Posts filed under ‘Shindand’

IRIN: Attacks threaten girls’ schooling in Shindand

SHINDAND, 25 October 2007 (IRIN) – More than 1,500 female students have not attended classes for several days after unidentified assailants attacked their school in Shindand district in the western Afghan province of Herat, education officials told IRIN.

On 19 October, at around midnight local time, several grenades were thrown inside Naswan High School, breaking windows and causing minor damage to several classrooms, said Ghulam Hazrat Tanha, director of the Herat education department.

Officials say some students are gradually returning to school but locals are concerned about their children’s education, particularly for girls.

“Recent attacks on schools have frightened many parents and students,” said Tanha, adding that local residents had demanded the authorities ensure students’ security at schools.

Since 8 October, four attacks on schools have been reported in the restive district, none of which harmed students or school staffers, according to Haji Shah Alaam, Shindand district governor.

Two of the schools belonged to girls, Alaam said.

In Afghanistan, high schools are segregated, while universities do not follow this rule.

Shindand – with a majority of its population ethnically Pashtun – has been a hotbed of Taliban insurgency in the relatively calm Herat province.

Schools elsewhere in Herat, where the Taliban have a strong influence, have also experienced assaults.

Backtracking in Helmand

Meanwhile, education authorities in southern Helmand province gave warning about the shrinking numbers of functioning schools there.

In early October the director of Helmand’s education department told IRIN that more than 90 schools were functioning across the insurgency-torn province, while about 100 others, mainly in rural areas, were out of commission due to insecurity.

Three weeks later, officials say only 64 schools are open in Helmand – Afghanistan’s top opium-producing and most conflict-ridden province.

About 400 schools remain dysfunctional in southern Afghanistan, with tens of thousands of students deprived of education, concede officials in the Ministry of Education (MoE).

“Community schools and other local education facilities are closing down because of growing insecurity, Taliban attacks and lack of resources,” said Saeed Ibrar Agha, head of the provincial education department.

Immediately after the Taliban were ousted from power in late 2001, Afghanistan took significant strides in education and has increasingly admitted millions of students to formal schooling.

There are now more than six million students, 35 percent of them female, in over 11,000 schools and education facilities around the war-ravaged country, the MoE reported in 2007.

By 2020, boys and girls alike should be able to complete a full course of primary schooling, according to target number two of Afghanistan’s revised Millennium Development Goal.

Dormitories needed

As more and more students from insecure rural areas flock to schools in the provincial city, education officials complain about the lack of capacity to absorb all newcomers in Lashkargah, capital of Helmand.

Almost all the rural students coming to schools in Lashkargah are boys, local officials say. Students who commute daily between the provincial capital and their homes in rural districts are also exposed to the risk of being targeted by elements that oppose education.

Moreover, travel is an extra financial burden for already impoverished parents.

“We need to open a dormitory for students coming from rural areas to schools in Lashkargah,” said Ibrar Agha. “We look forward to donors to help us build one.”


October 25, 2007 at 9:00 pm Leave a comment

Arzu TV: Taleban attack security office in Shindand

Text of report by privately-owned Afghan Arzu TV on 21 October

[Presenter] The Taleban destroyed a part of the building of Security Command Office of Shindand District in western Herat Province with explosives today. According to eyewitnesses, the explosives were placed outside the building.

[Correspondent] According to eyewitnesses, the explosives which were placed outside the building of Shindand District Security Command Office may have been remotely-controlled. District Governor Haji Alam confirms the report and says the attack by the Taleban after the explosion was successfully defeated by Afghan troops without any casualties. The Taleban claimed to have killed three government officials but Afghan police denied there were any casualties.

According to another report, opponents of the government have destroyed three girls’ schools with explosives in Shindand District during the past week. The incidents have happened in the first and third day of Economic Cooperation Organization [ECO] summit in Herat city. The incidents have not caused any injuries.

