Archive for September 2008
Source: International Organization for Migration (IOM)
September 12, 2008
IOM today launched a field survey report on trafficking in persons in
Afghanistan. The findings will be shared with relevant Afghan government
ministries and other partners to develop effective future counter trafficking
The research provides an in-depth analysis of the trafficking phenomenon in,
from and to Afghanistan, based on first-hand data collected mainly from expert
interviews and a field survey conducted in Kabul and nine border provinces.
It represents the first attempt to interview a wide range of victims and
actors and is an important addition to an initial report on human trafficking in
Afghanistan published by IOM in 2004.
“We know that trafficking gravely affects Afghanistan from anecdotal evidence
and from cases which we have assisted, but actual data and analysis has been
very scarce until now,” says Nigina Mamadjonova, IOM Afghanistan’s Counter
Trafficking Programme Manager.
Among the factors making Afghan people extremely vulnerable to human
trafficking are more than two decades of conflict, the subsequent loss of lives
and livelihoods, prolonged economic instability and deteriorating security.
The report discusses these push factors and the demographics of trafficked
victims, including age, gender, place of origin and educational background, in
comparison with smuggled migrants and victims of kidnapping.
It also analyzes trafficking methods and destinations. Recognizing that some
elements of control and exploitation were experienced by all victims of
trafficking, regardless of their nationality or gender, the patterns and extent
of violence are also closely examined.
The report also looks at the roles of key counter trafficking partners,
particularly the Government of Afghanistan, in order to recognize achievements
and identify gaps in the areas of prevention, law enforcement and protection of
victims. It also recommends short- to medium-term action to combat the problem.
The report is currently available in English and will soon be made available
in Dari and Pashto. Copies can be obtained from the office of IOM Afghanistan or
docs/afghanistan/iom report trafficking_afghanistan.pdf
For further information, please contact Nigina Mamadjonova at IOM Kabul, Tel
+ 93 (0) 700 066041, Email: email@example.com or Katsui Kaya, Tel +93 (0) 700 18596, Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Source: United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)
Kabul, 10 September 2008 – The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), meeting today in Kabul, agreed the expansion of the Afghan National Army – increasing its strength to 134,000 personnel.
The Board, which consists of senior Afghan Ministers and representatives of the international community, also welcomed the new co-chair of the JCMB, Senior Cabinet Minister Hedayat Amin Arsala.
The Board endorsed a proposed Afghanistan Social Outreach Programme, whose aim is to empower local communities. It welcomed the proposal presented by the Afghan Government to set-up a mechanism to support the implementation of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy (ANDS). Reports were also presented on the status of preparations for elections and on the new anti-corruption body, the High Office of Oversight.
In addition, there were briefings on the humanitarian and refugee situations, with renewed calls to answer a humanitarian appeal for $404 million to help the most vulnerable Afghans over the coming winter months.
Kai Eide, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and co-chair of the JCMB said:
“I welcome the decision taken today to expand the Afghan National Army. This increase is a huge step towards ensuring the Afghan Government has the number of soldiers it needs and that it can gradually take over the responsibility for the security of the country. We all know that ensuring security for all Afghans is of paramount importance.
“There is now a real sense of urgency to build on the commitments and progress that were made at the Paris Conference [in June]. This is a testing period for us all, but we all remain committed to implementing the commitments made – such as improved aid effectiveness and a more intensive fight against corruption.”
NOTES TO EDITORS:
The Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) was established for the overall strategic coordination and implementation of the Afghanistan Compact.
For further information, media should contact Nazifullah Salarzai (Dari, Pashto and English) on 0797 662 504 or Dan McNorton (English) on 0700 250 358.
United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan Spokesperson’s Office Kabul, Afghanistan tel: 00 39 0831 24 6121 or 00 93 (0) 20 297 6121 email: email@example.com website: http://www.unama-afg.org
Xinhua / September 11, 2008
The Afghan government and the World Bank on Thursday signed an agreement under which 8 million U.S. dollars grant will be provided as part of the assisting programs to tackle food crisis in the war-torn country.
