Leader Development & Education for Sustained Peace Program: Cross-Cultural, Geopolitical & Regional Education

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 5 June 2012

This update is a summary of various news articles from open sources relating to US AFPAK policy and governance, economy, security and regional interests in Afghanistan and Western Pakistan. Please click on the links below to access the complete article from the internet. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries given below highlight only the portion of each article that is relevant and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Please note that the update includes articles, which use the British English spelling. Articles are taken from diverse regional, American and European media sources, reflecting a range of political views/biases, and are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. Opinions expressed in the articles/commentaries do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.

Disclaimer: Articles are taken from established and diverse professional periodicals, news articles, and editorial commentaries from different countries, reflecting a range of political views/biases, that are intended to provide readers with a better understanding of various interests and perspectives regarding the situation in the region. External links may expire at any time depending on the archiving policy of the particular news agency. News summaries may highlight only a portion of an article that is relevant to the readers and may not necessarily be the focus of the entire article or the headline. Opinions expressed in the articles, commentaries and features do not constitute endorsement by the Department of Defense, the US Navy, or the LDESP staff.


Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

High-Level Meeting Discusses Security Situation

Chaired by President Hamid Karzai, a National Security Council (NSC) meeting on 3 June discussed the overall security situation in the country. The two vice-presidents, the senior minister, national security advisor and other officials attended the meeting, a statement from the Presidential Palace said. Mines Minister Wahidullah Shahrani presented a report to participants on security problems in implementation of key mining and gas projects, the statement added. The report says some government officials misuse their authority and interfere in project affairs for petty personal interests through their gunmen. After listening to the report, the participants directed security officials to protect the mines, help ensure an enabling extraction environment and prevent interference from ‘irresponsible individuals and government officials’. The foreign ministry was tasked with conveying the NSC decision regarding a ban on vehicles with tainted glasses to NATO, ISAF and diplomatic missions. The council asked the Ministry of Finance to prevent of the import of vehicles with tainted glasses. The interior ministry was directed to step up efforts at disarming irresponsible gunmen across the country and present a report to the National Security Council in this regard. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Senate Oks Strategic Pact with US

Meshrano Jirga — or upper house of parliament — on Sunday approved the strategic cooperation agreement between Afghanistan and the United States, an official said. The accord, a vital document that sets the tone for decade-long ties with the US after foreign troops leave the country in 2014, was presented to the Senate session this morning. Of the 80 lawmakers present, 67 voted in favor of the pact, while 13 others opposed it. Article 90 of the Constitution says the ratification of international treaties and agreements, or abrogation thereof, is the right of parliament. Gul Ahmad Azimi, a senator from western Farah province, said the pact fuelled new hope for the people of Afghanistan. People were optimistic the accord would help end the war and neighbors’ interference in the country, Azimi added. Another lawmaker from southeastern Paktia province, Abdul Hanan Haqvayun, opposed the strategic deal, saying it did not comply with some recommendations of last year’s traditional Loya Jirga. He said the issue of stopping the flow of Afghanistan’s water into Pakistan and Iran was not addressed by the accord. “This water belongs to us, but the US has bargained with Pakistan on it and doesn’t want to stop it flowing into the neighboring country.” He saw no clarity in the deal on US demands and said the Americans would never ignore their personal interest for Afghanistan’s peace and prosperity. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

US Could Have Done Better in Afghanistan: Karzai

In a recent Interview with the Time Magazine World, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has said that US could have done better in Afghanistan if it respected the homes of Afghans and fought terrorism elsewhere. “In its time here the United States could have done a lot better for Afghanistan,” President Karzai has told Time Magazine. “But then they did not regard the homes of Afghan villagers as homes that gave the United States and NATO a welcome.” “And in the name in the war on terror, which everybody knew was to be fought elsewhere; too many innocent Afghans lost their lives. Too many were wounded, too many homes were violated,” Mr Karzai is quoted as saying. But the Afghan President has also thanked the US and NATO for bringing better education, healthcare, economic growth and somehow stability in Afghanistan, while he has criticized them for not bringing security. “It did not bring the defeat of terrorism, as we thought it would. It did not fight the war in terrorism in a manner that we felt was right. Karzai told the Time in an exclusive interview. The US has spent more than half a trillion dollars on the Afghan campaign in the past decade and lost around 2,000 of its troops in the Afghan war. About the relations between Afghanistan and the US, President Karzai has vowed he’s pro-US but stressed on protecting Afghans and their homes. He has emphasized that his criticism was not about the US government but about the strategy used in Afghanistan. “We are not anti-American,” he has told the magazine. “We are rather pro-American. But I have to protect Afghan homes. The US media understood it as Afghan belligerence, or opposition to the US. It was opposition to a method applied to Afghanistan.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Tolo News)

No Intention to Stay in Office beyond Term: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai has rejected stories in the western press as fictional that he was trying to seek a third term as president of Afghanistan. “No, not at all. I think two terms is a very long time. You need fresh energy, you need fresh thinking, someone with more…untested ideas should come forward and build on what we could not improve upon. The western press is full of stories, though, about my trying to seek a third term,” Karzai told Time Magazine during an hour-long interview. The president said his term expires in 2014 and beyond that, his stay in the office would be illegitimate. “….it will not help Afghanistan, it will hurt it forever. I don’t want to be the president of Afghanistan one day beyond my term.” To a question, he said he had to ensure a fair and free election and had to ask the US government to put in that line about external interference, because the last elections were intervened and were actually rigged by foreign embassies and governments. “Well, they tried, but they did it badly. They did damage our elections.. damage to the reputation of our elections and legitimacy of the process at that time. That makes me think as to what their intention is in this country. That is why we are so careful now. That is why we are so suspicious, that is why we are turning every stone to find out if there is something else in the corner waiting for us, of that nature.” He said it was the terminal mistake on the part of all of those Western governments who did not respect democracy, the vote of the Afghan people and the scope of democracy was something that people saw with suspicion because of that election. “And it was with that in mind that I insisted that the question of interference in the next elections should also be in the strategic partnership document.” Karai rejected allegations that he helped bring warlords to power, saying he was not in Bonn when the arrangement was made in 2001. “I was in the mountains of central Afghanistan in Uruzgan. So I had no hand in forming the government. I was myself picked up by that group to be heading the government. I didn’t give millions of dollars to the mujahidin who then became strongmen in areas of the country. The US did. The Europeans did. We didn’t do that.” About his successor, Karzai said he was thinking of some people and had met with some people on the question. “I am busy working on this question, this is one of my jobs, one of my perhaps most important responsibilities.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Karzai Leaves for Shanghai Summit

