More than 100 US soldiers swept through an alleged Al Qaeda training base in eastern Afghanistan yesterday, blowing up four cave complexes but finding no fighters and little information.
The military said the mission was intended to discourage Al Qaeda and Taliban forces from crossing into the country from Pakistan. But some officials hinted the operation was more than anything intended as a show of American force before Afghan regional leaders meet next week to select a new national government. US officials say members of Al Qaeda and the Taliban may be plotting attacks to disrupt that meeting, known as a Loya Jirga.
But some fear the Loya Jirga process has already been interrupted–and not only by the Taliban. The Loya Jirga has been marked by controversy and violence. There have been repeated reports of local power holders intimidating or bribing rivals to withdraw their candidacies. Eight delegates to the Loya Jirga were killed in May.
Meanwhile, interim leader Hamid Karzai won the support on Sunday of enough key allies to stay on as head of the government for the next two years.
For days the interim cabinet and warlords from across the country had been haggling over the make-up of the government that will emerge from the Loya Jirga. All backed Karzai as the future leader. The backroom deals extending his rule suggest that many of the most important decisions for the Loya Jirga are being made in private, before the 1,500 delegates even arrive in Kabul.
- Soraya Paikan, Chair of the Afghan Women Lawyers and Professionals Association, Member of the Loya Jirga & International Lawyer, Mazar-e-Sharif. Soraya Paikan was Professor of International Law at Balkh University in Mazar-e-Sharif, until the Taliban took over. At this point, she went underground. She eventually fled Afghanistan to Pakistan, taking 5 of her 6 daughters with her.
- Sonali Kolhatkar, vice-president, Afghan Women’s Mission and host and co-producer of the Morning Show on Pacifica station KPFK in Los Angeles
- The Emperor’s Got No Clothes–Earthdriver, No One’s Slave (136-32 productions).