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Afghanistan’s Newly Appointed Defense Minister Under Fire

The allegations against Khalid initially stemmed from his stint as the governor of Kandahar a decade ago

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Afghanistan, defense, peace
Afghanistan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani. VOA

A global watchdog demanded Saturday international donors impose sanctions against Afghanistan’s new defense minister, Asadullah Khalid, saying there is “credible evidence” linking him to serious rights abuses.

Khalid’s appointment in December was part of a shake-up President Ashraf Ghani ordered amid sustained countrywide battlefield setbacks inflicted on embattled Afghan government forces by Taliban insurgents.

The defense minister, who previously had governed volatile Kandahar and Ghazni provinces and served as the Afghan spy chief, is also accused of ordering the killing of five United Nations workers in a roadside bombing in April 2007 in Kandahar,

Afghanistan,  defense
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul. VOA

“Credible evidence of serious human rights abuses and war crimes linked to Khalid have followed him throughout his government career,” Human Rights Watch noted. There is also strong evidence directly implicating him in acts of sexual violence against women and girls when he was governor of Ghazni and Kandahar, it added.

The HRW report denounced Khalid’s appointment as an “opportunistic and callous move” by President Ghani to score to “short-term gains” in the upcoming Afghan presidential election.

The move should have rung alarm bells not only in Kabul, but in the capitals of Afghanistan’s major donors, lamented HRW.

Afghanistan
Ghazni Afghanistan. VOA

“That it didn’t says a lot about how little human rights matter to an increasingly shaky government, and to donors looking for an exit from the long Afghan war,” the group noted.

The Afghan government has not immediately commented on the scathing report.

In a bid to preempt the criticism, officials invited among others the head of Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission to Khalid’s inauguration as the country’s new defense minister two weeks ago.

“My expectation from my soldiers is that while they would be rough and rude against enemy, they would do their best to reduce civilian casualties and demonstrate good behavior with war prisoners under their legal and religious obligation,” Khalid told the ceremony.

Afghanistan, defense
Kandahar province, Afghanistan. VOA

President Ghani’s government has proved unwilling to criminally investigate Khalid but the United States and Canada have the authority under their respective laws to impose financial and travel sanctions on him, asserted the HRW report.

“The European Union and other donors should impose similar sanctions to send a clear message that returning a known human rights abuser to a position of authority is simply unacceptable.”

The allegations against Khalid initially stemmed from his stint as the governor of Kandahar a decade ago – a time when thousands of Canadian troops were based in the province as part of the U.S.-led military coalition.

Also Read: US Military to Withdraw 7,000 Troops From Afghanistan

The HRW noted that Canadian diplomat Richard Colvin testified to a Canadian parliamentary commission in 2009 that Khalid perpetrated enforced disappearances and held people in private prisons. The testimony included evidence of Khalid’s personal involvement in the torture of detainees. (VOA)

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World is Decades Behind Schedule to Achieve Ambitious Goals to Fight Poverty, Inequality and Other Ills

The high-level summit in New York next week will be the first to focus on the sustainable development goals since they were adopted

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World, Decades, Schedule
FILE - The 17 goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development are seen behind then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon at the Annual Conference of Swiss Development Cooperation in Zurich, Switzerland, Jan. 22, 2016. VOA

The world is decades behind schedule to achieve ambitious goals to fight poverty, inequality and other ills, development experts warned Wednesday, as global leaders prepared to meet to weigh their progress.

The high-level summit in New York next week will be the first to focus on the sustainable development goals since they were adopted by the United Nations four years ago.

The 17 sustainable development goals, known as SDGs, set out a wide-ranging “to-do” list tackling conflict, hunger, land degradation, gender inequality and climate change by 2030. Assessments of their progress have been bleak.

On Wednesday the Social Progress Imperative, a U.S.-based nonprofit, said the goals were unlikely to be reached until 2073, more than four decades past their target date.

World, Decades, Schedule
FILE – Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, attends a news conference in Tokyo, Japan, Nov. 9, 2018. VOA

“Progress isn’t fast enough to achieve the ambition of the SDGs within my lifetime, and that’s a problem,” said Michael Green, chief executive of the Imperative. “There are some countries that are going backwards and letting us down.”

Most countries are lagging particularly in efforts to improve sanitation, nutrition, basic medical care, shelter and water, said the group, which ranks nations on an array of economic and social factors.

“The U.N. General Assembly week in New York is really an opportunity for the world to step back and look at the progress in helping those most in need,” said Bill Gates, cofounder of Microsoft Corp and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Efforts to improve access to basic health care and end inequality are not doing well, he said.

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“If we don’t accelerate progress, the gaps will continue to get larger,” he said. “We are not on track to achieve these goals.”

‘Progress is faltering’

Placing blame on growing inequality and on climate change, Shantanu Mukherjee, policy chief at the U.N. Department of Economic and Social Affairs, said: “The pace of progress is faltering.”

“Not only are business-as-usual efforts losing steam, … there are trends that threaten to undermine and even reverse the progress already being made on a massive scale,” he said at a recent release of a report on the goals by leading scientists.

World, Decades, Schedule
The world is decades behind schedule to achieve ambitious goals to fight poverty, inequality and other ills, development experts warned Wednesday. Pixabay

Their report said countries must address vast gaps in wealth distribution and improve access to economic opportunities and technological advances that undermine innovation and growth.

Progress has been made on the goal of ending extreme poverty, but in other areas, “progress has been slow or even reversed,” a U.N. assessment said this summer.

“The most vulnerable people and countries continue to suffer the most and the global response has not been ambitious enough,” it said.

Global cost

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Holding a global summit every four years was mandated when the goals were first approved to assess progress, encourage broader implementation and boost public awareness.

The cost of implementing the global goals has been estimated at $3 trillion a year.

The goals will fail without new ways to ease national debts, boost wages and expand trade, top financial organizations including the International Monetary Fund and World Trade Organization said earlier this year.

Money needs to be freed up through international trading and financial systems, they said.

When the goals were first adopted in 2015, then-U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said: “The true test of commitment to Agenda 2030 will be implementation.

“We need action from everyone, everywhere,” he said. (VOA)