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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 6 July 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.

GOVERNANCE: DEMOCRACY & RULE OF LAW

Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

Implementation of Deal with US Begins

Following its ratifications by both parties, the Afghan-US strategic partnership accord is now in force, the two sides said on 4 July. President Hamid Karzai and his US counterpart Barack Obama signed the Enduring Strategic Partnership Agreement on 2 May. Both countries completed their respective internal legal processes for ratification. A joint statement from the parties said the agreement provided a long-term framework for relations between Afghanistan and the United States through and beyond the process of security transition to Afghan forces. The agreement includes mutual commitments in the areas of promoting and protecting shared democratic values, advancing long-term security, reinforcing regional security and cooperation, social and economic development, and strengthening Afghan institutions and governance. “Afghanistan and the United States reaffirm that their partnership is not aimed at any of Afghanistan’s neighbors. This partnership will strengthen Afghan sovereignty, stability and prosperity and contribute to our shared goal of defeating terrorism,” the statement added. The two countries will begin to implement the deal, including establishing a bilateral commission chaired by foreign ministers or their designees. (Pajhwok, Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Karzai to Seek $3.9b Annual Aid at Tokyo

Afghan President Hamid Karzai will seek $3.9 billion in annual international assistance to rebuild the country’s economy at the Tokyo conference this weekend, Japanese media reported on 3 July. Karzai in an interview in Kabul with Japanese network NHK said that Afghanistan will need around $3.9 billion from the international community every year to rebuild the Afghan economy starting from 2015, after Nato withdraws its forces from Afghanistan. During the interview, Karzai also urged for the Taliban to join mainstream politics in Afghanistan by taking part in forthcoming presidential and general elections. “My recommendation to the Taliban is to join the peace process and become a political force in Afghanistan,” the Afghan president was quoted as saying. “They are welcome to participate legitimately in the democratic process in the country, in reaching the highest power in the country, political power through the voice of people and through constitutional means.” The US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon will attend the high-level international conference in Japan on Sunday in support of Afghanistan, Japan’s Foreign Ministry said on 3 July. The Tokyo conference is expected to bring together representatives from about 70 countries as well as international organizations. (TOLOnews)

Afghan media freedom threatened: rights group

Hard-won media freedoms in Afghanistan are under serious threat from a draft law that is seen as a concession to Muslim conservatives ahead of NATO’s exit in 2014, a rights group warned on 3 July. Human Rights Watch (HRW) called on the Afghan government to withdraw the bill, which has been circulated for comment before going to parliament, saying that it would limit free speech restored after the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban. (…) HRW said provisions in the bill, which would replace a 2009 media law, undermine free expression and increase government control. For example, broadcasting of foreign programming would be restricted and sanctions would be created for a new, long list of media violations. The government would even be allowed to control the use of certain words, it said. (…) But the information and culture ministry, which drew up the draft, said “good opinions” would be taken into consideration before the bill was finalized. (…) Activists have accused the government of limiting freedoms as NATO combat troops prepare to end their involvement in Afghanistan in 2014. Women in particular have been fearful that their rights could be under threat if the government cuts a peace deal with the Taliban, who banned girls from going to school and women from having jobs during their repressive 1996-2001 regime. Last month, HRW also criticized the Afghan government for suspending a political party after it demanded the prosecution of war crimes suspects now in key positions of power. (RNW, ANP, AFP)

Draft Media Law Not Rejected, But Postponed

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Information and Culture said that the time period for approving the latest draft of a new media law was extended for two weeks to allow for more feedback, contrary to earlier reports that it had been rejected. Speaking on the phone from US late on 3 July night, the Minister of Information and Culture Sayed Makhdoom Raheen said that the “draft will be reviewed after [further] public comment”, adding that this would happen in two weeks. Earlier Tuesday evening, the Deputy Information Minister Din Mohammad Mubariz Rashidi had said that the draft was rejected, following backlash from civil rights and media groups. Most vocal among the opposing groups was Human Rights Watch (HRW) which lobbied the Afghan government to withdraw the bill during the initial feedback process. HRW said the new laws would limit the gains made to free speech since the 2001 US-led invasion brought down the Taliban. (TOLOnews)

Rule of Law

Afghan leaders learn justice system, spread legal knowledge in Paktika

More than 30 local village elders and a visiting prosecutor gathered at the Zarghun Shahr district center on 28 June for a three-day course in which they studied Afghan law, conducted a mock trial, and, at the request of a local judge, received instructions on Afghan family law and women’s rights. The mock trial was the first public trial conducted in this region of eastern Afghanistan’s Paktika province in more than 30 years, and the request for training on family law and women’s rights is unprecedented. The training was well received by the attendees and established the foundation for future public trials that incorporate evidence-based operations and preserve the rights of all Afghan citizens. Haji Mohibullah, an elder from Zarghun Shahr, was excited to learn about the rights of Afghan citizens. “I am very happy for this seminar. It is an example of the importance of education,” he said. “Education for all Afghans – including our wives and daughters – is important if we want to have a successful country.” Attendees of the shura, the Afghan word for council, were quickly presented with an evaluation to measure their current knowledge of the Afghan legal code in the district. The results were mixed. The class instructors, members of the Joint Sector Support Program, were not optimistic at first about the class’s potential. However, they jumped into the training and immediately began to study the Afghan Constitution and the role their local government plays in the legal system. After the crash course on Afghan law, the class received a case study that had a civil complaint, a property dispute and a criminal charge of physical assault. They were then broken into groups and told to present a solution according to Afghan law. The groups presented their solution and discussed the modifications from the instructor. This case study then transitioned to a mock trial where it was tried publicly. The role players were chosen by the instructor based on their experience and level of education. The visiting prosecutor, Abdul Amini, used his skills to successfully convict the defendant, and was impressed with the performance of all the role players. (CENTCOM)

Eight Arrested over Sar-e-Pol School Poisonings

Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior (MOI) said on 4 July that eight people, including three women, were arrested over the poisoning of school girls in northern Sar-e-Pol province. The Ministry said that the poisoning cases allegedly affecting over 300 school girls in the past fortnight was the work of insurgents who wanted to create insecurity in the country’s education. Speaking to reporters at a press conference in Kabul, MOI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said: “Once again I want to assure our students across Afghanistan’s that their police will not let the criminals get away,” he said. “Unfortunately, those that were arrested are students and workers of the schools,” he added. The Sar-e-Pol arrests come after two months of random so-called poisonings in several schools in at least four other provinces. The 300-plus girls affected in Sar-e-Pol were aged between 8 and 22. According to reports, more than 2,000 students have been poisoned in Afghanistan since April. Despite a lack of hard evidence for poison and some psychological experts blaming “mass hysteria” for the mystery illnesses, the government has arrested as many as 14 people in the past months over other poisoning cases. (TOLOnews)

Transition Discussion & Peace Talks

Rare Meeting Between Afghan Government, Taliban

A Taliban emissary sat face-to-face this week with a senior Afghan government official responsible for peace talks in a rare high-level gathering between the bitter adversaries, an official said on 30 June. The encounter at a peace and reconciliation conference in Kyoto, Japan, was a rare a positive sign in faltering attempts to find a peaceful end to the protracted conflict in Afghanistan. It also provided an unusual opportunity for Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s government to sit down with its enemies — the Taliban and the Hezb-e-Islami insurgent group. Siddiq Mansour Ansari, a peace activist who was invited to attend the meeting this week at Kyoto’s Doshisha University, said it was the third peace and reconciliation conference organized by the school but the first time the Taliban had sent an emissary. The Taliban’s former planning minister, Qari Din Mohammed Hanif, took part in the conference “to explain the policies of the Islamic Emirate,” Taliban spokesman Zabilullah Mujahed told The Associated Press by telephone. Taliban officials rarely travel abroad for public meetings, and Mujahed didn’t say how Hanif, an ethnic Tajik from Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province, made the trip to Japan. Although a senior member of the Taliban and a member of the movement’s political committee, Hanif is not on any wanted list. The Afghan government was represented by Mohammed Masoon Stanikzai, a senior member of the government’s High Peace Council, which is responsible for talks with the insurgency. Ansari said the conference was not intended to find a peace settlement but to air ideas and differences. “In this third Doshisha conference all the parties presented their ideas and agendas but there were no concrete agreements,” he said. Karzai and U.S. officials are trying to draw the Taliban back to negotiations toward a peace deal between the Afghan government and the Pashtun-based insurgency that would end a war that American commanders have said cannot be won with military power alone. (ABC News, AP)

