coming months. One Afghan community elder in Karachi who works in the transport industry told me how "many of us were arrested in 2009. I went to a prison to try to bail people out and there were 210 people there, including women. They [the police] would look at our cards and say we had no right to be here. They would either be satisfied with a bribe or, for those of us that could not pay, we were arrested."
In another discussion with a man who has been living and working in Pakistan since 1982 with his family, he said: "There was a time last year  when people were constantly being arrested, one elder had to go and get 150 people released who were arrested at one time. At another point, 40 people were taken! The police said, 'Pay us Rs 10,000, Rs 20,000 [approximately $100-$200] and you can go'. Who had this money?" For those who were deported to Afghanistan, many had no option but to return to Pakistan because of violence, lost land, and poor opportunities in Afghanistan. "I was deported," a trader living in Peshawar said, "but I had to come back. My brother and family are still here. It is difficult here, but it was worse for me there."
Legally speaking, Pakistan has become more stringent against Afghans. Only registered Afghans with a valid computerised Afghan Citizen Proof of Registration Card (PoR) are considered legal persons in Pakistan, of which there are 1.7 million , according to the UNHCR. The remaining 450,000 to 2.2 million, by a 2009 study's estimate, are unregistered and considered illegal immigrants. Even the PoR card, which was introduced in 2006-2007 and designed to last until December 31, 2009 before it was agreed to renew to 2012, will in fact not be renewed, according to Pakistani officials .
While education campaigns and government initiatives have stopped police from conducting mass arrests, discrimination and harassment continues. The "Global War on Terror" has itself transformed Pakistani cities into fortress towns, which affects all people living in Pakistan. For Afghans, it's much worse. At security checkpoints, now a permanent feature of the Pakistani landscape, identity cards are a must.
Perversely, this means that the PoR card, initially designed to ease "refugee management", has combined with increasing hostility towards Afghans to facilitate targeted humiliation. For those Afghans without a PoR card, usually the poorest of the poor, life is even tougher. In an interview with one such family, Abdul Qader, the main breadwinner, says he only moves within his neighbourhood for fear of being arrested. Often, even buying food is difficult. "Sometimes we eat the potato skins from local waste," he told me, sitting in his informally constructed house. For him and his family, return to Afghanistan is not an option, and now remaining in Pakistan is also problematic.
"The police say things like 'this is your tax'. It is a problem for us; without a card it [is] even more of an issue. We are fed up. If you have no card they hassle you. If you have a card they hassle you. If you need to go anywhere they hassle you. They harass you on your [daily] routes," said Abdul Qader.
Deteriorating Afghan-Pakistani state relations
One cannot help but suspect this targeted harassment is a side-effect of deteriorating Afghan-Pakistani state relations and an effective way of humiliating and disciplining the remaining Afghans in Pakistan - or even a tactic to "encourage" repatriation. Whatever the case may be, Afghans in Pakistan sure don't feel welcome anymore.
These experiences should not continue - nor should they remain ignored, silenced and forgotten by history. For Afghans who wish to return to Afghanistan, as many do, this national right and choice must be supported. However, the reality of a continued Afghan presence in Pakistan and of emerging transnational realities in the region cannot be ignored. The majority of Afghans who continue to live in Pakistan are an integral part of the fabric of the state. Many Afghans teach, research, are artists, run successful businesses, trade and work as labourers (which has shaped urban growth in the country).
Through solidarities of friendships and hospitality between Afghans and Pakistanis, the Afghan position in Pakistan has, on the whole, been without inter-community conflict. Many live in shared neighbourhoods, trade, work, marry and study together. One Afghan father in Peshawar notes how when his 15-year-old son was arrested by the police when playing cricket, simply by virtue of being Afghan, it was his son's friends, Afghan and Pakistani, who pooled money together to bail him out: "They all put together whatever they had and got him out of the police station. I did not even know until they told me afterwards".
These realities, and the importance of Afghans in Pakistan, must be acknowledged in practice and law. Afghan rights in Pakistan must be protected and improved.
Pakistan itself faces numerous challenges. It has a huge number of internally displaced persons, is facing crippling issues of power shortages and continues to be engaged in a cancerous alliance with the US in the ill-informed war in Afghanistan. Pakistan has also shouldered the weight of the refugee crisis, while the developed world has only ever tightened its own borders and immigration policies.
Yet this is no justification for the current attitude towards Afghans in Pakistan. The discrimination and humiliation that has played out on the bodies of Afghans to suit changing foreign policies and state-level rivalry between Afghanistan and Pakistan must end. And as discussions regarding the fate of Afghans in Pakistan continue, a repeat of 2009 must not be allowed to occur. This reality must now translate to Pakistani state practice and law.
