NATO officials believe the Eidul Fitr ceasefire and the burgeoning peace movement have pushed Afghanistan to the “edge of opportunity.”

Lt. Gen. Richard J. Cripwell, deputy commander for the Resolute Support Mission, hailed President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a ceasefire over the Eid holiday as courageous.

The Taliban agreed to the ceasefire and the nation saw what peace could look like as government and Taliban marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan this past weekend.

Ghani extended the ceasefire, but the Taliban did not choose to honour that and attacked Badghis province, where 30 Afghan soldiers were killed.

The scenes in Kabul -- with Taliban entering the city to snap selfies and eat ice cream -- show peace is possible, a statement from Resolute Support mission quoted Cripwell as saying.

Assisting Afghan partners

Cripwell discussed the military pressure on the Taliban to bring the group to the negotiating table. “We are not here to do this ourselves,” the general said told Pentagon reporters via video teleconference.

“Our focus is on building capability to ensure the Afghan security forces can deliver effective, targeted military pressure to protect and secure their population and create the conditions for a political settlement.”

Senior NATO leaders partnered with Afghan defense and interior officials to increase institutional strength and look to root out inefficiency and corruption, the general said.

“We are also helping at the structural level to redesign and to produce a different sort of army: One that is capable, one that is professional and, in the long run, one that is affordable for the Afghan government,” Cripwell said.

Afghan government reform

Part of this is the Afghan government enforcing a mandatory retirement rule that is replacing older leaders with younger, better-trained leaders who rose through the ranks on their merits and not family or tribal connections.

“My own country, the United Kingdom along with Denmark, Australia and New Zealand, oversee the training of over 1,000 new officers -- male and female -- per year at the Afghan National Officers Academy,” he said.

NATO trainers are also helping at the tactical level with the American 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade making its efforts felt at regional commands across the country.

Those officers and noncommissioned officers primarily advise at the brigade level, but can reach lower in case of need.

The general noted the Afghan Air Force was growing. The NATO advisors are working at all levels to ensure AAF’s effectiveness, accuracy and sustainability.

“I’ve seen for myself how resilient the security forces are, despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves in,” Cripwell said. “So far this year, they have defended over 80 percent of the district centres that have been attacked by the enemy.”

He said peace marchers were showing the social pressure that Taliban were under from the nation. One group marched from Helmand to Kabul.

They received shelter and aid from local mosques along the way. Other groups are active in the eastern part of the country and in Herat in the west.

NATO officials believe the Eidul Fitr ceasefire and the burgeoning peace movement have pushed Afghanistan to the “edge of opportunity.”

Lt. Gen. Richard J. Cripwell, deputy commander for the Resolute Support Mission, hailed President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a ceasefire over the Eid holiday as courageous.

The Taliban agreed to the ceasefire and the nation saw what peace could look like as government and Taliban marked the end of the holy month of Ramadan this past weekend.

Ghani extended the ceasefire, but the Taliban did not choose to honour that and attacked Badghis province, where 30 Afghan soldiers were killed.

The scenes in Kabul -- with Taliban entering the city to snap selfies and eat ice cream -- show peace is possible, a statement from Resolute Support mission quoted Cripwell as saying.

Assisting Afghan partners

Cripwell discussed the military pressure on the Taliban to bring the group to the negotiating table. “We are not here to do this ourselves,” the general said told Pentagon reporters via video teleconference.

“Our focus is on building capability to ensure the Afghan security forces can deliver effective, targeted military pressure to protect and secure their population and create the conditions for a political settlement.”

Senior NATO leaders partnered with Afghan defense and interior officials to increase institutional strength and look to root out inefficiency and corruption, the general said.

“We are also helping at the structural level to redesign and to produce a different sort of army: One that is capable, one that is professional and, in the long run, one that is affordable for the Afghan government,” Cripwell said.

Afghan government reform

Part of this is the Afghan government enforcing a mandatory retirement rule that is replacing older leaders with younger, better-trained leaders who rose through the ranks on their merits and not family or tribal connections.

“My own country, the United Kingdom along with Denmark, Australia and New Zealand, oversee the training of over 1,000 new officers -- male and female -- per year at the Afghan National Officers Academy,” he said.

NATO trainers are also helping at the tactical level with the American 1st Security Force Assistance Brigade making its efforts felt at regional commands across the country.

Those officers and noncommissioned officers primarily advise at the brigade level, but can reach lower in case of need.

The general noted the Afghan Air Force was growing. The NATO advisors are working at all levels to ensure AAF’s effectiveness, accuracy and sustainability.

“I’ve seen for myself how resilient the security forces are, despite the challenging circumstances they find themselves in,” Cripwell said. “So far this year, they have defended over 80 percent of the district centres that have been attacked by the enemy.”

