The following are excerpts from news stories, articles and editorials in Afghan print and broadcast media gathered by Afghan Analytica, [February 8, 2013]:
• Hasht-e-Subh Daily:
o “No peace efforts will deliver unless Pakistani military is enough pressed to take necessary action against Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistani soil… If Britain wants to play its due role in developing cooperation between Afghanistan and Pakistan, it should exert pressure on Pakistan’s army to dismantle Taliban safe havens inside Pakistan.”
o “It is said that Pakistani and Afghan officials at the London meeting agreed to finalize a document which shapes the strategic relations between the two countries until autumn. Earlier the government said that signing of a strategic agreement with Pakistan was conditional on Pakistan playing a positive role in the search for peace in Afghanistan. The question is whether Pakistani officials at the London meeting promised to meet the government’s condition or whether Britain guaranteed that Pakistan would fulfill its promises. There is no hope that Pakistan will fulfill its promises if London did not guarantee them. President Karzai should let the people and media know what went on in the meeting as soon as he is back.”
• RFE/RL’s interview with Afghan politician Hanif Atmar: “To reach a peace accord within six months will be of utmost importance for our country. Subsequently, signing a strategic agreement between Afghanistan and Pakistan will be crucial as long as it is realistic and pragmatic.”
• The Afghanistan Express: The six-month timeframe for reaching a deal with Taliban seems to be too wishful, as the Taliban does not seem to be prepared to begin talks with the government of Afghanistan in the months ahead.
• Mandegar Daily:
o The trilateral summit in London would benefit Taliban and Pakistan and not the peace process in Afghanistan… Like the past, benefiting from the so-called peace process, more Taliban will be released from Pakistani jail after London summit and Pakistan would continue to support Taliban in the future.
o The paper says that given Taliban’s refusal to talk to the Afghan government in the past, the optimism in the London summit indicates that Britain’s spy agency may have received signals from the Taliban and Pakistan about the success of peace talks.
• Arman-e Milli Daily: The London summit did not reflect the views and concerns of Afghan intellectuals, scholars, women and the will of the vast majority of society.
• Dunya Daily: An editorial asks whether Pakistan will be sincere about peace talks this time and adds that Pakistan’s president has now given strong assurances that he will not allow terrorists to use his country’s soil against Afghanistan. The editorial notes that Afghans are awaiting positive results from this summit and are more optimistic about peace in Afghanistan.
• Sarnawesht Daily: The trilateral summit has increased optimism for peace and suggests that positive steps be adopted at the summit to promote peace.
• Weesa Daily: The United States has backed the declaration issued at the trilateral summit in London. Washington is trying to convince the Taliban to come to the negotiating table in order to pave the way for a responsible withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan. The paper also quotes Afghan political analyst Wahid Mozhda saying that talks are currently underway between the United States and the Taliban in Qatar.
• Tolo TV:
o Officials at the meeting in London urged the Taliban to initiate peace talks with the Afghan government through their Qatar office. Pakistan’s foreign minister criticized the current peace talks with Taliban and demanded the involvement of political parties and tribal groups. She criticized the government for not involving the National Front and National Coalition in peace talks, the official said.”
o Tolo quotes Fazul Rahman Oria, a member of National Coalition: “If political parties, coalitions and civil society are not given a role in Afghan peace talks, and… if the UN doesn’t have a visible role in the peace process, a successful agreement guaranteeing lasting and just peace and stability in Afghanistan will not be possible.”
o A member of the Rights and Justice Party said that huge successes can be achieved in the peace process during the next six months if pledges made in London are implemented, especially by Pakistan, and if political parties, civil society and women are involved in peace talks.
o “President Karzai and Afghan people want to find ways to provide judicial immunity for [a small number of] U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan [after 2014].”
o “It is not possible that peace talks will bear results in six months,” said a former Taliban official Syed Mohammed Akbar Agha.
• Outlook Afghanistan: For a long-term strategic solution, Britain should focus on the root cause of the shaky relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan and help improve cooperation on both sides of the Durand Line. It is not only important for the current conflict in Afghanistan, but also for long-term regional stability, peace and security. The border has never been officially recognized by Kabul, which is the root cause of most Af-Pak issues.
• Shamshad TV: The government said that trilateral talks held in London were successful. During talks, Pakistani and British officials pledged their support for the Taliban office in Qatar. Pakistani and Afghan leaders said that they want to work on a security, economic and border agreement.
• Tolo TV: “Hours after becoming Secretary of State, John Kerry met with visiting students from Afghanistan’s National Institute of Music (ANIM) and described the group as “ambassadors of peace”. These Afghan children [music students] will hold concerts in Washington, New York and Boston.”
Governance, Economy and Trade
• Tolo TV:
o “A halt in the activities of the Provincial Reconstruction Teams (PRTs) brought economic recession to many [provinces]; Tolonews reported…PRTs spent US$96 million in Kapisa during 2011-. The American PRTs stopped their activities in Parwan two years ago; however, the South Korean PRT has some activities in the province. The provincial governor said that activities of South Korean PRT were 70 percent satisfactory. The government accepts that it doesn’t have the resources to implement huge projects in the regions.”
o “The U.S. Central Command (USCENTCOM) suspended sanctions against Kam Air until the completion of Afghan government’s investigation into the private airline. The [Afghan] Foreign Ministry welcomed the decision and said that the Afghan government was committed to assessing the documents given to them. The private airline also praised the Afghan government for its support.”
• Shamshad TV: “Neighboring countries extort over $700 million from Afghan businessman, said the deputy chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industries.”
Military and Security
• Shamshad TV:
o “The withdrawal of foreign forces will benefit Afghans and the international community,” said President Karzai in an interview with a British TV Channel. “Terrorism doesn’t exist in Afghanistan and the war on terror should be carried on outside Afghan borders,” he added. He also said that thousands of Taliban have contacted the [Afghan] government and are willing to participate in peace talks.”
o Afghanistan signed a strategic [partnership] agreement with Norway. President Karzai praised Norway’s assistance to Afghanistan over the past. Norwegian authorities pledged to continue their assistance to Afghanistan, said a Presidential press release.
o [Afghanistan’s] Ulema Council will soon send a delegation to Pakistan to discuss the gathering of Afghan and Pakistani Ulema. The council once again called on the armed opposition to give up war and join the peace process and urged all the warring sides to stop killing Muslims.
Health and Education
• Shamshad TV:
o The Ministry of Health reported a visible decrease in child and maternal mortality rates compared to past years. Previously, the mortality rate was 1,600 for every 100,000 births. Now one mother dies in two hours due to delivery, said Health Ministry.
o A new assessment by the Ministry of Higher Education shows that 11 out of 65 private institutions of higher education are not meeting standards set by the Ministry. These institutions were given two months deadline to improve their standards otherwise they will be closed, said the Ministry of Higher Education.