• Afghanistan in February 2015: BAAG's review of the developments and news

Afghanistan in February 2015: BAAG's review of the developments and news

01 March 2015

Afghanistan in February 2015

Politics

February started with the swearing-in ceremony of eight Ministers (among them the Ministers of interior, foreign, finance and mines), and the chief of the National Directorate of Security.  Two thirds of ministries have yet to receive Parliament’s vote of confidence. On the 2nd, dozens of rights’ activists marched in the streets of Kabul to protest against the all male cabinet. Against the earlier promises of having at least four female ministers, only three were nominated and none received votes of confidence.

Though the Constitution demands the parliamentary elections to be held in June, there is no sign of concrete plans yet. Civil society groups criticised the delays in formation of the electoral reform commission which according to National Unity Government Agreement should have been established immediately after the formation of the new government.

Peace

Hopes for peace talks increased when CEO Abdullah announced that the Government would soon re-open talks with the Taliban. Promising that it will not compromise the rights of Afghans, he stressed that the talks will be transparent and consultative. A former Kabul-based Taliban leader, Syed Akbar Agha, confirmed that a seven-member delegation has been authorised, purportedly by Mullah Omar, for the tasks in Doha.

The prospect seems brighter because of apparent Pakistani willingness of support. Relations between the two countries reached record warm levels in February. The first batch of Afghan army cadets now attend training in a Pakistani military academy. On the 10th, President Ghani suspended a request made by Hamid Karzai to receive supplies of heavy weaponry from India. Pakistani Army Chief Raheel Sharif, during his third trip to Kabul since the formation of the new Afghan government, announced that ‘enemies of Afghanistan are the enemies of Pakistan’. Earlier, Pakistani intelligence had credited Afghan security services for capturing militants involved in the Peshawar school attacks.

On the 12th, Wang Yi, Chinese foreign minister, announced that China would help in mediating between the Afghan Taliban and government. Beijing is concerned about training camps run by Uighur Islamic terrorists on its soil.

Peace talks have also raised some concerns. On the 15th former MP and Mujaheedin leader Sayyaf warned that a peace policy change by the Afghan government without consulting Mujaheedin would face opposition by the Afghans. He and other Mujaheedin leaders later met President Ghani and agreed to submit their written suggestions about the peace process. Ex-president Karzai also severely criticised the idea of joint Afghan-Pakistani military operations against the Taliban, terming it as an attack on Afghanistan’s territorial integrity.

Security

February was another month of insecurity in Afghanistan. On the 23rd masked gunmen speaking ‘unknown foreign language’ stopped two buses on Kandahar-Kabul highway and kidnapped 30 members of the Hazara community. They were mostly returnees from Iran aiming to reunite with their families in Ghazni. Fears about the spread of Islamic Sate (IS) fighters are increasing in Afghanistan.

On the 17th, four suicide attackers disguised in Afghan security uniforms stormed the Logar policy headquarters. They killed 23 people, including eight civilians, and wounded 12 others.  The Logar police chief has said the attack may have not been possible without inside help. Investigations are underway.

Since the second week of February, Afghan forces have been involved in Zulfiqar, one of the biggest military operations against the Taliban in Helmand. Officials say that more than 233 insurgents have been killed as a result of Zulfiqar in Sangeen district and other operations in northern Helmand. The Ministry of Defence say that protecting civilians is a top priority and a reason for the slow pace of the operation. 

On the 18th, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan announced that 2014 saw the highest level of civilian casualties. With 10,548 casualties (3,699 deaths and 6,849 injured), this was a 22 percent increase on 2013, and the worst year since 2009, when the agency began compiling its reports. The report attributed 72 percent of casualties to armed opposition groups, fourteen percent to government forces, and two percent to international forces, while the fault could not be determined in ten percent of cases. The total number of registered casualties since 2009 now stands at 17,774 killed and 29,971 injured.

On the 21st, Ash Carter, America’s new Defence Secretary, visited Afghanistan. There are around 10,000 US troops in the country, due to be reduced to 5,500 by end of this year. President Ghani last month urged the US to reconsider their withdrawal pace. American Republicans in Congress have also criticised the withdrawal plan for not being based on ground realities.

Rights

Abhorrent reports of rights violation continued in February. On the 10th, a man mutilated his wife's genitals in Herat. Rahima, 21, faced her drug addicted husband’s wrath when she tried to stop him from selling their baby boy. Her husband had become an addict in prison when he was serving a three year term for shooting dead his first wife. 

On the 16th, AIHRC announced that they have registered 4,250 cases of violence against women in the last nine months. Showing a steady increase, these cases include 50 murders and 18 child marriages. On the 12th, police in Balkh arrested six people in connection to the marriage of Nabila, an eleven year old girl. Nabila's father had married her off for a bride price of around $4,736, to remarry himself.

On the 15th, Angiza Shinwari, a newly elected female member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council died from the severe injuries she suffered in a bomb attack five days earlier.

Development and Humanitarian

On the 2nd, President Ghani took actions against alleged corruption in the Ministry of Defence's fuel contracts. He suspended the procurement officials, and ordered the full investigation of contracts worth some $800 million.  Eight other contracts are also under review, much to the welcome of independent analysts and MPs. In a similar action, the Minister of Mines also promised the reassessment of awarded contracts not published on the ministry’s website.

Deadly avalanches hit Afghanistan, taking at least 280 lives and destroying at least 1,250 homes. Panjshir, where at least 195 people have died, was hit the hardest. The other affected provinces are Badakhshan, Nuristan, Bamiyan, Laghman and Nangarhar. The Government has announced three days of national mourning and called upon international military and aid agencies to assist in the emergency response.

Culture and people

In its first One Day International World Cup, something that seemed a dream only five years ago, the Afghan cricket squad is already showing their strength. On the 26th in New Zealand, Afghanistan snatched its first victory from Scotland in a breathtaking match. With one win and two losses Afghanistan now stands ahead of Scotland, England and Sri Lanka in its group. On the 22nd, fast bowler Hamid Hasan became the fastest associate nation’s bowler to take 50 wickets.

Azizullah Royesh, the co-founder of Marefat High School in Kabul, has reached the top 10 finalists in the Global Teacher Prize. The winner will be selected in March, winning $1 million. Royesh’s 4,000 students, 44 percent of whom are girls, excel in music, literature and civic education, in addition to having one of the highest university enrolment percentages in Afghanistan. Royesh intends to expand the school and establish a teachers training academy if he wins the prize. 

 

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.