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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update: 7 August 2012

LDESP AFPAK NEWS UPDATE: 7 August 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

Afghan President Moves to Reassure Allies After Security Ministers Are Dismissed

President Hamid Karzai moved quickly on 5 August to confirm Parliament’s decision to dismiss two senior security ministers the day before, but he reassured the Western allies that he would avoid a vacuum in the two ministries charged with fighting the war and organizing the transition to Afghan control. In a statement, Mr. Karzai said he had requested that both of the men who were dismissed, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, stay on until replacements could be found. Describing them as “true sons of Afghanistan,” he said that they would be decorated for their service and would remain in the government in different jobs. The effects of the dismissals will not be clear until Mr. Karzai signals how quickly he expects to replace them and the level of presidential trust they will enjoy in the interim, government officials said. While some in Parliament who voted for the removal of the two officials were upset that the president did not act immediately to replace them, others said a delay would be understandable. “We have fighting almost every day in all of the provinces; therefore, he should find the best candidate. These ministries are both extremely important,” said Hajji Obaidullah Barakzai, a lawmaker from Uruzgan Province. The Parliament’s motivation for removing the two ministers remained unclear. Some observers said that the men had failed to award jobs and contracts widely enough and had slighted Parliament members’ demands. (NY Times)

Afghan citizens standing up to Taliban seek support

When the town government of Ander in Ghazni province clamped down on the unlicensed motorbikes that militants were using to get around, the Taliban came in to shut down the schools as punishment. Rather than cower, the elders and townspeople rose up. After two weeks of fighting, most of the schools were back open. Local communities in eastern Afghanistan that are tired of both Taliban harassment and government inaction are increasingly mounting spontaneous campaigns of resistance against insurgents who burn down schools, shut health clinics and threaten the local population. The Afghan government says community-led anti-Taliban movements have occurred in recent months in the provinces of Paktiya, Ghazni, Kunar, Nuristan and Laghman. (…) In Paktiya, there have been five uprisings in four districts in recent months. Two weeks ago in Mirzaka district, tribal elders demanded help from the Afghan National Police and sub-governor after the Taliban abducted seven men and beheaded three of them. When no help arrived the elders returned to their village and organized a resistance, Mirzaka elder Zabit Mangal said in an interview in Kabul. The Talibs they did not kill were chased out of the district, he said. “We decided we were not going to let the Taliban get away with bad activities in our area. We fought with our own rifles and our own resources,” he said. “The government didn’t give us a single round.” (USA Today)

Defense Minister Resigns After Parliamentary Vote

Afghan Minister of Defense Abdul Rahim Wardak has left his position after being dismissed by Parliament on Saturday for a weak response to cross-border shelling and recent assassination attempts. his nine years service in the office. Speaking in a briefing at the Ministry of Defense Wardak praised the Afghanistan National Army’s dedication to the country. “As a citizen who believes in democracy, I respect the decision the made by parliament. I leave the judgment to the people of Afghanistan about my dismissal and…with the permission of the Afghan president, I end my job as the Defense Minister,” Wardak told reporters and his colleagues at the Ministry of Defense. He emphasized that he has served his country honestly and worked to establish a strong army for Afghanistan to fulfill the needs of the Afghan people. Abdul Rahim Wardak and Bismillah Mohammadi were summoned to the parliament on 4 August to respond the escalation of insecurity in the country and Pakistan’s cross-border rocket attacks into Afghanistan. On 5 August, the Security Council had decided to allow the ministers to continue until replacements were sworn in. (TOLOnews)

Musazai: Afghanistan blamed for Pakistan Attacks

Pakistan is blaming Afghanistan for insurgent attack that resulted in 17 soldiers deaths on their territory, according to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. MoFA spokesman Janan Musazai said, “Pakistan provides financial support and a safe haven to insurgents, which creates problems not only for Afghanistan but to the world, too.” Conversely, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik has accused Afghan officials of supporting a senior Pakistani Taliban leader, Mullah Fazlullah, whom Pakistan claims to have fled SWAT valley for Aghhanistan after a military operation. “I think some of the elements [Afghan government] there, are supporters, yes, of course. I can’t say for certain but there may be state actors, maybe non-state actors,” Malik said in an interview on 4 August. He is asking the Afghan government to arrest Fazlullah and hand him over to Pakistani authorities. “He is a terrorist and he has given lot of suffering to Pakistan and now, unfortunately, he is enjoying life in Afghanistan,” Malik said. This comes after Afghanistan, Pakistan and ISAF’s recent meeting where the three have agreed to fight insurgents between the border. (TOLOnews)

Finance Officials Involved in Corruption

Ministry of Finance officials have allegedly taken a $3 million bribe to reduce Global Link’s taxes, a private company, by more than $12 million, the Anti-Corruption Prosecution Office Chief Abu Baker Rafiee said. Rafiee alleges that Global Link imported 31 armored vehicles to Afghanistan and the company should have paid $12.5 million to the Afghan government, but officials have taken a $3m bribe to reduced the taxes to $1.5m. “The company had to paid $3 million but after an investigation they [Ministry of Finance] increased it back to $4 million,” Rafie said. Five ministry officials have been detained over the corruption allegations. Rafiee would like to see the $12.5 paid to the government. Last week, Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwa’s bank accounts showed that over $1.5m made outside of his office was transferred to his international and national accounts in the last 5 years. (TOLOnews)

Afghan Commerce Minister Wary of Antagonizing Pakistan

Because of Afghanistan’s large amount of dry fruit export to Pakistan via the border crossing, Afghanistan should not jeopardize its relationship with Pakistan, according to the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Anwarul Haq Ahadi. In his speech to Senators, Ahadi stressed that “We [Afghanistan] should take it easy with Pakistan…[and] if we react as Pakistan has, we will have major losses.” Hundreds of Afghan trucks have been stopped on the Pakistini-Afghan border by Pakistani military for several days and weeks in recent months. According to the Zalmai Rasool, Afghan Foreign Minister , “Diplomatic efforts to solve the issue have failed. Pakistan promised to form a commission in this regard.” Afghan Chamber of Commerce officials also believe that Pakistan tried to keep Afghan goods longer in transit for higher taxes and transit charges within the country. Transit controversy between Afghanistan and Pakistan have increased since NATO supply trucks have had issues crossing into Afghanistan. (TOLOnews)

