Afghan war goes on

This video is called OPERATION LEAKSPIN: Kunduz Air-Strike 09BERLIN1108.

Afghanistan: German Chancellor Angela Merkel needs to explain secrecy concerning a deadly attack ordered by NATO commanders, opposition leaders say: here.

Afghans fear return of the warlords as anti-Taliban militias clash: here.

Australia: Abbott’s callous ‘shit happens’ retort over the death of an Australian soldier in Afghanistan and Labor defence minister Stephen Smith’s rush to defend him reveals a lot about the attitude of the pro-war parties. They treat infantry soldiers as expendable cannon fodder. Millions of soldiers who survived the bloodbaths of the last two world wars and the Vietnam War drew this conclusion: here.

Exactly one year ago, on February 13, 2010, the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan launched the first major military operations enabled by President Obama’s 30,000 troop increase. President Obama and the high priests of counterinsurgency warfare, Generals David Petraeus and Stanley McChrystal, made two major assertions about the escalation, that it would a) enable coalition forces to reverse the insurgents’ momentum and b) increase security for the Afghan people. After a year of fighting, neither of those things happened. The escalation is a failure, and it’s time to bring our troops home: here.

US sacrifices truth for war on Taliban: here.

USA: 2012 Department of Defense budget request is the largest EVER: here.

Young Americans For Freedom Purges Rep. Ron Paul From Board Over ‘Treason’ Of Opposing War: here.

What Stanley McChrystal Did to Pat Tillman’s Family: here.

Private Contractor Deaths Surpass US Military Losses in Iraq and Afghanistan: here.

12 thoughts on “Afghan war goes on

  1. Highlights of Afghanistan’s mining sites

    By The Associated Press, None

    Saturday, February 12, 2011 at 9:01 p.m.

    The Afghan Ministry of Mines last month presented information on 27 prospective mining sites that it says contain an estimated $3 trillion in iron, copper, gold and other prized minerals.

    Here are highlights it reported on six of the prospective mining sites:

    -Nearly $90 billion worth of rare earth minerals as well as niobium in southwest Helmand province.

    -An estimated $30 billion in gold and copper deposits in the Zana Khan, an area of Ghazni province that Wahidullah Shahrani, the minister of mines, said could become one of Afghanistan’s largest mining operations within five years.

    -Up to $60 billion in lithium deposits in Herat, Ghazni, Nimroz and Farah provinces. A U.S. Defense Department task force projects that small-scale lithium production could begin within one year and large-scale production 2-4 years later.

    -An undetermined amount of copper just north of the Aynak copper mine in Logar province, which is being run by China Metallurgical Construction Co.

    -An estimated $29 billion in copper in Herat province. Previous studies by Soviet and Afghan geologists concluded that this deposit was not worthwhile to mine, but new data suggests it is.

    -A massive copper deposit in Balkhab district of Balkh province, value undetermined, but the task force report said it could become a significant mining operating in fewer than five years.


  2. Britain:

    Widow accuses MoD of cover up

    WAR VICTIMS: The widow of bomb disposal soldier Olaf Schmid has criticised the inquest into his death and accused army chiefs of covering up the “true reasons” he died.

    Christina Schmid told the News of the World she felt “betrayed” by the Ministry of Defence.

    The soldier, known as Oz, died in Helmand Province on October 31 2009 while defusing a homemade bomb.

    He had already defused two bombs that day.


  3. The Tillman Story

    by Robert Nesti
    EDGE National Arts & Entertainment Editor

    Sunday Feb 13, 2011

    One of the most prominent military deaths since 9/11 was that of Pat Tillman, the NFL superstar who put aside his football career to enlist in the military and join in in the conflict in Afghanistan. His death in April 2004 was initially portrayed as being killed when he attempted to save his fellow soldiers from a Taliban ambush. Overnight he became a national hero with dignitaries (Maria Shriver, John McCain) speaking platitudes at a nationally televised memorial service. The media and government officials made Tillman a classic war hero; yet weeks after his death it was learned that Tillman was a victim of friendly-fire, killed in what is euphemistically called “friendly fire.”

