Posted by Curt on 11 July, 2005 at 9:26 am. Be the first to comment!


Some good news from Afghanistan: (via Chrenkoff)

A new voter registration drive is off to a good start for the October election:

Voter registration for September elections in Afghanistan has been overwhelming despite security worries including an attack on a registration site at the weekend, organisers say.

No one was hurt in the attack in the southeastern province of Paktika on Saturday, but police battled gunmen for hours, delaying the site’s opening, Bronwyn Curran, a spokeswoman for the Afghan-UN election body, said on Monday.

She said security and other problems, such as sandstorms and flooding, had prevented registration at 59 of 1052 stations nationwide, but 73,000 people had registered in the first two days of the month-long process that began on Saturday.

More than 10.6 million people registered for October’s presidential polls won by Western-backed incumbent Hamid Karzai.

Parliamentary elections are set for 18 September and organisers aim to register up to two million people who were either too young for the October vote, did not previously register, lost their registration cards, or have moved.

Meanwhile, the candidates’ list is being finalized:

On June 4, the Joint Electoral Management Body (JEMB) issued the Preliminary Candidate List, and from June 4 to June 9 individuals had the opportunity to file a challenge against any prospective candidate with the Electoral Complaints Commission.

The ECC received over 1138 challenges against 556 candidates.

Citizens from across Afghanistan exercised their right to participate in this process and the broad public response was an encouraging sign of the Afghan people?s desire to hold a fair election.

After reviewing the challenges, the ECC has advised the JEMB of 233 candidates who must be provisionally disqualified from standing for office due to their failure to meet the requirements for candidacy.

The Coalition forces will be providing increased security for the election: the Netherlands are sending a marine battalion, Spain 400 soldiers, France 300 troops and some airplanes, Romania is sending 400 extra troops, and Austria additional 100. Overall, 2000 more NATO peacekeepers will be deployed throughout the country at the election time.

Under an agreement signed with the UN Development Programme, the European Union has committed itself to contributing another 11.5 million euros ($13.7 million) towards the parliamentary election, bringing its total contribution so far to that purpose to 34 million euros ($40 million). Finland will be donating 2 million euros ($2.4 million) for that purpose, and Sweden is sending election observers.

In order to provide more information about the election to the voters, the Afghan government has launched this new initiative:

Afghan voters with questions on the 2005 Wolesi Jirga and Provincial Council elections may now call a toll-free phone number from anywhere in Afghanistan, and have their questions answered personally.

By dialling 1 8 0 from any mobile or landline phone, callers will be connected to a Voter Information Centre staffed by operators ready to answer their questions in Dari, Pashto or English from 7am to 7pm every Saturday to Thursday. The number will not be available if called after hours.

The Voter Information Centre was launched this week and has already handled more than 150 public telephone enquiries.

As JEMBS staff, Voter Information Centre operators have been trained to answer any question relating to any aspect of the 2005 electoral process.

On the non-government level, CARE USA is helping to provide education for girls and women who missed out in the past:

Meet Farzana. She?s the principal of Sha Shaheed School, a school for girls who missed years of their education during the five years of the Taliban?s rule. The school is one of nine supported by CARE?s Out of School Girls Project that provides fast-track education for girls by teaching two years in one.

During the Taliban years, Farzana and her family fled to Pakistan, and she was able to work. However, after September 11th, her family moved back to Kabul and Farzana was able to keep working. She?s 28 years old and single, which is unusual for a woman her age in Afghanistan, and lives with her father. While her brothers and sisters are all married, she tells us that her father is open minded and encourages her to pursue her career.

The Sha Shaheed School teaches 360 girls who come in six days a week, either for the morning or afternoon, for their classes. Most of the girls are between 10-14 years old and were in school before Taliban, but had to stop going to school for five years when the Taliban didn?t allow girls to be educated.

These girls are now much older that the kids in their grade and CARE aims to provide a fast-track education so they can rejoin the school system at the appropriate age.

Participants in other similar programs are already starting to graduate: “After a lapse of more than a decade, the first batch of 23 girls Tuesday completed their high school education in the southern Kandahar province, a former stronghold of Taliban who had banned female literacy in Afghanistan. Kandahar Education Department chief Hayatullah Rafiqi told Pajhwok Afghan News after the passage of 11 long years, the girls graduated from the Zarghona Ana High School in Kandahar City.”

USAID will soon be busy with a major construction project:

The United States of America will reconstruct Ghazi High school with international standards. The USA will invest $6 million through USAID for reconstruction and furnishing of the school.

Dr Zalmai Khalilzad the US ambassador in Afghanistan told Bakhtar News Agency that, the engineering design of this school is drawn by Afghan engineers and the new school will have 4 blocks for classes and administration offices, football, volleyball and basket ball grounds, gymnasium, car parking, an entertainment park, auditorium and laboratories.

The construction work of this school will start at the end of this year and will be finished in two years.

He added that the new school will have 78 classrooms and can accommodate 6200 students at a time.

Two new schools, each able to take in 1,500 pupils, have opened in Bagram district and Sinjit Dara of the central Parwan province. The schools were a joint project of the local Provincial Reconstruction Team and UNESCO.

In higher education news, “the American University of Afghanistan’s new female dormitory, which has been established with assistance of the Afghan Wireless Communication System, AWCC, was opened [recently]… The foundation of the three-storey building of new American University of Afghanistan was laid in the southwest of Kabul earlier this year. The initial academic programmes will include majors in information technology, business management and public administration.”

