[Afghan News] July 25, 2012 - 08-09-2012, 03:14 PM
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon's decision to change the standards used to grade the success of Afghan police and soldiers, who are a centerpiece of U.S. strategy for smoothly exiting the war in Afghanistan, helped it present a positive picture of those forces' abilities, a U.S. government watchdog reported on Tuesday.
"These changes ... were responsible, in part, for its reported increase in April 2012 of the number of ANSF units rated at the highest level," the Government Accountability Office said in a new report on Afghan national security forces, known as ANSF.
In a twice-annual report to Congress in April 2012, the Defense Department reported that Afghan police and soldiers "continued to make substantial progress," classifying 15 out of 219 army units as able to operate 'independently with assistance' from foreign advisors. Almost 40 out of 435 police units got the same rating.
The United States and its NATO allies have poured years of effort and billions of dollars into building up Afghanistan's police and army, which are taking over security as foreign forces prepare to withdraw most troops by the end of 2014.
While Afghan forces are far larger and better trained than they once were, they remain hobbled by problems including inadequate literacy and weak intelligence and logistics capability.
"Key definitions used in capability assessments ... have changed several times," the GAO said. Its report said the Pentagon's highest rating for Afghan forces had changed from 'independent' in early 2011 to 'independent with advisors' later that year.
The Defense Department said that change occurred to better reflect the evolving nature of foreign troops' relationship with local forces, and Afghan units' differing skill levels.
"The methods and tools used by (the NATO-led mission in Afghanistan) have certainly evolved, but the changes that have been made have been designed to more accurately track the progress of ANSF units," a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity.
"Standards have been made more realistic, but not less rigorous," the official said.
The GAO added that the change to 'independent with advisors' rating "also lowered the standard for unit personnel and equipment levels from 'not less than 85' to 'not less than 75' percent of authorized levels."
"Clarity regarding the criteria by which security forces are assessed is critical to congressional oversight of efforts to develop foreign security forces," the GAO said.
NATO nations may also struggle in future to secure sufficient funding for Afghan forces, who are likely to face a fierce fight against the Taliban.
Over 10 years after the Taliban government was toppled, the Afghan insurgency remains potent, even though militants were pushed out of some parts of southern Afghanistan following President Barack Obama's troop increase in 2009 and 2010.
(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Jackie Frank and Peter Cooney)
Afghan security forces say major hotel attack foiled
By Mirwais Harooni | Reuters – Tue, Jul 24, 2012
Kabul (Reuters) - Afghan security forces have foiled a plan by insurgents to attack a major international hotel in Kabul, intelligence officials said on Tuesday, blocking what would have been the second such attack in the capital in as many months.
Describing the plan as "major and aggressive", a spokesman for Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security (NDS) said the attack could have caused carnage, although he refused to give details.
"Terrorists planned to launch an attack on a five-star hotel. We avoided the assassination of scores of our people and the destruction of an important installation," said Shafiqullah Tahiri, the deputy spokesman for the NDS.
Investigations into the attack were continuing, he said.
Taliban gunmen in June stormed a small resort hotel and restaurant at Qargha lake, on Kabul's outskirts, taking hostages and killing 20 people with rocket-propelled grenades, suicide vests and assault rifles.
Afghan police and NATO-led international forces ended the attack after a 12-hour siege, but it again showed the ability of insurgents to stage high-profile raids even as NATO nations prepare to withdraw most of their combat troops by the end of 2014 and leave Afghans to lead the fight.
In April, Taliban fired rockets into the Star Hotel near President Hamid Karzai's presidential palace during an attack on the city's central business area, while in June 2011 insurgents attacked the Kabul Intercontinental Hotel, killing 19 people, including all eight attackers.
(Editing by Rob Taylor)
Al-Qaida-linked insurgent killed in eastern Afghan operation
KABUL, July 25 (Xinhua) -- An al-Qaida-linked insurgent was killed in a joint operation carried out by the Afghan forces and the NATO-led coalition troops in the eastern Afghan province of Nuristan, the coalition forces said Wednesday.
"Afghan and coalition forces conducted a security operation in Waygal district, Nuristan province, yesterday. During the operation the security force identified the al-Qaida-associated insurgent Khanjar, also known as Turab. The security force engaged Khanjar and killed him," the coalition or NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said in a statement providing daily operational updates to media.
Khanjar was an insurgent leader with ties to both the al-Qaida terrorist organization and the Taliban insurgency, it said, adding "He provided safe-haven to al-Qaida members operating throughout Nuristan and coordinated Taliban activities in the region. He also oversaw the training of Taliban insurgents in the province."
No civilians had been harmed and no civilian property had been damaged during the raid, the statement added.
Separately, an Afghan and coalition security force conducted an operation to arrest a Taliban leader in Nawah-ye Barakzai district, Helmand province earlier Wednesday, according to the coalition statement.
"The Taliban leader is a specialist in the use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and directs IED attacks against Afghan and coalition forces throughout northern Helmand."
As a result of the operation, the security force detained multiple suspected insurgents and seized more than 18 kg of explosive material and IED components.
However, the Taliban insurgent group, which announced the launching of an annual spring offensive from May 3 against Afghan and NATO forces, has not made comments yet.
13 Taliban insurgents killed, 33 arrested in Afghanistan: gov't
KABUL, July 25 (Xinhua) -- Up to 13 Taliban insurgents have been killed and 33 captured in six cleanup operations carried out by Afghan police, army and the NATO-led coalition forces within the past 24 hours, the Afghan Interior Ministry said Wednesday.
"The joint operations were conducted in Nuristan, Zabul, Wardak, Logar, Ghazni and Herat provinces and two other armed insurgents were wounded during the above raids," the ministry said in a statement providing morning operational updates to the media.
They also found and seized weapons, the statement said, without saying if there were any casualties on the side of security forces.
However, the Taliban insurgent group, which announced the launching of an annual spring offensive from May 3 against Afghan and NATO forces, has not to make any comments.
Afghan forces and some 130,000 NATO-led coalition troops have intensified cleanup operations against Taliban and other militants throughout the country recently.
More than 440 insurgents had been killed, 46 wounded and over 280 detained by the joint force since the beginning of this month, according to the figures released by the country's Interior Ministry.
However, the Taliban insurgents, who have been waging more than a decade-long insurgency, in retaliation responded by carrying out suicide attacks and roadside bombings especially in southern and eastern parts of the country.
A total of seven children were killed when a bomb, initially planted by insurgents to target security forces, went off in western Ghor province Tuesday afternoon.
U.S. Builds Afghan Air Base, But Where Are the Planes?
Wall Street Journal By NATHAN HODGE July 24, 2012
SHINDAND, Afghanistan - Shindand Air Base has an 8,000-foot runway, a gleaming new headquarters complex and a cadre of motivated Afghan pilot candidates.
Because of the way Washington operates, however, it lacks warplanes.
