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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 24 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.


Afghanistan: Governance & Civil Society

President says Attacks on Afghanistan Impacting Relationship with Pakistan

In a meeting with his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari, Afghan President Hamid Karzai pressed him to take action to terminate of cross-border rocket attacks, President Karzai’s office said. According to the statement, the two presidents agreed that issue of rocket attacks should be tackled through a joint militarily task. At the sideline of a summit in Saudi Arabia, Karzai said that “these attacks have had a negative impact on the relationship between the two countries.” Back in Kabul. the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) blamed Pakistan’s intelligence department (ISI) for providing false information to the government of Pakistan. “Pakistan’s ISI is providing false information to government officials, which is concerning, so to protect themselves, they are firing rockets into another country,” NDS Deputy Spokesman, Shafiqullah Tahiri said. “According to the Afghan-US strategic agreement, US should defend Afghanistan from any foreign threat and invasion otherwise the agreement will lose its credibility,” Afghan political expert Nasrullah Stanikzai told TOLOnews. This comes and US Department of Defense has begun talks with Pakistan to resolve the issue of cross-border attacks. (TOLOnews)

Karzai Security Team Blames Foreign Spy Agencies for Insider Attacks

Afghan President Hamid Karzai held a special meeting on 22 August with the national security team to discuss the prevention of foreign spy agencies infiltrating into Afghan security institutions. Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi told TOLOnews on 24 August that an investigation undertaken by the government proves such infiltration is happening. Faizi added that the shooting deaths of NATO-led foreign soldiers by Afghan security personnel was the work of these spy agencies aiming to undermine the building of the Afghan forces. “The investigation shows that foreign spy agencies have infiltrated the Afghan security ranks. The Afghan government has proven documents in this regard,” Faizi said, but declined to name a specific country. The President’s press office released a statement on 22 August also suggesting that the spy agencies were behind the insider attacks on foreign forces, with the aim of undermining the building of the Afghan forces. “The meeting… termed as to no avail the recent destructive enemy designs perpetrated by individuals in Afghan army and police uniform to hurt a process that aims to train a professional and capable Afghan force,” the Presidential office said on 22 August night. While no country was specifically named in the statement, blame has been laid on Pakistan and Iran in the past. (…) The special meeting comes after the US Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Gen. Martin Dempsey visited Kabul this week [20-24 August] with insider attacks at the top of his agenda in meetings with NATO and Afghan security leaders. (TOLOnews)

Karzai makes fallen defence minister his adviser

Afghan President Hamid Karzai on 13 August appointed as senior adviser Abdul Rahim Wardak, the defence minister thrown out of parliament for alleged security failures, in a move likely to be welcomed by Kabul’s Western allies. Wardak and interior minister Besmillah Mohammadi were dismissed by parliament earlier this month for what MPs said was their failure to stop a resurgence in the 10-year Taliban insurgency and cross-border shelling from Pakistan. Karzai had allowed the pair to continue serving in an acting capacity, but Wardak resigned a few days later. He has now been appointed senior presidential adviser on army reform, development and armaments, Karzai said in a decree, calling him a “knowledgeable and experienced” general. The appointment will meet with the approval of the US-led international coalition helping Kabul fight the insurgency by Taliban Islamists who were ousted from power in a 2001 invasion. Coalition commander US General John Allen said in an effusive statement earlier 13 August that: “in my mind, he will always be the father of the modern Afghan army”. Wardak’s “extraordinary drive, competence and vision propelled him to leadership positions of the greatest importance”, Allen said. The long-term Karzai ally had been in office since 2003 and his departure was seen to come at a critical time for Karzai’s government. (Yahoo News, AFP)

Peace Talks

Karzai’s Support for Taliban ‘Name’ Harms Peace Process: Analysts

Afghan political experts said on 22 August that Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s seemingly supportive statements on the Taliban could harm the peace and reconciliation process. The experts’ comments come after Karzai on Sunday and Tuesday called on the Taliban to admit whether they were behind recent deadly bomb attacks which saw scores of civilians killed, saying “raise your voice because your name is being misused”. “If the Taliban and their leaders have not committed these deadly incidents, [which] the other enemies of Afghanistan might have done, then raise your voice and say you haven’t done this cruelty. If you don’t do so then it will be done in your name,” Karzai said Tuesday at the memorial ceremony for those killed in Nimroz province by suicide bombers on 14 August. Karzai made a similar statement on Sunday, the first day of Eid al-Fitr, after the Eid morning prayer. Analysts believe that such comments could prove dangerous for the future of Afghanistan. “Such statements could bring a long-term crisis in Afghanistan and harm the reconciliation process,” Afghanistan Research and Evaluation Unit deputy director Mir Ahmad Joyenda told TOLOnews on 22 August. Almost all the suicide attacks were attributed as being the Taliban’s work, along with support from neighboring countries. “Taliban attacks are being conducted in close collaboration with [Pakistan intelligence agency] ISI, al-Qaeda and Haqqani networks. Karzai’s statement could bring major threats to Afghanistan,” Political analyst Jawed Kohistani told TOLOnews. This is not the first time that Afghan president has conveyed pro-Taliban statements which were condemned by the Afghan experts and civil society organs. (TOLOnews)

