Aggregated News about Afghanistan

Explosions Rock Kabul City Late Tuesday Night

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 20:54

Heavy explosions rocked Kabul city late Tuesday night in the Wazir Akbar Khan area with reports of more than 20 explosions being heard.

After a three-hour standoff between security forces and an unknown number of insurgents the Crisis Response Unit (CRU) was brought in to help bring the situation under control.

According to a senior police source the CRU was armed with heavy artillery and high-powered night vision equipment to flush out insurgents believed to be hiding among trees in a park behind the Heetal Guest House in the diplomatic district of central Kabul.

It was however unclear what the actual target was but a fierce gunbattle ensued for hours - with hotel security also holding off the insurgents.

In addition to being heavily armed with machine guns, insurgents also reportedly used more than twenty hand grenades in the battle.

Bejhan Kohestani, the Heetal hotel manager, told TOLOnews that his security staff had successfully helped hold off the insurgents for about two hours. The hotel is home to mostly Australians.

By 02:30 there were no reports of any casualties, said officials. 

Police have the area cordoned off as they try to pinpoint the insurgents' exact locations. Early unconfirmed reports stated that about four groups of insurgents were behind the attack which started at about 23:30 local time.

TOLOnews 6pm News 26 May 2015

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 17:42

Top news in this Bulletin:

The public can rest better knowing the intelligence Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Kabul and Islamabad was not signed secretly and arbitrarily, Chief Exceutive Abdullah Abdullah's spokesman Mujeebul Rahman Rahimi said on Tuesday.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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The newly appointed British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karen Pierce, assured on Tuesday that the international community has not completely ended financial aid to Afghan electoral institutions, rather just suspended it. As soon as reforms are brought to the country's electoral system, the aid is expected to resume.

British Ambassador Says Aid Will Be Held Until Electoral Reform Realized

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 16:41

The newly appointed British Ambassador to Afghanistan, Karen Pierce, assured on Tuesday that the international community has not completely ended financial aid to Afghan electoral institutions, rather just suspended it. As soon as reforms are brought to the country's electoral system, the aid is expected to resume.

Ambassador Pierce's comments come after news that funding for elections would be cut sparked renewed outrage about the lack of progress on electoral reform. Although parliamentary elections were scheduled for this year, the national unity government's inability to reform the electoral system has caused them to be pushed back.

"I think reform is very much needed, including in elections, including on human rights," Ambassador Pierce said on Tuesday. "But Afghanistan is making progress, we had the London Conference in November of last year, where we were able to work with the Afghan government to set out a priority program for reforms and there will be various meetings throughout this year to take that forward," she added.

According to Pierce, the UK is expected to provide 178 million pound sterling in aid to Afghanistan through 2017.

The senior British diplomat also touched on the peace process, which she expressed strong support for. She said Daesh and Taliban are terrorists without the same interests and values as Afghans.

"The peace process is being led by the Afghan government, and its something that we are supporting [...] We have been following President Ghani's attempt to reach out to Pakistan and Prime Minister Nawaz's visit here was very important," Pierce said. "Regional stability is an important part of the peace process and as the UK we will be doing what can to support the two leaders as they take things forward."

Ministers Present Plans for Next 100 Days to Ghani, Afghan Public

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:42

President Ashraf Ghani announced at a press conference on Tuesday that members of his cabinet would be expected to publicly present their policy plans for the next 100 days of their tenure.

President Ghani emphasized that the open dialogue about policy priorities for each of the cabinet members is an attempt to narrow the gap between Afghanistan's general public and its leaders.

"The ministries should bring reforms in order to be credible," Ghani said. The president said he hoped the 100-day plan would present the public a much needed opportunity to assess the success or failures of ministerial leaders fully informed and independently.

"If we performed well then add to our score, and if our performance was not beneficial then minus our score, so that we can learn from it," Ghani said.

Kicking things off, at the press conference, Minister of Hajj and Religious Affairs Faiz Mohammad Osmani discussed his plans for his first 100 days in office.

