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New Railway to Connect Afghanistan with China “One Road One Belt”
Afghanistan’s Hairatan Port will soon host a Chinese cargo train, the first train carrying freight containers from China to Afghanistan. 
According to media reports, the first train carrying cargo containers from China to Afghanistan left the eastern Chinese city of Nantong on Thursday August 25, 2016.
The train will leave China through the Alataw Pass in Xinjiang.  It will then pass through Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan before arriving Hairatan Port. 
There are two trains scheduled for each month which will carry cargo from China to Afghanistan and vise versa.  Reportedly, the first cargo train carrying 84 containers will arrive in Hairatan port in 15 days.
The new railway route is part of a recent scheme designed by People’s Republic of China called “One Road One Belt” aiming to link nations in the region. 

The opening of this railway happened after Afghanistan and China vowed to boost businesses between the two countries.  This new railway will serve as a direct route to transport commercial goods between the two nations. 

In addition, this railway will be a new opportunity to restore direct business between China and Afghanistan which will decrease Afghanistan’s dependency on Pakistan. 

Afghan economic experts believe that major steps have been taken by National Unity Government to provide facilities for Afghan businesses to improve in the region.  The opening of Chabahar Port is a strong example of this. 

Furthermore, this new railway between the two countries will have positive impact on trade between China and Afghanistan.  Afghan businessmen, in less time and less money, will be able to carry their commercial goods from China to Afghanistan and from Afghanistan to China.  Previously, it took almost two months to get commercial goods from China to Afghanistan, while it only takes a couple of weeks now. 

This is a great improvement in regard to strengthening economic ties with countries of the region and providing facilities for business people in Afghanistan.  This is the first time Afghanistan gets its cargo through a railway linked to Hairatan Port in a shorter period of time. 

It is worth mentioning that the relationships between People’s Republic of China and Islamic Republic of Afghanistan have strengthened in many aspects in particular in trade since the establishment of National Unity Government.  

It is believed that the new railway will boost bilateral trade between China and Afghanistan which will also strengthen cultural ties between the two friend countries.  
Peace Through Intensified Military Operations: Is It Possible?
It is believed that there has been less attention to defeat the Taliban over the past decade.  Analysts believe that the international coalition did not do enough to defeat the Taliban militarily since the U.S. operations began in late 2001 and ended in December 2014. 
Military analysts believe that every war ends with peace, but it is important that one side of the conflict believed to be legitimate, changes the balance of the war.  It is believed that war will continue if it does not get intensified.
Before the end of U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014, reports by media indicate that U.S. and Afghan forces have exerted less pressure on the Taliban in the battlefields.  Due to this deficiency in the war strategy, the Taliban were not defeated and were hopeful to gain control of major cities in Afghanistan.  The Taliban lived with this false hope to return to power and once again isolate this country with their devastating and dark ideology.
It is believed that sufficient pressure on the Taliban on battlefields will make them weak enough to either surrender or say “yes” to peace talks.  Without enough military pressure, the Taliban will not become ready for peace. 
Recently, as reported by Afghan media, General Nicholson has said that the NATO/RS will increase its offensive operations against the Taliban to weaken them to eventually accept peace.  Reportedly, he believes that exerting enough pressure on the Taliban will make them weak in the battlefield.  The new U.S. military policy is giving enough authorities to General Nicholson and his commanders to support Afghan National Defense and Security Forces during offensive operations in Afghanistan. 
Afghans urge ANDSF to go after Taliban wherever they are in Afghanistan and target them.  This is the only way to make them accept peace and stop violence in Afghanistan.
It is clear that the Afghan Government will not make peace with the terrorists and is determined to fight them with support from the international community since terrorism is not an Afghan problem; it is an international problem and should be tackled with an international vision and action.
Afghans believe that with the new authorities given to General Nicholson to fight the Taliban and help Afghan forces to intensify combat operations across the country and target the Taliban and other terrorist groups, the shape of the war will change and the Taliban will have to lay down arms and join the peace process.  Exerting enough pressure on the Taliban in the battlefield will make them accept peace and stop violence.
Afghans want peace in the country and urge the ANDSF and U.S. to work together and press the Taliban hideouts and make them accept peace and stop violence in the country.  The Afghan Government has repeatedly called on the Taliban to accept peace and deny war, but the Taliban have not responded positively to the legitimate request of the Afghan Government.  Taliban and other terrorist groups still enjoy support and safe harbor in Pakistan.  The international community has now understood where the root of the problem is and will soon come up with an international consensus to dry up the roots of the terrorists and the Taliban.
Violence prevents Afghanistan growth and development and cost the lives of thousands of civilians including women and children on a monthly basis.  War brings devastation while peace brings welfare and prosperity.  It is believed that the new U.S. military policy to support Afghan forces will weaken the Taliban and will produce desired results in the future.  One of the ways to end this war is to intensify military operations against the Taliban and terrorist groups and make them weak enough to accept peace. 
Experts also believe that creation of employments, fighting corruption, good governance, bridging the gap between the public and the Government, bringing reforms in the government specially in the judicial system, focusing on development and welfare projects, paving the way for a volunteer repatriation of Afghan refugee and the rule of law, are the other major ways that can help to weaken the Taliban and badly affects their recruitment process. 

