General Murad Ali Murad was formally introduced as the new commander of Kabul Garrison Command on Saturday – after having been dismissed as deputy interior minister for security last month.
Defense Minister Gen. Tariq Shah Bahrami made the announcement at an event in Kabul on Saturday morning.
According to Bahrami, Murad has been appointed as the new commander of Kabul Garrison Command and as deputy defense minister for the security affairs of Kabul.
Speaking at his farewell ceremony last month at the ministry of interior, Murad said he was concern about the state of the police forces.
He said they were under-equipped and “in a bad way” – citing a lack of food as another problem.
“Our police forces are deprived and in a bad situation and no one (official) deserves to receive rewards and they do not have the right to say I did this. Afghan police are in the worst situation today,” said Murad.
Murad takes over from acting commander Gen. Afzal Aman, who has led the garrison for the past year.
Aman took over after former Kabul garrison command chief Gul Nabi Ahmadzai was suspended on June 11 over the deteriorating security situation in Kabul – more specifically the deadly truck bombing in the diplomatic zone that killed over 150 people.
The General Directorate of Kabul River Basin said Friday that a drop of 47 percent in rainfall this year in the Kabul river basin area was extremely alarming and has resulted in major challenges.
Officials said this year’s drought, especially in the Kabul region, was of major concern and a number of measures have been taken to help alleviate some of the problems.
Kabul residents are also concerned about the drop in the groundwater level and said government is unable to provide drinking water to some parts of the capital.
Officials confirmed the drop in groundwater levels in the capital and voiced their concerns.
“There are some inevitabilities in the water management of this system and we have prepared a plan for measures around the usage of water in order to use the water efficiently and decrease the risks brought on by the drought,” said Marouf Maser, the General Director of Kabul River Basin.
Kabul residents say that in the past month, the water level has dropped by three to five meters.
They have criticized government for not providing water for sanitation purposes and said that large parts of the city now face water shortages.
“Most people also get sick because of this water,” one resident said.
The National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) said that at the moment, along with Kabul, more than twenty provinces in the country are experiencing a drought.
Earlier this week, CEO Abdullah Abdullah attended the Water for Sustainable Development summit in Dushanbe, which was attended by about 1,000 high-ranking officials and other stakeholders.
Addressing the conference on Wednesday, Abdullah said the lack of potable water is a global challenge that must be addressed as a top priority.
He said climate change, increasing population and environment pollution were the main factors that add to water problems.
He told delegates that Afghanistan has been badly affected by water issues which include a shortage of water reservoirs, the melting of snow resources, drought and water pollution.
He also said Afghanistan’s population could double by 2050 and that this would put further pressure on the country.
“We have created a coordination unit at the chief executive office to follow sustainable development,” he said.
He said the Afghan government welcomed any programs and steps towards reducing water related challenges in the region and the world and that Kabul would not hesitate to contribute to efforts and cooperation in this regard.
Last year, the World Health Organization stated in a report that some 3 in 10 people worldwide, or 2.1 billion, lack access to safe, readily available water at home, and 6 in 10, or 4.5 billion, lack safely managed sanitation.
The High Peace Council (HPC) on Saturday commended Saudi King Salman bin Abdul Aziz Al-Saud’s support for reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
On Wednesday, King Salman hoped for the continuation of Afghan peace efforts. He promised the kingdom would continue to support peace and political reconciliation in Afghanistan.
In a statement, HPC said: “We also thank Imams of Haramain Sharifain for their historic sermons in support of peace in Afghanistan and asking government and Taliban to extend the truce.”
Imams of the two holy mosques called the current conflict in Afghanistan the killing of Muslims -- an act forbidden by Islam -- and invited both sides to make peace in line Quran and Sunnah.
“We believe this is a clear indication of the endorsement of the recent fatwa by Afghan ulema. We, therefore, once again call on the Taliban to renounce violence that caused the bloodshed of Muslims,” HPC added.
