Yesterday's Afghan News

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Second Guesthouse Targeted In Latest Kabul Attack

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty

May 27, 2015

An all-night gunbattle with insurgents who stormed a guesthouse in the diplomatic quarter of Kabul ended at daybreak May 27 with four attackers dead, an Afghan government minister said.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on what it called "the occupiers."

Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayoub Salangi announced on Twitter that four attackers were killed after hours of clashing with police, despite carrying heavy weapons, including grenade and rocket launchers and AK-47s.

"There were no civilian or military casualties," he added, apparently because the militants were cut off by police before reaching the guesthouse.

“Four insurgents who were equipped with weapons wanted to attack and enter a hotel in between 13th and 15th street of Wazir Akbar Khan," Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "Police reached the area simultaneously and prevented them from entering [the hotel.] During the operation, police killed four attackers.”

Authorities did not identify the guesthouse, but Afghan and Western security sources said the target was the Rabbani guesthouse, a hotel owned by the family of a former president and the current foreign minister of Afghanistan, Salahuddin Rabbani.

The Rabbani, also known as the Heetal Hotel, is popular with foreigners. The Afghan capital has been hit by a series of high-profile attacks on foreigners and government targets over the past two weeks.

Taliban militants staged an assault on a Kabul guesthouse on May 13, killing an American, a British citizen, an Italian, four Indian nationals, five Afghans, and two Pakistanis.

The stepped-up attacks on government and foreign targets come despite Kabul's repeated overtures to reopen peace talks.

But the Taliban failed to hit its target this time, authorities said.

Kabul police spokesman Ebadullah Karimi told AFP that "the attackers wanted to get into Heetal Hotel but failed."

He said they were forced to shoot it out with police in a stand of trees behind the hotel.

The manager of the Heetal Hotel said all the guests were in safe rooms and no one was hurt.

"Heetal is very well fortified. After one or two initial explosions, our guards started firing on attackers, who were unable to get inside," he told AFP by telephone.

The Rabbani guesthouse has seen violence before, suffering damage in a December 2009 suicide car bombing that killed eight people and wounded nearly 40.

The assault began at about 11 p.m. local time and lasted for hours, with sporadic gunfire and huge explosions reverberating through the upscale neighborhood.

Police fanned out around the neighborhood, taking up positions on rooftops, though visibility was limited by darkness.

Police set up roadblocks around the diplomatic quarter to prevent the insurgents from escaping.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, and AFP

MoI supports public uprising
against Taliban-led insurgency: Sediqi

Khaama Press / May 27, 2015

The Ministry of Interior (MoI) supports public uprising against the Taliban-led insurgency, MoI spokesman Sediq Sediq said Wednesday.

He said local residents in different parts of the country have launched uprising against the Taliban insurgency which reflects the public well to launch a campaign agains terrorism.

Sediqi said the government supports public uprising but no weapons have been distributed by the government to uprising forces and only weapons left from previous conflicts are used by the uprising forces.

According to Sediqi, the government is committed to disarmament of illegal individuals and groups which still continues in different parts of the country.

He said the Ministry of Interior fully supports public uprising to repulse the activities of a terrorist or terrorist group in any part of the country.

According to reports, the local residents in parts of Kunduz and Takhar provinces have launched public uprising against the Taliban insurgents.

The residents of northeastern Badakhshan province also pledged to form a group of uprising force to fight the Taliban insurgents.

Six killed in US assassination drone strike in Afghanistan

Press TV / May 27, 2015

At least six people have been killed in the latest US drone strikes on Afghanistan’s Nuristan and Kunar provinces.

The first of the Wednesday raids in the northeastern province of Nuristan claimed the lives of five people.

Local officials claimed those killed were Taliban militants, among them a commander.

The Taliban have made no comments on the incident, yet.

The second drone attack, in the neighboring province of Kunar, killed one person.

Besides Afghanistan, the United States carries out targeted killings through drone strikes in Yemen, Pakistan, and Somalia.

The US and its allies launched a war on Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed the Taliban from power, but insecurity continues in the war-torn country despite the presence of thousands of US-led troops.

The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces, mainly from the United States, have remained in Afghanistan in what is said to be a support mission.

US-led NATO says the forces will focus more narrowly on counterterrorism and on training Afghan soldiers and policemen.

