Afghanistan: Violence Surges

We applaud Human Rights Watch for continuing to document the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan even as it has fallen off the media radar screen. But we question their assumption that Karzai “needs more support from the US,” given that it is his own security forces that are doing much of the killing…

Afghanistan: Violence Surges
Karzai Needs More Support from U.S.

(New York, May 24, 2005) — Afghanistan’s security situation has deteriorated significantly in recent weeks, with a spate of political killings, violent protests, and attacks on humanitarian workers, Human Rights Watch said today. The instability comes as President Hamid Karzai visits the United States this week.

The recent violence includes the assassination of a parliamentary candidate in Ghazni two weeks ago, the murder of three female aid workers, the kidnapping of an aid worker in Kabul, and clashes between armed factions in the northern province of Maimana.

“May was a terrible month for Afghanistan,” said John Sifton, Afghanistan researcher for Human Rights Watch. “President Karzai needs more than a handshake from Washington. He needs concrete assistance from the United States and its allies to improve security.”

Over three years have passed since NATO member states undertook to provide international security forces in Afghanistan and expand the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), yet to date NATO forces have only deployed to a handful of regional centers outside of Kabul.

Human Rights Watch called on the United States to lead efforts to accelerate the deployment of additional international security forces to remote provinces, and increase the number of international human rights monitors and election monitors for parliamentary elections scheduled to take place in September.

“Current troop levels are a fraction of what has been deployed in other post-conflict settings,” said Sifton. “And there are simply not enough human rights monitors and election observers.”

Examples of violence in May include:

* May 18-19, 2005: Eleven Afghan employees of a Washington-based agricultural company were shot and killed in Zabul province in two separate incidents.

* May 18, 2005: An Afghan television presenter, Shaima Rezayee, 24, was shot in the head at her Kabul home. In March, Rezayee was fired from her position at a Kabul independent television station, Tolo TV, after several clerics in Kabul said her show was “anti-Islamic,” and should be taken off the air.

* May 16, 2005: Armed men kidnapped CARE International worker Clementina Cantoni, a 32-year-old Italian woman, from a car in Kabul.

* May 15-16, 2005: Five people were reported wounded, and one killed, when violence erupted between supporters of rival warlords in a district in Faryab province, in the north of Afghanistan.

* May 11, 2005: Akhtar Mohammad Tolwak, a parliamentary candidate and former delegate to Afghanistan�s two loya jirgas, was killed while driving near Diyak District in the east of Ghazni province, along with his driver.

* May 9-13, 2005: Sixteen protesters were killed by police and army troops during violent demonstrations against a Newsweek report of U.S. interrogators desecrating a copy of the Koran during interrogations at Guantanamo Bay. Riots occurred in several Afghan cities, including Jalalabad, Ghazni, Kabul, and Maimana, during which some protesters set fire and loot government and U.N. buildings.

* May 7, 2005: A suicide bomber set off a bomb in a Kabul internet cafe, killing two Afghan civilians and a Burmese engineer working for the United Nations.

* May 5, 2005: Armed men attempted to kidnap three foreign World Bank employees in Kabul.

* May 2-6, 2005: Fighting between the Taliban and the U.S.-backed Afghan military killed ten Afghan army troops and scores of militants, according to the U.S. military.

* April 30: May 1: During a protest in Herat by several hundred supporters of former Herat governor Ismail Khan, police shoot several civilians, killing an old man, a 36-year old woman and her 11-year-old daughter.

See our last blog post on the situation in Afghanistan.