Tolo News: The selection committee of Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) on Friday announced a list of young who will attend a two-week training camp in India. The ACB will select best players from the 21 young cricketers for the national team. According to ACB, 22 members of the national team will also join the young players in the training camp. From the 43 players, 24 of them will be selected for the national team to play in the cricket world cup. Click here to read more (external link).
The Telegraph (UK): As inconceivable as it is today, war-torn Afghanistan was once an essential stop on the backpacker route (dubbed the “hippie trail” or “overland”) across Asia, notable for its gorgeous capital – dubbed the “Paris of the East” – and the ease in which travellers could score a little marijuana. Click here to read more (external link).
April 20, 2018
ISLAMABAD — A roadside bomb blast in Afghanistan’s eastern Nangarhar province Friday killed at least five civilians and wounded more than 10 others.
The victims were traveling to the Haska Meena district from the provincial capital of Jalalabad when their passenger vehicle struck the bomb, a local government spokesman told VOA.
Attaullah Khogyani said four children and two women were among those wounded. He added the attack occurred in a remote village named Khataki, which is not under the control of the Afghan government.
There were no immediate claims of responsibility.
Taliban insurgents and militants linked to the Afghan branch of the Islamic State terrorist group operate in Haska Meena and several other districts in Nangarhar. The volatile province borders Pakistan.
The United Nations recently said conflict-related civilian casualties have already risen to record levels this year.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, which documents civilian casualties, says the armed conflict has caused 2,260 civilian casualties, including more than 700 deaths, in the first three months of 2018.
Last year, UNAMA recorded more than 10,000 civilian casualties, including around 3,500 fatalities.
April 19, 2018
Taliban insurgents recently forcibly shut down the services of private telecommunications companies in areas under their control in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province.
Residents said the action cut off their mobile phone service for the past five days.
Local communications officials said the Taliban “believe the Afghan government is utilizing private communication systems for military and intelligence operations,” Omidullah Zaheer, communications director of Helmand province, told VOA.
“In a note to all communication companies, Taliban warned them to stop their operations,” Zaheer added.
The insurgents reportedly forcibly shut down at least 120 communications towers, perhaps in a bid to disrupt Afghan military operations in the province.
Afghan defense officials, however, said the disruption would not affect their communications because they have their own communications system.
“Our forces have their own tactical communication system and do not use or rely on private communication services,” Mohammad Radmanesh, a spokesman for the Afghan defense ministry, told VOA. The disruption, he said, “would only create problems for local residents.”
The Afghan military recently launched an operation nicknamed “Nusrat” in Helmand to push the Taliban out of their strongholds.
Other affected sites
Helmand is not the only place that the Taliban shut down telecommunications services. Local officials said the insurgent group pressured communications companies to cut operations to just a few hours a day in parts of southern Uruzgan and Zabul provinces.
Private communications companies that provide mobile and internet services in the areas declined to comment on the issue, fearing their comments would upset the insurgents.
Radmanesh of the Afghan defense ministry did not rule out opium harvest season as a possible motive behind the Taliban’s move against communication services. He said the insurgents want to prevent locals from tipping off security forces about Taliban presence in poppy fields.
Taliban insurgents get close to 60 percent of their revenue from narcotics activities, including smuggling and taxing local growers.
According to a report by the U.N. Office on Drug and Crime, the total area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan was estimated at 328,000 hectares (1,266 square miles) in 2017, a 63 percent increase compared with 2016.
“In Helmand province alone, cultivation increased by 63,700 hectares (+79%), which accounted for about half of the total national increase,” the U.N. report said.
A new air campaign against Taliban financial streams began in November 2017 under President Donald Trump’s new Afghan war strategy, which has destroyed hundreds of Taliban’s drug-processing labs in different parts of the country, including in southern Helmand province.
Azizullah Popal contributed to this report from Kandahar.
April 19, 2018
ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s unilateral fencing and construction of new observation posts on the long border with Afghanistan are “progressing smoothly” despite recent deadly clashes between the two countries and traditional terrain-related challenges.
