Afghanistan, often called the crossroads of Central Asia, has had a turbulent history. In 328 BC, Alexander the Great entered the territory of present-day Afghanistan, then part of the Persian Empire, to capture Bactria (present-day Balkh). Invasions by the Scythians, White Huns, and Turks followed in succeeding centuries. In AD 642, Arabs invaded the entire region and introduced Islam.
Arab rule gave way to the Persians, who controlled the area until conquered by the Turkic Ghaznavids in 998. Mahmud of Ghazni (998-1030) consolidated the conquests of his predecessors and turned Ghazni into a great cultural center as well as a base for frequent forays into India. Following Mahmud's short-lived dynasty, various princes attempted to rule sections of the country until the Mongol invasion of 1219. The Mongol invasion, led by Genghis Khan, resulted in massive slaughter of the population, destruction of many cities, including Herat, Ghazni, and Balkh, and the despoliation of fertile agricultural areas.
Following Genghis Khan's death in 1227, a succession of petty chiefs and princes struggled for supremacy until late in the 14th century, when one of his descendants, Tamerlane, incorporated Afghanistan into his own vast Asian empire. Babur, a descendant of Tamerlane and the founder of India's Moghul dynasty at the beginning of the 16th century, made Kabul the capital of an Afghan principality.
In 1747, Ahmad Shah Durrani, the founder of what is known today as Afghanistan, established his rule. A Pashtun, Durrani was elected king by a tribal council after the assassination of the Persian ruler Nadir Shah at Khabushan in the same year. Throughout his reign, Durrani consolidated chieftainships, petty principalities, and fragmented provinces into one country. His rule extended from Mashad in the west to Kashmir and Delhi in the east, and from the Amu Darya (Oxus) River in the north to the Arabian Sea in the south. With the exception of a 9-month period in 1929, all of Afghanistan's rulers until the 1978 Marxist coup were from Durrani's Pashtun tribal confederation, and all were members of that tribe's Mohammadzai clan after 1818.
During the 19th century, collision between the expanding British Empire in the subcontinent and czarist Russia significantly influenced Afghanistan in what was termed "The Great Game." British concern over Russian advances in Central Asia and growing influence in Persia culminated in two Anglo-Afghan wars. The first (1839-42) resulted not only in the destruction of a British army, but is remembered today as an example of the ferocity of Afghan resistance to foreign rule. The second Anglo-Afghan war (1878-80) was sparked by Amir Sher Ali's refusal to accept a British mission in Kabul. This conflict brought Amir Abdur Rahman to the Afghan throne. During his reign (1880-1901), the British and Russians officially established the boundaries of what would become modern Afghanistan. The British retained effective control over Kabul's foreign affairs.
Afghanistan remained neutral during World War I, despite German encouragement of anti-British feelings and Afghan rebellion along the borders of British India. The Afghan king's policy of neutrality was not universally popular within the country, however.
Habibullah, Abdur Rahman's son and successor, was assassinated in 1919, possibly by family members opposed to British influence. His third son, Amanullah, regained control of Afghanistan's foreign policy after launching the third Anglo-Afghan war with an attack on India in the same year. During the ensuing conflict, the war-weary British relinquished their control over Afghan foreign affairs by signing the Treaty of Rawalpindi in August 1919. In commemoration of this event, Afghans celebrate August 19 as their Independence Day.
Reform and Reaction
King Amanullah (1919-29) moved to end his country's traditional isolation in the years following the third Anglo-Afghan war. He established diplomatic relations with most major countries and, following a 1927 tour of Europe and Turkey--during which he noted the modernization and secularization advanced by Ataturk--introduced several reforms intended to modernize Afghanistan. Some of these, such as the abolition of the traditional Muslim veil for women and the opening of a number of co-educational schools, quickly alienated many tribal and religious leaders. Faced with overwhelming armed opposition, Amanullah was forced to abdicate in January 1929 after Kabul fell to forces led by Bacha-i-Saqao, a Tajik brigand. Prince Nadir Khan, a cousin of Amanullah's, in turn defeated Bacha-i-Saqao in October of the same year and, with considerable Pashtun tribal support, was declared King Nadir Shah. Four years later, however, he was assassinated in a revenge killing by a Kabul student.
Mohammad Zahir Shah, Nadir Khan's 19-year-old son, succeeded to the throne and reigned from 1933 to 1973. In 1964, King Zahir Shah promulgated a liberal constitution providing for a two-chamber legislature to which the king appointed one-third of the deputies. The people elected another third, and the remainder were selected indirectly by provincial assemblies. Although Zahir's "experiment in democracy" produced few lasting reforms, it permitted the growth of unofficial extremist parties on both the left and the right. These included the communist People's Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA), which had close ideological ties to the Soviet Union. In 1967, the PDPA split into two major rival factions: the Khalq (Masses) faction headed by Nur Muhammad Taraki and Hafizullah Amin and supported by elements within the military, and the Parcham (Banner) faction led by Babrak Karmal. The split reflected ethnic, class, and ideological divisions within Afghan society.
Zahir's cousin, Sardar Mohammad Daoud, served as his Prime Minister from 1953 to 1963. During his tenure as Prime Minister, Daoud solicited military and economic assistance from both Washington and Moscow and introduced controversial social policies of a reformist nature. Daoud's alleged support for the creation of a Pashtun state in the Pakistan-Afghan border area heightened tensions with Pakistan and eventually resulted in Daoud's dismissal in March 1963.
Daoud's Republic (1973-78) and the April 1978 Coup
Amid charges of corruption and malfeasance against the royal family and poor economic conditions created by the severe 1971-72 drought, former Prime Minister Daoud seized power in a military coup on July 17, 1973. Zahir Shah fled the country, eventually finding refuge in Italy. Daoud abolished the monarchy, abrogated the 1964 constitution, and declared Afghanistan a republic with himself as its first President and Prime Minister. His attempts to carry out badly needed economic and social reforms met with little success, and the new constitution promulgated in February 1977 failed to quell chronic political instability.
Seeking to exploit more effectively mounting popular disaffection, the PDPA reunified with Moscow's support. On April 27, 1978, the PDPA initiated a bloody coup, which resulted in the overthrow and murder of Daoud and most of his family. Nur Muhammad Taraki, Secretary General of the PDPA, became President of the Revolutionary Council and Prime Minister of the newly established Democratic Republic of Afghanistan.
Opposition to the Marxist government emerged almost immediately. During its first 18 months of rule, the PDPA brutally imposed a Marxist-style "reform" program, which ran counter to deeply rooted Afghan traditions. Decrees forcing changes in marriage customs and pushing through an ill-conceived land reform were particularly misunderstood by virtually all Afghans. In addition, thousands of members of the traditional elite, the religious establishment, and the intelligentsia were imprisoned, tortured, or murdered. Conflicts within the PDPA also surfaced early and resulted in exiles, purges, imprisonments, and executions.
By the summer of 1978, a revolt began in the Nuristan region of eastern Afghanistan and quickly spread into a countrywide insurgency. In September 1979, Hafizullah Amin, who had earlier been Prime Minister and Minister of Defense, seized power from Taraki after a palace shootout. Over the next 2 months, instability plagued Amin's regime as he moved against perceived enemies in the PDPA. By December, party morale was crumbling, and the insurgency was growing.
The Soviet Invasion
The Soviet Union moved quickly to take advantage of the April 1978 coup. In December 1978, Moscow signed a new bilateral treaty of friendship and cooperation with Afghanistan, and the Soviet military assistance program increased significantly. The regime's survival increasingly was dependent upon Soviet military equipment and advisers as the insurgency spread and the Afghan army began to collapse.
