[Afghan News] September 18, 2012 - 09-19-2012, 10:43 AM
September 18, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
The NATO-led international coalition in Afghanistan (ISAF) says a decision to curtail joint operations with Afghan forces is a "temporary" response to a "current threat."
Earlier on September 18, U.S. Lieutenant General James Terry, the senior U.S. commander in Afghanistan, issued an order suspending joint operations for units smaller than 800-troop battalions.
The decision was made in the wake of a spate of incidents in which Afghan soldiers and police -- or insurgents posing as them -- turned their weapons on coalition forces. At least 51 coalition troops have been killed in such insider attacks -- also called "blue-on-green" attacks -- since the beginning of the year.
British Defense Secretary Phillip Hammond told parliament on September 18 that the order would have "minimal impact" on operations.
British Foreign Secretary William Hague also said the impact on operations would be "absolutely minimal."
"We will not be giving in to 'green-on-blue' attacks. We will improve our capability to deal with that, and that is what is going on now," Hague said. "So I do not think we should raise the [prospect] of a major change in our approach to Afghanistan, because we need to overcome this problem now."
Two British soldiers were among six coalition troops killed during an insider attack by Afghan police over the weekend.
NATO plans to hand over security to Afghan forces by the end of 2014, but the move to reduce joint operations has been seen as an obstacle to that target. British Labour Party lawmaker Denis MacShane said the decision seems to reverse "the whole axis of U.S. and U.K. strategy in Afghanistan."
Coalition spokesman Major Adam Wojack said the new order will affect the "vast majority" of the 350,000-strong Afghan security forces, which will now have to conduct operations without support from its allies.
Air support, including medical evacuations by air, will not be affected by the order, a NATO spokesman said. Noncombat training operations will also continue.
General Afzal Aman, head of operations for the Afghan Defense Department, told Reuters that his office has not "heard officially from foreign forces" about the order.
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, speaking while on a visit to Beijing, said the order would not delay the planned withdrawal of coalition combat troops by the end of 2014.
With reporting by AFP and Reuters
Female suicide bomber kills foreigners in Kabul in response to video
Tuesday’s suicide bomb attack in Kabul killed at least 12 people. Responsibility was claimed by a moderate insurgent group that has rarely struck inside the Afghan capital.
By Tom A. Peter | Christian Science Monitor
A suicide bomber targeting a microbus in Kabul on Tuesday left at least 12 people dead, eight of which are believed to be foreign civilians predominately from South Africa.
A female bomber detonated a car packed with explosives near the microbus at approximately 6:30 a.m. as the victims were reportedly going to the airport. The bomb also caused significant damage to a nearby wedding hall.
Hezb-e-Islami, an insurgent group that has traditionally been among the more moderate organizations in Afghanistan, claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it was in retaliation for the anti-Islam film trailer on YouTube that sparked demonstrations throughout the Middle East and Africa.
“In the operation in reaction to the disrespect of the holy prophet, 16 American spies were killed today in Kabul,” said the group in an official statement. Insurgent groups often overestimate the death toll of such attacks and misstate the nationality and profession of those killed.
SEE ALSO – Blasphemy riots: 6 examples around the world
Reaction across Afghanistan to the anti-Islam video has been relatively muted so far with only one major demonstration on Monday, at which hundreds of Afghan protesters threw large stones at the Afghan police.
Tuesday’s attack, especially coming from a moderate insurgent group known for its willingness to talk to international forces and officials in Afghanistan, may indicate mounting anger with foreigners in Afghanistan.
This growing frustration is likely to challenge the US and NATO, who just announced that they’ve severely restricted partnered operations with Afghan forces in response to fallout from the video and from an increase in Afghan security forces killing international soldiers.
“Suicide bombings are an unusual thing for Hezb-e-Islami. They’ve never conducted such an attack that I can remember, and they weren’t showing a lot of interest in suicide attacks before this,” says Haji Saleh Mohammad, a member of parliament who sits on the security commission. “There is concern that attacks against individual military personnel or nonmilitary foreigners will start here in the city, because if the foreigners continue making issues about the Quran and Muslims such as this film did, it definitely causes hatred.”
Hezb-e-Islami is a significant group within Afghanistan, but it does not have the same level of influence as other groups such as the Taliban or the Haqqani Network. An active opponent of international and Afghan forces here, the group maintains a much more liberal stance on many issues compared to other groups.