Taliban Inclined to Peace Parleys: Mutasim

Key Taliban leader Mullah Agha Jan Mutasim, who was removed last week from the United Nations blacklist, on 13 August called for stepping up the delisting process to pave the ground for a negotiated end to the war. The UN removed Mutasim’s name from its blacklist in a bid to kick-start the stalled peace talks between the insurgents and the United States. In a statement, the former Taliban minister of treasury said the people of Afghanistan were tired of war and wanted peace and stability in their homeland. Mutasim, who is currently living in Turkey, acknowledged the UN and the US had taken steps toward ending the decade-long conflict. Delisting some of the Taliban figures was one of the measures. Hailing the UN decision as a respectable move, he thanked the world body, the Security Council, the Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC), Saudi Arabia officials, the government of Turkey and all those who played a role in this regard. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Afghanistan to Seek Islamic Countries’ Support for Peace Talks

Afghan president Hamid Karzai on 13 August will attend the Islamic Co-operation Summit and seek support for Afghanistan’s peace negotiations, foreign ministry spokesman Janan Musazai said. “The people of Afghanistan have made massive sacrifices for democracy and stability; so we hope the Islamic countries will support Afghanistan’s peace process,” Mr. Musazai said at a press conference in Kabul. He also emphasized that Pakistani officials should take the region’s insurgency seriously and work to quell it. Pakistan and ISAF recently agreed to conduct a sweeping military operation in Pakistan’s border areas targeting terrorist hideouts. ISAF will provide Pakistan’s army with intelligence and technical support, and will prevent the infiltration of insurgents onto Afghan soil. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Pakistan Favors Democratic Government in Afghanistan: Khar

The return of the Taliban to power in Afghanistan would not be in the best interests of Pakistan, Pakistani foreign minister Hina Rabbani Khar said in an Al Jazeera interview. But she added that it is up to Afghanistan to decide on the nature of its own government. “We cannot dictate or inform them that what should be their interests,” she said. Ms Khar said that events in Afghanistan have a direct impact on the situation in Pakistan – and Kabul is just as important to her as Washington DC. She pointed out that, on a daily basis, more than 53,000 people cross the border between Afghanistan and Pakistan and said that any kind of conflict in Afghanistan will directly influence the economic, social and military situation in Pakistan. “Kabul is an important capital for Islamabad, because the two countries have shared interests and fates,” Ms. Khar explained. She added that Pakistan is always keen to have friendly and close relations with countries in the region – particularly Afghanistan, Iran and Russia. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Pakistan summon senior US envoy over drone strikes

Pakistan, on 23 August, summoned a senior American diplomat and conveyed protest against the recent drone strikes in the country’s North Waziristan tribal region, Pakistani Foreign Ministry said. A series of U.S. drone attacks bombed North Waziristan over the past few days in three separate attacks, killing at least 14 people. Pakistani officials told the diplomat, who was not identified, that the attacks were unacceptable, unlawful and a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. (…) The United States has ignored Pakistan’s calls for a halt to drone strikes, which Islamabad says are counterproductive in the war on terror and spark anti-American sentiments. But Washington insists that the attacks are the key to eliminate al-Qaeda remnants and Taliban. The strikes are very unpopular in Pakistan because many people believe they mostly kill civilians — an allegation disputed by the U.S. (Khaama Press)

NDS Accused of Planning Attacks in Pakistan

Pakistan’s Interior Ministry accused the Afghanistan National Directorate of Security (NDS) of planning to launch attacks in Islamabad and Lahore with the help of insurgents, Pakistani media reported. (…) The claims were rejected by the Afghan National Directorate of Security deputy spokesman Shafiqullah Taheri. “We strongly reject this. Unfortunately, Pakistan’s military officials are providing false information to their political leaders,” Taheri said. Meanwhile, the former Afghan Deputy Minister of Interior, General Abdul Hadi Khaled, believes that NDS is facing its own insurgent challenges within Afghanistan and does not have time to plan for any attacks in other countries. This comes as eight suicide attackers target one of the biggest air bases in Islamabad earlier in August. (TOLOnews)


Afghanistan now the world’s sixth largest exporter of raisins

According to the Export Promotion Agency of Afghanistan (EPAA), raisin exports in Afghanistan have gone up from 8,500 tons to 24,000 tons in the last year. The decades of war that disrupted the export capacity of the country and destroyed much of the raisins. Before the civil war, Afghanistan was exporting 210,000 tons per year all around the world, according to the EPAA. However, Afghanistan still remains to be the first in terms of raisins’ quality. Raisin exporters complained about the challenges they still face in the industry mainly in terms of transit and lack of good markets. “The government needs to help us access bigger markets. We wanted to export raisins to London, but our goods were stopped in Peshawar, Pakistan for 50 days,” said the Head of the Raisin Exporter Union Haji Farid. (Khaama Press)

Afghanistan to Become Self-Sufficient By 2035: Rassoul

Afghanistan would reach economically self-sufficiency and would never be in need of the international community’s contributes until 2035, minister of foreign affairs, Dr. Zalmai Rassoul said 11 August. Both Afghanistan and international community had reached an agreement on a joint clear accountability procedure at the Tokyo donor meeting, based on both sides were responsible to supervise on how the world funds could be spent in development of the country, Dr. Rassoul reporters. He said the country is at present securing over 90 percent of its budget via the international community’s funds. Meanwhile minister of finance, Dr. Omar Zakhilwal told reporters the government had a regular and proper plan for the world donors’ aids. (…) The finance minister also said that creation of a bilateral electoral accountability framework, improvement of financial and investment system and registering the government authorities’ assets were also from the main parts the commitments, which they had collected in a document and started practical work on. The Tokyo donor meeting discussed Afghanistan’s economic condition and pledged to provide the war-and-economic-tattered country with financial cooperation until 2025. The donor countries among them, U.S. Japan, Germany and UK vowed to provide the country with $17 billion within 2012 and 2017. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