“The initiative of the agreement on The Afghanistan Food Crisis Response Project, which is signed by Afghan Finance Minister Anwar-ul-Haq Ahady and World Bank Country Manager Mariam J. Sherman, is to enhance wheat and other cereal production by supporting small scale irrigation at the community level,” said a World Bank statement released here.
“As part of The Bank’s new Global Food Crisis Response Program, the project focuses on medium-term investments needed to increase food security over time,” it said.
“The project will support the rehabilitation of around 500 small, traditional irrigation schemes critical to the recovery of the country’s agriculture,” it said.
The statement also noted that the whole project will be implemented by the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development through elected Community Development Councils in the provinces most affected by drought and food shortages.
Nearly 70 percent of Afghanistan’s wheat production comes from irrigated lands, according to the Afghan finance minister.
“It is important that we give priority to the rehabilitation of irrigation systems,” Ahady said.
As a leading lending agency, the World Bank has contributed more than 1 billion U.S. dollars towards rebuilding Afghanistan since 2002, with part of them soft loan.
Residents are fleeing exclusive estate dreamed up by president’s brother
* James Palmer in Kandahar
* The Guardian,
* Friday September 12 2008
The neat rows of new homes in the gated community sit behind freshly painted three-metre-high cement walls and rows of manicured shrubs.
Pavements lined with imported eucalyptus trees border smoothly paved streets that fill at twilight with cyclists and walkers. Further back, another cluster of houses is being built, including an eight-bedroom villa with a pool, wraparound deck and balcony supported by doric columns.
Residents at the Aino Mina housing development also have access to a mosque, two private schools, football fields, playgrounds and private armed guards on duty 24 hours a day. A hospital, supermarket, pizza parlour and golf course are also planned.
But, despite luxuries rivalling those found in exclusive suburban communities in the United States, many owners are trying to sell or rent out their homes. Others have temporarily abandoned properties. The reason is as simple as the long-standing estate agent’s maxim: location, location, location.
This upmarket residential neighbourhood is situated on the outskirts of the provincial capital of Kandahar – one of the most volatile and lawless provinces of Afghanistan. Others call the area the heartbeat of the Taliban, the place where the group formed in the early 1990s and where it is, by all accounts, re-establishing itself today.
“I’m leaving tomorrow,” Sayed Hakim Kallmi, a 40-year-old hotel manager, said as he stood on the pavement outside his dream home in Aino Mina. He was watching his son and three of his six daughters play with neighbours. “There’s no security here.”
According to Mahmoud Karzai, the driving force behind the project and younger brother of the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, what is taking place is a clash between people who want a better life and those fighting any attempt at progress.
“This is,” Karzai claimed, “a war against modernisation.”
Aino Mina began with 24 hectares (60 acres) and an initial investment of $50,000 by five businessmen, including three Afghan-Americans, in 2002 shortly after a US-led invasion of Afghanistan toppled the Taliban. A $3m loan from the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, a US government agency that encourages investment from the American private sector in developing foreign economies, boosted the project.
Today the project has grown to 800 hectares and $50m of investment. At least 300 homes have been sold. About half of those have been completed and a further 250 are under construction, according to the site manager, Mohammed Gul Pacha Khan.
Karzai said he envisioned thousands of residents in a contemporary city on a par with any of its size worldwide.
“Kandahar was once an economic and intellectual centre in Afghanistan, second only to Kabul, until the Taliban took it over,” said Karzai. “This was a dream come true for me because I was eager to build a modern city for the people with a proper water and electrical system, roads, sidewalks, trees, hospitals and schools.”
A Taliban representative said his group opposed development because Karzai and the other investors were using government influence to enrich themselves.
“This is the land of the people,” Qari Yousef Ahmadi said in a telephone interview. “The brother of Karzai is using it to serve his own interests and the interests of his friends.”
Not so, the younger Karzai said. In fact, he countered, his group was providing affordable housing with modern amenities and building a tax base for the government, while creating approximately 1,000 jobs at a time when a weak economy and high unemployment were hindering development.
