Futurity: Vulnerable groups in Afghanistan, including people with disabilities, cite a growing rate of insufficient access to quality health care, a new study finds. The findings, published in Lancet Global Health, come after 15 years of investment in the Afghan health care sector by the international community. Click here to read more (external link).
The Washington Post: Before he entered the White House, President Trump looked at the American war effort in Iraq and came away with a simple solution: “Take the oil.” Thankfully, this campaign-trail suggestion has not carried over to his presidency. But it was an early warning sign of Trump’s own capacity for grand strategy. He sees everything, including international relations, as a transaction, a quid pro quo arrangement where even the complex legacy of a U.S. invasion in the Middle East can be reduced to a “bad deal” and an argument to plunder another nation’s wealth. Now, it seems, he may hold a similar view when it comes to Afghanistan, where American troops have been stationed for more than 15 years. Click here to read more (external link).
July 26, 2017
ISLAMABAD — Afghan security forces Wednesday safely recovered two Pakistani diplomats weeks after they were abducted in eastern Afghanistan.
The men were serving at Pakistan’s consulate general in the Afghan city of Jalalabad and traveling back to their country on June 16 when they went missing. No one had claimed responsibility for kidnapping the diplomats.
“President Ashraf Ghani personally phoned Pakistan’s Charge d’Affiares in Kabul to inform that the Afghan security forces had recovered the two Pakistani officials in a security operation,” the foreign ministry in Islamabad said.
The two officials were later handed over to the embassy and were to be flown back to Pakistan to join their families as soon as possible, the ministry said, and thanked the Afghan government for the rescue.
The ministry statement did not provide further details about who was behind the kidnapping or from where in Afghanistan the two men were rescued.
Jalalabad is the capital of volatile Nangarhar province, which borders Pakistan, and where Taliban insurgents and militants linked to a local branch of Islamic State also have strongholds.
The kidnapping of the diplomatic officials and their subsequent rescue by Afghan forces come as Kabul’s relations with Islamabad have deteriorated in the past several years.
The two countries share a long border and routinely accuse each other of sponsoring terrorist attacks on each other’s soils.
July 26, 2017
American Muslims say they have experienced deep suspicion about their faith since Donald Trump took office in January, a survey shows.
Almost three-quarters of US Muslims see Trump as unfriendly toward them, shows a Pew Research Center report released Wednesday.
The Pew survey, which is its third on American Muslims since 2007 and its first since Trump became president, surveyed 1,001 adults by phone, both landline and cellphones, between Jan. 23 and May 2, in English, Arabic, Farsi and Urdu.
Sixty-four percent of those with a more distinct Muslim identity, like a head covering for women, noted that they had recently experienced some sort of discrimination and nearly half of them say they had the same problem last year, such as being treated with distrust, threatened or called an offensive name.
The poll also shows that the Muslims were optimistic about their future. Seventy percent say hard work will result in success in America.
Nearly half of them note they received more support from individual non-Muslim Americans during the past year.
“There’s a sense among the American Muslim population that others are beginning to understand them and beginning to sympathize with them,” said Amaney Jamal, a Princeton University political scientist and adviser to Pew researchers.
Prejudice against Muslims has “pushed the average American to say, ‘This is really not fair. I’m going to knock on my neighbor’s door to see if they’re all right,” Jamal added.
In January, Trump issued a temporary ban on travel from some Muslim-majority countries which sparked protests and chaos at airports around the country and the world.
Opponents of the ban, including states and refugee advocacy groups, sued to stop it, arguing that the controversial ban discriminated against Muslims.
Last month, the US Supreme Court ruled in favor of the administration. However, it limited the scope of the Muslim ban, saying it could not apply to anyone with a credible “bona fide relationship” with a US person or entity.
The New York Times: President Trump, searching for a reason to keep the United States in Afghanistan after 16 years of war, has latched on to a prospect that tantalized previous administrations: Afghanistan’s vast mineral wealth, which his advisers and Afghan officials have told him could be profitably extracted by Western companies. Click here to read more (external link).
