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Taliban Confirm Death of Mullah Omar and Weigh Successor

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - 13 hours 21 min ago
The insurgent group is mulling its future after the death of its leader and deciding whether to keep trying to engage in talks with the Afghan government.

Gen. Campbell Meets Sayyaf Over Afghanistan's Situation

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 16:33

The Resolute Support Mission (RSM) commander, General John Campbell, has reportedly met with a former Jihadi commander, Abdul Rab Rassoul Sayyaf, over the security situation of Afghanistan.

Gen. Campbell is seen meeting with Sayyaf in pictures posted on a Facebook page attributed to Sayyaf, the former warlord.

In addition, a source - who attended the meeting - told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity that Gen. Campbell asked Sayyaf at the meeting to increase his cooperation with the National Unity Government (NUG).

According to the source, the foreign troops' commander believes Afghanistan's current situation is unsatisfactory; therefore, he wants influential figures to cooperate with the NUG – which took power last year in September.

Sources close to Sayyaf confirmed the meeting. But RSM has not yet commented in this respect.

Meanwhile, reports stated that former President Hamid Karzai – who was recently accused of trying to derail the government – also met with Sayyaf during Eid Days.

Sayyaf was a former Jihadi commander who was well known for fighting the Soviet troops in Afghanistan.

TOLOnews 6pm News 30 July 2015

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 16:07

Top news in this Bulletin:

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday afternoon that the much-awaited second round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban has been postponed. The talks were due to take place tomorrow, Friday. In a statement issued by the ministry, Pakistan said: "In view of the reports regarding the death of Mulla Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on 31 July 2015, is being postponed."

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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The Ministry of Defense's Operations Director General Afzal Aman said on Thursday that due to the dedication of the ministry and troops they have prevented the collapse of 41 districts in Afghanistan in the past four months. Aman, who had been speaking at a press conference in Kabul, said that Taliban insurgents had shown themselves in all parts of the country in the past few months but that they had faced defeat.

Questions Raised Over Taliban's Future

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 15:41

The confirmation of the death of the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar has raised numerous questions on the future of the group – especially on the back of media reports that his former right-hand man Mullah Akhtar Mansoor has been appointed successor.

On Wednesday, Afghan officials confirmed that Mullah Omar died two years ago in a Karachi hospital. However, some Afghan political commentators on Thursday said that Omar was designated as supreme leader by a grand council of religious scholars in Kandahar province in the early 1990s. But according to them there is no such council in Pakistan authorized to appoint Omar's successor.

Analysts also however stress that the demise of Omar can undermine the legitimacy of the Taliban war in Afghanistan among the group's members.

"When Mullah Omar was dominating in some parts of Afghanistan, he called a grand council of religious scholars from across Afghanistan where he was awarded the title of supreme leader in Kandahar province. But now such a platform doesn't exist in Pakistan, with this, the credibility and legitimacy of the so-called Islamic Emirate of Taliban is lost and this can divide the Taliban into various groups," military expert Jawed Kohistani said.

"The answer to the question on whether division among the Taliban would be in the interests of Afghanistan - or not - depends on the strategy of Pakistan in this respect. It means that the death of Mullah Mohammad Omar marks the death of the Pakistani strategy to continue using militancy as a tool," said Davud Muradian, head of Institute of Strategic Studies of Afghanistan on Thursday.

Some analysts however believe that the emergence of some new militant groups such as Daesh and the death of Mullah Omar can pave the way for some Taliban factions to be separated from the Quetta Council.

"The new generation of militants will end their allegiance with Taliban's traditional leaders. They will prefer to continue the war and get some achievements," political analyst Mohammad Natiqi said.

Analysts say that even before the death of Mullah Omar, disagreements were reported among various Taliban commanders who questioned Mullah Omar's silence. Analysts said that the issue has also raised concerns over the serious tensions between Mullah Akhtar Mansoor and Mullah Abdul Qayoum, another senior Taliban commander.

In recent weeks, rumors have however circulated that one of Omar's sons could succeed him.

Kabulis Shocked By Gas Price Hike

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 15:39

Kabul residents were frustrated by a surprise hike in liquid gas prices around the capital on Thursday. The new rate, which represents an increase of 20 Afs per Kg of gasoline, is thought to be beyond the means of average Kabulis.

Responding to the price hike, officials from the Ministry of Commerce and Industries (MoCI) have attempted to downplay its significance, saying the jump has precedent. The ministry has attributed the sudden price increase to broader trends in Afghanistan's gas market, which they say has seen decreased imports as of late.

