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Exclusive Interview with CEO Abdullah Abdullah

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 17:14



The visit to the United States was a step to restore the strained relations between Kabul and Washington, the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said, calling the trip productive.

In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, Abdullah declared that their visit helped to gain more assistance from the United States including equipment to the Afghan forces.

To watch the entire interview, click here:

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TOLOnews 6pm News 28 March 2015

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 16:56



The visit to the United States was a step to restore the strained relations between Kabul and Washington, the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said, calling the trip productive.

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In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, Abdullah declared that their visit helped to gain more assistance from the United States including equipment to the Afghan forces.

“Farkhunda Volleyball Tournament” Kicks Off in Kabul

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 15:21

A female volleyball tournament "Farkhunda Cup" has been kicked off in Kabul in remembrance of 27-year-old Farkhunda who was killed and burnt last week.

Being held in the gymnasium of Kabul Police Training Center, the tournament is organized for three days where eight different teams are participating.

In the first two matches of the tournament, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS) defeated Al-Zahra while the Police defeated Sports Association.

"This tournament is being launched to condemn the brutal killing and Farkhunda," an athlete Roya said. "Through this tournament, we express our sympathy to the family of Farkhunda."

The organizers of the tournament declared that efforts were underway to organize an international level tournament by the name of Farkhunda.

Farkhunda was beaten to death and burnt by a mob last week in Kabul on the alleged of burning Holy Quran, an accusation strongly rejected by the security agencies and the investigations teams as baseless.

A number of rallies and protests are being staged in different parts of the country to condemn Farkhunda's killing and demand the government to bring perpetrators to justice.

Breshna Says Kabul's Power to Be Restored Within Five Days

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 15:17

With about a month gone by since Kabul's electricity was cut down, the Breshna Company, the city's primary provider, has not been able to fix the line issues in Salang that have caused the power shortage. Nevertheless, the company's officials have said the problem should be fixed within a week.

"We need five business days - with good weather it can be done in three business days, and in the next two days we can do the wiring," Breshna spokesman Wahidullah Tawhedi said. "We will have electricity in the next five business days."

Meanwhile, officials at the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries said that Breshna had promised to reconstruct the electricity lines in Salang within four weeks. "The Breshna Company did not have the necessary preparations in place and enough equipment to resolve this problem," Deputy Chairman Abdul Qadeer Bahman said on Saturday. "This company must pay serious attention."

The electricity shortage in the capital is said to have caused a minor commercial depression. The downed lines in Salang were a result of heavy snow falls.
The Breshna Company has said that over seven million AFN worth of equipment has been purchased in order to reconstruct the downed lines.

MPs Urge Minister to Combat Taliban Propaganda in Mosques

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 15:17

The Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs and Deputy Minister of Justice visited Parliament on Saturday to discuss the recruiting activities of anti-government insurgents as well as counterstrategies being pursued by the government.

A number of lawmakers claimed militant groups had issued a fatwa against the government in mosques across the country. Minister Faiz Muhammad Usmani said that in order to prevent the use of mosques by militants, efforts to undermine false religious authorities were being ramped up.

"There are 150,000 to 160,000 mosques in Afghanistan," Usmani said. "In provinces everywhere, less than 50,000 mosques have been registered with the ministry; there are 3,700 mosques registered with the ministry where we pay the salaries of clerics.

A number of MPs raised the matter of the killing of Farkhunda at the Shah-e-Do Shamshera shrine of Kabul last week. They said the incident demonstrated that spell writers, soothsayers and other opportunistic individuals have appropriated and corrupted the religious practices of communities around the country.

"The man in Shah-e-Do Shamshera shrine, who accused Farkhunda of burning the Koran, has not even read the Koran, and the items that were recovered from his residence are shameful to talk about," Badakhshan MP Fowzi Kofi said. "The items that were found at his residence can't be found in a dance house."

"We cannot go to mosques, because we fear these clerics," Kunduz MP Abdul Woodod Paiman said. "They label the government infidels!"