Afghanistan’s Neighbors Seek to Disrupt Development Projects, APPF Chief Says

Afghanistan’s neighbors are using their intelligence agencies to disrupt major development projects in the country in order to hamper economic growth, General Mujtaba Patang, deputy minister for the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) at the Ministry of Interior, said on 31 July. “Unfortunately, spy agencies in neighboring countries are trying to disturb major projects in our country by sending gorilla warriors and other insurgents to launch small and big attacks [to prevent progress]. This is particularly the case for the Aynak copper mine which is one of the biggest projects in Afghanistan,”General Patang said. As many 8,000 police officers from the APPF have deployed to major sites including the Salma and Kamal Khan power plants, the Aynak copper mine, oil and gas projects in Mazar-e Sharif, and other major projects run by national and international organizations. Since it was created in 2009, a total of 16 private security companies have been dissolved and their responsibilities transferred to the APPF. Another 13 security companies will be dissolved in the near future, General Patang said. The department had a budget of $50 million for the past six months. “We first monitor the security situation in those places where we want to deploy soldiers in order to guarantee their safety and efficiency in protecting the projects or organizations,” General Pantang said. The APPF currently has 30,000 policemen working for it. This number is expected to increase to 100,000 after 2014. (TOLOnews)

Afghan Lawmakers: USA, UK Trying to Create New Country Within Afghan Borders

The United States and the United Kingdom are being accused of trying to create a new country within and between Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and Tajikistan borders by Afghan lawmakers. Badakhshan Member of Parliament Latif Pedram believes that the “USA and the United Kingdom have been trying for several years to establish a new state in Pakistan’s Gilgit and Chitral, parts of Badakhshan in Afghanistan and Tajikistan and parts of China,” he said. Another Badakhshan Member of Parliament, Fauzia Kofi, added that “the current chaos in the Badakhshan provinces of Afghanistan and Tajikistan has prevented the continuing construction of the Silk Route, which is considered a substantial economic source for Afghanistan.” The US Embassy in Afghanistan has dismissed the allegations saying that the purpose of Afghanistan-US strategic partnership is to bring stability and welfare to the country.” (TOLOnews)

MPs Criticize Govt. Silence Over Pakistan’s Cross-Border Shelling

Representatives of the House Have expressed anger about the government’s silence over the cross-border shelling of Kunar from Pakistan. MP Obaidullah Barekzai from Uruzgan said that he does not know why the Afghan government has kept quite towards the shelling from Pakistani soil. Speaking to the general assembly, the MPs criticized the government for not defending Afghanistan’s sovereignty and asked President Hamid Karzai to take the necessary action to prevent attacks. “Not defending the sovereignty of Afghanistan is a national treason. Let’s ask the president to respond to this,” Kabul MP Ramazan Bashar Dost said. “Pakistan’s military fires rockets onto Afghan territory, which is a clear invasion,” Barekzai said. (TOLOnews)

US Night Raid in Herat Kills One, Poisons Many

The local residents of Shindand district of western Herat said on 1 August that US Forces killed a 25 year-old in a pre-dawn raid. No Afghan National Security Forces or local police were present. Several others, including women and children, were poisoned and some fainted as a result of tear gas. Meanwhile, provincial council members confirmed the incident and said that the operation was in clear violation of the Afghan-US agreement signed months ago between the countries’ presidents. “We do not understand why the Americans, who signed the strategic agreement, are doing such things. These actions by the foreign troops makes people unsupportive of the Afghan government and want to leave for Iran and Pakistan,” said Toor Mohammad Zarifi, a Herat Provincial Council Member. Commander of 207 Zafar Army Corps in Herat, Mohammad Jahed, said that a joint investigation is underway and stressed that such “operations would not be acceptable in the future and are against the agreement.” The night operations were a major obstacle ahead of the Afghan-US strategic agreement, after which the responsibility of these operations was handed over to Afghan troops. The first night operation by Afghan forces was launched in the Shinwari district of eastern Nangarhar province several nights ago, which was a success, according to. (TOLOnews)

Karzai decrees wide-ranging reforms

President Hamid Karzai listed good governance, an effective anti-corruption fight, rule of law and a strong economy as top priorities of his administration. Recalling his address to last month’s joint sitting of parliament, Karzai’s office referred to a wide-ranging presidential decree for reforms in the three branches of the government. A detailed statement from the Presidential Palace in Kabul said that government departments would thoroughly discuss the reforms aimed at grappling with the current challenges. Under the decree, cases against the individuals detained by police or investigated by the Attorney General Office (AGO) have to be disposed of on a fast-track basis. Parliament was directed to set store by the core national interest in exercising its legislative powers and accord priority to answering urgent and genuine demands from the executive. High-ranking officials were ordered to refrain from nepotism and other extraneous considerations in the recruitment of technocrats and super-skilled experts. While stressing a halt to the land-grab practice, the president decreed security agencies to collect unlicensed weapons and probe all parallel organizations in the country. The authorities concerned were asked to present a comprehensive report in three months to the Council of Ministers on the first phase of the project for issuing computerized identity cards. Similarly, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs was instructed to look — in coordination with relevant state organs — into the affairs of all Afghan diplomatic missions across the globe. The Ministry of Justice was tasked with preparing draft laws governing elections, municipalities and AGO. The proposed laws have to be submitted to the Cabinet in six months. Additionally, the AGO was given a month’s time to investigate the inmates of detention centres throughout the country. It was further asked to constitute an oversight body within two months and make functional district attorney offices. In compliance with the directives, the High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption will keep an eye on strategic benchmarks put in place by public and private sector entities to combat graft. As part of the drive, the watchdog will have to probe questionable assets of government and NGO officials in six months. By the same token, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance will have to look into gubernatorial slots and float in a month workable recommendations aimed at strengthening the office. (PakTribune)

Rule of Law

Local Police Commander Sentenced to Death

Jawuzjan’s local police commander and three others were sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a driver in Kabul. Abdul Basit Bakhtiyari, Head of Kabul’s 4th district primary court, sentenced the four to death in accordance with Article nine of the anti-kidnapping and human trafficking law. The sentenced four will reimburse the family for the goods stolen from the victim. Those convicted of kidnapping deny the charges and say they were forced to confess while being tortured during a NDS interrogation. The decision is not final and the convicts can appeal. (TOLOnews)

Herat Rapist Sentenced to 50 Years in Jail

Herat’s Provincial Court sentenced Wakil Ahmad, 35, who is accused of raping two minor girls, up to 50 years in jail. According to law, the maximum sentence for a rapist is 20 years in prison. However, Ahmad raped two girls and attempted to rape another and was given a sentence up to 50 years. Fariha, 8, and Roshan, 11, were raped as they took their animals to the desert for feeding two months ago. The girls were hospitalized for several days after the incident. Ahmad attempted to rape another woman and was arrested with the help of local residents. “According to article number 158 of Afghanistan’s Criminal Law, he is sentence to 50 years in jail and must spend up to 20 years in prison,” Ghulam Rasool Mansoor, the Head of Herat’s Provincial Court said during the hearing. Ahmad dismissed the allegations and said that they were “only allegations.” He added, “I am not satisfied with court’s verdict.” Police have also arrested a mullah in the north -central Samangan province for allegedly raping a teenage girl. (TOLOnews)