Note: Names have been changed to protect individual identities.
Sanaa Alimia is a Teaching Fellow and PhD Candidate at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS) in London. Since 2010 she has been collecting oral testimonies of Afghans living in Karachi, Peshawar and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa areas of Pakistan.
107 Afghans Arrested in Pakistan
TOLOnews.com Saturday, 28 July 2012
As many as 107 Afghans were arrested in Pakistan on Thursday because they did not have the correct legal documents, local officials said.
Baluchistan's Frontier Corps commander Major General Obaidullah Khattak told TOLOnews that they detained five men who had allegedly been involved in the transportation of refugees, and impounded their vehicles.
"They were travelling to Iran through Pakistan illegally," Khattak said.
Afghan consulate in Peshawar has yet to comment on the issue.
Media reports recently suggested that Pakistan will expel 1.7 million Afghan refugees by the end of this year.
However, a spokesperson for the United Nation Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Pakistan on Thursday said those reports were baseless.
Speaking on Voice of America, UNHCR spokeswoman Dunya Aslam Khan said that Afghan refugees in possession of a valid registration card would be permitted to stay until they were ready to leave voluntarily.
She added that Afghanistan was not able to absorb the return of 1.7 million people at this time.
After the 2001 Nato military intervention toppled the Taliban, 5.7 million Afghan refugees returned home to Afghanistan from Pakistan and Iran - roughly 25 percent of the country's total population.
US drone kills seven militants in Pakistan
By Hasbanullah Khan | AFP
A US drone attack Sunday killed at least seven militants in Pakistan, officials said, days before the country's intelligence chief visits Washington with the contentious raids likely to be discussed.
Attacks by unmanned American aircraft are deeply unpopular in Pakistan, which says they violate its sovereignty and fan anti-US sentiment, but US officials are said to believe the attacks are too important to give up.
Drone strikes are likely to be a major issue when Pakistan's spymaster, Lieutenant General Zaheer ul-Islam, holds talks in Washington on August 1-3 with his CIA counterpart.
In Sunday's attack, the second in the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, missiles struck a compound in Khushhali Turikhel village of the troubled North Waziristan tribal district, which lies on the border with Afghanistan.
"US drones fired six missiles into a militant compound. At least seven militants were killed," a security official told AFP.
"It is not immediately clear if there was an important militant killed in the attack."
The toll might rise as militants search for colleagues buried under the rubble of the compound, the official said, adding that missiles also hit and destroyed two militant vehicles.
Local intelligence officials confirmed the attack and casualties.
Khushhali Turikhel lies around 35 kilometres (20 miles) east of Miranshah, the main town of North Waziristan which is considered a stronghold of Islamist militants.
Washington regards Pakistan's semi-autonomous northwestern tribal belt as the main hub of Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants plotting attacks on the West and in Afghanistan.
Ten militants were killed on Monday in a similar attack in Shawal area of North Waziristan. In a drone attack at the start of July, six militants were killed and an attack on June 4 killed 15 militants, including senior Al-Qaeda figure Abu Yahya al-Libi.
There has been a dramatic increase in US drone strikes in Pakistan since May, when a NATO summit in Chicago could not strike a deal to end a six-month blockade on convoys transporting supplies to coalition forces in Afghanistan.
On July 3 however, Islamabad agreed to end the blockade after the United States apologised for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in botched air strikes last November.
Islam's trip on Wednesday marks the first Washington visit in a year by the head of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence and signals a thaw in relations beset by crisis since US troops killed Osama bin Laden near Islamabad in May 2011.
In protest at US drone attacks, local Taliban and Pakistani warlord Hafiz Gul Bahadur have banned vaccinations in North and South Waziristan, putting 240,000 children in the region at risk.
They have condemned the immunisation campaign as a cover for espionage. In May, a Pakistani doctor was jailed for 33 years after helping the CIA find bin Laden using a hepatitis vaccination programme as a cover.
Kunar Army Official Detained Over Giving Weapons to Insurgents
TOLOnews.com Saturday, 28 July 2012
Four army officials including Kunar's Army Brigade Facility Chief were arrested in connection with supplying insurgents with weapons, a spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Defense said on Saturday.
Spokesman Dawlat Waziri said that the men who had been arrested were suspected of supplying insurgents with weapons. They were not, however, suspected of involvement in the planning or conduct of suicide or terrorist attacks.
