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

LDESP Afghanistan-Pakistan News Update – 16 November 2012


LDESP AFPAK NEWS UPDATE: 16 November 2012

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

WJ Rejects Draft Domestic Policy

The Wolesi Jirga (WJ)– or lower house of parliament — on 7 November overwhelmingly rejected the draft domestic policy and returned it to the government for a review. Placed before the assembly nine months ago, the draft was discussed by all house panels, the deputy head of International Affairs Commission said. Mohammad Noor Akbari said the proposed measure included strengthening of security forces, bringing peace, national reconciliation, the freedom of expression and administrative reform. Promoting education, development, rule of law and transparency in the use of foreign aid and greater participation in political and social affairs are other salient features of the draft. A public representative from Daikundi province, Asadullah Saadati, called the draft complicated, and said its contents should be concise. The measure should have two broad parts — foreign and domestic policies, he suggested. The domestic policy should cover security, economy, culture and administrative affairs, the MP said. “It should be reduced from 25 to two main titles, with four sub-titles; it should be a comprehensive future guideline.” Like other moves, the step was aimed at enhancing the government’s powers, remarked another lawmaker from Baghlan, Obaidullah Ramin. He believed the draft did not pay due attention to the revival of the economy. A female member from Kabul, Shukria Barakzai, said the draft had several problems in terms of language and distribution of powers. “The terminologies contained in it are ambiguous,” she said. For instance, the legislator pointed out, it confused power distribution with the distinction of authority. Similarly, the duties of the government and people had not been explained, she continued. After a long debate, Speaker Abdur Rauf Ibrahimi called for voting on the measure. Of the 132 lawmakers present, 131 raised red cards in opposition to the draft. The draft would be sent back to the government for corrections, with reasons for its rejection and the recommendations of lawmakers, Ibrahimi ruled. (Afghanistan Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

Karzai Slams UN Security Council Structure as ‘Undemocratic’

President Hamid Karzai on Thursday criticised the structure of the United Nations Security Council, saying at the 5th Bali Democracy Forum in Indonesia that it was not democratic. Karzai said the UN Security Council cannot represent all of the world when the relationship between the Council and the UN General Assembly is not democratic. (…) Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan also slammed the power of the council, citing the conflict in Syria. He criticised its structure of only five individual countries holding veto powers and 10 non-permanent members with no veto power which meant the “fate of humanity” was in the hands of only five countries. (…) Two of the veto five, China and Russia, have voted against resolutions for the UN to take action in Syria. Iranian president Mahmood Ahmadinejad said in his address at the conference that the US election has turned into a “battleground for capitalists”, pointing to the amount of money spent on running the election. (TOLOnews)

Karzai Welcomes Obama Re-Election, Taliban Call for Withdrawal

The re-election of Barack Obama as president of the United States was welcomed by President Hamid Karzai and Afghan political parties on 7 November saying it would be effective for the US mission in Afghanistan, as the Taliban called on Obama to withdraw US troops immediately. (…) In a statement released to the press, Karzai said he hoped that with the re-election of Obama, the bilateral relations between Afghanistan and the US will grow “on the basis of mutual interests of the two countries”. Afghan politicians felt that Obama’s leadership was a good outcome for the region, pointing to the experience of the Obama administration on Afghanistan and Pakistan. “The Obama administration has experience from Afghanistan and the region – it can be effective for Afghanistan’s situation,” deputy chief of Right and Justice party Asadullah Walwaji said. National Coalition chief Dr Abdullah Abdullah said that role of the United States will be fruitful in Afghanistan’s situation. “There would not be hopes of a better situation in Afghanistan if there is not some basic changes inside Afghanistan after 2014 and if foreign policies return to the way they were in the past,” Abdullah told TOLOnews. The Taliban released a statement calling for Obama to withdraw US troops from Afghanistan immediately, saying the war was unnecessary and expensive. Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid urged Obama use this “golden opportunity” to solve the problems inside the US instead of “attacking and invading” other countries. He said Americans are tired of meaningless war and the unnecessary waste of money, so the US president should prevent his country from further problems by leaving Afghanistan. The US embassy in Kabul held a ceremony on the occasion of the election result that resulted in a celebration for Obama. US Ambassador in Afghanistan James Cunningham spoke of the mission ahead for Obama in Afghanistan during his second term as president with the key points being the completion of the US combat mission, the presence of US troops after 2014 in the country and the implementation of the Kabul-Washington strategic pact. On the streets of Kabul, Afghan citizens were more concerned that the US remain committed to Afghanistan than who it was leading America. (TOLOnews)

Kabul Threatens to Expel Foreign Critics Over Report

The Afghan government said it is considering expelling the staff of an influential global conflict-resolution think tank over a recent critical report, fueling concerns about Kabul’s tolerance of dissent. In a report released in October, the Brussels-based International Crisis Group outlined the risks of the U.S.-led coalition’s withdrawal and warned that Afghanistan may slide back into civil war if it doesn’t hold free and fair presidential elections in 2014. President Hamid Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, said in an email to The Wall Street Journal that the ICG’s reports are full of “bias and doom,” and appear motivated by a desire “to mislead the Afghan people and create an environment of confusion about their future.” Mr. Faizi added that his government finds the ICG’s activities “detrimental to Afghanistan’s national interests” and is now “in the process of assessing the ICG’s operations in the country.” The ICG’s communications director, Andrew Stroehlein, said the organization hadn’t heard directly from the Afghan government. “Until we actually know from the government what, if anything, they intend to do, it is very hard to respond to it, let alone discuss what the implications for other [nongovernmental organizations], think tanks and journalists may or may not be,” he said. (WSJ)

Senate Oks Strategic Deal with Germany

The Meshrano Jirga — or the upper house of parliament — on 4 November approved the strategic cooperation accord between Afghanistan and Germany. The pact, signed between President Hamid Karzai and German Chancellor Angela Merkel on May 2012 in Berlin, was approved by majority of senators. Under the strategic agreement, Germany would assist Afghanistan in areas of higher education, the judiciary, health and civil aviation, a member of the Senate Commission on International Affairs said. Under the deal, Najiba Hussaini told Pajhwok Afghan News, Germany would advise Afghanistan on exploiting its mineral resources and dealing with economic issues. The pact also envisages cooperation in the field of defense through military training and other bilateral programs. Both instruments will be renegotiated annually on the basis of available capacity, previous scope of use and their efficiency. Military aid includes the training of members of Afghan armed forces in Bundeswehr facilities in Germany. Bilateral annual programs are based on the principle of reciprocity. Separate agreements shall regulate the temporary residence of Afghan armed forces’ personnel in Germany. Germany will make an appropriate contribution to financing Afghan security forces (army and police), as agreed at the International Conference on Afghanistan in Bonn on 5 December 2011. The main emphasis of development cooperation will be on sustainable economic development, formal basic and vocational education, energy supply, water sector and good governance. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)

Poll: Most Afghans Optimistic About Future

Most Afghans believe their country is headed in the right direction but still worry about the lack of security resulting from the 11-year war, a public opinion survey by a major international nonprofit group said on 14 November. The poll by the San Francisco-based Asia Foundation also found that an overwhelming majority of Afghans back the government’s efforts to negotiate and reconcile with armed insurgent groups. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has offered jobs and housing to Taliban fighters who defect and formed a High Peace Council to facilitate negotiations. Though officials and diplomats say contacts are being made with insurgent leaders, no formal peace talks are currently under way — mostly because the Taliban broke off efforts to start negotiations earlier this year. “Security continues to be the biggest indicator of both optimism and pessimism for Afghans, said Abdullah Ahmadzai, the deputy representative for Afghanistan with the Asia Foundation. Only 30 percent of respondents in the poll expressed sympathy for the insurgents, while nearly two-thirds said they did not support them. But when asked why the Taliban continue to fight, the most common reason cited was opposition to the presence of foreign troops in the country. Other reasons included a desire to gain power, illiteracy, support from Pakistan and corruption. Despite their opposition to the Taliban, many respondents also said they were also afraid of the troops from the U.S.-led NATO coalition and government’s security forces. Nearly three-quarters said they felt fear when meeting international troops, while just under half said they had the same reaction when encountering the Afghan army or police. (ABC News, AP)

