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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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Iran President Gearing Up For His India Visit To Discuss Trade And Policies

The visit will be used to discuss trade and policies between the two countries

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Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will discuss trade policies and other issues during this visit of his. http://www.telegraph.co.uk
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will discuss trade policies and other issues during this visit of his. http://www.telegraph.co.uk
  • Iran president Hassan Rouhanito come on a three-day visit to India
  • The visit will be used to discuss trade and policies between the two countries
  • Business traders of both the countries will do a meeting soon too

Iran President Hassan Rouhani will come on a three-day visit to India starting Thursday at the invitation of Prime Minister Narendra Modi, the External Affairs Ministry announced on Wednesday.

Modi and Rouhani will hold a bilateral meeting here on Saturday, during the course of which both sides would review the progress achieved in bilateral relations and also exchange views on regional and international issues of mutual interest, according to a ministry statement.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to visit India soon. Photo Credit: observer.com
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to visit India soon. Photo Credit: observer.com

Rouhani will also call on President Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday.

According to Iranian news agency Irna, Rouhani will first arrive in Hyderabad on Thursday where he will meet the city’s Muslim Ulemas. He will also meet Iranian nationals, including students, residing in India.

Citing the Iran President’s deputy chief of staff for communications and information Parviz Esmaeili, Irna said following the delegation-level talks on Saturday, both sides will sign a number of agreements.

Also Read: Iran Accuses CIA for spreading ‘Fake News’ about Tehran’s support to Al Qaeda

Business leaders of both sectors are also scheduled to hold a joint meeting to review cooperation opportunities and capacities, according to Esmaeili.

This will be Rouhani’s first visit to India after he assumed office in 2013.

It comes after Modi’s visit to Tehran in 2016 during which a trilateral agreement on transit and transport was signed between India, Iran and Afghanistan.

The first phase of the port was inaugurated by President Rouhani in December last year, a little over a month after the first consignment of wheat from India to Afghanistan was sent via this facility.

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has already talked to the Indian
Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has already talked to the Indian
President Ram Nath Kovind. Wikimedia Commons

The port opens a new strategic transit route between Iran, India, Afghanistan and other Central Asian nations bypassing Pakistan.

India-Iran bilateral trade stood at $12.89 billion in 2016-17, according to figures provided by the External Affairs Ministry. IANS