"The Army Brigade Facility Manager in Kunar and three of his staff who had gathered weapons and were attempting to pass them to insurgents were arrested with the help intelligence officials," Mr Waziri said.
Separately, Mr Waziri said that more than 1,300 foreign bases will be handed over to the Afghan authorities. They will be used by various government entities including the Ministry of Defense.
"In total, 1,300 foreign military bases will be handed to the Ministry of Defense as ordered by president Karzai," Mr Waziri said. "We will provide the bases to other ministries as well."
Afghan parliamentarians recently asked Nato officials not to demolish their bases when they withdraw from Afghanistan and give them to the control of government.
Tajikistan Rebels Dig in Against Government Offensive
Mark Snowiss VOA News July 28, 2012
Armed militants in Tajikistan who recently fought deadly clashes with security forces have refused to disarm or hand over a former opposition warlord wanted by authorities despite a tense cease-fire.
The Tajik prosecutor-general said Saturday the heavy fighting killed 17 troops, 30 rebels and one civilian in violence that has raised concerns about the stability of the majority Muslim nation. Security sources said authorities have not ruled out a second phase of the military operation.
The clashes in Tajikistan have been on the rise for weeks.
Fighters in the eastern Gorno-Badakhshan autonomous region near the Afghan border are locked in a standoff with the government after President Emomali Rakhmon sent helicopter gunships, armored vehicles and thousands of troops into the area Tuesday, following last week's killing of General Abdullo Nazarov, the regional security chief.
Tajik officials accuse ex-warlord Tolib Ayombekov of orchestrating Nazarov's murder and running an organized crime group that smuggles drugs, tobacco and precious stones over the Afghan border into Tajikistan.
Ayombekov, a rebel leader during the 1992-97 civil war that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union, denies any involvement in Nazarov's death. He told the Associated Press the security operation was aimed solely at rounding up former civil war commanders.
Tens of thousands died in the conflict, in which Rakhman's Moscow-backed troops fought a loosely aligned opposition that included many Islamist fighters.
Fearing possible infiltration by Taliban-linked militants who support Ayombekov, the Tajik government last week closed all border crossings with Afghanistan, only allowing trucks carrying cargo for NATO troops there to pass.
Tajikistan remains the poorest of the ex-Soviet republics. It is important to U.S.-led military operations in Afghanistan and serves as a main transit route for opium destined for Russia and Western Europe. Observers say an eruption of sustained violence there could trigger unrest in neighboring Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, which also are key countries in the Afghan campaign as routes for military supply and withdrawal.
Russia, which still has 6,000 troops stationed in Tajikistan, is worried about instability spreading across Central Asia when the U.S. begins pulling its forces out of Afghanistan in 2014.
Tajikistan's authority in Gorno-Badakhshan - which covers around half the country - is fragile and most of the region's 250,000 inhabitants sided with the opposition in the civil war.
Some information in this report was provided by Reuters, AP and AFP.
Afghan rights report stalled by warlord fears
Government report on 30 years of violence may not see the light of day because it names politically-connected warlords.
Aljazeera By Ali M Latifi 28 Jul 2012
A recent report detailing atrocities committed over three decades of conflict in Afghanistan was supposed to provide answers to the families of one million people killed and 1.3 million left disabled by the violence, but now some fear that a focus on naming politically-connected perpetrators could prevent the document's release.
The report, "Conflict Mapping in Afghanistan Since 1978", based on six years of research by a team of 40 researchers and the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), has not been released to the public, apparently because it implicates prominent warlords in various abuses.
News of the report's stalling was first covered by the New York Times on July 22. It is set to be the first officiallly sanctioned, Afghan-produced account of human rights abuses over the past three decades.
The findings of the 800-page document including evidence of 180 mass graves, killings of civilians and prisoners, arbitrary arrests, forced disappearances, and destruction of towns and villages - quickly angered powerful men within the Afghan government. First vice president Marshal Fahim, for example, was livid that his name was among the 500 linked to the mass killings of fighters and civilians from 1992 to 1996.
This has left human rights activists and civil society organisations in a perplexing situation. They want justice, but political realities on the ground mean the report will likely stay buried if it fingers prominent figures like Abdul Rashid Dostum, Abdul Karim Khalili, Gulbuddin Hekmetyar, and even Ahmad Shah Massoud - the mujhaideen leader who has been lionised in Afghanistan and Western media.
Holding warlords to account seems necessary to outside observers. But many in Afghanistan believe these men stoke long-standing ethnic tensions to increase their power and as justification for atrocities contained within the report.
