Afghans continue to lose sympathy for the armed opposition groups, 82 percent indicating that they have “no sympathy” for the Taliban, according to a new survey released by The Asia Foundation on Tuesday.
The foundation’s survey – which is based on face-to-face interviews with 15,012 people from all major and most minor ethnic groups in 34 provinces – shows that 79 percent of Afghans in northwest identify the Taliban as the biggest threat to local security while in east 57 percent see Daesh/ISIS as the biggest threat to local security.
The survey which was conducted in July 2018, indicates the optimism about country’s direction has remained unchanged (33%) despite the nation’s challenges to maintain security against the Taliban insurgency and the growing presence of ISIS/Daesh while 61 percent more said the country is moving towards the wrong direction.
According to the survey, insecurity is the most frequently cited reason for pessimism, followed by unemployment, bad economy and high prices.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a new report released on Thursday that after more than 12 years and over $249 million spent, only 15 percent of the Qasyar to Laman road, between Faryab and Badghis, has been completed.
The report said that from July 2005 through to September 2017, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved four grants totaling $571 million to complete the section of the Ring Road from Qeysar in northern Faryab province to Laman in western Badghis province.
“Most of those funds were for financing contracts between the Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) and construction, engineering, and security providers to complete the 233-kilometer road segment,” according to the report.
However, the project has been plagued by security challenges, poor contractor performance, and a lack of capacity within the MoPW to manage large construction contracts.
“Those issues led to repeated failed efforts and to the termination of two contracts for the construction of the road. As of September 2017, construction had been stalled for two and a half years,” it said, adding that “by that time, ADB and MoPW had spent $249 million on the project only 15 percent of the construction was actually completed.”
A new report released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Thursday details a “disturbing pattern” of attacks at election-related facilities following the commencement of voter registration for the October 2018 polls.
UNAMA verified 23 election-related security incidents since voter registration began on 14 April. These incidents have resulted in 271 civilians being killed and injured, with the vast majority of civilian casualties occurring on 22 April from a suicide attack among a crowd gathered outside a national identity card distribution center in Kabul, resulting in 198 civilian casualties, the organization said in a statement on Thursday.
“I am outraged by these attacks deliberately targeting civilians seeking to exercise their constitutional right to vote,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “These attacks at election facilities are nothing less than an assault on democracy.”
Ex-president of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai: «I understand perfectly well that if Russia build new relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, it can help us. Not the British as we kicked them out of the country several times, not the Americans as they’ve been killing us for 17 years, but Russia only».
Former President Hamid Karzai has said that Russia is the only force which can help Afghanistan fight terrorism.
In an interview with Russian news channel, the ex-president said, “I understand perfectly well that if you [Russia] build new relations with Pakistan and Afghanistan, you can help us. Not the Britons as we kicked them out of the country several times, not the Americans as they’ve been killing us for 17 years, but Russia only. We [Afghanistan] are the last barrier from terrorists. We’ve been fighting continuously for a century and a half.”
“Moscow has always helped us, even when its forces invaded Afghanistan at the invitation of then-president Babrak Karmal. We surely fought each other at those times, but you [Russia] used to build schools and hospitals in Afghanistan.”
He alleged: “Americans lie when they say that Al-Qaeda emerged as the result of your [Russia’s] invasion. They wanted to be the only superpower and they did it. The USSR collapsed and one of the reasons was the Afghan war.”
The Afghanistan Human Rights Commission says a study has found that 1.2 million of all children in the country work.
A new report by Afghanistan Human Rights Commission shows that of the 1.2 million child laborers in the country, 16 percent of them are subjected to some form of abuse, of which 43 percent is physical abuse.
The chairperson of the commission, Sima Samar, said at an event in Kabul that child laborers in Afghanistan are aged between seven and 18 years old and that 56 percent of them have been deprived of an education.
The report shows that 90 percent of these children work more than 35 hours a week and 56 percent of them are happy about their work. However, 43 percent of them are not happy about the situation.