By October 1979, however, relations between Afghanistan and the Soviet Union were tense as Hafizullah Amin refused to take Soviet advice on how to stabilize and consolidate his government. Faced with a deteriorating security situation, on December 24, 1979, large numbers of Soviet airborne forces, joining thousands of Soviet troops already on the ground, began to land in Kabul under the pretext of a field exercise. On December 26, these invasion forces killed Hafizullah Amin and installed Babrak Karmal, exiled leader of the Parcham faction, bringing him back from Czechoslovakia and making him Prime Minister. Massive Soviet ground forces invaded from the north on December 27.
Following the invasion, the Karmal regime, although backed by an expeditionary force that grew as large as 120,000 Soviet troops, was unable to establish authority outside Kabul. As much as 80% of the countryside, including parts of Herat and Kandahar, eluded effective government control. An overwhelming majority of Afghans opposed the communist regime, either actively or passively. Afghan freedom fighters (mujahidin) made it almost impossible for the regime to maintain a system of local government outside major urban centers. Poorly armed at first, in 1984 the mujahidin began receiving substantial assistance in the form of weapons and training from the U.S. and other outside powers.
In May 1985, the seven principal Peshawar-based guerrilla organizations formed an alliance to coordinate their political and military operations against the Soviet occupation. Late in 1985, the mujahidin were active in and around Kabul, launching rocket attacks and conducting operations against the communist government. The failure of the Soviet Union to win over a significant number of Afghan collaborators or to rebuild a viable Afghan army forced it to bear an increasing responsibility for fighting the resistance and for civilian administration.
Soviet and popular displeasure with the Karmal regime led to its demise in May 1986. Karmal was replaced by Muhammad Najibullah, former chief of the Afghan secret police (KHAD). Najibullah had established a reputation for brutal efficiency during his tenure as KHAD chief. As Prime Minister, Najibullah was ineffective and highly dependent on Soviet support. Undercut by deep-seated divisions within the PDPA, regime efforts to broaden its base of support proved futile.
The Geneva Accords and Their Aftermath
By the mid-1980s, the tenacious Afghan resistance movement--aided by the United States, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and others--was exacting a high price from the Soviets, both militarily within Afghanistan and by souring the U.S.S.R.'s relations with much of the Western and Islamic world. Informal negotiations for a Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan had been underway since 1982. In 1988, the Governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan, with the United States and Soviet Union serving as guarantors, signed an agreement settling the major differences between them. The agreement, known as the Geneva accords, included five major documents, which, among other things, called for U.S. and Soviet noninterference in the internal affairs of Pakistan and Afghanistan, the right of refugees to return to Afghanistan without fear of persecution or harassment, and, most importantly, a timetable that ensured full Soviet withdrawal from Afghanistan by February 15, 1989. About 14,500 Soviet and an estimated one million Afghan lives were lost between 1979 and the Soviet withdrawal in 1989.
Significantly, the mujahidin were party neither to the negotiations nor to the 1988 agreement and, consequently, refused to accept the terms of the accords. As a result, the civil war continued after the Soviet withdrawal, which was completed in February 1989. Najibullah's regime, though failing to win popular support, territory, or international recognition, was able to remain in power until 1992 but collapsed after the defection of Gen. Abdul Rashid Dostam and his Uzbek militia in March. However, when the victorious mujahidin entered Kabul to assume control over the city and the central government, a new round of internecine fighting began between the various militias, which had coexisted only uneasily during the Soviet occupation. With the demise of their common enemy, the militias' ethnic, clan, religious, and personality differences surfaced, and the civil war continued.
Seeking to resolve these differences, the leaders of the Peshawar-based mujahidin groups established an interim Islamic Jihad Council in mid-April 1992 to assume power in Kabul. Moderate leader Prof. Sibghatullah Mojaddedi was to chair the council for 2 months, after which a 10-member leadership council composed of mujahidin leaders and presided over by the head of the Jamiat-i-Islami, Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, was to be set up for 4 months. During this 6-month period, a Loya Jirga, or grand council of Afghan elders and notables, would convene and designate an interim administration which would hold power up to a year, pending elections.
But in May 1992, Rabbani prematurely formed the leadership council, undermining Mojaddedi's fragile authority. In June, Mojaddedi surrendered power to the Leadership Council, which then elected Rabbani as President. Nonetheless, heavy fighting broke out in August 1992 in Kabul between forces loyal to President Rabbani and rival factions, particularly those who supported Gulbuddin Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami. After Rabbani extended his tenure in December 1992, fighting in the capital flared up in January and February 1993. The Islamabad Accord, signed in March 1993, which appointed Hekmatyar as Prime Minister, failed to have a lasting effect. A follow-up agreement, the Jalalabad Accord, called for the militias to be disarmed but was never fully implemented. Through 1993, Hekmatyar's Hezb-i-Islami forces, allied with the Shi'a Hezb-i-Wahdat militia, clashed intermittently with Rabbani and Masood's Jamiat forces. Cooperating with Jamiat were militants of Sayyaf's Ittehad-i-Islami and, periodically, troops loyal to ethnic Uzbek strongman Abdul Rashid Dostam. On January 1, 1994, Dostam switched sides, precipitating large-scale fighting in Kabul and in northern provinces, which caused thousands of civilian casualties in Kabul and elsewhere and created a new wave of displaced persons and refugees. The country sank even further into anarchy, forces loyal to Rabbani and Masood, both ethnic Tajiks, controlled Kabul and much of the northeast, while local warlords exerted power over the rest of the country.
Rise of the Taliban
In reaction to the anarchy and warlordism prevalent in the country, and the lack of Pashtun representation in the Kabul government, a movement of former mujahidin arose. Many Taliban had been educated in madrassas in Pakistan and were largely from rural Pashtun backgrounds. The name "Talib" itself means pupil. This group dedicated itself to removing the warlords, providing order, and imposing Islam on the country. It received considerable support from Pakistan. In 1994, it developed enough strength to capture the city of Kandahar from a local warlord and proceeded to expand its control throughout Afghanistan, occupying Kabul in September 1996. By the end of 1998, the Taliban occupied about 90% of the country, limiting the opposition largely to a small mostly Tajik corner in the northeast and the Panjshir valley. Efforts by the UN, prominent Afghans living outside the country, and other interested countries to bring about a peaceful solution to the continuing conflict came to naught, largely because of intransigence on the part of the Taliban.
The Taliban sought to impose an extreme interpretation of Islam--based in part upon rural Pashtun tradition--on the entire country and committed massive human rights violations, particularly directed against women and girls, in the process. Women were restricted from working outside the home and pursuing an education, were not to leave their homes without an accompanying male relative, and were forced to wear a traditional body-covering garment called the burka. The Taliban committed serious atrocities against minority populations, particularly the Shi'a Hazara ethnic group, and killed noncombatants in several well-documented instances. In 2001, as part of a drive against relics of Afghanistan's pre-Islamic past, the Taliban destroyed two large statues of the Buddha outside of the city of Bamiyan and announced destruction of all pre-Islamic statues in Afghanistan, including the remaining holdings of the Kabul Museum.
From the mid-1990s the Taliban provided sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, a Saudi national who had fought with them against the Soviets, and provided a base for his and other terrorist organizations. The UN Security Council repeatedly sanctioned the Taliban for these activities. Bin Laden provided both financial and political support to the Taliban. Bin Laden and his al Qaeda group were charged with the bombing of the U.S. Embassies in Nairobi and Dar Es Salaam in 1998, and in August 1998 the United States launched a cruise missile attack against bin Laden's terrorist camp in Afghanistan. Bin Laden and al Qaeda are believed to be responsible for the September 11, 2001 terrorist acts in the United States, among other crimes.
