[Afghan News] July 26, 2012 - 08-09-2012, 04:20 PM
By Usman Sharifi AFP
Afghanistan's Western-backed President Hamid Karzai admitted Thursday that his government was corrupt and issued a sweeping directive for reform ahead of the withdrawal of international troops in 2014.
Karzai's move came just weeks after donor nations pledged $16 billion for Afghanistan to prevent the country from sliding back into turmoil when foreign combat forces depart but called on Kabul to implement reforms to fight graft.
"Despite major achievements... we have confronted problems in governance, the fight against corruption, strengthening the rule of law and economic self-sufficiency," Karzai said in a statement.
The president -- who has faced accusations he is part of the problem rather than its solution -- called on the Supreme Court to "work on and finalise all the cases regarding administrative corruption, land-grabbing... within six months".
"The high-ranking officials of the government should distance themselves from supporting the criminals, law-breakers (and) corrupt officials... regardless of the government post or authority of such persons," he said.
More than 10 years after a US-led invasion led to billions of dollars in aid flowing into one of the world's poorest countries, Afghanistan ranks among the most corrupt nations in the world.
NATO has some 130,000 troops in the country fighting an insurgency by Taliban Islamists, but they are due to withdraw by the end of 2014 and there are widespread fears that civil war could follow their departure.
In an attempt to prevent that, the 50 NATO-led countries involved in the war pledged $4.1 billion dollars in annual security aid at a summit in Chicago in May, while in Tokyo earlier this month donor nations said they would provide $16 billion in civilian aid through 2015 -- with several pre-conditions, including a clampdown on corruption.
In his statement, Karzai called on the finance ministry to "prepare and implement within two months the plan for the follow-up of commitments made in the Tokyo conference".
Karzai's move comes amid local media reports that he is planning to shuffle his cabinet -- a highly sensitive issue in a country riven by ethnic and ideological divides.
Endemic corruption has been fuelled by the cash that has poured into the country in the decade since the US-led invasion toppled the Taliban regime for harbouring Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the 9/11 attacks.
And while the Afghan government admits corruption is rife within its ranks, it has also in the past pointed a finger at the contract systems of the international community.
"All government institutions are emphatically instructed to seriously avoid signing construction, logistic (and) services contracts with high-ranking officials and the people they support," Karzai said.
"Such an action will be regarded as a crime and the perpetrators will be prosecuted," he said.
But as NATO combat troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, desperately needed cash is already making its own way out -- $4.6 billion left through Kabul airport in 2011, almost double the amount in the previous year, the finance ministry says.
The scandal-plagued Kabul Bank, the country's largest private lender, almost collapsed in 2010, with owners including one of Karzai's brothers accused of pocketing $900 million in illegal loans.
Former Afghan Bank Chief Gets 20-Year Jail Sentence
July 26, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The former head of an Afghan government-owned bank has been sentenced to 20 years in prison for embezzling millions of dollars.
Hayatullah Dayani, the former head of Pashtany Bank, was accused of involvement in the theft of more than $26 million from 2006 to 2008.
Authorities said 15 other people have also been jailed in connection with the corruption, receiving between five and eight years in jail.
Reports say former officials of the Ministry of Urban Development have also been jailed over the embezzlement.
Three of those found guilty in the case were tried in abstentia after they fled Afghanistan.
According to Transparency International, a global corruption watchdog, Afghanistan remains one of the most corrupt countries in the world.
Based on reporting by dpa and tolonews.com
Corruption A Cost Of Life For Ordinary Afghans
By Frud Bezhan July 26, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
KABUL -- The heat is scorching, and the hours-long wait arduous, but it is a price worth paying for the long line of angry customers standing outside the headquarters of Afghanistan's national power company.
The bearded man who heads the line, Abdul Hadi, is there to complain about the "crazy" electricity bill he received this month.
Hadi knows what to expect -- he went through the same thing with the company, Breshna Sherkat, just weeks earlier and ended up paying a bribe. Now a veteran of the game, he is sure he is being deliberately overcharged by unscrupulous employees keen on making some money on the side.
Afghanistan's status of one of the world's most corrupt countries is well-documented and features prominently in high-level discussion about foreign investment in the country. Lost in the shuffle, however, is the extent to which corruption permeates all levels Afghan society.
Whether ensuring that they have a steady stream of electricity, acquiring identification, or dealing with judicial authorities, ordinary citizens have reluctantly come to accept bribery as an unavoidable cost of life.
