Nearly a dozen uprising members and three Taliban militants have been killed during a clash in northern Sar-i-Pul province, the governor said on Sunday.
Mohammad Zahir Wahdat told Pajhwok Afghan News the Taliban stormed the uprising forces check-posts in Tagha-i-Khawja and Tabar Sancharak villages of Sar-i-Pul City, the provincial capital, late Saturday night at around 10pm.
The uprising commander Hafeez Khan and a Taliban commander Khalid were among those killed, he said.
The Taliban fled after security reinforcements reached the scene, he concluded.
However, Mohammad Noor Rahmani, the provincial council (PC) chief, confirmed the killing of 11 uprising members but said there was no information about Taliban causalities.
The Taliban militants also claimed killing 11 uprising members and wounded three others in the attack. The rebels said their fighters escaped unhurt.
The success of airlines in Afghanistan has become a conundrum. Over the last decade, three airlines collapsed and the remaining ones are also teetering on the brink of becoming defunct. Banned from flying into European airspace, Afghan air carriers are now not even allowed to go to the United Arab Emirates.
Experts blame poor management, flaws in laws, investment in dilapidated planes, and weak communication with foreigners for the failures of Afghan airlines.
An expert, Esmatuallah Wardak, tells The Heart of Asia that Afghan businessmen with no experience and education in aviation purchased old planes at a very high price, which were unable to compete with foreign air carriers. “On the one hand, they had bought the planes at high-interest loans from banks, but on the other hand they could not compete with foreign airlines because of not meeting relevant standards, and even faced with bans, causing huge losses to them.”
According to Wardak, the shortcomings in Afghan aviation laws have also contributed to increased problems at airlines.
There are no technical aviation professionals and engineers in Afghanistan, stresses Engineer Homayoon, another industry expert, adding that the foreign engineers and technicians hired by Afghan airlines develop policies and procedures without even taking the Afghan context into account.
“The planes currently operated by Afghan airlines in Afghanistan have high costs compared to foreign aircrafts; therefore, they cannot compete with them,” he told The Heart of Asia.
Afghan airlines also do not know the language to communicate with foreigners, a shortcoming that has handicapped their ability to build successful partnerships with world’s leading air carriers.
Three Afghan airlines -- Ofoq-e-Sharq, Pamir Airlines, and Afghan Jet -- have ceased to operate over the last ten years.
By the same token, Safi Airways has been stripped of the permit to operate foreign flights, while Kam Air has also limited its flights following the loss of some of its foreign crew members in the attack on Intercontinental Hotel in Kabul. Ariana Afghan Airlines as the country’s national carrier, which suffered millions of dollars in loss due to poor management over the last several years, is still coddled by government subsidy.
The national carrier announced last year that it was expecting to reach break-even point the following year; however, it now refuses to share any details.
The Heart of Asia could not reach the Ministry of Transportation and Civil Aviation, and Ariana Afghan Airlines for comment.
Taliban insurgents have blown up a power pylon supplying electricity from Uzbekistan to Afghanistan in northern Baghlan province, an official said on Saturday.
Sultan Ahmad Azizi, provincial power utility director, told Pajhwok Afghan News the militants destroyed the pylon by blowing it up with a bomb in Doshi district late on Friday night.
This time insurgents had destroyed the pylon in a mountainous area and it would be difficult for a technical team to go there and reconnect the electricity, he said.
Azizi said they had been trying to dispatch a team for repairing the pylon and reconnect the power but failed as a clash between the Afghan forces and the Taliban was underway in the area.
Police Chief Brig. Gen. Akramuddin Sary said militants had been targeting welfare sites for the interests of others. “Militants have lost the ability to fight face-to-face with Afghan Forces that is why they destroy power pylons.”
On the other hand, Doshi district police chief, Agha Mir, said they had arrived to the area with security forces. “We are waiting for a technical team to repair the pylon and reconnect the power.”
Taliban have not yet commented in this regard.
Afghan Taliban on Saturday strongly reacted to former CIA Director and US President Donald Trump’s nominee for secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, statement before Senate foreign relations committee, saying the US leaders would face what they had never imagined in Afghanistan, Afghan Islamic Press reported.
In his nomination statement before the US senate foreign relations committee, Mike Pompeo said Afghanistan remained unstable and the US needed to stay in Afghanistan till the elimination of terror threat.
He said he had presented the plan to the US president to stay longer in Afghanistan.
“They repeated the old statements and attempted to deceive the US nation and hide the realties that they have no chance of their advancement,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said in statement emailed to the media.
He said only Afghans would win the war, adding the only solution to the war was to intensify resistance against the “occupation”.
“The coming [solar year] would be worst for the Americans and their Afghan hirelings.Their killing would be increased. The US leaders would witness what they have never imagined,” the statement reads.
Meanwhile, Chief of Staff of US Army General Mark Milley has said presence of terror centers in Pakistan is a threat to war on terrorism and peace cannot be restored to Afghanistan until these centers are eliminated.
