KABUL (Reuters) – Abdullah Kakar, an employee in the agriculture department in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, converts most of his wages into Pakistani rupees each month except for a small amount to pay his electric bill, school fees and top up his phone card.
Everything else he pays for in the Pakistani currency, from tomatoes to the rent for his house, like millions of people in a swathe of provinces stretching from Nangarhar in the east down to Zabul and Kandahar in the south.
KABUL (Reuters) – - Afghanistan will need $6-7 billion a year in aid over the next decade to help grow the economy, the head of the central bank said on Tuesday, on top of a $4.1 billion bill for security forces to keep the peace once foreign troops leave in 2014.
In the run-up to a conference with donors in Tokyo, the government repeated a long-standing call for foreign assistance to be routed through Afghan government entities rather than international organizations, governor Noorullah Delawari said.
KABUL (Reuters) – - India has done well to resist U.S. calls for greater involvement in Afghanistan, the Taliban said in a rare direct comment about one of the strongest opponents of the hardline Islamist group that was ousted from power in 2001.
The Taliban also said they won’t let Afghanistan be used as a base against another country, addressing fears in New Delhi that Pakistan-based anti-India militants may become more emboldened if the Taliban return to power.
KABUL (Reuters) – British Foreign Minister William Hague met his Iranian counterpart on Thursday on the margins of a conference in Kabul, the highest level diplomatic contact since the storming of the British embassy in Tehran late last year.
The British Foreign Office said the meeting with Ali Akbar Salehi took place at the Iranian’s request and the two sides discussed Iran’s nuclear negotiations as well as the situation in Syria.
KABUL (Reuters) – Standing at a narrow half-open school gate, two boys in school uniform conduct body searches on fellow pupils and visitors. Another two sit at a table to take down details of comings and goings in a register.
Arson and poison attacks on schools across Afghanistan, mostly against those teaching girls, have forced students to defend themselves, an extra-curricular activity imposed by the government which blames the Taliban for the violence.
KABUL (Reuters) – A suicide bomber dressed in a burqa blew himself up near a French patrol in Afghanistan on Saturday, killing four soldiers and wounding five, one of the deadliest attacks on the French contingent in months, as the Taliban step up a spring offensive.
The attack occurred in the mountainous Kapisa province in the east of the country, an area mainly patrolled by a French force under NATO command.
KABUL (Reuters) – The commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan apologized on Friday for killing civilians, including women and children gathering for a wedding, in an air strike this week that has stoked Afghan anger against foreign forces in the country.
NATO previously said the coalition and Afghan forces called for the air strike after they came under fire during an operation to capture a Taliban commander in the Baraki Barak district of Logar province.
KABUL (Reuters) – China and Afghanistan will sign an agreement in the coming days that strategically deepens their ties, Afghan officials say, the strongest signal yet that Beijing wants a role beyond economic partnership as Western forces prepare to leave the country.
China has kept a low political profile through much of the decade-long international effort to stabilize Afghanistan, choosing instead to pursue an economic agenda, including locking in future supply from Afghanistan’s untapped mineral resources.
Pakistan’s relationship with the United States can’t get more transactional than the prolonged negotiations over restoration of the Pakistani supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan, according to leaked accounts of so-called private negotiations, is demanding $5000 as transit fee for allowing trucks to use the two most obvious routes into landlocked Afghanistan, blocked since November when two dozen Pakistani soldiers were killed in an U.S. air strike from Afghanistan. The United States which apparently paid about $250 for each vehicle carrying everything from fuel to bottled water all these years is ready to double that, but nowhere near the price Pakistan is demanding for its support of the war. It also wants an apology for the deaths of the soldiers but America has stopped short of that, offering regret instead.
It’s clear for some time now that India and Pakistan are on the cusp of the kind of open trade relationship they had until the 1965 war when all business links were snapped, border trading posts shut and overland Indian access to Afghanistan blocked. It was never to be the same again, despite fitful progress over the years.
On Saturday, the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who has invested a great deal of personal credibility in a rapprochement with Pakistan, inaugurates a $4 billion refinery in the northern state of Punjab , not far from the border with Pakistan. While the bulk of the refinery, which is a joint venture between billionaire Lakshmi Mittal and an Indian state oil company will feed the hungry energy markets of India’s booming northern triangle, it stands to reason that some of the fuel sales will flow westwards, to Pakistan. The distance from Bhatinda where the 9 million tonne refinery is located to Pakistan’s heartland city of Lahore is about 100 miles. If you don’t sell it to the market next door where else would you begin from ? Pakistan’s refining capacity is half the domestic demand and last year it opened up diesel imports from India, although petrol and other petroleum products are still on a rapidly dwindling negative list.