TOLO News

TOLOnews 6pm News 31 July 2015

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 18:07

Top news in this Bulletin:

The newly-elected Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour was a Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) appointment, a senior member of Taliban's Quetta Shura [Council] told TOLOnews. "Mullah Mansour has been appointed by ISI as the successor of Mullah Omar and we do not accept this decision," the source said on condition of anonymity.

To watch the whole news bulletin, click here:

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The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Daniel F. Feldman, on Friday expressed optimism about possible development at the next round of peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban – which has been postponed at the request of the Taliban.

US Special Envoy Optimistic About Second Round of Peace Talks

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 17:42

The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Daniel F. Feldman, on Friday expressed optimism about possible development at the next round of peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban – which has been postponed at the request of the Taliban.

The outgoing envoy hoped the second round of talks which he said would be held without preconditions could put an end to Afghanistan war.

"The Afghan government wants us to support or be an observer in these talks as we were for July 7 ... without preconditions that who would be there," Feldman told reporters. "Our only redlines for an end stage are the same through that the Taliban split from al-Qaeda, that it renounce violence and that it embrace the Afghan Constitution including the rights of women but there are no preconditions to begin a conversation."

These statements came a day after Pakistan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced the much-awaited second round of peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban had been postponed at the request of Afghan Taliban leadership.

The talks were due to take place today (Friday) after the first round took place on July 7 in Pakistan's resort town of Murree.

In a statement issued by the ministry, Pakistan said: "In view of the reports regarding the death of Mullah 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."

However, the first round of the talks, which was the first ever direct meeting with the Taliban, was called productive by the Afghan delegation that met with the Taliban and Haqqani members.

Kabul's delegation to the first round of talks, included Hekmat Khalil Karzai, Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) political deputy; Haji Di Mohammad HPC member; Farhadullah another HPC member; Faizullah Zaki, the head of the First Vice President's Office; Asadullah Sadati, representing the Second Vice President's Office; Eng. Muhammad Asem, representative to the Chief Executive; and Mohammad Natiqi, representing the Second Deputy Chief Executive, were all present at the meeting.

Mullah Yahya, a member of Haqqani network, Latif Mansoor from Taliban's Quetta Shura and Abbas Akhund, representing Taliban's Qatar group, were the key negotiators for the Taliban, an Afghan delegation member told TOLOnews on condition of anonymity.

Chabahar Port Agreement Nears Final Stage

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 17:20

As the governments of Afghanistan, India and Iran finalize negotiations over the Chabahar Port trade agreement, focus has shifted toward plans for the development of the key infrastructure related to the project, which is expected to help connect Afghan goods to global markets.

First and foremost, the Indian government is now expected to make a number of investments in construction at the port itself, which is located on the Iranian coast.

Meanwhile, according to the Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Mohammad Reza Bahrami, Iran will begin building a railway to connect the Chabahar Port to Zahidan province in Iran.

"Our objective is to build more capacities in Afghanistan," Ambassador Bahrami said on Friday. "We firmly believe that the access of our Afghan friends to Chabahar Port will help them export their commercial products to regional and world markets and this could favor both countries," he added.

One of the key advantages of the new port will be that it will offer an alternative to Pakistan's Karachi port, which has long been the only option for exporting for Afghan traders. High tariffs and shakedowns from local officials have been a persistent problem for many in the Afghan business community trying to pass their goods through Pakistan.

"We have a strong need for access to the Chabahar Port; this will enable our investors to get access to world markets," economic analyst Ibrahim Shams told TOLOnews. "Afghanistan has large amounts of natural resources and mines which need to be discovered and extracted and transferred. Chabahar Port can help Afghanistan's industrial and commerce development process."

Beyond the purely economic benefits of the port, analysts have said that the project will also help enhance broader diplomatic ties between Afghanistan, India and Iran.

It is also said that a number of other countries are also willing to join the Chabahar trade agreement. According to the Iranian Ambassador, Oman intends to access Central Asian markets via the Chabahar Port and Afghanistan.

Helmand's Historic Bost Fort Left to Deteriorate

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 17:12

An 11th century arch located in southern Helmand province marks the principal approach to the ancient fortress citadel of Bost, now known as Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Over the centuries, the city survived multiple invasions by the Ghorids, Genghis Khan and Tamerlane, but, today, its historic structures face ruin because of neglect.

According to the local residents, over the past 800 years, no renovation or rehabilitation work has been conducted on the fort. Now, the only clear indicator of its historical significance is a sign naming it a heritage site, an ironic title given the lack of care it has been afforded.

The Bost Fort is considered one of Afghanistan's greatest cultural heritage sites, and it was built in the pre-Islamic era. The Fort lies in the suburbs of modern day Lashkar Gah city, alongside the Harirod river atop a muddy hill. The fort once served as vacation destination for Sultan Masood Ghaznavi.

"The fort is an ancient site, we regularly visit the site, but day-by-day the fort moves toward destruction," one visitor told TOLOnews.

