If the United States really wants to stabilize Afghanistan, say six Afghans visiting Colorado farms, then it should focus more on building agricultural options beyond the illicit drug trade for the war-torn nation’s mostly agrarian people. “If we keep people busy in agriculture, that will be good for security,” said Abdul, a veterinarian from northern Afghanistan. “We have a lot of land that is not used for drugs. We have no water to irrigate that land,” Abdul said. “If our agriculture is supported by the United States — if we can have a good irrigation system — this could be good land and a lot of people could get jobs.” U.S. agriculture officials brought the six Afghan veterinarians to Colorado for a month as part of nonmilitary efforts begun during the war that was launched shortly after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks. Retired Colorado State University professors have escorted the six to farms, feedlots, research stations and clinics.
Skepticism about Zazi case gives way to hard questions
The evolving case of terrorism suspect Najibullah Zazi — the Afghan immigrant jailed in an alleged bombing plot — initially struck some in Colorado’s Islamic community as another example of FBI overenthusiasm. But as details trickled out, skepticism morphed into surprise and embarrassment, prompting leaders to ask searching questions about themselves, the community and how U.S. actions abroad could imperil Americans at home.
Once it became clear to the FBI that Najibullah Zazi posed a real threat, some of the police and intelligence reforms instituted after the 2001 terrorist attacks worked just as planned.
Wiretaps helped reveal what Zazi was saying. Travel records were mined to build a record of Zazi’s journeys.
The arrest of Zazi, and apparent disruption of an alleged bombing plot, “is a situation brought about by the changes in the way we do business since 9/11 — knocking down the walls (between law enforcement agencies) that allows us to work collaboratively here and overseas,” Denver FBI Special Agent in Charge James Davis said in an interview.
But it is still too early for anyone outside of law enforcement to gauge whether the techniques and cooperation that led to Zazi’s arrest make the United States considerably safer than on Sept. 11, 2001.
If, for example, Zazi was able to attend an al-Qaeda training camp in Pakistan, move from his New York neighborhood to Colorado, collect bomb-making chemicals and test them in a hotel suite kitchen without drawing the attention of the CIA, FBI or other federal agencies, then there’s still much work to be done, according to intelligence experts.
“It’s impossible to say, based on the facts of the investigation that have been made public so far, what breakthroughs were involved in the investigation and what can be claimed as a success,” said Paul Pillar, the CIA’s national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, a 28-year CIA veteran who currently runs graduate security studies at Georgetown University.
Not knowing whether information about Zazi’s activities in Pakistan was developed by agents abroad or solely through police questioning in the United States, “there’s not a basis for drawing conclusions about pre- 9/11 vs. post- 9/11 differences,” Pillar said.
Zazi is charged with conspiring to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, held in the investigation, are expected in court today.
FBI agents investigating what they describe as a plot to detonate homemade bombs in the United States released documents Sunday asserting that a Colorado airport-shuttle driver admitted to al-Qaeda training and had bomb-making notes in his laptop.Today, 24-year-old Najibullah Zazi and his father, Mohammed, 53, are scheduled to make initial appearances in federal court. They’ve been held in Denver County Jail since late Saturday, when FBI agents raided their apartment and arrested them on nonterrorism charges of making false statements.
Greg Mortenson “careful” with creation of schools along Pakistan-Afghanistan border
Mountain climber turned social entrepreneur who once raised government suspicions is now attracting positive attention from the U.S. military for his school-building drive in the Pakistan-Afghanistan borderlands. This creates a problem.
“I have to be very careful,” said Greg Mortenson, who appreciates the recognition but fears that if he becomes aligned with the U.S. government he’ll no longer be trusted by the people he helps.
Sales of Mortenson’s book “Three Cups of Tea” just topped 1 million, and Pentagon officials bought several thousand copies as reading for soldiers training to fight terrorism.
Pentagon strategists three times have invited Mortenson to speak with them about his softer approach. He has established 64 schools that give a balanced education to 25,000 girls and boys otherwise targeted by recruiters for anti-U.S. groups.
Lax oversight in the rush of exports since 9/11 has raised the
specter of weapons landing in the hands of America’s enemies.
Washington – The United States is failing to safeguard much of the
highly sought weaponry it sends abroad – from assault rifles to
sophisticated combat technology, a review by The Denver Post
Lax oversight of weapons exports opens the door for adversaries to
get their hands on lethal missiles, assault guns and components for
larger weapons systems, sources say.
Homeland Security agents recently have uncovered plots to divert
night-vision lenses to Iran, fighter-jet parts to China, grenade
launchers to Colombian guerrillas, nuclear triggers to Pakistan,
And despite internal warnings, government-sanctioned sales worth
more than $10 billion a year continue spreading more weapons
Congressional leaders responding to The Post’s review are promising
legislation. Among the problems that caught their attention:
Tens of thousands of arms deals aren’t fully reviewed, nor are
weapons inspected abroad as required under the U.S. Arms Control
Export Act to prevent diversion or misuse.
When government officials do review arms deals, they find
increasing problems – including diversions to at least one criminal
and several hostile nations. Nearly one in five arms deals checked
last year – 76 out of 413 – had such problems.
Homeland Security agents investigating illegal dealing say
sophisticated weaponry probably already has reached adversaries.
