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ByAbdul Raqeeb SailOnJun 22, 2020 – 13:48

KABUL (Pajhwok): As coronavirus patients are dying for lack of oxygen in hospitals, 32 ventilators donated to Afghanistan have been smuggled to neighbouring Pakistan, Pajhwok Afghan News has learnt reliably.

An Afghan businessman tried to buy these ventilators which, according to sources, cost $600,000 and hand them over to the government in Kabul. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) is investigating the smuggling of the machines.

Pajhwok Afghan News has received audio clips and photographs showing the 32 ventilators that have been smuggled to Peshawar. The entire process has been conducted on Whatsapp Application, in which smugglers talk about the price and place of the ventilators.

In the audio clip, one person says: “There are 32 S-100 model ventilators, but remember they are stolen from Afghanistan’s Public Health Ministry.”

He continues: “The man who dispatched these ventilators stressed that no one in MoPH should know that this model of ventilators cost $18,000 to $25,000. See if they need them, then we can talk.”

An Afghan businessman, who wished not to be named, told Pajhwok Afghan News he had been following the matter with sources in Pakistan and trying to purchase the smuggled ventilators.

“I am negotiating the purchase of these ventilators. Even I have negotiated the price. We want 15, but they stressed we should buy all of them. So far nothing is decided,” explained the businessman.

A trusted aide to the businessman met the smuggler, who said the ventilators were donated by an NGO to MoPH. They refrained from sharing more information on the issue.

The smugglers, afraid of being exposed, are very careful. They want to sell one ventilator for $8,000 while the businessman has offered $5,000.

Pajhwok has also received documents and photographs that show the ventilators have been manufactured by the Beijing Aeonmed Co, Ltd. This Beijing-based firms manufactures OR and ICU medical equipment. According to their website ‘ventilator vg70 controller head’ is their product and its price ranges between $12,000 and $17,000.

Ventilators play an important role in the treatment of respiratory diseases, including patients suffering from coronavirus and struggling with respiration.

They are of two types — one ventilator used in hospitals and the other called CPAP is used in homes.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 80 percent of coronavirus patients need treatment in hospitals. Of every six patients, one faces respiratory problems.

Ventilator is a machine that helps you breathe when you are sick, injured or sedated for an operation. It pumps oxygen-rich air into your lungs. It also helps you breathe out carbon dioxide, a harmful waste gas your body needs to get rid of.

Akmal Samsor, Public Health Ministry Advisor and spokesperson, said ventilators were machines that required professional individuals to operate them. Common doctors could not operate them because pipes go deep into human body and it was a hard task that every doctor could not do.

Referring to the smuggling of some ventilators, he promised MoPH would investigate the issue. The individuals involved in their smuggling would be dealt with according to the law, he vowed.

The Chinese embassy in Kabul was asked for comments in this regard through an e-mail. The embassy responded that information on this matter would be shared after permission from the ambassador.

For confirmation of the origin of the ventilators, an e-mail was also sent to Beijing Aeonmed Co, Ltd. But no response was received from it in six days.

Lack of ventilators

Ventilators that provide artificial oxygen to critical coronavirus patients are smuggled to Pakistan at a time when the devices are desperately needed in the country. Several people have lost the battle against the respiratory disease due to non-availability of ventilators.

Health officials say 336 artificial oxygen devices are currently available in the country, but still there was need for more ventilators and professional individuals in different provinces.

Samsor said according to the list available with the ministry, China had provided four ventilators, Turkey three, Iran three and WHO in support of the World Bank delivered 27.

But a well-placed source in MoPH accused ministry officials of hiding the exact number of ventilators. The source said MoPH did not want the public to know which country had provided how many ventilators to Afghanistan.

The source added a Qatar-based welfare organisation had provided 12 ventilators to Afghanistan. Assistance provided by Saudi Arabia also included ventilators, but MoPH is tight-lipped on their number.

On June 11, Turkey handed over its coronavirus-related assistance to Afghanistan and Health Minister Jawad Usmani said three PCR and 10 artificial respiratory devices were part of the aid. The MoPH spokesperson also acknowledged the assistance was transferred to the central warehouse two days ago.

On May 13, MoPH on wrote on its Facebook page the Turkish TIKA Office had provided it with some medical equipment in assistance that included three ventilators.

On May 6, MoPH on said Qatar’s Algorafa Al Shakih Ali Bin Abdullah Bin Sani Al Sani Welfare Foundation provided it medical assistance worth $1.3. The assistance included three PCR machines, seven ventilators, six oxygen machines, 10 suction machines, one x-ray machine and other medical equipment.

On May 19, Qatar provided its first package of medical assistance. On June 2, Russia delivered medical assistance. The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has also provided medical support to Afghanistan.

Acting Public Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Usmani said in a message there were at least 10 ventilators in the central warehouse, which were not used. Hospitals need the devices and they would receive machines soon.

On Sunday, Usmani told reporters currently there was no shortage of ventilators. However, he acknowledged there was oxygen shortage a few days back.

Meanwhile, provincial officials complain of a lack of facilities. Kandahar Public Health Director Mohammad Tawoos Ashraf Naderi said there were only two ventilators in the province and they were not enough for patients.

He added they used the machines only when the condition of patients deteriorated. According to him, the province needs at least 50 more ventilators. Technical workers and professionals are also needed to operate the ventilators.

Naderi explained they had enough budgets to purchase the devices for Kandahar hospitals but they would take action once the issue of airspace closure was resolved.

Ismael Stanikzai, in charge of combating coronavirus in eastern Nangarhar province, said they had only six ventilators at the hospital for Covid-19 patients and that they needed at least four more machines.

