• Afghanistan in August 2015: BAAG's review of the month

Afghanistan in August 2015: BAAG's review of the month

02 September 2015

Afghanistan in August 2015


August did not see much improvement for Afghan politics. An opinion poll by Tolo TV found that Afghans are increasingly dissatisfied with the National Unity Government (NUG). Only 19.8% of respondents were fully happy with the performance of the NUG. These high dissatisfaction levels are mainly because of increased insecurity and economic hardship in the country. 

Afghan relations with Pakistan soured. On the 19th, the day of Afghanistan's independence celebrations, Afghanistan and Pakistan summoned each other's ambassadors. Last month it was revealed that Mullah Omar, longstanding leader of the Taliban, died two years ago. Afghanistan is angry with Pakistan for having allowed Taliban members to hold open public events in Pakistan to discuss Mullah Omar’s replacement. Afghanistan is also angry over the heavy artillery being fired from Pakistani soil into the border province of Kunar, which killed eight Afghan police.

On the 20th, the Pakistani media reported that the US has stopped payment of $300 million in military aid to Pakistan for lack of progress in fighting the insurgent Haqqani network. Susan Rice, US National Security Adviser told Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on the 30th, that ‘addressing this challenge will be imperative for Pakistan’s relations with its neighbours and with Washington’.

On the 30th, the Electoral Reform Commission presented its list of proposals to the National Unity Government. They include allotting one-third of parliament’s 250 seats to political parties and dividing provinces into smaller voting districts so to more effectively respond to cases of fraud. Two of the Commission’s members reportedly walked out of reform talks, which they thought were hijacked by party representatives close to CEO Abdullah.


Mullah Mansour, Taliban’s new leader, denied that peace talks have taken place between the Taliban and the Afghan Government. In his first audio message he said the news about peace process is the propaganda of ‘enemies’. Commentators say Mansour is trying to shore up support among those Taliban members sceptical of the peace process.

Syed Mohammad Tayab Agha, head of the Taliban's Doha office, quit on August 3rd. Many Taliban including Agha are upset about the appointment of Mullah Mansour as the new Taliban leader because they think he is installed by Pakistan. Four days later, two more top Taliban officials reportedly resigned. Armed clashes between the Taliban’s pro and anti Mullah Mansour fighters were reported in Zabul and Herat in the last week of August.

Rifts between insurgents in Afghanistan have widened. On the 10th, the Taliban issued a statement condemning the insurgents allied to Islamic State (IS) who killed 10 Taliban fighters in Nangarhar. The related IS video shows the Taliban fighters were first arrested and then killed by being made to sit on explosives. The Taliban have said they will seek revenge. On the 6th, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, who accused the Taliban of being dishonest about their leaders’ death, swore allegiance to the IS.

General Hamid Gul, former Pakistani intelligence chief died on the 15th. He was an instrumental force in waging Jihad against the Russians and creating the Taliban in 1980s and 1990s. Mullah Mansour has said that with the death of Mullah Omar and General Gul it is like the Taliban has lost both its hands. Many viewed him as the Godfather of Taliban.


Insecurity in Kabul heightened in August. On the 7th, a truck loaded with explosives was detonated in the residential area of Shah Shaheed. Officials say at least seven people died and 198 were injured. One of the loudest explosions in recent years, the incident rocked residents across Kabul. On the 22nd, a suicide attack in another crowded residential area of Kabul killed at least 12 and injured over 60 - mostly civilians. The UN condemned this ‘disproportionate’ attack on Afghan civilians. General Wilson Shoffner, a top Nato official in Afghanistan, said attacks on Kabul has increased 60% compared to the same time last year.

The UN reported a 1% increase in civilian casualties in the first six months of 2015, compared to the same time last year. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 4,921 civilian casualties (1,592 deaths and 3,329 injuries) in this period.  Armed opposition groups were held responsible for the majority (70%) of the casualties.

Vice-President Abdul Rashid Dostum's convoy came under attack by the Taliban on the 21st, but he remained unharmed. Dressed in military uniform, he spent the month in the Northern provinces of Faryab and Sar-e Pul to lend support to the Afghan army forces in their fight against the Taliban. All the districts of Faryab have come back under government control.

The Afghan army’s abilities were challenged in the South as Taliban took control of Musa Qala, a district in Helmand, for about four days. Afghan forces supported by US airstrikes and advised by NATO soldiers recaptured the district on the 30th. Musa Qala is symbolically important; it is where more than 20 British soldiers died during their involvement in the war. On the 12th, Taliban disguised in police uniform attacked a police checkpoint in Helmand killing at least 15 security personnel.


On the 16th, Afghan police arrested five people allegedly involved in beating up a father and daughter accused of theft by a fortune teller. This was done after footage of the beating appeared on social media. Another video of male relatives beating three women also went viral.

Kabul Taxi, an anonymously-run popular satirical Facebook page was closed under pressures by the Government. On the 24th, the Afghan intelligence services summoned two journalists, after Kabul Taxi wrote a piece about Hanif Atmar, the National Security Adviser. They were accused of unveiling secret government information. Nai, a press freedom watchdog, said such government actions put ‘a damper on the achievements made in freedom of speech over the past 14 years’.

Development & Humanitarian 

Authorities from the Kabul Municipality announced that they progressively fail to collect revenues. This year around Afghanis 4 billion ($62.5 million) should have been collected from clearance services, rental, sale of land, parking facilities and other services. However, only half that amount arrived in the municipality's coffers.

On the 22nd, Pakistan agreed to extend the visas of all the 1.5 million registered Afghans living in Pakistan. Pakistan also agreed to adopt a suitable course of action for half a million undocumented refugees.

On the 17th, the value of Afghani currency hit a record low, its lowest point since early 2012. One US dollar was worth 64 Afghanis in Kabul markets, demonstrating a fall by 4 Afghanis in the last two months.  

Afghan officials criticised their Chinese contractor for violating the terms of their contract in the Amu River oil basin. An investigation found that the China National Petroleum Corporation owes the Afghan government $68 million.

People and Culture

Zahir Tanin, an Afghan diplomat, was appointed as the head of the UN mission in Kosovo. The previous head of mission, Farid Zarif, also an Afghan, now leads the UN mission in Liberia. This is the first time two Afghans hold these senior positions in the UN.

A group of Afghan artists have started painting anti-corruption frescos on security walls in Kabul. The idea is to turn the ugly blast walls into something meaningful.

Angelina Jolie Pitt has signed on to executive produce the animated film The Breadwinner, which centers on a young girl living under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. The film is an adaptation of Debroah Ellis' novel.