Feed aggregator

As Taliban Advance, Afghanistan Reluctantly Recruits Militias

Afghan officials are turning to forming militias as the army struggles to ward off Taliban offensives, stoking anxieties of factional rivalries in a nation still haunted by a civil war.

TOLOnews 6pm News 23 May 2015

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 17:02

Officials from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on Saturday voiced concerns over government's move to distribute arms to so-called responsible persons in the provinces in a bid to help fight insurgents.

{youtube}dJTZlsqcbmQ{/youtube}

Meanwhile, members of the internal security commission in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) have strongly criticized government's move and said government should refrain from arming civilians and focus instead on boosting security forces. The organization said it was concerned that if these weapons fell into the hands of human rights violators and irresponsible parties, this could jeopardize the country's security even further.

Defense Minister Nominated, Army Chief of Staff Appointed

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 16:54



Masoom Stanekzai has been nominated as the Minister of Defense and General Qadam Shah Shaheem has been appointed as the Chief of Army Staff.

The presidential spokesman has said that Stanekzai has been introduced to the House of Representatives as the Minister of Defense. Presidential spokesman adds that General Abdul Khaliq has been appointed as the Deputy Minister of Defense.

Human Rights Commission Concerned Over Govt's Move To Arm Civilians

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 15:10



Officials from the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on Saturday voiced concerns over government's move to distribute arms to so-called responsible persons in the provinces in a bid to help fight insurgents.

The organization said it was concerned that if these weapons fell into the hands of human rights violators and irresponsible parties, this could jeopardize the country's security even further.

Meanwhile, members of the internal security commission in the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) have strongly criticized government's move and said government should refrain from arming civilians and focus instead on boosting security forces.

Sources have said that in a number of provinces, powerful individuals and even MPs have introduced groups of local residents to government to receive arms as part of a plan to fight insurgents.

Although the Ministry of Interior has denied these rumors, members of the internal security commission have voiced their concerns over the plan to arm non-military people in a bid to maintain security. The MPs said that this has been done in the past with bad results. They called on government to stop.

"Our commission has not been in the picture, and this is wrong. We have witnessed similar incidents many times in the past few decades, and we have seen its negative consequences. It would be wrong to try it again. We have enough security forces which government can use to provide security," says Abdul Hai Akhundzada, MP and a member of the security commission.

Meanwhile the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission is also among the institutions that have strongly objected to the move. This commission believes that the individuals referred to by local commanders and so-called powerful men are in fact human rights violators or criminals. This organization said that distribution of arms to these men will only add to the existing problems.

"Most of the human rights violations in the country are done under the shadow of armed men. You witnessed in Parwan province that five members of one family were killed by irresponsible armed men a while ago. We are concerned that if government distributed arms to irresponsible individuals, it will be used for further violation of human rights," says Rafiullah Bedar, spokesman for the Independent Human Rights Commission.

Afghanistan has close to 350,000 armed forces. However, recent reports have emerged that government is arming local residents in certain provinces to fight the Taliban. MPs said the issue will however be discussed with the national security advisor on Sunday.

Balkh Teacher In Hot Water Over Student's Punishment

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 15:01



A teacher from Mazar-e-Sharif in Balkh province recently caused controversy for publicly shaming one of his students, allegedly writing the words "zero" and "lazy" on his face and taking a photo.

Iqbal is a second grade student at Ghulam Rasool Sanaye middle school in Mazar-e-Sharif. Iqbal goes to school every day and listens to his teachers. But last week Iqbal was disciplined for failing to write what he was asked to write. The teacher wrote "zero" on his forehead and "lazy" on his cheek, and then took his picture.

"After writing "lazy" on my face, he took my picture with his mobile," Iqbal said.

Iqbal's father, who is blind, said he believed the future generation of the country should be educated with more respect and kindness. "The future of this country is in the hands of these kids, we hope that they will become something and will build this country," Iqbal's father said. "Teachers must provide good training to students."