He said: “These devices are very useful when patients’ condition deteriorates. The device could save his/her life.”

Balkh Public Health Director Nizamuddin Jalil said there were 14 such devices in the province. Since most patients are taken to the hospital in critical condition, the devices produce a positive effect. He also stressed the need for more ventilators.

Mohammad Shafiq, a spokesman for the Public Health Department in Herat, said they had 18 ventilators and 10 of them were received from MoPH and four donated by Qatar through the Al-Ghurafa Foundation. He also stressed the need for another 10 machines.

Maseeh Noori, speaking for the coronavirus hospital in Kabul, said the Afghan-Japan and Mohammad Ali Jinnah Hospitals had eight ventilators each. He insisted the machines were very handy but each of the hospitals needed 20 more.

An individual named Kamin Ahmad Noori recently uploaded a video on his Facebook page, claiming a coronavirus patient lost his life to the lack of ventilators in a Khost hospital.

The day after the video was posted by Noori, some residents and civil society activists rallied against the lack of ventilators at the Kaderi Hospital in Khost. At the hospital devoted to combating the Covid-19 pandemic, they alleged, lives of patients were at risk.

Khost Public Health Director Habib Shah Ansari said only two ventilators existed in the province, which needed as many more.

Mukhtar Ghafarzai, another citizen, asked on Whatsapp: “Find out a hospital that has a ventilator or one that gives it on rent. If anyone knows about such a hospital, cooperate with us admitting our patients there…”

In response to his request, another Aziz Ahmadzai said: “It is very unfortunate that there is no ventilator in the nation’s capital. In such a compelling situation, may Allah accept our prayers quickly. Let’s say together Amin.”

Nasreen Oryakhel, director of the Afghanistan Medical Council, told a press conference last week the foundation’s findings showed that most of coronavirus patients had died in hospitals due to lack of oxygen. The council monitored Kabul hospitals for two weeks.

According to MoPH, so far over 29,143 people have tested positive for the disease, 598 have died and nearly 8,841 others have recovered from the pandemic.

But Akmal Samsor, spokesman for MoPH, strongly rejected the claims of Nasreen Oryakhel and said there was no shortage of oxygen. He wondered why the Afghanistan Medical Council reported it.

According to the number, fatalities of Afghanistan are less compare to the neighboring countries; like Pakistan’s death level is 1.88 and ours is 1.86.

He added a total of 3,500 beds had been set up in the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus, and 3,200 of them were occupied last week; it meant that 40 percent ICU vacant.

Samsor claimed patients’ failure to follow medical guidelines often led to the death of Covid-19 patients, who were evacuated to hospital after their condition deteriorated, They cannot be saved, even if put on ventilators.

On May 18, the National Procurement Commission (NPC) approved a recommendation for the purchase of 500 ventilators following an increase in number of coronavirus patients, shortage of ventilators in provinces and a spate of complaints from the health sector.

The MoPH spokesman said NPC had purchased from a German firm 500 ventilators for the ministry, which was waiting for the resumption of flights to bring them home.

A public health official, meanwhile, alleged that corruption was delaying the timely delivery of ventilators. He claimed there was evidence of a deliberate delayed in transportation of the devices to let prices sky-rocket.

The source disclosed they had finalised the purchase of ventilators for $7,500 apiece but a circle in the Presidential Palace insisted on buying machine for $50,000. Shakir Kargar, chief of staff to the president, wanted to buy one machine for $25,000 from Turkey, he charged.

Pajhwok messaged Zabihullah Zahid, personal secretary to Shakir Kargar, but received no response.

The NPC has purchased 500 ventilators from a Germany company (CAMED Medical System Gmbh) for 5.5 million dollars, with the average cost of one device working out at $9,700.

The National Procurement Authority (NPA) signed a contract with the German company because the Istanbul Parma put the price of one device at $25,000 and another firm named Dakash Healthcare demanded $25,900 apiece. The MoPH paid only $16,200.

In line with its decision No 4,039, which was taken at its 215th meeting, the NPA purchased 400 of the 500 ventilators for $7,500 and the remaining 100 for 12,000 euros because of a surge in market prices. The total cost of the devices is 4.2 million dollars, but the decision shows more than 1.3 million dollars in additional cost.

Ramin Ayaz, a spokesman for NPA, said the extra money invoice, which was to be utilised in six months, was being spent on buying full face masks and single-use air pipes.

Sa/nh/mud

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The signed copy of the agreement was posted by Abdullah in Dari on 18 May 2020.

In the name of God, the Most Gracious, the Most Merciful

Political Agreement

In order to meet the expectation of the people of Afghanistan, support defence and security forces, respect the continued and helpful efforts by national personalities and international community for resolving the political crisis resulting from the election in the country, to find a solution to end the political disputes, and respecting the difference of opinions of the country’s political leaders in this respect, realising that a continuation of the current political situation is not in the interests of the country and the people of Afghanistan and to get out of the impasse, the following themes were agreed:

  1. Supreme State Council (Shura-ye ‘Ali-ye Dawlat)
  2. In order to build political consensus, a Supreme State Council comprising political leaders and national personalities shall be established.
  3. The Council shall advise the country’s president on crucial national issues.
  4. Members of the Supreme State Council shall be given special government protocol and necessary security measures shall be provided for them.
  5. Chairmanship of High Council for National Reconciliation (Maqam-e Riasat-e Shura-ye ‘Ali-ye Mosaleha-ye Melli)

1. Rasmiyat (Official basis) and establishment

Upon signing of this document:

  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall be established based on the political agreement between the sides.
  • Honorable Dr Abdullah Abdullah as the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall lead the peace process.
  • The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall have five deputies; the running-mates of [Abdullah’s electoral] Stability and Integration team shall serve as deputies of the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation; other deputies of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be introduced in consultation with the president. 
  • The Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall form this council in consultation with the president, political sides and leaders, the speakers of the two houses of the National Assembly, civil society and the country’s elites. 
  • The office of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be based in Sapidar palace. 

