Wednesday, December 9, 2015

‘Arab Spring and Iranian threat have opened way for improved Arab-Israel relations’

ALTHOUGH ''Israel is on the same side as the Arab states against Iran,” no broader progress in relations with the Arab world is likely without improvement on the Palestinian track, the Jordanian director of one of the few think tanks in the Arab world focusing on Israel told The Jerusalem Post on Wednesday.
The Iranian nuclear program and the Arab uprisings triggered a change in Arab attitudes toward Israel for the better, said Dr. Abdullah Sawalha, the director of the Amman-based Center for Israel Studies.

“During the Arab Spring,” Arabs focused on domestic issues, he asserted, adding that “in the past, Arabs hung all their problems on Israel, but now they discovered it is not the main issue.”

While it is still too early for Israeli students to take part in large scale exchange programs in Jordan, he said, “when a Palestinian state is established on the 1967 borders – including land swaps and a capital in east Jerusalem,” relations will improve.

Sawalha claimed that his think tank is the first in the Arab world to focus on Israel and that he collaborates with people in Israel and Cairo, where much of the Hebrew to Arabic translation is done. He said the Hebrew University program in Cairo is very strong.

The Center for Israel Studies, founded in 2014, is an independent NGO dedicated to studying Israel’s politics, society, economy and military, according to its website.

The center seeks to expand “understanding of Israel in all Arab states,” it said.

The think tank director took part in the 13th Ambassadors’ Forum at Bar-Ilan University in Ramat Gan last week that dealt with the Israeli-Arab issue.

Asked about the danger Islamic State poses to Jordan, Sawalha responded that despite the organization’s presence near the kingdom’s frontiers with Iraq and Syria, “there is no fear since our security forces are very strong. We fully control our borders.”

Questioned about the threat of terrorist attacks in Jordan, he replied, “No country in the world can have 100 percent security,” adding that Jordanian citizens cooperate with the security forces to prevent violence.

“Jordanians are united behind King Abdullah,” he said.

Sawalha sounded a refrain often heard from Israeli officials, that despite the chaos in the region, Jordan remains stable and has a good education system and so on. This, despite the severe refugee problem caused by the wars in Syria and Iraq, he said.

According to the UN refugee agency, there are more than a million refugees in Jordan.

Sawalha puts the number at over 1.4 million and complains that the international community is not doing enough to help.

He pointed out that Syrian refugees are taking jobs from Jordanians and are working for half the salary. They are straining Jordan’s social welfare services, schools and other institutions.

And within this context, he said that the new project, currently under way with Israel, to bring Jordanian day workers to work in hotels in Eilat, is helping alleviate social pressures, as the official unemployment rate is around 12 percent.

The borders with Iraq and Syria are virtually closed to trade, he noted.

Under the plan, which began in the past month, there are currently 150 Jordanian workers working in Eilat, and by the end of the month, there will be 500. The government target is to eventually reach 1,500 Jordanian workers in the Red Sea city.

The Jordanian workers stay for eight hours and then return home to their country at the end of each workday.

Deputy Regional Cooperation Minister Ayoub Kara has been pushing a number of initiatives to improve relations with Jordan.

He told the Post last month that talks were under way to open a new border crossing with Jordan near the Dead Sea in order to ease tourist travel and bring in more workers from the kingdom to replace illegal migrants from Africa.

Asked about some of the other plans such as the proposal for a free trade zone, Sawalha said the problem is that potential projects between the two countries, such as in the gas, water and agricultural sectors, are stuck as long as the politics is stuck on the Palestinian issue.

The tensions on the Temple Mount and the lack of progress in the peace process track with the Palestinians are holding up advancement in relations, continued Sawalha.

Asked about relations between Jordan and Israeli Arabs, he said they were very good and that many study in Jordanian universities and travel through the country on their pilgrimages to Mecca.

