06 December 2019

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Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) Kabul’s ambassador to Washington said “passing statements” about U.S. withdrawal or peace talks with the Taliban made in American political campaigns are “not helpful” in setting Afghanistan on the pathway to a future as functioning democratic republic. Speaking Wednesday at the Atlantic Council in Washington, D.C., Roya Rahmani said in answer to several questions, “we want the United States to look at us … as partners over the last 18 years.” The major change: “now it is not the Americans fighting” the Taliban or the Islamic State in Afghanistan, she said. Rather, the Afghan security forces are in the lead militarily, as part of a strategy developed several years ago in coordination the United States and NATO. “We could talk about this as a success story.” The ambassador added Afghanistan “is an important part of your foreign policy. We have a rapidly changing environment” inside Afghanistan that includes shifting mindsets over the role of women in society. Rahmani was speaking against the backdrop of the sudden announcement of the American withdrawal of forces from northeast Syria, where they had been working alongside the Syrian Democratic Front against the Islamic State. That sudden withdrawal raised new questions about U.S. commitment to stay in Afghanistan. Even before the U.S. forces pulled out, Turkish aircraft and artillery struck targets in the northern part of Syria, and Turkish ground forces pushed forward to establish a buffer zone where up to 1 million refugees would be relocated. Ahead of an Afghan election last month, President Donald Trump abruptly canceled a secret Camp David meeting where members of the Taliban and the Afghan government and the administration would work out the final details of a peace agreement ending the American military involvement in Afghanistan. Rahmani cited the success of the 70,000 Afghan security forces who ensured the safety of voters in the Sept. 28 presidential election as another example of the difference this year from previous national votes, when the United States and coalition forces played a major role in keeping the peace on voting day. The strong Afghan security presence and the relatively few incidents of violence at the polls “were an important milestone in counterterrorism strategy” going forward. In addition to the security forces, she said 200,000 Afghans worked the polls; more than 10,000 of them were women. “This is a test of how far our country has evolved.” She viewed the election, where preliminary results have been delayed at least until next week for a number of technical reasons, as “cement[ing] our commitment to democracy,” and that needs to be recognized in Washington. She added, “Afghans risked their lives to go to the polls” Rahmani said Afghans are “choosing democracy over the other possibilities” presented by the Taliban or Islamic State. Although peace talks among the leading parties appear to be at a standstill, and the turnout of 3 million Afghans for the presidential election has been called low, she stressed, “The United States needs a strong partner in Afghanistan.” No matter who is elected president – incumbent Ashraf Ghani or the country’s chief executive, Abdullah Abdullah – “they share your goals” of wanting a stable nation, she added. “The military cannot provide a full solution” to achieving that goal and ensuring the progress made towards a democracy shared by all is achieved. Usni Ansari

Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) A meeting of Senate Standing Committee on Maritime Affairs was held on Gwadar Port under the chairmanship of Senator Kehda Babar Baloch. Senator Muhammad Akram Baloch, customs chief collector, finance and development officials, Gwadar Port Authority chairman, administrators of Chinese companies and top officials of other departments participated in the meeting. The committee was briefed on the preparations of Gwadar Port, Gwadar Free Zone and Pak-Afghan Transit Trade. Senator Babar Baloch said that all arrangements to handle cargo shipment from Pak-Afghan Transit Trade to Gwadar Port have been completed, while all facilities had been made available at the Gwadar Port. Baloch informed the session that works on Gwadar Free Zone was undergoing at a fast pace and will be completed by the end of 2019. He maintained that construction of offices, storage hall and cold storage on 60 acres of the free zone was in the last phase. The meeting was told that work on Gwadar Expressway was also underway. After the completion of the expressway, Gwadar Port will be linked with Makran Coastal Highway. Senator Baloch remarked that matters with Afghan officials had been agreed for starting Afghan Transit Trade from Gwadar Port and trade would commence soon from there. The meeting was informed that the government would provide best facilities to local and foreign investors in Gwadar and that stringent measures had been taken to provide security to the entrepreneurs. The senator observed that Pakistan with the cooperation of China would open technical centers on the coastal sites of Jiwani, Pashkan and Pasni with a cost of Rs12 billion. “This would equip the youth with technical education,” he said. Receiving complaints about the poor performance of port operation software system and fiber optic at the Gwadar Port, the convener directed the customs, Gwadar Port Authority and Pakistan Telecommunication Authority officials to complete the work within two weeks and submit a report. Tribune Ansari

