Over 1,300 Foreign Fighters Participated in Kunduz Battle; PM Modi Pushes Clean Energy Development at G-20; Pakistani Army Chief Begins U.S. Visit
Afghanistan Bonus Read: “Sent back from Europe, some Afghans prepare to try again,” by James MacKenzie (Reuters) Over 1,300 foreign fighters participated in Kunduz battle In a regional meeting in Kabul on Sunday, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai revealed that over 1,300 foreign fighters linked to various groups participated in the September battle ...
Bonus Read: “Sent back from Europe, some Afghans prepare to try again,” by James MacKenzie (Reuters)
Over 1,300 foreign fighters participated in Kunduz battle
In a regional meeting in Kabul on Sunday, Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Hekmat Khalil Karzai revealed that over 1,300 foreign fighters linked to various groups participated in the September battle for control of Kunduz (VOA). “These foreign fighters came from Pakistan, Tajikistan, China and various other countries,” he stated. Karzai explained that the militant groups operating in Afghanistan range from al-Qaeda, ISIS, the anti-China East Turkistan Islamic Movement and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, “but end objectives for all these groups is not Afghanistan. The end objective for many of these groups is regional and global aspiration that they want to pursue.” Afghan officials allege the foreign fighters were mostly based in neighboring Pakistan’s North Waziristan border area and managed to flee to Afghanistan after the Pakistani military launched an offensive against militant hideouts in the area last year.
Afghanistan and Norway agree to repatriation of Afghan refugees
On Sunday, Afghanistan agreed to repatriate about 90 percent of recent Afghan arrivals in Norway (TOLO News, Pajhwok). Deputy Minister of Justice of Joran Kallmyr and Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Tore Hattrem of Norway met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, CEO Abdullah Abdullah and a number of ministers in Kabul to discuss the burden of Afghans seeking asylum in their country. Hatrem stated, “Important for the credibility of the asylum system is that asylum seekers who do not qualify for assistance permits return home,” continuing, “It is the responsibility of the country of citizenship to receive them.” Kallmyr said last week that Norway intends to halt the influx of asylum seekers over the Russian border. After registering just 10 asylum seekers from the northern border in 2014, the numbers have exploded to more than 4,000 this year — “almost all” from Afghanistan.
Dozens of Afghan troops defect to Taliban in Helmand battle
A local official said on Saturday that at least 65 Afghan soldiers have defected to the Taliban, taking their weapons and equipment with them (Reuters, TOLO News). “Soldiers from an Afghan army brigade in Station area have joined the Taliban with their equipment and weapons,” Helmand Governor Mirza Khan Rahimi said. Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi released a statement as well, saying that “five commanders and 65 army soldiers repented their mistakes and surrendered to mujahideen,” bringing five armored personnel carriers as well as weapons and ammunition.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD), however, rejects these claims, arguing that the army troops may have been captured by insurgents. “Our troops will never surrender to the enemy,” Dawlat Waziri, MoD spokesman told TOLO News. He continued, “There might be some problems. This is war. Moving forward and backwards, defending and leaving strongholds [tactically] can happen in war and they [troops] are allowed to do this [when required].” Police and soldiers have been engaged in near-continuous combat with insurgents for the past three weeks in the districts of Lashkar Gah, Marjah and Nadali in Helmand, traditionally a Taliban stronghold.
Breakaway Taliban group denies death of senior militant
On Saturday, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s breakaway Taliban faction denied reports that a senior figure was killed last week in a battle with rival insurgents (NYT). Without providing details, spokesman Manan Niazi said, “Mullah Mansoor Dadullah was seriously wounded, but still alive.” Niazi said he was relying on battlefield reports from Khak-e-Afghan district in Zabul province where the rival Taliban groups have been fighting for a week. Officials in Zabul announced Dadullah’s death last Wednesday, suggesting that he had been killed by an infiltrator from the main group posing as one of his body guards. Dadullah is deputy leader of a dissident Taliban faction formed on Nov. 1 with the election of Mullah Mohammad Rasool as its leader.
