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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 25 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

Karzai Makes Anticorruption Plea

President Hamid Karzai has issued a fresh call for Afghan lawmakers and international allies to do more to tackle rampant corruption in Afghanistan. In a speech to parliament, Karzai said he has been working to combat corruption but that everyone in government needs to work together to end the bribery and kickbacks that drain the country of much-needed resources and stymie progress. “Corruption has reached a peak in this land — property grabs, government land grabs, intimidation,” Karzai said. “The lack of safety for people’s homes are all pains the Afghan people are suffering.” To help combat corruption, Karzai said contracts should not be given to private firms operated by Afghan government officials. “We hope that the U.S. and other foreign countries stop rewarding reconstruction and commercial contracts to high [Afghan] government officials and their family members,” Karzai said. “I told them four years ago not to do this because it would fuel government corruption. Officials taking these contracts are not loyal to their president, security forces, and lawmakers. Their superiors are located somewhere else and are much more powerful than us.” Karzai has repeatedly promised to clean up corruption, but analysts say there have been few results from his initiatives as the government has yet to prosecute a single high-level corruption case. (RFE/RL)

Karzai Urges Cooperation As International Conference Opens

Afghanistan’s President Hamid Karzai has called on neighboring and regional countries to do more to strengthen stability and economic development in Afghanistan. Speaking at the start of the one-day international “Heart of Asia” conference in Kabul, Karzai said greater economic and security cooperation would bring the entire region “much needed relief from terrorism, radicalism, and violence.” Karzai thanked Saudi Arabia for help it has given toward finding a political resolution to the war in Afghanistan, saying Afghans “hope that our brothers and sisters in Pakistan will do same.” He also said Salahuddin Rabbani, the head of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council, will soon visit Pakistan and Saudi Arabia to seek their help in bringing Taliban leaders to peace talks in the hope of ending decades of war. Rabbani is the son of former Afghan President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed in September 2011 by a suicide bomber posing as a peace emissary from the Taliban. The Taliban’s leadership has been willing in the past to hold preliminary confidence-building talks in Qatar with the United States. But the hard-line Islamist militia publicly refuses to talks to the Afghan government. Karzai insists that some Taliban leaders have spoken with Afghan government emissaries in private. He has been pushing for Saudi Arabia to be a venue for any possible talks. At the conference on 14 June, Karzai also sought to reassure Iran that ties between Kabul and Tehran would not be damaged because of strategic partnership deals signed by Karzai’s government with the United States, a leading rival of Iran, and other Western countries. The deals seek to define Western relations with Kabul after 2014, when NATO-led combat troops are scheduled to withdraw from Afghanistan, leaving security in the hands of Afghan forces. (RFE/RL)

Afghan Leader Says NATO Air Strikes On Houses Now Banned

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says NATO-led coalition forces are no longer allowed to launch air strikes on the houses of Afghans, under any circumstances — even in defense of Afghan and foreign troops. Karzai said on 12 June he reached this understanding with the commander of NATO and U.S. forces, General John Allen, in talks after an air strike last week killed 18 civilians in Logar Province. However, it appears NATO has a slightly different interpretation of what has been agreed. The coalition says it has agreed to restrict air strikes against houses — but that NATO aircraft will still fire at militants in or near dwellings in order to defend NATO-allied troops on the ground. Repeated civilian casualties caused by NATO have stirred Afghan resentment against foreign forces. (RFE/RL)

Rule of Law

Two Charged Over Afghan Mosque Suicide Bombing

Afghan authorities say two men have been charged in connection with a suicide bombing that killed dozens of worshippers last year outside a Shi’ite shrine in Kabul. Attorney General Mohammed Ishaq Aloko said on 19 June that both men have confessed to the December 6 attack. Aloko alleged that the plot was planned in Pakistan’s northwestern city of Peshawar by “regional spy agencies” and was aimed at “provoking sectarian violence.” He said one suspect came from Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar Province and was paid 10,000 Pakistani rupees ($100) to bring two suicide attackers to Kabul. Shortly after the bombing, President Hamid Karzai blamed the Pakistani Al-Qaeda-linked militant group Lashkar-e Jhangvi for carrying out the attack. (RFE/RL)

