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The Killid Group

2009: Greater Violence and Fewer Hopes for Peace

Monday, 04 January 2010 14:57

2009:  Greater Violence and Fewer Hopes for Peace

By Lal Aqa Sherin

War and the violation of human rights have increased during the just ended year. An escalation of the war during 2010 has been already programmed. Journalists outlined that 2009 has been their bloodiest year since 2001. In the last 12 months the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission registered 1708 incidents of violence, including 44 incidents of sexual violence against women and girls.

Who thought that 2009 would see speedy reconstruction and an end to the war saw their hopes fade a little when U.S. President, Barak Obama, announced his new strategy for Afghanistan.  Obama said he would be increasing the number of U.S. troops here.  Concern has grown accordingly that the war will continue.

During Obama's election campaign, he stressed reconstruction and peace - rather than war - and said he would be prioritizing a political solution for Afghanistan's problems.  Since winning the presidency, however, he has announced a strategy that involves deploying thirty thousand extra troops.  He told U.S. citizens in one of his recent speeches that he would begin the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan in 18 months, but did not specifically say when the last American soldier would leave Afghan soil.

Some analysts believe that U.S. will not leave Afghanistan in the near future because of its interests in the region.  Even Obama's desire to focus on economic development, such as in agriculture, has left some critics wondering how the development of agriculture during a war is impossible.  

The Security Situation

Those thirty thousand fresh U.S. troops face security threats and an active Taliban movement.   Just over five hundred foreign soldiers were killed in the year up to the 27th October (including 310 U.S. and 106 Britons).  

The number of civilians killed in the war this year has been even higher.  According to a United Nations report issued at the end of August, 1500 Afghans were killed in the first eight months of the year.  Three quarters of them died in Taliban attacks.  The rest were killed in air strikes by international forces.  General Stanley McChrystal, who took general command of NATO and U.S. troops in Afghanistan in June, said he would be giving priority to protecting Afghan civilians but civilians continued being killed.

However, at the Afghan Defense Ministry, the spokesperson, General Zahir Azimi, said the number of civilian casualties had decreased.  He believes the reason for this is the pressure put by foreign governments on their soldiers deployed to Afghanistan to be more careful about civilian casualties.  Even in Kunduz, he said, where more than 140 civilians were killed in September on the orders of a German NATO commander, senior German officials were conducting a strict investigation.  Azimi said he was very happy with McChrystal's move to reduce civilian deaths, especially by his order to soldiers that, in their operations against the opposition, they had to remember that they had come to Afghanistan to bring security.  Afghan civilians, he told the soldiers, should not be victims of their presence.

Mr. Azimi said he was also satisfied with the operation of Afghan National Army (ANA), saying, "international forces have issued statistics showing that the ANA is 45 % effective in its operations.  The statistics also showed the level of opposition activity has decreased."   He said more than five hundred ANA soldiers were killed in 2009, mostly in explosions and suicide attacks, rather than in face-to-face fights.  He said he was also happy about the planned increase in the ANA, from 50 thousand soldiers to 240 thousand.  With the capacity-building of the Afghan army, he said it was expected that it would take over sole security for Afghanistan (ie without foreign troops) during the next four years.

However, at the same time, the International Council of Security (ICOS) has said armed Taliban are now present in almost every part of Afghanistan.  According to the Council's research, Taliban are active on 97 % of Afghan soil, up from 72% of Afghan soil last year.

 Monitoring of Private Security Companies

The Anti-Terrorism Directorate of the Ministry of Interior Affairs has said weapons which had been recently collected from private security companies have now been submitted to the Disbandment of Illegal Armed Groups (DIAG) program.

General Abdul Manan Farahi of the Directorate said the activities of private security companies were now being strictly observed and violators would be dealt with legally, "If a company is operating and is not registered, we will take its weapons and punish owners very seriously," he said.

According to Farahi's information, 52 security companies - employing 23000 persons - are now operating legally in Afghanistan. That is up from thirty nine companies last year.  There may also have been thirty unregistered companies last year and it is unclear what has happened to them.

Critics say that, given the existence of an estimated seventeen hundred illegally armed groups in the country, there is still much to do to restrict their operations, as well.

 Violence against Journalists

2009 has been the bloodiest year for journalists since 2001.  The Media Support Organization said there has been a 70 % increase in incidents of violence against media workers compared with 2008.

The head of that organization, Nematullah Alhi, said, although some attacks against journalists were carried out by Taliban and unknown armed people, many involved governmental officials and the Afghan police.  

He said the attacks usually came in response to the media's disclosure of the short-comings of government, "When the media is reporting the facts, revealing government failures and broadcasting stories about the widespread corruption in the system, governmental officials think that they and their jobs are at risk and that is why some are dealing with the media violently.  The government believes the media should not pay attention to the failings of government."

According to Mr Alhi, journalists were not only beaten, kidnapped and imprisoned during 2009, but some were also wounded and even killed.  

The head of the Afghanistan Independent Journalists Organization, Raheemullah Samander, named five journalists who had been killed: Sultan Munadi, Hashimzada, Javid Azami, Amil and Ihsanullah.   In total, Mr Samander said they had recorded 120 acts of violence against journalists in 2009, many committed by governmental officials.

The head of the National Association of Journalists, Abdul Hameed Mubariz, said he accepted that sacrifice was the first step on the road to the creation of a civil society.  However, he was still troubled by the fact that, in the last two years, some journalists had been killed in mysterious circumstances, "They sacrificed themselves for their profession, but it is very disturbing that the government and the international community didn't follow and didn't investigate these events which have a bad effect on the spirit of other journalists."

Violence against Women  

A total of 1708 incidents of violence, including 44 incidents of sexual violence against women and girls, were recorded by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission during the last 12 months.

The head of the commission, Dr Seema Samar, has accused some officials in the legal and judicial organs of the country of committing sexual crimes against Afghan women and girls. "Unfortunately, a number of those girls who are kept in correctional and education centers have been abused sexually by officials - and we have the documents to prove it."

However, officials at the Ministry of Justice said they had not encountered such complaints.   The Deputy Minister of Justice, Dr Muhammad Qasim Hashimzai, said he could only point to one case, "We have an education center for children in Logar and the director of justice there was accused of committing a crime."  

However, Dr Hashimzai said that, after a court investigated the case, the director was acquitted.  The case will go before another court, but the Deputy Minister of Justice said it was understood from the primary court that the director was innocent and the charges against him were baseless.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission is concerned about what it considers to be the deteriorating situation of women in the country - a concern shared by the human rights department of the United Nations.  The Commission has also reported that boys are at risk.  It recorded 37 cases of sexual violence towards small boys during the last year.  


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