Bonus Read: “Indian, Liberal and Anxious,” by Mukul Kesavan (NYT)
PM Modi pushes clean energy development at G-20
While addressing G-20 leaders in Turkey on Sunday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged other countries to prioritize investing in the renewable energy sector in developing countries (NDTV, Indian Express). Modi argued for $100 billion to be available by 2020 to help developing countries pursue clean energy initiatives, linking environmentally friendly infrastructure development with global economic growth. Modi said that India itself has agreed to commit to a renewable energy capacity of 175 gigawatts by 2022, about four times India’s current capacity. India has also agreed to cut subsidies for fossil fuels, tax the use of coal, and set up a $3 billion National Clean Energy Fund to promote clean energy technologies. Modi is attempting to position India, currently one of the world’s largest polluters, as a global leader on climate change issues ahead of a major climate summit to be held in Paris from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11.
India and Bangladesh implement coastal shipping agreement
India and Bangladesh signed a standard operating procedure on Sunday to implement a bilateral coastal shipping agreement signed in June (NDTV, ET). The agreement is intended to greatly reduce the cost of transporting traded goods by sea between the two countries. “Once it is operational, the coastal shipping agreement will enable a huge saving in logistic costs of [export and import] transport between the two countries,” said a statement from Indian shipping minister Nitin Gadkari. Current sea routes connecting Indian and Bangladeshi ports pass through Colombo in Sri Lanka and Singapore, as it is not profitable for large vessels to make such a short journey directly. The coastal shipping agreement would allow India and Bangladesh to use smaller ships, known as river sea vessels, to carry exports and imports directly between the two countries.
India and Australia finalize nuclear deal
India and Australia have finalized their bilateral civil nuclear agreement, clearing the way for India to source uranium from Australia (TOI, NDTV). The two countries made the announcement after a meeting on Sunday between Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and new Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull on the sidelines of the G-20 summit in Anatalya, Turkey. Australia had signed the deal in September of last year to supply India’s growing energy needs, and the Australian parliament recently ratified the agreement. Australia is home to 40 percent of the world’s uranium, making it a key international supplier of nuclear fuel. Modi thanked Turnbull during their meeting and hailed the agreement as “a milestone and source of trust and confidence.”
Bonus Read: “A Nuclear Arsenal in Pakistan, and Far Beyond,” by Ira Helfand (NYT)
Bonus Read: “The China-Pakistan corridor: A fate-changer?” by Anatol Lieven (Aljazeera)
Pakistani army chief begins U.S. visit
Pakistan’s Army Chief of Staff Gen. Raheel Sharif commenced his five-day visit to the United States on Monday (VOA, Dawn). Gen. Sharif is scheduled to meet with his U.S. military counterparts as well as the director of the Central Intelligence Agency to review security and counter-terrorism cooperation. According to a senior Pakistani official with knowledge of the agenda, the general is also scheduled to speak with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry primarily to discuss counter-terrorism operations to secure the northwestern border with Afghanistan. Speaking on condition of anonymity, the official told Voice of America that “there is a clear possibility for a new push for resumption of the [Afghan] reconciliation process.” However, he mentioned that Gen. Sharif would urge U.S. interlocutors to ensure that “any resumed peace effort” would not be scuttled by “elements” within the Afghan government.
Pakistani air strikes kill at least 17 in Taliban stronghold
On Saturday, Pakistani air strikes killed at least 17 suspected militants near the Afghan border, according to officials (NYT, RFE/RL). The air strikes destroyed five buildings in the Shawal Valley, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) east of the town of Miranshah, four military and civilian officials told Reuters. While officials did not confirm the affiliation of the militants killed, North Waziristan is home to the Pakistani Taliban, fighters affiliated with al-Qaeda, the Haqqani network, and other various militant groups. The strikes were part of a military offensive to retake North Waziristan where the military now holds most — but not all — territory.
— Alyssa Sims and Udit Banerjea
Edited by Peter Bergen
Fatih Aktas/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
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