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Taliban Terrorist Group Attack Kills 16 Police Personnel in Afghanistan

Kandahar is known as the birthplace of the Taliban

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FILE - An Afghan policeman walks past a bloodstained wall after Taliban fighters stormed a government compound in Kandahar province, July 9, 2014. At least 16 police personnel were killed overnight in a Taliban attack in the province's Maiwand district. VOA
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The Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan has staged a major overnight battlefield assault in a southern province, killing at least 16 police personnel and capturing two outposts.

A local security official told VOA on Friday the fighting erupted in the district of Maiwand in Kandahar, saying Afghan forces also inflicted heavy casualties on the Taliban in ensuing clashes.

He said the assailants also seized three U.S.-made military vehicles, commonly known as Humvees. The official requested anonymity.

A provincial police spokesman, Zia Durrani, told VOA 27 Taliban fighters, including four key commanders, were killed.

A provincial government spokesman, Samim Khpolwak, confirmed the fighting but declined to discuss further details.

Kandahar is known as the birthplace of the Taliban. It was the de-facto capital of Afghanistan when the insurgent group was ruling most of the country before its ouster from power in late 2001 by a U.S.-led military coalition.

Most of the districts in neighboring Helmand, the largest of all the 34 Afghan provinces, are under the control of the Taliban and fighting also is underway in the nearby Uruzgan province.

Afghan security forces suffered unprecedented casualties in the 2016 fighting season and U.S. military commanders anticipate more insurgent violence this year.
“The insidious combination of corruption and poor leadership is the root cause of this problem,” said John Sopko, the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, or SIGAR.

He made the remarks last week while announcing his list of key security challenges facing the new U.S. administration as it inherits America’s second-longest war after Vietnam.

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No winter lull

Since the withdrawal of U.S.-led international forces more than two years ago, there has been no lull in the Afghan fighting. Harsh winter and heavy snowfall in previous years would force Taliban fighters to retreat to their traditional sanctuaries in neighboring Pakistan to rest and regroup before returning to the battlefield for the summer fighting.

“The spring offensive/winter lull is an outdated concept now, the main reason being that the Taliban hold large swaths of territory year-round and so the fighting continues,” said Ted Callahan, a Western security expert based in northeastern Afghanistan.

The Taliban have captured about 10 percent of Afghan territory since with the withdrawal of most international forces two years ago, the Afghan government controls two-thirds of the population while the rest is strongly contested, according to latest U.S. military assessments.

The territorial control offers the insurgents more of a revenue base they can use to sustain themselves through the winter, mainly in terms of food and shelter, but also in terms of munitions captured from Afghan forces, Callahan told VOA.

“They [the Taliban] can easily keep their momentum going throughout the winter, and so you no longer see Taliban commanders go back to Pakistan for the winter, as they often did in the past, and then they’d come back in the spring to kick off the spring offensive,” he observed.

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‘Compromised system’

In his detailed report that Sopko released last week, he cited leadership and corruption as among the biggest challenges facing the Afghan National Defense and Security Force, or ANDSF.

“Afghan commanders often pocket the paychecks of ghost soldiers for whom the U.S. is paying the salary. The number of ghost soldiers is not insignificant, it likely reaches into the tens of thousands of soldiers and police,” he noted.

Citing “credible information,” Sopko said some Afghan commanders are not going on patrols or are not coming to the assistance of other units when they are in trouble because they want to preserve fuel that they later sell in open markets.

“Multiple credible sources have told SIGAR staff in Afghanistan that a significant portion, perhaps as much as 50 percent, of U.S.-purchased fuel is siphoned off at various stages of this compromised system,” he said.

In his report, Sopko agreed with the U.S. military assessment that the Afghan government controls roughly 64 percent of the country’s territory.

Afghan Defense Ministry officials strongly disputed most of SIGAR’s findings, however, saying the government, with the help of foreign partners, has made progress in addressing corruption and issues related to ANDSF leadership.

They insist that ANDSF’s improved capacity and sacrifices prevented the Taliban from capturing any major population center in Afghanistan in 2016, and they assert they now are better prepared to battle the insurgency this year. (VOA)

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India Can Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?

A total of 548 global experts on women’s issues , 43 of them from India

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BJP Leader Asks Parents Of A Rape Victim To Express Gratitude To Them
Can India Really Take An Ostrich Approach To The Condition Of Women?. Flickr

-By Deepa Gahlot

You read with a mixture of alarm and scepticism, the poll report by the London-based Thomson Reuters Foundation that India is the most dangerous country in the world for women, beating Afghanistan, Syria, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan.