"Firstly, I will serve religious scholars and mosques; secondly, the national process of the Hajj; thirdly, guidance and faith-building," Osmani said. "The fourth part is religious and the fifth part is administrative reforms," he added.

Minister Osmani acknowledged that the public demands swiftness of action more than anything, after months of delays on pretty much all fronts, including the nomination of the new cabinet, tested their patience.

Afghani Bank Notes Wearing Out Prematurely

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:28

Carelessness and misuse are said to be the causes of over 193 million AFN worth of paper money deteriorating prematurely, officials from the Afghan Central Bank said on Tuesday. The Central Bank is now expected to foot the bill to replenish the market with new bank notes.

According to officials, Afghani bank notes are expected to have a shelf-life of three years. However, the reality appears to be that a large amount of newly minted bills wear-out as quickly as six months.

"Proper use of bank notes can result in them lasting for as long as six years, but there are also people who don't use the bank notes properly and this causes a majority of the notes to wear-out early," Central Bank Second Deputy Muhammad Eisa Turab said.

University professor Akbar Ahmadi explained that replacing the prematurely worn-out bills is costly. "Because the money is printed outside Afghanistan, and it costs us, it must be used properly," Ahmadi said.

Meanwhile, independent analysts have placed some of the blame on the government, which they say uses low quality materials for the bank notes and does not educate the public on how to best preserve them. "The inappropriate use and low quality paper are among the main reasons for wear-out," Kabul University economics professor Taj Muhammad told TOLOnews. "The government must make people aware of the correct way to use notes in order to prevent wear-out in short periods."

While the Central Bank may be the source of the bank notes, everyday market actors are the ones who suffer the most for their deterioration. "When people pay fare, the money is very old and worn out, and people are not even ready to take their change back with that money," a Kabul taxi driver named Daud told TOLOnews. "This is a major problem and notes must be protected."

NDS-ISI MoU Was 'Not Signed In Secret'

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:28

The public can rest better knowing the intelligence Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Kabul and Islamabad was not signed secretly and arbitrarily, Chief Exceutive Abdullah Abdullah's spokesman Mujeebul Rahman Rahimi said on Tuesday.

News of a cooperative agreement being signed between the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) leaked just a couple days after it was supposedly signed. However, in the wake of the revelations, pushback was stalwart, especially from Parliament, and the Afghan government was forced to back track on the issue, claiming the MoU was never finalized and would be assessed further before it became so.

Rahimi emphasized how important it was that the secret deal was exposed, in turn, bringing some transparency and accountability to the process. He said he hoped the experience would serve as a notice to all those who hope to broker deals in the shadows.

"The document is being reconsidered and corrected, and those who wanted to make a secret deal have been prevented because people are aware of it and the presence of the media will not allow issues related to the nation's future to be dealt with this way," Rahimi told TOLOnews.

Chief Executive Abdullah's office is said to have been in agreement with the original draft of the MoU, but objects strongly to the changes that were brought later on. "There were items in this agreement that were against the national interests, according to the NDS, and there were also issues that the CEO had crossed out himself," Rahimi said. "The reason they were not removed is something Parliament has been informed about," he added.

The MoU is first and foremost a cooperative agreement, which outlines the terms of collaboration between the NDS and ISI on counter-terrorism and counter-insurgency in their respective territories. This, in principle, is something nearly all leaders in Afghanistan have expressed support for at one time or another. However, the rub of the agreement comes down to the potential provision of training for the Afghan forces by Pakistan as well as the sharing of information between the two spy agencies.

The National Security Council is said to be behind the agreement. But its cultural advisor, Najeebullah Manali, on Tuesday claimed the council had only been involved with the agreement at the early stages.

"If something is still a draft then how can it be a secret?" Manali asked. He went on to assure that president Ashraf Ghani's promises to have the agreement finalized through national consensus would be honored.

Concerns Increase Over High Civilian Toll

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:24

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Tuesday raised concerns over the increase in civilian casualties in suicide and terrorists attacks around the country.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) spokesman Rafiullah Bedar, told TOLOnews that the war was still having a huge effect on people in Afghanistan – especially civilians.