WJ to Monitor Use of Aid: Ibrahimi

Wolesi Jirga, or lower house of parliament, is keen on monitoring the use of foreign assistance pledged to Afghanistan at July’s Tokyo conference to ensure transparency, the speaker said on 11 August. The international community pledged $16 billion in reconstruction and development aid to Afghanistan over the next four years, when most foreign troops are scheduled to leave. The major donors’ conference, attended by about 70 countries and organizations, was aimed at setting aid levels for the crucial period through and beyond 2014, when the war-torn country will assume responsibility for most of its own security. Speaker Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi told the parliamentary session, also attended by Foreign Minister Zalmai Rassoul and Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, that the aid between 2014 and 2017 was aimed at strengthening Afghanistan’s political and economic institutions. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Culture & Society

Taliban Eid Message Viewed With Skepticism by Rights, Political Groups

Afghan human rights and political groups tentatively welcomed Taliban leader Mullah Omar’s Eid al-Fitr message for its apparent support of women and education, but remained skeptical as to whether it meant a change in the militant group’s actions. Part of the Taliban’s message for the Islamic holy days following Ramazan said that it was committed to considering women rights in accordance with Islamic rules and Afghan culture. It also said that the Taliban respected education and will do anything to promote education throughout the country. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) welcomed the message but opted to “wait-and-see” before any outright condoning of it. “This is good, but the most important thing is whether the Taliban will carry it out in practice,” AIHRC executive director Musa Mahmoodi told TOLOnews. “We will wait and see, and possibly give our support if it is put into practice.” One Afghan political party was more cynical about the message, labeling it as political propaganda given the militant Islamists acts against women during their regime. “Considering the Taliban’s previous acts, they will not be committed to women rights,” Afghanistan’s National Front spokesperson Faizullah Zakil told TOLOnews, adding that the past downgraded the credibility and value of the message. (TOLOnews)

Afghanistan Princelings: Are the children of the Mujahedin ready to rule?

Having completed degrees in the most prestigious universities around the world, the younger generation is being groomed to inherit the legacies of their fathers. This passing of the torch is taking place at a critical if not tumultuous juncture. Will their Western, liberal education change the trajectory of the country’s future as NATO prepares to withdraw its troops by 2014 and as the resurgent shadow of the Taliban and their allies loom? The preordained nature of the succession has already led to sarcastic responses in local social media. “Get to know your future leaders,” went one remark after a video of a meeting involving a mujahedin scion circulated. That has not made the children of commanders any less shy about their political ambitions. (…) In the south of the country, where fighting still continues with the Taliban, the children of the same generation of commanders are also inheriting their fathers’ political legacies, but they have lagged behind in education. … (Time World)

Pakistan takes steps to prevent faith violence

With militant acts on the rise, Hindus in Sindh Province, Pakistan, have been falling victim to an increased incidence of forced conversion, extortion and kidnapping for ransom. Now, in response to calls from human rights groups, Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has ordered the formation of a committee to prepare a draft constitutional amendment designed to protect minorities’ rights and to prevent the forced conversion of Hindu girls. Amarnath Motumal, vice-chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, hailed Zardari’s decision and said Pakistani Hindus are looking forward to an end to forced conversions of Hindu girls. The Hindu community has been calling for help since the alleged kidnapping and forced conversion of Rinkal Kumari in February, according to media reports, and the August 7 abduction and forced conversion of 14-year-old Manisha have sparked a mass exodus of Hindus from Sindh, minority rights activists say. Such violence against the Hindu community is killing the spirit of religious pluralism that has long been a hallmark of Sindhi culture, said Ali Hassan Chandio, head of the Sindh National Movement. It is high time for political parties, civil society, enlightened religious scholars and media to act together to prevent such insanity in the interfaith tranquil province of Sindh, he said. The governmental response is multi-faceted. Legislation to deal with the issue is under consideration in the National Assembly and the Sindh Assembly, Federal Minister for Parliamentary Affairs Maula Buksh Chandio said. (Central Asia Online)


Central Asia: an Intensifying Energy Hub?

China’s energy demand from Central Asia is growing. While China’s natural gas consumption was 131.7 billion cubic meters (bcm) in 2011, it is forecasted to increase to 375 bcm by 2020. This meant that natural gas demand of China is an opportunity for Central Asian gas suppliers to diversify their routes and for Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan to receive transit benefits. However, China’s open policy for all gas corridors coming from Central Asia also means that it could potentially initiate competition among players within these proposed gas pipeline routes. In June China asserted that it is keen to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan through Afghanistan and Tajikistan. This framework has been discussed on bilateral meetings between Afghanistan and China. However, there was not yet agreement on this project with Turkmenistan, which is already working with Afghanistan on TAPI gas pipeline (Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India). It should be reminded that TAPI is a project backed by US and weakened by security issues on its Afghanistan-Pakistan and Pakistan-India part, while Chinese proposal could offer a safer alternative in case transit through Afghanistan and Tajikistan ensures stable grounds for supplies of Turkmen gas to China. On August meeting of intergovernmental commission for trade and economic cooperation of China and Kyrgyzstan, both sides indicated that they are determined to construct a gas pipeline from Turkmenistan. As the counterparts agreed Kyrgyzstan-China part of the proposed project is to be speeded up. (Turkish Weekly)

