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November 22, 2018 - Trump hints could make first visit to Afghanistan
Trump hints could make first visit to Afghanistan | Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump hinted on Thursday he may visit Afghanistan, scene of one of America's longest wars but a country he has yet to visit almost two years into his presidency.

Delivering a Thanksgiving holiday message by teleconference to troops in Afghanistan, Trump told a U.S. Air Force general he would see him back in the United States, before adding: “Or maybe I’ll even see you over there. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Recent U.S. commanders-in-chief have routinely visited troops in active war zones. Trump has come under criticism for failing to do so, though Vice President Mike Pence made a surprise trip to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan last December to visit troops.

By this point in his presidency, former President Barack Obama had made a trip to Iraq and two to Afghanistan. Former President George W. Bush traveled to Afghanistan twice and Iraq four times during his two terms in office.

Trump was criticized when he scrapped a planned visit to a major U.S. military cemetery during a visit to Paris this month because his helicopter was grounded by bad weather during a trip that marked the 100th anniversary of the end of World War One.

Back in Washington on Veterans Day, he failed to visit Arlington National Cemetery, saying later that he was “extremely busy”” but admitting that he should have.

Asked by a reporter whether he would visit a war zone, Trump said: “At the appropriate time, we’ll be doing some very interesting things.”

He was then asked whether he knew the timing: “I do, but can’t tell you. You’re the last people I can tell,” he told reporters. Presidential trips to war zones are normally cloaked in secrecy for security reasons, revealed only when the commander in chiefs have landed, and sometimes only after they have safely left the region.

Responding to criticism that phoning the troops on Thanksgiving was not enough, Trump defended his actions, arguing that he had hiked spending on the military and veterans.

U.S. Defense Secretary Jim Mattis on Wednesday was asked by reporters whether he thought Trump should visit troops in war zones.

“The president is the commander in chief and he decides where he needs to go. There are times I don’t want him in certain locations to be frank with you, for his security and the troops’ security,” Mattis said.

The United States has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission as well as in separate counter-terrorism operations against militant groups like Islamic State.

U.S. troops arrived in Afghanistan in 2001 as part of the campaign to topple the Taliban following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.

Slideshow (3 Images)
Trump hints could make first visit to Afghanistan | Reuters

November 22, 2018 - Trump says US in 'very strong' negotiations in Afghanistan
Trump says U.S. in 'very strong' negotiations in Afghanistan | Reuters

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday the United States was “in very strong” peace negotiations in Afghanistan but he did not known whether they would be successful.

“I really think the people of Afghanistan ... are tired of fighting,” Trump told reporters after delivering a Thanksgiving holiday message to U.S. troops in Afghanistan, scene of one of America’s longest-ever wars.

“We are talking about peace and we’ll see if that happens ... We have negotiations going on. I don’t know that they are going to be successful, probably they’re not. Who knows? They might be, they might not be.”

Trump was speaking after Taliban leaders met with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad at their political headquarters in Qatar last week for the second time in the past month.

Khalilzad said on Sunday he hoped to reach a peace deal by April 20, a deadline that coincides with the date set for presidential elections in Afghanistan.

However, the Taliban said their three-day meeting with Khalilzad to pave the way for peace talks ended with no agreement on any issue and they had not accepted any deadline set by the United States to wrap up talks.

Khalilzad’s public statement that the Taliban believe they will “not win militarily” apparently angered senior members of the group, who warned U.S. officials against mixed messages that could muddle the peace process.

Two senior U.S. officials confirmed this week that a second round of peace talks ended last week and the Taliban expected Khalilzad to visit Qatar for a meeting before the end of 2018.


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US service member killed in Afghanistan – NATO

A US service member has been killed in Afghanistan, NATO-led Resolute Support mission has confirmed. The person has become the eighth American combat fatality this year, according to Reuters.

The identity of the victim has not been immediately disclosed and will be shared after the required military procedures are complete.

More than 2,400 US troops have died in the 17-year war, while the goal to defeat the Taliban, Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS), and Al-Qaeda is still far from being achieved.

Despite the fact that major combat operations were wrapped up years ago, a US contingent along with allied Western troops are still present in the country with the stated mission “to train and assist local forces.”

However, the Taliban, which operates in vast parts of the country and considers the American presence an “invasion,” has repeatedly said it will not engage in any meaningful peace process until US troops are withdrawn.

“We will not tolerate a single US soldier in Afghanistan,” Sher Mohammad Abbas, the head of the Taliban delegation, said at the international meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow.


On November 23, the Taliban announced that its fighters had captured 4 checkpoints of the Afghan National Army (ANA) and the Afghan National Police (ANP) in the districts of Almar and Gurziwan in the northern province of Faryab following successful attacks.

12 personnel of the ANA and the NAP, including an officer named “Habibullah,” were reportedly killed during the attacks. Taliban fighters also captured an armored vehicle along with loads of weapons and ammunition.

Few hours after the attack, the Taliban news agency Voice of Jihad reported that the ANA and the ANP had withdrawn from 6 other checkpoints in Almar. The news agency also revealed that a commander of Afghan government forces in Gurziwan, named “Haji Muhammad Salih,” defected on Novmber 22 and joined the Taliban along with 19 of his fighters.

According to the Taliban, the attacks in Almar and Gurziwan were a part of its spring offensive, codenamed “Operation al-Khandagh.” The offensive was launched on April 25 in response to Washington’s decision to increase the US military presence in Afghanistan.


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[U]sToRmR1dR[/U] Today at 8:55 AM
US service member killed in Afghanistan – NATO

A US service member has been killed in Afghanistan, NATO-led Resolute Support mission has confirmed. The person has become the eighth American combat fatality this year, according to Reuters.

Sanitized Western version:

November 24, 2018 - US Service Member killed in Afghanistan: NATO
U.S. service member killed in Afghanistan: NATO | Reuters

KABUL - A U.S. service member was killed in Afghanistan on Saturday, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement, bringing the U.S. combat death toll this year to eight.

The identity of the service member and details about the incident will be shared at a later stage, said Debra Richardson spokesperson for the Resolute Support in Afghanistan.

The Pentagon says there are about 14,000 U.S. service members in Afghanistan. The U.S. military’s mission is focused mainly on guiding and aiding Afghan forces battling the Taliban, which was ousted from power in 2001.

More than 2,400 U.S. forces have died in the 17-year-old war, America’s longest conflict.

Sat Nov 24, 2018 - Two Killed in Kandahar after Afghan Military Helicopter Makes Emergency Landing

Kandahar police chief said the Afghan Army helicopter had been carrying troops at the time of the emergency landing.

At least two people were killed and two others were wounded after a helicopter made an emergency landing on Saturday, officials at the Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed, TOLOnews reported.

Despite earlier reports of no casualties, an MoD spokesman, Jawed Ghafoor, confirmed the two people were killed and two others were wounded when an Afghan Air Force helicopter made an emergency landing in Maruf district of Kandahar province.

Earlier, Kandahar police chief Tadin Khan said the helicopter made an emergency landing in the district, adding that "the helicopter was transferring troops from the (provincial) center to the district.” He said there had been no casualties but the helicopter caught fire.

No further details have been provided. However, the Taliban tweeted that their fighters had shot down the helicopter.

November 24, 2018 - Senior Cleric in Afghanistan's top Religious body killed
Senior cleric in Afghanistan's top religious body killed | Reuters

KABUL - A leader of Afghanistan’s highest religious body was assassinated in Kabul on Saturday, a senior interior ministry official said, an attack that came four days after 55 religious scholars were killed in a suicide attack in the capital.

Mawlawi Abdul Basir Haqqani, the leader of Kabul Ulema Council was shot dead. His body was found near a residential area of Kabul, a senior police official said on conditions of anonymity.

Haqqani’s murder comes when members of the council are coping with the aftermath of a devastating suicide attack that killed 55 religious scholars and wounded over 90 men who had gathered in a banquet hall in Kabul to celebrate the birth anniversary of Prophet Mohammad.

Afghanistan’s Ulema Council is a government-funded, but autonomous body of religious clerics. It was set up after the fall of the Taliban in 2002 and has a presence across 34 provinces of Afghanistan. Haqqani was leading the Kabul chapter of the council.

As of 2018, the council had more than 2,500 members — religious scholars and clerics, both Sunni and Shi’ite.

Their role is mainly to perform religious ceremonies, advise the government on matters of Islamic jurisprudence. Members of the council have supported a peaceful solution to the Afghan war, but the Taliban views them as “religious puppets of the Western-backed government”.

November 23, 2018 - Suicide Blast at Afghanistan Mosque kills at least 26 gathered to pray
Suicide blast at Afghanistan mosque kills at least 26 gathered to pray | Reuters

A suicide blast at a mosque in an army base in eastern Afghanistan on Friday killed at least 26 people and wounded 50, security officials in the area said, although there was no immediate claim of responsibility.

One security official said the victims had gathered for Friday prayers at the mosque in the Ismail Khel district of Khost province.

All those killed in the suicide attack were working for the Afghan security forces, said Captain Abdullah, a military spokesman in Khost, who goes by only one name.

The Taliban, who are waging a war to oust the Western-backed Afghan government and expel foreign forces from Afghanistan, have launched a series of high-profile attacks Taliban against Afghan security forces in recent weeks.

Hundreds of Afghan security guards have been killed, their checkpoints destroyed and weapons seized by the hardline Islamist fighters.

