Sunday, September 14, 2014

Afghanistan Updates ( September 14 , 2014 ) - With Results from the Runoff Election between Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani due to be brought forward this week , Indecision , speculation , veiled threats of protests - all reign supreme as to what happens next ......US Has Failed to Curb Afghan Graft: SIGAR........... UN threatens to cut Afghanistan aid if election staff harassed ....... WH Wants Unity Govt. Vow Honored ....... Afghanistan blames US for killing civilians President Hamid Karzai's office says US air strike killed at least 11 civilians in eastern Kunar province.........

Taliban leave a calling card....

RIA Novosti....

16 Injured in Powerful Blast Near US Embassy in Kabul: Reports

A powerful explosion occurred near the main entrance to the United States Embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, leaving 16 people injured
09:49 16/09/2014
Tags: US embassy attackTalibanAbdullah AbdullahAfghanistanKabul
MOSCOW, September 16 (RIA Novosti) - A powerful explosion occurred near the main entrance to the United States Embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, leaving 16 people injured, Agence France Presse (AFP) reported on Tuesday.
The explosion targeting a foreign military convoy was carried out at 8:00 a.m. local time (3:30 GMT) during heavy rush-hour traffic on the Kabul Airport road according to AFP. The blast was the result of a suicide car bomber and destroyed at least one vehicle from the convoy, according to Afghan officials.
Afghan sources say at least 16 people have been injured as a result. Ambulances were sent to the scene as sirens blared.
The attack comes as Afghanistan decides on a new leader, the first time power has been transferred democratically in the country. The country's two presidential contenders, Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah continue negotiations to create a national unity government. Reports claim Taliban insurgents have taken advantage of the presidential election's ongoing stalemate and accusations of election fraud to launch attacks. In July, a Taliban suicide bomber killed four people in an attack outside of Kabul airport.

Al Jazeera....

Soldiers killed in Taliban attack in Kabul

Taliban claims responsibility for attack on military convoy in Afghanistan's capital as political deadlock continues.

Last updated: 16 Sep 2014 08:05
A Taliban suicide bombing has killed at least six soldiers, including three members of the NATO force ISAF, and wounded more than 25 others near the US embassy in Kabul, according to police sources in Afghanistan's capital.
The car bomber attacked a military convoy just a couple of hundred yards from the embassy compound at about 8am (0330 GMT) on Tuesday, causing a huge blast that rattled the neighbourhood, the police said.
Faird Afzalai, chief of criminal investigations for Kabul's police, confirmed reports that the bomber targeted a foreign convoy. Three of the victims were Afghan soldiers.
Our complete Afghanistan coverage
The blast happened near the country's Supreme Court on a busy road that runs from the heavily fortified US embassy to Kabul airport.
In the aftermath of the explosion, which occurred during heavy rush-hour traffic, Afghan and foreign troops secured the area as fire and rescue vehicles moved in.
At the side of the road, foreign troops gave first-aid to some blood-stained fellow soldiers from the convoy.
About a half dozen cars stood damaged, and investigators inspected an empty black 4WD vehicle, its windows smashed and exterior pockmarked with shrapnel.
One vehicle from the convoy was thrown off the road and destroyed by the blast.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack in an emailed statement to journalists and via a recognised Twitter account.
Political deadlock
The attack comes as the country's two presidential contenders continue negotiations to form some sort of national unity government.
The candidates on Monday held talks on ending the deadlock over who won the election to replace President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled since the fall of the Taliban.
Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah have been arguing over a power-sharing deal after the vote was engulfed in allegations of fraud that have threatened to cause instability as US-led NATO troops of ISAF pull out of the country.
INTERACTIVE: Drawdown in Afghanistan

Ghani, who is widely tipped to emerge as the new president, won the run-off election according to preliminary results, but Abdullah has consistently said he was the victim of state-backed ballot-rigging.
Aimal Faizi, spokesman for Karzai, declined to give details of the agreement, which both campaign teams have previously said would hinge on the power held by a new chief executive officer (CEO), who would be nominated by the election loser.
"We are in the middle of a political crisis here," Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul on Tuesday, said.
"It's very tense here, and we have a population that is waiting who will be the next president."
She said that with the explosion, questions would be raised about how a car loaded with explosive got close to a "very secure part" of Kabul.
With the government paralysed for months, it has also emboldened the Taliban, weakened the fragile economy and put future international military and aid support at risk.
The UN has expressed fears that the dispute over the poll results could revive the ethnic violence of the 1990s civil war, when nationwide chaos allowed the Taliban to come to power.