"Civilian casualties are always the result of wars and disputes which is a humanitarian disaster but the war has changed its shape in which parties involved in the war are fighting to gain control of territory and all these clashes brings casualties," said Rafiullah Bedar AIHRC spokesman.

Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that after being defeated by the Afghan security forces, the Taliban is now turning its attention to civilian targets.
The ministry added that now the Taliban have to admit their defeat or they will be eliminated.

"The Taliban attacks on civilians is a sign of defeat. In the past 13 years the Taliban has fought us and now they must know that they have been defeated," said Sediq Sediqqi MoI spokesman.

"Insurgency and fostering distrust among people and the government and strategic plans are the main programs of the Taliban. The people of Afghanistan are always Taliban's target," Sediqqi added.

In recent attacks in Mazar, Kabul, Zabul, Kandahar and Maidan Wardak nearly 200 people were wounded and more than 30 civilians were killed.

However, a number of Afghan military analysts blame government for the lack of planning to prevent group attacks and suicide attacks in the cities.

"For sure you can say that there are problems among the government and we can notice that in most of the cases these problems delay government functions or have even stopped the government from moving forward," said military analyst Abdul Bari Arez.

Previously international organizations have asked both parties involved in the war to not involve civilians - but still Afghanistan is one of the world's most insecure countries for civilians.

Last month United Nations Assisted Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) painted a bleak picture regarding civilian casualties when it released its first quarter report for 2015. The report showed a continuing trend of record high civilian casualties, with deaths and injuries from ground engagements in Afghanistan as the leading cause.

In the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from ground engagements rose by eight percent compared to the same period in 2014. Ground fighting between Pro-Government Forces and Anti-Government Elements caused 521 civilian casualties (136 civilians killed and 385 injured).

Between 1 January and 31 March, UNAMA documented 266 civilian casualties (62 deaths and 204 injured) from mortars and rockets, up 43 percent from the same period last year and accounting for half of civilian casualties from ground engagements, the statement read.

According to UNAMA, they documented overall 1,810 civilian casualties (655 deaths and 1,155 injured), a two per cent decrease from the same period in 2014.

The report states that the latest figures show a continued rise in women casualties with an increase of 15 percent in the same period last year.

Conflict-related violence killed 55 women and injured 117. Child casualties surpassed the unprecedented levels recorded last year with 430 child civilian casualties (123 deaths and 307 injured). In line with increased ground fighting in civilian populated areas, ground engagements remained the leading cause of women and children civilian casualties.

UNAMA said that "anti-government elements remained responsible for the largest proportion of total civilian casualties at 73 percent, with pro-government forces responsible for 14 percent and seven percent attributed to both parties. Responsibility could not be attributed for six percent of civilian casualties, caused mainly by explosive remnants of war".

Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs) remained the second leading cause of civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2015 resulting in 430 civilian casualties (155 civilian deaths and 275 injured), a 19 percent reduction from the same period last year. Of these, UNAMA recorded a six percent decrease in civilian casualties from remote-controlled IEDs (41 civilian deaths and 105 injured).

Targeted killings were the third leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries. In the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from targeted killings increased by 34 percent, with UNAMA documenting 309 civilian casualties (217 killed and 92 injured) in 192 separate incidents.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for 48 incidents of targeted killings, including deliberate killings of tribal elders, judges, prosecutors and civilian government workers.

"The United Nations calls on the Taliban to cease all attacks against persons who are not taking a direct part in hostilities," said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA. "The UN notes that direct attacks on civilians are strictly prohibited under international law which binds all parties to the conflict and may amount to war crimes."

Casualties caused by suicide attacks remained on par with 2014 levels with 268 civilian casualties (55 deaths and 213 injured).

Civilian casualties from aerial operations by international military forces declined 42 percent compared to the first quarter of 2014, with 15 civilian casualties (seven civilian deaths and eight injured) recorded from 1 January to 31 March 2015.