79 Taliban Released From Afghan Prisons in Apparent Bid for Unity

Seventy-nine Taliban were released from prisons around Afghanistan on 4 July, a move which appears to be part of efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table. The head of Afghanistan’s Supreme Court judicial audit department, Ibdali, said on Wednesday that 79 Taliban prisoners were being released. His reasons for the release suggested that either there was a hope the released prisoners would renounce violence or they would join the fight against insurgents supported by “neighboring countries”. “Other [countries] caused them [the prisoners] to fight, taking the benefits for themselves. Schools are being closed here – if going to school is a sin here, then it should be the same there [in the other countries] as well,” Ibdali told TOLOnews. He called on the released prisoners to instead combat those who create an unstable situation in Afghanistan. Head of the Independent Commission for Supervision of the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) Qazi Gul Ranhman said the release aimed at unity and called on the former prisoners to do away with violence and not follow other countries. “Enough is enough. How much you want to kill each other? How many women you want to leave widows? How many children you want leave orphans? How many people do you want to make disabled? Isn’t it enough?” he said to those released from Bagram prison. “The secret of prosperity is union, Allah also loves union, so let us hug each other,” he added. One of the released prisoners told TOLOnews: “If the foreign forces leave Afghanistan, the Afghan army and the police are our brothers – we are all from Afghanistan.” Ibdali said 20 of the 79 released were from Bagram prison which has only just been handed over by the US forces to Afghan control. It comes as Afghan officials said last week that they were talking to Pakistan about handing over Taliban prisoners to Afghanistan. (TOLOnews)

Peace Council Talks with Pakistan on Prisoner Transfer

Afghanistan’s High Peace Council is in discussions with Pakistan on transferring Taliban leaders from Pakistan’s prisons into Afghanistan. Serious negotiations are underway between the Council and Pakistani officials to have Afghan nationals who are in the Taliban transferred into Afghan prisons, “although our prisons face some challenges”, High Peace Council Deputy Head Ataullah Lodin said. The idea was partly borne from the US planning to transfer some Taliban prisoners from Guantanamo to Afghanistan, he said. The government should pave the way to have these prisoners inside the country, although Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence may not cooperate, Lodin added. “Past experience has demonstrated that Pakistan has never worked to help solve Afghanistan’s problems, it has never been honest with Afghanistan and the ISI may decide it will not give the prisoners,” he said. Meanwhile, Chairman of the President’s High Board of Judiciary Nasrullah Stanikzai said the Afghan forces were able to keep track of and protect Taliban leaders inside the country. “Afghanistan must consider it a citizen’s right, including for prisoners, to have their rights observed such as having access to an attorney,” he said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, TOLOnews)

Rabbani Lauds OIC Support for Peace Drive

Afghanistan on 4 July expressed its satisfaction with consistent support from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) for restoring peace and stability in the war-torn country. High Peace Council Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, who visited the OIC Secretariat in Jeddah, met Ambassador Sadeddin Taib, senior advisor to the grouping’s head and other officials. Different aspects of the peace process and security transition in Afghanistan came up for discussion at the meeting, a statement from the OIC Secretariat said. Ways of enhancing cooperation between the OIC and Afghanistan in different fields, including economic development and education, were also discussed. Rabbani said that an OIC-sponsored conference of Muslim scholars would be held in the near future. “Hopefully, it will take place in the next few weeks,” he told reporters at the OIC headquarters. Rabbani added he would appreciate if the conference was held in Kabul. However, he explained: “If the majority thinks it should be held somewhere else, we can go ahead with that.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Pakistan Reopens Supply Route But Hurdles Remain

Pakistan’s decision to reopen its transit routes to Afghanistan for NATO’s use will continue to face tough hurdles before the US and its allies can use it as they did in the past. The move, announced late on 3 July, came after the US offered an apology for an airstrike in November which mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border with Afghanistan. However, in practice it will face stiff resistance both within and outside the Pakistani government. Pakistan’s Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said last night that Pakistan will not allow any lethal cargo to be transported through its territory. An exception will be made only for lethal equipment to be provided to the Afghan national security forces, he told Pakistani media. The decision also met with immediate condemnation from outlawed insurgent group Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan which termed the reopening a cowardly act from Pakistan and vowed to target supplies going to Afghanistan. “The resumption of NATO supply line shows the slavish nature of the Pakistani government; the resumption is a disrespect to the blood of those soldiers who sacrificed their lives in Salala check point while guarding the borders,” Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistani spokesperson told media on 3 July. (TOLOnews)

United Nations

UN Afghan Mission to Stay Unaffected: Kubis

United Nations General Secretary’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan on 2 July said foreign troops’ withdrawal would have no impact on the world’s body mission in the country. Yan Kubis told a press conference in Kunduz city, the capital of northern Kunduz province, their mission in Afghanistan was not dependent on the withdrawal of foreign troops and it would continue beyond 2014. He said the UN’s mission remained focused on civilian fronts in order to ensure good governance, improved justice, social justice and human rights, particularly of women and children. Kubis said the word’s body supported the Afghan-led peace talks and the security transition process and it would continue cooperating with Afghans until they need it. He said the UN might close some offices in provinces, but that move would not mean any cut in assistance. Kubis said he met with local officials and discussed with them the security transition and the peace process. Calling the security transition a great achievement for Afghanistan, Kubis hoped the process would yield positive results. He recalled last year’s attacks on the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) office in Kuduz by protestors, saying such attacks could not hamper their activities. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Ahead of meeting, UN mission highlights ‘critical need’ for protection of Afghan civilians

Ahead of a Security Council meeting on Afghanistan on 27 June, the United Nations mission in the country on 26 June drew attention to the “critical need” for all parties to the conflict to do more to protect civilians. “Afghan women, children and men have long paid a disproportionate price in terms of lives lost and blood spilled, particularly as a result of attacks by anti-government elements,” the UN Assistance in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a news release. “UNAMA has repeatedly noted that it is time for anti-government elements to live up to their public statements recognizing their duty to protect civilians and to take action to make sure that their attacks do not target civilian,” the Mission added. (…) On 25 June, the Council held an open debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict. Speaking at the debate, Secretary-General Ban cited recent developments across the world as examples – including Afghanistan, in relation to which he mentioned that UNAMA had reported a rise in civilian deaths. He also drew attention to the key role of the Council in dealing with the issue of the protection of civilians, while urging new approaches to be considered. (UN News Centre)

UN officials underscore need for long-term support for Afghanistan’s development

Long-term support for Afghanistan’s socio-economic development is vital as the country proceeds on its path towards assuming full responsibility for its security, governance and development, top United Nations officials told the Security Council on 27 June. The Council’s meeting comes ahead of the international conference on Afghanistan to be held in Tokyo on 8 July which is intended to engage on long-term and predictable international economic, development and governance assistance, as well as regional economic cooperation. Presenting the Secretary-General’s latest report on Afghanistan to the Council, the Under-Secretary-General for Peacekeeping Operations, Hervé Ladsous, said that significant progress affecting Afghanistan had been made during two international conferences in Kabul and Chicago, and the same is expected next month in Tokyo. (UN News Centre)

ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Corps of Engineers to improve access to water, power in southern Afghanistan