Peace Talks

Pak-Afghanistan Agree on Joint Panel for Talks with Taliban

In a major bilateral development, Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to form a joint peace commission to reach out to Afghan Taliban insurgents allegedly based in North Waziristan to negotiate a peace settlement. A formal announcement may significantly change the dynamics of over a decade-old war in the region. The talks are expected to take place during a visit by Salauddin Rabbani, the head of the Afghan High Peace Council, to Pakistan next month. Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan Mohammad Umer Daudzai (on 31 July) confirmed both Islamabad and Kabul were finalizing details of the proposed joint peace commission at diplomatic and political levels. He said Salauddin, the son of slain former Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, would hold crucial talks with Pakistani political as well as military leaders to revive what was envisaged during his father’s visit to Islamabad last year. Burhanuddin was killed when a bomber detonated the explosives hidden in his turban at the former’s residence in Kabul’s highly fortified diplomatic zone last September. Pakistan invited Salauddin to Islamabad as soon as he stepped into his father’s shoes, but the new peace envoy accepted the invitation only this month when Prime Minister Raja Pervaiz Ashraf toured Kabul for a day. According to officials at the foreign ministry, the HPC members will represent Afghan’s side in the integrated peace commission whereas Pakistan is expected to involve tribal elders and Pakhtun politicians. Pakistan will call back members who were part of an Afghan Loya Jirga held in August 2007 in Kabul to seek a joint strategy to make peace with the Taliban. Former interior minister Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Awaim National Party (ANP) chief Asfandyar Wali Khan and leader of Pakhtuns in Balochistan Mahmoud Khan Achakzai were among those who attended the event in Kabul. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

U.S.-Pakistan Thaw Leaves Two Major Issues Still Frozen

Pakistan and the U.S. signed an accord governing supply routes for international forces in Afghanistan as the South Asian nation’s spy chief heads to Washington for talks this week [31 July-3 Aug] aimed at easing irritants to ties. The agreement signed on 31 July will release more than $1 billion in withheld American economic assistance, Pakistan Television said, citing top U.S. embassy official in Islamabad Richard Hoagland. Lieutenant General Muhammad Zaheer-ul-Islam, the chief of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate, or ISI, is scheduled to hold discussions with U.S. counterparts, his first official visit since taking charge, according to a Pakistani army statement. “Reopening supply routes is one obstacle which has been overcome,” said Ikram Sehgal, a Karachi-based analyst on military affairs. “Pakistan wants a clear-cut role in the Afghanistan end-game. The intelligence chief’s visit is probably the beginning of those negotiations,” said Sehgal, editor of Defense Journal, a monthly magazine. Two larger obstacles to improved U.S.-Pakistani relations remain, however, three U.S. officials said on 30 July. They are the Pakistani civilian government’s opposition to American drone strikes on terrorist targets in Pakistan and the Pakistani military’s reluctance to battle the Haqqani Network, based in the tribal areas along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan. … (Bloomberg)

Pakistan Reopens Main NATO Supply Route

Pakistani officials have said the country has reopened a major border crossing used by NATO forces to transport supplies to Afghanistan. The Torkham border crossing in northwestern Pakistan was closed to NATO supplies on July 24 after militants attacked a convoy of NATO trucks convoy in the area, killing a driver. NATO supply trucks, which are loaded in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, usually enter Afghanistan either through the Torkham crossing in the northwest tribal areas or the Chaman crossing in the volatile southwestern Baluchistan Province. (RFE/RL)

Pakistani Supreme Court Rejects Law Protecting High-Ranking Officials

Pakistan’s Supreme Court has rejected a new law aimed at protecting the president, prime minister and other high-ranking officials from contempt proceedings. The legislation was enacted in July, apparently to protect new Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf. The court ousted his predecessor, Yusuf Raza Gilani, from office in June by charging him with contempt of court for failing to reopen corruption proceedings against President Asif Ali Zardari in Switzerland. The court gave the new prime minister until 8 August to respond to the court’s demand that he write a letter to reopen corruption cases against Zardari. In response, the government hastily passed a law declaring high-ranking officials immune from contempt-of-court proceedings. The court, however, ruled the law was unconstitutional because it eroded the court’s authority. (RFE/RL)

Pakistan Receives Around $1.2 Billion From Washington To Fight Insurgency

Pakistan has received $1.18 billion from the United States for counterinsurgency operations. Syed Waseemuddin, spokesman for the State Bank of Pakistan, told RFE/RL’s Radio Mashaal on 2 August that the money was received the previous day. The money had been withheld after the dispute between the two countries over the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in November in a botched U.S. airstrike. Islamabad subsequently blocked NATO supplies going into Afghanistan. The reimbursement is another sign of improving ties, coming just days after a new agreement was reached over NATO supply routes. The move comes as U.S. General John Allen, the commander of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan, visited Pakistan to discuss security issues with military leaders. Allen held talks with Pakistan’s top military commander, General Ashfaq Kayani. (RFE/RL)

U.S. Gives Pakistan $280 Million To Tackle Energy Crisis

The United States has announced it’s providing $280 million to Pakistan in order to address the country’s worsening energy shortfall. Mark Stroh, the U.S. Embassy spokesman in Islamabad, said the funds would support improvements to the existing Mangla Dam in the eastern Kashmir region and construction of the Kurram Tangi Dam in the western Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province. The embassy said U.S. support of large-scale Pakistani infrastructure projects was expected to add 900 megawatts to the national power grid by 2013 — enough to power 2 million households and businesses. Pakistanis are experiencing hours of power outages every day as the country suffers severe energy shortages. The situation has been intensified by the holy month of Ramadan in the summer, when Muslims abstain from eating and drinking from predawn to sunset. (RFE/RL)

ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Afghanistan’s economy is seen as ‘not sustainable’

According to the World Bank, 97 percent of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product comes from foreign money, largely from aid groups and military provincial reconstruction teams, not to mention the many jobs created by sprawling military bases hungry for interpreters and laborers and international organizations willing to pay high salaries and inflated rents. With militaries rapidly withdrawing — by the end of August there will be 23,000 fewer U.S. troops in the country than there were at the beginning of the year — and aid money expected to drop sharply in the coming years, an economy almost entirely dependent on outside money will have to adjust, and many experts see a painful transition ahead. “The whole economy is dependent (on foreign money). The whole economy is not sustainable; that’s why, as we move forward, the aim should be to help Afghanistan’s self-reliance,” Afghan Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal said. Aid from Afghanistan’s largest donor, the United States, dropped from $4.1 billion in 2010 to $2.5 billion in 2011, according to Oxfam, and the World Bank has estimated that overall aid to the country could drop as much as 90 percent by 2025. Trade group President Abdul Jaffar Safi’s constituents are nervous. They’ve seen a 30 percent drop in business in just the past year. The struggles of the Afghan Industrial Association, which represents more than 1,200 manufacturers, including some of the country’s largest, could be a bellwether for the country. (…) Zakhilwal, the Afghan finance minister, would like to restore Afghanistan to its former place as an exporter of agricultural products like raisins and dried fruits, though that will take a leap in infrastructure and persuading poppy farmers to grow less lucrative crops. Long part of a trade route along the Silk Road, Afghanistan could once again be a transit hub for goods moving from South Asia to Central Asia and from China to the Middle East… (Stars and Stripes)