“When the Taliban were in power,” he said, “there was nothing but dust and an undeveloped city with no signs of civilisation.”
Taliban operatives have made no secret of their campaign to intimidate residents of Aino Mina. Ahmadi, who described himself as a spokesman for the group, said: “We seriously warn people not to buy here. Those who stay there and who buy there will be held responsible for the actions we take against them later.”
Residents and workers in the development say the Taliban have targeted the area and maintain an unmistakable presence. During a sweltering July afternoon, a thickly bearded man in a shalwar kameez with a turban wrapped around his head rode a motorcycle along the nearly empty streets of Aino Mina with an AK-47 strapped across his back. The motorbike and the AK-47 both are long-favoured hallmarks of the Taliban.
Despite the rider, a handful of construction workers at the project hauled wheelbarrows full of dirt, lugged slabs of concrete and scaled bamboo ladders. Naik Mohammed, 28, pointed to a two-story townhouse and said Taliban militants had recently looted the elegant dwelling and demanded protection money from its occupants.
“They told the owners to pay $200,000 and they would allow them to live there peacefully and they won’t kill them,” Mohammed said. “The family left the next day.”
However, Mohammed, who earns about $4 a day for a 12-hour shift, added that neither he nor any of his co-workers had been threatened.
But Mohammed Sadiq, 38, who bought an eight-bedroom house in the project, said the kidnapping of two Aino Mina residents last month had hurt sales. “Building has slowed,” said Sadiq, who also is a construction manager for the development. “People are afraid to buy because of the Taliban.”
Not all residents are as concerned. Some even say they feel safer on the development than in the city, where roadside bombs targeting Nato and government security forces explode with sickening regularity, crime is rife and religious extremism is prevalent.
Mohabatullan Sayed Gul, 42, an electronic parts shop owner who has lived for five months in a three-bedroom ranch-style house complete with a flourishing garden of tomatoes, aubergines and cauliflowers fortified by a towering cement wall, said he moved there primarily for the private girls’ school available to his three daughters.
“This is a modern place where modern people live and girls are free to go to school,” said Sayed Gul. He had received threatening letters at the doorstep of his previous residence in Kandahar from Taliban militants warning him to refrain from sending his daughters to school. “There are many people in the city who don’t want girls to receive an education.”
Others are packing up.
Kallmi, the hotel manager, spent the day preparing his wife and seven children to leave the house they were renting for $150 a month. The previous owner also had left because he did not feel safe. As Kallmi moved furniture and stacked bundles filled with personal belongings, he said he would leave the next day and go north.
“I was very happy in this environment,” Kallmi said. “I’m sorry I have to leave.”
© Guardian News and Media Limited 2008
Tribune correspondent Kim Barker experiences firsthand Afghanistan’s lawless spiral of terror and corruption: Another person killed, like too many before, working to better his country
By Kim Barker | Tribune correspondent
September 12, 2008
KABUL, Afghanistan — Mohammad Alim Hanif knew he would be killed, but he didn’t want to give up being a judge.
“My life is in danger, and no one will listen until a judge is killed,” Hanif told me in July as we sat in his office, talking about the difficulty of sentencing drug traffickers.
Maybe people will listen now. Last week, as Hanif drove to work, he was shot in the heart. He died at the hospital.
It was but one small tragedy I have seen that barely rated a mention in Afghanistan, let alone the rest of the world. But the slaying of Hanif, and the fact that it seemed to matter so little in this country where so much appears to be going wrong, tells a larger story about what is happening in Afghanistan, about who might be winning and the country’s direction almost seven years since U.S. troops helped drive out the Taliban after the Sept. 11 attacks.
As a journalist who has covered Pakistan and Afghanistan on and off for more than five years, I have known a number of people who have been killed, one by one: the men who said the right things, who stood up to militants, to corruption, to drug traffickers.
Some were not entirely clean—after almost three decades of fighting, it is tough to find someone without bloodstained hands — but all wanted their country to succeed.
