January 21, 2019
ISLAMABAD — Taliban insurgents launched a major suicide bomb-and-gun attack against a military base in central Afghanistan, killing at least 18 security troops and injuring dozens more.
Authorities said the assault took place early Monday morning in Maidan Shahr, the provincial headquarters of Wardak province, about 50 kilometers from Kabul.
The key security installation was said to be manned by Afghan special forces assigned to the country’s spy agency, the National Directorate of Security (NDS).
The Taliban raid began with a suicide bomber detonating an explosives-packed U.S.-made Humvee military vehicle before several of his partners tried to storm the base, the provincial police chief told VOA. Wais Samimi said Afghan forces swiftly engaged and killed the assailants, he added, but declined to give further details.
Provincial health officials confirmed to VOA that ambulances transported at least 40 victims to local hospitals, including 12 dead. Eyewitnesses and area residents reported a much higher death toll.
The Taliban took responsibility for staging the deadly raid. The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, claimed multiple Taliban insurgents participated in the attack and “completely destroyed” the base, killing more than 90 Afghan forces and wounding scores of others. Though insurgents’ claims for such attacks are often inflated.
On Sunday, a suicide car bomber rammed a high-profile government convoy in eastern Logar province, killing at least 10 Afghan security forces. The provincial governor and top security officials traveling in the convoy were apparently the target of the attack. The Taliban claimed responsibility.
The Taliban continues to stage spectacular battlefield attacks in Afghanistan despite harsh winter weather.
The increased violence comes as the United States has intensified efforts to find a politically negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old war between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
Other Security News
The Independent (UK): A large number of Pashtun politicians, tribal chiefs and intellectuals are against the Taliban, which is one of its biggest weaknesses… The central, conservative ideology of the Taliban is also responsible for its failure, as it is unacceptable for most Afghans, particularly the literate population…The media has played a key role in highlighting the cruelties of the Taliban on ordinary Afghans. Click here to read more (external link).
Manoj Kumar Mishra via Asia Times: From a geopolitical perspective, Afghanistan provides the US with a venue for quick access to gather intelligence as well as develop military strategies against geographically adjacent state actors such as Iran, China and Russia, and limit the ambitions of non-state actors such as the Afghan Taliban, the Haqqani Network and ISIS. Click here to read more (external link).
1TV: “Do you want Pakistan or other neighbouring countries represent you, or you represent yourselves as Afghans? If you want Pakistan to represent you, we will talk with Pakistan,” Ghani said after registering to seek second term in upcoming election expected in July. The comments come after Taliban’s repeated rejection of negotiating with the Afghan government, but have held talks with other countries. Click here to read more (external link).
January 20, 2019
ISLAMABAD — The process of submitting nomination papers for the upcoming presidential vote in Afghanistan concluded Sunday, with President Ashraf Ghani and his ruling coalition partner Abdullah Abdullah among the candidates seeking the country’s top office.
Ghani and Abdullah, who was appointed chief executive in a deal mediated by the United States after the disputed 2014 election, filed their nomination papers just hours before the Independent Election Commission (IEC) closed the proceedings.
The election activity comes as an early morning suicide car bombing of a government convoy in eastern Afghan province of Logar killed at least eight security forces, underscoring serious security challenges facing the country in the wake of a raging Taliban insurgency.
The presidential vote, scheduled for July 20, is also under scrutiny because of the lack of serious reforms to prevent a repetition of previous fraud-marred Afghan elections.
IEC officials, however, dismiss concerns and insist their rescheduling of the polls from the original April 20 date has given them enough time to fix the problems and to lay the ground for a better organized vote.
“Our [candidates’] goal should be to work toward ensuring this election process results in a strong government and nation. Whatever consensus regarding any reforms is required must be achieved now to remove any doubts about the election outcome,” Ghani said in televised comments after formally registering his candidacy with IEC.
