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Friday, April 17, 2015

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Special Reports & Articles
Sports: Amini not temped by offer to ditch Australia for Afghanistan
Foreign fighters are spilling into Afghanistan, helping the Taliban
Afghanistan's Female Sons
Poland matches Afghanistan in terms of religion
Afghanistan’s defining fight: Technocrats vs. strongmen
Ashraf Ghani visit to Canada quietly scrubbed amid Iraq debate: sources
Latest UNAMA figures show continuing record high civilian casualties
Sent to the land that was never theirs: Afghan refugees in Pakistan
Plea for help for Afghanistan's Hazaras
After suffering under the Taliban, an Afghan minority faces new threats
Afghanistan stuck between Iran and Saudi Arabia
The Story Behind the Haunting Photo of a Starving Afghan Boy
What's left behind after the U.S. pulls out of Afghanistan
Photos: Afghan Army Commando soldiers participate in military training
Former Blackwater gets rich as Afghan drug production hits record high

Four people kidnapped in Ghazni

Khaama Press / April 17, 2015

Gunmen have kidnapped four people in the western part of Ghazni province.

Zamin Ali, governor of Malistan District says that the kidnapping took place on Tuesday.

He said that Taliban have kidnapped these people as a reaction for the arrest of the group’s shadow governor for Jaghori District. ‌

Taliban spokesman has not yet commented on the report.

Recently the kidnapping cases have increased in the country. In the last two months this is at least the fifth case of kidnapping in the country.

Five workers of a social welfare organization who were kidnapped over a month before were found dead in Tarinkot, provincial capital of southern Urozgan province.

The fate of 31 people kidnapped in Zabul province is still unknown. But Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of Zabul’s provincial council, who is mediating the release with the kidnappers says that the kidnappers have killed one of the 31 abductees and one has passed away his own death. He said that kidnappers are demanding the release of their fighters in exchange for these abductees.

Afghan Interior Minister visits
Badakhshan, military operations in offing

KABUL, April 17 (Xinhua) -- In the wake of overrunning several checkpoints and killing some two dozen security personnel by the hardliner Taliban militants in Jarm district of the northern Badakhshan province week ago, the Afghan Interior Minister Noorul Haq Olumi visited the restive province on Thursday and inspected the situation there, a statement of Interior Ministry released here Friday said.

Accompanied by senior police and army officials including the deputy to chief of army staff General Murad Ali Murad, the interior minister Olumi after holding meeting with local officials and reviewing the security situation issued directive to security forces based in Badakhshan to eliminate the terrorists and all those involved in killing security personnel in Jarm district, according to the interior ministry statement.

At least 22 security personnel had been killed, some 10 of them beheaded by Taliban militants after security forces' checkpoints were stormed in Jarm district last Friday.

Afghans from all walks of life have been annoyed by the killing and beheading of some two dozen security personnel by Taliban militants and central government's failure to dispatch reinforcement on time to protect the lives of soldiers there, and even demanded the trail of those at the helm of security apparatus.

"Units of security forces would continue to stand alongside the people and won't allow anyone to disrupt peace and security in Badakhshan province," Interior Minister Olumi assured Badakhshan residents in meeting with the elders of the province, the statement added.

Meanwhile, a senior Afghan Defense Ministry official General Afzal Aman, according to local media reports, has said that major operations against militants would soon be launched in Badakhshan.

However, he didn't reveal the date set for the operations, warning overlooking terrorist activities in Badakhshan province would destabilize other parts of the country.

Afghan, Pakistani army chiefs review
border management, defence cooperation

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan, April 17 (Xinhua) -- Visiting Afghan Army Chief, General Sher Mohammad Karimi, and his Pakistani counterpart General Raheel Sharif on Friday discussed border management and defence cooperation amid growing military-to-military contacts, the military said.

The Afghan army chief arrived in Pakistan on a two-day visit for talks on bilateral security issues. It is his second visit to Pakistan in nearly four months. He last visited Pakistan in December just days after the Taliban attacked an army-run school in Peshawar and killed 150 people, most of whom were children.

