• Afghanistan in July & August 2019; Key News

Afghanistan in July & August 2019; Key News

11 September 2019

Afghanistan in July and August 2019

Talks

The Americans and the Taliban held two more rounds of direct talks in Doha in July and August. Both sides asserted that substantial progresses had been made. Issues such as direct talks between Afghan government and the Taliban, withdrawal or a drawdown of American forces form Afghanistan and Taliban severing ties with Al-Qaeda and Islamic State have been on the table. Some US officials and lawmakers worry that as the troop level drops, Afghan security forces will be harder pressed to contain Daesh (Islamic State)’s affiliates in the country.

On July 7th-8th, representatives from Afghanistan’s government, opposition, civil society and media met the Taliban at an intra-Afghan conference in Doha. It was the first time such an event was co-organised by an American ally, Germany. Norway has expressed willingness to host the next round of intra-Afghan talks.

Politics

In August, Mohammad Haneef Atmar, one of the notable candidates withdrew from the presidential elections. He blamed the “illegal actions” of President Ghani’s team that “has damaged the credibility of the elections process.” Observers say the main reason was the disintegration of his team after rifts between him and former Balkh Governor Atta Mohammad Noor, on sharing power after they won. Elections are due on 28th September but many candidates haven’t held campaign rallies fearing insecurity. Taliban have vowed to disrupt the elections. 

On August 29th, BBC provided an analysis on the cost of war on American coffers. The total military expenditure in Afghanistan (from October 2001 until March 2019) was $760 billion. The bulk of the money has been spent on counter-insurgency operations, and on the needs of US troops, such as food, clothing, medical care, special pay and benefits. Official data shows the US has also contributed approximately $133 billon -16% of all money spent in the last 17 years - to reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan. And more than half of that ($83 billion) has gone on building up Afghan security forces, including the Afghan National Army and police force.

Security

On July 31st, the UN issued their report about war’s significant harm on the Afghan civilian population in the first six months of 2019. The UN documented 3,812 civilian casualties (1,366 deaths and 2,446 injured), a 27% decrease from the same period in 2018. Whilst militants continue to cause the majority of civilian casualties (deaths and injuries combined), Afghan forces and their international allies killed more civilians in the given period than the Taliban and other militant groups. UN figures blame 717 deaths on pro-Kabul forces and 531 on militants.

On August 31st, the Taliban attacked Kunduz for the third time in four years, launching a pre-dawn offensive even as they continued their talks with their American counterparts. Afghan officials said they repelled the attack. On July 1st, Taliban fighters operated a complex attack in a civilian-populated area of Kabul, causing more than 100 civilian casualties. The explosives also damaged schools and other civilian infrastructure in the vicinity. Taliban said they targeted the logistics centre of the Defence Ministry. On August 7th, Taliban attacked a police station in Kabul, killing 14 people and wounding more than 140.

On July 13th, Taliban fighters attacked a commercial building in Badghis from where they fired at police headquarters, killing three security officials and injuring ten. On July 18th, over 30 members of the well-trained Afghan elite commandos including a commander were killed after the Taliban fighters launched a pre-emptive ambush on them while they were evacuating a military helicopter in Badghis.

On the August 17th, Daesh fighters attacked a wedding party in Kabul. A Daesh statement said that one of its fighters blew himself up at a "large gathering" while others "detonated a parked explosives-laden vehicle" when emergency services arrived. The attack caused President Ghani to delay the Independence Day celebrations. When celebrations occurred, ten co-ordinated blasts left more than 90 people injured in and around Jalalabad city in Nangarhar.

On the 7th, Afghan forces arrested three suspected Daesh operatives, one of whom is a university lecturer. In the past, Daesh fighters had said they were motivated by three lecturers teaching Islamic Culture at Kabul University.

On July 20th, officials confirmed that air attacks by Afghan forces in Badghis killed at least 10 civilians including women and children. The incident happened in Bala Murghab district, where Taliban forces were attacking an army base from a nearby residential area.

Humanitarian & Development

On August 7th, officials said Afghanistan's fruit exports increased 30% this year. The country exported 255 tons of fresh fruits to India, China and European and Gulf countries. The increase is thanks to opening of air corridors with India, UAE, China and Turkey.

On the 7th, Independent Joint Anti-Corruption Monitoring and Evaluation Committee (MEC), a semi-government watchdog, reported that appointments in Afghanistan’s diplomatic offices are largely illegal, and the appointment process has changed into a source of “political pressure, extortion and rewards”. MEC said many Afghan diplomats don’t have the relevant qualifications or training and don’t speak international languages such as English. Ministry of Foreign Affairs dismissed the report as biased and politically motivated.

Rights

Human Rights Watch (HRW), a watchdog, reported that Afghan special forces raided a medical clinic in Wardak on the night of July 8th - 9th and executed four civilians. Witnesses had told HRW that security forces first killed a family caregiver and then detained and bound staff and family members accompanying patients. Three staff, a lab worker, a guard and family caregiver were later found dead from gunshots. The Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, a humanitarian organisation that runs the clinic, described the incident as a “shocking violation” of international humanitarian law.

On July 12th, Najib Sartair, deputy police chief in Kabul, apologised for mistreating journalists and said two of his colleagues had been arrested in connection with the case. Multiple footages show that Sartair himself was beating journalists reporting the police raid on a private school in Kabul. Sartair said he merely pushed the journalists who refused to leave the scene.

People & Culture

On July 9th, British Museum said they would return Buddhist heads looted in the Afghan war. Nine fourth-century sculptural heads and a torso belonging to the ancient Gandahara kingdom, were intercepted at Heathrow airport in 2002 after a flight from Peshawar, Pakistan. The sculptures were displayed for a short time at the British Museum before their were handed over to the Afghan embassy in London.

On July 20th, President Ghani granted Afghan citizenship to Alberto Cairo, an Italian physiotherapist and head of the orthopaedics centre of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), to honour his services in Afghanistan. Mr. Cairo has served in Afghanistan for the 28 years.

To celebrate Afghanistan's 100th year of independence, President Ghani took part in vibrant event in the renovated Darulaman Palace. The Palace was first built in early 1920s by King Amanullah, the ruler who fought the British to win Afghanistan's independence in 1919. The palace was destroyed during the civil war. President Ghani initiated its renovation in 2016 which cost $16.5 million and employed female architects and engineers. “We, like this building, will remerge from dust and gunpowder”, Ghani said.

 

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 incorrect content.