Thursday, March 31, 2016

Watchdog report: $86 million counternarcotics plane never flown

A plane bought and modified by the Pentagon and the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) for counternarcotics operations in Afghanistan is four times over budget and no longer headed to that country, according to an inspector general report released Wednesday.

“Even though collectively the DEA and [the Department of Defense] have spent more than $86 million on the Global Discovery program, we found that, over seven years after the aircraft was purchased for the program, the aircraft remains inoperable, resting on jacks and has never actually flown in Afghanistan,” a Justice Department inspector general report reads.

In 2008, the DEA bought the plane for $8.6 million for the Global Discovery program, a joint Pentagon-DEA project to modify a transport aircraft for use in Afghanistan. The modifications include surveillance and other capabilities needed for a combat environment.

The project was originally supposed to cost $22 million and be done by December 2012.

As of July, the Pentagon and the DEA have spent $86.6 million on the program, according to the report. Of that, $67.9 million has come just from the Defense Department, including $1.9 million to build a hangar in Kabul that has never housed the aircraft.

The DEA stopped aviation operations in Afghanistan in July without the plane ever having flown there, according to the report.

“The aircraft has never flown in Afghanistan as originally intended and, because the DEA removed all aviation operations from Afghanistan in July 2015, it likely never will,” the report says. “Moreover, despite the DEA’s withdrawal from Afghanistan, as of March 2016, the DOD continued to spend appropriated funds in an effort to make the aircraft operational and flyable.”

A DEA official told the inspector general the plane will instead be used in the Caribbean, Central America and South America when it's ready, according to the report. - Read More at thehill

Watchdog report: $86 million counternarcotics plane never flown

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Gov. Brown hails deal to raise minimum wage to $15 as 'matter of economic justice'

Gov. Jerry Brown on Monday sent the Legislature a proposal to boost the state's minimum wage, defending the idea of $15 hourly pay as one that furthers economic equality and one that he hopes other states will follow.

“I'm hoping that what happens in California will not stay in California, but spread all across the country,” Brown said a news conference at the state Capitol, surrounded by Democrats and labor union leaders. “It's a matter of economic justice. It makes sense.”

The governor's plan, crafted through weeks of private negotiations among a small group of lawmakers and labor officials, increases the current $10 statewide minimum wage by 50 cents on Jan. 1 to $10.50 an hour. From there, it would rise to $11 in 2018 and subsequent dollar-a-year increases ending at $15 on Jan. 1, 2022.

Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León (D-Los Angeles) said 5.6 million people, or one in three California workers, would get a raise. The measure, which is expected to win approval in both chambers of the Democratic-controlled Legislature, would not change any local laws providing for higher wages, such as those in the city of Los Angeles and L.A. County.

The agreement, first reported by The Times on Saturday, would reinforce California's position as having the highest minimum wage of any state. The federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour and was last increased in 2009. States can exceed the federal minimum but cannot go below it. - Read More at the latimes

Gov. Brown hails deal to raise minimum wage to $15 as 'matter of economic justice'

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Apple wants the FBI to reveal how it hacked the San Bernardino killer's iPhone

APple Inc. refused to give the FBI software the agency desperately wanted. Now Apple is the one that needs the FBI's assistance.

The FBI announced Monday that it managed to unlock an iPhone 5c belonging to one of the San Bernardino shooters without the help of Apple. And the agency has shown no interest in telling Apple how it skirted the phone's security features, leaving the tech giant guessing about a vulnerability that could compromise millions of devices.

"One way or another, Apple needs to figure out the details," said Justin Olsson, product counsel at security software maker AVG Technologies. "The responsible thing for the government to do is privately disclose the vulnerability to Apple so they can continue hardening security on their devices."

But that's not how it's playing out so far. The situation illuminates a process that usually takes place in secret: Governments regularly develop or purchase hacking techniques for law enforcement and counterterrorism efforts, and put them to use without telling affected companies. - Read More at the latimes

Families of U.S. personnel ordered to leave parts of Turkey amid security concerns

The Obama administration ordered the families of U.S. military and diplomatic personnel to leave parts of southern Turkey on Tuesday and warned U.S. citizens against travel to the region amid mounting security concerns.

The Pentagon said 670 dependents of U.S. military personnel would be affected by the order to depart areas of southern Turkey, including Incirlik air base, which is used heavily in the fight against Islamic State militants.