[Description of Source: Mazar-e Sharif Arzu TV in Dari. OSC IAP20071021950109 1630 GMT 21 Oct 07 ]

October 21, 2007 at 8:35 pm Leave a comment

Pagah: Analyst Daad Nurani asserts Iran supporting forces in border areas

Herat, October 11, 2007

Afghan observer Daad Nurani believes Iran has been supporting and organizing forces in the border areas of Afghanistan and also can’t rule out it is supplying weapons to the Taleban. He says Iran is pursing a “policy of double standards” towards Afghanistan and has a “long-term strategy” for western Afghanistan where its reconstruction projects are focused. The following is the text of an interview with the observer, published by the independent daily Pagah on 11 October; subheadings inserted editorially:

Iran has “profound influence” over Afghan politicians

[Reporter] We published an interview with [Mr Najafimanesh], the Iranian general consul in Herat, about Iran’s interference in the security of Afghanistan in the previous issue of Pagah. In that interview, Mr Najafimanesh categorically rejected his government was assisting the Afghan government’s opponents, describing the claims as a psychological war against Iran. We therefore conducted an exclusive interview with Mr Daad Nurani [an Afghan political observer]. However, our readers are the ones who should evaluate and judge [the accuracy of the official’s comments]. Mr Nurani, what do you think about Iran’s interference in the security affairs of Afghanistan?

[Nurani] Well, Iran shares a 750km-long border with us and we established relations with this country long ago. Sometimes these relations were good and sometimes they were quite strained and even resulted in aggression and invasion; for instance the incident that took place during the era of President Daud Khan [the first Afghan president in office between 1974 -1979] about the controversy over the waters of Helmand [also called Hirmand]. Iran continued its interference further, particularly after the Russians invaded Afghanistan. The intervention even got stronger during the Taleban period, during which time Iran was generously helping the Afghan forces combat the Taleban. This policy nearly led to a war between the Taleban [and the Iranian government]. My guess is that Iran has already invested in certain spheres in Afghanistan and is now enjoying a profound influence over the political parties, the press and other sectors. On the one hand, the waters of Helmand River flow into Iran and on the other hand it is trying to establish transit with Central Asia [via Afghanistan]. In addition, it has decided to connect the Chah Bahar harbour with Afghanistan and also connect its roads to Tashkent via northern Afghanistan. Iran is keen to expand its influence in Afghanistan because of its geopolitical importance.

Following the Taleban’s regrouping in Afghanistan and the start of the war for the second time, Iran has been constantly supporting the Northern Alliance [jihadi parties and leaders united against the Taleban in the northern provinces and led by late commander, Ahmad Shah Masud] and has been pursuing an identical policy with Afghanistan. However, it was reluctant to do so because of its main enemy, the United States, which by now had established its military presence in the country. Iran was unable to ignore this issue. To that end, Iran has been involved in certain military activities in Afghanistan for some time. It is said that it has organized a number of military bases in the Sapidaba and the Bagh areas in the vicinity of the Shamsabad [located near the border areas] and gathered a group called Hezbollah, which were affiliated to the Iranian government during the Soviet Union’s invasion of Afghanistan. However, it is still unclear whether Iran is trying to interfere militarily in Afghanistan or prove its influence through supporting this group. We can see that Iranians have enjoyed enormous privileges from the Americans by interfering in Iraq and the USA has not reacted against Iran for quite some time. I think Iran prefers to meddle in the military activities in Afghanistan due to the fact that the Taleban may have a chance to share power with the Afghan government. In addition, the Iranian government has come to realize that the Northern Alliance, which calls itself the government opposition, has established relations with the West and this has overshadowed its ties with Iran. That is why Iran is now searching for new factions, parties and forces to have an impact on the current situation.

Iran supporting “certain” insurgents

[Reporter] Mr Nurani, there have been several reports indicating that Iran is providing weapons for the Taleban? Do you think these reports are true?