Transition Discussion & Peace Talks

Kabul hosts conference on Afghanistan’s future

Afghanistan on 14 June hosted the latest round of international talks on its future after NATO troops leave in 2014, with the conflict Syria expected to feature prominently in ministerial meetings. Representatives from 29 countries gathered in Kabul for the one-day conference, which followed a meeting in Istanbul in November aimed at mapping out the future of the war-torn country after the withdrawal of coalition troops. British Foreign Minister William Hague said he would use talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of the conference to press Moscow to use its influence to rein in the Syrian regime. (…) Hague said he would also meet officials from China — which, like Russia, has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions against Syria — and Turkey in a bid to get international agreement on how to implement a peace plan proposed by former UN secretary general Kofi Annan. Besides foreign ministers, the conference brought together representatives from international organizations including NATO, the European Union and the United Nations. Regional strategies to combat terrorism and drug trafficking, tackle natural disasters and strengthen trade and economic relations were on the agenda. Afghanistan was expected to raise pressure on Pakistan over militant safe havens in its territory. (RNW)

Hague denies Afghan peace process is in reverse

The peace process in Afghanistan is “certainly not in reverse”, Foreign Secretary William Hague has said. But Mr Hague, who was in Kabul for a conference on Afghanistan’s future, said it was “a difficult process”. The UK, along with its NATO partners, will pull combat troops from the country by the end of 2014. While at the conference, Mr Hague confirmed he would discuss the situation in Syria with representatives from Russia, China and Turkey. (…) Speaking in an interview with BBC Pashto, Mr Hague said the peace process in Afghanistan “is a process which will stop and start, which will advance and pause”. But, he said: “You can see in parts of Afghanistan people who had been insurgents taking part in the reintegration program, you can see neighboring countries making the case for reconciliation in Afghanistan, understanding the need to support that, I think much more clearly than in previous years. “It is not something that has yet been successful. It obviously needs much more work, but it would be too pessimistic to say that it has gone into reverse,” he added. The Afghan President, Hamid Karzai, confirmed the head of the government-appointed peace council Salahuddin Rabbani is to travel to Saudi Arabia and Pakistan to ask for help on peace talks with the Taliban. Mr Hague said he believed that in 10 years time Afghanistan would be a country “able to stand on its own feet” and the UK would continue to see its relationship with the country as a “long-term partnership”. (BBC News)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Crisis Talks On New Pakistani Prime Minister Enter Second Day

Pakistan’s president has summoned the country’s parliament to meet on 22 June to elect a new premier, in the wake of the Supreme Court’s disqualification of incumbent Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. The announcement was made on 20 June after negotiations involving the ruling Pakistan People’s Party, whose coalition holds a parliament majority. There was no immediate clear indication who will be nominated to head the government. Gilani was dismissed on June 20 after being convicted in April on a contempt of court charge for refusing to ask Swiss authorities to reopen corruption cases against President Asif Ali Zardari, who heads the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP), which Gilani is also a member of. The disqualification of Gilani was the culmination of a showdown between Pakistan’s judiciary and Zardari’s government. Zardari was holding crisis talks with PPP leaders on 20 June, and officials said he hoped to nominate a new prime minister later in the day. The political crisis comes at a time when Pakistan is facing violence from a widespread Islamist militancy, an economic crisis, and severe energy shortages. (RFE/RL)

Pakistani Ruling Coalition Nominates New Prime Minister

Pakistan’s governing coalition has nominated Raja Pervez Ashraf to be the country’s new prime minister. Ashraf was expected to be approved later on 22 June by the lower house of parliament, where the ruling Pakistan People’s Party and its allies enjoy a comfortable majority. The announcement came after two days of negotiations following the Supreme Court’s removal on June 19 of Yusuf Raza Gilani from the prime minister’s post. (…) Ashraf is considered a loyal member of the People’s Party. But his record is not unblemished. As water and power minister, Ashraf was seen by many Pakistanis as being among the senior officials who failed to take effective action to ease a crippling energy crisis, which has led to a series of violent protests. Ashraf’s nomination comes after veteran politician Makhdoom Shahabuddin’s nomination was scuttled on June 21 after an arrest warrant was issued for him over allegations he illegally imported drugs while he was health minister. The leadership change was triggered after the Supreme Court ruled earlier this week that Gilani was ineligible to hold office following his conviction for contempt for refusing to reopen a corruption case against President Asif Ali Zardari. (RFE/RL)




Aynak Copper Mine: a Clash of Economy and Culture

Preliminary investigations showed that the mine has nearly 14 billion tons of copper which will play a major role in the economic growth of the country. However, the Chinese company, which was awarded the extraction of Aynak in 2008, discovered when they started to dig an ancient city full of historical and unique artifacts. While efforts are underway to rescue and retain this historical heritage, the first phase of the mining is expected to kick off next year. The question remains: how valuable is the copper if we lose one of our major and priceless historical heritages? (TOLOnews)

