On 18th March, an explosive device was placed on the roof of the Assistant Governor's compound building in the centre of Jalalabad. The device was detonated creating a resounding explosion which rocked the city and caused extensive damage to the Government building. No casualties were reported.
Four rockets were fired in the direction of the US Coalition base on the outskirts of Gardez on 17th March. None of the rockets hit the base and there were no casualties.
In the North, focus of attention for the moment, other than Iraq, is on the preparations for Nawroz - Afghan New Year. The police and security force presence will be high including 600 troops from each of both political parties, Jumbesh and Jamiat. There are also reports that terrorist elements intend to use the event to conduct attacks, although these cannot be substantiated. The security advice is to maintain a low profile during the period.
Kunduz remains quiet with no outbreaks of factional violence. However, tensions remain high in Maimana.
The West remains fairly quiet, but there are signs of developing issues, notably harassment of the International community by Government authorities, and the potential return to violence over Shindand.
A large gathering took place in Herat City on Saturday, 15th March, to commemorate the deaths of a large number of Mujahideen in the war against the communists 25 years ago.
In Shindand, there were 2 mine incidents last week. During the early hours of 7th March, trucks travelling between Shindand (on the road to Char Mahal) and the Iranian border, hit some explosive devices which detonated. Sources in that area say that these were mines that had recently been laid and were set to try and fuel another conflict between Ismail Khan's force and Amminullah from Zerikoh.
There are still concerns over the security situation in Bala Murghab as pressure has recently been put on the NGO community - by some of the local Commanders - to provide them with supplies and shelter. This matter was addressed at the PCB meeting in Badghis and the Governor again stated that any such incidents should be reported to the Governor's office so that the authorities could take appropriate action.
On 8th March, a tented UNICEF girl's school was burned down. Reports indicate that a mine or IED planted during the night detonated and consequently destroyed the tents. On 9th Mar, a mine detonated on the road between Spin Boldak and the Coalition base in the area - near Wamy village. Two locals were reportedly injured.
Zabul remains a high risk region, especially to the Southeast of Qalat, where an incident involving an INGO TearFund was reported this week. The NGO had been delivering wheat; the consignment was forcibly abducted at gunpoint by local commanders. Consequently, TearFund has withdrawn from the area. UN missions to this region - Shinkay, Athgar and Shamulzayi - remained suspended during the month.
The disarmament process continues in Ghazni; however some protests due to the selective approach of the team were reported.
On 17th March, a WHO vehicle was looted on the main road from Qalat to Ghazni. The two staff members on board were reported unharmed. Interior ministry security police have been dispatched to the area to conduct investigation. Armed escorts are being provided by the Government for all road missions along the Kabul - Kandahar road.
2. CIVIL MILITARY RELATIONS
CHLC is still waiting for approval from CENTCOM regarding the reconstruction of Bala Murghab bridge in Badghis Province.
3. AIR OPERATIONS
At a meeting on 6th March - attended by the Belgian Minister of Defence, Andre Flahaut, Mr. Burkard Oberle, WFP Country Director Afghanistan, UNHAS and UNJLC - the Minister agreed to the use of the Belgian Military C-130 in support of the transport of pesticides required by FAO for the anti-locust campaign. The Minister also approved the future use of the aircraft in support of humanitarian assistance to a maximum of 400 flying hours and subject to availability. The aircraft will be tasked primarily with flights from Europe to Afghanistan.
4. TRANSPORT CORRIDORS
The Salang tunnel was closed on Saturday March 15th due to heavy snowfall; however it was re-opened the following day with traffic flow from South to North.
As of 17th March, the Mollay Yaqub Pass was open for all types on traffic.
Despite the snowfall for the past three days in the Central Highlands, the Winter Team has kept the Sadberg Pass open, allowing traffic from Bamyan through Yakawlang and on to Lal. The Winter Team is currently working on the stretch to Panjao and will continue efforts till Kabul.