    In the aftermath of his death, his family wanted answers that the military and the government weren’t interested in giving them. Undaunted, Tillman’s parents (Mary and Pat Sr.) pursued the truth with the vigilance of good investigative reporters. What they uncovered becomes the basis of The Tillman Story, Amir Bar-Lev’s hard-hitting documentary that explores the manner by which heroes are manufactured for purpose of propaganda. In the case of Tillman, they picked the wrong hero.

    The squared-jawed, ruggedly handsome Tillman may have looked the part, but in reality, he was far more complex: an atheist, a private person, a critic of the Iraqi War and a reader of Norm Chomsky. The latter fact led to some conspiracy theories as to Tillman’s death, but these are pretty much dismissed by Bar-Lev, who instead focuses on the family’s determination to find out the truth and an equally determined military who wanted to cover it up.

    Bar-Lev’s agenda is pretty clear – to give voice to the Tillman family and express their outrage. In doing so he offers a clear-headed, devastating critique of the government, media and the true nature of heroism.

    The DVD-release offers a single special feature – an informative commentary by Bar-Lev of how he came to make the film, his process in shaping the material and how he came to view what he calls the collective “fuck you” the military gave the public in the Congressional hearing that ends the film.

    Though it was passed over for an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary, The Tillman Story is one of last year’s best documentary.


  4. Rare-earth shortage? Afghans think they can help

    By ELENA BECATOROS, Associated Press

    Story Published: Feb 13, 2011 at 11:16 AM PST

    KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) – Amid surging demand for rare-earth minerals used in everything from cell phones to gas-saving cars, Afghans are dreaming of cashing in on vast deposits they believe lie beneath their feet.

    The problem is that they are in one of the country’s most dangerous spots, on the south bank of the Helmand River in southern Afghanistan, where fighting rages in a traditional Taliban stronghold.

    That Afghanistan sits on vast mineral wealth has been detailed in several surveys, the most extensive of which were conducted by the Soviets in the 1970s. Mining companies, both Afghan and foreign, already have shown interest, notably in its copper, iron and oil.

    Last month, Afghan officials proudly presented what they say is $3 trillion worth of deposits scattered throughout the country, more than triple the initial dollar amount estimated by the U.S. Defense Department last June.

    But with poor infrastructure and security that ranges from precarious to downright prohibitive, there is a limit to how much the country can hope for, at least in the medium term.

    Among the most exciting right now are the rare earths, with a spat between China and Japan last fall highlighting China’s near-monopoly on the minerals.

    In 2007 the U.S. Geological Survey estimated 1.4 million metric tons of rare-earth elements lie in southwest Helmand. The Afghan Ministry of Mines says there is more elsewhere in the country, “huge deposits” overall, according to Jalil Jumriani, who deals with policy and promotion at the ministry in Kabul.

    The U.S. Defense Department’s Task Force for Business and Stability Operations estimates the Khanneshin area in Helmand holds some $89 billion in rare earths and niobium, minerals strategic for high tech and industrial industries.

    “This deposit could represent a long-term development opportunity for Helmand province that would create jobs across the spectrum from low-skilled laborers to chemists, physicists and engineers,” the task force said in a statement last month.

    USGS scientists are analyzing samples taken over the past 18 months from Helmand to determine what exactly is there in the way of the 17 rare-earth minerals.

    Jack Medlin, a USGS specialist, said it was too soon to call it “a world-class rare-earths deposit. We’re not there yet. We will be there probably by midsummer.”

    Jumriani said officials were treading cautiously. Once the picture clears and the mining law is overhauled to define investors’ rights, Afghanistan will hold a road show to present its rare-earth deposits, possibly this summer in Hong Kong or Singapore.

    “We want to take these steps slowly, and we want to make sure that the people in Afghanistan can get the real benefits of this,” Jumriani said.