For those who imagine that Taliban control in some regions of Afghanistan consists mainly of men being beaten for failing to pray and girls being forced to stay home from school, a new report based on scores of interviews in those areas paints a very different portrait, but one that in some ways may be equally disturbing, the Washington Post reports.
“Life Under the Taliban Shadow Government,” a detailed study published Thursday by the Overseas Development Institute, describes a “sophisticated system of parallel governance,” with commissions for each area of service, such as health, justice and finance, operating in numerous districts fully or partly controlled by the insurgents. The study surveyed 20 such districts across seven provinces.
The main conclusions of the report, written and primarily researched by Ashley Jackson, are that the Taliban sets the rules in “vast swaths” of Afghan territory but is far more concerned with influencing people. It has largely shifted from outright coercion to “creeping influence” over Afghans through services and state activities, it is often part of the local “social fabric,” and it views itself as preparing to govern the country, not just to participate in political life, whenever the 16-year conflict ends, the report says.
In many areas, the report finds, Taliban representatives interact almost routinely with local government officials, aid agencies and other groups, negotiating terms in a hybrid system to deliver health care, education and other services. Taliban bureaucrats collect taxes and electric bills, and their judges hear civil and criminal cases — some traveling by motorbike between hearings.
Although the first Taliban shadow governments were established more than a decade ago, the report documents how widely they have spread, despite years of Afghan and foreign military resistance. It also shows how they have evolved from using force and intimidation against local populations to building carefully run, accountable systems that address people’s needs, which some residents say they find more honest and effective than government control.
The report says Afghan and foreign officials are “worryingly unaware” of how assiduously the Taliban has worked to exert local control, make bargains and influence services. Today, its leaders view themselves not as insurgents but as a “government in waiting,” the report says.
At a time of growing national hopes for a negotiated peace, the consolidation of Taliban administrative control in numerous areas seems to challenge the official argument that the insurgents might accept a role as just another political force in exchange for giving up arms and settling the war.
Over time, the study found, Taliban policies in areas of control shifted from repressive violence to cooperation and public relations. By 2011, Taliban leaders had signed agreements with 28 aid organizations, including permission to conduct polio vaccination drives. As NATO forces withdrew, Taliban professionalism grew.
“We could be less warlike,” one Taliban member said. Unlike the amateur Taliban rulers of 1996 to 2001, the insurgents now have a seasoned, “quasi-professional core of individuals” to run things, the report says.
President Donald Trump has declared North Korea an "unusual and extraordinary threat" to US national security as he acted to maintain harsh economic sanctions against Pyongyang, despite a historic summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-un earlier this month.
The official declaration came in a notice to Congress on Friday, in which Trump ordered that economic restrictions would continue for one year, The Washington Post reported.
The national emergency Trump signed will keep in place sanctions first imposed a decade ago by President George W. Bush.
It also allows Washington to forbid North Korean leaders from selling or using any assets they may hold in the United States. It is separate from US sanctions related to the North’s human rights issues and international penalties imposed over its nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
"The existence and risk of proliferation of weapons-usable fissile material on the Korean Peninsula and the actions and policies of the Government of North Korea continue to pose an unusual and extraordinary threat to the national security, foreign policy, and economy of the United States," Trump wrote on Friday.
The paperwork came a day after Trump said at a Cabinet meeting in the White House that North Korea had already started a process of “total denuclearization,” adding that Pyongyang had blown up four of its big test sites.
However, US officials familiar with current intelligence on North Korea’s nuclear and missile test sites said there was no such evidence.
Trump’s stern tone and list of accusations against North Korea marked a complete reversal from Trump’s optimistic language following his June 12 summit with Kim in Singapore.
"Sleep well tonight!" the president tweeted on June 13. "There is no longer a Nuclear Threat from North Korea."
Following their meeting, the first between a sitting US president and a North Korean leader, Trump and Kim signed a joined document, committing to establishing new relations and achieving peace on the Korean Peninsula.
Before signing the document, Kim said the two leaders had “decided to leave the past behind” and that “the world will see a major change.”
Trump said he had formed a “very special bond” with Kim and that Washington’s relationship with Pyongyang would be very different.