Friday’s attack came three days after a suicide bomber detonated his explosives at a gathering of religious scholars in Kabul, the capital.

Officials said 55 scholars marking the birthday of the Prophet Mohammad were killed and more than 90 injured in the blast in a banquet hall.

November 24, 2018 - Islamic State claims responsibility for blast at Afghanistan Mosque
Islamic State claims responsibility for blast at Afghanistan mosque | Reuters

FILE PHOTO: Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers stand guard at the gate of an army base after a suicide blast in Khost province, Afghanistan November 23, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an explosion at a mosque in Afghanistan's eastern Khost province that killed and wounded scores of people, its Amaq news agency reported on Saturday.

Islamic State has claimed responsibility for an explosion at a mosque in Afghanistan’s eastern Khost province that killed and wounded scores of people, its Amaq news agency reported on Saturday.

“Around 50 of the Afghan army were killed and 110 were wounded when a martyr blew himself up on Friday,” the agency said.

Security officials in the area said on Friday that the blast at a mosque in an army base had killed at least 26 people and wounded 50.

(Comment: Looks like the Islamic State (ISIS-ISIL) has been busy with co-ordinate attacks in Afghan and northwestern Pakistan?)

November 24, 2018 - Islamic state claims responsibility for Pakistan Market suicide bombing
Islamic state claims responsibility for Pakistan market suicide bombing | Reuters

Islamic State on Saturday claimed responsibility for a suicide bomb attack a day earlier in northwestern Pakistan, the group’s Amaq news agency said.

It said the bomber had targeted Shi’ite Muslims in a market in Orakzai and put the death toll at 57. A government official on Friday said at least 25 people had been killed and 20 wounded.

Sat Nov 24, 2018 - Young Taliban Fighter Surrenders to Afghan Forces after Killing 4 Comrades

A young Taliban militant killed his comrades and surrendered to Afghan forces in Northern Faryab province of Afghanistan, the Afghan Military said.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps, the incident took place in Almar district, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added that a young Taliban fighter Gul Aqa surrendered to the Afghan forces after opening fire on his comrades, leaving four dead and two wounded.

The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the incident so far.

Faryab is among the relatively volatile provinces in North of Afghanistan where the Taliban militants and other groups are actively operating in some of its districts and often carry out terrorist related activities.

Sat Nov 24, 2018 - Up to 290,000 People Displaced in Afghanistan in Current Year

A report by United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) showed that countrywide conflict displacements in Afghanistan is now touching over 289,867 in Afghanistan which the report says is quite concerning.

The report titled OCHA’s Displacement Tracking System showed that a total of 289,867 people have been verified as having been displaced by conflict in 2018 which shows an increase of 6,635 on the previous week’s total, TOLOnews reported.

Overall, the number of people displaced so far is 33% less than the same period last year (431,871), the report said.

According to the report, 60 to 70 percent of people in Malistan and Jaghori districts of Ghazni province have been displaced from their homes as a result of war and violence.

The report says that 930 families (6,510 individuals approximately) arrived in Bamiyan City following clashes in Jaghori and Malistan districts.

Moreover, the number of IDPs from Malistan and Jaghori in Ghazni City had reached 2,660 families (15,820 people) as of 16 November 2018, the report said.

According to presidential delegation’s information, about 60%-70% of the population are displaced from Jaghori and Malistan following the armed clash, the report added.

The report said that IDPs continue to arrive in cities of Ghazni, Bamiyan and Kabul.

The Afghan government officials meanwhile said they continue their efforts to help the displaced families – especially those of Ghazni province.

“We are covering the displaced people for 72 hours from our emergency budget. We provide them food and other stuff until they are settled in some areas,” said Ahmad Tamim Azimi, spokesman for Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA).

“There were bombardments and rockets were fired in our area. We took some of our goods from the war zone… Nothing left for us,” said Gul Agha, member of a displaced family from Ghazni.

“Government should at least show us our way if it does not want to take action to help us,” said Mohammad Ali, member of a displaced family from Ghazni.

“Our school was destroyed, our homes were destroyed. We cannot go to school,” said Ezatullah, a resident of Ghazni.

Based on the UN report, the situation is also worse in the eastern and western parts of the country.

“Nangarhar authorities reported of approximately 1,028 families (7,196 people) displaced due to the intra-NSAG clashes in Khogyani District. Majority of these people have been displaced within the district with the remaining moved to Surkhrod, Behsud and Jalalabad city. OCHA organized an OCT meeting in Nangarhar on 14 November and constituted joint assessment teams to conduct needs assessment and respond to the immediate needs of IDPs,” said the report.


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Sun Nov 25, 2018 - ISIL's Spokesman Killed in Afghan Special Forces' Operation in Nangarhar

The spokesman for the ISIL terrorist group was killed during the operations of the Afghan Special Forces in the Eastern Nangarhar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in the East in a statement said the ISIL Spokesman Sharafat Shafaq was killed in Deh Bala district, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added that Shafaq was also the head of media wing of the terrorists group who was also spreading propaganda in favor of the group, mainly aimed at recruiting militants for the terrorist group from the other parts of the country.

The ISIL loyalists have not commented regarding the killing of the group’s spokesman so far.

Nangarhar has been among the relatively calm provinces in East of Afghanistan but the security situation in some of its remote districts has deteriorated during the recent years.

This comes as the Afghan military in the East said last week that 51 ISIL militants have been killed during the operations in Haska Mina district.


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11.26, 2018 - Afghan Militia Commander released after Arrest sparks Protests
Afghan militia commander released after arrest sparks protests | Reuters

An Afghan militia commander arrested over allegations of serious human rights abuses was released on Monday following two days of protests in which dozens of police were wounded, officials said.

Alipur, an anti-Taliban commander from the mainly Shi’ite Hazara minority, was detained in Kabul weeks after an earlier attempt to arrest him in the western province of Ghor ended in a shootout in which at least 12 people were killed.

His arrest set off two days of protests in which dozens of police were wounded by rocks, at least eight security checkpoints and recruiting centers were burned and 19 vehicles damaged, according to the interior ministry.

“A consultation meeting took place today and it was agreed to release him if he guarantees that he won’t break the law again,” said a senior government official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to talk to the media.

Alipur’s release, as President Ashraf Ghani flew to Geneva to attend a United Nations-sponsored development conference on Afghanistan, was confirmed by the office of Vice President Sarwar Danish.

The decision to let Alipur go underlines the struggle Afghanistan’s Western-backed government has had in reining in politically-connected militia commanders that operate outside its control. It also highlights the risk of fragmentation along ethnic and sectarian lines in Afghanistan, even as hopes have been raised of a possible start to peace talks with the Taliban.

“It is very sad to see people like Alipur bailed out and the government succumbing to pressure,” one security official said.

“It is going to turn into a pattern where even if the security forces arrest a wanted criminal, the government just frees them,” he said. “Security forces will lose faith in the government.”

Alipur, known widely as “Commander Sword”, was accused of serious abuses mainly against ethnic Pashtuns in the Maidan Wardak region, west of Kabul.

However like many other militia strongmen, he has enjoyed high-level political backing that enabled him to defy attempts to arrest him. He also has wide support among Hazaras, many embittered by what they see as government inaction following a string of attacks on Shi’ite targets by the radical Sunni Islamic State group.

Tue Nov 27, 2018 - Three US Service Members Killed in Afghanistan

Three US service members were killed and three wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated on Tuesday near the central Afghan city of Ghazni.

"Three US service members were killed and three wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated November 27 near Ghazni city. One American contractor was also wounded. The wounded service members and contractor were evacuated and are receiving medical care," the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement, World News reported.

According to the statement, the injured soldiers have already been evacuated and received medical care.

No terrorist group has immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.

The deaths are the latest in a growing toll on US forces in Afghanistan following the death of an army Ranger following an operation against al-Qaeda militants in Nimruz province on Saturday. Resolute Support announced that the soldier had been accidentally shot by a member of Afghan partner forces.

The city was overrun by a large Taliban force earlier this year before being driven off by Afghan and US forces after days of heavy fighting.

The US, alongside with NATO, has been present in Afghanistan in the form of the Resolute Support Mission. As of July, the mission comprised over 16,000 personnel from 39 NATO member states and partner countries.

11.27, 2018 - Three US Service Members killed in Afghanistan blast
Three U.S. service members killed in Afghanistan blast | Reuters

Three U.S. service members were killed and three wounded when an improvised explosive device detonated on Tuesday near the central Afghan city of Ghazni, the NATO-led Resolute Support mission said in a statement.

A U.S. civilian contractor was also wounded in the blast and was receiving treatment with the other wounded, the statement said, giving no further details.

The deaths are the latest in a growing toll on U.S. forces in Afghanistan following the death of an army Ranger following an operation against al Qaeda militants in Nimruz province on Saturday. Resolute Support said the soldier had been accidentally shot by a member of Afghan partner forces.

There was no word on the circumstances of the blast but Ghazni has been one of the most heavily fought over areas of Afghanistan this year.

The city was overrun by a large Taliban force earlier this year before being driven off by Afghan and U.S. forces after days of heavy fighting.

Tue Nov 27, 2018 - Sixteen Militants Killed, Wounded in Nawid-25 Operations in Balkh Province

At least sixteen militants were killed or wounded during a raid conducted by the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in northern Balkh province of Afghanistan.

