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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 20 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.


Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

Karzai Challenges Taliban Chief To Run For Afghan President

President Hamid Karzai has challenged Taliban leader Mullah Omar to take part in Afghanistan’s elections. Karzai told reporters in Kabul on July 12 “Mullah Mohammad Omar can come inside Afghanistan anywhere he wants to. He can open political office for himself, but he should leave the gun [beside].” Karzai added that Omar and his associates could “create his political party, do politics, and become a candidate himself for the elections.” “If people voted for [Omar], good for him,” Karzai said. “He can take the leadership in his hand.” Omar is one of the world’s most wanted men, with the United States offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to his capture. He is wanted by Washington for sheltering Al-Qaeda militants from 1996 to 2001, including leader Osama bin Laden, who was deemed responsible for carrying out the September 11 airliner-hijacking attacks in America in 2001, which killed nearly 3,000 people. The whereabouts of the one-eyed fugitive Taliban leader remain unknown since his rule of Afghanistan was ended by the U.S. invasion of the country in late 2001. Some reports say he could be living in Pashtun tribal areas of Afghanistan or Pakistan. Afghanistan’s next presidential elections are currently scheduled to take place in 2014 — the same year as NATO-led international combat troops plan to withdraw from the country. Earlier this year, Karzai discussed the possibility of bringing the elections forward to 2013. Speaking at a press conference in April, Karzai said he wasn’t sure whether Afghanistan would be able to handle “the complete return of international forces to their homes from Afghanistan and the holding of the presidential election at the same time.” Karzai himself is constitutionally barred from running for a third term in office. He has been in power for more than a decade. Karzai has repeatedly called on Omar and other insurgents trying to overthrow his U.S.-backed administration to renounce violence and accept peaceful reintegration. He reiterated these calls during a press conference on July 12, saying: “All Afghans, those who aren’t the puppets of others and have [only] issues with us at home – they are welcome for any talks.” The Taliban has repeatedly turned down Karzai’s offers and earlier this year withdrew from exploratory talks with the United States. (RFE/RL)

Justice, Security Will Establish Unbeatable Government: Karzai

Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended the inauguration of Afghanistan’s first female judges association, saying that no outside power could beat Afghanistan if its justice system and security were strong. Karzai urged the judges and the justice professionals at the opening of the Afghan Women Judges Association to follow Islamic and Afghan laws while dealing with the cases that come before them. “It’s important for the people of Afghanistan to know what kind of a government they will have after the withdrawal of foreign soldiers. If we provide them with good justice, security and governance which are vital, no outside power could beat us.” Karzai said. He also raised concerns about the weakness of justice organs demonstrated by people referring back to the old traditions and customs to solve their judicial problems. “The reason the people of Afghanistan at the cities and villages are referring to the old traditions to solve their judicial issues is this because the government is not able to follow up their cases properly. They also fear not receiving justice in the coming years,” Karzai said. Karzai said that the decisions of the attorneys and judges will help people return to the proper judicial process, making them fear the law. “I hope that all the justice sector which the people are concerned about consider Islamic and Afghanistan’s laws to provide fear of judgment to the people of Afghanistan,” he said, adding that any mistakes made by the judges and prosecutors are unforgettable. Meanwhile, the Head of the Afghanistan’s High Court Abdul Salam Azimi said at the ceremony that there were more women roles in the country’s justice system. He urged the judges to avoid any bribes or corruption in order to better serve the country and implement the laws. (TOLOnews)

Council of Ministers Still to Discuss AISA Officials Claims

The upcoming Council of Ministers session will decide about the resignation of the Afghanistan Investment Support Agency (AISA) officials and their claims of rife corruption in the agency, the presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told TOLOnews on 16 July. “The issue [of corruption] is still a claim by the seven staff of AISA who resigned, so it needs more investigation to see how much is correct. We still need to collect all the evidence and then discuss it in the next cabinet meeting,” President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman Faizi said. AISA is considered to the major organization for the development of the private sector as it offers support to foreign investors and is responsible for distributing trade and business investment licenses, legalizing the activities of the Afghan and foreign private companies. Deputy head of the Afghanistan Industries Association Abdul Jabar Safi believes that any delay or inconsistency in the activities of AISA will harm the business sector in the country. (…) The seven AISA officials resigned on 12 July in a letter to Karzai, citing corrupt practices including improper hiring and promotions under the direction of the new president Wafiullah Eftekhar who was appointed in May. Eftekhar refuted the claims on Thursday, telling TOLOnews that they were baseless and called for proof. (Daily Outlook, TOLOnews)

Defense Ministry to Investigate Claims of ANA, Taliban ‘Truce’ in Uruzgan

The Afghan Ministry of Defense on Monday rejected the claims made in an Austrlaian newspaper that Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers had arranged an unofficial truce with the Taliban in southern Uruzgan province. Defense spokesman Gen. Zahir Azimi said that the report was wrong, proven by the work the ANA soldiers in the area to combat the insurgents, but added that there would be an investigation. “This report is wrong because the ANA soldiers have engaged with the enemy many times and had some fatalities, which shows their commitment to protecting the people from those threatening peace and security,” Azimi told TOLOnews. “However we will be investigating this report,” he added. The news report published in the Canberra Times on Monday found that militants in the Chora district of Uruzgan and the local ANA soldiers seem to have shared confidential military information in exchange for an unofficial ceasefire on ANA targets. The report suggested the truce contributed to the death of an Australian special forces soldier earlier this month. Quoting Naik Mohammad, a tribal elder from Chora, it says that in the past three months, the local soldiers were not attacked by the Taliban at all and were never hit by any roadside bombs, while the Afghan police and foreign soldiers have came under massive Taliban attacks. “Taliban are very strong in Chora district, there has been some kind of deal between the ANA soldiers and the Taliban because there has been not even a bullet fired on them.” Naik Mohammad told the newspaper, adding that the ANA soldiers were informing the Taliban of military operations against them. (TOLOnews)