Afghanistan Aid Projects Under Threat

The White House has been warned that major infrastructure projects in Afghanistan are over budget, and that many will not be completed before troop withdrawal in 2014. A US Government watchdog says £4m of US aid money could go to waste. Several big projects are now more than a year behind schedule, and once troops leave, there are concerns they may not see fruition. The Kajaki Dam project, the installation of a 3rd turbine to boost power to nearly 2 million people across Helmand and Kandahar, still has not been completed 9 years after construction began. Kajaki is a Taliban stronghold, which has proved too difficult for the military to secure. A report by a US watchdog now warns that 5 of 7 major infrastructure projects planned for last year will not deliver before troop drawdown in 2014. And £400m worth of projects could fall into disrepair once handed over to the Afghan government, because of lack of maintenance or funding. The report says, “In some instances, these projects may result in adverse counter insurgency effects because they create an expectations gap among the affected population”. In other words, if you promise something, and then do not deliver, or it takes too long, the population will eventually stop supporting you. In response, the US military says it is never easy building in a warzone, and that they are strengthening the Afghan capacity to look after the infrastructure, once they leave. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Integrity Watch: Afghan Govt. Should Provide Insight on Natural Sources

Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) urges the government to be transparent about Afghanistan’s natural sources after a recent report from Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) was unclear about Afghanistan’s income from natural resources from 2006 to 2007. Extractive Sector Monitor Najibullah Zyar said, “Because of various differences and continuing problems, the financial system of extractive companies should be standardized.” The EITI report indicates, in particular, differences on mine incomes from 2006 to 2007. (TOLOnews)

Turkmenistan Looks for International Investors for TAPI

Turkmenistan’s Deputy Prime Minister, Baymyrat Hojamuhammedov, recently announced that his country is seeking global investment to begin the Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline (TAPI) project. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India have formally agreed to build a 1,688 km pipeline to supply 26.34 trillion cubic feet gas from Turkmenistan to India and Pakistan for next 30 years. Hojamuhammedov presented TAPI to global oil and gas investors. Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India formally agreed to build the pipeline, which is set to supply some 30 billion cubic meters per year of Turkmen natural gas to India. Afghanistan will earn a total of $400 million per year by way of a “transit” fee. The Asian Development Bank is TAPI’s largest donor at the moment and Turkmenistan seeks other international investors. Turkmenistan hopes to introduce the project to commercial centers around the world such as New York, Singapore and London as soon as possible. The total estimated cost of the project is predicted $8 billion. (TOLOnews)

Lowest Internet Speed in the World in Afghanistan?

According to a recent report by the Net Index Website, Hong Kong has highest speed of internet of a 176 countries surveyed. Afghanistan did not make the list. Hong Kong, with 41.58 MB per second speed, has highest internet speed in all over the world. Similarly, South Korea with 34.15 MB and Lithuania with 32.81 MB are second and third. Many developed countries in the Americas and Europe are ranked between 20 and 40. Among 176 countries, Sudan, Bangladesh, Zambia, Pakistan, Egypt, Surya, Bhutan, Bolivia, Mauritania, and Algeria are in the bottom ten. It might stand to reason that Afghanistan has one of the slowest internet speeds behind these countries. (TOLOnews)

Refugees

Pakistan Cannot Take Unilateral Decisions on Refugees: MoRR

The Afghan government will not allow Pakistan to take unilateral decisions on Afghan refugees who carry legal documents, amid fears that Afghanistan will not cope with their return, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriates (MoRR) said on 26 July. “Neither Afghanistan nor the [UN refugee agency] UNHCR will allow Pakistan to take a unilateral decision to expel Afghan refugees with legal documents,” Refugee Ministry spokesman Islamuddin Jurat said. He emphasized that Afghanistan is not ready to shelter and support the flow of refugees who are forced to leave the neighboring countries. A spokesman for the UN High Commissioner on Refugees Farhad Naderi said that Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry has announced that Afghan refugees can return to their country voluntarily. “Pakistan’s Foreign Minister pointed this out even yesterday, that their policy on the Afghan refugees has not changed and the Afghans can return to their country voluntarily and with honor,” Farhad told TOLOnews 26 July. However, a recent report published by UK newspaper The Guardian said that Pakistan government has decided to cancel all refugee documents of the Afghan refugees and send them back to their country by the end of this year. There are around 3 million Afghan refugees living in Pakistan, many without any legal documents. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Culture & Society

Afghan Female Athlete Proud, Despite Olympic Defeat

Afghanistan’s only female athlete at the London Games has bowed out after coming last in the 100-meter sprint. Tahmina Kohistani, despite failing to qualify, ran a personal best time of 14.42 on 3 August. She competed in a black head scarf topped with Afghanistan’s other national colors of red and green, and a long-sleeved, light blue top with long trousers. Kohistani was defiant in defeat, insisting her mere participation at the Games, as Afghanistan’s third-ever Olympic track athlete, would inspire other women in her conservative country to take up sport. “My result is not as satisfactory as it could be. I was training hard and had a better result during my training,” Kohistani said. “But for me participating [in the Olympic Games] is even more valuable than winning a gold medal.” Kohistani said she had overcome huge prejudice to reach the Olympics, attracting hostility from those opposed to the involvement of women in sport in Afghanistan. She urged Afghan women to “come and join” her in women’s sport. The athlete said “we must be ready for the next Olympics. We should have more than one girl in the next Olympics.” (RFE/RL)

Afghan National Museum Regains Looted Treasures

Hundreds of valuable archaeological artifacts looted from Afghanistan were returned to the country’s National Museum on 5 August after being recovered with the help of the British Museum. British Consul General Colin Crorkin said at a ceremony that, “We are here today to celebrate the return of over 800 heritage objects to the National Museum of Afghanistan, covering almost all of the great periods of Afghan culture. The return was assisted by the British Museum and the British Ministry of Defense.” Many of the 843 artifacts were seized as they were being smuggled into Britain. An estimated 70 percent of the National Museum’s contents were stolen during Afghanistan’s civil war in the early 1990s.(RFE/RL)

