Thursday, January 22, 2009
PESHAWAR: The female teachers of Bara tehsil, Khyber Agency, Thursday staged protest demonstration against torture and snatching of their vehicle by some unknown criminals.
The protesters, who gathered outside Peshawar Press Club, were holding placards inscribed with slogans demanding of the government to provide them protection and arrest the culprits.
Talking to media, they said on January 19, four people stopped their vehicle and tortured the driver and female teachers. The snatchers, they said, dragged the driver out of the car and took their vehicle.
The lady teachers demanded of NWFP Governor Owais Ahmad Ghani to make proper arrangements for protection of female staff working in various schools of the area, adding that their vehicle should also be recovered and exemplary punishment should be awarded to culprits.
‘Unclaimed zone’ between settled, tribal areas irks people
Female teachers shocked at coach hijacking
PESHAWAR: The deteriorating law and order situation while creating a scare among the public has also caused dereliction of duty among employees of various departments in the law-enforcing agencies, thereby leading the emergence of an ‘unclaimed zone’ between the settled and the tribal areas.Snatching of flying coach (Hiace), aboard female schoolteachers, on main Peshawar-Bara Road on January 19 is testimony to the creation of the ‘unclaimed zone’ because neither the political administration of Bara teshil of Khyber Agency nor police is ready to even register a complaint. Both the authorities——-SHO of Sarband Police Station and tehsildar Bara ——are reluctant to accept the fact that the incident took place in the area of their jurisdiction.
Interestingly, the coach was snatched in broad daylight at Bajri stop on main Peshawar-Bara Road. The area is situated between Peshawar district and Bara tehsil of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas——Khyber Agency. The former governed by the NWFP and the latter controlled by the federal government.The law-enforcing agencies have refused to entertain the complaint, let alone recovering the vehicle, which shows how effective is the government’s writ. Instead of trying to recover the vehicle and provide protection to female teachers serving in the area, the authorities concerned are resorting to dereliction of duty as well as creation of an ‘unclaimed or unmanned zone’ between the settled and tribal areas.The brazen accused disembarked 20 schoolteachers, dragged the driver out and drove away the vehicle towards an unknown location. Not only the female teachers serving in the agency have been shocked and are crying for protection, but also they are reluctant to attend duty in such uncertain situation.Muhammad Rafiq, the driver and owner of the flying coach, is running from pillar to post for getting his vehicle traced and recovered.Rafiq told The News the women schoolteachers had hired his coach for travelling to their place of duty in Khyber Agency and vice versa. He said at 1:00 p.m. on January 19, he was bringing back about 20 teachers when four armed masked men stopped him at Bajri stop on Peshawar-Bara Road, dragged him out ruthlessly, disembarked all the teachers on board and drove away the vehicle. They did not say any thing as to what message they wanted to convey, he added. Rafique said it was not known who were they - militants, car-snatchers or robbers. Just after the incident, he brought the case to the notice of political tehsildar of Bara and SHO of Sarband Police Station, but both of them refused to register a complaint, saying the area did not lie in their jurisdiction.“Now I don’t know where to go to lodge an FIR,” the helpless man complained.Rafique said the teachers were also afraid of travelling to the agency for duty without proper assurance of protection by the administration. The area where the vehicle was snatched and the inmates were forced to alight was not a far-flung or deserted one, but nobody was ready to accept the responsibility of its jurisdiction, the grim-faced Rafiq said.
WASHINGTON – Hillary Rodham Clinton took charge of the State Department on Thursday, proclaiming the start of a new era of robust U.S. diplomacy to tackle the world's crises and improve America's standing abroad.
Before a raucous, cheering crowd of about 1,000 people, the nation's 67th secretary of state pledged to boost the morale and resources of the diplomatic corps and promised them a difficult but exciting road ahead.
"I believe with all of my heart that this is a new era for America," she said to loud applause in the main lobby of the department's headquarters, which President Barack Obama visited later in the day to underscore his administration's commitment to diplomacy.
With Obama at her side in the ornate Ben Franklin Room, Clinton introduced former Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, D-Maine, as a special envoy for the Middle East. Former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke was announced as a special adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan.
WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama on Thursday appointed foreign policy veteran Richard Holbrooke as a special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Holbrooke, a former ambassador to the United Nations who negotiated the 1995 peace agreement that ended the Bosnian war, faces an array of challenges in dealing with the war in Afghanistan and its tense and fragile border with Pakistan.
Here are some of the problems and possibilities for U.S. action in the region:
- President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan. He promised during the campaign to bolster troop levels there to battle growing violence and a resurgent Taliban and al Qaeda, but new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said at her confirmation hearing that a broader strategy was needed in Afghanistan that included diplomacy, defense and development.
In addition to more troops in Afghanistan, the United States has promised more nonmilitary aid to Pakistan devoted in part to developing tribal areas where al Qaeda militants have flourished. Osama bin Laden and other top al Qaeda militants are believed to be hiding in the mountainous border region of Pakistan near Afghanistan.
- Clinton has suggested a U.S. envoy would need to shuttle between Pakistan and Afghanistan to help guide the efforts in the border region between the two countries, and has suggested she will be looking for more regional support. The United States could look to India, central Asian states and even China or Russia for help. The United States also has stepped up pressure on Pakistan to battle jihadi groups since the Mumbai attacks in November that killed 179 people and raised tensions between the two south Asian nuclear rivals.
- In developing a comprehensive approach to the region, the Obama administration must also wrestle with the growing tension between India and Pakistan. The two have fought three wars since 1947, and relations between the countries have deteriorated since the Mumbai attacks. India blames the attacks on Pakistani militants, but Islamabad has denied any involvement by state agencies. India has paused a peace process that started in 2004, and the United States must decide how hard it will press for a resumption -- particularly before Indian elections in May.
- The United States must decide how involved to become in the dispute over Kashmir, a region claimed by both India and Pakistan that has been a flashpoint between the countries for decades. Pakistan sees a settlement as essential to normalizing relations. India rejects any outside effort to influence its approach to Kashmir and has been nervous about Obama's suggestion during the campaign that a special envoy was needed there. A solution to that dispute could free Islamabad to focus more on Afghanistan.
PESHAWAR :The security forces backed by gunship helicopters on Thursday killed 11 more militants and injured nine at Qambar and Mata Tehsil in restive Swat district.
The Swat Media Centre press release issued here said that in Qambar Mingora, the gunship helicopters destroyed militants hideouts, killing four militants and injuring six. Those militants who were killed are Abu Hamza, Ismail, Abdul Rauf and Qari Ghaffar.
In Kuza Dureskhela of Tehsil Matta, the security forces during an action killed 7 militants and injured three.
Two dead bodies of militants took into possession by security forces
1. Her nickname is "Miche" (pronounced "Meesh").
2. Her husband calls her "My Rock".
3. Her father worked the swing shift in the boiler room at Chicago's water purification plant.
4. She grew up with her older brother, Craig, and parents in a one-bedroom, one-bathroom apartment. She shared the living room with her brother, which was separated by a room divider.
5. She and her brother both skipped a year at school - second grade.
6. As a girl, she loved her "Easy-Bake Oven", a toy cooker.
7. Michelle was student council treasurer in high school.
8. Growing up, she practised playing the piano so much that she had to be told to stop.
9. Although a great athlete, she shied away from competitive sports because, her big brother says, "she hated losing".
10. Her father died of complications from multiple sclerosis when she was in her 20s.
11. Michelle attended only public schools while growing up in Chicago.
12. She was assigned Barack's mentor when he came to her Chicago firm for a summer job.
13. Her first impression of Barack wasn't great; after seeing a photo of him in the law firm directory she decided he had a big nose.
14. She declined Barack's first invitations to go out on a date, saying it would be inappropriate.
15. Her father and brother had always said you could tell a lot about someone's character on the court, so before agreeing to date Barack, she asked her brother to take him on on the basketball court.
16. Her university dissertation was entitled, "Princeton-Educated Blacks and the Black Community."
17. Barack proposed at a Chicago restaurant and the ring arrived on a tray with the dessert.
18. Their first dance at their wedding was to "Unforgettable" by Nat King Cole.
19. Santita Jackson, Jesse Jackson's daughter and Michelle's high school classmate, sang at the wedding.
20. She works out "like a gladiator," according to friends.
21. She hates tights - too "painful."
22. At the Democratic National Convention in 2004, moments before her husband went on stage to give his speech, she said: "Just don't screw it up, buddy!"