Afghan President Hamid Karzai flew to China on 6 June to attend the twelfth Shanghai summit in Beijing. Afghanistan is attending as a guest member at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit and will seek a permanent membership, a statement from the presidential office said. Karzai is expected to meet Chinese, Russian, Pakistani and Iranian presidents on the sideline of the summit and discuss relations and regional peace and stability, according to the statement. Karzai will also address professors and students at China Foreign Affairs University ahead of the summit, it said. The Afghan government is also expected to sign a number of agreements with the Chinese government on agriculture and development cooperation sectors. Karzai and his Chinese counterpart will also agree to longer term cooperation, signing a document called a “Joint Declaration Between The People’s Republic of China And The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on Establishing Strategic and Cooperative Partnership”. (TOLOnews)

Rule of Law

Senate Approves Bills on Judiciary, Drugs

Meshrano Jirga, or upper house of parliament, on 4 June unanimously approved a bill on the authority of the judiciary and its composition and another legislative measure on narcotics with some amendments. Already endorsed by the Wolesi Jirga, the government-introduced bill says the Supreme Court shall interpret constitutional provisions on the authority of the judiciary and its composition. Legislative Commission member Abdul Qayyum told Pajhwok Afghan News the lower house had amended the draft law, empowering the Independent Commission for Oversight of Implementation of the Constitution (ICOIC) to interpret the constitution. “The upper house also passed that amendment.” About the further changes by the upper house, he said the bill placed military tribunals under the Supreme Court, but the Senate separated the two organs. Under article 122 of the Constitution, military courts did not fall in the jurisdiction of the Supreme Court, he explained. The house approved another bill on narcotics and their control. Another member of the Legislative Commission, Mohammad Hassan Hotak, said the house only changed Article 63 of the proposed law that says a person sentenced by a special anti-narcotics court should serve two-thirds of his term in the capital and the remaining time in his native province. The Senate amended the clause, giving detainees the choice whether or not they want to serve the remaining term in their native provinces. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)

Balkh Council Chief Urges Punishment of Serial Killers

Serial killers, who assassinate political figures and high ranking government officials should be identified and punished, or the government will lose people’s trust, a local official in northern Balkh province said. Head of Balkh Provincial Council, Dr Afzal Hadid said that tracking down the serial killers is the job of the government, stressing that if it didn’t taken action, people will lose trust in the government. “Capturing and prosecution of serial killers is the job of the government, if no action is taken, I think people will lose their trust in the government,” Mr Hadid told TOLOnews. This comes as Balkh provincial governor, Atta Mohammad Noor also recently blamed the Afghan government for not prosecuting the killers. peaking at a remembrance on the occasion of the first death anniversary of General Daud Daud, 30th Pamir north zone chief, in Mazar-e-Sharif, Mr Noor said that certain figures within the government are trying to avoid the prosecution of such killers. “How can such cases remain covert while the government has a police force and a strong intelligence,” he said. “There are certain figures within the government which are avoiding prosecution of such killers,” Mr Noor added without elaborating further. General Daud Daud was assassinated in a bomb blast in Takhar provincial headquarters last July where he had a meeting with local security officials. (TOLOnews)

Karzai Orders Prosecution of Kunduz Rapists

Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered the Ministry of Interior to arrest and disarm a police local unit accused of raping an 18-year-old girl, New York Times wrote quoting government spokesman Aimal Faizi. A shepherd girl was in custody of the Afghan local police for days and was reportedly raped several times by the members of the unit. Afghan local police is considered to be an effective element in securing the country and their roles have been called effective in many provinces. “We believe existence of local police is effective in securing in several parts of the country, but for a long term base, their presence will not be as effective,” Aimal Faizi has told New York Times. Meanwhile, Sayed Sarwar Hussaini, a spokesman to Kunduz provincial police chief dismissed reports about the rape case and said the presidential palace never referred to them for details. “We have sent our information to Interior Ministry, but the decision makers at the presidential palace never got back to us.” It comes as Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission has strongly condemned the incident. “We strongly condemn the incident and express our concern in this regard, no criminal should be forgiven by the government,” Musa Mahmoodi, CEO of Human Rights Commission said. This is believed to be the first group rape case reflected in the Afghan media. (TOLOnews)

Peace Talks

We Prefer to Hold Talks with US: Taliban Leader

Taliban are pro-peace negotiations and prefer to hold talks with the United States at the first stages, Member of Taliban’s Leadership Council, Agha Jan Motasem told BBC. In an exclusive interview with BBC, Mr Motasem said that currently the war has been imposed on Taliban and they are ready to have talks with the Afghan government and other foreign nations at the second phase of peace negotiations. He also said that Taliban is led by a single leader and the Haqqani network is an inseparable part of Taliban. “Taliban are pro-peace negotiations and currently the war has been imposed on them, foreigners have occupied the country,” Motasem told the BBC. “Peace Negotiations can’t be a one phase process, it should have many phases. We prefer to negotiate with the US at the first phase, then with the Afghan government and other foreigners.” Meanwhile, Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the statements and said it’s a positive sign, but it stressed that those groups who don’t respect democracy and Afghan constitution will not be included in peace talks. “Ministry of foreign affairs welcomes talks with Taliban who accept Afghan constitution and democracy, we call on Taliban to join the peace process, currently talks with Taliban are underway,” Janan Musazai, a spokesman for the Afghan Ministry Foreign Affairs said on 2 June. “Afghan government will continue fighting those who don’t believe in the achievements of Afghan people and never believe in peace,” Musazai added. This comes as Agha Jan Motasem has said that the only demand of the Taliban is a strong Islamic state and stressed that those who claim to be supporting the Afghan constitution are violating it most of the time. Foreign relations advisor of the Afghan High Peace Council, Mohammad Ismail Qasimyar says that a government which respects the rights of men and women and democracy in Afghanistan is acceptable. “We want an Islamic and people-owned government which pays respect to human rights, rights of men and women in the country, protects the past achievements and brings stability in Afghanistan,” Qasimyar said. (TOLOnews)

