26 February 2020

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Friday January 3, 2020
Kabul (BNA) The Afghanistan Papers (611 documents summarizing interviews of key US and British officials) released recently by the Washington Post have exposed successive US Administrations, from that of George W Bush onwards, hiding the truth, especially from the American public, that they were in the quagmire of an unwinnable war.
But then witness, for example, top US officials testifying at Congressional hearings about the fictitious nuclear programme of Iraq, used as the excuse to invade that country. However, the continued duplicity of Pakistan and the fact that it would never give up on terrorism was grossly ignored.
The Afghanistan Papers apart, numerous scholars, journalists and counter-terrorism experts in the US and Afghanistan have periodically reported intimate links between the Haqqani Network and Taliban and the Pakistani military, and that the real problem lay inside Pakistan.
Michael Hughes wrote in Huffington Post on July 6, 2010, “Nine years, nearly $300 billion dollars and 1900 dead coalition soldiers later, the US has officially verified that the entire war effort has been focused on the wrong side of the mountains”.
Despite this ‘officially verified’ indicator, Pakistan was left to its machinations, including sheltering Osama bin Laden and Mullah Omar. How much of the billions of dollars pumped into the war in Afghanistan was wasted by way of corruption was also ignored.
Now the US media is questioning what America has achieved from the war, having pumped in over $2 trillion into Afghanistan: $1.5 trillion spent on war; $500 billion on interest; $87 billion to train the Afghan military and police; $24 billion on economic development, and $10 billion on counternarcotic?
Despite such enormous expenditure, the number of Afghan National Security Forces originally planned to be maintained always could not be achieved, while the counternarcotic campaign was never enforced effectively, by default or design. As per the US Department of Defense, nearly 2,400 American service members have been killed since the start of US military operations in Afghanistan in 2001 up to mid-2019.
Additionally, over 20,000 US service personnel have been wounded in hostile action and 1,892 have died in hostile action. About 147,000 Afghans have been killed in the Afghanistan war since 2001, including 38,000 civilians, reflecting the misery of the Afghan population.
The irony has also been the frequent policy shift of US deployment in Afghanistan, not only by way of pullouts and reinforcements, but also vacating bases that the Taliban occupied and then trying to re-deploy in the same area. It is for such reasons that the Helmand region, bordering Iran, has become a Taliban stronghold. 
US President Donald Trump’s surprise visit to Bagram in Afghanistan for Thanksgiving, to be with the US troops and powwow with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was perhaps the catalyst for Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) for finally releasing preliminary results of the presidential election on December 22, despite the election being held on September 28.
Why the results were held up for so long remains ambiguous. Ghani appears to be the winner, having won 50.64% of the votes compared to his closest rival, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who won 39.52%. Abdullah’s office has however issued a statement saying, “We would like to make it clear once again to our people, supporters, election commission and our international allies that our team will not accept the result of this fraudulent vote unless our legitimate demands are addressed.”
This indicates continued political strife in Afghanistan. Abdullah had protested the presidential election results in 2014 also, but this time the difference in vote share secured being large, Ghani appears set for the next presidential term. Ghani and Abdullah are both Pashtuns but, irrespective of who is the next President of Afghanistan, it does not change the situation on the ground.
The Taliban are adamant to not have any truck with the Afghan government and, in fact, aim to overthrow them and take control of Afghanistan.
Zalmay Khalilzad, America’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, is trying every trick possible to rope in the Taliban, but is unlikely to succeed with Pakistan continuing its duplicitous game sitting in the lap of Beijing.
Trump’s exhortations that the Taliban are under pressure and desperate to have a deal can hardly fool the American public any more. The converse is actually the case. With the Taliban sitting pretty and supported by China, Russia, Pakistan and Iran directly or indirectly, the ball is in America’s court.
Logically, the US should hit out at the support to the Taliban and Haqqani Network emanating from within Pakistan but, given Trump’s unpredictability, what his next move would be remains a question mark. Within the US, efforts of the Democrats to impeach and send Trump packing will not work because they just do not have the required votes in the Senate.