Terrorism, Corruption, and Crimes; the Evil Triangle
It is believed that terrorism, corruption and crimes pose a serious threat to the stability and economic development of Afghanistan.  Terrorism which is an international problem has aided corruption and crimes which are considered to be domestic problems to pose a joint threat to Afghanistan. 
In this article, I will examine how terrorism, corruption and crimes pose a serious threat to the stability and economic development of Afghanistan, and ways to fight them. 
There is no doubt that terrorism, corruption and crimes have formed an evil triangle in Afghanistan preventing the development and economic growth in this country.  Billions of international aid was flown to this country, but very little signs of tangible development have been seen in Afghanistan.
Terrorism is a violent and un-Islamic movement which threatens the entire world including Afghanistan.  The main purpose of terrorist groups is to spread fear in society and exert fear in the minds and hearts of people.  They succeed when they scare you and terrify you by their actions and words.  They abide by no rules and their ideology is against Islam and humanity.  Terrorists claim to be Muslims, but they have killed and harmed Muslims more than none-Muslims.  They have indeed hijacked Islam and do not represent Islam and Muslims.
Terrorist groups are responsible for the major part of violence in Afghanistan.  They kill civilians including women and children, attack Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and destroy schools, roads, bridges, and government buildings to pursue their evil agenda.  Terrorism is an international phenomenon and terrorists fight in this country to pursue their international agenda.
Afghanistan has been suffering from terrorism for almost two decades and we have paid a big price in fighting terrorism whose roots are beyond Durand Line.  Terrorists and their affiliated leaders and groups have been trained, harbored and financially supported in Pakistan.  The killing of Al-Qaeda leader Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Mansoor is a clear sign that Pakistan support and harbor terrorism.
Terrorist groups have harmed Afghan economy, governance, political and economic stability.  The international community should work together with the Afghan Government to fight terrorism and stop their expansion in Afghanistan and in the region.  The Afghan Government has done its part to fight terrorism including ISIL and is determined to help the international community in this regard.  But, more attention is required to fight terrorist groups from various aspects. 
In addition, corruption and crimes also pose as much threat to Afghanistan as terrorism.  Corruption in the government system reduces government revenue and widens the gap between the government and public.  Corruption prevents investment and discourages businessmen to focus on Afghanistan.  Corruption is a domestic problems and the Afghan Government has to deal with it even if it doesn’t get support from the international community.  Corruption is as dangerous to Afghanistan’s development as terrorism.  It kills you from inside and brings shame to Afghanistan. 