According to one of the watchman at the ancient fort, a small renovation job was conducted during the Sardar Mohammad Dawood Khan government, but it was incomplete. Other efforts to rehabilitate the site, such as those under King Mohammad Zahir, have been ad hoc and unsustainable.

"The Bost Fort is three thousand years old. It was built before the Christ," a watchman named Amir Mohammad said. "But day-by-day the fort goes toward disaster and the government doesn't concentrate on it."

Responding to questions about the fort, head of Helmand's Information and Culture Department, Ali Shah Mazloomyar, said security threats are the main obstacle to restoration. "We haver consulted UNESCO, Feroz Koh, French Cultural Center and several embassies about rehabilitating the fort, but the relevant bodies say that security threats are the main challenge in the way of renovating the fort."

Activists Gather to Name Kabul 'City of Peace'

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:59

A group of Afghan cultural figures and activists gathered in Kabul on Friday to award the city the title of "City of Peace," in an effort to encourage the continued pursuit of peace and harmony after fourteen years of war and division.

The event came amidst an admixture of hope and concern regarding the fledgling peace negotiations process between the Afghan government and Taliban leaders. Although the first round of talks earlier in July was a source of optimism, the recent death of the Taliban's supreme leader Mullah Omar and the subsequent postponement of a second round of talks have raised questions about the future of the process.

Participants of the gathering on Friday called on the Afghan government and its armed opponents to pursue sustainable efforts and firm steps toward restoring peace and stability to Afghanistan. They emphasized that the Afghan people have faced the brunt of violence and tragedy in the war, and that Afghans deserve a brighter future.

"We established this foundation to shift people's attention toward their city and toward peace," Khidmatguzaran-e-Kabul Foundation head Mohammad Amin Farhang said. "It is the responsibility of every citizen to raise his voice for peace."

"My brothers and sisters let's stand against those who by waging war in the country have made millions of dollars and prevent the killing of the people by them," civil society activist Mahbooba Seraj said.

The gathering was attended by the people from various walks of life, including many everyday residents of the capital - men, women and children.

"The process that has been started under the name of peace shouldn't be dealt with as it was in the past, and this time, the national unity government and the Taliban must seriously negotiate for peace," one Kabul resident named Shekiba told TOLOnews.

Many were hopeful that their new spirit of peace and the belief that it may be within reach will spread throughout the country. "This initiative that we have started today in Kabul will be extended nationwide," a participant named Rodit Ringh said. "Everyone has raised their voice for peace."

Officials, Analysts Say Mullah Omar's Death Won't Derail Peace Talks

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:46

Members of the Afghan government's delegation for peace negotiations with the Taliban on Friday reassured that the death of Mullah Omar would not negatively impact the talks, a hopeful outlook that has been echoed by independent analysts.

Mohammad Natiqi, a member of the first government delegation sent to Islamabad to meet with Taliban leaders earlier this month, emphasized that the new leadership of the Taliban, especially Mullah Akhtar Mansour, who was reportedly appointed Mullah Omar's successor, is willing and ready for peace talks.

"I believe the death of Mullah Omar will not affect the peace talks, because the delegation we had for the first round of peace talks was appointed by Mullah Akhtar and Mullah Akhtar was leading the delegation," Natiqi said on Friday. "I think Mullah Akhtar is willing to continue peace talks."

On Thursday, the Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) announced that the second round of talks originally scheduled to take place on Friday would be postponed at the request of the Taliban. Although the statement did not go into detail, it came right after news of Mullah Omar's death was confirmed by Taliban spokesman, indicating a likely connection between the sudden shake up in leadership and the postponement.
Earlier this week, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and officials from the National Directorate of Security claimed that the reclusive former Taliban chief had in fact died two years ago, in 2013, at a hospital in Karachi, Pakistan. While, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed the death of Omar, he suggested it occurred more recently.

Looking ahead, while government peace delegation members remain optimistic about the future of talks, the High Peace Council has said it unclear when and where the second round will take place. "After the Taliban determine their new leader, it will be made clear when and where the second round of peace talks will be held," HPC member Qazi Mohammad Amin Waqad said.

Nevertheless, interviews with former Taliban commanders and experts on the group have lent credence to to the claims of negotiators regarding the likelihood of continued talks. "I think there are lots of people among the Taliban who are in favor of peace talks and the death of Mullah Omar won't affect peace talks," former Taliban commander Syed Akbar Agha told TOLOnews.

According to Pakistani political analyst, Kahlid Rehman, Islamabad and all the key stakeholders within Pakistan are still on board with the peace process regardless of the death of Mullah Omar. "Pakistan's government, the Pakistani armed forces, Pakistani political parties, Pakistani public opinion and Pakistani opinion makers all are on the same page, and every one of them is interested in negotiations taking place and finally leading toward stability in Afghanistan," Pakistan Institute of Policy Studies Director General Khalid Rehman said. "So, on the part of the government of Pakistan, I don't think there is any chance of withdrawing from the process at this stage."

Mullah Mansour an ISI Appointment: Taliban Quetta Shura

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 16:34

The newly-elected Taliban leader Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour is a Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) appointment, a senior member of Taliban's Quetta Shura [Council] told TOLOnews.