REGIONAL RELATIONS

Tehran Builds on Outreach to Taliban

Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in eastern Iran and discussed providing them with surface-to-air missiles, ramping up the potential for cooperation with the insurgents, according to senior Afghan and Western officials. Iran’s shift came after the U.S. and Afghanistan sealed a long-term partnership agreement in May, and in an effort to expand its options for retaliation should its nuclear facilities be attacked, the officials said. Iran, a Shiite theocracy, wasn’t friendly with the Sunni Taliban government ousted by the U.S. in 2001 and hasn’t permitted an official Taliban presence in the country until now. But these days both sides “see America as the bigger enemy” a Western official in Kabul said. “Iran is willing to put aside ideology and put aside deeply held religious values…for their ultimate goal: accelerating the departure of U.S. forces from Afghanistan,” the official said. The Iranian Embassy in Kabul and consulate in Herat, in western Afghanistan near the border with Iran, didn’t respond to requests for comment. A member of the Taliban’s leadership council, the Quetta Shura, set up an office in the eastern Iranian city of Zahedan in late May, according to a senior Western diplomat in Kabul and a senior Afghan official. Zahedan sits near the borders with Pakistan and Afghanistan and on an easy transit route from the Pakistani city of Quetta, where the Taliban leadership is based. The office is intended to allow Iran to coordinate with the Taliban against the U.S., the officials said. In intercepted communications in early July, members of the Quds Force, a special unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, discussed plans to send surface-to-air missiles to insurgents in Afghanistan, according to the Western official. There is no information that Iran has delivered such missiles to the insurgents, Western officials said. (WSJ)

No Taliban Office in Iran: Former Leader

It is impossible for the Taliban to open an office in Iran and Pakistan, former Taliban member, Sayed Akbar Agha, told TOLOnews on 2 August. The Wall Street Journal quoted senior Afghan and western officials saying that Iran has allowed the Taliban to open an office in the eastern city of Zahedan to expand options for retaliation if its nuclear facilities come under attack. Zahedan is near the Pakistan and Afghanistan borders and on an easy transit route from Pakistani city of Quetta where many Taliban leaders are based. The office is meant to allow Iran to coordinate with the Taliban against the U.S., the officials said‫.‬ ‫ “This is absolutely impossible. The Taliban would not open an office in Iran because the Afghan people will blame them for any Iranian intervention or attacks. I strongly reject this,” Agha said.‬ Mohammad Dehqani, a spokesman for Iranian embassy in Afghanistan, denied the allegations, telling TOLO news during a phone interview that “foreign governments are trying to create regional conflict for their own benefit.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Obama tightens sanctions on banks helping Iran sell oil

President Barack Obama announced new U.S. sanctions on 31 July against foreign banks that help Iran sell its oil and said the measure would add pressure on Tehran for failing to meet its international nuclear obligations. Obama’s decision came ahead of congressional votes on new sanctions intended to further strip Iran of its oil-related revenues, and drew swift condemnation from China, home to one of the targeted banks and a major buyer of Iranian oil. (…) The United States remains committed to finding a diplomatic resolution to the standoff with Tehran, but is also determined to step up the pressure, Obama said in a statement accompanying his executive order authorizing the sanctions. “If the Iranian government continues its defiance, there should be no doubt that the United States and our partners will continue to impose increasing consequences,” he said. Obama’s new sanctions target foreign banks that handle transactions for Iranian oil or handle large transactions from the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) or Naftiran Intertrade Company (NICO), two key players in Iran’s oil trade. That builds on oil trade sanctions signed into law in December that prompted buyers in Japan, South Korea and India to significantly cut purchases to avoid penalties. China also cut purchases from Iran earlier this year due to a dispute over contract terms. The new executive order has the same rules, providing “exceptions” to nations that have demonstrated significant cuts. (…) China’s swift and angry reaction to the U.S. sanctions highlighted its insistence that its extensive trade and energy deals with Iran should not be hurt by the nuclear stand-off. “The U.S. has invoked domestic law to impose sanctions on a Chinese financial institution, and this is a serious violation of international rules that harms Chinese interests,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in a statement. The sanctions “will have a negative effect on bilateral Sino-U.S. cooperation” Qin said, without giving details. Calls to Kulun’s administrative office in Beijing were not answered. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said this week that sanctions have not set back Iran’s nuclear program “one iota” and that “a strong military threat” was also needed. But U.S. officials argue that the sanctions are inflicting significant pain on Iran and further isolating the country. (Reuters)

Kabul Hopes Tajikistan Border to Reopen Soon

Afghanistan on 29 July voiced the hope that Tajikistan would soon reopen the border crossings it sealed last week [24 July] due to a military operation to detain a former warlord. On 24 July, Tajik President EmomaliRakhmon ordered an offensive in the autonomous region of Gorno-Badakhshan against supporters of TalibAiombekov, charged with killing a senior security official. Tajik authorities sealed off the border after eight Afghan militants, who were fighting for Aiombekov, were captured by security personnel. They fear Taliban-linked insurgents were sneaking into the former Soviet republic to support the ex-warlord. A foreign ministry spokesman, addressing a weekly media briefing in Kabul on 29 July, hoped the border would reopen once the security operation came to an end. JananMusazai referred to a recent visit by senior Afghan officials, including Interior Minister BismillahMohammadi and the National Directorate of Security chief, to Dushanbe. The delegation assured their Tajik interlocutors of all-out help in enforcing security and defeating terrorists. Military officials from Afghanistan and Pakistan would meet soon on ways of effectively preventing cross-border incursions into eastern parts of the country, the spokesman said. Hundreds of people have been killed, wounded and displaced as a result of rocket and missile strikes, as well as artillery shelling, from Pakistani territory into border towns of eastern Kunar province over the past one year. Musazai said that army commanders from the two countries would meet in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar, to sort out the issue. However, he gave no specific date for the meeting. Musazai quoted President Hamid Karzai as saying that problems occasionally erupted in areas along the border, known as Durand Line. But attacks from the neighboring country were in no way acceptable to Afghanistan, he hastened to add. The foreign ministry had been doing all it could at the diplomatic level to put a permanent halt to the incursions, he said, recalling last week’s protest that was lodged with Islamabad on continued missile and rocket strikes. Deputy Foreign Minister JavedLodin communicated Afghanistan’s concerns over the incursions to Pakistan Ambassador Mohammad Sadiq. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Russia’s Putin says NATO should stay in Afghanistan

NATO forces should stay in Afghanistan until their job is done, Russia President Vladimir Putin said on 1 August, suggesting they should stay beyond a planned withdrawal of most combat troops in 2014. “It is regrettable that many participants in this operation are thinking about how to pull out of there,” Putin said at a meeting with paratroopers in the Russian city of Ulyanovsk. “They took up this burden and should carry it to the end.” (Reuters)