In the past, it’s publicly supported girls’ education, criticized insurgent groups who attack reconstruction projects, offered to protect a critical gas pipeline project, and asked its militants not to use roadside bombs because they frequently result in civilian casualties.
“This is not the first time we carried out suicide attacks,” says Zubair Sadeqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami’s military wing. “We don’t do a lot of suicide attacks, but when it becomes a religious issue we are ready to carry out suicide attacks.”
The group has also been among the most willing to speak with international forces looking for a negotiated settlement to end to conflict here at a time when foreign officials have struggled to make inroads with the Taliban and other organizations. Still, says Mr. Sadeqi, the latest bombing is not necessarily an indication that the group will stop talks with international forces. Such decisions, he says, will be left to the group’s political wing.
Many Afghans say that anger stemming from incidents like the release of the anti-Islamic YouTube video tend to be short-lived and Afghans generally return to the status quo within a matter of days.
“Every Afghan knows that the presence of foreigners is useful to this country,” says Ahmad Zia Rafat, an independent political analyst in Kabul. “Hezb-e-Islami and the Taliban will continue these kinds of attacks as much as they want, but the people, especially those in the cities, will not try to harm foreigners.”
Afghanistan Suicide Bombing Linked to Anti-Islam Film
VOA News September 18, 2012
A suicide bomber has killed at least 12 people in an attack on a mini-bus carrying foreigners near the Afghan capital.
Police say nine foreign workers, their Afghan driver, and two other Afghans were killed when the bomber detonated a car full of explosives near the bus Tuesday on the highway to the Kabul airport. South Africa's Foreign Ministry confirmed eight of the dead were South Africans.
Afghan insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami claimed responsibility for the attack, saying it sent a female bomber in response to an anti-Islam, online video that has sparked worldwide protests, including in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, NATO confirmed it is scaling back joint operations with Afghan security forces amid a series of recent insider attacks and the release of the video.
Fifty-one international troops have been killed this year in at least 30 insider attacks.
Coalition spokesman Charlie Stadtlander said in a statement, "most partnering and advising will now be at the battalion level and above. The need for partnering below that level "will be evaluated on a case by case basis by RC [regional] commanders."
Stadtlander said the head of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, General John Allen, directed all operational commanders to review force protection and tactical activities "in light of the current circumstances." The guidance was given at the recommendation of, and in conjunction with, key Afghan leaders.
Britain's Foreign Secretary William Hague played down the measure in comments to British lawmakers on Tuesday, saying the impact on British operations "will be minimal." In a statement issued later on Tuesday, NATO reaffirmed that it remains "committed to partnering with, training, advising and assisting Afghan forces."
In Beijing, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told reporters the insider attacks were a matter of concern but that General Allen is taking the necessary steps to counter the problem. Panetta added that NATO's plan to handover security responsibility to Afghan forces by the end of 2014 remained on track.
NATO separately issued a statement recognizing Kabul police's "proactive role" in maintaining control of recent demonstrations and its efforts to "maintain public calm." NATO reiterated its condemnation of the "inappropriate videos that were disrespectful" toward Islam and "contrary to the thoughts and values of the coalition."
Also Monday, NATO said it has sent a team to investigate a coalition operation that resulted in "several Afghan civilian casualties" in eastern Afghanistan.
Afghan officials said a coalition airstrike Sunday killed eight women as they gathered firewood in Laghman province.
NATO said it targeted a large group of armed individuals showing hostile intent. It says the airstrike killed several insurgents and also resulted in the "unintentional deaths of a number of Afghan civilians."
NATO says it takes civilian casualties seriously and will conduct a complete assessment of the incident. The coalition offered its "sincerest regret" to the families of those killed.
This week's violence comes just days after insurgents dressed in U.S. Army uniforms attacked a British military base in the southern province of Helmand. The militants, armed with automatic rifles, rocket propelled grenade launchers and suicide vests killed two U.S. Marines and destroyed jets and refueling stations during Friday's assault in Camp Bastion.
Tuesday, NATO said an Afghan and coalition force arrested one of the Taliban leaders behind the Camp Bastion attack during an operation in the Nad Ali district of Helmand province.
S. African government confirms 8 nationals killed in Afghanistan suicide attack
JOHANNESBURG, Sept.18 (Xinhua) -- Eight South Africans were killed in the Afghanistan suicide attack on Tuesday morning, South African Department of International Relations and Cooperation said.
