India PM Inaugurates Parliament House

New Afghan Parliament House donated by the people of India…

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by Koushik Das

InSerbia Network News

Dec. 26, 2015

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On his way back to India from Russia, Prime Minister Modi arrived in the Afghan capital to inaugurate the new Parliament House. Upon his arrival in Kabul, the visiting premier received a warm welcome, as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani was present at the airport. Before inaugurating the new House, Modi and Ghani held delegation-level talks at the Afghan Presidential Office, popularly known as Dilkosha Palace, to discuss different aspects of bilateral ties. Later, Prime Minister Modi addressed the Afghan Parliament.

The Indian premier said it was unfortunate that the construction work of the Parliament building, which was started in 2009, missed three completion deadlines since 2011 and went over-budget by double the original costing of USD 45 million. Meanwhile, he assured the Afghan parliamentarians that India would always back the war-ravaged country’s effort to ensure peace. At the same time, he said that Afghanistan “will succeed only when terrorism no longer flows across the border”. The PM told the House: “We must support Afghanistan without timelines because a new cloud of extremism is rising, even as the old ones continue to darken our skies.”

Prime Minister Modi also sent a strong message to Pakistan that is often accused by Afghanistan of sponsoring the Taliban insurgency, saying: “There are some who did not want us to be here. There were those who saw sinister design in our presence here. But we are here because you had faith in us.”

Modi further assured Afghanistan that India, which has invested around USD 2 billion in aid and reconstruction in the country and trained scores of Afghan officers, would continue providing financial helps to Afghanistan in the coming years. Addressing the Parliament, he announced 500 scholarships for children of martyrs of Afghan armed forces. “Afghanistan with abiding faith in tradition of Jirga has chosen democracy against challenges that would have defeated lesser people,” he told the House.

For his part, President Ghani called the friendship between India and Afghanistan “antiquated and bound by a thousand ties”, stressing that Kabul would always be grateful to New Delhi for its “valuable assistance” as his country weathers “hard times”. “I am pleased to welcome Prime Minister Modi to Kabul. Though, India and Afghanistan need no introduction, we are bound by a thousand ties. We have stood by each other in the best and worst of times,” added the Afghan president.

Later, the Indian PM also held separate talks with Chief Executive Officer of Afghanistan Dr Abdullah Abdullah and former President Hamid Karzai. Incidentally, Modi arrived in Kabul just a couple of days after India delivered three of four Russian Mi-25 helicopter gunships to Afghanistan.

On Friday evening, the Indian PM also made a surprise visit to Pakistan. After landing in Kabul from Moscow, Modi called his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to wish him Happy Birthday. Sharif told Modi: “Why don’t you drop by since you will be flying over my country?” Modi readily agreed and reached Lahore at around 5pm (local time). At the airport, the Indian premier was received by Prime Minister Sharif with a warm hug. They took a helicopter to reach Sharif’s ancestral home “Raiwind Palace” in Jati Umra, where his granddaughter’s wedding was on. The two PMs discussed different bilateral issues and agreed to continue and enhance contacts, and work together to establish good neighbourly relations. After spending one hour at Sharif’s residence, Modi left for India and reached New Delhi at 7:30pm (local time). Prime Minister Sharif, too, accompanied Modi back to the Lahore airport to see him off.

Upon his arrival in New Delhi, Prime Minister Modi tweeted: “Spent a warm evening with Sharif family home. Nawaz Sahab’s birthday and his granddaughter’s marriage made it a double celebration”. Apart from Premier Sharif, two big leaders from both countries had their birthday on December 25. Tenth Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee was born on December 25, 1924 in Gwalior, while Muhammad Ali Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan, was born on December 25, 1876. Jinnah, the lawyer-turned-politician, died on September 11, 1948.

Different Pakistani political parties have welcomed Modi’s surprise visit, as he, in a dramatically spontaneous gesture, becomes the first Indian PM to visit Pakistan since Atal Behari Vajpayee in 2014. However, the Indian opposition parties have raised a serious question – Can Modi’s unorthodox brand of diplomacy lead to lasting peace? We have to wait to see how surprise plays its role in Prime Minister Modi’s Pakistan policy.

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http://inserbia.info/today/2015/12/indian-pm-inaugurates-new-afghan-parliament-visits-pakistan

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Is Afghanistan Going Down?