Asking for putting more pressure on Pakistan, he alleged that terrorist leaders, training and recruitment centers are there.
The country’s power utility company, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said two big solar energy projects will be implemented in Nangarhar province with the help of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank.
The projects, which will cost about $300 million USD, will have a power output capacity of 200 megawatts.
The two solar parks will provide power to Laghman and Nangarhar provinces.
Head of DABS Amanullah Ghalib said the projects will help boost power capacity in the eastern provinces.
“One of the projects will be implemented in Baba area and another will be built close to a 40 megawatt solar project in the province,” he said.
Some representatives of the private sector meanwhile welcomed the move by government and said it will boost industry owners’ activities in Nangarhar and Laghman provinces.
“The east zone is quite vital for investors but now they are faced with the lack of electricity,” said Khanjan Alokozay, deputy head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
The Breshna company also said work on Gulbahar substation – in the center of Afghanistan – is about to be completed and that this will also provide power to the eastern provinces.
The Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on Friday released a review of the management and oversight of fuel in Afghanistan and found that fuel theft has become a lucrative business in the country.
According to SIGAR, due to the amount of fuel needed for military operations, along with the highly transferable nature of this commodity, fuel theft has become a lucrative business in Afghanistan, with at least $154.4 million USD in fuel stolen from either the US military or the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
“However, because US officials have usually detected fuel theft long after the theft began, it is likely that even more fuel has been stolen in Afghanistan,” the SIGAR report read.
SIGAR stated fuel theft and other means of profiting from fuel conspiracies can provide insurgent and terrorist organizations with needed funds to continue to undermine the Afghan government and threaten the Afghan people.
The review stated that the US Department of Defense (DoD) supplied more than 2.8 billion gallons of fuel to support US military operations in Afghanistan at a cost of more than $13 billion USD from the 2008 to 2016 financial years.
From 2010 through to 2018, DOD planned to spend $3.2 billion USD to supply fuel for the ANDSF.
According to the review, the DOD's Combined Security Transition Command–Afghanistan (CSTC-A) is exploring new options to supply fuel going forward.
“Although these requirements may address some of the weaknesses associated with the ANDSF fuel procurement process, CSTC-A still has no ability to remotely monitor fuel deliveries, storage tank levels, or fuel transfer procedures,” the review stated.
“CSTC-A has not considered using technology-based capabilities to oversee fuel deliveries. In contrast, NATO's Support and Procurement Agency (NSPA) and the Expeditionary Contracting Command–Afghanistan (ECC-A) awarded contracts to deliver fuel in Afghanistan that incorporated various remote monitoring methods into their fuel delivery processes.
“NSPA and ECC-A contracts have integrated technology to provide visibility of shipments in-transit into their delivery systems, and NSPA has also developed a fuel management system that has the ability to record transactions digitally, remotely monitor fuel inventories through remote metering, and remotely detect when fuel has been tampered with. According to a NSPA official, this led to a 30 percent reduction in reported fuel use, but no corresponding decrease in operations.”
However, one NSPA official told SIGAR that all NATO member countries, including the United States, are able to use portions of the technology the agency developed to support their own fuel accountability efforts.
SIGAR states the CSTC-A did not verify the quantity or quality of fuel delivered to the Afghan Army.
“CSTC-A informed us that they did not have detailed knowledge of ANDSF fuel site locations, the fuel storage capacities at those sites, or the infrastructure and personnel capabilities at the sites that would allow CSTC-A to be confident that the fuel is being managed properly,” the review stated.
According to SIGAR, the CSTC-A did not base its fuel orders for the ANDSF on consumption data. “Use of accurate consumption data could have provided less opportunity for excess fuel to be stolen or wasted,” SIGAR said.
“CSTC-A relied both on the vendors’ delivery data to determine amounts of fuel delivered, and on the Afghan government's documentation, which the command suspected were fraudulent and inaccurate, to perform its oversight,” the review read.
SIGAR went on to state that current contracts to supply fuel to the ANDSF do not require outfitting fuel delivery trucks or destination storage tanks with sensors to facilitate remote monitoring of the fuel, despite other organizations, such as NSPA, using similar technology in their own fuel delivery operations.
Meanwhile, according to SIGAR, the CSTC-A relied on contractors to develop anticorruption plans themselves, and on contractors' employees to actively report acts of corruption or attempts to otherwise divert fuel that they witness.
SIGAR stated that as of March 2017, the DOD estimated that the ANDSF would require approximately 108 million gallons of fuel annually.
But as CSTC-A moves forward with designing a long-term plan to supply fuel to the ANDSF that could cost nearly $2 billion USD, SIGAR noted that it is critical for the command to ensure that effective controls are in place to deter fuel theft and mitigate opportunities for corruption.
SIGAR has so far conducted 70 investigations related to fuel theft in Afghanistan, resulting in almost $32 million USD in fines, restitutions, and forfeitures, and $28.5 million USD in recoveries and savings.