President Ghani has taken a number of steps to fight corruption in the government since he took office in 2014.   The establishment of National Procurement Authority, reforms in the cabinet, establishment of new systems for collecting revenues, and the establishment of Anti-Corruption Criminal Justice Center are aimed to fight corruption.  Dozens of high ranking government officials have been sacked and are being prosecuted for corruption.  For example, 110 employees of Kabul Municipality are being banned from travelling for charges of corruption.
Criminal activities are also as dangerous as terrorism and corruption.  The rise in criminal activities in turn, poses a serious threat to economic growth and security of Afghanistan.  Investors are targeted and kidnapped for money.  Their lives and investments are not secure.  According to Afghanistan Investment Support Agency, dozens of Afghan investors have been kidnapped and killed in Afghanistan only this year.
The Afghan Government is determined to bring widespread reforms in Afghan National Police to effectively counter crimes.  Unfortunately, there are major problems in the Ministry of Interior.  Police is responsible for enforcing law and fighting criminals.  Police is most needed in countries where the rate of crime is high.  Ghost police is no more acceptable for the Afghan Government.  President Ghani is determined to bring widespread reforms in the Ministry of Interior by appointing professional police officers, putting systems in place, and dismissing ineffective police officers.  Afghans will soon see a major change in the behavior and action of police.  Criminals will no longer enjoy immunity and no one will be above the law.
So, terrorism, corruption and crimes have formed an evil triangle in Afghanistan and have to be fought seriously.  There should be no mercy on people affiliated to these groups as they equally pose threat to Afghanistan.  Terrorism is an international phenomenon and it is the job of the international community to fight it.  Afghanistan is a good and reliable partner in this regard.  Corruption and crimes are domestic problems, and the Afghan Government is determined to fight them.  The Afghan Government has taken some major steps to fight corruption and will bring widespread reforms in the police forces.  Police should be qualified, professional and impartial.  Police should be immune from interference and should enjoy the full support of the President to counter criminals and bring them into justice.  Citizens’ safety is a priority for the government.

