[Afghan News] August 8, 2012 - 08-12-2012, 11:54 AM
August 8, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Top Afghan peace negotiator Salahuddin Rabbani has cancelled a visit to Pakistan.
Zardasht Shams, the Afghan embassy spokesman in Islamabad, confirmed to the DPA press agency that Rabbani had cancelled his visit but refused to give a reason.
Officials said he was to meet Pakistan's civil and military leadership to seek assistance in negotiations with the Taliban.
Rabbani was also expected to demand the release of Taliban leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, who Afghans believe could aid the reconciliation process.
Rabbani was invited to Pakistan by Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who was in Kabul in July.
Rabbani was named the head of the High Peace Council after the assassination of the former chief, also his father, Burhanuddin Rabbani, last year.
Based in reporting by DPA and brecorder.com
UN Says Afghan Civilian Casualties Down By 15 Percent
August 8, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The United Nations says Afghan civilian casualties have fallen by 15 percent during the first half of 2012 compared to the same period last year.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says this reduction of civilian casualties reverses the trend in which civilian casualties had increased steadily over the previous five years.
It says a total of 1,145 Afghan non-combatants lost their lives in violence, mostly insurgent attacks, between January 1 and June 30 this year compared to 1,510 in 2011.
UN said the insurgents were responsible for 80 percent of the casualties, while pro-government forces, which include the 130,000 troops serving as part of a US-led NATO force, were blamed for 10 percent of the casualties.
The remaining 10 percent was attributed to unknown groups.
Based on reporting by AFP and unama.unmissions.org
5 Afghan civilians killed in roadside bombing in western province
FARAH, Afghanistan, Aug. 8 (Xinhua) -- At least five Afghan civilians were killed and six others injured when a passenger bus touched off a roadside bomb in western province of Farah Wednesday, a spokesman for the provincial government said.
"Up to five passengers were killed and six others injured when the bus travelling from capital city of Kabul to Farah city ran over a bomb, planted by the Taliban insurgents along a main road, in Farah's Bala Buluk district," spokesman Abdul Rahman Zhwandi told Xinhua.
An estimated 45 to 50 people were in the bus and the death toll could go up in the blast that took place at around 5 p.m. local time as police forces are working to evacuate the victims to local hospitals, he said.
Violence has been on the rise since Taliban launched an annual spring offensive on May 3.
The Taliban insurgents, who have been waging more than a decade- long insurgency, have yet to make comment.
Earlier Wednesday, two people were injured when a suicide bomber detonated his explosive-laden bicycle in Dashti Archi district of northern Kunduz province.
Between Jan. 1 and June 30, 2012, in conflict-related violent incidents, a total of 1,145 civilians were killed and 1,954 injured, a 15 percent decrease in overall civilian casualties compared with the same period in 2011, a mid-year report released in Kabul by the United Nations office earlier Wednesday said.
Suicide Bombers Kill 3 NATO Troops in Afghanistan
VOA News August 8, 2012
Three NATO troops have died in eastern Afghanistan in what local officials say was an attack by two suicide bombers.
A NATO statement said the troops died Wednesday after an insurgent attack in eastern Afghanistan, but gave no further details.
Local officials said the suicide bombers struck a NATO foot patrol in Kunar province.
Also Wednesday, the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan released a new report saying civilian casualties declined by 15 percent in the first half of this year.
The report says anti-government elements are responsible for 80 percent of the casualties, with improvised explosive devices accounting for most of those killed and wounded.
Afghan and NATO forces accounted for 10 percent of the total. The final 10 percent could not be attributed to any party.
U.N. official Nicholas Haysom says the United Nations welcomes the reduction, but that Afghans are still being killed an injured "at an alarming rate."
Some information for this report was provided by AP and AFP.
Afghan Minibus May Have Been Mistaken Target
New York Times By MATTHEW ROSENBERG and ALISSA J. RUBIN August 7, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - A man who had been arrested on suspicion of insurgent activity and then released by the Afghan authorities detonated a remote-controlled bomb along a road outside Kabul on Tuesday, killing at least eight people in a packed minibus, the Afghan police said.
The attack was brazen even by the standards of the war in Afghanistan, where thousands of civilians have been killed in Taliban bombings and, to a lesser extent, coalition raids and airstrikes. The attacker was standing in plain sight with two other men along a busy road to Kabul when he set off the bomb under a small bridge, the police said.
The target may have been another vehicle carrying workers to their jobs at the Defense Ministry, some of them in military uniforms. The ministry vehicle was traveling behind the minibus carrying civilians, according to witnesses and officials, and the bomber may have gotten the timing wrong when setting off the explosives.
Like the ministry workers, the civilians were on their way to jobs in the capital when the bomb exploded, shortly after dawn at the start of the daily fast for the Islamic holy month of Ramadan, said Col. Amrullah, the police chief in Paghman district, which is part of Kabul Province. The colonel, like many Afghans, uses only one name.