Afghanistan Based MTN Company Receives ‘3G’ License

Afghanistan based MTN company received ‘3G’ License from Afghan Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) on 20 June. MTN is the second GSM provider in Afghanistan to receive 3G license after paying $25 million to the Ministry of Information and Technology. In a ceremony held in Kabul, Amirzai Sangin, Afghan Information Technology Minister said that more than 50% of the country’s population will use high speed internet with lower prices in two years as the 3G services grow. “I am pretty sure that 50% of the country’s population will use internet because all the towers are installed. The only thing the companies should do is to install the 3G compatible devices.” Mr Sangin said adding that almost 70 percent of overall equipments have been installed. As most Afghan worry about an economic shortfall after 2014, Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal believes that providing 3G services is a good sign to attract investment in Afghanistan as he doubts any economical shortfall after that period. “We hope that such investments attract other investments and remove any economical concerns. Any improvement in the economics depends on such investments.” Mr Zakhilwal said. “Investment is the engine of our economic growth.” Etisalat was the first GSM mobile Company in Afghanistan which received 3G license three months ago. (TOLOnews)


US to audit Afghan practice of taxing those helping rebuild the country

A government watchdog is looking into Afghanistan’s practice of taxing U.S. companies involved in America’s multibillion-dollar effort to rebuild the war-torn nation. The office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction will audit fees charged contractors by Kabul for supplies, materials and other items imported into Afghanistan or bought there, according to an inspector general memo obtained by The Associated Press. The fees include tariffs, customs duties and other taxes that eventually come out of U.S. taxpayer dollars because they’re charged to reconstruction projects run by the Pentagon, State Department or the U.S. Agency for International Development. (Washington Post)

Afghanistan needs $7 bln aid after Western pullout

Afghanistan will need $6-7 billion a year in aid over the next decade to help grow the economy, the head of the central bank said on 19 June, on top of a $4.1 billion bill for security forces to keep the peace once foreign troops leave in 2014. In the run-up to a conference with donors in Tokyo, the government repeated a long-standing call for foreign assistance to be routed through Afghan government entities rather than international organizations, Governor Noorullah Delawari said. That could complicate discussions with foreign backers who are worried about misuse of funds. More than 90 percent of Afghanistan’s $17.1 billion national budget comes from foreign donations but the economic crisis in Europe, shrinking budgets in the United States and voters weary of the nearly 11-year war that assistance has looked in peril. (…) Delawari said Afghanistan had made headway since 2001 and the economy was expected to expand 7.4 percent this year because of a good agriculture crop, but it was hard to see aid vanishing because the country was not yet out of the woods. “I think the way it is, on the same basis Afghanistan received assistance during the past 10 years that will continue because the underlying problems have not been changed. Terrorism, those issues are still there.” Landlocked Afghanistan is hoping that its underground reserves of copper, iron ore and oil will help make up some of the shortfall, but Delawari said the revenues from the extractive industries were “five to 10 years away if not more”. (Reuters)


UN Marks World Refugee Day

The United Nations has been marking World Refugee Day. The UN-backed day on 20 June was aimed at calling attention to the plight of the tens of millions of refugees around the globe. The office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) says there currently are more than 43.7 million refugees or internally displaced people around the world. A report issued by the UNHCR on June 18 says conflicts around the world produced 800,000 new refugees in 2011. That’s the most new refugees in a single year since 2000, when the figure was 822,000. (…) Afghanistan remains the leading source of refugees, accounting for 2.7 million. (RFE/RL)

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)

Culture & Society

Ghazala Javed’s Murder Further Erodes Trust In Government

The murder of prominent Pashto singer Ghazala Javed in Peshawar on 18 June another warning for lovers of art and music and conveys the message that the government, which is supposed to ensure the safety and security of peaceful and law-abiding citizens, is helpless in the face of the lawbreakers, regardless of whether they are militants or gangs of killers, kidnappers, and bandits. Ghazala, 24, was on her way to a musical show from a beauty parlor in Peshawar’s Dabgari Garden area when gunmen on motorcycles shot her dead along with her father. Ironically, Dabgari Garden was a safe haven for singers, dancers, musicians, and artists, who had previously lived peacefully in the district side by side with others for many years. That all ended when Muttahidda Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), a coalition of five religious parties, came to power in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa region as a result of the 2002 general elections. (…) However, many saw a ray of hope after the 2008 general elections, when the alliance of ruling religious parties was defeated and the secular Awami National Party came to power. Since then, several encouraging steps have been taken, including financial grants for singers and musicians, the organization of cultural shows, and the reopening of Nishtar Hall for stage productions. Musical events were also revived, as was the promotion of music, art, and culture even on school levels. However, security for artists and musicians is still a nightmare. It is not clear who killed Ghazal Javed. In their initial reports, police blamed her ex-husband, whom she married only six months ago and then divorced because he objected to her singing. (RFE/RL)