Daily Sabah....


  • Reuters
  • Updated : 16.09.2014 11:51:51
  • Published : 16.09.2014 11:48:05
4 foreign troops in Afghan capital killed by Taliban
KABUL — A suicide car bomber killed four foreign troops in an attack on a convoy near the U.S. embassy in Kabul on Tuesday, the NATO-led coalition said, one of the worst attacks on international forces in the Afghan capital in months.

The attack near the heavily fortified embassy comes amid a months-long political stalemate and an emboldened insurgency, with a presidential election still unresolved as most foreign combat troops prepare to leave by the end of the year.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the main road leading to Kabul's international airport, not far from the sprawling U.S. embassy compound that is also home to other members of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) coalition.

ISAF said in a short statement three of its troops had been killed and that it was investigating the incident. The coalition recalled an earlier statement that said four troops had been killed. At least five were wounded.

There was no immediate word on any Afghan casualties.

Afghan Deputy Interior Minister Mohammad Ayub Salangi said on Twitter a suicide car bomber had targeted a convoy of vehicles carrying foreign troops.

In a text message sent to journalists, a Taliban spokesman said the suicide bomber, identified only as Bilal, had been lying in wait for foreign troops in a car packed with explosives.

The blast tore through cars and shattered shop windows on the road a few hundred metres from the main embassy gate.

A Reuters photographer said he saw coalition troops carrying four bodies wrapped in black plastic back into their base.

Another Reuters witness reported seeing the body of one foreigner in a uniform lying on the ground while other coalition troops cordoned off the area and rushed to help the wounded.

Ambulances arrived within minutes of the blast during the morning rush hour at about 8 a.m. local time (0330 GMT).

"It was a huge blast," said wounded bystander Haji Awal Gul, his shirt splattered with blood as he stood on the roadside.

Tensions have been building in Afghanistan since the disputed run-off vote in a presidential election in June, with rival candidates still arguing over the outcome despite U.S. efforts to broker a compromise deal.

Taliban insurgents have been exploiting the uncertainty, launching bombings and attacks on government security forces and officials across Afghanistan.

In western Herat province, one U.S. soldier was killed when an unidentified member of the Afghan security forces turned on his trainers late on Monday, the latest incident in a string of "green-on-blue" attacks.

A Western official, who asked not to be identified, said the U.S. soldier was killed when the Afghan threw a hand grenade at his trainers.

ISAF did not confirm the exact details of the attack. An ISAF statement on Tuesday said the U.S. service member was killed when an individual wearing an Afghan army uniform "turned his weapon against ISAF members".

Also overnight, two suicide bombers set 26 fuel tankers ablaze in an attack on a customs post near a border crossing into Pakistan in Afghanistan's east, Afghanistan's TOLO media reported on Tuesday.

One of the attackers detonated explosives he was carrying while the other was killed in an ensuing gunbattle, the report on quoted Afghan officials as saying.

The Indecision: What they are saying

As negotiations start and stop and the Afghan economy continues to decay, there’s not much happening other than talk in the media.  So to keep everyone updated on what’s being said, here’s some choice excerpts:
Tolo photo of Karzai opening the new guesthouse
Ahsraf on the current state of negotiations: “We must come together and continue political talks. Afghanistan is the home of all of us; therefore, we need an inclusive national unity government…Our people have always been united. Our enemies should know that we are still united, despite all our political differences,” he asserted. “No one can divide this nation…We supported the 100 percent vote auditing to protect the genuine votes of the people. Therefore, the election commissions must announce the final results in the next few days and rid the nation of the uncertainty that lingers over the country.” (see Tolo)
More from Ghani: “We stood, stand and will stand firm on the formation of the national unity government from the beginning…but it shouldn’t be a two-headed government.” (from Reuters)
Abdullah’s spokesperson, Fazlur Rehman Orya responds: “The problem is the Ashraf Ghani team is trying to impose bogus votes on us. We will not accept them; only clean votes…I would point out one major difference; Ghani favours peace talks with the Taliban and Abdullah does not support any such move.” (see The Express Tribune)
Karzai on the candidates: “We want a new government and that can be brought to us by Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Dr. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai.” (see CNN)
Karzai on inaugurating the new presidential guesthouse:  “This beautiful building was constructed in accordance with Continue reading 

