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Afghanistan in the shadow of the US Presidential Election

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(Last Updated On: October 3, 2016)

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The first US presidential debate took place at Hofstra University, Hempstead, NY September 26, 2016 and the next two major debates are scheduled to take place on 9th and 19th of October, 2016 with first one at Washington University in St. Louis, St. Louis, MO and the last one at University of Nevada, Las Vegas, Las Vegas, NV. Meanwhile there will be only one vice presidential debate between Mike Pence from the republican and Tim Kaine from the democrat party which will be held at Longwood University, Farmville, VA.

By Timor Nawabi

Washington D.C. October 2, 2016 

As US is entering in to its sixteenth year of its longest war in Afghanistan with no ending point in sight; the two leading US presidential candidates did not show any big interest during their first historic presidential debate to talk about their longest military war in Afghanistan and their future plans for the betterment of the situation in that region.

Meanwhile the leaders of the National Unity Government of Afghanistan are preparing to leave for another important conference to Brussels. The Brussels conference happens right after the Warsaw Summit in July 2016 during which the world leaders reaffirmed their mutual commitment to ensure long-term security and stability in Afghanistan.  On the other side the National Unity Government of Afghanistan signed a historic peace accord with Hezb-i-Islami; a deal that the NUG hopes will lead to peace and prosperity in the country and more agreements with other fighters in the future.

The US Green and Libertarian Parties

Apart from the US Democratic and Republican parties there are two other major parties in US that both the media and the people have rarely talked about them and are not hearing from them so often. These parties are “The Green Party” led by an American physician, activist and politician Jill Ellen Stein and the “Libertarian Party” chaired by American businessman, author and politician Gary Earl Johnson. These two candidates have also expressed their unwillingness in fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

The Green Party nominee Jill Stein has always been against the war in Afghanistan and in Jan 2012 she had considered the Afghan and Iraq war illegal. In Dec 2011 she had said that US does not need to be in Afghanistan because there’s no military solution to that war and prior to that on Sep 2010 she called the Afghan and Iraq war a military misadventure and had asked the Obama administration to end the war. Very recently on May 2016 she had said that war on terror has cost $6T and a million lives.

The Libertarian nominee Gary Earl does not seem to be so happy with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan too and in May 2011 he had asked to eliminate ineffective interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. On the same month he’d also said that there’s no need to have an afghan timetable; US needs to start its withdrawal tomorrow and finish it in a few months. Back in May 2011 he was quoted that the afghan war was initially warranted but not for 10 years. Then on August 2011 he considered Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran and Libya as a no military threat zone for the US but interestingly; in Aug 2012 he’d said that the afghan nation-building project will fail and US needs to withdraw its forces from there immediately.

Afghanistan from the viewpoints of Clinton and Trump

Speaking of the two leading US presidential nominees; during the first presidential debate it was expected that the two candidates may have something in their pockets about Afghanistan and their longest involvement in a battle after the Vietnam War but only the Democratic Party nominee Hillary Clinton did briefly touch on the NATO’s commitment towards US in fight against terrorism in Afghanistan something which she praised but again no specific word on Afghanistan and their long term commitment towards the ANDSF ( Afghan National Defense Security Forces)  and GIRoA. The national unity government and its people still expect both candidates; no matter how they interpret the war in Afghanistan with considering the current presence of ISIS in most part of the country specially in eastern Afghanistan where we also share the border with Pakistan in Torkham area; to talk about it during their upcoming debate on 9th of October in state of Missouri.

Hilary Clinton was one of those democrat candidates who always tried to support the war against terrorism in Afghanistan whereas she was the one who voted YES back in Oct 2003 on $86 billion bill for military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan and then in Jan 2008 she said that she would have never diverted attention from Afghanistan and in Jun 2012 Clinton-Gates combo won push for Afghan surge. She also expressed her support from the afghan women back in Jan 2013 by saying that the Afghan women are better off, but we must prevent reversal.

But when you go to Clinton’s website and scroll down in to the “national security” section you would only see one sentence which says “our commitment to Afghanistan’s democracy and security.”  When she gave a major foreign policy speech about four months ago, she didn’t mention Afghanistan at all. Other things she’s said recently don’t seem to be so helpful or at some point give hope to the people of Afghanistan. “If we’ve learned anything from 15 years of war in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s that local people and nations have to secure their own communities. We can help them, and we should, but we cannot substitute for them. But we can and should support local and regional ground forces in carrying out this mission” she said last November at the Council on Foreign Relations which can be translated as that afghans need to stand on their own feet and US cannot continue supporting them for the rest of their lives.