According to Kabul residents, however, this is the first time that LPG prices have increased so drastically during the summer season. During winter months, price hikes are expected because of the higher demand in the market as well as the practical difficulties of transporting gas supplies through the country's many snow covered mountain passes. But that is not usually the case during warmer months.

"A few days back prices were around 33 Afs, but today we buy it at 50 Afs," one resident of the capital named Abdrul Rahmad said on Thursday. "We request the traders to consider the problems of the people," he added.
Some have been quick to blame the government for the price hike, suggesting it is tied to inadequate oversight and consumer protections.

Nevertheless, MoCI officials have said that the ministry is working to control the prices and curb the potential of future hikes. "Until now, the prices haven't reached a level to claim that there have been abuses," ministry spokesman Musafir Qoqandi told TOLOnews. "If there is abuse, legal action will be taken against anyone involved."

Experts have speculated that the broader market trend in Afghanistan could stem from the declining value of LPG in global markets. Reportedly many Afghan businessmen have financial loses tied to the shifting LPG market, and have resorted to practices that are potentially detrimental for the broader consumer market in order to recuperate.

ERC Meets With Experts, Stakeholders For Guidance on Reform

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 15:38

The newly established Electoral Reform Commission (ERC) kicked off its reform agenda this week by engaging members of the international community, women rights advocacy groups and other civil society institutions in hopes of culling feedback on the most pressing issues facing Afghanistan's electoral system.

Since its formation last week, the ERC has hit the ground running, seeking to make up for time lost after months of delays caused by disagreements between top national unity governmental leaders over the composition of the commission. The scheduling of Parliamentary elections is largely dependent on how and when the ERC gets reform implemented.

"The commission (ERC) is determined to take advantage of all ideas and perspectives that seem to be in the interests of Afghanistan," ERC chairman Shah Sultan Akifi said of the stakeholder meetings held this week.

Referring to the international election experts engaged by the ERC, Akifi said they have been asked to submit written recommendations. "To be honest, we need their ideas, and we do not believe that the ideas offered by foreign experts is interference - we believe that it is for the betterment of Afghanistan," he said.

Specifically, the ERC has said it hopes international experts, many of who are associated with organizations and governments that have threatened to cut off their funding of the Afghan electoral system if reforms are not pursued, will shed light on how Afghanistan can learn from other electoral regimes around the world, especially regarding electronic voting systems.

"What we expect from international experts is help understanding, in line with the electoral experiences of other countries around the world, which method is more reliable and practical in Afghanistan," ERC member Assadullah Saadati explained on Thursday. "We want them to provide us the necessary suggestions and hear their opinion on how it is possible for the ERC to incorporate electronic voting in Afghanistan to its work agenda in the long term," he added.

Thursday's meetings included a gathering with members of Afghan civil society and women's rights groups. The meeting involved discussion of a number of issues, such as providing greater awareness about the voting process to Afghan women, increasing women's participation in elections, and preventing the intimidation and defrauding of female votes.

"Electronic voting should be introduced for parliamentary elections to avoid the misuse of women's votes and to prevent riggers from filling the ballot boxes with names of women voters," civil society activist Suraya Parlika suggested.

Beyond procedural and technology-based reforms, those gathered on Thursday also pushed for personnel changes at the level of the electoral commissions, which have suffered major public image issues since the tumultuous 2014 presidential race. "We never supported members of the election commission being associated with a party," MP Raihana Azad said. "Sovereign and neutral people must be appointed to the election management bodies."

Talking about the various stakeholder meetings that have been held this week, ERC member Faizulah Zaki reiterated that the commission's top priority in the near term is starting to rebuild public trust in elections. "A variety of ideas were gathered, but the important issue is to see how we can rebuild trust among the people of Afghanistan toward elections, and, by implementing comprehensive and basic reforms, pave the way for holding free and transparent elections in order to resolve the uncertainties," he said.

The ERC plans to complete its consultations by the end of the week. It has set a deadline of one month for submitting its first round of recommendations to the government.

TOLOnews.com Recognized for Its Facebook Page Popularity

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 15:37

TOLOnews.com's Facebook page was on Thursday recognized as Afghanistan's leading social media service – as it has the highest number of followers of any Afghan page.

NAI – a non-government agency supporting open media in Afghanistan – honored TOLOnews.com with a certificate of appreciation to mark its recent milestone in reaching one million "Likes" earlier this year.

One of TOLOnews' web editors, Faridullah Hussainkhail, was presented with the certificate on behalf of the department during an event to mark Social Media Week – which was held under the theme - "Difference of opinions in social media does not meant enmity".