The budding Afghan air force was supposed to receive $355 million worth of planes custom-made for fighting guerrillas well ahead of the U.S. withdrawal in 2014. Equipped with machine guns, missiles and bombs, those reliable, rugged turboprop aircraft are cheaper to operate and easier to maintain than fighter jets.
The Afghans won't get the planes on time. The Air Force initially awarded a contract to a U.S. company to supply Brazilian-designed planes. But it canceled the contract after a Kansas-based plane maker filed suit to block it, and the Air Force decided the contract had insufficient documentation. The Kansas congressional delegation also lobbied hard against the Brazilian plane. The Air Force has started the bidding process again, and a new contract likely won't be awarded until next year.
Afghanistan is unlikely to gain an independent, fully functioning air force until around 2016 or 2017, two to three years after the U.S. pullout, said Air Force Brig. Gen. Timothy Ray, who heads the NATO air training command in Afghanistan.
"They have wasted the most precious commodity they have in combat, which is time," says Edward Timperlake, a former Marine Corps fighter pilot who served as a director of technology assessment at the Pentagon until 2009 and is now retired.
Problems with the Afghan warplanes add to a separate controversy over a $275 million fleet of U.S.-provided C-27A cargo planes that has remained grounded for months because of lack of maintenance and spare parts, information first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
At a meeting with President Hamid Karzai and security officials in late May, the Afghan military expressed "unease" over the slow pace of the air force's revival and asked for urgent talks with the U.S. and allies to tackle the issue, according to a presidential statement.
Obtaining these attack planes "is very important for us in order to support our infantry, the army on the ground," says Afghan Lt. Gen. Mohammad Dawran, chief of staff for the Afghan air force, in an interview. "We desperately need to intensify the capacity of our air force."
Air power is essential for policing Afghanistan, a mountainous land with forbidding terrain, harsh weather and few roads. Recent events have underscored its importance in quelling the insurgency. When the Taliban staged attacks in Kabul and across the country in April, Afghan security forces managed to end the assault thanks to U.S. air support.
The country's previous occupiers knew this well: As the Soviets withdrew in 1989, they left to the Afghans over 400 military aircraft, including over 200 Soviet-made fighter jets. Remnants of that defunct air force—rusting supersonic Su-22 attack planes, bullet-perforated Mi-6 heavy lift helicopters—now litter the boneyard of Shindand, the hub of the Afghan air force near the Iranian border.
Maj. Gen. Mohammad Baqi, the top Afghan air force commander at Shindand, likes to bring young Afghan trainees here for a history lesson. The scrap heap, he says, is a reminder of "what a strong air force we had" before the base was battered by Afghanistan's civil war, and before its runway was cratered by U.S. bombs during the 2001 campaign to oust the Taliban.
"We don't want the same thing to happen to our new air force that happened to the last one," he says.
Across from the Shindand scrap heap these days, hundreds of Afghan construction workers in hard hats and reflective vests are putting the finishing touches on a headquarters facility for the Afghan air force. Concrete for aircraft parking spaces is freshly poured; dormitories for enlisted personnel are coated with canary-yellow paint; and spacious new aircraft hangars with curved roofs rise over the flight line.
U.S. Air Force Col. John Hokaj, until recently the commander of the advisory group that helps oversee the training of Afghan aviators, had signs placed in front of the construction site advertising it as the "home of the Afghan air force," a gesture to Afghanistan's sovereignty.
All told, the U.S. has spent nearly $300 million on upgrading the Shindand facilities. The base has a brand-new fleet of small fixed-wing aircraft: Six Cessna C-182T training planes and 12 Cessna C-208B short-haul transports, both propeller-driven aircraft painted in military gray with Afghan air force livery.
Young Afghan helicopter pilots are flying the MD-530F, high-performance training helicopters made by MD Helicopters Inc. of Mesa, Ariz. They eventually graduate to the Russian-made Mi-17, a workhorse transport chopper.
Shindand's training program, Gen. Baqi said, was on track to turn out a competent new group of pilots. Problem is these pilots will have no actual aircraft for close-air support missions once their training is completed.
"We have a commando unit here, we have a police garrison, we have district center police; whenever they need air support they ask us and we say, 'Oh, this is a training unit, we don't have any air support,' " the Afghan general lamented.
The U.S. Air Force was supposed to be remedying that situation by now. At the height of the Iraq war, as the conflict in Afghanistan simmered, the Air Force began studying options for "counterinsurgency" aircraft, light planes equipped with sensors and weapons that could provide affordable close-air support. One of the best-known options on the market was a Brazilian-made plane, the Super Tucano. The rugged fighter plane is flown by the militaries of Brazil, the Dominican Republic and Colombia, where it is used in counterinsurgency and drug-interdiction missions similar to those required by Afghanistan.
Sierra Nevada Corp., based in Sparks, Nev., joined with Brazil-based Embraer SA ERJ -1.93% in 2010 to offer the Super Tucano to the Air Force. Rival aircraft manufacturer Hawker Beechcraft Corp., based in Wichita, Kan., offered the AT-6, a modified version of a plane that the U.S. military currently operates as a basic trainer for Air Force and Navy pilots.
In 2009, Sen. Sam Brownback and Rep. Todd Tiahrt, both Republicans of Kansas, sent a letter to then-Defense Secretary Robert Gates voicing "strong and unequivocal objection" to any possible deal between the U.S. and Brazil for the Pentagon to acquire the Super Tucanos as light-attack planes.
The following spring, U.S. Army Gen. Stanley McChrystal, then the top commander in Afghanistan, sent an urgent request to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to acquire four Super Tucanos to provide extra air power to support Special Operations troops in Afghanistan.
The project stalled after lawmakers blocked a $44 million request for funding. The Kansas congressional delegation played a major role in stopping the funds, said Mr. Tiahrt, who left Congress last year after losing the Kansas GOP Senate primary.
The former Kansas representative said he was concerned the deal would give Embraer a leg up in any future Pentagon contest to buy light-attack planes. Mr. Tiahrt, who has worked as a consultant to Hawker Beechcraft and other U.S. aviation companies since leaving office, added that he and other lawmakers "wanted to give American workers a chance to compete for the tax dollars." Former Sen. Brownback, who is now governor of Kansas, declined to comment on the issue.
Despite such lobbying, the U.S. Air Force excluded the Hawker Beechcraft AT-6 planes from running for the Afghan warplane contract in November 2011, effectively handing the deal to the U.S.-Brazilian consortium.
Hawker Beechcraft responded by lodging a protest with the U.S. Government Accountability Office. The GAO dismissed the protest in December. According to the GAO, the Air Force found "significant weaknesses" in Hawker Beechcraft's proposal that made its offer too risky. The Air Force, citing competitive sensitivity and litigation, hasn't given a detailed explanation of that decision. But proponents of the Embraer plane point to a core difference between the two aircraft: The Super Tucano is in service with many militaries, while the AT-6 is a modified version of a training plane that is untested as a combat aircraft. Hawker counters that the Super Tucano is the riskier choice, because the AT-6 is based on a plane that is already used by the U.S. military and has an existing training and parts-supply base.
