Thursday, 25 July

More than 30 killed in a series of attacks across Afghanistan

More than thirty people have been killed in a series of attacks across Afghanistan. In the capital, Kabul, three bombs went off in quick succession, killing at least 11 and injuring about 50 other people. In the first attack, a suicide bomber targeted a bus, carrying employees of Mines and Petroleum ministry. A spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry said a suicide bomber, who was riding a motorbike, detonated a magnetic bomb against a bus carrying government employees. In another incident, a Taliban assault on two checkpoints in the northern province of Takhar and killed 16 police, while in Nangarhar, nine members of a family traveling to a wedding died in a roadside blast. Security experts say the Taliban is increasing attacks to gain leverage in ongoing peace talks with the US.

 

Wednesday, 24 July

Peace Diplomacy: Questions about Coherence among Taliban leadership

US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has met Afghan leaders in Kabul. The Afghan president has asked Khalilzad to stay in Kabul for some more time, a statement by the presidential palace says.

Meanwhile, Washington Post has quoted some Afghan officials as saying that President Ashraf Ghani has some concerns about a possible peace agreement between the Taliban and the USA. The presidential palace says Khalilzad will remain in Kabul for some time before he starts his talks with the Taliban in Qatar. Some observers say the Taliban should hold direct talks with the Afghan government and announce a ceasefire.

Although the Taliban has continuously tried to present itself as a coherent group with a common vision, strategy, and approach, analysts have been of the view that this might not be the case in reality. There seems to be a difference of opinion in regard to the peace process as one part of the group still believes that they should push for military conquest rather than negotiated settlement which will give them their lost Emirate back whereas the political settlement may leave them no choice but to share power with others. While the peace process has been cause of a lot of optimism, there are concerns attached to it. Mainly, the worry is that there could be some breakaways from the group which may join other groups furthering the Afghan conflict under a different name and title.

Imran Khan and Afghan Peace

Afghan peace was on top of the agenda during Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan’s visit to Washington. He assured President Trump and other senior US officials of Islamabad’s support to the Afghan peace process.

Though Pakistan has been under severe economic and political pressure and in such a milieu there should be an expectation of honest contribution from the Pakistani side to the Afghan peace process. However, based on the past experience and overall policy of the military leadership, driver of the regional policy, expecting a positive intervention remains a desire. While Islamabad will try to present itself a facilitator, the expectation is that it will continue to push for the security of its strategic depth agenda in Afghanistan that is having hegemony on the Afghan foreign policy.

IEC on new rules for presidential campaigns

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) says, candidates are not allowed to spend more than 441m Afghanis in the presidential campaigns, adding that candidates should properly brief them about their spending. Electoral watchdog officials say the candidates should not spend more as it damages the economy. The Defence Ministry says they will take necessary measures to ensure security for polls.

Taliban attack in Kabul

Private Afghan media reported that a roadside bomb explosion targeting foreign forces in the Dehsabz district of Kabul province had taken place. Kabul police, however, did not provide any details of casualties. In a statement published on the Voice of Jihad website soon after the incident, the Taliban claimed that “CIA officers” had been targeted in the attack. “Two Land Cruiser vehicles were destroyed in the attack and several US intelligence (CIA) officers on board were killed and wounded,” the group said. According to the statement, the attack was carried out by a suicide attacker named Mullah Ahmad Ghaznawi in the Tarakhel area of Kabul city’s District No 15. The Croatian Defence Ministry, meanwhile, said in a statement that its soldiers were targeted in the attack and that one soldier – identified only as JB – had died after sustaining serious injuries.

 

Tuesday, 23 July

Afghanistan sought clarification after Trump ’10 mn’ war dead claim

AFP – Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said that the United States should clarify remarks President Donald Trump made about Afghanistan, including a claim, he could easily win the war but didn’t “want to kill 10 million people”. Trump made several controversial statements a day earlier alongside Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House, including that he could end the war in a matter of days but “Afghanistan would be wiped off the face of the Earth”. His comments sparked outrage in Afghanistan. The war-weary and traumatized population is already worried about a precipitous pull-out of US forces — after nearly 18 years — and whether that means a quick return to rule by the Islamic extremist Taliban, and civil war. “The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan calls for clarification on the US president’s statements expressed at a meeting with the Pakistan prime minister, via diplomatic means and channels,” Ghani’s the office said in a statement. Afghanistan “would be gone. It would be over in literally, in 10 days”, Trump said. He added: “I don’t want to go that route”, and didn’t want to kill millions. Trump’s statements came as his peace envoy for Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, traveled to Kabul ahead of a new round of peace talks with the Taliban.

USIP bars Pashtoons and Balochs from Participation in USIP session with Imran Khan

The United States Institute for Peace (USIP) had a session with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan in Washington. Apparently, the Pakistani embassy in Washington had asked the organizers to avoid the participation of individuals with Pashtoon and Baloch origin, reported some aspiring participants on social media. A number of people reported on their social media accounts that their request for participation was turned down.  Pakistan has previously been sending lobbyists and supporters to the think-tanks’ debates and seminars to spoil the presumably anti-Pakistan debate by offering out of context rhetoric as a counter measure. Though the USIP incident will require further follow up to ascertain the news, yet; the past experience can be a source to make one believe the action against participants of Khan’s talk at the USIP.

 

Monday, 22 July

Donald Trump’s Statement and National Outburst

US President Donald Trump during his meeting with Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan at the White House said that he could win the Afghan war using military might but this will mean the killing of one million Afghans and diminishing of Afghanistan. The statement caused a huge outburst of Afghans regardless of their political or social affiliation and considered it as disrespect to a nation which has suffered playing the role of a front-line state in the global war against terrorism. The Afghan Government too issued a statement which sought clarification from the US Government vis a vis Mr. Trump’s views.