Rule of Law

Views on Media Law Submitted to Ministry

A media-support organization on 16 July submitted journalists’ suggestions for amending a draft mass media law to the Ministry of Information and Culture, officials said. Stressing the freedom of the press, Nai asked the deputy minister of information to amend the proposed law based on journalists’ 19-point suggestions. Article 4 of the law says each individual has the right to freedom of expression and access to information without interference from government officials. “This right also includes independent reporting, receipt and release of information.” On the other hand, one proposal says: “Any person, regardless of his/her nationality, should have the right to the freedom of expression. The right involves independent release, distribution and acquisition of information…” Article 52 of the mass existing law states: “Matters related to copyright, creation of associations, punishment for violations, advertisements and information seeking are regulated by separate laws.” But journalists sought clarity on their recruitment, privileges and rights of private media workers. As part of efforts at supporting press freedom and improving the media situation in Afghanistan, Nai sought opinions from media outlets, journalists and civil society representatives at a national conference held in Kabul on 27 May. Nai head Siddiqullah Tawhidi told reporters: “Now that the suggestions for amending the mass media law have been compiled, we urge the ministry to consider and incorporate them in case of changes.” For his part, Deputy Minister of Information Din Mohammad Mubarez Rashedi called media growth of media outlets in the country a big achievement of the government. They would never allow the achievement to be damaged, he promised. He added they would consider the journalists’ views whenever amendments to the law were brought. “Undoubtedly, we can do good work under a balanced law. The mass media law needs some changes, but it does not mean that the law should be completely amended.” (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Afghans Say Extrajudicial Execution Was Un-Islamic

Under Shari’a law, death by stoning is prescribed in cases of adultery committed by married men and women. But Islamic scholars, ordinary Afghan citizens, and even the Taliban say that the recent trial and execution of 22-year-old Najiba in Parwan Province was not carried out according to the rules of Islamic jurisprudence. That, they say, makes Najiba’s death a case of murder — another crime that is punishable by death under Shari’a law. Maulavi Hanafi, an Islamic religious scholar from eastern Afghanistan, told RFE/RL that Najiba was killed as a result of an “extrajudicial court” ruling rather than a legitimate Shari’a court decision. “The true [Islamic] scholars must prevent these extrajudicial courts,” he said. “For example, if a crime is committed, there must be evidence provided. Every verdict requires evidence.” A video of the execution, official comments, and media reports indicate that no evidence was presented against Najiba. Reports have widely attributed the trial and execution to the Taliban, but a spokesman for the Islamist group denies Taliban involvement. Zabihullah Mujahid says Najiba was executed “according to the decision of the people of the region” rather than under a proper Shari’a court ruling. Mujahid said in a statement on July 10 that Afghans in provincial regions “sometimes make such decisions without being members” of groups or proper Islamic courts. The Taliban spokesman said villagers issued the guilty verdict and execution order “according to their tribal traditions,” rather than Shari’a law. Maulavi Sidiqullah Fedayee, a Munich-based Islamic scholar from Afghanistan, agrees, “Islam has very clear rules,” he said. “These clear rules of Islam cannot be changed. Those who implement Shari’a simply on the basis of accusations do not have an adequate understanding of the rules of Islam.” Provincial officials say Najiba’s trial, verdict, and execution lasted no more than an hour. There was no appeals process, and the same people who issued the guilty verdict against Najiba also sentenced her. According to Fedayee, a legitimate Shari’a execution order requires higher standards of evidence, an appeals process, and sentencing by a higher court than the initial trial court: “In a case of adultery, there must be four witnesses, and these witnesses must testify that they actually saw the woman and a man together engaged in sexual intercourse,” he said. “The judge should take all of this testimony to another judge and put all the evidence on the table. It is the second judge who checks that all of these procedures were done properly. “The second judge must then take all of the evidence to the higher Shari’a Supreme Court. The accused has the right to appeal against the verdicts issued by the lower courts. It is the Shari’a Supreme Court that makes the decision on the punishment.” Many Afghans say the Afghan government needs to expand its presence in rural provincial areas in order to stop executions on the basis of such extrajudicial court rulings. “The government must prevent these extrajudicial courts because many people are unjustly killed by these extrajudicial courts in a very cruel way,” said Kabul resident Khalil Ahmad. “This is happening everywhere.” Samar Gul, a resident of Paktia Province in southeastern Afghanistan, maintains it is wrong for villagers to take the law into their own hands. “The extrajudicial courts belong to nobody,” he said. “We all have to obey our laws and the law must not discriminate between people who are living in urban areas or rural areas. The law must be applied equally.” (RFE/RL)

Afghan Soldier Sentenced To Death For French Troop Killings

An Afghan soldier has been sentenced to death for the killing of four French soldiers. Defense Ministry spokesman Zahir Azimi said on 17 July that a military court in Kabul ordered the solider, Abdul Sabor, to be hanged. The sentence can still be appealed. The four French soldiers were gunned down on January 20 in the Tagab district of the eastern Kapisa Province during a joint training operation involving NATO-led troops and Afghan soldiers. It was one of a series of incidents in which members of the Afghan security forces have attacked their foreign allies. In a recent incident, three British soldiers were shot dead by a man in an Afghan police uniform in the southern province of Helmand earlier this month. (RFE/RL)

Peace Talks

Karzai Claims Taliban Willing To Talk To Government

Afghan President Hamid Karzai says the Taliban has for the first time expressed interest in talking with his U.S.-backed government. Speaking to journalists in Tokyo on 9 July, Karzai said representatives of the Afghan Peace Council met representatives of the Taliban and another opposition group, Hizb-e Islami, two weeks ago at a gathering organized by Doshisha University in the Japanese city of Kyoto. Karzai said a Taliban senior representative, Qari Din Mohammad, announced the militants are willing to talk to the Afghan government. Karzai said the meeting discussed “how to reach a peaceful settlement.” A purported Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, confirmed the participation of a Taliban representative in the Kyoto gathering but said the group has made no promises. The insurgents have previously rejected direct talks with Kabul and have insisted on talking to the United States instead. (RFE/RL)

Taliban Reluctant to Start Dialogue with Afghan Government

The Taliban are willing to resume talks with the US under certain circumstances but are reluctant to begin dialogue with the Karzai administration, a Taliban source told Pakistan’s Daily Times Newspaper. After the Tokyo conference, efforts to convince the Taliban to talk with the Afghan government were ramped up with Pakistan taking a major role in this regard, according to a spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign office Abdul Basit. Basit declined to provide further details about what his country was doing to convince the Taliban to talk, but said that Pakistan has always urged all groups in Afghanistan to take part in the reconciliation process, according to the news report. (Daily Outlook)

