Afghan military could pose threat to country if aid ends: US report

In this March 6, 2019 file photo, Afghan security personnel man a checkpoint at the airport after a suicide attack, in Jalalabad province, east of Kabul, Afghanistan.(AP)
Updated 28 March 2019

Afghan military could pose threat to country if aid ends: US report

  • The US has poured more than $780 billion in aid into Afghanistan since 2001 invasion

WASHINGTON: The Afghan military could pose a serious threat to the country’s security if international aid comes to an abrupt halt following a peace deal between the Taliban and the government, an official US report said Thursday.
The findings come as the US seeks to broker a peace deal between the insurgent fighters and the internationally recognized government led by President Ashraf Ghani to end 17 years of war.
“There are over 300,000 Afghans currently serving in the security forces, most of whom are armed,” said John Sopko, who heads the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), while presenting his report in Washington.
“If, because of a loss of financial support, their paychecks were to stop coming, this could pose a serious threat to Afghanistan’s stability.”
Since invading Afghanistan in 2001 to oust the then Taliban regime, the US has poured more than $780 billion in aid into the country, 15 percent of which was spent on reconstruction.
Most of the reconstruction funds, 63 percent or $83.1 billion, were spent on Afghan security services, including salaries, equipment, infrastructure and training, the report said.
In recent years, financial support for Afghan forces has been even more critical, with $4.8 billion allocated in 2018, or 83 percent of funds set aside for reconstruction.
“It does not take an advanced degree in mathematics to recognize that if donor support is decreased or eliminated — whether there is a peace agreement or not — the Afghan government and its military in particular, will be in dire straits,” said Sopko.
The report warned that if an elusive peace deal is achieved, some 60,000 heavily armed Taliban fighters will have to be peacefully reintegrated into Afghan society, “as disaffected former Taliban who may have been expecting a peace dividend may return to violent and predatory behavior.”
“Without financial support, the government of Afghanistan cannot survive,” it stressed.
“Should peace come, if that peace is to be sustainable, it will come at an additional price that only external donors can afford.
“That is why we have issued today’s report — to encourage policymakers to vigorously think about the ‘day after.’“
The US envoy seeking a peace deal with the Taliban is currently on a trip to Afghanistan and Pakistan that is scheduled to run through April 10.
The last negotiations between Zalmay Khalilzad and the Taliban closed on March 12 in Doha and appeared to make headway.
An outline of a deal is expected to see the United States withdrawing from Afghanistan in return for the Taliban promising not to let the country be used by foreign extremists — the reason for the US attack following the September 11, 2001 attacks.
But the talks have so far not included the Kabul government.
President Donald Trump has voiced impatience with continuing America’s longest war and late last year ordered the withdrawal of half the 14,000-strong US troop contingent.


Knifeman kills three in suspected terror attack at French church in Nice

Updated 3 min 27 sec ago

Knifeman kills three in suspected terror attack at French church in Nice

  • Two victims died at the Basilica of Notre-Dame while a third person died of injuries
  • Macron called for churches around the country to be given added security

NICE: A man wielding a knife at a church in the French city of Nice killed three people, slitting the throat of at least one, and injured several others before being apprehended by police, officials said Thursday.
French anti-terror prosecutors have opened an inquiry into what the city’s Mayor Christian Estrosi called an “Islamo-fascist attack.”
“He (the attacker) kept repeating ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is Greater) even while under medication” after he was injured during his arrest, Estrosi told journalists at the scene.NIC

Video footage shows police entering the church in Nice where the attack is thought to have been carried out. (Twitter)

Two victims died at the Basilica of Notre-Dame, in the heart of the city on the Mediterranean coast, while a third person died of injuries after seeking refuge in a nearby bar, a police source told AFP.
“The situation is now under control,” police spokeswoman Florence Gavello said.
France has been on high alert for terror attacks since the January 2015 massacre at the satirical weekly Charlie Hebdo. The trial of suspected accomplices in that attack is underway in Paris. 

 

There have been unconfirmed reports that at least one of the victims was decapitated. (Twitter)

In Nice in particular, painful memories remain fresh of the jihadist attack during the Bastille Day fireworks on July 14, 2016, when a man rammed his truck into a crowded promenade, killing 86 people.
It was part of a wave of attacks on French soil, often by so-called “lone wolf” assailants, which has killed more than 250 people since 2015.

 

 

The attacker was captured by police and taken to hospital. (Twitter)

The assault prompted lawmakers in parliament to hold a minute’s silence on Thursday, before Prime Minister Jean Castex and other ministers abruptly left for an emergency meeting with President Emmanuel Macron.
Estrosi, who said Macron would soon be arriving in Nice, called for churches around the country to be given added security or to be closed as a precaution.
(With agencies)