Total arrests for illegal arms dealing doubled from 62 in 2002 to
125 last year. Customs agents last year made 665 seizures of arms
worth $106 million.
The problems grow from a core dilemma. On one hand, the United
States long has relied on arms exports to support private defense
contractors and to get allies to support U.S. foreign policy goals.
On the other, uncontrolled weapons mean a more dangerous world at a
time when terrorist activity is increasing.
“At a time when many consider the greatest threat to our national
security to be terrorists getting their hands on weapons of mass
destruction, I am extremely concerned that the U.S. government is
not doing enough to make sure that we ourselves are not the source
of any weapons that may be used against us either domestically or
against our citizens, soldiers or allies abroad,” said Sen. Dianne
Feinstein, D-Calif., ranking member of the subcommittee on
terrorism and homeland security and member of the Select Committee
Feinstein will work on legislation that will “close some of the
loopholes that allow American technology and products to get into
the wrong hands,” she said.
“Simply put, the way business is done now, we have no way of
knowing if much of this technology – including advanced computers,
telecommunications and information systems, lasers, toxins, and
even certain nuclear material and technology, and the like – has
been diverted or is being misused,” Feinstein said.
Defense, Commerce and State department officials responsible for
regulating what goes where acknowledged deficiencies.
Bush administration foreign policy has created pressure to move
weapons quickly to allies, overwhelming controls, Air Force Lt.
Gen. Tome Walters, head of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency,
said in an interview before his retirement in July. The agency is
charged with facilitating sales to foreign governments as well as
making sure weapons aren’t diverted or misused.
“A big problem” is the lack of inspectors to keep track of
weapons, Walters said. “And that’s the challenge … the manpower. …
Our system is not designed to do this.”
Diversions exposed by limited reviews raise the possibility of more
diversions not detected.
“I am not comfortable at all,” said Greg Suchan, deputy assistant
secretary of state for defense trade controls.
Even some defense industry leaders – traditional advocates for
relaxing controls – now favor a safer approach.
“A lot of the health and strength of the U.S economy is based on
exports, and it is going to be for some time. But we’ve got to find
a way to manage those exports in a fairly uncertain world,” said
Bob Bauerlein, a former Air Force undersecretary who now serves as
Boeing’s vice president for international operations.
U.S. arms in high demand
Senior Bush administration officials defended the status quo. U.S.
small arms “have not been the weapons that end up in the hands of
child soldiers,” said Lincoln Bloomfield, assistant secretary of
state for political-military affairs. And accelerated sales since
Sept. 11, 2001, will help in the war on terrorism, he said. “Most
of the major arms exports the U.S. does are to armed forces who are
going to do things we want them to do.”
Today, more and more countries – from booming East Asia to the
volatile Middle East – are seeking advanced items for their
And the United States is by far the world’s leading arms supplier,
with annual industry sales topping $300 million and government
sales topping $13 billion last year – a figure expected to reach
$13.8 billion this year, government data show.
In Colorado, some 300 companies are registered to export military
technology – mostly dual-use items that have commercial as well as
military uses. The State Department lists 4,000 companies
nationwide. Names are kept secret.
All deals are supposed to be screened – with congressional
oversight to make sure Defense, Commerce and State department
officials do their jobs. But government documents and interviews
with senior officials, arms control experts, industry lobbyists,
and consultants reveal a systemic failure to control weapons
exports as required by law.
Eye on portable missiles
Consider the case of Stinger shoulder-launched missiles – which the
United States supplies to at least 17 countries, including Egypt,
Israel, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia. Experts agree that if any U.S.
weapon must be controlled, this is it.
One man can carry a 40- pound, heat-seeking Stinger and, with a bit
of training, shoot down a jumbo jet up to 3 miles away as high as
15,000 feet. In the past 20 years, shoulder-
launched missiles have hit at least 40 civilian planes around the
world, causing crashes and deaths, security analysts estimate. In
November 2002, terrorists firing two Russian-
made shoulder-launched missiles almost hit a Boeing 757 airliner
chartered to evacuate Israeli tourists from Kenya.
Thousands are beyond U.S. government control, according to a study
released in May by the Government Accountability Office, the
investigative arm of Congress.
The Defense Department office responsible “does not know how many
Stingers have been sold overseas,” it said. “Records on the
number and destination of Stingers sold overseas are incomplete,
unreliable and largely in hard-copy form.”
The study followed an August 2000 GAO study that identified similar
problems – which defense officials had promised to fix.
Stinger missiles still move out. A Defense Department spokesman,
who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Army has sent out 237
this year and is in the process of sending 249 more. He declined to
Overall, State and Defense department regulators last year approved
more than 49,500 deals involving all types of weapons without full
review – let alone monitoring and inspection abroad, documents
show. Arms deals are screened by staffers who process electronic
applications but generally lack time and expertise to conduct
detailed investigations of buyers and sellers. Even in cases where
an application is flagged for closer scrutiny, the most detailed
reviews seldom involve inspections.
Still more deals, involving dual-use technology, were approved
without full review at the Commerce Department. A GAO study
released in March found Commerce officials conducted inspection
visits for only 1 percent of 22,490 sales of missile-related
technology they approved between 1998 and 2002.
