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CIA Chief Visits Kabul As Trump’s Aides Work On Strategy

KABUL: The Director of the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Mike Pompeo, visited Kabul last week, the CEO of the National Unity Government (NUG) Abdullah Abdullah said on Monday at the Council of Ministers meeting.

During his visit, Pompeo met with President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah and “reiterated the US commitment to Afghanistan.”

“A US delegation, including the CIA chief, visited Afghanistan in recent days. They had meetings with the President and us over the commitment of the United States to continue their cooperation with Afghanistan,” said Abdullah.

“There was discussion over different issues: including threats, the way out, the efforts of the people of Afghanistan, implementation of security and stability in the country and confirmation of US support,” he said.

Abdullah added that the delegation also included State Department officials and “discussed the implantation of mutual commitments between the two countries in terms of  previous agreements.”

However, Abdullah did not provide further details about Pompeo’s trip.

This US visit comes amid reports said that US President Donald Trump recently threatened to fire Gen. John Nicholson, the US and Nato commander in Afghanistan. Trump has also delayed announcing his new military and political strategy Afghans have been waiting for anxiously for the past six months.

Nicholson, 61, the top US military official in Afghanistan for the past 16 months, has become the best-known face of Washington here, working closely with Afghan military and civilian officials, and vocally advocating expanded US military engagement, while the Taliban and other insurgents continue aggressive attacks across the country.

Trump’s attack on Nicholson for failing to “win” the 16-year war has stunned Afghan officials and political leaders. They said a clear signal of continued support from Washington is urgently needed to keep the fragile Kabul government on its feet amid an explosion of public unrest and organized opposition from a variety of groups, according to a New York Times report.

But US National Security adviser HR McMaster, in an interview with the MSNBC which aired on Saturday, said they “absolutely trust Gen. Nicholson.”

During the interview, he also said that the Taliban and Haqqani network have “bases in Pakistan and we want to really see that changed.”

“There’s a tremendously successful campaign going on with Afghan forces in the lead. It’s an unreported campaign in Nangarhar province of Afghanistan. The president (Donald Trump) has said that he does not want to place restrictions on the military that undermine our ability to win battles in combat,” McMaster said during the interview. “He has lifted those restrictions, and you’re beginning to see the payoff of that as well.”

“The President has also made clear that he needs to see a change in the behavior of those in the region, which includes those who are providing safe havens and support bases for the Taliban, Haqqani Network and others. This is Pakistan, in particular, that we that we want to really see a change and a reduction of their support for these groups,” McMaster said.

“I mean, this is of course, you know, a very paradoxical situation, right, where Pakistan is taking great losses. They have fought very hard against these groups, but they’ve done so really only selectively.”

In response to another question: “There have been some hard hits in Kabul. Do you have confidence yourself in General Nicholson, the combatant commander in Afghanistan?”

“Oh, of course. I’ve known him for many years. I can’t imagine a  more capable commander in any in any, on any mission,” McMaster said.

This comes while, the insurgents have increased their attacks in the country and more frequent clashes with the Afghan security forces in the different parts of the country are occurring.

There are 8,400 US troops in Afghanistan training and advising the Afghan military in the fight against the Taliban and Daesh

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Bamiyan Women Run ‘Art Bazaar’ To Sell Handicrafts

KABUL (ToloNews): A group of Bamiyan women has established an Art Bazaar where they display and sell their handicrafts to internal and foreign tourists who visit the province.

The women said they established the Art Bazaar five years ago by borrowing an amount of money from a bank and now they have half million AFs in the bazaar.

The founders of the Bazaar are the women who were living in very difficult circumstances in Iran and Pakistan during civil war in Afghanistan.

The Bazaar is located near the Buddha sculptures in the center of the province and young women are running it.

One of the women who has a shop in the bazaar said she has managed to send her sons and daughters to school by means of her shop income.

“Since I was a young girl, I used to make handicraft at home and now it is about three years that I have been working in a handicraft factory,” said Kobara, a resident of Bamiyan.

Uzra Lali, one of the founders of the Bazaar, says that five years ago she and a group of women borrowed some money from a bank and established the Art Bazaar.

Lali’s husband also works with her in the shop. According to Lali, first they had 4,000AFs, but now they have hundreds of thousands of AFs. Lali has a handicraft factory named Salsal Handicraft Factory.

“One of our problems is that no one invites us to exhibitions overseas, especially in Europe where we ought to display our handicraft industries and needlework to show that we are women and we want peace by our needles,” said Lali.

Zahra, another seller in the Art Bazaar, also has a Handicraft Factory in Dara-e-Azhdar outside of Bamiyan city where 40 women are making 60 types of handmade items.

Her handicraft factory, named Gawharshad Handicrafts Factory, sells its products in Holland, India and inside the country.