The U.S. State Department said a small number of diplomatic families would be affected but did not give numbers. The Pentagon said 100 military dependents in Ankara and Istanbul were not affected by the departure orders because of security measures in place there.

State Department spokesman John Kirby said the move had been under consideration for several weeks, and was not the result of any specific threat and had nothing to do with the visit to Washington this week by top Turkish officials.

Secretary of State John Kerry met Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu on Monday, and Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan is due to attend a Nuclear Security Summit with other world leaders later in the week. Kirby said Kerry had discussed the security announcement with Cavusoglu at their meeting on Monday.

"The decision to do this wasn’t taken lightly. It was done after careful thought and consideration, and inter-agency coordination," Kirby told a daily briefing at the State Department. - Read More at the Reuters

Families of U.S. personnel ordered to leave parts of Turkey amid security concerns

A wave of political defections spells new trouble for Afghanistan - Washingtonpost

 Afghanistan’s embattled government is facing a new challenge to its rule: former supporters, disillusioned by what they think is its incompetence, who now want fresh elections to remove the president from power.

The discontent comes as the country is confronting a robust Taliban insurgency and an economy crippled by the withdrawal of foreign troops.

Over the past few months, politicians, warlords, former ministers and other powerbrokers have come out against the government, which they say is paralyzed by infighting and unable to govern.

Critics have lambasted the administration of President Ashraf Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who together formed a national unity government after flawed elections in 2014, and they are calling for a snap presidential election to break the deadlock.

The government says that it is dedicated to implementing reforms and that it has made targeting corruption and unemployment priorities. But adding to the urgency is the looming September deadline for launching the mechanism to create a new legitimate government. If that deadline is not met, which is likely, Afghanistan could face a power vacuum that would destabilize the country further.

“If it performed well, people were willing to give the [national unity] government the benefit of the doubt. But it hasn’t. It has proved disastrous for this country,” said Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi, a former Ghani supporter and onetime finance minister under the previous president, Hamid Karzai.

 In January, Ahadi announced the formation of his own opposition movement, the New National Front of Afghanistan, to pressure the government and to call for new elections. Recent polls show a sharp decline in confidence in the government and public institutions.

"Given how weak the government is, if there is any more instability, it is unlikely it will be able to rule” after September, Ahadi said. “They have mismanaged the country and lost their legitimacy. They should go back to the people and ask for a new mandate.”

 In many ways, the unity government may have been doomed from the start, analysts say. Even its critics say it was undermined by a hastily forged agreement that split power between two archrivals: Abdullah and Ghani.

The stalemate is so bad that the two sides can’t agree on a nominee for defense minister. And Kabul, a city of 4 million people, is still without a mayor because of the deadlock.

"Abdullah and Ghani — they can’t work with each other. If one of them says turn right, the other will say turn left,” said Safiullah, a 28-year-old fruit vendor in Kabul who, like many Afghans, has only one name.

The two camps maintain separate staffs, which rarely coordinate, current and former officials say. Even senior advisers say they have stopped attending weekly cabinet meetings, where the government’s dysfunction is on full display.

"The issues they debate at the cabinet meetings are only minor. They don’t address any major issues facing the country,” said Ahmad Zia Massoud, Ghani’s special representative for reform and good governance.

"This is why I’m reluctant to go,” he said of the meetings. “They don’t talk about education or the economy. And resentment of the government is high.”

Despite his position in the administration, Massoud has joined others in Afghanistan’s political elite in criticizing the performance of the unity government. - Read More

Pentagon, State Department order families of U.S. troops and diplomats to leave Turkey

Monday, March 28, 2016

Khalilzad: Here’s what I think went wrong in Afghanistan after I left there - Foreign Policy

By Zalmay Khalilzad
Since I left Afghanistan as ambassador, I have reflected a great deal on why the situation deteriorated so dramatically in the years that followed.

Our principal failure, in my view, was our refusal to deal with Pakistan’s double game. Even the accelerated drone attacks in western Pakistan under the Obama administration, which were somewhat effective in the fight against al Qaeda, failed to a large extent to target the Taliban, the Haqqani Group, or Hezbe Islami.

The United States also signaled a lack of military resolve. The Pentagon made incautious public statements about the reduction of U.S. military forces in Afghanistan. At one point, the combat power of the United States dropped to a single brigade, even as the insurgent threat was rising. The evident lack of U.S. commitment gave Pakistan a green light to step up the Taliban and insurgent offensive in late 2005 and early 2006.

