Aggregated News about Afghanistan

What Can a Pregnant Photojournalist Cover? Everything

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - Sun, 02/01/2015 - 05:00
Not even carrying a child could keep Lynsey Addario from going to the world’s most dangerous places.

U.S. Suddenly Goes Quiet on Effort to Bolster Afghan Forces

New York Times Topic:Afghanistan - 13 hours 19 min ago
Details on the money that the U.S. has spent to build Afghanistan’s security forces were once shared, but as of this month the information is now considered classified.

TOLOnews 6pm News 28 January 2015

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 15:27

Top news in this bullitine

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have pushed back militants from the district of Chak in central Maidan Wardak province after 13 years under Taliban control. This marks another achievement since assuming the security responsibility from their foreign counterparts.

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 The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the Parliament) approved the proposed amendments in four articles of the election law with majority votes on Tuesday as part of the promises to bring reforms in the country's electoral system.

The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) approved of only nine out of 19 cabinet nominees on Wednesday, after almost four months of delay. Unlike other Parliament sessions, 243 MPs were present to cast their vote of confidence in favor or against the ministerial nominees and the National Directorate Security (NDS) nominee.

ANSF Gain Control of District Chak After 13 years

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 14:25

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) have pushed back militants from the district of Chak in central Maidan Wardak province after 13 years under Taliban control. This marks another achievement since assuming the security responsibility from their foreign counterparts.

Chak was considered the Taliban's provincial center over the past 13 years. The militants had established several check posts in the area, according to ANSF officials.

"Previously, even we were unable to transfer our supplies through air because of the worsened situation, but now security is ensured here," said Noorzai, a police officer.

Security officials said the Taliban-run court where the group used to organize public trials was now the check post of security forces.
The local police forces have also played a significant role in pushing the militants back from the district.

"Taliban's oppression forced us to get together against them," said Lotfullah, a local police commander. "Initially we were only 50 people who promised to sacrifice our lives for the safety of the citizens," adding that the Taliban hung people from the trees.

Praising the improved security situation of the district, local elders called on the government to pay serious attention to the reconstruction of the district.

"There was no government in the past 13 years," a local elder Mohammad Asif said. "Now that the security situation has improved we want the government to pay attention to our living situation and restore our power dam."

After the end of the 13-year NATO combat mission in Afghanistan, the ANSF has now taken over the full security responsibility of the country. The limited number of alliance forces staying in Afghanistan will be leading their "Resolute Support" mission aimed at training, advising and assisting the Afghan troops.

Wolesi Jirga Approves Four Amendments in Election Law

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 14:22

The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the Parliament) approved the proposed amendments in four articles of the election law with majority votes on Tuesday as part of the promises to bring reforms in the country's electoral system.

Based on the new law, only those will be allowed to run for Parliamentary election that either hold a Bachelor's Degree or have been a MP in the past.

According to the amendment in another article of the election law, the selective members of the Senate should resign from their seats before they run for the House of Representatives elections.

"With majority votes and only 18 votes against the selective members of Senate should leave their positions before running for the House of Representatives elections," said Speaker Abdul Raouf Ibrahimi.

Furthermore, the MPs approved the law interpreting that the ballots must be counted in the same polling centers.

In addition, the lawmakers approved that the duration of the complaint registration should be extended from 48 to 96 hours.

The mentioned amendments have been brought following the promises made by President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah after the country's longest presidential election was allegedly marred by massive fraud.

Following huge criticisms by the civil society groups and the citizens, both government leaders said that electoral reforms was their top agenda.

Stressing the need for reforms in the structure and formations of the electoral bodies, the electoral monitoring organizations warn of further crises if the coming parliamentary election is held within the same structure.

MCN Plans to Eliminate Fields Cultivated with Opium

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 13:55

The Acting Minister for the Ministry of Counter Narcotics (MCN) Mohammad Haroon Rashid on Wednesday reported that 224,000 hectares of land across the country have been used to produce poppy in 2014, but MCN has succeeded in removing up to 24,000 hectares of poppy nationwide.

"On the basis of the drug eradication campaign, this year we plan to eradicate 10 percent of the poppy cultivation," Rashid said. "In some districts there are issues of commitment and provincial officials who are not dedicated in the fight against drugs."