Friday, 18 October 2019 17:35

Kandahar Pomegranate Melts on the Ground

Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) Although products of Kandahar pomegranate gardens increased by 25pc this year but exports of this fruit to the world markets was fading due to Pakistan heavy tariffs. In reaction to imposing of heavy tariffs by Pakistan on Afghan agricultural products, particularly pomegranates, a number of horticultures said that due to not exports of this product to foreign markets, its price has decreased in domestic markets. Ghulam Haidar Khan owner of an orchard in Dand district, Kandahar province who has planted 15000 pomegranate saplings said, in previous years Kandahar pomegranates were exported to Pakistan and through it to globle markets like India. Now due to hike of tariffs on this item, its exports have considerably reduced to world markets. He added, due to increase of pomegranate harvest, domestic markets are not sufficient for its supply. Expressing concern for not supply of his pomegranate inside the country, he asked the government to establish a juice production factory in Kandahar. He continued, as a result of recent rains, pomegranate gardens were damaged in a number of Kandahar districts. Due to affecting with an unknown disease, pomegranates were damaged and their prices reduced in domestic markets and due to lack of professional agronomists, this disease was not diagnosed. According to pomegranate dealers, good pomegranates are supplied in domestic markets Afs 60 per kilo while in past year it was supplied Afs 100 per kilo. Director of Kandahar provincial directorate of agriculture Sayed Haffizullah Sayeedy said, this year pomegranate harvest increased to 15-25 pc. Last year pomegranate harvest was 80850 tons while this year it reached to 178125 tons but due to reduction of exports, it caused many problems to horticultures. We train hundreds horticultures every year. Kandahar is famous for its delicious and high quality pomegranates and according to agricultural officials, over nine million pomegranate saplings have been planted in 9500 hectare lands and it has been estimated that each sapling produces 30 kg pomegranates. Lack of foreign markets, high tariffs and sanctions on Wagah port are major problems ahead of Afghan fruits exporters. Although efforts were made for removal of these sanctions but didn’t produced positive results. Following increasing tension with India over Kashmir issue, Pakistan closed Wagah port for transactions between Kabul-Delhi. In-charge of public affairs of presidential office for banking and financial affairs Samir Rasa said that they are intending to find new markets in other countries for exports of pomegranates as a number of countries including UAE, China and EU countries have shown interests to purchase Afghan pomegranates. An air corridor has recently been opened between Kabul and Azerbaijan for exports of goods and agricultural products. Rasa added that so far three tons pomegranate have been exported while last year eleven tons were exported via air corridor to India, UAE, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Ansari

Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) The first female Afghan to scale her country’s highest peak took to the hills of Lochaber last week. Hanifa Yousoufi, who was accompanied by her friend and colleague, Freshta Ibrahimi, is part of Ascend, an initiative that works to equip young women in Afghanistan to rise above the challenges they face in everyday life. They are also involved with the inspiring Free to Run project, which uses adventure sports to develop female leaders in regions of conflict. Ms. Yousoufi overcame child marriage, depression and the constant threat of violence by taking part in Ascend’s mountaineering project, becoming the first woman to climb the 24,580 feet to the pinnacle of Mount Noshaq in Afghanistan. Ms. Yousoufi and Ms. Ibrahimi were in the UK giving a series of talks to encourage women into the mountains, but their trip to Glencoe was for the experience of climbing in the Highlands. The women visited the Glencoe Rescue Centre and met with renowned mountaineer Hamish MacInnes. Ms. Yousoufi and Ms Ibrahimi then climbed Buachaille Etive Mor and were excited by the green colors and the combination of mountain and sea, as their own beautiful landscape is stark in comparison. Their visit coincided with heavy downpours but, rather than putting them off, they loved the experience of the wet. Nancy Kennedy from Girls on Hills also met with Ms. Yousoufi and Ms Ibrahimi during their visit. She told the Lochaber Times: ‘Though we come from very different backgrounds we share the same ethos. ‘Girls to Run is also both part of the Free to Run movement, equipping women with the skills to go off on their own, empowering them to go into the mountains and be free to run. ‘Women here have similar obstacles – though not to the same extent, we don’t have the fear of violence – but family time and lack of confidence are often obstacles that we put in our path. ‘When we started Girls on Hills we thought the focus would be mainly on running, but the most rewarding aspect has been working with women who have come to us after a life event, such as divorce or illness, wanting to make a change. ‘The effects of coming out into the hills spills out into their lives. It was a pleasure to meet these inspirational women.’ Obantimes Ansari

Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) Several extremely precious Afghan cultural relics completed their tour in China on October 9 after visiting many different places in the country starting from March 2017. The treasures, which represent civilizations ranging from the Bronze Age to the Kushan Dynasty and the Hellenistic period (323-31 B.C.), have been displayed in over a dozen countries and regions including Germany, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Canada, the United States, Japan, South Korea and Britain. The cultural relics went on a global tour after surviving numerous wars in Afghanistan, thanks to the efforts of the National Museum of Afghanistan’s team of curators and restorers. The National Museum of Afghanistan used to be one of the most important museums in central Asia, with a collection of over 100,000 items dating back several millennia. But most of the treasures were ransacked during the country’s civil war in the early 1990s. In 2001, a militant Islamic group known as the Taliban destroyed artifacts dating from the 3rd century, including two towering Buddhist statues in Bamyan Province and scores of smaller ones excavated from monasteries and preserved at the museum. More than 2,750 relics deemed offensive to the Taliban were destroyed. Shirazuddin Sifi, a member of the museum’s restoration department, said the museum was struck by rocket fire and largely destroyed during the war. “One day, about 160 rockets were fired from the western side of the museum. The museum and its surrounding areas were all attacked. One of the rockets hit a nearby bus station and killed many people. Then we decided to transfer the treasures in the museum to safe places,” said Sifi to Chinese CGTN tv. He said the museum has been recovering from destruction over the past few years. Sifi and his colleagues have restored 30 percent of the relics damaged by the Taliban. Restoring Afghanistan’s Buddhist artifacts that were destroyed by the Taliban 18 years ago is like working on a 1,500-year-old jigsaw puzzle, say conservators working on the latest restoration project. About 35,000 newly excavated relics in the country have been stored in the museum since 2003, and 15,000 more works of art have been recovered from abroad. Many of the surviving national treasures were sent on a global exhibition tour in 2006. The exhibition moved to China in 2017. “The purpose of a world exhibition tour is to show the real Afghanistan, the real history and the rich culture of Afghanistan. This is the goodwill released by the Afghan people to the people of the rest of the world,” said Mohammad Fahim Rahimi, curator of the National Museum of Afghanistan. Ansari

Friday October 18, 2019 Kabul (BNA) India will be sending a consignment of 75000 MT (metric tons) of wheat to Afghanistan in November 2019 as part of its humanitarian gesture. The consignment will be sent via the Chabahar port and the supply will commence from Kandala port next month. India first sent a consignment of wheat via Chabahar in 2017 when they started the supply of 1.1 million tons of wheat for Afghanistan. The 2017 consignment also paved the way for operationalization of the Chabahar port as a reliable way for connectivity for Afghanistan. As part of its humanitarian gesture, India is also providing financial assistance for the treatment of Afghan children suffering from congenital heart disease. According to Indian envoy to Afghanistan Vinay Kumar, in the last four years around 2000 Afghan children in the age group of 4 months to 18 years have been treated with India’s assistance of US $4 million. Speaking at the 37th anniversary of the Afghan Red Crescent Society (SRCS), Vinay Kumar spoke about the financial assistance being provided by New Delhi for treatment of Afghan children suffering from Congenital Heart Disease and commended the "outstanding work of ARCS and its volunteers in providing humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan affected by the conflict and natural disasters. From infrastructure to humanitarian aid to building institutions, India is engaging with Afghanistan according to the country's development priorities. New Delhi on Tuesday completed the replacements for all four Mi 24V helicopters it had given to Afghanistan in 2015/2016. While 2 helicopters were given earlier this year, rest 2 were handed over to Afghan National Security Forces or ANDSF on Tuesday. The landlocked country is being connected via the Chabahar and the India-Afghanistan Air Corridor by India. Dnaindia Ansari