The incident, which has become a subject of public debate in recent days, received condemnation from Officials at the Balkh Directorate of Education. The officials have said that the teacher did what he did on account of his lack of experience and regrets it now.

Muhammad Ayoub, Education Director of Mazar-e-Sharif and Abdul Manan Qaderi, and principle of Ghulam Rasool Sanayee, said that treating students through humiliation and violent behavior is against the law. He said any teacher demonstrating such behavior repeatedly would be investigated and could potentially face legal repercussions.

Indian Consortium Cancels $10 Million Mining Contract

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 14:57

Indian media reported this week that members of a consortium with a pending contract to develop the Hajigak iron mine have pulled their offer and canceled their planned $10 billion USD worth of investment.

Based on these reports, published in the Indian Financial Express, the Indian consortium cited insecurity as its biggest challenge in Afghanistan, along with delays and an unreliable partner in the form of the Afghan government.

"The slow work of the Ministry of Mines has caused the Indians to pass on the investment in the Hajigak iron mine," said Ramazan Juma Zada, a member of the Wolesi Jirga's Economic Commission.

However, reports also suggest the mining contract was scrapped in part because of a recent agreement signed between Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's Intelligence Services (ISI). The deal has been called "uneconomical" by Indian commentators.

"The closeness of the Afghan government to Pakistan has raised concerns of Indian traders, which has forced them to make this decision," Kabul University economics professor Haseebullah Mowhed said. "On the one hand it's good that it got canceled as the agreement was not clear but it is also a loss that we have lost the investment."

Officials at the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum declined to comment.

The Hajigak mine was expected to be one of the largest economic projects in Afghanistan in the coming years. It was handed over to an Indian consortium four years ago. The consortium was to a build power plant station and a large steel manufacturing company around the mine.

India's National Security Advisor Criticizes NDS-ISI Agreement

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 14:53



Speaking at a news conference along with officers of India's paramilitary border security forces, the Indian National Security Advisor, Ajit Doval, said on Saturday that the recent agreement between the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) was based on faulty assumptions.

"What Pakistan wanted was to get an assurance and put pressure on Afghanistan, so that they will not allow their territory to be used for any security related work by India," Doval said. "That is the crux of it. This is based on a faulty assumption that India probably uses Afghan soil or Afghan nationals for its security purposes."

The comments come after a controversial Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between the NDS and ISI committing them to "intelligence sharing and complimentary and coordinated intelligence operations."

India's reservations about the agreement are shared by many Afghans, who continue to distrust the ISI, which has long provided covert support for the Taliban. However, the Presidential Palace has sought to downplay the significance of the accord.

"Such agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan or between the intelligence agencies of both countries is not something new; such MoUs were signed years ago, and the main concentration of this MoU is joint combat against terrorism in both countries," presidential spokesman Ajmal Abidi said.

The NDS, meanwhile, has remained relatively muted on the subject, simply expressing the hope that Pakistan would follow through with its end of the deal. "The agreement has been signed based on a cooperative attitude," NDS spokesman Hassib Sediqi told TOLOnews. "We hope that Pakistan will stand up to its commitment and act on it."

Scholars, Elders Gather in Kabul to Discuss Path to Peace

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 14:48

Islamic scholars and a number of tribal elders from various parts of Afghanistan gathered in Kabul on Saturday in order to discuss the government's deadlock and the need for immediate action on a number of policy fronts.

The meeting was held by the "High Council of the Path to Saving of Afghanistan," which was led by a former Taliban commander who called for all sides involved in the conflict to make sacrifices for peace talks. The gathering emphasized the importance of local governance, putting the onus on local leaders to take matters into their own hands where the government failed to act.

"The nation of Afghanistan will not be quiet to the problems anymore," former Taliban commander Said Akbar Agha said. "Everyone will attempt to resolve it, all the sides will be involved in this council and they will resolve the problems of Afghanistan."

