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In Northwestern Afghanistan to survive, ‘We Sold Our Property to Buy Weapons and Attack’

The situation appears no better in northwestern Afghanistan, it just doesn't get reported, which makes Myrady's trips all the more important

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An Afghan security police walks at the destroyed house after an operation in Asad Khil near the site of a U.S. bombing in the Achin district of Jalalabad, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA
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Afghanistan, May 26, 2017: For more than three years now, Qishloq Ovozi and the Majlis podcast have been following events in northern Afghanistan, in the provinces that border Central Asia, while the situation there went from concerning to unstable.

This reporting benefited greatly from the work and dedication of one person, Shamerdanguly Myrady, one of our correspondents in Afghanistan.

At significant personal risk, he has been making trips to northwest Afghanistan, his native area, to report on events as the situation there deteriorated. He just went again.

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Myrady spent a week in Balkh, Jowzjan, and Sari Pul provinces at the start of May, and this is some of what he reported to RFE/RL’s Turkmen Service, known locally as Azatlyk.

Myrady said there were many armed groups operating in northwestern Afghanistan — “just in the Shortepa district, there are at least 10 [different] groups.”

Shortepa is in the northwest corner of Balkh Province and it borders Uzbekistan. The people of Shortepa, an area with a mainly ethnic Turkmen population, told Myrady the Taliban and militants from the Islamic State extremist group were operating in the district. Locals also said some of the militants were from north of the border, from Central Asia.

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Myrady met a man in Shortepa who called himself “commander” Abdul Menan, the leader of one of the local “uprising” militias. Speaking about the militants, Menan said, “Just in our area they killed at least 27 men and two women.”

Menan said that despite appeals to the authorities, no help had arrived. “No other choice remained to us,” he said, “other than selling our property — carpets, cows — to buy weapons and attack” the militants.

Myrady said that in conversations with people around the three provinces it became clear local militias were being formed in many areas.

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The 209th Corps, or Shaheen Corps, is responsible for northern Afghanistan. The 209th is stretched thin and that is the reason militant groups have been able to bring so many districts in northern Afghanistan at least partially under their control.

Some people told Myrady the attack on the Shaheen Corps base in Mazar-e Sharif on April 22 that left more than 130 soldiers dead shattered the confidence of many people that government forces could protect them.

This has led to an increase of paramilitary formations in the area, such as Menan’s group. Myrady said that based on what people told him, it seems paramilitary groups such as the Arbaky are now doing most of the fighting in districts away from the provincial capitals.

The lack of government control has other consequences. Myrady said there was more opium poppy cultivation in northwest Afghanistan than any time he could remember.

May 20, 2017: According to a 2016 UN report, Badghis Province, which borders Turkmenistan, is the second-largest producer of opium poppies among Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. Badghis is west of Jowzjan and Balkh.

People Myrady encountered told stories of vehicles being stopped by Taliban fighters and some people being taken away, of insurgents that locals described as “Daesh” or IS militants beheading locals.

There were also tales about the Taliban collecting money from villagers for electricity supplied by Turkmenistan, or simply collecting “zakat,” or taxes, from locals.

Myrady said it appeared small bazaars selling weapons and narcotics are operating in some districts of northwestern Afghanistan where militants are in control, including districts on the border with Turkmenistan.

Myrady’s reporting sheds some small light on the dire situation in northwestern Afghanistan. Recent reports on fighting in northern Afghanistan came from battlefields in Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces, in northeastern Afghanistan, along the border with Tajikistan.

The situation appears no better in northwestern Afghanistan, it just doesn’t get reported, which makes Myrady’s trips all the more important. (RFE/RL)

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Karun Nair Opens Up Over New Opportunities in His Life

Nair has had a moderate IPL so far, scoring 246 runs in 11 matches at 24.60.

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Nair has had a moderate IPL so far, scoring 246 runs in 11 matches at 24.60.
Nair is currently playing for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL). wikimedia commons

Back in the Indian Test cricket team after more than a year, middle-order batsman Karun Nair says he is now working to become an all-format player in future.

The 26-year-old Karnataka right-hander will replace Virat Kohli in the Indian team, which will take on debutants Afghanistan in Bengaluru from June 14-18.

Captain Kohli will play for English county side Surrey during that time to prepare for the England tour later this year.

Nair is currently playing for Kings XI Punjab in the ongoing Indian Premier League (IPL).

“I am really excited to be wearing those whites again and representing my country has always been an honour and privilege. I am really looking forward to it,” Nair told IANS in a telephonic interview.

“I have worked really hard over the last one and half years. My form in the IPL and the way I have batted, I consider myself an all-format player and it’s just about getting those opportunities and making the most of them,” said Nair when asked about common perception that the Karnataka willower is a Test specialist.

“It’s just that finding a spot in the one day team is difficult. I need to do better to get those opportunities and I am on the right track. I will do everything I can with the bat to make sure I play all formats,” he said.

Nair, who scored an unbeaten 303 against England in the fifth test in Chennai two years back, will lead the India A side in the four-day matches in the UK. For India A’s One-Day tri-series assignment in the UK, he has not been picked.

Back in the Indian Test cricket team after more than a year, middle-order batsman Karun Nair says he is now working to become an all-format player in future.
Karun Nair will lead the India A side in the four-day matches in the UK. wikimedia commons

“I am really happy to be leading the team. It’s a great opportunity for us as a team to be playing in England and learning how to play cricket in England,” said Nair, who played his last Test against Australia in Dharamsala last year before being dropped to accommodate Rohit Sharma in the playing XI.

“We need to learn to adjust to those conditions. For me as a captain, we have a talented bunch of youngsters who are really exciting,” he added.

Nair has had a moderate IPL so far, scoring 246 runs in 11 matches at 24.60.

Talking about Kings XI who are experiencing a downturn after losing four of their previous five games, Nair said it’s time to get their act together at the business end of the season. Punjab have 12 points from 11 matches.

“It’s almost the business end of the tournament. So we need to get our act together,” he said.

“The matches that we have won, we have completely played as a team. Individual performances have helped like K.L. Rahul has batted exceptionally well in some of the games.

“Chris (Gayle) has also batted superbly in few games. But it has been a collective effort overall,” Nair said.

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Nair also lavished praise on Punjab skipper Ravichandran Ashwin, saying he has done exceedingly well in his first year as captain.

“It’s been brilliant under Ash. He has done exceedingly well as a captain and to be captaining in the IPL for the first time, he has done exceptionally well,” he said.

“He has always been a smart cricketer, if you look at his bowling he always has different plans for different batsmen and he can change it anytime during the game. He takes wise and quick decisions which is definitely needed in T20 cricket. I hope we win more games under his captaincy.” (IANS)