View Full Version : U.S. Defense Chief In Afghanistan Amid Escalating Taliban Violence

12-03-2007, 10:25 PM
US defence chief in Afghanistan amid escalating Taliban violence


13 minutes ago

KABUL (AFP) — US Defence Secretary Robert Gates was Tuesday set to meet Afghan President Hamid Karzai during a surprise visit to evaluate international efforts against an increasing Taliban insurgency.

The "clear concern is that for two or three years there has been an increase of overall level of violence (in Afghanistan)," Gates told reporters during a short stopover in Djibouti before arriving in Kabul late Monday.

This year has been the worst of the Taliban-led insurgency since the hardliners were removed from government in late 2001 in a US-led invasion launched after they did not surrender Al-Qaeda leaders for the 9/11 attacks.

Nearly 6,000 people have been killed, most of them rebels but also about 1,000 Afghan security forces and more than 200 foreign soldiers.

A top US defence official travelling with Gates said there were signs of increased Al-Qaeda activity in Afghanistan.

"There are early indicators that there may be some stepped up activity by Al-Qaeda," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Gates said he wanted an update on the security situation here, especially in the south where the Taliban are most active, and to assess if there was any spillover from extremist activity in Pakistan.

"I want to see if there are any consequences visible in Afghanistan from the trouble in Pakistan," the defence secretary said.

The two neighbours share a long and porous border across which Islamist rebels regularly cross to carry out attacks on the government and the 55,000 international troops supporting it.

Military officials have reported more foreign "jihadists" on the battlefield in Afghanistan while weapons entering the country from Iran and intended for the insurgents have been intercepted.

"We have pretty good evidence some of the new recruits come from Pakistan, other neighbouring countries and Afghanistan itself," an official said.

"We are troubled by activities of Iran supporting the insurgents in Afghanistan," he added.

There was "good evidence" of support -- mainly in the form of money and weapons -- coming from Iran, he said.

There was also an increase of funding going towards the insurgents "from a variety of sources," he said. This included from taxation of opium production, of which Afghanistan is the world's main supplier, and the Middle East.

Gates, who was last in Afghanistan in June, was Tuesday due to meet President Karzai as well as commanders of the US-led coalition and separate NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).

With the violence intensifying and claiming more lives, some of the 38 nations in ISAF are reassessing their involvement in the campaign led by the United States -- the largest contributor of troops and aid.

Many countries are contributing to efforts to train and equip the growing Afghan security forces but they are still not able handle Afghanistan's considerable security problems alone.

The United States is proposing to both equip and arm some forces in Afghanistan, mainly in the troubled south and east, to help maintain order, one official said, along the same lines as the Sunni tribes in Iraq.

"We should pay more attention to tribes and locals," he said.

Osama will not be extradited without evidence: Taliban


By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, SEPT. 12. The Taliban has ruled out the possibility of the extradition of the Saudi fugitive, Osama bin Laden, hiding in Afghanistan, without conclusive evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

The Taliban's Ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, reiterated the militia's position at a news conference here today.

Within hours of the terrorist strikes in New York and Washington on Tuesday, the Taliban Ambassador cautioned the United States against reaching any hasty conclusion about the suspects.

To a question today whether the Taliban apprehended U.S. retaliation, he said that while it had no reasons to fear any attack, strikes could not be ruled out.

Asked about Osama's extradition, Mullah Zaeef said it would be ``premature'' to talk about it. ``If any evidence is presented to us, we will study it. About his being handed over, we can talk about that in the second phase.''

This has been the Taliban's consistent stand in the face of demands for the extradition of Osama for his alleged involvement in the bombings that killed 224 people at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and last year's bomb attack on the USS Cole at a harbour in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors.

The U.S. has been engaged in negotiations with the Taliban authorities for several months now over the extradition. In the talks, Taliban representatives suggested at least three specific proposals but none of them was acceptable to the U.S. as they sought Osama's trial under the Islamic laws as interpreted by the Taliban.

Kabul attacked
In a related development, the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban has claimed to have carried out a series of attacks on Kabul. Reports reaching from the Afghan city said that explosions were heard early in the morning and they were mistaken for retaliatory action by the U.S.

Taliban Won't Turn Over Bin Laden
Hard-Line Militia Rejects President Bush's Demands


Sept. 21, 2001

(CBS) Without evidence, Afghanistan's Taliban rulers will not hand over Osama bin Laden, Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan said Friday.