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the raid was conducted in Chahar Bolak district as part of the ongoing Nawid-25 operations, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added at least six militants were killed and ten others were wounded during the raid in Zekzek and Nawarid Zekzek villages of the district.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the Afghan forces also discovered a BM-1 warhead and a landmine during the raid which were later defused.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the raid so far.

Balkh was among the relatively calm provinces in North of Afghanistan but the security situation in some of its districts has started to deteriorate during the recent years.

The anti-government armed militants are active in some remote districts of Balkh where they occasionally conduct terrorist related activities.


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11.26.2018 - World Powers meet in Geneva on Afghan Reforms, Peace Prospects
World powers meet in Geneva on Afghan reforms, peace prospects | Reuters

Afghan leaders and international diplomats meet in Geneva on Tuesday to evaluate whether strategies and aid offered to Afghanistan are helping resolve the quagmire created by the 17-year war, paving way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

The two-day conference on Afghanistan, jointly hosted by the Afghan government and the United Nations comes at a time when U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration is actively seeking a peace deal with the Taliban.

While no fresh financial commitments are expected, the conference will be a chance for donors to measure results against the $15.2 billion committed for Afghanistan at the last funding meeting in Brussels in 2016.

“At least 60 percent of all the promises made by President Ghani at Brussels have been implemented. Discussions will be held regarding the challenges,” said Haroon Chakhansuri, President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesman.

With Afghan security forces struggling to hold back increasingly confident Taliban fighters and Western appetite for further commitments uncertain, the conference comes at a sensitive moment.

The government will present a growth strategy mapping out how an economy battered by 40 years of war can one day stand on its own as well as pledges on issues ranging from fighting corruption to women’s empowerment.

However diplomats said much of the focus will be on side meetings, where officials from Afghanistan and regional and Western countries will have a chance to assess the efforts of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

Ghani, facing a war-weary public at home, is expected to press regional countries to support the process but he has so far been kept on the sidelines by the Taliban’s refusal to talk to his government, which they consider illegitimate.

His own future will be decided by presidential elections due in April but organizational and political problems may hamper the vote with authorities admitting they are considering a delay of three months.

The Taliban, fighting to drive out international forces and establish their version of strict Islamic law, will not be attending but will be closely monitoring the talks.

We hope the international leaders accept our demands and put pressure on the U.S. to withdraw all foreign forces from Afghanistan,” said a Taliban member. “Otherwise the conference will hold little significance.”

The United States currently has some 14,000 troops in Afghanistan, serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support training and advisory mission as well as in separate counter-terrorism operations against militant groups like Islamic State.

11.27.2018 - We're open for Business, Afghan President tells UN Conference
We're open for business, Afghan president tells U.N. conference | Reuters

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani attends a two-day conference on Afghanistan at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, November 27, 2018. REUTERS/Denis Balibouse

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani made an investment pitch at a U.N. conference on Tuesday, describing the business opportunities and challenges in a country where millions are displaced or close to starvation.

The two-day conference, jointly hosted by the Afghan government and the United Nations, will evaluate whether strategies and aid are helping to resolve the quagmire created by Afghanistan’s 17-year war, clearing the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Tue Nov 27, 2018 - Sixteen Militants Killed, Wounded in Nawid-25 Operations in Balkh Province

The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North in a statement said the raid was conducted in Chahar Bolak district as part of the ongoing Nawid-25 operations, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added at least six militants were killed and ten others were wounded during the raid in Zekzek and Nawarid Zekzek villages of the district.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the Afghan forces also discovered a BM-1 warhead and a landmine during the raid which were later defused.

The anti-government armed militants including Taliban have not commented regarding the raid so far.

Balkh was among the relatively calm provinces in North of Afghanistan but the security situation in some of its districts has started to deteriorate during the recent years.

The anti-government armed militants are active in some remote districts of Balkh where they occasionally conduct terrorist related activities.

Tue Nov 27, 2018 - Over 50 Arrested in Connection to Unrest during Kabul Protests

Afghan Interior Minister Wais Ahmad Barmak said that more than 50 people have been arrested in connection to unrest during the recent protests in Kabul.

Barmak made the remarks during a session of the Upper House of Parliament in which the security sector officials were summoned to brief the Senators, Khaama Press reported.

He said the police forces must be informed regarding any planned protests of demonstrations emphasizing that such movements would deemed illegal without coordinating with the police forces.

This comes as hundreds of residents of Kabul city protested against the arrest of a local uprising commander Alipur known as commander Shamsher in Kabul on Sunday and Monday.

Kabul Police Chief Gen. Syed Mohammad Roshandil had earlier said that the protests and rallies were organized without informing the police force which resulted in unrest in certain parts of the city.

The security officials are saying at least twenty policemen sustained injuries after the protests turned violent West of the city.


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11.28.2018 - Afghan President forms Team to talk Peace, sees Five-year Process
Afghan president forms team to talk peace, sees five-year process | Reuters

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivers his speech during the United Nations Conference on Afghanistan on November 28, 2018 at the UN Office in Geneva, Switzerland. Fabrice COFFRINI/Pool via REUTERS

Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani has formed a 12-strong team to negotiate peace with the Taliban, but he warned on Wednesday that implementation of any deal will take at least five years.

Ghani was speaking at a U.N. conference on the 17-year-old war between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, which is fighting to drive out international forces and establish their version of strict Islamic law.

The gathering of Afghan leaders and international diplomats coincides with U.S. efforts to push for peace with the group even while violence rages across Afghanistan.

“We seek a peace agreement in which the Afghan Taliban would be included in a democratic and inclusive society,” Ghani said, adding that any deal must fulfill certain conditions, including respecting the constitutional rights of women.

However the Taliban, who were not at the Geneva talks and have refused to deal directly with the Kabul government, dismissed Ghani’s call, saying they would negotiate only with the United States. (Comment - President Trump has stated, "he might visit Afghanistan?" It might be the missing link - needed to advance the Geneva talks? )

In a statement, the movement said that talking to “powerless and foreign-imposed entities” was a waste of time.

“The entire world understands that more than half of Afghanistan is under the control of the Islamic Emirate whereas the Kabul administration is installed by the Americans.”

Ghani, facing a war-weary public back home, called on Afghans to back his peace push in an election next April.

“Presidential elections in the spring are key to successful peace negotiations. The Afghan people need an elected government with a mandate to obtain ratification (and) implement the peace agreement and lead the societal reconciliation process,” he said.

“Implementation will take a minimum of five years to reintegrate six million refugees and internally displaced people,” he said.

The two-day Geneva gathering is intended to help resolve the quagmire created by the war, a development that would pave way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Ghani said his chief of staff would lead a negotiating team including women as well as men, and an advisory board would provide input into the negotiations.

U.S. Under Secretary of State David Hale said he was encouraged by the plan for talks and the formation of a negotiating team. “The time has come to plan for an Afghanistan of peace,” he told the conference.

Hale urged the Taliban to commit to a ceasefire and appoint their own negotiating team, but also warned that the presidential election needed to be run better than parliamentary elections last month.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov echoed the concerns about the elections and called for a broad intra-Afghan dialogue, saying Moscow was worried about the worsening military and political situation. There should be closer cooperation against the Afghan wing of Islamic State, which threatened the whole region, Lavrov said.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said Islamic State’s presence and radicalization of local groups was a new challenge, but a foreign military presence always caused instability and served as a recruiting ground for extremists.

He warned that nobody would gain from introducing extremists into Afghanistan as in Syria and Iraq. “This horrific trend needs to be arrested before it reaches catastrophic proportions,” Zarif said.

Afghanistan’s chief executive Abdullah Abdullah said the peace process would start with an intra-Afghan dialogue, followed by discussions with Pakistan and the United States, then regional actors, the Arab world and finally NATO and non-NATO countries.

11.28.2018 - Gunmen attack UK Contractors' Compound in Afghan Capital, at least 10 dead
Gunmen attack UK contractors' compound in Afghan capital, at least 10 dead | Reuters

Gunmen attacked a British security contractors' compound in the Afghan capital Kabul on Wednesday, killing at least 10 people and wounding 19 only hours after President Ashraf Ghani outlined plans for peace in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, started when a car bomb exploded outside a facility of the G4S security group on the main road leading out of Kabul toward eastern Afghanistan.

“A number of gunmen entered the G4S compound right after the car bomb,” said Najib Danish, an Interior Ministry spokesman.

A complex attack on a well-protected site underlines how insecure Kabul remains despite efforts by the United States and the Afghan government to open peace talks with the Taliban to end more than 17 years of war. “It is unfortunate and events like this bolster our resolve for peace,” Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib told reporters at the sidelines of a UN-sponsored conference in Geneva where Ghani repeated calls for peace with the Taliban.

The insurgents’ main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the attack had caused heavy casualties and had been launched in retaliation for casualties caused by security forces in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar.

G4S, one of the world’s biggest security groups, is one of a number of foreign security contractors operating in Afghanistan and provides guards for the area around the British embassy.

“We can confirm that there has been an incident at one of our locations in Kabul. The situation is ongoing and we are coordinating with Afghan authorities to bring it to a conclusion,” a statement from G4S said.

An official from the public health ministry said at least 10 bodies and 19 wounded had been taken to city hospitals but with clearance operations still going on late into the night, there was no definitive casualty figure.

“There was a bang and right after that, all the windows and ceiling collapsed over the children. All of the doors were shattered,” said Hafizullah, a father who had brought three children to a city hospital. The children were wounded in a house near the contractors’ compound.