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Donald Trump, you are now doing Isis's propaganda for them

Ella Griffiths

Republican Presidential candidate Donald Trump has dominated world news in the last few days following his call for Muslims to be banned from entering the US until in his own words, “we figure out what the hell is going on”.
As well as being a terrifyingly frank declaration of bigotry, Trump’s statement also undermines US security. His misguided belief that banning Muslims from the US would neutralise the threat of terrorism feeds the Isis narrative of war between Islam and the West. Slamming the door in the face of Muslims would only tip those on the brink of radicalisation over the edge, while further increasing distrust and violence. In short, Trump is off doing Isis’s propaganda for them.
It is incomprehensible for many of us how a man who comes out with such vile, Islamophobic rhetoric can also be a legitimate contender to run a country. And yet, here in Britain we can be proud that anti-Trump feeling is at an all-time high, following the unsurprising news that 61 percent of Ukip voters think that Trump’s policy is “appropriate” and a quarter of the British public support a plan to ban all Muslim immigration.
In perhaps the greatest verbal smackdown of recent times, Mayor of London Boris Johnson said in response to Trump’s speech about the apparently rampant radicalisation of Londoners that “the only reason I wouldn’t go to some parts of New York is the real risk of meeting Donald Trump”. Similarly, JK Rowling delivered the ultimate insult when she tweeted that Voldemort was nowhere near as bad as Trump. Even Nigel Farage thought he had gone too far – even if most of his supporters apparently didn’t.
Fortunately, the British public are beginning to recognise that Trump isn’t a laughing matter, but a dangerous one. A petition to ban Trump from entering the UK has reached 200,000 signatures, which means parliament will have to consider the motion for debate. The Home Office has the power to ban speakers from overseas coming to the UK under the “unacceptable behaviours or extremism exclusion” policy, and if Trump’s views were to be deemed as deplorable as those such as the Westboro Baptist Church and Ku Klux Klan officials then he too could be banned.
Of course, banning Donald Trump from the UK will not stop him from being Donald Trump, just somewhere else. There is also the nagging issue of free speech which puts a question mark over the idea of a ban. But this petition and the potential of a ban are symbolic gestures that carry a lot of weight.
Combined with the condemnation of the UK government, it sends a powerful message from Britain across the pond that hopefully might have some sort of influence. And it’s no hyperbole to say that he really could be a threat to national security, considering the glee Isis must be feeling at his divisive rhetoric and the very real possibility that he could one day become “the leader of the free world”.
Brits have realised that Trump has now made the leap from ridiculous to dangerous; one can only hope that this realisation occurs among potential Trump voters in America, and fast. In the wake of the Paris attacks, the San Bernardino shootings and other Isis-inspired terrorist attacks around the globe, the last thing we need is the language of Donald Trump getting anywhere near the White House. Thankfully, for the 200,000+ who signed the petition against his visit to the UK today, it’s clear that many of us still believe Love Trumps Hate. 

'Reckless' weapons transfers to Iraq fueled 'IS' atrocities: Amnesty International

Irresponsible weapons transfers to Iraq over decades enabled terror group "Islamic State" to carry out its atrocities, Amnesty International reports. The group is using arms and ammunition from at least 25 countries.
In a report released Tuesday, the London-based human rights watchdog said the huge amounts of internationally-manufactured weapons seized by the self-proclaimed "Islamic State" when it took over Iraq's second city of Mosul in mid-2014 were used to take over other areas and commit crimes against civilians.
"The vast and varied weaponry being used by the armed group calling itself Islamic State is a textbook case of how reckless arms trading fuels atrocities on a massive scale," Amnesty researcher Patrick Wilcken said in a statement. "Poor regulation and lack of oversight of the immense arms flows into Iraq going back decades have given IS and other armed groups a bonanza of unprecedented access to firepower."
IS had distributed weapons windfalls from several seizures of army and police bases across its multiple fronts, with some weapons seized in Mosul being used barely a fortnight later some 500 kilometers (310 miles) away in northern Syria, according to the report, which was based on expert analysis of video and still images.
The Islamic State’s fighters appear spoiled for choice when it comes to small arms. Its gunmen have been documented to carry not only the Iraqi-manufactured Tabuk, US-made Bushmaster M4 but also the Chinese CQ, German G36 and Belgian FAL among others. Amnesty said that, in total, "IS" was using arms and ammunition from at least 25 nations, and would be able to equip as many as 40,000 conventional troops.
The human rights group called on all states to adopt a "presumption of denial" rule when it came to sending weapons to Iraq, meaning stringent criteria would have to be in place. It also called countries to impost an embargo for sending weapons to Syrian government forces as well as armed opposition groups implicated in committing war crimes.
"The consequences of reckless arms transfers to Iraq and Syria and their subsequent capture by IS must be a wake-up call to arms exporters around the world," he said.
Report: Civilians killed in coalition Syria strikes
A group which monitors the war in Syria has reported that 26 civilians were killed in airstrikes suspected to have been carried out by the US-led coalition fighting the "IS."
The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which relies on a network of contacts on the ground, reported the strikes on the "IS" controlled village of Al-Khan in the country's northeast left only civilians dead, according to news agency AFP.
The US-led coalition on Monday denied accusations its fighters had carried out air raids on a Syrian army camp on December 6, which was reported to have killed at least three Syrian troops.
The US-led coalition has been carrying out airstrikes in Iraq and Syria for the past year, while Russia began its own aerial campaign in coordination with the Syrian regime in September.

