Kabul begins elimination of heavy weapons
KABUL: The first removal of heavy weapons from the war-weary Afghan capital, Kabul, began on Thursday with the collection of arms from thousands of local militiamen, as the city took another step towards peace.
A spokesman for the ministry refused to reveal how many weapons the operation was hoping to net, but confirmed that heavy weapons would be picked up from four or five locations in the city.
“It is a significant step towards securing and stabilising the capital,” Defence Ministry Spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.
“This is separate from the DDR programme,” he said in reference to the United Nations’ disarmament, demobilisation and reintegration campaign to collect the weapons of some 100,000 militiamen scattered throughout the country.
Thursday’s collection of weapons, organised by the Ministry of Defence and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, is expected to dredge up missiles, anti-aircraft guns, mortars, tanks and armoured vehicles currently being kept in private homes.
The arms will come from local militia forces thought to be largely loyal to Defence Minister Abdul Quasim Fahim. Fahim is believed to control tens of thousands of militiamen in Kabul and in northern cities such as Kunduz, Takhar and Mazar-i-Sharif. Speaking of the removal of heavy weapons from Kabul on Wednesday, visiting European Union envoy Javier Solana said: “We will start the heavy weapons elimination from Kabul on Thursday. It will be a practical step but also a very symbolic step that the capital is free of heavy weapons.”—AFP
Annan urges Afghans to improve security
UNITED NATIONS: UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan on Thursday said Kabul must now move quickly to improve security and ensure a broad and representative government after approving a new constitution last week. While the new constitution “provides a permanent foundation for re-establishing the rule of law in Afghanistan,” Afghans must now go back to addressing the problems that loomed before its adoption Jan. 4, Annan told the UN Security Council. These include “the deeply troubling security situation, ensuring an inclusive, broadly representative government, and quickening the pace of reconstruction,” he said. “These key challenges demand immediate action,” he said. Annan addressed the 15-nation council as it prepared for a final briefing from his outgoing special representative for Afghanistan, Lakhdar Brahimi, one of the main architects of the political process in the shaky central Asian nation. —Reuters