He said peace marchers were showing the social pressure that Taliban were under from the nation. One group marched from Helmand to Kabul.

They received shelter and aid from local mosques along the way. Other groups are active in the eastern part of the country and in Herat in the west.

In response to an invitation from Pakistan President Mamnoon Hussain, Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Dr. Abdullah will pay an official visit to Islamabad.

The two leaders discussed a recent truce and the peace process at their meeting in Tajikistan on Wednesday, the CEO advisor Faridoon Khwazoon told Pajhwok Afghan News.

He said the CEO was in Dushanbe to attend the International Conference on Water for Sustainable Development. Political, economic, trade ties and the recent Eid ceasefire came up for discussion.

Hussain welcomed the truce during Eid and hailed it as a significant step toward peace in Afghanistan. He reiterated his country’s support for the Afghan-owned peace process.

Abdullah urged Pakistan to take serious steps against the Afghan Taliban and other insurgent groups on its soil. The CEO commended Pakistan’s efforts to expand trade with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani head of state extended an invitation to the CEO to visit Islamabad. Abdullah accepted it, the state-run news agency APP reported.

Since peace and stability in Afghanistan was vital to regional development, Hussain said, his country was working with the neighbour to achieve the objective.

High-level contacts between Pakistan and Afghanistan were important, the president believed, promising his government would fully cooperate with Kabul on issues of common interest.

President Ashraf Ghani’s efforts to jump-start the peace talks with the Taliban hit another hurdle this week when the Taliban on Sunday declared end of their three-day ceasefire and ordered their fighters to return to the trenches.
However, despite the Taliban’s decision, government is still confident that the peace talks can be restarted.
On Monday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) said as Taliban left the cities after Eid-ul-Fitr celebrations, many stayed behind and are likely to join the peace process.
This came after Ghani’s unilateral ceasefire was widely hailed by both Afghans and the international community. Following Ghani’s ceasefire announcement, the Taliban followed suit, but instead ordered just a three-day truce.
Afghan politicians are confident that the initiative could lead to the resumption of the stalled peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
“Peace and reconciliation are among the topics which the entire population agrees on; there has not been any kind of complexity and ambiguity to it, Jamiat party welcomes any move by the government which is taken to end the war,” said Abdul Hafiz Mansour, a member of the leadership council of Jamiat-e-Islami party of Afghanistan.
But Anwar-ul-Haq Ahadi, the chairman of New National Front of Afghanistan (NNFP), was not optimistic about a long-term ceasefire on the part of the Taliban.
“The government announced a ceasefire, but this ceasefire will not be a long-term ceasefire, if it happens, talks will be held about peace,” said Ahadi.
“The warm welcome by the people indicates that the peace has become a collective and national demand, we hope to pave the way for lasting peace with collective efforts,” said President Ashraf Ghani’s deputy spokesman Shahhussain Murtazawi.
Thousands of Taliban members entered cities, towns and villages across the country where they celebrated Eid with residents and security forces over the weekend. By Sunday evening most had left and returned to their strongholds.
But despite the euphoria experienced across the country, questions have been raised as to what happens to those Taliban members who have stayed in the cities.
“Thousands of them flocked into the cities and also over 2,500 of them (Taliban) came into Kabul and saw that government is serious about peace; but now some of them are still staying and some of them have gone; those who have stayed, the Afghan peace commission will decide about them,” said defense ministry deputy spokesman Mohammad Radmanish.
The three-day ceasefire was however respected by both security forces and the Taliban but where government on Sunday extended its orders for another 10 days, the Taliban ordered its fighters to return to the trenches and resume the war.

Of the total 2,917 voter registration centres in villages and far-flung areas, 1,357 centres had remained closed during the third phase of registration, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on Monday.

Abdul Aziz Ibrahimi, deputy spokesman of the IEC, told Pajhwok Afghan News these registration centres had been closed in the villages and remote areas due to security threats.

“In the third phase of registration villages and remote areas have been targeted, where 2,917 registration centers had been approved, but only 1,560 centres remained opened while 1,357 others cannot be made functional,” he said.

Ibrahimi said during the registration process 6,185 persons had registered as possible candidate for Wolesi Jirga and District Council election.

Among them, he said, 2,454 had registered as potential candidates for Wolesi Jirga and 3,731 for district councils.

The candidates included 391 women for Wolesi Jirga and 271 for district council election.

He added that eight persons, including a woman, had registered as Khochi candidates for upcoming lower house polls.

