Charlotte Fleishman / Center for Defense Information – 2005-05-02 00:07:43
Twelve Taliban militants died and two U.S. soldiers were wounded on April 10 during an air strike in the Shiwak mountains, 20 miles south of Gardez. The fight between militants and Afghan forces began after the former fired 12 rockets at a road on which a former Afghan military chief was believed to be traveling.
Afghan forces chased the insurgents into the mountains before calling U.S.-led air support. U.S. military spokeswoman Lt. Cindy Moore said that the U.S. military air and ground forces were involved in the incident, but did not confirm that the dead militants were members of the former Taliban. Troops found an improvised explosive device attached to one of the corpses. Around 2,000 American airmen are based in Afghanistan.
Lt Gen. David Barno, the top commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, said on April 16 that the Taliban and al-Qaida will most likely carry out high profile attacks in Afghanistan in the months before the first parliamentary election. “Terrorists here in Afghansitan want to reassert themselves and I expect that they will be looking here in the next six to nine months or so to stage some type of high profile attack to score media publicity,” Barno told reporters. Parliamentary elections will occur on Sept. 18 to elect a 249-seat legislature.
General Afghan Situation
Gen. Abdul Rahim Wardak, Afghanistan’s defense minister, said on April 6 that the Afghan government was in talks with the United States about the construction of air bases in Afghanistan after the reconstruction efforts conclude. He also said that Afghanistan welcomed “enduring arrangements” that would allow the U.S. forces to launch forces from Afghanistan in a crisis.
Given the geopolitical sensitivities in the region, especially with Iran, talks between Afghanistan and the United States about lasting military establishments in the country have been low key. U.S. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., said that in his personal view, joint and permanent bases should be established.
Ghulam Sarwar Danish, Afghanistan’s minister of justice, said on April 10 that there has been weak tangible evidence that the millions of dollars spent by donors and international organizations helped Afghanistan’s judicial system. According to the ministry, only 15 of 380 courts have buildings and no prisons exist in more than 20 provinces around Afghanistan. Danish said that the ministry needs over $100 million in 2005 to improve the justice system. Namely, money for improvements would focus on staff and buildings for judicial proceedings.
On April 16, Mawlavi Abdul Kabir, a leader in the Taliban who is considered to be second in command after Mullah Mohammad Omar, rejected reports that he discussed reconciliation with the Afghan government. He also rejected reports of discord among former Taliban members.
Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai announced on April 17 that he will send soldiers in the Afghanistan National Army to Iraq after a meeting with U.S. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Also on April 17, five oil tankers exploded outside an American military base in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Former Taliban leaders claimed responsibility for the act, which injured three Pakistani truck drivers. However, a U.S. military investigation revealed that the blast was an accident caused by faulty fuel tanks.
On April 6, U.S. and U.K. officials said that they would honor a recent request from Karzai for more control over money from international donors to help with reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. However, they made no comment as to when the handover of more control would take place.
Fredrick Schick, deputy administrator for the U.S. Agency for International Development, said on in a press conference after the 2005 Afghanistan Development forum that as time goes by, institutions in Afghanistan will receive more control over funds, but that first there must be greater confidence in those institutions to operate independently. About 93 percent of Afghanistan’s $4.75 billion budget for 2006 will come from foreign donors, with less than 25 percent of that amount directly administered by the Afghan government.
U.S. official warned on April 13 that Americans living in Afghanistan that they should be careful about threats in the country, including suicide attacks, assassinations, shootings, bombings and hijacking. The warning to be wary and to keep a low profile occurred hours before an American man escaped a kidnap attempt in the Wazir Akbar district of Kabul.
On April 10, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz told a delegation of the Pakistan Muslim League that his government is considering opening more border posts to encourage trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afghanistan introduced its first new coins in almost 30 years on April 11, marking a major step in the country’s economic progress. The coins will be worth one (2.3 U.S. cents), two (4.7 U.S. cents) or five (12 U.S. cents) Afghanis and will be accepted in banks across the country immediately.
* According to the Afghanistan National Human Development Report composed by the United Nations, around 30 percent of the population in Afghanistan suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder. “Around 80 percent of the people we see are women,” said Dr. Zalmay Jhan on April 12. Jhan is one of the four doctors with any mental health training in Herat. Currently, there is only one 50-bed psychiatric hospital and five asylums in whole country, and only one native psychiatrist working.
* On April 12, eight government officials in Afghanistan were found guilty of embezzling public money. The verdict, handed down by an Afghan court, was the first indictment of high level corruption in three years.
* An Afghan official said on April 13 that his country would protect a multibillion dollar pipeline that will serve as a natural gas pipeline between Turkmenistan and Pakistan. The pipeline project has been on hold since the 1990s when the Taliban came into power.
* On April 15, the Asian Development Bank promised to donate $50 million to Afghanistan in order to build an electricity transmission network in rural areas of the country. The network will allow power to reach over 1.2 million people. Currently, only 9 percent of Afghanistan’s citizens have access to electricity.