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Afghanistan: Ghani government faces internal threats

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The political instability is staring at Ashraf Ghani government in Afghanistan due to internal threats of corruption, lack of reforms, growing number of political factions, utter lack of economic revival and his alleged failure to run the government.

Afghanistan is facing numerous threats from insurgent activities of Talibans,ISIS khorasan, ethnic and sectarian divisions, is now in a very fragile and precarious condition, as new political fronts and their heads have intensified their campaign to dislodge the Ashraf Ghani government.

 

Not only the U.S.-backed Afghan government is losing its grip on the country but the insecurity and instability in Afghanistan is also threatening stability beyond its borders. Knowing the facts on ground, the United States has also delayed its much hyped and awaited policy on Afghanistan after the report presented by Defense Secretary James Mattis last month, who told the Congress that the U.S. is “not winning” in Afghanistan and the Taliban is “surging”.

 

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, known as the ‘butcher of Kabul’ has given a new twist to the political developments of Afghanistan by declaring his desire to fight presidential elections. Hekmatyar, a former anti-Soviet commander in the 1980’s, has called for reconciliation talks with the Taliban,to enhance his chances in capturing power as Taliban represents the identify of Afghanistan and he has shown interest in forging alliance with to form country’s largest political faction that could result as a deciding factor in 2019 elections.

Hekmatyar, a warlord, who is known for receiving the bulk of arms and financial assistance from the C.I.A. to defeat the Soviets and was seen as close to Pakistani government and ISI, is although supporting President Ghani and the Talibans as of now but can instigate an uprising against the government.Leader of the National Participation Party of Afghanistan and former lawmaker Najibulllah Kabuli has urged him not to act on the instructions of Pakistan’s Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) .

Meanwhile,Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, who had been exiled to Turkey by Afghan President Ghani, has recently accused the President for breaking the promises on government appointments for his party. Dostum along with Balkh governor and Jamiat-e-Islami chief executive Ata Mohammad Noor, and deputy chief executive Haji Mohammad Mohaqiq have formed a new political front to destabilise the Ghani government.

Talibans, representing Pastuns, are violently asserting their authority for government formation in Kandahar and Nangahar, while ISIS Khorasan an offshoot of Islamic State of Iraq and Levant is increasing their influence in Afghanistan.Therefore, both ISIS and Taliban are in direct conflict for seizing power in Afghanistan.

In a country polarised by ethnic and sectarian divisions,Taliban has emerged successful in  controlling territory much larger than 2001 according to a recent report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), the Western-backed Afghan government has lost control of nearly 5 percent of its territory to the Taliban since the beginning of this year.

The report says the area under Afghan government “control or influence” decreased to 65.6 percent by the end of May from 70.5 percent last year, based on data provided by US forces in Afghanistan.That amounts to a loss of 19 of the country’s approximately 400 governing districts.

The recent campaign of Taliban is aimed to project the failure of Ghani government in controlling violence as institutions and diplomatic offices are being targeted and to ensure that their authority is not taken over by the ISIS fighters.

 

 

In April, the United States dropped the “mother of all bombs” on an Islamic State position in Nangarhar Province, which is the group’s stronghold in the country.

Keeping in view the changing scenario,U.S. President Donald Trump has delayed its U.S. policy on Afghanistan and its region and apparently his confidence in Ghani government has waned.

“The situation in Afghanistan continues to be geopolitically volatile even as President Trump and Secretary Mattis strive to formulate a pragmatic strategy. However, it has been sixteen years now, and a decision to expand U.S. troops there is nothing more than an operational issue. We can’t call it a “strategy” anymore,”Faisal Ahmed, an associate professor at FORE School of Management and an expert on trade and geopolitical issues based at Delhi said while talking to ANI.

Now, the U.S. is facing another challenge in the form of Russia’s increasing interest and influence in Afghanistan as Vladimir Putin may consider that businessmen turned President Donald Trump will not be able to bring stability to Afghanistan.  Moscow has organized many conferences on Afghanistan and is in favour of talks with Taliban.