The driver of the minibus, Muhammad Naim, said he at first did not realize that his vehicle had been hit by a bomb.
“I crossed the bridge, heard a big explosion, and one of my passengers said, ‘I think your tire is flat,’ ” Mr. Naim said in an interview near the scene of the attack. Then “my bus rolled over, and I saw bloody passengers and dead people and some people screaming.”
Colonel Amrullah identified the suspect as a man named Hujratullah, who is believed to be 20 to 22 years old. Mr. Hujratullah was arrested about two years ago in the same area and handed over to the National Directorate of Security, Afghanistan’s intelligence service, Colonel Amrullah said. He could not say when or why Mr. Hujratullah was released, and the security directorate did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, said they were still gathering information on the bombing. The Taliban have sought to portray themselves as the protectors of Afghan civilians, and they have often tried to distance themselves from attacks that kill innocent people.
According to Colonel Amrullah and witnesses, Mr. Hujratullah was seen near the road with the other two men when he is suspected of setting off the bomb — little more than a plastic container packed with explosives — using a remote control.
Enraged villagers then chased down the men, said Ghoncha Gul, a farmer who helped catch the suspect. The two other men got away, but Mr. Hujratullah was tackled by the residents. “We wanted to kill him, but other people said let the police come and deal with them,” Mr. Gul said.
When the police came, they found Mr. Hujratullah carrying a remote control for setting off bombs, as well as unused explosives, Colonel Amrullah said.
Along with the eight people killed, five others were wounded and taken to Kabul for treatment, he said.
Three days after Parliament voted to dismiss the defense and interior ministers, Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak announced his resignation in a hastily called news conference at his ministry, despite an announcement by President Hamid Karzai that he would stay on in his post until a replacement was found.
Mr. Wardak made a short resignation statement, paying his respects to the Afghan Army he helped build and speaking with pride of its achievements.
“In respect to the decision of the Parliament, the last two times they gave me a vote of confidence, but this time they did not, and I accept that,” said Mr. Wardak, who has been defense minister for 10 years. “This is my final meeting with you to say farewell, and I appreciate and honor the hard work of the Afghan Army’s soldiers and officers that have sacrificed themselves for the defense of this country.”
He added: “When I took over this office, we had barely 50,000 A.N.A. troops. But now we have 195,000 soldiers in the Ministry of Defense, and I am proud of every moment’s activities,” Mr. Wardak said, referring to the Afghan Army.
Parliament voted on Saturday to dismiss Mr. Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, the two most powerful members of President Hamid Karzai’s security team.
Lawmakers complained about a range of troubles at the Defense Ministry, including corruption in the its contracting procedures, a failure to respond to attacks beginning in Pakistan and favoritism in appointments.
However, some close to the government said that many Parliament members were also motivated by their own frustration that their recommendations for appointments had not been heeded and that they had not gotten a large enough share of contracts.
In a separate news briefing, Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal defended himself against charges of corruption, pointing fingers at a local television network that had disclosed some of his bank statements and demanding an investigation of the network and the bank that had released the statements, as well as requesting an unbiased investigation of his own finances.
Mr. Zakhilwal, whose finances and consulting activities have also been questioned by the head of the High Office on Oversight, has become a polarizing figure with fierce supporters and equally fierce detractors within the government.
In another attack on Tuesday, a Taliban truck bomber tried and failed to breach the gate at a base shared by Afghan and NATO forces in the eastern province of Logar. Ghulam Sakhi, the provincial police chief, said six Afghan civilians were wounded in the bombing, which took place around 9:30 a.m.
He said that two Americans may have been slightly wounded. “The explosives were hidden in a small truck under a pile of gravel,” he said.
The Taliban took responsibility for the attack. An Afghan soldier shot and killed at least one International Security Assistance Force soldier late this afternoon at a military camp in Paktia Province, Afghan military officials said, bringing to 31 the number of Western soldiers killed this year in “green-on-blue” attacks, in which members of the Afghan security forces turn their guns on their Western colleagues.
The pace of green-on-blue killings has risen steadily since 2009, when there were just 10 deaths. This year almost as many were recorded in the first seven months as in all of 2011, when there were 35 such killings, according to ISAF.
Employees of The New York Times contributed reporting from Kabul and Khost Province, Afghanistan.
NATO Appoints New Envoy to Afghanistan
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 07 August 2012
NATO announced that it has appointed Maurits R. Jochems as the new Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan.
"Our mission in Afghanistan is in a very important phase and I look forward to helping to ensure that the transition goes smoothly," said Ambassador Jochems. "I will also make it a priority to continue the good work in forging a close working partnership with the Government of Afghanistan and other actors. The success of our mission will be vital to secure a stable and prosperous Afghanistan. That is my goal."
Jochems will replaces Ambassador Simon Gass, who has held the position since April 2011 in Kabul, when he takes up the post in October this year.
Jochems previously served as Dutch ambassador to Estonia and served as NATO's interim civilian envoy to Afghanistan in 2008.