"Our mission in Pakistan which is accredited in Afghanistan has confirmed eight nationals were among the dead in the Kubul suicide attack," the department spokesperson Nelson Kgwete said.
The eight victims were working for a private aviation company in that country as the explosion occurred, the spokesperson said.
Department of International Relations and Cooperation expressed its condolences to the families who lost their loved ones in the attack.
"We would give those families the assistance," said the spokesperson.
At around 6:45 a.m. local time, a Afghanistan suicide bomber rammed a explosive-laden vehicle into a minibus with foreigners aboard in the capital of Kabul, killing at least twelve people.
Suicide attack rocks Afghan eastern town, leaving two dead, two injured
ASSADABAD, Afghanistan, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- A suicide attacker blew himself in Watapor district of Kunar province 185 km east of capital Kabul on Tuesday, which also killed one civilian and injured two others, a local official said.
"A man strapped explosive device in his body blew himself up near an under working bridge where several people including workers and local officials were gathered, killing one civilian and injuring two others," the official told Xinhua but declined to be identified.
"The terrorist attack happened at 04:30 p.m. local time in Watapor district," he added.
Shir Wali, a spokesman with the police in the provincial capital Assadabad, confirmed the incident and said investigation is underway.
UK opposition: Afghanistan exit strategy in doubt
By DAVID STRINGER | Associated Press
LONDON (AP) — NATO's decision to scale back operations with Afghan soldiers and police amid a spike in insider attacks risks undermining the entire international mission in Afghanistan, British lawmakers warned Tuesday.
Following the deaths this year of 51 international troops killed by Afghan forces or militants wearing Afghan uniforms, NATO has said that troops will no longer routinely carry out operations such as patrolling or manning outposts with their Afghan counterparts.
U.K. Defense Secretary Philip Hammond told lawmakers that the decision was a temporary response to elevated threat levels following the outrage in Muslim countries over an anti-Islam video produced in the United States.
Troops would "return to normal operations" as soon as the tension eased, Hammond insisted after he was called to the House of Commons to explain the changes.
However, Hammond acknowledged that British forces are likely to carry out fewer joint missions.
Afghan police and soldiers were increasingly capable of carrying out operations alone, meaning Britain's "level of partnering activity on the ground has therefore been steadily decreasing," he said.
Britain said most of its work advising Afghan security forces would be carried out with entire Kandaks, or battalions — groups of about 300 to 500 troops. Joint operations involving smaller groups of troops would be "evaluated on a case by case basis," the U.K. defense ministry said.
Opposition lawmakers criticized the plan as potentially undermining the strategy of training local forces to provide security in Afghanistan once U.S. and NATO's International Security Assistance Force leave at the end of 2014.
"It does appear to be a really significant change in the relationship between U.K., ISAF and Afghan forces," said opposition Labour Party lawmaker Jim Murphy.
John Baron, a member of the ruling Conservative Party, said the change "threatens to blow a hole in our stated exit strategy, which is heavily reliant on these joint operations continuing."
"This announcement adds to the uncertainty as to whether Afghan forces will have the ability to keep an undefeated Taliban at bay once NATO forces have left," Baron, a former army officer, told the House of Commons.
Labour legislator Paul Flynn, a staunch opponent of the Afghanistan war, was banned from the Commons for a day after he accused Hammond of misrepresenting the truth.
"Our brave soldier lions are being led by ministerial donkeys," Flynn said.
On Monday, Hammond had told lawmakers that insider attacks, including the killing of two British soldiers by a man in Afghan police officer's uniform on Saturday, would not derail the process of training Afghan security forces.
Hammond held talks in Afghanistan last week with President Hamid Karzai on so-called "green on blue" killings, and suggested the only planned change to policy was likely to be more extensive vetting of Afghan forces who work alongside NATO troops.
Foreign Secretary William Hague insisted the NATO decision did not represent a major shift in policy.
Since 2008, Britain has suffered 18 deaths in insider attacks, including Saturday's killings of two soldiers by an assailant dressed as an Afghan policeman who feigned injury and opened fire as troops came to his aid.
Panetta: US concerned about Afghan insider attacks
By LOLITA C. BALDOR | Associated Press
BEIJING (AP) — U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday the U.S. is concerned about the impact insider attacks are having on its forces in Afghanistan.
But he insisted Gen. John Allen, the top U.S. commander there, is taking necessary steps to protect the force while still ensuring the U.S. will be able to hand over security to the Afghans and be able to withdraw by the end of 2014.