President Ashraf Ghani met with Pakistan’s Army Chief General Qamar Javid Bajwa and the visiting Pakistani delegation on Tuesday afternoon in Kabul, Ghani’s deputy spokesman Shahussain Murtazawi confirmed.
Ghani and Bajwa discussed the implementation of the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity, the fight against terrorism, reducing violence and Afghan-owned peace process, Murtazwai said.
However, he did not provide further details about the meeting.
This comes after Pakistan’s President Mamnoon Hussain on Sunday said that Islamabad and Kabul would be working together to draft a comprehensive strategy for establishing peace in Afghanistan.
Hussain made the remarks at a session of Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) Summit in Qingdao, China, according to Pakistan Today.
The report said Hussain talked about relations with Afghanistan and that "Pakistan and Afghanistan are working on a comprehensive strategy on a bilateral basis to establish peace in Afghanistan," adding that "ceasefire in Afghanistan is a positive sign for regional peace."
He further stated, “peace and stability in Afghanistan is our common objective and Pakistan is playing its due role in this regard."
On Monday, officials confirmed Pakistan and Afghanistan had agreed to deploy liaison officers in each other's capital and establish coordination centers along the border to share intelligence on militant suspects.
The director generals of Military Operations (DGMOs) of the two countries met in the Pakistani city of Rawalpindi to explore ways for further cooperation in security areas.
Officials said both sides agreed to deploy liaison officers and establish Ground Coordination Centers (GCCs) for intelligence sharing and to monitor cross-border movement of the militants.
According to Xinhua, liaison officers will share information they receive about the presence and activities of militant suspects and will accompany the security officials during raids against the suspects.
GCCs will be established at Torkham and Chaman, two main crossing points between Pakistan and Afghanistan to monitor the cross-border movement of the militant suspects.

 

 Former Afghan President Karzai has hailed the ceasefire agreement between Kabul and the Taliban at DW's Global Media Forum. He also said the West, including Germany, must admit their failure in the war-torn country.
It was Hamid Karzai who set up a peace commission in 2010 for talks with Islamist insurgents. The Taliban, however, did not reciprocate the gesture and instead intensified their attacks on NATO forces, Afghan soldiers and civilians.
But a recent week-long Eid truce between President Ashraf Ghani's government and the militant group has raised hopes that the 16-year-old deadly conflict could finally be resolved. It was the first time since 2001, when US forces ousted the Taliban regime, that the group has shown a degree of flexibility in their dealing with the Afghan government, which it considers a "US puppet."
Former Afghan President Karzai is hopeful the temporary ceasefire deal between Kabul and the Taliban could lead to something more permanent. But he admits there are a number of obstacles to achieving this goal.
"I hope that this short-term truce could lead to a lasting peace in Afghanistan. But we must not forget that the war in Afghanistan is an imposed war. The United States, Pakistan and all other stakeholders in the conflict need to reach a deal to make it [the ceasefire] permanent," Karzai told a 2018 DW Global Media Forum panel: Peace With the Taliban: A Compromise on Human Rights?, held in Bonn, Germany.
Other speakers at the panel included Markus Potzel, Germany's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan; Huria Musadiq, Afghanistan researcher at Amnesty International, London; and Sandra Petersmann, a DW South Asia expert.
When asked by host Waslat Hasrat-Nazimi as to why he could not achieve what President Ghani has in terms of a step forward toward peace, Karzai blamed the initial Western response to the Afghan conflict almost 17 years ago.
"The 2001 international conference on Afghanistan, which was held in Bonn, should have included the Taliban. It was a mistake not to have extended the invitation to the representatives of the ousted regime," Karzai remarked.
"To make matters worse, the US went on a revenge campaign against the Taliban, which forced the fighters to seek shelter in mountains and inside Pakistan," he added.
Karzai also blamed the US for not pressuring Islamabad enough to abandon its alleged support for Islamists.
"Taliban as Afghans wanted peace and could have been brought to negotiations back then. Now, it is a long way to go to attain peace."
But Sandra Petersmann countered the "foreign factors" argument and said that it was high time that Afghanistan accepts the responsibility for the peace failure.
"A civil war was already happening in Afghanistan before the US invasion. It is wrong to say there was peace in Afghanistan before 2001," Petersmann said.
"The problem is that even if the US pulled out all troops from Afghanistan, and Pakistan began to cooperate on the insurgency issue, there would not be a guarantee for peace," she underlined
Pakistan's role in the Afghan conflict featured prominently during the discussion as all participants agreed that Islamabad continues to use its militant proxies to destabilize its neighboring country.
"During the 1980s Afghan war, the US and Pakistan used religion as a narrative to fight against the Soviets. It was a blunder. Pakistan still uses it against Afghanistan. After 2001, Washington backed Pakistan," Karzai said.
The former Afghan strongman, who is still active in politics and could run for president again, believes the Trump administration in the US hasn't really put pressure on Islamabad to change its Afghanistan policy.
To that statement, Markus Potzel, Germany's special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, said the US is definitely stricter with Pakistan than before.
"But for Islamabad, Afghanistan is a strategic issue. It uses terrorism as a bargaining chip," Potzel said.
Petersmann, who has spent many years as reporter in Afghanistan, said that Pakistan is not the only country in the region that uses proxies inside Afghanistan.
"Putting all blame on Pakistan is not right," she insisted.
Potzel said the German government has kept the dialogue open with Islamabad on the issue.
"Our forces are in Afghanistan to secure the country, to advise their military. But peace in the country is Afghanistan's own responsibility."
Rights violations
Huria Musadiq, Afghanistan researcher at Amnesty International, accused Hamid Karzai of committing human rights violation during his tenure as president.
"Afghans were put into the Guantanamo jail. Afghans have been betrayed by everyone," Musadiq said.
"Afghan women were used as a tool to justify the war. At the same time, the militants targeted them," she added.
"My government's priority was security. You can only obey law when there is peace," Karzai responded, adding that he was against the US detention of Afghan citizens.
The participants also highlighted the increasing "Islamic State" (IS) threat to Afghanistan and underlined the importance of tackling the threat.
Responding to a question, Karzai lauded the Pashtun Tahaffuz Movement (PTM, Movement for the protection of Pashtuns) in Pakistan as an anti-war campaign that could make a real difference in the region. PTM leaders accuse both the Taliban and the Pakistani army for violence, devastation and human rights abuses in the northwestern tribal region.

