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New Afghan leader promises equal rights for women
22 September 2014 - Afghanistan's new President-elect pledged in his victory speech on Monday to give women prominent roles in his government and told his nation that women are important to the country's future. The remarks by President-elect Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai came a day after the landmark power-sharing deal signed by Afghanistan's two presidential candidates. The speech Monday took on the air of a campaign celebration, with a large crowd of supporters in attendance. Ghani Ahmadzai clasped the hands of female supporters and he and others raised their hands over their heads, a notable moment in a country where women are often socially segregated. (more)

Afghanistan's presidential rivals sign power-sharing deal on Sunday
21 September 2014 - Afghanistan's rival presidential candidates signed a deal on Sunday to share power after months of turmoil over a disputed election that destabilized the nation at a crucial time as most foreign troops prepare to leave. Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister who will be named president, embraced rival Abdullah Abdullah after they signed the power-sharing agreement at a ceremony watched by outgoing president Hamid Karzai, and broadcast live from his palace. (more)

Afghanistan: UN welcomes conclusion of presidential elections, deal to form unity government
21 September 2014 - United Nations Secretary-General and his most senior envoy in Afghanistan welcomed the agreement signed on 21 September by presidential candidates, Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, to establish a government of national unity, ending months of political uncertainty in the country. In separate statements, the UN Chief and Jan Kubiš, his Special Representative for Afghanistan also welcomed the conclusion of the county's months-long presidential polling process and congratulated Mr Ghani as the President-elect of Afghanistan. (more)

Afghan presidential rivals at last reach unity deal on Saturday
20 September 2014 - The rival candidates in Afghanistan's messy election for a new President finally struck a power-sharing deal on Saturday, aides said, after more than two months of tension over a vote in which each side accused the other of fraud. 'Both camps have agreed 100 per cent on everything and we'll sign the deal tomorrow. Everything has been initialled and there is no disagreement on anything,' said Faizullah Zaki, a spokesman for ex-Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani. (more)

UN welcomes Afghanistan's recommitment to end recruitment of child soldiers
1 August 2014 - Afghanistan took another step forward in protecting children from being recruited into and used by national security forces, a move welcomed by the United Nations. The Government recently endorsed a so-called 'road map,' supported by the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNAMA) and the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF), in their roles as co-chairs of the UN-led Country Task Force on Children and Armed Conflict. (more)

UN mission welcomes efforts to begin audit of Afghan presidential run-off vote
14 July 2014 - The top United Nations official in Afghanistan has hailed the efforts by the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) to start the implementation of an audit plan to help resolve concerns over the results of the presidential run-off poll. (more)

Afghanistan: Election commission welcomes UN mediation
13 July 2014 - Welcoming an agreement between the two top candidates brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and the United Nations, Afghanistan's election commission hopes to finish an audit of 23,000 polling stations within three weeks. Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, chairman of the Independent Election Commission, told reporters Sunday that the commission is ready to start auditing all 8 million votes cast in the 14 June presidential runoff as soon as possible. (more)

Afghans express relief at election deal
13 July 2014 - Amid relief that a dangerous rift in the country's troubled democracy has been averted, Afghan officials praised a deal between presidential contenders brokered by US Secretary of State John Kerry and said Sunday they hope to finish a full ballot audit within weeks. Kerry unveiled the breakthrough deal Saturday night, with both hopefuls promising to abide by the results of the audit, followed by plans for the winner to form a government of national unity with participation of the losing side. (more)

Afghanistan: Bridge in Baghlan and new school buildings in Bamiyan
8 July 2014 - Construction work on a bridge has started in Afghanistan's Baghlan province, according to the Bakhtar News Agency (BNA). The new bridge should be completed in 9 months. With this new bridge, transportation problems faced by the residents of Qandahari village as well as other neighbouring villages will be resolved. In other good news, the residents of central Bamiyan province are celebrating as construction has been completed on three new school buildings. (more)

Afghans line up to vote in presidential runoff
14 June 2014 - Despite a Taliban threat to stay away, Afghans lined up Saturday to vote in a presidential runoff between two candidates who both promise to improve ties with the West and combat corruption as they confront a powerful Taliban insurgency and preside over the withdrawal of most foreign troops by the end of the year. Many said just holding the country's first peaceful transfer of authority was a major success. (more)