Taliban are against Peace: NDS

The Taliban are against peace and stability in the country and are trying to increase their insurgent activities together with the terrorist groups in Pakistan, NDS officials said on 3 June. Spokesman for the National Directorate of Security Sahfiqullah Taheri said that as the international community is putting more pressure on Pakistan to combat terrorism honestly, the insurgents are trying to increase violence in Afghanistan through the Taliban and other Pakistani terrorist networks. “The Taliban don’t want peace in Afghanistan, they want to overrun the recent political achievements in the country, in coordination with terrorist groups in Pakistan, they are trying to escalate violence,” Taheri told reporters in a press briefing. He also said that several people were arrested recently while involved in insurgent activity with documents and ID cards of Pakistan. “We have proof. They were born in Pakistan, trained in Pakistani Madarasas and terrorist training camps,” he told reporters, adding that members of five terrorist groups were killed or detained recently in Helmand, Ghazni and Kabul with Pakistani nationals among them. (Tolo News) (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, TOLONews)

Afghan peace process to continue, HPC says

Even after the deaths of two of its members, the Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) is determined to bring peace to its war-ravaged country. Prof. Burhanuddin Rabbani, the HPC chairman, was assassinated in Kabul by a Taliban suicide bomber last September, and Arsala Rahmani, a former Taliban-era higher education minister, was shot and killed in Kabul on 13 May. “Peace is the most important national and sensible necessity of Afghanistan,” Muhammad Ismail Qasimyar, a leading HPC member, told Central Asia Online in an exclusive interview. As a law professor at Kabul University in the 1960s, Qasimyar played a key role in Afghanistan’s transition from absolute to constitutional monarchy. “Sure, it’s extremely harmful for peace, but we have to continue,” Qasimyar said, referring to Rahmani’s death. “For sure these sacrifices and martyrdoms of the members of the peace council will harm the peace process, but at the same time it strengthens the resolve of other peace workers to work more hard for the peace.” The HPC has made good progress since Salahuddin Rabbani, son of the late Rabbani, was appointed its leader in mid-April, Qasimyar said. “We have held two executive board meetings and a general meeting since Salahuddin was selected as the new head of the HPC,” he said. “We have decided to hear and listen to everyone: even our opposition, our people, our political parties, our youngsters and our women most of all,” Qasimyar told Central Asia Online. He expressed optimism that Afghanistan would move faster toward peace. (Central Asia Online)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Pakistan summons US diplomat to protest over drone attacks

Pakistan on 5 June summoned a senior US diplomat and lodged a protest over drone attacks on its northwestern tribal areas which it branded “unlawful”, the foreign ministry said. Richard Hoagland, the US charge d’affaires, was called to the foreign ministry and was “officially conveyed the government’s serious concern regarding drone strikes in Pakistani territory”, the ministry said in a statement. Hoagland was informed that the drone strikes were “unlawful, against international law and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty”, the statement said. Pakistan has repeatedly criticized the drone strikes calling them counter-productive. “The parliament had emphatically stated that they were unacceptable. Drone strikes represented a clear red-line for Pakistan,” the statement said, following a recent upsurge in the number of attacks. A senior al Qaeda figure was the target of a US drone strike in Pakistan’s tribal belt, reports said on 5 June, as officials kept tight-lipped on whether he may have been among the 15 people killed in Monday’s [4 June] strike. Abu Yahya al-Libi, described by American officials as al Qaeda’s second in command but by other security experts as one of the top five members of the global terror network, is a Libyan citizen with a $1 million price on his head. (Dawn.com)

Pakistan, EU agree on partnership against terrorism

Pakistan and the European Union (EU) have agreed to the establishment of a Pak-EU Steering Committee on Counter terrorism, enhancing the existing close cooperation on curbing terrorism. This was unanimously decided in the first ever Pak-EU Strategic Dialogue held in Islamabad on 5 June. On the occasion, Pakistan and the European Union reaffirmed their commitment to fight terrorism. Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar represented Pakistan while High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, European Union, Catherine Ashton led the delegation of European Union. (The Nation)

Pakistan Says It Tested Nuclear-Capable Missile

Pakistan’s military said it successfully test-fired a nuclear-capable cruise missile on 5 June, continuing a pattern of what analysts say is a regional arms buildup with a focus on India. The Hatf -VII cruise missile is also known as Babur, named after Zahiruddin Muhammad Babur, founder of the Mughal Empire on the Indian subcontinent in the early 16th century. Successful tests on the missile system, which has a range of about 435 miles and technically gives Pakistan a seaborne nuclear strike capability, began in 2005. The missile test comes just days after the government presented its annual budget for the next fiscal year, which included a 10.2 percent increase in military spending despite a period of relative détente with India. Imran Khan, a leading opposition politician, on Sunday urged an audit of the defense budget, demanding greater transparency and scrutiny. And other domestic critics point out that Pakistan’s failing utility infrastructure has gone wanting as the military has kept most of the budget, even while it receives billions of dollar in military-focused aid from the United States, among others. Continuing to develop a sophisticated cruise missile capability is seen as a deterrent to India, making Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal more flexible — and better able to survive a potential first strike by India — even as it gives the military more options in a conventional war. (Post-Gazette)