More than 740 people have been detained in connection with trafficking narcotics in capital Kabul and provinces the last solar year that ended on March 21, the Criminal Justice Task Force (CJTF) has said.
CJTF spokesman Ahmad Khalid Mowahid told a press conference in Kabul yesterday that the detainees included foreigners, women and government officials.
Mowahid said the detainees captured by counternarcotics police had been involved in 568 drugs related cases.
He said 59 government officials, 28 women, eight Iranians and one Pakistani were among the detainees.
According to an in-depth investigation conducted by BBC News reporters in late 2017, the Taliban fully control four percent of Afghanistan’s districts and “have an active and open physical presence” in 66 percent of the remaining ones. They found that roughly half of the Afghan people “are living in areas that are either controlled by the Taliban or where the Taliban are openly present and regularly mount attacks.”
These findings should give pause to observers who believe that the United States is, or will presently be, poised to turn the tide in Afghanistan enduringly. There are currently fourteen thousand U.S. troops stationed there, up from 8,500 when President Trump took office, and the Army is recommending that the president authorize the deployment of an additional one thousand troops. For much of 2011, by comparison, there were nearly one hundred thousand U.S. troops in Afghanistan. While that earlier surge did reduce the Taliban’s control and extend that of the Afghan government, neither trend lasted. It is difficult to see how the present force would be able to accomplish what one nearly seven times as large could not; it would be unlikely to have more than marginal impact, and even then for only as long as the deployment was sustained.
The United States has now been at war in Afghanistan for over sixteen years, at a cost of over $1 trillion; Atlantic Senior Editor Krishnadev Calamur noted last month that the Taliban “now controls . . . more territory than at any point since the U.S.-led invasion”; and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported this past November that both the level of opium production and the area under opium poppy cultivation in Afghanistan reached record highs in 2017.
Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser, Mohammed Hanif Atmar, said there were more than 55,000 terrorists in his country, mainly divided into four categories: local terrorists (30,000-40,000), militants from Pakistan (6,000-7,000), members of regional terrorist organizations (2,000-3,000) and members of international extremist groups such as ISIS (around 3,000) and Al-Qaeda (200-400).
In an interview with Asharq Al-Awsat, Atmar noted that terrorists were benefiting from three sources of funding which are terrorist organizations located in different parts of the world, governmental organizations in some countries that have personal agendas in the region, and drugs; a major source of income for terrorist organizations.
“I don’t want to blame Pakistan or say that they cause the problem, but we hope that Pakistan will help us block the sources of terrorism and the places where terrorists are hiding,” he stated.
Commenting on statements by the Pakistani Foreign Minister to Asharq Al-Awsat earlier this week, in which he said that the security of Afghanistan was that of Pakistan and that his country had no interest to destabilize its neighbor, Atmar said: “We are very happy to hear this from the Pakistani minister, but we will be happier and will thank them a thousand times if they can close the terrorists’ haven in their country.”
The year 2017 has ended on a low note for Pakistan’s fight against extremism. Where once the concern was restricted to impoverished neighbourhoods and lack of education, today extremist thought is flourishing in the media, political spheres, elite circles and educational institutes.
Numerous professors in universities in Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi show increased concern for radical and extremist thought that incite violence; a phenomenon previously associated with poverty, lack of education and/or limited to madressahs. Literature on latent radicalisation in college campuses across Pakistan helps to provide context to current trends; one need look no further than the brutal lynching of Mashal Khan at the Abdul Wali Khan University. The misuse of blasphemy laws, often for revenge or personal gain, can anger young students enough to resort to murder.
That is no surprise in a country that cedes space to the extremist ideology of radical clerics and allows them to bring the capital on lockdown for weeks. An open incitement to violence against minority communities, women, students and many more, is likely then to germinate in young minds already vulnerable to a myriad of regressive circumstances, eg Bacha Khan University in Charsadda recently banned mixed gatherings on its campus.