Meanwhile, a number of district governors have said that drug production will continue in Afghanistan unless local officials end their support for smugglers.
"Unfortunately, in some cases drugs are transferred from one area to another inside vehicles of security forces, which officials support," Rostaq District Governor of Takhar province Abdul Manaf Faizi said.

Although, the Afghan government in joint cooperation with the international community has spent large amounts of financial resources in the past 13 years to eliminate the production and smuggling, Afghanistan still constitutes as the world's number one producer of opium.

According to statistics, $7.6 billion was spent in Afghanistan to combat the drug production, but despite efforts poppy is still being cultivated in at least 17 provinces.

"This year there has been seven casualties in the fight against drugs and 19 police officers were wounded, with majority still under treatment," Gen. Khalil Bakhtyar, the general director of operations at the Ministry of Interior, said.

Money received from drug smuggling is considered an important source of funding for the insurgents.

Parliament Approves 9 of 19 Cabinet Nominees

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 10:51

The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) approved of only nine out of 19 cabinet nominees on Wednesday, after almost four months of delay.

Unlike other Parliament sessions, 243 MPs were present to cast their vote of confidence in favor or against the ministerial nominees and the National Directorate Security (NDS) nominee.

Each cabinet nominee must have attained 122 votes in favor to become a member of the National Unity Government's cabinet.

The results of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah's picks are as follows:

Introduced by Ghani:

Nominee for the Ministry of Finance Eklil Hakimi was approved: 128 votes in favor, 88 against, 21 blank, and eight invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Hajj and Religious Affairs Faiz Mohammd Osmani was approved: 160 votes in favor, 61 against, 17 blank, and five invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Mines Daud Shah Saba was approved: 146 votes in favor, 74 against, 13 blank, 10 invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Higher Education Khatera Afghan was rejected: 71 votes in favor, 146 against, 21 blank, and three invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs Qamaruddin Shinwari was rejected: 102 votes in favor, 112 against, 22 blank, and seven invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Public Works Abbas Basir was rejected: 85 votes in favor, 131 against, 19 blank, and eight invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation Faizullah Zaki was rejected: 81 votes in favor, 133 against, 25 blank, and four invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Defense Sher Mohammad Karimi was rejected: 96 votes in favor, 112 against, 26 blank, and seven invalid.

Introduced by Abdullah:

Nominee for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs Salahuddin Rabbani was approved: 151 votes in favor, 70 against, 12 blank, and nine invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Interior Affairs Noor-ul-Haq Ulumi was approved: 131 votes in favor, 91 against, 15 blank, and six invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation Sayed Hussain Alemi Balkhi was approved: 134 votes in favor, 87 against, 17 blank, and five invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development Nasir Durrani was approved: 145 votes in favor, 71 against, 19 blank, and five invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Public Health Ferozuddin Feroz was approved: 170 votes in favor, 54 against, 12 blank, and four invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Economy Sardar Mohammad Rahman Oghli was rejected: 104 votes in favor, 103 against, 27 blank, and nine invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Commerce and Industries Sardar Mohammad Rahimi was rejected: 111 votes in favor, 102 against, 20 blank, and nine invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Education Mohammad Gul Zalmai Younusi was rejected: 90 votes in favor, 123 against, 20 blank, and nine invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Water and Energy Abdul Rahman Salahi was rejected: 106 votes in favor, 109 against, 24 blank, and four invalid.

Nominee for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology Barna Karimi was rejected: 115 votes in favor, 97 against, 26 blank, and five invalid.

NDS nominee Rahmatullah Nabil, who was an independent candidate, won the Parliament confidence vote with 154 votes in favor, 58 against, 22 blank, and nine invalid.

Upon hearing the announcement of the eight ministerial nominees and NDS Chief approved by Parliament, President Ashraf Ghani welcomed their decision. 

Female Police Officer Killed in Herat Blast

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:46

A female police officer was killed and a policeman was injured in a bomb blast in western Herat province, local officials said.

The incident took place Wednesday when the explosives placed inside a police check post exploded in Islam Qala road, local security sources confirmed.

The sources added that investigations are underway to know how the explosives were taken and placed at the check post.

No group including the Taliban has claimed responsibility for the blast so far.

Parliament Approves National Budget

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 09:19

The Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of the Parliament) approved the national budget for the next fiscal year with majority of votes on Wednesday simultaneously suspending the budget allocated for the offices of Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Abdullah Abdullah and economic advisory.