Minister Usmani said the only way to prevent such deceptive and exploitative practices is to prevent charlatans form entering religious institutions. He went on to say that the MPs must play an role in supporting the peace process.

"Millions of dollars are given to clerics from the government so that they can meet their expenses," Paktika MP Nader Khan Katawazai said. "Have they ever criticized the war against the government? They don't even go to funerals of the Afghanistan National Security Forces."

Faryab MP Bashir Ahmad Tayanj emphasized the sway the Taliban have over many clerics around the country. "We have witnessed on Fridays that clerics change the topics prayers with just one call from the Taliban," he said. "There is a saying: Who ever give money, he makes the orders. So if we pay money to clergies, then they must listen to the government."

Activists Criticize Delay in ID Card Program Implementation

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 14:52

Civil society activists on Saturday criticized the national unity government for failing to complete the national ID card program that was launched well over a year ago under former president Hamid Karzai.

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has said that the new ID cards will only be issued upon the order of the National Security Council. Yet it is unclear why implementation for the program, which is intended to increase electoral transparency and rule of law more generally, has not yet been given the go ahead.

"The Afghan Census Law has been passed and the law is clear about the issuance of electronic ID cards, we are ready from a technical point of view," Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's Deputy Spokesman Asef Ashna said. "The delay so far has been on account of the cabinet's formation, after which both electoral reforms and the issuing of electronic ID cards will begin."

According to MoI spokesman Sediq Sediqqi, there remain some technical issues with the ID cards implementation plan. "The Ministry of Interior has finished its duties, but there are some considerations for the government of Afghanistan, especially in the area of technology costs of the process, which the government needs to consider," he said.

Meanwhile, civil society activists, who have been the most vocal critics of the government's delays, said there are some within the government who do not want to see the new IDs issued, because it could lead to a new understanding of the country's demographics.

"As there are no real numbers and statistics on tribes and ethnicities, mostly people who have made up the numbers over years are supporting the delay," Civil Society Association Chairman Aziz Rafiee said on Saturday.

US Trip Helped Restore Friendly Relations: Abdullah

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 14:45

The visit to the United States was a step to restore the strained relations between Kabul and Washington, the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah said, calling the trip productive.

In an exclusive interview with TOLOnews, Abdullah declared that their visit helped to gain more assistance from the United States including equipment to the Afghan forces.

Both the leaders of National Unity Government (NUG), President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah, headed a high-level government team last week to the United States where President Barack Obama made several pledges to Afghanistan.

Continued funding of all 352,000 Afghan forces until 2017, keeping the current posture of 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan until the end of 2015 and an aid of $800 million USD to the unity government's reform agenda were among the new Obama commitments to Afghanistan.

"This trip was a step to restore the friendly relations which were, unfortunately, harmed in the past," Abdullah said. "These steps were already started from the beginning of the government, and this trip led the United States to become more interested in supporting Afghanistan."

He noted that one of the achievements of their visit was to gain more support for the Afghan forces in terms of training, advising and assisting.

The analysts, meanwhile, believe that if the NUG leaders fail to practice their commitments, the newly created atmosphere between Kabul and Washington would be lost.

"This visit had achievements, and created a new chapter of relations between Kabul and Washington," analyst Mir Ahmad Joyenda said. "But in fact, this visit also brought more responsibilities to the unity government and they need to fulfill what they promised in America."

Though, the five-day visit is said to have been productive, the Afghan people are still awaiting their economic situation improved, their safety ensured and also implementation of rule of law and justice.

20 Daikundi Abductees Released: Police

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 11:45

The Taliban have released about 20 passengers and drivers who were abducted last week from Kandahar-Daikundi highway, security sources said.

The Police Chief of Daikundi, Juma Gul Bardi, announced on Saturday that the abductees were released unconditionally as a result of mediation by the tribal elders.

"The passengers and drivers who were traveling from Kandahar to Kajran [a district in Daikundi] were released yesterday," Bardi said, explaining the abductees were ordinary shopkeepers, drivers and labors, and were transferred by the Taliban to an unknown place.