The rejection came in a statement by Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. Asked whether the Taliban would hand over bin Laden, Zaeef said, "No." But his translator said, "No, not without evidence."

He also said he had no information on bin Laden's current whereabouts.

At a news conference in Islamabad, the Taliban ambassador said he was sorry that people had died in the suicide attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon last week, but appealed to the United States not to endanger innocent people in a military retaliation.

"Our position on this is that if America has proof, we are ready for the trial of Osama bin Laden in light of the evidence."

Asked if he was ready to hand bin Laden over, he snapped, "No."

He also called for an investigation by the United Nations and the Organization of the Islamic Conference into the attacks, and criticized President Bush's remarks made in a speech late Thursday.

Mr. Bush demanded in his speech before members of Congress that the Taliban surrender bin Laden, release imprisoned Americans, and give the United States full access to terrorist training camps. These demands are not open to discussion, Mr. Bush said. "They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate."

The Taliban envoy added that his government was ready if necessary to defend the country against American attack.

"If they want to show their might, we are ready and we will never surrender before might and force," Zaeef said. "According to Islam, the blood of anyone who spies for the enemy or sympathizes with it in time of war must be shed."

Zaeef's comments Friday came a day after Afghanistan's Islamic clerics urged bin Laden to leave the country on his own accord.

The clerics' statement, issued at the end of a two-day meeting of the Ulema, or council of religious leaders, set no deadline for bin Laden to depart and included a warning of a jihad, or holy war, against the United States if its forces attacked this impoverished country.

The Taliban, a devoutly Muslim religious militia that controls about 95 percent of the country, have allowed bin Laden to live in Afghanistan ever since the government of Sudan pressured him to leave.

The Taliban leadership say they are able to convey information to bin Laden through radio communication with Taliban security personnel who travel with him.

In the Afghan capital Kabul, however, wary Afghans piled belongings on carts and trucks and left the Afghan capital for fear of U.S. air strikes.

Mohammed Hussein and his family of seven loaded their belongings into a pickup truck and headed south to join relatives in Logar province south of Kabul.

"Out of 20 homes on our street most of the families have left," said Mohammed Hussein as he piled his wife and six children into a pickup truck to join relatives in a province south of Kabul. "Anyone who can is leaving."

Meantime, fierce fighting raged in northern Afghanistan on Friday as Taliban troops battled opposition forces seeking revenge for the assassination of their leader while taking advantage of threats of U.S. strikes.

The latest battle broke out on Thursday in a region south of Balkh and in Dara-i-suf in neighbouring Samangan province where the opposition Northern Alliance, headed by Burhanuddin Rabbani, reported the capture of several Taliban posts and dozens of villages.

There were also reports that the leader of Afghanistan's Uzbek minority, General Rashid Dostum, had concentrated a considerable force near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif to fight the Taliban.

On Friday, the Northern Alliance said it had driven the Taliban out of Dara-i-suf, whih lies on a strategic Taliban south-north supply line, but the Taliban had struck back with air power.

Northern Alliance spokesman Ashraf Nadeem said "dozens" of Taliban fighters had been killed, while Northern Alliance casualties were put at four dead and 10 wounded.

The figures could not be verified because of the remoteness of the rugged region. The Taliban confirmed fighting had erupted in the area but gave no other details.

The Northern Alliance suffered a major blow last week when two suicide assassins posing as Arab journalists fatally wounded military commander General Masood.

The next day, hijackers seized four aircraft in the United States and flew three of them in suicide attacks on the twin towers of the World Trade Center in New York and the Pentagon in Washington.

Taliban 'will try Bin Laden if US provides evidence'


Staff and agencies
Friday October 5, 2001
Guardian Unlimited

Afghanistan's ruling Taliban are prepared to put Osama bin Laden on trial in an Afghan court, but only if the US provides hard evidence against him, the party announced today.

Although the Taliban's cooperation in the trial of Bin Laden hinges largely on the definition of "evidence", the statement is the clearest signal yet that they could cooperate with Nato's mission to track down the suspect for September's terror attacks on New York and Washington.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeff, the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan, said: "We are prepared to try him, if America provides solid evidence of Osama bin Laden's involvement in attacks in New York and Washington."

Asked whether the Taliban would allow a trial of Bin Laden in another country, he said: "We are willing to talk about that, but the first is that we must be given the evidence."

The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted Mullah Zaeff as saying: "If America is not satisfied with our trial of Osama, we are also ready to find another Islamic way of trying him."