ISAF Commander General John Allen congratulates Jochems on his appointment saying that he looks forward to "working closely with Ambassador Jochems as NATO continues its mission to ultimately strengthen Afghan sovereignty, security and prosperity."
Kunar attacks undermine civilian livelihoods
KABUL, 7 August 2012 (IRIN) - One recent early morning, Bibi Hajira was milking the cows when a blast knocked her unconscious. "When I woke up I was in the hospital with head injuries. My left arm and right leg had both been hit. I don't remember anything else but that blast."
When Hajira returned home, she found her cow dead, and her goats and sheep injured. "I still get very scared every time I hear the sound of a rocket. It has a nasty sound."
Hajira is just one of several dozen injured in the ongoing shelling in the eastern province of Kunar, bordering Pakistan. The attacks, widely attributed to Pakistan, began in May and have recently intensified.
Afghan officials accuse Pakistan's military of firing the rockets across the border to target insurgent havens in the remote area, a claim Pakistan denies. While estimates vary, Fazlolah Waheedi, the governor of Kunar, told news agencies that in the past three months, 3,160 attacks have taken place in five districts of the province, killing eight people and wounding 25 others.
The assaults were described by Ilija Todorovic, deputy representative for the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), as "a series of volley of shells being rained down over a short period of time, randomly destroying houses and killing people".
The attacks have also resulted in a no-confidence vote by the Afghan parliament on the ministers of defence and the interior, who now only serve ad interim, after they were accused of not doing enough to prevent the incursions. Many fear the vote could further destabilize the already shaky transition from the International Security Assistance Force to national security forces.
Pattern of violence
''It was during the evening when 30 or so rockets landed in my remote village of Barkanday on the border," said Haji Bado Khan, a farmer from Dangam District.
"There was a sudden bang, and after few minutes I saw everyone laying in blood. My two grandchildren and wife were injured. My cattle was killed. My chickens had heart attacks and I even had shrapnel in my left arm. And then more rockets came. The nearby forest caught fire. Villagers brought their mules and donkeys and took us to a hospital, but we all lost a lot of blood on the way. My cattle was my income so now I am left without a job. I can't sell milk, yogurt or butter anymore.''
UN and government officials said this year's shelling and rocket attacks are similar to those that took place about the same time last year, but while the previous year's assaults tapered off around the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, this year's attacks show little sign of letting up.
So far 559 families from about seven villages have been displaced from Dangam and surrounding areas. The majority of these families have moved to neighboring villages and districts.
"If last year gives us any indication of what will happen this year," said UNHCR's Todorovic, "a large number of families will wait it out, until the attacks die down or stop, and then return home. Some - similar to last year - will remain in displacement permanently."
"No one knows when it will stop," said Walid Akbar, spokesman for the Afghan Red Crescent Society. "The government and international forces cannot get in [because of the insecurity] and if the people just return back home to their villages and return to work on their land, unfortunately, it will start again."
Compounding the turmoil, many of the same villages and families affected in the 2011 attacks are being hit again this year.
For most Afghans living in the area, the fear has been overwhelming. "The rockets continue to land. Sometimes dozens, sometimes a few, and sometimes I lose count," said Sayedo Jan, another farmer from Dangam District. "No people have been injured or killed, but the children are terrified."
Afghan athlete runs for more than speed
Washington Post By Kathleen Parker Wednesday, August 8, 2012
Other dreams may be equal to this one, but few are as accessible. Every able-bodied human being on the planet can and has run, knows the feeling of running full speed — as fast as you can — and the exhilaration of crossing a finish line, or not.
Unless you’re Shelly-Ann Fraser-Pryce, someone is always faster.
But never mind. Whoever may be faster in the next lane, the fastest person in the runner’s heart is the runner herself. The feeling of fastest possible, though known to most, is indescribable. It is too bad that life eventually slows the sprinter in every former child.
Running is unique in sport by virtue of its utter purity, requiring nothing more than a willing body and force of spirit. No accoutrements: No bats, balls, helmets, motors, masks, goggles, oars, nets, padding, bars or beams. It’s just you against ground, gravity and your own heart, not merely literally.
Sure, some are more genetically blessed than others, but anyone can turn the ignition and churn away. Deprived of wings, running is as close as we humans come to flying. To run is to be alone, free and limited only by the horizon. Whether recreational or functional, to run is to escape.
Run, Forrest. Run.
Such a simple imperative. All God’s creatures run — or get eaten. Or trampled. Or raped.
The world’s fastest woman tells a story about being approached by a boy on her way home from school, who said it was time little Fraser-Pryce learned about men’s “gifts.” When she told her mother about the encounter, Mom grabbed a knife and showed the fellow the sharp edge of his fate should he pursue her daughter again.
It’s a fair guess Fraser-Pryce could escape a pursuer, but not all women are so swift. And, in some places still, women who run are ridiculed and shunned. How dare they express themselves as strong and free, and faster than the men who would punish them? One such runner stands out in London not because she is faster than most but because she runs at all.