As NATO-ISAF took over for the coalition, Afghans began to doubt the U.S. commitment. An unwieldy command structure, involving multiple combatant commands and countries operating under a bewildering array of “national caveats”—rules of engagement that could differ widely—undermined the capacity of international forces to pursue an integrated counterinsurgency strategy. Some non-U.S. NATO forces defined Afghanistan as a peacekeeping mission, and were not prepared to fight an insurgency.

In 2009 President Obama approved the deployment of only 30,000 of the 40,000 additional troops requested by Generals Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus. More problematically, the president paired this escalation with an arbitrary deadline of one year, at which point the United States would start the withdrawal. As a result, the military could not carry out the campaign plan as designed by the generals in the field. The surge went a long way toward stabilizing the south, but commanders lacked the resources and time needed to do the same in the east.

Given that we were unwilling to deploy a large force, the decision to build a small Afghan National Army was misguided. The ANA totaled only 70,000 troops in 2007. Late in the Bush administration, an increase was approved, but Afghan National Security Forces were never large or capable enough to cope with the escalation of Taliban operations. The Obama administration increased the size of Afghan forces in its policy review but rejected the military’s proposal for a combined ANA and ANP force of 400,000.

Our difficulties have resulted from reactive rather than anticipatory policies. We were always playing catch-up.

Karzai and the Afghan leadership failed to move quickly and energetically to extend the reach of the Afghan government into contested areas. Weak or nonexistent government in the provinces left areas vulnerable to the enemy. Other governance problems, notably corruption and poor delivery of services, went unaddressed. These difficulties were compounded by the way the United States mishandled the relationship with Karzai. He was mystified by our failure to address the sanctuary problem and incensed that U.S. officials wouldn’t even discuss the issue with him honestly. Karzai eventually gravitated toward conspiracy theories: perhaps the United States wanted to perpetuate the insurgent threat in order to create an excuse for its continued military presence in Afghanistan?

U.S.-Afghan relations deteriorated. Though the relationship with Karzai worsened during the Bush administration, it became openly adversarial during the Obama administration. The United States was no longer cooperating actively with Karzai on warlordism and corruption, yet expected him to act decisively against these problems. Without U.S. support, Karzai reluctantly concluded that stability depended on his keeping all the problematic actors inside the tent, and that tolerating corruption was the unavoidable price he would have to pay for their cooperation.

A case in point is how Dostum has fared over the past few years. In 2005 Karzai moved against Dostum as part of a broader push against the warlords. In fact, he wished to press the warlords more aggressively than the United States. Yet when Karzai determined that Washington was against him, he concluded that his victory in the 2009 election depended on the warlords’ support. That year he called for Dostum to return to Afghanistan from Turkey, where he had fled.

I do not think it was realistic for the Obama administration to expect Karzai, or any leader, to risk his political survival in an election year to take a stand against corruption or warlordism. The shortsightedness of the Obama administration’s personal attacks on Karzai is illustrated again by Dostum’s fate under the Ghani presidency. An unabashed reformer who was perhaps Dostum’s fiercest critic in the 2002–2005 period, Ghani, in 2013, asked Dostum to serve as his running mate amid changed political circumstances. From marginalized warlord and a symbol of the bad old days of Afghanistan, Dostum has now emerged as the country’s vice president.

These and other negative dynamics began to spin out of control over time. Karzai would complain. Washington would ignore his complaints. He would make critical statements about U.S. night raids and civilian casualties. We would denounce him. We would demand that he move against corrupt officials. He would ignore our demands. Ultimately, the United States alienated Karzai—a highly regrettable and unnecessary outcome, since he could be an extraordinarily constructive leader when we worked with him in the right way.

I believe that had the United States, in 2002 and 2003, forced Pakistan to eliminate the insurgent sanctuaries, sustained Accelerating Success or another initiative like it, and adopted a program to train Afghan forces along the lines of the McChrystal-Petraeus recommendation, positive dynamics in Afghanistan would have built upon each other. Many now view today’s difficulties in Afghanistan as evidence that success was impossible in the first place. I disagree. - The Envoy: From Kabul to the White House

Khalilzad: Here's what I think went wrong in Afghanistan ...