2. Authorities:

The Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall have the following authorities:

  • Leading the national peace process affairs;
  • Leading meetings of the High Council for National Reconciliation;
  • Appointing officials and executive and administrative employees, including mansubin (officials) of the State Ministry for Peace.

3. Authorities of the High Council for National Reconciliation:

  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall verify, approve and lead the affairs related to peace process.
  • The decisions and approvals of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be taken based on majority votes taking the country’s national exigencies [interests] into account.
  • The decisions and approvals of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be final and binding to be implemented in the light of the country’s constitution.
  • The negotiation team shall serve under the guidance of the leadership committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation, act in accordance with its approvals and guidelines, and report to the chairman and the High Council for National Reconciliation. 

The president of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan shall call consultative meetings of the High Council for National Reconciliation if needed. 

4. Duties of the High Council for National Reconciliation 

  • Build national, regional and international consensus on peace affairs;
  • Attract international aid and support for better advancement of peace affairs;
  • Attract international aid for the reconstruction after establishment of peace;

5. Protocol:

  • In all relevant ceremonies, the country’s second highest-ranking position in terms of security measures and protocol shall be considered for the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
  • The deputies introduced by and senior advisor of the Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation shall have government protocol, security and formalities.

6. Budget

  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall be an independent budgetary unit.
  • The budget of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be financed by the government of Afghanistan.
  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall receive funding from international [donor] authorities for better advancement of peace affairs.
  • The execution of budget expenditure shall be in the full authority of the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and shall not be exempted from bar-rasi [government auditing].

7. Structure of the High Council for National Reconciliation:

  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall be comprised of political leaders, national personalities, representatives of the National Assembly, representatives of different political and social strata, civil society, women and youths.
  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall have two sections: 1) the general assembly and 2) the leadership committee. Authorities and duties of both sections shall be regulated in the internal procedures of the council.
  • The leadership committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be comprised of the political leaders and national personalities.
  • In addition to other members of the leadership committee, the authorised representative of the president shall also participate in leadership [committee]’s meetings as a member.
  • The High Council for National Reconciliation shall have the necessary executive structure. The negotiation team and the state ministry for peace as the secretariat shall also be part of the structure of the High Council for National Reconciliation. 
  • If needed, the structure of the High Council for National Reconciliation shall be increased in consultation with the president.

8. Appreciation of previous leaders of the peace process:

The efforts of Shahid-e Rah-e Solh (the martyr on the path of peace) honorable Ustad Borhanuddin Rabbani, honorable Salahuddin Rabbani, honorable late Pir Sayed Ahmad Gailani and especially honorable Ustad Muhammad Karim Khalili, for their indefatigable and sincere efforts at achieving peace, shall be appreciated. 

9. Participation in the government:

  • General Abdul Rashid Dostum, former vice-president, shall be promoted to rank of marshal through a presidential decree; at the same time, he shall be a member of the Supreme State Council and National Security Council.
  • Introducing 50 per cent of cabinet [posts], including for key ministries.
  • Provincial governors shall be introduced based on a rule agreed by the two sides.
  • The candidates shall be introduced upon verification of qualification and legal requirements.
  • Change, replacement and dismissal shall take place with justified reasons.
  • In case of dismissal, change or replacement, the new candidate upon verification of qualification and legal requirements shall be introduced by the introducing authority [the authority that had introduced candidates for the same positions previously].

10. Reform:

  • Paving ground for [holding] provincial and district council elections as soon as possible in order to complete the membership of a Loya Jirga;
  • Holding elections for mayors as soon as possible in order to implement legal provisions [unspecified] and improve city affairs;
  • Appointing a commission to draft amendments to the constitution in order to change the government’s structure after holding district council elections;
  • Electoral reform, including legal, technical and cadre reforms, including standard use of biometric [voting system], shall be undertaken as soon as possible. The reform should be carried out to change the electoral system considering the discussion on MDR or other alternatives in agreement with experts and the constitution;
  • Amendment to the political in accordance with the electoral reform;
  • In order to create administrative facilities per the people’s demand, administrative requirements and government structure, new local administrations shall be established.

11. Oversight and implementation mechanism

  • Based on agreement of the sides, an oversight and mediation commission comprised of six national and political elders of the country shall be formed.
  • Based on this agreement, the mediation commission shall be authorised to prevent violation of the agreement.
  • UN representatives may attend the signing ceremony of this agreement as observer. 
  • A joint technical team with equal number of [members] from the two sides shall be established to identify instances of violation of the agreement.
  • In case of violation and breach of the agreement, the technical team shall try to prevent the violation of the agreement through understanding; if the effort of the joint technical team does not produce any result, the representative of the side affected by the [reported] violation of the agreement shall officially refer the issue to the mediation commission.
  • The decision of the oversight and mediation commission about the disputed issue shall be communicated to the president and the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

The political agreement shall be valid till the end of the government’s term.

Dr Muhammad Ashraf Ghani                                          Dr Abdullah Abdullah

President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan          Chairman of High Council for

                                                                                           National Reconciliation         

Date: 28 Saur 1399 (17 May 2020)

Venue: Delgosha Palace, Presidential Palace, Kabul, Afghanistan 

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US forces have already begun withdrawing after 19 years of war as part of an agreement signed with Taliban in February.