The budget for the next Afghan fiscal year—beginning 21 March 2015 to 20 March 2016—received 132 out of 152 votes in favor.

Approving the fiscal budget, the House of Representatives suspended the budget for the CEO and economic advisory offices unless the formations of the newly-established offices are approved by the House.

Furthermore, the House rejected former President Hamid Karzai's decree to pay the salaries of his advisers for five years after the end of their tenure.

The approved 436.172 billion (AFS) national budget includes 283.486 billion for the ordinary budget and 152.686 billion for the development budget.

Initially, the House had rejected the budget for what they called "unfair and unbalanced" fund allocations.

Another reason MPs had rejected the budget was the withdrawal of 443 incomplete projects, something the MPs called a wastage of millions of dollars.

The approved budget now includes all the incomplete projects; however, no new development project has been considered for the next year.

Head of the Wolesi Jirga's Finance Commission, Amir Khan Yaar, said 135 billion of the budget would be paid from the domestic revenues, while the rest of them would be paid from foreign aids.

FARAKHABAR: 27 January 2015

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:37

All preparations for the distribution of electronic ID cards have been prepared, but for unknown reasons the distribution has not begun.

Director General of the Electronic National ID Cards Project, Humayun Muhtat said that a letter has been sent to the national security council in regards to the matter, but to no prevail.

The director warns that if the ID cards are not distributed soon the Ministry of Finance donors will cancel the project.

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

Humayun Muhtat, Director General of the Electronic National ID Cards Project

Farhad Azimi, MP

To watch the program, click here:

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BA REWAYATE DIGAR: Findings Reveal that Afghanistan's Fragile Economy has Lost one third of its ...

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:35

Guests:

Azaraksha Hafizi: Head of the International Affairs department of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries

Feroz Masjidi: University Professor

Wafiullah Eftekhar: head of Afghanistan Investment Supporting Agency (AISA)

Ramazan Juma Zada: MP

Theme of discussion: Simultaneously with the drawdown of foreign troops, Afghanistan's economy has become vulnerable. New findings show that one third of the country's economic values has dropped over the past year. Apparently, the reduction of international aids and investments has been two main factors behind the decreasing economy.

Statistics show that Afghanistan is receiving billions of dollars of financial aids from the international community directly and indirectly. But with the end of the NATO combat mission, job recession and economic conundrum is on the rise and the government is still facing problems to ensure that salary is paid on time.

To watch the whole program, click here:

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TAWDE KHABARE: NUG Cabinet

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:19

In this episode of TAWDE KHABARE host Yama Alimi discusses about the nominated cabinet ministers with the following guests:

Raihana Azad, MP

Simeen Barakzai, MP

Helai Arshad, MP

Maryam Kofi, MP

To watch the program, click here:

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Islamists' 24-hour Hostage Deadline 'utterly despicable': Japan PM

TOLO News - Wed, 01/28/2015 - 03:02

Prime Minister Shinzo Abe on Wednesday slammed as "utterly despicable" an Islamist militant threat to kill a Japanese hostage within 24 hours unless Jordan releases a jihadi bomber.

"This was an utterly despicable act, and I am appalled," the Japanese prime minister told reporters. "While we are in an extremely severe situation... the government is united to work for the early release of Mr Kenji Goto."

"The government, in this extremely severe situation, has been asking for the Jordanian government's cooperation towards the early release of Mr Goto, and this policy remains unchanged."

He urged ministers to do their utmost to resolve the issue and called on them to "take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese nationals at home and abroad."

TOLOnews 6pm News 27 January 2015

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 16:05

Top news in this Bulletin:

Giving up their dual citizenship Noor-ul-Haq Ulumi and Salahuddin Rabbani were voted in favor by majority of the Parliament members to be reintroduced to the House to present their future plans as ministers.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Monday the suspension of one of its largest nonprofit contractors, International Relief and Development (IRD), after the agency's investigations found misconduct and mismanagement of taxpayer money.

Distribution of New ID Cards Faces Delay of Reasons Unknown

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 15:23

Despite all preparations having been taken for the distribution of long-awaited electronic ID cards among the Afghan public, project leaders say none have yet been issued, and the reason for the delay remains unclear.

According to the Director General of the Electronic National ID Cards Project, Humayun Muhtat, following the publishing of a new population registration law outlining the legal parameters and functions of the new standardized ID cards two weeks ago, it was expected that distribution would begin promptly.

