• Afghanistan in May 2019; Key News

Afghanistan in May 2019; Key News

06 June 2019

Peace & Politics

The Afghan government organised a five-day Peace Loya Jirga, a national convention of some 3,200 religious leaders, politicians and representatives from across the country, on the 29th April. In the concluding resolution the delegates called for an immediate ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban.  President Ghani accepted the recommendation but the Taliban rejected it. They had also refused an invitation to the event. Opposition political leaders and government critics, including almost all presidential candidates, boycotted the assembly, accusing President Ghani of using it as a platform to boost his status as a leader in an election year.

Meanwhile on the 9th, the US concluded its sixth round of direct talks with the Taliban. Both parties reported that the meeting made some progress. The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said they were making "slow but steady" progress to put an end to violence and now it was time to speak about the practical details. Earlier on the 3rd, Khalilzad and a Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid argued with each other on Twitter. Mujahid warned that the US should “forget about the idea of putting down our [Taliban] arms”, to which Khalilzad responded that, “all sides laying down arms is the outcome of any peace process.”

The Taliban, led by Mullah Baradar, the movement’s political head, met Russian and Afghan opposition politicians on 28 - 30th in Moscow. The event marked the hundredth year of Afghan Russian diplomatic ties. It ended without any specific agreements on Afghan peace.

On the 13th, twelve out of eighteen presidential candidates suggested that a caretaker government should be formed, after 22nd May, when the tenure of the incumbent government under President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah expires. This comes few weeks after the Supreme Court had approved the extension of Ghani’s tenure until the upcoming presidential elections scheduled for September 28. On the 23rd, Abdullah said that the term of the National Unity Government had indeed ended and he also criticised the recent reshuffle of cabinet members.

On the 11th, protesters stopped MPs from entering into parliament to commence parliamentary session. They were supporters of some of the un-elected Kabul parliamentary candidates who had alleged widespread corruption in last year's elections. Nonetheless parliament started its sessions a few days later. On the 18th, Mir Rahman Rahmani was elected as the new speaker of the lower house. Many MPs, including his rival Kamal Nasir Osuli claimed the election was against the rules as it failed to produce a clear winner. This row disrupted parliamentary proceedings for ten days, until the MPs left for Eid holidays.

On the 16th, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) reversed its decision to use a biometric system in the upcoming presidential elections. The IEC said they did not have enough time or resources to put the technology to use. Observers say IEC’s decision is against the newly ratified elections law.

Security

War continued during fasting month of Ramadan with all parties including the Daesh attacking one another. On the 7th, Afghan Ministry of Interior reported that they have destroyed 68 Taliban narcotics factories in Farah. The operation was carried out by the Afghan air force supported by NATO. The attack also killed 150 Taliban and injured 40.

On the 6th, Taliban fighters killed at least twenty people and wounded dozens after attacking a police headquarters in Baghlan. Officials said more than 20 civilians had been wounded and children were among the dead. On the 13th, the Taliban captured the Shamulzayi district centre in Zabul, killing at least thirteen soldiers.

On the 17th, a US air strike killed at least eight policemen in Helmand, the latest casualties from an increase in air and ground operations against the Afghan Taliban. An American military spokesman called the deaths a “tragic accident” that occurred after Afghan security forces requested US air support for an operation against the Taliban.

On the 25th, Afghan security forces killed at least six civilians, including a woman and two children, in a night raid on insurgents. Soldiers mistook the group, who were in a car, for Taliban trying to escape the area, claimed an official. The deaths come after the UN revealed that pro-government forces had killed more civilians than insurgents had in the first three months of the year.

On the 10th, Acting US Defence Secretary Patrick Shanahan approved the transfer of $1.5 billion to build barriers on the US border with Mexico. This includes about $600 million from an account which was meant for Afghan security forces.

Humanitarian & Development

Local officials on the 6th reported that the Taliban have stopped girls attending school in the areas they control in Sar-e Pul. They only allow girls to attend classes until the 6th grade. Only in a few cases, when the local elders have persuaded them, have the Taliban allowed girls to attend classes until the 9th grade. There are about 30 schools under Taliban control in Sar-e Pul. On the 17th, Kandahar governor said that 110 out of 586 schools in the province remain closed because of insecurity.

On the 8th, the Taliban killed at least nine and wounded at least 24 in a suicide attack on the offices of Counterpart International, an American NGO, in Kabul. They claimed this NGO promoted harmful western culture including women “mixing” with men.

On the 11th, Abbas Araghchi, an Iranian official said they have been supporting Afghan refugees beyond their means. He had earlier noted that in the wake of worsening economic prospects in Iran as a result of American sanctions, they will have to return the Afghan refugees to Afghanistan. He also said that European countries should either support Iran to host the Afghan refugees or take them into their own countries.

On the 21st, the value of the American dollar against the Afghani currency rose to record levels: one American dollar was exchanged for 80.20 Afghanis. This is the highest since 2003 when Afghanistan introduced its new currency.

On the 20th, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan issued a report on Afghanistan's fight against corruption. The report finds that “corruption puts at risk prospects for peace, as a negotiated settlement for Afghanistan’s future must be based on integrity and justice.” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, acknowledged some progress and said that “The upcoming elections are a test case for implementing lessons learned.”

Rights

On the 11th, Mina Managal, a prominent woman journalist was shot dead by an unknown gunman on her way to work. She was a presenter on various TV channels and an adviser to the parliament. Police say they are investigating a family dispute.

On the 22nd, local officials in Samangan said they had arrested nine people in connection with a gang rape. Three nights earlier nine individuals had attacked a local clinic, beat the guards and raped the midwife, who is not named. Police say four of the assailants are children and all have confessed their crime.

On the 5th, Afghanistan officially started to enforce the Law on Protection of Child Rights. The law considers all boys and girls under the age of 18 as children. The law prohibits Bacha Bazi, the sexual exploitation of boys, and the recruitment of child soldiers, among other things. It also gives children of minorities the right to religious freedom.

People & Culture

The joyful video of Sayed Ahmad Rahman, a 6-year-old Afghan boy, dancing, went viral on social media. Rahman had just received an artificial limb from the International Committee of the Red Cross and shows his delight. Rahman had lost his leg in a landmine in Logar when he was only 8-months-old. Afghanistan is one of world’s most dangerous places for children. On the 11th, a landmine explosion killed seven children and wounded two others in Ghazni.

There has been unprecedented demand for plastic surgery in Herat in the last four years. About 1,000 people (70% of whom are women) come to the province’s only clinic requesting surgical procedures such as eyelid lift, skin treatments, and liposuction. Afghans are ranked as some of the least happy people on earth. Plastic surgery can perhaps promise people some happiness by enhancing their looks.