President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his desire for a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan but added that he had not set a target date, amid speculation he might make ending the United States’s longest war part of his re-election campaign.

“We’re there 19 years and, yeah, I think that’s enough … We can always go back if we want to,” Trump told a White House news conference.

More @ Aljazeera

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DERA ISMAIL KHAN/PESHAWAR, Islamabad (Reuters) – Several Pashtun ethnic rights activists were killed and at least 25 were wounded in a Pakistan tribal region on Sunday, when Taliban militants attacked their gathering and security forces opened fire on protesters during disturbances that followed.

The violence took place in Wana, the main administrative center for South Waziristan, one of the most volatile of the tribal lands on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan.

Local tribesmen and one security official, speaking on condition on anonymity, said two people were killed and 25 wounded. But Manzoor Pashteen, the head of the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM), said in a posting on social media that at least 10 people died and 30 were wounded during Sunday’s violence.

In his Twitter post, Pashteen described how Taliban fighters had first attacked the PTM gathering. Later angry protesters threw stones, prompting “indiscriminate” firing by security forces, he said.

The PTM became prominent after the killing of a Pashtun youth by police in the southern city of Karachi in January. Since then it has held rallies across many towns and cities.

Ali Wazir, a PTM leader who was wounded in the attack, told Reuters that the militants wanted PTM to leave the area and were “dictating an end to PTM activities in Wana”.

Some PTM members said they suspected the gunmen who attacked them belonged to a Taliban faction that has covert support from Pakistan’s powerful military. The military, which denies fostering proxy groups, did not respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The PTM alleges that thousands of Pashtuns were targeted in state-organized killings after Pakistan joined the U.S.-led war on terror in 2001 and launched major military operations against militant strongholds in tribal areas between 2009 and 2014.

The military has been engaged in talks with PTM members to address some of their grievances.

Pashteen called for protests at U.N offices in response to the latest outrage.

“Pashtuns wherever should protest now and those who cannot should do it tomorrow in front of the UN offices because this state doesn’t listen to our voice,” Pashteen said.

PTM supporters in Peshawar protested outside the Islamabad Press Club late on Sunday evening.

The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) assembly on May 27 approved the merger of the province with the semi autonomous tribal areas and frontier regions, in a move aimed at bringing them into Pakistan’s political mainstream.

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منظور پښتین د پاکستان ادارو ته خبردارې ورکړېدی چې هغوي که هر ډول ظلم هم وکړي، د ناکامۍ سره به مخ کیږي.

د پاکستان د خیبر پښتونخوا د وزیرستان په سیمې کې طالبانو د پښتون ژغورنې د تحریک په یو مخکښ مشر علي وزیر او په عام ولس ډزې کړیدي چې تراوسه پورې پکې په لسگونو کسان زخمیان دي. د زخمیانو دقیق شمیر لا تروسه ندی معلوم خو منطور پښتین په خپله وینا کې ادعا کړې چې تروسه لس تنه وژل شوې او دیرش رخمیان دي.

ځایي سرچینو د امریکا غږ ډیوه راډیو ته ویلي چې طالبانو په واڼا کې نن د یکشنبې په ورځ د پښتون تحریک په مشر علي وزیر ډزې وکړې، دغه برید نیم ساعت دوام وکړ خو علي وزیر ترینه روغ وتلی دی. په دغه برید کې شاوخوا لس تنه زخمیان شویدي او ځایي روغتون ته انتقال شویدي.

د دغې پیښې نه وروسته منظور پښتین په خپل فیس بک په یوې لایو وینا کې د پاکستان ادارو ته خبردارې ورکړ چې “مونږ پوهه یو چې طالبان څوک دي، تاسو چې څه هم کوئ، ماتې به خورئ، شکست به ستاسو مقدر وي.”

منظور وویل د پاکستان ټولې ادارې په ترهگرۍ کې ککړې دي، هغه وویل “د دوي لاسونه د پښتونو په وینو ککړ دي. پي ټي ایم د امن لپاره تحریک شروع کړیدی چې د پاکستان اساسي قانون یې اجازه ورکوي. خو دوي ترهگر ترهگر کوي. د پاکستان ادارو خپل ظلم ته دوام ورکړیدی.”

هغه وویل چې نن په واڼا کې د خلکو په مخکې پوځیان د طالبانو شاته ولاړ و او په خلکو یې ډزې وکړی.

“د پاکستان د ټولو لویه اداره پوځ، دوهمه لویه اداره طالبان او بیا آی ایس آی او رینجرز دغه کارونه کوي. چې پښتنو د سولې لپاره مبارزه پیل کړه نو دوي ورته بیا دا چل شروع کړ.”

منظور پښتین د نړۍ د ټولو پښتنو نه یو ځلې بیا غوښتنه وکړه چې د وروستیو پیښو په ضد دې احتجاج وکړي.

له بلې خوا د پاکستان جیو ټلویژون رپورټ ورکړیدی چې په پیښور کې د نامعلونو کسانو په ډزو کې دوه تنه وژل شویدي.

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Min far kom tillbaka från Afghanistan för några dagar sedan och han har spenderat sin tid i de södra delarna av Afghanistan. Han menar på att läget är så illa att det är svårt att föreställa sig att det kan bli värre.

Sveriges Radio skriver följande:

I Afghanistan har flera parlamentsledamöter varnat regeringen för att säkerhetssituationen i landet nu riskerar att förvärras.

Flera provinser i landet riskerar att falla till talibanerna om inte regeringen agerar, hävdar parlamentsledamöterna.

