• Afghanistan in August 2014: BAAG reports on key news from the month

Afghanistan in August 2014: BAAG reports on key news from the month

05 September 2014

Elections and politics

The full audit of Presidential run-off votes continued in August, albeit with numerous delays and disruptions.  On the 1st, the UN announced that the audit would resume after 3 weeks of intermittent delays and disputes. But the following day Abdullah’s team refused to attend, claiming the suggested processes agreed were not robust enough to reveal the alleged large-scale fraud. It took a second visit by US Secretary of State John Kerry to resume the process and for both candidates to agree on the development of a unity government. 

Daily squabbles between observers of the 2 candidates caused hours of delays and on the 19th, erupted into a knife fight in which 7 people were injured. On the 25th, Abdullah’s team again objected that their criteria demands had been ignored in the votes’ invalidation procedure and withdrew from the process. In solidarity Ashraf Ghani withdrew his team also. No longer focused on the contentious audit, both teams debated the structure and roles of the unity government.  However, the month ended with Abdullah once again threatening to withdraw, this time after his demand that the Chief Executive be given chairpersonship of the Cabinet was rejected by Ghani’s team as unconstitutional. 

Hence President Karzai’s plans to inaugurate his successor on 2nd September were futile. The UN, overseeing the audit process, suggested a date of 10th September.  Karzai decided that the Minister of Defence would represent Afghanistan in the NATO Summit starting on September 4th. Critical discussions are planned regarding long-overdue security agreements.

In non-election related news, Karzai was joined by both candidates to mark the 95th Independence Day.  On the 21st Karzai demanded answers from the US after they released 9 more prisoners from Bagram prison to return to Pakistan. In Kunduz officials lamented the release a Taliban militant by the Afghan government, arguing he was likely to join another released prisoner responsible for numerous attacks in the province throughout the month.

Security

Following a particularly bloody July, August saw little improvement, with various insurgent and criminal attacks.  On the 5th an Afghan army recruit shot dead visiting US Major General Harold Greene and wounded numerous international and national troops.  The Taliban continued to target Afghan police, drugging 7 in Uruzgan with the assistance of a rogue colleague, and then shooting them dead.

On the 30th, a group of Taliban deliberately shot 16 labourers, killing 12 and injuring four in the Qala-e-Kah district of Farah. All 16 civilians were from the same village and were on their way to work. 5 local staff members on the International Confederation of the Red Cross were abducted in Herat province on the 14th, and released unharmed 5 days later.

On the 7th General Abdul Raziq, Kandahar police chief, issued an unprecedented order in the fight against Taliban. He was quoted 'I have ordered my men to kill these terrorists [Taliban] once and for all, and not take any prisoners because they will be released anyway.' The Baghlan police chief was quick to follow suit.   

The Governor of Helmand reported on the 29th that the last 2 months of fighting in his province had seen 230 civilians killed and 400 injured. Meanwhile, the EU announced they were donating an additional €95million for Afghan National Police salaries. 

On the 29th police reported that they had been made aware – by social media reports, later corroborated by hospital staff – that 4 women had been hospitalised following a gang attack on 2 vehicles travelling on the Paghman-Qargha road, 20km from Kabul city.  The women had been separated from their male companions during the attack and subjected to hours of sexual violence. Despite the women not wishing to report the attack, it became public and various arrests have been made.

Economy

Karzai approved the recently passed Mining Law on the 10th, despite concerns that gaps in the law will increase the risk that the country’s mineral wealth will fuel increased conflict and corruption. On the positive side, Afghan officials say that now the long-overdue mining contracts can be signed.

On the 25th the Deputy Minister of Finance claimed that the Afghan government's treasury was running perilously low, citing the drawn-out election process as the cause of $5bn in losses to the economy and more in lost international investment.  He claimed government salaries were at threat and that government budgetary needs were only just being met through revenue collection.

Development

Financial strains on the Government have affected the development budget, with officials claiming on the 16th that work on the Kamal Khan Dam project has stopped and progress is very slow on 3 other dam projects.

On the 4th, Human Rights Watch called on the Taliban to reverse their approach of denying access to polio vaccination teams.  Helmand and Kandahar provinces are considered the epicentres of Afghanistan’s polio crisis.

USAID – the US Agency for International Development – launched a $92million project to advance higher education. Through a joint initiative with the Ministries of Higher Education, and Economy, it aims to train university faculty members and students to international standards; improve the quality and relevance of academic programs; enhance the accreditation system within the Ministry of Higher Education; and support international university partnerships and exchange initiatives.

A Bloomberg article on the 21st highlighted a 21% increase in Afghans seeking medical treatment abroad.  Whilst the SpiceJet airline company profits from medical tourism to India, the state of Afghan healthcare is the bigger issue.

Rights

Afghan youth and cafe culture came under attack on the 9th when a group of armed police stormed Cafe Hunar in west Kabul.  They had purportedly received reports of non-Islamic goings-on in the cafe. Under pressure from rights activists, the officers leading the assault have been put under arrest while investigations are conducted.  The cafe has become a popular destination for both men and women to socialise and discuss politics and art. Traditional tea houses are mainly the province of men.

On the 16th, 35 Afghan Sikhs were found, banging and screaming inside a shipping container at Tilbury Docks in the UK.  One man had died and dozens others were hospitalized from the effects of confinement.  Arrests were subsequently made in Ireland and the UK for charges of manslaughter and facilitating illegal entry.  The local Sikh community counselled and supported the Afghans, who reported they were fleeing persecution in Afghanistan.

On the 19th, New York Times reporter Matthew Rosenberg was arrested and then expelled from Afghanistan with no right to re-enter. The Journalist had declined to provide the names of Afghan officials anonymously quoted in his article that talked about a potential coup.

On the 20th the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission launched a report on the causes and consequences of bacha bazi. This form of sexual abuse and exploitation suffered by young boys is not explicitly outlawed as a crime. The AIHRC raised their recommendations on criminalising the practice.  

Culture and people

Afghanistan sent its first young female athlete to the Summer Youth Olympic Games in China.  Farahnaz Yaqoobi competed in Taikwondo and was beaten by her Thai rival.

The Roshan Afghan Premier League (RAPL), Afghan Football Federation (AFF) and the British Embassy in Kabul signed a "football cooperation memorandum" on the 26th, supporting all aspects of the Afghan game from youth, women, and grassroots leagues to the national games through coach training and increasing the capacity of the AFF.

On the 28th the new season of the RAPL kicked off, with many fans using social media to express their delight and relief at a season of football and cricket to relieve the nation of election fatigue and frustration. 

 

This report is developed based on media reports. Although BAAG has taken necessary precautions to include only credible sources, it does not take responsibility for the incorrectness of content.