• Afghanistan in May: our round-up of the news last month

Afghanistan in May: our round-up of the news last month

03 June 2016

Afghanistan in May 2016

 

Politics

Revisions to Afghanistan’s 40-year old Penal Code were submitted to the Ministry of Justice on the 1st.  On the 6th, Masoom Stanekzai and Lt. Gen. Abdullah Khan were appointed as caretakers of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and Ministry of Defence respectively. In response to the April Taliban attack in Kabul, the government on the 8th ordered the execution of six men convicted of earlier terrorist activities. This was the first execution of terrorists in the past 15 years.

Tensions between Afghanistan and Pakistan escalated this month. On the 2nd, Afghan MPs criticised the US for failing to put pressure on Pakistan to act more firmly on domestic terrorism, whilst President Ghani said on the 13th that Pakistan failed to take steps to eliminate the Taliban and Haqqani networks in its country. Already losing patience with them on the issue, the US informed Pakistan it would no longer pay for its American F-16 fighter jets worth $430 million.

On the 21st, a US drone killed Taliban leader Mullah Mansour in Pakistan. Pakistan denounced the US attack as a violation of its national sovereignty. Shortly afterwards President Obama warned that American forces would continue to go after threats emanating from Pakistani territory.

Peace

The signing of a draft peace accord with the Afghan insurgent group Hezb-e-Islami on the 18th was seen as a blueprint for Taliban peace talks. However, progress came to a halt after Hezb-e-Islami demanded an agreed exit schedule for foreign troops. Meanwhile, Afghan MPs are asking the group to surrender all their weapons.

On the 18th, the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, a peace negotiation mechanism comprised of Afghanistan, Pakistan, China and the US, met in Islamabad for a fifth session of peace talks. Disappointingly, the Taliban did not attend.

Mullah Hibatullah Akhundzada replaced Mullah Mansour as the Taliban’s new leader on the 25th. Shortly after, the Afghan government gave him an ultimatum: make peace or face the same fate as his predecessor. On the 28th it was reported that Afghan and US intelligence agencies are providing financial and military support to a ‘breakaway’ Taliban faction believed to be more likely to engage in peace talks.

Security

Afghanistan saw heightened insecurity this month with clashes in thirteen provinces. A majority of the fighting took place in Helmand, where the Taliban control three of the province’s fourteen districts.

On the 25th UNAMA condemned a Kabul suicide attack which targeted employees of a provincial court. On the 31st, the Taliban abducted 185 people from buses in Kunduz province. Ten were subsequently killed, and 18 are still held hostage. According to interior ministry data, more than 36,000 police officers (who often find themselves in combat situations with little training, support and pay) are believed to have deserted last year.

US forces confirmed Al-Qaeda is back in the country and may be working with the Taliban. It was reported that Iran may team up with the Taliban to protect the Iran-Afghanistan border from IS. This after a Pentagon report released on the 9th revealed that US forces are confused over the US mission and strategy in Afghanistan.

Kidnap and abduction are on the rise. On the 4th the US Embassy in Kabul called the risk of kidnap ‘very high’ for Americans and the Afghan Chamber of Commerce reported around 40 cases of kidnapping, murders and armed attacks against businessmen and investors in the last month.

Rights

Finland tightened restrictions on residence permits for asylum seekers from Afghanistan, Iraq and Somalia, saying that improved security meant it was now largely safe for them to return to their war-torn countries. Afghan asylum seekers will now have to prove that they are individually at risk.

May saw two reports of vicious domestic violence, with local media reporting a Kabul woman set on fire by her husband, sister-in-law and mother-in-law on the 19th. A Nangahar teenage girl was also murdered, supposedly by her sister-in-law who put her in a tandoor oven after strangling her. 

Meanwhile radio stations in Kandahar claimed that local officials banned the broadcasting of songs by female artists. Whilst the Kandahar Information and Culture Director denied such a ban, he stated that ‘activities of a number of media outlets are not tolerable and they should bring changes to their programmes.’

Humanitarian and development

At least 24 people died, ten were injured and 40 are missing after flash floods in northern Sar-e-Pul province on the 19th. More than 150 houses have been destroyed and rescue teams were struggling to reach the area due to security issues.

Norway will double its 2016 humanitarian aid to $24 million to help Afghanistan meet urgent needs. Meanwhile the European Union reaffirmed €200 million in annual support until 2020 as Afghanistan’s Finance Minister Eklil Hakimi signed a new agreement on the 12th, worth €125m.

On the 31st Amnesty International reported a doubling of the number of internally displaced Afghans within the last three years.  With numbers reaching 1.2 million this year, the organisation stated that the National Internally-displaced People Policy, launched by the Afghan government in 2014, is still to be implemented.

The long awaited provincial health budget plan was approved by the cabinet on the 1st after a two year delay. According to the plan, $500K will be allocated to each province, aimed at improving management, providing health services and developing health systems.

Kabul and other provincial cities came to a standstill when massive crowds protested at the government’s decision to re-route TUTAP, a major electricity powerline project. Despite German engineers recommending the project consider routes through Bamiyan province, the government opted for the supposedly cheaper Salang Pass route. As a relatively peaceful province, Bamiyan residents (predominantly ethnic Hazara) claim they have missed out on important infrastructure development seen in other sectors. Attempting to avoid an ethnic issue, President Ghani ordered a twelve person commission, including leaders of the Enlightening Movement protest group, to reassess project plans. A new presidential decree on the 24th, based on commission findings, confirmed the Salang Pass route along with a 220KW double circuit from Doshi in Baghlan province to Bamiyan and the central provinces. The Enlightening Movement continued to call for a complete rerouting through Bamiyan and threatened more protests.

On the 23rd Afghanistan, India and Iran signed a trilateral agreement for developing phase one of the Iranian Chabahar port. This will provide Afghanistan with an alternative to the current transit route through Pakistan to the Indian Ocean.

People and Culture

Two female Afghan filmmakers were recognized this month: Alka Sadat’s 'Afghanistan Night Stories' won a prestigious Gold Remi award at the 49th WorldFest-Houston International Film and Video Festival in Houston, US. And in Director’s Fortnight, part of the Cannes Film Festival, Shahrbanoo Sadat’s ‘Wolf and Sheep’ took the top prize.

Nadir Shah Nangarhari and his son Feruz Kahn cycled into New York on the 20th, presenting UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon with a traditional silk embroidered chapan coat. As part of a round-the-world ‘peace’ cycle trip, the Afghans have covered over 11,250 km since July 2015.

First Lady Rula Ghani inaugurated the first women's educational complex in Kabul on the 29th. The centre, containing a college, university and accommodation for 960, will help Afghan female students pursue education in a number of key fields including science, technology and management. 

 

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.