Last December, the service awarded a contract worth $355 million to Sierra Nevada for 20 Super Tucanos to the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team. Hawker Beechcraft then filed suit in the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to stop the Air Force from moving forward with the contract. In the suit, Hawker argued it was improperly excluded from the contest. "It was a flawed process," said Bill Boisture, the chairman of Hawker and the head of its Hawker Beechcraft Defense Co. subsidiary.
In late February, the U.S. Air Force moved to cancel the contract for Super Tucanos and restart the contest. In a statement, the service said that top procurement officials were "not satisfied with the documentation" in the original round of bidding. Both Hawker Beechcraft and the Sierra Nevada/Embraer team are vying for the contract the Air Force now expects to award early next year.
Sierra Nevada subsequently sued the Air Force to reinstate the December contract. "We do think that we won on technical merits, we do think we have the only solution that's out there," said Taco Gilbert, vice president of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance business development at Sierra Nevada.
Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Norton Schwartz said the cancellation of the original contract for the light-attack planes "was profoundly disappointing" for the service. "We know our Afghan partners need this capability, and we restarted the acquisition as quickly as we could," he said in a statement.
For both Embraer and Hawker, the stakes of winning the contract are high. For Embraer, a win would provide an entry into the U.S. defense market, the largest in the world. For Hawker Beechcraft, which filed for bankruptcy protection in early May in the midst of the restarted competition, a contract would keep production lines open.
In a new twist, the company recently disclosed discussions with a Chinese firm, Superior Aviation Beijing Co., over the sale of most of its businesses, but Hawker said a potential transaction with Superior wouldn't include its military aircraft segment.
The procurement delays represent another setback for the U.S. Air Force, which saw its reputation suffer during a decadelong fight over a multibillion-dollar contest to build a fleet of aerial refueling tankers. That competition, which pitted Boeing Co. BA -1.21% against the U.S.-incorporated unit of the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Co., EAD +0.48% or EADS, became one of the most politicized Pentagon acquisition projects in recent years. Boeing eventually won the tanker order in 2011, but only after the collapse of a scandal-tainted lease deal and a successful protest of a contract award to EADS.
"The whole Washington environment for source selection is polluted, is toxic," says retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Tome Walters, former head of the Pentagon agency that oversees foreign military sales.
Big-ticket weapons deals such as the Afghan air force contract have become "a life or death issue" for many defense firms, leading to protests and litigation that stall delivery, he added. "There is no downside, there's no penalty for filing a protest. In an era of a decreasing number of contracts, it's taken as almost a given that the losers are going to protest."
In Shindand, meanwhile, Afghan pilot candidates—who include three young women—are hoping that the promised warplanes will arrive here one day. Like young pilots in any air force, they are dreaming of speed.
Second Lt. Emal Azizi and 2nd Lt. Walid Noori said they initially expected to be assigned to transport planes such as the C-208B or the C-27A once they graduate this year. Both, however, said they yearn to fly combat missions against the Taliban.
"In Afghanistan most war is like a guerrilla war, so we need fighters," said Lt. Azizi. Lt. Noori added with a grin: "I want to be a fighter pilot."
Former Afghan Warlords Dispute Leaked Report Linking Them To Atrocities
By Frud Bezhan July 25, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
Afghanistan’s former warlords and militia leaders have slammed the leaked findings of an unpublished report that implicates hundreds of them in atrocities committed during the country’s devastating civil war in the 1990s.
Titled "Conflict Mapping In Afghanistan Since 1978," the damning report accuses up to 500 members and leaders of rival ethnic and political groups, some of whom currently hold prominent government positions, of being involved in widespread human rights abuses from the communist coup and subsequent Soviet invasion of the late 1970s to the fall of the Taliban in 2001.
Details from the exhaustive 800-page report, compiled by Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission, have reignited debate over the country’s contentious recent history. With Afghanistan’s long-warring groups having written their own versions of events shaped by their own ideologies, a single narrative of what happened and who was responsible has proved elusive.
Sayed Hussain Sancharaki is the spokesman for the National Front of Afghanistan party, which is headed by various regional strongmen who once waged war against the Soviet Union and later the Taliban as leaders of Western-backed jihadist groups, collectively known as mujahedin. He has labeled the report, which implicates many party members as criminals, as biased and politically motivated.
“This report has been prepared by those who have given specific details about the holy war and mujahedin in Afghanistan without being involved in the war," he says. "All such reports should be balanced and accurate and not be used as a political tool.”
Sancharaki, like many other mujahedin, defends himself as a "freedom fighter," a title refuted by many ordinary Afghans. The 1992-96 civil war, which saw the mujahedin turn on each other, left hundreds of thousands of civilians dead, resulted in the rape of thousands of women and children, and left the country’s infrastructure in tatters.
Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan researcher, was part of the 40-member team of Afghan researchers, with assistance from foreign forensic experts, who investigated alleged crimes and wrote the report over the last six years.
She says the report, details of which were recently released by "The New York Times," provides an authoritative list of the principal players in the wars of the last three decades, as well as insight into specific incidents, through evidence collected from more than 180 mass graves and the testimonies of thousands of survivors and witnesses.
"This report has mapped the atrocities and human rights violations in Afghanistan and highlights the main incidents [of the past three decades]," Mosadiq says. "When the human rights commission was documenting the cases, people came up with names and they were identifying the perpetrators and saying whom did what to them. This is how the report is identifying hundreds of those perpetrators."
500 Afghans Named
Mosadiq adds that those accused of atrocities in the report -- including the massacring of civilians or prisoners and the indiscriminate destruction of towns and villages -- include some of the most prominent members of the current Afghan government.
In all, she says, some 500 Afghans are named in the report, including the country's revered national martyr, Ahmad Shah Masud, a Tajik warlord who held out against the Taliban before his assassination just before the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.
Other prominent names on the list include ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff of the Afghan National Army; former ethnic Tajik warlord and current first vice president, Field Marshall Mohammad Qasim Fahim; and Hazara militia leader and current second vice president, Abdul Karim Khalili.
The list also includes the names of former communist leaders and commanders of insurgent groups such as the Taliban, the Haqqani Network, and Hezb-i-Islami, some of whom are on the UN blacklist of terrorists.
But the report is unlikely to be released anytime soon, according to Mosadiq. Part of a reconciliation and justice effort ordered by Afghan President Hamid Karzai in 2005, the report was completed and submitted in December, only to see its publication blocked.
Mosadiq sees the hand of powerful members of parliament, cabinet ministers, and governors -- many of whom were named in the report as perpetrators of widespread human rights abuses -- as being behind the delay.
"The plan was that President Karzai would launch the report because it was considered as a national document, which highlighted the suffering of the Afghan people in the last three decades," Mosadiq says. "But unfortunately because of some political compromises that Karzai had reached with some, he didn’t publish the report."