Friday October 4, 2019
Kabul (BNA) In what might result as a major embarrassment for Afghanistan and its cricketing entities, the Afghanistan Cricket Board prematurely calling off the APL, Season – 2 poses a serious threat for the Cricket Board to incur legal and financial liabilities to the tune of over 10 million US$ (78,2500000 AFN).
There had been speculations about the current CEO, Mr. Lutfullah having terminated the contract with the Indian Company Snixer Sports without consulting other members of the Board. Speaking to one of the board members of ACB, who refused to be named, he said that there was no communication sent to any stakeholder or team owners before termination.
He further said that it was foolhardy to call off the league without considering business and legal implications. If team owners and stakeholders sue ACB, we won’t be able to even finance our litigation costs. Our sources with ACB confirm that Snixer Sports has already sent a legal notice to ACB over their action to which ACB is yet to reply.
This can prove fatal for exiting player contracts as well and for their cricketing future. Speaking to one of the senior officials of Snixer Sports, it was learnt that there were allegations over misconduct by few ACB officials and stakeholders in the previous league and the same is under inquiry with ICC, ACU.
“We did seek clarification from ICC, ACU and it was informed to us on record that the inquiry is still going on. We are extremely intolerant towards any such practices which is contrary to the guidelines prescribed by ICC and we been cooperating with ACU to set the record straight. We fail to understand how ACB can be reckless enough to terminate the league without any rationale and over unfounded attributions.”
“Our talks are going on and it is our understanding that the same had been done with procedural discrepancies. We have suffered huge losses owing to such illegal termination and we shall take appropriate legal action to recover the same if our current talks don’t succeed. Afghanistan and its cricket-loving people have been looking forward to the league and it had been a huge disappointment for them as well.”
APL 2019 might go ahead if internal matters of ACB are sorted
Meanwhile, there is huge unrest amongst all the stakeholders over ACB’s action which might result in a long drawn legal battle for Afghanistan Cricket Board against Snixer and existing commercial stakeholders. The drama is still unfolding over speculations of APL season –II somehow happening if internal matters of ACB are sorted.
For a fairly new cricketing association in a sporting nation which has recently started gaining international accolades in cricket, this episode can prove extremely fatal for the scope and future of the sport in Afghanistan. Afghanistan Cricket Board has recently gone ahead engaging Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s office over irregularities in the board.
The sport means a lot to the people of Afghanistan and over recent years, the country has produced many players of international repute. With all such things at stake, ACB’s liability can dent permanent damage to the country’s finances and repute in the international arena.

Friday October 4, 2019
Kabul (BNA) Any peace in Afghanistan must be negotiated for Afghans by their elected leaders, the country's national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, says.
"We have objected to being part of the negotiations and not being a central part of this discussion," Mohib, 36, tells NPR's Rachel Martin from New York City, where he addressed the United Nations General Assembly on Monday.
"And if we want to see peace in Afghanistan, the Afghan government must be at the forefront of any negotiations," he added.

Mohib is back in the U.S. a little over six months after the Trump administration said it was ending contact with him after he criticized its approach to Afghanistan peace talks.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, who ran in the country's election over the weekend, did not attend this year's General Assembly. Despite hundreds of attacks by Taliban insurgents during the months before, national elections went ahead on Saturday, though voter turnout was low and there have been allegations of fraud and other irregularities. On Monday, however, both Ghani and his challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, claimed they were ahead as the vote count continues.
It is not clear how much sway the Taliban will hold or what possible role they will have in a new government.
In March, Mohib — who also served as Afghanistan's ambassador to the U.S. from 2015 to 2018 — accused the U.S. envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, of "delegitimizing" Ghani's government by excluding it from peace talks with the Taliban. Soon after, the U.S. told Ghani that Washington would end communications with Mohib.
U.S. negotiations with the Taliban, the closest the White House has come to ending a nearly 18-year troop presence in Afghanistan, collapsed in September when President Trump abruptly declared the talks "dead." An agreement was expected to include an initial withdrawal of more than a third of the 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan in exchange for a Taliban promise to not let the country become a base for global terrorist attacks.
The Taliban have said "doors are open" to resume talks with the United States. They have continued to mount frequent, large-scale attacks on Afghan civilians but also lifted bans on activities by the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organization.

Friday October 4, 2019
Kabul (BNA) United States Special Envoy for Afghan Peace Zalmay Khalilzad reached Islamabad on Tuesday.
The envoy was accompanied by a delegation of officials.
Sources told ARY News that Khalilzad, during his stay in Pakistan, will hold meetings with Pakistan's top military and civil leadership and would share new development on the Afghan peace process.
Khalilzad will likely visit the Foreign Office and hold a consultative meeting with the Pakistani officials, the sources added.
The US envoy arrived here after concluding his visit to China.
On September 22, Khalilzad had called upon Prime Minister Imran Khan, who was in America then, and had discussed the ongoing situation in Afghanistan and the apparent dissolution of the Afghan peace process.