Säkerhetsläget i Afghanistan är värre än vad regeringen låter påskina, menar flera av ledamöterna. Och de lägger skulden på landets säkerhetstjänster.

En av parlamentsledamöterna, Allah Gul Mujahid säger till nyhetstjänsten Tolo News att Afghanistans president, Ashraf Ghani, får felaktig information av antingen inrikesministern eller försvarsministern, rörande säkerhetssitationen ute i landet.

En annan ledamot, Rangina Kargar, hävdar att i tio distrikt i regionen Faryab så är det endast centralorterna och poliskontoren som för närvarande står under regeringens kontroll.

Försvarsministeriet har svarat på kritiken med att säga att flera operationer för närvarande pågår och att de olika motståndsgrupperna håller på att tryckas tillbaka.

Men säkerhetsläget på många håll i Afghanistan är fortsatt svårt. I måndags dödades exempelvis 25 personer i huvudstaden Kabul i ett attentat utfört av självmordsbombare tillhörande IS.

Bara några timmar senare, även det alltså i måndags, dödades elva barn i ett bilbombsattentat mot en Natokonvoj i Kandahar, i södra Afghanistan. Åtta rumänska Natosoldater skadades även i det dådet.

Enligt en amerikansk rapport som släpptes i april kontrollerade de afghanska myndigheterna i början av året endast 56 procent av Afghanistans yta.

Den afghanska militären är tillika fortsatt starkt beroende av amerikanskt militärt stöd. I förra veckan var det nära att huvudstaden i provinsen Farah föll till talibanerna.

Regeringsstyrkorna hade bedömt inte lyckats slå tillbaka talibananfallet om det inte varit för att USA snabbt skickade dit omfattande flygunderstöd.

USA:s strategi i Afghanistan har uppenbarligen inte lyckats. Och i linje med det meddelades det tidigare i veckan att Trumpadministrationen utsett en ny befälhavare för de amerikanska styrkorna i Afghanistan.

Generallöjtnant Austin Miller har tidigare varit chef för de amerikanska specialförbanden, och han har själv tidigare tjänstgjort i den så kallade Delta force.

Frågan är om han kommer att lyckas med det alla hans företrädare misslyckats med.

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Tens of thousands of Pashtuns are demanding an end to extrajudicial killings and abductions they blame on the Pakistani state – and a charismatic young man has become their spokesman.

A compelling, bearded tribesman in his early 30s, Manzoor Pashteen is the unlikely figurehead for protests that have now mushroomed into a wider movement that threatens to upset a precarious balance ahead of general elections.

He represents people who say they were brutalised during decades of war in the border areas Pakistan shares with Afghanistan. NGOs say thousands of people have been reported missing in regions such as the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) and Balochistan.

Over the weekend thousands of people attended a rally in Lahore, defying calls from the authorities to boycott the event, and despite officials briefly detaining some leaders of the movement in raids.

The Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM, Pashtun Protection Movement) is expressly peaceful, and its demands are within the limits of Pakistani law. But the pressure it has placed on the country’s leaders is telling.

Even army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa has become involved, calling the protests “engineered”, implying they are following a hostile foreign agenda, although they appear spontaneous.

‘Terrorists in uniform’
Secunder Kermani, BBC News, Lahore

“What kind of freedom is this?” the crowd chant. It’s the chorus of the anthem of this protest movement, and one that encapsulates the myriad grievances from Pakistan’s “war on terror”.

A common thread is a feeling that Pashtuns have been caught between the militants and the military for years. One man from the Swat Valley tells me how on a single road there would be checkpoints by both the Taliban and the army. If you were clean-shaven the Taliban would accuse you of being pro-government, if you had a beard soldiers accused you of being an extremist.

At a stall on the side of the protest, activists are writing the names of young men allegedly in the custody of the intelligence services, but never produced in court. It’s one of the most sensitive issues in the country – I’m surrounded by people wanting to tell me what happened to their relatives.

Resentment towards the powerful military establishment is expressed most boldly by the slogan, “The ones responsible for terrorism are the ones in uniform”. This kind of open challenge is more or less unprecedented in recent times, and seems to be growing.

So far there has also been an almost total media blackout of PTM rallies, which attract substantial support.

It is a notable contrast to the air time given on Pakistan’s increasingly controlled media to small bands of anti-PTM protesters. Those didn’t get much traction with the public and are suspected of links with the military.

Manzoor Pashteen speaks Pashto in his native Mehsud dialect. But unlike other young tribesmen he is educated, and can speak Urdu and English with the same ease.

He says he never realised he would get such support but he’s clear about what needs to change.

“People were oppressed. Their life had become intolerable. Curfews and insults by the army soldiers had stripped them of their pride,” he told BBC Pashto’s Khudai Noor Nasar in March.

Since February, he and his supporters have travelled across the Pashtun heartlands, from Quetta to Peshawar, attracting huge crowds and exposing never-ending stories of misery, death and destruction.

Many see the PTM as breaking new ground in the political landscape of a country where proxy wars have disenfranchised large populations not only in tribal areas and the north-west, but also in Balochistan, southern Sindh province and the northern areas along the border with China.

Mr Pashteen has said his movement won’t participate in electoral politics. But even then, one expects them to have a strong off-stage voice when elections are held this summer.

Well-known lawyer and columnist Babar Sattar has written that Pashteen’s social consciousness may be rooted in his Pashtun identity, “but the questions he is asking are relevant for all of us”.

The debate triggered by the PTM is about the “coercive relationship between a citizen and the Pakistani state; [about] the character, priorities and actions of our state that are undermining… their rights to life, liberty, dignity and equality”.

Despite the media blackout the PTM has been successful in getting its message over through social media, with the help of a growing number of activists, mostly from areas seen as marginalised.