UN reports drop in civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2012

The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first four months of 2012 is 21 percent lower than during the same period last year, the top United Nations envoy in the country reported on 30 May, while adding that deaths continued to occur at “unacceptable” levels. A study conducted by the human rights section of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found there were 579 civilian casualties and 1,216 injuries from 1 January to 30 April this year – the first time that civilian casualty figures have dropped since UNAMA began compiling these figures in 2007. The vast majority of the deaths this year – 79 per cent – were attributed to actions by anti-government elements. Pro-government forces accounted for nine per cent of the deaths, and 12 per cent of the casualties were unattributed. (UN News Centre)

UN drugs and crime official urges concerted effort against narcotics in Afghanistan

Highlighting the importance of political commitment and action, the head of the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), Yury Fedotov, today welcomed efforts by the Afghan Government to combat the menace of trafficking and production of narcotics in the country. (…) Mr. Fedotov, who was visiting Afghanistan, discussed plans to boost national and regional efforts against narcotics with President Hamid Karzai on 29 May, and stressed that the principle of “shared responsibility” is the most effective way to counter the global problem of opiates originating from the country. Both the national Government and provincial governors had a crucial role to play, he later added. (UN News Centre)


Aviation Ministry Pushes for Airport in Every Province

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation said that it would like to build more airports in Afghanistan, but without the budget to do so, it is heading to Tokyo with hopes of securing such funding. Afghan Civil Aviation Minister Daoud Ali Najafi said on 5 June that the plan to construct more airports was beyond the government’s capacity. However, the Ministry has drawn up a proposal which Najafi will present to potential donors interested in development at the upcoming Tokyo conference. “It’s obvious that the government alone cannot finance the construction of all the airports in the country, but it’s part of our long term plan to construct airports in all the provinces,” Najafi said. “Whatever we get from government and the international community we will spend on the airports.” He said that plans for the construction of airports in Khost, Bamyan, Daikundi, Farah, Nimroz, Kunduz and Ghazni provinces are underway. He also stressed that the Asian Development Bank has shown an interest in helping fund the Afghan airports. Besides Kabul airport, some international flights are being conducted from Herat, Kandahar, and Mazar-e-Sharif airports. Some experts believe that standardising the airports in the provinces will be beneficial for the provinces they are based in, particularly in decreasing the amount of time spent on travel. (TOLOnews)


EU Suspends $37mln Aid to ANP

The European Union blocked the release of $37 million to a UN-run fund that financed Afghan National Police (ANP), a Western Official in Kabul told Wall Street Journal. The European Union, US and Japan are the key donors of the Law and Order Trust Fund for Afghanistan (LOTFA), while EU has pledged to spend about $175 million for the current phase of the program covering January 2011 to March 2013. LOTFA personnel told the Afghan and international monitoring committee that UN officials had abused the $2.2 million fund for paying salaries to nonexistent police officers and creating high payment positions for the personnel with links to Afghan government leaders. Officials at the UN Development Program, which administers LOTFA, have denied allegations of mismanagement and corruption at the fund. This comes as the Afghan Ministry of Interior said that if the aid gets suspended, it will definitely have negative impacts. “EU, US and Japan were the main donors of the training and public awareness, LOTFA should be accountable for it, because Ministry of Interior has no role in it,” Deputy MOI spokesman, Dr Najeeb told Tolonews on 3 June. “If the aid is suspended, it will definitely have negative impacts.” LOTFA is a multi-lateral Trust Fund set up in 2002 as a mechanism for coordinating contributions from partners, as part of the international community’s support to build the Afghan national police force. (Tolo News)


Iran Restricts Afghan Refugees Education Access

Iran’s National Organization for Educational Testing has issued a list of university courses which prohibits Afghan refugees to study, a western news website reported. The universities include Atomic physics, nuclear engineering, aerospace engineering, chemical engineering and military sciences. The report also said that Afghan refugees are only allowed to apply at the universities in the areas where they live. The prohibited areas included a dozen of provinces and many cities in different parts of Iran. A spokesman for the Afghan embassy in Iran Mohammad Dehqani said that banned universities is not only for Afghan refugees but for all foreign nationals living in Iran. “The Ban order is not only for Afghan refugees but it covers other foreign nationals too. Such limitations even exist in western countries, it’s not related to the political issues. As you know Iran has always supported education for Afghan refugees,” Dehqani said. Meanwhile, Nader Farhard, UNCHR commissioner believes that Iran should provide other facilities such as good living conditions, employment opportunities, education for kids and so on. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Culture & Society

US ends funding for Pakistan’s ‘Sesame Street’

The U.S. has terminated funding for a $20 million project to develop a Pakistani version of “Sesame Street” in response to alleged corruption by the local puppet theater working on the initiative, U.S. officials said on 5 June. The organization in question is the Rafi Peer Theater Workshop, a group based in the city of Lahore that jointly developed the show with Sesame Workshop, the creator of the American series. The show, which includes Elmo and a host of new Pakistani characters, first aired at the end of last year and was supposed to run for at least three seasons. The U.S. hoped it would improve education in a country where one-third of primary school-age children are not in class. It was also meant to increase tolerance at a time when the influence of radical views is growing. The U.S. cut off funding for the project and launched an investigation after receiving what it deemed to be credible allegations of fraud and abuse on a telephone hotline set up by the U.S. Agency for International Development in Pakistan, said U.S. State Department spokesman Mark Toner. “So rather than to continue to throw good money after bad, we thought it was prudent to cut off this program and wait for the results of the investigation,” Toner told reporters in Washington. A total of $6.7 million had been spent on the show so far out of a total of $20 million that was planned, he said. The U.S. did not provide details about the alleged corruption. (AP)

Women & Children

Girls’ Education Challenged by Shortage of Female Teachers

The lack of female teachers is preventing families from sending their daughters to school, local education officials said on 5 June. Head of Takhar province’s education department Abdul Ghafar Saripuli said that the dearth of female teachers, educational books, and proper school buildings are all major problems for the province’s education sector – aside from the now widely-reported poisonings. “The problem we have in the districts is the lack of female teachers. Because of social and cultural mores, parents prevent their daughters from attending school because male teachers are teaching the classes,” Saripuli told TOLOnews. Sar-e Pol Provincial Governor Abdul Jabar Haqbin said that destruction of school buildings and equipments during the recent flash floods have prevented more than 5,000 students from continuing their school education. “We have tried to clean up the schools damaged by floods, but the disaster is out of our capacity to handle. We have requested help from international organisations in this regard in order for the students to resume studies,” he said. (TOLOnews)