The investigations have also led to 40 convictions that included sentences totaling more than 115 years in prison and 53 years of probation and resulted in authorities barring 176 individuals from military installations.
The Kabul-Mazar-i-Sharif highway was closed for traffic following a fierce clash between Taliban and security forces in northern Baghlan province on Saturday, an official said.
Police spokesman Zabihullah Shuja, told Pajhwok Afghan News a clash erupted between militants and Afghan security forces in Karadak area of Doshi district at around 9:30am last morning.
He was unaware of more details.
A resident of the areas Saleem, also confirmed the clash and closure of the highway, saying: “Dozens of militants have arrived to the battle scene and the clash has been intensified.”
A security source, spoke on the condition of anonymity, told Pajhwok the clash took place after militants attacked a police official Hassan Kishmi while traveling in his vehicle.
Kishmi was killed in the attack, he said without giving details about other casualties.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and First Lady Rula Ghani on Saturday officially launched the voter registration process and signed up to vote in the upcoming parliamentary and district council elections.
Speaking at the ceremony held for launch of the process, Ghani said that government is committed to holding elections on time.
“National Unity Government (NUG) has the will and commitment to hold transparent elections on 20 October this year,” said Ghani.
Ghani meanwhile called on all Afghans eligible to vote to register.
The president also said that no interference in the work of the Independent Election Commission (IEC) by any individuals, groups or parties will be allowed.
The president said the election commission must make sure that elections are transparent.
“We expect that IEC officials should hold an impartial and transparent election without considering their provincial, ethnic and religious interests,” Ghani further added.
Meanwhile, he reiterated the peace offer made in February to the Taliban, saying they must end the war and register as a political party.
Ghani also said the Taliban should prepare themselves to take part in the elections, stressing that elections was a means to end disagreements.
In addition, the CEO Abdullah Abdullah also registered for elections.
Abdullah said that voter registration was one of the National Unity Government’s commitments regarding electoral reforms.
Abdullah emphasized that voter registration is a prerequisite for the public in order for them to participate in parliamentary, presidential, provincial and district council elections.
He stressed no one will be able to vote if they have not registered.
Abdullah called on the people to register, saying the people need to make sure they register at the center where they will vote. He made clear that they will not be able to register at one center and vote at another.
Earlier this week the IEC said the voter registration process will be broken up into three phases.
In the first phase, those eligible to vote can register at IEC offices in provincial centers from April 14 to May 12.
In the second phase, which starts from May 15 and continues through to May 28, the process will be carried out in the districts.
In the third phase, which starts from May 28 to June 22, the voter registration process will be carried out in remote regions of the country.
The IEC has estimated the cost of the voter registration process will be $30 million USD and it has hired over 11,000 people for the duration of the registration process.
The IEC and the government have earmarked 7,300 polling centers across the country, however, nearly 1,000 of these centers are located in areas out of government’s control.
Taliban militants have launched coordinated attacks on Khawaja Sabzposh and Balcharagh districts of northwestern Faryab province, security officials said on Tuesday.
Abdullah Masumi, Khawja Sabzposh district’s administration chief, told Pajhwok Afghan News the insurgents stormed on a border security forces’ check-point in Qarasheikh area on Sunday night.
During the assault lasting till morning, he said, one security official was killed and two others were wounded. The security forces have retaken control of the post from Taliban militants.
Mullah Hamidullah, a local militant commander, was also killed during the overnight attack. Four of his associates were wounded, the district chief concluded.
But Qari Abdul Wakil, a rebel commander for the district, rejected the claim, saying the fighters had killed three security force members and wounded four besides capturing some ammunition.
Meanwhile, hundreds of Taliban stormed uprising members’ posts in Balcharagh district. The assailants were lent strong support from Taliban in Sar-i-Pul, Faryab’s deputy police chief said.
Col. Mohammad Andarabi told Pajhwok they had pushed back the rebel attack and inflicted heavy causalities on the militants. He said only one security official was wounded.
On the other hand, uprising commander Dadullahknown -- also known as Dadi--claimed the Taliban, armed with sophisticated weapons, had come from Sar-i-Pul and planned to storm Balcharagh from three directions.
He complained: “For a year, we have been requesting government officials to improve the situation. But they don’t listen to our calls. As a result, we have lost 18 volunteers while more than 40 others have been wounded.”
Militants set fire to sections of a boy’s school in eastern Nangarhar province early Tuesday morning, Nangarhar media office confirmed.
According to a statement issued by the provincial media office, Taliban insurgents entered Hazar Naw High School at about 3am local time and set fire to the administration block of the school.
Some school documents were destroyed in the fire. However, fire fighters were able to bring the fire under control before it spread to the rest of the school, the statement said.
Pajhwok Afghan News meanwhile reports that education department spokesman Mohammad Asif Shinwari said about 12 insurgents tied up two guards before setting the fire.
Shinwari also called on police to investigate the matter and on tribal elders to help track down and prosecute the culprits.
According to the statement, classes resumed as normal on Tuesday.
The Taliban has not commented on the incident.