Tribal elders stressed their desire to see a negotiated peace between militants and the government. "I think in the current conflict in Afghanistan, some of the scholars say one thing and others say another, but the Taliban must decrease their demands and the government must also pay attention to an extent," Baghlan tribal elder Muhammad Qul said. "We want people to hold the government and Taliban accountable and pay attention to solving problems of the people."

With security conditions deteriorating in many parts of the country, questions about the government's ability to get the Taliban to peace talks have abounded. "We are very concerned about this situation," Samangan tribal elder Najeebullah Haidary said. "We must work to build a united Afghanistan and end the war and misery and end our problems."

Wushu Competition Kicks-Off in Kabul

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 12:40

A two day Wushu competition kicked-off in Kabul on Saturday and 300 young athletes from 60 clubs are expected to compete.

The tournament, which will involve 10 different weight categories, aims to select the top 40 contestants who will be trained for future national teams, officials said.

According to Abdul Habib Karimi, one of the coaches the aim is to focus and invest in children who will in future be part of the national team. He said the tournament will be used to select the top 40 participants who will then be coached and trained.

A number of competitors said they practiced hard to get to this stage and many hope to be chosen for the national team one day.

"I want to beat all of my rivals. I had a lot of training and I hope to become a member of the national team and bring home medals for Afghanistan one day," a Wushu athlete, Noorullah said.

Meanwhile Wushu Federation officials said they plan to hold another tournament in the near future for teenagers who will be selected for the current national team.

54 Insurgents Killed in ANSF Operations

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 08:29

At least 54 insurgents have been killed in a series of coordinated operations over the past 24 hours by the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF), the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said in a statement on Saturday.

In addition, nine insurgents were injured and two others arrested.

The operations were conducted in Nangarhar, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Sar-e-Pul, Uruzgan, Paktiya and Zabul provinces, the statement said.

"During the same 24 hour period, Afghan National Police discovered and defused 10 different types of IEDs placed by enemies of Afghanistan for destructive activities in Parwan, Kandahar, Paktiya and Paktika provinces," it said.

The MoI, however, did not comment on whether any security force members were injured during the operations.

District Governor Killed in Uruzgan Roadside Mine Blast

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 06:59

Mohammad Ismail, Governor of Shaheed Asas district of central Uruzgan province was killed in a roadside mine blast early Saturday, local officials said.

One of his bodyguards was injured in the blast.

The incident took place when Ismail was on his way to the office and his vehicle struck the IED, a spokesman for the provincial governor, Mohammad Nayab said.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the incident.

The district has recently come under increased attacks by insurgents who have focused the past few days on attacking police posts, said officials.

KANKASH: Political Leaders, MPs Meet With Ghani to Discuss NDS-ISI MoU

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 04:52

A number of Afghan political leaders, tribal elders MPs and civil society activists met President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday to voice their reservations and requests regarding a recent cooperation agreement signed by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's intelligence service (ISI).

To watch the whole program, click here:

{youtube}agJIrKcxPGQ{/youtube}

According to the memorandum of understanding (MoU) which was signed last week, both countries commit to working closely together operationally to fight terror, and the ISI will help train and equip the NDS. In addition, Afghanistan and Pakistan will cooperate in investigating individuals and entities suspected of ties to terrorism within their respective territories.

The MoU has prompted a wave of heavy criticisms, particularly from political leaders and analysts who are highly skeptical of Pakistan's intentions. With its long history of duplicitous rhetoric and covert support for the Taliban, many Afghans are disinclined to trust and collaborate with the Pakistani military and intelligence apparatus.

In this episode of Kankash, host Fawad Aman discusses the topic with the following guests:

Mujiburrahman Rahimi, a spokesman for the Chief Executive's Office
Helai Ershad, MP
Jawid Kohistani, political analyst

TAWDE KHABARE: Ghani Calls for Regional Cooperation

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 04:34

Addressing the 16th meeting of the International Contact Group on Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday called for cooperative efforts to combat threats emerging from Daesh militants in various parts of the country. In the same turn, however, the president sought to assure the gathering that Afghanistan would not devolve into a conflict of the kind seen in Iraq and Syria.