 

Therefore, it is pertinent to mention that Trump administration should put forth a new, comprehensive strategy to win the 16-year war against the Taliban and establish peace and stability in Afghanistan rather than just providing additional troops to the war-ravanged country.

“In fact, the United States now needs a multi-pronged strategy to initiate peace talks, and to effectively engage NATO and empower the joint security forces in combating resurgence on ground. Moreover, strengthening the U.S. backed government there should be a priority, and helping SAARC to geo-economically engage in Afghanistan is always a possibility,” Faisal added.

China has a strategic interest in Afghanistan as it lies at the crossroads of Central and South Asia,Beijing has also become pro-active on the issue of Afghanistan and trying to take the lead in mediating between Kabul and Islamabad. Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi visited Kabul and Islamabad recently and sought to mediate to normalise the relations between the two countries. Beijing is also a part of the four- nation group of  Quadrilateral Coordination Committee formed in 2016 that includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and the United States. The Quadrilateral group is meant for Taliban reconciliation process – direct peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

As Afghanistan is India’s gateway to Central Asian republics, the New Delhi is likely to play a more meaningful role in stabilising Afghanistan as recently it supplied eight MI 25 attack helicopters to Kabul as enlarging the sphere of assisting the war-ravaged country. India organised Heart of Asia Summit in Amritsar last year. The summit pointed to the Pakistan’s undeclared war against India and Afghanistan. Prime Minister Narendra Modi called for “resolute action” not just against forces of terrorism but also against those who support, shelter, train and finance them, saying silence and inaction will only embolden terrorists and their masters.India has been assisting Afghanistan in the civilian field especially in power plants, road construction and medical aid amounting to US$ 2 Billion. Moreover, the Ghani Government in Afghanistan has developed more trust on India in bringing peace and stability to the region and also maintaining close ties with the Prime Minister Narendra Modi led India government in the fight against terrorism.

arti bali

By : Arti Bali

Senior Journalist

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India’s Q3 GDP expected to inch-up above 4.5%

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

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New Delhi, Feb 27 : India’s third quarter 2019-20 GDP growth rate is expected to inch up on the back of rising inflation, along with a modest uptick in the momentum of services and industry.

Several economists polled by IANS said that GDP growth rate is seen in the range of 4.6-4.8 per cent for the third quarter from 4.5 per cent reported for the second quarter of the current fiscal.

Various indicators like air passenger traffic, railways’ freight revenue and commercial vehicles’ sales have shown improvement in Q3FY20 against weak performance in Q2FY20.

The macro-economic data point of the national income and the GDP will be released on Friday.

“We expect the GDP Q3 number to be 4.8 per cent. Since no major improvement was observed among leading indicators, market expectations remain subdued,” said Karan Mehrishi, Lead Economist at Acuite Ratings and Research.

“Generally, Q3 is one of the strongest quarters in a financial year because the inclusion of festive seasons sales and kharif harvest-driven rural consumption, this time, however, nothing noteworthy is foreseen.”

Besides, he pointed out that capacity utilisation levels have also fallen.

“Fresh capex looks unlikely and investments will be moderate driven by the public sector. We are however mindful of the inflation trajectory moving forward,” Mehrishi said.

India Ratings and Research gave a forecast of 4.7 per cent for Q3 GDP.

Edelweiss Securities’ Economist Madhavi Arora said: “We expect a marginal shallow pick up in 3Q, amid still-sluggish corporate earnings and weak industrial sector.”

“While government spending has been a respite for the services sector, its’ contribution to growth will also decline marginally. We expect 3Q GDP to print around 4.6-4.7 per cent.”

Meanwhile, ICRA expects the GDP and the gross value added (GVA) growth at basic prices to rise mildly to 4.7 per cent and 4.5 per cent, respectively, in Q3FY20, from 4.5 per cent and 4.3 per cent, respectively, in Q2FY20.