Afghanistan 2014 Election Planning

MPs ask Govt. to Produce Draft Electoral Law for Debate

Legislators on 7 November asked the government to submit the draft electoral law to the Wolesi Jirga, lower house of parliament, for debate and approval as soon as possible. Due to reservations from different quarters, the government was trying to avoid placing the draft for parliamentary debate and approval, alleged a member from northern Faryab province. Naqibullah Faiq said: “We ask the president to submit the proposed law to the house to prevent a possible legal hurdle to upcoming presidential and provincial council elections.” If the draft was not produced before the assembly, MPs would prepare and adopt their own legislation on the subject, he warned. A public representative from Kabul, Shukria Barakzai said several members were already working on the draft. “Whether or not the government sends us the draft, we are preparing our own piece of legislation.” Speaker Abdur Rauf Ibrahimi, characterizing the proposed law as an extremely important measure, accused the government of failing to answer parliamentary calls for sending it to the house. “I once again ask them to produce the draft before the house,” remarked the speaker, who confirmed the Wolesi Jirga Legislative Commission was working on its own electoral law. The presidential and provincial council elections are slated for April 5, 2014. The presidential vote results will be announced on 14 May and the provincial council polls 7 June. If no presidential candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes, a runoff election will be held on 22 May. Registration of nominees will begin on 15 September 2013. Legal experts and civil society activists say the draft law introduced by the poll panel is marred by flaws and, if approved in the present form, it could jeopardize the electoral system. Under the draft law, political parties will compete for a third of parliamentary seats in provinces, with independent candidates running for the remaining two-thirds of berths. Over the past 10 years, presidential and parliamentary elections were held in compliance with legislative decrees, which placed restrictions neither on political parties’ nominees nor on independent runners. (Afghanistan Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

National Coalition Calls for 2014 Election Date Change

Afghanistan’s National Coalition party wants the date of the 2014 presidential election, set for April 5, to be pushed back in order to avoid the risk that a long winter will make voting impossible for many residents in remote areas. The Independent Election Commission (IEC) revealed its decision last week for the presidential election to be held in spring, but it has already been met with critisicm from lawmakers and political leaders for having it too soon after winter. In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, National Coalition chief Abdullah Abdullah reiterated these concerns, stressing that the election campaign would be difficult during winter time and called for a revision of the IEC plan. “In this case it is for the all sides including the IEC , the Law of Independent Commission for Overseeing the Implementation of the Constitution, the government organs, political parties and coalitions to gather together and choose a proper date in which most of the people would be able to vote,” Abdullah said, adding that conducting elections in the remote areas of Afghanistan in early spring will be almost impossible if election officials cannot travel there. However, Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan executive director Jandad Spinghar disagreed. Spinghar believes that there is enough time for the candidates to campaign and that with the air support of the foreign forces, all necessary supplies and documents will be provided to remote areas. “There is enough time for the campaigns and the foreign forces can supply those areas by air. It is fair to have the elections according to date mentioned in the constitution,” Spinghar said. Lawmakers have criticised the IEC decision to have the poll early April for the same reasons put forward by Abdullah. They also claimed that the IEC decision to have the provincial council elections on the same day as the presidential election was against Afghanistan’s constitution. (TOLOnews)

Major Challenges Ahead of Women Voters: FEFA

Afghan women will face major challenges in the upcoming presidential election because of the “inappropriate” traditions and insecurity, the Free and Fair Election Foundation of Afghanistan (FEFA) said on 8 November. FEFA executive director Jandad Spinghar said in an advisory meeting with the Afghan MPs that unfair propaganda against women also prevented them nominating themselves for upcoming elections. He urged the Ministry of Women’s Affairs to provide opportunities for women to participate in the upcoming elections. “The main challenges for women are insecurity and the inappropriate traditions and culture. Some people are doing unfair propaganda against women which is a big blow for women from being nominated in the elections,” he said at the gathering organised to discuss ways to increase women’s participation in the upcoming elections. “We are trying to launch a strategy in consultation with the Afghan MPs and we hope the Ministry of Women’s Affairs supports this,” FEFA’s women department chief Marzia Faraz said at the gathering. The MPs present at the gathering welcomed FEFA’s efforts and called for the government to help establish and implement this strategy. “Having a clear strategy for women to participate in the election will be very good,” Kabul MP Shukria Barekzai said. “Negotiations are needed on how women can participate in this election,” Kabul MP Farkhuda Zahra Naderi said. Other participants, including the Afghan Women Network chief Frozan Mashal also voiced their support for the strategy. “As a representative of Civil Society Organization, I support the strategy,” She said. With the election less than 16 months away, concerns over insecurity, lack of demographic data, use of old election cards and several other obstacles also remain to be addressed before the April 5 poll. President Hamid Karzai’s opposition to two foreign commissioners on the board of the Election Complaints Commission is also a major hurdle which is yet to be resolved, MPs said. (TOLOnews)

Karzai again Opposes Foreigners’ Inclusion in ECC

President Hamid Karzai on 4 November reiterated his opposition to the inclusion of foreigners in the UN-backed Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), saying it was in conflict with Afghanistan’s sovereignty. Karzai told a joint news conference with the visiting Italian Prime Minister Mario Monti that in no sovereign nation do foreigners sit on electoral bodies or other government institutions. (…) Karzai said he had discussed with the visiting premier a wide range of issues, including security transition and the 2014 presidential and provincial council elections. He hailed Italy as a friendly country, which has given Afghanistan $500 million in assistance over the past 10 years. The elections would open a new chapter in Afghanistan’s democratic history, Monti remarked, saying that he had conferred with Karzai on the overall situation in the country and the region at large. With 3,500 of its soldiers stationed in in western Herat province within the International Security Assistance Force framework, Italy had constructed nearly 80 school buildings in different parts of Afghanistan, Monti added. The strategic cooperation pact, signed between the two countries in January, will help to step up Afghanistan’s economic development, he hoped. (…) Apart from Karzai, the Meshrano Jirga — upper house of parliament — has also voiced its opposition to the inclusion of two foreigners in the (ECC). (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)

Peace Talks

Afghan Haqqani faction would consider talks under Taliban

The Haqqani network, seen as the most lethal insurgent faction in Afghanistan, would take part in peace talks with the United States but only under the direction of their Afghan Taliban leaders, a top faction commander said on 13 November. The rare flexibility exhibited by an Afghan militant commander was accompanied by a warning that the Haqqanis would keep up pressure on Western forces with high-profile attacks and would pursue their goal of establishing an Islamic state. The commander, who declined to be identified, accused the United States of being insincere in peace efforts and trying to divide the two organizations. “However, if the central shura, headed by Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, decided to hold talks with the United States, we would welcome it,” he told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed, referring to the militants’ leadership council. The Taliban said in March they were suspending nascent peace talks with the United States. A senior Afghan official closely involved with reconciliation efforts said last week the government had failed to secure direct talks with the Taliban and no significant progress was expected before 2014. The United States designated the Haqqani network a terrorist organization in September, a move its commanders said proved Washington was not sincere about peace efforts in Afghanistan. During the first week of November, the United Nations Security Council imposed sanctions on the Haqqanis. (Chicago Tribune, Reuters)