The U.S. military and its coalition partners may be drawing down their combat missions in Afghanistan, but the next two years will continue to be busy for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Afghanistan Engineer District-South. Among the South District’s 51 construction projects still to be awarded this fiscal year, three water and infrastructure projects sit high on the district’s priority list — Dahla and Kajaki Dams and the Southeastern Electrical Power System — vital infrastructure systems in Afghanistan’s arid south that are in need of substantial upgrades and repairs. (…) Located in Kandahar province on the Arghandab River, the Dahla Dam has suffered from years of neglect and war. Its intake and outlet works do not operate correctly and sediment reduced reservoir capacity. As a result, the water supply to Kandahar province does not reach 30 percent of the irrigation canals refurbished by the Canadian International Development Agency over the past several years. Increased water for irrigation means the once productive “breadbasket of Afghanistan” can again produce the fruits and vegetables that Afghanistan needs to feed its people. (…) The Corps of Engineers will oversee the construction at Dahla Dam in two phases. (…) Located in Helmand province on the Helmand River, the Kajaki Dam serves two functions: a source for irrigation and water along the lower Helmand River and hydroelectric power generation. USACE has several concurrent project plans associated with the Kajaki Dam with a total program amount of approximately $205 million. Together, the projects will improve water flow for irrigation and electric power generation, said Murphy, who deployed from the USACE Louisville District. The first phase will repair the dam’s intake structure. The gates currently do not close, so no maintenance can be performed on the gates or the irrigation outlet tunnels, said Nader Noori, the district project manager for Kajaki Dam. (U.S. Army)

Afghanistan Finalizes National Construction Codes

Afghanistan’s Norms and Standards Department said that the country’s building codes – a legally binding set of norms for construction – were finalized with the technical assistance of Turkish engineers and recently approved. The building codes will be used in architecture plans, urban development, roads and highways, and approved buildings. The codes were made based on Afghanistan’s environmental and climate situations, a process which cost around $2 million, the Norms and Standards Department said. The new construction codes will be fully applicable within a year, helping to resolve construction problems in the industry, according to the head of the Department. “We are hopeful of having a better a positive outcome by implementing these new construction codes,” head of Norms and Standards Department Popal Popalzai said. Harakat, the Afghan-run, non-government entity which helps fund business-related projects, contributed towards the funding. Head of Harakat Nasim Akbar said the organization was glad to support the creation of these new standards in the hope that it would lead to more investment in the construction sector. “Harakat, as a financial backer and technical organization, is happy to help the Norms and Standards Department, so the hurdles will be removed,” he said. To date, construction in Afghanistan has followed foreign codes, but these were found to be insufficient or in applicable to the environment in Afghanistan, Popalzai said. (TOLOnews)

Economy

Donors to pledge $15 bn at Tokyo Afghan meet: report

Donor nations gathering in Japan this weekend for a conference on Afghanistan are expected to pledge a total $15 billion in development aid through 2015, a report said on 5 July. The Tokyo conference will bring together UN chief Ban Ki-moon, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and senior officials from about 70 countries as well as international organizations. The participants will commit to ensuring the sustainable development of Afghanistan during the so-called transformation decade of 2015-2024, Japan’s Kyodo News said, citing unnamed diplomats. A fundraising campaign is on track and the amount of aid is expected to be greater than initially hoped, Kyodo said, citing one of the diplomats involved in preparing for the one-day meeting on 8 July. In exchange for the development aid, Afghanistan will promise to eradicate corruption, improve its legal system, strengthen its finances and carry out a range of other reforms, Kyodo said. The reciprocal commitments will be mapped out in a document, titled “Mutual Accountability Framework”, due to be released at the conference along with the “Tokyo Declaration”, Kyodo said. Afghan President Hamid Karzai said this week his country needs a combined $3.9 billion from the international community every year to rebuild the economy starting from 2015, following the pullout of NATO forces. (RNW, ANP, AFP)

Bank Review Needed for Public’s Confidence: ACTA

An Afghan accountability watchdog called for the country’s Central Bank to seriously pursue a resolution to the Kabul Bank crisis or risk destroying the confidence of the people towards the banking system. “If the Kabul Bank case is not pursued in a serious manner, the trust of people towards the banking system will be destroyed,” the Afghan Coalition for Transparency and Accountability (ACTA) said in an open letter to the Central Bank president. ACTA recommended that the Kabul Bank case be handed over to a global entity to study and assess for an independent review of the situation. According to ACTA member Shinkai Karokhail, such an investigation should also look at other private banks in the country. “The Central Bank should pursue an overall investigation of all private banks and if there is any possible mistakes they should correct them to help them, and if there is many mistakes then they should be followed and seriously investigated [further],” Karokhail told TOLOnews on 5 July. The group believes that if the Kabul Bank crisis is not properly dealt with, it will badly affect the international community’s financial assistance towards Afghanistan and decrease the country’s development budget. “We believe that if there is no serious steps towards a solutions, there is possibility of a decrease in the international community’s efforts towards assisting Afghanistan,” ACTA member Hamed Sarwary said on 5 July. Meanwhile, ACTA also sent an open letter to the United Nations Special Representative in Afghanistan seeking an investigation into the embezzlement of the Law and Order Trust Fund, which is managed by the United Nations program. The results of such an enquiry should also be provided to the Afghan people, it said. “It is a gross violation of the law, especially in a country like Afghanistan which is still so dependent on humanitarian aid,” ACTA member Najla Ayoubi said. (TOLOnews)

WB Forecasts 4.9pc Growth for Afghanistan

fghanistan’s economy is expected to grow at 4.9 percent a year between now and 2025, the World Bank (WB) said on 1 July, though with good management the figure could rise to 6.7 percent. The war-torn country, beset by a decade-long Taliban insurgency and rampant corruption, is one of the world’s poorest, with more than a third of the population living below the poverty line in 2008. With NATO combat troops due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of 2014, there are fears of a consequent meltdown in the graft-plagued economy. Even with sustained growth of six percent a year, it will take a generation to double Afghanistan’s GDP per capita — currently a meager $528 — the World Bank said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Refugees

Zabuli Tells Pakistan, Iran to Help Refugees

Senate Complaints Commission head Zalmai Zabuli on 4 July warned that Afghans would stage countrywide protests if Pakistan and Iran failed to address the problems facing refugees in the neighboring countries. Zabuli told reporters in Kabul that Afghans living in Pakistan and Iran were subjected to inhuman treatment, violating international conventions on refugees. The lawmaker claimed Iranian government had asked citizens not to help Afghans find jobs and avoid doing business with the immigrants. However, a spokesman for the Iranian embassy in Kabul said the issue had been wrongly projected and it had a low probability. hmad Dehqani said their government’s decisions were not only for Afghans, but for all foreigners living legally in Iran. Zabuli said Pakistan was pressuring Afghans to leave that country and return to their homeland. He asked President Hamid Karzai to direct the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to send a delegation to Pakistan to investigate problems facing Afghan refugees. He also asked foreign ministry to summon Pakistan’s and Iran’s ambassadors to Afghanistan to lodge a strong protest against maltreatment of Afghans living in their respective countries. “If diplomacy fails to yield any positive results, then Afghanistan should close its embassies and consulates in Iran and Pakistan, and shut down offices of these two countries here,” the lawmaker said. He also asked the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) to intervene and stop Pakistan and Iran from creating further problems for Afghans. He said if an early solution to the problem was not found, the Senate Complaints Commission was ready to instigate the masses into launching countrywide protests against the two countries. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Women & Children

Afghan Aid Must Assist Women, the Displaced: Rights Groups

Displaced Afghans and women should be the major concerns for donors giving aid to Afghanistan, human rights groups said on 4 July. Amnesty International said that any aid funding pledged to Afghanistan at a donor conference in Tokyo next Sunday must also help those displaced by decades of conflict and living in miserable conditions. Half a million Afghans who have been uprooted by insecurity live in urban slums, deprived of their right to adequate housing, food, water, health and education, a statement on the group’s website said. “The burgeoning problem of displacement is a human rights crisis and could lead to greater instability in the otherwise relatively stable urban areas – the Afghan government and its international partners must address this long-neglected issue,” Amnesty’s Afghanistan researcher Horia Mosadiq said in the statement on 4 July. The US refugee agency (UNHCR) estimates that the number of people displaced inside the country could rise to 700,000 by the end of 2013, Amnesty noted. Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said that a failure to include women in decision-making processes and high-level policy discussions increases the fear that women’s rights might be bargained away in the desire to bring peace through a compromise with the Taliban. HRW said on it website that donors in Tokyo should make it clear to the Afghan government that continued international support will be linked to further progress on women’s rights. Furthermore, they should ensure that adequate funding remains available to support schools, clinics, hospitals, shelters and other essential services. It noted that half of all Afghan girls are not in school, very few finish high school, and attacks on girls’ schools are common. While women in public life or working outside the home face threats and sometimes violence. The meeting in Tokyo on 8 July of will bring together as many as 70 international organizations and donors with the aim of securing aid commitments for Afghanistan after 2014 when most NATO troops will withdraw from the country.. (TOLOnews)