Friday, 04 October 2019 10:20

A Tech School for Dreamers in Afghanistan

Friday October 4, 2019
Kabul (BNA) When a team of high school girls from Afghanistan were initially denied visas to enter the U.S. for Global FIRST, the international robotics competition in 2017, the setback proved only temporary.  The story of the team’s plight made international news and gained support from U.S. legislators and the president. And it set in motion a collaboration between Yale and the team’s coach, entrepreneur Roya Mahboob, to design a technology school for high school students in Afghanistan. The school, to be called The Dreamer Institute, is particularly remarkable because it will be attended by both boys and girls. In a country that has only recently started to accept women in science, such a school would have been impossible just a few years ago.
The collaboration brings together Yale's School of Engineering & Applied Science (SEAS), the School of Architecture and the Whitney and Betty MacMillan Center for International and Area Studies at Yale.
The Dreamer Institute, to be built in Kabul, will focus on robotics, artificial intelligence and block chain, and will consist of two interlocking buildings on the campus of Kabul University. One building is the high school, to be attended by girls for one half of the day and by boys the other half. The other is an innovation center based partly on Yale’s Center for Engineering Innovation & Design (CEID), which would be shared by the high school students and students from Kabul University.
Mahboob, an entrepreneur from Afghanistan and a founder of numerous startups, said the idea for the school was sparked by the team’s tour of North America. Their visits to numerous tech-based high schools fascinated the team members, who had little exposure to technology training until joining the robotics team.
“We went to these schools and saw how the students worked together - all the girls wanted this back home,” Mahboob said. “We did some research about STEM schools and figured out what we needed to bring one to Afghanistan.”
Through Yale’s work with Global FIRST, Mahboob mentioned the idea to Vincent Wilczynski, deputy dean of SEAS and director of the CEID. 
“When I heard Roya’s idea, I thought ‘Yale could do this, and Yale should do this,’” Wilczynski said. “There was a need, and we have the resources, we have the people, and we have the talent. All of us coming together to do this is reflective of what’s possible at Yale.”
He sent out a few emails and a collaboration was soon struck between SEAS, Architecture and the MacMillan Center. From there, things moved fast. Sunil Bald, associate dean for curriculum and admissions for the architecture school, led a team of five architecture students, working out of the CEID for four weeks over the summer to draw up the plans for the 150,000 square feet of building space. The project presented unique challenges to the student team of Michelle Badr, Camille Chabrol, Deo Deiparine, Alexandra Pindea, and Jerome Tryon. Among them was figuring out how to combine traditional aspects of Afghan architecture with more modern elements, creating a secure space while maintaining a sense of openness, and how to make the building adaptable to a country with a quickly changing cultural environment.
“This is a pretty unique endeavor in terms of having a group of students working with a faculty member to design something that we hope will see the light of day in another part of the world,” Bald said. “To see these kinds of tangible results in such a short amount of time has been really encouraging.”
Bald and the students presented the final designs to Mahboob last week at the School of Architecture Gallery. 
“It was amazing,” Mahboob said after the presentation. “I had envisioned it with a totally different design, and then I come here they bring this very innovative scheme for the buildings. Thank you for making the dream come true. I hope you can one day come to Afghanistan and see the school. It is a symbol of the future of Afghanistan and especially the young people.”
Mahboob, the first female CEO for a tech company from Afghanistan, said this kind of plan would have been a non-starter in her country a few years ago.
“But now, you see a lot of women as owners of companies or forming technology groups robotics, animations or coding," she said. "The perceptions of women’s ability in science and technology and engineering have changed.”
A lot of that has to do with the robotics team that toured the world.
“It just changed the whole country,” she said. “It became a symbol of hope and unity and courage for many young generations, especially women. Even more conservative people saw this and said, ‘OK women can be mentors or designers or scientists.’ That was a huge shift.”
George Joseph, executive director of the MacMillan Center, said the project is a “perfect opportunity to bring together a number of entities across Yale.” He noted that of much of the center’s financial support that goes to faculty and students is for “more standard academic modes of communication.” 
“To see a real-world application of our effort, it’s very inspiring,” Joseph said. “The potential for impact that this could have, not only on these girls in Afghanistan, but on Afghanistan as a whole - that motivates us for why we do what we do at MacMillan.”
Mahboob said the building, if all goes according to plan, would be up and running in 2021. She’s currently seeking funding for the construction from various sources, including the Afghanistan government, and plans to present the design to the president - she’s waiting until this week’s election to see who that will be. Further down the road, she said, more Dreamer Institutes could be built around the globe.
“All countries need to focus on student development, and they have to start investing in them today,” she said. “The idea of the Dreamer Institute is to give students access to emerging technologies, where there’s a much bigger gap between the richest and poorest countries. Countries and governments are responsible for making sure that this knowledge is in the hands of the young generations.”


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