In September 2001, agents working on behalf of the Taliban and believed to be associated with bin Laden's al Qaeda group assassinated Northern Alliance Defense Minister and chief military commander Ahmed Shah Masood, a hero of the Afghan resistance against the Soviets and the Taliban's principal military opponent. Following the Taliban's repeated refusal to expel bin Laden and his group and end its support for international terrorism, the U.S. and its partners in the anti-terrorist coalition began a campaign on October 7, 2001, targeting terrorist facilities and various Taliban military and political assets within Afghanistan.
Under pressure from U.S. air power and anti-Taliban ground forces, the Taliban disintegrated rapidly, and Kabul fell on November 13, 2001. Sponsored by the UN, Afghan factions opposed to the Taliban met in Bonn, Germany in early December and agreed to restore stability and governance to Afghanistan by creating an interim government and establishing a process to move toward a permanent government. Under this so-called Bonn Agreement, an Afghan Interim Authority was formed and took office in Kabul on December 22, 2001 with Hamid Karzai as Chairman. The Interim Authority held power for approximately 6 months while preparing for a nationwide "Loya Jirga" (Grand Council) in mid-June 2002 that decided on the structure of a Transitional Authority. The Transitional Authority, headed by President Hamid Karzai, renamed the government as the Transitional Islamic State of Afghanistan (TISA). One of the TISA’s primary achievements was the drafting of a constitution that was ratified by a Constitutional Loya Jirga on January 4, 2004.
In the 1930s, Afghanistan embarked on a modest economic development program. The government founded banks; introduced paper money; established a university; expanded primary, secondary, and technical schools; and sent students abroad for education. In 1956, the Afghan Government promulgated the first in a long series of ambitious development plans. By the late 1970s, these had achieved only mixed results due to flaws in the planning process as well as inadequate funding and a shortage of the skilled managers and technicians needed for implementation.
Historically, there has been a dearth of information and reliable statistics about Afghanistan's economy. The 1979 Soviet invasion and ensuing civil war destroyed much of the underdeveloped country's limited infrastructure and disrupted normal patterns of economic activity. Gross domestic product had fallen substantially over the preceding 23 years because of loss of labor and capital and disruption of trade and transport. Continuing internal strife hampered both domestic efforts at reconstruction as well as international aid efforts. However, Afghanistan’s economy has been growing at a fast pace since the 2001 fall of the Taliban, albeit from a low base. In 2003, growth was estimated at close to 30%, and the growth rate is expected to be over 20% in 2004.
The Afghan economy continues to be overwhelmingly agricultural, despite the fact that only 12% of its total land area is arable and less than 6% currently is cultivated. Agricultural production is constrained by an almost total dependence on erratic winter snows and spring rains for water; irrigation is primitive. Relatively little use is made of machines, chemical fertilizer, or pesticides.
Grain production is Afghanistan's traditional agricultural mainstay. Overall agricultural production dramatically declined following 4 years of severe drought as well as sustained fighting, instability in rural areas, and deteriorated infrastructure. Soviet efforts to disrupt production in resistance-dominated areas also contributed to this decline, as did the disruption to transportation resulting from ongoing conflict. The easing of the drought, which had affected more than half of the population into late 2002, and the end of civil war produced the largest wheat harvest in 25 years during 2003. Wheat production was an estimated 58% higher than in 2002. However, the country still needed to import an estimated million tons of wheat to meet its requirements for the year. Millions of Afghans, particularly in rural areas, remained dependent on food aid.
The war against the Soviet Union and the ensuing civil war led to migration to the cities and refugee flight to Pakistan and Iran, further disrupting normal agricultural production. Shortages were exacerbated by the country's already limited transportation network, which had deteriorated further due to damage and neglect resulting from war and the absence of an effective central government. Agricultural production and livestock numbers are still not sufficient to feed a large percentage of Afghanistan's population.
Opium has became a source of cash for many Afghans, especially following the breakdown in central authority after the Soviet withdrawal, and opium-derived revenues probably constituted a major source of income for the two main factions during the civil war in the 1990s. The Taliban earned roughly $40 million per year on opium taxes alone. Opium is easy to cultivate and transport and offers a quick source of income for impoverished Afghans. Afghanistan was the world's largest producer of raw opium in 1999 and 2000. Much of Afghanistan's opium production is refined into heroin and is either consumed by a growing regional addict population or exported, primarily to Western Europe. Despite efforts to bring opium cultivation under control, the most recent 2003 crop is reportedly the largest recorded. The international community andthe new Afghan Governmentare currently working on new initiatives to eliminate the narcotics economy.
Trade and Industry
Trade accounts for a small portion of the documented Afghan economy, and there are no reliable statistics relating to trade flows. In 2002-03, exports--not including opium or re-exports--were estimated at $100 million and imports estimated at $2.3 billion, a significant increase over 2001-02. Since the 1989 Soviet withdrawal and the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, other limited trade relationships with Central Asian states appear to be emerging. Exports to Iran and Pakistan account for about one-half of total exports. Belgium, Russia, Germany, the United Arab Emirates, and the United States each account for 5% or more of Afghanistan’s exports. Japan, Korea, and Pakistan account for about 40% of imports. Other significant sources of imports are Germany, India, Iran, Kenya, Turkmenistan, and the United States. While the United States revoked Afghanistan’s most-favored-nation (MFN) trading status in 1986, it reestablished normal trade relations in June 2002. Most of Afghanistan’s exports (excluding illegal or smuggled exports) are agricultural products and carpets.
Afghanistan is endowed with a wealth of natural resources, including extensive deposits of natural gas, petroleum, coal, copper, chromite, talc, barites, sulfur, lead, zinc, iron ore, salt, and precious and semiprecious stones. In the 1970s the Soviets estimated Afghanistan had as much as five trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas, 95 million barrels of oil and condensate reserves, and 400 million tons of coal. Unfortunately, ongoing instability in certain areas of the country, remote and rugged terrain, and inadequate infrastructure and transportation network have made mining these resources difficult, and there have been few serious attempts to further explore or exploit them.
The most important resource has been natural gas, first tapped in 1967. At their peak during the 1980s, natural gas sales accounted for $300 million a year in export revenues (56% of the total). Ninety percent of these exports went to the Soviet Union to pay for imports and debts. However, during the withdrawal of Soviet troops in 1989, Afghanistan's natural gas fields were capped to prevent sabotage by the mujahidin. Restoration of gas production has been hampered by internal strife and the disruption of traditional trading relationships following the collapse of the Soviet Union. Gas productiondropped from a high of 290 million cubic feet (Mmcf) per day in the 1980s to alow of about 22 Mmcf in 2001.
Trade in goods smuggled into Pakistan once constituted a major source of revenue for Afghan regimes, including the Taliban, and still figures as an important element in the Afghan economy. Many of the goods smuggled into Pakistan originally entered Afghanistan from Pakistan, where they fell under the Afghan Trade and Transit Agreement (ATTA), which permitted goods bound for Afghanistan to transit Pakistan free of duty. When Pakistan clamped down in 2000 on the types of goods permitted duty-free transit, routing of goods through Iran from the Gulf increased significantly. Shipments of smuggled goods were subjected to fees and duties paid to the Afghan Government. The trade also provided jobs to tens of thousands of Afghans on both sides of the Durand Line, which forms the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Pakistan's closing its Afghan border in September 2001 presumably curtailed this traffic.
Landlocked Afghanistan has no functioning railways, but the Amu Darya (Oxus) River, which forms part of Afghanistan's border with Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan, has barge traffic. During their occupation of the country, the Soviets completed a bridge across the Amu Darya and built a motor vehicle and railroad bridge between Termez and Jeyretan. The U.S., in conjunction with the governments of Afghanistan and Tajikistan, is currently exploring the feasibility of resuscitating a bridge link over the Amu Darya.