Tahmina Kohistani of Afghanistan didn’t even qualify to compete in the 100-meter race that Fraser-Pryce won. But she won an even greater contest against the odds. She made it to London despite being heckled and chastised at home, where as recently as last month the Taliban executed a woman for being accused of adultery. There, Kohistani is a bad woman. Good women walk behind their men, and sports are for men to enjoy without the company of women — except when occasionally they turn their stadiums into execution fields for noncompliant women.
Kohistani, who ran wearing a headdress and clothing that covered her arms and legs, suffered moments of doubt leading up to her qualifying race. What was the point, after all, if back home she was reviled? But she found strength in that place that runners all seem to have — one imagines a tiny, gossamer village in one of the heart’s chambers where elves in silk streamers perform pirouettes to arias, churning out potions of endorphin-infused joy.
Kohistani found her focus: “I will continue,” she said. “Someone should respond this way. And someone should take these problems and I am the one who is ready for the problem.”
Talk about the travails of destiny.
Imagine that by wanting to run, you are essentially instructing the Taliban and its ilk, a primitive, misogynist bunch — armed and dangerous toward women — that they are the bad ones. Imagine that by wanting to run, you are essentially instructing the Taliban and its ilk, a primitive, misogynist bunch — armed and dangerous toward women — that they are the bad ones. Imagine that by wanting to run, you are essentially instructing a primitive, misogynist religion — armed and dangerous toward women — that they, the Taliban and its ilk, are the bad ones. If you are that person, you’d better be able to run, all right, and you’d better be fast.
This is the component missing from most discussions of world-class athletes, but especially when it comes to those women from Muslim countries who competed in the Olympics this year for the first time, including from Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Brunei. For any athlete, it takes enormous courage to step up to the starting line, to risk defeat and the disappointment of one’s country.
But to risk scorn — and perhaps one’s life — is another category altogether. Kohistani may not be the fastest woman in the world, but she is among the bravest.
Run, Tahmina. Run!
Afghan Commerce Minister Wary of Antagonizing Pakistan
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 07 August 2012
Because of Afghanistan's large amount of dry fruit export to Pakistan via the border crossing, Afghanistan should not jeopardize its relationship with Pakistan, according to the Minister of Commerce and Industries, Anwarul Haq Ahadi.
In his speech to Senators, Ahadi stressed that "We [Afghanistan] should take it easy with Pakistan...[and] if we react as Pakistan has, we will have major losses."
Hundreds of Afghan trucks have been stopped on the Pakistini-Afghan border by Pakistani military for several days and weeks in recent months.
According to the Zalmai Rassoul, Afghan Foreign Minister , "Diplomatic efforts to solve the issue have failed. Pakistan promised to form a commission in this regard."
Afghan Chamber of Commerce officials also believe that Pakistan tried to keep Afghan goods longer in transit for higher taxes and transit charges within the country.
Transit controversy between Afghanistan and Pakistan have increased since NATO supply trucks have had issues crossing into Afghanistan.
Afghanistan Sacks Its Security Chiefs: How Will That Affect U.S. Forces?
The parliamentary denoucement of the ministers of defense and the interior may be a sign of Afghan democracy at work but it makes the security situation much more volatile for U.S. forces preparing to withdraw
TIME By John Wendle August 7, 2012
Kabul - The death notices that NATO e-mails to the press when a soldier is killed in action in Afghanistan are disturbing in their brevity and vary only in their basic details. One of the two issued on Tuesday read, “KABUL, Afghanistan (Aug. 7) — An International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) service member died following an improvised explosive device (IED) attack in southern Afghanistan today.” It is a common type: soldiers are mostly killed by roadside bombs and small-arms fire in Afghanistan’s south and east.
Over July, NATO issued 22 of those e-mails, accounting for 30 soldiers killed in action — meaning an average of almost one soldier killed every day of the month. And 11 NATO soldiers have been killed since Aug. 1. These are the statistics facing NATO command — numbers that point to an unweakened insurgency that has expanded to encircle Kabul — as it prepares to withdraw and hand over primary security duties to an Afghan army and national police that many fear are unprepared.
This fragile security mix became more volatile over the weekend when Afghanistan’s fractious parliament returned a vote of no confidence against Defense Minister Abdul Rahim Wardak and Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi, key security chiefs widely accepted by Western officials. On Tuesday, Aug. 7, Wardak announced he would step down rather than continue to hold his post as an acting Minister until President Hamid Karzai finds a replacement.