Frank Talks with Pakistan Underway: Karzai

President Hamid Karzai on 9 July said that comprehensive and frank discussions were underway between Afghanistan and Pakistan on how to bring peace and stability to the neighboring nations. Karzai, who attended a key international conference in Tokyo on Afghanistan’s reconstruction and sustainable development, was fielding a volley of questions from journalists at a news briefing. (…) “Our contacts with Pakistan for peace and stability have become strong,” the Afghan leader said, while characterizing Islamabad’s role in bringing peace to his country as crucial and unavoidable. He said there were many factors involved in the reconciliation effort, but Pakistan’s role was the most important in this regard. Pakistan could help arrange peace talks with rebels, Karzai added. “Pakistan can help in many ways to secure peace in Afghanistan and bring Taliban leaders to the negotiating table,” the president insisted. “We are having multifaceted and candid talks with Pakistan on peace and as part of the effort, the Pakistani prime minister will be visiting Kabul and we will do plain talking,” he announced. To a question about parleys with the Taliban, Karzai said peace was possible if the rebels recognised the Afghan constitution, women’s rights and shunned violence. His government through various channels had contacted the Taliban for negotiations, but there had been no direct talks, he explained. He expressed his pleasure over first-ever meeting between Taliban and ‘Hezb-i-Islami Afghanistan representatives with Afghanistan High Peace Council members at a university in Tokyo a few weeks ago. A former Taliban minister, Qari Din Mohammad, represented the group at talks with the peace council officials. Karzai said it was a good development and called for the continuation of such meetings. However, the Taliban have rejected the claims that their representative had met Afghan government officials in Tokyo. On Afghan prisoners at the US-run Guantanamo Bay detention centre in Cuba, Karzai said they had no problem if the inmates were transferred to Qatar or Afghanistan and reunited with their families. He said they would support such a move. (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Pakistan Will Support Afghan Peace Process: Ashraf

Pakistan will do whatever it can to assist the Afghan-led peace process, Pakistani Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf said in Kabul on 19 July. In a meeting with the leaders of Afghan opposition parties National Coalition Abdullah Abdullah and National Front Ahmadzia Massoud, Ashraf focused on the political and cultural cooperation between the two countries and the important role of all the political parties in bringing peace and providing good governance. Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, Interior Minister Rehman Malik and Minister of State for Commerce Abbas Ahmed Afridi were also present in the meeting. In the meeting Ashraf said that it is the right of the Afghans to choose their own governance system, whether it’s a presidential or a parliamentary regime, stressing that his country would abide by the principles of the non-interference in the internal affairs of Afghanistan. Before the meeting, Ashraf inaugurated the renovated building of Pakistan’s Embassy in Kabul, emphasising the shared cultural heritage of the two countries. “We want friendship and cooperation with all Afghanistan without exception. Ladies and gentlemen, Afghanistan and Pakistan are good colleagues because we have a shared history, religion, culture and civilisation, so it’s necessary to fight together,” he said at the ceremony. He also promised to open a school and health clinic in Karte Parwan area of Kabul city and provide educational scholarships for the students of Pakistan’s English and Computer center. Ashraf also met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai for the first time since he took office, as well as visiting British Prime Minister David Cameron. According to a statement from the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Thursday, the leaders discussed the regional security concerns related to terrorism and the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan. Both Cameron and Ashraf reiterated their commitment to supporting Afghanistan in achieving stability and prosperity. (TOLOnews)

Release of Taliban Inmates Merely Strengthens the Insurgency: ANF

Releasing insurgents from prisons is strengthening the “trenches” of the Taliban, Afghanistan National Front chairman, Ahmad Zia Massoud, said on 15 July. Speaking at the “Woman’s Rights in Society” conference in Kabul, Massoud spoke of the recent government move to release 79 suspected insurgents from two prisons, saying it would only lead to great insecurity in the country. “The government has an interest in the insurgent groups. Which authority allowed the President to release those who killed Afghans, Parliament?” Masoud said. He said the move would not facilitate talks with the Taliban, the apparent reason for the move, pointing out that the Taliban have never recognized the Afghan government nor been open to talks. Massoud also spoke of the violence against women in Afghanistan, saying that as long as the Afghan people hold on to old traditions, violence against woman will exist. (Daily Outlook, TOLOnews)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Pakistani Islamists Protest Reopening Of NATO Routes To Afghanistan

Thousands of Pakistani Islamists shouted “Death to America” as they protested U.S. drone strikes along the Afghan-Pakistan border and the lifting of a seven-month blockade of routes through which NATO carries supplies into Afghanistan. The protest on 17 July was organized by Jamaat-e-Islami, a leading member of the Defense of Pakistan coalition of right-wing and Islamist groups. The protest occurred at Jamrud, near the Torkham border crossing. Local administration official Bakhtiar Khan said between 18,000 and 20,000 people took part. Pakistani authorities closed overland routes used by NATO convoys bringing supplies into Afghanistan after U.S. air strikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers near the Afghan border last November. The routes were re-opened on 3 July, after the U.S. said “sorry” for the incident. (RFE/RL)

United Nations

UNOCHA Concerned Over Afghanistan’s Future

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) is concerned over the future of Afghanistan as ongoing conflict and natural disasters continue to affect the country, a UN spokesman told reporters here on 13 July. “OCHA says Afghans are facing an uncertain future, despite improvements in education, health care and political participation over the past decade,” UN spokesperson Martin Nesirky said during a daily news briefing. According to a report released on the OCHA website, about 300 natural disasters have affected an estimated 200,000 Afghans so far this year. And with the upcoming withdrawal of the International Security Assistance Force from Afghanistan in 2014, local economies, humanitarian needs and development gains could be at risk. “The departure of foreign troops will reduce economic activity, state revenue and foreign aid, putting the development gains of the last decade at risk,” said Nesirky. On the OCHA website, Michael Keating, who was appointed Resident and Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan in July of last year, explained how the different groups of people in the country will be affected by the departure of foreign groups. He also explained the lasting effects of natural disasters for many Afghan residents. “There are three groups of people with major humanitarian needs: those affected by sudden-onset natural disasters, chronically vulnerable people living in remote and inaccessible areas, and those affected by conflict,” noted Keating. “The greatest concern is whether security will increase or decrease, and how this will affect different parts of the country, “he said.”Don’t abandon Afghanistan again, as it happened in the early 90’s.” (Daily Outlook, Bokhdi)