23. She watches reruns of The Dick Van Dyke Show.
24. For breakfast she likes fruit, eggs and bacon.
25. When she got to Princeton she said the tutors weren't teaching French correctly.
26. She refused to accompany her husband for walks in the cold Chicago winters.
27. She is the former associate dean at the University of Chicago.
28. On their first date Barack took her to see Do The Right Thing, a Spike Lee movie set in Harlem.
29. Her brother, Craig Robinson, is the basketball coach at Oregon State University.
30. At Princeton, Michelle majored in sociology. She got her law degree from Harvard.
31. She worked for Chicago's Mayor Daley in the city's office of planning and development.
32. She uses a webcam to stay in touch with Barack while separated.
33. She cooks shrimp linguini - her husband's fabvourite meal.
34. Michelle wrote her own stump speech during the campaign and delivered it without notes.
35. Michelle made Barack promise to quit smoking if he stood for president.
36. She plans not to have any more children.
37. She graduated from high school second in her year.
38. She cut back from her six-figure salary with the University of Chicago hospital system to help her husband with his campaign.
39. Michelle makes Barack do the dishes.
40. As vice president of community and external affairs at the University of Chicago Medical Centre, Michelle supervised a five hundred per cent increase of volunteerism in the hospital.
41. She was on the board of six major organisations, including the prestigious Chicago Council on Global Affairs, the University of Chicago Laboratory Schools and Tree House Foods; and Vice President, Community and External Affairs at the University of Chicago Hospitals.
42. She routinely drew audiences of 1,000-plus supporters, even when she was campaigning on her own, on the trail
43. Her inauguration dress was designed by Cuban-American designer, Isabel Toledo. Her green gloves were J Crew and her shoes by Jimmy Choo.
44. After her husband's election to the US Senate, Michelle decided to stay in Chicago with their daughters instead of relocating to Washington, DC.
45. Her great-great-grandfather, Jim Robinson, was a slave in South Carolina before the Civil War.
46. Hillary Clinton, Laura Bush, and Michelle Obama are the only First Ladies to receive master's degrees.
47. Less than 24 hours after the inaugural balls, replicas of Mrs Obama's dress were being drawn up – they will be available for sale within weeks, ranging in price from $99 to $400.
48. At 5 ft 11ins, she is tied with Eleanor Roosevelt for tallest First Lady.
49. Her secret service codename is "Renaissance".
50. She has committed each episode of The Brady Bunch to memory.
US President Barack Obama has ordered the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison camp as well as all overseas CIA detention centres for terror suspects.
Signing the orders, Mr Obama said the US would continue to fight terror, but maintain "our values and our ideals".
Two days after his inauguration, he also ordered a review of military trials of terror suspects and a ban on harsh interrogation methods.
About 250 suspects have been held at Guantanamo Bay for years without trial.
At Mr Obama's request, military judges have suspended several of the trials of suspects at Guantanamo so that the legal process can be reviewed.
Mr Obama signed the three executive orders on Thursday, further distancing his new administration from the policies of his predecessor, George W Bush.
He said the Guantanamo prison "will be closed no later than one year from now."
The US would continue to fight terror, he said, but maintain American values while doing so.
"The United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism," he said.
"We are going to do so vigilantly, we are going to do so effectively, and we are going to do so in a manner that is consistent with our values and our ideals."
Mr Obama believed Americans will be safer with the prison closed, White House spokesman Robert Gibbs said in his first media briefing.
Mr Obama has repeatedly promised to close the Guantanamo Bay prison, where some 250 inmates accused of having links to terrorism remain and 21 cases are pending.
The legal process for these prisoners has been widely criticised because the US military acts as jailer, judge and jury, the BBC's Jonathan Beale reports from Guantanamo.
However, closing the prison will not be easy, he says.
Questions remain over where those charged will be tried and where those freed can be safely sent.