Herat: Gunmen Set Fire to Girls’ School

Unknown armed men set fire to a girls’ school in Afghanistan’s western Herat province on 2 July night, damaging property but not harming any people, local officials said. The torching took place in the border town Islam Qala of Herat, a town which is the official port of entry from the neighboring town Taybad in Iran. No one was harmed in the incident, but Tahari said much of the school, along with office supplies and books, were burned. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the motives are not clear, officials said. It comes as threats against schools seem to be increasing, with poisoning of school students a frequent occurrence in the last three months. (TOLOnews)

Special Report on Afghanistan’s Shelters for Women

A human rights activist and the head of the Peace and Security Research Institute for Women Wazhma Frogh believes that shelters are the safest place for women to survive after facing violence. “These shelters are the safest place for women,” Frogh says, adding that some women who were trafficked from neighboring countries were also taking refuge in these shelters. Women Affairs Minister Husun Bano Ghazanfar dismisses the statements made by the Justice Minister Habibullah Ghaleb last week, saying that he didn’t have enough information about the shelters. “Anyone who wants to comment on the shelters should get more information and find proof [before they say anything],” Ghazanfar says. “The shelters are completely controlled and we are accountable for them,” she adds. Ghaleb has since apologised for his comments made at a conference organised by the Afghan parliament’s Women’s Affairs Committee. He called women’s shelters “centers of misconduct” and suggested that women residing in them were prostitutes. Currently, there are 14 shelters for women all over Afghanistan which house nearly 250 girls and women who have faced family threats or violence. The women are kept busy by becoming literate, and learning crafts such as embroidery and tailoring. (TOLOnews)

Afghans seek to include women, youth in peace process

Afghan civil society leaders and members of several non-governmental organizations met with Afghan High Peace Council and International Security Assistance Force leaders for a luncheon at the Serena Hotel, 25 June, to discuss the role women and youth play as the nation continues to strive for peace. “We will not achieve peace if we sacrifice the rights of half the people of the nation,” said Qasemyar Ismael of Afghanistan’s High Peace Council. “A peace based on principles and justice — this is what our people want. Our women and youth need to understand that peace is for them. ” Eleven representatives from five international and national civil society organizations attended the event, which was hosted by Ismael along with the NATO Senior Civilian Representative to ISAF Amb. Simon Gass and British Royal Marine Maj. Gen. David Hook, of ISAF’s Force Reintegration Cell. “The luncheon offered Afghan civil society representatives from women and youth organizations an opportunity to voice their concerns to Afghan leaders in the High Peace Council,” said U.S. Navy Lt. Cdr. John Bright, a member ISAF’s Force Reintegration Cell who helped coordinate the afternoon. One such concern was voiced by Samira Hamidi, of the Afghan Women’s Network, is the need to inform and educate women about the peace process and the Afghan Peace and Reintegration Program. “Women must play a considerable part in peace and reintegration,” said Hamidi. “We must publicly demonstrate the role of women in this process.” Although women have begun to play a larger role in the Afghan government, Hamidi also expressed her concern that this role should be even larger — at least 33 percent. While Gass explained that decisions about the peace process and women and youth issues must be made by the Afghan people, he re-iterated that NATO and the international community’s commitment to continue to help Afghanistan through 2014 and beyond depends upon Afghanistan’s measurable progress in these areas. (ISAF)

Culture & Society

Afghan youth learn cultural diversity

Female Engagement Team members with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment, helped 40 Afghan youth expand their knowledge of the world through a cultural diversity youth shurah conducted 23 June 23 at Combat Outpost Pinach. Each week, children from the surrounding area gather at the COP to learn about various cultures through presentations given by the FET and participate in arts and crafts and sports sessions that coincide with the day’s lesson. “The goal is to promote international awareness among youth through sports and crafts to lay the necessary foundation to create tomorrow’s global citizens,” said U.S. Army Cpl. Isidra Reyna, the FET non-commissioned officer in charge for Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. “We hope to create an atmosphere of global empathy and understanding of cultural similarities and differences,” Reyna added. “And, of course, to have fun.” Last summer, the cultural support team that operated in the area ran a similar program where they would bring children onto the campH to play sports like cricket, basketball and soccer. Since the initiative was such a success, the FET decided to bring it back, but they added a different spin to it. “The commander liked our idea of a culture class, then we expanded it to include sports and crafts and games dealing with a specific country,” explained Reyna, a native of Valley Center, Calif. The program provides the children a break from their daily lives and an opportunity to continue learning while they are on break from school. In previous weeks, the youth, who range from ages 5 to 12, learned about Mexico and China; but this week’s lesson focused on the wonders from down under, in the world’s only country and continent – Australia. After seeing pictures of people, animals and landscape unique to the region, the children constructed paper bag puppets then played games that are common among children in Australia. Since starting the program three weeks ago, the FET has seen a tremendous growth in interest, which at times is bittersweet because they can only let a certain number of children onto the COP to participate. “We had 80 children show up this morning, 60 last week, and 32 the first week,” said Lewisville, Texas, native, U.S. Army Spc. Andrea Weatherman, FET member with Company A, 2nd Battalion, 12th Infantry Regiment. “More kids are coming and it’s great, but we also feel bad because we can’t let them all in. One kid started to cry this morning because he couldn’t get on.” In addition to gaining popularity among the local children, the program has also caught the attention of Afghan leaders in the area. The district sub-governor has expressed his desire for the FET to translate the lesson plans and share them with local teachers so they can teach it in schools. (CENTCOM)

Afghan brain drain fears over education reforms

A call by Afghan President Hamid Karzai for more foreign involvement in the country’s higher education system risks exacerbating an already dangerous brain drain, analysts warn. With foreign forces set to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014, the country badly needs highly skilled graduates to help it rebuild and progress economically after more than 30 years of near-continuous war. Karzai, on 24 June, called for subjects such as medicine and engineering to be taught in international languages such as English or German, and invited foreign institutions to come and fund Afghan faculties. “If France wants they can take over our medical university to teach. They can even bring teachers, books and teach in French,” he told a seminar on reforming Afghanistan’s education system. “If Germany wants to take over our engineering faculty we will be very happy.” He also said Afghanistan would allocate up to $15 million for scholarships to send more students abroad for higher education next year. Decades of war and conflict in Afghanistan have destroyed hundreds of schools and colleges and many of those who are well-educated have fled to other countries, causing a severe brain drain in the country. Writer and analyst Mostafa Assir warned that Karzai’s proposals were only likely to make the situation worse. “There is no doubt that once Afghans are educated here to an international level, they will not stay — the country is simply not ready to accept them,” he told AFP. “There is no job security for them, no security for their lives. Why wouldn’t they leave the country to find a better life?” Afghanistan’s education system has been through many changes since the country’s last monarch, King Zahir Shah, was overthrown in 1973, leading to an invasion by the Soviet Union in December 1979 and 30 years of war. When Soviet troops were in Afghanistan in the 1980s, textbooks that preached communism were printed and taught in schools. In turn, they were countered by books backed by the United States filled with anti-communist ideas of resistance against the Soviets. Then, during the rule of the hardline Islamist Taliban from 1996 until their overthrow by a US-led invasion in 2001, schoolbooks were dominated by the promotion of jihad, or holy war. Girls were banned from going to school and madrassas, or religious schools, became the main source of education for boys. Since the fall of the Taliban, education in Afghanistan has expanded rapidly and the education ministry says there are now around 8.2 million students in school, up from about 1.2 million 10 years ago. As well as the problems of maintaining security after NATO pulls out, Afghanistan faces the challenge of developing a successful and sustainable economy. Analyst Waheed Wafa accused the government of having no long-term plan for education and warned the country would lose its brightest and best entrepreneurial talents. (RNW,ANP, AFP)