"With all signs pointing to increased ground conflict in the coming months, with devastating consequences for civilians, parties must act urgently on the commitments they've made to prevent harm to civilians, especially women and children," said Georgette Gagnon. "The consequences of the conflict go far beyond the horrific loss of life and injury to civilians. Conflict-related violence also devastates Afghan families through displacement, loss of livelihood, destruction of homes and other losses."

Everywhere With The Citizens

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:16

TOLOnews brings you an exciting series of the role of Afghans in society.

Tune in every Monday and Thursday at 7.30 pm between now and June 25, 2015.

The following program is the first in the series and was screened on Monday May 26.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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MoI Denies Arming People, But 'Supports' Uprising

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 15:06

The Ministry of Interior on Tuesday said that civilians will be not be given arms but that the ministry will support people rising up against anti-government armed groups. In addition, in a press conference, Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the ministry said that raising the capacity of police forces and having a strategic program for maintaining security of the country are among the priorities of the ministry.

Sediqqi emphasizes that all reported civilian uprisings are not by armed people, and in many instances, people have taken action against anti-government armed groups using resources like stones and sticks. Although the ministry has continued to deny claims of arming civilians, it does consider people uprisings as important for maintaining security.

"We have enough local police to support people uprisings in different parts of the country. We confirm that holy fight is ongoing all over Afghanistan" says Sediqqi.

The Ministry of Interior speaks of anti-government armed groups being defeated in the northern parts of the country. In addition, in order to maintain better security in the capital and to increase coordination among the security forces, a Kabul garrison has been created under the leadership of Abdul Rahman Rahman.

"The goal behind the creation of a garrison is that there is better coordination between the security forces assigned for security of the capital. Garrison has been created at a capital level for objective use of security forces," added Sediqqi.

Above all, it has been said that the Minister of Interior is busy preparing the second part of his 100 day plan for the ministry. According to this ministry, the presidential palace has called the first part of the plans of this ministry, satisfactory.

Hopes Pinned On Pakistan's Honest Cooperation Over Peace

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 13:45

Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs on Monday attended the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process Conference in Islamabad, Pakistan, and said delegates believe that peace in Afghanistan will mean peace in the region.

Consensus is that this will hopefully result in Pakistan acting honestly during the peace process. Conference delegates included Ministers of Foreign Affairs and representatives from 16 countries. Karzai represented Afghanistan at this conference.

"This conference will have a good outcome and the participants believe that peace in Afghanistan means peace in the region and that Pakistan will have honest cooperation in this matter with Afghanistan," says Karzai.

According to him, delegates forced Pakistan to support peace talks and to show honest cooperation.

"We have had talks with representatives from Iran, who have pledged their commitment to supporting peace talks in Afghanistan," says Karzai.

Delegates said that Afghanistan's security was critical to the security of the region. They warned that if insecurity in Afghanistan increases, other countries in the region will be adversely affected.

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process was launched in 2011 to bring together regional countries to promote peace and prosperity in Afghanistan through concerted efforts of participating and supporting countries as well as international and regional organisations engaged in the process.

TAWDE KHABARE: Pakistan Warns Afghan Taliban to Stop Attacks in Afghanistan

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 12:49

Pakistan has called on the Afghan Taliban to halt father military operations inside Afghanistan and to stop the summer offensive or face damaging consequences. A Pakistani official has announced that the message was conveyed to the group via mediators.

The warning is considered a change in Pakistan's Afghan policy.

In this episode of Tawde Khabare, host Shapoor Bakhtiyar discusses the topic with the following guests:

• General Gharzai Khawkhogai, military analyst
• Nadir Khan Katawazai, MP
• Abdul Jabbar Shalgarai, member of the executive board of Hizb-e-Islami

To watch the whole program, click here:

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Kunduz Governor Reports Taliban Allegiance To Daesh

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 12:37

Kunduz provincial governor Mohammad Omer Safi has said that Afghan insurgents are fighting alongside Daesh in the country's besieged northern province.