Most road building occurred in the 1960s, funded by the U.S. and the Soviet Union. The Soviets built a road and tunnel through the Salang Pass in 1964, connecting northern and southern Afghanistan. A highway connecting the principal cities of Herat, Kandahar, Ghazni, and Kabul with links to highways in neighboring Pakistan formed the primary road system.
Afghanistan’s national airline, Ariana, operates domestic and international routes, including flights to New Delhi, Islamabad, Dubai, Moscow, Istanbul, Tehran, and Frankfurt. A private carrier, Kam Air, commenced domestic operations in November 2003.
Many sections of Afghanistan’s highway and regional road system are undergoing significant reconstruction. The U.S. (with assistance from Japan) completed building a highway linking Kabul to the southern regional capital, Kandahar. Construction is soon to begin on the next phase of highway reconstruction between Kandahar and the western city of Herat. The Asian Development Bank is nearing completion on a road reconstruction project between Kandahar and Spin Boldak, located at the southeastern border with Pakistan.
The UN and the international donor community continue to provide considerable humanitarian relief. Since its inception in 1988, the umbrella UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Assistance to Afghanistan (UNOCHA) has channeled more than $1 billion in multilateral assistance to Afghan refugees and vulnerable persons inside Afghanistan. The U.S., the European Union (EU), and Japan are the leading contributors to this relief effort. One of its key tasks is to eliminate from priority areas--such as villages, arable fields, and roads--some of the 5 million to 7 million land mines and 750,000 pieces of unexploded ordnance (UXO), sown mainly during the Soviet occupation, which continue to litter the Afghan landscape. Afghanistan is the most heavily mined country in the world; mine-related injuries number up to 150 per month, and an estimated 200,000 Afghans have been disabled by landmine/UXO accidents. Mine-clearing efforts are ongoing, with great progress made from the construction of the Kabul-Kandahar road. With funding from international donors, including the U.S., the UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have instituted a number of educational programs and mine awareness campaigns in various parts of the country.
The 1964 Constitution, in effect under the Bonn Agreement, states that Islam is the "sacred religion of Afghanistan" and states that religious rites of the state shall be performed according to the Hanafi doctrine. The Constitution also states that "non-Muslim citizens shall be free to perform their rituals within the limits determined by laws for public decency and public peace." The Government continued a policy of religious tolerance during the year; however, custom and law required affiliation with some religion.
Reliable sources estimated that 85 percent of the population were Sunni Muslim, and most of the remaining 15 percent were Shi'a. Shi'a, including the predominately Hazara ethnic group, were among the most economically disadvantaged persons in the country. Relations between the different branches of Islam in the country were difficult. Historically, the minority Shi'a faced discrimination from the majority Sunni population. The Shi'a minority advocated a national government that would give them equal rights as citizens. There were small numbers of Hindus and Sikhs. There also were small numbers of Ismailis living in the central and northern parts of the country. Ismailis were Shi'a but consider the Aga Khan their spiritual leader.
Licensing and registration of religious groups do not appear to be required by the authorities in any part of the country. The small number of non-Muslim residents may practice their faith but may not proselytize. Blasphemy and apostasy were punishable by death. In the spring, a journalist in Mazar-i Sharif was accused in a local newspaper affiliated with the Jamiat-i-Islami Party of insulting Islam in an article she had written about the formation of the country’s next constitution. The journalist, Mariya Sazawar, was accused of writing that Islamic rules were oppressive to women. The local religious scholars recommended that she be sentenced to death. In March, a local court acquitted her; allegations of blasphemy were not confirmed.
The parts of the country's educational system that survived more than 20 years of war placed considerable emphasis on religion. However, since the fall of the Taliban, public school curriculums have included religious subjects, but detailed religious study was conducted under the guidance of religious leaders. There is no restriction on parental religious teaching.
Before the December 2001 collapse of the Taliban, repression by the Taliban of the Hazara ethnic group, which is predominantly Shi'a Muslim, was particularly severe. Although the conflict between the Hazaras and the Taliban was political and military as well as religious, and it was not possible to state with certainty that the Taliban engaged in its campaign against the Hazaras solely because of their religious beliefs, the religious affiliation of the Hazaras apparently was a significant factor leading to their repression.
Militants sometimes harassed foreign missionaries and other religious oriented organizations. For example, after an attack in late September that killed two employees of the Voluntary Association for Rehabilitation of Afghanistan, a Taliban spokesman accused the organization of preaching Christianity
INCIDENCE OF CRIME
The latest Travel Warning for Afghanistan states clearly that the security situation remains critical for American citizens. There are remnants of the former Taliban regime and the terrorist al-Qaida network in various parts of Afghanistan, who want to drive all Westerners out of Afghanistan and they do not hesitate to use violence to achieve their aims. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. While violence was less prevalent since the October 2004 election and especially during the recent harsh winter, the level of both threats and incidents has increased as part of the traditional "spring offensive." Of most concern are attacks using vehicle-borne explosives, improvised explosive devices and other forms of bombs. There is an ongoing threat to kidnap US citizens and Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) workers throughout the country. On April 10, 2005, a U.S. citizen was abducted in Kabul and managed to successfully escape after a brief captivity. The country faces a difficult period in the near term, and American citizens could be targeted or placed at risk by unpredictable local events. There is also a real danger from the presence of millions of unexploded land mines and other ordnance.
Afghan-Americans returning to Afghanistan to recover property have become involved in complicated disputes and have faced threats of retaliatory actions including kidnapping for ransom.
A large portion of the Afghan population is unemployed, and many among the unemployed have moved to urban areas. Basic services are rudimentary or non-existent. These factors may directly contribute to crime and lawlessness. Diplomats and international relief workers have reported incidents of robberies and household burglaries. Any American citizen who enters Afghanistan should remain vigilant for possible banditry, including violent attacks.
There have been a number of attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests and nationals in the past year. The United Nations has resumed operations, which were temporarily suspended in the aftermath of these attacks. However, the UN continues to be the target of attacks throughout the country. In June 2004, a UN and NGO convoy was ambushed in Gardez, a UN demining team was ambushed with rocket propelled grenades (RPGS) in Loghar, and a United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) convoy was ambushed with RPGS and small arms fire in Kandahar. Over the past year there have been multiple rocket attacks in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan, including a rocket that landed in a field opposite the Embassy compound in October 2004 and another that landed in the International Security Assistance Forces (ISAF) compound near the Embassy in June 2004.
Family members of official Americans assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Kabul are not allowed to reside in Afghanistan. In addition, unofficial travel to Afghanistan by U.S. Government employees and their family members requires prior approval by the Department of State. From time to time, the U.S. Embassy places areas frequented by foreigners off limits to its personnel depending on current security conditions. Potential target areas include key national or international government establishments, international organizations and other locations with expatriate personnel, and public areas popular with the expatriate community. Private U.S. citizens are strongly urged to heed these restrictions as well and may obtain the latest information by calling the U.S. Embassy in Kabul or consulting the embassy website below. Terrorist actions may include, but are not limited to, suicide operations, bombings, assassinations, carjackings, rocket attacks, assaults or kidnappings. Possible threats include conventional weapons such as explosive devises or non-conventional weapons, including chemical or biological agents.
According to the new Afghanistan constitution, no law should be "contrary to Islam"; the state is obliged to create a prosperous and progressive society based on social justice, protection of human dignity, protection of human rights, realization of democracy, and to ensure national unity and equality among all ethnic groups and tribes; the state shall abide by the UN charter, international treaties, international conventions that Afghanistan signed, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights .
Among the TISA's security forces, the police officially had primary responsibility for internal order; however, local and regional commanders maintained considerable power, as the TISA was not in a position to exercise control nationwide. Outside the capital, there was some fighting between local militias maintained by rival commanders who were also often government officials, and insecurity and the absence of robust legal institutions threatened stability and development. On August 11, NATO assumed command of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) with responsibility for the security of Kabul. On October 13, the U.N. Security Council extended ISAF’s mandate for another year and authorized its expansion to other parts of the country. By year's end, there were more than 5,300 active members of the Afghan National Army (ANA) working with coalition partners. A resurgence of Taliban and al-Qa'ida activity, particularly in the South and Southeast, added to security concerns. U.N. agencies and Non Governmental Organization (NGOs) temporarily cancelled or curtailed their activities in these areas at various times during the year.
The arrival of the Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) forces and the collapse of the Taliban in 2001 helped begin an end the decades-long pattern of serious human rights abuses, including extrajudicial killings. However, inter-factional fighting between regional commanders, persistent Taliban and al-Qa’ida activity, and criminal activity contributed to continued reports of unlawful depravations of life. Militants targeted foreigners and local employees of NGOs for unlawful killings. Civilians also were killed during fighting between OEF forces and rebel forces.
During the year, the TISA investigated the November 2002 unlawful police killing of two demonstrators in Kabul and an unknown number of persons have been arrested. The case has been referred to the Supreme Court; however, there had been no trial date set by year's end. There were reports of deaths in custody.
Intimidation, attacks, and killings took place during the 2002 Loya Jirga process. Further, Human Rights Watch (HRW) stated that several powerful military and party leaders threatened less powerful delegates, and agents of the intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security (also known as Amniat-e-Melli), spied on and delivered threats to delegates.
Human rights sources indicated that political intimidation and violence in the CLJ registration process was a problem. However, other reports, including those prepared by the U.N., suggest that intimidation was localized and did not significantly impact the outcome of elections. In October, HRW reported allegations of violence and intimidation against regional representatives and delegates continued. HRW stated that, in Badakshan and Ghor, candidates withdrew their support, "after a senior commander, allied with former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, allegedly said 'Avoid nominating yourself, otherwise we will kill you and throw your corpse into the Kokcha river.'" At year's end, no investigation or arrests had been made in connection with these threats.
No action was taken against those reportedly responsible for post-battle executions of prisoners in 2001.
In 1998, the U.N. found several mass graves connected with the massacre of Taliban fighters near Mazar-i Sharif in 1997, which contained evidence consistent with mass executions. At year's end, mass killings from 1997 and 1998 had not been fully investigated.
During the year, there were instances of factional forces killing civilians during the fight against Taliban supporters. In addition to the security forces and the coalition forces, there are many groups throughout the country that are armed, including militias and civilians. During the year, battles between rival tribes and local commanders resulted in numerous civilian casualties. During the early part of the year, unknown numbers of persons reportedly were killed in fighting between forces loyal to General Dostum and General Atta in the northern part of the country. In October, a ceasefire between the forces loyal to General Dostum and General Atta was reached which included the cantonment of heavy weapons.
The ICRC estimated 7,097 Afghans had been killed or wounded by landmines between 1998 and this year. According to NGOs, approximately 44 persons were killed by landmines in the northern province during the year.
Rebel forces, including Taliban, al-Qa'ida, and Hizb-e-Islami Gulbuddin, killed a large number of civilians during their attacks. There were reports that Taliban fighters and allied militias summarily executed persons and NGO workers. Attacks on international NGOs and their local counterparts increased significantly.
There were numerous bombings during the year. For example, on July 1, 17 persons were injured when a bomb exploded at a mosque in Kandahar. On August 13, 15 persons were killed when a bomb exploded in a bus around Kandahar. No one claimed responsibility for any of these acts. In addition, there have been a number of attacks on international organizations, international aid workers, and foreign interests and nationals.
In many areas, the lack of an effective police force, poor infrastructure and communications, instability, and insecurity made it difficult to investigate unlawful killings, bombings, or civilian deaths, and there were no reliable estimates of the numbers involved.
There was no further investigation or action taken in the following cases in 2002: The April bombing of Vice President and Defense Minister Mohamed Fahim's car, in which several persons were killed; the September car bomb in which 35 persons were killed in Kabul; and the February and July killings of Vice President and Public Works Minister Haji Abdul Qadir and Civil Aviation Minister Abdul Rahman.
No action was taken against those reportedly responsible for post-battle executions of prisoners in 2001.
During the year, TISA and coalition partners made efforts to bring to justice those persons responsible for the most serious abuses committed during the 23-year civil war. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) established a Transitional Justice Unit to address the most recent and serious cases. The investigations continued to proceed slowly during the year due to lack of resources and insecurity in the country.
The 1964 Constitution, in effect under the Bonn Agreement, prohibits such practices. Legal and law enforcement institutions existed but operated unevenly throughout the country. During the year, justice was administered on an ad hoc basis according to a mixture of codified law from earlier periods, Shari'a law, and local custom. Arbitrary arrest and detention are serious problems. Human Rights groups reported that local police authorities extorted bribes from civilians in return for their release from prison or to avoid arrest. Judicial and police procedures varied from locality to locality. Procedures for taking persons into custody and bringing them to justice followed no established code. Practices varied depending on the area and local authorities. Some areas had a more formal judicial structure than others. Limits on lengths of pretrial detention were not respected.
Private prisons were a problem.
In Kanadahar, Chief of Police Akram acknowledged "private prisons" as a significant challenge. AI reported that the Afghan intelligence agency, National Security Directorate, ran at least two prisons and there were unconfirmed reports of private detention facilities around Kabul and in northern regions of the country. Representatives of international agencies were unable to gain access to these prisons during the year. In July, HRW reported numerous cases of soldiers and police arresting, beating, and holding persons for ransom, and the existence of "private prisons" in Kabul city, and in Laghman, Paktia, and Nangarhar Provinces. According to HRW, "residents of Nangarhar, U.N. staff, and even government officials described soldiers and police regularly arresting people, often on the pretext that they were suspected of being members of the Taliban, beating them, and ransoming them to their families for money." U.N. humanitarian officials reported that they had documented cases of arbitrary or illegal detention of villagers throughout Nangarhar, as well as in neighboring Kunar and Laghman provinces. In addition, HRW reported it had received information about arbitrary arrests and detentions by troops under Governor, currently Minister of Public Works, Gul Agha Shirzai in Kandahar, Mohammad Atta and Rashid Dostum in northern Afghanistan, and Ismail Khan in Herat.
The generally poor security conditions severely impeded the judicial process. The country's law limited pretrial detention to 9 months; however, there were several documented cases where suspects were held over a year awaiting trial. There were credible reports that some detainees were tortured to elicit confessions while awaiting trial.
There were several reports of troops loyal to Commander Ismatullah kidnapping and raping women in Laghman Province.
In the months proceeding the 2002 Emergency Loya Jirga, Ismail Khan's officials reportedly arrested Loya Jirga candidates who were not his supporters. There were no similar reports during elections for the CLJ during the year.
The TISA made progress in the disarming of local militias. In November, in concert with coalition partners, 1,000 combatants were disarmed through a U.N. DDR program in Kunduz. In December, nearly 600 combatants turned in their weapons in the Gardez.
The TISA also made progress in training Afghan National Army (ANA) recruits. At year's end, reports indicated that the ANA had approximately 5,300 soldiers working with coalition forces.
There was no information available regarding forced exile
The Bonn Agreement–specifically the Judicial Commission–affords for the establishment of a domestic justice system in accordance with Islamic principles, international standards, the rule of law, and local legal traditions. However, with no functioning nationwide judicial system, many municipal and provincial authorities relied on some interpretation of Islamic law and traditional tribal codes of justice. In 2002, the Government inaugurated the Judicial Commission, and President Karzai appointed two women and various ethnic minorities to it. The judiciary operated with minimal training.