    Rare-earth minerals are used in areas as diverse as cell phones, hybrid car batteries, defense industries and wind turbines, and China accounts for 97 percent of production.

    China has 30 percent of the world’s rare-earth deposits, but the United States, Australia and others stopped mining their own a decade ago because it was cheaper to buy Chinese ores. Several companies now plan to resume production in North America and Australia.

    Beijing announced in 2009 that it would reduce rare-earth exports to curb environmental damage and conserve supplies. Manufacturers were alarmed when China temporarily blocked shipments to Japan last year during a dispute over islands claimed by both governments. The Japanese government is discussing creating a rare-earths recycling industry to reduce reliance on imports.

    China already has made a hefty investment in Afghan minerals, signing a $3 billion contract to mine copper. But it is not known whether it will seek a stake in Afghanistan’s rare earths.

    Also, experts caution that it is still unclear whether the Helmand deposits are mineable and can yield a profit. One question needing study is which of the rare-earth minerals are more abundant, the more abundant ones called light rare earths, or the heavy rare earths critical to specific industries. Medlin said old data lean toward the lights, but there are indications heavy rare earths are present too.

    A Ministry of Mines report last month indicated the deposit included the rarer type.

    “The heavy rare earths in Khanneshin are found only in few locations around the world. This deposit could represent a long-term opportunity for Helmand province, creating jobs and stabilizing the area,” a statement said.

    “There’s been quite a lot of hype about mineral resources in Afghanistan,” said Andrew Bloodworth, a mining expert at the British Geological Survey. Afghanistan is unquestionably rich in minerals, he said. “It’s a big country with complicated geology, and … the chances are they’re going to have mineral resources which are going to be of interest.”

    But just having the minerals is not enough. Mines need roads and railroads, no easy proposition in a war-wracked country.

    “The question is … if this is an economic deposit, can you produce rare-earths out of it in two years or five years? And the answer to that is, maybe,” Medlin said. He does not expect it to have an impact within five years, but in the longer term it “could have a big impact.”


    AP researchers Zhao Liang and Yu Bing and AP Business Writer Joe McDonald contributed to this report from Beijing.


  5. Monday, Feb. 14, 2011

    Afghan bankers accused in fake check scheme

    By RAHIM FAIEZ – Associated Press

    KABUL, Afghanistan — Nine employees of Afghanistan’s Central Bank and of a troubled private bank have been accused of stealing $1.5 million through a fake check scheme, officials said Monday.

    The suspects were arrested two weeks ago and have confessed, officials said.

    Two of those detained worked for Kabul Bank, the country’s largest private bank, which nearly collapsed last year after a management shake-up and corruption scandal. The other seven suspects were employed at the Central Bank’s branch in Khost, about 150 kilometers (93 miles) south of the capital Kabul.

    The suspects, including the director of the Khost branch, are accused of misappropriating 64 million Afghanis, or $1.5 million, and using the money for private ventures, including land deals, said Mubarez Zadran, a spokesman for the governor of Khost province.

    About 10 million Afghanis, or $232,400, have been recovered, Zadran said. The nine remain in jail as the investigation continues.

    Afghanistan’s Central Bank took control of Kabul Bank in mid-September after the removal of two top executives sparked a run on the bank. Kabul Bank is partly owned by a brother of President Hamid Karzai.

    Kabul Bank has been both the symbol of commercial modernization in Afghanistan and a target for charges of cronyism, with millions of dollars in loans allegedly going to friends of the Karzai clan.

    The theft of the $1.5 million occurred as money was transferred from the Central Bank to Kabul Bank, said Emal Ashor, a spokesman for the Central Bank. Officials said they did not know which bank the money belonged to.

    The government previously said it would perform an audit of Kabul Bank, along with the country’s other private banks, to determine the extent of problems within the financial sector.

