• Afghanistan in November 2017; Key News

Afghanistan in November 2017; Key News

12 December 2017

Afghanistan in November 2017

Peace and Politics

Issues around the forthcoming elections dominated the political scene in November. On the 15th, President Ashraf Ghani fired the Chair of Independent Election Commission, Najibullah Ahmadzai, without giving a clear reason. Ahmadzai blames the Presidential Palace for derailing plans for the election. Some political parties, including Jamiat-e-Islami, had been demanding that all of the electoral commissioners be removed. In contrast, another party, Hizb-e-Islami Hekmatyar, were pressing for no such removals to be made.

On the 9th, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the organisation would increase the number of troops in Afghanistan from the current 13,000 to 16,000. This was announced at the end of a two-day meeting of the alliance's defence ministers in Brussels. In the same conference, the commander of the NATO-led coalition in Afghanistan, US Army Gen. John Nicholson, said that Pakistan had not changed its behaviour since President Donald Trump announced his new policy for Afghanistan and the wider region. This policy specifically calls on Pakistan to do more to counter the terrorist groups fighting in Afghanistan. The US now has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq came under fire after praising Iran for recruiting Shia Afghans to fight against Daesh in Syria. He was speaking at a conference in Tehran on the 25th. Chief Executive Abdullah and the President’s Office both criticised Mohaqiq’s remarks and said that Afghans should not be involved in proxy wars.

A parliamentary fact-finding team on the 4th found that four members of the parliament, including the Speaker and the First Secretary of the Lower House, had mis-spent public funds. Abdul Rauf Ibrahimi, the Speaker, has agreed to repay five million Afghanis (circa $73,000). A complaint about the First Secretary has been lodged in the Attorney General’s Office.

For the first time in Afghanistan, a province how has an all-female provincial council leadership committee. Three women in Wardak were elected as Chair; Deputy Chair and Secretary after receiving more votes than their male opponents.

Security

November continued to be a bloody month for the country. On the 14th, the Taliban attacked two districts in Kandahar killing at least 23 police officers and injuring 16 more. The attacks were by the Taliban's ‘Red Unit’ who are equipped with night-vision goggles and use vehicles and weapons that they have captured from Afghan Government forces.

On the 4th, American airstrikes killed at least 13 civilians in Chardara district of Kunduz, according to the residents. Based on their account, the Taliban had used the civilians as human shields and had forced them to retrieve the bodies of their fighters killed in an earlier airstrike. NATO and Afghan military officials denied these claims, but the UN said at least 10 civilians may have been killed. Another airstrike in Kapisa on the 24th killed five civilians. They were family members of a Taliban commander who was also killed. Rights activists are concerned that the US is undercounting civilian deaths.  

American airstrikes in the country have more than doubled since President Trump announced in August a new strategy for Afghanistan. According to the United States Air Force, American aircraft dropped about 900 munitions in August and September, compared to about 260 for the same period last year. 

Known for their assaults on mainly Shia Hazaras in Kabul, Daesh also targeted other groups in November. Their fighters attacked Shamshad TV, a private Pashto language station, in Kabul on the 9th. In an act of defiance, moments after the attack was over, presenter Parwiz Sapy (who was suffering from superficial injuries) appeared on TV and announced that "the attack has ended". The battle between Afghan security forces and Daesh attackers had gone on for four hours. Another Daesh attack on the 16th targeted a political meeting killing at least nine people. Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of the northern province of Balkh and a leader of the mainly ethnic Tajik Jamiat-e-Islami party was at the meeting at the time of the attack.

On the 20th, American and Afghan warplanes conducted a series of strikes against alleged Taliban drug depots in Helmand, killing at least 44 people. The Taliban are thought to have 400 – 500 drug labs which earn them an estimated $200 million-a-year. A Taliban spokesman rejected the existence of heroine labs in Helmand.

The Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries said on the 3rd that in only one week they had registered thirteen kidnapping cases where investors and their relatives were abducted by criminal groups. A day before, unknown gunmen shot dead the son of Mohammad Aref, a prominent businessman, after they failed to kidnap him. Five years ago, another son of Mohammad Aref was kidnapped and later released for a ransom of $500,000. On the 29th, five convicts involved in kidnapping were executed in the Pul-e-Charkhi prison. One of them was a former member of Herat Provincial Council.

Rights

The International Criminal Court (ICC) has started to collect the information needed to investigate allegations of war crimes in Afghanistan since 2003. These includes crimes committed by the insurgents, the Afghan Government, and international forces. Victims of alleged crimes have the right to submit representations until 31 January 2018.

The 2nd marked the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, during which the Afghan Journalist Safety Committee (AJSC) reported that Afghanistan is the second worst place in the world for journalists (Syria is the first).  Ten journalists have been killed in Afghanistan so far this year and at least another 100 were attacked.

On the 2nd, a video of an Afghan air force colonel sexually exploiting a female employee went viral. The graphic video shows the female employee pressed into having sex after approaching the colonel for a promotion, bringing to light the realities of sexual harassment that Afghan women face in the workforce.

In a new report, Integrity Watch Afghanistan found conditions in Afghanistan’s major prisons to be extremely bad. The group said that prisoners are kept in inhumane conditions as a result of a combination of poor management, corruption, and embezzlement.

Humanitarian and Development

In an effort to build confidence in the law-enforcement authorities, and to root out corrupt officials, the Attorney General Farid Hamidi has been throwing open his doors to the public. This gives ordinary people the chance to speak to him directly, which is an opportunity that they would not have otherwise had.  In a similar story, at least 13 officials at the Ministry of Interior were reportedly sacked on corruption charges over the last three months.

India has begun using the Iranian port of Chabahar as a new trade route to Afghanistan instead of passing through Pakistan. On the 15th, the Lapis Lazuli Corridor Accord was signed between Afghanistan, Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. The agreement establishes a direct link to transport goods to Europe via road, rail, and sea.

On the 2nd, the UN Children’s Fund reported that up to 9,500 children in Afghanistan die every year from diarrhoea.  Poor sanitation and hygiene leave already malnourished children more susceptible to infections that cause diarrhoea, and the deaths that result from this are easily preventable. Nili district in Daykundi province is the country’s first ‘open defecation free district’.

On the 10th, the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum published a list of 1,050 contracts of small mining projects in an effort to bring about reforms as well as to improve transparency and accountability in the sector. The move is part of a commitment made by the Ministry’s during the Senior Officials’ Meeting earlier this year.

On the 15th, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported an 87% increase in opium production in the past year up from 4,800 tonnes in 2016, to 9,000 in 2017.

People and Culture

On the 26th, Afghanistan's all-female robotics team continued to impress the world by winning the top award at the Robotex festival in Estonia, the biggest festival of its kind in Europe. The teenagers won the competition’s Entrepreneur Award.

On the 19th, Afghanistan became the Asian champion in youth cricket. In the finals of U-19 Asian Youth Cup, Afghanistan beat Pakistan by a whopping 185 runs, creating more hope for future of sports in Afghanistan.

On the 20th, a mass wedding ceremony was held in central Bamiyan which saw 37 couples married. The wedding was organised by the Ministry of Culture and Information and aimed at cutting back on lavish affairs which put many families into debt.

 

 

 

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.