The vote of no confidence came after allegations of corruption and perceived feebleness on the parts of Wardak and Mohammadi in their response to weeks of rocket and artillery barrages over Afghanistan’s mountainous border with Pakistan. The attacks, which reportedly include some 400 shells that fell in one July day in Kunar province, have displaced hundreds of civilians and killed at least four people. NATO press releases have pointed a finger at insurgents and shied away from accusing the Pakistani military of the attacks, even though insurgents do not have the necessary heavy artillery or skill to carry out such assaults. TIME’s query to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) headquarters on this question was never answered, though observers have noted that NATO has to tread carefully with Islamabad now that Pakistan has reopened the border to the alliance’s resupply lines — a fact highlighted by the Aug. 2 visit to Pakistan by General John Allen, the U.S. and NATO’s chief military officer in A
Though Lieut. General James Terry, the new leader of NATO’s international joint command, has tried to downplay the significance of the sacking of the two Ministers, longtime observers are worried about the future of the transition process. “This move is significant. [Wardak and Mohammadi] are heavily involved in the security forces of Afghanistan, in the making of the security forces and in the transition process. Any new Minister will need some time to familiarize himself, especially if he comes from the outside — if he hasn’t been involved in the Ministry of Defense and the Interior Ministry, in the army and police force,” says Mahmoud Saikal, a former Deputy Foreign Minister and a key member of the political opposition. He adds that this was “unfortunate because [Wardak and Mohammadi] are not too incompetent. They are O.K. They have seen the battlefield.”
At the same time, while the move has sent waves through the security and transition authorities, Saikal sees a positive side to the development: that the sacking is a positive indication of democracy working in Afghanistan. “The good news is that what parliament did was legal. It was orderly and went according to procedure. This was an exercise of democracy. Karzai did his best to tarnish the reputation of the Lower House and make them ineffective. Now we are seeing the re-emergence of the Lower House,” Saikal tells TIME.
As to who will replace the Ministers, the Afghan systems of patronage and plot and counterplot have already started rumors of conspiracy churning. “Zarar Ahmad Muqbel Osmani, the Minister of Counter Narcotics, was rumored to want the Ministry of Interior post last year, but in Afghanistan it’s difficult to tell which rumors are true,” says an Afghanistan expert who has worked in the country for 16 years and who, like others sources — including members of parliament — interviewed for this story point to how the departments are the gateways for lucrative contracts. “It will be difficult to replace either of them in a short space of time,” he continues, adding that other candidates would be perceived as equally corrupt, “weak and pointless.”
For the Defense Ministry, Fabrizio Foschini of the Afghanistan Analysts Network says it is “realistic” that Army Chief of Staff General Sher Muhammad Karimi will be considered, since “he is from Paktia [a province that shares a frontier with Pakistan] and has taken a very tough stance on the border issue, spicing it up with nationalist declarations about Afghanistan’s borders.” Foschini adds, though, that Karimi’s political history as a member of the communist People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan is problematic.
A poster plastered all over the hallways of the U.S. embassy in Kabul reads, “Keep Calm, and Transition.” With the date of the transition from fighting to mentoring to withdrawal creeping closer — and with no Afghan captains at the helm and no obvious candidates on the horizon — the posters may be harder and harder to heed.
TOLOnews Refused Entry into Finance Minister's Press Conference
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 07 August 2012
Security refused a TOLOnews reporter entry to the Finance Minister's press briefing where Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal responded to allegations of corruption.
Zakhilwal has allegedly received over $1.5m to his bank accounts in Alfalah and Standard Chartered Banks.
After the press conference, Zakhilwal sent a letter to the Attorney General Office asking for restoration of his dignity and clarification of his properties.
Zakhilwal's letter asked the Attorney General to investigate his assets and report to the president. The letter also indicates that if the Head of Afghanistan's High Office of Oversight and Anti-Corruption misused his position in the allegations against the Finance Minister, the investigation by the Attorney General should be open to the local and international media.
Additionally, Zakhilwal has asked the Attorney General to prosecute the banks and the individuals who revealed his bank details to the media. He also asked the attorney General to prosecute anyone who has proven to intentionally defame him
Recent bank accounts shown to TOLOnews indicate that Zakhilwal has transferred more than $1.5m to his national and international bank accounts in last 5 years.
He claims that his work as consultant to the World Bank and various research are the reason for his savings.
Strike the Haqqani Terror Network’s Wallet
Bloomberg By the Editors Aug 8, 2012
In confirmation hearings last week, Richard Olson, President Barack Obama’s nominee for ambassador to Pakistan, said his top priority would be working with the Pakistanis to degrade the Taliban-allied Haqqani network.
With good reason, the U.S. considers the Haqqani network to be the greatest threat to international and local forces in Afghanistan. Its trademark is suicide attacks, like those last September in Kabul on the U.S. Embassy and the headquarters of NATO-led international troops. Much of the Haqqanis’ success owes to the haven that the group enjoys in North Waziristan, part of Pakistan’s semi-autonomous tribal region.
Unfortunately, the odds of getting the Pakistanis to crack down are slim. Like the Americans, they have a history with the group; both supported its founder, Jalaluddin Haqqani, and his followers in the 1980s against the Soviets, who then occupied Afghanistan. Unlike the Americans, though, the Pakistanis have kept up their ties and regard the group as key to their future - - insurance that the government of Afghanistan’s president, Hamid Karzai, won’t get powerful enough to gang up with India against Pakistan, which sits between the two. That scenario might sound far-fetched, but it’s real to Pakistanis.