Afghan Authorities Stop Going Soft On Viagra

Afghanistan’s reputation as a haven for drug smugglers is well known. But while it is normally opium and its derivative substances that grab all the headlines, it seems that a little blue pill is now causing the authorities serious concern. Viagra, a well-known erectile dysfunction drug, has long been in demand in the country. Such is its popularity the CIA has in the past been known to use the medicament as an enticement for tribal leaders to pass on information about Taliban movements. Now, however, it seems the little love philter is so prevalent it has become a major headache for the government in Kabul. The Afghan Health Ministry has recently issued warnings about the potentially dangerous nonprescription use of Viagra. According to the BBC, up to 2 million pills can be legally imported into Afghanistan each year, but ministry officials believe at least 4 million pills are being consumed nationwide. Indeed, given the notoriously porous nature of Afghanistan’s borders, some believe that the number of tablets that are flooding into the country could be even higher. As Afghanistan only has an estimated adult male population of 9 million, it seems that demand for Viagra is exceedingly high. Why Afghan men appear to have such a pressing need for the aphrodisiac has been the source of some speculation. (RFE/RL)

Women & Children

Afghan Woman Says Husband Shot Her For Not Having Children

Gulsika was 13-years-old when she was forced into an arranged marriage. The first 10 days or so, she says, were pleasant — but then the abuse started. Today, seven years later, she lives in a safe house in Kabul, recovering from gunshot wounds. Her husband is in prison awaiting trial for allegedly shooting her in May at their home in the northern province of Takhar. In an interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan, Gulsika, a native of Kandahar who is now 20, described the trauma she experienced after her husband shot her, apparently because she could not have children with him. (…) Gulsika’s ordeal, which was brought to RFE/RL’s attention by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, came months after another domestic abuse case that made headlines around the world in which a 15-year-old Afghan newlywed was allegedly tortured by her husband and in-laws and kept in a basement for several months. The United Nations Development Fund for Women says nearly 90 percent of Afghan women suffer from some form of domestic abuse, making the country one of the most dangerous places in the world to be a woman. According to Gulsika, her troubles began when she was pressured by her family into marrying the brother-in-law of her sister. When she failed to conceive a child, both her husband and mother-in-law began mistreating her. In order to try to address the problem, Gulsika claims her brother gave her money to go to a doctor, who, after examining her, suggested the husband — and not her — was the one unable to have children, “The doctors performed tests and an ultrasound tests on me,” she said. “They told me there was nothing wrong with me. I told my mother-in-law: ‘There is nothing wrong with me. Now do something about your son.'” Gulsika told RFE/RL that the situation got worse when her husband started having an affair with one of his relatives. After the shooting, neighbors helped bring Gulsika to the hospital, where doctors managed to save her life. She has mostly recovered from her injuries, but still has trouble walking. Her husband is in prison awaiting trial and Gulsika has said she hopes he receives a long prison term. “They can kill me, but I would not go back to him,” she said. “They never treated me well. They used to beat me and torture me. I have suffered a lot. I hope I will not be compelled. I really do not want to marry again.” (RFE/RL)

Editorial: Real security in Afghanistan depends on people’s basic needs being met

The message from May’s Nato summit in Chicago was that the Afghans would not again be abandoned by the international community, as they were in the early 1990s. It resulted in financial pledges for Afghan security forces beyond 2014, whose cost is estimated at over $4bn a year, by which point most foreign troops will have left. This was no small achievement in today’s global economic climate, given growing disenchantment with Afghanistan. But it is not enough. Unless funding for Afghanistan’s security forces is matched by investment in meeting people’s basic needs, and by robust efforts to protect civilians and human rights, the money being spent on security could be wasted. For Afghans, particularly women, security is not only about protection from external threats and insurgents, critical as these are. It is also about protection from unaccountable officials and security forces in the course of daily life. It is about knowing that that jobs and opportunities are not just for the well-off, that property rights are respected, injustices addressed, abuse of authority checked. Afghans are no different from the rest of us. The imperative now is to ensure that the blood spilled, money spent and gains made over the last decade are not reversed, that they yield a sustainable security dividend. What is needed is a partnership that focuses on meeting Afghans’ practical needs. The Tokyo Conference on Afghanistan in early July is an opportunity to set the right course, to substantiate the grand ambitions set out in many previous conferences, including in Bonn in December. As foreign troops go, economic activity, revenues for the state and foreign aid budgets will drop. A virtue must be made of this necessity – to rationalise international support in a way that protects people, supports them to manage their own affairs, and rewards enterprise. Aid and development alone cannot deliver peace, any more than security forces. An inclusive intra-Afghan political process is a must, supported by neighboring countries, both to bring the country’s long nightmare to a close, and to reduce the need for costly security. (The Guardian)