More Takhar School Girls Poisoned as Suspects Arrested

As many as 60 schoolgirls were poisoned in Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province on 5 June, as security forces began making arrests in relation to the recent string of poisoning cases. Takhar provincial spokesman Mustafa Rasouly said on Tuesday that at least eleven people, including a “group leader”, were arrested by local security forces after investigations into the poisonings. The 5 June poisoning took place in the Rustaq district of Takhar province, with health officials confirming the hospitalization of the school students. This comes as Ministry of Interior spokesman blamed elements of the militant Taliban, other insurgent groups, and even foreign spy agencies, for the spate of suspected poisonings in Takhar. “Preliminary investigations show that this has been done by Taliban and those terrorist groups and intelligence agencies of some foreign countries,” Sediq Sediqqi said on 5 June. He added that the Taliban have shown themselves to be the enemy of any kind of education and development of Afghanistan, particularly the education of girls. The Taliban strongly rejected the accusations in a statement in the past fortnight, threatening punishment to anyone who tries to poison Afghan students. (TOLOnews)

Afghan women, children held in addiction’s grip

Losing a child is not uncommon in a nation where one in 10 children die before the age of 5 due often to preventable illnesses such as respiratory infections. But here, children are dying from taking drugs given to them by their mothers. (…) Using drugs such as opium is common practice in the Turkmen village of Tarboz Gozar in the Kunduz province and in dozens of villages that make up the carpet-weaving center of the Qali a Zal district. Nearly all the women in this district are carpet weavers. The mundane nature of the work and long hours are made tolerable by drugs that make addicts of mothers and children. (…) The women work from early morning to late in the evening, and keeping the children quiet is necessary for the women to work undisturbed. (…) “When a baby is born, on the very first day they grease their navel with fluid of opium, so that the baby does not cry and sleeps well,” says Dr. Rahmatuliah, who heads the local government council here. “After a few months, they give it to them orally,” he says. “I have told many of these people not to do this, but they say, ‘We have raised all our babies like this.’ ” Zarghoona says all of her children have been using opium since they were born. Others say the same and say they have been using for 20 or 30 years. Drug abuse has received little notice, according to drug-control advocates here. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reports that there were around 1 million drug users in Afghanistan in 2010, about 8% of the adult population or a rate twice the global average. Opium is the most commonly used opiate, followed by heroin. Afghanistan has seen a 53% rise in the number of opium users, over 2005, the U.N. says. Afghanistan’s poppy crops produce 90% of the world’s opium. For those who are hooked, there is little help. The tribal council here says there are no clinics for addicts. There are 40 drug treatment centers in Afghanistan. The closest is in the provincial capital of Kunduz city, about 40 miles away. Not that many would make the trip, local officials say. “They could not even lift a glass of water now without the drugs because they are so weak,” Dr. Rahmatuliah says. (USA Today)


China Steps Up Afghan Role as Western Pullout Nears

China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country. China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources. As the U.S.-led coalition winds up military engagement and hands over security to local forces, Beijing, along with regional powers, is gradually stepping up involvement in an area that remains at risk from being overrun by Islamist insurgents. Chinese President Hu Jintao and his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai will hold talks on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Beijing this week [4 June], where they will seal a wide-ranging pact governing their ties, including security cooperation. Afghanistan has signed a series of strategic partnership agreements including with the United States, India and Britain among others in recent months, described by one Afghan official as taking out “insurance cover” for the period after the end of 2014 when foreign troops leave. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Strategic Pacts Won’t Affect Ties with Russia: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai [on 31 May] said the signing of strategic cooperation agreements with other countries would not affect the good relations between Afghanistan and Russia. During a meeting between Karzai and Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan Zamir Kabulov, current regional security situation and economic ties between both nations dominated their discussion, said a statement from Karzai’s office. “The strategic agreements recently signed between Afghanistan and other countries did not mean that we have no good relations with Russia,” said the statement quoting Karzai. Afghan government recently signed pacts with several countries – the United States of America, Germany, Britain, Italy, Australia, France and India. A similar pact with China is in the pipeline. Karzai insisted that his government was keen to strengthening economical relations with Russia and there were projects in Afghanistan that needed Russian expertise, added the statement. Citing the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and Russia as important, the envoy said, his country was ready to cooperate in the fields of constructing residential places, in power supply and sending Russian experts to the country if needed. The two parties also discussed the forthcoming Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) conference to be held in China, the statement said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)


Afghanistan Security Forces

Uruzgan Ready for Transition But Remote Districts Remain a Concern: Matiullah

Security officials in Afghanistan’s southern Uruzgan province say the Afghan forces are ready for the security transition from foreign troops, but have raised concerns over the lack of capable police in some parts of the province. Provincial police chief Matiullah said that while the overall situation in the province has improved, he stressed that he may face major problems during the transition if there is not a substantial increase in the number of police across the mountainous regions of the province. He also added that because Uruzgan is a big province, insurgent activity has more scope compared to other provinces in region. However, Matiullah said the Afghan and ISAF forces are launching regular operations to upset insurgent activity in the area and it does seem to be effective. He noted that the Taliban appeared to be losing their ability to fight face to face with the Afghan security forces, resorting to planting more bombs instead. ruzgan borders Zabul and Kandahar province, which also have high rates of insurgent activity. (TOLOnews)

Forces press Taliban, Haqqani

Afghan-led security forces detained a Taliban leader and several insurgent suspects in Kandahar province on 5 June, military officials said. A statement from the NATO International Security Assistance Force said the Taliban leader directed the placement of improvised explosive devices; he also coordinated the delivery of weapons and explosives to insurgents throughout the district. The Afghan-led security force confiscated several AK-47 rifles and other weapons, the statement said. Also in Afghanistan on 5 June, a combined Afghan-coalition force detained a Taliban leader and two suspects in the Zharay district of Kandahar province. The ISAF said the insurgent leader was responsible for attacks against Afghan and coalition forces, and also transported explosives and weapons to insurgents throughout the province. (UPI)