"Two and a half weeks ago, the Ministry of Justice's population registration law was published in its official gazette and on the same day we sent a letter to the National Security Council of Afghanistan and asked for permission [to start distribution]," Mr. Muhtat told TOLOnews on Tuesday. "So far we are waiting for the Security Council's response and we have not received any answer."

The Director General of the project, which is intended to help make elections run smoother as well as help Afghan law enforcement and security institutions, warned that failure to launch distribution soon could cause the funders of the project to back out. "If this situation continues, it can certainly be said that the program donors and the Ministry of Finance will be deterred from this program, and then we have to fire our staff," Muhtat said.

Nasrat Rahimi, the spokesman for the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, has said that planning for the distribution of the new ID cards has been in place for over a year. "The law has been signed and the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology made all technical plans and arrangements a year and half ago," he said.

With parliamentary elections rapidly approaching, many in the public wonder if the ID cards will be distributed in enough time to be widely used. "The distribution of electronic ID cards is a serious need, especially for transparent elections," a Kabul resident named Ahmadullah told TOLOnews.

Regarding why the National Security Council has failed to issue a response to leaders of the project granting them permission to move ahead with distribution, a spokesman of Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Asif Ashna, cited the sluggish cabinet confirmation process. "We are waiting for the national unity government cabinet to be complete and with the beginning of electoral reform the ID cards distribution will start," Ashna said.

The electronic ID card project was launched under former President Hamid Karzai over 18 months ago.

Wave of Judicial Assassinations Prompts Fears, Calls for Action

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 15:08

Successive assassinations of Afghan judicial officials over the past few weeks have fed fears about deteriorating security and the Kabul government's inability to protect even high-ranking public servants based in the capital.

On Monday, a group of unknown armed men shot dead a judge of the Kabul Primary Court while he was driving to his office. In late December, unidentified armed men also shot and killed the head of the Supreme Court Secretariat near his house in Kabul.

The Association of Afghan Lawyers, along with other members of the legal community, have expressed major concerns about the safety of judicial and legal authorities, suggesting that security threats would undermine the integrity of their work. "If a judge doesn't feel safe, it will be difficult for him to conduct a transparent legal session," Afghanistan Lawyers Association Deputy Abdul Subhan Misbah said on Tuesday.

Ezzatullah, 36, was a rising judge and the father of eight children before he was mercilessly murdered on his way to work Monday. His family has called on government to arrest the perpetrators and ensure justice is served. "They killed my father and now I ask the government to arrest the killers and hand them over to justice," a son of the slain judge named Bashir Ahmad said.

Kabul Police officials have claimed that man suspected of playing a role in the killing has been detained and questioned. Reportedly, the man already confessed to the crime. It remains unclear if the man, along with any potential accomplices, acted out of support for anti-government insurgents or for another reason, though police officials referred to him as a "terrorist."

"The terrorist has been arrested and is in the Kabul Police Department," Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi said. "He was carrying a gun with a silencer."

13 Suspects Detained over Alleged Link with IS Militants

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 14:38

At least 13 suspected militants have been arrested over having alleged connections with the Islamic State (IS) fighters in central Parwan province, said a provincial security source on condition of anonymity.

The suspects were detained Monday night in Bagram district when a special team of security forces were sent from the capital Kabul to conduct the raid, the source said, adding the detainees have been shifted to Kabul.

"The intelligence reports and information shared with the security forces indicate that these people wanted to affiliate with the terrorist groups who are trying to operate under different names in our country," the Ministry of Interior (MoI) spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said, referring to the rumors about the emergence of IS fighters who have seized some large cities in Syria and Iraq.

The rumors about the existence of IS militants in Afghanistan were increased after some local officials of southern Helmand and Nimruz provinces acknowledged sightings of the newly-emerged militants.

Earlier, the MoI officials rejected the presence of IS fighters who have recently topped the headlines in the west, saying they were the same Taliban and Haqqani groups who have now changed their physical appearance to gain more points.

According to military experts and analysts, these new militants were the combination of Pakistani, Afghan and Central Asian insurgents that needed the attention of the government.

"One thing that is more concerning about Daesh [IS] is that they recruit from all sects unlike the Taliban," military analyst Javed Kohistani said, adding those who have not even received religious education are also recruited in the group.

