Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The International Criminal Court was packed Wednesday as hearings began over whether prosecutors can investigate potential war crimes in Afghanistan.
Fergal Gaynor, a lawyer representing a group of 86 victims, told the court for atrocity crimes that it is “the only jurisdiction in the world…that can offer the victims a prompt and impartial investigation into the brutal crimes committed against them.”
The ICC prosecutor’s office, the government of Afghanistan, five groups representing victims and more than 20 nonprofit groups will be heard in the case, which seeks to investigate war crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban, the Afghan government and the United States armed forces during the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.
ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda sought authorization to initiate proceedings in 2017, writing that “there is a reasonable basis to believe that…crimes within the court’s jurisdiction have occurred.”
That request was denied in April when the ICC’s pretrial chamber, a panel of three judges, pointed to the “scarce cooperation obtained by the prosecutor” during the preliminary investigation.
The denial came a month after U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that the Trump administration planned to revoke or deny visas to anyone from the ICC involved in the Afghanistan investigation.
The prosecutor and several groups appealed the denial and Wednesday marked the first day of hearings in that appeal.
The Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and the leader of the “Stability and Partnership” visited the Enlightening Movement (Junbish-e Roshnayee) hill on Thursday.
The Executive Office in a statement said that the CE Abdullah along with his supporters visited the Enlightening Movement hill and said, “We gather here in remembrance of the martyrs of the enlightenment movement and declaring our support for the enlightenment and the justice movements.”
In the meantime, a member of the Junbish e Roshnayee, Zulfaqar Omid declared that the Stability and Partnership team had explicitly accepted two major issues of the movement; one of which was to cross the 500 kV line through main route and the second to cancel the entrance exam rationing.
The leaders of the “Satbility and Partnership” have also laid a stone on the hill which was carved with all identities of the Junbish e Roshnayee martyrs.
However, the presence of CE Abdullah in the Junbish e Roshnayee hill followed by the reactions of some members of the Enlightening Movement members.
“The presence of Abdullah at the Junbish e Roshnayee hill is at least an acknowledgement of the legitimacy of the intellectual of the movement, which is not enough. For now there is nothing to say to Mohaqiq and Sa’adati. But they should tell Abdullah that the martyrs had a claim that still exists. We want electricity and the switch of electricity,” Dawood Naji, a member of the Enlightening Movement said.
The Enlightenment Movement was set up to demand an unjustified change of Turkmenistan’s electricity transmission route from Bamyan to Salang in 2016, and repeatedly protested that the two-day demonstration of the same year had been targeted by a suicide bomber, which resulted more than 200 people killed and wounded.
Afghan presidential candidate Rahmatullah Nabil on Thursday said the Presidential election process is based on politics, not on a legitimate, fair procedure and the process is deadlocked.
During a press conference in Kabul, Nabil said, “There are efforts underway to draw in the security forces to take sides in the election.”
He emphasized that he had lost hope that clean votes would be separated from unclean votes.
“Our demand is that “valid” and “invalid” votes be separated so the people of Afghanistan win,” he said.
Nabil noted that the Taliban should declare ceasefire and that a reconciliation government should be formed, headed by one who would be acceptable to all sides.
He stressed that Afghans don’t want Taliban’s emirate, but neither current republic which violates laws.
The candidate added that the peace process should turn from US-Pakistan-Taliban process to intra-Afghan process.
The World Bank has warned that the war-stricken country will still require billions of dollars in international aid over many years after a peace deal to deliver basic services and sustain any potential peace.
As per the NYT report, eighteen years of expensive American and NATO military presence marked by inefficient funneling of billions of dollars has shaped an economy almost entirely dependent on foreign aid.
The country’s $11 billion in public expenditure each year is a far cry from its modest revenues, which even after recent improvements barely reach $2.5 billion, officials and analysts say. The difference, about 75 percent of expenses, is footed by grants from international partners, particularly the United States.
A new World Bank report, titled “Financing Peace,” addresses the idea that American and other international donors to Afghanistan see a potential deal with the Taliban as what one official described as an “out of jail card” to significantly reduce their costs in Afghanistan, particularly on the civilian side.
The report warns that even after a settlement with the Taliban the country would still require financial assistance at near current levels, as much as $7 billion a year for several years to come, to be able to sustain its most basic services.
About half of Afghanistan’s public expenditure goes to a security force of around 300,000 members who are locked in an intensifying war with the Taliban.