There’s help for Afghanistan’s many orphans:

It is LIFE for Relief and Development’s mission to take these children off the streets and into the classroom. In the past, LIFE has supported nearly 1,000-orphaned boys in schools in Laghman and Jalalabad.

In September, LIFE plans on opening its first school and orphanage for girls and the only school for girls in the Eastern Zone of Afghanistan. The facility has already registered 100-orphaned girls and will support them by providing shelter, clothing and education. This effort will afford the 1st through 5th graders the opportunity to personally combat illiteracy and finally see a bright future.

In September, LIFE plans on opening its first school and orphanage for girls and the only school for girls in the Eastern Zone of Afghanistan. The facility has already registered 100-orphaned girls and will support them by providing shelter, clothing and education. This effort will afford the 1st through 5th graders the opportunity to personally combat illiteracy and finally see a bright future.

The Coalition forces are filling the gaps in health services devastated by decades of conflict:

As Afghanistan struggles to create a functioning health care system after 23 years of war, military hospitals and mobile clinics run by coalition forces are the only hope for thousands of Afghans of getting adequate medical care.

The Soviet occupation from 1979 to 1989, the civil war that followed it, and the subsequent medieval rule by Taliban militias destroyed what little health care infrastructure existed in the country before the Soviet invasion, and uprooted most doctors and nurses.

According to the 2004 United Nations Human Development Report, there were only 210 health facilities with beds to hospitalize patients in the entire country last year. There are only 0.32 hospital beds per 1,000 people, compared to 2.7 beds on average in other developing countries.

There is only one doctor per 10,000 people, against an average 11 doctors per 10,000 people in other developing countries.

The challenges of recovering from such devastation are tremendous, and in the meantime the troops are finding themselves the health and emergency care providers of first choice in many areas of the country:

The 249th General Hospital from Fort Gordon, Ga., is the largest and most sophisticated medical facility in eastern Afghanistan, and it attracts patients from Khost and neighboring provinces.

Spc. Stephen Scull, a hospital clerk, said that as of March 4, the 249th General Hospital has seen more than 650 patients in the surgical ward alone. In addition, it treated more than a hundred trauma patients.

The hospital staff also set up regular clinics just outside the camp. At one such clinic Tuesday, Army medics saw 85 patients.

Sgt. 1st Class James Gillen, a medic with C Company, 307th Logistics Task Force, said that often American doctors are the last hope for these patients.

“A lot of times … they come expecting a miracle,” Sgt. Gillen said.

Patients from remote villages, who have never seen a doctor, hitchhike for days on elaborately decorated “jingle trucks” to see a doctor at the hospital. Some in critical condition can be flown in by medevac helicopters.

It is not surprising, then, that providing health care services to the population has become one of the most effective tools in winning the hearts and minds of Afghans, even in areas that were initially hostile to coalition troops, said Lt. Col. Mark McLaughlin, commander of the Provincial Reconstruction Team (PRT) in Asadabad, in Kunar province on the border with Pakistan.

Training and equiping of Afghan security forces continue. The authorities are setting up a special police unit in Kabul. Meanwhile, there is more advanced training for Afghan police:

The Afghan National Police graduated 11 police investigators from a course in crime scene investigation June 6…

The training included classroom instruction and hands-on, practical exercises. Investigators learned about Afghan law and criminal procedures, protection and documentation of crime scenes, proper collection and preservation of evidence, crime scene photography and other fundamentals. They also completed a written examination.

The Ministry of the Interior officially designated District 10 as the ?model? station for Afghan police reform because of its strategic location in the capital. ?U.S. civilian police mentors assigned to the District 10 ?model? police station project work alongside their Afghan counterparts daily,? said Dave Barrington, a U.S. police mentor with DynCorp International.

2,400 recruits a month are now joining the Afghan army through National Army Volunteer Centers. “There are 31 operational NAVCs, with four more under construction. One will be located in each of the country’s 34 provinces, with two in the capital city of Kabul.” And so, Army training continues to turn raw and enthusiastic recruits into a professional fighting force:

As Afghanistan marches toward becoming a fully democratic nation, the Afghan National Army has marched another class of volunteer soldiers to graduation from basic training.

Marking the 36th class to complete the training, 591 soldiers graduated from the Kabul Military Training Center on June 12.

Several countries are involved in mentoring the Afghan basic training instructors, including the United States.

“We are simply here to guide and give direction. We’re like quality control,” said U.S. Army Lt. Col. Billy Rankin, mentor for the KMTC chief of staff. “It’s their army — some suggestions they like and some they don’t like.”

This class was an infantry kandak (battalion). The soldiers learned basic tasks such as patrolling, conducting an attack, combat operations and marching.

Their training is not finished, however; they still have to complete a field training exercise conducted by the Canadians and will then report to their assignments. This class will bring the ANA strength to 24,710 soldiers when they finish training.

The growth and increasing professionalism and effectiveness of the Afghan army is in large part due to men like Sgt. Maj. Shamsadin, the command sergeant major of the 3rd Brigade, 201st Corp, a former refugee who returned home to serve in the new army right from the beginning, and has been recently given the official title “Grandfather of the Army” by the Ministry of Defence.

I’ve just put up a few bits from Chrenkoff’s report, he has ton’s of it.

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