Efforts to open talks with the insurgents have picked up following the appointment of U.S. special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad earlier this year, but the violence that kills thousands every year has continued.

Three U.S. service members were killed close to the central city of Ghazni on Tuesday and at least 30 Afghan civilians were killed in a U.S. air strike overnight, officials and local residents said.

Last week, more than 50 people were killed in Kabul when a suicide bomber attacked a banquet hall where a meeting of religious leaders was taking place.

Earlier on Wednesday, three gunmen attacked the Kabul residence of former spy chief Amrullah Saleh but there was no indication of any connection with the GS4 attack.

Earlier Ghani, who faces a re-election battle next year, told a donors conference in Geneva of plans to appoint a team to seek a peace deal, which he said would take at least five years to implement.

However the Taliban, who have sent representatives to meetings with Khalilzad, have so far refused to deal directly with the Kabul government, which they consider an illegitimate foreign-appointed regime.

Security officials have warned that violence is likely to escalate alongside peace moves as the Taliban seek to strengthen their position before any formal negotiations.

11.28.2018 - Thirty Afghan Civilians killed in US Air Strike, Officials say
Thirty Afghan civilians killed in U.S. air strike, officials say | Reuters

An Afghan boy receives treatment at a hospital after an airstrike in Helmand province, Afghanistan November 28, 2018. REUTERS/Stringer

At least 30 Afghan civilians were killed in U.S. air strikes in the Afghan province of Helmand, officials and residents of the area said on Wednesday, the latest casualties from a surge in air operations aimed at driving the Taliban into talks.

Afghanistan’s NATO-led force
said Afghan government forces and U.S. advisers came under fire from Taliban fighters in a compound in Garmsir district and called in an air strike, but the ground forces were not aware of any civilians in or near the compound.

Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said troops had called in air strikes against Taliban fighters in Garmsir, causing both civilian and Taliban casualties.

A resident of the area called Mohammadullah said the clash began late on Tuesday. “Foreign forces bombed the area and the bombs hit my brother’s house,” he said. He said women and 16 children were among the dead.

Another resident, Feda Mohammad, said some victims were still buried in the rubble of the compound.

“The area is under the control of Taliban but all of the victims of last night’s bombing are civilians,” he said.

The NATO-led Resolute Support forces said Afghan forces and U.S. advisers came under fire from Taliban equipped with machines guns and rocket-propelled grenades.

“At the time of the strike, the ground force was unaware of any civilians in or around the compound; they only knew that the Taliban was using the building as a fighting position,” a force spokeswoman said in a statement.

We investigate every credible allegation of error and review every mission to learn, adapt and improve,” she said.
The deaths are the latest in a growing civilian casualty toll caused by air strikes and underline the severity of the Afghan war even as moves to begin peace talks have picked up with contacts between U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives.

The United Nations said last month the number of civilian casualties from air strikes in the first nine months of the year was already higher than in any entire year since at least 2009.

The increase has come together with a sharp jump in the number of air operations under a U.S. strategy aimed at stepping up pressure on the Taliban to force them to accept a negotiated end to the 17-year war.

According to figures from the U.S. military, U.S. aircraft had released 5,213 weapons by the end of September, up from 4,361 for the entire 2017 and the highest number since 2011 when there were more than 100,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

Wed Nov 28, 2018 - FAO Warns about Drought in Afghanistan

Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has warned of a potential breakout of famine in Afghanistan.

In a report, the organization said a drought and the ongoing conflict has put the country one step away from a disaster, press tv


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Not sure what is going on here - the death is being treated as an “apparent suicide” ?

12.02.2018 - Scott Stearney, Top U.S. Naval Commander In Middle East, Found Dead In Bahrain
Scott Stearney, Top U.S. Naval Commander In Middle East, Found Dead In Bahrain | HuffPost

Handout/Reuters Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, commander of U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, U.S. 5th Fleet and Combined Maritime Forces, pictured in Bahrain on October 24, 2018. Stearney was found dead in his residence in the Gulf country on Saturday.

Vice-admiral Scott Stearney, the head of U.S. Navy operations in the Middle East, was found dead on Saturday in his residence in Bahrain, according to the Navy.

Defense officials said an investigation had been launched into Stearney’s death, though no foul play is suspected. Officials told CBS News that the death was being treated as an “apparent suicide.”

Stearney, who the Navy Times said was 58 at the time of his death, took charge of the Navy’s Fifth Fleet and Naval Forces Central Command in May. He oversaw U.S. naval operations in the Middle East and Southwest Asia, which includes more than 20,000 U.S. and allied forces, The New York Times reported.

Adm. John M. Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said in a Saturday statement that the deputy commander of the Fifth Fleet, Rear Adm. Paul J. Schlise, had assumed command.

“This is devastating news for the Stearney family, for the team at Fifth Fleet and the entire Navy,” Richardson said. “Scott Stearney was a decorated naval warrior. He was a devoted husband and father, and he was a good friend to all of us.”
Stearney, a Chicago native, joined the Navy in 1982 after graduating from the University of Notre Dame, according to his Navy biography. An FA-18 fighter pilot who accumulated more than 4,500 flight hours, Stearney served as a Top Gun instructor, a chief of staff of Joint Task Force 435 in Afghanistan and commander at U.S. Transportation Command, Strike Force Training Atlantic and Navy Warfare Development Command, among other notable stints.

12.01.2018 - Senior US Admiral found Dead in Bahrain, no foul play suspected
Senior U.S. admiral found dead in Bahrain, no foul play suspected | Reuters

The U.S. Navy admiral overseeing American naval forces in the Middle East has been found dead at his residence in Bahrain, the Navy said on Saturday, adding that foul play was not suspected.

Vice Admiral Scott Stearney, a Chicago native, was the commander of the U.S. Navy’s Bahrain-based 5th Fleet. The Navy did not specify the cause of death.

“The Naval Criminal Investigative Service and the Bahraini Ministry of Interior are cooperating on the investigation, but at this time no foul play is suspected,” said Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson, adding that Stearney’s deputy, Rear Admiral Paul Schlise, had assumed command.

12.02.2018 - Senior Afghan Taliban Commander killed in air strike
Senior Afghan Taliban commander killed in air strike | Reuters

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan - A top commander of the Taliban was killed in Afghanistan’s southern province of Helmand in a joint operation by Afghan and U.S. Special Forces, Afghan officials and Taliban members said on Sunday.

Abdul Manan, who was in charge of Helmand province for the insurgent group, was killed along with 29 others by an air strike
on Saturday while he was meeting local commanders and fighters in the Nawzad district, Helmand provincial governor Mohammad Yasin Khan said.

His death was confirmed by Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid and by the U.S. military, which said Afghan forces had gone on the offensive with U.S. support, notably through precision air strikes to push the Taliban to accept peace talks.

“They’re going to have trouble intensifying the fight when their fighters and leaders are under constant assault. Peace talks are the only solution,” Col Dave Butler, spokesman for U.S. Forces in Afghanistan, said in an emailed statement.

The death of Mullah Manan, who commanded Taliban fighters as they steadily increased their control over Helmand in the years following the end of most international combat missions in 2014, was seen as a major success by Afghan officials.

“He was the most senior Taliban commander in the south and his death will have an overall impact on security,” one senior security official in Kabul said.

The report of Manan’s death comes as both the Western-backed security forces and the Taliban have pushed to gain the momentum at the same time as efforts have stepped up to find a peaceful settlement to end the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Although contacts have started between U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban representatives, there has been no let up in the fighting, with both sides aiming to build a favorable position in advance of any peace talks.

Sun Dec 02, 2018 - Senior Militant Commander Arrested in N. Afghanistan

A major commander of an armed group after two days of resistance surrendered himself to security forces in Afghanistan's northern Takhar province on Sunday, provincial police Spokesman Abdul Khalil Asir said.

"At last, the warlord Nawed, who was the commander of more than 100 militants has bowed to security forces' pressure and surrendered himself along with six of his armed men to police here Sunday morning," Khalil told Xinhua.

Takhar police Chief Abdul Rashid Rashid told media that Nawed was accused of killing people, robbery, rape and grabbing lands, among others, and he was arrested by police in provincial capital Taluqan city on Sunday morning and shifted to Kunduz city for investigation.

Nawed was a strong warlord in Takhar's neighboring Kunduz province over the past nearly two years, with more than 150 armed men fighting for him, according to locals.

The security forces had launched operations at least twice in a year but failed to arrest him, according to villagers in Khan Abad district where Nawed was active.

02/12/2018 - Most of this Afghan Family was either killed or injured in a US airstrike
Most of this Afghan family was either killed or injured in a U.S. airstrike

LASHKAR GAH, Afghanistan — Ehsanullah, 14, was missing parts of his face and skull when he was rushed into the emergency room.

His left eyeball was crushed, his right eye missing, his forehead an open wound.

He cried out as a doctor pressed gauze over his head, the material quickly turning dark red.
"They wanted to hit the Taliban, but they bombed us instead," said the boy's mother, Qarara, who like many in Afghanistan goes by one name. "We are sinless people. How could this happen to us?"

Ehsanullah, 14, was admitted to the hospital with a skull fracture and punctured abdomen. Nanna Muus Steffensen

Most members of Qarara's extended family were killed or wounded on Nov. 24 when at least one airstrike called in by American forces slammed into their home in Nad-e-Ali, a village in Afghanistan's Helmand Province. Her husband, Obaidullah, and one of Ehsanullah's older brothers, Esmatullah, died, she said. Thirteen others were injured.