US, Afghan, India Forum Worries Pakistan

A trilateral forum, which brings the United States and India in a new arrangement with Afghanistan, is not directed against Pakistan, says a senior US official. US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asia, Robert Blake said that the main goal of this forum is to bring stability and economic development to Afghanistan and it is not in any means against Pakistan. “On the contrary, it’s to talk about the situation inside Afghanistan but also how we continue to support Afghanistan,” Blake added. “This is certainly not in any way seen as directed against Pakistan.” This comes as US top Senator John McCain believes that US cannot cut off its relations with Pakistan because it could have greater challenge as Pakistan is a nuclear state. “The US cannot afford to “cut off all relations with Pakistan because then it could become even more unstable and we could have even greater challenges since they have a nuclear inventory, among other things”, as Senator McCain said. Policy makers in Washington believe that the Indians will not send their troops to Afghanistan even if the Americans want them to. And therefore, the US will have to deal with Pakistan if it wants long-term stability in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, Afghan military expert believes that US, Afghanistan and Indian relationships can boost intelligence for either countries even for Pakistan. “The trilateral forum of Afghanistan, US and India is beneficial for intelligence purposes for all three countries including Pakistan.” General Abdul Wahed Taqat said. he relations between Pakistan and the United States strained more when a deadly Nato air strike killed as many as 24 Pakistani soldiers near Afghan border. (TOLOnews)

U.S., Central Asian States Start Military Drills

Kyrgyz officials say international military exercises involving troops from the United States and Central Asian states have started in Kyrgyzstan. Troops from Afghanistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and the United States are taking part in the Regional Cooperation 2012 maneuvers, which are scheduled to run until 29 June. A Kyrgyz Defense Ministry statement said the drills are focusing on joint efforts to respond to natural disasters. The exercises are taking place after Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) member-states — China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russia, and Tajikistan — completed separate military exercises in Tajikistan last week [9-16 June]. (RFE/RL)



Afghanistan Security Forces

Afghan Border Police lead successful operation in southern Afghanistan

Afghan Border Police and International Security Assistance Force members participated in Operation Southern Strike II in the Spin Boldak district during 2-16 June. The operation, led by the 3rd Kandak of the Afghan Border Police, or ABP, focused on interacting with local civilians as well as disrupting enemy formations in the vicinity of important passes in the area. “The major areas of focus were the Ganjitsu Pass, then the Psha Pass and obviously the Wonake or Enjergay Pass,” said Capt. Sean Nolan, commander of Company C, 1st Battalion, 17th Infantry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Division. “These are the major passes in our area that the enemy uses to push supplies and equipment and men through to support their fight both in the Spin Boldak area and in Afghanistan proper.” During the operation, 17 insurgents were killed, four suspects were detained and numerous caches of explosives and weapons were discovered. (…) Looking forward, the biggest thing to understand is how ready the Afghans are to take over the mission, said Nolan. (U.S. Army)

Afghan Officials Say 50 Taliban Killed In Joint ‘Clearance’ Operations

Afghan police say 50 suspected Taliban militants have been killed since early on 11 June in what they described as security “clearance” operations. The Afghan Interior Ministry said joint operations involving the Afghan National Army and NATO-led coalition forces left 30 armed militants dead in the provinces of Baghlan, Logar, Ghazni, Kandahar, and Zabul. The Afghan National Police said its officers discovered and defused roadside bombs and an explosives-rigged motorcycle in Badakhshan, Nimroz, and Badghis provinces. In Helmand Province, Sangin district police chief Mohammad Sharif told RFE/RL that 20 Taliban fighters were killed during an eight-hour battle that began when militants attacked from the nearby district of Musa Qala. Sharif said two local Afghan police were killed in that battle. (RFE/RL)

US to Donate 146 Warplanes to Afghan Army: MOD

The United States government has decided to give 146 planes to Afghanistan’s National Army air force by 2016, a spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Defense (MOD) said on 20 June. The ministry praised the decision adding that more warplanes should be given to Afghanistan in order to protect the country from any kind of threat. “There is an agreement that US would give us 146 warplanes but we are not satisfied with this, the number should increase. The planes would be used in any kind of situation.” General Mohammad Zaher Azimi, MOD spokesman said. Strengthening the abilities of Afghanistan’s Air Force could play a vital role in combating insurgency through the country and protecting the nation from any outside threat. According to Mr Azimi, a clearing offensive named ‘Omid’ will be launched by Afghan National Army aimed to clear insurgents throughout the country. The operation will focus on southern and eastern provinces which have witnessed insurgency throughout the year. He also added that more than 85 percent of Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) are being brought to Afghanistan from the neighboring countries. (TOLOnews)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Army civilian engineers team with Soldiers in Afghanistan