Anyway, Pakistan is not in a particularly appeasing mood. It only recently reopened its roads to allow the resupply of international forces in Afghanistan after the U.S. belatedly apologized for accidentally killing 24 Pakistani soldiers near the border last November.
Although the U.S. can’t count on Pakistan as a partner, it can do more to combat the Haqqanis on its own. Last month, the House and Senate passed a resolution urging the State Department to add the network to the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations. The president should overcome his hesitation and sign the measure so that it takes force.
The administration has been reluctant to go that route because it fears foreclosing the chance that the Haqqanis will join the suspended Afghan national-reconciliation effort. The U.S. hopes that process will produce a political settlement before its last troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan in 2014.
Without a terrorist designation, however, the U.S. has little power to disrupt the Haqqani network’s well-established fundraising in Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf countries. The U.S. has sanctioned a handful of Haqqani leaders, freezing any assets they hold under U.S. jurisdiction and prohibiting Americans from doing business with them. Labeling the group as terrorist would bar Americans from supplying the group with money and, more important, require financial institutions to block all funds in which it has an interest. The U.S. Treasury has enforced the latter ban in previous cases by threatening to shun any bank that handles such transactions, an action that has cut into the earnings of other terrorist organizations, notably al-Qaeda.
The Haqqanis wouldn’t like this, but that wouldn’t necessarily decrease the odds of their joining a reconciliation process. Like the Taliban, they will agree to a political settlement when they are sufficiently weakened or they calculate it is in their interests. Cutting into their funds could hasten that determination.
In any case, the prospect of reconciliation hasn’t inhibited the Haqqanis from killing Americans, who are likewise killing Haqqanis. In that deadly context, throttling their funding seems both sensible and appropriate.
Exclusive: U.S. sweetens Taliban prisoner proposal in bid to revive peace talks
Reuters By Missy Ryan Tue Aug 7, 2012
WASHINGTON - The Obama administration, in a move aimed at reviving Afghan peace talks, has sweetened a proposed deal under which it would transfer Taliban detainees from Guantanamo Bay prison in exchange for a U.S. soldier held by Taliban allies in Pakistan.
The revised proposal, a concession from an earlier U.S. offer, would alter the sequence of the move of five senior Taliban figures held for years at the U.S. military prison to the Gulf state of Qatar, sources familiar with the issue said.
U.S. officials have hoped the prisoner exchange, proposed as a good-faith move in initial discussions between U.S. negotiators and Taliban officials, would open the door to peace talks between militants and the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
The revised proposal would send all five Taliban prisoners to Qatar first, said sources who spoke on condition of anonymity. Only then would the Taliban be required to release Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, the only U.S. prisoner of war.
Previously, U.S. officials had proposed dividing the Taliban prisoners into two groups, and requiring Bergdahl's release as a good-faith gesture to come before the second group of prisoners would be moved out of Guantanamo.
Bergdahl, now 26 years old, disappeared from his base in southern Afghanistan in June 2009 and is believed to be being held by Taliban militants in northwestern Pakistan.
The White House and the Bergdahl family declined to comment on the revised proposal for a deal.
The altered transfer plans were discussed with Qatari officials during a visit in mid-June by Marc Grossman, U.S. President Barack Obama's special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, the sources said. It was unclear if the altered proposal had been put forward before those discussions.
Qatar, which is hosting a number of Taliban officials, has played a key role in almost two years of initial, secret discussions between U.S. officials and representatives of the shadowy militant group, which remains a formidable enemy in Afghanistan even as U.S. and NATO troops begin to withdraw.
As part of a process the Obama administration hoped would lead to substantive talks on Afghanistan's future, the Taliban's leadership had planned to formally open a political office in Doha. But the Taliban announced in March it would withdraw from the talks, citing what it said were inconsistencies in the U.S. negotiating position.
U.S. officials are now cautiously seeking to prepare the ground for a resumption in talks. But any negotiations involving the Taliban, even preliminary ones, could pose a political risk for Obama months before the U.S. presidential election.
The proposed prisoner transfer was first reported in December by Reuters.
The Taliban detainees are seen as among the most dangerous remaining at Guantanamo, and the transfer idea drew strong opposition on Capitol Hill even before it was formally proposed.
Many lawmakers fretted that transferred detainees would reappear on the battlefield, and objected to the possible release of prisoners blamed for bloody crimes in Afghanistan.
U.S. officials stress that the transfer, if it occurs, will be done in accordance with U.S. law, which requires Congress to be notified before any detainees are moved from Guantanamo.
The transfer of the prisoners has long been seen as a necessary evil by U.S. negotiators in their effort to coax the Taliban into talks.