They are among the latest on a growing list of casualties amid an intensifying U.S. air operation aimed at forcing Taliban militants to agree to a peace deal and end America's longest war.

Qarara was hit by shrapnel and debris. Shortly after she arrived in the emergency room, doctors rolled in an ultrasound scanner to check that her unborn baby's heart was still beating. It was.

From a hospital bed, Qarara despairingly described how her family became swept up in the latest wave of violence. Near her home, Taliban militants fired at warplanes, then ran inside the house.

"My husband told them to get out," Qarara said, but a few of the fighters remained as the airstrikes hit, then fled. NBC News could not confirm Qarara's account.

Sgt. 1st Class Debra Richardson, spokesperson for Resolute Support, the American-led NATO coalition in Afghanistan, said in a statement that the airstrike that killed and wounded members of the family was called in as self-defense, and that the Taliban had used civilians as human shields.

Medical staff scanned Hedayat\'s head to see if two pieces of shrapnel had reached the boy\'s brain. They had not. Nanna Muus Steffensen

"It is often difficult to discern the presence of noncombatants inside structures when the Taliban are shooting from those locations, but we take every precaution possible," Richardson said. "We have the duty to be precise."

Resolute Support did not say exactly what was being done to avoid causing harm to civilians. Afghanistan's Ministry of Defense did not reply to inquiries. In May, Human Rights Watch criticized the U.S. and Afghan governments for not adequately investigating the civilian toll of the airstrikes.

In the first 10 months of 2018, U.S. military aircraft dropped 5,982 munitions on the country, surpassing the total for 2017, which stood at 4,361, according to U.S. Central Command data.

Meanwhile during the first nine months of 2018, the U.N. recorded 2,798 civilian deaths and 5,252 injured, a total of 8,050 casualties, the highest number in four years.

More civilians die at the hands of militants than in any otherattacks. Aerial operations, such as the one that devastated the family in Helmand, have accounted for less than 10 percent of the total casualties this year. That figure is a sharp 39 percent increase from 2017, a recent U.N. report found.

The war has also claimed thousands of American and Afghan security forces.

Close to 2,400 Americans have died since 2001 when the U.S. helped topple the Taliban government after it sheltered the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks, Osama bin Laden.

Since 2015, more than 28,000 Afghan security forces have been killed, President Ashraf Ghani recently said.


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Russia Demands Probe Into Deadly NATO-Coalition Airstrikes in Afghanistan

Moscow is demanding a thorough investigation of NATO-led coalition airstrikes in the Afghan provinces of Helmand and Paktia and bring those responsible to justice, the Russian Foreign Ministry said Monday.

"The situation causes deep concern… Such a criminal lack of professionalism raises serious questions about the activities of NATO troops in Afghanistan. As far as we can see, the observed increase in casualties is directly related to the previously announced US decision to intensify its military activity in Afghanistan," the ministry said in a statement.

According to the ministry, airstrikes in Helmand have recently killed at least 23 and wounded three civilians, while coalition's military actions in Paktia killed eight and wounded four civilians, bringing the number of similar incidents to at least five in the second half of November.

"We demand that a thorough investigation of the above-mentioned incidents should be carried out and those responsible should be brought to justice," the ministry stressed.

According to the statement, Russian and US special envoys on Afghanistan will discuss, at a meeting in Moscow, the facilitation of a direct dialogue between official Kabul and the Taliban.

"The upcoming consultations will focus on discussing the possibilities of Russian-American cooperation on Afghanistan, primarily in contributing to launching a direct dialogue on peace between the warring parties in Afghanistan," the ministry said.

Earlier, Russian Foreign Ministry Second Asian Department Director Zamir Kabulov, Russia's special envoy, told Sputnik that his meeting with his US counterpart Zalmay Khalilzad would be held on December 7. On the same day, the US diplomat will be received by Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov.



This map provides a general look at the military situation in Afghanistan.
  • The Kabul government continues arrests of its own commanders under pretext of combating with organized crime and irresponsible behaviour.
  • Airstrikes of the US-led coalition reportedly eliminated Mullah Mohammad Rahim Mannan, also known as Mullah Abdulmannan Akhund, head of the Taliban’s military commission and designated governor of Helmand and 4 other Taliban members.
  • The Taliban has recently released an official statement denying that it receives weapons from Iran.


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December 4, 2018 - Pakistan assures US Envoy of support for Afghan Peace Talks
Pakistan assures U.S. envoy of support for Afghan peace talks | Reuters

ISLAMABAD - Pakistan assured visiting U.S. special representative Zalmay Khalilzad on Tuesday that it would back a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end the long war in Afghanistan, after President Donald Trump personally asked for Islamabad’s help.

Khalilzad, an Afghan-born veteran U.S. diplomat who served as George W. Bush’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Iraq and the United Nations, was named by the Trump administration three months ago as a special envoy to negotiate peace in Afghanistan.

His visit to Pakistan came a day after Pakistani officials confirmed that Trump had written to Prime Minister Imran Khan seeking assistance in moving peace talks forward. Khan said Pakistan would do whatever possible to help Washington negotiate with the Taliban.

Khalilzad arrived on Tuesday in Islamabad and called on Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, a foreign office statement said. It said the envoy reiterated Trump’s desire to seek Pakistan’s cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.

“The foreign minister assured the U.S. side of Pakistan’s steadfast support for a negotiated settlement,” it said.

In his letter to Khan, Trump offered to renew the strained relationship, Pakistan’s foreign ministry said on Monday. The overture to Khan came after an exchange of barbed tweets between him and Trump last month, and represents a sea change from Trump’s frequently harsh rhetoric toward Pakistan.

It could also add to speculation in the region that the United States is seeking to withdraw from Afghanistan.

The United States, which had more than 100,000 troops in Afghanistan at its peak in former President Barack Obama’s first term, withdrew most of them in 2014 but still keeps around 8,000 there aiding the Afghan security forces and hunting militants.

Trump wants to bring to a close the conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who were removed from power with the aid of American bombing after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, and have fought ever since to reestablish their version of strict Islamic law.

U.S. officials have long been pushing Pakistan to lean on Taliban leaders, who Washington says are based inside Pakistan, to bring them to the negotiating table. The United States and Afghanistan’s government have long accused Pakistan of covertly sheltering Taliban leaders, which Islamabad vehemently denies.

Khalilzad said last month said he hoped to reach a settlement by April 2019 to end the war. But Afghan Taliban militants last month rejected the proposed target and said a three-day meeting in Qatar between their leaders and Khalilzad, to pave the way for peace talks, had ended with no agreement.

Islamabad has promised in the past to work to help bring the Afghan Taliban to the negotiation table, but this will be the first attempt for Khan’s new government, in power since August.

Khan, who enjoys the support of Pakistan’s powerful army, believes the Afghan Taliban have been motivated to fight by the foreign military presence in Afghanistan, and says a political settlement is the only solution.

December 4, 2018 - Afghan Security Forces' deaths unsustainable: US Military Official
Afghan security forces' deaths unsustainable: U.S. military official | Reuters

The Pentagon’s pick for the next commander of U.S. Central Command said on Tuesday the high casualty rate of Afghan security forces would not be sustainable even with the stalemate in the fight against Taliban militants.

“Their losses have been very high. They are fighting hard, but their losses are not going to be sustainable unless we correct this problem,” Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

The assessment comes as both Western-backed security forces and the Taliban have pushed to gain momentum as the United States has stepped up efforts to find a peaceful settlement to end the 17-year-long war in Afghanistan.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said last month that since 2015 more than 28,000 members of the Afghan security forces had been killed.

McKenzie said the United States would have to work with Afghan forces to improve how they recruit, train and carry out missions.

He added that Afghan forces were not capable of securing the mountainous South Asian country without help from the nearly 14,000 U.S. troops deployed there.

“If we left precipitously right now, I do not believe they would be able to successfully defend their country,” McKenzie said.

He said he did not know how long it would take for Afghan forces to be self-sufficient and that Taliban fighters were estimated at 60,000.

U.S. President Donald Trump wants to end the conflict between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, who are fighting to drive out international forces and reestablish their version of strict Islamic law after their 2001 ouster.

McKenzie said he was unaware of any plans to significantly change the U.S. military footprint in Afghanistan.

Recent attacks underscore the pressure on Afghanistan’s overstretched security forces, suffering from their highest-ever level of casualties, estimates from the NATO-led “Resolute Support” mission show.

The Kabul government no longer releases exact casualty figures, but officials say at least 500 men are being killed each month and hundreds more wounded, a tally many consider low.

In November dozens of elite commandos were among the casualties suffered by Afghan security forces as the Taliban claimed to have taken a district in Ghazni province.

U.S. commanders have said they expect the Taliban to step up military efforts to better their position while they maintain contacts with U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad aimed at opening peace negotiations.

Slideshow (2 Images)
Afghan security forces' deaths unsustainable: U.S. military official | Reuters

December 4, 2018 - Traffic in Afghan Capital blocked for Second Day as Police battle Strongman
Traffic in Afghan capital blocked for second day as police battle strongman | Reuters

Traffic in Kabul was blocked for a second successive day on Tuesday as police exchanged gun and rocket fire with the guards of a local strongman who resisted a police order for his eviction from a home in the Afghan capital’s main business area.