Success of Maharishi's Programmes
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'Military solution improbable in Afghanistan': Invincible Defence Technology addresses root causes of terrorism and war - Pajhwok Afghan News
17 June 2009 - A scientifically verified alternative to military action is available in Afghanistan, say Invincible Defence Technology (IDT) experts Major General (Ret.) Kulwant Singh, Colonel Brian Rees, and David Leffler, PhD. Extensive peer-reviewed published research demonstrates the effectiveness of group practice of the Transcendental Meditation Programme and its advanced techniques for reducing the societal stress that fuels violence, terrorism, and war. (more)

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Afghanistan orders New York Times reporter to leave country
20 August 2014 - Afghanistan ordered a New York Times journalist Wednesday to leave the country in 24 hours and barred him from returning over a story he wrote saying that a group of officials were considering seizing power because of the impasse over who won its recent presidential election, the attorney general's office said in a statement. The attorney general's office called Matthew Rosenberg, 40, into their office Tuesday and asked him to reveal his sources, which he refused to do, the Times reported. On Wednesday, the attorney general's office said the story threatened Afghanistan's stability and security, announcing that he was being expelled. The statement suggested that the reporting, which relied largely on unnamed sources, was fabricated. The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said. The Afghan Foreign Affairs Ministry and security agencies had been notified of the expulsion, the statement said. A story on the newspaper's website Wednesday said it was 'appalled' by the government's decision to expel Rosenberg and stood by his story. (more)

Afghan attacks continue as vote count stops
26 July 2014 - Attacks across Afghanistan, including hundreds of Taliban fighters swarming police checkpoints across the south, killed at least 15 people Saturday, officials said, as a recount in the country's presidential election halted before a major holiday. The Taliban attacks focused on Kandahar province, where Taliban fighters killed six police officers -- including a district police chief -- in assaults on some 15 checkpoints, said Dawa Khan Menapal, a spokesman for the provincial governor. Menapal said reinforcements later arrived to combat the Taliban fighters and the combat continued into Saturday night. In a blow to hoped-for peace talks, the Taliban's reclusive leader warned Friday that a bilateral security pact allowing thousands of US troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year will mean more fighting. Mullah Mohammad Omar called on both Afghan presidential candidates not to sign the agreement. (more)

Taliban kill six de-miners in western Afghanistan
10 July 2014 - The Taliban shot and killed six people working for a demining company in western Afghanistan, police said on Thursday, a day after the United Nations said the number of civilian casualties in the country jumped by a quarter in the first half of 2014. 'The Taliban killed six de-miners from the Halo Trust landmine clearance organisation while they were on an operation in Kohsan district of Herat. They abducted three people,' said Abdul Rauf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. 'The de-miners started their trip very early in the morning and hadn't informed the police,' Ahmadi said, adding that a manhunt was under way to rescue the three abducted workers. The United Nations has documented 4,853 civilian casualties in Afghanistan, including 1,564 civilian deaths and 3,289 injuries, in the period between 1 January to 30 June. (more)

Afghan war inflicting devastating toll on civilians - UN
9 July 2014 - Afghanistan's war is inflicting an increasingly devastating toll on the civilian population, with the number of casualties rising by almost a quarter in the first half of this year, the United Nations said in a report on Wednesday. US-led forces are gradually withdrawing from military bases scattered across Afghanistan after 12 years of war against Taliban insurgents, contributing to deteriorating security, with civilians bearing the brunt of the violence. The UN report comes out as a political crisis unfolds in Afghanistan, threatening civil unrest on top of the insurgency as supporters of the two presidential candidates go head-to-head over the result of a presidential run-off. Preliminary results announced on Monday gave Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official, 56.44 per cent in the run-off on 14 June, but his rival Abdullah Abdullah immediately rejected the outcome, saying the vote had been marred by widespread fraud. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said ground combat was the leading cause of conflict-related deaths and injuries to Afghan civilians, with child casualties more than doubling in the first six months of 2014. It said two-thirds more women were killed and wounded in ground combat compared with the same period of 2013. (more)

Taliban insurgents set oil tankers ablaze in Afghanistan
5 July 2014 - Taliban insurgents set fire on Saturday to about 200 oil tanker trucks supplying fuel for NATO forces in an attack just outside the Afghan capital Kabul, police said. Television footage showed black smoke billowing above the site of the attack, with the charred wreckage of dozens of trucks scattered around a vast parking space. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, saying the trucks carried fuel intended for US-led NATO forces. It was unclear how the fire was started. Some Afghan media reported that insurgents had fired rockets at the tankers late on Friday. There were no immediate reports of casualties. (more)