According to reports, a total of 548 global experts on women’s issues — 43 of them from India — were asked about risks faced by women in six areas: healthcare, access to economic resources and discrimination, customary practices, sexual violence, nonsexual violence, and human trafficking. And shockingly, India comes out as the worst!

We see women progressing in every field in India, but, there is also the increasing violence against women and young girls reported every day; not long ago, female tourists felt safe in India; but now, women travelling solo are constantly targeted. Everyday there are reports of the rapes and murders of minor girls, often accompanied by unimaginable torture and mutilation.

There has been outrage in India, and also holes punctured in the survey that has such a small number of respondents, but can we really take an ostrich approach to the condition of women? Even as education and healthcare improve for women — at least in metro cities — the contempt for women is socially and culturally ingrained in the Indian psyche. In a city like Mumbai considered progressive and relatively safe for women, the girl child is unwanted even by many educated and wealthy families. In spite of laws being in place, female foeticide and infanticide is rampant, to the extent that there are large territories where there are no girl children and brides for the men have to be ‘imported’ from other states.  As dowry murders and rapes rise, the more unwanted the girl child becomes.  The fact is that India’s gender ratio is deplorable.

And if the male child is valued over the girl child, he grows up believing that he is special and if he is thwarted in any way, he can resort to violence. In spite of education and exposure to progressive ideas, in the case of rape or sexual violence, the tendency to blame and shame the victim persists.

To give just one small example, in the West, accusations of sexual harassment resulted in united shunning of a man as powerful as Harvey Weinstein and many others in the wake of the #MeToo movement, that helped many women speak out about their experiences.

In India, Malayalam actor Dileep, who has been accused in the abduction and rape of an actress, and was boycotted by the Association of Malayalam Movie Artistes (AMMA), was recently reinstated. This caused shock and dismay among women in the film industry.

A statement by a group of over 150 women film practitioners says it like it is, “A body that is meant to represent artistes of the Malayalam movie industry showed complete disregard for its own member who is the victim of this gross crime. Even before the case has reached its conclusion, AMMA has chosen to validate a person accused of a very serious crime against a colleague. We condemn this cavalier attitude by artistes against women artistes who are working alongside them. There is misogyny and gender discrimination embedded in this action.

“We admired and supported the Women in Cinema Collective that was formed by women film artistes in Kerala in the aftermath of the abduction and molestation of a colleague, a top star in the industry. We applaud the WCC members who have walked out of AMMA to protest the chairman’s invitation to reinstate the accused. We pledge our continued support to the Women in Cinema Collective who are blazing a trail to battle sexism in the film industry.

“Cinema is an art form that can challenge deeply entrenched violence and discrimination in society. It is distressing to see an industry that stands amongst the best in the country and has even made a mark in world cinema choose to shy away from using their position and their medium responsibly at this important moment. Today, women form a significant part of the film and media industries, we reject any attempt at silencing us and making us invisible.”

The Gujarat elections have brought the BJP and the Congress in close contest with each other.
Indian women. VOA

The preference for male children has had some unexpected ramifications. In a working paper published by the American non-profit, National Bureau of Economic Research, by Northwestern University’s Seema Jayachandran and Harvard University’s Rohini Pande (quoted in Quartz Media), finds that stunting in Indian children could also be blamed on the cultural preference for sons.

“In India, on average, the first child — if he is a son — doesn’t suffer from stunting. But, if the first — and so the eldest — child of the family is a girl, she suffers from a height deficit. And, then, if the second child is a boy, and hence the eldest son of the family, he will not be stunted. This happens because of an unequal allocation of resources to the first child”.

According to the report, “When Jayachandran and Pande compared India and Africa results through this lens, they found that the Indian first and eldest son tends to be taller than an African firstborn. If the eldest child of the family is a girl, and a son is born next, the son will still be taller in India than Africa. For girls, however, the India-Africa height deficit is large. It is the largest for daughters with no older brothers, probably because repeated attempts to have a son takes a beating on the growth of the girls.”

Also read: Has Legal Framework Turned a Blind Eye towards Under-representation of Women in Indian Politics?

In spite of all the Beti Padhao, Beti Bachao rhetoric, the required shift in the male-centric attitude towards a more egalitarian one is simply not happening; or, it is a case of one step forward, two steps backward. The Thomson Reuters Foundation report may be unfair and skewed, but being known as the rape capital of the world does nothing to improve the image of India in the world or even in its own eyes. (IANS)