Panetta did not specifically address the dramatic action taken Monday by Allen, as NATO decided to temporarily scale back its operations with Afghan security forces in order to lower the risk of them turning their guns on American and allied forces.
Instead, he argued that the attacks do not mean the Taliban is getting stronger. "I think what it indicates is that they are resorting to efforts that try to strike at our forces, try to create chaos but do not in any way result in their regaining territory that has been lost," he told reporters during a press conference in Beijing with China's minister of national defense, Gen. Liang Guanglie.
Until now, U.S. and NATO troops routinely conducted operations with their Afghan counterparts. But under the new order, such operations for now will require the approval of a regional commander.
NATO's decision reflected escalating worries about the insider attacks, coupled with the widespread tensions over an anti-Islam video that has prompted protests in Afghanistan and as many as 20 other countries around the world.
Panetta, however, has suggested that the insider attacks represent a risk of war that must not impede the overall goals.
"Every day when you are engaged in war, there are serious risks that confront those who fight the war," Panetta said Monday. "We will do all we can to minimize those risks but we will not lose sight of the fundamental mission here, which is to continue to proceed to assure a peaceful transition to Afghan security and governance."
In a separate statement issued after the press conference, Pentagon press secretary George Little said the changes in joint operations "will often be short notice and based to the latest information." And he said the operations will always be conducted "in a manner that mitigates risks to our troops and ensures mission success."
Early Tuesday, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a minibus carrying foreign aviation workers to the airport in the Afghan capital, Kabul, killing at least nine people. The Islamist militant group Hizb-i-Islami claimed responsibility for the dawn attack, saying it was revenge for the anti-Islam video.
So far this year, 51 international troops have been killed by Afghan forces or militants wearing their uniforms. The attacks have spiked in recent months, damaging the trust between the NATO and Afghan forces at a time when ongoing training and cooperation are critical in order for allied troops to leave Afghanistan by the end of 2014 and turn control of security over to the Afghan forces.
16 Taliban militants surrender in western Afghanistan
HERAT, Afghanistan, Sept. 18 (Xinhua) -- A total of 16 Taliban militants surrendered to the government in western Afghan province of Herat, authorities said Tuesday.
"Up to 16 Taliban militants, who were active in Ghoryan district of Herat, handed over their weapons to the government and joined the national peace and reconciliation process Tuesday morning," governor of Herat, Daud Shah Saba, told Xinhua.
With the former insurgents' surrender, peace and stability would be further strengthened in several parts of the province with Herat city as its capital, 640 km west of Afghan capital Kabul.
A total of 11 Taliban militants laid down their arms in northern Kunduz province earlier Tuesday.
Taliban militants fighting Afghan and NATO-led troops have not made any comment yet.
The Afghan government set up a 70-member High Peace Council in the summer of 2010 to encourage Taliban to disarm and give up militancy against the government.
More than 3,500 anti-government insurgents have laid down their arms in Afghanistan over the past year, according to officials.
In an unrelated incident, four soldiers with the Afghan National Army were killed when their patrol was struck by an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) or roadside bomb in Kushk district in northern Herat city Monday evening, Saba confirmed.
Afghan Taliban has launched massive IED attacks against the NATO and Afghan security force in recent years.
Afghan School Prepares Blind For A Brighter Future
September 17, 2012 Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty By Frud Bezhan
KABUL -- Scores of children descend from a creaky, old bus and pour through the doors of the Kabul Blind School, the only school exclusively for blind children in Afghanistan.
Afghans suffering from blindness or other disabilities often face rejection in society, as evidenced by the blind who are forced to beg on the streets of the capital to make a living. But here young students are given a chance to learn job skills to prepare themselves for success in the uncertain future that awaits many upon graduation.
Some 120 children are currently enrolled in the modest school, beginning as early as first grade. There they spend a half-day learning basic lessons in math, science, literature, and other subjects using tactile methods.
The other half of the day is dedicated to vocational training aimed at preparing blind students for future employment. The students choose their own path by taking art lessons, training on blind-friendly computer applications, or learning crafts such as knitting and broom-making.
If it were not for the school, which has both male and female students, most of its students would be on the streets, says Eric Rajah, the co-founder of A Better World, an international development group based in Canada that partly funds the blind school.
The Afghan government estimates that some 400,000, or 2 percent, of Afghanistan's population of 30 million suffers from blindness, many of them from operable cataracts. But only a fraction is able to access medical facilities and basic education services.