Parliament Speaks Up

Tolo News photo
As the deadlock drags out, their is a growing number of pleas for some sort of resolution to the crisis from President Obama and U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (see the VOA article here), to the ordinary Afghans who are sick of the situation.  Add to that list, the Afghan parliament or Wolesi Jirga.  While making numerous statements over the past months, several members, including the speaker of the house, have reiterated their willingness to help mediate the problem (see the Pajhwok article here).  On one level, this group, technically elected by the Afghan people on a province by province basis, could offer another more legitimate venue for mediation.  As ‘representatives’ of the people, this is a way of indirectly re-involving the voters who have essentially been completely removed from the process.  Additionally, as one law maker suggested, why have international solve the crisis, when the Afghan lawmakers are currently not playing much of a role and should understand the issue much better.  Such an approach has a certain logic, since in the proposed negotiations Kerry, Abdullah and Ghani see a potentially new, stronger role for the Wolesi Jirga.  If the body’s shape and powers are to be reworked, shouldn’t they have  a say in the process?
There are two central problems with Continue reading 

Continued Economic Decay

While it’s very difficult to assess the economic costs of the stalled election process, there are certainly an increasing number of anecdotes about the costs of the crisis:
Here’s an article by Reuters that ties the 12-13% drop in the telecom industry (one of the few really bright spots in the Afghan economy in the past years) to the declining troop levels and continued unsettled political situation.  See: Afghan telecom income falls as U.S. army, middle class leave
For our original thoughts on this see our post Economic Impact of Election Chaos
We’ll continue to update this list.

Happy Massoud Day

On this day to commemorate Ahmad Shah Massoud, assassinated two days before 9/11, the deadlock continues.  Both candidates, as well as Karzai attended a loya jirga ceremony to celebrate the occasion (see the KP piece here).   While all three avoided overtly inflammatory remarks, Tolo did report “chaos” breaking out at one point (see here).  The innuendoes and hints of violence that we have discussed before (see here) also still continue.   Today’s Washington Post piece by Tim Craig quotes Abdullah as saying:download
‘“We are the winner of the election based on the clean votes of the people,” said Abdullah, claiming that the vote was plagued by widespread fraud. “Fraud, fraudulent results and the announcement of the fraudulent results are not acceptable.”  (for the entire article, see here)
What it means to be “acceptable” and what it means to “reject” the vote are, of course, Continue reading 

The warning came a day after dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Kabul headquarters of the world body and accused it of aiding vote-rigging. — AP file photo
The warning came a day after dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Kabul headquarters of the world body and accused it of aiding vote-rigging. — AP file photo
KABUL: The United Nations threatened on Saturday to cut aid to Afghanistan if its staff were harassed, responding to tensions surrounding its participation in a drawn-out and bitter investigation into fraud in the still-unresolved presidential election.
The warning came a day after dozens of demonstrators gathered outside the Kabul headquarters of the world body and accused it of aiding vote-rigging.
It was another sign of heightened anxiety in the run-up to the release of final election results over the next week. A two-month-long crisis over results of the vote to succeed President Hamid Karzai has been destabilising Afghanistan just months before most international troops withdraw.
The UN has been monitoring a vote-rigging investigation since both candidates — former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah and ex-finance minister Ashraf Ghani — each claimed victory and accused the other of fraud in early July.
UN workers have frequently been caught up in heated disputes by the rival candidates’ audit observers. After Friday’s small demonstration, which was peaceful but also featured chants of “death to the UN”, the world body apparently decided to draw a line.
“Intimidation and verbal attacks directed at UN are unacceptable,” said a tweet by the official UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan on Saturday.
A second post continued: “If such abuse continues, UN will be forced to severely limit its activities, reducing its assistance to Afghanistan and its people.”
Ari Gaitanis, a UN spokesman in Kabul, declined to elaborate on specific abuse or threats against UN staff.
The threat to cut aid underscored the high stakes in Afghanistan’s election crisis, which marred hopes for a smooth transition of power ahead of the foreign troops’ withdrawal.
Talks between both sides on forming a unity government have broken down in recent weeks.
Final results are expected in the next week, though a specific date has not been set. It is widely believed that Mr Ghani, who was ahead by 1.2 million votes in preliminary results, will be declared the winner even after suspect votes are thrown out.
Mr Abdullah, who has charged that more than two million ballots were fraudulent, has vowed he will reject results that give the election to Mr Ghani.

