• Afghanistan in October 2015: BAAG's review of the key news

Afghanistan in October 2015: BAAG's review of the key news

02 November 2015

Afghanistan in October 2015

Politics

The political scene was largely preoccupied with the security situation. Continued fighting in Kunduz brought the National Unity Government’s (NUG) performance into question by MPs and citizens alike. After replacing the Governor on the 1st, Ghani appointed a Task Team on the 8th to review the security situation in Kunduz. CEO Abdullah called for an effective response, particularly the removal of dead bodies which lay decomposing in the city’s streets.

Tensions continued between Afghanistan and Pakistan. Addressing the UN General Assembly, Pakistan PM Sharif said Pakistan would help promote peace in Afghanistan as long as the Afghan government cooperates. Days earlier CEO Abdullah called on Pakistan to dismantle its ‘terrorist sanctuaries’ and Ghani stated the two countries are in an ‘undeclared’ war.

On the 19th Special Representative for Reform and Good Governance, Ahmad Zia Massoud, acknowledged that nepotism has wrongly been the basis for appointments within the Ministry of Defence. Meanwhile the US, UK, Germany, Italy, Turkey and NATO all agreed to extend the presence of troops past 2015. A formal decision on the timeline is expected at a NATO meeting in early December.

The Wolesi Jirga and Mishrano Jirga (Lower and Upper Houses of Parliament) passed the Prevention of Money Laundering and Financing of Terrorism and Income Proceeds from Crimes law. They rejected a presidential decree to place a 10% tax on mobile phone cards, criticised the administrative board of the house for regularly being absent and called for a review of Afghanistan’s policy towards Pakistan. On the 28th, media organizations, civil society and women's rights organizations were asked to nominate their members for the Election Committee, which will appoint new Election Commissioners.

Security

After 15 days of intense fighting, the Taliban ceded control of the provincial capital of Kunduz on the 13th. During the fighting they destroyed government offices, seized military hardware, looted equipment and vehicles from NGOs and freed inmates from two prisons. By the 8th, insurgents were pushed to the outskirts of the city. At the request of Afghan officials, the US carried out airstrikes which left 400 Taliban dead. Four insurgents were arrested.

One such airstrike hit a Médecins Sans Frontière (MSF) hospital on the 3rd while 105 patients and caretakers and 80 MSF staff were inside. MSF previously gave military officials and the Taliban the hospital’s coordinates and desperately continued to alert authorities throughout the 30 minutes of heavy bombing. 30 were left dead – of the 23 identified, 13 are MSF staff. Authorities claimed insurgents were hiding out in the hospital, going so far as to claim the hospital acted as a Taliban base. MSF denied these claims and President Obama apologised to their International President.

Kunduz was not the only province to come under fire. The Taliban seized districts in Badakshan, Takhar, Sar-e-pul, Jawzjan and Baghlan. On the 20th, the Taliban made serious advances on Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, where the ANSF reported a shortage of military equipment. Worried that the Taliban would liberate more prisoners, the ANSF relocated 150 inmates from Helmand on the 27th.  According to the Long War Journal, 36 of Afghanistan’s 398 districts are under Taliban control. Data from the UN indicates the Taliban have spread to more parts of the country than at any other time since 2001.

The heightened insecurity led many to take action. In Baghlan residents took up arms to support the ANSF. On the 2nd, former jihadi leaders formed the ‘Council of Jihadi Leaders and Political Parties’ to talk with NUG leaders about security. On the 6th tribal elders in the south formed the Loy Kandahar Council to bring all tribes and ethnic groups under one umbrella to push for peace. Meanwhile, whilst a number of religious scholars declared the Taliban’s actions un-Islamic, two government officials said the Mujahideen should be incorporated into the country’s formal security structures. Although the Taliban have gained confidence, analysts say Taliban infighting over the appointment of Mullah Mansour continues.

Rights

Rights violations by the Taliban in Kunduz were reported by the international community and Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission. The latter’s report on the 17th documented targeted shooting of civilians, unverified sexual assaults, hostage taking and intimidation of journalists and human rights defenders.  However, the bombing of the city’s MSF hospital by US forces received greater international condemnation.  With supposedly no advance warning of the attack given by the military, MSF and experts call the deadly attack a violation of international humanitarian law. Moreover it would appear to violate US Department of Defence rules that “protection for civilian hospitals may cease only after due warning has been given.”  In addition to investigations by NATO, the US and NUG, the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Committee has requested cooperation from the Afghan and US governments for its own. A White House spokesman indicated the administration would oppose the IHFFC investigation.

On the 12th the Taliban stated their intention to target Tolo and 1TV staff, following ‘propaganda by these satanic networks’ regarding Taliban atrocities in Kunduz. The following day a gathering of journalists responded in solidarity with their own threat to entirely boycott media coverage of the Taliban. Afghan refugee rights were threatened by the German government’s targeting of Afghan nationals for increased deportation. The German Interior Minister stated on the 28th that with German soldiers and police stationed in Afghanistan to make the country safer, “one could expect the Afghans to stay in their country.” Meanwhile in the Netherlands on the 27th, police arrested Sadeq Alamyar, charging him with ordering the massacre of over 1,000 men and boys in Karala, Kunar province, in 1979. The Dutch police have called for witnesses to come forward.

Humanitarian and development 

According to OCHA the Kunduz siege resulted in an estimated 17,000 displaced families.  Responses to date include provision of tents, blankets, food and services from mobile health clinics. Fighting added not only to internal displacement but may also have contributed to high refugee numbers. A family from Kunduz which included a 105 year old woman, walked and travelled for 20 days before she was helped into a refugee camp in Croatia on the 27th.

On the 26th a 7.5 magnitude earthquake struck in Badakhshan province, killing 83 people, injuring 394 and destroying or damaging 9,379 homes. The NUG is leading response efforts, and according to the UN 20 humanitarian partners have committed to providing assistance. As heavy snow is forecast, access and emergency shelter are becoming concerns.

A female employee of GIZ, the German agency for international cooperation, who was abducted in August, was freed on the 17th. She was reported to be in good health. The identity of her captors remains undisclosed.

In development news, the World Bank approved US$250m on the 20th, to improve road links across the Hindukush. Currently, only two roads cross over the mountain range, with the Salang highway carrying most traffic. The second road is an unpaved crossing between Baghlan and Bamiyan.

Meanwhile a report released on the 12th, by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and the International Council of Swedish Industry, stated ‘the Afghan private sector is not the engine of economic growth or instrument of social inclusion it has the potential to be’. It blamed unequal access to economic resources, flawed public services, adverse security and predatory government activity.

People and culture

The first Marathon of Afghanistan took place in Bamiyan on the 16th. The remarkable but low profile run attracted over 60 male and female athletes from Afghanistan, Europe, the US and Canada. It was won by Brit Keith Mackintosh, in 2 hours 55 minutes, and a 2016 race is being planned.

28 students, female and male, started their studies in the country’s first Masters programme in Gender & Women’s Studies. The course at Kabul University covers gender equality and women’s rights, such as legal protections, and the role of women in poverty reduction, conflict resolution, civil society engagement and politics.

 

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.