While the summit was seen as a test for diplomacy that could end the long-running nuclear standoff, foreign policy experts have warned that the stakes are still high for an armed conflict if diplomacy fails.
The US seeks the complete and irreversible dismantling of North Korea’s nuclear program. Pyongyang is demanding a solid guarantee of its security and the removal of Washington’s nuclear umbrella protecting allies South Korea and Japan.
After dominating Turkish politics for a decade and a half, President Tayyip Erdogan now faces his biggest electoral challenge, from a combative former teacher who has revitalized a dispirited opposition in less than two months.
Turkey holds presidential and parliamentary elections on Sunday that are among the most important in its modern history. The winner of the presidential race will acquire sweeping new executive powers under a constitutional shake-up that Turkish voters narrowly approved in a referendum last year.
By calling early polls - they were originally set for November 2019 - Erdogan appeared to have wrongfooted his foes. But they have gained momentum with the nomination of Muharrem Ince last month as the candidate of the main opposition party, though Erdogan is still tipped to win.
A former physics teacher from northwest Turkey, Ince is an outspoken lawmaker of the secularist Republican People’s Party (CHP). Unlike many CHP politicians drawn from the Western-facing elite, he comes from a pious Sunni Muslim family.
Ince is given to folk dancing and riding tractors on visits to rural areas and sometimes dons a farmer’s cap. His sister, who wears a headscarf, occasionally joins him at rallies.
It is unclear whether Ince can win over the pious supporters of Erdogan’s Islamist-rooted AK Party. But his sharp wit and feisty rhetoric have helped him steal some of Erdogan’s thunder. He has dismissed the president as “Tarzan” for his purported mud-slinging and mocked Erdogan’s academic record.
Just days after his nomination, Ince overtook another presidential hopeful, Meral Aksener, as the opposition’s leading candidate and turned the campaign into a two-man race.
Erdogan, 64, dismisses Ince as an “apprentice”, citing what he says is his rival’s lack of experience. However, a video widely shared on social media has shown Erdogan recently saying a win is not “a piece of cake”. In an interview this week, the president floated the possibility of an coalition government.
“Erdogan can’t put his stamp on the election this time,” said Rusen Cakir, a prominent journalist who has followed the president’s career for decades.
“He is trying but he is unable to.”
After 15 years of almost non-stop campaigning through nearly a dozen elections, Erdogan still keeps to a grueling schedule as he criss-crosses the nation of 81 million people, although he has sometimes appeared weary and his speeches flat.
Up to now, he has steamrollered the opposition, which has lost election after election under CHP head Kemal Kilicdaroglu, a soft-spoken former civil servant, and his predecessor.
Ten years younger than the president, Ince has lit up crowds with a booming oratory reminiscent of Erdogan at his best.
On Thursday, what appeared to be more than 1 million people turned out at a rally for Ince in the coastal city of Izmir - roughly matching the crowd at an Erdogan rally in Istanbul over the weekend, a rarity for the CHP.
“In recent days, as Tarzan has faced trouble, he’s been rambling,” Ince told the roaring crowd. “We know he doesn’t have a university diploma, but I’m wondering if he even has a middle school one.”
Insulting the president is a crime in Turkey and Erdogan, whose lawyers have filed cases against some 1,800 people for allegedly insulting him, has also sued Ince.
Erdogan has accused Ince of siding with terrorists for visiting Selahattin Demirtas, the jailed candidate for the pro-Kurdish Peoples Democratic Party’s (HDP), which Ankara accuses of links to the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) militant group.
The HDP is not part of the opposition alliance, although Ince’s visit was seen as an important public gesture to Turkey’s Kurds, who make up 15 percent of the population.
A third of the world's population resides in countries where democracy is in retreat, including India, Turkey, Brazil, Poland, Russia and the United States, researchers reported Thursday, as quoted by Agence France-Presse (AFP).
“While most people in the world still live in democracies in 2017, democracy has declined in 24 countries home to 2.6 billion people,” they reported in the journal Democratization.
