Monday, March 23, 2015

Afghan News Snippets (Mar 23, 2015)

Afghan Reset. The relationship between Afghanistan and the United States has certainly improved with the departure of President Karzai. President Ghani, the new president, immediately had the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) approved upon taking office, opening the door for the U.S. to keep troops in Afghanistan past December 2014. Now, with Ghani in Washington this week to meet with Obama and others, we should see a relaxation of the withdrawal timeline of U.S. troops departing. Read more in "Obama's Afghanistan Reset", by George E. Condon, Jr. in National Journal, March 22, 2015.

Clean Slate? Michael O'Hanlon of the Brookings Institution writes about the new relationship of the U.S. and Afghanistan in "Viewpoint: A clean slate for US and Afghanistan", BBC News US, March 21, 2015.

Post-2016 Troop Levels? In is highly anticipated that Obama will decide to keep up to 10,000 troops in Afghanistan for most of 2015 and perhaps into 2016. What isn't known is will Obama keep troops there past 2016. A major factor in that decision is how well the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) perform against the Taliban during the 2015 and 2016 fighting seasons. Read more in "US exit from Afghanistan hinged to performance of Afghan security forces", Fox News, March 22, 2015.

Afghan Cabinet Nominees. President Ghani would have liked to visit Washington this week with a full cabinet in place. However, that didn't happen. He has announced new nominees for the remaining 16 ministries. The nominees are listed in a news report by Khaama Press, March 21, 2015.

Ghani and Ash Carter Meeting. On March 23rd at 4:30 pm EST (that's 1630 for you military types . . . and Europeans) President Ghani and Secretary of Defense Ash Carter (the new guy) will meet. The event will be televised live. You can watch it online at

Operation Slipper. More than 33,000 members of the Australian Defence Force took part in the conflict in Afghanistan. Operation Slipper was the name of the Australian operation that deployed service members to Afghanistan and the Middle East. A celebration was held across Australia marking the end of military operations in Afghanistan. Of course, Australia will still be involved in the Train, Advise, and Assist mission in Afghanistan with almost 500 military members serving as trainers, advisors or staff members of the Resolute Support mission. Read more in "Operation Slipper: Parades marking end of military operation in Afghanistan held across Australia", ABC News, March 21, 2015.

Paula Broadwell. General Petraeus's biographer is back in the news. (Stars & Stripes, March 22, 2015).

Kidnapped Hazaras Still Held. The 31 Afghans kidnapped in Zabul province are still being held. There are rumors that a group possibly allied with the Islamic State is responsible. Members of the Hazara community are reaching out to the Taliban - a historical enemy - for assistance. Read more in "Fearing Islamic State, some Afghan Shi'ites seek help from old enemies", Reuters, March 22, 2015.

Matiullah Khan. The assassination of the Provincial Chief of Police (PCoP) of Uruzgan will leave a big leadership vacuum in the province. Many will watch this province to see if the Taliban start making advances. Read more in "The unofficial king of Uruzgan", The Interpreter, March 20, 2015.

U.S. Drone Strike Kills Pakistani Taliban. A militant leader of the Pakistani Taliban was killed by a drone strike on the Afghan-Pakistan border. (Reuters, March 19, 2015).

'Scranton Restaurant' in Herat. An Afghan woman who runs women shelters in Afghanistan (courtesy of money provided by USAID) has recently opened a 'women's only' cafe in Herat. She was able to do this through funding from women's groups in Scranton, PA. Next is the 'Philidelphia Restaurant' - also for Herat. Read more in a news report. (, Mar 22, 2015).

Women, Water, and Community Involvement in Badghis. The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) is helping women in Badghis province get easier access to water through their involvement in local government. Women, usually locked out of politics and decision-making at the community and district level, are starting to find a voice within the Community Development Councils and the District Development Assemblies. (UNDP News, Mar 2015).

RFE 'Person of the Year'. A villager in a remote village in Khost province is the recipient of the Radio Free Europe "Person of the Year Award". The father of nine children concealed the death of his daughter on the eve of Afghanistan's June 14, 2014 presidential runoff election so as not to disrupt the election day events in his community. Had the funeral been held on June 14th many villagers would not have voted. (Radio Free Europe, Mar 21, 2015).

Afghan Woman Beaten & Burned is Buried. An Afghan woman beaten to death and burned by an angry mob of Afghan men in Kabul was buried. Allegedly she burned a copy of the Koran which caused the attack. The incident has received worldwide attention. President Ghani has ordered an investigation, suspects have been arrested, and police are being questioned (and suspended?). (U.S. News & World Report, Mar 22, 2015).

South Korea Envoy. Korea's Foreign Ministry is sending diplomat Yoo Myung-jin to become the envoy posted to Afghanistan. While there she will look after Korea's interests, have oversight on Korean residents and visitors, and maintain contact with the Korean hospital on Bagram Air Field. (Korea Joongang Daily, Mar 21, 2015).

Info on Dostum Attempted Assassination. The Afghan intelligence service says it foiled an attempt on Dostum's life on Saturday that was to take place in northern Jawzjan province. The attempt was to be carried out by a suicide bomber who had a bomb hidden on the back of his horse during attendance at game of buzkashi (picture horseman fighting over the carcass of a goat). (Reuters, Mar 21, 2015).

Madrasas in Pakistan. The Taliban get many of their recruits from the Madrasas in Pakistan. There are attempts by the Pakistan government to regulate the Madrasas. Read more in a news report (Eurasia Review, Mar 21, 2015).

Salafism. "In recent years, particularly after the incident of 9/11, the term Salafism has attracted much attention. Salafism has been blamed for being the ideology that underpins terrorist violence." One writer believes that Salafism " . .  is highly misunderstood due to its amorphous nature". Read more in an article in Eurasia Review, March 21, 2015.

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