U.S. Army civilian engineers are deploying to Afghanistan along with Soldiers to resolve issues that hinder mission success in theater. The U.S. Army Research, Development and Engineering Command Field Assistance in Science and Technology-Center, or RFAST-C, Prototype Integration Facility brings the expertise of seven engineers and two technicians directly to the battlefield, Don Jones, the team’s executive officer, said in an interview from Bagram Airfield, Afghanistan. “It’s the direct interface between the engineer, the machinist and the Soldier with the need that is the big difference here,” Jones said. “That’s the key to this operation — the engineers here who can talk to the [Soldier] face-to-face, get a clear understanding of what the requirement is, and work with the machinists to make it. “It’s hours and days versus weeks and months. They talk with the person with the requirement and say, ‘Is this it?’ They say ‘yes’ or make a small change.” The facility is located within the 401st Army Field Support Brigade on Bagram Airfield. RFAST-C is part of the overall materiel enterprise, and the team works with joint and Army organizations, including Joint Task Force Paladin, which counters improvised explosive devices; Joint Program Office Mine-Resistant, Ambush Protected Vehicles; Army Rapid Equipping Force; and Army Asymmetric Warfare Group. RFAST-C Director Mark Oetken said a minor engineering fix can make a significant improvement for the Soldier. (U.S. Army)

Army to deliver fuel-efficient generators to Afghanistan

The U.S. Army will soon field its next generation of operational energy to Afghanistan with a line of leaner, fuel-saving generators expected to transform the way power is delivered to the battlefield. Known as Advanced Medium Mobile Power Systems, or AMMPS, the generators cut fuel consumption by as much as 21 percent and free up Soldiers from fuel convoys often targeted by roadside attacks. This technology, being delivered to a unit in Afghanistan, serves as the operational energy model for the Army at a time when the Department of Defense is aggressively pursuing efforts to cut fuel consumption, leverage alternative energy sources and improve operational energy efficiencies. “The balance of new technology that comes with AMMPS, including the right size power generation, power distribution and Soldier energy awareness, will save lives on the battlefield,” said Col. Brian Cummings, project manager for Mobile Electric Power, or PM MEP. Last October, the Army G-4 office estimated 18 percent of U.S. casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq were related to ground resupply. By lowering fossil fuel consumption in theater, the number of trips made by convoy supply units will be reduced, cutting risk to Soldiers. In May, the 4th Infantry Division at Ft. Carson, Colo. became the First Unit Equipped with AMMPS. Fielding of AMMPS to Afghanistan will begin in July. As many as 15 outposts in Afghanistan are targeted to receive the new generators, Cummings said. (CENTCOM)

Top ISAF commander pledges continued support in southwest Afghanistan

The top commander in Afghanistan pledged continued coalition support to Afghan National Security Forces, even as the Marines in southwest Afghanistan draw their numbers down. “We will be with you for a long time,” said Gen. John R. Allen, commander of International Security Assistance Force, to a group of Marines and Afghan National Army soldiers aboard Forward Operating Base Delaram II, 14 June. These remarks came during a trip to the Nimruz province base to visit with leadership from the ANA’s 2nd Brigade, 215th Corps; 1st Marine Division (Forward); and Regimental Combat Team 6. General Allen said he wanted to observe the working relationship between coalition advisors and the ANA. “As our main units start to depart, it will be the advisors that are the means by which we will stay in close contact with the Afghan National Security Forces,” he said. “Here is where it is working well, and I wanted to come and see it.” The ISAF commander said that the Strategic Partnership Agreement, which President Barack Obama and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed 1 May 2012, opened a new chapter in the relationship of coalition and Afghan forces. Advising, mentoring and training become the primary efforts as operational support winds down. Over the next several months, Marine and coalition troop numbers will dwindle, as bases in the region close, said Gen. Allen. Some forces will go home, and others will consolidate to larger bases in Helmand province, he added. “Much of what you see around you will be vacant desert again,” Gen. Allen told those who came with him for the visit. (ISAF)