Afghanistan’s Hazara Minority Outraged By Science Academy Insults

Documenting Afghanistan’s diverse ethnic makeup would seem like an innocent enough endeavor, but a recent attempt has left a team of academics facing possible criminal charges. The source of the problem is the innocuously named “Ethnographic Atlas of Non-Pashtun Ethnic Groups of Afghanistan,” published in June by the government-appointed Academy of Sciences Afghanistan. Certain passages have Afghanistan’s Hazara minority seeing red. “The Hazaras are liars, dishonest, and unreliable people,” reads one passage cited by the “Daily Outlook Afghanistan” newspaper. “[The] bodies of their women are hairless except on the head. The Hazaras are the sons of Mongol Khans living in the mountains of Afghanistan. These people [know] nothing except fighting.” The newspaper goes on to report that the book, which RFE/RL was unable to independently obtain, describes the Hazaras as “rafizi” — worse than infidels. The resulting outcry from Hazara politicians was enough to prompt President Hamid Karzai to step in. In mid-June, Karzai banned the atlas, dismissed four academics from the Academy of Sciences, and ordered an investigation into their reasons for publishing the comments. The four now face possible criminal charges for stoking ethnic tensions, pending the findings of a lengthy questionnaire they have been asked to fill out. (RFE/RL)

REGIONAL RELATIONS

India Committed to Investments in Afghanistan: Krishna

Roiled by terrorism, Afghanistan is not an easy destination to sell to investors but India would make all out efforts to do so, said Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, inaugurating the Delhi Investment Summit on Afghanistan on 28 June. “The holding of a major investment meet on Afghanistan when NATO forces draw down by 2014 and terrorism continues to take a toll of lives, may at first sight appear counter-intuitive. Afghanistan may not be the easiest destination to sell to an investor. But India has ventured to do so,” said Krishna. Afghanistan foreign minister Dr. Zalmay Rassoul was present at the inaugural session of the summit in New Delhi, organized by the Confederation of Indian Industry (CII), along with the governments of the two nations. He said the decision to hold the summit is based on certain fundamental insights. (…) He said development, security and technical assistance alone is not enough. “The Bonn, Chicago and upcoming Tokyo Conferences, and the Istanbul process on regional confidence-building, demonstrate the will of the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan. But both military interventions and foreign aid are to a large extent influenced by public opinion and prevailing economic conditions. “We need something more enduring, something based on self-interest rather than generosity that can move the country towards greater self-reliance and inter-dependence,” he said. Rassoul said the military draw-down should not result in a political or security vacuum that will be filled by extremists once again. “There should be something productive in its place,” he said. Rassoul said foreign investment and domestic private sector development, both small and large scale, can play a big role in Afghanistan’s turnaround. (…) Krishna urged the investment community to act together in the interest of the collective security of Afghans and the international community. He said India encourages its industries to venture into Afghanistan in numbers together with Afghan partners. India has relaxed customs duties for Afghanistan’s exports as part of an initiative for Least Developed Countries in the SAARC, he said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Russia Allows NATO to Use Airbase

Russia has allowed the US and NATO allies to used a country airbase for transits to and from Afghanistan. Moscow had announced plans to create a NATO transit hub in Ulyanovsk city in March, and the decision was taken on 25 June. A respective decree, signed by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev, was published on 29 June. The NATO and Russian officials have sought to allay fears that the hub would turn out to be a full-fledged base. “We have no intention to establish a base in Russia,” the NATO Secretary General Anders Fogh Rasmussen said. “This is a pragmatic arrangement which allows us to transport non-lethal weapons and troops to benefit our operation in Afghanistan.” Meanwhile, the Russia’s foreign ministry said in a statement that: “There never has been and never will be a NATO military base in Ulyanovsk.” The hub would see the “transit of exclusively non-lethal cargoes,” he added in the statement. It comes after Pakistan blocked NATO supplies from crossing its territory after an NATO airstrike that Killed 24 Pakistani soldiers November last year. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

BUILDING SECURITY CAPACITY & SECURITY ASSESSMENT

 Afghanistan Security Forces

First Paktika law enforcement conference focuses on role of local police

Commanders from the Afghan National Police, Afghan Local Police, the District Chiefs of Police along with the Paktika Provincial Chief of Police gathered together in Sharan district for the first area law enforcement conference, 9 June. During this conference, the PCoP addressed the law enforcement interests of Paktika province, as the eventual withdrawal of coalition forces approaches. One of the main topics covered were the tasks and responsibilities of the ALP within their villages. “Their duty is to secure their own land, get the bad guys out of their village and maintain respect for their elders,” said Dwlat Khan, Paktika Provincial chief of police. The PCoP gave both the ANP and ALP commanders guidance from the Afghan Ministry of Interior. “The ANP works for the MoI, same as the ALP, so whatever the MoI law is, they will follow it,” said Khan. The MoI directive clearly addresses what is expected of all law enforcement in Afghanistan, as well as things they view as illegal and unacceptable behavior. This creates law and order within their country, as well as eliminates any miscommunication about the directive. “It [unity amongst law enforcement] ensures the use of proper chain-of-command and also command and control,” said a coalition sergeant. The conference was successful and achieved its goal of assisting everyone with understanding the importance of following the MoI directive, while providing an essential unity amongst participants. “The turnout shows that law enforcement in Paktika is credible and has improved tremendously within the past year,” said the sergeant. “The sovereignty of the Afghan government is growing stronger and the fact that security has improved proves that history is being made every day.” (ISAF)

Afghan forces take lead in RC-South

Afghan National Security Forces assumed responsibility of security from International Security Forces in Regional Command – South during a ceremony at Camp Hero in Kandahar province, 1 July. RC-South, which consists of Kandahar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Daykundi provinces, is the first region in Afghanistan to have Afghan forces take the lead in security operations. ISAF has been heavily preparing the ANSF for this transition over the last few years by assisting in the creation and training of the Afghan army and police since their inception. “It wasn’t that long ago that we had no security forces. We started from scratch and today we have everything,” said Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, commander of the 205th Hero Corps, Afghan National Army. ANSF includes the Afghan National Army, Afghan Uniformed Police, Afghan Border Police, and Afghan National Civil Order Police. “I assure that there is no doubt that the ANA is ready to be independent and we are ready for this moment right now,” said Hamid. “This is a step that will be marked in history for the people of Afghanistan,” said Maj. Gen. Jim Huggins, 82nd Airborne Division and RC(S) commanding general, “We are ready for all of this because of all of you, because of the Afghan leadership.” (ISAF)

Over 300 Advisor Teams to Help ANSF

More than 300 coalition teams, comprising thousands of specially trained advisors, would help Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) under a concept called the Security Force Assistance (SFA), a US military officer said on 3 July. The advisor teams started arriving in Afghanistan in March and the process would continue throughout the current year, US Army Brig. Gen. Billy Don Farris II said during a roundtable discussion with journalists in Kabul. “Simply put, SFA is the employment of small advisor teams working day-to-day with Afghan units to help them be successful,” he said, while expounding the concept that was approved by ISAF Commander Gen. John Allen last fall. While much work had to be done to enable the Afghan army and police to operate independently, about three quarters of the combat units could function effectively, when supported with advisors, he added. Director of future plans at the ISAF Joint Command Headquarters, the brigadier-general said: “We are at a point in the campaign in many areas where we no longer desire larger coalition formations maneuvering side by side with their Afghan counterparts…” It was about time to start replacing some of the coalition battalion and company-size combat units with advisors, he said, adding the teams would be just a radio call away from providing close air support, attack aviation, artillery, intelligence, etc. More importantly, he continued, the teams would instill confidence in Afghan leaders that they would receive quick help from their coalition partners. “We’ve done this before. We’ve taken our experiences from Iraq and applied the lessons learned…” The official insisted leaders of the advisor teams — better trained and better equipped — had previous combat experience. He hoped they would operate effectively, when deployed to Afghanistan. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Continued military, police presence in Afghan town brings out community