The incident in one of Kabul’s most prosperous localities underlines the struggle of the Western-backed government to control powerful figures, whose armored cars carrying heavily armed gunmen are a common sight on the city’s streets.

Afghan officials said at least one policeman was killed and six wounded in the gunbattle with the guards of Tamim Wardak, the owner of a security company whom some officials described as being related to a former defense minister.

Government forces finally arrested Wardak and 18 of his armed men, said interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish, after additional forces were despatched to disarm the gunmen and end an impasse that had forced shops and schools nearby to shut. “One of his guards has been killed, and three wounded, but Wardak and all his men are in custody,” Danish added.

The confrontation began on Monday afternoon, when Wardak’s guards responded to the order for his eviction from a house he had illegally occupied for years by opening fire with automatic weapons and rocket-propelled grenades, security officials said.

Some security officials in Kabul, who declined to be identified because they were not authorized to talk to the media, said Wardak was a relative of a former defense minister, Rahim Wardak.

The former minister was not immediately available to comment.

Danish added that the government was working on a plan to close all illegal security companies and round up armed men from all over Afghanistan.


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Kabul ready to talk with Taliban without preconditions, discuss changes to Constitution - official

Afghanistan is ready to negotiate peace with the Taliban without any preconditions, including drafting a new constitution, a high-ranking government official said on the heels of an Afghanistan peace conference in Moscow.

Afghanistan’s government will not set out any preconditions for direct peace talks with the Taliban, Ehsan Taheri, spokesman for the country’s High Peace Council (HPC), told RIA Novosti in an interview. Previously, Kabul demanded that the insurgent movement lay down its arms and respect the constitution, but this is not the case now.

“Nowadays, we – the government and the High Peace Council – declare that there are no prerequisites for the launch of the talks,”Taheri said.

Established in 2010 by then-President Hamid Karzai, the HPC is a body in charge of negotiating peace with the Taliban.

The long-awaited peace negotiations may start this year or next year. There is “a growing desire” among Taliban commanders to engage in the talks “without intermediaries,” according to the official.

Therefore, Kabul is open to discuss “any issue crucial for Afghanistan’s future,” the official said. There are “no problems” for the government and the Taliban even to talk changes to the country’s constitution because is provisions allow for making amendments.

Now, it is up to the Taliban to respond to the HPC’s peace gesture and confirm if they are ready for direct talks, Taheri noted.

The militant movement has long rejected the government’s offers of talks, saying they will only deal with the US. In the meantime, they sent emissaries to meet with Afghan government officials in Moscow in early November.

The talks in Moscow mark the first time the Taliban has publicly appeared in the international arena since they were removed from power in Afghanistan following the US-led invasion in 2001. The meeting, brokered by Russian diplomats, helped pave the way for a future dialogue between Kabul and the Taliban, Taheri said.

“The atmosphere was very friendly at the end of the conference,” he said, adding that the Kabul delegation was comfortable sitting in front of the Taliban officials. “The discussions were going on even during coffee breaks… there was no negativity at all.”

There has been low-key diplomatic activity going on in and around Afghanistan. In recent months, the Taliban reportedly sent official delegations to neighboring Uzbekistan, and also held talks with US diplomats in Qatar, where the militants’ political wing has an unofficial liaison office.


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Tuesday December 4, 2018 - Afghanistan: Suicide Offensive – Analysis
Afghanistan: Suicide Offensive – Analysis

On November 28, 2018, at least 10 people were killed and another 29 injured in a suicide attack in Kabul City (District), the national capital.

On November 23, 2018, at least 10 soldiers of the 2nd Regiment of the Afghan National Army (ANA) were killed in a suicide attack that targeted soldiers inside a mosque at their base in the Mandozai District of Khost Province. Another 15 soldiers were injured in the explosion.

On November 20, 2018, at least 55 people were killed and 94 injured in a suicide bombing conducted inside the Uranus Wedding Hall in Kabul City.

According to partial data compiled by the South Asia Terrorism Portal (SATP), at least 822 people have died in 64 suicide attacks across Afghanistan in the current year (data till November 30, 2018). There were 613 fatalities in 52 such attacks through 2017; and 503 fatalities in 43 incidents in 2016.

According to the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Annual Report 2017 2017 had already recorded the highest number of civilian casualties (both in terms of deaths and injuries separately) caused by suicide attacks in Afghanistan since 2009, when United Nations Assistance Mission’s (UNAMA) started documenting civilian fatalities in Afghanistan. According to the report, there were 2,295 civilian casualties (605 deaths and 1,690 injuries) due to suicide attacks in 2017. The previous highest of number of deaths (488) was recorded in 2011, while previous highest of injuries (1,565) were reported in 2016.

Casualties in suicide attacks have been on the rise since 2009, with the exception of years 2010, 2012, and 2013. According to latest quarterly report by Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict released on October 10, 2018, between January 1, 2018, and September 30, 2018, there have been 2,243 civilian casualties (714 deaths and 1,629 injuries) in suicide attacks.

Significantly, as SAIR noted earlier, despite 30 years of warfare, Afghanistan had never experienced a suicide attack until September 9, 2001, when the Northern Alliance Commander Ahmad Shah Masood was assassinated at Khwaja Bahauddin in Takhar Province by two Arab al Qaeda suicide bombers. With this event, Afghanistan was thrust into a new chapter of armed conflict.

According to partial data compiled by the Institute for Conflict Management (ICM) from media reports, Afghanistan witnessed 421 incidents of suicide attacks between September 9, 2001, and December 31, 2008, resulting in 1,231 fatalities. Thereafter, between January 1, 2009, and September 30, 2018, UNAMA has recorded more than 654 suicide attacks resulting in 14,248 casualties 3,274 deaths and 10,974 injuries). [No. of suicide attacks for year 2009 and 2018 is not available]

Neighbouring Pakistan, which is primarily responsible for the consistently deteriorating security scenario in Afghanistan, remains the principal source of the continuing menace of suicide attacks. According to a report titled Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007) released by UNAMA on September 1, 2007,

Civilian Deaths and Injuries in Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan: 2009-2017. Source: UNAMA

…While suicide attackers elsewhere in the world tend not to be poor and uneducated, Afghanistan’s attackers appear to be young, uneducated and often drawn from madaris across the border in Pakistan… The tribal areas of Pakistan remain an important source of human and material assistance for suicide attacks in Afghanistan…​
The report also disclosed,

…Considerable dispute persists over the identity of the attackers, with some analysts contending that they are now overwhelmingly Afghan, even if foreigners such as Arabs and Pakistanis were involved in the early attacks. Others still insist that the attackers are foreigners or Afghans who have spent much of their lives in Pakistan… President Hamid Karzai [the then President], as well as Afghan intelligence and other Afghan authorities, have tended to claim that the attackers originate from Pakistan with the implications that they are Pakistanis…​
The evidence of involvement continues to crop up. Referring to a spate of suicide attacks in January 2018 Mohammad Stanekzai, the head of Afghanistan’s spy agency, National Directorate of Security (NDS) on February 1, 2018, categorically stated on February 1, 2018, “We asked Pakistan to hand over the culprits of the attacks in Afghanistan and we shared undeniable evidence that the attacks were planned there”. More recently, on October 23, 2018, President Ashraf Ghani observed, “I want to say that this conspiracy was plotted in Pakistan. So Pakistan should give us the criminals so that we can bring them to justice.” He was referring to the killing of Kandahar Police Commander Gen. Abdul Raziq in Kandahar City (District), the capital of Kandahar Province, on October 18, 2018.

The principal architect of the initial upsurge of suicide attacks was senior Taliban ‘commander’ Mullah Dadullah aka Dadullah Akhund, who targeted Afghan and Western troops in Southern Afghanistan. Though Dadullah was killed in a raid by International Security Assistance Force troops in Kandahar City on May 12, 2007, the trend of suicide bombings continues to terrorize Afghanistan. The Taliban remains the primary player. According to UNAMA’s latest quarterly report released on October 10, 2018.

…From 1 January to 30 September 2018, Anti-Government Elements caused 5,243 civilian casualties (1,743 deaths and 3,500 injured), accounting for 65 per cent of all civilian casualties, approximately the same as in the first nine months of 2017. Of the 65 per cent of civilian casualties attributed to Anti-Government Elements, 35 per cent were attributed to Taliban, 25 per cent to Daesh/ISKP, and five per cent to unidentified Anti Government Elements (including less than one per cent to self-proclaimed Daesh/ISKP)…

There were a total of 2,798 deaths in Afghanistan during this period.

It has long been established that Taliban’s survival primarily depends on Pakistan’s continuing support and provision of safe havens. Indeed, Mullah Rahmatullah Kakazada, a senior diplomat under the Taliban regime, according to a November 29, 2016, report, had categorically stated, “If we left Pakistan we would not survive one week”. He was responding to a report that said Syed Mohammad Tayyab Agha, the former head of the Taliban’s Qatar office, in letter to Mullah Akhundzada had said, “to be able to make independent decisions, you, the members of our leadership council, and heads of our various commissions, should leave Pakistan.” Way back in 2010, one of the Taliban’s southern ‘commanders’ (name not disclosed) in an interview had stated,

If anyone rejects that the ISI [Inter-Services Intelligence, Pakistan’s external intelligence agency] backs or controls the Taliban, he has a mental problem… all our plans and strategy are made in Pakistan and step by step it is brought to us, for military operations or other activities. Pakistan [the ISI] does not have only one representative on the Quetta Shura, they have representatives everywhere… The reality is that the ISI controls the leadership…​
No respite from suicide bombings in particular and terror attacks at large inside Afghanistan is likely in the foreseeable future, as there is no evidence on the ground to suggest that Pakistan is going to give up its policy of exporting terror into its neighborhood. On the contrary, with Imran Khan assuming the office of Prime Minister in August 2018, there is a high probability of the Taliban gaining more support from Islamabad. Khan has strong links with the Afghan Taliban, and a close relationship with the Pakistan Army, and there is likely to be a complete unity of purpose on Islamabad’s strategy of disruption in Afghanistan.