The GAO also addressed dual-use technology sent to
government-designated “countries of concern” such as China, India
and Russia that are supposed to receive extra scrutiny. Of 26,340
approved dual-use sales during that period, 7,680 involved
countries of concern. Commerce officials reviewed 428, or 5.6
percent, of those, according to another GAO study. It concluded
that the government “cannot ensure that dual-use items exported to
countries of concern are not misused or diverted.”
Congressional leaders are considering action to deal with “lagging
oversight,” said Sen. Ben Nelson, D-Neb., a member of the Senate
Armed Services Committee.
“It seems incongruous to say one of the primary purposes of the
war on terrorism is to make sure weapons of mass destruction don’t
get into the hands of evildoers, and then not to enforce our own
safeguards on weapons sales,” Nelson said.
Probes uncover trouble
When the government does scrutinize arms deals, it finds trouble.
Last year, State Department officials charged with overseeing
private-company deals selected 413 for more careful review, though
still not inspections to verify where weapons are and how they are
used.These targeted reviews found irregularities with 76, or 18.4
percent, of those deals. That’s the highest percentage ever, up
from 11 percent, or 50, of the deals reviewed in 2002, State
Department documents said.
The 413 reviews interrupted a plan to move firearms to a criminal
in Central America, sales of helicopter parts to a hostile country,
and misuse of electronics and communications equipment sent to
Asia, records show. Details were omitted.
The findings indicate more weapons may have slipped through in
deals not reviewed. At a recent industry conference in Colorado
Springs, Suchan, the State Department’s chief regulator, appealed
to defense companies for help. He urged senior managers to make
sure their companies police themselves and voluntarily disclose
State Department supervisors said 32 inspectors – including
contract employees – must process applications for some 50,000
commercial arms deals each year.
At the Defense Department, officials couldn’t say how many
inspections they may have conducted or what they found. Instead,
Walters, the chief overseer, described how after Sept. 11 he faced
pressure to speed up sales.
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld “was frequently getting phone
calls from the king of Jordan, from folks who were in countries
that were friends of ours that were close by Afghanistan, close by
Iraq. We needed their help, and they needed things,” Walters said.
“The spotlight was really turned on us to work faster and to
provide things, to help Jordan if Jordan needed equipment, to help
Weapons on the loose
Now evidence is mounting that weapons likely are reaching
adversaries including terrorists – via legal and illegal channels.
In Iraq, customs agents picking through stockpiles recently found
much U.S.-origin weaponry and dual-use technology – evidence for
“at least 40 cases involving U.S. companies or people that we
suspect of exporting illegally to Iraq,” Homeland Security
spokesman Dean Boyd said.
And across the world “there is all sorts of material out there … a
lot of things we don’t have any control over,” Boyd said.
Agents last year opened nearly 3,000 new criminal investigations of
suspected illegal arms deals.
In June, a Jordanian man accused of trying to sell fighter-
jet parts illegally to China pleaded guilty in Los Angeles. In May,
a federal grand jury in Philadelphia indicted a former television
journalist from Houston accused of illegally selling night-vision
lenses to Iran.
In April, Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested a
Florida businessman on charges of attempting to purchase more than
6,000 machine guns, grenades, grenade launchers and pistols,
weapons worth nearly $4 million, and send them to the Revolutionary
Armed Forces of Colombia – a group the government labels as
In January in Denver, immigration agents arrested a South African
man on charges he illegally exported nuclear trigger devices from a
company in Massachusetts, via South Africa and the United Arab
Emirates, to Pakistan.
The failure to control weaponry presents a major threat to U.S. and
global security, according to critics who question the use of
weapons exports as a tool of foreign policy.
“What we’ve done is spread insecurity around the world,” said
former U.S. Sen. Tim Wirth, who also served in the State Department
and now runs the United Nations Foundation.
Arms control advocates contend the rise of terrorism requires
stricter control at home – as well as internationally through
Americans “have to be certain who they are shipping arms to,”
said Wade Boese, research director for the Arms Control
Association, a Washington think tank. “If there is any blind spot,
any place arms slip through cracks, they can reach terrorists.”
But many defense industry leaders oppose increased regulation. They
argue weapons exports are essential even if there are risks. And
some regard arms control as a political tactic at best.
“You can’t control technology,” said retired Air Force Lt. Gen.
Larry Farrell, president of the National Defense Industrial
Association. “There are going to be weapons. There are going to be
people who wish other people trouble.”
Terrorists have shown they can harness even ordinary technology to
kill Americans, Farrell pointed out.
And inevitably today’s cutting-edge weaponry “will be discovered
somewhere else,” he said. “It’s just the way people are. … You’ve
got to protect yourself.”
Staff writer Bruce Finley can be reached at 303.954.1700 or
As sea shrinks, danger grows
MUYNOQ, Uzbekistan – Once it was anthrax island.
But now the shrinking Aral Sea is leaving a land bridge to a
windswept site north of here where Soviet scientists tested deadly
bio-weapons and dumped enough of a supervirulent brown powder to
For years, Pentagon insiders and locals, including Uzbek
cargo ship captain Aygali Tankimanov, who steered past the island
regularly, have known that anthrax alive in the soil could spread.
Via burrowing gophers or antelope.
Or unemployed fishermen who cross to the island seeking scrap
metal to sell.
Or government crews interested in drilling for oil.
“Even though Americans are far away,” 62-year-old Tankimanov
warned, “it could still reach them.”