John Kerry: Republican Primary Race Is 'An Embarrassment'

“They don’t know where it’s taking the United States of America.”

Secretary of State John Kerry said the Republican presidential primary is “an embarrassment.”

During an appearance on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” Kerry said foreign leaders are “shocked” by the rhetoric used in the race, particularly anti-Muslim statements.
“They don’t know where it’s taking the United States of America,” Kerry said. “It upsets people’s sense of equilibrium about our steadiness, about our reliability, and to some degree I must say to you, some of the questions, the way they’re posed to me, it’s clear to me that what’s happening is an embarrassment to our country.” - Read More

John Kerry: Republican Primary Race Is 'An Embarrassment'

استعفای نورستانی در نتیجه فشار ها از سوی ریاست اجرائیه صورت گرفته است

روزنامه سرنوشت در یک مطلب تحلیلی نوشته که استعفای رئیس کمیسیون مستقل انتخابات افغانستان در نتیجه فشار ها از سوی ریاست اجرائیه صورت گرفته است.

در مطلب آمده که چنین دست درازی ها در امور کمیسیون انتخابات می تواند انتخابات آینده را به تقلب، قوم گرایی، چالش ها و بی باوری ها سوق دهد.

روزنامه به نقل از برخی منابع که از آنان نام نگرفته نوشته که به جز عبدالرحمان هوتکی و سریر احمد برمک تمامی کمیشنران تحت فشار قرار دارند تا استعفا بدهند

نویسنده مطلب نوشته، اگر روند استعفای کمیشنران ادامه یابد به این معنی خواهد بود که تقلب در انتخابات گذشته از سوی آنان انجام شده است.- Read More at theazadiradio

استعفای نورستانی در نتیجه فشار ها از سوی ریاست اجرائیه ...

استعفای نورستانی چالش های دیگری را نیز در پی خواهد داشت!

Sunday, March 27, 2016

Pope Francis Remembers Victims of Terrorism at Easter Mass

He called on people to "reject the ways of hatred"

(VATICAN CITY) — Pope Francis tempered his Easter Sunday message of Christian hope with a denunciation of “blind” terrorism, recalling victims of attacks in Europe, Africa and elsewhere, as well as expressing dismay that people fleeing war or poverty are being denied welcome as European countries squabble over the refugee crisis.

Tens of thousands of people patiently endured long lines, backpack inspections and metal-detecting checks Sunday to enter St. Peter’s Square. Under a brilliant sun, they listened to Francis deliver the traditional noon Easter speech from the central balcony of St. Peter’s Basilica.

To their delight, Francis completed a whirl through the square, made colorful with sprays of tulips and other spring flowers, in his open-topped pope-mobile after celebrating Mass on the steps of the basilica. He leaned over barriers to shake hands, as the vehicle ventured past the Vatican’s confines, with his bodyguards jogging alongside on the boulevard. 

In his balcony speech, Francis said Easter “invites us not to forget those men and women seeking a better future, an ever more numerous throng of migrants and refugees — including many children — fleeing from war, hunger, poverty and social injustice,” he said.- Read More at the Time

Deal reached to boost California's minimum wage to $15, avoiding ballot box battle

Lawmakers and labor unions have struck a tentative deal to raise the statewide minimum wage to $10.50 an hour next year and then gradually to $15, averting a costly political campaign this fall and possibly putting California at the forefront of a national movement.

The deal was confirmed Saturday afternoon by sources close to the negotiations who would speak only on condition of anonymity until Gov. Jerry Brown makes a formal announcement as early as Monday.

The minimum wage compromise ends a long debate between the Democratic governor and some of the state's most powerful labor unions. For Brown, it's political pragmatism; numerous statewide polls have suggested voters would approve a minimum wage proposal — perhaps even a more sweeping version — if given the chance.

According to a document obtained by The Times, the negotiated deal would boost California's statewide minimum wage from $10 an hour to $10.50 on Jan. 1, 2017, with a 50-cent increase in 2018 and then $1-per-year increases through 2022. Businesses with fewer than 25 employees would have an extra year to comply, delaying their workers receiving a $15 hourly wage until 2023.

Future statewide minimum wage increases would be linked to inflation, but a governor would have the power to temporarily block some of the initial increases in the event of an economic downturn.