The militant group has long demanded their release, but the Pentagon, which handles detainee transfers, is particularly skeptical of a move officials there fear might not only fail to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table but also lead to the department being blamed for moving dangerous militants out of prison.
According to a report released early this year from the House Armed Services Committee, more than one in four of the 600 former detainees moved from Guantanamo to countries like Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or Yemen were confirmed or suspected to subsequently be engaged in 'terrorist activities.'
Democrats accused the committee's majority Republicans of fear-mongering when they released that report.
Of the five senior Taliban figures, many officials and lawmakers are particularly nervous about transferring Mullah Mohammed Fazl, a "high-risk detainee" who was in the first group sent to Guantanamo in early 2002, under what could be only loose security and travel restrictions.
A former Taliban deputy minister of defense, Fazl is alleged to be responsible for the massacre of thousands of minority Shi'ites.
The group also includes Noorullah Noori, a former top military commander; former deputy intelligence minister Abdul Haq Wasiq; and Khairullah Khairkhwa, a former interior minister.
The identity of the fifth detainee remains unclear.
While a debate continues to rage within the U.S. administration about the wisdom of peace talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan experts see few other options for achieving even a modicum of stability in a region plagued by civil conflict for decades.
The Taliban may have been weakened by Obama's 2009-2010 troop surge into Afghanistan, but it remains a potent enemy as the foreign force grows smaller. It is also deeply mistrustful of U.S. overtures and has appeared this year to grapple with its own divisions.
In early 2012, Western officials say, the Taliban's reclusive leaders struggled to contain a backlash from mid-level militants who opposed talking to the West. While they appear to have mostly succeeded in containing that response, even a start to real peace talks could still be years away.
Even so, analysts say there are signs that the Taliban leadership, based in Pakistan, may now be more open to a negotiated settlement, and these have included the appearance of a senior Taliban figure at a recent conference in Japan.
"The Taliban doesn't want a vacuum in Afghanistan or a civil war with the North they know they can't win," said Ahmed Rashid, a prominent Pakistani author and expert on the Taliban, referring to powerful northern warlords who battled the Taliban in the 1990s and continue to wield power in Afghanistan.
"The elements that have been dealing with the U.S. government basically want a deal."
(Additional reporting by Mark Hosenball; Editing by Warren Strobel and David Brunnstrom)
Heads Roll as Afghan Parliament Questions Defence Failures
Ministers blamed for not doing enough to prevent rockets raining down from neighbouring Pakistan.
IWPR By Hafizullah Gardesh, Mina Habib 7 Aug 12
Afghanistan - Afghanistan’s defence minister Abdul Rahim Wardak has resigned after parliament called for him to go, along with Interior Minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi.
Wardak’s announcement on July 7 came four days after legislators passed a vote of no confidence in him and Mohammadi, whose ministry controls the Afghan National Police.
President Hamid Karzai said he would respect parliament’s views and remove the two ministers, but he asked them to stay on in a caretaker capacity while he found replacements. Wardak refused to carry on in this lesser role.
The two security-sector ministers had faced mounting criticism for their apparent failure to counter cross-border attacks from Pakistan.
Rockets continued to fall on the eastern Kunar province throughout July, as senior Afghan officials pointed the finger at the Pakistani military rather than Taleban militants, saying that only Islamabad had access to the munitions used.
Pakistan has denied the allegation, while the United States Defence Department and the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force, ISAF, have indicated that insurgents may be to blame.
On July 20, rockets killed three men and a woman in Kunar province, according to the Afghan foreign ministry. On July 22 and 23, nearly 400 rockets were fired from Pakistani territory into Kunar’s Dangam district. More have fallen since.
Kabul has previously threatened to refer Islamabad to the United Nations Security Council if the bombardment, which began in May, does not stop. (See Afghans Say Pakistan Behind Cross Border Fire.)
Kunar provincial governor Fazlullah Wahedi said nearly 2,000 rockets had landed in recent months. As well as killing civilians, the attacks had displaced hundreds of families.
“The central government should address this issue seriously. The bombardment has made the public very anxious,” Wahedi told local media.
This week, Afghanistan’s interior minister Bismillah Khan Mohammadi and army chief-of-staff Sher Mohammad Karimi, appeared before the Meshrano Jirga, or upper house of parliament, to discuss the Kunar attacks.
Mohammadi presented photographs of munitions that had landed and claimed that only the Pakistani military possessed armaments of this type, including 155-mm artillery shells.
Karimi assured senators that the Pakistani military was behind the shelling, and claimed the assault was intended to pressure Kabul into accepting the Durand Line, a poorly-defined border established by an 1893 agreement. Kabul does not recognise the line, which Pakistan would like to see formalised as the official frontier.
Karimi also questioned why the US was not doing more to address the situation.
“I don’t know why the Americans are ignoring this issue,” he told the Meshrano Jirga. “Maybe the Americans are afraid because Pakistan has nuclear weapons, or maybe they are old friends and [America] doesn’t want to clash with them.”