The purpose of observing the event was in acknowledgment of social media and the promoting of the culture of using social networks in a good manner, said NAI officials.

"Social media must be introduced to the people of Afghanistan and we must make a specific culture in this regard," NAI director Mujeeb Khelwatgar said.

This came only days after the officials at the Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) announced plans to include a new chapter on social media in the mass media law.

NAI officials however said all media outlets would be consulted on including social media into media law.

"Today more than one million one hundred thousand people have liked TOLOnews' Facebook page, which is awesome, not only in Afghanistan but in the region," Khelwatgar added.

Social media has been observed since 2011 to promote the proper use of fast-growing social networks.

MoD Prevents Collapse of 41 Districts in Past Four Months

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 13:39

The Ministry of Defense's Operations Director General Afzal Aman said on Thursday that due to the dedication of the ministry and troops they have prevented the collapse of 41 districts in Afghanistan in the past four months.

Aman, who had been speaking at a press conference in Kabul, said that Taliban insurgents had shown themselves in all parts of the country in the past few months but that they had faced defeat.

The director general said that the collapse of many districts to the Taliban was a tactical retreat and that military advancement, clear operations and other issues are what's important.

Aman said that only district governor buildings in Dasht-e-Arche district of Kunduz, Almar in Faryab, Kohistanat in Sare-Pul and Nawzad in Helmand provinces collapsed to the Taliban. However, this did not mean the entire district collapsed to the Taliban.

He also spoke of planned programs for the next year regarding armed opposition groups and he emphasized that the ANA forces have conducted offensive operations against the insurgents and even foiled insurgent plans for the construction of military facilities in a number of provinces.

During the past four months operations by Afghan forces across the country has resulted in the deaths of hundreds of insurgents. In addition, over 700 were captured by government forces.

"During the past four months the ANA forces - with the cooperation of people - have rebuffed hundreds of insurgent attacks. We have rescued 41 districts from collapse which was the main target of the enemy, and as you are all aware that security forces had a bloody battle with enemies of Afghanistan in Badakhshan, Kunduz, Sare-Pul, Baghlan, Faryab, Ghor, Badghis, and several battles in Helmand and Kandahar provinces," MoD Operations Director General Afzal Aman told reporters.

"We have conducted more than 565 planned operations, clearing operations, special operations, commando operations and independent night operations," Aman told reporters.

Peace Talks Postponed at Taliban's Request: Pakistan

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 13:11

Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Thursday afternoon that the much-awaited second round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban has been postponed. The talks were due to take place tomorrow, Friday.

In a statement issued by the ministry, Pakistan said: "In view of the reports regarding the death of Mulla Omar and the resulting uncertainty, and at the request of the Afghan Taliban leadership, the second round of the Afghan peace talks, which was scheduled to be held in Pakistan on 31 July 2015, is being postponed."

The statement went on to say that "Pakistan and other friendly countries of Afghanistan hope that the Taliban leadership will stay engaged in the process of peace talks in order to promote a lasting peace in Afghanistan."

"It is further hoped that those forces, which due to their malafide intent wanted to undermine the peace talks, will not succeed in their designs," read the statement.

This announcement comes only hours after Pakistan media reports stated that Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour - Mullah Omar's close aide – has been appointed as the new Taliban leader.

The new Taliban chief, Mansour, previously served as the second-in-command of the movement.

According to Pakistan media, the Afghan Taliban Shura (Executives Council) appointed Mansour after the Afghan government confirmed Wednesday that Omar had died two years ago in a Karachi hospital.

Meanwhile, former chief and the movement's founder, Mullah Omar led the militant group to victory over competing Afghan militias in the 1990's after the withdrawal of Soviet troops.

The Taliban government was ousted after the US-led forces invaded Afghanistan in 2001.

On Wednesday, a spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghanistan's intelligence agency officials claimed that the reclusive former Taliban chief died two years ago at a hospital in Pakistan.

GOFTMAN: Discussing the Issue of a Public Uprising

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:57

In this episode of GOFTMAN host Haris Jamalzad discusses the recent call for a public uprising to get local police and the people to stand up to insurgents. In addition the program looks at the concerns raised over such a move. Guests include:

Siddiq Siddiqi, spokesman for the MoI
Fahim Dashti, political analyst
Mohammad Azim Muhssini, MP
Shah Hussain Murtazawi, journalist

To watch the program, click here:

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FARAKHABAR: Afghan Officials Confirm Death of Mullah Omar

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 11:50

President Ashraf Ghani's office on Wednesday confirmed the Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar is dead.