On the other hand the well-known Republican nominee Donald Trump had no interest to talk about not only Afghanistan but also about NATO as US’s strongest ally in fight against terrorism in the region, he had even asked that NATO has to be obsoleted. He mentioned that during a major show he was asked that what he thought of NATO and his response was that NATO and its 28 member countries aren’t paying their fair share while at the same time he was urging that NATO has to pay US for defending it and more importantly according to Trump NATO has to be obsoleted because they are not focusing on terror. This republican nominee had nothing to say about the fight against terror in Afghanistan and the price that both the American taxpayers and Afghan people have paid during the past 16 years but back in Oct 2015 he had considered Afghanistan war a mess and interestingly he had urged that US troops need to stay there and then on Nov 2015 he said that it’s a blunder to announce the withdrawal timetable from Afghanistan.

It is worth mentioning that back in 2013 he tweeted, “Let’s get out of Afghanistan. Our troops are being killed by the Afghanis we train and we waste billions there. Nonsense!  Rebuild the USA.” During the primary campaign he said going to Afghanistan in the first place was a mistake, and then denied having said it at all. “I never said it. Afghanistan is a different kettle. Afghanistan is next to Pakistan, it’s an entry in. You have to be careful with the nuclear. It’s all about the nuclear weapons. By the way, without the nukes, it’s a whole different ballgame,” he said in October 2015. “Do I love anything about it? No. I think it’s important, number one, that we keep a presence there and ideally a presence of pretty much what they’re talking about — 5,000 soldiers.” So such antithesis statements of Trump gives us an idea that again the National Unity Government should not rely more on Trump as they did on former president George Bush and currently on president Obama because Donald Trump is totally a different personality and sees things completely the other way around. Let’s hope for the best!

The Cost of US war in Afghanistan

Afghanistan is a country where the cost of war has been unexpectedly as high that no one could ever predict it when the US military operation first started in 2001. $714.8 billion has been allocated for the war in Afghanistan since 2001, including $35.1 billion in fiscal year 2015. At the same time $6.2 billion has been allocated to fight the Islamic State (also known as ISIS or ISIL), including $5.4 billion in fiscal year 2015.

annual_costs_of_war_fy5015_with_isis_and_slush_largeThis number does not end here because US war in Iraq has been an expensive war for the US military where they spent $817.8 billion since 2003 including an estimated $1 billion in fiscal year 2015.

The US war against terrorism in Afghanistan did not only cost money but more importantly it took lives of thousands of innocent civilians, soldiers from every nation that were involved in that war and contributed to peace and stability in that region and the Afghan National Defense Security Forces have paid the highest price in this war than any other nation that were involved in fight against terrorism in Afghanistan.

According to Resolute Support Commander General Nicholson more than 900 Afghan security forces had been killed in month of July only. On 28 July, 2016 Gen. John Nicholson had said that the number of Afghan Security Forces killed so far this year (2016) is about 20 percent higher than during the same period last year. In all of 2015, there were 20,000 casualties among Afghan Security Forces, he added.

Alongside the afghan causalities 3520 American/Coalition forces have been killed since 2001 of which 2384 of them are Americans, 455 of them are Brits and another 681 from different nations.

During the war in Afghanistan (2001–2014), over 26,000 civilian deaths due to war-related violence have been documented; 29,900 civilians have been wounded. Over 91,000 Afghans, including civilians, soldiers and militants, are recorded to have been killed in the conflict, and the numbers who have died through indirect causes related to the war may include an additional 360,000 people.

The total civilian casualty figure recorded by the UN between 1 January 2009 and 30 June 2016 has risen to 63,934, including 22,941 deaths and 40,993 injured.

According to UNAMA report This year’s casualties include 1,509 children (388 dead and 1,121 injured) – a figure the UN Human Rights Chief described as “alarming and shameful,” particularly as it represents the highest numbers of children killed or wounded in a six-month period since counting began in 2009.

There are 9,800 U.S. troops in Afghanistan. In July, after assessing the country’s deteriorating security conditions, President Barack Obama announced that 8,400 U.S. troops would remain into 2017, a far larger number than the small contingent of counter-terrorism forces that was originally set to remain post-2016.

Brussels Conference on Afghanistan (4-5 October)

As President Ghani and CEO Abdullah are making their preparations to leave for the Brussels’ conference; more than 70 countries and 20 international organizations have showed up their readiness to participate in one of the most vital meetings that the afghan delegation can take huge advantage of it and can mark it another stepping stone towards peace, stability and long lasting financial development in the country.