The continued presence of Afghan National Army, American Soldiers and Afghan Local Police in the small town of Pankilla, Afghanistan has emboldened civilians to come out of their homes to engage in commerce and community. “A month ago, you couldn’t even go past that corner,” said Lt. Col. Jeffery Howard, the 4th Squadron, 73rd Cavalry Regiment Commander. “There were no children around. Today, there are kids who walk with us down the street.” It was a small group of Afghan National Army, or ANA, soldiers from the 3rd Brigade, 205th Infantry Corps, and U.S. Soldiers from Bravo Company, 5th Battalion, 20th Infantry Regiment, who protected the entry and exit ways of the small town. Also protecting the citizens of the town were Afghan Local Police, who kept watch in the city center where there are families, local shops and small crop areas. Located inside Kolk in southern Zharay District, the village of Pankilla is a maze of qalat walls and roads. As the patrol walked through, children and young men emerged. Previously, these areas were occupied by enemy fighters. To the north of the village is an old Mujahadeen fighting position that was once held by the Taliban before Bravo Company fought their way south. “We’ve leveled off the top of that hill, which we were shot at from every time, and you can see all of this space,” said Howard. “After we reinforce this structure, the walls will be covered with mud to look like an Afghan qalat, so it resonates with the people. This will be the new police checkpoint.” The current police checkpoint is a small qalat with three small rooms. Near the police station is the partnered U.S. and ANA strong point; inside the men live together. Now, inside the city of Pankilla, residents can visit a local store and find shelves stocked with candy, food, toys and cold beverage, the availability of those goods, and the confidence to go out and seek them, is relatively new to residents there in recent history. “A month ago, you wouldn’t have seen anyone here,” Howard said. “Today the store is open and you can buy whatever you need.” (U.S. Army)

Brothers in arms and in blood

While the Afghan National Army may be stationed at various places across the country, the Afghan National Police are in charge of security at the local level. Local law enforcement calls for people from the area or familiar with the area. Mohammad Rahim is with the ANP working to establish new relationships and protect the local community in East Dorafshan, Uruzgan province. Rahim, the new ANP commander of the Kajak Checkpoint said, “My seven brothers work with me, the whole family at one checkpoint.” Trust is not something that is established overnight. Even the deepest roots in Afghanistan grow from close family and tribal ties which help build trust. Family by your side eliminates the fear of the man next you to turning at any moment. The eldest commands the checkpoint and is looked on by his brothers as the fatherly figure of the element. The youngest of the brothers prepares the chai and food, while two other brothers settle down after a long foot patrol. As they broke bread together, Mohammad Rahim discussed his former life as a farmer, when his brothers were only children. “In the past there weren’t enough educated people – in Uruzgan there were different village commanders fighting against each other and killing people – it was very bad. This happened because there weren’t enough educated people, but if we provide schools and education this won’t happen in the future.” Historically, security has been a challenge for Afghanistan, and now Mohammad Rahim makes local security his family business. After the war began, his younger brothers followed as he paved a path for them into the law enforcement arena. Now, they overcome obstacles everyday thanks to the trust they have in each other and their coalition counterparts. (CENTCOM)

Afghan colonel works to free farmers from Taliban taxation

Afghan National Army Lt. Col. Mirweis led his soldiers to victory in western Paktika province recently, improving the livelihood for the people of the province. The mission for the ANA Kandak, in partnership with the Fort Riley, Kan., based 1st Squadron, 4th Cavalry Regiment, was to clear known insurgent locations in the lesser traveled Omnah district. At first light on 14 June, the operation commenced. The people in the valley of Omnah are mainly farmers who are known for their production of pine nuts, their main source of revenue. The area was also known to be an insurgent stronghold. In the past, the insurgents would tax the populace by taking a part of the farmers’ pine nut harvests. Getting over the pass to Omnah seemed like an easy task to the motivated Mirweis, the Kandak commander, as he led his soldiers with their armored trucks into the valley and straight to the village of Spina. At noon on the same day, Mirweis requested to speak to the elders of Omnah and Spina in a security shura, or meeting. The people responded as dozens of elders came to speak with the Afghan army. Mirweis led the discussion by saying that he understood that the Taliban intimidated the people by stealing their harvests and that the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan will not tolerate such criminal activities. He then promised that he intended to provide a safe and secure environment for the people in Omnah, but it was also their duty to help provide information on Taliban operating in the area. The shura concluded as he said that the people of Omnah are a strong and proud people, and that together they will stand up to the enemy. (CENTCOM)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Northern land routes to be crucial in U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan

Even with the reopening of critical supply routes through Pakistan, the U.S. military confronts a mammoth logistical challenge to wind down the war in Afghanistan, where it must withdraw nearly 90,000 troops and enormous depots of military equipment accumulated over the past decade. The first truck carrying supplies to U.S. and NATO troops entered Afghanistan from Pakistan on 5 July morning, news services reported, two days after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton’s apology for a deadly U.S. airstrike convinced Pakistan to end a seven-month diplomatic standoff over the border crossing. Assuming Pakistan doesn’t seal its border again, U.S. and NATO commanders still face the prospect of pulling out at least a third of the cargo from northern Afghanistan on a winding, makeshift network of railways and roads that cross the former Soviet Union. Those routes carry strategic risks of their own. Access to the transit lines depends on the whims of several authoritarian Central Asian leaders as well as Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, a longtime nemesis of NATO. Moreover, the cost of shipping goods along the northern routes is about triple that of the much-shorter Pakistani lines. The only other option for departing landlocked Afghanistan is by air — an even more expensive alternative, costing up to 10 times as much as the Pakistani ground routes. All told, U.S. military logisticians are preparing to bring home 100,000 shipping containers stuffed with materiel and 50,000 wheeled vehicles by the end of 2014, when U.S. and NATO combat operations are scheduled to cease. (Washington Post, Foreign Policy)

Troops celebrate Fourth of July in Afghanistan

It’s the Fourth of July again, and for the 11th year in a row, U.S. troops are finding a way to celebrate the holiday in Afghanistan. In the mountainous provinces of the coalition’s Regional Command-East, roughly 20,000 Soldiers are thousands of miles from the care-free rituals of Independence Day. Here there are neither cook-outs nor parades. But there is the day itself, and it’s the little things that, at least for a moment, bring these Soldiers closer to home. Brig. Gen. Paul Funk II, the 1st Infantry Division’s deputy commanding general for maneuver and a seasoned veteran of deployed holidays, knows this well. So the general, trailed by an Army Black Hawk helicopter carrying more than 150 deep-dish pizzas provided by the non-profit organization Pizzas 4 Patriots, hit the road to bring Independence Day to the troops. But it’s neither the pizzas nor the general that make this story, said Funk. It’s about the Soldiers on the ground. “These [Soldiers] represent what is best about our country; they’re on the forward edge of freedom,” said Funk. “They are fighting to bring freedom to a country that has known nothing but strife and chaos for years.” (U.S. Army)

Paratroopers, Afghans build post in heart of Taliban country

For a company of paratroopers planted in the heart of Taliban country, newly built Joint Security Station Hasan in southern Ghazni Province is a chance to make a real difference. Conceived as a blockade against arms, explosives and fighters streaming up through Ghazni’s desolate Nawah District from Pakistan, JSS Hasan was established within view of the only bridge spanning the Tarnak River that is able to support heavy vehicles. It’s plain “country” living, with no running water, electricity, hot meals, only ankle-deep dust, dry heat and daily bombardment from enemy mortars and rocket-propelled grenades. The reaction from Taliban fighters to security forces moving into one of their primary support zones has been violent, according to Capt. Philip Schneider, whose company of 82nd Airborne Division paratroopers built the post in an old, burned-out compound in the village of Hasan and man it with Afghan soldiers of 3rd Brigade, 203rd Corps. (…) Enemy fighters make extensive use of small-unit tactics, using motorcycles to efficiently navigate the irrigation ditches and dry wadis, deep-furrowed grape fields, tight village roads and maze-like kalats to set up ambush after ambush. “These guys know how to shoot down here,” said Schneider. “They’re well-equipped. They have Japanese handheld radios, GPS and Iranian night vision binoculars. They are very effective in those first few moments, but it’s hard for them to sustain.” Schneider considers his strongest assets to be his Afghan National Army, or ANA, partners. The Afghan company commander, Capt. Jawid Ramin, comes from military stock. Brothers, a grandfather and uncles all served. (CENTCOM)