But asked whether the Taliban were ready to hand over Bin Laden, he said: "This is a later thing, we cannot take any step that hurts our Islamic or Afghan dignity."

The Taliban still have a few days' breathing space before military manoeuvres close in around their borders. They will be put under increasing pressure to hand over their guest.

The US has said it will not hand over evidence to the Taliban, but insists it has enough put him on trial. Nearly all of the US' allies say this evidence has convinced them of Bin Laden's involvement in last month's attacks.

AIP said Mullah Zaeef had again offered talks to the United States saying: "War is nothing but pain and death, blood does not wash blood, negotiations are a good path and we can discuss all issues including Osama."

Washington has said there is nothing to discuss.

Taliban still says: no proof, no bin Laden



QUETTA, Pakistan (AP) — Afghanistan's ruling Taliban refused again Tuesday to surrender Osama bin Laden without proof he was involved in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.

Speaking at a news conference in Pakistan, the ambassador for the ruling Islamic militia said the Taliban are ready for negotiations with Washington on the issue, an offer the United States has repeatedly rejected.

Abdul Salam Zaeef also dismissed Western threats that the Taliban could be toppled from power in Afghanistan if they did not meet demands to hand over bin Laden and his lieutenants in the al-Qaida network.

"Only Allah changes the regime and only Allah brings the others instead of us," he said, speaking in English.

Both President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair issued tough warnings to the Taliban on Tuesday, with the British leader telling Afghanistan's leaders in a speech to "surrender terrorists or surrender power."

It came as NATO's secretary general said Washington had presented its allies with "compelling" proof that bin Laden and his al-Qaida organization were behind the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

In response to Blair's comments, Zaeef replied: "We don't want to surrender (him) without any proof, any evidence." And he dismissed NATO's claims that Washington had presented the alliance with conclusive evidence.

"If they are giving it (evidence) to the other countries, it belongs to them, not to us," he replied. "They haven't given it to us."

"We are ready for negotiations," Zaeef said. "It is up to the other side to agree or not. Only the way of negotiation will solve our problems. We should discuss this issue and decide."

The United States has turned down Taliban offers to negotiate. Bush repeated that stance Tuesday. "I have said that the Taliban must turn over the al-Qaida organization living in Afghanistan and must destroy the terrorist camps. They must do so, otherwise there will be a consequence," he said. "There are no negotiations. There is no calendar."

Taliban officials have repeatedly said they are not afraid of American military action, and a rally in Kandahar, the southern city where the Taliban was formed, appeared meant to underscore that defiant message.

The Afghan Islamic Press, an Islamabad-based private news agency close to the Taliban, said 10,000 marchers burned American flags and effigies of President Bush, shouting that Afghanistan would not give up bin Laden. Later, Taliban officials in Kabul put the number of protesters at 50,000. No independent confirmation could be obtained.

Abdul Hanan Himat, the Taliban information minister, said marchers also denounced Afghanistan's deposed king, who has indicated he might ally himself with groups seeking to topple the Taliban.

The Taliban also appeared anxious to dispel any rumors of an internal split. The Taliban's No. 2 man — Mullah Mohammed Hassan, who is thought to be more flexible in his thinking than Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar — took part in a pro-government rally in the southern Afghanistan city of Gardez, Taliban officials said.

Meanwhile, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who has pledged to back the United States against bin Laden and the Taliban, was briefed Tuesday by the U.S. ambassador on the status of the American investigation into bin Laden.

A Pakistani official said afterward that Ambassador Wendy Chamberlin provided no conclusive proof that bin Laden was involved in the terror attacks.

"We have yet to receive any detailed evidence about the persons responsible for the horrendous act of terrorism, or other links with bin Laden or al-Qaida," Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Mohammed Khan said.

Embassy spokesman Mark Wentworth said the 90-minute meeting included several issues, among them "the status of the investigation to date." U.S. officials could not be reached to comment on the Pakistani foreign ministry statement.

On Monday, Musharraf told the British Broadcasting Corp. that U.S. strikes against Afghanistan appear certain. Pakistan's Foreign Ministry underscored that Tuesday, saying: "We have told them (the Taliban) that they don't have much time."

New offer on Bin Laden


Minister makes secret trip to offer trial in third country

Rory McCarthy in Islamabad
Wednesday October 17, 2001
The Guardian

A senior Taliban minister has offered a last-minute deal to hand over Osama bin Laden during a secret visit to Islamabad, senior sources in Pakistan told the Guardian last night.