[Nurani] I can’t rule out these reports. Iran is contributing to certain groups on the border with Afghanistan. There are strong rumours according to which Iran is supporting Malawi Abdol Hamid, who is commanding the rebels in the Zer Koh area of Shindand District. Iran also had close relations with a number of Taleban leaders during their rule in western Afghanistan, including Mullah Mohammad Rasul, the former governor of Nimroz Province, who is said to be living in Iran at the moment. Malawi Faqir Ahmad Anardarayee also had close relations with Iranian officials. However, I should mention that Iran supported certain groups in the border areas rather than establishing systematic relations with the Taleban administration. Iranian politicians have always focused on the neighbouring areas. You can see that they set up construction projects, including the extension of power cables and building a number of roads, only in Nimroz, Farah and Herat. They are not interested in extending these projects beyond these provinces. I think Iranians have a long-term strategy in western Afghanistan. That is why they have chiefly concentrated on these areas and organize Hezbollah in the border areas.

Iran pursuing “a policy of double standards”

[Reporter] In an exclusive interview with Pagah, Mr Najafimanesh, the Iranian general consul [in Herat Province], said that the stability of Afghanistan is the stability of Iran. What do you think about this?

[Nurani] My guess is that they only chant slogans; for the foreign military forces will be deployed in the borders with Iran once Afghanistan enjoys stability and the foreign forces manage to control security disruption inside the country. The current situation and the current war between the Taleban and NATO and the US forces is in favour of Iran, as there will be no threat against it. Therefore, I don’t think Iranians support stability in Afghanistan.

[Reporter] But the Iranian general consul in Herat Province claims it is illogical if Iran gets involved in reconstruction projects on the one hand and interferes in the country’s security affairs on the other.

[Nurani] Well, those countries that do not have a strong presence and dominant influence generally follow a policy of double standards. With regard to Iran and in view of its current status, you can see that it is not the dominant power in the region. The US navy in the Persian Gulf is extremely dangerous for Iran. At the moment, the US airport in Turkey, the presence of the US and its allies’ 200,000 troops in Iraq, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan and Afghanistan may potentially create a challenge against Iran. As a result, it has no alternative but to follow a policy of double standards in Afghanistan and this might be beneficial for it, at least because of its commercial activities in Afghanistan. Currently, Iran’s [annual exports to Afghanistan] are worth 1bn dollars. A number of its factories specifically produce goods for Afghanistan. It has a long border with Afghanistan and shares many common values, including religion, culture etc. There are also certain groups that have close relations with Iran and this country is keen to continue its presence in the region. However, Iran has been trying to attract the Afghan people’s attention to Pakistan and make them believe Pakistan is their strategic enemy. In addition, it invests only in those projects that in one way or another meet its interests and therefore it has not been eager to provide funds for other projects. For instance, you can see that all those projects it has funded have overt and covert benefits to its commerce, namely the roads built in Herat, the bridge constructed in Nimroz, the power cables extended to Herat and Nimroz and the Mil-e 73 road to be constructed in Farah city. So, one cannot rely on Iran’s reconstruction projects.

[Reporter] But Iranian officials always claim all the reconstruction projects they have embarked upon in a number of provinces were proposed by the Afghan government.

[Nurani] I can’t believe this. You can see that a number of top government officials have had close relations with Iran for a long time and Iran is able to influence these officials and pretend it is the Afghan government which has suggested such projects should be carried out by Iran. I should stress that the Iranian government’s interests have been taken into account in these projects. I specifically mentioned earlier that Iran’s construction projects have obvious effects on certain areas. For instance, we cannot see that Iran has set up a reconstruction project in Paktia or Badakhshan. What has been carried out so far is restricted to the border areas.

With regard to our government’s policy towards the issue, we should accept that Iran has influence over Afghan government policies. When summoned and impeached by the parliament, Foreign Minister Dr Spanta articulated that one of the neighbouring countries, specifically Iran, had a strong role in the impeachment because the minister refused to agree with a number of its projects. I should reiterate that Iran will never invest in those projects that do not meet its interests.

