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Karzai facing criticism for favouring Russia over US, UK

April 22, 2018

Afghanistan Diary

By Bureau report

PESHAWAR: Former President Hamid Karzai is being criticized by politicians, including MPs, and former mujahideen leaders who fought against the Soviet forces in Afghanistan, for arguing that Russia is the only potent force to help Kabul fight terrorism.

Karzai made the remarks in a recent interview with the Russian NTV television channel. He said Russia can help Afghanistan by building new relations with Kabul and Pakistan. Karzai said the British who were kicked out of Afghanistan by the Afghans several times were in no position to help Kabul. As for the Americans, he said it too cannot help Afghanistan as it has been killing the Afghans for the past 17 years.

Karzai described Afghanistan as the last barrier from terrorists and said the Afghans have been fighting continuously for a century and a half.

Many Afghans pointed out that Karzai was installed as the president of an interim government at the Bonn conference due to US support following the fall of Taliban regime as a result of the post-9/11 US invasion of Afghanistan. A few articles have also appeared in the international media accusing Karzai of being ungrateful.

Several Afghan MPs and former mujahideen members objected to Karzai’s statement in favour of Russia and said he was forgetting the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in December 1979 and the death and destruction that followed due to the military operations launched by the Red Army. They noted that Russia has yet to pay for war reparations and is still interfering in Afghanistan’s affairs. However, most of the Afghans despite criticizing Karzai for praising Russia didn’t have good words to say about the US and UK.

Karzai has lost no opportunity to criticize the US since the contentious 2009 presidential election when he was accused of rigging the polls in his favour to defeat Dr Abdullah. He has also been critical of the US for leaked reports that accused Karzai’s younger brother, late Ahmad Wali Karzai, of involvement in drug-trafficking.

Meanwhile, Taliban continued to launch major attacks in different parts of Afghanistan as the weather has become warm in most parts of the country following the advent of spring. Taliban fighters captured the Khwaja Omari district in Ghazni province recently. Taliban and the Afghan government officials gave widely divergent figures about the casualties during the fighting for Khwaja Omari, but lawmaker from Ghazni, Arif Rahmani, gave an independent assessment of the situation and said the district administrator and district security chief were killed in the Taliban attack along with 12 policemen. Though the government claimed that Khwaja Omari has been retaken, there has been no independent confirmation of this claim.

In another major assault, Taliban fighters attacked a security forces’ checkpoint in the northern Saripul province and Afghan officials conceded that 11 Afghan members of the pro-government local uprising forces were killed and some were wounded. In another attack in Ghazni province, four cops were killed and five were wounded. In eastern Nangarhar province, suspected Taliban fighters riding a motorcycle fired at three security guards on duty at the entrance of Nangarhar University. All of them were killed and their weapons taken away by the attackers.

Taliban also continued ordering the mobile phone companies operating in the conflict areas to shut down their services. The companies often have no choice but to obey the Taliban or face the consequences. In the latest such instance, the mobile phone services for network was closed down on the orders of the Taliban and the government proved helpless. The increase in the number of attacks could continue through the summer and make it even more difficult to work for peace.

If the Afghan government claim of killing the ISIS military commander Qari Hikmatullah is true, then it is a significant achievement for Kabul and a huge setback for the terrorist group. The claim was made by Nusrat Rahimi, the deputy spokesman of the Afghan interior ministry in Kabul. He said the Daesh commander for Jauzjan province Qari Hikmatullah was killed in an airstrike during a joint operation in Mughal area in Darzaab district in Jauzjan on April 6. He shared the pictures of Qari Hikmatullah on his Facebook page. The ISIS has yet to comment on the government claim, though the group normally admits the loss of its leading members and pays them tributes.

Qari Hikmatullah was earlier aligned with the Afghan Taliban and was one of its important commanders in Jauzjan, the home province of 1st Vice President General Abdul Rasheed Dostum, who is living in self-exile in Turkey after leaving Afghanistan to avoid his trial in a case in which he was accused of ordering the torture and rape of his political opponent Ahmad Ishchi in late 2016. Qari Hikmatullah’s defection to the ISIS provided the latter with a foothold in Jauzjan and neighbouring Faryab province and prompted Daesh fighters from all over Afghanistan to flock to this area. It also triggered clashes between the ISIS and Taliban and prompted the Afghan and US militaries to carry out airstrike and ground offensive against Daesh.

However, the ISIS has stood its ground and its fighters recently launched attacks on Afghan security posts in Darzaab that led to one week of fierce clashes. The ISIS Khorasan had earlier established its bases in Nangarhar, Kunar, Logar and other provinces, but it has lost four of its ameers (head) in US drone strikes and refrained from naming its fifth leader due to concern that he too would be targetted and eliminated.

As the Afghan interior ministry said Qari Hikmatullah was killed in an airstrike in a joint operation without elaborating, it clearly meant it was a joint Afghan-US action. It is possible the airstrike was carried out by the US aircraft while the Afghan forces conducted the operation on the ground.