Brown, who signed a minimum wage increase in 2013, had resisted multiple efforts to revisit the issue at the legislative level until labor unions made it clear they were prepared to take the issue directly to voters. Last week, the first of two union-sponsored initiatives qualified for the Nov. 8 ballot. Its backers are hopeful that the final agreement will allow them to formally withdraw that initiative in a few weeks.

Sources say the Legislature could vote on the wage compromise as soon as the end of next week by amending an existing bill on hold since 2015. Its passage would place California ahead of a minimum wage increase now being considered in New York, and would probably add fodder to the raucous presidential race. Both Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have endorsed the goals of a nationwide campaign to raise wages to $15 an hour, and advocates say swift action in California could force both Democratic candidates to embrace what would be a more aggressive plan of action.

The proposal in Sacramento goes beyond private-sector hourly wages by including a gradual addition of up to three new paid sick days for government workers who provide in-home care to the disabled. The timing of those future benefits would be subject to economic conditions, but the proposal still represents a significant victory for labor groups. - Read More at the latimes

Deal reached to boost California's minimum wage to $15, avoiding ballot box battle

Minimum wage hikes put pressure on businesses to 're-engineer labor force,' a restaurateur says

Belgian police break up street protests as attack investigation widens

Belgian police briefly used water cannon to control several hundred rowdy protesters in central Brussels on Sunday after they ignored an official call for marches to be postponed following Tuesday's bombings.

Amid fears of further attacks, officials wanted to give police the scope to focus on investigations which have widened to other countries, leading to the arrest of an Algerian in Italy and intelligence cooperation with Germany. Police carried out 13 new raids in Belgium itself.

Hundreds nevertheless gathered at the Bourse to express solidarity with the victims of the suicide bomb attacks at Brussels airport and on a rush-hour metro train. Thirty one people were killed, including three attackers, and hundreds more injured. Islamic State has claimed responsibility.

Most of the protests were peaceful but white-helmeted riot police used the water cannon against a group of protesters, many of whom local media described as right-wing nationalists, who burst onto the square chanting and carrying banners denouncing Islamic State.

"It is highly inappropriate that protesters have disrupted the peaceful reflection at the Bourse (stock exchange). I strongly condemn these disturbances," Prime Minister Charles Michel said according to Belga news agency.

Brussels Mayor Yvan Mayeur said the group were "scoundrels".

In and around Brussels and Antwerp, police carried out 13 new raids in connection with the attacks, with nine people questioned and five later released, the prosecutor's office said. - Read More
Belgian police break up street protests as attack investigation widens Video

Two additional U.S. citizens confirmed killed in Brussels attack

Saturday, March 26, 2016

The Obama Doctrine - The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world. - JEFFREY GOLDBERG

The U.S. president talks through his hardest decisions about America’s role in the world.
Friday, august 30, 2013, the day the feckless Barack Obama brought to a premature end America’s reign as the world’s sole indispensable superpower—or, alternatively, the day the sagacious Barack Obama peered into the Middle Eastern abyss and stepped back from the consuming void—began with a thundering speech given on Obama’s behalf by his secretary of state, John Kerry, in Washington, D.C. The subject of Kerry’s uncharacteristically Churchillian remarks, delivered in the Treaty Room at the State Department, was the gassing of civilians by the president of Syria, Bashar al-Assad.

Obama, in whose Cabinet Kerry serves faithfully, but with some exasperation, is himself given to vaulting oratory, but not usually of the martial sort associated with Churchill. Obama believes that the Manichaeanism, and eloquently rendered bellicosity, commonly associated with Churchill were justified by Hitler’s rise, and were at times defensible in the struggle against the Soviet Union. But he also thinks rhetoric should be weaponized sparingly, if at all, in today’s more ambiguous and complicated international arena.  The president believes that Churchillian rhetoric and, more to the point, Churchillian habits of thought, helped bring his predecessor, George W. Bush, to ruinous war in Iraq. Obama entered the White House bent on getting out of Iraq and Afghanistan; he was not seeking new dragons to slay. And he was particularly mindful of promising victory in conflicts he believed to be unwinnable. “If you were to say, for instance, that we’re going to rid Afghanistan of the Taliban and build a prosperous democracy instead, the president is aware that someone, seven years later, is going to hold you to that promise,” Ben Rhodes, Obama’s deputy national-security adviser, and his foreign-policy amanuensis, told me not long ago.