Mosadiq adds that the decision to suppress the document coincided with the removal of several members of the Afghan Human Rights Commission. Karzai’s spokesman Aimal Faizi rejects any connection between the removals and the findings of the report, saying the president was entitled to remove the commissioners due to the expiration of their terms.
Despite conceding that the prospects for the publication of the report look dim, Mosadiq says its release is essential, insisting that without addressing its past Afghanistan cannot move on.
She says the lack of justice and responsibility over the crimes of the last 30 years has fueled an unending cycle of violence, with tribes, ethnic communities, and political groups -- including insurgent groups -- taking the law into their own hands in seeking justice.
"If we want to give people some level of accountability and justice," she says, "it's important for people to know what happened to them, who did it, why they did it, and to pressure the Afghan government to deliver this justice and accountability to the people of Afghanistan."
RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report
Afghan war: Did US commanders cover up 'horrific' conditions at hospital?
A House subcommittee hears testimony of 'horrific' conditions at the US-funded Dawood Military Hospital in Afghanistan, including bribery and surgery without anesthesia. Retired officers say there was an attempt to block an investigation.
By Anna Mulrine | Christian Science Monitor
Are Americans getting a clear picture of just how war in Afghanistan is going?
In bracing testimony before a House Oversight and Government Reform subcommittee this week, top US military officials warned that they are not.
The hearing centered around the US-funded Dawood Military Hospital in Afghanistan. It’s hardly a household name stateside, but evidence of the “Auschwitz-type” conditions, as one lawmaker put it, and allegations that US military commanders covered it up to put a better face on the Afghan war have caused a firestorm of controversy.
The medical care of patients at the hospital includes “some of the most horrific, horrendous things I’ve ever seen,” raged Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R) of Utah, who chairs the House Oversight and Government Reform’s Subcommittee on National Security, Homeland Defense, and Foreign Operations. “Allowing surgery to go on without anesthetics, gangrene, open wounds that aren’t being dressed.”
Afghan hospital staffers reportedly demanded bribes in order to treat patients, which included Afghan soldiers fighting alongside US troops in the war. If staffers were denied payments by the families, the patients did not receive care.
Representative Chaffetz leveled yet another grave charge: “That there was an effort to not allow the inspector general to get in there because the generals and others on the ground really wanted a positive story coming out of Afghanistan, rather than solving the problem.”
This was the testimony of two retired colonels Tuesday. “What this hearing should be about are attempts to over-control the message,” said retired Army Col. Gerald Carozza, Jr., who was chief of legal development assisting the Afghan Army and Defense Ministry. “It is about some leadership that puts the best foot forward and relies on the hard-built reputation earned by the military.”
But that was a reputation that was misused, says another officer who charged that a top US commander, Lt. Gen. William Caldwell, sought to conceal revelations surrounding the hospital rather than launching an investigation.
Lt. Gen. Caldwell, who headed the training mission in Afghanistan, “was visibly upset” about the possibility of a US military inquiry into the hospital, says Col. Mark Fassi, then-inspector general for the training command. “His first response to me was, ‘How could we make that request with the election coming?' ” he told the subcommittee.
The US military is currently investigating allegations against Caldwell, who was not invited to testify at the hearing. A spokesman for Caldwell says he would “welcome the opportunity to respond to any inquiry” and that “all allegations will be proven false.”
It is not the first time that US military commanders have been accused of painting a too-rosy picture of the US war effort.
In a military journal article published in February, Lt. Col. Daniel Davis argued that not only is the war in Afghanistan not going well, but also that his fellow US military officers – whether due to a misguided “can do” spirit or a fear of repercussions within their chains of command – are misleading the American people.
This apparent lack of candor, in turn, is creating what Davis called a “credibility gap,” making it impossible to allow US citizens and lawmakers to “decide if the risk to blood and treasure” inherent in America’s wars is “worth it.”
Citing a 2011 report by an Afghan organization, Davis charged that US military assessments routinely differ from those of other international military forces in the country and are “solely intended to influence American and European public opinion ahead of the withdrawal.” He added, “I’m hardly the only one who has noted the discrepancy between official statements and the truth on the ground.”
Pentagon officials say that there have been positive developments in the wake of discoveries of patient mistreatment at Dawood, “I would point out that some of the problems we saw at the hospital have in fact been resolved, corrective measures have been taken, and patient care was improved as a result,” Pentagon Press Secretary George Little told reporters Tuesday.
Col. Schuyler Geller, the former Command Surgeon of the NATO Training Mission in Afghanistan who also testified at the hearing, confided to lawmakers that he’s not so sure about that.
Doctors and nurses who committed "unspeakable" acts still "walk the halls of the hospital,” he said, “unrepentant, unscathed, and unprosecuted."
Afghan officials say 7 children killed in bombing at water source in western Afghanistan
By Amir Shah, The Associated Press
KABUL - An insurgent bomb targeting Afghan police using a fresh water spring to replenish their drinking supplies instead killed seven children grazing farm animals, officials said Wednesday.
The bomb, which exploded on Tuesday, was planted next to a spring in the Taywara district of western Ghor province, said provincial police chief Dilawar Shah.
He said the spring was located in an area that has seen recent fighting between insurgents and police forces, and added that the children accidentally triggered the device as they were grazing cattle. Shah said the bomb was intended for security forces that use the same spring as a water supply.
President Hamid Karzai condemned the bombing.
In other violence, the U.S. military said that one of its service members was killed on Tuesday in western Afghanistan.
A statement issued on Wednesday by United States Forces-Afghanistan said the service member died of combat-related injuries. It gave no other details.
USFOR-A operates separately from U.S. forces serving with the NATO-led coalition and mainly engages in counterterrorism operations.
The death brings the number of foreign troops killed this month to 36, and the total for this year to 251. Of those, at least 155 have been Americans.
Afghan family works to pay off crushing debt
By RAHMAT GUL | Associated Press
JALALABAD, Afghanistan (AP) — For Razi Khan, a debt of almost $900 has condemned him and his family to years of work in a brick factory in an eastern Afghan city, with little or no hope of ever paying it off.
Khan has eight children. Six of them, including a 4-year-old, toil at the brick factory to pay off a crushing debt that has followed him for the past six years. With a salary of just $6 a day to feed his children and sick wife, it is unlikely he can pay off the debt.
"My heart wants to accomplish more things, such as to educate my children and to make them equal with other people, but unfortunately, I can't do this," Khan said.
When he turned 18, Khan went to work in Iran before returning to Peshawar, a Pakistani city across the border, where he wed in a marriage arranged by his family. He was working in a brick factory in Peshawar when his wife became ill. So he borrowed money from the factory to pay for treatments and feed his growing family.
But the debt was too high, so after six years he moved to Jalalabad, where a brick factory agreed to cover his debt in Pakistan. Still, after three years he still has not managed to cover the new debt to the Afghan brick factory.