The drift toward autocratic rule -- under which checks against executive power are weakened -- occurred mainly in democratic regions, notably Western and Eastern Europe and the United States, the report says.
“Media autonomy, freedom of expression, and the rule of law have undergone the greatest declines," said lead author Anna Luhrmann, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden.
"This worrisome trend makes elections less meaningful across the world."
People in countries backsliding on liberal democracy by far outnumber those living in nations making progress, she noted.
The only region bucking the global trend is Africa, which has shown incremental but significant growth in democracy in recent years.
The study is based on the latest update of the Varieties of Democracy (V-Dem) dataset, a resource compiled by 3,000 experts worldwide that includes hundreds of variables and millions of data points reaching back half-a-century.
The database tracks changes in nearly 180 countries divided into four categories, depending on the robustness of their democratic institutions.
In "liberal democracies", uncorrupted multiparty elections are bolstered by a robust rule of law, an independent media, as well as strong judicial and legislative branches.
The next step down is "electoral democracies," in which these checks to strongman rule are less effective, even if elections remain reasonably free-and-fair.
Last year, just over half the world's population lived in one or the other of these systems, though only 14 percent resided in liberal democracies.
In "electoral autocracies," multiparty elections and limited civil liberties are undermined by repression, censorship and intimidation, while in "closed autocracies" outright dictatorship is, at best, dressed in a fig leaf of rigged elections.
Over the past decade, 20 countries have slipped a notch in the V-Dem ranking, including four in the European Union: Hungary, Poland, Lithuania and Slovakia were all downgraded from "liberal" to "electoral" democracies.
Israel, Mauritius, and South Africa also strayed further from democratic ideals.
In 2017, "we are back to the global level of democracy recorded shortly after the end of the Soviet Union in 1991," the study found. "The last six years alone have unfortunately brought us back 25 years in time."
Among the 17 countries that transitioned upward since 2008 toward a more political system, Tunisia is the only one to move from autocracy to liberal democracy.
Four nations in sub-Saharan Africa -- Guinea Bissau, Ivory Coast, Malawi and Nigeria -- shifted from electoral autocracy to electoral democracy.
Globally, the percentage of people living in societies tending toward democracy increased gradually -- with the exception of central Europe and central Asia, which saw a sharp jump after the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991 -- from the late 1970s until around 2012.
Since then, it has declined in all regions, except Africa.
The study also found that two billion people lived in countries where wealthy elites gained more political power in the last ten years, including the United States.
Ethiopia’s new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed escaped a grenade attack on Saturday at a rally in the capital although scores of people were wounded, officials and witnesses said.
The attack was launched by an unidentified assailant moments after 41-year-old prime minister, a former soldier who took office in April, finished his speech to tens of thousands of people gathered in Meskel Square in the center of Addis Ababa.
A witness saw Abiy whisked away by guards. Another witness told Reuters the assailant who carried the grenade had been wrestled to the ground by police before it exploded.
The prime minister’s chief of staff said 83 people were wounded, with six in critical condition. But he said no one was killed, despite earlier statements by the authorities indicating several deaths. A senior police officer said 100 were wounded.
Addressing the nation on television shortly afterwards, Abiy said the attack was an “attempt by forces who do not want to see Ethiopia united.”
Abiy had promised in his rally speech to bring more transparency to government and reconciliation to a nation torn by years of protests. When speaking on television, he was still wearing a green T-shirt handed to him by rally organizers.
Eritrea, which has long been at loggerheads with Ethiopia over a border row that Abiy has sought to resolve, condemned the incident. The European Union and the United States condemned the attack.
Abiy took office after his predecessor, Hailemariam Desalegn, resigned following protests that erupted in 2015 in the nation of 100 million people. Emergency law was temporarily imposed to quell the unrest and was lifted this month.
Despite boasting one of Africa’s fastest growing economies, opponents say the benefits have not been shared fairly between ethnic groups and regions in the country, which has been run by the same ruling coalition for more than quarter of a century.