"There are many Afghan children who have stepped on land mines playing in their backyards who have lost their eyesight. The majority of those are marginalized, especially girls who don’t have other opportunities," Rajah says.
"They're facing a very challenging situation. There is no real future for these kids unless someone gives them something, [including] work and education."
Lacking So Much
Arash, an energetic, chatty boy, is in the sixth grade at the school. The 14-year-old, who was blinded after being hit by shrapnel from an exploding bomb, says the school has given hope to its blind students. Whereas some were living on the streets, they now can receive a free education, food, and sometimes urgent medical assistance.
Yet despite the inroads made by the school -- which opened in 1977 but fell into disrepair until it was reopened in 2004 -- there is much to be done. Arash says there are only a few classrooms and that the school suffers from a lack of sufficient equipment.
"They should try and run schools for the blind [in Afghanistan] in the same way as those in other countries, where they have trained teachers, advanced equipment, and education materials," Arash says. "It would be great if they could get some of those things here."
Rajah, whose organization began its involvement with the school in 2004, admits the school suffers from many shortcomings. But he says the school, which is partly funded by the Afghan Education Ministry and relies heavily on donations, is doing what it can with the limited resources at its disposal.
"The biggest challenge the school is currently facing is the lack of trained teachers to educate the blind. Secondly, it is a lack of essential equipment and materials. The third is lack of infrastructure. [We need] a better bathroom. We finally put power in the school only last year," Rajah explains.
"And although the students have vocational programs, their products are not marketed so they cannot sell them."
Offering Musical Education
Nevertheless Rajah, a Sri Lankan-born Canadian, says the prospects for the school are looking up.
The school recently entered into a partnership with Afghanistan's Institute of Music in Kabul. Under the partnership the institute, with the help of the Education Ministry, plans to create a music program, donate instruments, and build facilities at the school.
Music education can do more than just provide future job opportunities, says institute director Ahmad Sarmast. He says it can help in the healing process of the students, most of whom have been deeply traumatized by their impairment.
"Music can contribute in many ways to the development of the blind school in Kabul. We can find good talent at an early stage at the school and teach them music," Sarmast says.
"Music is one of the easiest vocations that the blind can learn and make a living from. Music can also contribute to the healing process as well as giving students an opportunity in life."
RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan contributed to this report
HACKED STRATFOR EMAILS: DEA Told To Back Off From The Brother Of Afghan President Hamid Karzai
By Michael Kelley | Business Insider
Newy released internal emails from the U.S. private security firm Stratfor state that in 2007 the Bush Administration and CIA ordered the Drug Enforcement Agency to back off a major drug trafficking investigation of Afghan President Hamid Karzai's half brother.
Ahmed Wali Karzai was an influential power broker in Afghanistan before he was assassinated in July 2011.
In June 6, 2007 email, titled " RE: Humint - Afghanistan - Karzai (Strictly Protect - Confidential," Stratfor vice president of intelligence Fred Burton wrote:
The brother of President Karzai of Afghanistan is under investigation by DEA as a major narcotics trafficker. For political reasons, DEA has been told to backoff [sic] by the White House and CIA. DEA is seeing a direct nexus between terrorism and narcotics in Afghanistan with narcotics sales being used to fund jihadist operations.
After a Stratfor analyst asks " how close is karzai to this brother? " Burton replies:
Was described to me as close. Karzai will end up being another Noreiga.
Off the record --
DEA will proceed and take 'em (both?) down anyway, once this White House disappears.
As I've said before, every country we have touched, turns to ****.
The crackdown on narcotics in Afghanistan has not yet occurred as opium production rose by about 61 percent from 2010 to 2011 and continued to rise in 2012 as U.S. troops have patrolled the poppy fields during this time.
WikiLeaks has published 2694 out of what it says is a cache of 5 million internal Stratfor emails (dated between July 2004 and December 2011) obtained by the hacker collective Anonymous around Christmas.
Nangarhar Elders Send Warning to Taliban
TOLOnews.com Monday, 17 September 2012
The Taliban will no longer bother residents in the Achin district of eastern Nangarhar province or they will risk facing serious retaliation, tribal elders declared Monday.
The elders decided in the Monday meeting that if there was any kind of insurgency in the district, those involved will face a serious reaction from the local residents.
