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Hamid Karzai


Update No: 044 - (26/07/05)

Minister of Interior under pressure
Despite claims by the government that the poppy eradication effort is succeeding, there is growing scepticism in the US about the achievements of the US$1 billion program. Considering the amount of money spent on it, there is little doubt that once again the Kabul government has failed to deliver what it had promised. US sources reckon that only 533 acres have been effectively eradicated this year, far less than last year, which had already been a disappointment. Because of the end of the drought, productivity was expected to increase and the end result might be another record crop. The slowing economic activity in cities like Kandahar and Jalalabad, which lie at the heart of the poppy cultivation areas, seems to be due to some actual reduction, but mostly to the insecurity created by the eradication effort, that is fears for the medium and long-term future of the narcotics business than to an immediate lack of cash. Smugglers and farmers seem to have started saving money for the rainy days which might lie ahead. 
This failure to achieve more, which is allegedly due to corruption among field officers, together with the renewed insurgency and the lack of effectiveness of the security forces led to rumours during July that Interior Minister Jalali had resigned. Although this turned out to be false, Jalali does seem under pressure and might not stay in office beyond the parliamentary elections, not least because he seems to have no intention to renounce his US citizenship, as ministers are required to do by the law. Part of the problem with the poppies is that significant reductions in some of the provinces where the poppy crop used to be concentrated were matched by strong increases in production in provinces which had been so far marginal, like Balkh in the north. 

Candidate lists ready
After the completion of the vetting process, official lists of candidates are now ready for the forthcoming parliamentary and provincial elections. Surprisingly few candidates were rejected, despite many complaints about a number of them, including a fair number who were accused of being linked to armed militias. Many candidates managed to clear themselves for the elections by handing over to the authorities some weapons and claiming to have disbanded their own militias. They are likely to have maintained significant arsenals, but their claim was accepted for good and no further checks were carried out. There are already complaints that candidates associated with militias and druglords might be able to dominate the electoral campaign due to their superior resources, but since all the main political groups include many of these in their ranks, the protests have so far remained limited to the smaller players, who are not in a position to alter the rules of the game.

Pakistan-Afghanistan: tension again
The revived insurgency in the south of the country led to rapidly worsening relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The Afghan government accuses Pakistan of still supporting the insurgency and indeed to have stepped up such support over the last few months. It is likely that members of Pakistan's security establishment are indeed involved in supporting the insurgency and that such support has been increasing recently. This development might be linked to the stalling of negotiations aimed at allowing to Pakistan some influence over Afghan political issues, likely including a stronger presence of pro-Pakistani elements within the Kabul government. This tension as usual this reverberates on trade relations. Now Afghanistan and Pakistan are discussing the Afghan demand that Pakistan eases transit trade restrictions and allows Afghans to use the ports of Karachi and Qasim for their trade. Afghan imports through Pakistan are already growing at a very fast pace and they reached US$1.2billion during 2004/2005, doubling compared to the previous year. 

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