In fact, Mr Pashteen says social media came to his rescue when he was arrested after protests against the army and its intelligence service, the ISI, last year.

“Our house had been surrounded by the army who picked up my father and uncle and detained them at a nearby checkpost,” he said in the BBC Pashto interview. “When I went there, they arrested me and put me in a room. They said protests against the army were detrimental to their morale.”

Soon, news of his arrest reached friends who spread the word, prompting protests in his support.

“So they [the military] took me out and brought me to a brigadier who said we are releasing you, but tell your friends to stop their campaign.”

Manzoor Pashteen was born and raised in South Waziristan, which was the earliest of the Pakistan Taliban sanctuaries in the post-9/11 period.

Like many other tribal districts and parts of the north-west, the local population’s freedoms and livelihoods were held hostage – either by the army or the militants, who were seen as the military’s proxies despite all the denials.

The son of a school teacher, he was lucky to have easy access to education which continued when his family left conflict-ridden South Waziristan in 2010. It was a time when families had to move from their villages and take refuge in faraway towns and cities like Bannu, Peshawar, Lahore and Karachi.

For that generation, political awareness was shaped by exposure to life outside Waziristan, and their experience of disempowerment when they moved back to their villages.

As one former senator, Afrasiab Khatak, puts it, “the lava accumulated through all these troubles and tribulations was waiting to erupt. It was only a matter of time”.

That time came when a young man called Naqeebullah from South Waziristan was killed by police in an alleged “staged encounter” in Karachi on 13 January. Police said he was a militant but his family say he was just an aspiring model.
This provided the spark for a demonstration outside the Islamabad press club in January. At first nobody took much notice, but then numbers began to swell. A shipping container turned up and they made it a stage with a sound system and began making speeches, some extremely critical of the security establishment.

After 10 days it had evolved into a wider movement for the “liberation of Pashtun people from the tyranny” of Pakistan’s security establishment.

People come from far and wide to the rallies, many with pictures of the missing in search of information.
“I only knew the conditions in my own area. But when we heard stories from other areas – from Swat, or Bajaur – we realised that it was the same all over,” Manzoor Pashteen says.

He relates one incident that led to protests two weeks before his arrest last October.

A bomb had killed a soldier in the village of Shamkai in South Waziristan.

“The army clamped a curfew in the area, and ordered all people to come out of their homes,” he says. “They made the women sit to one side and tortured the men one by one in front them. One epileptic boy died during torture while his mother and father were watching.”

The BBC put these claims to the military, but received no response.

But many say it is still fair to ask if Pashtuns could be partly to blame for allowing their youth to join militancy. It is a question that Manzoor Pashteen dismisses.

“The Pakistani state promoted militancy. It used Islam as a motivating factor,” he says.

“These are not my words. These are the words of Colonel Imam [a former ISI operative] who said he trained 95,000 youth; or the words of then army chief Pervez Musharraf, who said ‘we trained them, we brought mujahideen from all over the world, and they were our heroes’.

“When it suits them to bomb us, they’ll bomb us; when it suits them to send us rations, they’ll send us rations; when it suits them to set our people to kill others, they will train them and facilitate them,” Manzoor Pashteen says.

“Waziristan is their captured territory. It took us tribals 30 years to find out that we fought the Russians not for Islam, but for American money.”

 

Source:BBC News, IslamabadBy:M Ilyas Khan
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Within 48 hours of the Pentagon’s confirming the identity of the US soldier arrested for the massacre of 16 Afghan civilians, including nine children, there are mounting questions about the official explanation of the bloody events of March 11.

Nearly every fact asserted by US officials in Kabul and Washington has been challenged, either by the villagers where the massacre took place, by the Karzai government in Afghanistan, or by those acquainted with the arrested soldier, Staff Sergeant Robert Bales, 38.

The most important questions are those raised by the villagers who survived the rampage. They have been repeatedly quoted, both in Afghan government accounts and in reports published in the international press, as describing several uniformed American soldiers participating in the bloodbath, not the lone gunman described by the Pentagon.

In a meeting with Afghan President Hamid Karzai Friday, relatives of the victims reiterated their claims of multiple gunmen. Karzai told reporters, “They believe it’s not possible for one person to do that,” referring to the multiple killings in two adjacent villages in Kandahar province. “In four rooms, people were killed, women and children were killed, and they were all brought together in one room and then put on fire. That, one man cannot do.”

US embassy and military officials have refused to respond to these charges, and Afghan officials said the Americans were not cooperating with the Afghan investigation into the atrocity. Sergeant Bales was shipped out of the country before Afghan officials could interrogate him, and the Pentagon indicated that his trial would be conducted on US soil—making it unlikely that the Afghan witnesses can participate except by video testimony.

The New York Times admitted that despite the US claims that a lone attacker was responsible for the massacre, “most Afghans see it as similar to the night raids [by US special forces], including Mr. Karzai, who on Friday portrayed it as the latest in a long string of episodes in which coalition forces have killed Afghans.”

Karzai described the American forces as “demons” and the burning of Korans earlier this month as “Satanic acts that will never be forgiven.” He said the massacre in Kandahar province “was not the first incident, indeed it was the 100th, the 200th and 500th incident.”

He told a press conference, “This has been going on for too long. It is by all means the end of the rope here.”

Doubtless Karzai’s reference to the “end of the rope” was an expression of his own nervousness over the likely fate of his beleaguered and unpopular regime, entirely dependent on the American forces whose atrocities he is obliged to criticize.