[Description of Source: Herat Pagah in Dari –Sometimes critical of the government and foreign forces. OSC IAP20071013950075 0000 GMT 11 Oct 07]

October 14, 2007 at 7:44 am Leave a comment

AIP: District chief wounded in clash near Shindand

Text of report by private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency

Herat, 12 October: A district police chief and a policeman have been wounded in [western] Afghanistan.

Speaking to Afghan Islamic Press [AIP], the chief of Shindand district of Herat province, Hajji Mohammad Alam, this afternoon said that a number of armed Taleban last evening attacked the vehicle of Shindand police chief in an area two kilometres away from the Shindand police headquarters, wounding the police chief and one policeman.

He added: “After that, a clash took place between the police and the Taleban which lasted for an hour and it seems that heavy casualties were inflicted on the Taleban because there is a lot of blood in the area after the Taleban escaped but we have no exact figure.”

At the same time, speaking to AIP from an undisclosed location on the phone, the Taleban spokesman, Qari Yusof Ahmadi, said: “The Taleban last night attacked the Shindand police headquarters, wounding the police chief and killing five policemen.”

He also claimed that the Taleban have taken weapons and other ammunition from the police headquarters.

[Description of Source: Peshawar Afghan Islamic Press in Pashto — Peshawar-based agency, staffed by Afghans. The agency used to have good contacts with Taliban leadership; however, since the fall of the Taliban regime, it now describes itself as independent and self-financing. OSC IAP20071012950050 0932 GMT 12 Oct 07]

October 13, 2007 at 6:49 pm Leave a comment

Herat TV: A snapshot of key issues at Eid al-Fitr

Programme summary of Afghan Herat TV news in Dari 1630 gmt 12 Oct 07

Home News:

1. 0030 The governor of Herat Province, Sayed Hosayn Anwari, attends Id prayers at Herat Grand Mosque today. Addressing the worshipers, the governor called on further cooperation of the people with the security officials. Video shows the governor addressing a number of worshipers.

2. 0230 Herat Province governor congratulates the minister of water and energy, Mohammad Esmail, on Id days. Video shows the governor talking to the minister and some other officials.

3. 0340 The governor of Herat Province visits the patients in Herat Hospital and provides them with some cash amounts. Video shows the governor talking to some patients in the hospital.

4. 0420 A armed man has been arrested an two others were injured after a brief clash with police in Herat city today. The security commander has said that the armed men were planning to attack some government officials. Video shows the security officials talking to a TV reporter.

5. 0530 A group of insurgents attacked a security check post in Shindand District of Herat Province last night. No casualties reported. Video shows some security officials talking to a TV reporter.

6. 0810 Report on Id ceremonies at Zafar Military Corps No 207. Video shows the soldiers praying, congratulating Id to each other.

[Description of Source: Herat Herat Television in Dari — state-run television. OSC IAP20071012950087 1630 GMT 12 Oct 07

October 13, 2007 at 9:45 am Leave a comment

Milan Corriere della Sera: Italian Agent Reveals Mission in Afghanistan, Recounts Abduction, Release

05 Oct 07

[Report by Fiorenza Sarzanini: “Second Agent Tells His Story: ‘We Were Supposed To Negotiate With the Taleban Over the Construction of a Bridge'”]

Rome — The two intelligence agents from the SISMI [Intelligence and Military Security Service; now renamed Italian Agency for External Security and Intelligence (AISE)] who were abducted in Afghanistan were to be used for an exchange of prisoners. This was revealed, immediately after his release, by the agent who survived the blitz carried out by the British and Italian troops. He went back over the phases of the abduction, and revealed the purpose of their mission: to meet with a leading member of the Taleban. There are many details, but some understandable omissions in the reconstruction by the official, who, prior to his return to Italy, went through the so-called debriefing, the procedure envisioned in cases such as this, precisely to ensure that details which are official secrets are not revealed.