BUILDING SECURITY CAPACITY & SECURITY ASSESSMENT

Afghanistan Security Forces

6:30 REPORT: Challenges Ahead for Afghan Army

Afghanistan’s security forces will take responsibility of the entire country in 18 months. Will the forces be ready to defend all security threats in this time? The Afghan National Army (ANA) is going to need more time to become a standard and well-equipped army. Currently, Afghan forces are lacking in two important areas – they don’t have any heavy arms ability nor do they have air support. Furthermore, the ANA does not have a quick reaction capacity to carry casualties from the battle field. One of the big challenges facing the army is literacy. Although there is no concrete statistics on what number of troops are illiterate, it is understood to be a high percentage. Commander of the 215th Maiwand Corps Said Malook said that around 20 percent of troops in the Corps are illiterate, but other estimations push the figure for illiteracy or low literacy in the broader army to as high as 50 percent. Another problem is drugs. Malook confessed that there are addicted troops inside Maiwand Corps. (TOLOnews)

Afghan Intelligence Says Foreign Spy Rings Busted In Government Ranks

The Afghan intelligence service claims to have arrested senior government officials who spied for neighboring countries. The head of the National Security Directorate intelligence service, Rahmatullah Nabil, told the Afghan parliament on 1 August that 15 government employees, including senior bureaucrats and a military general, had been arrested. He said that some of them confessed to spying for Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Iranian spy services. Nabil said Afghan intelligence had exposed numerous plots to assassinate senior Afghan officials by arresting insurgent infiltrators within the security forces. He said that overall the intelligence service had improved its ability to uncover and thwart terrorist cells plotting suicide attacks against government figures during the past year. Media reports noted that despite the government’s claims, Taliban infiltrators periodically kill international troops and Afghan officials. (RFE/RL)

Over 10,000 Afghan Policemen Receive Training to Boost Capacity

As part of capacity building efforts, more than 10,000 personnel with the Afghan National Police (ANP) have completed necessary training and joined the ANP over the past four months, the country’s Interior Ministry spokesman said on 30 July. “A total of 10,500 police constables and police officers have completed their training across the country within the past four month,” spokesman Sediq Sediqqi told a joint press conference with the NATO-led coalition or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) spokesman Brigadier General Gunter Katz. He also added that 300 policemen had concluded their training in Egypt and commissioned to the national police. The spokesman further said over the next couple of months 800 more police personnel would go to Egypt to attend training programs there while another 500 officers will go to Turkey for the same purpose. “The quality of the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) continues to improve every day. You can see this by how well the transition process is proceeding, and by the increasing number of ISAF’s Security Force Advising Teams that are moving from assisting ANSF units to primary advising your brave soldiers and policemen as they move forward independent operations,” the ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Gunter Katz said at the same briefing. Afghan government and the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan (NTM-A) have stepped up efforts to train and equip Afghan police and army as NATO-led ISAF forces have handed over the security responsibilities of areas where more than 50 percent of the country’s population live, to Afghan security forces, parts of a process which will run through 2014 when Afghanistan takes over the full leadership of its own security duties from U.S. and NATO forces. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

ANSF Ready to Defend the Country: MoI

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) are ready to defend the country if a national decision requires them to do so, a spokesman for Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI), Sediq Sediqi said at a press conference on 30 July. “The Afghan government and other organizations are putting pressure on Pakistan to stop these attacks,” Sediqi said in a joint press conference with Brigadier General Gunter Katz. His statement came after ISAF said that a tripartite meeting was held to discuss the shelling of Kunar’s border with Pakistan. ISAF spokesman General Katz added that “Pakistan, Afghanistan and ISAF have a shared interest to bring peace to the region, particularly to Afghanistan.” In recent months, hundreds of rockets have landed in several districts of eastern Nuristan and Kunar provinces, resulting in civilian casualties and displacement of hundreds of local residents. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Allies Rebuke Pakistan on Cross-Border Attacks

The American-led coalition on 29 July bluntly rebutted an assertion made last week by a senior Pakistani official that American forces had on 52 occasions done little over all to stop Pakistan Taliban militants from using Afghan territory as a springboard for attacks on Pakistani forces in the mountains along the poorly marked frontier. The coalition statement was unusual in its directness. Even at the lowest points in relations between Pakistan and the United States, American officials in Afghanistan have usually left direct public criticism of Pakistan to more senior officials in Washington. But with Pakistan increasingly trying to draw equivalence between Afghan Taliban havens in their own country and the presence of Pakistan Taliban factions in Kunar and Nuristan Provinces in northeastern Afghanistan, the coalition pushed back unequivocally on 29 July, offering a reminder of the fraught relationship that the United States and Pakistan are struggling to improve. (NY Times)

ISAF: Tripartite Negotiations Vital to Relations

ISAF spokesman General Gunter Katz said that the tripartite negotiations between Afghanistan, Pakistan and ISAF are important in strengthening relations between the parties. Speaking at a press conference with NATO’s civilian spokesman Dominic Medley, Katz said that “it becomes absolutely clear that all three partners need to enhance our cooperation… together we need to fight terrorists in the border areas,” Katz told reporters. Medley, however, emphasized that NATO’s mission is to ensure “that the government of Afghanistan is secure and stable to prevent the country becoming terrorist safe havens once again.” The recent cross-border rocket attacks from Pakistan into Afghanistan have strained the relations between the two countries and continuation of such attacks could further deteriorate these relations, according to Afghan officials. (TOLOnews)

World Won’t Abandon Afghanistan: ISAF

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), insisting on strengthening and equipping Afghan security personnel, on 6 August said the international community would not abandon Afghanistan after the 2014 withdrawal. ISAF Spokesman Brig. Gen. Günter Katz told a press conference in Kabul that the global fraternity, ISAF and NATO member states were working with the Afghan government to ensure better security in the country. He said the international community’s presence in Afghanistan would continue after 2014, a deadline set for foreign troop withdrawal, in order to assist the Afghan government. The world would not leave Afghanistan alone, he promised. Katz said NATO and the entire world had announced they would continue assisting Afghanistan beyond 2014 as reflected in strategic agreements between Kabul and several nations, including the US, India, Italy, Australia, Germany and France. The ISAF spokesman said Afghan troops had the capability of taking over the security responsibility after foreign troop pullout. Katz said 30 percent of security operations were planned and executed by the Afghans themselves. The official said some foreign troops would remain in Afghanistan after 2014 to cooperate with security forces in various fields. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