20 Taliban militants killed in Afghan military operations

Afghan Interior Ministry following a press release on 4 June announced at least 20 Taliban militants were killed following military operations by Afghan national police forces during the past 24 hours. The source further added Afghan police forces conducted military operations along with the Afghan army, Afghan intelligence and coalition security forces in Nangarhar, Helmand and Maidan Warkda provinces of Afghanistan. Afghan Interior Ministry following the statement also added at least 6 Taliban militants were injured and 13 others were detained by Afghan security forces during the operations. Afghan security forces also seized 11 kilograms of drugs and opium along with 4 rocket launchers, 13 weapons, 4 suicide bombing vests, 18 missiles, 572 rounds of ammunition, 9 land mines, 3 hand grenades, 270 kilograms of explosives and 3 motorcycles used by militants during the operations. (Khaama)

Key Helmand members, ANA soldiers meet, discuss peace, reintegration program

About 130 Afghan citizens and Afghan National Army soldiers gathered on 3 June, to participate in an Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program seminar to discuss program implementation in Helmand province as part of a recent mandate that all government institutions in Afghanistan support the APRP. The APRP is an Afghan-led peace program and aims to remove insurgents out of the fight and return them to their communities with honor and dignity to live peaceful and productive lives. This particular program is being driven by the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan as part of a Presidential decree published, 29 June 2010. This seminar was hosted by the Commander of the ANA 215th Corps, Maj. Gen. Sayed Malouk, and included staff and officers of the 215th Corps and representatives from the Helmand Provincial Peace Committee, provincial- and national-level Joint Secretariat Team, and other key officials from Helmand province and Kabul. (…) The delegates from Kabul and Helmand province delivered speeches that expressed the importance of the ANA in the APRP process. (CENTCOM)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Allen Anticipates Much Summer Activity in Afghanistan

The commander of NATO and U.S. forces in Afghanistan candidly told reporters on 23 May that his assessment will largely set the course for operations there after the drawdown of U.S. surge forces and before the end of NATO’s combat role in 2014. “I owe the president some real analysis on this. We’re going to need combat power; I don’t think anyone questions that,” Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, International Security Assistance Force commander, told reporters at the Pentagon. Allen said significant events will occur in Afghanistan this summer, including the withdrawal of some troops, reposturing the battle space, inserting advisors, and moving Afghan forces increasingly into the lead. “We’ve got about 30 months left on the campaign, 31 months or so,” the commander said. “The ANSF has yet to be fully recruited. It’ll be done soon, but the deadline on it was 1 October.” The general noted Afghan army and police numbers have grown over the past year from 276,000 to 340,000, and they will reach their full strength ahead of the scheduled deadline in October. After the 23,000 remaining U.S. “surge” troops leave Afghanistan by the end of September, Allen said, he will take “a very hard look” at the state of the insurgency, the Afghan forces’ success in planning and leading combat operations, and the operational environment he anticipates in 2013. “The aggregation of those factors will generate ultimately an assessment of what U.S. and non-U.S. ISAF combat power I’ll need … to continue the process of moving the ANSF into the lead in ’13 and ’14 and giving them the kind of support that they need so that they’ll be successful,” he said. “We’re going to make that analysis in the aftermath of the fighting season and the recovery of the 23,000 troops,” the general added. Afghan forces augmented by International Security Assistance Force advisory teams will fill in as NATO troops thin out, the general said. “While, in absolute terms, eventually our numbers come down, it is not our intention to cede the ground … to the Taliban,” he said. Afghan forces will concentrate in the eastern and southwestern areas of Afghanistan to maintain security gains in the hardest-fought areas, Allen said. At the Chicago NATO summit that ended on 21 May, coalition members noted the ISAF commander will regularly assess operational conditions and the capability of Afghan forces, Allen said. “Right now we’re planning every six months, so that we can adapt our plan ultimately for the final size and structure of the [Afghan army and police forces] in the post-2014 period as conditions require,” he added. Allen said NATO’s campaign in Afghanistan has been long, difficult and costly, but he believes it is on track. (CENTCOM)

Four kidnapped aid workers freed in Afghanistan

Four aid workers kidnapped in northern Afghanistan last month have been freed by coalition forces, officials say. British nutritionist Helen Johnston, Kenyan medic Moragwa Oirere and two Afghans were rescued in Badakhshan province on Friday after being captured on 22 May, the NATO-led ISAF said. UK Prime Minister David Cameron called it an “extraordinarily brave, breathtaking” operation. Five kidnappers were killed in the rescue, by UK and US Special Forces. The aid workers – all employees of Switzerland-based aid group Medair – were making their way on horseback to the remote, mountainous province of Badakhshan, in northeastern Afghanistan, when they were captured. A fifth member – another Afghan national – was released soon afterwards. According to ISAF, the others – who were being held in a steep-sided gully – were rescued by British and American troops who arrived under the cover of darkness. Lt Gen Adrian Bradshaw, ISAF deputy commander, told the BBC the mission took place in “some of the most demanding country on the planet”. (BBC News)


NATO strikes transport deals to skirt Pakistan

NATO has concluded agreements with Central Asian nations allowing it to evacuate vehicles and other military equipment from Afghanistan and completely bypass Pakistan, which once provided the main supply route for coalition forces. Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said on 4 June that Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan had agreed to allow the reverse transport of alliance equipment. Since NATO already has an agreement with Russia, the deal will allow it to ship back to Europe tens of thousands of vehicles, containers and other items through the overland route when the evacuation picks up pace later this year. (…) After months of stalemate, Pakistani leaders last month signaled that negotiations on the supply routes were progressing, just in time to secure an invitation to the weekend NATO summit in Chicago. But since then the two sides have made little progress in the talks, officials said. The announcement on 4 June appears to indicate that Washington and the allies are now preparing for the possibility that the supply link through Pakistan, said to be about six times cheaper than its northern alternative, may not be reopened at all. It is also likely to put pressure on Pakistan to ease its negotiating stance, which has been stuck in part on how much money the U.S. and NATO should pay to transport the trucks through Pakistani territory. (Navy Times, AP)