To watch the whole program, click here:

{youtube}sOX2WyW3Rxs{/youtube}

Focusing around the security theme of the meeting, Ghani expressed confidence that no province or districts in Afghanistan would collapse into the hands of Daesh-affiliates.

"Daesh has come out for a rivalry with al-Qaeda. However both groups are determined to create instability in the world," Ghani told the assembled crowd of ambassadors and representatives from 50 nations. "Whenever in the middle east - or other regions - a system is collapsed, stability in the region is also affected and militancy gains strength," he added.

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Zabi Sadat discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Tofan Waziri, political analyst
• Hai Gul Sulaimankhil, military analyst
• Obaidullah Barakzai, MP
• Hashem Alokozai, Senator

Daesh Suicide Bomber Attacks Saudi Shiite Mosque, Killing 21

TOLO News - Sat, 05/23/2015 - 04:07

A Daesh suicide bomber attacked a Shiite mosque in Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia, killing 21 people and wounding 81 in an assault that threatens to fan sectarian tensions.

The bomber struck during the main weekly prayers in Eastern Province, where assailants linked to the Sunni extremist Daesh killed seven members of the minority Shiite community in November.

The interior ministry said a suicide bomber detonated a bomb at the mosque in the Shiite-majority city of Qatif, the official SPA news agency reported.

"An individual detonated a bomb he was wearing under his clothes during Friday prayers at Ali Ibn Abi Taleb mosque... in Qatif," the ministry spokesman said in a statement.

The health ministry was quoted by SPA as saying that 21 people were killed and 81 wounded, including 12 in critical condition.

Daesh said it was behind the attack, the first time the group has officially claimed an attack in Saudi Arabia, and vowed "dark days ahead" for Shiites, whom the group consider to be heretics, until militants "chase them from the Arabian Peninsula".

A statement published online said "soldiers of the Caliphate" were behind the attack by Abu Amer al-Najdi who "detonated an explosives belt" in the mosque.

The United States and UN Security Council condemned the bombing, but White House spokesman Josh Earnest said it was not immediately able to confirm it was the work of Daesh.

Shiite Iran demanded that the perpetrators be found and punished, and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah said it holds the Saudi authorities "totally responsible" for the bombing.

- Pools of blood -

News websites in eastern Saudi Arabia posted photographs of bodies lying in pools of blood, bloodied prayer rugs and damage inside the mosque.

Qatif hospital issued an urgent call for blood donations and called in off-duty staff to cope with the high number of casualties, an activist said.

Local resident Naseema Assada said worshippers were celebrating the birth of Imam Hussein, a revered figure in Shiite Islam, when the blast occurred.

"The people are very angry," she said, adding that they tried to stop police from entering the area.

Residents had feared such an attack was coming, she said, because the government was failing to curb hate speech on social media against the Shiite community, which complains of marginalisation.

"We don't want a repeat of what is happening in Syria or Iraq here," she said, referring to unrest in the two countries, sections of which IS claims as part of its "caliphate".

"This is our country and we love it."

The mufti of Saudi Arabia, the country's highest-ranking Sunni cleric, denounced the attack.

"It is a criminal act aimed at dividing the sons of the nation... and at sowing trouble in our country," he said on state television.

Hezbollah accused Saudi authorities of "sponsoring and backing criminal murderers" and of "failing to protect" its Shiite citizens.

- 'A matter of time' -

A Saudi-led coalition has since March 26 been bombing Shiite rebels in Yemen who have overrun much of the country and forced the government to flee abroad.

Analysts said radical Sunnis in the ultra-conservative kingdom consider Saudi Shiites to be allies of the Yemen Huthi rebels.

"This (attack) was unfortunately only a matter of time," said Frederic Wehrey, a Gulf analyst at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

Shiites have not joined in the "wave of Sunni nationalism" that has followed the Saudi-led campaign against the rebels in Yemen, and are considered by radical Salafists as a "fifth column" for the Huthis.

