Saturday, March 15, 2014

Afghan President Karzai says US tropps can leave Afghanistan , Afghan forces capable of defending the country on its own - Final going away shot ! The April 5 , 2014 Election should be a tell as to whether Karzai is correct.......

Karzai says US troops can leave Afghanistan

In final address to parliament, outgoing president says Afghan forces are capable of defending country on their own.


Last updated: 15 Mar 2014 15:11
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Hamid Karzai is resisting pressure to sign a post-2014 security agreement with the US [AP]

The outgoing president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, has told the United States in his final address to parliament that US soldiers can leave the country at the end of the year.

Karzai said on Saturday that his military was ready to take over because it already protected 93 percent of the country, and were strong enough to defend Afghanistan without assistance.

Karzai has refused to sign a security agreement with the US, which would allow US forces to remain in the country from 2015 and beyond, and said he would not do so until peace is achieved.

All 10 presidential candidates for the April 5 election have said they would sign the security agreement if elected. But Karzai does not want his legacy to include a commitment to extending a foreign military presence.

"I want to say to all those foreign countries who, maybe out of habit, or because they want to interfere, that they should not interfere," Karzai said.

He added that the war in Afghanistan was "imposed" on his nation and told the US that it could bring peace to Afghanistan if it went after "terrorist sanctuaries" and countries that supported "terrorism", a reference to Pakistan.

Tense relations

During Saturday's speech, the Afghan president urged Taliban fighters to join the peace process, but also accused Pakistan of protecting the Taliban's leadership.

Karzai also suggested that Pakistan was behind the killing of a Taliban leader who supported the peace process. The suggestion was an apparent reference to Mawlawi Abdul Raqib, who was shot dead in Pakistan's Peshawar last month. No one has taken responsibility for the killing.

Karzai also spoke of his accomplishments over the past 12 years, saying schools were functioning, rights were given to women, energy projects were coming online and the Afghanistan currency had stabilised.

"I know the future president will protect these gains and priorities and will do the best for peace in the country and I, as an Afghan citizen, will support peace and will cooperate," he said.

Karzai will step down after next month's presidential elections. Under Afghanistan's constitution, he is banned from seeking a third term.



Taliban vow to disrupt Afghanistan elections

Group issues its harshest threat yet against anyone participating in April's presidential polls, calling them a "sham".


 Last updated: 10 Mar 2014 10:55
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Afghanistan is to hold both provincial and presidential polls next month amid threats of violence by Taliban [AFP]

Kabul - The Taliban has warned Afghans not to participate in next month’s presidential polls and to stay away from voting booths, saying it will use "all force" to disrupt the vote.

Monday’s statement, the group's harshest on the elections so far, came 26 days ahead of the nation’s third presidential and provincial council polls.

We once again call on all of our countrymen to keep away from electoral offices, voting booths, rallies and campaigns so that may Allah forbid, their lives are not put into danger.
-Taliban statement
The group had released previous statements warning the Afghan people not to participate in the April 5 ballot, but Monday’s appeared to be the most strongly-worded yet.

The Taliban vowed to "use all force at its disposal to disrupt these upcoming sham elections; target all its workers, activists, callers, security apparatus and offices and the nation.

"It is the religious obligation of every Afghan to fulfil their duty by foiling the latest plot of the invaders that is guised in the garb of elections," the nation’s largest armed opposition movement said in the statement, which was posted online.

The statement went on to urge religious scholars, educators, and "famous personalities" to "inform the entire nation … make it known to each and every person of this society that their casting ballots and participation is considered assistance of the Kuffar [infidels] and their stooges against Islam".

It urged "the nation" to hinder any process that would allow schools, mosques, clinics and other public places to be used as registration and polling centres.

"We once again call on all of our countrymen to keep away from electoral offices, voting booths, rallies and campaigns so that may Allah forbid, their lives are not put into danger. If anyone still persists on participating then they are solely responsible of any loss in the future."

In the capital alone, three high schools have already been delegated as registration centres.

Healthcare fears

Since campaigning began on February 2, teams working for the front-runners,  Doctor Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani, have both been attacked. The Taliban took credit for at least two attacks on Abdullah’s team in Herat and Sar-e Pol provinces.

Speaking to Al Jazeera last month, Medecins Sans Frontieres, said using medical facilities for polling and registration centres could further hinder access to healthcare.

The Taliban also threatened to attack the 2009 polls, which were marked by accusations of corruption on all sides. That election saw 73 violent incidents across 15 of the country's 34 provinces.

The Independent Election Commission reported 35 percent of registered voters turned out for the 2009 polls despite the threats.



Drone deaths rise in Afghanistan and Yemen

UN report says civilian deaths in 2013 increase in two nations, but no evidence of any similar casualty in Pakistan.

Last updated: 12 Mar 2014 20:27
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Emmerson urged all nations to "comply with their obligations under international law" [AFP]

The UN special investigator on counterterrorism has expressed his concern over civilian deaths from drone strikes in Yemen and Afghanistan, but says there has been a "significant de-escalation" in civilian casualties recorded in Pakistan.

UN special rapporteur Ben Emmerson presented his report to the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva on Wednesday, highlighting at least 59 civilian casualties in 19 drone strikes in 2013 in Afghanistan, a significant rise on the previous year.

In Yemen, he said: "The frequency of armed drone strikes appears to have intensified, particularly during the closing months of 2013, with a sharp escalation in the number of reported civilian casualties."

They included an attack in December, where at least 12 people believed to be part of a wedding convoy were killed.

"But or the first time in nine years there were no reports of civilian casualties during 2013 in the [tribal areas] of Pakistan," he said.

Emmerson said the US military had reduced attacks against armed groups, limiting strikes to high-value targets in response to the country's growing criticism of the programme. The total number of recorded strikes in 2013 was down to 27 from a peak of 128 in 2010, he said.

Pakistan says drone strikes hamper efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban and breach national sovereignty.

However, rights group Amnesty International said that Emmerson's report may not be a definitive study of all drone strikes, and is based on the information that was available to him.

"Last year there were some reports that specific drone strikes resulted in civilian casualties [in Pakistan], but owing to the prevailing secrecy of the US programme and restrictions on access to these remote and lawless areas, it was impossible for us to investigate these claims further," said Mustafa Qadri, Amnesty's Pakistan researcher and co-author of the group's report into civilian casualties in the country.

He added that it was "impossible to give absolute answers because of legal issues of who may and may not be a 'combatant' or otherwise be lawfully targetable" without the US being fully transparent about their operations.

"How and when strikes happen, who is being targeted and why - this uncertainty will remain, and victims will not be able to get the justice they deserve," Qadri told Al Jazeera.

But Emmerson told Al Jazeera that his team "received no reports from any reliable source alleging civilian casualties during 2013 in Pakistan".

Emmerson recommended the council to adopt a resolution aimed at urging all states to "comply with their obligations under international law" and launching independent fact-finding inquiries into strikes in which civilians are reported to have been injured or killed.