NATO airstrike kills 2nd-highest al Qaeda leader in Afghanistan

The U.S.-led NATO force in Afghanistan killed al Qaeda’s second-highest leader in the country in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province, the coalition said on 29 May. Sakhr al-Taifi, also known as Mushtaq and Nasim, was responsible for commanding foreign insurgents in Afghanistan and directing attacks against NATO and Afghan forces, the alliance said. He frequently traveled between Afghanistan and Pakistan, carrying out commands from senior al Qaeda leadership and ferrying in weapons and fighters. The airstrike that killed al-Taifi and another al Qaeda militant took place Sunday in Kunar’s Watahpur district, the coalition said. A follow-on assessment of the area determined that no civilians were harmed, it said. The coalition declined to reveal the name of al Qaeda’s top leader in Afghanistan “due to ongoing operations and security concerns.” The U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan was carried out because al Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden used the country as his base to plan the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Most of al Qaeda’s senior leaders now are believed to be based in Pakistan, where they fled following the U.S. invasion. The terror group is believed to have only a nominal presence in Afghanistan. Many senior al Qaeda commanders have died in U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan’s northwest tribal region, and bin Laden was killed by U.S. commandos in the Pakistani garrison town of Abbottabad last May. Bin Laden advised al Qaeda militants to leave Pakistan’s North and South Waziristan tribal areas because of the threat of drone attacks, according to letters seized from the compound where he was killed. The documents were later released by the U.S. In one of the letters, bin Laden recommended they go to Afghanistan’s Kunar province because of “its rougher terrain; too many mountains, rivers, and trees that can accommodate hundreds of brothers without being spotted by the enemy,” according to the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, which published the documents. (Washington Times)

NATO sees no evidence of civilian casualties

The U.S.-led coalition on 27 May disputed reports that eight civilians, including children, were killed in a NATO airstrike in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan. Afghan officials said an airstrike on the night of 26 May killed eight members of a family, but a senior NATO official said that so far, there is no evidence of any civilian casualties. The official spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to disclose the information. (…) Mr. Karzai appointed a delegation to travel to Paktia province and determine what happened. The coalition also said it was working to find out more about the operation that foreign forces were conducting in the province. (…) Frequently, Afghan and coalition officials offer differing accounts of military operations. (…) Taliban attacks have killed more civilians than foreign forces, but public anger over the issue is usually directed at the international forces. (Washington Times)

Suicide bomber attacks Nato base in eastern Afghanistan

A suicide bomber has attacked a base of the NATO-led peacekeeping force (ISAF) in eastern Afghanistan. The attacker drove a lorry laden with explosives at the base in Khost province, a security source in Kabul and a Taliban spokesman both said. ISAF confirmed insurgents had attacked one of its bases in the east but did not give any further details. One unnamed local official told Agence-France Presse news agency that seven Afghan civilians had been killed. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the source added that the attacker had driven the lorry into the first security post outside the base. Seven Afghan construction workers were killed and a further 13 people were injured, the source added. Speaking to the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press news agency, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said a “group of Taliban armed with light and heavy weapons and suicide attack vests” had followed up the lorry bomb with an assault on the base. (BBC News)

Afghan Mission will Prompt NATO Reform: Canada

The NATO alliance will emerge strengthened from its decade-long mission to crush Taliban militants in Afghanistan with a general will to reform the 28-nation bloc, Canada’s defense minister said on 2 June. Peter MacKay, in an interview with Reuters, said both Canada and NATO had learned tough lessons about counter-insurgency during their efforts to maintain stability after the removal of the Taliban from power in 2001. He said the Afghan mission, and the NATO air campaign in Libya last year, would prompt the organization to precede with changes needed to tackle security issues worldwide. “We are big believers in NATO as the pre-eminent security establishment, security body. It has its shortcomings – what organization doesn’t?” MacKay said on the sidelines of the Shanrgi-La Dialogue in Singapore, devoted to international security issues. “There appears to be a willingness and desire to reform NATO and take on board some very serious lessons learned over the course of this mission. “I think it will modernize in a way that will increase its flexibility, its deploy ability and, dare I say it, its accountability.” At its Chicago summit last month, NATO sealed an agreement to hand control of Afghanistan to its own security forces by the middle of next year. NATO will then face questions over its future role in a post-Soviet world as governments cut defense spending to reduce budget deficits, and the United States focuses on security issues in Asia. MacKay said NATO had played a major part in helping nations emerge from years of what appeared to be intractable conflict, some of which were now standing in line for membership. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)


Islam forbids opium poppy cultivation, Afghan ulema say

Afghanistan’s Counter Narcotics Ministry, in co-operation with religious scholars, earlier this year launched a public awareness campaign to turn public sentiment against poppy cultivation, and the efforts seem to be yielding results. Anti-drug campaigners who want to raise awareness of the damage that poppy cultivation does to society are now working through mosques and clerics to inform the devout, Abdul Qayyoum Samer, the ministry spokesman, told Central Asia Online. The aim is to get Afghans to stop cultivating poppies as they become more aware that Islam forbids it, analysts say. Lal Gul, a farmer who used to cultivate poppies in Nangarhar Province, is an example of that theory proving out. Once he heard from his mosque preacher that Islam prohibits growing opium poppies, he switched to wheat, he said. His other reason to stop was that he could see the effects of addiction on youth, he said. This latest campaign is part of a broader effort by the Afghan government to curtail opium production. The impetus for the crackdown is that militants use the drug trade as a main source of fund-raising. A two-month public awareness effort against poppy growing was conducted late last year, and the UN reports that villages targeted by the initiative were less likely to produce the opium precursor than villages that were not included in the campaign. Poppy cultivation peaked at 477,000 acres in 2007 and has since dropped to 323,700 acres, UN surveys say. (Central Asia Online)