Pakistan Frees Taliban Prisoners, Renewing Hopes for Peace Talks

Pakistan said it had released at least seven senior Afghan Taliban prisoners on 14 November, rekindling fragile hopes that Islamabad may be ready to help broker peace talks with the militants as the Western military withdrawal from Afghanistan looms. A senior Pakistani security official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that “seven to eight” Taliban prisoners had been set free but refused to name them. A Western official said the figure could be as high as 14 prisoners. News reports citing Afghan officials said the freed prisoners included Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, a former Taliban justice minister and religious hard-liner. It was unclear whether the men were to be transferred to Afghan custody or released in Pakistan. But the announcement was mostly seen as an initial sign of good faith by the Pakistanis — perhaps to Afghan Taliban leaders in exile in Pakistan, perhaps to Afghan or American officials who seek to open talks, most likely all of the above — in a slow-moving negotiations process that has been blighted by deep mistrust on all sides. “Things are starting to move,” said Najam Sethi, a veteran Pakistani commentator. “This is definitely an attempt by Pakistan to change tack and show both sides that they are serious about a settlement and an endgame.” (NY Times)

Pakistan: Governance & Civil Society

Zardari Stoutly Supports Afghan Peace Drive

Pakistan will continue to extend all possible support to Afghanistan in its journey towards peace and socio-economic development, President Asif Ali Zardari has promised. At a meeting, an Afghan High Peace Council (HPC) delegation on 13 November, Zardari said a peaceful, stable and economically developed Afghanistan was vital to Pakistan’s stability and prosperity. Briefing journalists after the meeting, his spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Islamabad was convinced that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation drive was the most viable way of ensure lasting stability in that country. Led by HPC Chairman Salahuddin Rabbani, the visiting delegation included Afghan Ambassador Muhammad Umar Daudzai, President Karzai’s advisor Muhammad Masoom Stanikzai and council members Qayamuddin Kashaf, Din Mohammad Azizullah, Pir Mohammad Tanai, Fazel Karim Aimaq, S. Noorullah, Hawa Alam Nuristani, Najia Zewari, Muhammad Akbari, Mohammad Anwar, Abdul Hamid Mubarez and Mohammad Qaseem Ludin. From the Pakistan side, the meeting was attended by Defence Minister Syed Naveed Qamar, Farhatullah Babar, ISI Director-General Zaheerul Islam, Foreign Secretary Jalil Abbas Jilani and Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq Khan. Peace process in Afghanistan, regional situation and Pak- afghan bilateral relations were discussed during the meeting. Zardari hoped Rabbani’s visit would pave the way for further enhancing closer relations between the two countries. He called terrorism a common threat to the neighbours and urged joint efforts for eliminating the scourge. Babar quoted Zardari as stressing the need for increased coordination between the two countries to stop incidents of cross-border shelling. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)

Pakistan urges all Afghan insurgents to go for peace

Pakistan hopes to persuade Afghan insurgent groups, including the Haqqani network, to pursue peace but worries resistance from political factions opposed to the Taliban could undermine reconciliation efforts, Islamabad’s ambassador said. Muhammad Sadiq, speaking in an interview, also suggested US efforts would be better directed at engaging insurgent groups – rather than attempting to defeat them by launching military strikes against their leaders. Sadiq was speaking just ahead of an expected visit to Pakistan by an Afghan peace council due to give Islamabad a road map of how it wants its influential neighbour to help end the war with the Taliban. “Afghans are much more united in wanting to join the reconciliation process than they were two years ago,” he said. “But still there are very important people who fought against the Taliban and are not still ready to talk and negotiate with the Taliban. And we are working with them.” Sadiq was referring to former members of the Northern Alliance, which toppled the Taliban in 2001 with US backing. Some now occupy government positions or are in the opposition. “The prime minister of Pakistan had appealed to all insurgent groups to engage in negotiations,” said Sadiq. “We will encourage all insurgents. We will encourage the entire armed opposition of Afghanistan to participate in peace negotiations with the Afghan government.” The Haqqani faction is seen as the most dangerous Afghan militant group, blamed for high-profile attacks in Kabul and other cities. Afghanistan said in August it believed a top commander of the group, Badruddin Haqqani, had been killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan. “I think normally with insurgents one thing is very clear – that deaths have not weakened them because they replace commanders very quickly. They’re able to replace them in a day or so,” said Sadiq, suggesting the Americans should have learned from the Russian experience in Afghanistan in the 1980s. An official with the council said it would also be pushing Islamabad to repatriate Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Taliban’s former second-in-command, in detention in Pakistan. Asked what Pakistan would be willing to do to push the struggling reconciliation process forward, Sadiq said, “Expectations should be reasonable about what we can do because Pakistan and Taliban are not one party. We don’t control them, we don’t give them weapons, we do not give money to them.” Sadiq said Afghanistan should strive to make sure any government that runs the country should include all ethnic groups and parties to preclude any repeat of past turmoil. (Pak Tribune)

Rule of Law

Afghan Women Fear Rights Will Erode as U.S. Leaves

Rokhshana, a 14-year-girl, has been behind bars here since March. She is serving a yearlong adultery sentence after what she describes as rape by her adult cousin, who remains a free man. “I love my country, but there’s no justice here,” says Rokhshana at Herat’s juvenile prison, her arms bearing the signs of beatings. Eleven years after the U.S. ousted the Taliban regime, citing its abuses against women as one of the reasons for the invasion, Afghan women — as well as girls — remain subjected to some of the world’s most draconian laws. The U.S.-funded Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai routinely imprisons wives fleeing domestic abuse and puts raped children like Rokhshana in jail. In part because of international pressure, Afghan women have made some progress in recent years: They can hold office, study in university or walk the streets of big cities without a traditional burqa covering. But, with the U.S.-led coalition withdrawing its troops by 2014, women’s activists worry that even those fragile achievements will be sacrificed by Mr. Karzai’s administration as he seeks a peace settlement with the Taliban. “It’s a men’s country,” says Hawa Alam Nuristani, one of a handful of female members on the High Peace Council, the government body appointed by Mr. Karzai to reach out to the insurgency. “Our only support is from the international community. What is the guarantee that we won’t be faced with a similar regime as the Taliban when the Americans withdraw?” The U.S. says women’s rights will remain an important issue after the withdrawal, even though American officials acknowledge the limits of their waning influence. “Afghanistan is run by Afghans; we are significant partners,” says Melanne Verveer, the U.S. Ambassador at large for global women’s issues. “We will continue to ensure that women’s rights are pivotal because of our partnership and because it is critical to the future.” Such promises fail to allay international observers like Heather Barr, Human Rights Watch’s Afghanistan researcher. “We’ve seen Karzai repeatedly do violent zigzags on women’s rights,” she says. “The explanation is that he’s getting pressure from opposite directions—the international community and conservative elements of Afghan society. But…if that political pressure [from the West] stops, the government’s already weak support for women’s rights will drop away even more.” In March, the Ulema Council, Afghanistan’s government-funded supreme religious authority, decreed that Afghan husbands were allowed to beat their wives if they showed disobedience. Mr. Karzai publicly backed the Council’s code of conduct. The Ulema Council declined repeated requests for comment. Presidential spokesman Aimal Faizi said “today’s Afghanistan is no more [the] Afghanistan of 10 years back. We do not think that Afghan women are facing more violations of their rights than before. It is the opposite.” (WSJ)