"Whenever we see our father's obligation, we think that we should work days and nights with him," said his 14-year-old daughter, Raihana, who works with her father in the factory from 5 a.m. until 7 p.m. nearly every day. "Our hearts want more things, but we can't have them."
The family lives on hand-me-downs from neighbors and struggles just to put food on the table.
"Afghanistan is getting aid from international community, but we are still in this mud (for bricks) and we are mortgaged to this brick factory," she said.
According to the family, there are others in similar situations at other brick factories.
"I work with my father every day and we only have a weekend," said six-year-old Rashid, who complained that other families have time off to entertain themselves. "But we go to brick factory and make lines of standing the bricks and make the mud for the bricks."
Taliban's 'Summer Offensive' Heats Up In Afghanistan
by Sean Carberry NPR July 25, 2012
NATO officials were hoping that insurgent activity in Afghanistan would taper off during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, but so far, insurgents appear to be pressing ahead with their summer offensive.
More than a dozen NATO troops and contractors have been killed since the beginning of Ramadan last Friday. In general, insurgents have been busier this summer than last, and more often than not, civilians are paying the price.
Take Muqur, with its scattered villages of mud houses amid sandy hills in the northwestern province of Badghis. Spanish and Afghan troops are conducting a joint patrol near the small NATO base here. The northwest is one of the quieter parts of Afghanistan, but the province still sees its share of violence.
Brig. Gen. Daoud Shah Wafadar, the Afghan army commander for the province, says there is more violence in the country this year. In Badghis, the attacks are mostly scattered assaults by small groups of gunmen firing on coalition or Afghan forces.
There are some IED attacks as well. A few hours after the foot patrol, a NATO helicopter flew in to pick up a local civilian injured by an IED explosion not far from the base.
As you move south and east in the country, the violence grows significantly. On average, there's at least one member of the NATO force and several civilians killed every day, mostly in the south and east.
"They are going more toward unarmed targets, civilian targets, targets that cannot defend themselves," says Brig. Gen. Gunther Katz. He's the NATO spokesman in Kabul. Citing United Nations statistics, he says about 80 percent of civilian casualties are caused by insurgents.
NATO says that the number of IED attacks is rising and that they account for roughly 50 percent of attacks in the country.
"One of the reasons you use IEDs is to attack without exposing yourself to risk," says Brig. Gen. Roger Noble, deputy commander for NATO operations in Afghanistan. He says that the increasing use of indiscriminate weapons is a sign the insurgency is disorganized and unable to fight head-on with coalition and Afghan forces.
Seth Jones, a counterinsurgency expert with the RAND Corp., agrees. "It is indicative of an insurgency that is not as homogeneous as some make it out to be," he says.
Jones, who's served as an adviser in Afghanistan, says the disparate insurgent groups sometimes cooperate and sometimes compete.
"I think it's likely that we'll probably see an increase in red-on-red fighting," he says, meaning insurgent groups on the ground fighting each other to control turf.
Up until now, the fighting has followed a predictable pattern: a lull in winter, a brief surge in spring and then comes poppy season. Insurgents harvest poppies to help finance their effort, Katz says.
"Due to the very harsh and strong winter, the poppy harvest was significantly reduced," he says. "It means more fighters were able to go to their weapons and start fighting."
This year's poppy season was two weeks instead of six. That means the summer offensive started earlier, which helps explain why violence is up about 10 percent this season. But, Noble says, more of it is happening away from large population centers.
"The real difference is not the number of the attacks, because there are still plenty of them," he says. "It's more [about] where the fight's taking place, and this year we're seeing it take place more and more on the insurgent's ground."
The concern, however, is that insurgents are simply being pushed around rather than eliminated. That's another source of anxiety for civilians who are watching NATO troops draw down, while insurgents, at least this summer, are ramping things up.
NATO supply trucks surge at Pakistan border
AFP via Yahoo! News
The flow of trucks supplying NATO troops in Afghanistan has surged at a key Pakistan border crossing in recent days, officials said Wednesday, despite a deadly attack and Islamist protests.
Few containers had trickled across the border since Islamabad reopened the routes three weeks ago, but officials at Torkham, in Pakistan's northwestern tribal district of Khyber, said more than 100 had crossed in the last two days.
Islamabad closed its land routes to NATO convoys in November following botched US air strikes that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers, but reopened them on July 3 after Washington said sorry for the deaths.
"More than a 100 trucks have crossed Torkham border in the past two days, a total of 140 have so far crossed into Afghanistan," Obaidullah Khan, a customs official at Torkham, told AFP.
Before the blockade, around 150 trucks crossed into Afghanistan each day at Torkham -- the closest border crossing to Kabul -- and officials say the flow will rise to up to 300 a day.
News of the increase came a day after gunmen attacked NATO supply trucks near a market in Jamrud town in Khyber, killing a driver.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for Tuesday's attack but Pakistani Taliban have threatened to attack NATO trucks and kill their drivers.
Right-wing and extremist religious groups have staged regular demonstrations against the resumption of convoys since the government announced the end of the blockade.
Mohammad Miraj, a senior administrative official at Torkham, confirmed the increase and added that security has been tightened because of the recent attack and the increased flow of trucks.
The air strikes and blockade crisis was the worst episode in Pakistan's decade-long partnership with Washington in the war in Afghanistan, with both sides still struggling to overcome a breakdown in trust.
DHS employee 'took out shooter' in Afghan attack
By ALICIA A. CALDWELL | Associated Press
WASHINGTON (AP) — Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano says a Border Patrol agent working in Afghanistan killed the gunman involved in a deadly attack on a group of civilian contractors in that country this week.
Three contractors were killed in Sunday's attack. Napolitano says two were former Homeland Security employees. She identified the Americans as Benjamin Monsivais, a former Border Patrol agent and retired Immigration and Customs Enforcement agent, and retired CBP port director Joseph Perez. A British contractor also died in the attack. A person wearing an Afghan police uniform turned his gun on the contractors.
The secretary told the House Homeland Security Committee on Wednesday about the current Border Patrol agent's role. She did not identify the agent or describe the work that person is doing in Afghanistan.
In Afghanistan, a Generation of Hardship and Hope
By JAALA A. THIBAULT The New York Times July 25, 2012, 12:05 pm
KABUL, Afghanistan - As I was walking into Kabul Education University one morning, carrying a school bag and a box of books, a student stopped me to offer his help. Startled to see this particular student, I fumbled for words and tried to prevent him from taking the box. I was surprised to see this boy because the last I heard, he was in a Taliban prison outside of Jalalabad. Having a father in a high-ranking position in the military, the student was a target for anyone who wanted sensitive information or a hefty pay off. Knowing this, one Friday afternoon as the student and his friends drove east for a picnic, the Taliban kidnapped them. The boys were held for ransom; eventually the money was paid and the students were released. This was the first time I had seen him since his kidnapping.