Initial reports by witnesses said the suicide bomber appeared to be from Pakistan, but others said he was wearing what they described as traditional Afghan clothing.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose country has been a long-time ally of Riyadh, sent condolences to families of the victims and said in a statement "terrorists are enemies of humanity which also bring a bad name to Islam".

Eastern Province is an oil-rich region populated by many Shiites. It has been rocked by sporadic protests and attacks on security forces since 2011.

But in April, authorities said they arrested 93 jihadists, including 62 suspected of links to Daesh who were plotting attacks to "incite sectarian sedition".
Arrests of suspects with links to Daesh were also announced after gunmen last November killed seven Shiites, including children, in the eastern town of Al-Dalwa during a holy ceremony.

TOLOnews 6pm News 22 May 2015

TOLO News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 16:46

Top news in this Bulletin:

With still no progress on electoral reform, and no date yet set for parliamentary elections, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's First Deputy, Mohammad Khan, spoke out on Friday to criticize what he sees as a lack of political will among the country's leaders.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

{youtube}1SVRwhfnCJI{/youtube}

Implementation of fundamental reforms in Afghanistan's electoral system was one of the central tenets of the national unity government agreement, which brought President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah under the same roof. However, with eight months passed, the leaders have reached an impasse over the formation of a committee to oversee the reform agenda, highlighting their lack of common ground and inability to compromise.

The whereabouts of the 12 remaining hostages kidnapped almost three months ago while traveling along the Kabul-Kandahar highway is still unknown – 14 days after the release of 19 of the 31 bus passengers.

A number of the families of the 12 hostages are still however camped out at Zarnegar Park in protest over government's failure to secure their release.

Kabul Looks to Keep Morale High Despite Rising Violence

TOLO News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 15:41

A recent spate of attacks and reports of deteriorating conditions in much of the country have gripped the capital in recent weeks. However, as warm weather sets in, Kabul residents have sought to keep their morale high and distance themselves from the horrors of war in Afghanistan.

On Friday, hundreds of people - including men, women and children - gathered in various picnic areas around the capital to enjoy leisure time with friends and family. While seemingly a simple, everyday affair, it is activities such as these that seem the greatest act of defiance against the terrorist groups seeking to subdue the Afghan public through fear.

"Today, I visited this picnic ground and had fun because of the environment here," a Kabul resident named Maryam told TOLOnews.

The Babur Gardens and Qargha Lake in Kabul are among the most historic and popular visiting sites in the city. Residents from various corners of the capital gather in both locations for picnics on warm days.

"When I came and saw my countrymen in joy, I felt at peace," a Kabul resident named Sher Khan said.

Nevertheless, while an afternoon picnic with loved-ones can offer a brief respite from the challenges of life in Afghanistan, the realities of the country's conflict are never too far off the minds of capital residents.

"The armed opponents conduct terror attacks in our country, therefore the security forces should struggle to secure the people from the attacks, as our countrymen are killed and wounded as a result of the violence," Maryam said just after marveling at beauty of the picnic scene.

Khan Says Lack of Political Will Behind Electoral Reform Impasse

TOLO News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 15:28

With still no progress on electoral reform, and no date yet set for parliamentary elections, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's First Deputy, Mohammad Khan, spoke out on Friday to criticize what he sees as a lack of political will among the country's leaders.

Implementation of fundamental reforms in Afghanistan's electoral system was one of the central tenets of the national unity government agreement, which brought President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah under the same roof. However, with eight months passed, the leaders have reached an impasse over the formation of a committee to oversee the reform agenda, highlighting their lack of common ground and inability to compromise.

"I am quite concerned about reform in the electoral system," Khan said on Friday. "If there is will, both leaders would be able to form the commission within one hour, they could even address the issue while eating dinner or breakfast," he added.

