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Saleh lashes out over Kabul blast, says ‘rotten ideology’ must be rooted out

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2020)

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Saturday night that ISIS Afghanistan (IS-K) and the Taliban share the same “ideological gene” and that the “rotten ideology” needs to be rooted out. 

Reacting to the deadly bombing earlier Saturday evening in a suburb of Kabul, Saleh tweeted: “The suicide attack at a private learning center in West of Kabul killed 11 and maimed many young hopefuls. The rotten ideology of quest for false heaven has to be rooted out. Talibs & IS-K share the same ideological gene. They are together at tactical level now. Future ?!”

Within half an hour of Saleh’s tweet, the death toll in the suicide bombing had however risen to 13. 

Saleh was one of many who condemned the incident and questioned the high levels of violence despite ongoing peace talks in Doha. 

Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch, posted on Twitter and said: “Yet another senseless, cruel attack in Kabul. Civilians going about ordinary activities—walking down the street, sitting in lessons, or getting care in a hospital—continue to suffer sudden and terrifying violence. Why are their stories not told in the peace talks?”

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, also  condemned the attack and labeled it a “terrorist attack” that was “against Islamic and human values.” 

EU special representative for Afghanistan Roland Kobia also slammed the high levels of violence and said: “This and other recent attacks on provincial capitals illustrate the so-called ‘Reduction in Violence’. Enough. There must by full unity of the international community, + massive pressure for an immediate ceasefire asked by all Afghans.”

The attack came in an area of west Kabul that is home to many from the Shia community, a minority in Afghanistan that has been targeted by groups such as the Islamic State (IS-K) in the past.

Saturday’s incident happened when a suicide bomber tried to enter an education center but was prevented from doing so by the guards. He then detonated his explosives in a narrow alley. 

In the past, the area has witnessed deadly explosions that have killed dozens of people over the years. 

In 2018 dozens of students were killed in an explosion at another education center and in May this year, 24 people including mothers, babies and expectant mothers were killed when gunmen attacked a maternity ward at a hospital in the area. 

The Taliban meanwhile was quick to distance themselves from Saturday’s attack but no other group has yet accepted responsibility for the explosion.

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US closes 10 bases as part of ‘murky’ withdrawal process

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

The United States has closed at least 10 military bases across Afghanistan as part of a withdrawal process “so murky” that many officials say they are uncertain of what’s to come despite a fast-approaching deadline, the Washington Post reported Saturday. 

Washington’s drawdown started after the US signed a deal with the Taliban in February which did stipulate that the US had 135 days in which to close five bases as well as a full foreign military withdrawal by May next year. 

Speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, Afghan and US officials confirmed that 10 bases had however been shut down. 

Little is known about what remains of the bases – many of which are in the more volatile provinces in Afghanistan. 

It is also unclear how much equipment — more difficult to move than people — is left at each of the closed installations, the Post reported.

In addition to the closure of bases, Afghan and US officials also stated that there was still uncertainty around the drawdown plans. Trump’s administration has said that troop levels will be reduced to about 2,500 by January 15, from around 4,000 currently. 

One official told the Washington Post that there are ongoing discussions around the drawdown and that details are still being worked through on what equipment — ranging from spare vehicle parts to ammunition — needs to be sent back to the United States and what can be turned over to the Afghan government.

However, another official told the Post that despite the drawdown in people and closure of bases, the US will retain the ability to carry out airstrikes against the Taliban in defense of Afghan forces. 

US troops will also remain able to carry out some counterterrorism strikes against the IS-K (Daesh) in Afghanistan.

Another US official said a number of significant decisions will be made over the next two weeks, including which other bases will close and what equipment will be turned over to the Afghan military. 

He told the Washington Post these decisions will be made in consultation with NATO allies and with the Afghan government. 

Speaking to the Post, Ashley Jackson, an expert on the Taliban, with the Overseas Development Institute said the closing of US bases is handing Taliban fighters symbolic and tangible victories.

“It’s the best propaganda [the Taliban] could ever have,” Jackson said, citing contacts she has close to the Taliban. “It’s the psychological effect that they are watching.”

And, as the United States closes smaller outposts that helped government forces hold territory, Jackson said the Taliban would probably move in and expand its reach.

The Washington Post meanwhile cited analysts and Afghan officials as having said further closures show that the United States is collapsing its forces in Afghanistan back into its bigger military installations to save on the large number of troops needed to secure the perimeter of multiple small outposts.

The move also brings US troops closer to medical facilities as the American footprint in Afghanistan shrinks, and would make it easier to evacuate the country rapidly if security disintegrates, the article stated.

The initial bases closed this year were Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Bost in Helmand, Gamberi in Laghman and Lightning in Paktia. Others closed this year include Jones in Kunduz, DeAlencar in Nangarhar, Shaheen in Balkh, Bishop in Kabul, Maymana in Faryab, and Qalat in Zabul.

It is unclear how many bases remain open in Afghanistan, in part because the total number of military sites has not been made public. 