Afghanistan To Ukraine: 'The Enemies
Of Our Enemies Are Our Friends'

By Rostyslav Khotin
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
May 27, 2015

KABUL -- When the Soviet Union invaded Afghanistan in 1979, fortified with tanks, helicopters, and 100,000 troops, empty-handed Afghan guerrilla fighters like Sayed Kassem Muzafari said they had to be innovative.

"We fought with our sheep-shearing knives and made our own grenades from benzine and empty bottles," says Muzafari, who commanded a squad of mujahedin in Parwan Province, to the north of Kabul, and in Bamiyan to the west. It was far from a level playing field, he acknowledges. But "if we hadn't fought, it would have left a heavy burden on our shoulders."

It took more than nine years -- and eventual supplies of foreign-made weapons -- for Afghanistan to rout the Soviet troops. Now, 26 years later, many Afghans see parallels in Ukraine's war against pro-Kremlin separatists in the country's east, and are ready to offer advice.

"Take an example from us -- it's possible to beat a superpower," says Muzafari, who now works with Martyrs' Heirs, an organization supporting the families of slain mujahedin. "Ukraine has a government, an army, an economy. If they don't fight Russia to the end for their country, history will condemn them."

"The enemies of our enemies are our friends," says Afghan historian Habibullah Rafa, speaking simply. "So Ukraine is our friend."

Culture Wars

Afghanistan, which last month marked its annual commemoration of the 1989 victory over the Soviets, doesn't appear at first to share much with Ukraine, either culturally or politically. But there are notable similarities.

Both are bordered by historically meddlesome neighbors. Both have had territory seized by Russia -- Crimea and potentially Donbas in the case of Ukraine; in the case of Afghanistan, a large swath of northwestern land claimed in an 1885 battle and absorbed into Turkmenistan. And both have fought Moscow to defend their native cultures and traditions.

"Moscow wanted to take control of Afghanistan," says Mohammad Asif Azimi, a former guerrilla commander in his native Samangan Province, who adds that Kabul's Soviet-backed communist government was grossly out of touch with the country's overwhelmingly Muslim and tribal-based population. "Our religion was in danger. Our culture and language would have fallen."

Analysts in Afghanistan see the current crisis in Ukraine as an unintended consequence of the Afghan-Soviet war, which bankrupted the Kremlin and set the stage for the Soviet collapse and the emergence of 15 independent countries in its wake.

"Moscow still thinks that the 14 other former republics are its satellites," says Vadir Safi, a professor in the law and political science department of Kabul University. "It's especially hard for Moscow to reconcile itself to the independence of Ukraine and Belarus, because they're Slavic states."

Safi, who spent time in Soviet-era Ukraine, says that, even at the time, he noticed a dramatic difference between Russians and Ukrainians. "Ukrainians are like Afghans -- they're very freedom-loving people," says Safi. "When it comes to Ukraine, Moscow isn't going to let up on the pressure."

'Be United'

Moscow, however, may be feeling pressure of its own: a rising body count.

In Afghanistan, Soviet authorities clamped down hard on skyrocketing casualty figures in what was meant to be an easy campaign. By the time the war ended nearly a decade later, the U.S.S.R. had lost an estimated 15,000 soldiers -- and the Soviet public, until then kept largely in the dark, was furious.

The same scenario is now playing out in Ukraine. A newly published report initiated by slain Russian opposition leader Boris Nemtsov asserts that Russia -- despite continued insistence by Russian President Vladimir Putin that his country is not involved in Ukraine -- has lost at least 220 active-duty soldiers in the conflict.

Some Ukrainians are hoping that, as in Afghanistan, Western military aid may also prove a factor.

By the mid-1980s, the United States had joined several foreign governments in providing the mujahedin with heavy weapons, including Stinger surface-to-air missiles, marking a turning point in the war.

The United States has so far provided Ukrainian troops with only nonlethal aid, such as bulletproof vests and night-vision goggles. But it has reportedly mulled supplying self-guided Javelin antitank missiles if the conflict continues.

Even if the Ukraine war comes to an end, some Afghans warn grimly, the aftermath may be even worse. Infighting among the mujahedin in the wake of the Soviet withdrawal created a governing vacuum that was only filled once the extremist Taliban militia seized control of Kabul. That situation led to the 2001 U.S.-led invasion and near-daily factional violence that has taken place ever since.