The meeting with the Taleban

“Ever since June — he said — we have dealt with getting information from collaborators and informants, so as to guarantee the security of the Italian military contingent.”

In actual fact, the prime objective was to allow the building of a bridge in the Zirko valley, an area where several groups and ethnic tribes live side by side, and where armed militias are also present. “With my colleague, I had entered into contact with all the main figures in the valley, including the Taleban, so as to ensure that during building work there were no acts of violence against employees of the construction firm.” The intelligence agent then revealed what the objective of his trip on Saturday 22 September was: “A ‘source’ allowed us to enter into contact with a leading Taleban figure. In the morning I, Lorenzo, and the interpreter left, and on the way we also picked up the person who was to act as our go-between. We were bound for the Zirko valley, but he told us to change route, and not go through the city center, because they might recognize us. After a police road-block, we took a dirt track.”

The capture

A short time later, the trap was sprung. “We saw a number of men coming toward us. As soon as we got out, we were surrounded by armed people who took away our weapons and objects. They made me get inside the trunk of a car. I was alone, with a hood on my head. Then they made me get out and walk, I think I crossed a small stream. When we came to a halt they lifted off my hood, but I could only look down at the ground. We went up, into the mountains, I think. I could hear the interpreter and Lorenzo close by. I still had the hood on, and every so often I was kicked. I tried to talk to Lorenzo, who was trying to reassure me. At a certain point they went off to one side with Lorenzo, I don’t know what they said to him. They were asking him questions, I was some distance away, and I couldn’t hear. At dawn, they made us resume walking, still blindfolded, and then they led us into a kind of cave. They took the blindfold off, because they wanted to know who we were, and what we wanted. Lorenzo explained to me that I had to tell the truth, and I admitted that we were there to allow the commencement of construction work in secure conditions. The interpreter translated. Then I was blindfolded once again.” At the base in Herat the alert had already been triggered. The hypothesis that the two men had been captured was the prevalent one. Contacts were got under way to try to find out whose hands they had ended up in.

The exchange of prisoners

The abductors revealed to the two intelligence agents what was at stake. “The person who had questioned us began to beat us, accusing us of belonging to the secret services. They told us that it was their intention to exchange us for their prisoners.” After the “Mastrogiacomo affair,” Westerners have become a more and more valuable commodity to Afghan guerrilla fighters. The President of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, said at the time that no concession would be made in the future to the terrorists. This firm stance was agreed with by Italy, and was reiterated in this case too. Then there was the aggravating factor that the hostages were secret agents, and so no negotiation would be possible. It was precisely in view of this situation that the government decided to immediately manifest its “agreement to a military intervention,” as was explained in parliament by Defense Minister Arturo Parisi.

The blitz

When evening descended, the prisoners were taken near a house. “They didn’t let us go inside — the intelligence agent revealed — but they forced us to sit down on the ground. That night, the man who had questioned us came back; he had a turban on, as before. He told us that he was happy, because the media had reported our abduction. He knew that we were military (?intelligence) personnel. We stayed bound and hooded until the morning. Lorenzo was also tied up. The next morning, at dawn I think, they made us walk again, still with hoods on. They forced us aboard a car, the same car which we were found in.”

At this point, the gang was located by the intelligence services. The blitz by the Western military forces was launched a short time after. “I was the last one to get in the back of the car — the agent recollected — They covered us with a canvas. I thought that we were going to die, we couldn’t breathe. Two hours later, we heard the noise of a helicopter. The car began to go faster, then it suddenly stopped. I heard two shots, and then a number of bursts of gunfire at the car. I flattened my body more, I began to shout, I showed my wrists. A Briton freed me from my hood and made me lie flat on the ground. The shoot-out was continuing. The abductors got out and opened the car doors. I don’t know where the shots were coming from, but not from the helicopter. I think that the abductors fired at the car. It all must have happened in the space of around two minutes. When I got out and began to walk, a British man helped me to get aboard the helicopter. Lorenzo was placed aboard by two people, because he was seriously injured. We were taken first to the hospital in Farah, and then to the British hospital. All the personnel I saw were British, and in the helicopter they were also British.”