Secret CIA "black site" prisons around the world are also to be closed, although the time frame for this is unclear.
The rendition - or transfer - of terror suspects to these prisons was widely criticised after they came to light in the wake of the invasion of Iraq in 2003.
Mr Obama has also limited the methods investigators can use to question terrorism suspects.
Threats, coercion, physical abuse and waterboarding are now all banned.
Also on Thursday, the Senate Finance Committee approved the nomination of Timothy Geithner as Treasury Secretary, despite questions over his late payment of taxes earlier this decade.
The full Senate next votes on Mr Obama's choice to be the point man in steering America through its sharpest economic downturn in decades.
Mr Obama was also due to visit the state department with Vice-President Joe Biden, where new Secretary of State Hillary Clinton arrived on Thursday morning to applause and cheers from staff members. The Senate confirmed her in the role on Wednesday.
She said defence, diplomacy and development were the three pillars of US national security and that the state department was in charge of two of them.
Outlining her priorities, Mrs Clinton said it was a new era for America.
"President Obama set the tone with his inaugural address, and the work of the Obama-Biden administration is committed to advancing America's national security, furthering America's interests, and respecting and exemplifying America's values around the world."
BEIJING: Chinese courts sentenced two men to death and three other defendants, including a top dairy company executive, to life in prison on Thursday for endangering public safety in a tainted milk scandal that killed at least six children, according to state-run news media.
Another defendant received a suspended death sentence and 15 others, mostly dairy producers and middlemen, were given terms ranging from two years to life in prison. In all, 21 people were sentenced for their roles in one of the worst food-safety scandals in China in decades.
The Intermediate People's Court in Shijiazhuang, in the northern province of Hebei, said the defendants had intentionally produced or sold dairy products laced with a toxic chemical called melamine, which was used to give falsely high protein readings but caused kidney stones and other ailments in about 300,000 children last year.
Among those sentenced to death was Zhang Yujun, a dairy middleman whom the government called one of the "principal criminals." He had been convicted of selling 600 tons of melamine-tainted "protein powder" to dairy companies.
Another dairy producer, Geng Jinpin, was also sentenced to death. A third man, Gao Junjie, received a death sentence with a two-year reprieve, which means he could be spared execution.
Tian Wenhua, the 66-year-old former chairwoman of the Sanlu Group, one of China's biggest dairy companies, was sentenced to life in prison for her failure to stop producing and selling the tainted goods even after her company learned that the products were flawed. She was the highest-ranking corporate executive brought to trial last year. She pleaded guilty to the charge of failing to act properly in the case. She was also fined 20 million yuan, or about $3 million.
Three other former executives at Sanlu, once China's leading producer of baby formula, were sentenced to prison terms ranging from 5 to 15 years for their roles in the scandal.
One of those executives appeared in court late last year in a wheelchair after what the state-controlled media said was a failed suicide attempt.
The other five defendants received jail sentences ranging from five years to life. The tough sentences were the government's latest effort to deal with a scandal that erupted last September, triggering a global recall of Chinese-made dairy products, shaking consumer confidence and devastating the nation's fast-growing dairy industry.
But parents of some victims protested Thursday afternoon outside the courthouse in Shijiazhuang, where Sanlu is headquartered, saying they were dissatisfied with the verdict. "I feel sorry for them, but they are just scapegoats," said Liu Donglin, 28, whose 21-month-old son suffered from kidney stones after drinking tainted milk powder. "The ones who should take the responsibility are the government, like the quality supervision bureau and the Health Ministry. I spent nearly 20,000 yuan taking care of my son, and the government only compensated me with 2,000."
Some lawyers and victims have accused Beijing of failing to properly regulate the dairy industry, and some believe the government covered up the scandal before the Olympics in August, only disclosing the news in September.
Former Sanlu officials acknowledged in testimony last month that they knew there were complaints and serious problems with their dairy products as early as May of last year.
But the government has placed the blame on a group of unscrupulous dairy company executives, farmers and middlemen who prosecutors say intentionally sold goods spiked with melamine to save money and increase profits. Melamine, which is used to produce plastics and fertilizer, was often added as a cheap filler or replacement for protein powder.
