Tuesday December 11, 2018

IS restarts Radio Broadcasts in Afghanistan

The IS-run FM station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” was programmed in 2015 and was destroyed by the Afghan Government airstrikes in accordance with US.

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An Islamic State Group member. Wikimedia Commons
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After being knocked off the air by government airstrikes, so-called Islamic State group (IS) has restarted radio broadcasts into a restive area of Afghanistan.

The radio channel, which broadcasts from a remote mobile transmitter in the mountains along the Pakistan border, has returned with new programming to its lineup.  It can now be heard in the Arabic and Punjabi languages besides its former programs in Pashto and Dari, the two official languages of Afghanistan.  The programs encourage people to join IS and air religious chanting.

The IS-run FM station, “Voice of the Caliphate,” started programming last year, terrorizing locals with threats and IS propaganda.

In February, Afghan authorities said airstrikes, conducted with the support of the United States, destroyed the IS transmitting site along with its Internet communications and other facilities.

The governor of Achin district in Nangarhar, Haji Ghaleb Mujahed, confirmed to VOA that IS broadcasts are airing daily for one hour in the morning and one-and-a-half-hours in the evening. The broadcasts can be heard in the Dehbala, Ghanikhail and Achin districts in the province.

Residents say they are alarmed.

“The radio programs are anti-government, anti-people and have a very bad impact,” said one listener, Ubaidullah, who, like many Afghans, uses a first name only.

It is not clear what the Afghan government will do next. The provincial director of information and culture told VOA that the Afghan communications and technology department is responsible for looking into the matter.

Emblem of ISIS. Wikimedia Commons
Emblem of ISIS. Wikimedia Commons

And despite reports from listeners, Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for the Nangarhar governor, told VOA the government has no knowledge of the broadcasts.

“We are not aware that this (radio) is back,” he said. “The radio has been shut down and does not exist.”

“If the radio has started broadcasts, it will be taken off air soon,” he said.

Related Article: ISIS eyes on the land of Tagore and Nazrul (Bangladesh)

Analysts say IS is taking a new propaganda-based tactic to help it recruit more people.

“It is a logical step from Daesh right now to put more energy into those kinds of outreach efforts,” Rebecca Zimmerman, a Rand Corporation military policy analyst, told VOA, using an acronym for the jihadist group.

IS has established a footprint in some parts of Nangarhar province, where its fighters have launched multiple attacks on Afghan security checkpoints. The Afghan government has said it is making gains against IS in Nangarhar.

Government and NATO forces recently launched offensives against IS and some areas have been cleared of IS fighters. (VOA)

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Pakistan Agrees To Cooperate With The U.S. To Achieve Peace in Afghanistan

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks.

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Imran Khan, Pakistan
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan speaks during a ceremony in Kartarpur, Pakistan. VOA

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan renewed Wednesday his resolve to cooperate with the United States to achieve a political settlement with the Taliban to end the war in Afghanistan, now in its 18th year.

Khan made the remarks during a meeting with the visiting U.S. special representative for Afghan peace and reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad.

“The prime minister reiterated Pakistan’s abiding interest in achieving peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan through political settlement,” Khan’s office said in a statement issued after the meeting.

Khalilzad arrived in Islamabad on Tuesday and held delegation level talks with senior foreign ministry officials before paying the courtesy call on Prime Minister Khan, officials said.

Imran Khan, Pakistan, Afghanistan,
Pakistan”s Prime Minister Imran Khan is seen during talks in Beijing, China, VOA

The U.S. envoy’s visit followed President Donald Trump’s formal request for Khan’s help in finding a political solution to the Afghan conflict.

“U.S. leadership looked forward to working with Pakistan in furthering the shared goal of peace through a political settlement in Afghanistan,” the Pakistani statement quoted Khalilzad as saying.

The Trump administration has tasked the Afghan-born former U.S. ambassador to Kabul to persuade the Taliban to join an Afghan peace process for ending the protracted war.

U.S. and Afghan officials have long accused Pakistan of sheltering Taliban leaders and allowing them to orchestrate attacks inside Afghanistan. Islamabad rejects the charges.

Afghanistan, USA, Pakistan
Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani, center right, and U.S. special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad,center left, meet in Kabul. VOA

Khalilzad is on an 18-day trip to region, his third since taking office, and plans to visit Afghanistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Russia, UAE and Qatar, where the Taliban maintains its so-called political office.

During his previous two trips to the region, Khalilzad also traveled to Qatar and held marathon meetings with Taliban representatives there. He has held talks with Afghan politicians inside and outside of the government in Kabul.

Taliban officials insist that in talks with the U.S. they are seeking the withdrawal of all U.S. and NATO forces from the country before agreeing to join an intra-Afghan peace dialogue.

In a statement issued Tuesday, insurgent spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said they “will not tolerate foreign occupying and military presence under any circumstance.”

Mujahid also dismissed reports that Khalilzad is discussing with the Taliban possible future political dispensation in Kabul and other related issues.

 

Taliban, Afghanistan, Pakistan
Taliban fighters are seen gathered in Surkhroad district of Nangarhar province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan. VOA

 

“The formation of a government, establishing security and developing Afghanistan is a matter concerning the Afghans. No foreign occupying force has any legal right for determine the fate of Afghanistan, interfere in its matters or make comments as a proprietor,” said the Taliban spokesman.

Khalilzad has shared few details of his talks with the Taliban, though he said last month he was “cautiously optimistic” about achieving a peace deal.

Pakistan’s relations with the U.S. have dipped to historic lows in recent years over allegations of supporting the Taliban and other militants in the region. President Trump’s letter to Khan on Monday was a rare positive development in the fragile bilateral ties.

Lieutenant General Kenneth McKenzie, chosen to be the next commander of U.S. Central Command told Senators on Tuesday that Pakistan’s assistance is key to finding any solution in Afghanistan.

“It is in Pakistan’s long-term interest to have a government in Afghanistan that is stable that they can do business with. It will be hard to reach a settlement without some form of assistance from Pakistan,” McKenzie said during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Donald Trump, democrats, government,, pakistan
U.S. President Donald Trump. VOA

Islamabad has long urged in talks with the U.S. that rival India’s growing influence in Afghanistan was a matter of concern for Pakistan. Pakistani security officials blame Indian intelligence operatives for supporting anti-state militants planning terrorist attacks in Pakistan from Afghan soil, charges both Kabul and New Delhi reject.

Also Read: U.S. President Donald Trump Seeks Pakistan’s Cooperation For Bringing Peace in Afghanistan

“I believe Pakistan knows very clearly that their assistance will be required to reach an end state in Afghanistan. I think the chance that we have is to make it attractive to them so that they see that it is in their best interest to do that,” noted the U.S. commander.

Khan said Monday that Trump wants Pakistan to use its influence to nudge the Taliban to participate in Afghan peace talks. (VOA)