Only now – after the Sept. 11 attacks, the surfacing of
anthrax in the U.S. mail, and the possibility a terrorist could
reach the once-remote island on foot – are U.S. officials
beginning to act on such warnings.
The island named Vozrozhdeniye (“Rebirth”) served as the main
open-air testing site for the vast Soviet germ-warfare machine
that, during the Cold War, perfected methods of killing Americans
Scientists tied hundreds of monkeys to poles on
Vozrozhdeniye, set off bombs that puffed yellowish brown clouds of
anthrax and other biological agents, then monitored how long it
took for the monkeys, bleeding from their mouths, to collapse and
In the late 1980s, Soviets buried more than 100 tons of
Anthrax 836 – enough to extinguish Earth’s population several
times over if delivered efficiently – just a few feet underground,
said Ken Alibek, a Soviet bioweapons program leader who defected
to the United States.
U.S. soil tests a decade later revealed that the anthrax was
By then, multiple U.S. government programs had emerged to
deal with the Soviet bioweapons complex that mobilized an
estimated 65,000 scientists at 40 or more factories and labs.
Yet for years, Uzbek authorities refused to let Americans
work on Vozrozhdeniye. Uzbekistan controls airpsace and two-thirds
of the island. Kazakstan claims the northern tip.
Last April, White House officials launched a review of all
spending on programs to help Russia and former Soviet states
dismantle Cold War weapons facilities. Some U.S. analysts and
lawmakers long have challenged such spending, warning that Russia
might take the money and still secretly develop bioweapons in four
military labs off-limits to U.S. officials.
Then hijackers killed nearly 4,000 people on Sept. 11. And
policy makers now view containing weapons of mass destruction as
more of a priority for U.S. international policy.
“I won’t say people have been doing any cartwheels. But you
can see, in bits of pieces, that there is not only heightened
awareness on our part but also on the part of our allies,” said
Brian Hayes, the Pentagon project director entrusted with
Vozrozhdeniye. He and other U.S. experts, wearing protective
suits, have visited the island. They are developing a plan to
clean up the anthrax and raze testing facilities “within six months.”
Rather than cut spending, Congress now is considering adding
$40 million or more to the $17 million allotted for Vozrozhdeniye
and other bioweapons threats, said Jim Reid, chief of the
Pentagon’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program.
A bioweapons attack on America now is seen as “more possible
sooner, and therefore warrants a more intense, earlier
(prevention) effort,” Reid said.
On Oct. 22, Uzbekistan, too, got moving, granting U.S.
officials permission to begin work.
Meanwhile, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden’s forces already
may have developed bioweapons. A U.S. commander announced last
week that American soldiers in Afghanistan found widespread
evidence of tinkering with bio-agents.
Soviet weapons sold
Leaders of anti-American groups stated as far back as 1999
that they’d bought biological and chemical ingredients in former
Soviet states for possible attacks on Israel and the United States.
Yet still, there’s no visible security out here on the sandy
scrub land between Muynoq and Vozrozhdeniye’s deadly spores.
“To grow even a ton of this agent (Anthrax 836), it would be
enough if you get just a small vial of it,” Alibek, 51, said in an
interview from his home outside Washington D.C. Obtaining such a
vial from Vozrozhdeniye would require “three or four days” and no
particular scientific expertise.
“A technician” could collect it, said Alibek, who rose to
second-in-command of the Soviet “Biopreparat” weapons-developing
system before defecting in 1992.
“Something needs to be done. If we don’t do anything, there
is some probability that this thing could come to the United
States in the form of actual weapons.”
In meetings with members of Congress, Alibek has advocated
aggressive action to neutralize bioweapons facilities and help
employ Soviet scientists who receive only $50 to $100 a month if
“We’ve already seen what could be caused by a very small
amount of anthrax” delivered inefficiently in letters, Alibek
“Such biological agents are becoming attractive to terrorists
from two standpoints: First, as weapons which could kill people.
Second, as weapons that can keep the entire country hostage for
weeks, even months. We saw a very severe psychological effect.”
During the Cold War, Soviet and U.S. military scientists
began developing bioweapons along with nuclear weapons.
But Soviet biowarfare efforts surpassed anything U.S.
military scientists even tried. Soviet scientists developed
hundreds of tons of weaponized anthrax, plague and possibly
smallpox. They had isolated incurable viruses including Ebola and
Marburg by the early 1980s, Alibek said, and then melded them into
Americans had an inkling early on. U-2 spy planes flying over
Vozrozhdeniye in the late 1950s photographed the evenly spaced
posts where Soviets tied up animals and building configurations
resembling America’s own bioweapons testing facilities in Utah.
Soviet programs progressed steadily at least through 1992,
Alibek said, with Mikhail Gorbachev and other leaders viewing
bioweapons as insurance “in case of war” even after the 1972
Biological and Toxin Weapons Convention, which banned bioweapons.
Alibek said he personally developed a weapon using an anthrax
strain three times more lethal than the Anthrax 836.
On Vozrozhdeniye, Soviets disposed of massive quantities of
Anthrax 836 from other bioweapons facilities because of the
island’s seemingly remote Central Asian location, in the windswept
Aral Sea, surrounded by sparsely populated desert.
Soviet soldiers poured hydrogen peroxide onto the anthrax in
stainless steel drums, let the mix sit, then repeated the process
three times, according to Alibek, who added that spores certainly
survived. A Western analyst in the Uzbek capital Tashkent, who
spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed the account.