Human Rights Groups Criticize U.S. Arms Sale To Saudi Arabia

The State Department has approved a $1.29 billion arms sale to Saudi Arabia, which includes as many as 13,000 precision guided weapons or smart bombs. The sale comes as Human Rights Watch charges that Saudi airstrikes in Yemen "have indiscriminately killed and injured civilians."
Congress was notified of the sale on Nov. 13 and has 30 days to block the deal — unlikely because congressional staffers have already carefully reviewed the sale. It now appears set to go through this week as part of the Obama administration's pledge to boost military support for Gulf states, after negotiating a nuclear deal with regional rival Iran.
A Saudi-led coalition launched an air war in Yemen in March. The Saudi royals pledged a quick victory after Houthi rebels seized the Yemeni capital, Sanaa, and ousted the Saudi-backed government.
For the Saudis and Gulf allies, the Houthis, supported by Iran, are a proxy for Iranian expansion in the region. The Saudis have vowed to counter Iran. But the war has dragged on, devastating Yemen and the country's fragile infrastructure, with more than 2,000 civilians killed and more than 5,000 injured.
"We used precision bombs in the beginning, but the stocks dwindled and we got no resupply," complained a Saudi businessman with links to the royal family. He asked to withhold his name so he could speak about a sensitive subject. "We know we have a problem, but we must prosecute the war."
For months, Saudi officials asked the State Department to approve the current sale, according to Saudi and Western sources in Riyadh. With dwindling supplies, the Royal Saudi Air Force has to rely on unguided weapons or "dumb" bombs. Experts say this increases the chances that more civilians will be killed.
"You can imagine them saying to everybody that is criticizing them, 'Look, if we have better weapons, there will be less casualties,' " says Ford M. Fraker, president of theMiddle East Policy Council and a former U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, who was in Riyadh this week. "I think that is probably correct, but I think the whole issue of civilian casualties is not one you are going to eradicate."
Human Rights Watch has called on Congress to block the weapons sale to the Saudis and issued a highly critical report in November charging that the Saudi-led coalition has failed to investigate what it called "unlawful coalition airstrikes in Yemen." According to the United Nations, most of the 2,600 civilian deaths since the coalition began strikes against the Houthis have resulted from those coalition airstrikes.
A Saudi military spokesman confirmed today that the Saudi military has an investigations committee that now meets to look into allegations of civilian casualties. According to the spokesman, the committee includes representatives from the defense and foreign affairs ministries, the Saudi Red Crescent and military lawyers. However, there are no public reports from those investigations.
The Pentagon's Defense Security Cooperation Agency, which facilitates foreign sales, says the sale would replenish supplies and "help sustain strong military-to-military relationships between the United States and Saudi Arabia."
The proposed sale includes some of the most advanced precision weapons systems produced in the U.S., including Joint Direct Attack Munitions, known as JDAMs. These and other smart weapon systems have GPS guidance systems, a substantial improvement over the unguided weapons that are now in the Saudi stocks. However, it's not clear when the new munitions would be delivered once the sale goes through.

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Will Syria Repeat the Fate of Libya, ‘Which No Longer Exists’?

Libya, previously described by western mainstream media as “Gaddafi's military dictatorship”, was ‘successfully’ toppled back in 2011 “to pave the way to true democracy.” And while the same very media now demands the ousting of President Assad in Syria, let’s have a look at what both Libya actually lost, and what it never had.