He, however, stated that the motive behind the abduction was still unclear.

According to the police chief, the Taliban stopped six civilian vehicles last week in central Uruzgan province and took with them 20 passengers and drivers to an unknown place.

This was the second biggest abduction in the past five weeks after unknown gunmen abducted 31 passengers from Shah Joy district of Zabul when they were traveling on Kabul-Kandahar highway.

Despite many efforts by the elders and a military operation in Zabul, the fate of 31 abductees is still unknown.

The sit-in protest before the Parliament is still underway by the civil society groups, demanding the government for the safe release of the abductees.

TAWDE KHABARE: 7 Months of NUG And It's Commitment To Eliminate Corruption

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 09:40

President Ashraf Ghani had said that Afghanistan was among the most corrupt countries on the planet, calling it a "national shame" which can't be tolerated.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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He emphasized that he would remove this tragedy during his presidency.

But the questions is that what has the unity government done during its past seven months to eliminate corruption?

Will the government be able to remove this phenomenon?

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

• Qazi Hassan Haqyar, political analyst
• Kabul Khan Tadbirzurmati, military analyst
• Hassan Mubarak Azizi, political analyst
• Yousuf Aminzazai, civil society activist

KANKASH:‎ Do We Really Need to Apologize to Taliban?

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 08:48

President Ashraf Ghani has said during his visit to Washington that in order to heal the national wound, it was necessary to apologize to the Taliban as some members of the group suffered torture and ill-treatment and their grievances are legitimate.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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Topics of discussion:

"Do we really need to apologize to the Taliban? Are their grievances legitimate?
Why the peace talks with the Taliban, which were expected to begin in early March, have not started yet?

In this episode of Kankash, host Omid Farooq discusses the topic with the following guests:

• Shah Hussian Murtazawi, journalist
• Abdul Wodoud Payman, MP
• Fatana Gailani, Head of Afghanistan Women Council

Gen. Zahir Talks of Conspiracy To Release Farkhunda’s Killers

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 07:45

Criminal Investigation Department (CID) chief Gen. Zahir Zahir reveals a number of groups are trying to release the suspects held on the charges of killing Farkhunda.

He announced Saturday that the interior ministry has dispatched the cases of 44 suspects involved in killing and burning of 27-year-old woman to the Attorney General's Office (AGO).

He added that 27 of the suspects were civilians and 17 others were police.

"Today we completed Farkhunda's case and sent it to the Attorney General's Office," Gen. Zahir said. "The case includes all the documents and evidences about the suspects."

Expressing concerns about groups trying to get acquaintance for the suspects, Gen. Zahir assured that he would not let such a thing happen.

"I assure you that I will personally follow the case, and in case of any interference into the case, I will let the president know about it," Gen. Zahir said.

The AGO officials, meanwhile, urge that they would transparently and fairly investigate the case.

"Today we received the case of Farkhunda's death. I assure you that our attorneys will investigate the case transparently," AGO spokesman Basir Azizi told a press conference on Saturday.

Farkhunda was beaten to death, burnt and thrown into muddy Kabul River by a mob last week over alleged burning of Holy Quran, an accusation strongly rejected by the security agencies and the investigation teams as baseless.

Her brutal killing sparked countrywide protests, demanding ultimate penalty for the perpetrators.

12 More Insurgents Killed in Zulfiqar Operation

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 07:13

At least 12 insurgents including their commander were killed in an Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) operation going on in the southern Helmand province, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said in a statement on Saturday.

One insurgent was injured and five others were arrested during the operation, it added.

The latest action against insurgents was part of Zulfiqar operation which was launched about two months ago in Helmand, the statement said, adding the security forces have also seized a quantity of weapons.

The MoD, however, did not comment about possible casualties to the ANSF.

Saudi Pounds Yemen Rebel Camps, Arab Allies Gather

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 06:50

Saudi-led coalition warplanes bombed rebel camps in Yemen for a second day, as President Barack Obama said the United States shared a "collective goal" with its regional ally to see stability in the war-torn state.

Obama offered support to Saudi ruler King Salman in a phone conversation as it emerged the US military had rescued two Saudi pilots forced to eject from their fighter jet in the region on Thursday.

A months-long rebellion by Shiite fighters in Yemen has escalated into a regional conflict that threatens to tear apart the impoverished state at the southern tip of the Arabian Peninsula.

Sunni-ruled Saudi Arabia has vowed to do "whatever it takes" to prevent the fall of embattled President Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi, accusing Shiite Iran of "aggression" and backing the Huthi rebels' power grab.

Amid the air raids and scattered fighting, a call for a ceasefire was issued by former president Ali Abdullah Saleh, suspected of being allied with the rebels.

At least 39 civilians have been killed in Saudi-led Operation Decisive Storm against the Huthis and their allies, officials at the rebel-controlled health ministry in Sanaa said.

Twelve died when residential areas were hit in a raid on a military base north of the capital, the officials told AFP.

Strikes hit the rebel-held presidential compound in south Sanaa, as well as various military sites outside the capital including rocket launchers at the airport, witnesses said.

Warplanes also bombed a Huthi-controlled army brigade in Amran province north of Sanaa, and arms depots in the northern rebel stronghold of Saada, residents said.

And an army unit loyal to Saleh, along with Shiite militiamen, captured two villages in Abyan province, near the main southern city of Aden, where Hadi took refuge after fleeing Sanaa last month, military sources said.

The rebels have also clashed with Sunni tribes as they push south.

At least 21 were killed Friday when tribesmen ambushed their vehicles north of Aden, a local official said.

- Arab League summit -

Hadi, backed by the West and Gulf Arab states, flew to Egypt for a weekend Arab League summit set to be dominated by Yemen.

He travelled from Riyadh after making his way from Aden as the rebels advanced on the city.

Saudi Arabia says more than 10 countries have joined the anti-Huthi coalition.

Reports said Saudi Arabia has deployed 100 warplanes, with another 67 coming from the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar and Bahrain.

Saudi Arabia has reportedly also mobilised 150,000 troops near the border.

The coalition said all members had contributed to the operation, with UAE warplanes "intensively" participating in the strikes.

The coalition now completely dominates Yemen's airspace, and aircraft seized by the Huthis have been destroyed, spokesman General Ahmed Assiri said in Riyadh.

Iran has reacted furiously to the air strikes, calling them a violation of Yemen's sovereignty.

"Any military action against an independent country is wrong and will only result in a deepening crisis and more deaths among innocents," Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.

The conflict has raised a major hurdle to Washington's longstanding drone war against Al-Qaeda militants who have exploited the power vacuum since Saleh's downfall in 2012.

- Obama support -

The White House said Obama had offered US support to King Salman during a call with the Saudi ruler, saying the United States shared a "collective goal" with the kingdom to see stability in Yemen.

"The president reaffirmed the strong friendship between the United States and Saudi Arabia and emphasised the United States' support for the action taken by Saudi Arabia, Gulf Cooperation Council members, and others in response to President Hadi's request and in support of the legitimate government of Yemen," said National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan.

King Salman, meanwhile, thanked the US for rescuing two Saudi pilots who ejected off Yemen's coast in international waters.

Washington has pledged logistical and intelligence support for the Saudi-led campaign.

The Islamic State (IS) group, which has seized vast tracts of territory in Syria and Iraq, is also vying with Yemen-based Al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Some observers warn that the Saudi strikes risk feeding instability and extremism.

"I think the net effect of this operation is ultimately dangerous for Yemen's future path," said Frederic Wehrey, at the US-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

"It will open up more fissures on the ground, perhaps bolster the Huthis' popular support as defenders of Yemeni sovereignty, and create more opportunities for AQAP and IS to flourish."

Hassan Nasrallah, chief of Lebanon's pro-Iran movement Hezbollah, said in a speech that Saudi Arabia will be roundly defeated and called for a political settlement.

"Otherwise, defeat and shame will meet the invaders," he warned.

Purso Pal: Exclusive Interview with Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 06:04

In this episode of Purso Pal, host Muslim Sherzad interviews Faiz Mohammd Osmani, the Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs.

To watch the entire interview, click here:

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Farkhunda's Murder: A National Tragedy

TOLO News - Sat, 03/28/2015 - 05:23


Farkhunda Malikzada was brutally murdered by a mob in Kabul on Thursday March 19th in a crowded part of town, only miles away from the district police and the Presidential Palace.

The 27-year-old was accused of burning the Quran, after which she was beaten and tortured to death and put on fire by nearly a thousand angry men. The crime was fully documented with cellphones and was shared on social media within hours.

Reactions

Within hours of the attack, social media was overwhelmed with mixed responses. Some people expressed strong disagreements, shocked to see that this time the perpetrators weren't part of IS or the Taliban, but rather young men living, studying, and working in the city. Meanwhile, others, including few well-known—now notorious— public figures, expressed their sympathy with the mob for 'defending the country and religion's honor.'

The incident caused national outrage and condemnation only after it was confirmed that Farkhunda was wrongly accused and was indeed a conservative, religious woman herself. This has left room for implications that 'mob justice' would be tolerable had she been guilty of blasphemy or burning the Quran.

The Question of Responsibility

When a large group of people commit a collective crime, the question of responsibility becomes blurry and complicated. Does the responsibility lie with the main perpetrators only? If not, then whom else and to what extent? The Mullah who wrongfully accused Farkhunda? The people who physically took part in the murder? The people who watched, cheered, and took pictures? The police? What about the public figures who expressed sympathy— creating and altering public mindsets?

And what about the little children smiling as Farkhunda's dead body burned in fire? Who is responsible for exposing them to such violence? Who is responsible for the violence they will most likely commit when they grow up?

The police has arrested 19 of the main perpetrators thus far. However, considering the nature of the case, evidently there are many others who now roam freely among us. The police and the justice system are up for a challenge: to arrest and prosecute every single person who has been involved so that no such incident occurs in the future. How? We shall see.

The Gender Element

Would there be severe reactions had a man allegedly burned the Quran? Absolutely. Would he be treated the same way Farkhunda was? Absolutely not.

Misogyny was a big part of the way Farkhunda was killed. The men's immediate and intense attention to the man who accused Farkhunda, while ignoring her side of the story clearly show the power dynamics that played into the murder.

Additionally, the incident became an opportunity for the men to take out years of hatred, repressed anger and frustration by groping Farkhunda's wounded body, pushing her, and torturing her, with signs of pride and excitement visible on their faces.

The mob attack was a case of violence and brutality against humanity, but particularly, a case of violence against women. Hence, it has caused fear and outrage among women who are overwhelmed with fears and what-ifs, as they chant "we are all Farkhunda" and "we want security for women" slogans in the protests the past couple of days.

The Protest

The civil society arranged a protest in front of the Supreme Court in Kabul on Tuesday to condemn the horrific murder and demand that justice be served. Despite heavy rain, nearly 2,000 people showed up, making for a proud moment for Kabul and showing that last Thursday's barbarism doesn't represent the city.

That said, there were issues that created disappointment and rage among many female protesters. To begin with, some men had taken the front row (earlier pushing women to make their way up front) so they could pose in front of the media. Meanwhile, the media would stop the protesters in the front row every few minutes to direct them as to how they should pose for pictures. Moreover, an extremely disturbing selfie mania, the narcissistic tradition of our generation, found its way among the crowd. Pictures with the signs. Pictures with the crowd. Tweet. Tweet. Tweet. It all became about "me, myself, and I."

There was one young man in particular who would jump among the crowd (so that the cameras could capture how much he cared) while screaming Adaalat, Adaalat (Justice, Justice) as though it was a song, with a disturbing smile on his face.

The protest was a time for collective mourning, for collective justice-seeking. But unfortunately, in more than few occasions, it seemed like a calculated showcase with competition over the spotlight. Such self-centered attitudes can cause disinterest among the public, create a negative image of well-intentioned civil acts, as well as allow extremists and their sympathizers opportunities to use the situation to their benefit.

Where Do We Go From Here?

The government as well as non-governmental organizations should focus systematic, strategic attention to mental health, education reform, awareness-building at the grass-roots level, creation of job opportunities, focus on legal reform and implementation, and most importantly nation-wide campaigns to teach the youth respect and tolerance.

Additionally, it is important that Farkunda is not forgotten. Her story should not be lost in the nation's selective memory; it should be remembered as a national tragedy, as a taint on the national honor. Only then can we ensure that no such tragedy happens again.

TOLOnews 6pm News 27 March 2015

TOLO News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 15:31

Top news in this Bulletin:

Leaders of the national unity government are expected to introduce the remaining 16 cabinet nominees to Parliament next week after repeated delays, Second Deputy Muhammad Nazeer Ahmadzai said on Friday. The news that President Ghani or one of his Vice Presidents would likely present the nominees to Parliament next Wednesday comes after officials had suggested the nominees would be introduced earlier in the week. Reportedly the assembly of documents for Parliament's evaluation was cause for the most recent delay. Lawmakers aren't expected to receive the review materials until Saturday.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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 The Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has warned that as long as the electoral system has not been reformed, the government would not hold any election.In an interview with the Voice of America, President Ashraf Ghani's partner in the unity government noted that electoral reform was the only option to prevent fraud in the elections.

Chinese Foreign Policy Comes of Age

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 15:30
With some diplomatic heavy-lifting, Beijing is finally easing into its role as a great power.

No Election Unless System Reformed: Abdullah

TOLO News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 13:41

The Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has warned that as long as the electoral system has not been reformed, the government would not hold any election.

In an interview with the Voice of America, President Ashraf Ghani's partner in the unity government noted that electoral reform was the only option to prevent fraud in the elections.

Pointing to the delay of upcoming Parliamentary and distrcit council elections, Abdullah cleared that no election would be held until profound reforms are not brought to the system.

"As long as the electoral system is not reformed, the elections will not be held," Abdullah said, calling it a strong commitment. "The special reform commission has been just formed and they will soon start their work. But there is no alternative to it. Afghanistan's next elections should lead the country towards stability, and real representatives of the people should make their way to the Parliament and district councils."

Pointing to the elements trying to bring down the unity government, Abdullah emphasized that those elements would be disappointed as the Afghan forces with the continued support of its strong allies like NATO would suppress the insurgents.

"The continued presence of U.S. forces helps the Afghan forces in conducting the operations. As the U.S. bases will remain open in Kandahar and Jalalabad, they will continue to their training, advising and intelligence support to the Afghan forces."

In addition, Abdullah hoped that Afghanistan would become a self-reliant country in terms of security and economy until next ten years.

His statements come as both the unity government leaders, Ghani and Abdullah, were in the United States for five days where President Barack Obama announced no American soldier would leave Afghanistan until the end of 2015.

In this visit, the U.S. also pledged to keep funding all 352,000 Afghan forces until the end of 2017, and provide an aid of $800 million USD for the unity government's reform agenda.

John Boehner: Obama's Troop Level Decision "Arbitrary Political Deadlines"

TOLO News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 12:56

The U.S. House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner called President Barack Obama's decision on troops' level in Afghanistan "arbitrary political deadlines," and urged for the protection of hard-won gains in the war-torn country.

After the complete transfer of security responsibilities from US-led NATO troops to the Afghan forces in 2014, Obama announced to withdraw all the American forces by the end of year 2016.

However, after a meeting with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah in the White House on Tuesday, Obama announced to keep 9,800 troops until the end of 2015, which he earlier planned to decrease to 5,600.

But the U.S. House Speaker Boehner has said that the congress would review Obama's proposed U.S. troop level in Afghanistan.

"Arbitrary political deadlines should never be put ahead of ensuring success that we have worked so hard to achieve," Boehner said. "We will review it closely, specifically President Obama's troop level announcement for the remainder of 2015."

Welcoming Ghani's address to the congress, Boehner called the Afghan leader's message "powerful."

"I had an honor to have President Ghani from Afghanistan here in the congress this week. His message of peace and his tributes to the service and sacrifice of our brave Americans was powerful," he said.

Meanwhile, the NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg has supported Obama's decision on slowing the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

"I welcome President Obama's decision to extend the period where US forces will remain close to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan," Stoltenberg told reporters.
He noted that the decision was a sign of strong commitment of the United States and NATO to Afghanistan.

The US-Afghan relations, which were notably strained during former president Hamid Karzai's government, have now been significantly improved since the formation of Afghan unity government which in its very first step signed the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with Washington‎.

The relations further improved after Ghani and Abdullah visited Washington where the United States made several pledges including the funding of total Afghan forces until 2017 and an aid of $800 million to the reform agenda of unity government.

Ghani Discusses Taliban Threat, Afghan Development in New York

TOLO News - Fri, 03/27/2015 - 12:43

Delivering a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations in New York on Thursday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani outlined the frontline issues and challenges currently facing the country. He said that following the presidential elections the Taliban tried to collapse the new government, as has happened in countries like Yemen, but the Afghan security forces were able to thwart the Taliban's attempts.

Drawing in references to the crisis in Syria, Iraq and Yemen, President Ghani stressed that the worsening situations such countries has had a ripple effects in Afghanistan. He went on to point out his hopes and plans for a prosperous Afghanistan, but acknowledge his frustrations with extremist activities in Afghanistan.

"Afghanistan's problems are not confined within the geography of Afghanistan. We are dealing with a changed ecology of terrorism...," Ghani said. "Without understanding terrorism as a system where both symbiotic and competitive relationships take place, we are not going to understand the full dimensions of security. The state system is a chain. When links are severed and when several links break simultaneously, the risk to the rest of the system increases, so we are faced with new threats because of the collapse of Syria, because of the collapse of Iraq, the collapse of Yemen. This needs to be appreciated."

Referring to the Taliban, Ghani said touted the national unity government's survival in its early, fragile months as proof of it's ability to defy and withstand the insurgents ambitions.

"And then, of course, there's the phenomena of the Taliban as a distinctive ideological phenomenon but simultaneously a socio-economic one," he began.

"In this environment, what I'm proud to say is at the beginning, when authority was transferred to me, the attempt [by the Taliban] was to collapse the state like in Yemen, or like Syria, or others. But in the last six months, we've gone from a defensive position to an offensive position. Today, an unprecedented movement by the Afghan army is taking place in the Helmand province and a number of related areas."

Ghani's confidence was nonetheless tempered by a sober recognition that the near-term for Afghanistan would An uphill battle. "But, the net result conclusion, is that 2015 is going to be a very difficult security year. We had no break during the winter. We have demonstrated our capability and will, but we are going to be tested," he said.

Looking beyond security, and beyond just Afghanistan's borders, Ghani spoke about his vision for Central Asia. "Now, in the next 25 years, Asia is going to become the largest continental economy," he asserted. "What happened in the United States in 1869 when the continental railroads were integrated is very likely to happen in Asia in the next 25 years."

The national unity government has blazed forward with a number of economic projects in its first months in office, despite facing budget shortfalls and declining development aid rates. "Without Afghanistan, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia and West Asia will not be connected, so that is our first advantage. Our goal is to become a transit country -- for transport, for power transmission, for gas pipelines, for fiber-optics. It's a network approach to the economy, because this will create massive jobs and opportunities," he said, while acknowledging the country's current infrastructural constraints.

Brining both his global security and regional economic remarks together, Ghani expressed hope for the US-Iranian nuclear talks. He said the lifting of sanctions on Iran could open up new opportunities for development in Afghanistan.

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