For the first time, the Taliban offered to hand over Bin Laden for trial in a country other than the US without asking to see evidence first in return for a halt to the bombing, a source close to Pakistan's military leadership said.

But US officials appear to have dismissed the proposal and are instead hoping to engineer a split within the Taliban leadership.

The offer was brought by Mullah Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban foreign minister and a man who is often regarded as a more moderate figure in the regime.

He met officials from the CIA and Pakistan's ISI intelligence directorate in Islamabad on Monday. US officials pressed the minister for a sweeping change in the regime. "They are trying to persuade him to get the moderate elements together," another source said.

Mr Muttawakil's visit coincided with the arrival in Islamabad of Colin Powell, the US secretary of state. After several hours of talks with Pakistan's military ruler General Pervez Musharraf yesterday, Mr Powell admitted that moderate Taliban would play a role in talks on a future Afghan government. "We would have to listen to them or at least take them into account," he said.

Mr Powell also met envoys sent by Zahir Shah, the former Afghan king who lives in exile in Rome, and a representative of the opposition Northern Alliance, sources said.

The Taliban foreign minister had asked for face-to-face talks with the US secretary of state but no direct meeting was held. Mr Muttawakil returned to Kabul last night and the Taliban have publicly denied he was ever in Islamabad.

His visit came as Taliban forces in Afghanistan came under renewed pressure from the bombing campaign and opposition advances.

Troops from the Northern Alliance were yesterday closing in on the key northern town of Mazar-i-Sharif. More alliance soldiers were locked in heavy fighting with the Taliban in the west hoping to cut a key supply line to the town.

Some reports suggested the Taliban foreign minister had in fact defected in the face of mounting pressure and was now in the Gulf. But sources in Pakistan confirmed he had returned to Kabul and said there was still no clear rift in the ultra-Islamic regime.

Instead, the offer appears to indicate that Pakistan is applying pressure on moderate Taliban elements to negotiate their way out of the crisis.

Pakistan has made clear that it wants the bombing campaign to be brief and that it does not want the Northern Alliance, backed by its arch-enemy India, to sweep to power in Kabul. Gen Musharraf said publicly yesterday that he wanted to see "moderate Taliban" in the next Afghan government.

Pakistan was intricately linked to the emergence of the Taliban as a military force and has closely backed the movement financially and diplomatically. Pakistan is now the only country to maintain diplomatic links with the ostracised regime.

The Taliban have offered to hand over Bin Laden before but only if sufficient evidence was presented. Bin Laden is wanted both for the September 11 attacks and for masterminding the bombings of two US embassies in East Africa in 1998 in which 224 people were killed. He is also suspected of involvement in other terrorist attacks, including the suicide bombing of the USS Cole in Yemen last year.

But until now the Taliban regime has consistently said it has not seen any convincing evidence to implicate the Saudi dissident in any crime.

"Now they have agreed to hand him over to a third country without the evidence being presented in advance," the source close to the military said.

However, it is unclear whether the Taliban would have the ability to seize Bin Laden and hand him over.

The US administration has not publicly supported the idea of a trial for Bin Laden outside America and appears intent on removing from power the Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and the hardliners in the regime.

Some in Pakistan have suggested Saudi Arabia as a loca tion for any trial for Bin Laden. "The Pakistan army would be supportive of anything with a Saudi link," said the source.

The Saudi royal family has long seen Bin Laden as a threat because he has accused the government of corruption and mismanagement and continually demanded the withdrawal of US troops from Saudi soil.

Mr Muttawakil's clandestine visit to Pakistan was planned several days in advance. The Taliban ambassador in Islam abad, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, left the embassy on Friday and travelled to Kandahar, home of the Taliban headquarters in southern Afghanistan, for talks with Mullah Omar to prepare for the visit.

It is not clear how the Taliban foreign minister travelled from Kabul to Pakistan without approval from the US. One report in the US yesterday suggested that Pakistani intelligence flew him out of the country in a small aircraft.

12-03-2007, 10:38 PM
So you see, this statement, "This year has been the worst of the Taliban-led insurgency since the hardliners were removed from government in late 2001 in a US-led invasion launched after they did not surrender Al-Qaeda leaders for the 9/11 attacks" is not completely accurate. They continually asked for proof of his involvement, then they said they would try him if they were given proof of his involvement, then they offered him without any proof after the bombing began.