The IEC was heavily criticized for failing to prevent mismanagement and alleged rigging in the October parliamentary election. The final results are still awaited, fueling traditional mistrust and suspicions among voters about the upcoming election.
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, a former ethnic Pashtun warlord accused of war crimes and once listed as terrorist by the U.S., has also joined the presidential race.
Hekmatyar stopped his Hizb-i-Islami group from waging insurgent attacks against foreign forces and returned to Kabul from years of hiding in 2016 after signing a U.S.-backed peace deal with President Ghani’s government.
Hekmatyar’s fighters have been blamed for committing atrocities during the Afghan civil war that enabled the Taliban to capture most of Afghanistan in 1996.
Several former officials of the Ghani-led National Unity government are also among the contestants. They include Hanif Atmar, former national security adviser; Rahmatullah Nabil, ex-chief of the Afghan intelligence agency; Zalmai Rassoul, a former foreign minister who came third in the last presidential election; and Shaida Abdali, a former diplomat.
Peace talks with Taliban
The United States, meanwhile, has intensified efforts to seek a politically negotiated settlement to the 17-year-old conflict with the Taliban, which control nearly half of the country and maintain battlefield pressure on U.S.-backed Afghan forces to capture more territory.
Chief American peace negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad, and his team spent several days in neighboring Pakistan, where authorities tried to arrange the next round of U.S.-Taliban talks.
A U.S. Embassy statement announced Sunday said Khalilzad visited Islamabad from January 17-20 where he met with Pakistani civilian and military leaders. It said that “both sides reaffirmed their commitment to advance the Afghan peace process.”
Khalilzad highlighted that all countries in the region will benefit from peace in Afghanistan, the statement concluded, though it was not clear whether Pakistani efforts to bring the two sides to the negotiating table succeeded.
- Afghan President Ghani Vows To ‘Work For Peace’ As He Seeks Reelection
- Chief Executive Abdullah Runs For President – Enayatullah Babur Farahmand as his running mate for first Vice President and former MP Asadullah Saadati as his running mate for second VP.
- Gen. Dostum endorses Abdullah Abdullah in upcoming presidential elections
- Govt Leaders, Presidential Candidates Promise Peace
- Hekmat Karzai opts to devote efforts towards peace, not election campaigns
Other Election News
Tolo News: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the Hizb-e-Islami leader, who entered a peace deal with the Afghan government in 2016 and returned home after almost 20 years, entered the race for 2019 presidential elections on Saturday. Fazl Hadi Wazeen, an Islamic studies researcher and a university lecturer, is Hekmatyar’s running mate for first Vice President. Qazi Hafizurrahman Naqi, Hekmatyar’s running mate for second Vice President is an Islamic studies graduate and has worked in the Supreme Court. Click here to read more (external link).
Other Election Related News
- More Candidates Enter Afghanistan’s Presidential Race
- Nabil, Wali Massoud Register as Presidential Candidates for July Elections
- Amrullah Saleh Resigns As Acting Interior Minister To Join Ghani’s Ticket
- Abdullah Abdullah Jamiat’s Favorite For Presidential Elections – Dostum and Khalili as Vice Presidents
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
January 19, 2019
The Taliban has denied reports that it is prepared to resume talks with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad on ending Afghanistan’s 17-year war.
Pakistani media had reported that a meeting in Islamabad was possible following talks in the Pakistani capital between Khalilzad and senior Pakistani officials, including Prime Minister Imran Khan, on January 18.
However, the Taliban ruled it out on January 19.
“We wanted to make it clear that we will not hold any meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in Islamabad,” Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said in a statement.
Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on January 17 and met Imran Khan as well as the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi and other officials.
Khalilzad was named by the Trump administration four months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace.
The Afghan-born Khalilzad is a veteran U.S. diplomat. He served as President George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq, and the United Nations.
Based on reporting by Reuters
Copyright (c) 2019. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
- Khalilzad says US is ready to address legitimate concerns of all Afghan sides in the peace process
- Zabul Residents Call On Taliban To Join Peace