Tadamichi Yamamoto told the UN Security Council that Taliban argument do not consider the reality that tens of thousands of Afghan people are killed every year because of fights between the Taliban and the government forces. He added that all relevant parties agree that a negotiated political is the only way to end the conflict. The UN’s top envoy urged the Taliban to talk with authorities in Kabul and start a peace process because the offer of negotiation is on the table. Yamamoto urged all political leaders to demonstrate statesmanship and to place the national interest above a partisan agenda. He added that national unity is necessary for the international support and for the implementation of effective reforms. The UN envoy talked about several other issues in Afghanistan, including civilian casualties from the conflict, refugees, regional trade developments, and Afghanistan’s new penal code, which he called a milestone in the country’s criminal justice reform. He underlined the importance of women’s role in peace and decision-making processes, and their important role in elections. In closing, the envoy said that the UN has important tasks ahead this year, including the upcoming elections and the Ministerial Conference on Afghanistan.
The national intelligence agency has arrested eight Islamic State operatives in the capital, Kabul. The arrests follow an assault by five heavily armed Islamic State suicide bombers on the Afghan military academy in Kabul that killed 11 soldiers. The suspects were recruiting Afghan youth and planning terror attacks in Kabul, the agency said. They were accumulating funds for subversive activities. Afghan security forces have since improved security around the capital and made raids against IS militant. Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, acting on findings of a probe into the assault, fired seven army officers, including two generals, for ‘professional negligence”. The situation in Kabul is criticized and Ghani’s government is accused of failing to protect the city and Afghanistan.
At least ten insurgents belonging to the Taliban group leader Mawlavi Nik Mohammad joined peace process in eastern province of Nangarhar. The statement said that the militants joined peace process in Khogyani district and also handed over some weapons and ammunition to the local authorities. The weapons included five Ak-47 assault rifles, two pistols, a rocket launcher, six hand grenades, and one communication device set. The leader of the group Islami said they are regretting for their activities and he called on other insurgents to renounce violence and join peace process. They also promised to live a peaceful life after the reconciliation process and contribute in the reconstruction of the country.
According to the U.S. deputy secretary, John Sullivan, Taliban attack on civilians show that Taliban do not want peace, but war. “Unfortunately, at this stage, everyone but the Taliban appears ready for peace. The Taliban’s reprehensible attacks targeting innocent civilians demonstrate that they are not ready to enter into good faith peace negotiations”, Sullivan said. The U.S. deputy secretary Sullivan who has visited Kabul noted that pressures are ongoing for bringing the Taliban group to the negotiation table and emphasized on an Afghan led-peace process. “Our policy is for continue to – for us to continue to put pressure on the Taliban – military, economic, political – to bring them to the negotiating table where the ultimate resolution will be through an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process,” he said. Sullivan said that U.S. seriously asked Pakistan to end violence, take practical measures and cooperate with the Afghan government. “We have made clear to the Pakistani Government our expectations for them to take action against terrorists that are in sanctuaries in Pakistan to reduce the pressure and the threat of violence in Afghanistan, and to contribute to a lasting and enduring peace in Afghanistan and the region”, he added. Recently, U.S. President Donald Trump said that the group was “killing innocent people left and right so we don’t want to talk with the Taliban. There may be a time but it may be a long time”. The Taliban warned that Trump’s rhetoric would most certainly result in more war and bloodshed.
The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction or SIGAR says the U.S. military attacks has failed to increase the Afghan government’s control over its population. The reports says that U.S. casualties are increasing, too, twice the number killed in action in the same periods in 2015 and 2016. SIGAR said that despite $8.7 billion in U.S. aid for counter-narcotics efforts, opium production is up 87 percent in the last year in Afghanistan. The report warned that U.S. and Afghan officials have adopted unrealistic expectations for the development of untapped mineral resources in the country. Even with nearly a half billion dollars in U.S. aid, the report said that mining revenues only supplied three-tenths of one percent of Afghanistan’s $6.5 billion national budget. John Sopko, the responsible for the report, criticized the U.S. Defense Department for not release already public data on specific districts in Afghanistan. He added, ‘Historically, the number of districts controlled or influenced by the government has been falling since SIGAR began reporting on it, while the number controlled or influenced by the insurgents has been rising. The report noted the Asia Foundation, which promotes the improvement of lives across the continent, found in its annual survey that only slightly more than half of Afghan respondents believed that reconciliation with Taliban insurgents in the country was possible and that about 16 percent of Afghans had ‘a lot’ or at least some sympathy for the Taliban.
