Thursday, 26 February 2015

ISIS’ Threat in Afghanistan

As NATO coalition troops depart from Afghanistan, there are growing numbers of violent attacks from groups claiming allegiance to ISIS. Daesh affiliates are supposed to be operating in the provinces of Ghazni, Helmand, Farah, Zabul, Faryab, Parwan and Logar. The threat is further enhanced by ISIS’ activities in Afghanistan’s eastern neighbour Pakistan.

Opinions remain divided as to whether the issue of ISIS expanding their mission to Afghanistan should be either ignored or taken more seriously. In a recent interview with the Afghan news channel Tolo News Muhammad Asef Sediqi, the Second Deputy of the Afghan Senate, emphasized the importance to defend the country against ISIS incursions, as hardline Taliban fighters and disaffected youth in Afghanistan are prone to be recruited by the group. Others, however, believe that Afghanistan has many other issues to deal with and caution not to get caught up on the issue of ISIS posing a new and further threat to a country that is already little more than a failed state and breeding ground for extremism. Furthermore, many argue that there is in fact little difference between the Taliban and ISIS. The two groups follow similar ideals and visions with the Taliban’s name ‘Islamic Emirate’ alluding to ISIS’ aim to establish a new caliphate. ISIS might hence be little more than the ‘old evildoers’ wearing new badges.

Despite the question whether ISIS poses an actual further threat to Afghanistan and whether it is substantially different from the Taliban, the fear over ISIS’ activity in Afghanistan will be an important factor for the West to reconsider its efforts and policies towards the country. The issue might serve as a wake-up call for the international community that needs to adjust its narrative of ‘all is going well in Afghanistan’ and ensure a longer-term development strategy in order to avoid the further deterioration of the country.

Wednesday, 18 February 2015

The President's wife supports the French Niqab ban

Is the first lady of Afghanistan Rula Ghani a hypocrite?  I support her effort to support and improve the situation of women in Afghanistan, but at the same time,even though a full veil may restrict a woman's view, perhaps the veil is part of their religion and their way of living, which has to be respected. Does wearing a veil affect a women's ability to take an active and equal part in society?Ghani seems to blame the full veil for the difficult position women wearing it are in. Is she right I wonder?

Thursday, 15 January 2015

Ghani Nominates Cabinet: The End of a Deadlock?

After three month of intense negotiations, the national unity government led by President Ashraf Ghani and CEO Abdullah Abdullah nominated its cabinet on Monday. The delay was caused by Ghani’s attempt to avoid assignment based on patronage networks, but instead based on meritocracy or intellectual talent in the field of responsibility. A further result of his approach is that a majority of the candidates are hardly known to the wider public. Critique is thus growing as to whether the appointed candidates have enough expertise and experience to rule the country and ensure lasting stability and security in the conflict-ridden country.

Ethnically, the cabinet is very diverse with Pashtuns comprising the largest number of representatives (36%) followed by Tajiks (28%), Hazaras (20%), Uzbeks (12%), and Turkmens (4%). Three women are nominated for ministerial posts in the fields of women’s affairs, culture and higher education. Before commencing their work, however, all ministries will need to be approved by parliament. The following list comprises of short biographies of those individuals nominated for the ministries of defense, interior, foreign affairs, finance as well as the Head of National Directorate of Security.

Minstry of Defense – Lieutenant General Sher Mohammad Karimi

Sher Mohammad Karimi is a Pashtun, born in Khost province. He currently serves as the Afghan Army Chief of Staff after he was employed as a director of the ministry of defense during Dr. Mohammad Najibullah’s government. He received training and education in Afghanistan, the UK, the US, Egypt and India. Karimi worked closely with President Ghani during the transferring of responsibility for security from NATO-forces to Afghan troops.

Ministry of Interior – Nur ul-Haq Ulumi

Nur ul-Haq Ulumi is a Pashtun from the Barakzai tribe, born in Kandhahar province. During the Afghan civil war, he served in the Afghan army as Lieutenant General. After the fall of the Taliban, he chaired the Defense Committee as a member of parliament. He is seen as endorsed by Abdullah.

Ministry of Foreign Affairs – Salahuddin Rabbani

Salahuddin Rabbani is a Tajik from Badakhshan province. He served as a diplomat for Afghanistan and had been ambassador to Turkey since 2011. In early 2012, he was formally appointed chair of the Afghan High Peace Council, a body of the Afghanistan Peace and Reintegration Program that leads negotiations with elements of the Taliban. Salahuddin Rabbani is the son of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. He is known as a supporter of Abdullah.

Ministry of Finance – Ghulam Jilani Popal

Ghulam Jilani Popal is a Pashtun from Kabul. He studied law and was appointed as the first director general of the Independent Directorate Local Governance in Afghanistan. Popal is known for his strong support of former President Harmid Karzai, who appointed him as a governance advisor. Between 2003 and 2005, he served as Deputy Minister for Customs and Revenue under the Afghan Ministry of Finance. He campaigned for Ghani and is now a close ally of the new President.

Head of National Directorate of Security – Rahmatullah Nabil Nabil

Rahmatullah Nabil Nabil is a Pashtun. He is the current acting director of Afghanistan’s intelligence agency, the National Directorate of Security. He studied in Pakistan and worked for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. He is close to Ghani.


Tolo News posted an interesting article on Tuesday, 13.01.2015, raising the question whether a primacy of power sharing prevented structural reform in cabinet.

Tuesday, 13 January 2015

First Lady Leads Aid Distributions

Afghanistan’s First Lady, Rula Ghani, supports families in Afghanistan, who live in remote areas inaccessible for international aid agencies due to geography, climate or infrastructure. Her recent efforts have been financially supported by the government of Saudi Arabia. According to Ghani, the aid distribution constituted an important example of the government’s ability to serve its people beyond the realm of politics.

Click here to read a recent article on the issue in the Los Angeles Times.

Unlike her predecessors, Rula Ghani aims at enhancing her public image and gaining a stronger role in Afghanistan. She uses her position to fight for women’s empowerment: “My aim is not to revolutionise the situation but to improve the situation for women within the existing structures [...] I am here to help women establish their own importance within the family.“ Due to her Lebanese, Christinian-Maronite identity, some critical voices accuse the First Lady of being out of touch with Afghanistan’s predominantly Muslim community. However, she shrugs off her critics and continues to engage with the humanitarian situation in the country.

Wednesday, 17 December 2014

Surrender rather than Retreat

Channel 4 released an interesting documentary on the dismantlement of the largest British military camp since World War II – “The Billion-Pound Base: Dismantling Camp Bastion”. It illustrates not only the obscene sums of money spent on the British mission in Afghanistan, but also the absurdity of the handover of responsibility to the Afghans. In an attempt to avoid the unintentional equipping of the Taliban and other militias with vital weapons, construction workers responsible for the dismantlement of Camp Bastion received the order to destroy everything of value. The distrust and fear remaining after the withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan shows that it is not a sign of victory but rather one of surrender.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Afghanistan’s Failed Transformation

For a GLOOMY perspective on Afghanistan read this piece from someone who thinks US troops should stay even longer. Surely it is past time to let Afghanistan stand on its own two feet? Do they really still need more Western meddling?