Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg has reiterated support for Afghanistan, saying the allies committed to supporting Afghanistan and Afghan security forces.
Speaking to media reporters at the start of NATO defense ministerial in Brussels, Stoltenberg declared that NATO’s allies are united for Afghanistan which Norway and Germany have offered to facilitate intra-Afghan talks.
NATO Chief called on the Taliban to show their commitment to reduce violence.
“The Taliban has to demonstrate a real will and ability to deliver reduction in violence to make it possible to have any progress towards lasting and sustainable peace solution in Afghanistan.
They should understand that they will never win through war,” he said.
Stoltenberg added that the best way to support peace for NATO is to remain committed.
Independent U.S. Sen. Angus King of Maine told fellow members of the Senate Armed Services Committee that anti-terrorist efforts will require some level of troop support in certain areas of the world, including Afghanistan.
King says he doesn’t believe its being made clear to the American people that relatively small troop deployments will have to be maintained as part of the war on terror. He spoke with retired U.S. Army Gen. John Keane, who says troops will be needed to keep pressure on terrorist pockets.
“Keep our foot on their throat in Syria to make sure they don’t re-emerge,” Keane says.
“I think you would agree … if that’s going to be the case, somebody has got to tell the American people,” King says. “Is a case you would make to the American people that this is a place where we need an indefinite presence — not at a terribly high level but at a level that will enable us to keep our foot on the throats of the terrorists?”
“I totally agree with that assessment,” Keane says.
King says he is also concerned about the quality of the information from administration sources that the Armed Services Committee is getting about the need to support anti-terrorist efforts. He says that information is often different from what he’s told as a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee.
Kabul Garrison commander says that terrorist attacks in Kabul have fallen by 50 percent lately.
“In the past year, the terrorist attacks have dropped by 50 percent because the fight against terrorism is a top priority,” said General Raz Mohammad, the Kabul Garrison commander during a joint meeting of sector ministries, civil and military departments.
“Kabul security team put the fight against terrorism a priority during the past year which resulted in downing terrorist attacks by 50 percent,” he added.
The Afghan State Minister for Peace Affairs, Abdul Salam Rahimi has met with Deputy Chief of Mission, Ms. Karen Decker and Dante Paradiso, head of peace and reconciliation unit in US embassy Kabul.
The office of Peace State Minister in a statement said that the Afghan and American officials talked about the peace process progress and issues related to Qatar talks.
“Had a good exchange of views with Ms. Karen Decker and Mr. Dante Paradiso. We discussed developments in the Afghan peace process and issues related to Doha negotiation,” Rahimi said.
During the meeting, Rahimi also briefed US officials about the effective measures of Afghan government for Taliban prisoners.
In the meantime, DCM Karen Decker also emphasized on Taliban’s reduction of violence with the Afghan government.
This comes as the National Unity Government leaders have talked to US secretary of state Mike Pompeo regarding the progress made in the ongoing peace process.
A member of the Pashtun Tahafuz Movement (PTM) has said the Pakistani military establishment has been supporting the Taliban and using them against Afghanistan.
Mustafa Miakheil said that hundreds of madrasas exist in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa where the Taliban gets training under the patronage of the Pakistani Army.
“Many madrasas are located in Peshawar like the Haqqani madrasa, where some 10 lakh people come to study. When they come out, they engage in terror activities in Kashmir and Kabul. In Pakistan, there are 400 big madrasas. Every year, 200 to 300 Taliban passed out from each madrasa. Who is sponsoring them? It is the army!” Miakheil said.
The Pakistan Army claims to have launched operations against the Taliban in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in the war against terror. However, civilians are being targeted in those areas while the Taliban breathes free, the activist said.
“The situation there (Khyber Pakhtunkhwa) is very bad. There are no media. We don’t get our rights as Pakistan do not consider as its citizen. We say that we are Pakistanis; they say no, you are `traitors’. We say that we love this country, but they don’t believe us. This has been continuing for the past 70 years. Pakistan Army has killed some 70,000 people in the tribal areas. It bombarded our houses. Everything is destroyed there,” he added.