Tokyo Summit Injects Hope into Afghanistan’s Economy

Afghanistan’s Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) said on 11 July that the pledges from international donors at the Tokyo conference on Afghanistan were a welcome boost to the economy. Business in the country will be renewed by the $16bn in pledges for civilian aid and development, the ACCI said at a press conference 11 July. “The market was in a downturn but after the Tokyo summit there are new changes in Afghanistan’s commerce,” ACCI Deputy Head Khan Jan Alkozai said. Alkozai welcomed the commitments from international donors and called on the government to ensure it implemented the new programs needed to secure the trust of the donors. “The government should do its best to fight corruption in the government institutions,” he said. ACCI officials pointed to the pledges as a foundation for the government to set up regional and global opportunities of investment in sections of agriculture, power, mines, support for the private sector, infrastructure projects, and transit with neighboring countries. ACCI Director Qurban Haqju described the ten years after 2014 as a critical time for the country. “The ‘transformation decade’ of 2015 until 2025 in terms of the economy will be the making of Afghanistan’s destiny,” he said. (TOLOnews)

Cameron, Karzai Sign Deal to Build Officers’ Academy

British Prime Minister David Cameron and Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed a deal on 19 July to build a British-style officers’ academy in Afghanistan. Cameron said in a press conference on Thursday that the deal was part of Britain’s continuing commitment to development aid beyond 2014, when UK combat troops will leave as international operations end. Cameron and Karzai will also meet with Pakistan’s new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf who travelled to Kabul on 19 July. It will be Karzai’s first meeting with Ashraf, and it is expected to focus on discussions over securing a peace deal with the Taliban and an end to cross-border support for insurgents. At the press conference, Cameron urged Karzai and Ashraf to “work together to achieve a secure and stable Afghanistan.” It comes as NATO begins the troop drawdown from Afghanistan, set to end in 2014. Cameron arrived in Afghanistan on Wednesday, landing in the southern city of Lashkar Gar, capital of Helmand province, where British forces are based. He met with provincial officials including the police chief and acting governor to discuss the transition of security responsibilities to Afghan forces. Britain has around 9,500 troops in Afghanistan, making it the second-largest contributor to the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force after the United States. (TOLOnews)

Donors’ Money will Be Spent Prudently: Afghanistan

The Afghan government assured international community that the development aid pledged at the just-concluded Tokyo Conference would be spent according to the country’s 10-year strategic plan. “Assistance pledged by Japan would be spent by Afghan government according the priorities of the 10 year strategic plan of Afghanistan,” said the Presidential Palace in statement on 10 July. (…) On 9 July, Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda told President Hamid Karzai that Japan would continue it assistance to Afghanistan during the decade of change, said the statement. “The Tokyo Conference has sent a strong message to the world about the importance of economic development of Afghanistan,” Noda said. Karzai thanked Noda for hosting the conference and asked Japanese assistance to construct ring roads — connecting Heart, Bamyan, Ghor, Uruzgan, Daikundi to Kabul — that would help Afghanistan’s infrastructure development, said the statement. Karzai also asked Japan to offer scholarships for Afghan students to continue their higher education in Japanese universities. Japan had pledged to train 500 Afghan students in different fields of studies in the next five years in the country. (Daily Outlook)


Iran Legalizes A Million Afghans

More than a million Afghan refugees living with their families in neighboring Iran have been issued with passports as part of the first phase of their identification and registration process, an official said on 16 July. The process that began on 21 March had concluded on 21 June, Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Janan Musazai told a press conference in Kabul. The refugees, who were issued passports having three months visas by the Iranian government through the Afghan embassy and consulates in Tehran, had earlier no such documents, he said. He added: “The visas can be extended for another nine months.” The second phase of registration will begin after the holy month of Ramadan, when another 35,000 Afghan refugees will be registered and given passports. Musazai said the Afghans who did not have families in Iran should come to Afghanistan to receive their passports and visas. With the completion of the registration process, he explained, not a single Afghan would remain in Iran without legal documents. He said those who wanted to travel to Iran for employment after the registration process had to complete their legal documents in Afghanistan. Afghans who had received legal documents could send their children to school in Iran and they would avail all the facilities, including health insurance, enjoyed by legal immigrants. Another 90,000 Afghans have already been provided with legal documents by the government of Iran. Musazai said they were not required to have visas and passports, but they could obtain the documents, if they so desired. (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Italy Finds Afghans Hiding in Mussels from Greece

Italian officials found 25 Afghans hidden in a truck full of mussels from Greece and sent them back, Italian media reported on Tuesday, as rights groups condemn increased deportations from Italy to Greece. Customs guards at the southern port of Bari became suspicious when they found that the truck’s refrigeration unit was switched off and found the migrants hidden among 1.2 tons of mussels using scanning equipment. The area where the migrants were hiding was only accessible via a trap door. The German refugee rights group Pro Asyl and the Greek Refugee Council this month said there had been a big increase in migrant arrivals to Italy from Greece due to the crisis and rising anti-immigrant violence in Greece. “People in need of international protection and unaccompanied minors… are either refused entry to Italian territory or are readmitted back to Greece without being granted any access to international protection,” Pro Asyl said. It accused Italy of being in breach of European laws by denying registration of asylum claims and by carrying out “informal readmissions”. (TOLOnews)

Most Asylum Seekers in EU Come from Afghanistan: EASO

The report by the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) showed that in 2011 28,000 Afghans applied for asylum in the EU, the highest number in the decade since the war began. EASO Executive Director Robert K. Visser said Afghans were “by far the biggest” asylum seeker group in the EU, accounting for 9% of all applications and with 17 EU countries registering Afghans in their top three. After Afghans, Russians and Pakistanis are the second and third biggest asylum seekers in the EU, with about 18,000 and 15,000 applications in 2011 respectively. The EU yearly absorbs more asylum seekers than any other region, with 44% of all applications worldwide. Visser said he hoped the detailed report, entitled ‘Afghanistan: Taliban Strategies – Recruitment’, would contribute towards the “quality of decisions made” in asylum cases in the EU. e called the first EU wide country of origin report “state of the art at this moment”. The European Parliament’s Civil Liberties Committee voted on 10 July on a resolution for a permanent system for relocating asylum seekers in the EU and therefore improve policy solidarity amongst member states. EPs also called on more funding in this area, joint processing of applications and a stronger role for EASO. The Parliament is now waiting on Commission legislation proposals for a permanent relocation mechanism. (Daily Outlook, Agencies)