Profile: Afghan National Police Officer Mohammad Ali

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 14:30

Mohammad Ali is an officer in the Afghan National Police and a member of an elite rapid response force. In an interview with TOLOnews, he spoke about what led him to join the police force and what motivates him to sacrifice his life for his country.

Only 36 years old, Mohammad Ali has participated in more than 20 different counterinsurgency operations, including as a member of the rapid response teams that responded to high-profile terrorist attacks in Abdul Haq Square, Darul Aman road and the Kabul Inter Continental Hotel. He says he has wanted to serve his country since he was a schoolboy.

"From my school days, it was my desire to be a soldier and I had motivations to serve the country and the system and defend my country with patriotism," Mohammad Ali told TOLOnews. "I am always prepared to take part in the operations to serve my country; even if I am tired, I am ready."

During the operation against Taliban and Haqqani Network terrorists who attacked the Inter-Continental Hotel back in 2011, Mohammad Ali suffered an injury yet continued to fight in the battle undeterred. His evident bravery is balanced by a humble sense of need to continue to learn and improve his capacities as a policeman.

"At any time, operations have their difficulties," Ali readily admits. "For me, the battle field is like a class - if you participate in the operation with an open mind and interest you will be successful."

While Ali says he enjoys shooting guns and learning about weaponry, the pride he gets in wearing his uniform with the Afghan flag on it is what he identifies as the greatest part of his job. On the other hand, though, he describes the moments in which he has lost friends and colleagues in the field of battle as the toughest times of his life.

Ali's commander, Mirwais Taraki, maintains his men are some of the most well-trained in all the Afghan security forces. "If the soldiers eliminate the enemies rapidly, it means they have major war skills that were taught to them by the personnel of the police rapid force," he told TOLOnews.

The ANP's rapid response force specialize in swift action in sites and areas targeted by terrorists, and are charged with reestablishing law and order to some of the most restive places in Afghanistan.

70 Taliban Insurgents Killed in Kunduz Operation

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 13:47

In the past five days, at least 70 Taliban insurgents were killed in an Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) clearing operation in northern Kunduz province, local officials said.

Sixty-five other insurgents were injured during the operations.

The operation was launched in Imam Sahib district of the province where more than 30 villages have been cleared of insurgents, spokesman for the Provincial Police Chief Sarwar Hussaini said.

"The operation is currently underway in the district to clear the area of insurgents," Hussaini said. "During the raids 10 ANSF forces have been injured."

He added that a military operation has also been launched in Khaja Ghar district of northern Takhar province, which borders with Imam Sahib district of Kunduz.

However, the Taliban have not yet commented on the operation.

Largest Nonprofit Contractor in Afghanistan and Iraq Suspended

TOLO News - Tue, 01/27/2015 - 10:42

The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced on Monday the suspension of one of its largest nonprofit contractors, International Relief and Development (IRD), after the agency's investigations found misconduct and mismanagement of taxpayer money.

IRD known for its humanitarian projects in the world's most dangerous places has been under investigation by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) and the FBI for allegedly mischarging millions of dollars in overhead costs, according to a report written by The Washington Post.

"The Agency's review revealed serious misconduct in IRD's performance, management, internal controls and present responsibility," USAID said in a statement. "USAID has a zero tolerance policy for mismanagement of American taxpayer funds and will take every measure at our disposal to recover these funds."

The Washington Post reported that "since 2007, USAID has awarded more than $2.4 billion in contracts and cooperative agreements to IRD," adding "several of those projects have been the subjects of investigations following allegations of waste and fraud."

One of the criticisms raised toward IRD was "providing lavish salaries and millions in bonuses to its employees, including the husband-and-wife team who ran the organization, as well as their family members."

However, the nonprofit is permitted to complete ongoing projects, but new federal contracts have been blocked after the suspension took effect immediately.

IRD President Roger Ervin, who took charge of the nonprofit just six week ago, hopes to continue work with USAID after bringing changes to the organization.

"I take this as an opportunity to make some changes, and many of them are already underway," Ervin said. "I think we can show in short order that we can demonstrate that we are a good service provider for USAID, and I think we can address this pretty quickly."

IRD was founded in 1998 by an ordained minister, Arthur B. Keys, and his wife Jasna Basaric-Keys who have been reported in the Washington Post to have earned more than $5.9 million in compensation between 2008 and 2012 and that their daughter and Basaric-Keys's brother had also received more than $1.3 million as well.

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