Court Sentences Police to 16 Yrs Prison for Rape

Kabul Primary Court on 7 November sentenced two Afghan Local Police (ALP) officers each to 16 years in prison for raping and physically abusing a woman in northeastern Kunduz province seven months ago. The woman Lal Bibi sobbed giving her testimony of how she was detained against her will and raped and abused by the two policemen Khudaidad and Abdurrazaq over a period of one week. The court also sentenced two more local policemen to a year in prison for helping the pair carry out the crime. “For the case of rape of Lal Bibi by Khudaidad, according to Article 17 of prohibition of violence against women, and considering Article 39 of the country’s penal code, we sentence each of you to 16 years of enforced detention, beginning from the first day of your arrest,” said Abdulbaset Bakhtiyari, Head of Primary Court of Kabul District 4. Lal Bibi’s family who were present at the hearing wants the appeals court to keep the decision at the final hearing. However, the policemen found guilty of the crime consider the decision unfair saying that Lal Bibi was wedded to Khudaidad. The attorney for the case, Sayed Mujahid Wadan, said that the investigations show that Khudaidad raped Lal Bibi in apparent retribution for her cousin raping Khudaidad’s daughter Rahila. Quoting Lal Bibi, Wadan said: “They cuffed my hands and every one of them, including the military commander himself Ghulam Sakhi, Khudaidad, Abdurrazaq, and Akhtar Mohammed put me in the Ranger car of the military commander. They grabbed a sheep from my father’s house, and even beat my father who tried to stop me going. They brought me to Khudaidad’s house, and without holding any Nekah (Islamic marriage), and in retribution for Khudaidad’s daughter, Khudaidad himself raped me one week constantly.” The accused policemen claimed that after Khudaidad’s daughter Rahila was raped, Lal Bibi and Khudaidad were married to settle the incident. Mullah Mohammed Aref, who could not be found to testify, married them. The attorney said the Primary Court’s decision may be reviewed if this mullah gives evidence at the next hearing. A number of women’s rights activists and representatives welcomed the public hearing and verdict to punish those who carry out violence against women. “I am sure there will be less violence if such hearings are held and decisions are made public,” said women’s rights activist Sharifa Zarmati. (TOLOnews)

Brother of Kunduz MP Arrested for Hanging Wife

The brother of a Kunduz lawmaker was arrested in the northern province for allegedly hanging his wife on 5 November, officials told TOLOnews. Zarghona, who was married to the brother of MP Shukria Paikan, was killed in her home last night by hanging. Kunduz police said Zarghona’s husband used a rope to hang his wife and was being detained until investigations were complete. (…) “The reason of the murder is not yet clear but it seems that she was killed because of a family violation. She has two children and her husband’s name is Hamidullah,” he said, adding that the husband was the MP’s brother. The provincial women’s department called for a thorough investigation. “When we were alerted about the incident we went to the police. They said the cause is still under investigation and it is unclear,” the women’s department spokesperson said. More violence against women has been reported in recent months, but there remains much to be done against such violations. (TOLOnews)

Lawmakers Call for Special Law to Prevent Child Rape

A number of Afghan lawmakers have put together a draft law for punishing those found guilty of child rape. The MPs said parliament has the responsibility to wipe out such crimes and that having a specific law to punish these incidents is a serious necessity. (…) Ghazni MP Ali Akbar Qasemi said the crime deserved its own law. (…) The lawmakers called on justice institutions to apply the full Sharia law punishment to those who are convicted of raping children, adding that the only solution to bring down the climbing rate of reported child rapes is to enforce the law and harsh penalties. (TOLOnews)

ECONOMY, RECONSTRUCTION & DEVELOPMENT

Reconstruction & Development

Kandahar Electricity Dept Wants Solar Energy Investment

Southern Kandahar province’s electricity department called for traders to invest in solar energy as most of its residents have insufficient power and the province cannot meet demand. With only Kajaki Dam and expensive diesel generators supplying electricity in the province, head of Kandahar electricity department Sayed Rasool said the move to solar would help more people receive electricity and it would cost less. “We want the government and traders to promote solar energy which is run very cheaply and even free of cost,” he said. “If we promote this in Kandahar province, there will be no concerns about providing electricity for the province. It also will not be of any harm to people’s expenses,” he said. The lack of sufficient electricity has caused residents many difficulties, according to Rasool, and finding a constant source and cheap solution is important. He believes solar energy is the answer pointing out that the province has sun 320 days a year. Rasool’s claim comes days after solar panels were installed at Kandahar University to provide up to 32KW of electricity. (TOLOnews)

International Agricultural Exhibition Opens in Kabul

An international agricultural production exhibition began in Kabul on 7 November with produce and equipment from several countries displayed. Agricultural and dairy products from various provinces of Afghanistan were shown in Kabul’s Badam Bagh area alongside products from the United Arab Emirates, Germany and many neighboring countries, Agriculture and Livestock Minister Mohammad Asif Rahimi said. Agricultural equipment and solar panel systems for generating electricity were also shown in the exhibition. “This exhibition will play a major role in improving agricultural cooperation and it’s a good example of how the government supports the private sector,” Rahimi said. The Second Vice President Mohammad Karim Khalili said that the government is responsible for encouraging the private sector to invest in society and he was confident this exhibition will help in that respect. Farmers who attended the exhibition were also optimistic saying it will them find more opportunities to sell their produce. “We are very happy for this exhibition, I hope these three days will be to our benefit,” said one of the farmers at the exhibition. “Today is a big day. I saw the quality and the standards in the local products. We should think about popularising these products,” another farmer said. The Ministry of Agriculture and Livestock conducts agriculture exhibitions on an annual basis in Badam Bagh area of Kabul. The exhibition is open to the public for three days. (TOLOnews)

Economy

WJ Summons Ministers, DAB Governor

Wolesi Jirga on 14 November decided to summon ministers of finance and economy to brief lawmakers on the afghani’s free fall against major currencies in recent months. In 2003, one dollar traded for 45 afghanis. But on Tuesday, the greenback accounted for 55.60 afghanis, fueling concerns among traders and residents. A legislator from central Parwan province, Siddique Ahmad Osmani told the lower house that prices of essential commodities were going up as a result of the falling local currency. In order to deal with the situation effectively, he asked President Hamid Karzai for bringing changes to the central bank’s leadership. “Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) governor should voluntarily stand down with dignity to pave the ground for a young and creative man who could boost the country’s economy,” the lawmaker said. Ghulam Hussain Nasiri, an MP from Maidan Wardak province, echoed Osmani’s view and called for DAB Governor Noorullah Delawari’s resignation. He questioned the government’s assessment that the country would face no major crisis after the 2014 pullout of foreign forces. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan)

Finance Minister Presents 2013 Budget

Finance Minister Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal presented the budget for next year (1392) to the Senate House on 6 November, revealing that a little less than half of it would be funded by foreign donors. Speaking before the Senate, Zakhilwal said that next year’s budget will be 366 billion Afghanis (US$7bn) with 169bn Afghanis ($3.7bn) for normal budget and 170bn Afs ($3.2bn) for development budget. According to the government estimations, 54 percent of the budget will be secured from national resources while 46 percent will be provided from foreign sources. Compared to previous years, more funding was allocated towards security, agriculture, education, health, infrastructures and the vulnerable provinces, he said “We want to make our country self reliable in terms of economy,” he added. Zakhilwal also rejected reports that Afghanistan’s economy will deteriorate after 2014, but acknowledged the need for international aid. “There will no economic crisis in Afghanistan after withdrawal of foreign forces,” he said, adding it would be impossible to complete the necessary budget without foreign donations. He claimed that in spite of the challenges faced by Afghan traders, the past few years had seen incomes and the economy strengthen. Zakhilwal said that good governance, combating corruption, building the capacity of government staff and increasing incomes are the priorities of the Finance Ministry. The budget will require the National Assembly’s approval before the next fiscal year begins on the first day of Jadi (21 December 2012). (TOLOnews)

Culture & Society

Self-Immolation in North Afghanistan Increasing: AIHRC

Women trying to kill themselves by self-immolation in north Afghanistan has increased this year, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on 15 November. AIHRC Women’s Affairs officer for the north Fawzia Nawabi told TOLOnews that reported cases of general violence against women are rising, driven by “the powerful and the armed”. At least 20 girls and women have set themselves on fire since the end of March (start of the Persian year), ostensibly for being in situations of some form of abuse, Nawabi said, adding that at least 12 rapes including child rape have been reported in the same period. “Although the security situation is going well in the north, unfortunately violent cases have increased against women and children this year in the north,” she said. “The perpetrators of these disasters are the powerful and the armed,” she added. Nawabi also points to poverty, unemployment, and a low level of education as causes behind the violence. Afghanistan Women Minister, Husn Bano Ghazanfar said the reports are worrying and that efforts are underway to address it. “According to the law, the offenders are guilty so no one has the right to excuse them, neither the government nor anyone else. The offenders will surrender or face the law,” she said. Activists have said the lack of penalties and failure to pursue reported cases contribute to the culture of violence. (TOLOnews)