NATO Chief Hopes Pakistan Routes To Reopen Soon

NATO Secretary-General Anders Fogh Rasmussen says he “hopes” NATO supply routes from Pakistan to Afghanistan will reopen “in the not-too-distant future.” Rasmussen’s statement on a visit to the Australian capital, Canberra, came after the United States this week ended talks in Pakistan without a deal to reopen the routes, which have been closed since a NATO air strike in November killed 24 Pakistani troops. NATO has reached agreements with Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Kazakhstan to allow military equipment to be withdrawn from Afghanistan through those nations. But Rasmussen said the Central Asian alternatives could prove more expensive than the Pakistani option. Rasmussen also pledged that NATO will not leave behind a “security vacuum” as it withdraws 130,000 NATO-led troops from Afghanistan by the end of 2014. (RFE/RL)

French troop pullout from Afghanistan to start in July

France will begin its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan in July and complete it by the end of the year, French President Francois Hollande has said. The confirmation of the timetable comes hours after four French soldiers were killed and five others wounded. The Taliban said one of their suicide bombers carried out the attack on a NATO convoy in Kapisa province. Withdrawing French troops by the end of 2012 had been one of Mr Hollande’s election pledges. The date means that French forces will leave the country two years before the main NATO pullout. Violence has risen across the country in recent weeks, with the Taliban targeting both the Afghan forces and the 130,000 foreign troops remaining in the country. (BBC News)


U.S. Treasury Sanctions Members Of Afghan Narcotics Network

The U.S. Treasury Department has sanctioned four members of Afghanistan’s Barakzai narcotics trafficking network, prohibiting U.S. citizens from conducting transactions with them and freezing any U.S. assets they may have. A Treasury statement said Shah Mohammad Barakzai is the head of a drug-trafficking ring based in Gereshk, Afghanistan. He was arrested last year by Afghan counternarcotics authorities. Also sanctioned are Haji Baz Mohammad, who Washington says controls opium cultivation and transportation for the network; Abdul “Doctor” Hadi, who allegedly processed opium for the network; and Mohammad Wali, who is said to have served as the network’s main financial conduit in Kandahar. The sanctions also name two exchange houses used by the organization. Afghanistan remains the world’s top supplier of opium despite years of U.S. and international eradication and counternarcotics efforts. (RFE/RL)

Afghan Heroin Trafficker Sentenced To Life In U.S. Jail

A U.S. court in Washington has sentenced Afghan national Haji Bagcho to spend the rest of his life in a U.S. prison after he was convicted of conspiracy, distribution of heroin, and narco-terrorism. U.S. prosecutors said Bagcho’s drug-trafficking network in eastern Afghanistan produced hundreds of thousands of kilograms of heroin for transport to countries around the world. Bagcho, whose sentenced was handed down on 12 June, had denied the charges. His sentence also includes the forfeiture of more than $254 million in alleged profits from drug transactions. The U.S. Justice Department described Bagcho as “one of the world’s most prolific drug traffickers who helped fund the Taliban.” Bagcho was apprehended in Afghanistan in May 2009 and extradited to the United States. (RFE/RL)

Security Threats

Karzai warns insurgent attacks on Afghan forces increasing

Afghan President Hamid Karzai warned on 22 June that attacks against local police and soldiers were increasing as they prepare to take responsibility for security when NATO combat troops leave in 2014. His remarks are likely to heighten doubts about the Afghans’ ability to take over when the bulk of 130,000 US-led combat troops withdraw. Karzai was speaking to a special session of parliament a day after a Taliban suicide attack on a joint Afghan-US patrol that killed 21 people in the east, close to the Pakistani border. “I have noticed that these days, in the past one, two or three months, attacks on our soldiers, police and intelligence officers have increased,” Karzai said. “Every day we have at least 20 to 25 casualties, every day at least 20 to 25 of our youths are making the sacrifice for this country and are being killed.” Taliban-led insurgents typically deployed suicide bombers and roadside bombs in the ten-year insurgency since being toppled from power by the 2001 US-led invasion. This week alone militants have staged three major suicide attacks on Afghan-NATO military posts in the troubled east and south of the country. Karzai admitted his government and its Western allies had failed to bring peace to Afghanistan, which has suffered almost continuous conflict for the past three decades. (TOLOnews)


Kabul Hotel Siege Comes To An End

Afghan authorities say more than 20 people have been killed in a nearly 12-hour assault by Taliban militants on a hotel on the outskirts of Kabul. Police said the attackers killed at least 18 people, most of them civilians. Officials said all the attackers — said to number at least four — were also killed. Militants armed with heavy machine guns and rocket-propelled grenades attacked the hotel on Lake Qargha late on 21 June and seized hostages. Police said scores of hostages were freed during the prolonged gunfight. Taliban militants have claimed responsibility, saying the hotel was attacked because wealthy Afghans and foreigners were using it for “wild parties.” Interior Ministry spokesman Siddiq Siddique told Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul that the militants “launched an attack on a completely civilian area where people go for entertainment.” (RFE/RL)