Every time I arrive in Kabul, I hear the list of the dead. There was Abdul Hakim Taniwal, the scholar who came back from Australia to help rebuild his country. In March 2003, he was the governor of eastern Khost province and he invited me for a large dinner at his house, the first time I ate a meal sitting on cushions on the floor.
In September 2006, Taniwal, a gentle and hopeful man, was killed by a suicide bomber.
Mohammad Akram Khakrizwal, the head of security for southern Kandahar province when I met him in April 2003, told me that the Taliban wanted everyone to grow up illiterate and uneducated like them. He was fearless, built like a wrestler, and he later became police chief of Kabul.
In June 2005, while Khakrizwal was at a funeral for a prominent cleric killed by insurgents, a bomb ripped through the mosque, killing him and 19 others.
‘What have you done?’
I saw his brother a year later. Mohammed Akbar Khakrizwal was his tribe’s leader in Kandahar, and he laughed when he saw me wearing an all-encompassing burqa, which covered my face and body, my attempt at a disguise that would allow me to travel unnoticed.
“Oh, what have you done to yourself?” he asked, cracking up. “For 100 years, no one will recognize you like this. No one will touch you.”
In June, he was gunned down by men on motorcycles, used often by the Taliban.
And there were Mullah Naqib and Abdul Hakim Jan, two pro-government elders, and Habibullah Jan, a member of parliament from Kandahar who told me in June 2006 about a funeral for a pro-government cleric killed by the Taliban that only four people were brave enough to attend. All are gone now.
The list of the dead is long and telling, a bitter story of failure in this war-torn country. Some were killed by militants, some in old rivalries, but rarely is anyone arrested.
The bigger crime seems to be that the Afghan government cannot protect the men who are so clearly targets. If someone really wants to kill an official, it’s impossible to always prevent that. But it is possible to make it harder.
As head of appeals for the drugs court in Afghanistan, Hanif, in his 50s, was an obvious target, responsible for putting away drug traffickers, some of the most powerful people in Afghanistan, where the drug trade is estimated at more than $4 billion a year. Everyone with any influence reportedly has their hand in drugs—the Taliban, government officials, relatives of government officials.
‘We will kill you’
But unlike some judges, Hanif was honest. He refused bribes. And he put away the mostly small-time drug traffickers who ended up in his court, no matter the threat.
Hanif recently started receiving anonymous phone calls and text messages warning that people were watching him. “Soon, we will kill you,” one message said. Sitting in his office in July, Hanif looked frail and worried. Pending cases were stacked on a coffee table.
Yet Hanif did not have an armored car, like government ministers or powerful warlords. He did not have security guards or police protection or even a gun. He did not have a safe place to live.
“The government said, ‘We will give you armored vehicles,’ ” Hanif told me in July. “They said, ‘We will give you police to take care of your security.’ But they give us nothing. We can’t even go and pray in the mosque, because if people find out what we do, who we are, we will be in trouble.”
Somehow these people found Hanif. This story is an obituary for him, and for the Khakrizwals, for Taniwal and Habibullah Jan and Mullah Naqib—and, in some eyes, for Afghanistan. Because for Afghans, the constant parade of deaths makes them feel they are losing their country, one small tragedy at a time.
Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune
Friday, September 12, 2008
M. Ashraf Haidari 9/11/08
As Americans reflect on the tragic events of seven years ago, they should also recall that the September 11 terrorist attacks caused the international spotlight to refocus on Afghanistan. The US-led invasion in late 2001 succeeded in driving the Taliban from power, and paved the way for a humanitarian success story. Of late, however, the international commitment to Afghanistan seems to have lost traction. One way that Americans can honor the September 11 victims is by keeping Afghan reconstruction efforts on course, and doing their part to ensure that millions of Afghan refugees feel secure enough to return home.
Over the course of the past three decades, Afghan refugees have never hesitated to return home as soon as promising conditions have given them hope for restoration of peace and justice in their homeland. In 1992 and 1993, for example, following the fall of the Afghan communist regime, more than 2 million Afghan refugees voluntarily repatriated from Pakistan and Iran. But their return ground to a halt, shortly after the breakout of the civil war that plunged Afghanistan into anarchy and chaos.