*Ajit Kumar Singh
Research Fellow, Institute for Conflict Management


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Wednesday December 5, 2018 - Afghan Taliban’s Continued Symbiotic Relationship With Al Qaeda And International Terrorism – Analysis
Afghan Taliban’s Continued Symbiotic Relationship With Al Qaeda And International Terrorism – Analysis

In a recent peace conference in Moscow, Taliban representatives from their office in Qatar sat in front of the Russian media cameras and gave interview to a select number of Russian women journalists. It was a message of change as compared to their brutal regime and their repressive policies towards Afghan women. The move was calculated and strategic; it was to send a message to the world that they have changed and no more a threat to regional and global security. Question is have they really changed and cut ties with Al Qaeda and its allies? Are they really different after almost two decades of fighting? Has the Taliban movement been fundamentally transformed or they have just become really good politicians i.e. pretenders and sugarcoating themselves into a new role only to change later on once they assume power.

On the other hand – US and its NATO allies feel they are bear trapped in Afghanistan and are risk averse. They are in a rush to a graceful exit for its forces with a political cover as a successful conclusion to the Afghan war. This mindset has made them to pretend that the Afghan Taliban have changed and they are now effectively representing an insurgency against the Afghan government born out of corruption, warlordism and a lack of a broad-based government in Kabul. A mere simplification of a much more complex problem with regional and global dimensions not to mention the role they played through their haphazard and quick fix policies and their unwillingness to address the big elephant in the room which are Taliban safe havens across the border in Pakistan under the cover and support of the notorious Pakistani inter service intelligence service (ISI).

The fact of the matter remains that the Afghan Taliban have not changed and has deep ties with remnants of Al Qaeda and regional terror outfits. A fact long known to western and regional intelligence agencies. Taliban, as a group, haven’t changed in nature and its objectives. It still serves as an umbrella organization to many terrorist organizations including Al Qaeda and provide them the enabling environment to plan, train and equip for their next deadly missions in the subcontinent and beyond. Any scheme to use Taliban as a proxy force for fighting Al Qaeda and ISKP will be an exercise in futility. Taliban and its allies continue to pose security threats to the United States and its allies west. Though, what has really changed about the Taliban is their increasing legitimacy as a proxy force and gun for hire by the regional security agencies. Today – there are at least six different factions within the Taliban on the payroll of Afghan neighbors and their security establishments. Pakistan no longer controls the monopoly of control over the Taliban as a proxy force and their many shuras i.e. councils in different Pakistani cities. Taliban are effectively a rug-tag force for hire to the highest regional bidder with deep ties to organized crime in the region.

Taliban and Al Qaeda
Taliban and Al Qaeda still enjoy a cozy and intimate relationship. Taliban leaders from the Quetta shura participated in the coronation ceremony of Bin Laden son as his successor while Al Qaeda second-in-command paid his tribute and declared loyalty to both former Taliban Emir, Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Mansoor and the incumbent leader of Taliban, Maulavi Haibatullah Akhund, who have both enjoyed religious and political support from Al Qaeda leader. Furthermore, Al Qaeda leader, Ayman Al Zawahiri, has sent from time to time delegations to mediate in between Taliban leaders when differences emerged between different faction within the Taliban on matters related to leadership succession, logistics, war and peace. Al Qaeda have also used its network of fundraisers in the Gulf countries to raise funds for the “Taliban jihad” in Afghanistan.

After 9/11, President Bush before announcing global war on terror and operation enduring freedom laid out three conditions for the Taliban regime to remain in power: cut ties with Al Qaeda, hand over Osama Bin Laden and respect human rights. Almost two decades later, Taliban leaders continue to receive advice, financial support albeit meager and host Al Qaeda second in command Ayman Al Zawahiri; Osama bin Laden was not handed over and lived under the protection of Taliban and their Pakistani sponsors until the job was done by American NAVY SEALS and finally Taliban continue to violate human rights en mass and provide sanctuary to regional terror outfits such as ETIM, AL QAEDA, ETIM, LeT and the likes. Taliban to date remain a credible security threat to the region and the world at large. Those who legitimize this group as merely an insurgent group with no ambitions beyond Afghanistan should simply look at their brothers in arms in different battles i.e. Punjabis, Arabs, Uzbeks, Uighurs and the likes. Today one third of the battled field manpower of Taliban consist of foreign fighters who fight under the command and rank of Taliban in various battled fields across Afghanistan. Question is why term them an insurgency and provide them with political cover and sugarcoating two decades later on?

The United States toppled the Taliban regime because it hosted and provided the enablers for Osama Bin Laden and his lieutenants who carried out the tragic attacks of September 11 not because they were running a reign of terror on Afghans. How come this same yesteryears terror group have turned into an insurgent group fighting for an internal cause? The truth is that the Taliban have neither changed in nature nor in objectives. It is still serving as an umbrella organisation and incubator of various terrorist groups. It has not shown neither in word nor in action that it has denounced Al Qaeda and cut its ties with all terrorist organisations. Any other portrayal of this group is pure myth and political convenience.

Taliban and ISKP
The formula of “the enemy of my enemy is my friend” does not hold truth when it comes to using Taliban as a proxy force to fight Islamic State off shoot in the AfPak region. While the approach and organization of the two groups may be different but essentially the Taliban movement share the same religious ideology and world view as IS. ISKP is a mixture of disenchanted Taliban and various jihadi groups members with a flavor of various regional intelligence projects. Taliban have never fought ISKP groups in any part of Afghanistan in a meaningful way. More often than not, Taliban operations against ISKP were retaliatory in nature or based on orders from Iranian revolutionary guard, Russian KGB or the Pakistani ISI for clearance operations along Afghan Iranian and Afghan Pakistani borders. Taliban to date lack a coherent anti-Daesh campaign whereas Afghan forces have killed more three ISKP emirs, dozens of its deputies and mid ranking commanders.

In fact, Taliban have pooled resources and joined hands with ISKP in certain parts of Afghanistan especially in the north and northeastern part of the country to fight Afghan forces. While they have fought each other over resources, territory and population centers in eastern and southern Afghanistan. There is also a close relationships between the Haqqani, Taliban’s fighting arm and ISKP, almost an alliance since a close member of the Haqqani family is considered to be one of the founders of ISKP branch in AfPak area.

Taliban and Regional Terrorist Outfits
Taliban movement continue to serve as an umbrella organisation for regional terrorist groups from Pakistan i.e. LeT, JeM, Sepah e Sahaba and the likes; Arab -mercenary fighters from Libya, Iraq and Syria; Central Asia – IMU, Ansarullah, Jundullah; China – ETIM; Russian – various Chechen groups. These groups bring critical skill set and resources to the Taliban leadership and battlefield such as explosive making, effective command and control and above all extortion through organised crime. One third of the strength of the Taliban fighters in various battlefields are foreign fighters from a mixture of these groups. This was the exact case when the Taliban regime was in power in 1990s and they used these groups in their battles against the former recognised government of Afghanistan led by former President Burhannuddin Rabbani.

Today – Pakistani, Arab, Central Asian, Russia and Chinese terrorist groups who are fighting in Afghanistan provide critical skill sets i.e. command and control, explosives and bomb making in their fights against US, NATO and Afghan forces. On the contrast, the foreign fighters are merely transit fighters many of whom will jump to the first opportunity of waging jihad and attacking targets in their countries of origin with the exception of Pakistani fighters who are almost state sanctioned fighters.

The Cost of Taliban Returning to Power in Afghanistan
Taliban have not yet demonstrated in word or action that they have cut ties with Al Qaeda; no longer serve as an umbrella and incubator to regional and global terrorist organisations such as IMU, ETIM, LeT, Sepah and the likes and will not serve as another Hezbollah type proxy group to Russia and Iran. Therefore, any effort of legitimisation of this group as an indigenous insurgent group with no agenda beyond Afghan borders is an exercise in futile because their return to power will embolden their terrorist allies and enforce their conservative Islamic view of the world. This essentially means we are back to zero and all the sacrifices of US, NATO and Afghans in blood and treasure were in vein. To avoid such a scenario, the United States together with Afghan neighbors to reach consensus on three major points: a. Taliban movement should publicly cut ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist group and shun away their fighters from their ranks. b. Under military pressure bow down to a political settlement. c. provide guarantees it won’t serve as an armed proxy group for regional players including Iran and Russia.

Any measure short of these actions will only lead to an emboldened Islamic terrorist groups, resurgence of Al Qaeda, higher level of threats to US and its western allies and a possible civil war in Afghanistan with the current Afghan government and security forces in disarray and a party to it. Time and credible action is of essence here.