 

Moscow will continue efforts to involve the Taliban movement in direct talks with Kabul, Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said following the meeting of CSTO foreign ministers on Monday, adding though that those efforts have failed so far.
According to Russia’s top diplomat, “together with normalizing the military situation in Afghanistan” heads of ministries supported Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s call for a direct dialogue with the Taliban members.
“Russia has long advocated for this kind of dialogue, the Taliban members are part of the Afghanistan’s society. Provided that they abandon a military approach to defending their interests, they should be made direct participants of the political process,” he said. “So far the Taliban members have not demonstrated readiness to this kind of dialogue, but we will
continue our efforts, particularly on the back of today’s agreements between the CSTO foreign ministers,” the minister added.
This comes as Taliban, for the first since their ouster from power, agreed to a three-day truce with Afghan forces during Eid Al Fiter.

Local officials in western Herat province on Monday claimed arresting the husband of a potential parliamentary candidate for possessing fake identity cards.
Jilini Farhad, the governor’s spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News 600 fake ID cards, stamps and others documents related to the Zinda Jan district’s population registration department were seized from the expected contestant’s spouse.
National Directorate of security (NDS) operatives conducted the raid in the 7th police district. However, Farhad did not name the detainee and his wife. However, he explained the man was held along with an accomplice in the seventh police district.
A case against the accused has been referred to the justice department. Once investigations were completed, further details would be shared with the media, the governor’s spokesman promised.

Crisis Group welcomes Afghan truce

Tuesday, 12 June 2018 02:58

 The International Crisis Group on Sunday welcomed the “unprecedented” ceasefire announcement by the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgent group, saying such a truce could represent a concrete step toward peace talks.
“International Crisis Group welcomes pledges by the Afghan government and the Taliban insurgency that both sides will respect a ceasefire over the Eid al Fitr holiday. If implemented, such a truce would be unprecedented and could represent a concrete step toward peace talks,” the organization said in a statement.
“There are skeptics both inside President Ashraf Ghani’s government and among the Taliban who question the truce. Its implementation could prove difficult. Nonetheless, the announcement of a ceasefire is a bold decision by both parties and could represent a step toward a peace process,” the statement read.
According to the organization, if the leadership of both parties can enforce the ceasefire, it would be “an important trust-building exercise that contributes to future peace-making” in Afghanistan.
Last week, President Ashraf Ghani announced a ceasefire with the Taliban after Afghan clerics gathered in Kabul and issued a Fatwa against the ongoing violence in the country.
“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan announces ceasefire from the 27th of Ramadan until the fifth day of Eid-al-Fitr following the historic ruling [Fatwa] of the Afghan Ulema,” Ghani said in a video message aired live on the presidential palace Facebook page.
He ordered all Afghan security forces to stop their offensive maneuvers against the “Afghan armed Taliban” during the ceasefire period.
However, he asked governmental forces to continue their military operation against Daesh, Al-Qaeda and other foreign-backed terrorist organizations and their affiliates across the country.
Following the announcement by Afghan government, the Taliban announced a truce during the forthcoming Eid al Fitr holiday.
For its part, the Taliban said its ceasefire would not extend to US-led NATO forces, though the US military commander in Afghanistan has said the US will respect the truce.
The ceasefire announcement decisions were warmly welcomed especially by citizens in the capital Kabul and on social media who hoped for a lasting peace across the war-torn country.

 

Page 1 of 75