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SIGAR warns of continued threat – with or without peace



(Last Updated On: March 10, 2021)

The United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) warned on Wednesday night that security remains the most crucial and enduring high-risk area for Afghanistan and with or without a sustainable peace agreement and nationwide ceasefire, Afghanistan will likely continue to be threatened by multiple violent-extremist organizations.

Presenting SIGAR’s 2021 High-Risk List to US Congress, John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, said any political agreement risks subordinate groups going rogue, possibly manifesting as another insurgency or insecurity from criminal gangs or networks.

These issues could become even more pronounced if US forces are no longer in country to provide counterterrorism support and to train, advise, and assist Afghanistan’s security institutions, his report stated.

He said that in keeping with SIGAR’s statutory mandate to promote economy, effectiveness, and efficiency, the High-Risk List identifies serious risks to the United States’ $143 billion reconstruction effort in Afghanistan.

He also pointed out that this report is issued at a time when peace negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban are stalled amid continuing high levels of violence, putting the reconstruction effort at greater risk than ever before.

“As we note in this report, whether or not the United States continues to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan pursuant to last year’s withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, the new Administration and Congress will have to decide whether and to what extent reconstruction will continue.

“Although Afghanistan’s leadership have often stated that their goal is self-reliance, Afghanistan today is nowhere near to being self-reliant – especially in funding its government operations, including military and police – from its own resources.

“And, as highlighted in our report, reconstruction aid helps keep Afghanistan from reverting to a terrorist safe haven,” Sopko said.

He stated that “today the gains from our nation’s investment in Afghanistan’s reconstruction face multiple threats: continued insecurity, uncertain post-peace settlement funding, the challenge of reintegrating fighters, endemic corruption, lagging economic growth and social development, threats to women’s rights, the illicit narcotics trade, and inadequate oversight by donors.”

He also pointed out that the level of violence has increased, including not only attacks against Afghan security forces, but also bomb attacks on civilians and targeted assassinations of mid level officials, prominent women, and journalists.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic is overwhelming Afghanistan’s health sector and having a severe impact on its economy and people, he stated.

Sopko said this report is “intended to provide an independent and sober assessment of the various risks now facing the Administration and Congress as they seek to make decisions about the future of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan.”

The High-Risk List focuses on elements of the US reconstruction effort in Afghanistan that are essential to success; at risk of failure due to waste, fraud or abuse; and subject to the control or influence of the US government.

Key Factors

By using these criteria, SIGAR identified eight high-risk areas:

• Increasing Insecurity
• Uncertain Funding for a Post-Peace Settlement
• The Need to Reintegrate Ex-Combatants
• Endemic Corruption
• Lagging Economic Growth and Social Development
• Illicit Narcotics Trade
• Threats to Women’s Rights
• Inadequate Oversight

The report stated that while security remains the most crucial and enduring high-risk area for Afghanistan because the Taliban have not significantly changed their tactics, high levels of violence, or political objectives, and terrorist groups in Afghanistan such as Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K/Daesh) and al-Qaeda remain in the country.

“With or without a sustainable peace agreement and nationwide ceasefire, Afghanistan will likely continue to be threatened by multiple violent-extremist organizations.

“Any political agreement risks subordinate groups going rogue, possibly manifesting as another insurgency or insecurity from criminal gangs or networks.

“These issues could become even more pronounced if US forces are no longer in country to provide counterterrorism support and to train, advise, and assist Afghanistan’s security institutions,” the report read.

It also noted that the long-term danger for Afghan women is that Afghan peace negotiations break down, plunging the country into worse violence. “Women and girls suffer not only loss of life, injury, disability, and mental trauma, but also the loss of male breadwinners, increasingly desperate poverty, the social stigma and discrimination that accompany widowhood and permanent disability, and reduced access to basic services.”

The SIGAR report also noted that there are between 55,000 and 85,000 Taliban fighters and that depending on the terms of a peace agreement, some Taliban fighters will be integrated into the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces; while others will need to transition to productive noncombatant status in civil society.

According to SIGAR, Afghanistan remains exceptionally reliant on foreign assistance – specifically with donor grants that total at least $8.6 billion per year which currently finances almost 80 percent of Afghanistan’s $11 billion in public expenditures.

“Afghanistan remains exceptionally reliant upon foreign assistance, creating both an opportunity for donors to influence events there as foreign troops depart and risks to a potential peace if they reduce assistance too much, too fast, or insist on conditions that cannot be achieved by the parties to the conflict,” the report read.

SIGAR also warned that the Afghan government’s limited fiscal capacity may be inadequate to sustain the infrastructure, such as roads, reliable power generation, and economic supply chains.