The administration and implementation of justice varied from area to area and depended on the inclinations of local authorities. In the cities, courts decided criminal and civil cases. There reportedly was a lower court and a higher court in every province. The Supreme Court was located in Kabul. During the year, the Supreme Court was expanded from 9 to 137 judges. The Supreme Court also established a National Security Court that will try terrorist and other cases, although by year's end, it was unclear how the new National Security Courts will function in practice. In cases involving murder and rape, convicted prisoners generally were sentenced to execution, although relatives of the victim could instead choose to accept other restitution or could enforce the verdict themselves. Decisions of the courts reportedly were final. The courts reportedly heard cases in sessions that lasted only a few minutes. According to AI, some judges in these courts were untrained in law and, at times, based their judgments on a combination of their personal understanding of Islamic law and a tribal code of honor prevalent in Pashtun areas. In rural areas, local elders and shuras were the primary means of settling criminal matters and civil disputes. Pressure from armed groups, public officials, and the family of the accused, as well as widespread reports of corruption and bribery, threatened judicial impartiality.
By year's end, TISA had made progress in creating a legal basis for the justice sector, but it still faced serious challenges in recruiting and training enough qualified judges, prosecutors, and defense lawyers. However, the TISA continued its education program to upgrade the qualifications and training of judicial personnel. Numerous judicial personnel received overseas training to qualify them for capacity building in the new judicial system.
In general, defendants did have the right to an attorney and they were permitted attorneys in some instances.
In the rural areas, administration of justice normally is done by tribal elders. They allegedly conducted hearings according to Islamic law and tribal custom. In such proceedings, allegedly the accused have no right to legal representation, bail, or appeal. In even more remote areas, tribal councils levied harsher, unsanctioned punishments, including flogging or death by shooting or stoning. For example, in Jowzjan province elders sentenced a woman to the death penalty. Subsequently, the AIHRC intervened and the woman was not put to death. AI reported that tribal elders resolved murder cases by ordering the defendant to provide young girls in marriage to the victims' family, in exchange for the murder.
A number of regional leaders were suspected of holding political prisoners, but there were no reliable estimates of the numbers involved.
There were no developments in the September 2002 case of Abdullah Shah who was convicted of mass murder and sentenced to death. Shah did not have legal representation during the appeal.
Prison conditions remained poor; there reportedly were many other secret or informal detention centers. Prisoners lived in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions in collective cells and were not sheltered from severe winter conditions. Prisoners reportedly were beaten, tortured, or starved. According to TISA officials, there were 612 prisoners at Kabul City prison at year's end. In March, the justice ministry assumed control of prison management from the interior ministry. Most NGOs noted this change would facilitate an improvement in prison conditions since the Taliban's fall from power. In May, AI reported that the Mazar-i-Sharif was holding up to 20 prisoners in rooms designed for six. In 2002 the Physicians for Human Rights (PHR) reported on the "deplorable conditions" at Shiberghan Prison. The PHR found severe overcrowding, non-existent sanitation, exposure to winter cold, inadequate food, and no medical supplies for the 3,500 prisoners. Dysentery, pneumonia, and yellow jaundice were epidemic. According to the PHR report, the cells in Shiberghan were constructed to house 10 to 15 prisoners, but they held 80 to 110 men during the year.
With the assistance of NGOs and the U.N. during the year, the TISA was organizing programs for the renovation and humanization of prisons. For example, the AIHRC established a "complaints" department within the Ministry of Justice and eight interagency commissions visited prisons in April to assess prison conditions. Further, in May, the Minister of Justice called a donors meeting to discuss moving prisoners from the Welayat detention center to Pul-i-Clarki prison, where two wings of the prison were under renovation; however, no prisoners were moved at year's end.
A number of regional leaders, particularly Ismail Khan in Herat and General Dostum in Shiberghan, maintained secret or unofficial prisons that most likely held political detainees. Herat prison held 600 to 700 prisoners. Shiberghan prison held approximately 3,500 inmates, including Taliban fighters and a number of Pakistanis.
The TISA permitted the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to visit all prisons which it controlled and the ICRC conducted such visits during the year; however, fighting and poor security for foreign personnel limited the ability of the ICRC to monitor prison conditions.
Most in the international and domestic community noted improvement in the status of women since the Taliban’s fall from power, despite the persistence of certain areas of concern. The central Government named several women to cabinet positions and other areas of responsibility. The Ministers of Health and Women’s Affairs, as well as the Chairwoman of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission were women. Women in a number of places regained some measure of access to public life, education, health care, and employment; however, the lack of education perpetuated during the Taliban years and limited employment possibilities continued to impede the ability of many women to improve their situation. According to HRW, "Almost every woman and girl interviewed said that her life had improved since the Taliban were forced from power."
During the year, 45 women leaders from across the country devised the Afghan Women's Bill of Rights, a document that demanded equal treatment. The Committee also pushed for a measure that guarantees that each province elect two women representatives to the lower house of Parliament, rather than the one representative initially provided for.
Women actively participated in the Drafting Committee of the Constitutional Commission set up prior to the CLJ and in the presidential elections. Seven out of the 35 members were women. During the year, Massouda Jalal voiced her intention to challenge President Karzai in the presidential elections scheduled for June 2004. Jalal had challenged and lost to Karzai for President during the ELJ in mid-2002.
Women also actively participated in the December Constitutional Loya Jirga. Women were able to question leaders openly and discussed inter-gender issues during the CLJ. 89 women were elected or appointed as delegates to the CLJ, constituting approximately 20 percent of the 502 delegates. However, some officials attempted to intimidate female participants. For example, during the CLJ, a delegate from Farah Province, Malalai Joya, received death threats for speaking against mujahideen leaders who held positions in the CLJ. After she questioned why some CLJ delegates with jihadi affliliation were selected as committee chairman, dozens of angry delegates rushed the stage and demanded that she be expelled. She participated fully in the remainder of the Loya Jirga, was provided security protection by the CLJ organizers, and female police officers from the Ministry of Interior, and spoke freely with the local and international press after the incident. Further, some women delegates denounced their colleagues in the CLJ for attempting to shut them out of leadership positions. However, one woman served as Deputy Chairwoman of the CLJ and chaired several sessions of the CLJ, and others held positions of responsibility in the working groups.
On July 26, the President established the Interim Election Commission to register voters and implement other preliminary steps in preparation for the June 2004 elections. The Interim Commission has six members, two of whom are women. Special programs have been implemented that target women voters, to further educate them on the importance of voting and political participation.
As lawlessness and sporadic fighting continued in areas outside Kabul, violence against women persisted, including beatings, rapes, forced marriages, and kidnappings. Such incidents generally went unreported, and most information was anecdotal. It was difficult to document rapes, in particular, in view of the social stigma that surrounds rape. Information on domestic violence and rape was limited. In a climate of secrecy and impunity, it was likely that domestic violence and rape against women remained a serious problem.
Throughout the country, approximately 100 women were held in detention facilities. Many were imprisoned at the request of a family member. Some of those incarcerated opposed the wishes of the family in the choice of a marriage partner. Others were accused of adultery. Some faced bigamy charges from husbands who granted a divorce only to change their minds when the divorced wife remarried. Other women faced similar charges from husbands who had deserted them and reappeared after the wife had remarried. In 2002, Kabul's Police Chief said that the police would continue to arrest women if their husband or family brought a complaint to the authorities.
The law also provides that women are required to obtain permission from a male family member before having an application for a passport processed.
Women in the north, particularly from Pashtun families, were the targets of sexual violence throughout the year. According to human rights sources, Uzbek, Tajik, and Hazara commanders perpetrated many of the attacks in the north and west. Local commanders, particularly in the north, used rape as a tool of intimidation against the international and local NGO community. There were credible reports of soldiers and commanders loyal to Pashtun warlords raping girls, boys, and women in provinces in the southeastern part of the country.