Then the Soviets dug shallow pits and emptied the stainless steel drums,
containers they may have considered valuable, and buried the
anthrax a few feet underground, Alibek said. U.S. officials
sampled soil here in 1997 and found live, lethal spores.
Hayes, the Pentagon project chief, confirmed U.S. officials
have “firsthand knowledge” of the threat.
All this time, the Aral Sea has been shrinking.
Large-scale irrigation projects to produce cotton across arid
Central Asia drained the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers that once
fed the sea.
Now Vozrozhdeniye Island is practically connected to the
mainland. Already, people in Muynoq say, they can walk across
marshes to the island during dry months. An international team of
scientists reported in August that the sea, with average depth
down to about 50 feet, soon will be just a cluster of
On Vozrozhdeniye, dilapidated dorms and a playground stand
near an airfield. Soviet researchers and their families lived on
the island during tests.
An emerging Pentagon plan likely would require use of
respirators. Hayes described the plan as “manpower intensive”
involving “a lot of dirt moving,” but he declined to give details
for security reasons.
Alibek says drilling thousands of holes no deeper than 5 feet
and pumping in disinfectant hydrogen peroxide and formaldehyde
chemicals also might work. Capping the contaminated areas would
not be sufficient, he said.
Cancers, birth defects
For years, residents of Muynoq and other former seaside towns
have been leaving. Partly that’s because of the demise of Aral Sea
fishing, and partly because millions of people in this region
suffer health problems. Over the years, unexplained mass deaths of
animals and a high incidence of rare cancers and birth defects
raised public concerns about pesticide dust storms and the impact
of bioweapons testing.
But retired captain Tankimanov says he can’t afford to leave.
He tries to stay healthy, taking walks by the ramshackle gray
wood warehouses of what once was his port, looking nostalgically
at boats beached in sand where bony cows nibble weeds. Beyond
terrorists, he said he worries about viruses spreading through
“People here could die. There are many rats on that island.
If the land connects more with the island, all those rats could
come out here,” he said. “America should try to kill the rats. And
then you must clean that whole island completely.”
ALONG THE AMU DARYA RIVER, Uzbekistan – The fall of a key
northern Afghan city to U.S.-backed rebels offered a military and
humanitarian breakthrough in America’s campaign against terrorism.
Northern Aliance rebels captured Mazar-e-Sharif, about 35
miles south of this river that forms the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan
border, after several days of attacks from the south supported by
Taliban officials said their forces withdrew. But it wasn’t
immediately clear how far, for how long, or whether Taliban forces
north of Mazar-e-Sharif (population 200,000) may still threaten
the supply route.
Mazar-e-Sharif is considered strategic because of its link
to Uzbekistan – a relatively good road south from the river, with
access to Kabul that is not as vulnerable to weather as the many
mountain passes in Afghanistan. The city also has an aiport that
the Northern Alliance reportedly controls.
Anti-Taliban troops who were massed at the front about 30
miles north of Kabul cheered at reports of Mazar-e-Sharif’s fall,
with villagers crowding around radios to hear the news.
“This is the beginning of the collapse of the Taliban,” said
Nur Agha, a 22-year-old fighter.
Alim Khan, a Northern Alliance commander, said anti-Taliban
forces would launch a major attack on the capital within three
He said that 1,000 opposition troops would assemble today at
Bagram, site of an opposition-controlled air base near the front
Mohammad Afzal Amon, the commander of the opposition’s elite
Zarbati troops north of Kabul, said 600 fighters had been sent to
his area since the victory in Mazar-e-Sharif.
But the opposition will likely face a much tougher battle for
Kabul, a city of about 1 million people, than it did at
Mazar-e-Sharif. Taliban forces are more numerous and the terrain
more mountainous. And the United States – whose warplanes would be
vital to any advance – has expressed reservations about the
alliance taking the capital.
Speaking at the United Nations, President Bush said he wants
the Northern Alliance forces to steer clear of Kabul, part of an
effort to assure that power is eventually shared among the various
tribes of the country.
“We will encourage our friends to head south but not into the
city of Kabul itself,” Bush said.
While Northern Alliance commanders relished their success at
Mazar-e-Sharif, signs of division are emerging in the group’s
Alliance officials say two factions have emerged in the two
months since the assassination of the alliance’s leader, Ahmed
Shah Massood: the younger, pro-Western, religious moderates and
the older, religious conservatives, who are more skeptical of the
A senior alliance official said the power struggle had
emerged because officials and commanders feared they would lose
the power, wealth and status they enjoyed if a new government was
The more conservative wing includes the alliance’s president,
Burhanuddin Rabbani, and one of its more senior Pashtun leaders,
Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, the official said.
The more moderate wing, he said, includes the foreign
minister, Dr. Abdullah Adbullah; the interior minister, Yunos
Qanooni; and Anwari, leader of ethnic Hazara forces fighting in
the alliance, who has only one name.
The capture of Mazar-e-Sharif and the planned Kabul offensive
increase urgency for forming a post-Taliban government. But so
far, government-building has moved slowly, in part because of the
struggle within the alliance.
The prospect of humanitarian aid getting through may be the
most immediate impact of the fall of Mazar-e-Sharif.