British PM Warned of Al-Qaeda Return to Afghanistan

Military commanders have warned the Prime Minister that Afghanistan’s future could be jeopardized with al-Qaeda returning to the country if foreign troops are withdrawn too quickly, senior sources have disclosed. Senior sources have disclosed that Cameron has been told that the current plan to give control of the country’s security to the Afghan forces next year may need to be “diluted”. According to The Telegraph, British commanders believe that the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the Army and police, are not yet fully capable of taking over from international forces. The source further added, “We have been on operations with the Afghans, where you have to kick the door down and push them inside the building to clear it. That goes down as an Afghan led operation. The plan is for British and US troops to take a back seat role next year but that is not going to happen in reality. The ANA has been able to build capacity but it lacks quality and that’s the worry.” Under current plans the ANSF are supposed to take over responsibility for security by the middle of 2013 and all foreign troops will be withdrawn from combat operations by the end of 2014. It would mean that Britain’s current deployment of 9,000 soldiers would be reduced significantly next year, and that after 2014, only a small number of UK forces would remain in Afghanistan, mostly as advisers to the Afghan military. One source quoted by The Telegraph said, “The Afghan Army is not going to be ready to take the lead in operations next year, that is certain. There are very few kandaks [ANA battalions], probably fewer than 10, which can plan, mount and execute operations without NATO’s help.” Cameron has also been told that the Taliban could regain power in Afghanistan if foreign troops are withdrawn too quickly from the country. The Ministry of Defense has calculated that ending combat operations by late 2013, a year earlier than planned, would save GBP 3 billion. Defense chiefs have strongly insisted that British troops must maintain a strong presence in the country until the end of 2014. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Gen. Allen, Kayani Confer on Border Security

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander, during a visit to Islamabad, on 2 August said they were trying to build an enduring and strategic partnership with Pakistan. Gen. John R. Allen visited the General Headquarters in Rawalpindi to meet the Pakistan Army chief — the first talks since Pakistan lifted a seven-month blockade of key NATO supply routes into Afghanistan. On 3 July, Pakistan reopened the supply routes after the US apologized for the deaths of 24 Pakistani soldiers in US air strikes during a November 2011 raid in the Mohmand tribal region. “We are making significant progress toward building a partnership that is enduring, strategic, carefully defined and that enhances the security and prosperity of the region,” said Allen. Boosting security along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border topped the agenda, the two sides said in a statement after the meeting. Gen. Kayani stressed the Pakistan-US relationship should be based on mutual trust, respect and transparency. Gen Allen said he enjoyed his trips to Pakistan and was “pleased with the upward spiral of Pak-US relationship”. This meeting was another in a series of opportunities for the commanders to continue building upon the growing operational cooperation between Afghan forces, the Pakistan military and ISAF. According to the statement, the parties share many interests – including a commitment to expanding opportunities for coordinated action against terrorists on both sides of the border who threaten Afghanistan, Pakistan and the region. “The future security and stability of the region rests in large part on the strength of the partnership these discussions are forging. The talks also recognized the importance of future opportunities for key ANSF, Pakistani military and ISAF to continue to explore ways to expand their vital partnership.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

French hand over base in Afghanistan

French troops handed over one of their bases near Kabul to Afghan soldiers on 31 July as part of the transition to Afghan control over security and the pullout of 2,000 French combat soldiers by year’s end. French President Francois Hollande has pledged that the country’s 2,000 combat troops in Afghanistan will return home by the end of the year, but that about 1,400 French soldiers will stay to help with training and logistics. Hollande has said that, after more than a decade in Afghanistan, French combat troops had carried out their mission and it was time for them to leave in an early withdrawal coordinated with the United States and other allies. That decision put France on a fast-track exit timetable that sparked consternation among some members of the U.S.-led NATO military coalition, which is not ending its combat mission until the end of 2014. (…) France currently has about 3,400 troops in Afghanistan. Under Hollande’s plan, about 1,400 troops will stay behind to help send military equipment including about 900 armored vehicles and 1,400 containers back to France, and others would help train the Afghan army and police. He has not said how long the 1,400 would stay, but said France would not have any more combat forces in Afghanistan after Dec. 31, 2012. (Fox News, AP)

NATO

NATO Won’t Raze Installations Needed By Afghans

The International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) commander on Wednesday promised they would not destroy the installations needed by the Afghan government after the withdrawal of foreign troops. Gen. John R. Allen held out the assurance during a meeting with President Hamid Karzai, a statement from the Presidential Palace said. Karzai discussed with Allen the transfer of military installations, missile strikes into eastern Afghanistan from Pakistan soil, strengthening of the Afghan air force and reconstruction of the Russian-built Salang Pass. The statement quoted Gen. Allen as saying that NATO-led force condemned the cross-border incursions and was studying the situation. During his upcoming trip, Allen said he would take up the issue with Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Strengthening and equipping the Afghan air force was an important project, the top US military commander said, adding they would intensify efforts to train Afghan pilots. With reconstruction work on the Salang Pass continuing, he said $5 million (258.6 million Afghanis) had already been paid to the Afghan government. He added another $19 more would be released in the future. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Militants

Leader Of Islamic Movement Of Uzbekistan Killed In U.S. Drone Attack

A website associated with the Al-Qaeda-linked Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) announced on 4 August that its leader Osman Adil was killed in a drone attack in Pakistan. According to the site, Adil’s deputy, Osman Ghazi, had succeeded him as the new leader of the group. It is not clear when and in what circumstances Adil was killed. The IMU is a militant Islamist group formed in 1991. Its objective was to overthrow President Islam Karimov of Uzbekistan, and to create an Islamic state under Shari’a. Operating out of bases in Tajikistan and Taliban-controlled areas of northern Afghanistan, the IMU launched a series of raids into southern Kyrgyzstan in 1999 and 2000. Its training camps are currently operating in Pakistan’s region of Waziristan. (RFE/RL)

Taliban Attacks Eastern Afghan Province

Afghan officials say an Afghan soldier and a female civilian were killed when hundreds of suspected Taliban militants launched simultaneous attacks on the eastern province of Konar, along the border with Pakistan. Provincial officials said militants attacked five districts, including Shigal, Dangam, Marawara, Watapur, and Manogay, before dawn. The German dpa news agency quoted provincial police chief Ewaz Mohammad Naziri as saying Pakistani fighters had crossed the border to join the Taliban in the attacks, which he said lasted several hours. Naziri, who claimed dozens of militants were killed, said the insurgents escaped into the mountains after Afghan security forces and foreign troops entered the area. In a statement, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid called the attack the largest in Konar so far this year. (RFE/RL)

