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CWA # 67, 16 December 2018

South Asia Monthly Brief (Nov 2018)
Afghanistan

  Seetha Lakshmi Dinesh Iyer
Research Associate, ISSSP, NIAS

Trump hints at an Afghanistan visit

The US President Donald Trump hinted on November 22 that he may visit American troops in Afghanistan for the first time. Delivering a Thanksgiving holiday message by teleconference to troops in Afghanistan, Trump told one colonel: “I'll see you back when you're in the United States or maybe I'll see you over there. You never know what's going to happen." Questioned later by journalists on whether he would make the trip, Trump said: "At the appropriate time we'll be doing some very interesting thing." Recent U.S. commanders-in-chief have routinely visited U.S. troops in active war zones. Almost two years into his presidency, Trump has been criticized for failing to do so.

Afghan Presidential Election: Powerful Ex-Security Chief to Run

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's powerful former national-security adviser Mohammad Hanif Atmar has announced plans to run in the April 2019 presidential election. Atmar, once considered the second-most powerful official in Ghani's government, will be running against his former boss, who is seeking re-election in the April 20 vote next year. The 50-year-old, a former interior minister, unexpectedly quit his role as national security adviser in August, citing major policy differences with the president, including on peace talks with the Taliban. Announcing his candidacy on November 28 in an interview with Tolo News, Afghanistan's largest broadcaster, Atmar said he would welcome talks with the militants but would not accept the return of a “Taliban regime” in Afghanistan.

Peace Talks: Taliban not ready to face Kabul

The Taliban is not ready to negotiate with the Afghan government, a Taliban member said at talks in Moscow on November 9. A Taliban delegation attended a diplomatic conference in Russia for the first time, but the Kabul government sent no official representative, and the sides reported no progress. Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanakzai, who led the Taliban delegation, was quoted by the Interfax news agency as saying the militants will negotiate with the United States instead. The first Russian initiative to hold the conference in September was abandoned after the Afghan authorities refused to attend. This time, the Afghan government sent only members of the government-appointed High Peace Council to attend the event. Afghanistan's Foreign Ministry on November 9 issued a statement stressing that the High Peace Council is taking part in the talks "in its own capacity as a national but non-government institution, with a view to discuss the dynamics and details of initiating direct negotiations."

Kabul protest turns violent over arrest of Hazara militia leader

Hundreds of demonstrators protesting against the detention of a Shi'ite Hazara militia commander have clashed with police in the Afghan capital. Reports said that at least one officer was wounded in the clashes, which saw protesters throwing stones at police. Officers reportedly fired into the air to disperse the crowd. A number of police checkpoints were also said to have been torched. The demonstration erupted in the Dasht-e Barchi district, a predominately Hazara neighbourhood in Kabul, after security forces in the city arrested Alipoor. However, the reasons behind the arrest of the Shi’ite militia leader remain unclear.

'Insider Attack' kills US soldier in Afghanistan

A  US service member has been killed in an apparent insider attack in Afghanistan's capital, Kabul, the U.S. military said on November 3. Debra Richardson, a spokeswoman for the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement that another U.S. service member was wounded in the attack. The assailant was a member of the Afghan security forces who was immediately killed by other Afghan forces, the statement said. There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the "green-on-blue" attack in which Afghan forces turn their weapons on international soldiers with whom they are working. The Taliban claimed two similar attacks in the western province of Herat on October 22 and the southern province of Kandahar on October 18. General Scott Miller, the top NATO and U.S. commander in Afghanistan, narrowly escaped the latter attack that killed a powerful local police chief. The latest attack takes the number of U.S. soldiers to die in Afghanistan this year to eight.

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