French army hands over key province to Afghan forces

The French military officially handed over control of the key Afghan province of Kapisa to local forces on 4 July. The transfer is an important stage in France’s withdrawal from the war-torn country, which new President Francois Hollande has accelerated by ordering the return of troops by the end of 2012, a year earlier than previously planned. France is the fifth largest contributor to NATO’s International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which is due to pull out the vast majority of its 130,000 forces by the end of 2014. Kapisa, an extremely unstable province where French troops have suffered numerous deadly attacks from the Taliban, lies to the northeast of Kabul close to the border with Pakistan’s lawless and insurgent-infested tribal areas. In 2011, 24 French soldiers were killed in Afghanistan, all in Kapisa. A ceremony in the provincial capital Mahmood-e-Raqi in the presence of French and Afghan military and officials, marked the handover of the province, which was announced by President Hamid Karzai in May. Before his election in May, Hollande promised to speed up France’s withdrawal from Afghanistan so it would be completed by the end of 2012 — a year earlier than Paris initially planned and two years before the NATO deadline. Wednesday’s ceremony “lets everyone see that Afghans are taking over their security. But it is above all a symbol and does not change the transition process”, a French security source told AFP. France plans to withdraw 2,000 troops fighting with ISAF against the decade-long Taliban insurgency this year, leaving behind around 1,500 soldiers to train local forces and help organise the return of military equipment. (RNW)

NATO

New deputy commanding general for support named in Afghanistan

Marine Corps Gen. John R. Allen, commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, named Maj. Gen. Kenneth R. Dahl the new deputy commanding general for support in a 3 July ceremony at the New Kabul Compound. Allen, in a speech, called Dahl “a warrior with the right blend of experience for this job,” adding, “I know you will perform magnificently.” Allen is both the commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and the commander of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan. Dahl, who replaces outgoing Maj. Gen. William E. Rapp, becomes both the deputy commander-support for USFOR-A and commander of the U.S. National Support Element Command-Afghanistan. He will oversee logistical needs throughout Afghanistan. Dahl said he has seen “significant progress” in Afghanistan recently, including in its security forces and in overall governance. He is deploying to Afghanistan again after having served in the nation previously just eight months ago. “My family asked me why I’m coming back so soon,” he said. “I told them it’s because the most important thing in war is how it ends,” and Afghanistan is now on the cusp of transition. Rapp, who said it was his “greatest honor” to serve in the post Dahl is taking over, next will lead the Office of the Chief Legislative Liaison in Washington, D.C., becoming the Army’s top representative to the U.S. Congress. “It was a privilege to have even a small part in this effort,” he said. (CENTCOM)

Taliban Cannot Derail Our Strategy: Rasmussen

The NATO Secretary General Andres Fogh Rasmussen said that the Taliban has a clear strategy to shake the confidence of Afghan forces, but stressed that they would not succeed in defeating NATO’s strategy. “Taliban has a clearly laid out strategy to turn the mind, the confidence of the Afghan security forces. But let me also stress that they can’t derail our strategy,” he said Tuesday at a press conference in Brussels. “Our strategy is to gradually hand over full responsibility for the security to the Afghans and that process will continue and be completed by the end of 2014.” “This is the reason why it is an essential part of our mission in Afghanistan to train and educate Afghan security forces to build up their capability to take that full responsibility and these training efforts will continue,” he said. The NATO leader also said that it was necessary for both NATO and Pakistan to cooperate. “I still hope that we will see the reopening of the transit routes, and in the not too distant future,” he said. Responding to a question about the impact of the closed supply lines impasse, he added: “No, it is not a business as usual. We have seen a decline in co-operation activities during recent months which I strongly regret because I think it is of mutual interest to have close co-operation between Pakistan and NATO.” Rasmussen also said that the international community should come forward to help the country’s development and support the elimination of corruption. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Allen, Kayani Discuss Terror Threats

NATO’s top commander in Afghanistan Gen John Allen held high-level military talks with Pakistan, focusing mainly on the pressing terrorism threats troubling both countries. Allen who arrived in Islamabad on 27 July met Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani to build on the positive momentum established during last month’s meeting of the Afghanistan-Pakistan-International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) Tripartite Commission. “This visit helped advance our efforts to achieve regional stability. Additionally, the meeting provided us perfect opportunity to refocus our attention on our continuing efforts to eliminate the corrosive effects of extremists operating on both sides of the border,” Allen said in statement issued by ISAF. Both commanders specifically discussed the mutual progress being made to eliminate terrorism, combat extremism and ensure both Pakistan and Afghanistan’s territory are no longer used as a safe haven for cross border attacks, said the statement. The commanders also discussed current operational realities. During May’s Tripartite gathering, the first such discussion in nearly a year, commanders and key staff discussed issues of tactical, operational and strategic importance including cross-border cooperation. The meeting served as an opportunity to renew everyone’s desire to address topics and issues of mutual importance, added ISAF. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Narcotics

Marines, ANA in Marjah shift focus to counternarcotics

What began as a window of opportunity, a simple chance to change the status quo in the Central Helmand River Valley, turned into an ongoing counternarcotics operation that has prevented the annual summer fighting season from getting off the ground. Operation Psarlay Taba, a partnered counternarcotics operation conducted by 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, and the Afghan National Interdiction Unit, targeted opium production facilities and narcotics trafficking in the Bari Desert, northwest of Marjah district. When Lt. Col. Michael Styskal, commanding officer of 2nd Bn. 9th Marines, arrived in Marjah in December 2011, the situation had changed dramatically since his last deployment there a year before. Styskal’s predecessor with 3rd Bn., 6th Marines had moved his battalion to the outskirts of Marjah. Afghan security forces, anchored by perhaps the strongest local police force in the country, were in control of the blocks, or main population centers, of the district. “Marjah was a district in transition,” said Styskal, a native of Lake Villa, Ill. “Marines and ANA (Afghan National Army) moved out to the periphery… the police were set in and the district government was working.” With the blocks secured, Styskal and his Marines were able to shift their focus outward. “We chose to fight the enemy on our footing,” said Styskal. “We targeted where we knew they would be protecting their narcotics.” The sparsely populated Bari Desert caught the collective eye of the battalion’s intelligence and operations officers. The high rates of poppy cultivation and narcotics trafficking in the desert made it a focus of pre-deployment planning efforts. (…) The insurgency’s ability to funnel narcotics in and out of southern Helmand is critical to funding their operations in Marjah and neighboring districts. When that ability is lost or diminished, logistical support to insurgent fighters, like weapons and improvised explosive device components, is severely reduced. To attack this critical insurgent funding stream, the battalion designed an operation that included primarily heliborne raids on suspected opium production facilities and aerial interdictions on vehicles transporting narcotics. However, guaranteed mission success called for morel capabilities than a Marine battalion alone could provide. A uniquely Afghan skill set was required. The NIU is an elite counternarcotics police force that falls under the Afghan Ministry of the Interior. Closely resembling American SWAT teams in both tactics and organizational structure, the NIU operate in eight to 16-man teams. Their unique capabilities made them ideal partners in an operation with a heavy emphasis on heliborne raids. “The NIU was involved in all mission selection and would help us decide which targets to take action on,” said Styskal. “They were the main effort, the assault force on all these raids.” Members of the NIU are trained and mentored by U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration agents, and are widely held as experts in Afghan narcotics law. … (ISAF)