US Has Failed to Curb Afghan Graft: SIGAR

US Has Failed to Curb  Afghan Graft: SIGAR
KABUL - The US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) says Washington has spent $104 billion in the country, but failed to eliminate corruption and mismanagement.
John F. Sopko made the allegation during a speech at the Gorge Washington University on Friday. Funding to Afghanistan had been unique spending in the US history, he observed.
Sopko believed that rampant corruption and the drug business had halted long-term projects and development in Afghanistan despite the massive funding flows into the war-torn country.
He added the US and its partners had provided 60 percent of funds for Afghanistan’s annul budget. He alleged Afghanistan had miserably failed to eliminate administrative corruption. 
Sopko said US knew Afghanistan was the most corrupt county, even though it was providing billions of dollars in aid. (Pajhwok)

Time to End the Stalemate

 | Dilawar Sherzai

Time to End the Stalemate
The Afghans are earnestly waiting for an agreement between the presidential candidates, which would not only support in eliminating the prevailing uncertainty but will also assist in starting a journey towards a system that has been called as National Unity Government. The stalemate of dialogue between the two candidates has worsened the situation and there are fears that the country would move towards serious instability if the power is not transitioned from the current president to the new one in a peaceful manner, within an atmosphere of trust and confidence.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah after the stalemate of dialogue with the opposing candidate Dr. Ashraf Ghani, revealed his decision last week that he would not accept the result of the ongoing audit process, which means that the announcement of result may further lead to a series of protests by his team. Therefore, it seems important that the candidates should, once again, reach to some sort of agreement, give their consent that they would accept the result and then the result of the vote audit must be announced. Though Afghanistan Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced that it would soon announce the result, postponing it after the agreement is a wiser decision.  
The months of delay in the announcement of result and transition of power has influenced almost all the aspects of life in Afghanistan. Economic activities seem to be slowing, social psychology seems to be getting frightened and the security situation appears to be deteriorating. Both the presidential candidates must assist the country in coming out of this dire situation. They need to realize that the great politicians are the ones that make tough decisions at crucial junctures, but always support the nations to come out of difficulties. They are always the ones who keep the national interest more sacred and important than the individual interests and even do not hesitate to give sacrifices when required.
President Karzai on Saturday, September 13th, met both the candidates separately and expressed optimism that both the candidates would reach a final agreement in next two days.
Meeting with the Ulema Council, he said, “I found the candidates have built coordination and mutual understanding… God willing, differences between the two will be resolved in the next two days. In fact, they have almost been resolved.”     
It is nice to see such optimism; however, there are concerns that even if the candidates agree for the time being and the results are accepted by them, it would require a lot of discussions and sincere efforts before the candidates are able to make the concept of Unity Government a reality. Such a government is new for Afghanistan and it would require the whole term before Afghanistan is able to make it fully functional. On the other hand, the candidates and their teams would require a real display of patience and democratic values and attitude during this time.
Nevertheless, to reach to that position, it is important that Afghanistan must come out of ongoing stalemate. The countries supporting Afghanistan have clearly mentioned that they would continue supporting Afghanistan if its leaders are able to shoulder their responsibilities appropriately and make the international community believe that they are able to lead the country and its people deserve to have a democratic system. US President, Barack Obama, made phone calls to both the Afghan presidential candidates last week and urged them to follow the deal regarding forming the Unity Government; moreover, NATO and UNAMA have also urged for peaceful solution of the current stalemate. In addition, different institutions, organizations and groups within Afghanistan, as well, have been urging for an end to the ongoing drama, which is becoming scarier.
Both the presidential candidates are in a position where they have the opportunity to lead the country towards a new era, an era of struggle towards a better democratic system and more stable political system. There are some analysts who believe that the concept of Unity Government may not be practical and is impossible to achieve; however, keeping the current scenario, it is wise to pursue the concept and with sincere efforts, it is possible to be achieved.