In fact, there is speculation that it will backfire and strengthen Trump’s chances for a second presidential term. Logically, the US must continue a credible presence in Afghanistan, given that a pullout would result in the possible fall of Kabul to the Taliban and capitulation of the Afghan National Army in some areas.
However, Trump will be under pressure at home, with disclosures like the Afghan Papers and his pre-election promise, to end the war in Afghanistan before his present term ends.
A complete withdrawal from Afghanistan will be catastrophic for the US but Trump may resort to pulling out few thousands before the US election and later weigh reinforcements when he secures his second term. After all, while outlining his policy on Afghanistan in a televised speech from Fort Myers in Virginia on August 21, 2017, Trump had said “it would be counterproductive to announce dates intended to begin or end military options, numbers of troops or our plans for further military activities.”

Friday January 3, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Doctor Tetsu Nakamura, who was killed in Afghanistan earlier this month, was posthumously awarded on Friday a decoration for his contribution to the development of the central Asian country.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe delivered the Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Rosette, and a letter of appreciation to Nakamura’s widow, Naoko, during a ceremony at his office in Tokyo.
“You deepened the friendly relationship between Japan and Afghanistan and made remarkable contributions to expanding humanitarian assistance and international cooperation,” Abe said in the letter.
The 73-year-old doctor and five Afghans were killed as armed men attacked their vehicle in Jalalabad in the eastern province of Nangarhar on Dec. 4. He was head of the Peshawar-kai aid group based in Fukuoka.
Nakamura had been providing medical aid near the Afghan border with Pakistan for years. He was also involved in tree-planting activities and a project to improve water supplies to poverty-stricken areas after a drought hit Afghanistan in 2000.
Naoko Nakamura said her husband’s death was “truly regrettable and disappointing.” But she also told reporters at the Prime Minister’s Office, “I hope there will be more green land in Afghanistan.”
Their daughter Akiko, who also attended the ceremony, said the letter gave encouragement to the Peshawar-kai, which will continue to operate after Nakamura’s death. “It’s my father’s wish and that of our family that it will carry on,” she said.
Afghan Ambassador to Japan Bashir Mohabbat and Peshawar-kai Chairman Masaru Murakami were also present at the ceremony.
The Gold Rays with Rosette is the fourth-highest of six decorations in the Rising Sun order awarded for achievements in international relations and other fields.

Friday November 8, 2019
Kabul (BNA) For decades, Pakistan has played an active however negative role in Afghanistan, a Congressional report has mentioned, asserting that Islamabad desires a weak authorities in Kabul.
In its newest report on Afghanistan, the impartial and bipartisan Congressional Analysis Service (CRS) recognized Pakistan as crucial neighbor of Afghanistan.
Pakistan, it mentioned, has played an active, and by many accounts, a negative role in Afghan affairs for many years.
“Pakistan’s security services maintain ties to Afghan insurgent groups, most notably the Haqqani Network, a US-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) that has become an official, semi-autonomous component of the Taliban,” CRS, which periodically prepares reviews on points of significance for Congressmen for them to make knowledgeable choices, mentioned.
Afghan leaders, together with US army commanders, attribute a lot of the insurgency’s energy and longevity both immediately or not directly to Pakistani help, the report mentioned, including that President Donald Trump has accused Pakistan of “housing the very terrorists that we are fighting”.
US officers have lengthy recognized militant secure havens in Pakistan as a risk to Afghanistan’s safety, although some Pakistani officers dispute the cost, it mentioned
“Pakistan may view a weak and destabilized Afghanistan as preferable to a strong, unified Afghan state (particularly one led by an ethnic Pashtun-dominated government in Kabul; Pakistan has a large and restive Pashtun minority),” the CRS mentioned.
Nevertheless, instability in Afghanistan might rebound to Pakistan’s detriment; Pakistan has struggled with indigenous Islamist militants of its personal, the report added.
Afghanistan-Pakistan relations are additional sophisticated by the presence of over 1,000,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan, as properly an extended-operating and ethnically tinged dispute over their shared 1,600-mile border.