    Sherkhan Farnood, a former bank chairman who raised money for Karzai’s re-election campaign, and Khalilullah Ferozi, former chief executive officer, each own 28 percent of Kabul Bank’s shares. Karzai’s eldest brother, Mahmood, owns 7 percent.


  6. Czech soldiers in Afghanistan lack special night vision equipment

    15 February 2011

    Prague, Feb 14 (CTK) – Czech troops in Afghanistan lack special night vision equipment as the firm that won the tender for the contract failed to deliver it by the given deadline, the commercial television station Nova said Monday.

    As a result, the soldiers still use some older equipment. The firm has not been available for comment.

    Nova said the firm Glomex MS had offered 120 pieces of equipment for 12 million crowns to the military.

    “The lowest bidder won the tender. Unfortunately, it has not delivered the equipment, although the contract sets down the end of last November,” Defence Ministry spokesman Jan Pejsek said.

    Pejsek said some time ago the firm had announced it faced some problems with the manufacturer from the USA.

    Czech soldiers are deployed in the Vardak province, considered very dangerous.

    They have some older night vision equipment at their disposal.

    “We have to somewhat reconsider the concept of night combat activity,” deputy chief of staff Ales Opata said.

    Copyright 2009 by the Czech News Agency (ČTK). All rights reserved.


  7. The plight of the UK’s war widows

    Hundreds of women have been bereaved by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now they face a battle of their own, writes Nick Hopkins

    Toni O’Donnell had played the scene over in her mind many times, and talked to her husband about how she might react if it ever happened. Nothing, though, prepared her for the moment on a September evening, when she peered through her living room window and saw two smartly dressed people in suits walking up the path towards her house. O’Donnell was holding her nine-week old boy Ben in her arms when she opened the door to the strangers, and her eight-year-old son Aidan was by her side.

    The visitors hadn’t said a word, but she knew what was coming. “As the man got out his ID, the woman asked me if she could take my baby. I was not going to let go of him. I said to them, ‘He’s gone, isn’t he?’ Aidan then asked me if Daddy was dead, and I told him he was. Aidan cried, but I don’t think I did, not then. I was probably in a state of shock. I knew in that moment that our world had crumbled and that everything for us had changed.”

    It has been two and a half years since O’Donnell’s husband Gary was killed on a tour of duty in Afghanistan – his second – where he had one of the army’s most perilous jobs. A bomb disposal expert who had served in Northern Ireland, Iraq, Sierra Leone, and the Falklands, Warrant Officer O’Donnell was trying to clear an improvised explosive device (IED) from the side of a road on the western side of Musa Qaleh. He had served in the army for 17 years and won two George Crosses for bravery, one posthumously. He was 40 years old.

    O’Donnell had been on 10 days leave in the UK when his baby son was born but had returned to Helmand Province, from where he had spoken to his wife the night before he died.

    “We had the regulation 20 minutes, and we talked about where we were going to go on holiday. Sometimes I still find it hard to believe that all this has happened. I wake up and it’s still not real to me. I am so used to him being away and then coming back.

    “We still talk about him every day. Aidan will say, do you remember this, do you remember that. Ben can recognise him in photos.

    “I don’t feel sorry for myself any more, but I do feel sorry for the children. It would have been nice for them to have known him. They are just like him — blond hair and blue eyes.”

    O’Donnell, 40, is just one of hundreds of women who have been bereaved by the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq. More than 350 soldiers have been killed so far in the former, and 179 were killed in the latter. Almost all the victims were young, and many left families with small children.

    The armed forces are caring for a new generation of widows who are having to put their lives back together in the months and years after a death, supporting them out of the gaze of a public that has grown increasingly suspicious of the reasons for war, and impatient for the troops to be withdrawn.

    O’Donnell’s recovery has been a long hard road but one small consolation has been that she has not had to worry about money – the pensions and allowances have given her some security. For some women, however, that could now be under threat.

    A row over pension payments is at the heart of the current concern and the likelihood that, year on year, widows, as well as those who have been injured in conflict, will receive less than they would have done, with the reforms proposed by the coalition government.

