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

Oct 112017

ISLAMABAD: Foreign Secretary Tehmina Janjua has reiterated Pakistan’s call for making serious efforts for negociated settlement between the Afghan government and the Taliban for achieving lasting peace in the war-torn country. She remarked while participating in the meeting of Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) Contact Group on Afghanistan held at the deputy foreign minister-level in Moscow on Wednesday, a statement issued by the Foreign Office said. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Igor Morgulov chaired the meeting while deputy foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, India, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and representatives of SCO and its relevant bodies attended the meeting. Afghan peace: Kabul asks Islamabad to hand over five top imprisoned militants Addressing the meeting, Janjua underlined challenges faced by Afghanistan including deteriorating security situation marked by increasing ungoverned spaces being used to provide sanctuary to the terrorist groups like Da’esh, al Qaeda, Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) and Jamtul Ahrar (JuA) and increasing drug production which threatened Afghanistan’s neighbours. She stressed the need for making serious efforts for negotiated settlement between Afghan government and the Taliban for achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan. The foreign secretary also emphasised the importance of early return of Afghan refugees and combating drug production and human trafficking which continued to affect stability of Afghanistan and the region. Islamabad not to bow to ‘do more’ demands The members of SCO Contact Group exchanged views on ways and means to support peace and stability in Afghanistan through facilitating Afghan-led peace process, assisting the Afghan government in dealing with security and counter-terrorism challenges [Read More…]

Oct 102017
Profiles: Kyrgyzstan’s Presidential Hopefuls

Kyrgyzstan’s presidential election on October 15 boasts 11 candidates, but polls appear to show two clear front-runners in what could shape up to be a rare competitive vote in post-Soviet Central Asia.Kyrgyzstan’s constitution limits presidents to a single, six-year term. This is colorfully quotable, 49-year-old businessman Arstanbek Abdyldaev’s second bid for the presidency.He received just 0.4 percent of the vote in the 2011 election.Abdyldaev has gained a reputation for oddball remarks, including calling Russian President Vladimir Putin a “complex bio-robot” designed to save humanity and “forecasting” catastrophic flooding in the West. Footage of Abdyldaev promising at a press conference that “there would no winter” has been watched more than a million times on YouTube.Abdyldaev is not expected to fare well in the election.A former prime minister and wealthy businessman, 47-year-old Omurbek Babanov is a top contender according to polls and key rival to the incumbent president’s preferred pick to succeed him.In 2010, Babanov founded the pro-business Respublika Party, which has since merged with Ata Jurt to form Kyrgyzstan’s second-largest faction in parliament after the ruling Social Democrats. Respublika-Ata Jurt currently holds 28 seats in the 120-seat parliament, the Jogorku Kenesh.Babanov served as prime minister for nine months, from December 2011 until September 2012.A native of the northern Talas region, he began his political career in parliament in 2005. Two years later, Babanov sat atop of Social Democrats’ party list for parliamentary elections but was disqualified, reportedly over a Kazakh passport he obtained in the 1990s while living in Taraz in [Read More…]

Oct 072017

As the US-led invasion of Afghanistan enters its seventeenth year, Taliban militants have been reported saying that they are not tired of the war at all, according to Afghanistan’s Khaama Press. In a statement, the group called on all the American forces present in the region to withdraw, claiming that only the Taliban represented the Afghan people as a whole. Pakistan urges Afghan Taliban to shun violence The statement spoke at length about the Taliban’s long-term commitment to the war, insisting that they did not feel disappointed but instead had even higher morale for the continued war effort. It also said that the Afghan nation had not become tired of war, nor will it ever become tired of it. “Taliban remain fully committed to driving the Americans out of the country,” the statement reads. RAW supports Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, acknowledges Indian analyst in top daily The group though, did not comment on the recent efforts of the international community to bring it to the negotiation table, aimed at furthering the peace efforts in Afghanistan on behalf of the Afghan government. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani had called on the Taliban to opt for “ballots instead of bullets” and to renounce the use of violence as a political tool last week. Ghani has repeatedly asked the group to join peace efforts in the past. Afghan Taliban leaders are in Quetta and Peshawar: Gen Nicholson The Taliban statement comes merely weeks after US President Donald Trump unveiled his new strategy for the conflict-ridden South [Read More…]

Oct 072017

KANDHAR: Senior Afghan and American officials welcomed the arrival of new US-made military helicopters on Saturday, beginning a process that will radically transform the young Afghan air force. While the plan for new UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters has been in the works for some time, it forms a major part of the US-led military coalition’s training efforts, which were expanded under proposals approved by President Donald Trump in August. “It’s a modernization of their program that will allow them to project power throughout Afghanistan,” said Lieutenant Colonel Trent Alexander, a US military adviser to the Afghan air force. Afghan security forces killed in ‘friendly fire’ incident “While transitioning to the Black Hawk will not be a quick task, it will not be a difficult task.” At a ceremony at Kandahar Airfield in southern Afghanistan, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani formally accepted the first new helicopters, calling it a “historic day” that would allow the air force to better respond to the demands on the security forces. The Russian-designed Mi-17 helicopters that currently form the backbone of the Afghan air force worked well for crews used to Russian equipment, but deteriorating relations between Moscow and Washington meant that the Americans were unable to provide new parts and aircraft to replace the overworked aircraft. “The Mi-17 was a great aircraft and it brought the Afghans the ability to be capable, however, with the introduction of the UH-60 they are now sustainable,” Alexander said. Poverty forces child soldiers into endlessly replenishing Afghan Taliban ranks Taliban [Read More…]

Oct 062017

PESHAWAR: Militants of the notorious Islamic State (IS) group have been receiving financial assistance from inside Peshawar as well as across the border, revealed a startling report on Friday. According to the report available with The Express Tribune, families of the terrorist outfit’s slain commanders and foot soldiers received monetary aid from various religious factions and influential Afghan traders in the province. The militants had been killed in various military operations or spending jail terms in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa. IS, it said, had formed a collective fund with the purpose to make financial aid available to their cadres. The report went on to add that even the family of a former commander and other militants received cash grant, sacrificial meat on the second day of Eid-ul-Azha. The organisation has also hired a local expert and established a media cell in the provincial capital. US Afghan policy: Khawaja Asif expresses concerns over India’s efforts to destabilise Balochistan The report said around Rs2 million were donated by those affiliated with the outfit; Rs0.7 million of which were used to buy arms from local factories. Another Rs1 million were distributed among the families of those killed in intelligence-based operations (IBOs). The report stated that most foot soldiers and commanders of the defunct organisation fled to Afghanistan after the killing of Afghan Taliban commander Maulana Daud Jalali in Peshawar’s suburb, but the funding continued. The majority of the IS-affiliated militants, operating under the garb of honey traders and running a media cell operated from Peshawar, were recently dismantled following an IBO. According to reliable sources, intelligence agencies encountered an IS [Read More…]

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