Dozen Escape In Taliban Prison Break

Afghan officials said at least 14 criminals, including Taliban fighters, escaped after a bomb blew a hole in a wall at a prison in the country’s north. The explosion occurred on 7 June at the jail in Sar-e-Pul Province. At least three prisoners were killed and more than two dozen injured in the incident, for which the Taliban claimed responsibility. Taliban spokesman Yusuf Ahmadi confirmed that the attack was conducted by two groups of Taliban fighters, adding that 10 Afghan police were killed during the attack. The claim of police casualties wasn’t confirmed by officials. (RFE/RL)

Taliban burn 3 houses in Ghazni Province containing the Holy Quran

The Taliban burned the homes of 3 well known residents of the Ander district of Ghazni Province yesterday. The homes contained Holy Qurans and other religious books. The homes were burned after the Taliban killed some of the occupants in retaliation for their defying orders of the Taliban and defending themselves. (…) Residents of Ander district said in their last fighting they killed 17 rebels. According to the people of Ander district, most of the slain rebels were foreigners. The Taliban have not commented on this report. Residents of Ander district of Ghazni criticized the Taliban for desecrating the Holy Quran and took the pieces of Holy Quran that were saved from the fires to the provincial council of Ghazni province. (…) Ghazni officials are demanding that the Afghan Government must take serious measures against the Taliban for the deaths of civilians and for burning the Holy Quran. According to reports in Ghazni, this is not first time that the above mentioned residents have criticized the burning of Holy Quran. During previous incidents, the Taliban burned homes containing the Holy Quran and other religious books but the Taliban had no reactions about it. (Ariana News)


Clinton, Indian Foreign Minister Discuss Afghanistan, Pakistan

In Washington, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Indian Foreign Minister Somanahalli Mallaiah Krishna have discussed regional issues with a focus on Afghanistan. Clinton welcomed Indian efforts to help stabilize Afghanistan, noting New Delhi will host an investment conference for Afghanistan later in June. Clinton pointed out that India has contributed $2 billion to help develop the New Silk Road Initiative aimed at boosting regional trade. Clinton said she and Krishna also discussed efforts India and Pakistan are making to increase trade, investment, and travel between their two countries. (RFE/RL)

Panetta Backs Conditions For Pakistani Aid

U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta says Washington should consider putting conditions on aid to Pakistan. Speaking at a Senate budget hearing, Panetta said Washington should not end aid to Pakistan, but examine putting conditions on it. He didn’t elaborate. He said Pakistan’s decision to close land routes to Afghanistan was costing the United States millions more to ship supplies to forces there. “We’ve also had the closure of these ground lines, the so-called g-locks in Pakistan. And the result of that is that it is very expensive because we’re using the northern transit route in order to be able to draw down our forces and also supply our forces. I think the amount is about $100 million a month because of the closure,” Panetta explained. (…) On June 11, the United States announced it was withdrawing its team of negotiators from Pakistan without securing a deal to reopen the routes. One of the issues holding up an agreement is believed to be Pakistani insistence the United States apologize for the November strike, something the Pentagon has been unwilling to do. But Panetta explained at the hearing that the apology wasn’t the only issue. “The United States has made clear that mistakes were made, and they were made on our side, they were also made on the Pakistani side. We expressed condolences for the mistakes that were made, we’ve made that clear. We have certainly continued to make clear the mistakes that were made. I think the problem is that at this point, they’re asking not only for that [an apology], but there are other elements of the negotiation that are also involved,” Panetta said. The comments come less than a week after Panetta said during a trip to Kabul that the United States was reaching the limits of its patience with Pakistan because of the safe havens it offered to insurgents fighting in neighboring Afghanistan. (RFE/RL)

US puts supply route talks with Pakistan on hold

The US has temporarily pulled out of talks with Pakistan over re-opening vital supply routes to the NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. “The decision was reached to bring the team home for a short period of time,” Pentagon spokesman George Little said. Pakistan said the talks had not broken down – they were “still on”. (…) Washington has stopped short of an official apology for the deaths of the Pakistani soldiers. Pakistan’s demand for $5,000 for each truck has also been a sticking point. The closure of the route left thousands of tankers bound for Afghanistan stranded in Pakistan. Pakistani foreign office spokesman Mumazam Khan told the BBC Urdu Service the talks were still on and it was “wrong to say that they have been broken down”. (BBC News)

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