Speaking to Associated Press, Safi said that the Taliban in these areas have pledged allegiance to Daesh in an attempt to create a safe haven for insurgents being driven out of Pakistan's northern Waziristan tribal region.

Safi said that in addition to switching from hit-and-run attacks to seizing and holding territory, the Taliban have also been joined by other militants, including from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan. The IMU has longstanding ties to the Taliban and al-Qaeda, and is believed to have pledged allegiance to Daesh last year.

According to him, there are ominous signs of a growing Daesh presence in northern Afghanistan. He said fighters have raised the group's black flag in nearby villages, and that foreign fighters from Turkey, Chechnya, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan have been found among the dead.

However, a western intelligence official who spoke on condition of anonymity said the extent of any Daesh presence in northern Afghanistan remained unclear and had not yet been corroborated.

The provincial administration has meanwhile reportedly called up local militia groups and armed around 1,000 men to join front line battles and conduct patrols through areas cleared of insurgents.

Meanwhile, in a meeting on Sunday with Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, US Gen. John Campbell, Resolute Support Mission commander, said that Daesh was actively recruiting in the country, but was not yet operational in Afghanistan.

Campbell said: "It is absolutely a concern." He said the group was using a sophisticated social media campaign to attract Taliban fighters in Afghanistan and Pakistan who were disgruntled at the lack of progress they were making in overthrowing the Kabul government.

He said Daesh's presence in Afghanistan has grown considerably in the past six months.

Six Injured in Rocket Attack in Baghlan

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 12:25

At least six civilians, including two women, were injured after insurgents fired two missiles into the capital of northern Baghlan province, local officials said on Tuesday.

The attack took place on Tuesday afternoon after the insurgents fired two rockets into Pul-e-Khumri, the capital of the province, head of police media office in Baghlan, Jawid Basharat said.

"The rockets were fired from Dand-e-Ghori district of the province into Pul-e-Khumri. The police have started investigations into the attack," he said.

The victims have been taken to a nearby hospital for treatment, he added.

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

KANKASH: Pakistan Hosts Meeting of Senior Officials of Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 11:10

Pakistan hosted a meeting of senior officials for the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process in Islamabad on Monday which was jointly led by Afghanistan and Pakistan.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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Hekmat Khalil Karzai, deputy foreign minister led the Afghan delegation.

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

Qasim Orfani, professor at the Kateb University
Amin Farhang, economic analyst
Qadir Zazai, member of the international commission of the Wolesi Jirga

FARAKHABAR: Government's Secret Talks with Taliban and Pakistan's Intelligence-Service in China

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 09:11

Government officials recently held a secret meeting with the Taliban and Pakistan's Intelligence Service in China to discuss peace negotiations.

To watch the program, click here:

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The reaction comes in response to rumors that the Secretary of the High Peace Council traveled to China in order to meet three Taliban representatives and a top official from the Pakistani intelligence service (ISI). Both the national unity government and the Taliban have denied the claims.

Sources told TOLOnews that a three member government delegation, led by former HPC Secretary Masoom Stanikzai, met in China on May 20 with Mullah Abdul Razaq Akhond, who represented the Quetta Shura; former deputy minister of foreign affairs under the Taliban regime, Mullah Jalil; and the Taliban's former governor of Kandahar and an official of ISI.

But why secret talks with the Taliban and meeting with ISI in China?

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

• Asadulah Sadai, MP
• Sayed Ishaq Gailani, leader of the National Solidarity Movement of Afghanistan

Suicide Bomber and Gunmen Attack Court Building in Maidan Wardak

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 07:54

At least four unknown gunmen attacked the court building in central Maidan Wardak province early Tuesday, killing two policemen, local officials said.

The attack took place in Maidan Shahr, the capital of the province after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives near the entrance of the court, allowing three accomplices to enter the building.

However, they were shot dead by security forces inside the building, provincial police chief Khalil Andarabi said.

"Two policemen were killed in the suicide attack and three civilians were also injured," he said.

