Five months after Afghanistan's September presidential elections, a winner has finally been declared—the incumbent, Ashraf Ghani. But hours after the announcement, rival Abdullah Abdullah declared himself the victor, claiming irregularities in the vote and calling the results "national treason." Abdullah, who still serves as chief executive (a separate post from president) has issued a decree barring all election commission workers from leaving the country. The showdown portends a divided government just as US is attempting to broker a withdrawal agreement with the Taliban, ostensibly to be followed by "intra-Afghan talks" between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. (The Guardian, Al Jazeera, CNN)
A spokesman for the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) said Nov. 19 that he is "very concerned" by President Donald Trump's pardons of two US army officers and the restoration of rank of a Navy SEAL. The president last week granted full pardons to Army First Lieutenant Clint Lorance and Army Major Mathew Golsteyn, and restored Special Warfare Operator First Class Edward Gallagher to his previous rank of chief petty officer. Rupert Colville, spokesman for the OHCHR, said the pardons sent "a disturbing signal to militaries" around the globe, noting that international law requires the investigation and prosecution of war crimes, and that the pardons "simply void[ed]" the legal process. Colville was "particularly troubled" by the pardon issued to Golsteyn, who was still awaiting trial on charges of murdering an unarmed Afghan man during his deployment in 2010.
Human Rights Watch said on Oct. 31 that US Central Intelligence Agency-backed Afghan forces have committed summary executions, disappearances, attacks on medical facilities, and other "grave" offenses. These paramilitary forces are officially under the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS), but have been recruited, trained, equipped and overseen by the CIA. The CIA provides logistical support, as well as intelligence and surveillance for targeting during "kill-or-capture" operations. US special forces personnel, usually Army Rangers, often are deployed alongside the paramilitary forces.
US air-strikes in Afghanistan this May resulted in civilian casualties and violated international humanitarian law, the UN Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA) reported Oct. 9. On May 4 the US Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) carried out air-strikes on buildings located in Bakwa district, Farah province, and neighboring Delaram district of Nimroz province. The air-strikes were aimed at potential drug facilities in the area but resulted in 39 civilian casualties, including 14 children. In a press release, UNAMA stated: "The report, jointly produced by UNAMA and the UN Human Rights Office, concludes that drug facilities and associated workers may not be lawfully made the target of attack and should be protected."
The utterly surreal news that Taliban leaders were invited to Camp David—a week before the 9-11 commemoration, no less!—will further fuel the perverse fantasy that Trump is a hippie pacifist. So it is almost comforting that the meeting was axed, and on the 9-11 commemoration in Washington, Trump was back to his blustering, bellicose self. "The last four days, we have hit our enemy harder than they have ever been hit before, and that will continue," he boasted. The Taliban responded in kind, releasing a statement saying that Trump "will soon regret" cancelling the peace talks. (Khaama Press, CBS)
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a midyear report July 30 detailing the 3,812 civilian casualties in Afghanistan since Jan. 1, 2019. According to this report, Afghan government forces and their allies killed 717 civilians, while the Taliban and other militant groups have killed 531 civilians. Nonetheless, there was an overall 27% decrease in civilian casualties from the same period of 2018, with the decrease being attributed to a shift away from ground engagements and suicide bombers. Aerial operations continue to be a rising cause of civilian casualties. The report also states that women are disproportionately affected by the ongoing attacks, not only due to loss of life or serious injury, but also secondary effects such as economic insecurity and displacement. In addition, women are at a higher risk of sexual violence and gender-based violence.
In the latest of mounting attacks across Afghanistan, a bomb blast near Kabul University left eight people dead and some 30 wounded July 19. Four days earlier, a roadside bomb killed at least 11 pilgrims riding a truck in the southern province of Kandahar, headed for the shrine that houses the tomb of Sufi Shah Agha, a companion and relative of the Prophet Mohammad. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing, but Kandahar authorities blamed the Taliban, which often uses roadside bombs to target security forces in the province. Days before that, on July 12, at least six people were killed and 14 wounded when a suicide bomber targeted a wedding celebration in Nangarhar province.
Victims of war crimes in Afghanistan filed an appeal June 10 with the International Criminal Court (ICC) challenging the court's recent decision not to pursue a war crimes investigation in Afghanistan. The appeal was filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law, among others, on behalf of the victims. The victims claim that significant war crimes have taken place in Afghanistan and that failure to investigate will deny the victims justice, while allowing the perpetrators to escape justice. The victims further claim that the perpetrators will be free to continue committing war crimes and that the mandate of the ICC will be severely damaged if justice is not served. The victims specifically highlighted that top officials in the US government have failed to comply with the court's requests and, as such, have interfered with the effectiveness of the investigation and the ICC as a whole.