United Nations officials in countries around Afghanistan
warned again of a humanitarian crisis with more than 100,000
children and women in Afghanistan dying if more humanitarian aid
doesn’t move soon. The Taliban has seized aid and made it
difficult to deliver, aid workers say.
Along this river at the port town Termiz, U.N. relief
agencies have amassed more than 1,000 tons of food. Crates of
biscuits and milk for babies sit in storage, as do rudimentary
health kits. A long runway at Termiz allows direct delivery of aid
But security concerns about terrain immediately across the
Amu Darya – sand dunes and scrub land recently controlled by
Taliban forces and possibly mined – blocked aid efforts Saturday.
Government officials from Uzbekistan said they planned to
visit the border today to assess the situation.
The U.N. also is taking stock, said Rupa Joshi, a UNICEF
“Our mission is to get as much aid across as possible as soon
as possible,” Joshi said.
A senior U.S. aid official is scheduled to arrive today in
the Uzbekistan capital, Tashkent.
U.S. officials said Andrew Natsios, administrator of the U.S.
Agency for International Development, will meet with U.N. and
other aid agency officials at Termiz this week. The visit is part
of a multicountry swing planned before the latest military action.
The Friendship Bridge at Termiz spans the mile-wide, muddy
Uzbek tribal leader Rashid Dostum first captured
Mazar-e-Sharif, where ethnic Uzbeks live, in the mid-1990s after a
siege. Taliban forces recaptured the city in 1998 after another
deadly battle. Each side committed atrocities, according to a UN
Uzbeks agreed last month to let barges loaded with
humanitarian aid cross the river at Termiz to Afghanistan. From
there, Afghan employees of international aid groups could move
supplies to Mazar-e-Sharif and points along the way, UNICEF
spokeswoman Joshi said.
Rather than military maneuvers, aid officials focused on
moving a first barge on Wednesday if possible, said Mohammaed
Kumbakumba, UNICEF’s logistics chief at Termiz. It doesn’t matter
who controls what, he said, as long as the supplies reach the
The New York Times and The Associated Press contributed to this
GARAM CHASHMA, Pakistan – If ever an Afghan was likely to
help America’s war against the Taliban, it’s Abdul Qahar.
Taliban authorities kidnapped and ransomed his cousin. They
chased Qahar from Kabul. And fighting for warlords runs deep in
Yet Qahar and fellow Afghans holed up here in the Hindu Kush
mountains that cover much of Afghanistan are ambivalent,
reluctant, skeptical about the future.
The fall of one Taliban-held city, Mazar-e-Sharif, can be
seen as significant for the military campaign against
Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban, and as a crucial step in efforts to
bring aid for some of the nation’s poor.
But it does little to resolve the concerns of some Afghans.
Veteran U.S. diplomats such as Richard Holbrooke, former U.S.
ambassador to the United Nations, say defeating terrorism depends
on creative nation-building rather than simply bombing.
“Things like who controls Mazar-e-Sharif and even Kabul are
important, but they do not directly affect the chances for more
terrorist attacks,” Holbrooke said in a recent interview.
Poverty, political and ethnic fragmentation, and mistrust of
outsiders are among challenges faced by the U.S. in coping with
war-weary Afghanistan. Governing, interviews with Qahar and others
indicate, may be challenging for whoever ends up in charge.
“This is actually an attack against Afghanistan,” Abdul said
recently, as American warplanes bombed Taliban positions around
Mazar-e-Sharif, Kabul and other areas.
“Our airports, the roads, all the development work is being
destroyed. Afghanistan is already a very poor country,” he said,
as others nodded around him in a teahouse while wet snow and dry
gold leaves fell. “Now it’s going to be even harder for us. What
is happening now in Afghanistan, it tells me our children will be
nothing in the future.”
This sense among fighting-age men from rebel Northern
Alliance territory that they have little to gain from taking on
the Taliban – despite the Afghan government’s support for
suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden – is one of many challenges
facing the U.S. campaign.
Poverty across the Hindu Kush is so extreme that the
predominantly rural people, tapped for decades to supply fighters,
don’t dwell much on politics or war.
They try to just survive.
Herders cross 15,000-foot passes in plastic shoes without
socks to try to earn money for tea and rice. Farmers migrate from
pro-Taliban turf to toil as sharecroppers on Pakistani farms.
Afghan infrastructure – roads or railroad or air links or
telephones – barely existed outside major cities even before the
past month of bombing.
Knots of mountain peaks 20,000 feet and higher ensure
In the Birir valley south of here, Kalash tribal people just
over the mountains from Afghanistan weren’t even aware of the war.
“We can’t understand the radio,” said RabiJaan, a mother of
And even the unifying influence of Islam hasn’t broken the
fierce, self-reliant parochialism that divides Afghanistan, a
nation in name yet with no agreed-on flag.
Aid workers point out that Uzbek, Tajik and Hazara factions
all have vied for years to control the strategic city of
U.S. leaders appear to be eyeing Afghanistan’s future even
as they make plans to continue bombing through winter and Ramadan.
President Bush, addressing the United Nations on Saturday,
sympathized with the Afghan people and pledged to help rebuild
Afghanistan once the Taliban are ousted.
“The Afghan people do not deserve their present rulers,” Bush
said. “The Taliban’s days of harboring terrorists, and dealing in
heroin, and brutalizing women are drawing to a close.”