Buoyed by international re-engagement in Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, more than 5 million Afghan refugees returned home from Pakistan and Iran during the early 2000s, making the largest voluntary repatriation in the history of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR).
But there still are over 3 million Afghan in Pakistan, and over 1 million in Iran, and these remaining refugees are now reluctant to return home. Deteriorating security, widespread poverty and unemployment, and a severe lack of social facilities such as access to education and healthcare constitute major obstacles to voluntary repatriation of most Afghan refugees. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive]. In many areas, especially in southern Afghanistan, the Taliban has once again emerged as a force to be reckoned with. [For background see the Eurasia Insight archive].
When a UN reporter in June asked one Afghan refugee, Hazrat Shah, if he planned to repatriate, the carpet weaver now living in Pakistan replied; “There is no place in the world like home. But where would you go if your house were ablaze?” He added gloomily, “Today two new graves have been dug for two brothers who were killed in a landmine explosion in Afghanistan.” The two youngsters–not related to Hazrat Shah–had returned home to Gereshk in Helmand province the week before to find jobs and gradually to pave the way for the repatriation of their entire family from Pakistan.
The government and people of Afghanistan appreciate the humanitarian assistance Pakistan and Iran have provided to Afghan refugees over the past three decades. But pull factors such as improved security, enhanced protection and reintegration assistance, and increased employment opportunities in Afghanistan should determine push factors in host states.
Pakistan and Iran must honor the principle of non-refoulement, rooted both in international and Islamic law, to refrain from forcible deportation of Afghan refugees. The Afghan government maintains separate trilateral agreements with Pakistan, Iran, and UNHCR–a key provision of which is to facilitate voluntary repatriation of Afghan refugees from the two countries only if the conditions inside Afghanistan allow. Although host states have an interest in encouraging refugees to go back home, UNHCR is mandated to prevent and protect refugees from repatriating prematurely if the prevailing conditions at home are not ready for their return. Except for spontaneous returns during 2002-2003, Afghan refugees must have been warned about increasing instability and a severe lack of reintegration assistance in Afghanistan in the following years.
Contrarily, however, Afghan refugees have been encouraged to return home, as repatriation–voluntary or otherwise–has been viewed as a positive sign of stabilization and reconstruction progress in Afghanistan. Consequently, the fact that most returnees have ended up becoming internally displaced due to conflicts and an expanding drought should be cause for serious concern to UNHCR and the international community. It should also be a signal to halt further premature repatriation of Afghan refugees until the conditions in Afghanistan have improved enough for their safe return home.
At the same time, the international community must honor the principle of burden sharing and provide relief assistance to states hosting large numbers of refugees. Assistance to Pakistan and Iran should aim at empowering Afghan refugees so that they will gain skills necessary both to contribute to their host societies and later to use those skills to earn an income upon return home.
Additionally, developed countries must expand their resettlement programs, taking in more Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan on an annual basis. Resettlement of Afghan refugees in the developed countries will go a long way in helping rebuild and develop Afghanistan. Resilience and high achievement motivation that characterize most refugees will quickly enable resettled Afghan families to adapt into their new societies, taking advantage of social and economic opportunities there to establish themselves and to continue supporting their relatives at home, as well as in Pakistan and Iran.
In the long run, most resettled Afghans will have gained wealth and higher education which they would certainly use to invest in Afghanistan, as we know from the return of many wealthy Afghans and technocrats who have made significant contributions to Afghanistan’s reconstruction since 2002.
In pondering resettlement programs, one myth must be confronted head-on: Contrary to frequent allegations that Afghan refugees are a burden on their host countries’ economies, the opposite is most often true. The millions of refugees in Pakistan and Iran are assets to those countries’ economies. Many Afghans in both states fill a glaring need in the labor sector, working casual jobs at wages much lower than that paid to locals who may not even be willing to accept such jobs because of social taboos associated with casual labor. Other Afghan refugees use their special skills–such as carpet weaving–to produce quality Afghan rugs, which local firms purchase below market price, brand them made in the host country, and then sell them in developed countries with manifold profit. Most importantly, a significant number of Afghan refugees have found success as entrepreneurs and have risen to operate midsize and even corporate-level businesses in Pakistan, Iran, and the Gulf states,
making notable contributions to those countries’ economic growth.