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Gwynne Dyer

Arab News

25 December 2015

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If the Taliban were not so busy fighting the rival Daesh (Islamic State, ISIS) terrorists who began operating in Afghanistan early this year, they might now be within reach of overthrowing the Afghan government that the Western powers left behind when they pulled out most of their troops last year. Even with that distraction, the Taliban are doing pretty well.  On Monday (before Chirstmas), a Taliban suicide-bomber on a motorcycle managed to kill six American soldiers who were patrolling the perimeter of Bagram air base near Kabul. On the same day, Taliban fighters took almost complete control of Sangin in Helmand province, a town that over 100 British troops died to defend in 2006-10.

As Major Richard Streatfield, a British officer who fought at Sangin, told the BBC: “I won’t deny, on a personal level, it does make you wonder — was it worth it? Because if the people we were trying to free Afghanistan from are now able to just take it back within two years, that shows that something went badly wrong at the operational and strategic level.”  It was probably a mistake to invade Afghanistan in the first place. Osama Bin Laden’s Al-Qaeda terrorists could have been dealt with without invading an entire country, and there was never any evidence that the Taliban government of the day knew about his 9/11 attacks on the United States in advance.

Having invaded the country, it was a mistake not to hand it over to a tough regime made up of warlords from the major ethnic groups and get out before the presence of over a hundred thousand foreign troops gave the Taliban a second wind. Trying to create a Western-style liberal democracy in Afghanistan was even more naive than the previous Soviet project to build a modern, secular, “socialist” one-party state in the country.  The 19th-century British army and the 20th-century Russian army could both have told them: it has always been easy to invade Afghanistan, but it has always been hard for foreign troops to stay there more than a couple of years. And having made those mistakes, it was another mistake to pull almost all the foreign troops out before the Afghan government’s army was up to holding the Taliban off. If, indeed, it can ever be brought up to that level.

The parlous state of the Afghan National Army and the sheer fecklessness of government was highlighted by last weekend’s desperate plea by Helmand’s deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar for supplies and reinforcements for the troops holding Sangin.  It’s not just that the army had neglected the plight of those soldiers. It’s the fact that Rasulyar had to resort to posting his plea on Facebook to get the government’s attention.  Part of the problem is rampant corruption. For example, up to a quarter of the army’s troops are “ghost soldiers” who only exist on paper, so that officers can draw their pay.  The worse problem is that President Ghani, a former senior official at the World Bank, only won last year’s election. Conflicts with the aggrieved losers have left the government paralyzed: Twenty months after the election, there is still not even a permanent defense minister.

Morever, Ghani believes that a decisive military victory over the Taliban is impossible. This is probably correct — but he is therefore committed to cultivating close ties with Pakistan in the hope that Inter-Services Intelligence, the Pakistani equivalent of the CIA, will deliver the Taliban to the table for peace talks. But Ghani is wrong on two counts. The Taliban have no reason to agree to a power-sharing peace settlement, since they can still hope for an outright military victory. And Pakistan doesn’t really control the Taliban. There were preliminary peace talks early this year, but there has been nothing since July.  The Afghan army would be collapsing a good deal faster if so much of the Taliban’s attention were not focused on fighting off the challenge from Daesh. (It has killed at least a thousand Daesh terrorists this year.) But the Taliban still managed to seize the city of Kunduz in the north for a week in September, and now Sangin in the southwest is going.
We are seeing the usual short-term responses in the West. President Obama has halted the withdrawal of most of the remaining 9,800 US troops in the country (which was scheduled for the end of this year), and Britain has ordered ten of the 450 troops it still has in Afghanistan back to Sangin.

But that won’t make much difference, and there is no chance whatever that the NATO countries will build their troop strength in Afghanistan back up to the level — around 140,000 — where it was five years ago. The Afghans are on their own now.

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Comment:

Nice going Gwynne Dyer. You are no longer tacitly supporting terrorism, you are now publicly supporting the overthrow of legitimate governments.

Mike McDermid

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http://www.arabnews.com/columns/news/855431

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Islamic State Broadcasting Fatwas

Incidentally, in regards to broadcasting, U.S. president candidate Donald Trump’s fatwas against FOX News reporter Megan Kelly are Trump’s last hurrah…

~ Rawclyde!                 