Officials do not expect the size of that force, too large for its own means, to shrink immediately after a peace deal; in fact, it would be likely to grow if part of a peace deal involved integrating Taliban fighters into the security forces.
Afghans across the country are shocked at the killing of Japanese physician Tetsu Nakamura, who was gunned down with five Afghans in a roadside shooting the previous day in eastern Nangarhar province.
A candlelight vigil is planned in Kabul for later on Thursday.
Hundreds of social media posts have expressed sorrow and outrage over the attack.
One post carries a drawing of the 73-year-old physician who had been in Afghanistan since 2008, taking the lead in water projects in rural areas. His services to the people earned him the nickname ”Uncle Murad.”
The words beneath the drawing read: “Sorry we couldn’t save you Nakamura.”
The Taliban issued a statement soon after the shooting denying responsibility for the attack. Police say their investigation is still looking for those behind the attack.
Afghan security officials say at least ten civilians were killed during the past 24 hours in Faryab province.
The Faryab Police Press office in a press release said that at least ten civilians were killed and wounded during the clashes, mortars firing by Taliban on three districts of the province.
According to the press release, at least six civilians including women and children were wounded in Qaisar district and two other civilians were killed in Shirin Tagap district.
In the meantime, two other civilians were killed by Taliban mortar firing in Dawalat Abad district of the province, the press release added.
This comes as the civilian casualties have been increased compared to other times in the country.
The Turkistan Islamic Movement, a largely Uighur jihadist group that is affiliated with al Qaeda and also operates in Syria, has released a new video showcasing it’s men fighting in Afghanistan.
As per the Long War Journal report, the video, dated for November 2019, is largely a photo montage featuring its fighters and their families. However, it also serves to tout its spoils taken from the Afghan military.
Dozens of Turkistan Islamic Movement’s men can be seen with captured Afghan military vehicles, including several Humvees. Captured weapons, including M16 and M4 variant rifles, can also be seen in the hands of the jihadists.
According to Log War Journal report, in several photos, child soldiers, a recurring theme within movement’s propaganda, are also shown with the older militants.
This is not the first time the Turkistan Islamic Movement has highlighted captured Afghan equipment and vehicles. Last year, it released a combat video from Afghanistan which showed several captured Humvees in the aftermath of the battle.
In 2015, a similar video was released in which another Humvee was captured in skirmishes with the Afghan military.
Two decades after fleeing Taliban-ruled Afghanistan with her family, Nadia Nadim is ready to go home.
“I don’t know if it’s ever going be safe,” the Paris Saint-German striker said in an interview with The Associated Press. “But I’ll take the chance.”
The risks are worth it for the 31-year-old Nadim, who is planning her first trip back to Afghanistan since leaving the country as a child. She is hoping to change mindsets and inspire girls to follow her onto the soccer field.
“The message I want to deliver to these kids is that everything’s possible and then telling them what they’re doing is not wrong,” Nadim said. “Playing football is not a sin. You’re not doing anything wrong. It’s a sport. It’s something that makes you happy.
“And the people around them, if I can try to teach them or show them that if you love these girls, they can become people like me.”
For Nadim, the chance to become that person only came about because of a family tragedy and a move to Denmark. Her career as an athlete would have been unimaginable in Afghanistan, especially after the Taliban seized control in 1996. Girls were not allowed to go to school, let alone play soccer.
But one day, Nadim’s father an Afghan military general was summoned to meet with the Taliban leaders and never returned.
“Growing up in a country where there is war and where girls weren’t really allowed anything, it was extremely hard,” she recalled. “Having my dad killed when I was young and escaping the country was no joke … and I’m just happy that I got a second chance and I made the best out of my second chance.”
The US State Department on Wednesday said that Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad will rejoin the talks with the Taliban in Doha to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement to the ongoing conflict in the country.
“In Kabul, Special Representative Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government representatives and other Afghan leaders to follow up on President Trump’s recent visit and to discuss how best to support accelerated efforts to get all parties to intra-Afghan negotiations. In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire,” the US department statement reads.
In the meantime, Khalilzad met with the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Wednesday and the two sides exchanged views related to the peace process.
During the meeting, President Ghani stressed on a ceasefire in the peace talks between US and Taliban and the group’s hideouts outside Afghanistan’s soil.
Khalilzad’s next stop will be Doha in the Middle East where he will restart talks with the Taliban, according to a U.S. State Department statement.
The talks would be the first official round since September when President Donald Trump declared an all but done deal dead after a surge in violence killed 12 people in the capital, including a U.S. soldier.