    This is fostering a growing feeling throughout the military that the special status afforded to war widows is being eroded, and that this in turn is having a damaging affect on troop morale.

    It isn’t just about money. It ties into concern about the military covenant – Britain’s duty of care to its armed forces. Straight after the election, David Cameron said he would codify this into law; ministers are now saying they won’t.

    Promises over reforms of inquests, which the military strongly supported on behalf of bereaved families, have been ditched too.

    The arguments are pushing into the open a difficult and broader debate about the special position of the armed forces, and whether they can, and should be, taken for granted any more.

    O’Donnell had to cope with many things when her husband of 10 years died, but this was not among them.

    First there were the practicalities to sort out and then the enduring emotional damage to herself and her sons. “When they come to tell you your husband has died, the army don’t send people you know because you end up associating them with the death.

    “That evening, we all sat in my living room. I rang my mum who lives nearby and she came round and made us cups of tea. “I kept asking if they were sure that it was Gary who had died. My brain wasn’t really working. That night I didn’t sleep. I think I only started crying when I got in the shower the next morning.”

    Later that day, a captain in Gary’s regiment turned up with a padre. “They told me how quickly they could get him home and asked me about the funeral arrangements. They explained everything to me and did everything for me. It was exactly what I needed. Gary died on a Wednesday and the following Monday he was home.”

    O’Donnell had a visiting officer whom she saw every day in the run-up to the funeral. For many widows, the inquest can be a traumatic experience, with many complaining that they have heard harrowing details of what happened for the first time – hence the calls for reform.

    O’Donnell was lucky. She saw the coroner before the hearing started and told him of her fears. “I wanted it to be over as quickly as possible. I didn’t want to see photos of him or hear exactly what happened. There was no need for it, and thankfully it was all over in 45 minutes.”

    She has, however, discovered that Gary wasn’t always being honest with her about his job, or the danger he was in – another common experience for women in her position.

    “I thought he was speaking to me openly but he was obviously keeping some things back. He spared me the full extent of what was going on, things he had seen, how busy he was, how demanding the job had become and how clever the Taliban were. I guess he did not want me to know, and he was trying to protect me. I don’t feel angry because he obviously didn’t want me to worry. But I am not sure I really knew what he was going through.”

    In life, Gary O’Donnell had prepared well for his death; he had taken out insurance and there is an army pension for his wife, which will stop if she ever remarries, regardless of her partner’s circumstances. Her boys receive a token income too; that will stop when they leave school.

    There are a number of charities that provide pastoral help and advice for widows, chief among them the Royal British Legion, which last year raised £16m from its Poppy Appeal alone, and the War Widows Association (WWA), which has 4,000 members — the oldest being 106. There are other groups, such as the Forces Children’s Trust (FCT), that fundraise to provide bereavement counselling and occasional holidays for children who have lost a parent. O’Donnell and her two boys were taken for a week’s holiday in Portugal, care of the FCT.

    “I could not have coped without these people,” she says. “Aidan thrived when we went to Portugal. He was among children who had all lost someone, who understood what he had been through.”

    Perhaps it is the generosity of such groups, and the network they provide, that will work against the widows in the dispute with ministers over pensions. The government wants all public sector pensions to be increased in future by the consumer price index, not by the (generally higher) retail price index.The Forces Pension Society (FPS) estimates this could cost a young widow up to £750,000 over the course of a lifetime.

    Gill Grigg, who has been representing the WWA, is very aware of the special status that forces widows have had, and believes it is right that this should be respected. But she wants the government to acknowledge it so that groups such as the WWA, which marks its 40th anniversary this year, don’t have to come out and openly lobby.

    “It’s a very difficult position we find ourselves in. We are very aware of the [economic] climate. It’s a very difficult time for everyone. War widows are conscious of other people’s feelings – when we look across the rest of the public sector, and the private sector, we are well thought of and looked after. We don’t want to appear greedy.”