Integrity Watch Afghanistan, a local nongovernmental organization, estimates that Afghans, who have consistently identified corruption as among their biggest concerns next to insecurity and unemployment, pay bribes amounting to $1 billion a year, about 5 percent of the country's entire annual gross domestic product (GDP).
Hadi sheds light on how every-day corruption is played out when he recalls how in May he received a 35,000 afghani (around $200) electric bill -- a sum that exceeds the monthly salary of many Afghan families.
Hadi had never received a monthly bill for more than 3,000 afghanis before, and had not added to his meager collection of electrical devices -- a TV, a refrigerator, some lamps, and a few other appliances.
Seeking to rectify the problem, he filed complaints with Breshna Sherkat, but that got him nowhere. Eventually, Hadi says, he bribed an employee of the electric company who in turn reduced his original bill to 2,000 afghanis ($40).
"[They] told us to pay them so they could change our electricity bill. When we went there, they said, 'Give us a 6,000 afghanis (about $120) bribe. I told them I didn't have 6,000 so he took 4,000 instead and changed the amount on the bill [from 35,000 to 2,000 afghanis]," Hadi says.
A month later, he received a bill for the same inflated amount -- 35,000 afghanis -- prompting his return to the complaint line.
Hadi and others waiting outside Breshna Sherkat believe the company's conversion to a new computerized billing system is the source of the problem. Since the transition, they say, their bills have varied wildly and there is no way to verify the actual amount of electricity they have used.
Mirwais Alami, chief commercial officer at Breshna Sherkat, admits that mistakes are sometime made due to technical errors, but denies staff are involved in any wrongdoing.
"I never say that customers are always wrong and making wrong accusations. Maybe one in 10,000 bills has a mistake in them. A very low percentage of mistakes are caused by us reading meters incorrectly and the others when entering wrong data into a computer system," Alami says.
Ajmal, who owns a music store in Kabul, says corruption in Afghanistan has become all but institutionalized.
"[Corruption] is a serious problem. There are kickbacks and bribery. Without them, nobody can get anything done," Ajmal says.
"The government must take this seriously because these small things are becoming a bigger [problem]. The corruption starts from the streets and ends with the ministries. It's a big problem."
Ajmal adds that while high-level corruption gets the most attention, malfeasance by middling officials in the security forces, judiciary, or education system is the most damaging to society.
He insists that if you want to get anything done in Afghanistan, it is going to require paying a bribe. He recalls paying dozens of bribes in the past year, including when he applied for new identification and a passport last month.
According to the National Passport Office, which issues the country's passports and identification cards, the processing time for getting a passport is two working days and for an ID card it is one day after all relevant paperwork is submitted.
Documents For Sale
But Ajmal says he and three of his friends endured obstructions and delays for a week when they followed official channels. Eventually, he says, he paid a middleman who promptly supplied the three with all of their official documents in just a day.
While the official price for a one-year passport is 700 afghanis ($15) and 200 afghanis ($4) for an ID card, Ajmal says that his final tally including bribes paid came to more than 4,000 afghanis ($80).
"Finally, someone informed us you have to pay a bribe. Three of us gave 500 afghanis each and they gave us our I.D. cards. We then went to the passport office, where hundreds of people were waiting in the queue," Ajmal says.
"We tried everything we could for a week. We then gave 3,000 afghanis each and got our passports. People who don't give bribes are left there for weeks, while those who do pay get theirs in one or two days."
Qadir, a restaurant owner in Kabul, says the reality is that in Afghanistan, money speaks loudest.
He was involved in a car accident in which two pedestrians were injured. But while the injured couple did not press charges, Qadir says the district prosecutor has delayed clearing him of wrongdoing in what he believes is a bid to get him a small "sherani" (sweetener), Afghan slang for a petty bribe.
"When you have money, the prosecutor, judge, court, and police are in your pocket. But when you don't have money you have nobody. Which [government] institution is not taking money?" Qadir says.
"The government is mired in corruption and they are aware of this. If the high-ranking officials are getting a bribe do you think lower-ranking officials are not? The government is involved, why are they making us suffer?"
German defense minister visits southern Afghanistan
The German defense minister made an unannounced visit to southern Afghanistan Wednesday, hoping to gain an impression of a part of the country unfamiliar to most of his troops, who are generally stationed in the north.
Thomas de Maiziere met with NATO's southern regional commander, the American Major General James Huggins, as well as German troops stationed in Kandahar.