An elder told TOLOnews that the decision came after they drove out around 200 Pakistani Taliban under the command of Mangal Bagh from the district on Sunday, and the people involved in inviting the insurgents into the district had their houses set alight by the other residents.
This is the latest in a number of uprisings of local residents against insurgents in provinces across Afghanistan.
Ordinary civilians fighting back against the militant Islamists was first reported in eastern Ghazni province in June. Since then it has been seen in several parts of Afghanistan, including Faryab, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Ghor and Badghis provinces.
We Are Committed to Bagram Transfer: US
TOLOnews.com By Mahboba Pardis Monday, 17 September 2012
The US Embassy in Kabul responded to President Hamid Karzai's warning to transfer the remaining Bagram detainees soon, saying it is committed to the transfer and fully respects the sovereignty of Afghanistan.
It also noted that that the safety of Afghan civilians and both Afghan and foreign forces is as important, suggesting the transfer delay was a matter of protecting others.
"There is no question of our commitment to fully implement the MOU [memorandum of understanding] in recognition of Afghan sovereignty and the need to protect the security of Afghan civilians, Afghan National Security Forces and Coalition forces," the US Embassy said in a statement Monday.
"The United States has transferred over 3,000 prisoners to the Government of Afghanistan. We look forward to continued implementation of the MOU to which we are committed," it said.
Karzai met US Special Envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan Marc Grossman on Sunday and told him that the delay in transferring the remaining 600 detainees at Bagram prison to Afghan authority was a breach of their agreement struck in March.
The US transferred authority for Bagram prison and some 3,000 detainees to Afghanistan last week in an elaborate ceremony; however, it retained jurisdiction over 600 detainees it had reportedly captured since March with the aim of "screening" them more before handover.
Karzai told Grossman that the delay was a serious violation of the memorandum signed six months ago between Afghanistan and the US on the prison transfer, and that the Afghan people considered it a breach of their national sovereignty, according to a statement from the Presidental Palace.
Meanwhile, the head of Afghanistan's Defense Lawyers Association Rohullah Qarizada told TOLOnews in an interview that the US delay may be understandable given that some Taliban who were previously released by the Afghan government were now fighting again against it and had never renounced violence.
"As we and the Afghan people are aware, many of those released by the government have never worked in favor of the Afghan government. Instead they rejoined the opposition and strengthened them. So, it is important for the Afghan government to be more cautious," Qarizada said.
He referred to several high ranking Taliban officials who were released from detention and rejoined the insurgency, namely Mawlawi Dastagir and Mawlawi Abdul Qayoum Zaker.
Remote Districts to Have Small Airports
TOLOnews.com By Hasee Maudoodi Monday, 17 September 2012
The Afghan government will build small airports in remote districts of the country to address the transport problems to these areas, Aviation Minister Dawood Ali Najafizada said Monday.
Aside from the poor state of the roads, the winter months render the roads almost impassable with the snow and ice, making it difficult to get emergency goods and services some areas, he said.
The Ministry of Transport and Aviation will build the small airports in districts of Badakhshan, Ghazni and Ghor provinces for the residents who are most affected by the lack of access.
"Districts such as Arghestan of Badakhshan, Jaghori of Ghazni and Lahl wa Sarjangal district of Ghor province are the remote districts, we plan to start the work in the near future," Najafizada said, however he did not mention the exact time of the start of work or the cost of the projects.
Head of the Senate economics committee Abdul Wahab Urfan welcomed the plan and said that the Ministry should ensure the airports were constructed with all necessary facilities and to standard.
"It's necessary for the Ministry of Transport and Aviation officials to prioritise the provinces and build the airports according to their needs in order to tackle the problem of road blockages," Urfan said.
The construction of these airports are expected to help provide emergency relief services during the cold winters and the flashfloods of spring as the roads to such area are often closed or destroyed due to heavy snowfall, landslides or the demolition of bridges and roads in floods.
Residents of remote districts have often complained about the delay of aid to these areas at times of crisis.
Balkh Students, Mullahs Protest Anti-Islamic Film
TOLOnews.com Monday, 17 September 2012
University students in northern Balkh province led a peaceful demonstration on Monday to condemn the anti-Islamic film "Innocence of Muslims" as an attack on all Muslims.
Hundreds of students gathered in the forum of Balkh University to protest the matter.
"We, the followers of Islam, want to show to all world that we love our Prophet Mohammad and we defend him," a student told TOLOnews Monday.
In a separate gathering, Balkh religious leaders also expressed their regrets over the production of the film, saying it offended not only the last Prophet of Islam but all messengers of God.