By the looks of the boy, I was not sure he could hold my books. He was malnourished and about 20 pounds lighter than the last time I saw him. I told the student that I could carry the load. Refusing to let me do the work, he grabbed the box and said, "Teacher, don't worry about these heavy books. I carried around ammunition and weapons for the Taliban for the last month. I know I have lost some weight during my time in prison, and my skin looks dark, but I have gotten so much stronger. Give me your books!" How could I argue with that? I relinquished the books.
Many of my young Afghan friends think just like the student who greeted me at the university. Though they face daily hardships that most people will never see once in their lives, my Afghan friends take these tough situations and make them in to positives. My student could have complained about his hunger (the Taliban basically starved him), or the harsh conditions of the prison (there was no roof on his holding cell so he had terribly burned skin from the sun beating down on him), but he chose to smile and joke that lugging around munitions made him stronger.
When I told this story to another Afghan friend, he explained the mind-set of young Afghans perfectly. He said, "The older generation tends to put out their hands and expect people to fill their palms with money, and food; they believe that they deserve charity because they have suffered so much. But the younger generation uses their hands to turn pages in books. They use their hands to type, to search the Internet, to educate themselves so that they can think of ways to fill their own hands with money and food. We have suffered too, but we know that only we can change our situation."
The fact that young Afghans are able to turn a hard life into something more than sadness has become apparent to me over the years, and even clearer during my last few weeks here; I have realized that in order to survive, thrive, and be happy here, you have to look at life in a unique way.
My young, cheery driver does just this; he lives his life by his own rules. According to tradition, because he only finished high school and has a low-paying job, he should marry a girl of the same status. But he refused to follow this path.
He said, " Because I am such a determined boy, I [married] the most beautiful girl in the world!" His wife graduated from university with her degree in pharmacy and now manages a store in Canada. My driver smiled shyly in the rearview mirror when he informed me that his wife drives herself to work. When I asked him if he minded that she was independent, he told me that he loves her a lot and is proud of her. "Nothing else matters." He said.
But how does he keep in contact with her? Nonchalantly, he told me, "I chat with her on Facebook four times on Fridays. I wake up, do my ablutions and pray, then run to my computer to call her. Each time I pray, I finish quickly and call her!"
Without any higher education, without social status, access to libraries, and with a meager salary, my driver has found a way to fill his own hands with happiness.
Most of my friends in Afghanistan are just like my driver. Having been born and raised during many eras of fighting, it is no surprise that my friends have learned how to adapt and change to any circumstances. My driver fits Facebook and Skype time in between his prayers; others adjust in different ways.
Three of my students decided to work harder when they realized that access to their dreams of becoming English professors could be denied because of their race. These students are from a minority group of Mongolian descent; they are Hazara. Hazaras are believed to be descendants of soldiers in Genghis Khan's army. In the 16th century members of Khan's military "intermingled" with Persians in the northern and western regions of what is now Afghanistan to create this new race.
Ever since this happened, Hazaras have been discriminated against. Even after the Taliban was taken out of power, the Hazara people continued to suffer discrimination. Now, Hazaras are not plugged in to the Pashtun network that runs the country. Having few Hazaras in government to represent them, save for a handful including Second Vice President Karim Khalili, means they have no network. Having no connection to a powerful network in Afghanistan means that getting an influential job is pretty tough for any Hazara.
Instead of dwelling on their seemingly dead-end situation, my Hazara friends have dedicated themselves to working twice as hard as others to attain success. Case in point, three of my students are trying their best to educate themselves and their people by creating their own reality.
These three students, who happen to be best friends, opened a school in the Hazara neighborhood of Dashte-Barchi (in Kabul) while they were still attending university courses. The school provided tutoring and classes to the Hazaras in their neighborhood who wanted extra time after regular school hours to study English, math, science and other subjects. In addition to offering courses, the boys also wanted to get teaching and administration experience so that they could get better jobs after graduating. The students ended up operating the school for two years, provided classes for their community, and got their teaching and administration experience.
Now, my students have moved on. One teaches English to Afghan National Army generals at the Ministry of Defense and is waiting to hear about the results of the Fulbright Program interview he just went through; another is in India getting his M.A. in educational counseling, while the last of the three boys just returned from being an interpreter for the United States Army in Ghazni Province and is now back to working as an English teacher here in Kabul.
As if the boys are not inspiring enough, one student's older brother also has worked to make his life more meaningful; he helps operate the Afghan Culture House, a Hazara-run center that serves as a restaurant, Internet cafe, art exhibit, cinema, training center, and library for all Afghans. The center frequently holds movie screenings, lectures, and discussions about controversial issues that are prevalent in society. Before I left the country last summer, I attended an art exhibit that brought a taboo subject, child abuse, to light. My student's older brother and others at the Afghan Culture House do these things to educate people and their community because, "the more information people have access to, the better their lives will be."
The younger generation here in Afghanistan will change this country because of the way they think. With the eventual departure of foreign troops, contractors, and aid agencies, the situation is tenuous. But I have faith that although some people may continue to complain and extend their hands for charity, the younger generation will lift each other up with their hands and make the country into that which they have dreamed it could be because they have the drive to do it for themselves.
Jaala A. Thibault taught English and trained teachers at Kabul Education University in 2010 and 2011 as part of the English Language Fellows Program under the State Department. She returns intermittently to Afghanistan to conduct teacher-training workshops. In the United States, she teaches English as a Second Language at Santa Barbara City College.
Police Official Went to Fight for Taliban, Afghans Say
New York Times By ALISSA J. RUBIN and HABIB ZAHORI July 24, 2012
KABUL, Afghanistan - Local officials in western Afghanistan reported Tuesday that a low-level police commander had switched sides with his men and gone to fight for the Taliban, and an American engineer was reported killed in an area less than 50 miles from the Afghan capital.
The apparent defection occurred in the Bala Baluk district of Farah Province in the far west part of the country, where the Taliban have been active. The province borders the Taliban heartland of Helmand Province and the largely lawless Ghor Province.
It was unclear from officials how many of the commander’s men had defected with him or whether they had been forced to leave their post.
The Interior Ministry denied accounts of the defection, but said in a statement that it had “recovered six police in Farah” and that a search operation was continuing, suggesting that if there had been a defection by his men, it had been brief. Two policemen were still missing late on Tuesday night, said Siddiq Siddiqi, the Interior Ministry spokesman.
In a different account of what happened, the provincial governor’s spokesman, Abdul Rahman Zhwand, said that 11 of the commander’s men had gone with him and that they had taken two police pickup trucks.
The commander, whose name is Mirwais, had ties to the insurgents and was put in charge of two outposts in the hope that he could woo local members of the Taliban into changing sides, said Abdul Basir Khairkhwah, the chairman of Farah’s provincial council.
“The reason he was chosen to command the two outposts in Shiwa was that he knew a lot of people, both civilians and Taliban, in the area,” Mr. Khairkhwah said.
