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|Wave of violence puts Afghanistan on edge|
|04/13/02 at 20:31:41|
Wave of violence puts Afghanistan on edge
By Susan B. Glasser & Peter Baker
KABUL: A wave of violence and political conflict in recent days has set Afghanistan on edge and threatens key steps on the fractured country's road to reconstruction, including the scheduled return of the exiled king and the promised delivery of hundreds of millions of dollars in international aid.
In a week that began with an assassination attempt against the defence minister, new reports of instability have emerged every day since. Just on Thursday, the United Nations reported the murder of an aid worker in the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, while international peacekeepers turned up a large weapons cache near the capital. The Afghan government has also been confronted by factional fighting between local commanders near Iran and by revolts in the southern part of the country by poppy farmers upset over eradication of their lucrative opium crop.
"The last few days have not been very positive," said John Fairhurst, who heads operations in Afghanistan for the international aid group Oxfam. "Everyone's quite jittery."
Such anxiety was in evidence on Thursday at the conclusion of a two-day conference of international donors who pledged in Tokyo earlier this year to give 1.8 billion dollars for Afghan reconstruction but so far have handed over only 360 million dollars. The meeting here was designed, as a top UN official put it, "to move from plans to action." But the Afghan interim government came away with little more than new promises from a handful of countries and a 100 million dollars loan offer from the World Bank that the Afghans would prefer not to accept when donations have been pledged.
During the closed-door talks, donors expressed deep concern about the security situation, according to participants. "They don't want to give money to support the interim administration," said an attendee. "They are worried about security and what they see as continuing instability."
Similar apprehension may yet thwart the planned return of former king Mohammed Zahir Shah, a popular figure among many Afghans but also the target of virulent opposition from anti- government forces. Zahir Shah already has postponed his trip several times because of security concerns. An Afghan government spokesman on Thursday said the king remains committed to coming next Tuesday, but many in Kabul remain skeptical.
Persistent outbreaks of violence could also create problems for the next stage in the process of creating a genuine democratic government in Afghanistan. Voting begins next week in a lengthy and complicated process to select delegates to a loya jirga, or national assembly, that will meet in June to establish a transitional government. The first voting is scheduled to begin in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday.
The world body lodged an official complaint with the government in Kabul and pledged to take up the matter with Rashid Dostum, who rules Mazar-e-Sharif and also serves as deputy defence minister of the interim government. UN spokesman Manuel de Almeida e Silva listed several violent incidents involving aid workers in the north, including a February attack when armed men broke into the home of an Afghan aid worker and "raped the women and looted all the household assets."
Other parts of the country also have seen disturbances this week. In the eastern city of Jalalabad, a bomb attack on Monday narrowly missed a convoy that included Defence Minister Mohammed Fahim, killing five bystanders. Not far away, poppy farmers protesting the government's anti-drug programme succeeded, at least temporarily, in blocking the key highway to Pakistan.
By later in the week, the highway was reopened and several suspects arrested in the attempted attack on Fahim. A senior Defence Ministry aide said on Thursday that four suspects were in custody; he described them as "men for hire," but did not disclose who might have paid them. A top local leader in Jalalabad, Mohammed Zaman, said in a telephone interview that only two men had been arrested.
"The security situation in the country is fragile," Zaman said, "and there are elements within the country who would like to take advantage of that." Even in Kabul, which has been a relative oasis of calm, men have been rounded up and accused of plotting to bomb the capital as well as a rocket attack against international peacekeepers in recent days.
A security official said additional mass arrests of armed men suspected of seeking to destabilize the government are anticipated. Last week, the government rounded up hundreds of men in Kabul allegedly affiliated with the Hezb-i-Islami headed by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a commander who rose to prominence in the 1980s war against the Soviets and is an opponent of the current government.-Dawn/The Washington Post News Service.
|Re: Wave of violence puts Afghanistan on edge|
|04/14/02 at 10:44:31|
|MSNBC is reporting that US Special Forces troops were fired upon and rockets were fired at a US base. They also report an Apache downed. The Pentagon says that it made a "hard landing." The head of US Central Command says that “the fact of the matter is that the helicopter was destroyed.” I say it was downed by the Taliban...|
In some other hilarious news, thirty Afghan Northern Alliance "policemen" fired on ISAF troops. Seven were captured...These same "policemen" are responsible for the new wave of crime engulfing Afghanistan.
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