On October 4-5 the European Union and the Afghan government will co-host the conference where the international community will provide a platform for the government of Afghanistan to set out its vision and track record on reform and root out corruption within their administration. For the international community that played a vital role in financing and supporting the afghan government during the past years, it will be another opportunity to signal sustained political and financial support to Afghan peace, state-building and development in different areas.

The conference is expected to focus on three levels that are very important for the afghan government to present itself in a way so that the international community gets more interested on a sustained political and financial support to the afghan government.

The first topic that they’re going to touch on would be the joint international and Afghan efforts to increase the effectiveness of sustained international support and funding, on the basis of a new Afghan national development framework where the second topic would shed more light on reform efforts, including economic reform, rule of law, improved public finance management and anti-corruption which is one of things that the afghan government has always failed to cope with and has repeatedly been criticized by the international community during the past 16 years of its administration after the collapse of the Taliban regime in 2001.

The final issue that they’ll focus on would be the regional efforts to support a political process towards peace and cross-border economic cooperation which again the afghan government needs to focus more on and it’s considered vital for the economic development in the country.

National Unity Government’s Peace Accord with Hezb-i-Islami

The Brussels conference comes in a time where few days ago president Ghani finally formalized a peace treaty with Hezb-i-Islami led by Gulbuddin Hekmatyar after months of negotiations with the party’s representatives in Afghanistan. President Ghani and Hekmatyar signed the agreement via a video link and live broadcast by the state TV into the presidential palace where the majority of other Jehadi leaders from different parties had participated as well.

If we go back to 1990s the history of such agreements has already repeated itself.  following the ouster of Afghan President Dr. Najibullah in 1992, Hekmatyar and other warlords began a civil war in Afghanistan, which led to the deaths of around 50,000 civilians in Kabul alone. In the meantime, Hekmatyar was promoted to becoming Prime Minister of Afghanistan from June 1993 to June 1994 and again briefly from Sep 1996 to August 1997 but he fled again and started fighting against former Mujahidin government led by president Rabbani. In May 2013 at least 16 people lost lives in a suicide attack in Shah Shaheed area of Kabul which was later claimed by Hizb-e-Islami under the leadership of Mr. Hekmatyar. As we see none of these agreements and temporary positions within the Afghan government for Mr. Hekmatyar has worked out but it is being said that the last agreement is the first peace treaty the Afghan government has completed since the war with the Taliban began in 2001 and hope it lasts longer than before.

Please open the link below to read about NATO’s mission and its presence in Afghanistan from 2001-2016:

http://www.nato.int/cps/en/natohq/topics_8189.htm

my-pic-for-releaseAbout the author: Mohammad Timor Nawabi is the former Senior Media Analyst and Public Diplomacy Adviser to NATO Ambassador in Afghanistan. He has served with NATO in different capacities from Aug-2004 to July-2016. He can be reached on Twitter at @TemorN  and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/temor.nawabi or TEMORN2@gmail.com

View expressed in this article are of the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Ariana News editorial policy.

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Defense Ministry confirms at least 10 Daesh militants killed in prison battle

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

At least 10 attackers were killed in the almost day-long battle between Afghan security forces and Daesh militants in Jalalabad city.

The attack carried out against the city’s prison and a building opposite the facility, lasted for almost 24 hours before the area was declared clear of militants.

According to Nangarhar officials, five prisoners were also killed in the attack, and six more wounded while 40 families were rescued from the building opposite the prison, the ministry of defense confirmed on Monday night.

Nangarhar governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, meanwhile said the death toll was 30 and 50 wounded. This included civilians, security forces, and prisoners.

The rampage started on Sunday evening just after 6.30 pm when Daesh militants detonated a car bomb outside the prison.

After blasting the gates open, they stormed the facility. In the chaos, hundreds of prisoners escaped.

An estimated 1,700 prisoners were being held in the facility at the time of the attack – many of the Daesh fighters.

The gunbattle between militants and security forces lasted about 20 hours. Added to this, security manpower had to be diverted in order to round up the escapees.

Some prisoners who had been arrested told Ariana News that six attackers entered the prison and ordered them to leave. The prisoners were told that if they did not leave they would be killed by the assailants.

A security source said that the prisoners who escaped included Taliban members, Daesh militants, and criminals.

Earlier in the day, Zahir Adil, a spokesman for the provincial health directorate, told Ariana News that 13 of those wounded were in a critical condition.

This attack started just a day after Afghanistan’s intelligence services announced the Afghan special forces had killed a high-ranking Daesh member in an operation in eastern Afghanistan.
A statement late Saturday by the National Directorate of Security said the slain militant was Assadullah Orakzai, an intelligence leader for the IS affiliate (Daesh) in Afghanistan. The statement said he was killed near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. IS has its headquarters in the province.
Orakzai was suspected of being involved in several deadly attacks against both military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.

