News - Afghanistan
Written by Shakeela Ahbrimkhil   
Sunday, 17 February 2013 20:05

The government must make it very clear what it expects the Taliban will want from a peace deal and what the government is willing to give them, a number of political parties said Sunday at a gathering of the Youth Network for Change in Kabul.

"The government must present a plan for the people for what the Taliban will want and what they [the government] will give them. The political process is a process of giving and taking and during this process independence, sovereignty and the current democracy should be protected," Afghan National Party leader Astana Gull Shirzad said.

Some present at the conference rejected any negotiation plan with the Taliban, saying the group was extremist and will never respect the will of the people.

"The Taliban wants to bring the authority of the Church [as in the past] into the current living conditions of the people and wants to impose it on the people of Afghanistan. So should we share with the Taliban their terms of politics? Who can accept such a leader, especially the young generation?" National Party leader Ahmad Zia Masooud told the crowd.

The politicians also reiterated a warning to the government to ensure it prevents any fraud or cheating in the upcoming presidential election or risk destabilising Afghanistan even to the point of civil war

"This election must be very transparent and held carefully and the nation must be assured that the next president was elected by the votes of people," Astana Gull Shirzad said.

The political parties said the government should change its decision to allow the old voting cards in the 2014 poll to ensure there is no fraudulent votes.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 20:41
News - Afghanistan
Written by Karim Amini   
Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:45

Isaf's new commander in Afghanistan said the coalition supports President Hamid Karzai's ban on the Afghan army calling for Isaf air support during military operations, giving an assurance that the operations can still be effective.

Gen Joseph Dunford told a group of senior reporters Sunday morning that the US-led foreign troops will continue to support the missions within the new framework declared by Karzai on Saturday.

"We are prepared to provide support in line with the president's intent," he said, adding that he will meet with Defence Minister Bismillah Mohammedi and Chief of Army Staff Gen Sher Mohammad Karimi at midday to discuss the "technical" aspects of how the president's directive would work.

"Keep in mind that there are other ways we can support our Afghan partners other than air ordnance," he said. "I believe we will provide the support to the Afghan forces consistent with the coalition tactical directive."

Dunford, who only took charge of the Afghan mission a week ago, pointed out that the Afghan army for its part will also have to factor the directive into their operations.

"It's not about what happens in the middle of operations, it's how you plan operations. What the Afghan security forces will do is plan their operations to factor that guidance in. I am confident we can continue to conduct effective operations within the president's guidance," he said, adding that the details will be worked out in the coming days.

Karzai said Saturday that the Afghan army can no longer call for air support during military operations after at least 10 civilians were reportedly killed last week in a Nato airstrike during a joint Afghan-coalition night raid in eastern Kunar province.

It is not the first time that an airstrike has mistakenly killed a number of civilians.

Former Afghan intelligence chief Amrullah Saleh backed the president's decision and urged for air missions to only be carried out against possible threats from outside the country and not in Afghan civilian areas.

"It is not necessary for a small mission to expect jets to bombard an area. Even if there is a tactical success after it, there will be a big strategic loss resulting. If civilians are killed, there will be a larger gap between the people and the government and this is harmful," Saleh told TOLOnews Sunday.

But the decision received some criticism from at least one political party which suggested it will give the insurgency more strength in the villages.

"The president has almost legitimatised the Taliban. Our ground troops cannot fight the Taliban – they are not as equipped as the Taliban. This means that the Taliban will gradually take over villages and then districts," the leader of the National Front Ahmad Zia Massoud said Sunday.

Civilian harm has been one of the most controversial issues between Afghanistan and Nato.

It was civilian casualties that led the Karzai government to push for Afghans to take control of military night raids in a signed agreement last year. It is also one of the reasons that Karzai has frequently voiced his desire to see foreign forces withdrawn from outposts in provincial villages.

Last Updated on Monday, 18 February 2013 11:56
News - Afghanistan
Written by Shahla Murtazaie   
Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:34

Telecom towers have been damaged or destroyed by insurgent attacks around 300 times in the past decade – an average of more than two attacks a month, the Afghan Ministry of Communications and Information Technology (MCIT) said Sunday.

MCIT minister Amirzai Sangeen said the government has managed to repair most of the damage, but there are still constant threats.

Speaking at the annual coordination conference for provincial communication departments, the minister called on the provincial department chiefs to prevent sales of unregistered SIM cards and the use of illegal SIM boxes.

Pointing out some of the other challenges facing the communications sector across Afghanistan, Sangeen said that following a decision made in coordination with communications companies, in the future SIM cards will be sold inactivated, and the customer will need to register their SIM to use it.

In addition, the Afghanistan Telecom Regulatory Authority (ATRA) and heads of provincial communication departments are going to step up surveillance of internet cafes to block unauthorised websites, he said.

"As our representatives in the provinces, you have to seriously inspect this issue, to check which company's SIM cards are being sold illegally, and you have to arrest them. You have to show which branch it is, and shut it down with the help of police. ATRA will also cooperate with you over this matter," Sangeen told those at the meeting.

A number of provincial communication heads working in parts of the country which are considered insecure did not comment on the manner of services of communication companies, with some even saying that there are no communication service problems in their provinces.

"There are no specific problems in the southwest that is obstructing our developments. But the head of communications in the southwest has asked for an increased budget which is to be resolved soon," head of Helmand communications, Omidullah Zaheer, said.

According to the communications minister, Afghan TV broadcasts will soon be transferred to digital, and an independent satellite will be launched to improve the country's telecommunication sector.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 20:01
Written by Zabihullah Jhanmal   
Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:23

Local officials in southern Zabul province said Sunday that the budget for a new provincial airport is insufficient to complete the construction, but they will begin building it anyway.

The Ministry of Finance has allocated US$1million for the airport which is expected to be built in the coming year, however local officials told TOLOnews that "it is not enough for a standard airport".

Nevertheless, construction on the project will begin.

"We will try to have an airport in the province and very soon we will start the construction work," acting provincial chief Mohammad Jan Rasouliar said.

Zabul member of Parliament Hamidullah Tokhi said they have requested from the Ministry of Transport and Aviation to build the airport because the residents of Zabul were facing major transport problems.

"We are in talks with the Ministry of Transportation and Aviation to start the work. We have been speaking to the government and we convinced them to build an airport for the residents of the province," he said.

The construction of an airport is expected to play an important role in development in the province and lessen threats from insurgents faced by residents and traders on the highways.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:39
News - Afghanistan
Written by   
Sunday, 17 February 2013 17:44

Lack of job opportunities and low incomes are causing more people to turn to drugs, officials in northern Faryab province have claimed.

Faryab Governor Mohammadullah Batash said that many young people who leave the province looking for work return as addicts.

Meanwhile, the local rehabilitation hospital with only 20 beds is almost always full.

"We are concerned about the addicts in Faryab. They are increasing day by day because of the lack of employment opportunities and projects," Batash told TOLOnews Saturday.

Public Health Department chief Dr Alim Halim cited the same reasons.

"The lack of jobs for work in the province causes people to go Iran and other countries for work so they become addicts there," he said.

The main place addicts can receive treatment is in the 20-bed hospital dedicated to treating addicts in Faryab's capital Maimana.

"I made the mistake of becoming addicted so we've come here to regain our health through the help of God and the doctors in the hospital," one of the addicts in the hospital told TOLOnews.

The hospital says it has treated more than 4000 addicts including women and children since it was established five years ago.

Last Updated on Sunday, 17 February 2013 19:31
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