“The Afghan government’s lack of financial sustainability is an issue affecting all high-risk areas identified by SIGAR,” the report read.

SIGAR also noted that the detrimental effects of the illegal drugs trade in Afghanistan does not only affect the health system but also helps fund insurgents, foster corruption, and provoke criminal violence.

“Even in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, Afghanistan’s opium economy has remained resilient. The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime reported that Afghanistan’s 2020 opium-poppy harvest was largely uninterrupted by COVID-19,” the report read.

Another key risk factor was government’s failure to effectively address systemic corruption in Afghanistan.

SIGAR stated the Afghan government has taken limited steps to curb systemic corruption, but more tangible action is required.

“The Afghan government often makes “paper” reforms, such as drafting regulations or holding meetings, rather than taking concrete actions that would reduce corruption, like arresting or enforcing penalties on powerful Afghans.”

Sopko meanwhile stated that regardless of the course chosen by the US, SIGAR, as the largest oversight presence in Afghanistan and the only one with whole-of-government authority, will remain the best US defense against the waste, fraud, and abuse of US taxpayer funds in Afghanistan.

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Afghan embassy in India suspends operations, diplomats from previous government leave



(Last Updated On: September 29, 2023)

The Afghan embassy in India has suspended all operations after the ambassador and other senior diplomats left the country for Europe and the United States where they gained asylum, Reuters reported citing three embassy officials on Friday.

India does not recognise the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), and closed its own embassy in Kabul after the IEA took control in 2021, but New Delhi had allowed the ambassador and mission staff appointed by the Western-backed government of ousted Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to issue visas and handle trade matters.

At least five Afghan diplomats have left India, the embassy officials said. The Indian government will now take over the diplomatic compound in a caretaker capacity, one of the Afghan officials said.

Asked about the matter, an Indian foreign ministry official in New Delhi said they were looking into the developments, without giving any details.

IEA officials have yet to make comment on the matter.

India is one of a dozen countries with a small mission in Kabul to facilitate trade, humanitarian aid and medical support. Bilateral trade in 2019-2020 reached $1.5 billion, but fell drastically after the IEA took office.

Earlier this month hundreds of Afghan college students living in India despite the expiry of their student visas staged a demonstration in New Delhi to urge the Indian government to extend their stay.

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Two families reconcile in Nangarhar, end 17 years of enmity



(Last Updated On: September 29, 2023)

Nangarhar local authorities say a 17-year-old enmity between two families in Spinghar district of the province ended in a jirga held Friday and that the two sides reconciled with the mediation of the Islamic Emirate’s officials.

“Those who bring reconciliation among Muslims whether it’s on the ethnic or family level, have a place in our hearts,” said Nasrullah Haqyar, police chief of Spinghar district.

Meanwhile, the members of the involved families are also happy that their 17-year-old enmity has turned into reconciliation.

In the meantime, local tribal elders also said that if someone incites enmity again, they will be fined 200,000 afghanis.

“Jirga is something in which an issue can be resolved in very little time and with little consumption,” said Esmatullah Shinwari, a tribal elder in Nangarhar.

The Ministry of Borders and Tribal Affairs also pointed out that since IEA’s takeover, they have turned more than 40 big and small enmities into reconciliation with the cooperation of tribal elders in this province.

This comes that not only in Nangarhar but also in many provinces, the process of reconciling the involved families is going on quickly and many family conflicts have been resolved through Jirga.

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Serious management of water resources underway: Acting Minister Mansoor



(Last Updated On: September 29, 2023)

Acting Minister of Water and Energy of Afghanistan Abdul Latif Mansoor has said that the Islamic Emirate has started serious management of water resources.

Speaking in an exclusive interview with Ariana News, Mansoor said that due to the recent droughts, people of the country are facing a shortage of clean drinking water and to solve the problem, the ministry has started serious management of water resources.

Mansoor also pointed to the concern of some neighboring countries regarding the recent actions of the Islamic Emirate to manage the waters of Afghanistan, including over the Qosh Tepa Canal, saying that the concerned countries must share their concerns with the Islamic Emirate through bilateral talks.

The acting minister said that this year, 3 billion afghanis in development budget were allocated to the ministry, and most of the budget will be spent on unfinished projects of water dams.

Meanwhile, the Acting Minister of Water and Energy said that there is a capacity to produce 30,000 megawatts of electricity in the country and that the ministry has taken measures to attract more investments in the energy production sector so that Afghanistan can become self-sufficient in electricity production in the long term.

Mansoor says that in order to attract more investments in the energy production sector in the country, they are ready to cooperate with the private sector and will provide them with all facilities.

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