Afghanistan has also arrested five suspects of the attack on the Army Public School on intelligence passed on by Pakistan.

The Afghan army chief visited the Pakistan military headquarters in Rawalpindi and held talks with his Pakistani counterpart on a wide-range of issues, the military said. "During the meeting, matters related to peace and stability in the region specially in Afghanistan, Pak-Afghan border management and measures to further enhance defence and training cooperation between both armies were discussed,"an army statement said.

General Karimi also laid floral wreath at"Yadgar-e-Shuhada"( martyrs monument) and offered prayers for those who sacrificed lives in war against militants.

Earlier, on arrival at General Headquarters, a smartly turned out contingent of Pakistan Army presented Guard of Honor to the dignitary.

The Afghan army chief will be the chief guest at the passing out parade of cadets at Pakistan's major academy at Kakul in northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province on Saturday and will address the parade.

A group of six Afghan army cadets are also receiving training at the Pakistan Military Academy.

Former President Hamid Karzai had refused to send army officers for training in Pakistan, however, his successor President Ashraf Ghani sent the first group in February this year in a sign of enhanced bilateral security cooperation.

Pakistan Not Opposed to India
Joining Afghan Transit Treaty

Ayaz Gul / VOA News / April 16, 2015

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan said it will consider making India part of a bilateral trade and transit agreement with landlocked Afghanistan as long as New Delhi formally sends a request to both countries. The announcement precedes Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s maiden trip to India later this month.

A tension-free relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan is considered vital for tackling challenges such as terrorism and poverty facing the two militancy-plagued neighbors, sharing a 2,400-kilometer border.

In recent months, both sides have taken important steps and exchanged high-level political, military, and economic visits to normalize ties usually marred by mistrust and suspicion.

This week, Pakistani Commerce Minister Khurram Dastgir Khan traveled to Kabul for talks to build "enhanced economic engagement.”

Khan said the two days of discussions focused on Afghan complaints related to the so-called Afghanistan-Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA).

He said the government of Pakistan has "implemented the reduction in scanning of Afghan transit cargo from 100 percent in the past down to 20 percent only."

"Afghan trucks can now carry cargo, Afghan exports, all the way across Pakistan, to Wagah [post] at the India border," he added. "We are hoping that by implementation of these steps, a very major portion of irritants in transit trade, have been resolved.”

Previously, Afghan trucks could transport India-bound export cargo only up to Pakistani border cities from where Pakistani trucks would carry it to the eastern border post of Wagah.

Khan said Afghan trucks on their way back from the Indian border would also be allowed to pick up cargo to carry to Afghanistan. Pakistan does not allow rival Inda to export its goods to Afghanistan and onward through its territory, citing tension in bilateral ties.

Afghan traders were unhappy about scanning of cargo shipments at the Pakistani port city of Karachi, saying it would cause unnecessary delays and encourage corruption for quick processing of documents. Under the bilateral treaty Afghanistan also facilitates Pakistani exports through its territory to central Asian countries.

Khan did not rule out Afghan calls for including India in the transit trade agreement to allow Indian exports to Afghanistan and other Central Asian markets, .

“Any other country wishes to enter into the arrangement has to formally send its request to both countries," he said. "We are willing to consider such applications and we are hoping that if we receive it we will consider it and take decisions.”

A day before the Pakistani delegation arrived in Afghanistan, the Indian embassy in Kabul, through a formal letter to the Afghan government, expressed New Delhi’s “willingness and desire” to join the country’s transit trade agreement with rival Pakistan.

In response, the Afghan foreign ministry said it would welcome India if it wants to join the transit trade agreement.

But Khan insisted the transit trade agreement is strictly a bilateral understanding, and advised against any change in the current status at this stage.

"This positive new relationship between Afghanistan and Pakistan should not be made conditional on a third country," he said. "We have this great opportunity to move away from the suspicions of the past decade and a half and we have this opportunity to move forward quickly. We should complete our task that is in front of us, which is shared prosperity through economic integration."