Uzbekistan to reduce flour supplies from Kazakhstan and increase grain imports

Uzbek President Islam Karimov is expected to visit Kazakhstan this fall and there are now intensive preparations for a high-level meeting with the trade partner which is an important market for Kazakh grain and flour, the source noted. According to Kazah-Zerno web portal Uzbekistan is reducing flour imports from Kazakhstan, focusing on the processing of Kazakh grain. (…) Thus, Uzbekistan is expanding flour production using grain from Kazakhstan as the main resource base and planning to fully supply its domestic market as well as increase flour exports to neighboring Afghanistan. There are over 60 private flour mills in Tashkent and its outskirts. Their total processing capacity is no less than 1.5 million tons of grain per year. All private mills use wheat supplied from Kazakhstan. (Caspio Net)

Regional Security

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)

Group Of Islamists Sentenced In Kazakhstan

Officials say a court in the Qostanai region in Kazakhstan’s north has sentenced a group of radical Islamists to prison terms of between three and six years. Officials said the court in the regional capital, Qostanai, found the alleged leader and three members of the group guilty on 10 August of forming and leading an organized criminal group, fraud, forging documents for border crossing, as well as illegal recruiting and sending Kazakh nationals to Afghanistan and Pakistan to take part “in combat actions.” (RFE/RL)

Extra Security Forces Leave Restive Gorno-Badakhshan

Tajik troops who were recently deployed in the restive Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province have pulled out of the region under the terms of an agreement with local civil society activists. The agreement was signed late afternoon on 23 August, following two days of protests by hundreds of residents in the city of Khorug. The protests followed the killing of a former rebel who had commanded opposition fighters in the 1990s Tajik Civil War. Imomnazar Imomnazarov, who was also alleged to have organized crime links, was slain overnight on 21 August in an attack on his home. Government officials have denied any involvement. The government sent extra forces to the province in July after a local security chief was stabbed to death. Clashes between the troops and militants left some 70 people dead. (RFE/RL)

Thousands Occupy Tajik Square Over Violated Truce

Several thousand people continued to occupy a central square in Tajikistan’s eastern city of Khorug early on 23 August, demanding that the government withdraw forces from the area and dismiss the region’s top official. The protest started one day earlier after a rebel field commander, who fought against the government in the Tajik civil war of the 1990s, was reported killed by unidentified assailants. Demonstrators have alleged that the killing violated a truce between armed groups and the government that was reached last month after fighting in the Gorno-Badakhshan region left around 70 people dead. Protesters say the continued presence of additional military forces in the area is contributing to tensions. (RFE/RL)

Kyrgyz Government Officially Dismissed After Coalition Collapse

Kyrgyz President Almazbek Atambaev has officially dismissed the national government following the defections of the Ar-Namys (Dignity) and Ata-Meken (Fatherland) parties. The split left the two other coalition members — Prime Minister Omurbek Babanov’s Respublika party and President Almazbek Atambaev’s Social Democratic Party — without a governing majority. Atambaev has three days to appoint a party to form a new coalition, and the appointed party will have 15 days to complete the task. The outgoing cabinet’s members will remain at their posts until the new government is formed. (RFE/RL)

Regional Cooperation

High-Ranking U.S. Official In Uzbekistan For Talks

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Robert Blake has met with Uzbek President Islam Karimov in Tashkent. Blake, who is the top-ranking U.S. official focusing on Central Asia, traveled to the Uzbek capital to “discuss the full range of bilateral issues, including regional stability and security, democracy and human rights, counternarcotics, education and cultural exchanges, and economic development and trade,” according to the U.S. State Department. In particular, bilateral relations following the planned 2014 withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan was set to feature on the agenda. Some Russian and Kazakh media have speculated that Blake is seeking permission for the U.S. military to have access to Uzbek military facilities. Blake’s stop in Tashkent follows a visit to Kazakhstan’s commercial capital, Almaty, but not the capital city, Astana. (RFE/RL)

India Ratifies SAARC Agreement on Natural Disasters

India became the first country to ratify the SAARC Agreement on Rapid Response to Natural Disasters, South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Secretariat in the Nepali capital Kathmandu said on 22 August. Concerned at the increasing frequency and scale of natural disasters in the South Asian region and their damaging impacts, the agreement provides for a Natural Disaster Rapid Response Mechanism to enable member states to adopt a coordinated and planned approach to provide timely relief and humanitarian assistance in emergencies arising out of natural disasters. It was signed by the SAARC foreign ministers during the 17th SAARC Summit held in Addu City of Maldives in November last year. On behalf of the Indian government, Jaideep Mazumdar, charge d’ affairs at the Embassy of India in Kathmandu, handed over the original Instrument of Ratification of the Agreement to SAARC Secretary General Ahmed Saleem. “At the meeting with the charge d’affaires of the Indian Embassy, the Secretary General complimented the Government of India for taking the initiative to sign the Agreement and hoped that other countries will follow suit as early as possible,” the SAARC Secretariat said in a statement. Founded in 1985, the SAARC comprises eight South Asian nations, namely Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Afghanistan. (Afghanistan Daily Outlook)