Afghan Writer Translates ‘War & Peace’ into Pashto

The first ever translation into Pashto of Leo Tolstoy’s classic “War & Peace” has been released after a nine-year effort by Afghan writer and researcher Mohammed Latif Bahand. Bahand, who lives in Moscow, said he translated the world-renowned book from its original Russian for more people to have access to it and so they could be more familiar with the main motives of war and peace, as well as its outcomes. “There is the possibility that some parts are lacking [in the translation] but I am hopeful that people will use it in a good way to receive more knowledge on war and peace. I will provide people the access to this translation,” said Mohammed Latif Bahand on 7 November. A number of authors in Afghanistan consider the new translation of this work a very significant addition towards enriching Afghanistan and Pashto works of literature. Tolstoy’s epic work, published in 1869, is widely considered to be one of the most important works of literature in the world. “Today Tolstoy’s works and his biggest work titled “War & Peace” is considered by the world’s literary scholars as the greatest work of literature,” said Afghan writer MohammedAzam Rahnavard Zaryab. Writer and poet Suleiman Layeq said the novel could be used for people to learn more about conflict. “This novel is very valuable and its Pashto translation will be very effective for people to learn about war and peace,” he told TOLOnews. “War & Peace” tells the story of the French invasion of Russia led by Napoleon and the impact it had on society as seen through the eyes of five Russian aristocratic families. However, the book also has large tracts of philosophical reflections on conflict and the human condition, rather than the story narrative. Tolstoy’s work is divided into four volumes and a two-part epilogue. The Pashto version released this week has 2,673 pages. (TOLOnews)

Afghan women learn through mobiles

Afghanistan has launched a new literacy programme that enables Afghan women deprived of a basic education during decades of war to learn to read and write using a mobile phone. The phone is called Ustad Mobile (Mobile Teacher) and provides national curriculum courses in both national languages, Dari and Pashto, as well as mathematics. All the lessons are audio-video, with writing, pronunciation and phrases installed in Ustad Mobile phones — and they are distributed free to students. Sat on a carpet in a small Kabul classroom with a handful of women learning to read and write, 18-year-old Muzhgan Nazari said the Taliban, who banned schooling for girls during their rule, were in power when she should have started her education. “I could not go to school because the Taliban took control of Kabul city”, she told adding that her father had also opposed his daughters attending school. “Since I heard about this literacy training centre for women, I convinced my father and he allowed me to attend on a daily basis,” she said. Nazari is delighted with the programme, which is being rolled out by a commercial provider and the ministry of education with financial backing from the United States. The Mobile Teacher software was developed by Paiwastoon, an Afghan IT company, with $80,000 dollars in US aid and is designed to tackle one of the worst illiteracy rates in the world by riding the growing wave of mobile phone use. Despite millions of girls now attending school, Afghanistan’s literacy rate among women remains at just 12.5 percent, compared to 39.3 percent for Afghan men, according to United Nations figures. (Pak Tribune)

CENTRAL & SOUTH ASIA

Pakistan, Afghanistan agree to work jointly to eradicate terrorism

Pakistan and Afghanistan have agreed to work closely with other international partners to remove the names from the UN sanctions’ list of the potential negotiators amongst Taliban and other groups to enable them to participate in peace talks, and resolved to work together to eradicate terrorism. This was said in the joint declaration issued at the Foreign Office after the successful round of talks between Pakistan and Afghan High Peace Council on 14 November. Afghan High Peace Council’s delegation briefed the Pakistani side on the progress made in the peace and reconciliation process and underlined the importance of Pakistan’s role in this regard. Pakistan expressed support for Afghanistan’s vision and roadmap for achieving durable and lasting peace in the country. The two sides appealed to the Taliban and other armed opposition groups to participate in the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned reconciliation process to end violence. “In support of peace and reconciliation process and in response to the requests of the Afghan government and High Peace Council, a number of Taliban detainees are being released,” the declaration said. The two sides agreed to jointly work for holding an ulema conference which will include religious scholars from Pakistan, Afghanistan and other Islamic countries. The conference could either be held in Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan, Pakistan or any other Islamic country. The ulema conference would address the issue of rising militancy and suicide attacks in the name of religion and the defamation of glorious and peaceful religion Islam due to its unjustified linkage with terrorism. Pakistan and the High Peace Council called on the Taliban and other armed groups to sever all links with al Qaeda, and other international terror networks. The two sides recognised that close and consistent cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan is key to building trust and confidence between the two countries and strengthening joint bilateral efforts in promoting peace and stability as well as overcoming the ongoing trends of violence and extremism. They called for long term and consistent mutual cooperation based on mutual interest and respect. The two sides stressed that talking to and maligning each other through media leaves little space for serious dialogue. Therefore, all government officials and spokespersons should refrain from making hostile statements and avoid blame game. (Pak Tribune)

Delhi Backs Kabul’s Efforts to Combat Terror

Indian President Pranab Mukherjee has said his country fully supports Afghanistan’s efforts to restore peace and prosperity and combat cross-border terrorism. Speaking at a banquet hosted in the honor of President Hamid Karzai on 13 November, Mukherjee said their common values search for peace had brought India and Afghanistan together in a strategic partnership. “Past, present and future of these two countries bind them together,” he said, hoping that their shared conviction and faith in peace and progress would help Afghanistan and India defeat terrorism and uncertainty. A former finance minister, Mukherjee said: “Both countries agree on the need for greater international cooperation against terrorism, especially cross border terrorism emanating from the terrorist sanctuaries.” India’s development initiatives in Afghanistan were aimed at helping the government in Kabul increase its capacity and to enable the Afghan people to stand on their own feet and to be the makers of their own destiny. India would continue to partner with Afghanistan in its reconstruction and development, based on the needs and requirements of its government and people, the president added. “India is ready to join hands with other countries in making Afghanistan a focal point of cooperation in development.” He believed Afghanistan could emerge as a hub of regional cooperation binding the world in common endeavors. India would always be there to assist the friendly people of Afghanistan and to further strengthen the strategic relationship. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, Pajhwok)

India, Afghanistan to Ink Four Pacts During Karzai’s Visit

Four pacts are expected to be inked between India and Afghanistan, including one in the mining field during the visit of Afghan President Hamid Karzai from 9 November. The two countries will also explore the possibility of increased role of New Delhi in training of security forces of the war-torn country during the four-day visit. (…) Briefing the reporters on the Presidential visit, Afghan Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali said here, Karzai was coming to India at “a critical time” as international combat troops prepare to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014. (…) Four MoUs is expected to be signed between the two countries in areas of mines, youth affairs, small development projects and fertilizers, he said. Indicating that the two sides will also explore ways to step up Indian training for Afghan national security forces during the visit, the Afghan envoy said, “India has committed itself to strengthening security of Afghanistan.” (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, AINS)

Kyrgyz Envoy To U.S. Says Manas To Become Civil Hub

Kyrgyzstan’s ambassador to the United States, Muktar Jumaliev, says the Manas Transit Center near Bishkek will be converted from military use to a civil aviation hub after 2014. Jumaliev told RFE/RL that the change will take place after most NATO troops withdraw from Afghanistan in 2014. NATO is currently using the transit center to send noncombat supplies to its troops in Afghanistan. Jumaliev declined to say if any U.S. personnel will remain at the transit center after the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan. According to Jumaliev, Kyrgyzstan gets much-needed payments for use of the transit center. Bishkek receives $60 million per year from the United States for the center’s lease, plus between $200 million and $300 million per year in taxes and other fees. (RFE/RL)