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by Sandy Fitzgerald

Newsmax

20 Dec 2015

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The Islamic State (ISIS) is reaching more deeply into Afghanistan by transmitting extremist propaganda over the radio with “lots of revolutionary propaganda and fatwas” into the country’s urban centers through its “Voice of the Caliphate” broadcasts, according to an Afghan official.

“If something is not done, it will have very serious consequences,” Achin district Gov. Haji Ghalib told NBC News.

The radio is the primary means of mass media in Afghanistan, as most people do not have televisions. Meanwhile, the Taliban, which often uses its own communication unit to make announcements or threats, has not yet been able to penetrate into Afghanistan’s cities.

On Friday, Defense Secretary Ash Carter warned about ISIS penetrating into Afghanistan, saying that there are “little nests” of the extremist group springing up around the world, including in Afghanistan.  ISIS has also been stepping up its attacks on Afghan security forces in Nangarhar province, where the city of Jalalabad is located.

ISIS is also luring members of the Taliban into their ranks, reports NBC, and the two rival militant groups are clashing, and the news that ISIS radio is now being heard in Jalalabad is scaring some who have fled the fighting between the groups.

“We heard about [ISIS] radio a few days ago and for the past two nights I have been listening to it,” Azizullah, who like many Afghans uses just one name and now lives in a camp for displaced people.

“It has become the talk of the camp, he continued. “People are afraid, we have seen their brutality and know very well how serious this is.”

The transmissions are coming in from Pakistan, Afghan officials say, but Pakistani officials deny that claim.

However, a senior commander for the Taliban said his fighters have heard the ISIS broadcasts, and told NBC that the Taliban does not have the resources it needs to compete with ISIS.  “Even then we are successful in our job and people listen to us,” said the commander, on condition of anonymity. “We have installed transmitters in different places but we used to change the location of the transmitters and radio stations from time to time for security reasons.”

The news of ISIS’ broadcasts also comes after its media arm declared Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan where one region named Khorasan, taking the name of an ancient province of the Persian Empire. covers part of modern-day Iran, Afghanistan and India.

According to the Associated Press, the designation follows other provinces ISIS has established, including the Sinai Province in Egypt’s Sinai peninsula.

“I think ISIL is really trying to establish a base in Nangarhar … and establish Jalalabad as the base of the Khorasan Province,” Gen. John F. Campbell, the U.S. commander of American and NATO forces in Afghanistan, told AP. People who have fled the four Nangarhar districts say ISIS is waging a reign of terror, including forced marriages, extortions, evictions, and even killings with buried bombs.

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The Colonel’s Teepee

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by Rawclyde!

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Col. Sheena Johnson

U.S. Army legend

Sets-up a teepee above Pluckame

High on the mountain ridge

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Here she hones her arrowheads

& prays to St. Joan of Arizona

Her ex-Taliban husband Habibullah

Assists

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Young enchantress Mamoodia

The other Sufi archer of Pluckame

Patrols

Her bow vibrant & arrows a quiver

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Life in a Sufi bubble

Has it’s ups & downs

But mostly it floats

Miracles often occur

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Sheena becomes so angelic

She sprouts wings

Every curve of her body

Softens

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And Habibullah swears

He’s

Gone

To heaven 

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Afghaneeland Adventure Series | Old Timer Chronicle II

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American Woman Killed In Kabul

Lisa Akbari

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http://www.cnn.com/2015/12/22/world/lisa-akbari-killed-afghanistan

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British Deploy A Few More To Helmand

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by Lynne O’Donnell

Kabul, Afghanistan

Associated Press via ABC News

Dec 22, 2015

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When Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani took office, it ushered in a period of hope for the country’s traumatized people that decades of violence would soon end. But just one year later, a mood of crisis prevails: British troops are being sent to help the army maintain control of a strategically important district and many Afghans believe the Taliban are winning.

The announcement that British soldiers are being dispatched to Helmand Province came hours after a Taliban suicide bomber killed six U.S. troops near a major military base in the deadliest single attack on American troops in the country since 2013.

A British Ministry of Defense statement late Monday said “a small number of U.K. personnel” were being sent to Helmand in “an advisory role.” The U.K. has 450 troops in Afghanistan as part of NATO’s training mission.