The Pashtuns have been holding protests in parts of Pakistan and the rest of the world to raise their voice against brutalities by the Pakistani establishment.
Recently, security forces arrested PTM chief Manzoor Pashteen for raising voice against the Army over targeting, abducting, and killing the Pashtuns.
John Sopko, the special inspector general for Afghanistan reconstruction, told US Congress that measuring progress on America’s longest war is virtually impossible with even the most basic facts trapped behind an ever-expanding umbrella of secrecy.
“Every time we find something that looks like it’s going negative, it gets classified … Most of the [methods] of measuring success are now classified,” he said in testimony before the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee.
Sopko said it is impossible to gauge whether the Afghanistan government could keep order in its country if the U.S. military pulled out because the capabilities of Afghanistan’s army and police force are unknown.
“One question we would like to ask the Afghans is how many people [they] control and how much territory, and that’s now not relevant, apparently … It’s all secret, classified,” he told the Senate panel. “$64 billion has gone to training and assisting the Afghan military and I can’t tell you or the American people [how capable they are], that’s in part because we allow the Afghan government to classify what I can tell you and tell the taxpayer. How many Afghan soldiers do we have? We’re still trying to figure out how many we’re paying for. How many Afghan police are there, really? We don’t know.”
In 2008, Congress created the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, known as SIGAR, to investigate fraud and waste in the war.
The ineffectiveness and pervasive corruption in Afghanistan’s army and police long have been a top concern for U.S. military leaders. Sopko has been a bullhorn on Capitol Hill, raising the alarm of incompetence and bureaucratic failures from the U.S. and Afghanistan governments for the past 18 years of war, which has killed more than 7,000 American troops, including two Green Berets who died last week in combat.
“The Afghan military — and particularly the Afghan police — has been a hopeless nightmare and a disaster,” Sopko said last week while testifying before the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
What the U.S. and the Afghanistan government end up classifying is an ever-ballooning list intended to cover up the failures of the war, according to Sopko.
“We have a list of everything that’s classified and it keeps growing,” he said Tuesday before the Senate panel. “The latest is looking at the Afghan special forces. It’s great, we’ve put a lot of money in that. But looking at the number of independent missions the Afghan Special Forces are doing has gone down. I would bet you that next quarter, that database will be classified.”
Tuesday’s hearing was an effort by senators to follow up on the Afghanistan Papers, the Washington Post’s reporting series based on hundreds of confidential interviews that SIGAR conducted with key figures of the nearly two-decade war that showed the projections of progress in Afghanistan were deliberately misleading despite overwhelming evidence the war had become an unwinnable quagmire.
“We cannot show any progress, we lost a trillion dollars, we lost thousands of lives,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo. “I just don’t see what’s going on here. I don’t think anybody really knows what we’re doing.”
Afghanistan’s exports of pine nuts to China through the Turkish Airlines resumed on Sunday, Feb 9 after a 20-day pause.
The Turkish Airlines had paused flights to China over concerns about the spread of the coronavirus and the Chinese New Year.
According to the Chamber of Investment and Commerce officials, Afghanistan exported 2,000 tons of pine nuts in 2019, compared to 1,070 tons.
Meanwhile, pine nut exporters have expressed concerns over the lack of proper cold storage facilities in Afghanistan that causes millions of dollars loss to investors.
Georgian soldiers from the III infantry brigade have been recognized for their service in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in northern Afghanistan, receiving awards for exemplary service from the Multinational Battalion commander and Lieutenant Colonel Wolfgang Schroeder.
The III infantry brigade will return back to Georgia without losses.
A company of Georgian soldiers of the III infantry brigade will replace the hundred Georgian soldiers to join NATO’s Resolute Support mission in northern Afghanistan to provide security and participate in fast-response operations for the next seven months.
The Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan was launched in 2015 and involves about 17,000 personnel from nearly 40 NATO member and partner countries.
Georgia is the largest non-NATO contributor to the Resolute Support mission with 870 soldiers.