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Anxious WHO implores world to ‘do it all’ in long war on COVID-19

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Photo credit Reuters
(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The World Health Organization warned on Monday that there might never be a “silver bullet” for COVID-19 in the form of a perfect vaccine and that the road to normality would be long, with some countries requiring a reset of strategy.

Reuters reported that more than 18.14 million people around the world are reported to have been infected with the disease and 688,080​ have died, according to a Reuters tally, with some nations that thought they were over the worst experiencing a resurgence.

WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus and WHO emergencies head Mike Ryan exhorted nations to rigorously enforce health measures such as mask-wearing, social distancing, hand-washing, and testing.

“The message to people and governments is clear: ‘Do it all’,” Tedros told a virtual news briefing from the U.N. body’s headquarters in Geneva. He said face masks should become a symbol of solidarity around the world.

“A number of vaccines are now in phase three clinical trials and we all hope to have a number of effective vaccines that can help prevent people from infection. However, there’s no silver bullet at the moment – and there might never be.”

The WHO head said that, while the coronavirus was the biggest health emergency since the early 20th century, the international scramble for a vaccine was also “unprecedented”.

But he underscored uncertainties. “There are concerns that we may not have a vaccine that may work or its protection could be for just a few months, not more. But until we finish the clinical trials, we will not know.”

“THE WAY OUT IS LONG”

Ryan said countries with high transmission rates, including Brazil and India, needed to brace for a big battle: “The way out is long and requires a sustained commitment,” he said, calling for a “reset” of approach in some places.

“Some countries are really going to have to take a step back now and really take a look at how they are addressing the pandemic within their national borders,” he added.

Asked about the U.S. outbreak, which White House coronavirus experts say is entering a “new phase”, he said officials seemed to have set out the “right path” and it was not the WHO’s job to do so.

The WHO officials said an advance investigation team had concluded its China mission and laid out the groundwork for further efforts to identify the origins of the virus.

The study is one of the demands made by top donor the United States which plans to leave the body next year, accusing it of being too acquiescent to China.

A larger, WHO-led team of Chinese and international experts is planned next, including in the city of Wuhan, although the timing and composition of that were unclear. Ryan said China had already given some information but knowledge gaps remained.

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Loya Jirga on fate of Taliban prisoners to convene Friday in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The Afghan government will convene a Consultative Loya Jirga on Friday in Kabul to decide the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners who are on the group’s list.

For this Jirga, the Presidential Palace is yet to release details but officials have said the expected participants would be the same as those who participated in the last Peace Jirga along with members of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

“Loya Jirga will be held on August 7th. It is in continuation of the Consultative Jirga for Peace. Members are the same from the previous Jirga which will be divided into different categories such as civil society, media, and people’s council … the commission that is tasked for convening the Jirga will provide further details by tomorrow,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Presidential Palace.

A Loya Jirga is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.

The Jirga, or “grand council” is a centuries-old tradition that is convened at times of a national crisis or to settle a national issue.

Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make sweeping social or political reforms.

A question that’s been raised however is why did the government not convene a Loya Jirga on the release of the other 4,600 Taliban prisoners – who have already been freed.

Some lawyers believe however that this latest move, to hold a Loya Jirga, is purely symbolic and holds no legal authority.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, a law expert, said: “No one is authorized to forgive the Taliban prisoner. The Loya Jirga doesn’t have legal status. Its decisions don’t have a legal base. How can they resolve a legal issue? Political pressure has made the government release 4,500 Taliban prisoners. This Jirga, which is scheduled on Friday, is a symbolic and political move.”

In addition to this, the government has called for the Jirga – which will bring together scores of people – amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In April last year, a peace Jirga brought together more than 3,200 delegates.

The Ministry of Public Health does not, however, see this as an issue and feels participants should simply adhere to precautionary measures and health guidelines.

“Undoubtedly, we will consider all precautionary measures, and based on the health directives, it will not be a problem to hold a Loya Jirga,” said Mohammad Jawad Osmani, the Acting Health Minister.

Meanwhile, the Second Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, has told the US Deputy Ambassador to Kabul that holding the Jirga on the fate of the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners is a positive move toward intra-Afghan talks.

So far, the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban, has been a stumbling block in the way of talks.

However, over 4,500 prisoners have already been released but 400 are still behind bars.

Some Afghan government officials and Western allies have in the past few weeks raised concerns over at least 200 of these prisoners. Many of them are said to have been the masterminds behind serious attacks over the past few years.

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