Apparently the confirmation came from Pakistan.

In this episode of Farakhabar, host Yama Siavash discusses the topic with the following guests,

Dawood Kalakani, MP
Ahmad Sayedi, political analyst

To watch the program, click here:

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TAWDE KHABARE: Mullah Omar Dead

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 10:59

Sources in the government said that Mullah Omar, the Taliban, leader died in April 2013 in Pakistan.

The confirmation of his death was reportedly provided by Pakistan government to Afghan government.

Taliban has yet to issue a statement.

The news comes on the eve of the second round of peace talks due to be held in Pakistan.

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakhtiar discusses the issue with the following guests:

Obaidullah Barakzai, MP

Mohammad Younos Fakor, political analyst

Fiz Mohammad Zaland, university lecturer

To watch the program, click here:

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Nangarhar Drone Strike Kills 20 Suspected Daesh Militants

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 08:58

More than 20 suspected Daesh militants were killed in two separate foreign troops drone strikes in eastern Nangarhar province on Wednesday evening, local officials said on Thursday.

The incident took place in Haroon Baba area of Haska Mina district of the province after two separate drones targeted them while they were travelling to another part of the district, a spokesman for Nangarhar Governor Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said.

There were no civilian casualties in the strike, said Abdulzai.

However, he did not provide details about the identity of the insurgents.

Haska Mina district is a known insecure area in which insurgents have activities and frequently attack the local security forces.

Foreign troop drone strikes have increased markedly in the eastern parts of the country recently. Just last week at least five insurgents were killed in a foreign troops drone strike in the same province.

The incident took place in Lalpoor district when a foreign troops drone targeted them, a spokesman for Nangarhar Police Chief, Hazrat Hussian Mashriqiwal said.

Lalpoor district is a known insecure area in which insurgents have activities and frequently attack the local security forces.

10 Kunduz Villages Cleared of Taliban

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 07:05

At least 10 villages in the Aqtash area of Khanabad district in Kunduz province have been cleared of Taliban, officials said Thursday.

Kunduz police chief Abdul Saboor Nasrati, said that troops on Wednesday started clearing out the insurgents in Basos and Kuhna Qala in Aqtash. He said in total ten villages had been cleared of Taliban.

During the clearing operation 10 Taliban were killed and five others were wounded, Nasrati said.

The clearing operation is still on going, Nasrati added.

This comes after Taliban insurgents reportedly seized control of as many as 80 villages on Monday night in northern Kunduz province, officials said.

Afghan security officials believe however that the war increased in the north and east of the country after insurgent groups came over the border from Waziristan in Pakistan.

Concerns have however been raised over why Afghanistan did nothing to prevent the problem after Pakistan military forces launched an operation to clear insurgents from Waziristan.

Mullah Omar Death Reports Credible: White House

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 06:46

White House deputy press secretary Eric Schultz said on Wednesday that despite them not being able to confirm the death of the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar, his administration believes the reports are "credible".

According to Schultz, United States intelligence agencies are investigating the claims and looking for details.

However, Afghan officials on Wednesday confirmed Mullah Omar's death and said he died in 2013 in a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan.

"The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, based on credible information, confirms that Mullah Mohammad Omar, leader of the Taliban died in April 2013 in Pakistan," President Ashraf Ghani's office said in a statement.

The Taliban have not yet commented on the reports but are expected to send a statement soon to the media.

Meanwhile, former head of counter-terrorism for Britain's MI6, Richard Barrett, said that news of the death of Mullah Omar will increase the possibility of divisions within the Taliban.

According to Barrett, Taliban leader Mullah Omar kept the group united and that in his absence there were fears of a split – especially among the higher ranking leaders, he said.

Mullah Omar, who was Afghanistan's 11th head of state from 1996 to late 2001, was believed to have been living in Quetta and Karachi cities in Pakistan.

Based on Pakistani media reports, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour, a close aide of Mullah Omar, is planning to take over as leader.

Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Taliban's military commander, is however reported to be opposing Mansour's move.

Meanwhile, some Pakistani media reports suggest that Omar's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, is himself hoping to succeed his father – a decision that many other senior leaders of Taliban have reportedly opposed. Yaqoub is said to have graduated from a Madrasa in the port city of Karachi.

Mullah Omar has been wanted by the United States Department of State's Rewards for Justice program since October 2001 for sheltering Osama Bin Laden and al-Qaeda militants in the years prior to the September 11 attacks.