Security has worsened across the country as the Taliban test the mettle of Afghan security forces following the end of the international combat mission last year. While they don’t typically hold any territory they win for more than a few hours or days, the Taliban have dealt a massive blow to the confidence of the over-stretched Afghan forces, who are fighting the insurgency almost alone for the first time. Officials have said casualties, as well as attrition and desertion, have taken a toll on numbers of government forces, while the Taliban strength seems never to diminish.

Fighting has raged between Taliban and Afghan forces in Helmand’s Sangin district, where an official said the district’s army base was the only area that had not fallen to the Taliban. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The spokesman for the Helmand governor, Omar Zwaq, said government troops were able to deliver supplies to those holed up inside mid-afternoon Tuesday. But, he added, there was no let-up in the fight for Sangin.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf said the siege continued “and the government will soon announce their defeat.”

Helmand is important to the Taliban. The lush southern province is home to endless poppy fields and the source of almost all the world’s opium, which helps fund the insurgency. The head of Helmand’s provincial council, Muhammad Kareem Atal, said about 65 percent of Helmand is now under Taliban control.

There are currently about 13,000 foreign troops in Afghanistan, including 9,800 Americans, with a mandate to “train, assist and advise” their Afghan counterparts. That’s compared to 140,000 foreign troops at the peak of combat operations in 2011.

Officials see no traditional winter slowdown in the insurgents’ quest to overthrow the Kabul government, especially in the warmer southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar. They expect tough fighting in 2016 as what the Pentagon last week called an “invigorated Taliban” steps up its fight.

At the same time, Ghani’s government appears paralyzed by indecision and a lack of political intelligence that sees him use public appearances to deliver lectures but remains incapable of permanently filling vital security posts such as defense and intelligence, both of which are run by acting ministers.

This week, a senior official said he was unable to reach Ghani and resorted to Facebook to warn of the Taliban’s encroachment on Sangin. Hundreds of Afghan security forces have been killed fighting the Taliban across the province in the past six months, Helmand’s deputy governor Mohammad Jan Rasulyar said.

It wasn’t the first time an official used social media to send a message to the president — former intelligence agency chief Rahmatullah Nabil used his Facebook page earlier this month to resign.

Political analyst Haroun Mir said such incidents were an indication of “how remote the political elite have become from the reality on the ground,” obsessed with infighting and intrigue rather than fixing the country’s problems.

The cry for help from Rasulyar finally galvanized the government into action. Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah called the Helmand situation a “top priority” and commandoes and special forces were sent to save Sangin from an insurgent takeover.

It also appears to have prompted Britain’s Ministry of Defense to announce the deployment of its own troops to the region to help fight for Sangin, where Britain lost more than 100 of its 456 fatalities during its 13-year combat mission in Afghanistan. It was not clear if U.S. troops were involved in the effort to protect Sangin but a NATO official said there had been no U.S. airstrikes on Sangin throughout December.

Mir compared Helmand to Kunduz, the northern Afghan city that the Taliban took over and held for three days in September, sending shockwaves across a country that had come to believe the insurgents were not strong enough to take urban areas.

Now, people are starting to believe the Taliban are indeed stronger than the government. With insurgents on the outskirts of Helmand’s capital Lashkar Gah, and districts across the province either in Taliban hands or threatened with takeover, “it’s time for the president to recognize that he is not an academic anymore, he is a war president and he has to tell the people what he can do. And do something,” Mir said.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior confirmed Tuesday that British troops had arrived at Camp Shorabak, formally the U.S. Marines’ Camp Leatherneck.

Afghan forces “need to strengthen their capacity and improve coordination,” Sediq Sediqqi, the ministry’s spokesman told reporters.

He said the main reason for the delay in sending reinforcements to the area was because of its remoteness and, during the summer months, the punishing climate.

“Taking on the responsibility for security from NATO and other international troops was a huge challenge for us,” Sediqqi said, speaking of the Afghan troops who now shoulder full responsibility for the country’s security.

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army Gen. John F. Campbell said recently that the Afghan forces were still challenged by practical issues such as logistics, as well as lagging confidence.