"Mullah Mansour has been appointed by ISI as the successor of Mullah Omar and we do not accept this decision," the source said on condition of anonymity

Late Friday night, members of Quetta Council were still locked in a meeting regarding the issue, the source said.

"The late Mullah Omar had selected someone else as his possible successor," he continued, but did not give details.

Another high-ranking member also contacted TOLOnews during the course of the night and said the majority of Quetta Council members were opposed to Mansour's appointment. He said consensus was that Mansour was appointed to the position by Pakistan's ISI.

According to him there was some discordance among the members but most were opposed to the move by the ISI and they were upset at not having been consulted on the issue.

When asked by TOLOnews whether the council could bring changes, the source said the members would debate this but said he - in a personal capacity - would not follow Mullah Mansour.

This latest development comes a day after the Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed in a statement the appointment of Mansour as the new Taliban chief.

Earlier in the day, reports suggested that certain senior members of the Taliban opposed the appointment of Mullah Mansour as the successor of Mullah Omar.

Mansour was elected, according to a Taliban statement issued to the media on Thursday, as the new leader of the Taliban after the Afghan government and the Taliban confirmed the reclusive Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan's port city of Karachi.

According to the reports, Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Taliban's military head; Mullah Habibullah, a member of Taliban Quetta Shura; and Sayed Tayib Agha, head of Taliban's political office in Qatar are among the senior Taliban members that are opposed to the appointment of Mansour – who was Mullah Omar's deputy.

Some Pakistani media reports suggest that Omar's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, was himself hoping to succeed his father – a move that was reportedly opposed by some members of the council.

While confirming the death of Mullah Omar, Mujahid said the late leader died of an illness which he said the leader had been suffering "for some time."

Senior Taliban Members Oppose Mansour as Omar’s Successor

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 14:58

Certain senior members of the Taliban have reportedly opposed appointment of Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansour as the successor of Taliban's late Supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Mansour was elected, according to a Taliban statement to the media on Thursday, as the new leader of the Taliban after the Afghan government and as well as the Taliban confirmed the reclusive Mullah Omar died in 2013 in Pakistan's port city of Karachi.

According to the reports, Abdul Qayoum Zakir, Taliban's military head; Mullah Habibullah, a member of Taliban Quetta Shura; and Sayed Tayib Agha, head of Taliban's political office in Qatar are among the senior Taliban members that disagree the appointment of Mansour – who was Mullah Omar's deputy.

Meanwhile, the analysts believe the mysterious death of one-eyed Taliban leader could further divide the group.

Earlier, some Pakistani media reports suggested that Omar's son, Mullah Mohammad Yaqoub, was himself hoping to succeed his father – a move that was reportedly opposed by some members of the group.

"The disagreement [between Taliban members] is very dangerous for peace in Afghanistan," an Afghan lawmaker Ahmad Behzad told TOLOnews.

But some others believe Pakistan is attempting to divide the Taliban to have its more influence in the group.

"Pakistan wanted a coup on the leadership of the Taliban, but the appointment of Mullah Mansour dismantled the plan," said Nazar Mohammad Motmain, an author and political analyst.
Meanwhile, members of a banned Islamist militant group offered funeral prayers for Mullah Omar in Pakistan's Lahore city.

The prayer was led by Hafiz Saeed, the leader of Islamist Charity Jamaat ud Dawah (JuD), linked to outlawed militant group Lashkar-E-Taiba (LeT).

While confirming the death of Mullah Omar, Taliban's spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday that the late leader died of an illness which he said the leader had been suffering "for some time."
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.

Hi regime - which was overthrown by U.S.-led NATO invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 - was recognized by only three nations: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates.

Nawzad District in Helmand Recaptured By ANSF

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 07:56

Nawzad district in Helmand province was on Friday recaptured by Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) during an operation led by Kandahar Police Chief Gen. Abdul Raziq.

Afghan Ministry of Interior (MoI) confirmed the recapture of Nawzad district and said that according to initial reports 50 Taliban were killed.

"ANSF retook Nawzad district this morning, clearance operations are still going on and 50 Taliban are dead according to initial reports," said Sediq Sediqqi MoI spokesman.

At least two Afghan security force members were killed and 31 others wounded during the recapture operation, Sediqqi added.

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

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.

No civilian casualties were reported.

Taliban are yet to comment about the operation.

TAWDE KHABARE: The Mysterious Death of Mullah Omar

Fri, 07/31/2015 - 05:40

The mysterious death of Mullah Omar, many believe, could further divide the group. According to the analysts, the starting life of Mullah Omar - who never publically appeared as a leader and whose mysterious death and unseen burial raised questions – was not the beginning of Afghanistan's challenges and at the same time, his death could also not put an end to Afghanistan's problems.

Mulla Momar's successor is not clear yet, however some media reports stated Mullah Mohammad Akhtar Mansour has been appointed as the new leader.

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

Fazlmanllah Mumtaz, political analyst
Maulana Farid, political analyst
Matiullah Kharoti, political analyst

To watch the program, click here:

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Gen. Campbell Meets Sayyaf Over Afghanistan's Situation

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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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