Oct 312017

KABUL: Washington has agreed to classify data on the number of Afghan security forces killed and wounded in the conflict, a US watchdog said, after months of soaring casualties and targeted attacks have eroded morale. The decision was slammed on Monday by the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John Sopko, who said it would hamper the watchdog’s ability to chart progress among US-funded Afghan troops. “USFOR-A said the casualty data belonged to the Afghan government, and the government had requested that it be classified,” Sopko said in the latest quarterly report documenting the use of US funds in Afghanistan. US ‘missile malfunction’ causes civilian casualties after Mattis visit to Kabul: NATO There was no immediate comment from US Forces or Afghan officials. Sopko said the move “will hinder SIGAR’s ability to publicly report on progress or failure in a key reconstruction sector”, noting that more than 60 percent of the roughly $121 billion in US funding spent since 2002 has gone on Afghan security forces. Casualties among Afghan forces in the early part of this year were “shockingly high” as they struggled to beat back the resurgent Taliban and other militant groups, SIGAR has said previously. They soared by 35 percent in 2016, with 6,800 soldiers and police killed, according to the watchdog. As of February only about 60 percent of Afghanistan’s 407 districts were reported to be under government control, SIGAR has said. Sopko said the decision was only the second time that the American military [Read More…]

Oct 252017

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan said on Wednesday it was ready to help the US in Afghanistan but would not act as the proxy for any county and urged Washington to get input from politicians and experts rather than the generals, who had already failed in the war-torn country. In a policy statement in the Senate, Foreign Minister Khawaja Asif said the US has provided Islamabad a list of 75 wanted persons, which did not include a single Pakistani citizen, while Pakistan has given a list of 100 criminals to the US and Afghanistan. On Tuesday Senate Chairman Raza Rabbani summoned the foreign minister to take upper house of Parliament into confidence over US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s visit to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Rabbani was irked by Tillerson’s remarks in Kabul on Monday in which he asked Pakistan to act on US demands. There is huge trust deficit between Pakistan, US over Afghan conflict: Khawaja Asif Asif told the house there was no Pakistani national in the list of 75 wanted persons provided by the US. “No Pakistani national, including Hafiz Saeed, is in this list,” he said, adding that the Haqani network is on the top and some were shadow governors of Taliban. “Many on the list are not alive,” he said. He added Pakistan had also handed a list of 100 people wanted by Islamabad to the US and Afghanistan and it had been conveyed to the President Donald Trump’s administration that any Indian role in Afghanistan would not be [Read More…]

Oct 232017
Tillerson Visiting India Presses Pakistan to Step Up Anti-Terrorism Efforts

ISLAMABAD U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is holding talks Wednesday with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and other leaders in New Delhi, where tensions between India and Pakistan are expected to be part of the discussions.Tillerson was in Pakistan on Tuesday to urge leaders there to step up their efforts to counter militancy and terrorism.The top U.S. diplomat led his delegation into meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Shahid Khaqan Abbasi, the country’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa, and the head of the spy agency and other top officials.They discussed continued bilateral cooperation and partnership, and expanding economic ties between Pakistan and the United States, said a U.S. embassy statement.“The Secretary reiterated President Donald Trump’s message that Pakistan must increase its efforts to eradicate militants and terrorists operating within the country,” the statement said.To address those concerns, it added, Tillerson outlined Washington’s new South Asia strategy and the vital role Pakistan can play to facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan that can bring stability and security to the region.“Pakistan and the United States share common interests in establishing a stable, peaceful Afghanistan, defeating ISIS in South Asia, and eliminating terrorist groups that threaten both Pakistan and the United States,” the statement quoted Tillerson as telling Pakistani officials.Continuing engagementA separate statement issued by the prime minister’s office quoted Abbasi as underlining the importance of high-level engagements between Pakistan and the United States and expressing satisfaction on the progress made during these interactions in recent months.“The two sides agreed to build [Read More…]