Security Threats

In Afghanistan, targeted attacks on leaders an ominous trend

Tamim Nuristani used to own a pizza chain in California. Now he’s a marked man in Afghanistan. This month, insurgents ambushed the provincial governor’s convoy in northeastern Afghanistan, sparking a fierce battle that pinned down his entourage for the night. When the motorcade tried to move in the morning, the assailants struck again. Miraculously, all those in the convoy survived. It was not the first attempt on Nuristani’s life; he did not expect it to be the last. Not long ago, security forces discovered and defused a remote-controlled explosive device apparently meant for him, and a defecting Taliban fighter told officials that he had been personally tasked with assassinating the Nuristan governor. (…) Taliban and other insurgent groups have long targeted Afghan government officials and community leaders. But July has seen an extraordinary spate of assassinations and attempted assassinations of public figures, raising the specter of many more such killings as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization force here begins its troop drawdown in earnest. (…) Authorities are uncertain whether the recent drumbeat of attacks represents a coordinated campaign by a single group or if the strikes were unrelated actions by disparate militant organizations — or even whether internal power struggles were at play. Either way, the seeming open season on Afghan public servants represents an ominous trend as the NATO force hands over more security responsibilities to the Afghan police and army, while simultaneously trying to build public confidence in all levels of the Afghan government. (LA Times)

U.S. POLICIES

US: Religious freedom low in Afghanistan, Pakistan

The U.S. is criticizing allies Afghanistan and Pakistan for poorly defending religious freedom. A State Department report says Afghanistan’s courts interpret Islamic law to punish non-Muslims for exercising their faith. And it cites Pakistan for issuing death sentences for blasphemy. Despite increased extremist attacks on minorities or even tolerant Muslims there, it says, authorities have rarely investigated perpetrators. The 30 July report particularly highlights blasphemy and religious “defamation” laws. The department lamented long prison sentences and lashings for people in Saudi Arabia charged with insulting the Muslim Prophet Muhammad. Government efforts against “violent extremists” also came under scrutiny. The report says Bahraini, Russian, Iraqi and Nigerian authorities don’t always distinguish terrorism from peaceful religious practice. It also criticized chronic religious liberty violators China, North Korea, Iran and Eritrea. (CBS News)

US to Probe Afghan Civilian Casualties

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has constituted a committee to review allegations of civilian abuse, injuries and casualties in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Pentagon announced on 3 August. In a memorandum, dated July 30, the secretary said the application of military justice to service members alleged to have committed offences against civilians in combat zones was of particular concern to him. “We know that, over the last 10 years in Iraq and Afghanistan, bad things have happened involving combat excesses and innocent civilians,” Panetta said in his memorandum. “The abuses have been rare among our professional fighting force, but they become huge flash points that threatened to undermine our entire mission and the foundation of our relationship with the host government and its people.” Directed to complete its investigation within 210 days, the Board is co-chaired by Judith Miller, former General Counsel of the Department of Defense, and Maj. Gen. (R) Walter Huffman. “This is part of the secretary’s ongoing interest in the accountability of particularly in deployed areas,” Jay Johnson, general counsel of the Department of Defense, told Pentagon reporters during an off-camera news conference. Responding to questions, Johnson said the number of cases could be significant as they went back to 10 years. This is not about any pending case or investigation, he clarified. Panetta explained the review should not encompass allegations of detainee abuse or instances of collateral damage or “friendly fire” incident to a lawful military operation. “Nor should the review pass judgment on the results of military justice in a particular case or intrude upon any pending case or investigation.” If needed, members of the board might visit Afghanistan, Johnson said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Congress Wants Haqqani Network Declared as Terrorist Outfit

Mounting pressure on the Obama administration, the Congress has passed a resolution seeking to designate the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization. On 27 July, the Senate unanimously passed a resolution urging the State Department to declare the Haqqani network as a foreign terrorist organization within one month of legislation being signed into law. The Haqqani Network Terrorist Designation Act of 2012 was passed by the House of Representatives early this month and in doing so made changes into the version of the bill passed by the Senate last year. The bill now heads to the White House for being signed into law by President Barack Obama. “This is a significant development, the House and the Senate have now spoken unanimously that the president should designate the Haqqani Network as a foreign terrorist organization,” said Congressman Mike Rogers, chairman of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. He added: “The Haqqanis are engaged in a reign of terror in Afghanistan and the network poses the single largest threat for IEDs our soldiers face in that country. They actively plot and kill US and allied soldiers and routinely harm innocent Afghan civilian men, women and children…” Rogers applaud the Senate passage of the important bill, urging the president to sign it quickly into law. He blamed the Haqqani network for killing and injuring hundreds of US servicemen and women in Afghanistan. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

US to have Small Footprint in Afghanistan After 2014: Obama Aide

Once the United States completed full security transition to Afghan forces by 2014, America would have a much smaller footprint that would focus on training mission and not aimed against any of Afghanistan’s neighbors, an Obama aide said on 25 July. Michele Flournoy, co-chair of the National Security Advisory Committee, addressing an audience at the Brookings Institute, dismissed the impression that US forces in Afghanistan would have to deal with the situation in case nuclear-capable Pakistan disintegrated. Rich Williamson, senior advisor to presumptive Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney on foreign and defense policy, said Pakistan was an enormously difficult issue. “Between the intelligence, the army, the civilians, the religious factions, it is a barely functioning state. They have got nuclear weapons that are extremely dangerous. And there is no simple answer. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

No ‘Grand Bargain’ with Taliban in Afghanistan: Crocker

Defeating the Taliban and insurgents will be a gradual process and a “grand bargain” bringing the conflict to a swift end is unlikely, the outgoing US ambassador to Afghanistan, Ryan Crocker, told CBS news on 27 July. Mr Crocker stressed that the most important talks would be between the Afghan government and the Taliban, rather than the Taliban and the US. He added that some US troops will stay in Afghanistan after 2014 but he did not go into details about their role because Afghanistan and the US are working on a draft Afghan-US security agreement. “I couldn’t begin to tell you exactly what that scenario would look like,” Mr Crocker said. US president Barack Obama on 27 July met with Mr Crocker at the White House and praised him for his efforts in Afghanistan. The diplomat is due to leave his post at the end of the summer. “Ambassador Crocker has served at a critical time, and thanks to his work, the United States – together with the Afghan government, and our NATO-ISAF partners – has cemented a long-term partnership with the Afghan people that allows us to responsibly wind down the war as the Afghan Government stands up to take full responsibility for their security and sovereignty,” the White House said in a statement. Mr Crocker posted a statement of his own on the website of the US Embassy in Afghanistan, reflecting on his time in the country. “Afghanistan still faces great challenges in security, in economic development, in the building of institutions,” the statement said. “But no one, Afghan or foreign, should lose sight of the extraordinary achievements that you have brought about.” Mr Crocker has been in his post for a year. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

U.S. Senate Approves New Afghan Ambassador

The U.S. Senate has confirmed career diplomat James Cunningham as the country’s next ambassador to Afghanistan. He is replacing Ryan Crocker, who stepped down for health reasons in May after a career in Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Syria, Kuwait, and Lebanon. Cunningham has been serving as deputy ambassador in Kabul for more than a year. He was previously the U.S. ambassador to Israel and has also held senior U.S. posts in Hong Kong, NATO, and the United Nations. (RFE/RL)

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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