Top Kyrgyz Official Says Russian Military Base Granted 15-Year Extension

A top Kyrgyz official has said an agreement has been reached to extend a lease on a Russian military base in Kyrgyzstan by 15 years. Sapar Isakov, the head of the Kyrgyz presidential administration’s foreign affairs department, said the tentative agreement came during talks between Russian and Kyrgyz officials in Kyrgyzstan earlier in August Isakov said Russia currently had an agreement to use military facilities in Kyrgyzstan until 2017 that include the base at Kant, some 40 kilometers from the Kyrgyz capital, Bishkek, the torpedo testing center at Issyk-Kul, and seismic station at Maily-Suu and a communication center in Chui Province. Isakov said that the new agreement would cover the period after 2017 and added the Russian side had been seeking an agreement for a longer period. The Russians “were insisting on a 49-year contract for [Russian military facilities in Kyrgyzstan], and now we have an agreement in principle for 15 years,” Isakov said. “But the main agreement about joint Russian military bases will not go into force immediately. Our view is it will be about a five-year period.” Isakov also said rent for the additional 15-year stay was still being discussed. Russia is currently paying some $4.5 million annually to use bases in Kyrgyzstan. (RFE/RL)

Iran, Turkmenistan Ready To Develop Trade

Officials from the Caspian Sea countries of Iran and Turkmenistan have pledged to build trade ties. Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi said his country was prepared to raise its trade volume with the Central Asian nation to $10 billion, up from $5 billion in 2011. His comments came as Turkmen Foreign Minister Rashid Meredov concluded a two-day official visit to Iran. Iranian trade officials said they are ready to export technical and engineering services for Turkmenistan’s energy development and housing construction. The plans come as Iran faces a tightening sanctions regime by Western nations who suspect Tehran of developing nuclear weapons. Meredov called Iran the “closest and best neighbor” of Turkmenistan and said ties between the two countries would never be influenced by “marginal issues” like sanctions. (RFE/RL)


Afghanistan Security Forces

As Insider Attack Fears Escalate, APPF Says Afghans Ready to Secure NATO Bases

Afghanistan’s substitute for all private security firms – the Afghan Public Protection Force (APPF) – is ready to provide security for the NATO military bases throughout the country, APPF Deputy Minister Mujtaba Patang said on 23 August. Patang said at a briefing in Kabul that a further 37 private firms remained to be dissolved and replaced with the APPF personnel, with all responsibilities and weapons to be transferred to government-backed security firm. He assured the security of the NATO bases after the process is complete. Patang said that the APPF personnel are guaranteed by their tribal leaders and provincial council members and that there is no enemy infiltration within these forces, a reference to the recent spate of deadly shootings of ISAF troops by Afghan security forces. “Our main job is guarding the national and international facilities. It’s an important step to dissolve tens of private security companies,” Patang said, dismissing concerns that the dissolution of private security companies was feeding the expansion of insecurity in the country. The APPF currently has 30,000 personnel, a number expected to rise to 100,000 after 2014. NATO has supported the move towards a public security force staffed by Afghans, saying that its effectiveness lies in the security guards level of training and accountability. At the 23 August briefing in Kabul, a NATO official reiterated the organisation’s support and said that the force is preparing to protect the NATO bases. (TOLOnews)

Afghanistan-Pakistan border fighting erupts in Kunar

There was heavy fighting between Afghan and Pakistani forces in the eastern Afghan province of Kunar, which borders Pakistan, Afghan officials said on 14 August. Fighting started at around 0400 (0030 GMT) following an attack on a border police commander’s convoy, according to border police sources. According to Afghan officials in Kunar, one border policeman was killed and five were injured. The Afghan authorities have since sent hundreds of troops to the area. The attack was from the Pakistani side of the border in the area of Binshay, Dangam District, Afghan police say. Afghan officials in Kunar province have told the BBC that both sides have been using heavy and small weapons and a Dangam District tribal elder said the fighting was ongoing. The border district of Dangam lies 40km (25 miles) east of the provincial capital. Afghan officials have in the past accused Pakistan’s military of firing the rockets across the border – a claim Pakistan denies. The Governor of Kunar Province, Fazullah Waheedi, says that in the past three months there have been 3,160 cross border attacks in five districts, killing eight people and wounding 25. Earlier this month, the Afghan parliament dismissed the country’s defence and interior ministers over alleged security failures, including the shelling of Afghan territory from Pakistan. (BBC News)

Authorities Deny Pul-e-Charkhi Prison Break Saying Guards Foiled Attempt

Afghanistan’s top prison official quashed reports of a Taliban break-out from the country’s maximum security prison on the night of 20 August, saying that an escape was attempted but all potential escapees were recaptured. The Central Prison Directorate chief Gen. Amir Mohammad Jamshid told TOLOnews that eight prisoners attempted to escape using the more lenient security within the prison during the Eid holiday, but the prisoners were identified and stopped. “No one has managed to escape,” Jamshid said. “To respect Eid, we wanted to provide a facility for the prisoners to congratulate each other during the Eid days and we opened the doors of the cells. Taking advantage of this, eight prisoners managed to reach the prison yard but they were then identified and detained by the security guards.” TOLOnews earlier reported on 22 August morning that as many as 15 Taliban commanders on death row had escaped from cell three of block six at Pul-e-Charkhi prison, after a prison official anonymously confirmed a Taliban statement relaying news of the escape. The Taliban had also released the names of 12 of those said to have escaped, saying they had “already rejoined their [Taliban] groups and returned to their families.” Jamshid confirmed that there is a large number of Pul-e-Charkhi prisoners awaiting the death sentence. He said that up to 100 of the prison’s 2,000 inmates were sentenced to death by the Afghan High Court, pending approval from Afghan President Hamid Karzai. Meanwhile, Karzai has issued a pardon decree on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr which, according to Jamshid, will see the release of some 2,000 prisoners who have already served half their sentences. There is an estimated 24,000 prisoners in prisons across Afghanistan. This comes as last year more than 500 prisoners managed to escape Kandahar jail after digging a 320 meter long tunnel to the outside, allegedly helped by some of the prison officials. (TOLOnews)