Oct 222017

US army sergeant Bowe Bergdahl, who last week pleaded guilty on Monday to deserting his post in Afghanistan in 2009, has said his captors were more “honest” with him than the army has been since his release three years ago, Fox News reported. Bergdahl was held captive by the Afghan Taliban-allied Haqqani network in Afghanistan after deserting his post until May 2014 when his captors swapped him with five Taliban detainees in the Guantanamo Bay detention centre. “At least the Taliban were honest enough to say, ‘I’m the guy who’s gonna cut your throat,’” Bergdahl, 31, tells British TV journalist Sean Langan in an exclusive interview with the Sunday Times Magazine titled ‘The Homecoming from Hell’. Langan himself was taken hostage by the Taliban while filming in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region in 2008. Three months later, his family negotiated his release with his captors. US Army Sergeant Bergdahl could face life sentence for endangering troops Bergdahl says he never quite knew where he stood with the army as he performed “administrative duties” while awaiting his desertion trial. “Here, it could be the guy I pass in the corridor who’s going to sign the paper that sends me away for life,” he says. “We may as well go back to kangaroo courts and lynch mobs.” Bergdahl is expected to appear for sentencing on Monday in a military courtroom after pleading guilty to desertion and misbehaviour before the enemy. He could face life in prison. The Obama administration was highly criticised for a [Read More…]

Oct 162017
Suspected U.S. Drone Strikes Kill 20 Militants Near Pakistani-Afghan Border

Missile strikes by a suspected U.S. drone hit a militant compound in the Kurram tribal region close to the Pakistan-Afghanistan border late on October 16, killing 20 extremists, intelligence officials said.Five militants were initially reported killed but a later search of the compound found 15 more bodies, the officials said.It appeared to be the second such strike since U.S. President Donald Trump in August accused Pakistan of offering safe havens to extremists. An attack in the same region in September left three people dead and two wounded.Officials said the number of militants present in the compound struck on October 16 showed the site was a main center for Haqqani network militants in the area.Intelligence officials said the target of the drone strike was Haqqani commander Abu Bakar.Officials said the missile strikes occurred very close to the porous border with Afghanistan in mountainous terrain. Some Pakistani officials said they occurred on Afghan territory.The strikes came a day after roadside bombs killed four Pakistani security troops engaged in a search operation for militants in Kurram.Pakistan considers U.S. drone strikes a violation of its sovereignty. Washington accuses Pakistan of providing safe havens for militants, which Pakistan denies.Foreign Minister Khwaja Mohammad Asif said on Geo TV that the United States should not make any drone strikes in either Afghanistan or Pakistan at a time when Afghan peace talks have resumed. He said the matter would definitely be taken up in talks with U.S. leaders.Four-nation talks on peace and stability in Afghanistan started on October [Read More…]

Oct 152017
Civilians Caught in Taliban, IS Crossfire in Afghanistan’s Nangarhar Province

NANGARHAR / WASHINGTON As fighting between the Islamic State militant group and Taliban insurgents continues in eastern Afghanistan, civilians are bearing the brunt of the rivalry between the two warring parties.At least four civilians who were caught in crossfire have died in fresh fighting between the Taliban and IS fighters in the Khogyani district of eastern Nangarhar province, local officials told VOA.“IS militants killed four civilians and wounded two others,” Nangarhar government spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani told VOA.The fighting in Khogyani district, which continues for a second day, also left several dead from both warring sides.“Six IS fighters and three Taliban militants have been killed, and another three Taliban wounded in the fighting,” spokesperson Khogyani said.Local residents have joined forces with the Taliban to battle the IS fighters in the district, provincial officials told VOA.This is not the first time that locals have supported Taliban militants against IS. Frequent IS threats have forced some villagers to join forces with local Taliban to counter IS attacks on their villages. In a similar move last spring, local residents supported Taliban militants to repel an IS attack in the Tora Bora area, where Osama bin Laden once took refuge before he managed to cross into neighboring Pakistan, according to local tribesmen.The majority of Afghans views IS as an outside force, which has repeatedly targeted local villagers, destroyed homes and markets, and barred children from attending school in areas under its control. IS atrocities have forced thousands of families in several districts to flee their [Read More…]

