BAAG – British & Irish Agencies Afghanistan Group (Author)
In June Afghans celebrated the religious festival of Eid, amidst dwindling hopes for a ceasefire between the Afghan government and the Taliban. Last year at this time, the country witnessed its first ceasefire since the fall of the Taliban eighteen years ago. On the 4th, President Ghani said his government would free 887 Taliban prisoners as a goodwill gesture to celebrate Eid. This was inspired by the recommendations made earlier in the month by the participants in the peace Loya Jirga.
Pakistan assumed a more engaged role in discussions on Afghan peace in June. It hosted a peace conference on the 22nd - 23rd, attended by 30 senior Afghan politicians. On the 27th, President Ghani also visited Pakistan to meet civilian and military leaders. Pakistan has vowed to encourage Taliban leaders to hold direct talks with the Afghan government. Prime Minister Imran Khan said Pakistan wanted a “qualitative transformation in Pakistan-Afghanistan relations” and repeated his support for an “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”. Many similar declarations have been made in the past, with little effect.
On the 29th, American and Taliban officials started a seventh round of peace talks. On the 19th, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad tweeted that they had not agreed on the withdrawal of American forces from Afghanistan and that the Americans “seek a comprehensive peace agreement, NOT a withdrawal agreement.” He was apparently reacting to remarks made by Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s Doha office spokesperson, who tweeted a day earlier that the US have agreed to the complete withdrawal of their troops and to never again meddle in Afghan affairs.
On the 3rd, the Taliban took another 21 members of the Helmand peace caravan to an unknown location, for "further negotiations". Two days later, they took four members including Eqbal Khaibar, the co-founder of the caravan. The caravan is a people's peace movement that recently went to Musa Qala, the Taliban's stronghold in order to talk about peace with them. The insurgents told them that a ceasefire “will only benefit foreigners” and that they will not agree on it until there are foreign troops in the country.
On the 29th, Afghan parliamentarians elected a new speaker for the lower house, 40 days after the first round of elections had created rifts. The elected speaker is Mir Rahman Rahmani, an MP from Parwan and a businessman. Ten days earlier tens of MPs had a fight about the issue and broke the speaker’s chair and desk.
On the 25th, a group of ten presidential candidates held a rally in Kabul and called for President Ghani to step down. They also asked for the creation of a caretaker government so that all candidates would be on an equal footing and that the President would not be able to use public resources for his own electoral advantage. Ghani's office called this demand unconstitutional. On the 20th, Mawlana Abdullah, a Commissioner on the Independent Election Commission accused President Ghani's aides of meddling in electoral affairs. He said that the interference included delaying the approval of the appointment of electoral staff.
War continued in several parts of the country claiming lives military personnel as well as civilians including those of women and children. On the 13th, a Daesh (ISIS) suicide bomber targeted a police checkpoint in Jalalabad, killing at least eleven people and wounding thirteen others. On the 29th, the Taliban fighters attacked security posts manned by pro-government militiamen in Baghlan, killing 26 of them. On the 30th, Taliban suicide bombers killed at least nineteen government staff, including eight election workers, in an attack on an electoral office in Kandahar.
On the 3rd, a car bomb killed at least four civil servants and injured ten. This came on the same day that Daesh fighters detonated three bombs in various parts of Kabul, including an attack on a bus transporting university students, killing two students and injuring 27, including five female students.
Afghan government forces claimed some successes. On the 6th, they freed 83 prisoners from a Taliban prison in Faryab. The freed prisoners were mostly Afghan security forces and civilians, but some of the Taliban and Daesh fighters were also imprisoned, for unknown reasons. On the 9th, another 47 prisoners were released from Taliban prisons in Baghlan and Kunduz provinces.
On the 7th, Afghan forces recaptured the Khwaja Umari district of Ghazni, which was one of the first predominantly Hazara districts of Ghazni to fall to the Taliban and had been under their control for over a year. On the 22nd, residents reported that they still live under fear of a Taliban attack.
Humanitarian & Development
On the 11th, officials confirmed that heavy clashes between the Taliban and Daesh fighters had displaced up to 13,300 families in two main districts of Nangarhar during the past 45 days. On the 18th, officials said the on-going war in Takhar had displaced more than three thousand households. Conflict has escalated in four out of sixteen districts of the province.
Insecurity continues to disrupt governance at the local level. On the 30th, a survey published by TOLOnews showed that officials in 64 districts in nineteen provinces operated either outside their premises or have had to relocate their offices. Official figures from the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, show that civilian and military officials are not operational in at least 20 districts across the country.
On the 7th, Ghazni officials said that at least twenty traffic accidents during the Eid holidays had killed two and wounded 24 people. Public health officials said earlier that month that the number of people injured in traffic incidents in 2018 was twelve times higher than those wounded in terrorist attacks.
On the 9th, officials issued an arrest warrant for the former head of the nation’s football federation, Keramuddin Keram, on criminal charges of sexually abusing female soccer players. A day earlier FIFA had banned him from the sport for life and imposed a penalty of 1,000,000 Swiss francs ($1.01 million) on him. Keram, a former warlord, had not been arrested by the end of June.
On the 24th, the Taliban said they would target anyone associated with media outlets unless they stopped broadcasting “government propaganda” against the insurgents. The Taliban allowed media outlets a week to cease such statements.
People & Culture
CNN published the story of 13-year-old Mangal Karim to show the "bacha posh" culture, a Dari term that translates "dressed as a boy". Mangal had been called Madina, one of seven daughters chosen by her parents to live as a boy. In Afghanistan's deeply patriarchal society, sons are greatly valued over daughters - to the point where a family is deemed "incomplete" without a boy, says Nadia Hashimi, an Afghan-American paediatrician and author of the best-selling 2014 bacha posh novel "The Pearl That Broke Its Shell."
Kunduz hosted a watermelon eating competition on the 19th, in a bid to promote the province's agricultural produce. Rahmatullah Quchqarzada, a 22-year-old second-year economics student, won the men's competition by devouring eight watermelons in 30 minutes. “I have never eaten this much watermelon in my life,” Mr. Quchqarzada said. “But people were cheering me on. And I didn’t want to dishonour my father’s name.” His father is a government clerk.
Team Afghanistan, the only non-Commonwealth country in the Cricket World Cup held in England and Wales, lost all its matches. However they came very close to beating India and Pakistan, former world champions.
This report is developed based on media reports. Although BAAG has taken necessary precautions to include only credible sources, it does not take responsibility for incorrect content.