Women & Children

UN Says Brutality Against Afghan Women ‘Intolerable’

The head of the United Nations agency tasked with advancing gender equality has condemned recent violence against women in Afghanistan and stressed the need to protect their rights. Michelle Bachelet, executive director of the UN Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women), said in a statement that recent weeks have witnessed cases of “extreme abuse and appalling violence against women.” They include the torture and rape of a young woman by Afghan police and the public execution of a young woman, reportedly by the Taliban. Bachelet said such brutality is “intolerable” and called on the Afghan government to bring the perpetrators to justice, put an end to a culture of impunity, and create a culture of zero tolerance of violence and discrimination against women. (RFE/RL)

Women’s Healthcare Worrying: UNFPA

Reproductive healthcare remains a major challenge for women in Afghanistan due to cultural barriers and lack of proper medical facilities for pregnant women across the country, the United Nations said on 11 July. The United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) said reproductive health problems remained the leading cause of ill health and death for women of childbearing age worldwide, and Afghanistan was no exception. “Women who marry early, living in remote areas with limited access to emergency obstetric care, women in low-income groups with malnutrition and high fertility and women with no education are more at risk of dying in pregnancy and childbirth.”These challenges are affecting the entire country and require a multi-sector approach,” said Minister of Public Health Dr. Suraya Dalil, in conjunction with the World Population Day 2012, commemorated on 11 July. Dalil also acknowledged that traditions posed major barriers to women’s access to health services, especially in rural areas. According to an UNFPA statement, despite progresses in the past decade, two-thirds of women still gave birth at home, without a midwife or skilled attendant, more than half of the women under the age of 20 had no education and maternal mortality was still unacceptably high. According to the Afghanistan Mortality Study 2010, the Maternal Mortality Ratio is 327:100,000. “UNFPA Afghanistan is committed to support Afghan women and men to fulfill their reproductive rights and to address the health inequities between rural and impoverished women and urban area,” said Dr. Laurent Zessler, UNFPA Afghanistan representative. (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Stop Violence against Afghan Women: EU

The European Union condemned recent horrific violence against Afghan women and urged the government to protect vulnerable people. The EU Special Representative for Afghanistan Vygaudas Usackas criticized the public execution of a 22-year-old female by Taliban in central Parwan province and beheading of a 30-year-old woman and her two children by her divorced husband in Ghazni province early July. “These horrific incidents are worst examples of the extreme violence Afghan women meet on a daily basis. Over recent months we have seen a sharp rise in recorded honor killings and extra-judicial killings of women across Afghanistan. “Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission confirmed in the first two months of Afghan new year the number of reported honor killings was nearly as high as in all of last year,” Usackas said in a statement. He also said at the just-concluded Tokyo Conference, the Afghan government reaffirmed its commitment to uphold human rights and fundamental freedoms of its citizens, in particular the equality of men and women as guaranteed under the constitution and Afghanistan’s international human rights obligations. (…) The EU is committed to promote and protect women’s rights in Afghanistan and was assisting the government and civil society to fight violence against women, early and forced marriages, and provide safe shelter for those in need, he added. (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Culture & Society

Afghans Lift Lid On Sports Under The Taliban

For years, Kabul’s Ghazi Stadium was notorious not for hosting sporting events, but for the executions, stonings, and mutilations carried out there by the Taliban. Its playing field was so blood-soaked, it was whispered, that even grass would not grow there. Such horror stories went a long way in feeding the world’s general perception that sports were banned by the Islamist regime during its rule from 1996 to 2001. But veteran sports journalists and former Afghan athletes — while recalling brutality in sometimes graphic detail — also tell a different story, saying that some sports not only existed, but flourished under the Taliban. Safi Stanekzai, a former sports journalist with Tolo News and National TV, says that Ghazi Stadium was home under the Taliban to a thriving 12-team Kabul soccer league. Remnants of the old league live on at the stadium, which today stands as a modern sports arena, through the many original teams that continue to play there. Stanekzai writes off the mistaken notion as an example of how Western media painted a distorted picture of life in Afghanistan because of their lack of insight into how living under Taliban rule really was. “[The West] didn’t have close relations with Afghanistan then. Afghanistan was only known for war and the Taliban,” Stanekzai says, adding that the media “focused a lot more on the negatives than the positives of the time. One of those positives was sport. During the Taliban a lot of people were playing sports.” Stanekzai notes that while some traditional Afghan sports like kite-flying, dog fighting, and buzkashi, a game played on horseback with an animal carcass, were outlawed for being “un-Islamic,” cricket, volleyball, and boxing gained in popularity as the Taliban banned other activities such as music, television, and cinema. Sport was not for everyone, however. Women were strictly forbidden to participate and men were permitted to compete only if they were dressed properly. Soccer players, for example, were required to wear long-sleeve shirts, long shorts, and high socks that covered their bare skin… (RFE/RL)


Afghanistan, Iran to Sign Strategic Agreement ‘Soon’

Afghanistan and Iran are in the process of drafting a strategic agreement to boost cooperation between the two countries, Iranian Foreign Secretary Ali Akbar Salehi told TOLOnews in Japan. The agreement will focus on different aspects of their relationship, particularly on the training of Afghan national security forces, Salehi said, marking the first time an Iranian high-ranking official has stated the country’s interest in training Afghan soldiers. He confirmed that there were people already working on a draft of a long-term agreement. “We hope to sign a strategic agreement soon, which was proposed by President [Hamid] Karzai, in order to boost cooperation between the two countries. The two countries’ experts are working to write a draft of the agreement which will be signed in the near future,” he said. Salehi pointed out that Iran has a demonstrable interest in Afghanistan’s future. “We have attended many conferences in the past several months including Istanbul, Bonne, Kabul, and now the Tokyo conference which shows the strong commitment of Iran to our Afghan brothers and sisters,” Salehi said in the interview. He added that the Iranian government is already making steps in this regard, trying to connect Afghanistan to international waters through Iran’s Chabahar port. “One of the projects we’ve announced was to connect Afghanistan to Chabahar port in order to connect the country with waters which will ease the transit issues,” Salehi added. He said that Iran wants Afghanistan to stand on its own feet after withdrawal of the foreign troops from the country. Iran will be the second regional country to sign a strategic agreement with Afghanistan after India. Afghanistan has signed similar agreements with countries such as Italy, Britain, Australia, and the US, in recent months to secure their cooperation during the “transformation decade” of 2015 to 2024 and possibly beyond. (TOLOnews)