Obama, unlike liberal interventionists, is an admirer of the foreign-policy realism of President George H. W. Bush and, in particular, of Bush’s national-security adviser, Brent Scowcroft (“I love that guy,” Obama once told me). Bush and Scowcroft removed Saddam Hussein’s army from Kuwait in 1991, and they deftly managed the disintegration of the Soviet Union; Scowcroft also, on Bush’s behalf, toasted the leaders of China shortly after the slaughter in Tiananmen Square. As Obama was writing his campaign manifesto, The Audacity of Hope, in 2006, Susan Rice, then an informal adviser, felt it necessary to remind him to include at least one line of praise for the foreign policy of President Bill Clinton, to partially balance the praise he showered on Bush and Scowcroft.- More at theatlantic

The Obama Doctrine - The Atlantic

Afghan electoral commission head quits, clouding political landscape

Afghanistan's top electoral official resigned on Saturday, potentially complicating efforts to organize parliamentary elections for this autumn.

Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, who has repeatedly accused the government of meddling in the electoral process, stepped down two years after himself being accused of failing to prevent fraud in a bitterly disputed presidential ballot.

A spokesman for the Independent Election Commission, which Nuristani chaired, said he had resigned in the "national interest", declining to comment further.

President Afghan Ghani accepted his resignation, the presidential palace said on its Twitter feed.  

Efforts by Reuters to contact Nuristani were not successful.

He was in charge of organizing the 2014 presidential election, the country's first democratic transfer of power, which descended into near-chaos when both Ghani and his rival, Abdullah Abdullah claimed victory.

Abdullah's supporters have long sought Nuristani's ouster, and Saturday's resignation might be seen as a concession to them. - Read More at the Reuters

Afghan electoral commission head quits, clouding political landscape

Friday, March 25, 2016

This 20-Year-Old Clinton Interview About Goldwater, Whitewater Echoes Today

There's an audio clip circulating on the Internet of Hillary Clinton talking about being proud of her time as a "Goldwater Girl" in 1964. It turns out to be an incomplete and selective excerpt of a lengthy — and still compelling (all these years later) — interview Clinton did in 1996 with Weekend Edition Saturday host Scott Simon.

The whole interview is worth a listen or a read. The full transcript is below. But let's just say, the Goldwater section might not even be the most interesting part.

The interview originally aired Jan. 13, 1996, and was pegged to the release of Clinton's book It Takes a Village. But most of it focuses on the various tentacles of the Whitewater scandal Clinton had been tangled up in since the start of her husband's administration.

The way Clinton discusses that scandal and the various investigations will likely sound familiar. There are echoes in the way she's responded to the controversy over her use of a private email server for official business while secretary of state — and her saying that she and her husband were "dead broke" when they left the White House.  Here's how she described Whitewater to Simon: - Read More at the NPR

This 20-Year-Old Clinton Interview About Goldwater, Whitewater Echoes Today

Dispatches: Don’t Turn Afghan Schools into Battlefields - Ahmad Shuja

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani rang in the new school year on March 22 –proclaiming “a clarion call for prosperity, stability, and mobility.”

President Ghani is right about the power of education to transform the lives of a new generation of Afghan children. But this can only happen if security forces stop using schools for military purposes and allow children back to classrooms.

In 2015, the United Nations verified 20 instances of military use of schools, 15 involving Afghan National Security Forces, including the army and police. The numbers are probably higher, with incidents taking place in much of the country, including the provinces of Kunduz, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Kunar, and Badakhshan.

Military use of schools can mean the occupation of a few classrooms or playgrounds, or a complete takeover of school facilities and grounds. In recent years, Afghan military forces have deployed weaponry in or around schools and used facilities as fixed firing positions. As a result, students are not only deprived of an education, they are also put at grave risk of attack by insurgents who then see schools as military targets.

Schools in Afghanistan have frequently been attacked by the Taliban and other insurgents. The UN documented the closure of 222 schools in 2015 as a result of attacks and threats by insurgents against schools, teachers, and students.

The UN also documented 25 casualties among students and school staff from incidents involving insurgents and government forces. These figures highlight the real risk of schools becoming targets or battlefields when they are taken over by a party to the conflict.

The military use of schools also discourages student enrollment and increases teacher absenteeism. Schooling is delayed or interrupted or students are forced to transfer – if they don’t drop out altogether. Girls often bear the brunt of these disruptions because parents are wary of sending daughters to schools occupied by armed men.