“Even a watered down report with no names in it is more important than no report,” says Josh Shahryar, an Afghan reporter for EA WorldView, an online publication focusing on human rights.
Foreign rights activists too, tend to agree with the Faustian bargain of redacting names of key warlords because of Afghanistan's contentious ethnic and tribal politics.
John Sifton, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, who has seen several drafts of the report, says the document in its current form has stripped out the names of those responsible for atrocities.
"Most Afghans can fill in the blanks," Sifton told Al Jazeera. The warlords and their crimes, he said, are well known among people in the country.
Some rights defenders are unhappy with coverage from the New York Times, including an accounting of a December meeting between senior officials in the Afghan government and President Hamid Karzai, where first vice president Fahim advises shooting "30 holes" in the "face" of one of the report's chief authors.
Former AIHRC commissioner Nader Nadery was the subject of Fahim's alleged threats. Suprisingly, he agrees with the apparent plan to redact the names of prominent warlords from the report. The media focus on warlords undermines attempts to "break the cycle of violence", Nadery told Al Jazeera. It could sound like a cynical position, but the report is seen by some as the beginning of a larger change, allowing for an unprecedented society-wide discussion of past suffering.
Stretching political muscle
Targeting specific warlords, despite their apparent crimes, will be ineffective, critics say, because of an amnesty law passed in 2007.
But it is not the blanket amnesty alone that troubles Afghans and rights activists.
The bill's passage, in itself, is seen as an example of how much political muscle many of the people implicated in the report still wield.
They enjoy “more power and more money today than they did during the civil war itself”, says Mirwais Wardak, director of the Peace Training and Research Organisation (PTRO), a Kabul-based NGO.
The tranformation of Abdul Rasul Sayyaf - who went from being the former leader of the Islamic Union for the Liberation of Afghanistan party, believed to be one of the first to invite Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan, to a prominent lawmaker, underscores the climate of fear.
Sayyaf and other high profile men implicated in the report played a large role in the passage of the 2007 amnesty bill, despite protests from local and international groups. Activists worry these politicallly-connected warlords are likely to stop the latest human rights report from seeing the light of day if they are mentioned.
The warlords have repeatedly "taken cover behind ethnic walls and fueled strife to protect themselves from accountability", says Abbas Daiyar, a Kabul-based journalist. If the report is released without redacting the names, warlords are likely to inflame ethnic violence, critics fear. This is the reason why senior US officials are sceptical of the benefits of releasing a report which mentions names, the New York Times reported.
If the report is released without names it could be a step towards national unity and reconciliaton, according to some.
“The urgency of [the report’s] release is to tell our people what civil war does, and that, more or less, everyone suffered,” said Daiyar.
Detailing the abuses suffered by all ethnic groups at the hands of militias could change "the Afghan perceptions of who they believe suffered", says Shahryar.
Past reports have documented abuses. What would make the release of this document different, however, is that it serves as "a sign to the people that 'your suffering has been officially accepted and publicly acknowledged' by the state - no matter who committed [the crimes] and when", says Shahryar.
In a 2004 AIHRC national consultation which sought people’s advice on how best to address atrocities of the past, Nadery said 75 per cent of respondents said they had suffered from human rights abuses.
A year later, the findings of that consultation were published in a report entitled “a call for justice”, in which Nadery said 92 per cent of respondents wanted some sort of accountability.
Two days after the publication of The New York Times piece, a group of 18 human rights and civil society organisations in the nation demanded the release of the “conflict mapping” report saying “peace is not possible without justice and if it were to take place, our country would be thrown into a worse crisis that would threaten the country’s existence in the future”.
The impacts of a watered down report withholding the names of specific human rights violators, names which Afghans have grown up hearing about, as opposed to no report at all, remains to be seen. But to Afghans, what is most important, is having the suffering they faced for 30 years finally acknowledged publicly by the government.
Romney tries to distinguish Afghan policy
By STEVE PEOPLES | Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney is trying to distinguish his Afghan policy from that of President Barack Obama.
Romney tells ABC News in a Sunday interview that he supports Obama's plan to pull U.S. troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. But he doesn't agree with Obama's plan to order 23,000 troops out by Sept. 30, a timeline some military experts warn could complicate next year's efforts to stabilize the war-torn country.
The former Massachusetts governor says his position could change depending on the counsel of military commanders. He says he's leaving open the possibility of keeping combat troops in Afghanistan beyond 2014 should conditions change.
Romney is in Israel as part of his first overseas trip as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee.