Abiy has traveled around the nation, promising to address grievances and address political and civil rights.
After Saturday’s blast, the prime minister’s chief of staff wrote on Twitter: “Some whose heart is filled with hate attempted a grenade attack.”
“All the casualties are martyrs of love & peace. HE PM sends his condolences to the victims. The perpetrators will be brought to justice,” Fitsum Arega wrote.
The US embassy in Addis Ababa said: “Violence has no place as Ethiopia pursues meaningful political and economic reforms.”
Afghanistan and Uzbekistan officials discussed the establishment of a free trade zone in the border areas between the two countries at a meeting in Uzbekistan’s Termez City on Thursday.
More than 40 officials and representatives of public and private sectors of the two countries participated in the meeting which was organized by European Union and the International Trade Center.
On the sideline of this meeting, representatives of Afghanistan and Uzbekistan private sector signed an agreement on establishing a joint trade center in Termez City.
Trade volume between Afghanistan and Uzbekistan will increase to billions of dollars a year after creation of the trade zone, said Shakir Kargar, President Ashraf Ghani’s adviser in Central Asia affairs.
“The President (Ashraf Ghani) in his last meeting with President of Uzbekistan invited Uzbek investors to invest in Herat mines. It was interesting for Uzbek investors and we want Uzbekistan to invest in other mines too,” he said.
“It is a good platform to introduce to Afghan businessmen our products. Except that we are now thinking about and already discussed the possibility of the border trade,” said Jamshid Khodjaev, Minister of Foreign Trade of Uzbekistan.
The European Union and the International Trade Center officials said organizing such meetings will play a crucial role in improving trade ties between the two countries.
“Since the improvement of our relations with Uzbekistan in terms of trade, we have been witnessing good progress in this regard,” Mohammad Yunus Mohmand, deputy head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said.
Last year, Afghanistan-Uzbekistan trade volume was more than $350 million, according to government statistics.
Analysts say the amount will increase to over $700 million in the coming years.
The role and influence of Saudi Arabia in the Muslim world cannot be overlooked. The country is home to the holiest mosques and sites of the Islamic world, and therefore Muslims around the world respect the decisions of Saudi Arabia. As part of efforts aimed at the peaceful settlement of Afghan conflict, Saudi Arabia, in a rare call, has asked for extension of ceasefire between Afghan government and the Taliban. In addition to the Saudi Kingdom, the imams of Haramain Sharifain (the Great Mosque of Mecca or Al-Haram Mosque and the Mosque of Madina or Al-Masjid al-Nabawi) have also prayed for peace in Afghanistan in their Friday sermons. This is the first time in the last 17 years that the imams of the holiest mosques simultaneously pray for restoration of peace in the war-stricken country. The Friday sermons in the Al-Masjid al-Haram and Al-Masjid al-Nabawi were focused on peace and brotherhood in Afghanistan.
The kingdom's move is laudable, especially now as fighting has ever intensified and virtually all of the victims are Afghans. Although there are still foreign troops in Afghanistan, it is only Afghans that are losing their lives on both sides. The stance of the imams of Haramain Sharifain is a step forward, but only praying is not enough. As a powerful Muslim country and birthplace of Islam, Saudi Arabia needs to embrace a more serious position with regard to the "fratricide" among Muslims. The kingdom can do more to bring the Afghan war to a peaceful end, as it has enormous influence over Pakistan, which is considered the main driver of the conflict in Afghanistan. If Saudi appropriately utilizes the influence for the settlement of Afghan conflict, the goal will become significantly easy to accomplish.
Furthermore, Saudi Arabia has strong influence over Pakistani clerics, and Islamabad is economically reliant on Riyadh. If the ruling royal family of Saudi Arabia encourages Pakistanis to give up their support for the Taliban, and bring them to the negotiating table with Afghan government, the Pakistanis may not flout the call due to the potential economic consequences they will suffer in case of refusal. Saudi Arabia's new stance can give a fresh impetus to, and revive hopes for, the political settlement of Afghan conflict.