There also were reports that minority women sometimes were subjected to forced marriage, which sometimes resulted in self-immolations. Although statistics were not available, hospital doctors reported that these self-immolations were increasingly common among young women in the western part of the country. In September, a fatwa was issued which allowed a woman to marry again if her husband was missing more than 4 years. Reports of suicide among women were often related to forced marriages. There were reports of death threats against women activists.
Discrimination against women in some areas was particularly harsh. Some local authorities excluded women from all employment outside the home, apart from the traditional work of women in agriculture; in some areas, women were forbidden to leave the home except in the company of a male relative. In 2002, President Karzai decreed that women have the right to choose whether to wear the burqa. However, credible sources reported that women and older girls could not go out alone and that, when they did go out, they wore a burqa for fear of harassment or violence. Most said this was because armed men were targeting women and girls. In Jalalabad and Laghman Province, government officials also were policing other aspects of women's appearance. Government-owned television banned the appearance of women singers on television or radio. The curbs on women singing on television date to 1992, when a government of mujahideen replaced a communist regime.
A report released by the International Organization for Migration claims that trafficking was an increasing problem. Human rights violations related to trafficking take the form of forced labor, forced prostitution, and sexual exploitation of children.
Government regulations prohibit women who are married from attending high school classes and during the year, the education ministry ordered all regions to enforce this rule. During the year, thousands of young women were expelled from school because they were married. Deputy education minister Sayed Ahmad Sarwari was quoted as estimating more than 2 or 3 thousand married women were expelled during the year. Supporters of the legislation say it protected unmarried girls in school from hearing "tales of marriage" from their wedded classmates.
In areas outside Kabul, local authorities reportedly continued to exert strong pressure on women to conduct and dress themselves in accordance with a conservative interpretation of Islam and local customs.
Healthcare remained a major issue for women who continued to be denied access to adequate medical facilities due to cultural barriers and basic lack of availability of resources. According to Management Sciences for Health, nearly 40 percent of the 756 basic primary-health facilities in 2002 had no female workers, a major deterrent for women because societal barriers discouraged them from seeking care from male heath workers. In the same health survey, it was determined that only 10 percent of the country's hospitals had equipment to perform cesarean sections. In most regions, there was less than 1 physician per 10,000 persons. Only 11 of the 32 provinces had obstetric care facilities. Health services reached only 29 percent of the population and only 17 percent of the rural population. The mortality rate was 1,600 per 100,000 live births nationwide.
A Back-to-School campaign launched by the Ministry of Education and coalition supporters led to the enrollment of 4.2 million children in school. A number of incentives were in place to encourage girl's enrollment in education. UNICEF reported there has been an increase of 37 percent in girl's enrollment from 2002 to year's end. Southern provinces also show a net increase of about 30 percent, despite higher levels of insecurity and conflict.
Nevertheless, the lack of teachers, materials, and security concerns remained deterrents to girls' education. In some parts of the country, access to education was further impeded by violent fundamentalism in which schools, teachers, students and others were threatened or physically attacked.
Approximately 85 percent of women were illiterate, and in rural areas, illiteracy rates among women often were nearly 100 percent. The Government, in concert with coalition support, sponsored non-formal education training targeted at 75,000 trainees, reaching more than 38,000 women and adolescent girls participating in skills training, adult literacy and life skills.
Local administrative bodies and international assistance organizations took action to ensure children's welfare to the extent possible; however, the situation of children was very poor. Approximately 45 percent of the population was made up of children age 14 or under. One in 10 children suffered from acute malnutrition. The infant mortality rate was 250 out of 1,000 births; the mortality rate for children under the age of 5 was 25 percent. A Management Sciences for Health study also found that only about one-fourth of all health facilities offer basic services for children, including immunization, antenatal care, postpartum care, and treatment of childhood diseases. An UNICEF study also reported that the majority of children were highly traumatized and expected to die before reaching adulthood. According to the study, some 90 percent have nightmares and suffer from acute anxiety, while 70 percent have seen acts of violence, such as the killing of parents or relatives.
While most girls throughout the country were able to attend school, the U.N. reported that, in some areas, a climate of insecurity persisted. From August 2002 to June, there were more than 30 attacks on girls and boys schools in Ghazni, Kabul, Kandahar, Logar, Sar-e-Pul, Wardak, Zabul, Jawzjan, and Laghman causing minor injuries and building damage. On September 28, two girls' schools in Balkh Province were set on fire. The school was badly damaged; however, no one was injured in the attack.
There were credible reports that both the Taliban and the Northern Alliance used child soldiers. In previous years, Northern Alliance officials publicly said that their soldiers must be at least 18 years of age, but press sources reported that preteen soldiers were used in Northern Alliance forces. In May, President Karzai issued a decree that prohibited the recruitment of children and young persons under the age of 22 to the Afghan National Army.
General political and economic circumstances in Afghanistan have improved since October 2002, but the narcotics situation remains serious, despite positive actions by both the government and international donors. Dangerous security conditions make implementing counternarcotics (CN) programs difficult and present a substantial obstacle to both poppy eradication efforts by the central government and to international efforts to provide related assistance. Given the profound destruction brought about by more than 20 years of conflict, the lack of many viable alternative crops to opium, and the limited enforcement capacity of the central government, poppy cultivation this year approached the highest levels ever registered. Despite the many obstacles, the Transitional Islamic Government of Afghanistan (TISA) has instituted major institutional and policy changes in its governmental machinery that directly benefit its counternarcotics objectives, and has established a sound structural basis to attack the problem. President Karzai has continually spoken out against the drug trade and has issued decrees banning it, an important statement of political will to combat cultivation and trafficking in illicit narcotics. International CN activities, following the overthrow of the Taliban and the installation of an interim government, remain under a multilateral mandate, with the United Kingdom as lead nation. The international community was hard at work at year’s end planning with Afghan officials how best to attack Afghanistan's drug problem in a more aggressive manner, including more widespread eradication. Afghanistan is a party to the 1988 UN Drug Convention.
International and U.S. surveys indicate that in 2003 Afghanistan again produced three-quarters of the world's illicit opium. To a lesser extent, the country remains a significant location for the production and transit of all forms of unrefined (opium), refined (heroin) and semi-refined (morphine base) opiate products. While it is a large consumer of precursor chemicals, it is not a significant producer or transshipper of precursors. The drug economy in Afghanistan is deeply embedded, the product of more than a century of Afghan history. At present, criminal financiers and narcotics traffickers in and outside of Afghanistan have taken advantage of the on-going conflict and fragile security situation and have exploited poor farmers in a rural economy decimated by years of war and drought. The process of reconstruction which began in 2002 is accelerating and expanding, and is expected to improve the situation for successful counternarcotics programs in the future. Planning to change the current opium economy of many regions of Afghanistan is now well-launched.
The U.S. and the international community, especially the UK as lead nation on CN and the local office of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), have maintained a dialogue with President Karzai and the Afghanistan National Security Council throughout the year on the subject of combating narcotics. The TISA has made significant structural, policy and institutional commitments to combating narcotics in Afghanistan, including the following:
- In March 2003, the TISA’s CND (Counternarcotics Directorate) created the Counter-Narcotics Working Group, an inter-agency body that meets continuously (and publicly every two months) to formulate and coordinate the government’s counternarcotics policy.
- On 19 May 2003, President Karzai signed a comprehensive, in- depth National Drug Control Strategy, in which all appropriate aspects of combating narcotics in Afghanistan are addressed. This National Strategy was created with participation of all elements of the TISA, as well as wide participation by international organizations, non-governmental organizations, and the public.
- On 3 June 2003, President Karzai signed a decree abolishing the former State High Commission for Drug Control and merged its regional offices into CND, taking a major step toward unification of national counternarcotics policy.