“When I returned from Iran and came to Bamiyan, there were lots of wrong traditions. One was that women were not allowed to go to the Bazaar. I was one of the women who opened shops in Bamiyan bazaar and we asked help from the women who had handicrafts and needlework. At the beginning a small group of women started handicraft shops and they were worried that their men would not allow them,” said Zahra.

“In this bazaar, we sell the handicraft, needlework and handmade products for women,” said Fatima Mohmmadi, another seller in the Art Bazaar.

In Bamiyan mostly those women are involved in handicrafts because their families are poor and do not have a good life.

For most of Bamiyan women, handicraft industries are the second source of income after the agriculture.

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Noor slams security institutions amid reports over 50 massacred in North of Afghanistan

KABUL (KhaamaPress): The provincial governor of the northern Balkh province and chief executive of Jamiat-e-Islami party has slammed the security institutions amid reports that more than 50 people were brutally massacred by the anti-government armed militant groups in northern Afghanistan.

In a statement posted in the aftermath of the massacre of the civilians in northern Sare-e-Pul province, Noor said the lack of competent security officials and negligence in responding to the attack were the main reasons that led to the massacre of more than 50 people in Sayad district.

Noor once again called for the reforms in the security sector insisting that the security situation could only improve with the reforms.

This comes as the Chief Executive of the Government of National Unit Abdullah Abdullah earlier admitted that the recent deadly incidents, including the deadly bombing in Herat mosque could have been avoided.

Abdullah made the remarks during the meeting of minister’s council in Kabul today.

He said intelligence information were available regarding the recent attacks and insisted that necessary measures were supposed to be taken to prevent the attacks.

The provincial governor Mohammad Zahir Wahdat said Sunday that the militants have massacred at least 30 to 40 people, including women and children after they captured a key area in Sayad district.

He also warned that the provincial capital is also at the risk of collapse and will soon be captured by the militants if additional forces are not deployed.

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ISIS leader in charge of prisons killed in Kunar airstrike

KUNAR (KhaamaPress): A senior ISIS leader who was in charge of the prisons was killed in an airstrike in eastern Kunar province of Afghanistan.

The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army (ANA) forces in the East said the ISIS leader Ezatullah was killed in an airstrike conducted in Chapa Dara district.

The Silab Corps official said a total of two ISIS militants were killed and three others were wounded in the airstrike.

The officials did not comment if the airstrike was carried out by the Afghan Air Force or the US forces based in Afghanistan.

Both the Afghan and US forces conduct regular operations and airstrikes against the loyalists of the terror group in the areas and provinces where they operate.

The US-Forces Afghanistan last month confirmed the death of four senior advisers of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria-Khorasan in a strike that also killed the ISIS-K emir Abu Sayid in Kunar province July 11, 2017.

According to the US Forces in Afghanistan, the four eliminated ISIS-K leaders were confirmed as: Sheik Ziaullah, the ISIS-K emir of religion; Mulavi Hubaib, the senior commander in Watahpur Valley; Haji Shirullah, an ISIS-K commander and former Hezb-e Islami Gulbuddin commander; and Assadullah, a senior ISIS-K shura member and a close associate of Abu Sayid.

“We will be relentless in our campaign against ISIS-K. There are no safe havens in Afghanistan,” said General John Nicholson, Commander, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan.

Gen. Nicholson further added “We will hunt them down until they are no longer a threat to the Afghan people and the region.”

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Explosion targets security vehicle in Kabul city

KABUL (KhaamaPress): An explosion ripped through a vehicle of the security personnel in Kabul city late on Sunday evening, leaving at least two people wounded.

According to the security officials, the incident took place in the vicinity of the 6th police district of the city, close to Gula-e-Dawa Khana and Kote Sangi area.

The officials are saying that a vehicle of the army forces was targeted by a magnetic bomb and two people were injured.

However, the head of the 119th police center Humayoun Aini said a police Ranger vehicle was targeted in the explosion and two people were wounded while the vehicle was damaged after it caught fire.

No group or individual has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

This comes as Kabul city witnessed at two large attacks last week with one of the attacks carried out by the ISIS loyalists targeting the embassy of Iraq that resulted into the killing of two civil workers of the embassy while some others were wounded.

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ISIS arrests woman over illicit sexual charges in North of Afghanistan

KABUL (KhaamaPress): Militants affiliated with the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group have arrested a woman in North of Afghanistan on charges of having illicit sexual relations (Zana).

According to the local officials in Jawzjan, the woman, as Nazia was arrested and has been taken to an unknown location after she was accused of having illicit sexual relations with a man.

The incident took place in an area under the control of the militants of the terror group in the restive Darzab district.

The provincial district administrative chief Baz Mohammad Dawar confirmed the incident and said preliminary reports indicate the woman is being kept as a hostage in Sardara area, which is under their control.

This comes as reports emerged earlier today suggesting that scores of people were shot dead by the militants affiliated with the terror group in northern Sar-e-Pul province.

Earlier reports suggested that 26 farmers were shot dead by the Taliban insurgents after they captured a key area in the restive Sayad district.