Kandahar District to Receive Another 400 Police Amid Security Concerns

Kandahar provincial police commander Abdul Raziq vowed to “clean up” and secure the southern province’s Ghorak district, including hiring another 400 local police, after residents raised concerns over the lack of security. Raziq responded to residents’ fears at the struggling security situation – three months after Afghan forces were handed security control from NATO – saying that more personnel would be hired and the highway cleared of hidden bombs. The police chief said that he accepted all the challenges faced by Ghorak, which is situated in the northwest of Kandahar and shares a border with Helmand province. Ghorak residents had called on the government to solve the security problems faced by the locals, particularly improvised explosive devices (IED) along the main highway connecting the Maiwand district in Kandahar and Sangin district in Helmand. “Soon the cleanup of the highway in this district will start and we will hire 400 [more] local police for the security of this province,” Raziq said. “The highway connecting Maiwan and Sangin districts, we promise to clean up soon,” he added. He also asked the residents of the district to join the Afghan national police and local police forces until the challenges were resolved. Ghorak residents also complained to authorities of inadequate health care and lack of safe drinking water in the district. (TOLOnews)

Taliban Commanders, Insurgents Captured in Afghan Operations

A Taliban commander and several other insurgents were captured in joint Afghan and NATO troops operations in Afghanistan on 22 August, ISAF said. (…) The leader conducted attacks against security forces and moved weapons and explosives to other Taliban fighters in the area, according to ISAF. Several suspected insurgents were also detained during the operation, it added. ISAF confirmed in the statement that one of the insurgents captured in an operation in the Tarin Kot district of Uruzgan province on Monday is the insurgent leader Mullah Dost Mohammad. “Mohammad is a key member of an improvised explosive device (IED) supply and facilitation network in the Deh Rafshan area of Tarin Kot district. He is also responsible for multiple IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces,” ISAF said. Meanwhile, more insurgents were captured in a joint operation in the Imam Sahib district of northern Kunduz province on 22 August. ISAF said that the operation was launched in search of a leader of the Islamist militant group Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) who funded and directed attacks against Afghan and coalition forces in Kunduz, but the leader was not captured. (TOLOnews)

Pakistan Security Forces

TTP warns of attacks on Pakistani army

The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) warned it would launch suicide attacks on troops if they conducted a military operation in North Waziristan Agency, media reported on 22 August. n an email message sent to media, the militant group said it had received intelligence reports the military action would start on 26 August in North Waziristan, Express News reported. The TTP said it has prepared suicide bombers to hit the army. Interior Minister Rehman Malik told Central Asia Online that the Pakistani forces are ready to take on the militants if such threats are carried out. “Our planning and action is well co-ordinated, and they would be taken on anywhere for the security and the sovereignty of the Pakistani state,” Malik said. “The recent success of the Pakistani intelligence and security apparatus is evident as a number of terror plans have been foiled during the Holy Festival of Eid.” (Central Asia Online)

Troops deployed in Gilgit

Pakistani troops were deployed in Gilgit amid heightened sectarian tension in the city after the Mansehra killings a week ago, media reported on 22 August. Troops were patrolling the city, where all businesses remained closed, while security check posts were operating at all entry and exit points, SAMAA News reported. Armed men killed at least 25 Shia Muslims near Mansehra on 16 August. (Central Asia Online)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

ISAF Suspends more than 100 Companies Over Corruption Charges

ISAF has suspended business with more than 100 national and international companies who have allegedly been involved in corruption since 2010, Brigadier General Ricky Waddell, Commander to the Combined Joint Interagency Task Force Shafafiyat said at a press conference on 14 August. More than thirty billion dollars worth of contracts involving more than fifteen hundred international and Afghan companies were reviewed General Waddell said. “ISAF will continue the support of the Afghan Ministries, the provincial and local leaders and the Afghan security forces is an endeavor to deliver better governance and services to the people. It is an important note that the government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has taken national steps to reduce the trade of corruption and increase transparency and accountability and build judicial capacity in the rule of law,”he added. (TOLOnews)


US military chief’s plane attacked by rocket in Afghanistan

Insurgents fired rockets into an American base in Afghanistan and damaged the parked plane of the visiting chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, the U.S.-led military coalition said on 21 August. The general was safe in his quarters at the time but had to take another aircraft out of the country. The rocket strike that hit the C-17 military transport plane of U.S. Army Gen. Martin Dempsey was yet another propaganda coup for the Taliban after they claimed to have shot down a U.S. helicopter last week. NATO-led International Security Assistance Force following a statement announced, “International Security Assistance Force can confirm that shrapnel from an indirect fire round at Bagram Air Field damaged the military aircraft that brought Gen. Martin E. Dempsey to Afghanistan.” The source further added, “The round was one of two that impacted Bagram last night. An ISAF helicopter was also damaged.” Gen. Dempsey, the U.S. chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was in Afghanistan visiting senior ISAF and Afghan officials. The chairman was in his room at the time of the incident and was unharmed, ISAF confirmed. (…)Dempsey was in Afghanistan to discuss the state of the war after a particularly deadly few weeks for Americans in the more than 10-year-old war as international forces begin drawing down. He and the chief of U.S. Central Command, Marine Gen. James R. Mattis, met with NATO and U.S. Afghan commander Gen. John Allen in Kabul and also with a number of senior Afghan and coalition leaders. (Khaama Press)