[Description of Source: Milan Corriere della Sera (Internet Version-WWW) in Italian — leading centrist daily; largest circulation of Italian dailies. OSC EUP20071005058008, October 5, 2007.]

October 8, 2007 at 7:35 pm Leave a comment

Corriere della Sera: Secret Agent Seriously Injured in Afghan Rescue Raid Returns to Italy

Sept. 27, 2007

[Report by Fiorenza Sarzanini: “Calipari’s Widow: Was Afghan Raid Necessary?”]

Rome — Attached to the machine which is keeping him alive, the SISMI [Italian Intelligence and Military Security Service] agent kidnapped and then seriously injured in Afghanistan arrived in Italy just after 1900 [ 1700 gmt] and was taken to the Celio military hospital. Waiting for him there was his family, including his young wife. The soldier is 33 and has three children, the eldest being just three. The other secret agent, who is 53, will return home tomorrow. With him, on board the plane set to leave from Herat, will be the Afghan interpreter who accompanied them on their mission. He is the third survivor of Sunday’s [ 23 September] dawn raid to free the hostages.

However, there is no trace of the driver, who allegedly betrayed them. He was reported to be dead, but he apparently managed to escape. According to some information coming from Kabul, he could even have disappeared immediately after selling the Italians to the gang.

“At the time of the release and evacuation operation,” Defense Minister Arturo Parisi told the Senate, “the information available suggested that there were three prisoners: two Italians and an Afghan. They were handcuffed and blindfolded inside one of the two cars in which the kidnappers were escaping.” “Eight or nine” kidnappers were killed but no-one is able to confirm whether among them was the Taliban commander Abdul Ahmid Ishaqzai who, according to the Afghan agency Pajkwok, was involved in the kidnapping and was killed by the ISAF. “The fact that I have come to tell you that the number of kidnappers killed was eight and not nine, as I told the Chamber of Deputies on Monday [ 24 September],” Parisi took pain to specify in his address to the Senate, “means that we treasure human lives. One less person killed makes a difference. When I tell you that we are bringing back to Italy all those kidnapped — the two Italians as well as their Afghan aid — it means that their lives have value, regardless of their nationality.”

It appears to have been confirmed that one of the two bullets which injured the less severely hurt man in the collarbone came from a NATO weapon. Ballistic tests will provide confirmation of this, but, after initial assessments, Italian experts are leaning toward this hypothesis. This risk had been factored in when it was decided to give the go-ahead to the raid.

ISAF is providing a different version. According to Major Charles Anthony, “there are witness testimonies according to which the Taliban, after running away from the cars, in which they were keeping the hostages, in order to save themselves from the raid, suddenly turned round and shot at the cars. The two Italians were injured by the kidnappers and we have evidence that they were Taliban.”

The officer mentioned witness testimonies, but did not refer to the ballistic tests. Also, he did not clarify what evidence has been gathered about the kidnappers. The information available so far has consistently supported the thesis by which they were a gang of bandits and that it was decided to act in order to prevent the hostages from being delivered to another group.

Gianfranco Fini, the leader of the AN [National Alliance] once more defended the government’s decision to authorize the raid, describing it as “necessary,” while the Democrats of the Left’s parliamentarian [Senator] Rosa Calipari — the widow of the SISMI agent killed in Iraq after rescuing the Il Manifesto journalist Giuliana Sgrena — wonders whether “armed intervention was the only option available and why such an option was ruled out in the case of Daniele Mastrogiacomo [journalist, former hostage in Afghanistan].”

[Description of Source: Milan Corriere della Sera (Internet Version-WWW) in Italian — leading centrist daily; largest circulation of Italian dailies. OSC EUP20070927058004 Milan Corriere della Sera 27 Sep 07]

September 28, 2007 at 9:36 pm Leave a comment

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