The delay in pursuing electoral reform has caused a crisis for the parliamentary elections originally scheduled for this year, with many commentators doubtful the elections will take place. Election monitoring groups, political leaders and the international community have rejected the possibility of holding the elections without reform first.

In addition to undermining the government's stability and credibility, the deadlock over reform places lawmakers in Parliament in a precarious position. So long as parliamentary elections are put off, MPs face a dilemma in interpreting the Afghan Constitution - some say they would be permitted to remain in office past their term dates, while others say it would be unconstitutional.

"It would be better that the parliament continue its job until reforms are implemented in the country's electoral system, and also the commission lack's the financial resources to hold the parliamentary poll," MP Munawwar Shah Bahaduri said on Friday. Indeed, international donors recently announced they would withhold funding for the Afghan election commissions until reforms are put in place.

Kabul Internet Outages Hurt Productivity, Frustrate Public

TOLO News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 15:20

With a week passed since a fiber optic cable was cut in Landi Kotal Pakistan, large swaths of the capital remain without Internet service and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) has done little if anything to address the issue.

More than 90 percent of business firms, private and government institutions, not to mention universities, strongly depend on Internet connectivity. Without reliable Internet service, commentators say the business sector in Kabul has suffered considerable financial losses.

MoCIT officials have acknowledged that the Landi Kotal fiber optic cable was not in good condition before it went down. But they have also defended the ministry's response, maintaining that Kabul has now been connected to a fiber optic cable out of Spin Boldak. "We are trying to reconnect the cable, and in joint cooperation with Pakistan, key issues have been settled and currently we provide Internet to central provinces through the fiber optic in Spin Boldak," ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said on Friday.

Yet members of the Kabul business community and general public are skeptical, this most recent downing being the third a fiber optic cable has gone down in an eastern part of the country. "Internet outages undermine work in the banks and other government institutions, particularly in maintain communications between the branches," Banking Association head Ahmad Syar Quraishi said.

Meanwhile, Kabul residents directed much of their frustration toward Pakistan and Afghanistan's dependence on its neighbors for Internet service. "We are dependent on neighboring countries in all sectors, including the Internet," Kabul resident Mahmoud told TOLOnews. "Pakistan wants to deprive us of information technology, so the Afghan government should do something."

Kabul Internet Outages Hurt Productivity, Frustrate Public

TOLO News - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 15:20

With a week passed since a fiber optic cable was cut in Landi Kotal Pakistan, large swaths of the capital remain without Internet service and the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology (MoCIT) has done little if anything to address the issue.

More than 90 percent of business firms, private and government institutions, not to mention universities, strongly depend on Internet connectivity. Without reliable Internet service, commentators say the business sector in Kabul has suffered considerable financial losses.

MoCIT officials have acknowledged that the Landi Kotal fiber optic cable was not in good condition before it went down. But they have also defended the ministry's response, maintaining that Kabul has now been connected to a fiber optic cable out of Spin Boldak. "We are trying to reconnect the cable, and in joint cooperation with Pakistan, key issues have been settled and currently we provide Internet to central provinces through the fiber optic in Spin Boldak," ministry spokesman Nusrat Rahimi said on Friday.

Yet members of the Kabul business community and general public are skeptical, this most recent downing being the third a fiber optic cable has gone down in an eastern part of the country. "Internet outages undermine work in the banks and other government institutions, particularly in maintain communications between the branches," Banking Association head Ahmad Syar Quraishi said.

Meanwhile, Kabul residents directed much of their frustration toward Pakistan and Afghanistan's dependence on its neighbors for Internet service. "We are dependent on neighboring countries in all sectors, including the Internet," Kabul resident Mahmoud told TOLOnews. "Pakistan wants to deprive us of information technology, so the Afghan government should do something."

How the Pentagon Wasted $36 Million

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Fri, 05/22/2015 - 15:12
The money went to a headquarters in Afghanistan that was not needed or wanted and may be torn down.
Subscribe to Afgha.com - News - Afghanistan aggregator