Taliban force villagers in Kandahar to destroy roads

Taliban militants group in southern Kandahar province recently forced local residents in Panjwai district to destroy the newly constructed roads in their local villages. Taliban militants in their message to the local residents of Panjwai district warned to take strict actions against them if their request was not fulfilled by them. Panjwai district Haji Fazal Ahmad Ishaq said Afghan villagers in three different villages have already destroyed several meters of newly constructed roads following the warning of the Taliban group. Mr. Ishaq further added around 15 meters of newly constructed roads have been destroyed by Afghan villagers in each villages in Panjwai district. This comes as the roads were recently constructed in Panjwai district however Taliban group said the construction of the new roads prevents them from planting roadside bombs to target Afghan and coalition security forces. Taliban militants frequently use improvised explosive device and roadside bombs to target Afghan and coalition security which normally lead to civilians casualties. (Khaama Press)

Taliban warns to kill Pakistani cricket star Imran Khan

The Taliban have threatened to kill a Pakistani cricket star turned politician if he holds a planned march to their tribal stronghold along the Afghan border to protest U.S. drone attacks. Despite opposing US drone strikes, a spokesman for the Taliban group in Pakistan Ehsanullah Ehsan said they would target Imran Khan because he calls himself a ”liberal” — a term they associate with a lack of religious belief. He also warned they would attack anyone who participates in upcoming elections. Tehrik-e-Taliban spokesman in Pakistan Ehsanullah Ehsan quoted by Associated Press said, ”If he comes, our suicide bombers will target him,” Ahsan told The Associated Press in an interview during the second week of August in the militant group’s stronghold of South Waziristan. ”We will kill him.” … ”We will not accept help or sympathy from any infidel,” said Ehsan, referring to Khan. ”We can fight on our own with the help of God,” he said, as drones buzzed overhead. ‘The election process is part of a secular system,” said Ehsan. ”We want an Islamic system and will create hurdles to secularism.” The threat could come as a surprise to many in Pakistan who have criticized Khan for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban and instead focusing most of his criticism on the government’s alliance with the U.S. Former Pakistani Cricket Star Imran Khan has also been nicknamed as “Taliban Khan” because of his views and his cozy ties with conservative Islamists who could help him attract right-wing voters in national elections likely to be held later this year or early next year. (Khaama Press)

Taliban ambush NATO supply convoy in Farah killing 2 guards

According to local authorities in western Farah province of Afghanistan, Taliban militants ambushed a convoy of the NATO troops supply in this province killing at least 3 private security guards escorting the convoy. The officials further added the incident took place on the night of 23 August in Dasht-e-Bakwa and at least 12 NATO supply containers were also torched following the attack. (…) Taliban militants group yet to comment regarding the incident. (Khaama Press)

Explosion hit NATO troops convoy in northern Afghanistan

According to local authorities in northern Parwan province of Afghanistan, a convoy of the NATO-led International Coalition Security Forces struck with a roadside improvised explosive device in this province. (…) The incident took place early on 23 August morning. (…) Taliban militants claimed responsibility behind the incident. (Khaama Press)

Nangarhar Villagers Rise Up Against Taliban

Dozens of Afghan villagers in a district of eastern Nangarhar province rose up against the Taliban insurgents in their local villages to drive them out after the militants wanted to attack a district governor’s compound. Residents of the province’s Hisarak district took up arms against the local insurgents on 23 August morning, forcing them out of a number of villages, spokesman for the 201 Selab military corps Mohammad Noman Hatifi told TOLOnews. “The residents have driven the Taliban from six villages in the district and they are continuing to clear areas of insurgents,” he said. “Several Afghan security soldiers also joined in the residents uprising.” Hisarak is a remote district in the province in which insurgents have been actively targeting government sites. A month ago, local Taliban insurgents attacked the district governor’s compound in a clash, which saw several Afghan security personnel injured. Afghan villagers in provinces around the country have more recently been taking up arms against the Taliban. Notably in Ghazni province in June, local residents clashed with the Taliban insurgents over the reopening of schools and clinics and to resume other social activities which were being blocked by the militant group. The Ghazni protest started with the action of six students who were later joined by scores of other residents. (TOLOnews)

Taliban suffer casualties in clashes with Afghan villagers

According to local security officials in eastern Ghazni province of Afghanistan, heavy casualties were incurred to Taliban militants following clashes with the local residents in this province. Provincial National Directorate of Security NDS chief Syed Amir Shah Sadat confirming the report said clashes between Taliban militants and local residents started after Taliban attacked villagers of Koh-Nesf in Andar district. (…) This comes as resistance fighting has raged in a number of provinces of Afghanistan by local residents against the Taliban militants in a bid to prevent insurgency activities in their local villages and areas. Meanwhile a spokesman for the Taliban group Zabiullah Mujahid earlier said resistance fighters were supported by US and Afghan government and is militia forces not local residents. (Khaama Press)

