Taliban Advance in Afghanistan’s North; Modi Visits Jammu and Kashmir for Diwali; Gunmen Kill 8 Pakistani Hazaras
Afghanistan Taliban advance in Afghanistan’s north The Taliban are making substantial advances in Afghanistan’s north, according to reporting earlier this week in Reuters and the New York Times (Reuters, NYT). Local officials confirmed that the Taliban controls two districts in Kunduz province. According to recently released Ministry of Defense statistics, 950 Afghan soldiers died between ...
Taliban advance in Afghanistan’s north
The Taliban are making substantial advances in Afghanistan’s north, according to reporting earlier this week in Reuters and the New York Times (Reuters, NYT). Local officials confirmed that the Taliban controls two districts in Kunduz province. According to recently released Ministry of Defense statistics, 950 Afghan soldiers died between March and August 2014, the worst rate during the war. One USAID stabilization adviser told the New York Times that the Taliban have instituted a parallel government and "we can’t do anything without the Taliban approval." This month, John Campbell, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan told reporters: "The Taliban may take over a district centre or something, but only temporarily," adding "There’s nowhere that we have Afghan security forces that the Taliban can get the terrain and hold the terrain."
Ghani, Abdullah invited to the White House
During a phone call Wednesday night, American President Barack Obama invited Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah to the White House next year (Pajhwok, TOLO News). The call was the first between Obama, Ghani, and Abdullah since the resolution of Afghanistan’s electoral crisis. A White House statement read: "The presidents discussed strengthening the Afghan National Security Forces to improve the security situation in Afghanistan, American and regional support for an Afghan-led peace process, and near-term Afghan budgetary reform and longer-term fiscal sustainability"
Ghani to visit China
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani is scheduled to visit China next week along with a delegation of Afghan business leaders (TOLO News). During the visit Ghani will meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Fayeq Wahidi, a deputy presidential spokesman, stated: "President Ghani will talk with the investors and businessmen of China on his official trip and he will encourage them to invest in Afghanistan, a new gateway for improving economic and political relations will be established and efforts will be made to build a better relationship in this regard." While China has invested in many parts of the world, it has not made a large aid contribution in Afghanistan, in part due to security concerns. Some experts hope the scheduled visit will help encourage further investment. Atiqullah Nasrat, who directs the Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industries, noted that it is a good sign that Ghani will accompany a delegation of business leaders, stating: "Steps are being taken for the joint meeting of investors to emphasize establishing companies and good opportunities for improving trade between the two countries"
Australia pledges support for Afghanistan
Australian ambassador to Afghanistan Jon Philp pledged continued support for the country during a meeting with Ghani in Kabul (Pajhwok). In thanking Philp, Ghani noted Australia’s work in Central Uruzgan province in particular as well as his desire to adopt Australian standards of accountability to curtail corruption.
— David Sterman
PM Modi visits J&K to celebrate Diwali
Prime Minister Narendra Modi celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali with Indian soldiers in Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield located in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir (J&K), on Thursday (BBC, NDTV). Modi, the second prime minister to visit Siachen, told soldiers: "You make it possible for 125 crore Indians to celebrate Diwali happily. Your dreams and responsibilities are the responsibility of us all. The entire nation stands shoulder to shoulder with you" (NDTV). Also, Modi — @narendramodi — tweeted: "From the icy heights of the Siachen Glacier & with the brave Jawans [soldiers] & Officers of the Armed Forces, I wish all of you a Happy Diwali." Soldiers have been stationed at 22,000 ft (6,700m) above sea level, where both India and Pakistan remain in a deadlock. Both nations claim the glacier as their own, and more soldiers have died in Siachen from the harsh weather conditions than border clashes.
After visiting Siachen, Modi headed to J&K capital city, Srinagar, where he was expected to meet flood victims living in camps and announce special assistance for them. Last month 281 people were killed and more than a million people were displaced during a flood in J&K. Separatist groups protested Modi’s visit to J&K and called for a shutdown of all shops (Indian Express). J&K Chief Minister Omar Abdullah criticized the separatists for calling for a shutdown, and said: "If we down the shutters of shops on his arrival and then expect relief from Prime Minister. I think it’s mere hypocrisy" (Hindustan Times).
Indian National Security Advisor visits Afghanistan
Indian National Security Advisor Ajit Doval met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Wednesday, and emphasized India’s commitment to assist Afghanistan in building a democratic and prosperous nation (Indian Express, Economic Times). Doval also met his Afghan counterpart Hanif Atmar. During his visit, Doval paid a courtesy visit to former Afghan President Hamid Karzai to personally convey Modi’s wishes and admiration for leading Afghanistan through its first ever democratic transition.
Minor girl sexually assaulted in school
The alleged sexual assault of a three-year-old child studying at a school in Bangalore, located in the southern state of Karnataka, caused outrage on Tuesday (Indian Express, BBC). Bangalore’s police chief, M. N. Reddi said: "The father of the victim has given a complaint stating that the girl who is in a nursery class had gone to school as usual at 9:30 in the morning and came out at 12:30… When she went, she was cheerful, when she came out she was crying… On repeated questioning at home, she said, some uncle had hurt her. They took the child to a private hospital and the hospital authorities have confirmed there were a couple of bruises" (NDTV).
Reddi further said that a case had been registered under provisions of the Protection of Children from Sexual Offences Act. Also, a special investigation team has been set up to identify the alleged attackers. Hundreds of parents gathered on Wednesday to protest against the alleged sexual assault. Three months ago, a six-year-old girl was raped by a school staff member in another school in Bangalore.
— Neeli Shah and Jameel Khan
Gunmen kill eight Hazaras
Gunmen killed at least eight members of Pakistan’s minority Hazara community on Thursday when they attacked a bus in the Hazar Ganji area of Quetta (NYT, Guardian, RFE/RL, Dawn, ET). Imran Qureshi, a local police officer, stated: "Two gunmen boarded the bus and shot the men," continuing, "The assailants sprayed bullets over the bus and managed to escape unhurt from the spot." Pakistan’s Hazara community has come under repeated attack, in particular by the extremist group Lashkar-i-Jhangvi. According to Tahir Hussain Khan, the president of the Balochistan chapter of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, violence has forced 200,000 Hazaras to flee to other cities in Pakistan. The Hazara Democratic Party released a statement that said: "Under a pre-planned conspiracy, our people are being targeted." No group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
New PPP faction launched
Safdar Abbasi and Nahid Khan launched a new faction of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Bhutto Shaheed Benazir Workers Movement, while speaking at a workers convention on Wednesday (Dawn). Abbasi stated: "We will now contest the next elections from this platform." Nahid Khan criticized PPP leaders for using the legacy of Benazir Bhutto to avoid facing workers’ demands and in particular criticized Bhutto’s son, who recently held a large rally, stating: "PPP is a party of federation. Bilawal [Bhutto’s son] will have to decide whether he has to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather and mother or carry the heavy luggage of [the] last seven years of the party" continuing "if Bilawal needs our support we are ready to stand by him. But he needs to purge the party of opportunists."
Clashes in Khyber kill three members of Pakistan’s security forces
Clashes in Khyber Agency on Thursday killed three members of Pakistan’s security forces according to media reports citing Pakistani security sources (RFE/RL, Dawn). Two members of the security forces were killed by an improvised explosive device in the Bara area of the agency while another was killed by a sniper in a separate incident in the same area. Six militants were reportedly killed in the clashes. No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.
— David Sterman
Edited by Peter Bergen
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