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Updated: 07-Jan-2004

SHAPE News Morning Update

7 January 2004

  • U.S. to free some Iraqi prisoners under new policy


  • NATO takes over peace-building mission from United States in first step beyond Afghan capital
  • U.N. chief warns Afghan attacks could hurt election


  • U.S. air chief in Europe says forces may move farther east and south


  • The U.S.-led administration in Iraq will release more than 500 prisoners detained as low-level security threats over the past eight months in a gesture of reconciliation, officials said on Wednesday. At the same time, the authority said it would take a more aggressive approach to hunting those leading figures in Saddam Hussein's regime still on its most-wanted list and other senior figures believed to be directing the anti-American insurgency. The change in policy, which follows last month's capture of the former Iraqi president, comes amid complaints by Iraqis that family members have been detained without good cause or merely for being in the wrong place at the wrong time. "In a gesture to give impetus to those Iraqis who wish to reconcile with their countrymen, the coalition will permit some currently detained offenders to return to their homes and families," Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, said. "This is not a programme for those with blood-stained hands. No person directly involved in the death or serious bodily harm to any human being will be released," Bremer said in a statement laying out the new policy. Military officials said those to be released were mostly people detained for associating with suspected insurgents or carrying out low-level anti-occupation activities. Bremer said at least 100 of those would be released on Thursday, with "hundreds more to follow in the coming weeks." (Reuters 0512 070104 GMT)


  • NATO-led peacekeepers took over command of a peace-building mission in northern Afghanistan on Tuesday, the first step in a plan for the alliance to expand out of the capital and into the country's troubled provinces ahead of crucial summer elections. Troops from Germany, the first nation to respond to U.N. and Afghan calls to provide more troops, took control of the operation based in Kunduz, 250 kilometers (150 miles) north of Kabul, from the United States. Germany is deploying an initial 170 troops, though the number is expected to rise to over 200 later this year. Other NATO nations are expected to take over a string of so-called provincial reconstruction teams, freeing up the U.S. military to focus on battling Taliban insurgents in the south and east. The teams are supposed to provide security in key urban centers, reassuring aid workers and becalming feuding local militias who still control much of the country. Six are already dotted around the country _ including teams operated by Britain and New Zealand _ and the U.S. military is opening five more in towns across a troubled band of territory along the Pakistani border. (AP 061753 Jan 04)

  • U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan warned on Tuesday that violence in Afghanistan could jeopardize crucial mid-year elections, saying the peace process had reached a "critical juncture." In a report to the Security Council, Annan said Afghanistan had undergone "a deterioration in security at precisely the point where the peace process demands the opposite." The report was released just hours after a bomb ripped through the southern Afghan city of Kandahar, killing at least 12 people, including several children. In a separate statement Annan condemned the Kandahar killings as "heinous acts of violence." (Reuters 0114 070104 GMT)


  • The U.S. Air Force in western Europe is likely to shift to bases farther east and south where pilots can train with fewer air traffic constraints, a top Air Force commander in Europe said Tuesday. "South and east is a reasonable assumption for us to make right now," said Gen. Robert H. Foglesong, who is chief of all U.S. as well as North Atlantic Treaty Organization air forces in Europe. Most U.S. air forces in Europe are based in Germany, which was the focal point of U.S. and allied defenses against a potential Soviet attack during the Cold War. "We're looking south and east. That makes sense to us, to posture our forces in positions (where) they could be employed quicker" for military operations outside NATO's European borders, he added. Folgesong did now mention which countries in eastern or southern Europe might agree to host U.S. air forces, but he noted that Poland recently hosted a large-scale NATO air exercise. "And oh, by the way, we have incredible air space constraints in the western part of Europe now, so the eastern part of Europe is more advantageous to us from that perspective as well," he said. Foglesong said it was too early to conclude that the number of U.S. military aircraft and personnel in Europe will be reduced when the Pentagon completes a readjustment of forces that is now in the planning stage. (AP 061714 Jan 04)


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