Nearly all of Germany's troops are stationed in the northern part of Afghanistan, which is officially the country's area of operations. As part of NATO's International Security Assistance Force, German troops can be stationed anywhere. However, troops being sent anywhere outside of Germany's area of operations, like the few stationed in the south, require the approval of de Maiziere before being sent.
"We're doing a good job in the north," de Maiziere said on Wednesday. "But Afghanistan is more than just the north. I want to get an impression of this part of the country, too."
The southern portion of Afghanistan is seen as a Taliban stronghold.
"Not all jobs in Afghanistan are the same," de Maiziere added.
De Maiziere is the first German defense minister to visit the southern part of Afghanistan. He's made a total of eight trips to the country in the 17 months he has been in office, most recently at the beginning of July to Kundus and Masari-Scharif.
mz/mkg (dpa, AFP)
Afghan police kill 7 militants, detain 37
KABUL, July 26 (Xinhua) -- Afghan national police units during series of operations across the country have killed seven anti- government militants and detained 37 others over the past 24 hours, Interior Ministry said on Thursday.
"During the past 24 hours, Afghan National Police backed by the National Army and the Coalition Forces launched six joint operations in Kabul, Baghlan, Kunduz, Kandahar, Uruzgan and Paktika provinces during which seven armed insurgents have been killed and 10 others arrested," a statement released by the Interior Ministry here said.
The Interior Ministry in another statement stated that Special Units of National Police and Coalition Forces launched five joint cleanup operations in Kandahar, Khost and Balkh provinces on Wednesday night as a result 27 armed insurgents were arrested.
However, both the statements did not say if there were any casualties on the security forces. Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have yet to make comment.
Lessons from my talks with the Taliban
Financial Times By Anatol Lieven July 25, 2012
To judge by discussions I had with figures close to the Afghan Taliban in Dubai last week, on certain key issues the Taliban leadership and the US administration are far closer than most analysts believe. The chief obstacle to a peace settlement is likely to come not from Taliban links to al-Qaeda but rather from the question of how to divide up power within Afghanistan.
My colleagues and I spoke with four people: two former members of the Taliban government (one of them a founder member of the movement), a senior former Mujahedin commander with close ties to the Taliban, and a non-official Afghan mediator with the Taliban. All emphasised the realism of the Taliban leadership, born of their experiences of the past decade, and their willingness to break with al-Qaeda and exclude it and other international terrorist groups from areas under their control.
All said that Taliban commanders and fighters would accept such an order if it came from Mullah Omar. A former Taliban minister said that reports of a continued presence of al-Qaeda elements could be referred to a joint commission of Isaf, the Taliban and the Afghan government, which would verify the reports and decide what action to take.
Such action might even be taken by US troops within Afghanistan. For perhaps the most striking thing to emerge from our discussions was that three of our four interviewees said the Taliban would consider agreeing to US bases and military advisers in Afghanistan after 2014 – something that contradicts every previous Taliban statement.
However, all our interviewees emphasised that the Taliban would only agree to this as part of an overall peace settlement and that they “will never accept anything that looks like surrender”. They also all said the Taliban would be willing to commit to continuing existing health and education programmes, including for women, as long as separation of men and women was guaranteed.
This new pragmatism includes acceptance of the present Afghan constitution. All our interlocutors said the Taliban had no serious problem with the constitution as such – but would never agree to it as a precondition of talks, as hitherto demanded by Washington. They expect the constitution to be debated and approved as part of a national debate including themselves.
All this is very encouraging. However, it reflects something else, which is essential for a settlement, but much more problematic. The Taliban like the present, highly centralised constitution because they want a strong central government in which they will play a leading part. They do not expect this to be an exclusive part. Three interviewees said the Taliban knew they could not govern without other forces’ participation, and that government must include educated technocrats. They want a strong national army – even one trained by the US – to hold Afghanistan together, prevent a return to warlord rule and deter interference by neighbours.
But with whom would the Taliban be willing to share power? Our interviewees said that the Taliban recognised the need to guarantee a share of power to other groups from the existing regime, but were vague on which those groups might be. All said that particular “very corrupt and brutal people” would be utterly unacceptable, but that others, less compromised, could take part.
Above all, they stressed the Taliban will never accept Hamid Karzai as a legitimate interlocutor, or participate in a grand national assembly or national elections while he is president. They fear – with good reason, given his record – that he would rig these processes.
