Friday, April 24, 2015
Switzerland 'Happiest Country', Afghanistan
Among 'Least Happy' In UN Ranking
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
April 24, 2015
Switzerland is the happiest place to live, according to the 2015 World Happiness Report, while Afghanistan is one of the least happy nations.
Among 158 countries ranked, Uzbekistan scored the best out of the RFE/RL broadcast region at 44th place. Iran was ranked at 110, Ukraine at 111, Iraq at 112, Armenia at 127, and Afghanistan at 153.
Published on April 23 by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the report shows how average 2012-2014 life evaluations differed across the world.
The rankings are based on a Gallup World Poll, and are supplemented by measures of economic growth, life expectancy, generosity, social support, freedom, and corruption.
The first rankings came out in 2011 after the UN General Assembly invited countries to better capture the pursuit of happiness and take it into account when developing their public policies.
Rocket attack on govt compounds in
Ghazni as Taliban launches offensive
Khaama Press / April 24, 2015
The Taliban militants launched rocket attacks on a number of government compounds in southeastern Ghazni province early on Friday morning as the group launched summer offensive.
According to local government officials, at least three rockets landed on Information & Culture Directorate, provincial municipality and Museum compounds.
Deputy provincial governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi confirmed the incident and said sporadic gun fires are also heard in the vicinity of Ghazni city.
There are no reports regarding the casualties as a result of the rocket attack and sporadic clashes.
The Taliban militants group claimed responsibility behind the rocket attacks and claimed that heavy casualties were incurred as a result of the attack.
Ghazni is among the relatively volatile provinces in southeastern Afghanistan where anti-government armed militant groups are actively operating and frequently carry out insurgency activities.
Afghan MPs urge Kabul to review agreement with US
Press TV / April 23, 2015
A number of lawmakers in the Afghan parliament have called on the government to reconsider a security agreement with the United States as Taliban militants step up their violent attacks in the war-torn country, Press TV reports.
MP Ramazan Bashardost told Press TV that the security situation in Afghanistan has not improved despite the signing of the controversial Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) that permitted the presence of a reduced contingent of US troops in Afghanistan.
“The agreement is contradictory and inconsistent with our situation. I was opposed to signing it from the very beginning because I knew it wouldn't benefit us,” Bashardost added.
The BSA, which was signed in September last year, allowed nearly 10,000 American troops to remain on the Afghan soil. They are tasked with advising Afghan forces on how to fight against militants on battlefields.
“We have decided that the security agreement should be reconsidered because the US is not helping us in restoring peace,” MP Allah Gul Mujahid told Press TV.
The development comes as Taliban militants have stepped up violent attacks on foreign and government targets in recent weeks.
They recently announced the start of their annual spring offensive against Afghan security forces and the US-led foreign troops across the war-stricken country.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed Taliban from power, but insecurity still remains across the country.
The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces have remained in the country in what Washington calls a support mission.
Syrian rebels capture 4 Afghans including teenager boys
Khaama Press / April 23, 2015
A new video has emerged from Syria which purportedly shows the capture of four Afghan nationals by the Syrian rebels.
Two teenager boys are also seen among those captured during the clashes apparently by the rebels belonging to the Free Syrian Army.
The group was reportedly deployed to Syria to take part in the ongoing conflict by Iran’s Revolutionary Guard.
The men appearing in the video introduces themselves while speaking in Dari language and describes unemployment as the main reason behind their decision to fight in Syria.
Dozens of Afghan nationals were reportedly killed late in December last year while fighting in support of the Syrian regime led by Bashar al-Assad.
According to reports, some 3,000 Afghan nationals have been deployed to take part in the ongoing Syria conflict.
The Afghan militants are fighting on both sides of the Syrian war, in support of the Syria Bashar al-Assad and the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) militants.
Informed sources in the Afghan government have also confirmed that the number includes Iranian-backed Shiites fighting a proxy war in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and against Islamic State and other rebel groups.
The participation of Afghan militants in Syria war has sparked concerns among the Afghan officials some will return to fight in Afghanistan under Islamic State’s banner.
Pakistan: 'Shock and Sorrow' at Death of Hostages
VOA News / April 24, 2015
Pakistan has expressed "shock and sorrow" after it emerged that a U.S. counterterrorism operation accidentally killed two male hostages — an American aid worker and an Italian — held by al-Qaida on the Afghan-Pakistan border.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed its "heartfelt condolences to the bereaved families," and said the death of the two hostages "in a drone strike demonstrates the risk and unintended consequences of the use of this technology that Pakistan has been highlighting for a long time."
A U.S. official told VOA Thursday the hostages — American Warren Weinstein and Italian Giovanni Lo Porto — were killed during airstrikes by unmanned drone aircraft on January 14.
President Barack Obama personally apologized for the incident. "As president and commander-in-chief I take full responsibility for all our counterterrorism operations, including the ones that inadvertently took the lives of Warren and Giovanni," Obama said at the White House. "I profoundly regret what happened."