Security Threats

Kabul, Pakistan at logerheads over border violence

Pakistani officials accused up to 60 Afghan soldiers on 2 July of crossing into Pakistani territory and sparking clashes that killed two tribesman. It was the latest in a series of escalating cross-border attacks reported in Afghanistan and Pakistan that are inflaming tensions along the porous border as NATO prepares to end its combat mission against the Taliban in 2014. Both countries blame each other for harbouring Taliban fighters active on both sides of their 2,400 kilometre (1,500 mile) border, fanning distrust between Kabul and Islamabad, and complicating a peace process in Afghanistan. Kabul threatened to report Islamabad to the UN Security Council over what it alleges is the shelling of villages, while Islamabad said it would protest formally to Kabul against the latest incursion. “If our bilateral discussions regarding this issue brings no result, we will refer this issue to the United Nations Security Council,” Afghan foreign ministry spokesman Faramarz Tamana told AFP. (…) Afghans and Americans blame Pakistan for not doing more to eliminate havens on its soil, which are used as launch pads for attacks across the border. Last month, the US commander of NATO in Afghanistan blamed the Pakistan-based Haqqani network for a siege on a lakeside hotel in Kabul that killed 18 people. US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta also warned last month that Washington was running out of patience with Pakistan over militant havens. But in Pakistan, border attacks have raised fresh concerns that Pakistani Taliban, who fled a 2009 army offensive, have regrouped and again pose a threat. (RNW, ANP, AFP)

Taliban

Taliban renew threats against trucks

Taliban threatened late on 3 July to attack NATO supply trucks and kill its drivers if they tried to resume supplies to troops in Afghanistan, a spokesman said. Ehsanullah Ehsan told AFP the Taliban “will not allow any truck to pass and will attack it,” hours after Pakistan confirmed it had decided to reopen vital NATO supply routes into Afghanistan which have been closed since November. “We will not allow anyone to use Pakistani soil to transport supplies that will be used against the Afghan people,” the group’s spokesman told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location. “We will not only attack the supply truck but will also kill the drivers (of NATO supply trucks),” Ehsan added. (…) Prior to the closure Taliban carried out dozens of attacks, disrupting supplies for 130,000 US-led NATO troops fighting in Afghanistan, and have repeatedly warned of more if Pakistan reopened supply routes. The routes are increasingly important as NATO prepares to withdraw all combat troops from Afghanistan in 2014. Following the official announcement NATO truckers said they feared more attacks and demanded security guarantees before the resumption of the supply routes. (The Nation)

Taliban using kids as suicide bombers in Afghanistan

The arrest of two children and a teenager with bombs and remote-controlled devices in Afghanistan’s former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar has sparked fears that the militant outfit could be training more children as suicide bombers. The children were aged eight and 12 and the teenager was 17 years old, Xinhua reported citing Kandahar province spokesman Jawed Faisal. They were arrested in Zharay district of the province, while carrying multiple improvised explosive devices and homemade explosives. UNICEF spokesman in Kabul, Aziz Farotan, said at least 316 children under 18 were recruited by militant outfits in 2011 to fight against the government. The Taliban are yet to admit recruiting children for fighting against the government. However, Afghan officials said Taliban-run madrassas or Islamic religious schools in Pakistan’s northwest tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan train young students in terror tactics and send them to Afghanistan to fight. This was not the first time security forces reported arrest of underage children in terrorist activities. In August 2011, Afghan President Hamid Karzai set free from a juvenile detention centre in Kabul around two dozen would-be children suicide bombers, the youngest of them aged only eight. When the potential bombers were brought before journalists, an 11-year-old boy said his teachers told him to “just get close to a group of foreign soldiers and touch these two wires together”. He said he was trained by the Taliban in Pakistan’s southwest Quetta city. His trainers told him he would be able to detonate his vest and kill the foreign soldiers without killing himself. At least five children are killed or injured in the militancy-plagued nation every day, the UNICEF spokesman said. (NY Daily News)

U.S. POLICIES

Pentagon ‘deeply concerned’ by rash of ‘insider’ attacks in Afghanistan

The Pentagon said on 5 July that it is “deeply concerned” by a rash of attacks in which NATO soldiers have been shot by their supposed allies in the Afghan security force. Pentagon spokesman Capt. John Kirby confirmed that “several” U.S. soldiers were injured in Wardak province earlier this week after an Afghan wearing a soldier uniform began shooting at the troops. Officials have said a total of five Americans were shot in the attack — Kirby said they are in “stable condition,” though the attacker “fled the scene and is still at large.” The attack was just the latest incident where Afghan security forces have targeted NATO trainers and partners. The number so far this year is quickly approaching the tally for all of 2011. The Pentagon recorded a total of 19 attacks involving 26 deaths, 13 of them American, as of early July. In 2011, according to Kirby, there were 21 attacks and 35 deaths. “We continue to be deeply concerned about the insider threat,” Kirby told reporters at the Pentagon on 5 July. The insider attacks have undermined the trust between allies and efforts to prepare Afghan troops to take over their own security as international combat troops prepare to withdraw. (Fox News)

US Refutes Pak Claims against Safe Havens

The United States has strongly refuted Pakistani allegation that NATO and Afghan forces are taking action against safe havens inside the country. And, Pentagon urged Islamabad to take strong action against terrorist sanctuaries inside Pakistan. “We deplore any attack on our Pakistani partners. The TTP (Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan) poses a threat to both Pakistan and to the United States. We take aggressive action against terrorists on the Afghan side of the border. We will continue to do so. “Whether it is the Haqqani network or the TTP, whether it is Al-Qaeda, we will take decisive action on the Afghan side of the border,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters. “It is important for the United States and Pakistan to work closely with each other on the issue of insurgents that cross the border and that are what we have called for in recent weeks with respect to safe havens in Pakistan. “We look forward to continuing our dialogue with the government of Pakistan on these very important issues as this is a common cause. These terrorists threat both the United States and Pakistan,” Little said. He however, refrained from making any comment on Afghan’s allegations of increased shelling by Pakistan from across the border, resulting in displacement of civilians and casualties. Meanwhile, several top lawmakers introduce a bill in the Congress for terrorist designation of Haqqani network, for which the State Department is taking an unusually long time. The bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by House Intelligence Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, Buck McKeon, Chairman of House Armed Services Committee and Chairman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen of the Foreign Affairs Committee. In introducing the bill, Rogers said, Republicans and Democrats in both houses of Congress agreed that Haqqani Network is a violent terrorist organization and a grave threat to US security. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Army Makes Case For Funding Culture Skills Beyond COIN

As budgets tighten and the wars wind down, the Army is struggling to institutionalize the hard-won cultural skills it learned in Afghanistan and Iraq — and to make the case for their continued relevance and resourcing to an administration whose new strategic guidance swears off counterinsurgency. Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey himself recently touted the importance of “the science of human relationships” as essential far beyond Afghanistan. The Army, Dempsey’s own service, has already begun to “align” specific brigades with specific regions they might operate, starting with Africa, so they can bone up on the local culture, language, and politics before they deploy, in an effort to replicate the pre-deployment training now done for Afghanistan for other parts of the world. But to secure funding for such efforts in the long term, the Army needs to enshrine them in joint doctrine. At the heart of the Army’s evolving argument is a concept so new it hasn’t got an official name. “What we’re working to avoid is getting trapped into a title,” said Col. Robert Simpson of the Army’s Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC), in an interview with AOL Defense, though the leading proposed term is “human domain.” What’s essential, Simpson said, is “to make sure that we get into our doctrine, into our thinking in terms of the joint force and policymakers, that the purpose of any military operation is to affect human behavior.” But current planning processes fixate on physical factors. What’s necessary is a sophisticated cultural, sociological, and psychological understanding, he went on, of “what are our opponents willing to fight and die for” — and how to convince them to give up. “It’s not just COIN [counterinsurgency],” Simpson went on. “To take the extreme example, we dropped the atom bombs not to destroy Hiroshima and Nagasaki but to compel the Japanese people to surrender. That was purely a decision based on an intent to control behavior.” That may seem a cold-blooded way to talk about such lethal violence. It’s uncontroversial nowadays to tout the importance of understanding and influencing foreign cultures in so-called “low-intensity” conflicts to “win hearts and minds.” It’s another matter to talk about high-intensity warfare as simply a way “to affect human behavior.” (Aol Defense)

As always, we’re eager to hear feedback on the usefulness of this service as well as your suggestions on improving it. 

LDESP Staff ldesp_staff@nps.edu

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1 Response »

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