In Washington, Pentagon spokesman George Little said America was working closely with Afghanistan and Pakistan to try and limit violence along the border. Little suggested that insurgents were to blame, according to press reports on July 25.
“We have obviously been in constant contact with the Afghan government to work on these issues and we have put pressure on the enemy that operates along the border,” Little told a press conference in Washington.
The US embassy in Kabul declined to comment on the issue, saying it fell within ISAF’s remit.
On July 24, ISAF condemned what it called “cross-border insurgent indirect-fire attacks” and said it was working with the Afghan defence ministry and the Pakistani government to stop them.
The Pakistani embassy in Kabul has denied any state involvement in the attacks. Embassy press officer Akhtar Munir said insurgents operating on either side of the border could be firing the rockets in the hope that Afghans would blame Pakistan.
Kunar is mountainous and heavily forested, and borders Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, over which Islamabad has limited control.
Officials in Islamabad have accused insurgents of staging attacks into Pakistan from Kunar. They say the Pakistani Taleban have found refuge in parts of eastern Afghanistan from which most Afghan and American forces have withdrawn over the last two years, and are now using the area as a springboard for cross-border attacks, according to a New York Times report.
Pakistan’s Dawn newspaper reported on July 24 that “terrorists” had launched 15 attacks from Kunar and Nuristan provinces against Pakistani border posts and villages over the last year. The newspaper claimed that 105 soldiers and civilians had been killed in the attacks.
Kabul has largely confined its response to the shelling to formal diplomatic channels.
President Hamid Karzai and the incoming Pakistani prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf told a press conference in Kabul in July that they had discussed the attacks, though a more junior Afghan official was left to issue a sterner public statement.
Jawed Ludin, deputy foreign minister for political affairs, conveyed Kabul’s “serious concerns” to Pakistani ambassador Mohammad Sadiq on July 22. He warned that the bombardment “would have a significant negative impact on bilateral relations, especially in light of the broad range of important issues related to peace, security and economic cooperation”, according to a foreign ministry statement.
Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi said the administration understood the public’s concerns, but was keen to avoid reacting emotionally to what was a complicated issue,
“We understand our people’s feelings but the issue is very complex. We are doing whatever is in the country’s national interest,” he said. “Some decisions have been made in this regard and some orders have been issued to the security agencies, but we cannot divulge the details.”
Some Afghans are frustrated that their foreign allies have not done more to stand up for Afghanistan, especially after Karzai and US president Barack Obama signed a strategic partnership agreement earlier this year. In the agreement, which paved the way for continued cooperation until 2024, the US said it would view any external aggression against Afghanistan with “grave concern”. (For more on the deal, see Afghan Parliament Approves US Partnership.)
Faizi said Afghan officials had raised the Kunar bombardment several times in meetings with senior NATO and ISAF officials, while interior ministry spokesman Mohammad Sediq Sediqi confirmed that officials had presented evidence of Pakistan’s alleged involvement to their foreign allies.
But according to an official in the presidential office, the commander of ISAF and US forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, remains unconvinced. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official said Allen had told the Afghan authorities several times that they lacked sufficient proof of Pakistani involvement.
The official said that while the situation was very complicated, the US and NATO were displaying “negligence and ignorance” regarding the attacks.
Atiqullah Amarkhel, a defence expert and retired general, said a stronger government in Kabul might have lobbied more successfully for western help. He added that the US was heavily reliant on Pakistan’s support in Afghanistan, which might make it reluctant to accuse Islamabad of involvement.
On July 31 the US and Pakistan signed a deal on shipments of supplies to the international forces in Afghanistan, prompting Washington to release over one billion dollars in frozen military aid, the Associated Press reported. This ended a crisis that began in November 2011 when Islamabad closed its borders to freight for NATO troops in Afghanistan, after American airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Wahid Mozhda, an Afghan political analyst, said that even if it knew Islamabad was implicated in the shelling, Washington might be reluctant to confront it given its reliance on the transit route.
“The... least expensive transit route for American troops here in the region goes through Pakistan. The US needs Pakistan to achieve its long-term goals in the region,” Mozhda said. “I am confident that with the technology at their disposal, the Americans know where the rockets coming into Afghanistan are being fired from, but they don’t want to upset Pakistan,” he said.
Hafizullah Gardesh is IWPR’s Afghanistan editor. Mina Habib is an IWPR-trained contributor in Kabul.
Local Police Commander Sentenced to Death
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 07 August 2012
Jawuzjan's local police commander and three others were sentenced to death for kidnapping and killing a driver in Kabul.
Abdul Basit Bakhtiyari, Head of Kabul's 4th district primary court, sentenced the four to death in accordance with Article nine of the anti-kidnapping and human trafficking law.
The sentenced four will reimburse the family for the goods stolen from the victim.
Those convicted of kidnapping deny the charges and say they were forced to confess while being tortured during a NDS interrogation.
The decision is not final and the convicts can appeal.
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