Security Threats

Faryab Tops Northern Provinces for Most Civilian Casualties

Afghanistan’s northern Faryab province has the highest number of civilian casualties among all the north provinces for the first half of 2012. United Nations’ statistics show that as many as 132 civilians were killed and 175 others were injured in violence in the north of Afghanistan for the first six months of 2012 – 52 percent of these casualties happened in Faryab. The UN Human Rights Chief in Afghanistan James Rodehaver said in a press briefing Thursday that the civilian casualties were primarily the result of actions of armed government opposition groups. “Anti-government forces are responsible for 71 percent of these casualties in northern Afghanistan in the first of half of 2012 – 95 civilians killed and 131 others injured,” Rodehaver told reporters at the Mazar-e-Sharif briefing. Pro-government forces were responsible for 12 percent of the deaths in the north. Of the total number of casualties, 12 percent were children and up to ten percent were women. He said that besides Faryab with over 52 percent of casualties, the other northern provinces to see notable casualty rates were Balkh, Sar-e-Pul, Jawuzjan and Samangan provinces respectively. Roadside mines, suicide attacks, and car bombs are considered the main causes of civilian causalities at the hands of insurgents. (TOLOnews)


Favorite Emerges for Coalition Post

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is backing a top Marine Corps general to become the next commander of international forces in Afghanistan, defense officials say, a preference that underscores the Obama administration’s determination to ultimately withdraw U.S. troops. The Pentagon recommended to the White House Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps. Defense officials said Mr. Panetta has backed Gen. Dunford but that President Barack Obama hasn’t decided who should succeed Marine Gen. John Allen, the current commander. Gen. Allen is expected to be nominated to become the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s supreme allied commander. Mr. Obama’s choice for the top job in Afghanistan must be approved by Congress and NATO. Officials said it is doubtful the Senate would have time to hold hearings or approve the nomination before the end of the year. Defense officials said they hope to have the new commander in place by February. Defense officials said Gen. Dunford is a firm supporter of the Afghan war strategy of Mr. Obama, who has called for continued drawdowns of U.S. forces through the end of 2014. Gen. Dunford’s backers say he could be an effective communicator with the public, forcefully articulating the military’s mission in Afghanistan as it withdraws. Officials said Gen. Dunford would focus on training the Afghan security forces and preparing them to secure the country, jettisoning larger ambitions of improving the Afghan central government. Gen. Dunford has served in Iraq but has never served a tour of duty in Afghanistan. (WSJ)

Karzai, Panetta Discuss “Insider Attacks”

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta on 18 August called President Hamid Karzai and discussed with him the progress in war against terrorism and the security transition from international forces to their Afghan counterparts. “Secretary Panetta and President Karzai talked by phone earlier today to discuss the war in Afghanistan. The Secretary highlighted the significant progress that has been made by American and Afghan forces as the transition process moves forward,” the Pentagon Press Secretary, George Little, said after the conference call between the two leaders. Panetta and Karzai also discussed the challenge of insider attacks against coalition and Afghan forces. The Defense Secretary thanked the Afghan leader for his recent statements condemning such attacks. “They shared concern over this issue and agreed that American and Afghan officials should work even more closely to minimize the potential for insider attacks in the future,” he said. “Secretary Panetta encouraged President Karzai to continue working closely with ISAF Commander General John Allen to further strengthen ISAF-Afghan cooperation to counter the insider attack threat, including augmented counterintelligence measures, even more rigorous vetting of Afghan recruits, and stepped up engagement with village elders, who often play a key role by vouching for Afghan security personnel,” Little said. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

No Change in Lisbon Transition Timeline: US

Despite an uptick in violence in recent weeks, the Pentagon on 13 August said it was encouraged by the progress made by Afghan forces and renewed its commitment to the Lisbon timeline for completing security transition by 2014. “There has been no change in our strategy. ANSF is working quite affectively at the moment in Afghanistan. We remain committed to the Lisbon timeline — transition ending the end of 2014,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said. He believed that strong progress was being made in the war-torn country, acknowledging that risk could never be brought down to zero in a war zone. Of recent attacks on US troops, he said literally hundreds and thousands of Afghans forces were partnered with American and ISAF personnel. “There are some bad apples regrettably, but the number is relatively small. The number of incidents was tragic. It is also good to know that the response to these attacks has often come from the Afghans themselves,” he said. Even in the absence of an Afghan defense minister, the Pentagon spokesman said they remained focused on maintaining close co-ordination with top officials in Kabul. “There has been a transition in the military leadership. This is a decision made inside the Afghan government. It’s their right to make such a decision…” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Afghan Govt. Needs Reform: US Envoy

The new United States Ambassador to Afghanistan, James Cunningham, said on 13 August that the Afghan government needs to make reforms and fulfill its responsibilities in order to gain US political and economic support. Speaking at a press conference, Ambassador Cunningham added that talks between Islamabad and Washington are underway to delve into the issue of cross-border attacks. He also stressed that the US will take necessary actions to protect Afghan civilians. “There are reports about cross-border rocket attacks on Afghanistan’s bordering regions. Our negotiations with Afghan and Pakistani officials are underway that these attacks do not harm Afghan civilians, and we will do everything to continue these talks,” Cunningham said in a press conference in Kabul today, adding that US will take necessary actions to protect Afghan civilians. He also confirmed that a meeting will take place between Afghan officials and the Taliban’s top military commander, Mullah Ghani Bradar, who is in jail in Pakistan. James Cunningham replaces Ryan Crocker who resigned earlier this year due to personal issues. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

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1 Response »

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