Oct 142017

Afghan officials say that a US drone strike has killed 14 ISIS militants in the Kuner province of eastern Afghanistan. The strike happened on Thursday afternoon. “The drone had targeted a meeting of ISIS commanders who were planning a terrorist attack,” spokesperson for the provincial governor, Abdul Ghani Musamim, told the Associated Press. The government of Afghanistan has no formal control over the part of the country where IS’s Afghan affiliate has been able to establish its presence. British ‘White Widow’ Sally Jones killed by US drone strike in Syria: report The US-led forces were not immediately available for comment, though Dawlat Waziri, spokesperson Afghanistan’s defence ministry, has confirmed the drone strike. Conflicting reports are coming out of the country, however, as the Kuner province’s MP Shahzada Shaheed said that the victims of the drone strikes were not militants, but actually innocent civilians. After new strategy: Trump resurrects drone campaign Drone strikes have intensified under the new Trump administration, as the US looks to target IS strongholds in the country with air strikes and operations on the ground. According to US officials, there are about 600-800 IS fighters in Afghanistan, most of them based in Nangarhar. The US forces are also helping Afghan forces fight a Taliban insurgency in large swathes of the country. This article originally appeared in The Guardian. The post Drone strike kills 14 in Afghanistan appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

Oct 122017
Broken roads

It is commendable that the present KP government has launched quite a few projects for the construction and overhaul of main and local roads of the province. Many roads in the province’s big cities have been repaired, but there are a few major roads that are still in a deplorable condition. The repair work on the 60km long Hangu road has been in progress for the last one and a half year. This is because the provincial government has appointed few labourers for the project. Also, they do not have efficient machinery to complete the task on time. This route – also called ‘Business Belt’ – leads to Afghanistan through Kurram Agency and has full business potential. Similarly, hundreds of loaded vehicles pass through this road to Fata and Afghanistan. Many businessmen have expressed that they have to bear the loss of stock because of bumpy roads. Stock in transit is often damaged. As a result, businesses have to bear heavy losses. The concerned department should appoint a large number of labourers for this project so that the work on the project is completed as soon as possible. Proper machinery should be installed so that the work is completed efficiently. Abdul Hadi Paracha (Kohat) Click for detailed story

Oct 122017
President Donald Trump thanks Pakistan for ‘doing more’

US President Donald Trump has praised Pakistan for the safe recovery of a Canadian-American couple and their three children from Taliban’s captivity. “This is a positive moment for our country’s relationship with Pakistan. The Pakistani government’s cooperation is a sign that it is honouring America’s wishes for it to do more to provide security in the region,” Trump said in a statement issued by White House. A still image from a video posted by the Taliban on social media on 19 December 2016 shows American Caitlan Coleman, left, speaking next to her Canadian husband Joshua Boyle and their two sons. PHOTO: REUTERS The unusual praise came less than two months after Trump pilloried Pakistan for aiding and sheltering ‘agents of chaos’ – a reference to the Taliban. Islamabad shot back to the allegation, saying that it could not be made scapegoat for failures in Afghanistan. Pakistan Army recovers US-Canadian family abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 “We hope to see this type of cooperation and teamwork in helping secure the release of remaining hostages and in our future joint counterterrorism operations,” said President Trump. According to the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the Pakistan Army, aided by intelligence agencies, recovered the Canadian-American couple and their children on Thursday. “They were captured by terrorists from Afghanistan in 2012 and kept as hostages there,” it added. On his part, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said the US expresses ‘deep gratitude’ to Pakistan. With new Af-Pak policy, US downfall has begun: Senator Mushahid Hussain [Read More…]

Oct 122017

OTTAWA: Canada voiced relief Tuesday at the release of a Canadian man, his American wife and their three children born in Taliban captivity. The kidnapped couple were taken hostage in Afghanistan while backpacking in Central Asia in 2012. “We are greatly relieved that after being held hostage for five years, Joshua Boyle and his wife Caitlan Coleman, as well as their young children, have been released and are safe,” said Foreign Affairs Minister Chrystia Freeland. “Joshua, Caitlan, their children and the Boyle and Coleman families have endured a horrible ordeal over the past five years,” she added in a statement. Pakistan Army recovers US-Canadianfamily abducted in Afghanistan in 2012 Freeland said Canada had been “actively engaged with the governments of the United States, Afghanistan and Pakistan” in trying to free the couple, but provided no details. The post Canada hails family’s release from Taliban captivity appeared first on The Express Tribune. Click for detailed story

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