- In October 2003, the TISA made a formal request to the United States for assistance in creation of a central government-run, nationwide poppy eradication campaign. This request is under consideration and the TISA has committed to poppy eradication as a key element of its overall counternarcotics campaign.
These structural reforms have laid the foundation for a sound national government CN apparatus, and the addition in January 2004 of a new constitution further strengthened the government's hand. The country’s first national elections since the fall of the Taliban government are planned for 2004, and establishment of a national government legitimized through democratic elections, and an improvement in the security situation, are expected to lead to greater adherence to the national CN strategy. Establishment of rule of law throughout the country, with a functioning police, judiciary, and prison system, will also permit further elements of a CN strategy to be put in place.
The most immediate concern of the TISA is to strengthen its national legitimacy by establishing security and rule of law throughout the country. In such an environment, significant drug enforcement work has not been possible outside limited areas. Efforts have rather been focused on planning for the near term future when a serious law enforcement effort will be mounted against illicit growing and trafficking of narcotics.
A new basic draft drug law has been proposed and is being reviewed by TISA officials. This draft law comports with international norms for counternarcotics laws. General training and expansion of the national police has been hampered by lack of donor commitments to the Law Enforcement Trust Fund for Afghanistan, which will support the police, including salaries, until the government of Afghanistan can raise revenue locally to fund this function. In this context, the national police, whose numbers are being augmented through an accelerated training program, have been more occupied with trying to improve the general security situation throughout the country, than with narcotics interdiction and enforcement.
The Ministry of Interior is eager to establish a fully operational, national counternarcotics unit. Germany, which has the lead on police assistance to Afghanistan, has written a plan for a narcotics enforcement unit. The U.S. has agreed to provide initial funding for such a unit and work is continuing on its establishment and deployment in the field. The U.S. is also providing funding for judicial reform and training in judicial and prosecutorial enforcement of counternarcotics laws.
The same limitations that adversely affect interdiction of narcotics and enforcement of the ban on narcotics cultivation and trafficking hamper the interdiction of precursor substances and processing equipment. The TISA has a sophisticated understanding of this issue, but action in this regard is dependent upon establishment of the necessary specialized police units. There are currently no registries or legal requirements for tracking, storing or owning such chemicals.
In general, officials at the national level are believed to be free of direct criminal connection to the drug trade. At the provincial and district levels, however, drug-related corruption is believed to be pervasive. This ranges from direct participation in the criminal enterprise, to benefiting financially from taxation or other revenue streams generated by the drug trade. The central government has officially condemned the drug trade, but its incomplete power throughout the national territory gives it limited abilities to control it.
Afghanistan is a party to the 1961 UN Single Convention, the 1971 UN Convention on Psychotropic Substances and the 1988 UN Drug Convention. The TISA has no extradition or legal assistance arrangements with the U.S. Afghanistan is not a party to any treaties providing for mutual legal assistance between itself and any of its neighbors, the U.S., or any other major CN nation. Afghanistan has signed and ratified the UN Convention against Transnational Organized Crime.
Afghanistan contains the largest area of illicit opium poppy cultivation in the world. Poppy is grown commercially in 28 of its 32 provinces. With limited national enforcement reach, the TISA has simply not been able to enforce its decree banning opium production; only marginal crop destruction in a few locations has been undertaken. This eradication has had no material effect on the quantity of opium gum produced in Afghanistan. The aftermath of a quarter-century of warfare, multiple changes of government, and an embedded tradition of poppy cultivation have made it very difficult to implement well-designed plans for eradication.
Drug cultivation in Afghanistan is facilitated by both domestic and foreign individuals who lend money and/or provide agricultural inputs to poor Afghan farmers, and then buy their crop at previously-set prices, or accept repayment of loans "in kind", i.e., with deliveries of raw opium. In many provinces there also are opium markets, under effective protection of regional strongmen, where opium is traded freely to the highest bidder and is subject to taxation by those strongmen. An increasingly large portion of Afghanistan's raw opium crop is processed into heroin and morphine base by drug labs inside Afghanistan, reducing its bulk by a factor of 10 to 1, and thereby facilitating its movement to markets in Europe and Asia. Many lab owners also organize trafficking of the opiates to markets in Iran, Pakistan and Central Asia. Local Afghan financing of opium/heroin production and trafficking predominates. In the South, Southeast and Northeast border regions however, Pakistani nationals play a very prominent role in all aspects of the drug trade. Distribution networks are frequently organized along regional and ethnic lines (i.e., Baluch tribesmen on both sides of Afghanistan's border with Iran). Other organized criminal groups are also involved in transportation onwards to Turkey, Russia and the rest of Europe. The trend is towards increasing domestic refining of opiates in border regions of Afghanistan, due to financial and transportation incentives.
The TISA recognizes that it has a domestic drug use problem, particularly with opium. Its National Strategy includes demand reduction and rehabilitation programs for existing and potential drug abusers. However, in the context of the overall shortage of general medical services, very limited TISA resources are being directed to these programs. The U.S. and the U.K. have taken the lead in funding specific demand reduction and rehabilitation programs. The TISA (the Counter Narcotics Directorate) has been very receptive and cooperative in establishing public outreach campaigns in these areas.
The United Kingdom has been designated as international lead country on CN activities in Afghanistan. However, the U.S. has taken, and continues to take, a very prominent role in CN policy. The U.S. is promoting a tripartite counternarcotics campaign integrating law enforcement, poppy eradication, and alternative economic development as a substitute for poppy cultivation. The U.S. is integrating CN work into our more general law enforcement/police work as well.
The key element affecting CN activities in Afghanistan is limited security and stability. While the U.S. continues to push, along with the U.K., for increased CN efforts, all work in this regard must be judged in the context of the need for political and institutional stability, economic reconstruction, and the establishment of basic law and order. In the meantime, poppy cultivation is likely to continue until rural poverty levels can be reduced via provision of alternative livelihoods and increased rural incomes. Sustained assistance to poppy-growing areas, diversification of crops, improved market access, and development of off-farm employment, combined with law enforcement and drug education, are expected gradually to reduce the amount of opium produced in Afghanistan. However, drug processing and trafficking can be expected to continue until security is established and drug law enforcement capabilities can be increased. Political stability and assistance by the donor community over many years will be required to help an Afghan government fully dedicated to countering its drug problem succeed.
TRAFFICKING IN PERSONS
There was no legislation prohibiting trafficking in persons. However, in November, President Karzai approved the establishment of the Commission for the Prevention of Child Trafficking and pledged to establish a National Action Plan to combat trafficking. A 2002 U.N. report on Women and Human Rights reported increasing anecdotal evidence of trafficking in Afghan girls to Pakistan, Iran, and the Gulf States. Some girls reportedly were kept in brothels used by Afghans. The whereabouts of many girls, some as young as 10, reportedly kidnapped and trafficked by the Taliban remained unknown.
The U.N. July report also noted that many poor families were promising young girls in marriage to satisfy family debts.
There were a number of reports that children, particularly from the south and southeast, were trafficked to Pakistan to work in factories. UNICEF cited unconfirmed reports of capturing and abduction of women and children in the southern part of the country.
Although prosecutions of traffickers increased, and the Government devoted greater attention to trafficking in persons during the year, prosecution of perpetrators continued to be inconsistent. In October, 42 children trafficking victims were rescued and taken to a shelter operated by a local NGO. Trafficking victims, especially those trafficked for sexual exploitation, faced the risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases, including HIV/AIDS. Trafficking victims, especially those who were exploited sexually, also faced societal discrimination, particularly in their home villages and within their own families, as a result of having been trafficked.
Internet research assisted by Ernesto Garcia and Michael S. Martin