“There are some places in Helmand they do think the Taliban are 10 feet tall, that they are better trained, they got better weapons,” Campbell told The Associated Press in an interview earlier this month. “It is a confidence thing.”

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Monday suicide attack on U.S. troops that killed six near Bagram Air Field near Kabul. Two U.S. troops and an Afghan were also wounded when the bomber drove his explosives-laden motorcycle into a joint NATO-Afghan patrol.

The Department of Defense released a statement announcing the deaths and gave their identities:

Maj. Adrianna M. Vorderbruggen, 36, of Plymouth, Minnesota. She was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 9th Field Investigations Squadron, Eglin Air Force Base, Florida.

Staff Sgt. Michael A. Cinco, 28, of Mercedes, Texas. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, 11th Field Investigations Squadron, Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas.

Staff Sgt. Peter W. Taub, 30, of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 816, Ellsworth Air Force Base, South Dakota.

Staff Sgt. Chester J. McBride, 30, of Statesboro, Georgia. He was assigned to the Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Detachment 405, Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama.

Technical Sgt. Joseph G. Lemm, 45, of Bronx, New York. He was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.

Staff Sgt. Louis M. Bonacasa, 31, of Coram, New York. He was assigned to the 105th Security Forces Squadron at Stewart Air National Guard Base, New York.

Monday was the deadliest day for American troops in Afghanistan since May 2013, when five were killed by a roadside bomb in the country’s south and two killed by an Afghan soldier in an insider attack in the west. Before Monday’s attack, the most recent American casualties in the country were on Aug. 22, when three contractors were killed in a suicide attack in Kabul.

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Associated Press writers Mirwais Khan in Kandahar, Afghanistan, Humayoon Babur in Kabul and Ben Nuckols in Washington contributed to this story.

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http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory/attack-us-troops-afghan-airport-deadliest-months-35900723

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Some Schools Reopen In Helmand

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by Mohammad Ilyas Dayee & Abubakar Siddique

Gandhara News

November 23, 2015

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In a rare show of cooperation, the Afghan Taliban have allowed the government to reopen schools in territories it overran after bloody battles earlier this year.

Afghan officials say they have struck an informal agreement with Taliban insurgents to reopen 51 schools in two districts of Helmand Province in southern Afghanistan.

Abdul Mateen Jaffar, Helmand’s director of education, says the insurgents recently sent him a letter expressing their willingness to let his department reopen 51 schools in Helmand’s Nad-e Ali and Marjah districts. The Taliban overran large parts of the two districts earlier this year.

Jaffar says the schools are expected to reopen later this week. “I hope all of Helmand’s schools will reopen. If we succeed in these two districts and the insurgents remain true to their commitments, then a single school will not remain shut across Helmand,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan.

Jaffar says the next step will be to open all of the 150-plus schools across seven Helmand districts. A violent Taliban offensive aimed at grabbing territory in Nad-e Ali, Marjah, Nawzad, Sangin, Washir, Kajaki, and Musa Qala districts prevented tens of thousands of students in these regions from attending schools since the spring.

“We are now reaching out to the senior Taliban commanders in these districts. Our aim is to persuade them to let us open every school,” he said. “I am very grateful to them [the Taliban] for pushing all our teachers to regularly teach in schools in parts of Kajaki district, which they control.”

The Taliban have not commented on the cooperation but in recent years have distanced themselves from targeting and destroying schools.

The unprecedented cooperation is a rare piece of good news for Helmand’s estimated 1 million residents. The region has witnessed a dramatic uptick in violence since the beginning of this year when insurgents ramped up their attacks against fledgling government forces.

The strategic province of Helmand, Afghanistan’s largest, shares a border with Pakistan and is in close proximity with Iran. Despite the presence of tens of thousands of NATO and Afghan troops, the region has remained a key battleground for the past decade.

Observers say the region’s status as the top global producer of opium fuels violence in the province. Helmand has served as the main recruiting ground for the Taliban since their emergence two decades ago.

Locals say that after the departure of most NATO troops last year, Afghan government control in most restive Helmand districts has been limited to district centers.

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Abubakar Siddique wrote this story based on Mohammad Ilyas Dayee’s reporting from Lashkar Gah, Helmand.

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http://gandhara.rferl.org/content/afghan-authorities-taliban-agree-to-reopen-schools/27382363.html

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