Khan also said Afghan leaders have assured him they will take immediate steps to address issues hindering Pakistani businessmen from freely undertaking commercial activities in Afghanistan.

They include issuance of multiple entry visas to Pakistani investors and skilled laborers as well as removal of custom duties on goods in transit to Central Asian countries.

Hamid Karzai’s Chapan (Coat)
to be exhibited in British Museum

Khaama Press / April 17, 2015

The much-admired Afghan coat (Chapan) of the former Afghan President Hamid Karzai will be exhibited at the British Museum.

The Office of the former President said Hamid Karzai’s Chapan will be registered and added among the assets of the museum.

Nancy Hatch Dupree, director of the Afghanistan Center at the Kabul University, informed Karzai regarding British Museum’s decision during a meeting.

The Office of Hamid Karzai in a statement said Ms. Dupree delivered a written letter from the British Museum to Hamid Karzai during a meeting on Thursday morning.

The statement further added that the former President also discussed regarding the Center’s activities and pledged to cooperate at all levels with the Afghanistan Center at the Kabul University.

Karzai started wearing his much-admired Afghan coat, or chapan, since his arrival in Kabul as the interim leader of Afghanistan after the fall of the Taliban regime.

His look sparked a fashion trend as he dashed around the world. Even certified fashion guru Tom Ford, the creative force at Gucci, was impressed and anointed Karzai, “The chicest man on the planet today.”

One London paper dubbed Karzai, “The most unlikely style icon since . . . Mahatma Gandhi.”

Confucius Institute in Afghanistan
providing opportunities for female education

by Farid Behbud, Jawid Omid

KABUL, April 17 (Xinhua) -- "At first, my relatives and friends were against my idea of learning Chinese at Kabul University, so I told them that I would study English there," Bahara Qhazizada, a female student in Kabul, whispered in Mandarin during an interview with Xinhua recently.

"I have been interested in learning Chinese and so I joined the Chinese Confucius Institute at Kabul University three years ago," Bahara, 18, said, adding that the language can serve as a bridge to link neighboring nations and boost trade and economic ties between China and Afghanistan.

Established in 2008, the Confucius Institute has enrolled 268 local students learning Chinese and among them, 51 have graduated successfully. At least 100 scholarships have been offered by the Chinese government since then to facilitate a good portion of the total enrolled in studying in China.

"The environment for female college students in Afghanistan has improved in recent years. My relatives and friends who said it was useless for a female to learn Chinese or other foreign languages are changing their minds. Now they are encouraging me. They realize women can also take part in rebuilding the country," said Bahara.

Speaking of her future career, Bahara said unhesitatingly, "My dream is to become the Afghan Ambassador to China."

"I am sure that other students could also further enhance the ties between the two peoples by having a good knowledge of the Chinese language."

Balqees Rizahi, Bahara's female classmate, seems more at ease about learning at the Confucius Institute.

"My parents support my studies at the university and they encourage me to visit China," said Rizahi, 21.

"There has been huge discrimination against women in the past. Women could not enjoy the basic rights laid down by Afghan laws. But in recent years, the situation is better. Nowadays, female students are learning in schools and universities across the country."

In some Afghan tribal villages, females, especially young girls, are required to stay at home and banned from attending school, which is a tradition inherited from the Taliban reign.

"I think that, although women's rights have considerably improved in Afghanistan over the past 13 years (after the collapse of the Taliban regime), there is still a long way to go to achieve equality with men, given the fact the rate of literacy among women remains much lower," Rizahi said.

"Women can take part in promoting living standards, but only if they are educated. If a mother is educated, her children are more likely to receive education, therefore our country could also benefit from that," she added.

With confidence in her eyes, Rizahi said she would like to become a Chinese language teacher in order to spread the knowledge to the Afghan youth. She also calls on families and parents in this war-torn country to support their daughters to receive education.

"I think more work is still needed for women rights to be promoted," she concluded.

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