Regardless of the spirit of it, such statements can seriously challenge strategic partnership of Afghanistan and the United States. The level of rebuff of President Trump’s statement is a testimony that international partners of Afghanistan must respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty besides recognizing its role in broader global security perspective.

Communication services disrupted in the northern Afghan city

Communication services have been disrupted in Afghanistan’s Mazar-e Sharif city, the capital of northern Balkh province, independent media reported. Some communication companies said they had to suspend their services due to security threats, but some local officials have called it a conspiracy against the local administration.

Challenges to the Telecommunication

The Taliban have been putting pressure on telecom companies for a while to turn their services off at night in different parts of the country. The latest of such effort was exercised in Balkh province during the week. However, unlike past, the Government officials asked the companies to stop their services during the day time as well as they viewed the companies favoring the Taliban. This left only the Government-owned Salam network operational in the province. The provincial authorities said that they were not informed of the security threats posed to them and the companies took unilateral decision by accepting to turn their networks off at night.

The showdown between the conflicting parties has once again been the cause of civilian suffering as they were disconnected for a good period of time. More importantly, it had its toll on the business community as a lack of cellular network brought their businesses to a standstill. On the other hand, the Telecom companies were also faced with the loss of business in one of the economic hubs of Afghanistan. It is feared that the continuation of such a situation will have an adverse impact on already struggling Afghan economy.

Civil Society commented on JCMB meeting

Khama Press – The Civil Society Joint Working Group (CSWG) shared its finding regarding the government’s accountability to the nation and international community. CSWG shared its findings earlier today, hours after the 22nd Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board Meeting kicked off in Kabul. Nasir Temori, a member of the Civil Society Joint Working Group told reporters that the international community has provided significant aid to Afghanistan but the aid was not properly utilized. Speaking during a press conference, Temori further added that the United States only has provided $120 billion aid to Afghanistan but the relevant authorities wasted a significant portion of the funds. He described the lack of consultation with the government and involvement of corrupt individuals as main factors which resulted into the wastage of a major portion of the U.S. funds.

 

Sunday, 21 July

Afghanistan Facing Strong Challenges to Growth

Modern Diplomacy – Afghanistan’s economy grew by around two percent in 2018 despite progress in economic policies, likely leading to further increases in poverty and deterioration in living standards, according to the World Bank’s recent Afghanistan Development Update. Released today, the latest edition of the biannual publication highlights the negative combined impacts of conflict, drought and political uncertainty on the Afghan economy, resulting in the lowest growth rates among South Asian economies in 2018. “Afghanistan faces challenges of insecurity, election-related political uncertainty, potential declines in international security support, in addition to the drought in 2018” said World Bank Afghanistan Country Director Henry Kerali. “Anyone of these shocks would normally generate strong headwinds to growth. Afghanistan has faced all of these concurrently”. The Development Update publication notes that economic management remains strong in Afghanistan and prospects are improving for 2019, with growth expected to accelerate to 2.5 percent with the easing of drought conditions. Government policies have continued to support low inflation, improved revenue collection, and a limited fiscal deficit. According to the report, slow growth generally reflects the impact of negative shocks rather than deterioration in government policy. In fact, the government has, by many measures, maintained progress with policy reform even during these difficult times. Government revenues reached a new high of nearly 190 billion afghanis in 2018, up to seven percent from 2017, the Update notes, while budget execution rates also reached record levels. The government spent 92 percent of the available national budget in 2018 and is on track to repeat this strong performance in 2019.

Parliament Performance Assessment

Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC) in a new assessment report highlighted 48-week agenda-points of the parliament performance. In a new report, MEC said that members of the lower and upper house of the Afghan parliament violates the rules, their monitoring on government, activities are weak, while a number of the members do not attend the sessions regularly. The report added that the impeachment process of government officials were not standard. An editorial by Hasht-e Sobh, an independent newspaper, publishing in Kabul, entitled “Last season’s parliament unsuccessful” also commented on differences over the election of the speaker of the lower house of parliament, saying lawmakers have failed to discharge their duties and responsibilities honestly and responsibly. It believes if lawmakers are immersed in financial and administrative corruption, other government institutions will not respect and trust the lower house.

 

Saturday, 20 July

Literacy volunteer Campaign Launched

The Afghan government has launched a countrywide campaign aimed to encourage people to take part in literacy programs. Figures of the ministry of education show that over 10 million Afghans, mostly adults, are illiterate. Groups of volunteer campaigners led by the ministry of education in collaboration with a civil society run the campaign village by village. In the past years, the Afghan government implemented literacy programs but officials of education ministry admit that these programs could not adequately address the need of the society. The United Nations’ education agency, Unesco, warned that promises by world leaders to raise global education standards by 2030 are unlikely to be kept. It said on current trends, 30% of adults and 20% of young people will still be illiterate in poor countries. There are 262 million young people without access to school, with the worst problems in sub-Saharan Africa.

UN deputy chief in Kabul

UN News – The UN Deputy Secretary-General Amina Mohammed in her visit to Kabul addressed reporters in the capital Kabul, after leading an all-women delegation of top UN officials for an intensive two-day “solidarity mission”, focussed on women, peace and security. She said they had come ahead of the key presidential election, due to take place at the end of September, but also to lend their support for a peace process “which is integral to the future, and the sustainability of all the efforts and aspirations, the Government and the people of Afghanistan have.” “At the end of two days we have been impressed with the leadership at all levels of government from Kabul out to the local areas, where you see that there is an investment in people, in particular in women’s empowerment’, said Ms. Mohammed.  The high-level UN delegation held meetings with President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Saturday, and also met a diverse group of women, hosted by Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani. They also met religious leaders, who have a crucial role to play in bolstering the peace process.

 

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