In a further indication of the Afghan population’s hatred of the US-NATO occupation, the US military revealed that a 22-year-old Marine killed in Helmand province last month was shot in the back of the head by an Afghan soldier. This is the seventh acknowledged death of an American soldier at the hands of an Afghan “comrade” in the past six weeks.

The information on the alleged attacker released by US officials has been at least as dubious as their accounts of what took place March 11. For six days, the Pentagon sought to keep the name of the US soldier secret, an extraordinary and unprecedented act of political censorship that drew no criticism in the US media. Fox News finally made Bales’s name public on Friday, and the rest of the media then followed suit.

Initial accounts attributed to military sources claimed that Bales had been having marital problems, that he had suffered a traumatic brain injury during a previous tour of duty in Iraq, and that he had lost part of his foot there in the blast from an improvised explosive device. He was also described as under additional stress because his home had just been foreclosed on.

Many of these details proved to be false. Both Bales’s lawyer and local media in Seattle-Tacoma describe his marriage as apparently happy. There had been no “Dear John” letter from his wife Karilyn, as was initially suggested. The foreclosure was on a home that Bales and his wife were renting out, not the one in which she lived, although that home was put on the market for sale the week before the massacre.

Bales bought this home in 2005 for $279,000 and it was going on the market as a “short sale” that would have left he and his wife $50,000 in debt—a situation that is all too common for working class and middle-class homeowners in the United States.

The government account of the massacre was summed up by an unnamed official who told the New York Times, “When it all comes out, it will be a combination of stress, alcohol and domestic issues — he just snapped.” As Bales’s attorney John Henry Browne responded, “The government is going to want to blame this on an individual rather than blame it on the war.”

The Obama administration and the Pentagon want to dismiss the massacre in Kandahar province as an aberration, the action of a “rogue” soldier, someone who inexplicably carried out actions at odds with the US mission in Afghanistan. The truth is that the March 11 massacre is a concentrated expression of the role of the US military in Afghanistan, and in every impoverished country bombed, invaded or occupied by American imperialism.

Bales, if he committed the actions which he is accused of perpetrating on March 11, is a war criminal who deserves trial and punishment. But the more important war criminals are those in the White House, the Pentagon, the CIA and throughout the US political establishment who are responsible for more than ten years of war in Afghanistan, and who are plotting new wars in Syria, Iran and elsewhere.

Source: Global Research, By: Patrick Martin

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A good post that takes up the recent report from Human Rights Watch- “Today We Shall All Die”: Afghanistan’s Strongmen and the Legacy of Impunity.

Afghanistan officials sanctioned murder, torture and rape, says report
Human Rights Watch accuses high-ranking officials of allowing extrajudicial killings and brutal practices to flourish after fall of Taliban

Top Afghan officials have presided over murders, abduction, and other abuses with the
tacit backing of their government and its western allies, Human Rights Watch says in a
new report.
A grim account of deaths, robbery, rapes and extrajudicial killings, Today We Shall All
Die, details a culture of impunity that the rights group says flourished after the fall of the
Taliban, driven by the desire for immediate control of security at almost any price.
“The rise of abusive political and criminal networks was not inevitable,” the report said.
“Short-term concerns for maintaining a bulwark against the Taliban have undermined
aspirations for long-term good governance and respect for human rights in Afghanistan.”
The report focuses on eight commanders and officials across Afghanistan, some of them
counted among the country’s most powerful men, and key allies for foreign troops. Some
are accused of personally inflicting violence, others of having responsibility for militias
or government forces that committed the crimes.
Kandahar’s most powerful commander, the former head of the intelligence service and a
key northern governor are among those implicated. All of the accused have denied the
allegations against them.
Some have ties to the former president Hamid Karzai, who as early as 2002 warned that
security would be his first priority. “Justice [is] a luxury for now; we must not lose peace
for that,” the report quotes him saying soon after coming to power. While he was in
office, a blanket amnesty law for civil war-era crimes was passed.
There are also multiple links to America’s military and government, sometimes beyond
the liaisons that were essential for troops on the ground.
When Assadullah Khalid, the former head of the country’s spy agency, was badly injured
in a Taliban assassination attempt, Barack Obama and the former defence secretary Leon
Panetta both went to visit him in the American hospital where he was recovering.
In doing so they chose to ignore a long history of accusations of rape, torture, corruption
and illegal detentions, some of it from US diplomats or their allies, detailed in the HRW

A confidential Canadian government report from 2007 warned that “allegations of
human rights abuses by [Khalid] are numerous and consistent” and he was described as
“exceptionally corrupt and incompetent” in a leaked US embassy cable.
Khalid has previously dismissed the allegations against him as fabrications. “I know
there is nothing (in terms of evidence),” he said in 2012, when his nomination as spy
chief stirred up controversy about his past. “This is just propaganda about me.”
Another favourite of US forces, Kandahar’s police chief Abdul Razziq, was pictured last
year arm in arm with a beaming three-star US general, who credited him with improving
security in the political and cultural heart of southern Afghanistan.
Yet his rise to power he has been dogged by a trail of allegations of extrajudicial killings,
forced disappearances and torture, some described by HRW in gruesome detail. As early
as 2006, when still leading a unit of border police, he was accused of the abduction and
murder of 16 men, said to be in a revenge killing for the death of his brother.
“The acting commander of border police in Kandahar, Abdul Razzaq Achakzai [Raziq],
has acknowledged killing the victims, but has claimed (claims now proved false) that the
killings took place during an ambush he conducted against Taliban infiltrators,” a report
by the office of the EU envoy to Afghanistan said then.
Since he took control of the province’s police in 2011, the United Nations has
documented “systematic” use of torture in Kandahar’s police and intelligence units, and
the Human Rights Watch report lists multiple cases of men detained by Kandahar police,
whose mutilated corpses were found discarded days later. Raziq has repeatedly denied
all allegations of wrongdoing.
Raziq has categorically denied all charges of abuse, as attempts to undermine him.
“When someone works well, then he finds a lot of enemies who try to ruin his name,” he
told the Atlantic in 2011.
Last year he told the New York Times: “I don’t think people fear me … at least I don’t
want them to fear me.”
The report also details large-scale corruption, that is said to have eroded both security
and confidence in the government, while stuffing the coffers of abusive strongmen.
Lucrative contracts for logistics and security allowed some to maintain militias under
official cover, and pay off the Taliban instead of trying to defeat them, HRW said, while
other security officials were involved in drug production and trafficking.
Afghanistan is one of the most corrupt countries in the world, according to Transparency
International, and the compromised justice system also badly undermines
accountability, with little sense among ordinary Afghans that abusers will ever be held to
account.
“Initiatives ostensibly undertaken to curb corruption and other abuses have had
virtually no impact, for the same reasons there has been no progress tackling impunity in
other areas,” the report said. “Officially, the United States has backed anti-corruption
measures, while at the same time reportedly protecting officials accused of corruption
who have been deemed vital to the war effort.”