The case has angered many consumers and is so sensitive that the government has tried to calm angry protesters and parents. On Thursday, the police in Beijing even attempted to detain or block parents from traveling to Shijiazhuang to listen to the verdicts. Foreign journalists have also been barred from attending some of the court sessions.
A group of China's biggest dairy companies agreed late last year to compensate victims of the scandal, but some parents have rejected the settlement offer, saying that it was too little and that their children faced long-term health problems.
Many children suffered from kidney stones or kidney failure after consuming formula contaminated with extremely high levels of melamine.
The Sanlu Group, which was jointly owned by the Fonterra Group of New Zealand, filed for bankruptcy protection late last year. But Thursday, the court in Shijiazhuang fined the company 50 million yuan for its role in the scandal.
Now that Hillary Clinton has been confirmed as Secretary of State, the Obama administration will announce Thursday two high-profile appointments -- former senate majority leader George Mitchell (D-Me.) as Middle East envoy and former U.N. ambassador Richard Holbrooke as envoy for Afghanistan, Pakistan "and related matters," sources close to the administration said.
Mitchell will be charged with rebuilding the Middle East peace process in the wake of the three weeks of violence between Israel and the Palestinian militant group Hamas. Holbrooke will take on the difficult job of soothing relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, whose border is a haven for the Taliban and is believed to harbor Osama Bin Laden. Left unsaid is that Holbrooke's brief could extend to India, which has been a victim of Islamic terrorism from Pakistan but is suspicious of third-party intervention in the dispute with Pakistan over Kashmir.
Both men are highly regarded for their diplomatic skills but have vastly different styles. Mitchell, a former federal judge, calmly and patiently approaches difficult issues while the hard-charging Holbrooke is known as a demanding task-master.
During the Clinton administration, Mitchell was instrumental in the settlement of the Northern Ireland conflict and in 2000 headed a commission that looked into the escalating violence between Israelis and Palestinians. The Mitchell report, issued in 2001, won praise for being impartial, so much so that both sides accepted it. The recommendations in the report helped form the basis for the international "road map" plan that has been a hallmark of all later peace efforts.
Holbrooke was the chief architect of the Dayton peace accords that ended the Bosnian conflict in the mid-1990s, a peace that has held to this day in the ethnically divided country.
THESE IGNORANT MULLAHS AND TALIBAN HAVE NO RIGHT TO IMPOSE THEIR VIEWS ON PEACEFUL PUKHTOONS,THEY HAVE NO RIGHT TO STOP GIRLS FROM GOING TO SCHOOLS,ANYONE WHO IS READING THIS PLEASE SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS ON THIS STORY.
The power of FM radio was never recognized to this extent before in any part of world. Maulana Fazlullah first used it to create a militant mindset and later creating one. FM radio initially gave Maulana Fazlullah popularity all around Pakistan when he was being recognized as “Maulana radio” but no one ever had the slightest idea what actually was going on. First FM radio, then the militia turning into a force with most sophisticated technology making it impossible for government to block their station, then burning of schools, then the Shariah courts. Isn’t this giving a concept of state within state?
Imagine the rising vigour of these militants that now the same FM radio broadcasts the name and identities of those who would be next victims of militants the next dawn. Many innocent people have been killed in most inhuman ways for being termed as spy’s working for United States. But reality of matter is that whoever tries to resist in any manner in this area against the norms imposed by these militants is termed as an agent /spy. Figures for killing of such people are though calculated as 13 but many independent sources suggest that they are far more then this as there are many reports that identify people beheaded and hanged on trees and poles at the unfortunate ‘Grain chowk’ now identified as ‘khooni chowk’ (The bloody crossing).
Where is the writ of government? Why isn’t anything being done is the questions generally raised by people after reading the bloody incidents taking place in Swat on daily basis. Pakistan has always been a victim of inappropriate functioning’s of its departments. And in the case of swat, it has been reported that security forces are not satisfied with the policies of government. It has been mentioned by security forces officialdoms that government policies have been undoing whatever results have been attained by the army. For instance; it was mentioned by security forces officials that militants that they arrested were again released by government for some peace deal that is time and again fragmented by militants and it seems that the government has been appeasing them.