But a senior adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security, who served in Afghanistan, Jason Dempsey, told the Washington Post that Trump’s decision to continue withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is “clearly such an ego and timeline-driven mood.”

Dempsey, who has frequently criticized the US military’s efforts in Afghanistan, said he believes the Afghan government is being “hung out to dry” by the US administration with the manner in which it is withdrawing.

“I don’t think we have a path to solid victory,” he said. “But I’d like to think that we had an obligation as we withdrew to our Afghan partners to at least leave them in the best position possible.”

 

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Afghanistan ranked number 1 on Global Terrorism Index 

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

According to Global Terrorism Index 2020 Afghanistan remains the country most impacted by terrorism and was subjected to 26 of the world’s 50 worst terrorist attacks last year. 

The report stated that while terrorism deaths in the country declined in 2019 for the first time in three years, the Taliban remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its eighth year, is developed by leading think tank the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorism trends.

“Whether the peace talks in Afghanistan have a substantial impact on terrorist activity remains to be seen,” read the report.

According to the report, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2019 amounted to US$26.4 billion, a fall of 25 percent from 2018 but Afghanistan was the country with the highest economic impact, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Just ten countries accounted for over 80 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2019, the most deaths in a single country were recorded in Afghanistan, accounting for 41 percent of all deaths. 

This represents a slight improvement from 2018 when Afghanistan accounted for 45 percent of global terrorism deaths.

“The fall in deaths in Afghanistan is particularly noticeable given its recent history,” read the report. 

“Since the peak of violence in 2018, deaths have fallen by just over 22 percent in a year. This reduction was driven by a decline in terrorist deaths attributed to the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State (IS-K) which fell by 18 and 61 percent respectively.”

The report stated that IS-K has faced significant territorial losses in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces following attacks by coalition forces but despite the fall in terrorism deaths, 2019 was still the second deadliest year on record for Afghanistan.

The Taliban were the deadliest terrorist group for the second consecutive year while IS-K was the second deadliest group in the country.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when US Forces and NATO toppled the regime, which was thought to be harboring Al-Qaeda. After the regime was overthrown, the Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has since led an insurgency against the government of Afghanistan and the US-led Resolute Support Mission. 

But, as highlighted by the report, the Taliban has steadily regained territory across Afghanistan. 

As of January 2019, it was estimated that the Taliban controlled territory home to approximately 10 percent of the population.

The report states that the Taliban is active solely in Afghanistan but that the Taliban’s Pakistani affiliate group, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was responsible for 73 deaths and 30 attacks in Pakistan in 2019, demonstrating a Taliban-related presence outside of Afghanistan.

“In January 2019, the Taliban committed their deadliest terror attack of the year when a suicide bomber and armed assailants targeted a National Directorate for Security (NDS) base in Maydan Shahr district, Wardak, Afghanistan,” the report read. 

At least 129 people were killed and 54 people were injured in the attack.

Despite a decline in terrorist deaths from 2018 to 2019, Afghanistan remains the country most impacted for the second consecutive year.

Afghanistan accounted for 41 percent of deaths from terrorism globally, with the Taliban being responsible for 87 percent of these fatalities. 

The report stated that during 2019, deaths from terrorism declined by 22 percent, falling to 5,725. 

“While this reduction in the number of deaths provides some optimism, it is the second-highest number of deaths recorded from terrorism in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.”

In 2019, terrorism was widespread in Afghanistan with terrorist incidents recorded in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and deaths recorded in every province except Panjshir. The largest number of deaths from terrorism were recorded in Kunduz province with the majority of deaths attributed to the Taliban. 

In 2019, there were 500 deaths in Kunduz province, a 77 percent increase from the prior year.

According to the report, recent losses of territory and fighters, IS-K is believed to still have sleeper cells in cities such as Kabul and Jalalabad.

“The presence of the Khorasan Chapter continues to challenge the Taliban. In 2019, the Khorasan Chapter was active in seven provinces, compared to the Taliban who conducted terror attacks across all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 

“Sixteen clashes were recorded between the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter in 2019, mostly in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces,” which are located along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and have served as operational bases for the IS-K since the group’s inception in 2015.

In 2019, Afghanistan was not only the country most affected by terrorism it also had the highest economic cost of terrorism, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its GDP, read the report. 

No other country in 2019 experienced a cost of terrorism greater than four percent of its GDP.

For the full report CLICK HERE

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Football legend Maradona dies from heart attack

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

Diego Maradona has died from a heart attack less than a month after turning 60.

The Argentinian football legend died at home, his lawyer said, just three weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain.

Maradona – known by millions around the world – won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, after knocking England out of the tournament by scoring what is widely considered one of the greatest goals ever.

Regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time on the pitch, his life off the pitch was equally notorious – amid battles with drug and alcohol addiction.

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez decreed three days of mourning following Maradona’s death.  

“You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all,” the Argentine leader tweeted.

“Thanks for having existed, Diego. We will miss you for a lifetime.”

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