Tajik Border Guards Imprisoned For Drugs Smuggling

A military court in Tajikistan’s southern region of Khatlon has sentenced five Border Guard Service officers to prison terms of between three and 21 years. The harshest sentence was given to the former chief at the Vakhsh checkpoint on the Tajik-Afghan border, Nizomiddin Yakubov. The judge told journalists after the November 13 court session that investigators had found 20 kilograms of hashish in Yakubov’s office earlier this year. Meanwhile, a spokesman for Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security told RFE/RL that a top police official in Khatlon was arrested on 13 November after investigators found 12 kilograms of heroin in his possession. Afghan-produced drugs have been illegally transported via Central Asia to Russia and Europe for years. Last year, Tajik authorities confiscated 4.2 tons of illegal drugs from smugglers. (RFE/RL, Interfax)

BUILDING SECURITY CAPACITY & SECURITY ASSESSMENT

Afghanistan Security Forces

For Afghan troops, donkeys are the new helicopters

Before U.S. forces arrived here in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, the instruments of war were rudimentary things: mud-brick outposts and aging Kalashnikovs. The American invasion brought with it a shiny arsenal of 21st-century technology, including advanced helicopters to navigate the treacherous landscape. But as the U.S. military drawdown continues, the sky is emptying of the foreign aircraft that have kept remote outposts stocked with food, water and weaponry. Afghan troops are being handed the outposts, but not the sleek helicopters that have soared overhead, delivering supplies. Afghans searching for a substitute have found an ancient solution: the plodding, dutiful animals that have navigated these high and frigid mountain passes for centuries. “Donkeys are the Afghan helicopter,” said Col. Abdul Nasseeri, an Afghan battalion commander here in Konar province. Already, hundreds of donkeys are sustaining the bases that Americans built, fought to defend and, eventually, left. The shift underscores the vast gulf separating U.S. and Afghan forces, and the inevitable technological regression that will occur once American troops leave. The hopeful take of U.S. officials is that this is the kind of “Afghan sustainable” approach that, though not ideal, will endure even as Western funding tapers off. But Afghan leaders aren’t happy. After a decade of joint operations and exposure to cutting-edge technology, they want their military to look like the American one they have seen up close. U.S. officials say that is impractical and financially un­realistic. The United States has spent more than $50 billion on Afghan security forces in the past decade, carrying one of the world’s poorest armies into modernity. The money bought new vehicles and guns for the Afghan army. But now, as U.S. troops leave the war against insurgents to Afghan soldiers and police, American officials are deciding which bases and resources will be handed over to Afghanistan’s security forces, and which will be destroyed or shipped back to the United States. It’s a contentious issue that Afghan commanders and their U.S. advisers discuss every day. Afghans want night-vision goggles, which Americans have refused to buy. They want more heavy weaponry and equipment to detect explosives. American commanders say those requests are too costly and not essential to the mission. More than anything, Afghan soldiers want helicopters. As of now, they have 31, a far cry from the vast fleet maintained by the U.S. forces. Without any assurance that the Americans will give them more, a frustrated President Hamid Karzai threatened to acquire aircraft from non-NATO countries. With the U.S. choppers on their way out, the donkey trade has risen steadily. The animals, many of which have been redirected from farm labor to military duty, transport everything that soldiers need, from rice to ammunition. (Washington Post)

ANSF Will Provide Security for Presidential Election: ISAF

The Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will be in the lead role for providing security during the presidential election in 2014, ISAF said on 5 November. While NATO-led combat troops will not have left the country yet, ISAF spokesman Brigadier General Gunter Katz said that the transition for Afghans to take the lead on security will be complete by 2014. “By the year of election in 2014, the transition process will be throughout the entire country. That means that 100 percent of the country has been transferred in terms of security to the Afghan National Security Forces,” Katz said at a press briefing in Kabul on 5 November. “Therefore, during the election it will primarily be the responsibility of the Afghan National Security Forces to provide security for the election.” NATO’s senior civilian representative Dominic Medley said ISAF welcomed the announcement of the date for the election. He emphasised that the ISAF coalition want an election in accordance with Afghan constitution which brings stability and prosperity in Afghanistan. “The [NATO] allies and ISAF partners look forward to a democratic process in accordance with the constitution which will contribute to stability, security and prosperity,” Medley said at the briefing. The Afghan Independent Election Commission has set the date for the presidential and provincial council elections for April 5 2014. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, TOLOnews)

U.S. Handoff In Afghanistan Includes Radio Training

From the outside, a white metal container looks like all the other mobile structures at Forward Operating Base Shank, the main NATO base in Afghanistan’s Logar province. But rather than housing soldiers, offices or latrines, the building contains a fully functioning — if spartan — radio studio. It’s known by the U.S. military as a RIAB, or “radio in a box.” But the Afghans, says DJ and presenter Saifitullah, call this station Unity Radio. It broadcasts daily from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. to the surrounding provinces, and Saifitullah says the station gets calls from listeners some 30 to 40 miles away. “We have different shows in this radio station, including political shows and also some recreational music and also messages,” he says. The propaganda messages are usually from the Afghan National Army, or ANA. “The main focus of these messages is to tell the local people who the enemy is, and that the enemy is supported by people from outside Afghanistan,” says Col. Hayatullah Mamond, one of the chief message writers. Mamond, who is with the Afghan Army’s 4th Infantry Brigade, says there are also messages that target insurgents, calling on them to lay down their weapons and join the peace process. “We tell them that fighting is not the answer,” he says. “When there is peace in a country, there is development and jobs and people can live in prosperity.” Maj. Topal Wared fills the relatively new position of information dissemination officer for the 4th Brigade. He’s charged with gathering information from locals in areas patrolled by the Afghan Army. Wared also researches Taliban propaganda and prepares counter messages. “For example, the enemy recently went to a school in Maidan Warak District,” Wared says. “They told the students that the ANA are not good people, because they are cooperating with the Americans. So, we have to counter this propaganda.” Maj. Chris Lawson, information officer with the U.S. 173rd Airborne Brigade Combat Team, has been helping the Afghan National Security Forces, or ANSF, since June. “Initially, we were doing coalition-led messaging,” Lawson says. “Then, about a month or two in, our brigade commander said from here on out he wants all ANSF messages.” The Afghans are increasingly self-sufficient, Lawson says. In addition to the Radio in a Box, the Afghans can interact directly with the people and deliver messages face to face. That’s important in a culture with a strong oral tradition, he adds, and where there are not a lot of TVs or radios to go around. “When it’s time for us to leave, I think they’ll be able to sustain that,” Lawson says. “But they need to start relying more on the local media.” That’s because the U.S. assets are disappearing amid the drawdown of forces. When he arrived in June, Lawson had nine RIABs in Logar and neighboring Wardak province. Now, he says, they are down to four. The most difficult part of the equation is determining whether the radio messages, like one calling on young people to join the security forces and fight the foreign-backed enemies, are getting through and making a difference. (NPR)

U.S. & Coalition Forces

Obama Praises US Forces for Deterring Taliban, Al Qaeda

US President Barack Obama on 11 November praised American soldiers for what he described as the breaking up of militant group Al Qaeda and the pushing back of the Taliban in Afghanistan, stressing that the troops will soon withdraw from the country. Obama praised the troops and their families at an army veterans commemoration ceremony for delivering an extraordinary effort in both Iraq and Afghanistan to fight insurgency. “You toppled the dictator and battled insurgency in Iraq, you pushed back the Taliban and disunited Al Qaeda in Afghanistan. You delivered justice to Osama Bin Laden. Tour after tour, year after year, you and your families have done all that this country have asked, you have done it all,” he said in Virginia, adding that 33,000 US troops have come to Afghanistan and the transition out of the country is underway. “Today the proud nation expresses our gratitude, but we do so mindful that no ceremony or parade, no hug or handshake is enough to truly honor that service. To that we must do more, for that we must commit this day and everyday to serve in you as well as you served us. I spoke about you three years ago, I spoke about today’s generation of service members,” he said. However, the insurgent’s safe havens in the region remain a major concern for the Afghan government as the foreign combat forces withdraw. (Daily Outlook Afghanistan, TOLOnews)

