• Afghanistan in September 2014: BAAG reports on key news from the month

Afghanistan in September 2014: BAAG reports on key news from the month

06 October 2014

Afghanistan in September2014

Elections and politics

September was a month of electoral anxieties and agreements. For the first half of the month, tensions mounted as the bitter, drawn-out investigation into election fraud remained unresolved. The demonstrators even accused the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) of aiding vote rigging.

On the 21st Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai and Abdullah Abdullah signed an agreement on the formation of the National Unity Government, paving the way for the country’s first democratic transfer of power. Later the same day the Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced Ahmadzai as the President and Abdullah as the CEO, but failed to announce the percentage of votes each candidate had won. Days later they presented Ghani with a certificate stamping it with a 55% vote win, much to the discontent of Abdullah.

On the 29th, over a year after Ahmadzai and Abdullah had joined the race, they took their oath of office and formally established the National Unity Government. As expected, the Afghan Taliban was quick to issue a statement rejecting the new government, stating that it had been engineered by the United States.

As the elections came to an end, Hamid Karzai, the now former President, gave his last speech in which he criticised the US once again. He also inaugurated the presidential guest house which was to be his home but later claimed it was too lavish for his family.

On the 13th, Karzai and the new Indian Ambassador hoisted India’s gift of the largest Afghan flag, which is now flying over the capital on Wazir Akbar Khan hill. The 97 by 65 foot flag and its pole has cost India half million dollar.

Security

September saw an intensification of the Taliban’s summer offensive. Their operations in Sangin district of Helmand killed and injured hundreds of civilians and displaced thousands. They continued to attack civilians and government offices across the country. On 4th, they detonated two truck bombs in front of the intelligence offices in Ghazni, killing at least 10 and injuring more than 160. 

Civilian deaths across Farah, Ghazni and Badakhshan mounted. The most shocking and brutal was that of IS-allied militants in Ghazni who beheaded approximately 15 civilians during an offensive, killing 100 civilians in total. The Taliban also shot dead Sayed Habib Musawi, an Afghan-Australian man, who was visiting his family in Ghazni after 15 years.

On the 4th, the NATO summit on Afghanistan was held in Newport, Wales. The NATO nations, among others, reaffirmed the Resolute Support Mission that will train, advise and assist the Afghan security forces after 2014, and renewed their financial commitments to them at least until end of 2017.  The UK committed to fund the Afghan security forces by £7m a year for at least three years and also committed to helping facilitate progress in the peace process.

24 hours after taking oath, Ahmadzai appointed Hanif Atmar as the National Security Adviser. On the 30th Atmar signed the Bilateral Security Agreement with the US Ambassador and the Status of Forces Agreement with the NATO Ambassador. The agreements allow for some foreign special forces, including NATO's 3,000 troops, to remain in country to conduct counter-terror operations and support and train Afghan forces.

On the 16th a senate summons released by Afghan security ministers stated 2014 was the bloodiest year for their forces, even with continued international military presence in the country. 955 Afghan civilians and 1,523 Afghan police officers were killed in the first 6 months alone. On the 9th, Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, a Mujahideen leader and presidential election runner, made an influential speech in support of the Afghan forces, calling the Taliban and their sympathisers ‘infidels’. 

Rights

On the 15th, a Kabul appeal court sentenced to death 5 men accused of gang rape in Paghman district. During the last days of his presidency, Karzai signed their death warrants. Human Rights Watch (HRW) raised concerns over the flawed trial and sentencing. Subsequently HRW wrote a letter to Ahmadzai and Abdullah in regards to protecting human rights in the country, drawing on the alarming rate of violations and deaths.

The murder of a female journalist, Palwasha Miranzai, in Balkh on the 17th highlighted the growing attacks on media and journalists in the country, females being particularly at risk. She was stabbed inside her house by unknown gunmen. Miranzai had recently returned from Thailand after completing her higher education.

On a positive note, Malala Yousafzai thanked Karzai for the release of Faizullah Khan on the 28th. Khan is a Pakistani journalist who was jailed in Jalalabad on suspicion of spying.

Economy

Najeebullah Ozhan, Minister of Public Works, was summoned by the Afghan Parliament on the 13th about the missing £107 million from the national ring road project. Ozhan stated the American-Turkish firm contracted to head the project has ceased operations inside the country. MPs have referred the case to the Attorney General’s office for investigation.

Christopher Ciampa, a US Army sergeant, pleaded guilty on the 23rd for helping in the theft of more than 1 million gallons of fuel from the US military which was sold on the black market in Afghanistan, causing the army a loss of $10 million.

The signing of the BSA is expected to ease the country’s economic gridlock. Earlier this month, officials at the Ministry of Finance had warned they would need $537 million to cover the costs of government staff salaries.

Development

The World Health Organisation (WHO) representative for Afghanistan pointed out that more Afghans commit suicide annually than are killed by a combination of the conflict and nationwide homicides. Dr Soraya Sobrang, of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, called for greater cooperation between the police and Ministry of Health to combat suicide rates. Meanwhile a national polio vaccination campaign was successfully completed.

On 19th a Badghis clerics issued a decree prohibiting women from working outside home and attending schools, giving them one week time to adopt this ruling. Provincial officials, the religious scholars’ council and elders have condemned the decree, while local police say they are prepared to provide security to school-going girls.

Culture

Jacqui Lambie, an Australian Senator, caused a stir when she used a picture of Afghan female police heroine Malalai Kakar for an anti-burqa campaign. Kakar, who was shot dead by unknown gunmen in Kandahar for being a policewoman, was depicted as a terrorist in the image used by Lambie and Britain First, a political party. The enraged photographer, Lana Slezic has said, ‘everything [Kakar] stood for has been desecrated’.

To enhance peace and solidarity, on the 19th a number of Hazara and Pashtun residents of Maidan Wardak participated in a friendly game of archery. In the past years, the province has seen land-related conflict between Pashton Kuchies (nomads) and Hazara villagers. 'Our leaders should bring us together, not take advantage of our emotions’, an archer demanded.

On the occasion of World Peace Day, Ibn Sina University in Kabul hosted its 2nd Anti-War Literature and Arts Festival.  A book and photo exhibition was organised in an attempt to inculcate peace values. 

 

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.