July 26, 2017
ISLAMABAD — Afghan officials confirmed Wednesday a Taliban attack has left at least 26 soldiers dead and 13 others wounded in the southern province of Kandahar.
The overnight assault in the Khakrez district targeted an Afghan National Army, or ANA, base, an official statement quoted Defense Ministry spokesman Dawlat Waziri as saying.
He said the ensuing fighting also “killed and wounded” 80 Taliban assailants but gave no other details.
Local air force commanders told reporters airstrikes in support of ground troops forced insurgents to retreat and military helicopters then transported wounded soldiers to nearby hospitals.
The Taliban reportedly took away weapons and other military equipment with them.
A Taliban spokesman claimed it captured the army base after killing 74 Afghan soldiers and capturing six others.
It was not possible to independently verify claims made by either side.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Taliban insurgents staged an early morning attack against a key district center in the eastern Noortistan province.
Chief of the Wantwigel district, Rehmatullah Rehmat told VOA fierce fighting is raging in the area and all government security outposts were under attack.
A Taliban statement claimed its fighters have overrun major security outposts around the district, inflicting heavy casualties on Afghan security forces.
The fighting is currently taking place 200 meters from the district center, it said.
The insurgent group has overrun the eastern district three times in the past 15 years but it could not hold the territory for long in the face of retaliatory attacks by Afghan forces.
Other Security News
Hasib Danish Alikozai
VOA News | July 25, 2017
WASHINGTON/NANGARHAR, AFGHANISTAN — Ten-year-old Madina was collecting firewood with her friends Thursday in eastern Afghanistan when a roadside bomb went off and seriously injured her.
“We were on a hill close to my home, collecting firewood, when I heard a loud sound underneath my feet,” she said from her hospital bed in eastern Jalalabad city, where she is being treated.
Madina’s wounds highlight the growing number of civilian injuries and deaths due to violence in Afghanistan, according to a midyear report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
UNAMA said 1,662 civilians have been killed during the first six months of 2017 as a result of suicide attacks, roadside bombs and the government’s ongoing crackdown on militants across the country. Another 3,581 civilians have been injured during the same period, according to UNAMA.
The U.N. blames Taliban, IS and other armed militant groups for the majority of the civilian casualties.
Amnesty International has denounced attacks on civilians, charging that it constitutes a war crime, and demanded the Afghan government ensure the safety and protection of its citizens.
“A record number of civilians have been killed in the first half of this year, with women and children being the worst affected. And neither the Afghan government nor the international community is paying enough attention to their plight,” the rights group said.
UNAMA, too, warned anti-government forces not to deliberately target civilians.
“UNAMA reminds anti-government elements that employment as a civil servant tasked with providing public services to Afghan citizens on behalf of the government is a civilian function. Attacks deliberately targeting civilians, and the intentional killing of civilians, are war crimes,” UNAMA said following Monday’s suicide attack.
Doctors said Madina, who lost both legs in the blast, is in stable condition and will eventually receive prosthetic limbs.
However, the explosion has changed Madina’s life forever, and she is having trouble understanding the severity of her injuries. “I want the hospital to fix my legs,” she said.
The incident took place in eastern Nangarhar’s Sangena district. Family members claim the roadside bomb was planted by Islamic State (IS) militants in the region.
Madina’s grandmother, who asked not to be named for security reasons, told VOA that IS militants have planted mines in the region.
“IS militants came to our village and implanted mines,” Madina’s grandmother said, adding that Madina was the only family member who helped her father with household errands.
Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, spokesperson for the Nangarhar police chief, told VOA that Taliban and IS militants are responsible for planting roadside bombs in the region — targeting one another, as well as civilians.
The increase in roadside bomb blasts has taken a toll on civilians, not only in eastern Nangarhar province, but across Afghanistan, according to officials.
Civilians are increasingly bearing the brunt of the ongoing war in Afghanistan, whether it be from roadside bombs, Taliban suicide attacks or government operations, rights groups say.
On Monday, a Taliban suicide car bombing killed at least 35 people and injured dozens more in the Afghan capital, Kabul, security officials said.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying its bomber targeted two minibuses carrying personnel of the Afghan intelligence agency, or NDS.