Holbrooke, a player in peace talks from Vietnam to the
Balkans, said in a recent interview: “The events of Sept. 11 were
not micro-managed by someone with a cellphone from a cave in
Afghanistan. It is important to remember that there were no
Afghans involved in the events of Sept. 11.”
“Now we just want peace’
The U.S. goal in Afghanistan must be “simply to stabilize it,
give it a chance to be back on its feet and slowly pull itself
together,” he said.
As Holbrooke and others who have visited the Hindu Kush know,
this is a beautiful place, a storybook land of snow leopards,
towering crooked peaks, and spiral-horned Markhuur goats.
“Now we just want peace, as soon as possible,” said Mohamad
Ibrahim, driving goats and sheep from the Badakshan region of
northern Afghanistan through a sheer granite canyon cut by the
whooshing, muddy Lotkoh River.
“We want the kind of government that can keep peace, not
cause all this trouble. We are hoping the Americans can help us in
making Northern Alliance territory independent and give it to us.”
Traders Ali Ahmad and Islam ud-Din left their families in
Krone, Afghanistan, hauling 1,400 kilos of blue lapis lazuli rocks
they hacked out of cliffs. They rested their donkeys for a few
days while negotiating with Pakistani border police, then entered
Garam Chashma and sold the lapis to shopkeepers.
“It would be better for us if there was no bombing,” Ahmad
said, though they’d had no trouble crossing. “We pray to God, if
possible, stop the war.”
Many worked this high country when the passes served as
supply routes for U.S.-backed mujahedeen fighters during Soviet
occupation of Afghanistan. The passes remain supply routes today
for both Taliban and rebel forces. Loads of blankets and emergency
food also move through on donkeys.
Afghans here identify themselves in relation to warlords –
you might be from Massood’s territory or one of Rabbani’s men. And
they hang together in tribal groups whose loyalty or enmity can
span political boundaries. Those north of Lowarai Pass are mostly
Tajiks, speaking Farsi. Uzbeks inhabit Mazar-e-Sharif.
On pro-Taliban turf south of Lowarai Pass live Pashtun people
who make up an estimated 40 percent of Afghanistan’s 25 million
Over the years, alliances have shifted, warlords have changed
sides. Rashid Dostum, the ethnic Uzbek whose fighters helped take
Mazar-e-Sharif, often has switched loyalties and has clashed with
many Northern Alliance commanders.
And the tribes themselves aren’t always unified. Pashtun men
from Pakistan and Afghanistan dominate the Taliban regime. Yet
Pashtun leaders such as the Wali Khan family bristle at Taliban
fundamentalist rule. “We are losing our identity in our religion,”
Sangeen Wali Khan lamented recently on the family estate down at
East of Charsadda last week, the family of Mir Rahim settled
into a peanut field for share-cropping work after crossing through
heavily-bombed terrain near Jalalabad, Afghanistan.
Civilians are suffering
Poverty, not war, drove them out, said Rahim, who set up a
grass-and-canvas hovel for his daughter and wife.
“The Taliban has not been affected at all,” he said. “It is
the civilians who are suffering.”
Afghan men in the borderlands described a system in which
every family must supply one soldier to fight for the local
warlord in return for protection and money.
“My brother has gone while I stay here,” Abdul Nasir
explained in Garam Chashma. A former mujahideen, he wore a U.S.
Army-style camouflage jacket against the cold.
Now if Northern Alliance warlords request it, and his brother
returns “to stay with my family, I will go,” Nasir said. “Afghans
were made for fighting. We will never get tired.”
But he said he doubted that Americans really would roust
Taliban and al-Qaeda forces from caves, as Bush has promised.
“When we were fighting the Russians, that’s exactly what the
Russians told us: “We will get you out of your caves.’ But they
never bothered us.”
Nasir and others here say they mainly oppose the Taliban
because of the death of alliance warlord Ahmed Shah Massood. Two
days before Sept. 11, men posing as journalists killed him.
Rather than a drawn-out military campaign, they suggest a
swifter solution through a loya jirga, a tribal council.
“I want a government that can bring peace. I don’t care which
side rules,” Abdul Qahar said as Afghan boys peered through a
doorway of the teahouse.
“For us, the Americans and the Russians are the same. The
only way Afghanistan can be governed is by representatives from
each tribe, the loya jirga system. But we don’t know if America
will like that. We don’t know if America really wants to help us
Some people in this isolated realm, such as the black-robed
Kalash people in canyons southwest of Chitral, remain only dimly
aware of the war. The women weave belts. Centuries of Islam have
failed to convert them from an ancient polytheism that includes
In the hillside village of Guru, Kalash-speaking men in a
wooden house squatted around a fire recently trying to keep warm.
Families stockpile barley and wheat for the winter in their
“We heard America is killing women and children,” said Jamil,
a villager who left to work in Pakistani cities and now has
returned. “We are not happy about this. Some people say it’s
Osama’s fault. Some people say it’s America’s fault. We’re not
sure what to believe.”
In the area led by Burhannuddin Rabbani, a Northern Alliance
chief, Jan Mohamad was herding nine mules on a 16-day journey from
Haran toward Chitral, where he hoped to buy tea and shoes for his
“We don’t know who these Americans are,” he said. “We don’t
know much about the Taliban either.”