The massive military-led effort to secure the 2,611-kilometer largely-porous frontier began in early 2017. Since then, a pair of 3-meter chain link fences, with a 2-meter gap topped with barbed wire, has been installed along more than 200 kilometers of the border, a senior security official working on the project told VOA Thursday.
The official said more than 150 new border posts and forts of 443 such planned facilities have been built, while the rest will be in place by 2019. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to share details on the ongoing project with media.
Afghan authorities oppose the plan because they dispute the former British-era demarcation of 1893, maintaining that the barrier deepens problems for divided ethnic Pashtun families.
The Pakistani security official told VOA construction has been discussed and undertaken “in coordination with all parties, including the U.S. and Afghanistan.”
Islamabad said its fortification plan, which will cost hundreds of millions of dollars, will stop militant infiltration and illegal crossings in both directions.
The border disagreements, however, have occasionally triggered skirmishes between Afghan and Pakistani forces. The latest such incident occurred this past Sunday (April 15) when, Pakistani officials say, a routine paramilitary patrolling and fencing action came under fire from the Afghan side in the Kurram border region.
“The Afghan border security forces, assisted by Afghan tribesmen, fired on our troops, resulting in shahadat [martyrdom] of five soldiers,” Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Faisal said at Thursday’s weekly news conference.
“A border flag meeting was held between the commanders of the two forces and the situation was amicably defused…In their engagement, the two sides emphasized the need for further enhancing border coordination to avoid a recurrence of such incidents in the future,” said Faisal.
Afghan officials also reported fatalities on their side.
Speaking to VOA, the Pakistani security official said the border clash is “proof the Pakistani army is eager to plug the gaps as early as possible to secure the western border. Neither the military tensions nor the terrain and weather-related challenges has “in any way slowed down” the pace of the fencing project,” he said.
“A stable western border is in the interest of Pakistan and synchronized efforts are in hand on a fast track basis to complete this daunting mission because it is vital for the security of Pakistan and it will also end the blame game,” the official said.
Afghan and U.S. officials have long alleged that Taliban insurgents use sanctuaries on Pakistani soil to plot and sustain cross-border attacks. Islamabad rejects the accusations and says its security forces eliminated all militant groups from their territory before undertaking the Afghan border security project to ensure long-running regional security and stability.
Pakistani officials allege that after having fled security operations, militants have taken refuge in border areas of Afghanistan and are plotting terrorist attacks against Pakistan from there.
The American Conservative: From faulty power stations and shoddy buildings to billions wasted, new evidence shows it was a pipedream – The United States is achieving very little in the way of sustainable development in Afghanistan, even with the enormous amount of time and resources that have been invested. To continue in this manner after almost two decades is to show that we have learned nothing, despite years of evidence of little progress. The fatal conceit of nation-building still dominates our foreign policy thinking. This is not a “fine” moment. It’s a shame and a delusion. Click here to read more (external link).
The Guardian (UK): Gul Rahman was killed in a secret CIA interrogation facility where he endured being doused with frigid water and shackled naked – It took almost 15 years for Gul Rahman’s family to receive a direct acknowledgment that he had been killed in a secret CIA interrogation facility in Afghanistan. Now the family is pressing the United States to disclose what happened to his remains.
1TV: Speaking at an event in Kabul, Qanooni, dismissed claims that Karzai was chosen all of a sudden at the Bonn conference or the united front was responsible for his rise to power… Citing a book of U.S. diplomat James Dobbins, the “orchestrator” of Bonn conference, Qanooni said that the director of Pakistan’s spy agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, had told the diplomat that Karzai was a suitable person for the position. Click here to read more (external link).
Tolo News: Officials from the Afghan power supply company Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) on Thursday said the company is working around the clock to rebuild the electricity pylon destroyed by the Taliban in Baghlan last week. DABS officials said power will be restored to Kabul in the next three days. Kabul, which is experiencing serious power shortages, is down by 100 megawatts of imported electricity, DABS said. Click here to read more (external link).