The victims were taken to a nearby hospital, he added.

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

33 Insurgents Killed in ANSF Operations Across Afghanistan

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 07:21

At least 33 insurgents have been killed and six others injured 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 Tuesday.

In addition, three others were arrested.

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

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

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

Obama Marks Memorial Day, Speaks of Afghan War

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 06:59

United States President Barack Obama on Monday laid a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during a ceremony to mark Memorial Day and spoke on Afghanistan and the U.S soldiers who lost their lives in the country.

Memorial Day is held annually when Americans honor their war dead. In his speech he said: "For 147 years, our nation has set aside this day to pay solemn tribute to patriots who gave their last full measure of devotion for this country that we love. And while the nature of war has changed over that time, the values that drive our brave men and women in uniform remain constant: Honor, courage, selflessness. Those values lived in the hearts of everyday heroes who risked everything for us in every American war -- men and women who now rest forever in these quiet fields and across our land."

He said that this year's Memorial Day was indeed a meaningful one as it was the first since the U.S's war in Afghanistan ended. "Today is the first Memorial Day in 14 years that the United States is not engaged in a major ground war. So on this day, we honor the sacrifice of the thousands of American service members -- men and women -- who gave their lives since 9/11, including more than 2,200 American patriots who made the ultimate sacrifice in Afghanistan."

In his speech he mentioned a few soldiers who were killed in Afghanistan – including the last two U.S soldiers who died in an IED attack shortly before the U.S pulled out. The two soldiers were Specialist Wyatt Martin and Sergeant First Class Ramon Morris

He said: "Several years ago we had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan. Today, fewer than 10,000 troops remain on a mission to train and assist Afghan forces. We'll continue to bring them home and reduce our forces further, down to an embassy presence by the end of next year. But Afghanistan remains a very dangerous place. And as so many families know our troops continue to risk their lives for us."

But despite the end of their combat mission, Army Corporal John Dawson became the first American service member to die under the new training mission, said Obama.

In conclusion, Obama said that the Americans who rest beneath these beautiful hills at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and in sacred ground across our country and around the world, are why their nation endures. "Each simple stone marker, arranged in perfect military precision, signifies the cost of our blessings. It is a debt we can never fully repay, but it is a debt we will never stop trying to fully repay. By remaining a nation worthy of their sacrifice. By living our own lives the way the fallen lived theirs -- a testament that "Greater love has no other than this, than to lay down your life for your friends."

Earlier this month, Obama however, renewed his promise to continue training and supporting Afghan forces to fight Daesh and al-Qaeda militants.

At a press conference in early May, announcing his selection of Gen. Joseph Dunford to succeed Gen. Martin Dempsey as the next Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman, Obama vowed to "remain relentless against al-Qaeda."

"We have to keep training Afghan forces and remain relentless against al-Qaeda. We have to push back against ISIL [Daesh] and strengthen forces in Syria and build moderate opposition in Syria," Obama vowed.

Obama said Dunford was one of the "most admired officers in our military", and someone whose decision-making he trusts.

Dunford served as the Commander of American and Coalition Forces in Afghanistan in 2013 and 2014, and now serves as the Commandant of the U.S Marine Corps.

"Under his steady hand, we've achieved key milestones, including the transition to Afghan responsibility for security, historic Afghan elections, and the drawdown of U.S forces," Obama said.

This comes after Afghan national security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar admitted in a Senate meeting shortly before Obama's announcement that Daesh was a serious threat to Afghanistan's security and stability.

According to Atmar, Daesh is trying to have more influence in Afghanistan in order to have access to drugs – which is considered one of the major financial sources of the Taliban.

"Daesh has increased its activities in Afghanistan to have access to drugs markets and finance their operations through drugs," Atmar said.

Fierce Fighting in Yemen As Peace Hopes Fade

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 05:40

Rebel forces and loyalist fighters were locked in fierce fighting in Yemen on Monday as hopes of a political solution faded after the United Nations postponed peace talks.