"The movie hurt the heart of millions of Muslims all around the world. It is also an offense to all religions and their followers," a religious scholar told TOLOnews.
The leaders asked all Afghan people to protest against the film peacefully and avoid violence.
The gatherings happened as protests in Kabul erupted into violent demonstrations requiring riot police and emergency services.
Protestors in Pul-e-Charkhi set shops, cars, tires, and a police checkpoint alight. About 50 police were injured in the clash.
Protests in other parts of the region including Peshawar in Pakistan have killed two people, Pakistani media reported.
The Afghan Surge: Operation Disarray?
Commentary: Will religious purity and the barbarity it inspires persist after combat mission ends?
Global Post By Malou Innocent September 17, 2012
WASHINGTON, DC - A major goal of US President Barack Obama’s “surge” of 33,000 troops in Afghanistan was to force the insurgency’s less intractable elements to accept conditions for reconciliation. But as Afghans prepare for a post-NATO combat mission in 2014, a peace deal with the Taliban and other insurgent groups doesn’t appear any closer. Indeed, heavily indoctrinated low-level fighters seem committed as ever to fighting on. Despite upbeat reports by the war’s decision-makers, the surge’s short-term, tactical victories could pave the path for long-term, strategic defeat.
The US military has been tireless in its efforts, and yet Afghanistan, as a whole, is no more law-abiding, democratic or stable than it was before the surge. The latest monthly trend report put out by the International Security Assistance Force shows that compared to the same period in 2011, enemy-initiated attacks between January and July 2012 decreased in Regional Commands East, North, and Southwest, and increased in Regional Commands West and South. Coalition statistics showed a rise in insurgent attacks across the country. In May there were nearly 3,000 violent incidents, an increase of 21 percent compared to 2011.
Reports from the battlefield also paint a disturbing picture of the evolving nature of the insurgency. Only weeks ago, Mullah Mohammad Omar urged his fighters to “emphatically” avoid civilian deaths. But Ahmad Khan and Hamid Shalizi of Reuters report that “some militants are hard to control.” The recent shooting and beheading of 15 men and two women in Southern Afghanistan, allegedly by Taliban militants, illustrates the difficulty of more pragmatic senior leaders imposing obedience on the estimated 20,000 fighters across Afghanistan and Pakistan. According to one senior Afghan intelligence official, “Even when Mullah Omar tells them or orders them not to harm civilians, local commanders prefer punishment and value their Islamic duties rather than listen to him in matters of immorality.”
The Taliban has always been amorphous and fragmented. But paradoxically, aspects of the surge may have both weakened the movement’s operational leadership and breathed new life into its grassroots fighters.
In their chilling assessment of the conflict, Kandahar-based researchers Alex Strick van Linschoten and Felix Kuehn conclude in An Enemy We Created: The Myth of the Taliban-Al Qaeda Merger in Afghanistan, that the coalition’s kill and capture campaign against mid-level commanders has weakened the leadership’s grip on the chain of command. Some of these higher-ups, however, were more open to peace talks. Younger insurgents opposed to a political settlement are now moving into leadership positions and are increasingly influenced by Al Qaeda’s worldview.
Given the complex nature of Afghan society and politics, forging a power-sharing deal between the insurgency and the Afghan government composed of its enemies was always going to be difficult. But if, as reports suggest, a generation of neo-Taliban are refusing to reconcile, and Taliban higher-ups who are less opposed to peace are having the rug ripped out from under them, then something about the surge went terribly wrong.
In addition, the surge brought a massive uptick from US forces in misdirected firepower, kicked in doors, and controversial incidents of perceived cultural insensitivity, all of which sowed discontent among the population and affirmed the worst insurgent propaganda. The kill and capture campaign in particular was never popular among Afghans.
Further complicating matters for the coalition is the unpleasant truth that radicalism is exhibited by more than those against whom our soldiers fight. For example, in the recent shooting and beheading of 17 in southern Afghanistan, one villager alleged that among the attackers was an enraged family member of the two girls. And consider Aisha, the Afghan girl who graced the cover of Time magazine after her nose and ears had been severed. In that horrendous episode, a Taliban commander helped, but “Aisha’s brother-in-law held her down while her husband pulled out a knife. First he sliced off her ears. Then he started on her nose.”