    Grigg also acknowledges that families in the fire service and the police also suffer bereavements. They should all, she argues, be exempted from changes to pensions that could have profound effects on their finances.

    “It would be really helpful if the government could look at this and say that across the public sector, if you have been injured or bereaved while on duty, the changes would not apply. I really think that would be appropriate. We are conscious that if we were to get an uplift, then it should apply to other widows too.”

    Major General John Moore-Bick, who has been speaking for the FPS, is more forthright: “There is a unique nature to what armed forces families go through. This is not special pleading. In the armed forces you are asked to do things nobody else in the public sector would be asked to do. It is only right that they should have a special status.”

    The word filtering up from the three services is that morale is being affected by defence cuts, concerns over pensions and allowances, and by the feeling that the government is reneging over the military covenant.

    “You can take army vehicles out of service, you can scrap Nimrods and withdraw Harriers,” says Moore-Bick. “But personnel and morale is another thing. If you get this wrong, it goes wrong for a long time. The government says we are all in this together. Well that’s right, up to a point. If you are a war widow, should you be in it? I would argue there are some people that should not be.”

    There is another consideration that is not always understood outside the forces – the camaraderie that service wives rely on for support.

    Ros Dillon-Lee, aged 64, lost her husband Mike in 1990. A major in the 32nd Heavy Regiment Royal Artillery based in Dortmund, he was shot by the IRA.

    “When you lose your husband, you lose your way of life,” she says. “These days widows can stay in service accommodations for up to two years. But they tend to find that the time comes when they don’t fit in any more. Most then move back towards their families, especially if they have little ones. Moving on is a very personal thing. You have to pick up the pieces and become independent again.”

    Amanda Binnie, 23, is going through that process now. She lost her husband Sean in May 2009, six months after they married. Corporal Binnie, who served in the Black Watch regiment, died during a firefight with insurgents.

    Sean’s inquest was particularly painful – she heard evidence from three soldiers who had been with him on the day he died. Amanda had not been told there would be eyewitness accounts, and she found them particularly upsetting.

    “I should have been told that was coming up, but I wasn’t. The whole six months after it happened was a blur.”

    The army, she says, was brilliant to her in the months after the death, but she has lost touch with her welfare officer, which is something she regrets.

    Binnie says she had gone through phases in the past few months when she was “angry, shocked and hated the world.” The support of her family in Belfast, and the friends she made through Sean in the military, have helped her through.

    “It takes a long time to come to terms with it. I don’t think I am ready yet to think about what I will do for the rest of my life. I have thrown myself into charity work, which keeps me busy.”

    Money is not something she is thinking about right now. It’s enough to deal with day-to-day life.

    So far, the Treasury has been unmoved by the lobbying, but the campaign is gathering momentum. With the army, navy and air force all committed to operations in Afghanistan for the next four years at least, the issue could be a running sore for Cameron, who promised to support the military as best he could.

    While the battle continues in Westminster, O’Donnell will continue to take the small steps to rebuild her family’s life in Warwickshire. She is opposed to the changes to widows’ pensions, while acknowledging that it would affect some women harder than her. It’s a worry that she and other widows could do without during a difficult time.

    So what next? She has not really had a social life since Gary’s death, and gave up an attempt to go back to work. It was too much, too soon. Her priority has been the children. Aidan has, she says, been understandably affected by the loss of his father. Every Friday, her mother Wendy takes Ben, now two and a half, away for the evening, so that O’Donnell can have some proper time with her oldest son.

    “Emotionally it doesn’t get any easier. I manage things day by day. I have friends who have gone out and found new partners. I cannot imagine that yet. That has not even entered my head.”

    Slowly, though, she is finding her feet. “I know that I need to move on. Not to leave Gary behind, because he was the love of my life. But I need to make a new life without him. It’s about time, I think.”


  8. 7:46 am Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011

    IMF recommends troubled Kabul Bank be wound down

    By ADAM SCHRECK | AP Business Writer

    The International Monetary Fund is pushing for Afghanistan’s troubled Kabul Bank to be placed into receivership and then quickly sold off as part of a broader effort to stabilize the country’s shaky financial system.