Italian PM: We will not desert Afghanistan

Italy’s prime minister pledged on 4 November not to abandon Afghanistan as his country pulls out its troops, saying Rome will “transform” its support but not leave altogether. Mario Monti met with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and Italian troops during the visit. Italy currently has about 3,500 troops in Afghanistan, most in the west of the country, and those are scheduled to leave by the end of 2014. Monti told reporters that the pullout will not mean a break in his country’s commitment. “We look forward to 2014 as a year of change but not as a year of rupture. Italy, like most other countries, will transform its support for Afghanistan, but will by no means leave Afghanistan alone,” Monti told reporters in the capital city of Kabul. He noted that he and Karzai signed a partnership agreement in Rome in January for ongoing economic and development support. Monti also said that he hoped the Afghan presidential election the same year will give the country a reason to celebrate progress. The previous presidential and parliamentary polls were marred by fraud and many Western governments are looking to the upcoming presidential vote for signs of whether the Afghan government is worth funding. (Yahoo News, AP)

NATO

NATO ‘stands by’ Crisis Group facing trouble

NATO, whose troops are fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan, said on 5 November that Kabul should not interfere with the work of the ICG think tank after a critical report by the analysts sparked government anger. NATO head Anders Fogh Rasmussen said the Brussels-based International Crisis Group (ICG) has “the right to express its views,” adding democracy benefits from open debate. He said he did not share the views in the ICG report but he was “a strong supporter of freedom of expression”. An analysis by the ICG last month said the Afghan government could collapse after the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014, particularly if presidential elections that year proved fraudulent. The report characterized Karzai as apparently motivated by his desire to cling to power rather than to work for his country’s interests. Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s senior spokesman Aimal Faizi charged on 5 November that the ICG’s “reports and activities have been politically motivated. The government is now in the process of assessing the ICG’s operations in the country. “It is detrimental to Afghanistan’s national interests and no country will allow such activities by a foreign organization,” he said. Asked about the comments, Rasmussen said he had discussed the issue with Karzai during a recent visit, being assured that Kabul would do everything possible to promote good governance and fight corruption. It was important that the “ICG has the right to express its views … any democracy profits from an open, transparent and critical debate on how we could possibly make governance better,” he said. (The Nation)

UN

UN orders global sanctions against Haqqani network

The UN Security Council on 5 November ordered global sanctions against the Haqqani militant group in Afghanistan and its suicide attack mastermind. The network, which has been widely linked to Pakistan, is accused of carrying out a string of murderous attacks in Afghanistan including against the US embassy and a major hotel in Kabul. Haqqani and its chief suicide attack organizer, Qari Zakir, were added to the UN’s Afghanistan-Taliban sanctions list. This means nations must apply an assets freeze and travel ban against Zakir and seize any assets belonging to the network as well as impose an arms embargo. The United States put Haqqani on its terror blacklist in September. The US State Department added Zakir to its list of terrorist suspects on 5 November. Founded by Jalaluddin Haqqani, a CIA asset turned al Qaeda ally who was close to Pakistani intelligence, the network is considered the most dangerous faction in the Taliban army in Afghanistan. The UN designation said that the group was linked to al Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and a string of militant groups in Pakistan including Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, Lashkar-i-Jhangvi and Jaish-i-Mohammed. The Haqqanis have been blamed for spectacular attacks on Afghan government and NATO targets across Afghanistan as well as kidnappings and murders. The US ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, said operatives trained by Zakir attacked two international coalition bases in 2010, the Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul in June 2011 — an attack which killed 11 civilians and two Afghan police — and the US embassy in Kabul in September 2011, which killed 16 Afghans, including at least six children. Afghanistan’s spy agency said in August that the network’s operational commander, Badruddin Haqqani, a son of the founder, had been killed in a US drone attack. The network is now believed to be led by another son, Sirajuddin Haqqani. The designation could embarrass Pakistan, which is currently a member of the UN Security Council. Many Haqqani members are believed to be sheltering in Pakistan. Former US chief of staff Admiral Mike Mullen said last year that the Haqqani network had become a “veritable arm” of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). (…) Rice said the US move expands upon the US measures and “confirms the international community’s resolve to end the Haqqani network’s ability to execute violent attacks in Afghanistan. “It also reflects the Security Council’s commitment to use and enforce sanctions against those who threaten peace in Afghanistan, in conjunction with a strong commitment to support Afghan-led peace and reconciliation.” Rice said Zakir, who is also known as Abdul Rauf Zakir, “has been involved in many of the Haqqani network’s highest-profile suicide attacks and has trained individuals to use small arms, heavy weapons and improvised explosive devices.” (The Express Tribune)

Post-Withdrawal Security

U.S., Afghanistan to begin talks on post-withdrawal security

In talks that are likely to be confrontational, the United States and Afghanistan are scheduled to begin negotiations on 15 November on a new security arrangement after U.S. combat troops withdraw from the war-torn country by the end of 2014. The talks, which could last up to a year, will attempt to reach agreement on a new joint arrangement to satisfy the U.S. goal of denying terrorists a base of operations and Afghanistan’s demands for sovereignty. They’ll start amid a climate of suspicion and mistrust between the two countries. The Afghan government has long complained about the conduct of U.S. combat operations in Afghanistan, particularly night raids by Special Operations troops and airstrikes and other attacks that kill civilians. U.S. commanders and troops are incensed over so-called insider attacks, also known as green-on-blue killings. Afghan soldiers and police — or insurgents wearing Afghan security force uniforms — have killed 58 NATO troops this year, including 35 Americans, in at least 42 attacks. The most divisive issue is immunity from Afghan prosecution for U.S. soldiers accused of crimes, a jurisdictional dispute that wrecked similar talks between the U.S. and Iraq last year. Afghan President Hamid Karzai has demanded that U.S. troops answer to Afghan law. The U.S. has insisted that troops accused of crimes in Afghanistan be tried in the American legal system. Because of disagreements over legal jurisdiction, U.S. and Iraqi negotiators were unable to reach a formal agreement for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq after combat forces withdrew in December. (…) Negotiations in Kabul over legal jurisdiction are expected to be pushed back to later in the talks, after less incendiary issues have been discussed. In public statements, Afghan government officials have insisted that the U.S. guarantee that it will respond to any cross-border incursion or artillery attack on their territory. Afghanistan has long complained about infiltration by insurgents from Pakistan and about cross-border shelling by its eastern neighbor. The talks will play out against the backdrop of stalled attempts to forge a peace deal with the Taliban, which enjoys a haven in Pakistan’s border tribal areas. The U.S. has made it clear to Afghanistan that the talks are intended to achieve a status-of-forces framework that includes defining the legal position of U.S. forces, not a defense treaty pledging military intervention against aggressors. (LA Times)

Security Threats

Missiles Fired From Iran Into Afghanistan: Security Official

Afghan security officials in western Afghanistan are starting talks with their Iranian counterparts on 7 November after 12 missiles landed in Afghanistan from Iran in the past two days. An Afghan police official, who spoke to TOLOnews on condition of anonymity, said that the 12 missiles landed in Nimroz province which borders with Iran. “It’s not clear that why they launched the missiles,” he said, adding that they were launched by the military. “Afghan officials have started talks over the attacks with Iranian officials today,” he said. The missiles landed in the Chaharburjak district of Nimroz continuing until as recently as 7 November morning. There was no information about any casualties, he said. A call to the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs was not replied to by the time of publication. (TOLOnews)