PESHAWAR, Pakistan – In the private Beacon House School, second-grade teacher Zermina Khan, who conducts class in English, recently led studies of the Sept. 11 attacks with an emphasis on American suffering.
At a public school nearby, Ghuam Mohammad and other black-uniformed boys crowded 80 to a classroom where Urdu-speaking teachers focused more on Pakistan than world affairs.
And in one of Pakistan’s proliferating religious “madrassa” schools, Hameed Jan’s students memorize the Koran word for word along with concepts such as “jihad” struggles against enemies. “America is doing terrorism against us,” says Jan.
The three schools show different forces shaping Pakistan – and much of the Muslim world from Morocco to Malaysia.
For Americans, the schools offer a glimpse into divergent versions of the future their own children will enter.
Pakistani educators say the approach to schooling will, along with economic conditions, help determine whether a new generation sees the next Osama bin Laden as Robin Hood or menace.
Currently, the future looks shaky, said Nasreen Kasuri, founder of Pakistan’s 90-school Beacon House System and leading advocate for increased spending on public schools.
“I wish we were headed toward Turkey. I am afraid we are headed more toward Iran,” said Kasuri, who knows a bit about U.S. schools from visiting friends in Colorado. “It is important for the West, by whatever means, to support liberal education in this country.”
Less than 10 percent of Pakistani families can afford private schools, which are generally Western-oriented and often comparable with the best U.S. schools. Instead most Pakistani children attend crowded government-funded public schools.
Pakistan, with 144 million people, does not invest heavily in public education. The country is poor and heavily populated, with as much as a quarter of its government revenue coming from foreign loans and grants, and about half its expenditures going to pay off debts. The government spends heavily to support the military’s costly confrontation with India.
The lack of school spending creates a vacuum met in part by the madrassas, which over the past decade have increased in number to about 7,000, educators say.
Today, all three types of schools in Pakistan convey a critical perspective on the U.S. bombing of Afghanistan that isn’t widely heard in the United States.
Yet some schools are more pro-American than others.
Consider the $500-a-year Beacon House school in Peshawar. Students here aim to attend British and U.S. universities. Second-graders recently clipped out photos and stories from newspapers – images of Sept. 11 attack victims such as a woman caked with dust in World Trade Center wreckage – and pasted them into collages.
“Hell on earth, yes, this was New York,” Faiza Shams wrote on hers.
Students “should know right from wrong exactly. They have to know what is fanaticism,” teacher Khan contends in the hall outside her room.
Principal Humaira Mustafa agrees that students “must know what’s happening.”
“We haven’t been able to recover after the Sept. 11 attacks,” Mustafa said, adding that civil disturbances here closed their school for several days. Children “are scared, they feel insecure. Mothers will call in during street protests asking: “Are you going to close?”
For the majority of Pakistani children, a school with materials for collages and teachers who encourage children with notes saying “wonderful work” isn’t possible.
They attend the more than 150,000 public schools that are financially strained to the point that many teachers work without paper or books. Fifty-seven percent of the population over the age of 15 can’t read and write, and among women the illiteracy rate is about 71 percent. Adding to the problem: education statistics are iffy.
At the government high school in the northwestern town of Chitral recently, principal Amir Zada lamented that he receives only $6,660 a month to run his 15-classroom, 688-student school. Teachers receive $53 a month.
“Not nearly enough,” he said.
And while the practice of teaching in Urdu instead of English is no problem, the difference is “big as that between earth and sky” in how students think of the world, said Mahmood ul-Hasan, a gym teacher waving a short “Soti” switch recently as students enter by 8 a.m. for the morning assembly at the all-boys school.
“The students who study here can only aspire to be clerks,” ul-Hasan continued. Yet commitment is high. Some of the 28 staffers work without pay. Patriots, ul-Hasan calls them.
In the assembly, boys around a concrete courtyard listened to a reading from the Koran, sang the national anthem and recited a prayer “that my life will be a beacon for the rest of the world.”
Then class began. Sitting for his Arabic exam, seventh-grader Sajjad Ahmad pulled a pencil out of a metal case with pictures of fighter jets on the cover. “I want to be a pilot,” Ahmad said. “To spread the name of Pakistan.”
Public schools are free. Teachers say the uniforms help minimize social and economic distinctions.
Yet in many public schools, officials say, teachers don’t show up. Even in the efficient Chitral schools, books are scarce, and students cram three and four to a bench behind rickety desks.
Today more and more parents are inclined to send their children to madrassas funded by Mosque communities. These schools also are free and offer the benefit of meals and dorm rooms for students.
A security chief at one of Pakistan’s largest madrassas at Akora Khattak recently refused to allow a complete visit. This was the madrassa where many of Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers studied, including Mullah Mohammed Omar.
Teacher Hameed Jan explained how most of the 4,000 students were gone, preparing for the Ramadan period of fasting. Beyond memorizing the Koran as he has done, Jan said, students learn a little math and English. No military training is conducted here.
Anyone who joins the “jihad against America” goes to holy war on his own, Jan said.
But as a teacher he feels “happy to know they have gone for jihad.”
Last week, Pakistani pro-Taliban forces amassed northwest of Peshawar, preparing to cross into Afghanistan. Jan said students who go there can receive weapons.
“Mohammad has said you must do jihad until doomsday,” he added. “When the land war starts, I will go, too.”