But a Kabul police spokesman told VOA the victims were mostly employees of the ministry of mining and petroleum industry.
The blast took place while the bus was passing through a crowded marketplace, killing shopkeepers and passersby, according to eyewitnesses at the scene.
In late May, a truck bomb hit the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, killing at least 90 people and injuring more than 350, all of them civilians. Taliban denied responsibility for that attack.
Analysts theorize that Taliban militants tend not to claim responsibility for attacks that have high civilian death tolls.
Mohammad Habibzada of VOA Afghanistan service contributed to this report.
July 25, 2017
ISLAMABAD — Ten journalists have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year in militant attacks plotted by the Taliban and Islamic State loyalists, a media monitoring group said.
Violence during the first six months of 2017 also wounded 12 journalists, the Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) said in a report released Tuesday in Kabul.
The group’s head, Najib Sharifi, told reporters it documented 73 cases of violence against journalists, a 35 percent increase compared to the first six months of 2016.
The violence included killing, beating, injury, humiliation, intimidation and detention of journalists, he added.
“Those killed have either been directly targeted by terrorist groups or lost their lives as a result of terrorist attacks,” noted Sharifi.
The media organization says that IS-plotted violence and threats against journalists have particularly increased in eastern Afghanistan, where the terrorist group has a strong presence.
“In this zone, the majority of media organizations and journalists practically live under the threat of the ISKP group,” AJSC warned, using the local acronym for the Syria-based terrorist group.
An attack on state-run Radio Television-Afghanistan, or RTA, in May killed four employees, while a massive truck bombing in the vicinity of the German embassy in Kabul also that month claimed the lives of four journalists in the line of duty, according to the report. One-hundred-and-50 other people were killed.
A March attack against the parliament in the capital city killed two journalists.
AJSC noted, however, individuals affiliated with the Afghan government, or security forces, have also been responsible for 46 percent of all the instances of violence against journalists since the beginning of the year.
“The violence carried out by the government officials is mostly committed because of revelations by journalists of illegal activities of these government-affiliated individuals and institutions,” the report said.
It praised steps the Afghan government has taken to improve the security of journalists, including establishment of a Joint Committee for the Security and Safety of Journalists, but lamented that “weak implementation” has not produced desired outcomes.
The report also noted rising insecurity and a “worsening threat environment” in Afghanistan have also led to a “notable decrease” in the number of female journalists working in media organizations, with none working in at least 10 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces.
The reduction or absence of female media members, AJSC warned, has undermined coverage of women-related problems.
The increase in violence in Afghanistan is evident in a recent United Nations report that says armed conflict has killed more than 1,600 civilians in the first six months of 2017.
Tolo News: President Ashraf Ghani has nominated Deputy Interior Minister Hamid Tahmasi as Minister for Transport and Civil Aviation and former eastern Nangarhar governor Gul Agha Shirzai as Minister for Borders and Tribal Affairs. Ghani also appointed the National Directorate of Security (NDS) deputy Matin Bek as the head of the Independent Director of Local Governance (IDLG), and former Laghman governor Fazlullah Mujadadi as governor of northern Takhar province. Click here to read more (external link).
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
July 25, 2017
An Afghan official says the Taliban has seized control of a district in southeastern Afghanistan, the third to fall to the militants in as many days.
The Taliban’s apparent capture of Jani Khel district in Paktia Province, along the porous border with Pakistan, came after days of heavy fighting.
Sardar Khan Malangzoi, head of the provincial council, told Germany’s dpa news agency that the district fell early on July 25 after fierce gunbattles with government forces in the district center.
But a spokesman for the provincial police chief said that security forces still controlled the district center but were under attack.
Malangozi said the Taliban torched the district governor’s compound, the police headquarters, and a health clinic.
He said both sides suffered heavy casualties.
In a statement, the Taliban claimed it had captured the district.
On July 23, the Taliban seized control of Taywara district in central Ghor Province and Kohistan district in northern Faryab Province.
Based on reporting by dpa and Tolo News