    The IMF made the recommendations Tuesday after a visit by fund officials to assess the Afghan economy and work through an impasse over extending Kabul further credit. It urged Afghan officials to put together a “transparent, credible and fully financed” plan to settle problems at the country’s largest bank, which came close to collapse last year after allegations of mismanagement, cronyism and questionable lending.

    The bank has close ties to Afghanistan’s ruling elite. Sherkhan Farnood, the former bank chairman and a world class poker player who raised money for President Hamid Karzai’s re-election campaign, owns 28 percent of the bank’s shares. The president’s eldest brother, Mahmood Karzai, owns 7 percent. A brother of one of Afghanistan’s two vice presidents is also a shareholder.

    Afghanistan’s central bank took control of Kabul Bank in mid-September after a run on the lender sparked by the removal of two top executives. It has spent the past several months combing the lender’s books to determine the size of its exposure and recoup loans.

    The bank plays a key role in the Afghan economy by handling payrolls for government workers and security forces. Afghan officials have repeatedly tried to reassure the public that the lender is sound, hoping to prevent another bank run that could further destabilize the country’s fledgling banking system.

    In a statement issued late Tuesday, the IMF called on Afghan officials to lay out clear steps to deal with Kabul Bank and safeguard the financial system, and to prosecute those involved in fraud or other illegal activity at the company.

    Placing Kabul Bank into receivership – a type of bankruptcy – is “the most appropriate mechanism” for resolving problems there, the IMF said.

    “This will be followed by a process where the bank will be rapidly sold or wound down and the central bank is recapitalized with government resources as needed,” the IMF said.

    That stance puts the IMF at odds with Afghan officials, who want to keep the bank afloat. Afghan leaders have said they would stand fully behind Kabul Bank and are committed to collecting all the lender’s outstanding loans.

    An investigation by Afghanistan’s attorney general is ongoing, though no charges have been brought.

    A $120 million IMF lending program ended in September. Afghan officials hope to regain the support of the IMF or risk losing millions of dollars in international aid that depends on good standing with the fund.

    The IMF is open to further talks on a new line of credit to Kabul, but said its focus is on finding a resolution for Kabul Bank and increasing transparency and accountability in the banking system.

    The Afghan government has vowed a thorough audit of other private banks that have sprung up since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001 to determine the depth of problems within the financial sector.

    That round of evaluations could cover about seven or eight lenders, and will include forensic audits – aimed at uncovering fraud or other illegal activity – at Kabul Bank and possibly one other institution, said an international official in Kabul familiar with the country’s financial system. The official asked not to identified because of political sensitivities surrounding the country’s banking system.

    The governor of Afghanistan’s central bank said this month that Kabul Bank has made $540 million worth of loans. But international officials say the size of the loan book could stand closer to $900 million – loans they fear may never be fully repaid.

    Abdul Qadir Fitrat, the central bank governor, declined to comment on the IMF recommendations when reached by The Associated Press on Wednesday.

    But Najibullah Manalai, an adviser to the finance minister, voiced support for the actions taken by the central bank to shore up the financial system. He said discussions with the IMF are still ongoing.

    “So far, we are happy with whatever decision has been taken by the central bank,” Manalai said. “The finance minister supports any measures that will maintain the stability of the country’s banking system.”

    Associated Press writer Rahim Faiez contributed to this report.


  9. Afghan convert faces hanging

    Becky Yeh – OneNewsNow – 2/14/2011 4:15:00

    A one-legged Afghan Red Cross worker faces death after converting to Christianity.

    Said Musa, a physiotherapist who has been jailed for eight months in Kabul, was tortured and abused by inmates and guards — and now, Musa has been told he will be hanged for his faith. The Afghan lost his leg in a landmine explosion in the 1990s and was a medical worker at Red Cross for 15 years.


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