From Defensive to Offensive Position: President Obama’s New Afghan War Policy and its Impacts on ANSDF
Last week, President Obama has made a major announcement about U.S. troop level and their mission in Afghanistan.  Instead of going down to 5,500 troops by the end of 2016, the United States will maintain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan into next year, through the end of President Obama’s administration.   Reportedly, the president has given his military commanders the authorities they requested to provide support to ANDSF operations.  After late 2014, U.S. forces were in defensive stances unless the Taliban posed a direct threat to coalition or Afghan forces.
In December 2014, President Obama announced a responsible end to U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan.  Compared to the 100,000 troops U.S. once had in Afghanistan, 9,900 U.S. soldiers remained in Afghanistan.  It was not only the numbers that changed.  A major change in the U.S. mission in Afghanistan also occurred.   According to reports, the U.S. mission from leading the war changed into three narrow missions:  training, advising, and supporting ANDSF and counterterrorist operations against the remnants of al Qaida as well as other terrorist groups, including ISIL.
Afghan security analysts believe that Afghanistan and Afghan defense and security forces need U.S. support specially air support more than the past, because Afghan forces are now responsible for the security of the whole country and conduct independent and unilateral operations against the Taliban and terrorist groups.
According to media reports, this new capability will not mean that the U.S. troops will conduct unilateral offensive operations in Afghanistan.  The new policy will authorize U.S. generals in Afghanistan to provide air strike and support to Afghan defense and security forces if ANDSF are conducting offensive operations against the enemies and if officially requested by the Afghan Government.
Reportedly, Secretary Carter has given special authority to General Nicholson to help the Afghan forces in operations in Afghanistan which has pleased the Afghan Government. 
It is believed that Afghan National Defense and Security Forces need air support during offensive and defensive operations across Afghanistan.  In every offensive operation, air support is a must and a need at this critical time as violence and threats are at the rise in some parts of the country.  Afghan Air Force still requires war planes to support the ground forces in the battlefield, despite the recent supply of several Super Tucano aircrafts to Afghan Air Forces by the United States.  
According to some Afghan military experts, as per military principles, army soldiers should stay together in big groups, but contrary to this, police remains in small groups even in groups of ten people in checkpoints with limited ammunitions and weapons.  This type of structure makes police vulnerable and terrorists can easily attack them.  If attacked by a big group of terrorists, immediate air support will cover them and the terrorists will be defeated and eliminated on the spot.
So, providing air strike support to ANDSF as per request will make a big difference in the battlefield as said by General Nicholson “It enables them to retain the initiative against the enemy … whereas before, we were preventing defeat, now we are able to help them gain and retain the initiative.”  Afghan military analysts believe that the war initiative should be in the hands of Afghan forces and they should target terrorists groups wherever they are found.
So keeping U.S. troops and authorizing them to provide air and ground support to ANSDF upon request in the battlefield will definitely change the shape of the war in Afghanistan.  This will keep the pressure on the enemies and will have negative impacts on the morale of the terrorist groups and the enemies will be on the run soon.  Afghan Forces will look for targets and plan to eliminate the targets with a strong support from U.S. military and NATO. 
As committed in Warsaw summit, President Ghani will bring widespread reforms in police to increase effectiveness and efficiency policing Afghanistan.  Setting new systems in place and appointing capable and determined people to serve in police ranks are the priorities to be worked out.
As stated by President Ghani, corruption is as dangerous as terrorism for Afghanistan.  Some analysts interviewed by Afghan media supported the remarks by the president adding that corruption, crimes and terrorism are equally dangerous for Afghanistan. 
The Afghan Government welcomes the announcement by President Obama to sustain approximately 8,400 troops in Afghanistan through this year and the special authority to General Nicholson.  We believe that Afghanistan and the United States are facing a common enemy and both should work together to fight and defeat the enemy for the sake of the national security interests of both countries.  We also appreciate the U.S. assistance to training, advising and equipping ANDSF.  NATO’s support to fund ANDSF until 2020 is considered a great achievement for the Afghan Government. It happened after Afghan Government fulfilled its commitments with the international community.  U.S. support from Afghan forces in the battlefield will enable them to exert more pressure on the enemy and disperse them even further.   

President Ghani outlines elections plans to UN envoy
President Ghani convened a meeting with Mr. Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. H.E. Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the National Unity Government’s Chief Executive, along with other government officials and several ambassadors representing Afghanistan’s international partners, participated in the meeting.

“The National Unity Government is fully committed to electoral reform and to holding free and fair parliamentary and district elections,” President Ghani told the UN envoy and others in attendance. “We will pursue electoral reform with full respect to parliament’s role.”

President Ghani said the government is looking forward to parliament’s favorable decision on the electoral law, and emphasized that in order to provide for full inclusivity, it is necessary that members of parliament discuss and debate the law in detail.

The president and chief executive both expressed the importance for members of the Wolesi Jirga to facilitate the reform process and approve the law in the joint committee before going to recess.

During the meeting, the UN envoy said he welcomed the efforts by the National Unity Government to make progress on holding elections. The UN Special Representative, along with other members of the diplomatic community, expressed support to the government’s efforts to hold elections, and asked the government to outline a realistic timeline.

President Ghani expressed gratitude for the support, and said he has assigned working groups to prepare for the financial and security aspects of the elections. He announced the allocation of US$10 million from the Afghan budget to assist with preparations.

“I welcome your continued support so that we can move swiftly once parliament adopts the electoral law, hopefully next week,” the president said to those in attendance.

Mr. Yamamoto told the president that the United Nations is ready to assist the government in its efforts to prepare for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led elections process.

Those in attendance agreed to meet regularly to review progress and preparations


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