While scrutinizing the theory of Taliban aiming at enforcement of Shariah one can see that the brutal acts done by them on daily basis do not justify any context of Islamic preaching. One can find many references and quotations made by the Holy Prophet and Kalifas of Islam that instead condemn these acts. For instance; in a hadith narrated by the Caliph Omar (Bukhari, 4:258): Abu Bakr, the first caliph and friend of the Prophet Mohammad, summarizing the Prophet's message, telling the leaders of his armies, "Do not kill a woman, a child, or an old man. Do not cut down a blossoming tree, do not destroy a building, and do not kill a sheep or camel, except for the purpose of eating it. Do not submerge or cut down a palm tree. Do not be excessive, and do not be cowardly."
What Islam do they want to preach? Today Swat is also waiting for justice that has been denied to many in the pages of history.
Afghanistan — The Taliban are everywhere the soldiers are not, the saying goes in the southern part of the country.
And that is a lot of places.
For starters, there is the 550 miles of border with Pakistan, where the Taliban’s busiest infiltration routes lie.
“We’re not there,” said Brig. Gen. John W. Nicholson, the deputy commander of NATO forces in southern Afghanistan. “The borders are wide open.”
Then there is the 100-mile stretch of Helmand River running south from the town of Garmser, where the Taliban and their money crop, poppy, bloom in isolation.
“No one,” General Nicholson said, pointing to the area on the map.
Then there is Nimroz Province, all of it, which borders Iran. No troops there. And the Ghorak district northwest of Kandahar, which officers refer to as the “jet stream” for the Taliban fighters who flow through.
Ditto the districts of Shah Wali Kot, Kharkrez and Nesh, where the presence of NATO troops is minimal or nil.
“We don’t have enough forces to secure the population,” General Nicholson said.
The general is going to get a lot more troops very soon. American commanders in southern Afghanistan have been told to make plans to accept nearly all of the 20,000 to 30,000 additional troops that the Obama administration has agreed to deploy.
The influx promises to significantly reshape the environment of southern Afghanistan, the birthplace of the Taliban. The region now produces an estimated 90 percent of the world’s opium, which bankrolls the Taliban.
While the American-led coalition holds the cities and highways, it appears to have ceded much of the countryside to the Taliban, because it lacks sufficient forces to confront them.
A force of about 20,000 American, British, Canadian and Dutch soldiers have been trying for years to secure the 78,000 square miles of villages, cities, mountains and deserts that make up southern Afghanistan. The region is one of the two centers of the Taliban insurgency, which has made a remarkable resurgence since being booted from power in November 2001.
The other center is in the eastern mountains, where 22,500 American troops are battling a multiheaded enemy, which includes Al Qaeda. Its operational center is based in the tribal areas of Pakistan.
Here in southern Afghanistan, the insurgency is homegrown and self-sustaining. The home village of the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is 30 miles from here. Poppy fields, now fallow in winter, dot the countryside here and in neighboring Helmand Province. The United Nations estimates that the opium trade provides the Taliban with about $300 million a year.
American commanders say the open borders allow the opium to move unimpeded into Pakistan and other places, and for weapons and other supplies to flow in. Five of the six busiest Taliban infiltration routes are in the south, American officers said.
“Drugs out,” one American officer said, “guns in.”
The commanders here call the current situation “stalemate,” meaning they can hold what they have but cannot do much else. Of the 20,000 British, American and other troops here, only roughly 300 — a group of British Royal Marines — can be moved around the region to strike the Taliban. All the other units must stay where they are, lest the area they hold slip from their grasp.
It is perhaps in Kandahar, one of the provincial capitals, where the lack of troops is most evident. About 3,000 Canadian soldiers are assigned to secure the city, home to about 500,000 people. In a recent visit, this reporter traveled the city for five days and did not see a single Canadian soldier on the streets.
The lack of troops has allowed the Taliban to mount significant attacks inside the city. Two clerics who joined a pro-government advisory council, for instance, have been gunned down in the past two months, bringing the total assassinated council members to 24. Over the summer, a Taliban force invaded Kandahar and stormed its main prison, freeing more than 1,200 inmates.
