The South Asia Channel
NYT: 4,100 Afghan Soldiers Killed in 2015; Pakistan Supreme Court Stays Aasia Bibi Execution; Curfew in Rajouri, India
Afghanistan Bonus read: “How Do the Republican Candidates Stack Up on Afghanistan?” by Paul D. Miller (Foreign Policy) NYT: 4,100 Afghan soldiers killed in 2015, security forces struggle to hold stalemate 4,100 Afghan soldiers have been killed in just the first six months of 2015 and Afghan security forces are struggling to just maintain a ...
Bonus read: “How Do the Republican Candidates Stack Up on Afghanistan?” by Paul D. Miller (Foreign Policy)
NYT: 4,100 Afghan soldiers killed in 2015, security forces struggle to hold stalemate
4,100 Afghan soldiers have been killed in just the first six months of 2015 and Afghan security forces are struggling to just maintain a stalemate according to a report Wednesday in the New York Times (NYT). The numbers are 50 percent worse than they were in the first six months of 2014 according to data provided to the Times by an official with the American-led coalition. Afghan officers identified desertion as a serious problem saying that many soldiers were simply being barred from going home and required to fight on the frontlines for months straight. Commanders and officials in key battleground areas said that while Afghan forces nominally hold key areas, they are often penned in by Taliban forces. Abdul Hadi Khalid, a retired Afghan Lieutenant General, stated: “We are in a passive defense mode — we are not chasing the enemy,” and called the mounting casualties “grave.” Mirdad Khan Nejrabi, a member of Afghanistan’s parliament, said that while the casualties were “very concerning” there would be no large-scale collapse of Afghan forces.
17 killed in Faryab market blast
At least 17 people were killed and 30 injured in a suicide bomb attack on the bazaar in Faryab province’s Almar district (Pajhwok, TOLO News, AJE, VOA). Dr. Ehsanullah, an official at the Afghan-Turk hospital in Maimana, said that ten of the injured were in critical condition. Some reports put the death count higher. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Almar district had been the site of clashes with the Taliban earlier in the week. On Tuesday, Mohamed Saleh Saleh, the Almar district chief, announced that Afghan forces recaptured the important Turbat and Badghis areas, which had been held for two years by the Taliban, on Monday (Pajhwok, TOLO News). Saleh also stated that Afghan forces captured a Taliban prison, saying: “One of the centers is a prison, where they torture prisoners.”
Elsewhere in Faryab, officials announced on Wednesday that militants had cut power lines carrying electricity to around 70,000 families in the province from Turkmenistan (Pajhwok). Lt. Col. Mohammad Akbar Bashash, the district police chief for Khwaja Sabz Posh, stated that the power line had been cut Tuesday night in the Gorzad area along the highway.
Masked men boarded Afghan plane in Iran
On Tuesday, Pajhwok Afghan News reported that a leaked document revealed that an Iranian airline illegally flew masked passengers to Iraq on an Ariana Afghan Airlines plane (Pajhwok). The document dated July 10, 2015 carried the signature of Daud Sharifi, the Ariana Afghan Airlines chief and was sent to Afghanistan’s National Security Council and lower house of parliament. The document reads in part: “(The Iranian firm) used the plane to carry suspected and masked passengers. (The step) has been criticised by the (Afghan) parliament and other government agencies. Until now more than $2.5 million in rent has not been paid to Ariana.”
Ministry of Interior bans toy guns
On Tuesday, Afghanistan’s Ministry of Interior banned the use and sale of toy pellet guns after 183 children were wounded playing with such toy guns over the three days of Eid according to health officials (Pajhwok, TOLO News, AFP). Ministry of Interior spokesman Sediq Seddiqi stated: “After this, there is ban on the sale and use of plastic guns and today the interior minister directed police in all provinces to collect these toys and prevent their sale.” The Afghan Chamber of Commerce and Industry criticized the ban, stating: “The view of ACCI is that the ministry [should have worked] in coordination with responsible institutions instead of banning toy guns. They should monitor the quality of imported toys and not allow low quality and dangerous toys to be imported.” Toy guns experienced record sales over this year’s Eid.
Supreme Court stays Aasia Bibi execution
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s issued a stay in the execution of Aasia Bibi, a 49-year-old Christian mother of five found guilty of blasphemy and jailed since 2009 (ET, Dawn, AFP). A three-member bench of the court granted leave to Bibi’s appeal suspending the decision of the Lahore High Court to approve the death sentence. Bibi’s appeal says she did not make blasphemous comments. She had been convicted of blasphemy regarding an argument she had with a Muslim woman over a bowl of water in 2009. The Bibi case has been a source of tension and controversy in Pakistan. Two politicians, the then Punjab governor Salmaan Taseer and federal minister Shahbaz Bhatti, were murdered in 2011 after they criticized the blasphemy law and Bibi’s trial.
Qatar Airways to fly to two more cities
On Wednesday, Pakistan’s Express Tribune newspaper reported that Qatar Airways announced that it is providing service to two more Pakistani cities – Sialkot and Faisalabad (ET). The airline reportedly began passenger flights to Sialkot on July 16. It had flown a regular cargo flight to the city since 2008. Qatar Airways announced it would launch three weekly flights to Faisalabad. On Aug. 2, the airline will also launch weekly flights to Multan. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker stated: “Qatar Airways has a long-standing commitment to serve Pakistan and we are delighted to operate an exceptionally comprehensive route network covering the length and breadth of the country.” The airline currently flies 45 times a week to four Pakistani cities.
— David Sterman
Curfew continues in Rajouri after activists burn IS flag
Curfew was imposed on Tuesday in Rajouri in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, after activists belonging to conservative Hindu groups, Vishwa Hindu Parishad and Bajrang Dal, reportedly burned the terrorist organization, Islamic State’s flag, leading to protests by minority groups in the area who said that the flag bore religious scripture (Indian Express, NDTV, PTI). Muslim groups have demanded the arrest of those involved in the incident arguing that the flag has the “Kalima” written on it. The Islamic kalima is a statement declaring oneself as a Muslim and is considered fundamental to the Islamic faith.
While there were reports of numerous incidents of skirmishes between Muslim and Hindu activists and police along with paramilitary forces was deployed heavily in the area, no casualties have been reported. Internet connectivity through mobile devices, GPRS services, in the district have been suspended to limit spread of inflammatory messages.
Sushma Swaraj removes title from Twitter profile
Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj, has removed the title “Foreign Minister, Government of India” from her Twitter profile (HT, TOI). Swaraj is known to be an active Twitter user and over the last year, Swaraj and her team have used Twitter extensively in public outreach. Recently she has been involved in a controversy for helping disgraced cricket tycoon Lalit Modi with travel documents in the United Kingdom when his passport had been cancelled by the Indian government. The ongoing session of Indian Parliament suffered repeated adjournments over the issue, with the opposition refusing to let both Houses function unless Swaraj and other “tainted” BJP leaders resigned.
— Shuja Malik
Edited by Peter Bergen
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