Work on Salma dam to continue, promises India

An Indian diplomat on 16 July reaffirmed New Delhi’s commitment to continuing work on the Salma dam — one of the mega friendship projects India is implementing in western Herat province. An Indian newspaper reported on July 14 that the project, which was originally scheduled to be completed in 2010, had been in serious trouble due to procrastination on the part of New Delhi. With the timeline pushed back by two years, the area around the site had begun witnessing frequent clashes between the project security detail and Afghan insurgents, The Hindu said. A security meeting was recently informed that construction activity was on the verge of stoppage because Afghan contractors had lost faith in the revival of the dam. As a result, subcontractors are reportedly refusing to supply material on credit for the dam, which will irrigate 75,000 hectares of land and generate 42 MW of power. But India’s acting Consul-General Rajesh Lal told Pajhwok Afghan News during an exclusive interview work on the dam had been delayed because the extra funds were yet to be approved. The project cost has escalated from $85 million to over Rs 200 million. Climatic conditions, logistic and security problems were another principal reason for the delay, Lal explained. Some of the constructed portions were washed away by floods in the early years of the project. The distance between India and the site, lack of access to the requisite materials and a staff shortage also contributed to the problem, he continued. (Daily Outlook)

China Role Important in Afghanistan Reconstruction: Grossman

China is playing a very important role in the reconstruction of Afghanistan, said Marc Grossman, US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan. “China has given development assistance to Afghanistan to increase the capacity of the government and the people of the Afghanistan,” the state media quoted the US envoy as saying. Grossman arrived in Beijing on 11 July evening “to continue the close consultation that China and the United States have on Afghanistan” after his trips to Tokyo and Seoul. (…) Grossman said Chinese investment in Afghanistan will not only bring jobs, but also a “connection to the future” for Afghans.The diplomat said China and the United States are pursuing several joint projects in Afghanistan. (Daily Outlook, AP)


Afghanistan Security Forces

NATO Hands Over Security Of North Afghan Region To Local Forces

Afghan security forces have officially taken security responsibility for Konduz Province in northern Afghanistan. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force handed over security responsibilities to Afghan forces in five of the six districts of the province. Speaking at the handover ceremony at Konduz airport, Interior Minister Bismellah Mohammadi said that forces took over security responsibility of Ali Abad, Char Dara, Qala-e Zal, Imam Saheb, and Dasht-e Archi in addition to the security of Konduz city. The handover is part of the third phase of security transition from the international troops. Completion of the third phase, announced in May, will give Afghan forces the lead security responsibility over 75 percent of the population. The transition began last year in July when seven largely peaceful areas were handed over to Afghan forces. (RFE/RL)

Afghan, NATO Forces Pressing on Haqqani Network

The Afghan army and the NATO-led coalition troops have been stepping up mounting pressure on the Haqqani network, a Taliban and al-Qaida-linked militant group accused of strings of high-profile attacks in the insurgency-hit country in recent years. In the latest wave of search and cleanup operations on the group, a joint Afghan and NATO-led forces captured a local Haqqani leader in Terayzai district in the eastern province of Khost on 9 July morning, the NATO-led coalition or the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) confirmed in a press release. “The detained Haqqani leader specializes in high-profile attacks and reported directly to senior Haqqani leaders,” said the ISAF without disclosing the name of the captured man.The Haqqani group is the military wing of Taliban fighters headed by Sirajuddin Haqqani, son of Mawlawi Jalaluddin Haqqani (…) According to media reports, Jalaluddin, who is in his 80s and troubled by sickness, has been a close aide to Taliban’s fugitive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. (Daily Outlook, Bokhdi)

Afghan National Police learn counter explosive skills for the first time since 2010

Local police in Uruzgan Province are being bolstered with the skills to dispose of life threatening explosive devices as they attend the Explosive Hazard Reduction Course (EHRC) for the first time in two years. The EHRC, underway since June 2010, is a highly successful education program designed to give indigenous forces the capability to clear Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) and Unexploded Ordnance (UXO) independently. The 21-day course is run year round by Australian and Singaporean Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) experts, and qualified Afghan instructors. The program now consistently caters for the Afghan National Police (ANP), whose freedom of movement is often hindered by IEDs and UXO near their checkpoints. Course manager Australian Chief Petty Officer Shaun Elliott, said the EHRC helps curtail this problem. (CENTCOM)

Afghan forces take the lead in the fight

In an effort to further step up and gain control of Afghanistan’s safety, Afghan National Security Forces took the lead along with International Security Assistance Forces during Operation Kalak Hode IV, from 3-17 July. Their mission was to clear insurgent safe havens and increase security and stability for the people in the Zharay and Maiwand districts. The operation took place after the responsibility of security for Kandahar province, which includes the Zharay and Maiwand districts, transitioned from International Security Assistance Forces, known as ISAF, to Afghan National Security Forces,or ANSF, 1 July . The Afghan National Army’s 205th Infantry Corps leads the ANSF in the area and are partnered with the 82nd Airborne Division. The 3rd Brigade, 205th Infantry Corps leads Unified Command Team Zharay-Maiwand, a partnered force consisting of the ANA, Afghan National Police, Afghan Local Police, Civil Order Police and 4th Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division. The forces found and removed a large quantity of enemy munitions, including 160 improvised explosive devices, known as IEDs, 140 of which were pressure-plate IEDs. Coalition forces recovered 1,427 pounds of homemade explosives throughout the operation. Also removed were one 155 mm rocket, 29 mortar rounds, 18 recoilless rifle rounds, two rocket-propelled grenades and 345 heavy machine gun rounds. ANSF and ISAF built several new combat operation posts throughout the districts to project power and influence, thereby increasing security for the Soldiers and villagers. “Our increased security allows us to see where the enemy is coming from and help prevent IED placement threats,” said Sgt. James Matychowiak, a squad designated marksman in 2nd Platoon, Alpha Company. Many of these combat outposts, or COPs, are permanent establishments that the ANSF will use as central locations to recruit and train their future comrades. (US ARMY)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Joint Operations Centre: Coalition’s eyes and ears