"You can only beat Putin through unity," says Hekmatullah Hekmat Zadran, a former mujahedin commander based in eastern Ghazni Province, an area of heavy fighting. "My main advice to Ukraine is to be united as a nation. Don't allow a civil war. That's what happens when a nation is fragmented, and it's terrible."

Zadran pauses, then adds another recommendation, one certain to have resonance among many in Kyiv: "Remove former communists and everyone who supports Russia from power."

Perhaps the most vivid lesson Ukrainians can take from postwar Afghanistan is also the most obvious: War changes things in ways that can't be fixed.

Moscow has largely failed to reengage with Kabul in the quarter-century since the Soviet withdrawal, and has watched with chagrin as last year's drawdown of U.S.-led troops has once again created a security gap on its former southern flank.

Historian Rafa suggests that a postwar normalization between states that share a border may be even harder to achieve.

"It takes a long, long time for two countries to build a relationship, but destroying that relationship is easy," he says. "By invading Afghanistan, the Russians ruined relations with the Afghans for a long time to come."

Small Oasis on Kabul's Outskirts
Provides Relief From Security Tensions

VOA News / Ayesha Tanzeem / May 26, 2015

KABUL - When people in Kabul want to get away from the city and relax, many choose Qargha Lake, a small resort on the outskirts of Kabul.

On Fridays, the traffic stretches for kilometers. Groups of young men, couples and families make their way to the lake on cars and motorcycles as street vendors sell their wares.

“In the past, business was bad. Now it is picking up. I work here every Friday and go to school the rest of the week,” said one vendor.

This could be any popular place, anywhere. Except Qargha Lake is on the outskirts of Kabul, a city that regularly faces deadly violence. A city where men in uniform with guns are the most common site. Out here, a policeman directs traffic, carrying a whistle, not an AK-47.

Zaminullah is glad to be here with his family.

“There is nowhere for a vacation, for meeting, as you know, because Afghanistan is a war torn country and Afghan people, they lost everything during ... [inaudible] wars,” he said.

Three decades of war coupled with the strict rule of the Taliban destroyed almost all recreational facilities in Afghanistan. That is why people flock here, despite the dangers.

The glass restaurant had an attack one year ago but today, you would not see it with all the people that are sitting there. Obviously security is not the only thing on people’s minds. They do not want to waste any opportunity to have fun.

Boat rides on the lake are popular. Visitors are sometimes rewarded with unexpected delights. Like a famous Afghan comedian performing his act live.

Out here, one can almost forget this is a war-torn country, unless you pick up on subtle signs. Afghanistan’s only golf course, once a popular place with foreigners, now stands deserted.

But Afghans still come here to forget about the war, and indulge themselves in the little pleasures of life.

UN team assesses humanitarian situation in Zabul province


KANDAHAR, 27 May 2015 – A joint team led by UNAMA’s southern regional officials visited Qalat, the capital of Afghanistan’s Zabul province, to assess the humanitarian and security situation in the aftermath of recent military activity.

Briefing the UN team in Zabul’s capital, located 135 kilometres east of Kandahar, Provincial Governor Mohammad Ashraf Nasari said basic services of health, education and shelter are being provided to displaced families. He asked for assistance from the UN, particularly the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and the United Nations Children’s Fund, to provide tents for thousands of students currently studying in the open, and support to other displaced people.

Zabul’s Director of Education, Rahimullah Lodin, told the UN team that 80 per cent of the schools in the province lack basic facilities, including water and sanitation. The UN team visited Shaikh Mati Baba High School in Qalat and observed that more than 3,000 students, displaced from across the province, are studying without desks, chairs and other basic educational infrastructure.

UNAMA officials, chairing the regional team, organised and led the assessment mission and are planning to monitor and follow up on the situation in Zabul. The head of UNAMA’s Kandahar’s field office, Simon Hermes, along with the other members of the team, distributed books and stationary to the displaced students, and assured the Provincial Governor that the UN will respond to the assistance needs within its capacity.

UNAMA is mandated to support the Afghan Government and relevant international and local non-governmental organizations to assist in the full implementation of the fundamental freedoms and human rights provisions of the Afghan Constitution and international treaties to which Afghanistan is a State party.

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