“Some industrial and service sectors displayed a pickup in YoY volume growth in Q3FY20 relative to the previous quarter, while the output of kharif crops displayed a mixed trend,” its principal economist Aditi Nayar said.

“Lower raw material costs, high growth of the government’s non-interest revenue expenditure and the stable profitability metrics revealed by the earnings of some banks would provide a cushion to the pace of economic growth,” she said.

However, the extent and duration of coronavirus outbreak would test the sustainability of the nascent upturn in growth in the ongoing quarter.

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Cannabis use rises among the elderly, finds study

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

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New Delhi, Feb 26 : Cannabis use continues to increase in popularity among adults of 65 years of age and older in the United States, according to a new study.

Published in JAMA Internal Medicine, the study from NYU Grossman School of Medicine estimates that cannabis use in adults aged 65 and older increased from 2.4 percent to 4.2 percent in the United States — a significant increase of 75 percent — between 2015 and 2018.

With the legalization of cannabis for medical and recreational purposes in many states in the US, medical professionals are studying its use in treating a number of chronic health conditions. Since 1996, 31 states have legalized medical marijuana, while 11 states and Washington DC have legalized recreational use.

The survey categorized cannabis use by asking whether marijuana, hashish, pot, grass, or hash oil was either smoked or ingested.

Researchers observed trends in prevalence of past-year cannabis use, broken down by sociodemographic background, chronic disease, healthcare utilization, and other substance use among adults age 65 and older, in the United States, between 2015 and 2018.

Certain subsets of this population saw an even higher rise in prevalence. For example, researchers estimated that past-year use more than doubled by older adults with diabetes, among those who have received mental health treatment, and those reporting past-year alcohol use.

Women, and individuals who were married, had a college degree, or had higher income also significantly increased their cannabis use.

Researchers say they next plan to acquire more detailed information about how medical marijuana affects older populations, its risks and side effects.

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Ground Zero: A dangerous mix of politics and police inaction?

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

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Maujpur anti CAA Violence

New Delhi, Feb 24 : After all, the sudden quiet at Shaheen Bagh, on the boil for over two months, was deeply deceptive, if you look at the way how the protest — for and against the new citizenship law — spilled out to north-east of Delhi, with the police yet again failing to read the situation.

Many locals say the violence at Maujpur-Jafrabad in north-east Delhi erupted soon after BJP leader Kapil Mishra took out a march on Sunday in support of the Controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as well as against the anti-CAA women protesters who had blocked the road at Jafrabad metro station.

The police stepped in when Kapil Mishra addressed the crowd, sources said. He was flanked by the Deputy Commissioner of Police clad in full riot gear. Some people cite a video clip that shows the BJP leader giving an “ultimatum” to the police, saying “he will come back after the visiting US President leaves India”.

“But the DCP did not act,” said a local resident.

Stone-pelting soon started on the crowd protesting against CAA at Jafrabad.

But how does Kapil Mishra get into the picture? The Karawal Nagar (another north-east Delhi locality) politician was in the AAm AAdmi Party and had switched to the BJP just days before the Delhi polls. He contested from Karawal Nagar, but lost.

A few days back, scores of Jafrabad residents had let it be known that on Saturday (February 22), they would start a march to Rajghat. They were responding to an appeal by Bhim Army chief Chandrashekhar Azad who had called for ‘Bharat bandh’ on Sunday. On saturday, the women protesters were stopped midway, but soon they were at Jafrabad Metro station, blocking the road and the metro station.

Eyewitness say when the pro and anti-CAA protesters clashed, the police remained a mute spectator.

The situation turned uglier: On Monday the violence reached the lanes and by-lanes of some localities where passers-by were beaten up if they did not tell their names to aggressive groups of men.

Many pictures and videos of violence have gone viral where unidentified people have been seen brandishing guns as policemen look on. A head constable, Ratan Lal, lost his life on Monday after being hit by rioters.

The violence has spread to Chand Bagh, Khureji in east Delhi and Hauz Rani in south Delhi and fear stalks the roads. Yet no one knows how it all started and when and how it will end.

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