“The operations centre is the interface between the six military regions in the theatre of operations and the Military Staff of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), which manages strategic and political operations in Afghanistan,” explains, his eyes riveted to three giant screens, Lieutenant-Colonel Pascal (France) of Eurocorps. In this former gymnasium, transformed into a Joint Operations Centre (JOC) by the ISAF, 250 soldiers from around 20 countries handle an average of 150 events every day, 24 hours a day. In early July, incidents declined during weekends but remained at a consistently and alarmingly high level the other days of the week. “The insurrection has suffered setbacks,” explains General Thierry Corbet (France), one of the senior officers of Eurocorps, who has to spend 12 months on location in Afghanistan. As head of the JOC, he commands the planning of short-term operations and intelligence. “There are zones like Helmand, a province in the South-Western part of the country, where skirmishes are still very frequent,” observes General Corbet. “We are seeing irrational and spectacular attacks that are not necessarily effective. The coalition uses a wide range of technology to counter the improvised explosive devices (IED), the ‘poor man’s weapon’ used by the insurgents.” To monitor events, the operations centre commands the use of drones, 98% of which are supplied by the US Army. Interactive communication platforms (blogs) have been set up, with input provided by all the coalition forces. All units engaged in the coalition’s military operations can publish information or ask questions on this ‘J-Chat’ (joint chat), the daily common thread of events. In recent months, the Afghan National Army has become a partner of choice for this human intelligence. Deep within the operations centre, a situation map displayed on a cinema screen shows, on a live basis, the terrorist attacks, attacks by insurgents and operations (home-made bombs, enemy commandos) that have been thwarted. Every day, General Corbet transmits the key indicators to the ISAF hierarchy at a morning briefing. “At operational level, the JOC gathers intelligence and summarises all the events of the day, coordinates and assigns air operations and distributes the coalition’s military means,” explain Lieutenant-Colonel Pascal. Military legal advisers are present on a permanent basis, based near the medical advisers, who calculate on an ongoing basis the theoretical evacuation time for the wounded. “We also keep track of civilian victims and produce the coalition’s statistics,” explains Major Vanderheyden (Belgium), in charge of the civilian casualties cell. During the first half of 2012, their number (1,400 civilians) decreased by 50%. The coalition expects an increase in civilian victims caused by the insurgents toward the end of the year. (EUROPOLITICS)


NATO Wants Kabul to Improve Governance

NATO, on 9 July, asked Afghanistan to put its house in order, a day after foreign donors pledged billions of dollars in aid to the impoverished nation to help fix its brittle economy and sustain itself once foreign troops end combat operations in 2014. Speaking to reporters in Kabul, NATO senior civilian representative’s spokesman Dominic Medley said the country needed to further strengthen governance and reinforce the values enshrined in its constitution. “Access to justice, fight against corruption, and efficient distribution of resources and improved delivery of services are needed if Afghanistan is to make the most of the opportunity from Tokyo and many conferences before. All those areas require work by the government of Afghanistan and by the donors,” Medley remarked. He was responding to a question about NATO’s expectation from the Karzai administration in terms of spending donors’ dollars. (…) Medley also commented on the significance of the United States declaring Afghanistan as its major Non-NATO ally. “The significance is not to be underestimated,” he said, adding: “Only some 15 countries in the world have that status.” He added: “It further strengthens the strategic partnership that was signed between Afghanistan and the United States and of course that partnership is complimented by declarations at recent conferences and the many partnerships and bilateral agreements that have been signed this year alone with Afghanistan.” (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

U.S. Army’s Europe Commander Holds Talks With Saakashvili

The commander of U.S. Army forces in Europe, Mark Hertling, has met with Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili in Tbilisi for talks on defense cooperation and Georgia’s role in Afghanistan. Hertling thanked Saakashvili for maintaining an 800-troop contingent in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force. Hertling also held talks on European security concerns and military cooperation with a range of Georgian defense officials, including Deputy Defense Minister Maia Siprashvili-Lee and Chief of Joint Staff Devi Chankotadze. Saakashvili has repeatedly expressed hope that Georgia’s troop contributions in Afghanistan will bolster his country’s bid to join NATO. Russia, which engaged in a brief war with Georgia in 2008, staunchly opposes any NATO enlargement that would include Georgia or other former Soviet states. (RFE/RL)

Security Threats

23 NATO Supply Trucks Reportedly Destroyed In Afghanistan

Officials in northern Afghanistan say militants have destroyed 23 fuel tankers and trucks that were supplying NATO-led forces in Afghanistan. Khalil Andarabi, security chief of the northern province of Samangan, told RFER/RL that 19 of the destroyed vehicles were thought to be fuel tankers. The security chief said at least one of the drivers was injured. It was not immediately clear what happened to the other drivers. The trucks were parked in the Rabatak area of Samangan Province, where the drivers had stopped to rest, when they were attacked. The Associated Press reports that the tankers were transporting fuel south into Afghanistan from neighboring Uzbekistan. Earlier this week [18 July], three NATO supply trucks were destroyed by militants in Wardak Province to the west of Kabul. (RFE/RL)

Bomb Kills Afghan Women’s Affairs Ministry Official

Officials in Afghanistan say a woman who worked as a provincial director for the Ministry Of Women’s Affairs has been killed in a bomb explosion. Police say the bomb that killed Hanifa Safi, the women’s affairs chief in the eastern Laghman Province, had apparently been attached to her vehicle. Her husband and a young daughter were also reported injured in the July 13 attack in the Laghman capital, Mehtarlam. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing. But officials said the attack is similiar to previous assaults by Taliban militants targeting Afghan government officials and Afghan and foreign forces. The United Nations condemned the attack. “The deliberate killing of a brave woman and a public servant, dedicated to improving the situation of Afghan women and working for the safety and security of her country, is an outrage,” said Jan Kubis, its representative to Kabul. (RFE/RL)