He is believed to have directed the Taliban insurgency against Afghanistan from Pakistan in the past 14 years.

In addition, Afghan former Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali, on Wednesday called Pakistan the main factor for peace talks not Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Speaking to the reporter in US Jalali, said that Mullah Omar's presence was not a factor for talks, but the main factor is Pakistan that has brought changes in its approach.

Mr. Jalali said that the United States can play a prominence role in the Afghan peace process.

Meanwhile former United States ambassador in Afghanistan Zalmai Khalilzad, believes that man who can successor Mullah Mohammad Omar and can reach a peace agreement with Afghan government and get Taliban's leadership is not exist.

According to Khalilzad, with the death of Mullah Omar there is possibility of three incidents: first increase of violence and extremist, second Taliban's division and the third appointment of moderate Taliban leader.

Afghanistan Says Mullah Omar, Taliban Leader, Died in 2013

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 05:00
Speculation had increased in recent months that the Taliban’s reclusive leader had died in secret, leading some insurgent commanders to break away.

Nawzad District of Helmand Collapses to the Taliban

TOLO News - Thu, 07/30/2015 - 03:43

Nawzad district of Helmand province collapsed into the hands of the Taliban on Wednesday, officials confirmed.

According to local officials in Nawzad district, intense fighting has been reported over the past two days between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters. Eventually on Wednesday afternoon the district collapsed to the Taliban.

A number of Senate House members also confirmed the collapse of Nawzad district.

"Over the past two days clashes in Nawzad district (have resulted in) nine policemen and seven ANA soldiers being killed and the whole district collapsed to the hands of Taliban," said Mohammad Hashim Alkozai a senator.

Last year a number of residents and local officials of Nawzad district of southern Helmand province raised concerns over the possibility of the district's collapse and takeover by the Taliban.

They stress that if the government does not deploy additional troops to the district, the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) will lose the control.

Reports indicate that the infrastructure in the district has not developed much in the past 13 years and many residents are unemployed and live in poverty.

"We don't have security. We face danger every day when we leave our houses," Lal Gul one of the district residents said.

In addition, Taliban insurgents have seized control of Kohistanat district in Sar-e-Pul province and several villages in Kunduz province over the past few days, local officials said.

Ministry of Defense, Dawlat Waziri said that more troops will deployed to the north of Afghanistan and a large scale military operation will be launched.

Waziri said that the collapse of districts should not create panic among the people.

Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents reportedly also seized control of as many as 80 villages on Monday night in northern Kunduz province, officials said.

Afghan security officials believe however that the war increased in the north and east of the country after insurgent groups came over the border from Waziristan in Pakistan.

Concerns have however been raised over why Afghanistan did nothing to prevent the problem after Pakistan military forces launched an operation to clear insurgents from Waziristan.

Afghanistan’s Olympic Bocce Dreams

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 20:04
Said Samiullah represented his country memorably at this year’s Special Olympics in Los Angeles.

TOLOnews 6pm News 29 July 2015

TOLO News - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 17:29

Top news in this Bulletin:

Afghan doctors at Sardar Mohammad Dawoud Khan Hospital in Kabul have conducted a series of successful operations on a congenitally disabled boy that have made it possible for him to walk, eat and play - things he was previously unable to do.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

{youtube}h2YaniZ0dyU{/youtube}

Officials at Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Wednesday criticized the Kabul government for failing to take action to amend the country's access to information legislation in such a way that would enhance access among those who still lack it, especially women.

IWA Calls for Reform in Access to Information

TOLO News - Wed, 07/29/2015 - 17:19

Officials at Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA) on Wednesday criticized the Kabul government for failing to take action to amend the country's access to information legislation in such a way that would enhance access among those who still lack it, especially women.

IWA officials emphasized that amending the law could open the way for higher literacy rates among Afghan women.

But activists say they have sent civil society, media and international expert-based proposals for reforms to the access to information law and the government has stalled on responding for months.

"We, in agreement with each other, sent a proposal to the president of Afghanistan to bring amendments in to the access to information law so that all people of Afghanistan have equal access to it," IWA representative Habib Muqbel said on Wednesday.

The pervasive lack of awareness and sensitivity when it comes to women's issues in Afghanistan is one of the key reasons activists believe Afghan women should have more of a stake in the access to information law.

"Inadequate access to information is why more than 70 percent of people, especially women, remain deprived of literacy in the country," IWA member Sami Popalzai said.

The IWA has called on the national unity government and Parliament, which is currently on summer recess, to immediate action and amend the access to information law as soon as possible.

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