Stark healthcare options for Afghans
2 July 2014 - The cost of health care is throwing many poor Afghans into a cycle of debt. While most now have access to basic public health care, the quality is so low that many patients seek out private services at a higher cost than they can afford -- driving some of them further into poverty. According to a recent report by Medecins Sans Frontières (MSF), which surveyed 700 patients in four provinces, 44 per cent of respondents were forced to sell their possessions or borrow money to get health care during a recent illness. 'When families get into debt, they cannot afford proper food. Their kids get sick, and malnourished and it creates this perpetual cycle,' said Edi Atte, the field coordinator at Ahmed Shah Baba Hospital in Kabul. In line with Afghanistan's constitution, primary health services, including medication, at public facilities is free. But stocks often run out, and patients are then forced to buy the medication in private pharmacies or at the bazaar. The MSF survey showed that 56 per cent of patients interviewed who visited a public facility paid for all their medication. 'Often, the doctor has a relationship with a pharmacy,' said Ahmadullah Safi, a medical staff member at Ahmed Shah Baba Hospital. 'When people go [to the doctor], maybe they don't need an antibiotic, they need something else. But to do their business [and make money], the doctor prescribes a lot of medicine.' (more)

Castles in the air: Afghans pay a heavy price for uncertainty
19 May 2014 - Business has ground to a halt across much of Afghanistan. Political uncertainty abounds before another presidential vote and security fears are growing as the last foreign combat troops prepare to leave. Foreign donors worried about deteriorating security are leaving as Western forces wind down operations, leaving aid-dependent Kabul to manage its threadbare finances on its own. The United States and Britain, two of the biggest donors, have already cut aid by up to half. International aid groups, which provide a lifeline for marginalized Afghans, say funds are drying up fast. One US non-profit group that runs 13 schools for 3,000 girls says it hasn't paid its teachers for more than a year. Property prices have slumped as much 50 per cent, rents are down 75 per cent by some counts, and investors have pulled funding from construction projects. The afghani currency has also fallen and is now at around 57 to the dollar, from 52 at the start of 2013. (more)

Afghanistan's 'forgotten' poor wince as billions in aid go to badlands
9 May 2014 - For all the billions of dollars in foreign aid that have poured into Afghanistan over the past 12 years, Sajeda, her head-to-toe burqa covered in dust, sobs that the world has forgotten the poorest of the poor in the largely untroubled north of the country. A deadly landslide last week exposed the extreme poverty in the remote mountainous area and also highlighted one of the paradoxes of Western aid: the northern region which supported the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 has got significantly less help than the south and east, home of the Taliban militants. Over the past decade, much of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) funding has been spent in the strongholds of the insurgents as part of Washington's strategy to win the 'hearts and minds' of the local population. 'We are the poorest and most unfortunate people of this country and no one pays attention to us. We are forgotten,' said Sajeda, who lost 12 members of her family in the landslide that killed hundreds in northern Badakhshan province. Over the past decade, a disproportionate share of US aid, which makes about two-thirds of all development assistance in Afghanistan, has ended up in the southern provinces where it has been used to achieve political and military objectives. (more)

Afghan opium production thrives
1 May 2014 - Pink-and-white poppy blooms stretch toward the horizon in this field in southern Afghanistan as labourers slice open the green bulbs swollen with raw opium, the main ingredient in heroin. The opium from Marjah, a district in southern Helmand province, likely will make its way to drug addicts in the region and the world. Helmand's harvest this year is expected to be one of the largest ever, mirroring trends in the rest of Afghanistan. This year's bumper crop, after the US has spent $7.5 billion trying to eradicate opium in Afghanistan, represents one of the most tangible and visible failures as the American-led military force prepares to withdraw by the end of this year. And with Afghanistan's emerging anti-narcotics forces vastly outnumbered both by Taliban brokers and corrupt officials involved in the trade, the opium trade likely will only grow. (more)

Gunmen abduct Afghan deputy minister in Kabul
15 April 2014 - Gunmen abducted the Afghan deputy public works minister in Kabul on Tuesday, officials said, a grim reminder of the insecurity plaguing Afghanistan as most foreign troops prepare to withdraw from the country at the end of the year. Wahid, who is in his mid-50s, studied engineering and road construction in Italy and has been deputy minister for four years. Before that, he worked in the ministry overseeing road reconstruction, Kakar said. 'He is a very professional man and had no disputes with anyone,' Kakar added. Kidnappings for ransom and abductions by Taliban insurgents are relatively common in Afghanistan, but Wahid is the highest-ranking government official abducted in years. Criminal gangs also target wealthy Afghans in the capital to collect ransoms, though it's impossible to know how common abductions are because most go unreported to police. (more)


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