Afghan laws banning lavish weddings proving hard to enact
By Rob Taylor | Reuters
KABUL (Reuters) - A law curbing the spiraling costs of lavish Afghan weddings is proving difficult to enact, with many lawmakers opposed to legislation meant to contain crippling marriage bills in one of the world's poorest countries, a top government adviser said.
Since U.S.-backed Afghan forces ousted the austere Islamist Taliban in 2001, Afghans have revived the tradition of holding extravagant weddings, costing thousands of dollars, in a country where the average annual income is less than $400.
But after complaints from the families of grooms, who are expected to foot the bill and agree to every request of the bride and her family, the government has been working on new laws capping the number of guests at around 300 people.
"There was an idea in the Ministry of Justice to regularize that, to bring some kind of discipline, so that the family of the bridegroom does not suffer that much," said the ministry's top adviser Mohmmad Qasim Hashimzai.
"But then some people expressed opinions - especially some experts - that it was a private issue, that we should not intrude in the private business," he said.
Hundreds of guests attend Afghan weddings held in luxurious halls or in hotels, with clothing, food and music driving up costs with brides inviting the entire community to celebrations.
The government's bid to regulate the size of celebrations follows a ban last year on expensive weddings and dowries introduced by district governments in some areas to encourage young people to marry instead of postponing their nuptials due to spiraling costs.
The national government has since sought to introduce similar laws curbing expensive weddings across the country.
Parts of the law would also crack down on sleeveless dresses worn by women or other designs thought too revealing by religious conservatives.
Critics said the laws were a reversal for women's rights harking back to the Taliban period when weddings were monitored to ensure they did not breach hardline Islamic values including a ban on music.
Hashimzai said there had been significant opposition to the proposed law within President Hamid Karzai's cabinet.
"If the parliament approves it, it may go through. But there are lots of people who've expressed an opinion ... that it should not go through deeply in private matters, as weddings are a private issue," he said.
And practically, Hashimzai said, the laws would be near impossible to enforce even if they were introduced, as it would require the government to somehow attend every wedding and count guests, as well as judge costs.
"Do we need a policeman to go and stand over there?" he said. "I suppose some people may go to the family of the bride and say there is a rule and you cannot ask us to invite more than 300 guests. There will be some leverage. But I think it will be very difficult to control it."
(Reporting by Rob Taylor; Editing by Sanjeev Miglani)
Euro zone woes weigh on Afghan aid projects
Reuters By Amie Ferris-Rotman Sat Jul 28, 2012
HERAT, Afghanistan - Italy and Spain are scaling back the money allotted for development projects in Afghanistan this year as their debt crises widen at home, military officials said.
Italy, which spends almost half its Afghan aid money on education, has wiped 400,000 euros off this year's pledge, leaving 5 million euros, and Spain is decreasing its amount by millions.
Major donors earlier this month pledged $16 billion in development aid through 2015 for Afghanistan, which is less than previous years and separate from individual countries' commitments through reconstruction teams. They also demanded Afghanistan better tackle its widespread corruption.
"Due to the economic situation, we're seeing the biggest amount disappear in a year," said Colonel Francesco Principe, who heads the Italian civilian and military reconstruction team in Herat province in the country's west bordering Iran.
Almost all of Italy's 4,000 troops, the fourth-largest contributor to the NATO-led war, are in Herat, whose base boasts a pizzeria, wine-serving pasta restaurant and two chapels with statues of the Virgin Mary.
The cut 400,000 euros would have mostly covered fuel and support for Italy's aid projects, Principe told reporters. His team's most famous feat is the new Herat airport, which opened in April after a $1.4 million, eight-month build.
Spain's 1,500 troops are distributed between Herat and Badghis province to its north, where they also run a reconstruction team.
This year will see an "important decrease due to Spain's economy" in development funding, said commander for Badghis, Spanish Colonel Luis Cebrian Carbonell.
Compared to the 10 million euros spent last year, Spain has 7.3 million euros this year, Carbonell said, to go for road construction and other projects.
Even for countries with better economic outlooks, aid to Afghanistan is dwindling as the 2014 deadline looms for NATO to withdraw most of its combat troops, sparking concern that the country's crippling corruption and shaky security could mean Afghanistan will not be able to stand on its own two feet.
Principe said six reconstruction teams -- three U.S., two Swedish and one German -- were shut across the country over the last month.
Of the 26 existing today, seven will shut by the middle of next year, he added, meaning their education, health and construction projects will come to an end.
Italy has committed about 36 million euros for development work in Afghanistan since 2005, while Spain has contributed 226 million euros since 2006. (Reporting by Amie Ferris-Rotman; Editing by Nick Macfie)
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