The anti-government armed militant groups including the Taliban insurgents and ISIS loyalists have not commented regarding the two reports so far.

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ISIS claims several Taliban insurgents killed, wounded in Ghor clashes

KABUL (KhaamaPress): The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) terrorist group’s offshoot in Afghanistan, ISIS Khurasan, claims that several Taliban insurgents were killed or wounded during the clashes in northwestern Ghor province of Afghanistan.

Calling the group’s fighters as ‘Apostates’ the terror group in a statement said the clashes between the two sides started last week and as a result several Taliban insurgents were killed or wounded.

The statement by the terror group further adds that in the latest attack on Taliban insurgents in Shorkan area of the province resulted into the killing of at least four Taliban insurgents while three others were wounded.

According to ISIS loyalists, the Taliban insurgents had initially launched a coordinated attack on the fighters of the terror group which was repulsed by them.

The Taliban insurgents group has not commented regarding the report so far.

Ghor was among the relatively calm provinces in northwestern parts of the country but he province has started to witness growing instability during the recent years as both the Taliban insurgents and ISIS loyalists attempt to expand their foothold in this province.

The Taliban launched a coordinated attack on security posts of the Afghan security forces in Taywaara district last month and managed to take control of the district for a few days but the Afghan forces reclaim its control after launching a major operation.

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Afghanistan Civil Aviation to get new radar system

KABUL (KhaamaPress): The Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority informed regarding the installation of a new radar system in a bid to increase the air control capacity of the civil aviation.

The General Director of the Civil Aviation Authority Mahmood Shah Habibi informed regarding the new plans during a press conference in Kabul today.

He said the new system will be installed with a total cost of 24 million Euros, calling it one of the most modern systems being used in the world.

Habibi further added that the new system will enable the Civil Aviation Authority to control the air in a better way.

According to Habibi, the installation of the new system will pave the way for further investments in the aviation sector and establishment of the new airlines, and reduce the cost by boosting the capacity of the civil aviation authority.

He said the Afghan government has stepped up to increase of the civil aviation authority in control the civil airspace after they took over the responsibility from the NATO-led coalition forces in 2015.

The General Director of the Civil Aviation Authority also added that the annual maintenance cost of the new radar system will be around 9 million Euros.

A ceremony was also organized in ARG Presidential Palace for the signing of the contract for the installation and maintenance of the new system.

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MoI to Double Police Special Forces’ Numbers

KABUL (ToloNews): The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said it plans to double the number of special police forces as these forces have performed well in the fight against the insurgents.

This is part of government’s four-year strategy to bolster the strength of the Afghan forces. Under the new plan, the current structure of police Special Forces will be increased from three to six units.

“The preliminary work for recruitment in these units has started. In the first phase, the programs related to the training of these units will be started. They will be included within the framework of special units,” said Najib Danish, spokesman to MoI.

The Interior ministry says it will focus highly on the process of hiring new recruits who are willing to join the police special units.

“These programs require a special training regime and those hired in the unit need to be suitable in terms of their physique, height and strength,” said military commentator Mohsin Mukhtar.

In March, the Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) also announced that it plans to double the number of elite special forces from 17,000 troops as part of government’s four year strategy to further strengthen the abilities of the conventional forces in their campaign against the Taliban insurgents and amid growing threats.

Defence ministry officials said that under the four-year strategy Afghanistan’s armed forces would be much stronger than today.

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Ghani discuss security, Mutual Relations with Rouhani

KABUL (ToloNews): President Ashraf Ghani met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani on the sidelines of his official visit to Tehran on Saturday afternoon where they discussed issues of mutual interest, security in particular.

The Presidential Palace said that boosting Kabul/Tehran ties, security and development were core parts of Ghani and Rouhani’s meeting in Tehran.

Ghani left Kabul on Saturday morning to attend Rouhani’s oath-taking ceremony.

“The president’s trip to Iran is for one day and is aimed at attending the Iranian president’s oath ceremony and meetings on mutual interest issues,” Ghani’s deputy spokesman Dawa Khan Minapal said.

A number of Afghan MPs have said the tensions between Iran and Afghanistan have increased following the establishment of the National Unity Government in 2014.

“President (Ashraf Ghani) believes his personal ideas will work to improve Afghanistan’s foreign policy. This (Ghani’s own ideas) has affected Afghanistan’s relations with neighboring countries,” said Humayun Humayun, the first deputy speaker of the Wolesi Jirga (the Lower House of Parliament).

“We hope that Mr. President clearly and deliberately shares with neighbors all the issues and all the disturbances created by them (neighbors) to us (Afghanistan),” said Asif Seddiqi, the deputy speaker of Meshrano Jirga (Upper House of Parliament).

Some analysts suggest discussion as the only way to overcome tensions between Afghanistan and Iran.

“This trip (of President Ghani) would be effective if there is a discussion between Afghanistan and Iran to talk about the challenges on the ground,” said Nasir Musawi, a political affairs analyst.