This level of religious purity and the barbarity it inspires persists after more than 10 years of war, more than half a trillion US taxpayer dollars, and thousands of young American soldiers dead, maimed and traumatized. Sadly, the loss of blood and treasure continue for desperate and war-weary Afghans who opposed the surge in the first place.
Competing nationalisms and ethnic and factional differences remain impervious to the increased foreign troop presence, particularly after more than three-decades of continual conflict. In this respect, the surge’s central weakness was not that it was executed poorly, but the assumption that it could have magically fixed the underlying causes of Afghanistan’s instability.
In 2009, Obama’s refocus on the “good war” did not require a “surge” as the way forward. What it needed — and eventually lost — was a politically focused strategy as a way out.
Malou Innocent is a foreign policy analyst at the Cato Institute in Washington, DC.
Majority of Female Prisoners Jailed for Fleeing Home
TOLOnews.com By Saleha Sadaat Monday, 17 September 2012
Around 70 percent of Afghanistan's female prisoners are in jail for running away from home despite the act not being a crime under the law, according to the parliamentary committee on women's affairs director Fawzia Koofi.
A meeting on Sunday of representatives from the government committees of women's affairs, the Ministry of Interior, and the Ministry of Justice agreed that sending a woman to court for "escaping" home was wrong.
The Minister of Justice Habibullah Ghalib said at the meeting that the Judicial Council has made it clear that running away from home should not be prosecuted.
"Based on the laws [of Afghanistan], escaping home is not a crime," he said. "This subject is concluded by the Judicial Council. It is wrong for prosecutors and police to send cases of such incidents to the courts."
Deputy Minister of Interior Baz Mohammad Yarmand said that the police have been told that it is not a criminal offence.
"I cleared this issue to the police that escaping home is not a crime. I even sent a letter to few organisations to take notice of this issue," he said at the meeting.
Women are not fleeing their homes for no reason – usually it is because of violence or forced marriage, attendees said.
"Escaping from home is often the result from family violence. We have seen incidents in which the mother-in-law has done violence to the girl, or the husband or other family members have behaved violently towards the girl," Minister of Women's Affairs Hassan Banoo Ghazanfar said.
Koofi described the situation and condition of the prisoners as distressing and lamented the failure to review cases, adding that there are severe objections to the fact that so many women have spent years in prison for unclear reasons.
"There should be a revision of cases enforced in the penal code so that there is no possibility of mistreatment by the judges," Koofi said.
Director of the senate committee of women's affairs Siddiqa Balkhi agreed.
"In a review of some cases, we observed there was the case of a 70-year-old woman which had not been considered yet," Balhki said.
The meeting comes as provincial departments of women's affairs report more violence against women and girls.
Most recently, a teenage girl was lashed by mullahs in the Gaghoori District of Ghazni Province for an "illegal relationship" with a young man, and two girls in Ghor Province were lashed in public because they attempted to run away from home.
US wins temporary freeze of military detention order
NEW YORK, Sept 18 (Reuters) - The United States won an emergency suspension of a ruling that blocked the indefinite military detention of terrorism suspects after arguing it would hurt America's ability to fight wars overseas.
An appeals court order late on Monday granted a temporary stay sought by the Justice Department after a judge had ruled unconstitutional part of a statute that authorizes indefinite military detention for people deemed to have "substantially supported" al Qaeda, the Taliban or "associated forces." The government had asked the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York on Monday to freeze the ruling by U.S District Judge Katherine Forrest.
The Justice Department, which represents U.S. President Barack Obama, argued the judge's Sept. 12 injunction barring enforcement of a portion of the National Defense Authorization Act's "Homeland Battlefield" provisions would harm U.S. war efforts abroad.
The case stems from a lawsuit filed in January by former New York Times war correspondent and Pulitzer Prize-winner Chris Hedges and others. They said they had no assurance that their writing and advocacy activities would not fall under the scope of the provisions.
The United States argues that the plaintiffs had no basis to fear being locked up for their activities, and that the judge's order interfered with the president's powers at a time of war. Monday night's order by Circuit Judge Raymond Lohier said the district court's order is stayed until an appeals panel considers the issue.
Carl Mayer, a lawyer for Hedges, said Tuesday that the order was procedural and "we are confident the district court opinion will be vindicated."
A spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment.
The cases are Hedges et v. Obama, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, No. 12-cv-331 and Hedges et v. Obama, 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, No. 12-3176.
(Reporting By Grant McCool and Basil Katz; Editing by DoinaChiacu)
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