Afghanistan’s AG removed for meeting with Taliban without permission

Bonus read: "Regaining the public trust," Omar Samad (AfPak). Without permission  Afghan President Hamid Karzai removed Attorney General Muhammad Ishaq Aloko from his position after he met with members of the Afghan Taliban’s negotiation team without the Afghan government’s permission (Reuters).  An unnamed government official told Reuters, which reported the story on Monday, that Aloko ...

FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images
FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images
FAISAL AL-TIMIMI/AFP/Getty Images

Bonus read: "Regaining the public trust," Omar Samad (AfPak).

Without permission 

Bonus read: "Regaining the public trust," Omar Samad (AfPak).

Without permission 

Afghan President Hamid Karzai removed Attorney General Muhammad Ishaq Aloko from his position after he met with members of the Afghan Taliban’s negotiation team without the Afghan government’s permission (Reuters).  An unnamed government official told Reuters, which reported the story on Monday, that Aloko had been instructed by the palace not to attend the meeting, which occurred in Dubai earlier this month and included members of the government’s High Peace Council.  

The Qatar peace process has been deadlocked since the Taliban opened their political office in June and a Taliban official claimed on Sunday that the group is exploring options to relocate it to another Islamic country (ET).  While the official said Taliban representatives would remain in Doha, another member said the group has established contacts with Turkey; the Afghan government recently indicated that it will only be a part of the peace process if the Taliban office is moved to either Turkey or Saudi Arabia. 

In an effort to jumpstart the peace process, and at the request of the Afghan government, Islamabad might free more Taliban detainees, according to a Pakistani official (ET).  The official told Pakistan’s Express Tribune that the release of more Taliban prisoners would be on the agenda when President Karzai visits Pakistan later this month (Pajhwok, Pajhwok).  Pakistan has freed 26 Taliban prisoners since November 2012 but further releases were halted as relations between the two countries deteriorated.  Kabul has long asked for the release of all Taliban prisoners.

Independence day

Afghanistan celebrated its 94th Independence Day on Monday with a series of events across the country (Pajhwok).  The day began in Kabul with a 21-cannon salute from the Ministry of Defense and President Karzai laid a wreath on the Freedom Monument.  A number of world leaders called Karzai to wish Afghanistan peace and stability, including U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry who said, "…the U.S. shares your commitment to a strong and sovereign Afghanistan where Afghans enjoy security, peace, prosperity, and dignity for generations to come" (Pajhwok). 

Three people were wounded and about 200 shops were destroyed in the Siah Gird district bazaar in Parwan province on Monday when a gas container exploded and a fire ripped through the area (Pajhwok).  The district has no fire department and the shops were destroyed in mere minutes.  According to Mohammad Masoom Mujaddedi, one of the affected shopkeepers, the losses from the fire are around $2 million.

At least 15 people died in Afghanistan on Saturday in multiple attacks across the country (AFP, BBC).  Nine building contractors and one policeman were killed in Herat province when militants armed with rocket-propelled grenades and automatic weapons attacked their camp early Saturday morning, while in Helmand province, five civilians died and three were wounded when the van they were traveling in hit a roadside bomb.  Three women were also killed in Helmand province on Friday by an improvised explosive device, though further details were not given.  While no group has claimed responsibility for any of the attacks, Afghan officials blamed "enemies of Afghanistan," their phrasing for the Afghan Taliban.

"Weary familiarity"  

As India and Pakistan continued to trade accusations over firings along the Line of Control in Kashmir this weekend, analysts noted that while there is a "weary familiarity" to these latest clashes, they are being exacerbated by the impending withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan (NYT).  According to the New York Times, the tensions come after a nearly a decade of relative peace following a 2003 ceasefire, and the military exchanges have been more serious.  The military actions are threatening new efforts to normalize relations between the two nuclear-armed neighbors, and, at least in Pakistan’s case, show that the military is still powerful enough to operate independently of the civilian government.  

Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, Pakistan’s powerful army chief, is expected to step down in November after six years in the post, and the speculation over his replacement is beginning to pick up (Reuters).  According to Reuters, Kayani has to come up with a shortlist of three candidates and send the names to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif for approval, and while no one will comment on potential successors publicly, a few names are starting to emerge.  Among of the possible contenders are Lt. Gen. Rashad Mahmood, the current chief of general staff, and Lt. Gen. Haroon Aslam, the most senior army official after Kayani.  Some have even suggested that Kayani may stay in the position for a few more years.

Hafiz Mohammed Khalid Chishti, a Muslim cleric who accused a Christian girl of blasphemy and was later arrested on similar charges, was acquitted by a Pakistani court on Saturday (AFP, BBC).  The girl, Rimsha Masih, was arrested in August 2012 for allegedly burning pages of the Koran but the case against her was dismissed; she later fled with her family and is currently living in Canada.  Chishti was accused of desecrating the Koran and tampering with evidence, but he was acquitted after the witnesses withdrew their accusations and the prosecution failed to make its case. 

Abdul Karim Tunda, an alleged member of the Pakistani militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba, was arrested by Indian police on Friday near the country’s border with Nepal (VOA).  The 70-year-old Tunda, listed as one of India’s 20 most wanted militants, was carrying a Pakistani passport at the time of his arrest.   

Friendly competition

For the first time in 10 years, Afghanistan will host an international soccer match on Tuesday when it plays Pakistan in a "friendly" exhibition game that will be more symbolic than competitive (AFP, ET). Sayed Aghazada, the Secretary General for the Afghanistan Football Federation, said the match, the first in-country game against Pakistan since 1977, "represents a major highlight for football in our country."  Ahmed Yar Khan Lodhi, Aghazada’s Pakistani counterpart, agreed, saying: "This is a very symbolic game for the whole football community in south Asia which confirms that our sport can contribute to promote a positive relationship between neighbor countries." The teams, ranked 139th and 167th in the world, respectively, will take the field Tuesday afternoon in front of a sold-out crowd of 6,000 fans. 

— Bailey Cahall  

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