He continued: “By appointing him as the commander of these two outposts, the government hoped that he might be able to bring in some Taliban to the government. The provincial government has started an investigation into Mirwais’s defection, but I think it is too late and it will be useless because he is gone now. They should have thought twice before trusting him with all those resources and men.”
Mr. Khairkhwah added that the commander had taken weapons, radios, ammunition and two police trucks with him.
On almost the other side of the country, in the mountainous Parwan Province, gunmen attacked a car on Sunday carrying an American, an Afghan engineer and a driver, killing all three, according to the provincial governor’s office and Shirin Agha, the police chief of the Seyah Gerd district, where the attack occurred. News of the killing began to surface late Monday.
The American Embassy confirmed that an American civilian had been killed but said it could not release additional information because of privacy laws.
According to local residents and Mr. Agha, the district police chief, the American was about 60 years old and had been wearing Afghan-style clothing: a shalwar kameez, including a loosefitting shirt that hangs to the knees and baggy long pants. A spokeswoman for the Parwan governor’s office described the American man as an electrical engineer.
“They all had beards, and the American engineer had a long gray beard,” Mr. Agha said. “The insurgents were hiding on one side of the road and, as soon as the engineers’ car had passed, they opened fire.”
He said he thought the attack was a coincidence rather than a planned killing of an American by the insurgents.
“They are trying to show their presence and scare commuters,” he said.
Mr. Agha said that despite the attack, the valley, once one of the only safe routes to the remote Bamian Province, was far better than it had been a couple of months ago before a military operation that killed and captured many insurgents from rival factions.
Before that operation, the provincial council head of Bamian was kidnapped and killed, and “they were attacking police convoys, kidnapping people and torching fuel tankers,” Mr. Agha said.
However, there are now reports that recently some Taliban migrated to the area from a nearby province, suggesting that the Afghan security forces are contending with a tenacious insurgency there.
Sangar Rahimi contributed reporting.
Pakistan to push out Afghan refugees
Pakistan has hosted Afghan refugees for more than 30 years – one of the longest-running refugee problems in the world – but will cancel their status as 'refugees' by the end of the year.
By Saeed Shah, McClatchy Newspapers / July 24, 2012
Islamabad, Pakistan - Pakistan plans to cancel refugee status at the end of this year for the 3 million Afghans who are living in the country, officials have told McClatchy, leaving the refugees facing possible forced resettlement in their homeland, a war-torn country that many of them barely know.
Pushing the refugees into Afghanistan probably would create a new crisis for that country, which already is struggling with an insurgency, an economy almost entirely dependent on the US-led foreign presence and the illicit drug trade, and the impending withdrawal of foreign combat troops by 2014.
Officials in Pakistan, which has hosted Afghan refugees for more than 30 years – one of the longest-running refugee problems in the world – say that “enough is enough” and are resisting entreaties by the United Nations and others to reconsider the decision. It comes as Islamabad’s relations with Western countries, particularly the United States, have soured over its policies in neighboring Afghanistan and the unannounced US raid on Pakistani soil that killed Osama bin Laden last year.
Pakistan’s top administrator in charge of the Afghan refugee issue, Habibullah Khan, the secretary of the Ministry of States and Frontier Regions, said Islamabad wouldn’t change its decision.
“The international community desires us to review this policy, but we are clear on this point. The refugees have become a threat to law and order, security, demography, economy and local culture,” Khan said in an interview. “Enough is enough.”
One such refugee is Rangeen, who goes by only one name, as is common in Afghanistan. He’s lived in Pakistan since he was 12 and is a registered refugee. Three times he’s tried to move back to his native Kabul, the Afghan capital, but he’s found it too costly to live there.
“I couldn’t find work in Kabul, and it is very expensive there, so each time I was forced to come back” to Pakistan, Rangeen said. “I’m just a laborer. It is not possible to survive in Kabul on what you make as a laborer there.”
Rangeen earns around 200 rupees a day, about $2, by working as a porter at a wholesale vegetable market just outside Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, pushing cartloads of produce around for buyers. His determination not to go to Afghanistan is all the more striking given the difficulties of life in his adopted home. None of his four children go to school, nor do any of the other children in Sorang Abadi, the makeshift village where he lives, a 15-minute drive south of the capital.
Looking at his 7-year-old son, Noor Agha, Rangeen said: “He will suffer the same fate as me. All he’ll be able to do is push a cart.”
Villagers in Sorang Abadi pay about $15 a month in rent for just enough land to construct one ramshackle room, from baked mud, and keep a small yard. There’s no electricity or running water; they fetch water from a timber yard about 15 minutes’ walk away. They haven’t been able to find space at a semiofficial refugee camp that’s about four miles away.
Mukhtiar, from Baghlan Province in the north of Afghanistan, which is considered relatively safe, said he’d been in Pakistan for 30 years.
“We won’t go to Afghanistan. There is nothing but war,” he said. “After the Russians got out, the Americans came. Whatever we had back there has been taken over by others. There is no work, no property, nothing there except feuds.
Afghan refugees started arriving in Pakistan in the 1980s, fleeing the Soviet invasion, and have continued to come here to escape the horrors of a civil war, Taliban rule and, most recently, the conflict triggered by the US-led invasion in 2001. Whole generations have grown up in Pakistan and don’t know their homeland. There are 1.7 million Afghan refugees registered in Pakistan – more than half of them younger than 18 – of which 630,000 live in camps. A further 1 million are estimated to be living in the country unregistered and therefore illegally.
The international community and the Afghan government in Kabul have no strategy prepared to deal with any such influx of people. The anxiety over taking back the refugees seems to belie the claims of progress in Afghanistan that the US-led international coalition makes regularly.
“If the international community is so concerned, they should open the doors of their countries to these refugees,” Khan said. “Afghans will be more than happy to be absorbed by the developed countries, like Western Europe, the US, Canada, Australia.”
Khan said that after Dec. 31, the Pakistani government didn’t plan to renew Afghan refugees’ registration cards, so those currently registered will lose their refugee status. He declined to spell out what would happen to the refugees after that, but if the policy sticks they’d be in the country illegally and liable to be deported.
Some Afghans have prospered in Pakistan – as seen by their near takeover of Hayatabad, an upscale suburb lined with villas outside Peshawar, a northwestern city close to the Afghan border – but the majority of them struggle.
And as their numbers have grown, Pakistani officials suspect that the leadership of the Taliban and other Afghan insurgent groups is hiding among the refugees. The western Pakistani city of Quetta is home to the Quetta Shura, the Taliban’s leadership council, and it contains a sprawling Afghan refugee settlement that provides easy cover for militants.
A UN voluntary repatriation program is making slow progress. So far this year it’s been able to entice only 41,000 people to return to Afghanistan, a slight increase over the 35,000 who returned in the first half of last year. Since 2002, the UN has repatriated 3.7 million Afghans to the country, but the rate stalled in recent years as the war intensified. It’s also likely that many of the returnees have slipped back into Pakistan, given that there are almost as many Afghan refugees in Pakistan today as there were in 2002.