5. TRANSPORT SECTOR
In Herat, UNJLC had a meeting with the representative of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the issue of quality check of the medical cargo arriving into the country prior to customs clearance. According to the MFA representative, there is a decree - recently issued by the Central Government - instructing the Customs Committee of Afghanistan to suspend clearance of medical cargoes of Humanitarian Agencies and send them to the Ministry of Public Health for quality testing. The decree stipulates that the local representative of the MoPH can perform testing of the simple drugs, and in case if found suitable for use, issue a Statement of Validity which has to be presented to the Customs Committee for clearing the goods. All sophisticated drugs (other then antibiotics) should be sampled and sent to the MoPH Kabul for detailed tests.
According to the representative of MFA, these steps were taken after it was found that various humanitarian medical organizations are delivering expired drugs into the country for distribution to the hospitals. Names of the organizations however were not mentioned. The decree is creating a lot of constraints for humanitarian agencies to clear their emergency cargoes; the issue will be forwarded to UNAMA for discussions in Kabul.
During the last week prices per litre of Diesel and Petrol were increased in Pakistan to USD 0.45 and USD 0.64 respectively. The average Exchange rate during the same period was Rupees 57.95 per USD 1.
During the reporting period, the average price of Diesel in Uzbekistan was USD 0.22 while average price of Petrol was USD 0.11. The average Exchange rate in Uzbekistan during the period was 1150 Sum per USD 1.
The issue of the warehouse in Qala-I Naw was discussed with the agencies using the warehouse. The draft of a new agreement has been prepared by UNJLC and distributed to the agencies for their inputs. The agreement would be signed in the coming week. Once signed by the agencies, a UNJLC team will travel to Qala-I Naw to present the agreement for Governor's signature.
8. TRANSPORT INFRASTRUCTURE
The UNJLC River Engineering Workshop started in Herat on 16th March. The engineers - involved in reconstruction projects - from the agencies and representatives of the ministries attended the training. Given the current situation, the training due in Mazar soon has been postponed until April.
Discussion - at the National Winter Task Force meeting of 16th March - regarding the nature and approach for conducting an evaluation of all of the winter activities continue. A preliminary report, prepared by MRRD, which focuses on nine urban centres, was discussed as most of the winter activities targeted vulnerable groups in rural areas; however this information will be useful to supplement an evaluation of originally planned activities. As UNJLC will complete its activities in Kabul this week, a report of lessons learned will be submitted in the next few days.
All planned 4,454 MT of food were distributed in inaccessible areas in Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman and Nanghahar Provinces.
In Bamyan, Wardak and Urozgan, 64% of the 21,000 MT of food dispatched to inaccessible areas has been distributed. Furthermore, out of 76 % of the food allocated for FOODAC activities some 17,000 MT have been distributed.
In Western Area, 85% of the food requirements have been met. WFP Herat Office is planning a mission to Jawand district of Badghis Province to monitor World Vision International food distribution. Around 66% area of Jawand district is reportedly inaccessible.
WFP has distributed 7,888 MT of food in the North East, which is approximately 78% of the total food requirements. Focus returned 256 MT of food to the WFP warehouse, intended for Shughnan district in Badakhshan Province since the estimated number of households considered for the distribution was higher that in the reality.
Shelter for Life has distributed non-food items to additional 446 beneficiary families in District 7, 9 and 10 and has completed the distribution process. Hence its beneficiary number has increased from initial target of 1,510 families to 1,956 families. Furthermore, Catholic Relief Services is now on its third round of kerosene distribution in Districts 2 and 6 and is continuing the distribution to additional beneficiaries.
In view of possible changes in the weather pattern, the deadline for kerosene distribution in the IDP camps has been extended until end March. The issue however needs to be reviewed in relation to IDP exit strategy.
MRRD Herat has received the authorization to release the equipment for the snow-clearing activities in the West. Discussions are going on with the Implementing Partners to define the areas where the trucks are needed most.
At the Afghanistan Development Forum in Kabul, on 13th -14th March, the Afghanistan Transitional Authority presented the Ordinary and National Development Budget for 1382 (01.04.2003 - 31.03.2004). The budget emerged as a significant tool of administrative and fiscal reform documenting the individual responsibility of the Ministers and the collective effort of the Cabinet in prioritising national programs and projects within the given funding restraints. UNAMA and the UN Agencies supported this process by agreeing to further prioritise their programmes and projects that had been agreed upon in the context of TAPA in December 2002, and assist the line Ministries in the Consultative Group process.
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