Taliban use radio, modern technology when it suits them

Militants in Pakistan and Afghanistan have been destroying communication devices and bombing radio stations, saying they are un-Islamic, but even as they do, they use those same items to spread their message. “They love these gadgets but want them to be used for their own agenda,” Peshawar-based radio journalist Khalid Khan told Central Asia Online. “I think radio is their favourite medium, and whenever there is any big news, mostly related to terrorism, they love to call us so we can broadcast their reaction.” Militants most often call media organisations to claim responsibility for various attacks. “For the purpose of conveying their message … they have established good terms with many radio and TV journalists,” Khan said. “But at the same time, they threaten the journalists with dire consequences if something happens against their wishes.” (…) Terrorists have tried to take technology out of the public’s hands as well. In December, militants led by Hafiz Gul Bahadur seized 300 cellular phones, along with TV sets and computers from areas in Wana, South Waziristan, and publicly burned them in the main Wana Bazaar. The hypocrisy wears on many residents. “They are using cellular phones,” said Azaz Ali, a student at a private university in Peshawar. “They run their FM radios, and they approach different television channels to run their audio and video CDs and cassettes. They should not use these gadgets for their own purpose, if they term them un-Islamic.” Supposedly anti-technology militants have also released videos of former al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden every few months and have released six or seven videos of Ajmal Khan, the kidnapped vice chancellor of Islamia College University in Peshawar, he said. Militant leaders “explain they are not against the use of radios and TV channels, but they sometimes can be unhappy with the way they are used against them,” Rashid Safi, an Islamabad-based radio journalist, said. Militants also ordered motorists not to play music in tribal areas and southern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) districts. Instead, they ordered them to play only recordings of Holy Koran recitations and pro-militant poetry. (Central Asia Online)

Pakistan Taliban leader says Libi death a “big loss”

A senior Pakistani Taliban leader said on 5 June that the death of al Qaeda’s number two, Abu Yahya al-Libi, in a drone strike in northwest Pakistan was a “big loss”. “After Doctor Sahib (al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahri), he was the main al Qaeda leader,” the Pakistani Taliban leader, who asked not to be named, told Reuters. (Reuters)


Al-Qaida No. 2 killed by US drone

A U.S. drone strike in northern Pakistan has killed al-Qaida’s second-in-command, American officials said on 5 June, the biggest success so far in the controversial military program and a significant setback to a terror network that has lost a string of top figures since the death of Osama bin Laden last year. Abu Yahya al-Libi was considered a media-savvy, charismatic leader with religious credentials who escaped from an American prison in Afghanistan and was helping preside over the transformation of al-Qaida from a close-knit group into an ideological movement aimed at winning converts – and potential attackers – around the world. White House spokesman Jay Carney called al-Libi’s death a “major blow” to the terror network. Carney described al-Libi as an operational leader and a “general manager” of al-Qaida. He said al-Libi had a range of experience that will be hard for al-Qaida to replicate and brings the terror network closer to its ultimate demise than ever before. Al-Libi was the latest in the dozen-plus senior commanders removed in the clandestine U.S. war against al-Qaida since Navy SEALs killed bin Laden. (AP)

US Wants India to Play Greater Role in Afghanistan

U.S. officials say Defense Secretary Leon Panetta will encourage India to take a more active role in Afghanistan, as he meets with officials to discuss regional security and defense relations. Panetta arrived on 5 June in New Delhi for two days of talks with Indian officials. U.S. defense officials say there is a risk that “the tensions and historical mistrust between India and Pakistan could lead them to view their respective roles in Afghanistan as being in conflict.” But the officials told reporters traveling with Panetta that the longtime rivals have a shared interest in peace and stability in Afghanistan. Pakistan has long felt it has a strategic interest in Afghanistan, and is especially concerned about the diplomatic, political, and economic inroads made there by its archrival, India. India has provided $2 billion in aid to Afghanistan, and last October the two countries signed a strategic agreement pledging deeper security and economic ties. India is already helping Afghan security forces prepare for the withdrawal of international troops set to be completed by the end of 2014. The talks between Panetta and Indian officials centered on what the Pentagon calls “Asia re-balancing.” Panetta told a security forum in Singapore Saturday the U.S. Navy would shift the majority of its ships to the Pacific by 2020 as part of a strategic focus on Asia. (VOA News)

Chicago NATO summit sets stage for Afghan withdrawal

At the NATO summit in Chicago, newly elected French President François Hollande announced that French “combat troops will be withdrawn at the end of 2012,” as his Socialist Party had promised in their presidential campaigns this spring. (…) When the French leave, other NATO members will not be far behind. At the conference, President Obama said that the plan to withdraw 130,000 NATO troops from Afghanistan by 2014 was “irreversible.” Still, it appears up to 20,000 British and US troops will remain behind at Afghan bases such as Bagram, Kandahar, and Jalalabad for some time after 2014. But Mr. Obama also promised that the US and other foreign allies of the Afghan government would not abandon the country they have supported for the past decade since the toppling of the Taliban government. “As Afghans stand up, they will not stand alone,” Obama said, according to the Telegraph. (CS Monitor)

US Senator introduces legislation seeking cut to Pakistan aid

US Senator Rand Paul introduced legislation demanding US aid to Pakistan to be cut off unless Dr Shakil Afridi – sentenced in Pakistan for helping CIA locate al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden – is released, said a press release. The legislation demanded that all US assistance to Pakistan be cut off unless Dr Afridi is released from prison, all charges against him are dropped and he is allowed to leave Pakistan. Two bills were attached to the legislation. The first demanded Pakistan to overturn Dr Afridi’s 33-year prison sentence and allow him to leave the country, and the second asked granting Dr Afridi US citizenship for his efforts. (…) US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said the sentence was “unjust and unwarranted”, saying Dr Afridi was “instrumental in taking down one of the world’s most-wanted murderers”. (The Express Tribune)

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