“Pakistan’s security establishment, fearful of a strategic encirclement by India, apparently continues to view the Afghan Taliban as a relatively friendly and reliable anti-India element in Afghanistan,” the CRS mentioned.
“India’s diplomatic and commercial presence in Afghanistan and US rhetorical support for it exacerbates Pakistani fears of encirclement. Indian interest in Afghanistan stems largely from India’s broader regional rivalry with Pakistan, which impedes Indian efforts to establish stronger and more direct commercial and political relations with central Asia,” the CRS mentioned in its newest report on Afghanistan.
The CRS mentioned rebel and terrorist teams have demonstrated appreciable capabilities in 2019, throwing into sharp aid the daunting safety challenges that the Afghan authorities and its US and worldwide companions face. On the similar time, prospects for a negotiated settlement, pushed by direct US-Taliban talks, are unsure in gentle of the September 2019 cancelation of these negotiations and the Taliban’s continued refusal to speak to the Afghan authorities, it mentioned.
The CRS warned {that a} potential collapse of the Afghan army and/or the federal government that instructions it might have vital implications for the US, significantly given the character of negotiated safety preparations.
Regardless of how doubtless the Taliban can be to realize full management overall and even most of the nation, the breakdown of social order and the fracturing of the nation into fiefdoms managed by paramilitary commanders and their respective militias could also be believable, even possible, the report added.


Friday November 8, 2019
Kabul (BNA) Leaked documents have unmasked senior Afghan officials and their families as recent owners of luxury offshore property in Dubai, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism can reveal.
Included in the documents seen by the Bureau are relatives of two former presidents, a presidential candidate whose brother was reported to have flown into the UAE with more than $50 million in cash, and a senior intelligence official whose father was implicated in involvement with the transfer of large sums of money from Afghanistan.
Holding property overseas is not illegal and does not in itself imply any wrongdoing. But concerns have been mounting generally about alleged corruption among some senior Afghan officials. Few, if any, of the properties appear to have been declared on official registers, as is required by Afghanistan’s often ignored and broadly ineffective anti-corruption rules.
The evidence of luxury property ownership in Dubai raises concerns that merit further investigation, according to a leading anti-corruption charity.
“It’s too easy for officials to buy property in Dubai with anonymity,” said Maira Matini, from Transparency International. “There's no information available that would help detect wrongdoing. There needs to be more transparency.
“This doesn’t mean that those officials are corrupt,” she added. “However, it does raise red flags and needs to be investigated by the authorities.”
Over the past twenty years, Afghanistan has been rocked by numerous corruption scandals, some of which have gone to the very top. From wartime contracts to unchecked foreign aid and CIA suitcases full of cash funneled to favored politicians and warlords, corruption has proved a stubborn problem to solve. The U.S. special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction has said: “While Afghanistan undoubtedly had a corruption problem prior to 2001, U.S. and coalition spending acted as gasoline thrown on an already burning fire.”
Despite numerous initiatives, critics have lambasted government programs to tackle corruption, with one calling them “cosmetic.”
The reputation of the Afghan government has ramifications for the country as a whole. Last month the U.S. announced it would cut $160 million in aid, accusing Afghanistan of failing to fight corruption—only a week before the country’s presidential elections began. It is rare for Washington to withhold direct funding from Kabul, which relies heavily on its support.
The Bureau’s findings are based on a leak of property data in Dubai, first obtained by the U.S. non-profit C4ADS and shared with the Bureau by Finance Uncovered and OCCRP. The Bureau then cross-referenced this data against official and public records to corroborate the findings.
The results shed light on assets held in the usually secretive emirate. The Bureau found numerous Afghan officials and relatives have recently owned property in Dubai, including members of prominent political families that have been linked to some of Afghanistan’s biggest corruption scandals.
One leading Afghan found to have owned property in Dubai is Ahmad Wali Massoud, who is currently running for president. A leaked diplomatic cable alleged that in October 2009, his brother Ahmad Zia Massoud, then the vice-president of Afghanistan, flew into the UAE with $52 million in cash.
Also in the records was Adib Ahmad Fahim, a senior intelligence official. His late father, General Mohammed Qasim Fahim, another former vice-president, was identified as the part owner of Pamir Airways in a U.S. diplomatic cable. The airline was believed to have ferried money to Dubai hidden in airplane food trays. Fahim’s uncle Haseen was also a major shareholder in Kabul bank, which was at the centre of a massive scandal over millions of dollars allegedly given out in suspect insider loans before it collapsed in 2010.
Ghulam Farooq Wardak, the state minister for parliamentary affairs, appears in the records with his wife. They recently owned two properties in exclusive areas of Dubai, including one on Jumeirah beach.
Wardak was previously Afghanistan’s education minister, and his successor in the post raised concerns over possible corruption at the ministry. An investigation ordered by President Ashraf Ghani is said to have found evidence of embezzlement within the ministry and inaccurate data records on the number of schools that diverted money from donors.
Two members of Afghanistan’s parliament appear in the list. Saleh Mohammad Lala Gul and Feda Mohammad Ulfat, who are father and son, owned a villa in the springs and another in the Jumeirah Park area. Both are flashy residences with features such as man-made lakes and swimming pools.
Close relatives of two former presidents also appear in the list. One is Fatima Rabbani, whose late father, Burhanuddin Rabbani, led Afghanistan in the late 1990s. Her brother was, until this week, a foreign affairs minister. She runs various businesses in Dubai, including an upmarket restaurant and a business selling luxury products with the niece of another person in the records, former Afghan ambassador to Jordan, Sayed Mohammad Gailani.
The other is Mahmood Karzai, the brother of the former president Hamid Karzai. He was also a shareholder of Kabul bank and, alongside Fahim’s uncle, there have been concerns that he sought to use his closeness to the very top of Afghanistan’s leadership to assist in protecting the bank from greater scrutiny.
In an email, Mahmood Karzai confirmed ownership of a property in Dubai and said he had lived in the country since 2007. He denied any wrongdoing or corruption, and said he had attempted to sue the private investigation firm Kroll for a report it wrote alleging misconduct on his part in Afghanistan.
None of the other people named in the records responded to multiple requests for comment in English, Dari or Pashto.
Afghan law appears to require people in positions of authority – known as “politically exposed persons”—to publicly declare their assets and source of funds, as well as those of their close relatives. Few, if any, of the individuals named in the leaked Dubai documents appear to have declared such assets, but experts say the laws are not fit for purpose, and contain many loopholes that could allow someone to not disclose an asset without breaching the rules.
Sayed Ikram Afzali, the director of anti-corruption organization Integrity Watch Afghanistan, said the disclosure system had proved useless.
“The asset forms are largely incomplete, the data published is inconsistent and not verified, and even at times contradictory. You could say it’s a useless system,” he said. “It’s an ineffective system and it's not meant to be effective. It's a system the government is following to keep international donors happy.
“I doubt that the Afghan government means to achieve anything through this process, aside from ticking a box to keep the international community happy,” Afzali added.
Anti-corruption efforts in Afghanistan have a checkered history. President Karzai attempted to clamp down on corruption, partly in efforts to please international partners, setting up an anti-corruption office in 2008 whose duties included registering the assets of public officials. The office was quickly mired in controversy—after damning criticism of its first attempts, Karzai appointed a new head, choosing an official who had been previously accused of election fraud.
That office was eventually shut down, and there have been successive attempts to get Afghan officials to register their assets. Stronger legislation was introduced in 2017, but years on, asset registration for officials is seen as a failure.
The body in charge of the current register has been placed under the office of the president, raising concerns from anti-corruption activists. Questions have been raised over its independence: its latest director, Naheed Esar, has recently been appointed the new deputy foreign minister.
Sarah Chayes, an anti-corruption expert who has advised the U.S. military in Afghanistan, said the Afghanistan needed to work on tackling corruption and rebuilding trust in its ruling class in a root and branch way.
“Corruption in Afghanistan is systemic. It is perpetrated by networks,” she said.
“For years I heard comments from my neighbors like: ‘The Taliban shakes us down at night, and the government shakes us down in the daytime.’” Chayes added: “The difference is, the government is supposed to be upholding the law, but is violating it.”


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