Obama told reporters, "Based on the intelligence that we obtained at the time, including hundreds of hours of surveillance, we believed this was an al-Qaida compound, that no civilians were present and that capturing these terrorists was not possible."
U.S. officials say Ahmed Farouq, an American whom the White House says was an al-Qaida leader, was killed in the same operation. U.S. officials have also concluded that Adam Gadahn, an American who had served as a spokesman for the terror network, was killed in a separate American operation in January.
"While both Farouq and Gadahn were al-Qaida members, neither was specifically targeted," the White House statement said, and there was no "information indicating their presence at the sites of these operations."
A U.S. official told VOA that they "had near clarity” on what was targeted on January 14 and 19, after intelligence showed "a pattern of life" at the compound and "assessed with a very high level of confidence the compounds hosted only al-Qaida members."
“These hostages had been hidden and well-concealed," the official said.
The White House says the president did not personally sign off on the two specific strikes in which the hostages were killed.
Lo Porto was kidnapped in January 2012 while working in Pakistan for the German aid group Welthungerhilfe.
Weinstein, who was from a suburb of Washington, was 73 years old. He was a business-development expert working in Pakistan on a contract with the U.S. Agency for International Development. He had been in Pakistan for close to seven years when the gunmen stormed his residence and took him away in 2011.
In a statement, his wife Elaine Weinstein said the family cannot even begin to express the pain they are going through. She said while they look forward to the results of a U.S. government investigation into the circumstances of his death, the "ultimate responsibility" is with those who took Warren captive.
She also expressed disappointment with the government and military in Pakistan whom she says "failed to take action earlier in his captivity when the opportunity presented itself."
Interview: Bandung spirit imperative to boost cooperation
in today's world, says Afghan former minister
KABUL, April 24 (Xinhua) -- The original message of the Bandung conference held 60 years ago that brought together Asian and African leaders in Indonesia on issues of peaceful co-existence, is still imperative for boosting mutual cooperation among the nations and still holds gravitas in today's world, Afghan former minister for information and culture Sayed Makhdom Raheen told Xinhua.
"I believe that co-existence among the nations is the only path leading to prosperity, happiness and the strengthening of relationships between African and Asian countries," Raheen said during an exclusive interview.
He made the remarks in the wake of the latest gathering of Asian and African leaders in Bandung city to commemorate the historic meeting 60 years ago.
On Chinese President Xi Jinping's pledge made at the conference to offer more assistance to developing nations, the former Afghan minister and well-respected analyst said that China has the capacity to help the neighboring states and developing countries.
"The People's Republic of China has been very helpful to different third-world nations and what the President of China mentioned at the conference is based on the tendency of the Chinese government to strengthen cooperation with developing countries," Raheen went on to say.
Afghanistan was also among the nations that first attended the Bandung meeting six decades ago.
On Sino-Afghan relations, Raheen said China has been helping Afghanistan for a long time in different fields. He said he hoped that China and Afghanistan "can work together to further strengthen bilateral ties."
Raheen added that China can help Afghanistan in different fields including security and that lasting peace in Afghanistan would also benefit China.
Allaying concerns for investment sparked by security fears, the former minister said, "I don't see any major obstacles, although we have terrorist problems in parts of the country, generally it is peaceful, for instance Bamyan, Parwan and other provinces are enjoying peace and stability."
However, he added, "We are trying to restore full security in the country."
On the issue of the revitalization of the Silk Road, Raheen said, "It is a huge project that different countries including China, central Asian states, Afghanistan and many more nations will benefit from."
The Afghan expert, however, noted that any country including Afghanistan that benefits from the China-proposed Silk Road Economic Belt should be part of the reconstruction of the ancient road.
Asghar Stanikzai appointed as
new captain of Afghan cricket team
Khaama Press / April 24, 2015
Afghan cricketer Asghar Stanikzai formally assumed the charge of the Afghan national cricket team after he has was appointed as the new captain to replace Mohammad Nabi Esa Khel.
The Afghanistan Cricket Board (ACB) officials told reporters on Thursday that the ACB appointed Stannikzai as the new captain considering his experience with the national team.
The 28-year-old Stanikzai is a right-handed batsman and a medium-fast bowler who has been playing with the national team since 2009 in One Day International (ODI) format. Stanikzai made his debut in Twenty20 format in February 2010.
Mohammad Nabi on Sunday announced to step down as the captain of the Afghanistan national cricket team and said the decision was due to the recent performance of the team and particularly his out of form status.
In his resignation letter to the ACB, Nabi said “I would like to request you to accept my resignation as a captain and allow me to continue to play as a team player. I will sincerely provide and share my captaincy experience with the new captain.”
“At the end, I would like to thank ACB, my colleagues and fans inside and outside Afghanistan who supported me all the time,” Nabi added.
In the meantime, ACB officials said Nabi will continue to play with the national team as a key player in the upcoming matches.