Blacklisted or Not, Haqqani’s Finances Should Be Cut: Analyst

Blacklisting the Pakistan-based Haqqani network is a good idea to pressure their financial resources to stop funding them, Afghan military expert Noorulhaq Olomi told TOLOnews on 18 July. He blamed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) for financially giving support to the Haqqani network and called for greater pressure on the spy agency to quit supporting the terrorist network. “Blacklisting Haqqani is good, but their financial supporters which is ISI should be pressured because it is the main supporter of the Haqqani network,” he told TOLOnews, adding that nothing would change until the root of the network is destroyed. His statements came after US lawmakers look set to approve a move to designate the Haqqani network as one of the most dangerous terrorist networks in the world. The designation would bring sanctions and criminal penalties for anyone giving material support to the group, including seizure of any assets in the US. “The Haqqani network has killed many people; the network has all specifications of a terrorist network,” US Senator and Intelligence Committee Chairman Dianne Feinstein said on 17 July. According to reports, Feinstein has been writing to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for more than two years to urge the network be placed on the terrorist list. US officials said that the reason the Haqqani network was not blacklisted in the past was that the US had believed it would renounce violence and join the peace process. (TOLOnews)


Int’l Community will Stand by Afghanistan Beyond 2024: Crocker

US Ambassador to Afghanistan Ryan Crocker said on 15 July that his country and the international community will stand by Afghanistan beyond 2014. Speaking in a press conference in Kabul, the outgoing ambassador said that Afghanistan faces many challenges ahead, but the major achievements that have been made cannot be ignored. “Afghanistan is still facing security, economic, development and organizational structure challenges; but we should not ignore our past achievements,” Crocker told reporters. “You will not be alone, not in 2012, not in 2014, and not even in 2024 – the US and the international community will be with you,” he said. He said that the government is on the way to starting peace negotiations with insurgents and that Afghanistan was on the right path to fighting corruption. “Fighting corruption is not easy – we suffered a lot from corruption in the US at the beginning. I am sure Afghanistan is on the right path to eradicate it,” he said. The existence of corruption turned into one of the major issues to come out of the Tokyo summit on Afghanistan last week, and has become the talking point in all national-level meetings, even as Afghan President Hamid Karzai recently promised to take the issue seriously and not allow anyone to make their wealth from his government via illegal benefits. (Daily Outlook, TOLOnews)

Obama Names New Afghan, Pakistan Ambassadors

U.S. President Barack Obama has appointed two veteran diplomats to be the next ambassadors to Afghanistan and Pakistan. A White House statement said Obama has named Richard Olson, a former ambassador to the United Arab Emirates, to serve in Pakistan. The outgoing U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, resigned in May, amid escalating tensions between Washington and Islamabad caused by the killing of terror mastermind Osama bin Laden by U.S. special forces in Pakistan in May 2011 and a botched U.S. airstrike which killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November. The statement said that James Cunningham, the current deputy ambassador to Kabul, will replace Ambassador Ryan Crocker, who announced he was leaving for health reasons. The new appointees are dues to serve as the United States prepares to withdraw combat forces from Afghanistan in 2014. (RFE/RL)

U.S. Secretary of State Declares Afghanistan ‘Major Ally’

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has announced that the Obama administration has declared Afghanistan a major non-NATO ally of the United States. The announcement, at a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Kabul, came after Clinton arrived on July 7 on an unannounced visit to Afghanistan. “I am pleased to announce today that President [Barack] Obama has officially designated Afghanistan as a major non-NATO ally of the United States,” Clinton said. “We see this as a powerful symbol of our commitment to Afghanistan’s future.” Afghanistan’s neighbor Pakistan was the last nation to gain the designation in 2004. The declaration was part of a strategic partnership agreement signed by Presidents Barack Obama and Hamid Karzai in Kabul at the beginning of May. Analysts say the move will facilitate defense cooperation between the two countries and make it easier for Afghanistan to acquire U.S. defense materiel. (RFE/RL)

US Gives Kabul $151m to Maintain Rule of Law

The US would provide Afghanistan $151 million in assistance to help maintain the rule of law and execute counternarcotics and law-enforcement programs, an official said on 14 July. An agreement to the effect was signed between Deputy Foreign Minister Javed Lodin and Deputy US ambassador to Afghanistan James B. Cunningham in Kabul. Lodin told reporters an agreement on cooperation between the two countries to initiate joint programs in rule of law, justice, counternarcotics and law-enforcement areas had been signed in March. He said today’s accord was aimed at ensuring funds for the joint ventures and the Afghan government would start receiving the money this year. Cunningham said the assistance reflected the US commitment to long-term friendship with Afghanistan and the move was aimed at realizing common goals. he diplomat promised the US would continue to financially support programs that could help Afghanistan reduce the supply and demand for illicit drugs. He said creating awareness about the hazardous effects of drugs and preventing growers from cultivating poppies were some of the programs which could help cut the illegal drug commerce. (Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Afghan exit will cost U.S. billions, Pentagon’s No. 2 says

Moving the mountain of U.S. military gear out of Afghanistan after more than a decade of war will cost billions of dollars and prove far more difficult than last year’s withdrawal from Iraq, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official said on 10 July. Deputy Defense Secretary Ashton Carter, the Pentagon’s point man for overseeing the drawdown in Afghanistan, talked about the challenges in his first extensive interview on pulling out of Afghanistan. The pace of withdrawal is picking up: About 20,000 U.S. service members and their gear will be coming home by October. There are about 88,000 American service members there now. All U.S. combat forces are to leave by 2014. Meanwhile, the main overland supply route through neighboring Pakistan reopened during the first week of July. It had been closed since November after U.S. forces mistakenly killed 24 Pakistani troops on the border. “It’s a very austere logistics environment to transport anything,” Carter said. “Combat is still going on. Terrible terrain. Narrow roads. Long way to a seaport. Afghanistan is orders of magnitude more challenging for …(withdrawal) than was Iraq.” In Iraq, the military essentially loaded up trucks, drove south a few hundred miles to Kuwait and shipped them home. This year, the Pentagon asked for $2.9 billion to pay for repairing and replacing equipment removed last year. Landlocked Afghanistan requires a 1,000-mile drive on rough, dangerous road to the port in Karachi, Pakistan. So far, just a trickle of trucks has moved through the two Pakistani border crossings — five trucks in the north, and nine in the south, Carter said. It will take as long as three months for traffic to flow freely through Pakistan there, he said. Even so, that is the best option. Flying equipment out, or using the long, overland route through nations to the north, has added as much as $100 million a month in transportation costs, he said. “The challenge of getting in and out of Afghanistan tells us a lot about why Osama bin Laden went there in the first place,” said Loren Thompson, a military analyst at the Lexington Institute and a defense industry consultant. “The leaders of al-Qaeda knew it would be very hard to sustain a war effort in such a place.” (USA Today)

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