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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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Humanitarian Issues to Figure Prominently At The World Economic Forum

The head of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore will champion the needs of children and young people who are caught up in humanitarian crises

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World Economic Forum
People walk up stairs at the congress center where the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum 2019, WEF, take place in Davos, Jan. 20, 2019. VOA

Heads of U.N. and international aid agencies will use the World Economic Forum’s influential platform to present humanitarian and human rights issues on behalf of millions of people caught in conflict, poverty and natural disasters. The Forum begins its annual weeklong meeting in the plush Swiss Alpine resort of Davos on Monday.

The World Economic Forum is best known for the many high-powered government and business leaders who make the annual pilgrimage to Davos to acquire lucrative deals and shape geopolitical events.

But the annual event also presents a robust humanitarian agenda. This year, the Forum, World Bank and International Committee of the Red Cross will launch a humanitarian Investing Initiative. The aim is to seek new solutions for protracted humanitarian crises by moving from short-term to long-term funding to support fragile communities.

United Nations aid agencies will feature prominently during the week-long meeting. The World Food Program’s executive director, David Beasley, will co-host events, such as ‘conflict and hunger’ and ‘the use of digital technology in the humanitarian sector.’

World Economic Forum
Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman of the World Economic Forum holds the meeting’s manifesto as he addresses a news conference ahead of the Davos annual meeting in Cologny near Geneva. VOA

Global Tensions

WFP spokesman Herve Verhoosel says the group will be seeking support for its operations. He says many of the companies attending Davos understand that investments in food security are fundamental to business success.

“It saves lives and builds stronger markets around the world. In fact, it can increase GDPs by up to 16.5 percent and a person’s lifetime earnings by 46 percent,” he said.

With more than 3,000 of the world’s movers and shakers from 110 countries present, aid agencies see the Forum as a valuable opportunity to strengthen relationships with world leaders and keep their life-saving missions on the world’s agenda.

World Economic Forum
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet attends a news conference at the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland, Dec. 5, 2018. VOA

The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet will be attending events on a wide range of topics. Her spokeswoman, Ravina Shamdasani, says these include LGBTI or Lesbian, Gay, Bi-sexual, Transgender and Intersex standards in businesses, and human rights and democracy in a changing world.

“A couple of events on women’s rights as human rights and female leadership. The importance of women playing a role in global affairs by creating a new architecture that allows them to fully participate as leaders and shapers,” she said.

Also Read: The World Economic Forum To Discuss Globalization, Climate Change

The head of the U.N. Children’s Fund, Henrietta Fore will champion the needs of children and young people who are caught up in humanitarian crises or are being left behind because of extreme poverty and lack of development.

U.N. Development Program Administrator, Achim Steiner will seek to raise $100 million from Davos’ wealthy clientele to protect wild animals and their habitats. (VOA)