Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Sir Nicholas Kay KCMG has been appointed as NATO’s next Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan, as confirmed by a press release by the British embassy in Kabul.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced the appointment at a NATO Foreign Ministers meeting on 5 December 2018. Sir Nicholas will take up his appointment in March 2019.
The Senior Civilian Representative acts as the primary link between the Afghan Government and NATO, and helps to ensure the success of the NATO Resolute Support mission which provides training, advice and assistance to Afghanistan’s security and police forces, according to the statement.
UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt said with regards to the appointment that “Sir Nicholas Kay will bring a wealth of experience on the political developments in Afghanistan in his new role as NATO’s Special Civilian Representative and I would like to thank him for his tireless work as the British Ambassador to Afghanistan.
Despite the violence, we have seen tentative steps towards a peace process beginning to emerge and the UK, along with our international partners, stands firmly with the Afghan government to support their efforts to build peace”.
Sir Nicholas, on being appointed for the prestigious position also expressed, “It is a great honour to be entrusted by Secretary General Stoltenberg to be NATO’s SCR in Afghanistan. I pay tribute to the remarkable work of Ambassador Zimmermann, the outgoing SCR. My top priority will be to lead NATO’s political and diplomatic efforts to bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan. I shall work closely with the Government of Afghanistan and the international community to make 2019 a year of progress towards sustainable peace in Afghanistan.”
A delegation from Yemen’s Saudi-backed government has left for Sweden on Wednesday to attend the peace talks with members of the Iran-aligned Houthi group, in a renewed U.N. impetus to end the war.
A representative of the internationally recognised government, Abdullah al-Alimi, tweeted that the talks were “a true opportunity for peace,” before his team flew out of the Saudi capital Riyadh.
Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates want to exit a war in Yemen that has been running for 4 years.
Western allies, which provide arms and intelligence to the coalition, have also upped pressure on the two allies to find a way to end the conflict which is seen as a ‘proxy war’ between Sunni Muslim power Riyadh and Shi’ite Tehran.
The U.N. special envoy Martin Griffiths secured some confidence-building measures, including the evacuation of Houthi wounded, to help persuade the movement to attend the talks in Sweden.
The Houthi delegation arrived in Stockholm on Tuesday. They had previously failed to turn up for previous talks in Geneva in September.
The latest round of talks which is to be in Stockholm, will focus on agreeing other confidence-building steps and the formation of a transitional governing body.
Mohammad Faisal Amin, the Ministry of Higher Education spokesperson announced on Wednesday in a press conference that the ministry has recently included a curriculum of 165 educational fields of study in the curriculum development plan. Within this, law and agriculture will be reviewed while 65 other clusters are to be revised by the end of the year, he said.
Amin also added that the goal of this review process is to meet the standard requirements of the market in order to provide quality education.
He pointed that “More than 70% developmental project of the Ministry of Higher Education is spent transparently from the beginning of FY 1397, and till the end of fiscal year 1397, the percentage will increase up to 90%”.
Amin said that around 1590 students have been sent abroad for professional degrees and 170 professors have completed their masters within Afghanistan, while 484 of them as well as the staff have been sent outside the country for masters degrees. Additionally, 38 more have been sent abroad for PhD programs.
He concluded at the press conference that the ministry of higher education strives to “ensure the fair distribution of scholarships and to increase transparency in the field “.
The Presidential palace released a statement informing that President Ghani met with the Spanish Defense Minister María Margarita Robles Fernández on Wednesday.
According to the statement, the two discussed development of relations, fighting against terrorism, peace process and reforms in security organisation.
The ministry of Defense has released a statement informing that due to ANA airstrikes and clearing operations in Gelan, Nawa and Khogyani districts of Ghazni province, 72 insurgents were killed. Additionally, 25 insurgents were killed in Jaghuri district of Ghazni as a result of ANA commandos’ clearing operations.
Included in these 72 were 40 Pakistani insurgents as well a Taliban local commander. 2 others were wounded and 17 were arrested.
The statement also added that 18 vehicles, and 45 motorbikes were destroyed in the operations.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani claimed on Tuesday that United States has made 11 attempts to begin negotiations with Iran in the last two years, which were all rejected by Tehran, “Last year America requested negotiations eight times directly and this year three times indirectly which we did not accept on the basis of the dignity of the people.”
“If you think America is victorious, know that today Iran is victorious and Trump has been defeated,” Rouhani said in comments reported by the Islamic Republic of Iran Broadcasting (IRIB) news agency.
As relations between US and Iran have become stiff due to reimposition of US sanctions on Iran and Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear agreement.
The Presidential Palace released a statement on Monday informing that as President Ghani and Afghan government observe the International Day for the Elimination of Violence against Women, the President has expressed that violence against women is a crime, and will not be tolerated at any level.
“While growing up in pre-war Afghanistan, violence against women was an unknown phenomenon to us. Unfortunately, it has become a maniac to haunt our women over the past 40 years of conflict,” said President Ghani.
President Ghani said that a majority of women who are in need of help from law enforcement and prosecutors are in provinces, not Kabul. So in order to incentivize recruitment of more female prosecutors and attorneys in provinces, President Ghani pledged 30 percent extra pay if women choose to work in provinces.
He also announced awarding State Medal of Malalai to Seena Shina Mansoor, Deputy Attorney General for Elimination of Violence against Women, and State Medal of Sayyid Jamaludin Afghan to Attorney General, Farid Hamidi, for his efforts to eradicate violence against women through prosecution and law enforcement, and taking measures to increase women’s presence at Attorney General’s Office. Two years ago, female staff consisted only 3 percent of Attorney General’s Office and provincial offices, this year it has risen to 20 percent. Furthermore, Attorney General’s Office investigated over 10,000 cases of violence against women, and ensured increased access of women to justice.
While insisting on women’s further presence at in the government, he said that the government is committed to close the gender gap in the government. In a first, President Ghani announced appointment of a female Deputy Minister for Policy at Ministry of Interior.
At the end, he reiterated that the government is taking the sexual abuse allegations in Afghan Football Federation seriously.
“We will not tolerate any kind of sexual offense against our women,” he said.
The Iranian Ambassador to Kabul, Mohammad Reza Bahrami on Tuesday said that bringing peace in Afghanistan by using military force is not possible.
He said that it is crucial that Afghans themselves lead the peace process.
This comes after several US commanders and leaders have admitted that the war in Afghanistan cannot be won militarily.