Afghan Warlord’s Call to Arms Rattles Officials

One of the most powerful mujahedeen commanders in Afghanistan, Ismail Khan, is calling on his followers to reorganize and defend the country against the Taliban as Western militaries withdraw, in a public demonstration of faltering confidence in the national government and the Western-built Afghan National Army. Mr. Khan is one of the strongest of a group of warlords who defined the country’s recent history in battling the Soviets, the Taliban and one another, and who then were brought into President Hamid Karzai’s cabinet as a symbol of unity. Now, in announcing that he is remobilizing his forces, Mr. Khan has rankled Afghan officials and stoked fears that other regional and factional leaders will follow suit and rearm, weakening support for the government and increasing the likelihood of civil war. (…) President Karzai and his aides, however, were not greeting it as an altruistic gesture. The governor of Herat Province called Mr. Khan’s reorganization an illegal challenge to the national security forces. And Mr. Karzai’s spokesman, Aimal Faizi, tersely criticized Mr. Khan. “The remarks by Ismail Khan do not reflect the policies of the Afghan government,” Mr. Faizi said. “The government of Afghanistan and the Afghan people do not want any irresponsible armed grouping outside the legitimate security forces structures.” In Kabul, Mr. Khan’s provocative actions have played out in the news media and brought a fierce reaction from some members of Parliament, who said the warlords were preparing to take advantage of the American troop withdrawal set for 2014. “People like Ismail Khan smell blood,” Belqis Roshan, a senator from Farah Province, said in an interview. “They think that as soon as foreign forces leave Afghanistan, once again they will get the chance to start a civil war, and achieve their ominous goals of getting rich and terminating their local rivals.” Indeed, Mr. Khan’s is not the only voice calling for a renewed alliance of the mujahedeen against the Taliban, and some of the others are just as familiar. Marshal Muhammad Qasim Fahim, an ethnic Tajik commander who is President Karzai’s first vice president, said in a speech in September, “If the Afghan security forces are not able to wage this war, then call upon the mujahedeen.” Another prominent mujahedeen fighter, Ahmad Zia Massoud, said in an interview at his home in Kabul that people were worried about what was going to happen after 2014, and he was telling his own followers to make preliminary preparations. (NY Times)

Jihadi Council Distributing Weapons to ‘Units’: Herat Spox

The Jihadi Council led by Afghanistan’s Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Ismail Khan has started distributing weapons to its members in western Herat province, the provincial spokesman Mahiuddin Noori said on 7 November. Noori warned that armed groups apart from the Afghan security forces are against the law and the distribution of weapons is a criminal offence. “In the past several months, the non-government Council of the Mujahedeen [Jihadi Council] has distributed weapons to the residents which is against Afghanistan’s laws,” Noori said on Wednesday, adding that there is proof of this claim. He showed a signed piece of paper with the Jihadi Council’s appointment of a commander or “security official”. “Anyone who distributes weapons apart from the government commits a crime. It is against the national interests of the government and the country and it will be prosecuted. The justice and security organs are investigating this issue,” he said. However, Jihadi Council leaders denied the claim, although they confirmed that the men have grouped into “units” and appointed commanders. “According to the order from Ismail Khan, we have already inaugurated 30 to 40 Mujahedeen units and assigned their commanders. Weapons were not distributed by unit commanders,” Jihadi Council deputy chief Khuwaja Shamsuddin said on 7 November. Herat’s provincial governor Dawood Shah Saba emphasised yesterday that the residents of the western province will not accept militias. “I want to clearly say that the people of Afghanistan rely on their sons as the police and army and national security department, which have the ability to protect the national sovereignty and honor of the country. They do not need any more for the agents of outsiders,” the governor said in a gathering in Herat on 6 November. The Jihadi Council was formed in Herat last year under the leadership of former Jihadi commander and current Energy and Water Minister Mohammad Ismail Khan. During the last week of October, he revealed that plans were underway to re-form the army which had fought the Soviet Russians in the 80s, claiming that because NATO had failed to secure Afghanistan against the insurgents, the Mujahedeen would do it themselves. (TOLOnews)

U.S. POLICIES

US General Gives Mixed Assessment of Afghanistan War

A U.S. general nominated to oversee the drawdown of American troops in Afghanistan by 2014 says a central goal of the 11-year war has yet to be achieved. Marine General Joseph Dunford says terrorists and their Taliban allies continue to operate in Afghanistan. At his confirmation hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee, General Dunford acknowledged that America’s longest war has not met its primary original objective: rooting out al-Qaida and the militants who give sanctuary to terrorists. But he cited statistics showing progress made as a result of multinational efforts in Afghanistan. “Seventy-six percent of the population is currently secured by Afghan security forces. The vast preponderance of violence is now taking place outside of populated areas. The Taliban have been displaced from the population, and I view that as a sign of success,” Dunford said. Dunford added that Afghanistan has recruited more than 300,000 security force members, and that he expects them to be fully-trained during the next year. He said he is “encouraged” by what he has seen of the evolving capabilities of Afghan troops. Committee Chairman Carl Levin was one of several senators expressing grave concern about so-called “insider” attacks on coalition troops by Taliban militants who have infiltrated Afghan security forces. The committee’s top Republican, Senator John McCain, said the Obama administration’s planned drawdown of forces in Afghanistan constitutes a “rush to failure”. “The president’s repeated emphasis on withdrawal, without laying out what would constitute a successful and sustainable transition, has only fed the belief in Afghanistan that the United States is committed to getting out regardless of conditions on the ground. This doubt has encouraged all actors in Afghanistan and in the region to hedge their bets, which increases the worst instincts of the Afghan government, and increases the chance of a return to civil conflict in our absence,” McCain said. General Dunford did not comment on administration policies. President Barack Obama has said that ending the war in Afghanistan will allow the United States to tend to pressing needs at home. Senator McCain had a bottom-line question for the general. “Do you think we are winning the war in Afghanistan?” Dunford replied: “I think we are making progress, and I believe our objectives are achievable.” Dunford expressed hope the United States and Afghanistan can forge a security agreement for the post-2014 period, saying an accord would send an important message to militants in Afghanistan as well as to governments throughout the region. If confirmed, Dunford would be the sixth U.S. commander in Afghanistan, responsible for all NATO forces. Fewer than 70,000 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan, following the withdrawal of “surge” forces President Obama ordered to Afghanistan in 2009. An assistant commandant of the U.S. Marine Corps, Dunford led a regiment in the 2003 invasion of Iraq. (VOA News)

US Urges Afghanistan Open its Economy, Tackle Graft

A senior American official urged Afghanistan to open up its economy and eliminate nagging corruption to entice companies from the United States to invest in the mineral-rich Afghanistan and to woo more foreign direct investments from around the globe. Speaking to reporters in Kabul, Robert O. Blake, Assistant Secretary for South and Central Asian Affairs, said American companies were not shying away from Afghanistan but were making their own strategic decision whether to invest. “We encourage American companies to invest, we also encourage Afghanistan government to open up its economy, ensure there is no corruption and there is good governance. This will encourage foreign direct investment from the US and also from other countries,” said Blake, who is on an official trip to Afghanistan. (…) Commenting on Washington’s interest to develop the ancient Silk Road, Blake said that was part of the American agenda to help Afghanistan stabilize economically and also to promote regional integration. “We are looking at the transition in Afghanistan. W are looking at how we can support not only security and political transition, but also economic transition that is going to occur in this country. “One way is to develop the private sector and trade, and the best way to do is by promoting regional integration – building rail lines, roads, electric transmission lines to open regional integration,” added Blake. He said it was vital to enhance regional integration and the Silk route so Afghanistan could expand trading with its neighboring countries and vice-versa. Earlier, US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton had said that reviving the ancient Silk Road was critical for Afghan’s stability. Responding to a question over Pakistan’s uneasiness towards India’s active participation in Afghanistan, Blake said there was no reason for Pakistan to be concerned over its neighbor’s role. “Pakistan should not be concerned, they share our interest and want to see a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. India’s investments are gearing to that goal,” he added. On a question that the Crisis Group recently warned that Afghanistan would face an economic and political crisis following the withdrawal of NATO forces in 2014, he said the US and the international community are steadfast in their objective to help Afghan remain stable. The Tokyo Conference the NATO Summit, held earlier this year, were clear indications that they want to see Afghan develop and prosper. “My main message to all Afghan is that US has strong commitment to Afghan’s future, we want a stable and prosperous future for Afghanistan,” said Blake. (Afghanistan Daily Outlook, Pajhwok)

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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