Contrary to popular belief, Libya, which western media often described as "Gaddafi's military dictatorship" was in actual fact, Africa's most prosperous democracy.
According to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), prior to the US-led bombing campaign in 2011, it had the highest Human Development Index, highest GDP per capita, the lowest infant mortality and the highest life expectancy in all of Africa.
“With life expectancy at birth at 74.5 years, an 88.4% adult literacy rate and a gross enrolment ratio of 94.1%, Libya was classified as a high human development country among the Middle East and North Africa region,” according to 2010 UNDP report.
A woman mourns for the Egyptian Coptic Christians captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, outside of the Virgin Mary church in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
A woman mourns for the Egyptian Coptic Christians captured in Libya and killed by militants affiliated with the Islamic State group, outside of the Virgin Mary church in the village of el-Aour, near Minya, 220 kilometers (135 miles) south of Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Feb. 16, 2015
“During the NATO bombardment of Libya, western media conveniently forgot to mention that the United Nations had just prepared a lengthy dossier praising Mr. Gaddafi’s human rights achievements,” Professor Garikai Chengu, a scholar of Middle Eastern affairs at Harvard University, wrote in his article for the Foreign Policy magazine back in 2013.
“The UN report commended Libya for bettering its “legal protections” for citizens, making human rights a “priority,” improving women’s rights, educational opportunities and access to housing. During Mr. Gaddafi’s era housing was considered a human right. Consequently, there was virtually no homelessness or Libyans living under bridges,” he added.
Libyan military soldiers check on an area asLibyan military soldiers check on an area as they battle with Islamic extremist militias in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.  they battle with Islamic extremist militias in Benghazi, Libya, Thursday, Oct. 30, 2014.
Libyan military soldiers check on an area as they battle with Islamic extremist militias in Benghazi
And less people lived below the poverty line than in the Netherlands.
“How many Libyan homes and bridges did NATO destroy?” the author then questioned.
Women’s Rights in Gaddafi’s Libya
One area where the United Nations Human Rights Council praised Muammar Gaddafi profusely is women’s rights, he said.
Libyan women raise red cards during a protest against the national unity government proposed by United Nations envoy Bernardino Leon on October 9, 2015 in Tripoli's central Martyrs Square.
Libyan women raise red cards during a protest against the national unity government proposed by United Nations envoy Bernardino Leon on October 9, 2015 in Tripoli's central Martyrs Square.
“Unlike many other nations in the Arab world, women in Libya had the right to education, hold jobs, divorce, hold property, and have an income.”
“One of the first laws Mr. Gaddafi passed in 1970 was an equal pay for equal work law, only a few years after a similar law was passed in the US.”
“In fact, Libyan working mothers enjoyed a range of benefits including cash bonuses for children, free day care, free health care centers, and retirement at 55.”
Education in Gaddafi’s Libya
“Under Muammar Gaddafi, education was a human right and it was free for all Libyans. If a Libyan was unable to find employment after graduation the State would pay that person the average salary of their profession,” Chengu said.
“Isn’t it ironic that America supposedly bombarded Libya to spread democracy, but increasingly education in America is becoming a privilege, not a right, and ultimately a debt sentence?” he questioned.
If a bright and talented child in the richest nation on earth cannot afford to go to the best schools, he further explained, society has failed that child. In fact, for young people the world over, education is a passport to freedom. Any nation that makes one pay for such a passport is only free for the rich but not the poor.
Libyans did not only enjoy free health care and free education, the author added, they also enjoyed free electricity and interest free loans. The price of petrol was around $0.14 per liter and 40 loaves of bread cost just $0.15.
With the above in mind, here are some extracts from the Human Rights Watch watchdog 2015 report on Libya, which clearly illustrate how the once prosperous country has declined into chaos.
“The fighting caused widespread destruction of property, and civilian injuries and deaths. Around 400,000 were internally displaced in Libya, including about 100,000 residents of Tripoli. Another 150,000 people, including foreigners, fled Libya. Most foreign embassies, the United Nations, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), and international agencies withdrew their staff and closed their missions in July,” the report states.
“Militias attacked, threatened, assaulted, or arbitrarily detained journalists, judges, activists, politicians, and ordinary citizens with impunity. Lack of protection for the judiciary resulted in a near breakdown of the justice sector in cities such as Tripoli, Benghazi, Sirte, Sebha, and Derna.”
“Lack of border controls and tribal infighting aggravated the security situation, allowing continued trafficking of humans, drugs, and weapons across Libya’s borders with Chad, Sudan, Egypt, and Algeria.”
“Libya’s justice system suffered serious setbacks. Militias attacked judges, prosecutors, lawyers, and witnesses, causing the closure of courts and prosecutors’ offices in Benghazi, Derna, Sirte, and Sebha, and a near breakdown of the justice system. The Justice Ministry in Tripoli shut down in July due to the fighting there.”
“Amid the breakdown of law and order and in the prevailing climate of impunity, women continued to suffer from discrimination. