Afghanistan

US allies overtake Taliban in Afghan civilian deaths

Afghan government and NATO forces killed more civilians in the first three months of this year than the Taliban and other insurgent groups, according to the latest UN report on casualties in the conflcit. The findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that at least 305 civilians were killed by pro-government forces between January and March, constiuting 52.5% of total civilian deaths in this period. “UNAMA notes with concern that Pro-Government Forces were responsible for more civilian deaths than Anti-Government Elements during the first quarter of 2019,” the report states. (Photo: USAF)

Afghanistan

ICC rejects investigation of Afghanistan war crimes

Judges at the International Criminal Court (ICC) rejected a request to open an investigation into allegations of war crimes and crimes against humanity in Afghanistan. The request by ICC prosecutor Fatou Bensouda was turned down by Pre-Trial Chamber II, which decided that pursuing this investigation would not be an efficient use of the court’s resources. The statement from the Pre-Trial Chamber noted that the prosecutor has not obtained cooperation from sources in Afghanistan. The decision came four days after he US State Department revoked the entry visa for Fatou Bensouda. In March, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US would deny visas to ICC personnel investigating any allegations against the US or its allies. Bensouda had been making inquiries into allegations of war crimes against all participants in the Afghanistan conflict since the fall of 2017. (Photo: USAF)

Afghanistan

Hazaras targeted with relentless terror

In Quetta, capital of Pakistan’s restive Baluchistan province, at least 16 were killed and over two dozen injured in a blast that targeted members of the Shi’ite Hazara community. Eight of those killed in the blast at a crowded vegetable market were Hazara. This was the latest in a relentless wave of terror against the Hazara people in both Pakistan and Afghanistan. In March, three were killed and some 20 injured when a mortar attack struck a gathering in Kabul commemorating the death of Abdul Ali Mazari, leader of the Hazaras’ Hizb-e-Wadhat Party and a key figure in the Mujahedeen resistance movement of the 1980s. Assassinated in 1995 by the Taliban, he was recently awarded the title of “Martyr of National Unity.” The Kabul ceremony was attended by high officials and billed as a step toward national reconciliation. ISIS took credit for the attack, but the ongoing terror campaign leaves many Afghan Hazaras concerned about the current peace talks with the Taliban.

Afghanistan

Afghan women advocates wary of ‘peace’ talks

Direct talks between US officials and the Taliban are advancing in Qatar, aimed at ending the decades-long conflict in Afghanistan. But advocates for Afghan women view the talks with increasing skepticism, voicing their concern that hard-won rights could be bargained away. Afghan Women's Network is calling upon the Taliban to take trust-building measures such as the re-opening of girls' schools in areas they control, So far, the group sees few signs of improvement. Forced displacement, indiscriminate violence on civilians, stoning of women and men, closing of schools and the erasure of women from public life are common in Taliban-controlled areas, according to the AWN. (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

Afghanistan

Report: Afghan government control lowest yet

In its latest quarterly report to Congress, the US watchdog for Afghan reconstruction finds that the security situation is at an all-time low since monitoring began. Since the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) began tracking district control in 2015, Afghan government-controlled or "influenced" districts have declined 16% to 55.5%. In the same period, areas of insurgent control or influence rose 5.5% while "contested" districts increased 11%. As of late July, the US military assessed that the Kabul government controls or influences 226 of Afghanistan's 407 districts, while the Taliban controls/influences 49. The remaining 132 districts are identified as "contested." Since the prior quarterly report, Operation Resolute Support downgraded eight districts from "government influenced" to "contested." SIGAR said Afghan security forces "made minimal or no progress in pressuring the Taliban" in the period covered by the report. (Photo via Stars & Stripes)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: US to groom Taliban to fight ISIS?