WH Wants Unity Govt. Vow Honored

WH Wants Unity Govt. Vow Honoured
WASHINGTON - The White House (WH) on Friday urged presidential candidates Dr Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai to honour their commitment to the national unity government, which it argued was in the best interest of Afghanistan.
It was the message President Barack Obama and top American leadership had been conveying to the two presidential hopefuls,  White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters at his daily news conference.    
“Everyone across the United States government that's been speaking to both candidates has encouraged them to abide by their commitments to the political process and to the formation of a unity government that helps secure the prosperity and stability of Afghanistan,” Earnest said in response to a question.
Obama last Saturday spoke to Ghani and Abdullah, he said, adding: “That's been our policy for some time. That's been the policy that's been communicated by the President to them. The President has had a number of telephone conversations with them throughout this process.”
He emphasized the importance of concluding a deal on the national unity government as soon as possible, in the interest of shoring up international support for Afghanistan and for preserving Afghan stability. The President reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to support Afghanistan, its people, and efforts to form a new unity government, the White House official said.
The policy of the Obama Administration, he said, has not changed. “They’ve made specific commitments to a political process and to the formation of a national unity government. Despite the challenging situation that they're operating in right now, we expect them to uphold the commitments that they’ve made because it’s in the best interests of their country and their people,” Earnest said.
While the two candidates have indicated their willingness to sign the bilateral security agreement, Earnest said the US will need the President of Afghanistan and the senior members of the government to sign on and officially agree to that bilateral security agreement.  (Pajhwok)

Afghanistan blames US for killing civilians

President Hamid Karzai's office says US air strike killed at least 11 civilians in eastern Kunar province.

Last updated: 10 Sep 2014 19:11
At least 14 people, mostly civilians, have been killed in US air strikes in Afghanistan, officials have said, sparking condemnation from President Hamid Karzai who has often criticised the conduct of the NATO forces.
Abdul Ghani Musamem, a spokesman for the governor of Kunar province, said 14 people died in the air strike in Narang district on Tuesday while 13 others were wounded.
Civilian casualties caused by the US-led military coalition during the war against the Taliban have been one of the most contentious issues in the 13-year combat campaign that will end by December.
"As a result of a US aerial bombardment... 11 civilians, including two children and two women, were killed, and 12 more injured," said a statement from the presidential palace on Wednesday.
NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) made no immediate comment on Tuesday's air strike, but it often stresses that avoiding civilian casualties is a major priority during operations.
Abdul Hadi Sayedkhil, the police chief of Kunar, told AFP news agency that a joint Afghan-NATO patrol in the province, which is one of the most volatile areas of the country, was ambushed by rebels.
"The foreign forces called for air support and as a result of bombardment a number of militants and civilians were killed. We are investigating the incident," he said.
Outrage in Afghanistan
Saleh Mohammad, a survivor being treated in hospital in the provincial capital Asadabad, said there had been two waves of bombings.
"Four of our villagers were on their way back home from work when airplanes bombed them," he told AFP.
"When people went to the area to collect their bodies or take the wounded people to hospital, we were bombed again. Dozens of people, including women and children were killed, or wounded."
Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Karzai, said on Twitter that the president "strongly condemns a US airstrike that killed & injured civilians including women & a child" in Kunar province.   
Major Paul Greenberg, a spokesman for the NATO-led coalition, said a precision strike killed one fighter in nearby Dangam district.
"Evidence of possible war crimes and unlawful killings has seemingly been ignored by the US. This needs to change. Accountability now is prevention in the future: these incidents simply should not be happening,” said Richard Bennett, Asia-Pacific Director at Amnesty International.
It is often difficult to confirm the toll from air strikes and other attacks in rural Afghanistan.
Allegations of civilian deaths are a frequent cause of friction between Karzai and NATO.