Afghanistan and Indonesia will develop their trade relation in different industries. “Soon we are going to work on expanding trade relation with Indonesia and so it could pave the ground for export of dry and fresh Afghan fruits in the country”, said the Ministry Spokesman Musafer Qoqandi. According to the Minister of Commerce, the trade turnover between Kabul and Jakarta is about $350 million. “We can work with Indonesia as currently we have taken steps for importing vehicle’s tires, batteries and lubricants”, said Khan Jan Alokozai, Vice President of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI). Afghan economic analysts believe the government to should encourage the Indonesian businessmen to invest in Afghanistan. This comes as the Indonesian President Joko Widodo visited Kabul on Monday, where he meet President Ghani.
The United States on Thursday dismissed a Pakistani allegation that an American drone had fired missiles at an Afghan refugee camp in Kurram district, in the lawless regions bordering Afghanistan. At the same time, Pakistani security officials who sought anonymity because they were not authorized to disclose the information said the drone strike had killed two members of the militant Haqqani network, which is allied with the Afghan Taliban. Although allies in the war against Islamist militants, the two countries are currently at loggerheads after Washington suspended nearly $2 billion of aid, accusing Islamabad of supporting Taliban militants wreaking havoc in Afghanistan.
Bilateral trade between Afghanistan and Pakistan has dropped by almost 2 billion US dollars.
Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) President Zahidullah Shinwari said the trade volume between the two countries was $2.5 billion as he blamed the strained relations between Kabul and Islamabad behind the reducing trade volume between the two countries. Tensions between Kabul and Islamabad remains because the two countries blame each other of no fight against terrorist group. Furthermore, the Afghan government is searching for alternative routes to gain access to international markets to boost trade as the key Chabahar Port in Iran started operations during the recent months besides Kabul and New Delhi have launched the air corridor to help Afghan traders gain access to international markets.
The economic reforms held by the heir prince Bin Salman, are in line with the economic provisions set this Monday by the International Monetary Fund. It is making growth provision throughout the middle east. However, the dependence to the oil market, which in this particular moment is favouring the exporting countries, is in the end perceived as a weakness that the prince is trying directly to face. The International Monetary Fund has raised its growth projection for the deficit-hit Saudi economy on the back of higher oil prices but retained its estimates for the region. In its World Economic Outlook update, the IMF said the Saudi economy — which shrank 0.7 percent last year — is expected to grow by 1.6 percent in 2018, up 0.5 percent on its October estimates. The Saudi economy is also projected to grow by 2.2 percent next year, up 0.6 percent on the previous estimate, it said. However, the IMF maintained its October projections for growth in the Middle East, North Africa, Afghanistan and Pakistan (MENAP) region at 3.6 percent and 3.5 percent for this year and 2019, respectively. IMF’s representatives stated that: “While stronger oil prices are helping a recovery in domestic demand in oil exporters, including Saudi Arabia, the fiscal adjustment that is still needed is projected to weigh on growth prospects”. It said oil prices rose 20 percent between August and October of last year. The Saudi economy, the largest in the region, contracted last year for the first time since 2009 when it dove into negative territory due to the global financial crisis. The kingdom has posted budget deficits in the past four fiscal years since oil prices began to plunge. It is projected to remain in the red until 2023. Thus, Riyadh has introduced a series of austerity measures to boost non-oil income, raising the prices of fuel and power, imposing fees and charges on expatriate labor and introducing a value-added tax (VAT) of five percent.
Hayatullah Hayat, provincial governor of Helmand province has told that at least 40 drug labs were destroyed during the last two months; however, he said narcotic drugs are still the main source of financing terrorism. “We have destroyed dozens of drug labs and we have killed drug traffickers and more than a hundred Taliban militants who were involved in this business. In addition, we have seized and destroyed more than three tons of narcotics”, Mr. Hayat said. Afghan defense ministry says targeting the revenue streams of terrorists is very effective in order to disable the insurgents. Recently, U.S. and Afghan forces conducted a series of strikes against Taliban drug labs in Helmand province.