Earlier this year, Valerie Amos, the UN humanitarian affairs chief, visited a camp in Kabul and said its conditions for returning refugees appalled her. Once they reach Afghanistan, returnees are entitled to a one-time payment of $150 per person from the UN
Neill Wright, the Pakistan representative of the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, said the UN would still recognize the registered Afghans in Pakistan as refugees after this year under international law “until a durable solution can be found.”
“We hope that the government of Pakistan will continue to recognize them as refugees,” Wright said. “Returning them to Afghanistan could destabilize the country further at a time when it is already experiencing instability from the drawdown of international forces.”
Shah is a McClatchy special correspondent.
UNHCR denies media reports of Afghan refugees' expulsion from Pakistan by year-end
By ANI | ANI
Islamabad, July 25 (ANI): Members of Parliament and the United Nation Human Rights Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) have denied media reports which state that 1.7 million Afghan refugees would be expelled from Pakistan by end of this year.
UNHCR spokesman Aslam Khan said Pakistan had no intention to oust the Afghan refugees living in Pakistan by end of 2012, reports The Dawn.
He said Pakistan was bound to fulfill its obligation, adding that the Afghan refugees possessing registration cards would not be displaced by force until they were ready to go back to Afghanistan voluntarily.
He said war torn Afghanistan was not in a position to accommodate 1.7 million Afghan refugees at this stage.
Federal Minister for States and Frontier Region, Engineer Shaukatullah also said that all registered and non-registered Afghan refugees, willing to go back to their homes voluntarily, would be repatriated by end of this year.
Senior leader of ANP Senator Afrasiyab Khan Khattakhas said, Afghan refugees are undoubtedly a burden on Pakistan in view of the present economic situation, but these people are living in Pakistan due to their certain compulsions, therefore, he would not support their forced expulsion from the country.
Spokesman UNHCR in Pakistan, Dunya Aslam Khan, said those refugees who were living illegally in Pakistan might be expelled. She added that Pakistan made a commitment to the UNHCR Country Director that no recognized Afghan refugee would be deported from Pakistan.
According to Pakistani officials, about one million Afghans are living in Pakistan without valid documents. Currently, at least one million non-registered Afghan refugees presently living in Pakistan have reported to be sent back by force.
UNHCR officials said that non-registered Afghan refugees should, therefore, register themselves before being repatriated to Afghanistan. (ANI)
Afghan Couple Flee Families, Receive Pakistan's Protection
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 24 July 2012
An Afghan couple will be protected under Pakistani law after the Peshawar High Court (PHC) ruled that if they returned to Afghanistan they would be killed.
The PHC ordered police to protect the pair who fled Afghanistan and got married in the Pakistani town Abbottabad against the will of their families, according to Pakistan's Express Tribune.
PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ruled on Monday that the newlywed couple be taken into protective custody and provided with accommodation either at the Women Police station or Police Lines Peshawar. He also ordered police provide the couple with food and clothing, the paper reported.
The 22-year-old Hewad married 18-year-old Mariyam Marjman last month after they escaped Kabul with the help of a Pakistani friend. According to the Tribune, the Afghan nationals eloped when they found out that Mariyam's parents wanted her to marry the husband of her deceased elder sister. They took the dead sister's two-year-old daughter with them.
The chief justice dismissed an earlier decision by a judicial magistrate to send Mariyam back to Kabul and book Hewad under the Foreigners' Act for not having the correct travel documents.
He repealed the ruling against Hewad at Mirpur police station in Abbottabad, saying the couple had taken refugee under grave compulsion.
NDS Detains 241 Suicide Bombers in Two Years: Taheri
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 24 July 2012
As many as 241 suicide bombers planning to target government officials and parliamentary members have been arrested in the past two years in Afghanistan, a media official with the National Directorate of Security (NDS) said Tuesday.
The country's two vice presidents, the Balkh provincial governor Atah Mohammad Noor, judicial high court members, cabinet members and parliamentarians were among targets the detained bombers had planned to assassinate, according to NDS spokesman Shafiqullah Taheri.
Other targets Taheri named were jihadi leaders Ustad Sayyaf and Sebghatullah Mujadidi.
Taheri said that NDS investigations showed neighboring countries were agitating more conflict in Afghanistan for their own benefit.
"The interrogations of the detainees show that there are regional - Central and South Asian - neighboring countries supporting terrorism and war in Afghanistan, including some spy agencies from the Central and South Asian neighboring countries," he said.
Taheri listed a number of provinces where there had been some recent success for the NDS forces.
He said that the Taliban's shadow governor in the Kohe Safi district of Parwan province and one of his fighters were detained by the NDS recently. In Kunduz a seven-member suicide group was detained. An planner of suicide attacks was arrested in western Herat province, while in the country's capital Kabul, a massive insurgent attack on one of the five star hotels was prevented.
He also said that five insurgents related to Taliban's shadow governor of northern Takhar province were arrested recently - two were intending to attack the capital Taloqan city, while three other insurgents were arrested with 52 kg of potassium chloride in northern Takhar province.
Senators Blast Karzai Government for Lack of Clear Trade Policy
TOLOnews.com Tuesday, 24 July 2012
Afghan senators described the Karzai government's trade policy with Pakistan as equally poor as its diplomatic policy with the neighbouring country, calling for the trade problems faced by Afghan businesses to be addressed.
"Just as the government doesn't have a clear defense policy and has kept silent about the Pakistani shelling, the same is with its trade policy," senator Urfanullah Urfan said in the senate session Tuesday.
Senator Najiba Hussaini voiced her agreement saying the trade policy is weak with all countries.
"In fact, the Afghan government does not have a clear policy with any of the neighboring countries, particularly with Pakistan," she said.
The statements came after the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) complained Tuesday about major transit problems faced by Afghan traders exporting to Pakistan.
ACCI Deputy Chairman Khanjan Alokozay raised his concerns with the senators, saying that Afghan traders face major difficulties in dealing with Pakistan, including their trade materials getting "lost" in transit.
"[To pressure Pakistan], we want the government not to allow fruit and food to come to Afghanistan from Pakistan, as well as ban the export of Afghan trade materials," Alokozay said before the senators Tuesday.
He also warned about a possible collapse in the Afghan carpet industry as many other kinds of foreign carpets were coming to Afghanistan making it difficult for Afghan carpet producers to compete.
He said that extortion is damaging the industry, with traders being forced to pay bribes in order to transport their goods.
"For example, a provincial governor or a police checkpoint is taking extortion all the way up to Torkham port, so, how a trader can compete in the market. It's a major challenge for the traders," Alokozay added.
Alokozay said that he has shared his concerns with Afghan President Hamid Karzai and that investigative commissions were formed, but they had failed to make a difference.
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