Atta Mohammad Noor, the influential governor of northern Balkh province is one of
those the report says profited from Nato projects to expand the security forces, using
them to absorb and fund his own militias, hundreds of men strong. They have been
accused of abuses for which HRW says Atta bears responsibility, even if he is not head of
a formal chain of command. Atta denies the allegations in the report.
“The informal nature of militias can make it difficult to establish who has ultimate
command responsibility for their actions,” the report says. “However, the available
evidence indicates that they could not operate without Atta’s consent and have been
effectively under his control, including at the time of the alleged abuses.”
It quotes him telling one villager who complained about killings by a militia group under
his command in 2011. “Please forgive [the killer], it was just a mistake.”
Atta in 2011 said that two of the militias he ran were needed to secure his province
because Karzai’s government refused to increase police and army ranks there. “The
people who complain about militia are people who have links with the Taliban,” he told
the Wall Street Journal.
Human Rights Watch called on the Afghan government and its international backers to
do more to hold the security forces to account. Despite meticulous documentation of
many cases of abuse, there has not been a single prosecution for torture.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, said his government would not tolerate
torture and thanked HRW for the report, but did not respond to the individual
allegations.
Source: The Guardian

Afghanistan’s new government should prosecute officials and commanders whose serious human rights abuses have long gone unpunished.

Read the whole report here: http://www.hrw.org/reports/2015/03/03/today-we-shall-all-die-0

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Paying Afghanistan’s Bills

By the end of the year, Congress will have appropriated more money for
Afghanistan’s reconstruction, when adjusted for inflation, than the
United States spent rebuilding 16 European nations after World War II
under the Marshall Plan.
A staggering portion of that money — $104 billion — has been
mismanaged and stolen. Much of what was built is crumbling or will be
unsustainable. Well-connected Afghans smuggled millions of stolen aid
money in suitcases that were checked onto Dubai-bound flights. The
Afghan government largely turned a blind eye to widespread
malfeasance. Even as revelations of fraud and abuse stacked up, the
United States continued shoveling money year after year because cutting
off the financial spigot was seen as a sure way to doom the war effort.
As the Pentagon winds down its combat mission there at the end of
the year, it’s tempting to think of the Afghan war as a chapter that is
coming to an end — at least for American taxpayers. But, as things stand,
the United States and its allies will continue paying Afghanistan’s bills for
the foreseeable future. That commitment was solidified Tuesday as the
American ambassador in Kabul and Afghanistan’s security adviser signed
a bilateral security agreement that will keep a small contingent of NATO
troops there for at least two years.
The United States and NATO partners recently agreed to spend $5.1
billion a year to pay for the army and police, until at least 2017. Western
donors are expected to continue to give billions more for reconstruction
and other initiatives, recognizing that Afghanistan won’t be weaned off
international aid anytime soon. In fact, the government appears to be broke.

A few weeks ago, Afghanistan’s Finance Ministry made an urgent
plea to the United States for a $537 million bailout, warning that it would
otherwise not be able to make payroll. That’s part of a broader,
worrisome trend. The International Monetary Fund estimates that
Afghanistan will face a financial gap of roughly $7.7 billion annually
between now and 2018.
If the flow of money is to keep going, the Afghan government has to
prove that it can be trusted. And, for its part, Congress should not
hesitate to cut off the aid if corruption remains unabated.
Afghanistan’s new president, Ashraf Ghani, who took office on
Monday, has pledged to stamp out graft. “I am not corrupt, and I am not
going to encourage corruption, tolerate it or become the instrument,” the
president, a former World Bank executive, told the BBC in an interview.
That will be easier said than done in a country where back-room
deals are the norm. Mr. Ghani can show he is serious by appointing and
empowering a new attorney general willing to take on unscrupulous
officials. His proposal to lead a new procurement board is commendable
because it would make him personally accountable.
Of the $104 billion that American lawmakers have appropriated for
Afghan reconstruction, nearly $16 billion remains unspent, according to
John Sopko, the inspector general who is overseeing the reconstruction
effort. As one of the poorest nations on earth, Afghanistan clearly has
plenty of needs. But the American agencies tasked with spending the
money must do a better job identifying priorities, setting realistic goals
and adopting stronger safeguards.
Delivering a speech at Georgetown University recently, Mr. Sopko
marveled at the Marshall Plan comparison. “What have we gotten for the
investment?” he asked.

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