But whether extra troops will have the desired impact is unclear. Adding 20,000 new troops to the 20,000 Western soldiers already here — in addition to an equal number of Afghan policemen and army personnel — would bring the total to 60,000. The six provinces that make up southern Afghanistan have a population of 3.2 million. In that case, the ratio of troops to population would just match that recommended by the United States Army’s counterinsurgency manual: 50 people per soldier or police officer.
American commanders say the extra troops will better enable them to pursue a more sophisticated campaign against the insurgents; the overriding objective, rather than killing Taliban fighters, is to provide security for the civilian population and thereby isolate the insurgents.
Even so, many of the Western troops already here are not deployed among the population. And Afghanistan, with its predominantly rural population living in mostly small villages, presents unique challenges.
Across much of the countryside, the Taliban appear to hold the upper hand, not necessarily because they are popular, but because they are unopposed. Hediatullah Hediat, for instance, is a businessman from Musa Qala, a city in Helmand Province that was occupied by the Taliban for much of 2007 until the insurgents were expelled by British troops at the end of that year. (The British have about 8,000 troops in Helmand Province.) The British, Mr. Hediat said, control the center of Musa Qala and nothing more.
“The Taliban are everywhere,” Mr. Hediat said in an interview in Kandahar, where he had come for business. “The Taliban are so near to the city that you can see them from the city itself. The British can see them. They can see each other.”
Mr. Hediat said he had no great gripes with the British soldiers who were occupying the town — for one thing, he said, they do not raid houses and peer at the women. But the biggest complaint, he said, was the Afghan the British installed as the district governor, Mullah Salam. The governor is unpopular and corrupt, demanding bribes and tributes from anyone who needs something.
“This is why people hate the British, because they put Mullah Salam in power, and they keep him there,” he said.
In the mud-brick villages that line the Arghandab River, winning over the people is no easy job. The Taliban are here, in the villages; earlier this month, a suicide bomber killed two American soldiers and nine Afghans in the Maiwand bazaar. But the Taliban are mostly invisible.
On a recent foot patrol through the village of Tsapowzai, about thirty miles west of Kandahar, a platoon of American soldiers ventured inside and found empty streets. It was a sunny day. A pair of Afghans stared at them from a wheat field, and neither of them waved. No one stepped from his house to say hello.
“Where’s everybody at, Jimmy?” Lt. Brian James asked a comrade.
“Don’t know,” Lt. James Holloway replied.
Finally, the soldiers came across three Afghan men. They were sitting on a blanket and listening to music on a radio. What followed seemed, more than anything, a game.
“So, seen any Taliban lately?” Lieutenant Holloway asked the men.
“We haven’t seen the Taliban in eight months,” a man named Niamatullah said, looking up.
“Do you ever see anyone moving through here at night?” Lieutenant Holloway asked.
“We don’t go outside at night,” said Mr. Niamatullah, who, like many Afghans, uses one name. “When we do, you guys search us and hold us for hours. And you never find anything.”
Lieutenant Holloway shook his head.
“The last person we stopped in this village, we held for 20 minutes,” the lieutenant said. “We never detain anyone.”
“We are afraid of you,” Mr. Niamatullah said.
“Is there a Taliban curfew?” Lieutenant Holloway asked.
“Only a man with a white shawl is allowed outside at night,” Mr. Niamatullah said.
“A white shawl?” Lieutenant Holloway squinted.
Mr. Niamatullah did not offer to explain.
“But he has no gun, so you cannot detain him.”
After several minutes, Lieutenant Holloway gave up.
“Everybody knows something,” Lieutenant Holloway said, walking away, “But no one tells us anything.”
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday said use of force is the last option in the war against terrorism.Addressing a high level meeting here, the President said the social and economic structures of Pukhtunkhwa and tribal societies are being strenghtehned.He said the needs and requirements of the law enforcement agencies will be fulfilled in NWFP.
According to sources, the President has given a green signal to the renaming of NWFP as Pukhtunkhwa, saying the Constitutional requirements in this regard will be met.
President Zardari said struggle is being made to strengthen the federation.
He said the government will engage in dialogue only with those who do not challenge the writ of the government.