Tuesday, December 11, 2001, Chandigarh, India




THE TRIBUNE SPECIALS
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Strategic dialogue with Kabul begins
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, December 10
The Vajpayee government has already started a strategic dialogue with the soon-to-be-installed interim government of Afghanistan, albeit informally. The process is to get a further impetus when Afghan Foreign Minister-Designate Abdullah Abdullah arrives here on December 12.

When Afghanistan’s Interior Minister-Designate Younous Qanooni came here on an official visit last week and held talks with Union Home Minister L.K. Advani, it was decided that New Delhi would soon send a “police team” to Kabul to help the interim government there.

India would help the Karzai administration in the fields of police, intelligence and special operations, particularly anti-guerilla operations, well-placed sources here said today.

The most important short-term strategic imperative before Afghanistan’s interim administration of Mr Hamid Karzai, which takes over on December 22, would be to tackle the feared guerrilla raids from the down-but-not-out Taliban, sources said.

It is in this context that India’s vast and rich experience in anti-insurgency and anti-terrorism operations is sought by the Karzai administration. The coming interim government is well aware of the covert threat looming large from its eastern borders — Pakistan — and knows that the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) would not be taking its humiliation in Afghanistan lying low.

The threat scenario for the Karzai administration is rather murky despite Mr Karzai’s pro-ISI past because his administration is dominated by the fiercely anti-Pakistan Northern Alliance.

Sources said the recent visit of Mr Younous Qanooni and the forthcoming visit of Dr Abdullah Abdullah assume significance against this backdrop.

For India, an important opportunity is knocking on its doors in years for turning the Afghanistan tables on Pakistan and the Vajpayee government is keen to grab it.

Islamabad had been using Afghanistan for “strategic depth” in the event of a war with India. “This strategic depth doctrine can prove to be Pakistan’ strategic liability if the Vajpayee government handles its Afghanistan policy cleverly,” a senior official here remarked. 
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Pak expels scribe of Indian origin

Washington, December 10
The Washington Post today hit out at Pakistan for expelling its correspondent Rajiv Chandrasekaran, saying the treatment meted out to journalists of Indian descent raised doubts over the country’s commitment to Press freedom.

The Post’s Assistant Managing Editor for foreign news Philip Bennett termed Pakistan’s action as “unexplained and unjustified”. PTI
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US convoy heads for Kandahar

US marines survey the area from an armoured vehicle near Kandahar on Monday.
US marines survey the area from an armoured vehicle near Kandahar on Monday. — Reuters photo

Islamabad, December 10
US armoured vehicles backed by helicopters headed out of a Marine camp in south Afghanistan today towards the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, an Afghan news agency reported.

The Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) quoted witnesses arriving at the Pakistan border town of Chaman as saying that they had seen about 30 “tanks and other armoured vehicles” rumbling towards Kandahar.

One said a US soldier was seen on the roof of the former compound of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

There was no immediate confirmation.

The Taliban surrendered Kandahar, their last stronghold, on Friday under siege from tribal fighters backed up by US Airpower and Marines dug in at the desert airstrip, named Camp Rhino, near the city.

The Marines are known to have flown light armoured vehicles and all-terrain Humvees to the airstrip, but not tanks.

Witnesses said most shops in Kandahar were closed, fearing looting. The atmosphere was tense, despite yesterday’s agreement between rival factions over who should take charge of the city.

Witnesses said they said they had heard occasional gunshots.

Marine Captain Stewart Upton said at Camp Rhino on Sunday that Marines carrying photographs of top suspects were now turning their sights on Osama bin Laden’s mainly Arab Al-Qaida network, following the Taliban surrender of Kandahar.

“We’re still looking for identified terrorists, specifically Al-Qaida,” he said. “We’re not necessarily looking for Taliban soldiers.”

Marines travelling by helicopter, in military vehicles and on foot over the weekend were monitoring all possible avenues of escape from the Kandahar area.

WASHINGTON: Two or three senior Al-Qaida leaders had been captured over the last few days, US Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz said in a briefing today. The men were not captured by US forces, he added. Reuters, AFP
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