*Tamim Asey is the former Afghan Deputy Minister of Defense and Director General at the Afghan National Security Council. He is currently pursuing a Ph.D in Security studies in London. He can be reached via twitter @tamimasey and Facebook @Tamim Asey.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
December 8, 2018 - Afghan 'Messi boy' forced to flee home (Photo)
Afghan 'Messi boy' forced to flee home | Reuters

KABUL - The family of an Afghan boy who gained brief Internet fame after being photographed in a shirt improvised from a plastic bag in the colors of his hero, Argentine soccer idol Lionel Messi, has been forced to flee his home after a Taliban attack.

Murtaza Ahmadi, now aged 7, grabbed world headlines two years ago when his brother made him a shirt out of a blue and white plastic bag, with Messi’s name and number 10 playing number.

His sudden fame won him a meeting with his hero but caused problems for his family, members of the Hazara ethnic minority from Jaghori district in the central province of Ghazni.

“Murtaza became famous around the world and we are not able to walk free and go anywhere. Murtaza and my other children were not able to go to school,” his mother Shafiqa Ahmadi said in the home in Kabul where the family is staying.

“During the night suspected men were walking near our house and when the Taliban attacked our village we decided to leave.”

Ghazni, about two hours drive south of the capital Kabul, has been the scene of intense fighting this year. The Taliban briefly overran Ghazni city in August and there has been heavy fighting in Jaghori, forcing thousands to flee.

“The security situation is not good and I am afraid to go outside,” Murtaza said. “I want to become a footballer like Messi and I want to be able to go to school.”

Sat Dec 08, 2018 - Afghan Speaker: US Killing Innocent People for Money

Afghan Parliament Speaker Abdolraouf Ebrahimi blasted the US for violating the international laws and treaties, saying that many innocent people have been killed by Washington for financial benefits.

The US has never been committed to its international undertakings and laws and "when they are provided with money, they kill innocent people", Ebrahimi said, addressing the second edition of an international gathering of parliament speakers from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, China and Russia on fight against terrorism and expansion of inter-regional ties in Tehran on Saturday.

"Afghanistan is the only country which has turned into an arena for massacre of innocent people," he added, alluding to the US killing of Afghan people on the pretext of fight against terrorism.

Ebrahimi also underscored the necessity for regional cooperation to find effective solutions to fight against terrorism.

The US-led forces have increased their air raids against civilian areas in Afghanistan in recent months.

US drone strikes in Afghanistan are highly controversial as they have claimed many civilian lives so far.

An Afghan official said in June that six civilians were killed in a US drone attack in Northeastern Nuristan province.

Hafiz Abdul Qayum, provincial governor, said that six civilians were killed in the drone strike in Waygal district.

Sat Dec 08, 2018 - Senior Taliban Leader Killed in Jawzjan Airstrikes

A notorious local leader of the Taliban terror group was killed during the Afghan military airstrikes conducted in northern Jawzjan province of Afghanistan, the Afghan army said Saturday.

According to a statement released by 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North, the Afghan forces conducted airstrikes in Faizabad district of Jawzjan, leaving a prominent of Taliban Wali Mohammad dead, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added that three accomplices of Wali Mohammad were also critically wounded during the same airstrikes.

According to 209th Shaheen Corps, the Afghan forces also conducted airstrikes in Daichi village of Faryab province, leaving at least three militants dead and three more wounded.

The Special Forces of the 10th Kandak of Afghan Commando and 09th Unit of the Afghan Intelligence also conducted joint operations in Kunduz city and Khanabad districts of Kunduz province, leaving two militants dead and three others wounded, the 209th Shaheen Corps added.

Sat Dec 08, 2018 - Afghan Special Forces Rescue 11 People from Taliban Prison in Helmand

The Afghan Special Forces have rescued at least eleven civilians who were kept as prisoners in a cell run by the Taliban militants in southern Helmand province of Afghanistan.

The 215th Maiwand Corps of the Afghan Military in the South in a statement said the Special Forces of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces conducted an operation on Friday night which resulted into the rescue of 11 civilians from a Taliban-run prison, Khaama Press reported.

The statement further added that the civilians and security personnel did not suffer any casualties during the operation.

In the meantime, a military source says at least three Taliban militants were also killed during the same operation.

The anti-government militant groups including Taliban have not commented regarding the report so far.


The Living Force
FOTCM Member
Given how lucrative it is to have an entire country serving as a poppy field, can this stand up to the US agenda which has suffocated Afghanistan for so many years?

Red gold: Afghanistan’s booming & blooming saffron may become alternative to opium poppy trade

Afghan authorities want to provide farmers with an alternative means of income, other than growing opium, by turning to the world’s most expensive spice.

Saffron production has risen to record levels this year in the country, hitting 13 tons, the Ministry of Agriculture said. Official figures showed that saffron cultivation has increased to 6,200 hectares of land in 2018, up 22 percent on last year.
More than 6,600 saffron workers have been trained on production, processing and packaging of the spice this year, according to the government’s statement.

Afghan women collect saffron flowers in the Karukh district of Herat, Afghanistan © Reuters / Mohammad Shoib

“Saffron farmers received some $17 million in revenues by selling saffron crocin and picrocrocin in local markets; considering the fact that some 90 percent of Afghan saffron is being exported to foreign countries,” said the statement.

The delicate pistil of the flower has for centuries been used in various cuisines and in the production of perfumes. Saffron has been dubbed “red gold” by those who rely on its cultivation. It sells for up to $1,500 per kilogram on Western markets.

© AFP / Hoshang Hashim

“We start our field work before sunrise and each of us can collect about four to five kilograms of saffron flower,” 16-year-old Joma Khan who’s one of the 156,000 seasonal workers helping to harvest the spice, told AFP. The workers earn about $1 an hour.
The harvest is then sent to factories where gloved workers remove the red pistil, made up of the three stigma that, when dried, constitute the spice.

Afghan worker spreads separated saffron threads from harvested flowers © AFP / Hoshang Hashim

The spice is being exported to 17 countries through new air corridors (mainly to China, India, and the Persian Gulf countries), as well as to the European Union and North America, according to the Agriculture Ministry.

Officials are struggling to wean Afghanistan’s farmers off the highly-profitable opium poppy trade. Cultivation of poppy still covers 263,000 hectares in Afghanistan, with nearly 90 percent of the opium harvested on the planet coming from the country.

Afghani students of the Code to Inspire computer programming center for women have created a computer game in which the player's task is to destroy opium fields. Once opiate has been destroyed, fields are scattered with saffron:

Afghan Women Fight Drugs With Computer Games (PHOTOS)

In Afghanistan's Herat Province, students of the Code to Inspire computer programming center for women have created a game called Fight against drugs. The aim of the game is to destroy the opium poppy fields in Helmand (the province believed to be one of the world's largest opium-producing regions).

In Afghanistan's Herat Province, students of the Code to Inspire computer programming center for women have created a game called Fight against drugs. The aim of the game is to destroy the opium poppy fields in Helmand (the province believed to be one of the world's largest opium-producing regions). There’s also a creative capacity in the game – when cleared from the opiate, the fields are scattered with saffron.

Hasib Rasa, the head of the center where girls learn and work, told Sputnik what caused them to create such game.
“In 2015 in Herat, Fereshta Forough founded the Code to Inspire center. Its task was to train women in computer literacy and programming. At the moment there are about 100 girls at the center. They develop computer games, smartphone apps, they also design websites. The students are trained from scratch, to an advanced level.”

According to Rasa, the girls are so much into computer technology that they've become full time employees.

“We expected them to learn basic computer skills for the first couple of years. However their potential proved to be much bigger than we had expected. The girls started doing that professionally. At the moment our students are working on many projects including some foreign ones. So far, they’ve created 22 computer games and 15 stickers” – the head of the center says. These stickers are used in WhatsApp and Telegram and they convey Afghan culture and traditions.

Rasa highlighted that all the students try to express their inwardness through their computer games:

“Students of all ages try to echo the pain they feel from world events in their games. Typically, the games that are now created have nothing to do with any particular event. They’re developed just for fun. Here it is not the case. We choose some painful issues and then offer to solve them through games.”

The issue of drug cultivation, production, smuggling and consumption is one of the most acute for Afghanistan, especially among the younger generation. By creating this game, the students of «Code to inspire» center wanted to sow hate and disgust for drugs in the minds of the young:

“The students of our center wanted to show the world that they are against cultivation, production, smuggling and consumption of drugs. Drugs are wrong. There’re thousands drug addicts among youngsters” – Rasa said.

The «Fight against drugs» game is based on actual events. The point of the game is that a Helmand Province citizen goes through different game levels while destroying the opium poppy fields and scattering them with saffron.

The game also features Afghan security officials that are fighting with drug smugglers. The first part of the game was released three months ago and it’ll soon become available. According to the head of the center, the game has become famous outside Afghanistan:

“Though the game is available for a free download, many countries, such as the US, India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Iran and some others are ready to purchase it”.

In order to develop its activities, the center needs the assistance of the Government and the people:
“Fortunately, our students don’t have any serious problems. The only problems of our society are lack of coordination and lack of support. What we’re asking the Government and the people for is to provide assistance and support for the girls’ work. Even foreigners and Afghan people living abroad have been more supportive.”

The Ministry of Counter-Narcotics together with local authorities appreciated the girls’ call to spread the game among young people. They think that such a step might have a beneficial effect on drug-control as young people are constantly using their smartphones and play games.
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