Clashes raged in the country's third city Taez, sowing panic after Shiite Huthi rebels bombarded several districts with rocket and tank fire.

"There's a real massacre going on in Taez, the city that spearheaded the revolt" against former president Ali Abdullah Saleh who now supports the Huthis, one resident said.

"Saleh has aligned himself with the rebels to take revenge," Bassam al-Qadhi added.

Saleh quit in early 2012 after bloody year-long protests against his rule, and was replaced by Abedrabbo Mansour Hadi who has taken refuge along with his government in neighbouring Saudi Arabia.

Monday's clashes in Taez came just four days before a new UN effort was to have been held, aiming to resolve the conflict in the impoverished Arabian Peninsula nation.

But there had been growing uncertainty over which of the warring parties would attend the talks slated for Thursday in Geneva.

"I can confirm that the meeting has been postponed," a UN official told AFP on Sunday, without providing further immediate explanation.

The postponement is another blow to UN efforts to broker peace in a country where nearly 2,000 people have been killed since March.

- Hadi's demands -

Hadi had laid out his government's demands in a pre-talks letter to UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon, insisting that the rebels must withdraw from territory they have seized.

He reiterated his position on Sunday during talks in Riyadh with Ban's special envoy, Ismail Ould Cheikh Ahmed.

In a bid to restore Hadi's authority, Saudi Arabia has led an air campaign against the Huthis since March 26.

Coalition aircraft bombarded targets across the country at the weekend, including the airport in second city Aden and its northern suburbs, officials said.

On Monday, residents and an official in Taez said fierce fighting had killed and wounded dozens of people.

The clashes, which erupted on Sunday and raged overnight, have killed at least 30 Huthi rebels and allied forces, the official told AFP.

He said a provisional toll showed at least five Hadi loyalists were also killed.

For a second consecutive day, rebels and their allies targeted several Taez neighbourhoods with rockets and tank shells, residents said.

Medics and residents told AFP late Sunday the bombardment had killed 10 civilians and wounded 80.

Officials in neighbouring Daleh province said pro-Hadi fighters had retaken several positions from the rebels, including a military camp, in dawn fighting on Monday.

- Aid deliveries -

They said clashes were ongoing, especially at a now rebel-held base of the 33rd Armoured Brigade where pro-government forces have seized six tanks.

Clashes were also reported in other southern provinces on Monday, including Shabwa and Abyan as well as Aden.

The fighting followed a day of intense raids by Saudi-led coalition warplanes targeting rebel arms depots and positions, witnesses said.

More than 545,000 people have been displaced in the conflict, and although some aid trickled in last week during a five-day ceasefire, people still lack basic needs, including water, electricity and fuel.

A ship carrying 460 tonnes of Emirati humanitarian aid docked on Sunday in Aden.

The shipment, including medical and food supplies, is the second from the United Arab Emirates following the delivery of 1,200 tonnes of aid last week, said local aid coordinator Ali al-Bikri.

Another ship carrying 400 tonnes of diesel also arrived on Friday, said Bikri, who was appointed by Yemen's government in exile.

"Aden needs urgently at least 200,000 food rations for the displaced," Bikri added.

Fierce fighting has raged in Aden between the rebels and their allies and southern fighters allied with Hadi.

Hadi has demanded full implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 2216 calling on the Huthis to relinquish territory they seized and surrender weapons they took from the army and other state institutions.

Unknown Gunmen Attack Police Post in Kandahar

TOLO News - Tue, 05/26/2015 - 05:33

At least two unknown gunmen attacked a police post in southern Kandahar province on Monday night. Officials said Tuesday the clash is still ongoing.

The attack took place in 4th district of Kandahar city after the unknown gunmen attacked the police post and then took refuge inside a building near the post. One policeman was injured during the clashes, a spokesman for the provincial governor Samim Ikhpelwak said.‎

"The gunmen are still continuing clashes with the security forces from a building and the security forces have surrounded the building," he said.

But a member of the Provincial Council of Kandahar has said that a woman was also killed in the attack and three policemen were injured.

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

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