Afghanistan’s educational infrastructure is already insufficient for its needs. The military use of schools will do even more to deny Afghan children the future that Ghani trumpeted. - Read More at the HRW

Dispatches: Don’t Turn Afghan Schools into Battlefields

Thursday, March 24, 2016

غني: ښوونکو ته کورونو برابرولو کې له پاتې راتلو بښنه غواړم

د افغانستان ولسمشر محمد اشرف غني وایي، ښوونکو ته د کورونو برابرولو ژمنه کې پاتې راغلی دی.
ښاغلي غني چې کابل کې یې د نوي تعلیمي کال د پیل په مراسمو کې خبرې کولې وویل، ځینې ستونزې سبب شوې چې حکومت ونشي کولی ښوونکو ته د کورونو برابرولو بهیر پیل کړي.

"دا مو نه دي ترسره کړي، بښنه غواړم. دلایل یې څه دي؟ د ښوونکو ښارګوټي غلطو ځایونو کې وو. له ښارونو یې لرې نقشه کړي وو، نقشه یې سمه نه وه، له هغه ځایه تاسو (ښوونکي) نشئ راتلی."

هغه وویل، په دې ازموینه کې ځان "مشروط بولي" خو هیله من دی سږ کال له ښوونکو د کامیابۍ نومره واخلي. ښاغلي غني وویل، حکومت په کابل او ولایتونو کې پر یوې طرحې کار کوي او له ښوونکو سره به یې شریکه کړي.

د دولتي ادار او زورواکو لخوا د پوهنې وزارت د ځمکو غصب دویم لامل وو چې ولسمشر د ښوونکو د مسکن پروړاندې د خنډ په توګه یادونه وکړه.

ښاغلي غني د افغانستان د ولسمشر په توګه د کار پیل لومړیو ورځو کې ښوونکو سره ژمنه کړې وه چې هغوی ته به د کورونو برابرولو په موخه ځمکه ورکوي. - Read More

غني: ښوونکو ته کورونو برابرولو کې له پاتې راتلو بښنه غواړم 

87 million children under 7 have known nothing but conflict - UNICEF

87 million children under 7 have known nothing but conflict
Children living in conflict are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections -- with significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development.
“In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars,” UNICEF Chief of Early Child Development Pia Britto said.  - Read More

87 million children under 7 have known nothing but conflict - UNICEF

NEW YORK, 24 March 2016 – More than 86.7 million children under the age of 7 have spent their entire lives in conflict zones, putting their brain development at risk, UNICEF said today. 

During the first 7 years of life a child’s brain has the potential to activate 1,000 brain cells every second. Each one of those cells, known as neurons, has the power to connect to another 10,000 neurons thousands of times per second. Brain connections serve as the building blocks of a child’s future, defining their health, emotional well-being and ability to learn.

Children living in conflict are often exposed to extreme trauma, putting them at risk of living in a state of toxic stress, a condition that inhibits brain cell connections -- with significant life-long consequences to their cognitive, social and physical development.

“In addition to the immediate physical threats that children in crises face, they are also at risk of deep-rooted emotional scars,” UNICEF Chief of Early Child Development Pia Britto said. 

UNICEF figures show that globally one in 11 children aged 6 or younger has spent the most critical period of brain development growing up in conflict.

“Conflict robs children of their safety, family and friends, play and routine. Yet these are all elements of childhood that give children the best possible chance of developing fully and learning effectively, enabling them to contribute to their economies and societies, and building strong and safe communities when they reach adulthood,” Britto said. 

“That is why we need to invest more to provide children and caregivers with critical supplies and services including learning materials, psychosocial support, and safe, child-friendly spaces that can help restore a sense of childhood in the midst of conflict.”

A child is born with 253 million functioning neurons, but whether the brain reaches its full adult capacity of around one billion connectable neurons depends in large part on early childhood development.  This includes breastfeeding and early nutrition, early stimulation by caregivers, early learning opportunities and a chance to grow and play in a safe and healthy environment.

As part of our response in humanitarian emergencies and protracted crises, UNICEF works to keep children in child-friendly environments, providing emergency kits with learning and play materials. The emergency kits have supported more than 800,000 children living in emergency contexts in the past year alone.  - Read More at the UNICEF
87 million children under 7 have known nothing but conflict - UNICEF

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