So this apparent new pragmatism leaves two huge questions open. The first is whether the Taliban could possibly agree to the US using bases in Afghanistan to continue drone attacks and raids against al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Such an agreement would outrage many Pashtuns and give Pakistan a strong motive to wreck any peace settlement through its allies in the Haqqani network; while our interviewees stressed the Taliban’s obedience to Mullah Omar and his comrades, they were studiously evasive about the Haqqanis.
The second question is whether, or how, Washington could agree to force its existing Afghan allies to accept a deal with the Taliban that would exclude many of them from power. Would a promise of luxurious retirement to the US or the Gulf be enough to persuade them?
Above all, any settlement will end the rule of Mr Karzai and his clan. An agreement on this between Washington and the Taliban is not impossible, given the contempt for Mr Karzai felt by many leading US officials and soldiers. Many in Washington oppose the idea of him trying to arrange a succession to the presidency for a family member.
So there seems real room for agreement on a caretaker government of neutral figures to supervise constitutional discussions leading to elections. But with the next elections due in 2014, there is not much time to lose. As soon as the US presidential elections are over, Washington should do its best to open substantial talks with the Taliban and find out whether what we heard in Dubai really does represent their position and can be the basis for peace.
The writer is a professor in the War Studies Department of King’s College London. His latest book is ‘Pakistan: A Hard Country’
Marine general expects 'rolling transition' in Afghanistan
USA TODAY By Jim Michaels 26/07/2012
CAMP LEATHERNECK, Afghanistan - The surge of U.S. Marines and other forces in southwestern Afghanistan has broken the Taliban's grip on a former stronghold, allowing coalition forces to begin turning over security to Afghans, commanders said.
"It will be a rolling transition to more training and advising and assisting and less of the counterinsurgency operations," Gen. James Amos, commandant of the Marine Corps, told USA TODAY during a short visit to Afghanistan. "The Afghan security forces will be in the lead and we'll be in support."
The transition comes as the United States plans to withdraw 23,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of September, leaving about 68,000 U.S. troops nationwide. The pullout was ordered by President Obama, who wants most combat forces out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
Obama ordered a troop surge of 33,000 more than two years ago to reverse gains made by the Taliban. Many of those initial forces were Marines sent to Helmand province, a former Taliban stronghold and the world's leading poppy growing region.
The number of U.S. Marines in the Helmand region has declined to 13,000 from a peak of 21,000 last year. At the same time, the size of Afghan security forces in the region has grown to 15,000 soldiers and about 8,000 police.
The gradual shift of security duties in Helmand to Afghan forces will have implications nationwide, analysts said.
"This is a big test case for the future of Afghanistan," said Seth Jones, an analyst at the RAND think tank.
Marines and other coalition forces are maintaining combat capabilities as they advise and support the Afghans. Commanders said Afghan security forces have proved themselves able and have held ground coalition forces took from the Taliban over the past two years throughout the Helmand River Valley.
Marine Maj. Gen. Mark Gurganus, commander of Regional Command Southwest, said the shift to the Afghans is an "evolution" of the mission. "It's not a run for the door," he said.
For years, Taliban fighters enjoyed sanctuary in parts of this province, which is divided by a wide river that flows from the snow-topped Hindu Kush mountains into plains and farmlands. Militants used the heroin poppy crops to fund operations, but in late 2009, a surge of U.S. forces led by Marines began arriving here and started fighting its way up the river valley.
Today, the Taliban is out of most population centers, forced to the fringes of the province. The number of attacks in northern Helmand, the most volatile area, has declined to 25 to 30 a day from 125 to 130 a year ago, said Marine Col. John Shafer, commander of Regional Combat Team 6 in Helmand.
From March to July this year in the Helmand region, insurgents detonated 570 roadside bombs, down from 761 last year.
"The insurgency cannot generate anything that can threaten the Afghan security forces at this time," Shafer said. "Another couple punches, I think they're going to go down," he said of the Taliban.
The Taliban has not given up on Helmand. Gurganus said Taliban fighters have overrun checkpoints manned by Afghan security forces, but the Afghans have returned to wrest them back. The Afghans have been taking on an increasingly larger share of the fight here.
From mid-March to mid-July, 147 members of the Afghan security forces were killed in action in the Helmand region, up from 57 in the same period last year, according to Regional Command Southwest. During that period, 31 coalition troops were killed in action, down from 50 troops a year ago.
Afghan security forces lack some critical capabilities, including air support, medical evacuation helicopters and surveillance drones.
Afghanistan is in negotiations with the United States and NATO about a residual force after 2014 that will be able to provide some of the needed support.
Analysts said Afghanistan's government must expand services, support local leaders and improve the economy if it wants to maintain stability.
"We've definitely seen progress in Helmand," Jones said. "Whether that is sustainable is the $64,000 question."
U.S. commanders are confident the gains here can be maintained. Amos said he believes the drawdown of coalition forces will encourage the Afghan government to take action to hold on to the coalition gains.
"There will be a lot of motivation to figure it out," he said.
In Afghanistan, a Generation of Hardship and Hope
New York Times By JAALA A. THIBAULT July 25, 2012
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.
Pregnant Woman's Death in Samangan Under Investigation
TOLOnews.com Wednesday, 25 July 2012
An investigation is underway into the death of a pregnant woman found hanging in her home in the capital of northern Samangan province Tuesday afternoon, provincial police officials told TOLOnews Wednesday.
Initially reported as a suicide by hanging, police now say that the woman, Khal Mina, 23, may not have taken her own life.
Khal Mina's husband of seven months has been taken into police custody as part of the investigation, provincial police chief Khalil Andarabi said, adding that the woman might have had illicit relations with another man.
There were signs of strangulation seen in her neck, but it is not clear whether she committed suicide or was killed by someone else, he said.
It was also not clear how far along Khal Mina's pregnancy was.
The incident occurred in the Baye Gishlaq village of Aibak, the center of Samangan province.
Four Abducted Afghans Released During Wardak Offensive
TOLOnews.com Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Four Afghans abducted by insurgents were released during the military offensive in the Jalriz district of central Maiden Wardak province on Tuesday, officials said.
Two Afghan security forces and two civilians who were recently kidnapped by the Taliban were released by security troops during the operation, provincial police chef Abdul Qayoum Baqezoy said.
One of the released civilians told TOLOnews he was abducted while travelling on the Kabul-Bamyan highway 11 days ago.
"We were on the way of the Bamyan-Kabul highway when a group of gunmen stopped the car and took us with them," he said. "Nearly 11 days we were with them - they tied our hands and feet."
The joint Afghan and Nato troop operation in the Daimir Dad and Ismaael Khil villages of Jalriz has killed at least four Taliban commanders, 16 insurgents, and wounded two more, he said.
"There were no problems in the operation; we had a good plan to wipe out the insurgents. Several bodies of insurgents have been seen in the areas and [commander] Qari Ismaael was also among the dead," he said.
There were no civilian, Afghan, or Nato troops casualties during the operation, according to Baqezoy, who added that the "Taliban insurgents cannot fight face to face with the troops".
The operation started on Monday after the militants killed five Afghan security guards who worked at a Nato base in the Jalriz district.
Six guards were abducted by the insurgents, reportedly Taliban, on Saturday but one escaped.
The bodies were left along a road surrounded by improvised explosive devices, showing signs of torture and gunshot wounds.
Wardak province shares its eastern border with Kabul province.
Lawmakers Fear Bribery Played Part in Revealing MPs Who Summoned Officials
TOLOnews.com Wednesday, 25 July 2012
Afghan lawmakers on Wednesday accused the parliament administration of making deals with the government officials summoned for questioning over the Kunar shelling and assassination of political figures.
In Sunday's parliamentary session, 20 percent of MPs signed a paper to summon Afghanistan's security heads to respond to these incidents.
It is understood the Afghan Minister of Defense, Minister of Interior and the head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) were requested to appear before parliament; however, someone has revealed the names of the signatories to the officials.
Paktiya MP Gul Padshah Majidi said Wednesday he was told by a member of the NDS that he knows Majidi was one of those who summoned the NDS boss for questioning.
"I express my apologies to those MPs who signed the paper and submitted the paper to me. I handed over the paper to the administrative section," Majidi told the lawmakers. "Now it is not clear how the officials knew about who signed the papers, but there was certainly a deal between the admin and the officials."
Majidi blamed parliamentary deputy speaker Zahir Qadir for revealing the names.
Other MPs voiced similar concerns that a deal must have been struck with someone in the administrative section of the House of Representatives, and now the lawmakers who signed the summons were being approached.
"I was informed that some of the MPs are getting benefits from summoning the officials and are being bribed," Herat MP Munawar Shah Bahaduri said. "I regret signing the paper. I want to take it back."
Some MPs said that national interests should be taken seriously and put before the personal interest of those engaging in such deals.
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