Taliban leaders confirmed that long-planned direct talks with the US took place in Doha, capital of Qatar. The Taliban said in a statement that their delegation met with US special adviser for Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad. The statement said the two sides discussed the prospects for an end to the presence of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, and the return of "true peace" to the country. These overtures come as the US is stepping up operations against ISIS in Afghanistan. In an August air-strike in Nangarhar province, the US claimed to have killed Abu Sayed Orakzai, top ISIS commander in Afghanistan. Earlier in August, more than 200 ISIS fighters and their two top commanders surrendered to Afghan government forces in Jowzjan province to avoid capture by Taliban insurgents, after a two-day battle that was a decisive victory for the Taliban. (Photo: Khaama Press)

Afghanistan

ISIS leader flees to Afghanistan: report

ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is reported to have fled to Afghanistan via Iran, to escape "Operation Roundup," a final offensive against remnant Islamic State pockets in Syria's eastern desert. The operation was launched last week by the US-backed, Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF). London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq Al-Awsat reported that Baghdadi reached Afghanistan's Nangarhar province, on the border with Pakistan. According to Pakistani security sources, Baghdadi crossed through the Iranian border city of Zahedan. The sources claimed Baghdadi received protection from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps as he passed through the country's territory. ISIS now holds only three towns in Syria—Hajin, a-Baghouz and al-Sussa, all close to the Iraqi border. (Photo via Syria Call)

Afghanistan

US threatens sanctions against ICC

The White House announced that the US will consider imposing sanctions against the International Criminal Court (ICC) judges and prosecutors if the ICC opens an investigation into the actions of United States service members and intelligence personnel in Afghanistan. The Chief Prosecutor of the ICC requested an investigation in November 2017 into alleged war crimes committed by the US in Afghanistan since May 2003, in addition to actions taken by the Afghan National Security Forces, the Taliban and the Haqqani network. In addition to sanctions, the US will also consider seeking to have the ICC's powers restricted by the UN Security Council. The US will also seek to strengthen agreements that would prevent other nations from surrendering US nationals to the ICC. (Photo: AiirSource Military)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan civilian deaths reach new high —again

Civilian deaths in Afghanistan have reached a new high at the mid-year point, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA). Although there was a slight decrease in total casualties (deaths and injuries), there have been more fatalities than in previous years, with nearly 1,700 killed so far in 2018. Since UNAMA started documentation in 2009, almost 15,000 civilians have lost their lives to the armed conflict in Afghanistan. UNAMA also reports that deliberate attacks on civilians from anti-government elements are increasing at concerning rates. In June there was an unprecedented ceasefire for three days as Eid al-Fitr was observed, with no casualties in attacks carried out either by Taliban or government forces. ISIS, however, did not observe the ceasefire. (Photo via Pixabay)

Afghanistan

Afghans march cross-country for peace

Afghan peace activists arrived in Kabul after trekking some 700 kilometers on foot to call for an end to Afghanistan’s long internal war. The Helmand Peace Convoy reached the national capital after traveling for almost 40 days from Lashkar Gah, capital of Helmand province, a Taliban stronghold. It began with a group of nine men and picked up around 40 supporters during the journey. The arrival in Kabul followed a three-day ceasefire between the Taliban and government forces coinciding with the Eid al-Fitr holiday that ends the holy month of Ramadan. The Kabul government extended its ceasefire by 10 days, but the Taliban said that they would resume their attacks. ISIS meanwhile carried out two deadly suicide attacks in Jalalabad targeting public Eid celebrations. (Photo: RFE/RL)

Afghanistan

Afghanistan: air-strikes spike in anti-opium drive

US forces in Afghanistan have dropped more munitions in the first three months of 2018 than during the same time period in 2011—a time widely considered the height of the war. The spike in bombing comes after years of drawing down US troops across the country's remote rural areas—and therefore relies increasingly on technical rather than human intelligence. Figures released by US Air Forces Central Command indicate 1,186 "munitions expended by aircraft" in January, February and March this year. In 2011, during those same months, the military documented 1,083 weapons released from both manned and unmanned aircraft. The increase in "kinetic air operations" is part of a strategy to degrade the Taliban’s finances by targeting drug labs, which the insurgents are believed to tax. (Photo: USAF)

Afghanistan

Afghan forces charged with summary executions

Human Rights Watch has urged the Afghan government and US military to investigate alleged summary executions committed by special forces against civilians in Kandahar province. The executions reportedly took place during military operations spanning from Jan. 31 to Feb. 1. In one instance, during a coordinated attack by a Special Forces Unit of the National Directorate of Security, the NDS troops reportedly killed at least 20 civilians and arbitrarily detained at least 38 men. Among those summarily slain were civilians fleeing US air-strikes. (Photo: Afghan forces in Kandahar, via Wikimedia Commons)