Other allegations that terrorists recruit from Afghan refugee camps are utterly baseless and a political excuse on Pakistan’s part not to cooperate sincerely in the war against terrorism. Afghan refugees are actually victims of violence and terrorism, but abusing their status as a scapegoat is clearly a violation of their rights under the 1951 Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees. Countries that are party to the Geneva Convention and other international human rights regimes are obligated to respect refugee rights as human rights and safeguard them by providing refugees with protection from violence, persecution, and human insecurity that collectively make it impossible for most refugees to return home voluntarily.
Almost 2,500 years ago, Euripides wrote that “there is no greater sorrow on earth than the loss of one’s native land.” Indeed, for most Afghan refugees, like Hazrat Shah, no foreign land can ever replace their homeland where they will return as soon as they feel secure to do so. It is obvious that the real durable solution to the Afghan refugees’ problem is voluntary repatriation, which can only be guaranteed by security in Afghanistan. Hence, Pakistan, Iran, and Afghanistan’s other neighbors can and must cooperate with the international community to stabilize Afghanistan first.
Durable stability and prosperity in the country would automatically attract Afghan refugees to voluntarily return home. At the same time, the international community must honor the commitments they recently made at the Paris Support Conference to provide the Afghan government with long-term resources to implement the objectives of the Afghanistan National Development Strategy–a key priority of which is to help reintegrate returning refugees and internally displaced persons into their communities.
Editor’s Note: A former refugee, internally displaced person, and UNHCR field officer, M. Ashraf Haidari is the political counselor of the Embassy of Afghanistan in Washington, DC. His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org
Posted September 11, 2008 © Eurasianet
KABUL, 4 September 2008 (IRIN) – The UN World Food Programme (WFP) and government of Pakistan are finalising an agreement involving the loan of 50,000 tonnes of wheat for pre-winter food aid operations in Afghanistan.
Once the agreement is signed, WFP will begin importing the wheat over two months, Susana Rico, WFP’s country representative, said. It will be pre-positioned in vulnerable areas where access is difficult in winter.
The loan will help WFP to remedy immediate funding delays in emergency food aid for about five million Afghans hit by high food prices and drought.
Upon receiving funds from donors WFP will pay the loan back.
UN agencies and the Afghan government jointly appealed on 9 July for US$404 million to deal with the food crisis resulting from high prices and drought.
The joint appeal included WFP’s request for $185 million, which it will use to procure 230,000 tonnes of food to be distributed until August 2009.
The UN has reiterated calls for “vital funding” to avert a possible crisis this winter amid donors’ “slow and insufficient response” to the joint appeal.
WFP said it had received up to 25 percent by 3 September.
Meanwhile, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) has pledged 50,000 tonnes of wheat, WFP said.
The American donation “is expected to arrive at port [Pakistan] six to eight weeks from now and a further two to three weeks to arrive at regional hubs in Afghanistan”, Rico said.
WFP said the 100,000 tonnes of wheat would be sufficient for its “winter pre-positioning programme”.
Government wheat procurement
The hike in food prices has prompted Pakistan to impose a ban on food exports to neighbouring Afghanistan, which relies particularly on Pakistani wheat flour.
Earlier this year Pakistan agreed to sell 50,000 tonnes of wheat to the Afghan government to ease its domestic food shortages.
“Over 12,000 tonnes of the wheat procured from Pakistan have been imported to the country and the process is ongoing,” according to a government statement on 2 September.
The imported wheat will be offered at a subsidised price, the government said.
The statement also said separate agreements signed with the Russian Federation and Ukraine would allow the country to import about 80,000 tonnes of wheat.
According to the country’s National Risk and Vulnerability Assessments, 42 percent of the Afghan population (approximately 12 million people) live below the poverty line, on 45 US cents per day or less.