Posts Tagged ‘Karzai’
Britain is drawing up plans to pull its forces out of Afghanistan much sooner than had been intended after high-level indications from Washington that American troops may leave early.
Sources in London and Kabul suggested last week that President Barack Obama was considering accelerating the withdrawal from Afghanistan in the run-up to presidential elections in November next year.
“The Americans need to pull out early for financial and electoral reasons,” said a source. “It’s all part and parcel with the decision to pull out of Iraq by the end of the year.”
With British troops in Helmand now a small part of an American-dominated Nato force, Ministry of Defence planners have been forced to look at speeding up the withdrawal of UK troops. MoD officials insisted that any British withdrawal would be “conditions-based” and dependent on an agreement with the Afghan government.
“The Americans are now looking to pull out much faster than previously planned,” said a senior British official. “We have no choice but to dovetail our planning with theirs.”
At present Nato plans to withdraw the vast bulk of its troops by the end of 2014, leaving a small contingent of conventional troops and special forces. As part of the process, the Americans are due to withdraw 33,000 troops by September 2012.
That would leave 68,000 US troops in Afghanistan. But a Nato official in Kabul said the chances of there being anywhere near that number by the end of 2013 were “slim to none”.
Although no final decision had been taken, it was “highly likely” that American troops would be pulled out more rapidly and in far greater numbers than previously discussed, said sources in London and Kabul. Other Nato countries are as keen as the Americans to bring their troops home early. Read the rest of this entry »
Afghanistan’s finance minister has received death threats over his handling of a banking crisis that has mired Kabul’s political elite in accusations of corruption and fraud.
Finance Minister Omar Zakhilwal told American and European ambassadors in a meeting earlier this year that the threats on his life had forced him to move members of his family abroad.
Zakhilwal is currently under intense pressure from the International Monetary Fund to find a way out of a scandal that implicates Kabul’s ruling class in a case of fraud totalling almost $1 billion.
This week, the finance minister ordered a forensic audit of Kabul Bank, which handled the salaries of 300,000 soldiers, policemen and civil servants.
The investigation threatens to reveal in detail how the bank’s senior executives and shareholders, who include the brothers of both the president and vice-president, used Afghanistan’s largest private bank like a personal slush fund.
Afghan and Western officials describe how Afghanistan’s largest private bank, which nearly collapsed in September after allegations of insider lending were made public, was run as a “ponzi scheme”.
They say documents reveal how its politically connected shareholders and directors took money from the bank to buy a string of luxury villas in Dubai and two shopping centres in Kabul. Read the rest of this entry »
The prisoners placed a skullcap on Said Musa’s head and mockingly called him Jesus Christ as he languished for month after month in one of Kabul’s squalid prisons.
Fellow inmates and prison guards alike beat him with wooden sticks, kicked him, punched him and spat in his face. Musa also accuses them of sexually abusing him.
His crime? Converting to Christianity, for which he faces the death penalty if convicted.
Surly prison guards and secret service agents surrounded Musa, 45, when I met him at a detention centre in Kabul’s police headquarters last week. Read the rest of this entry »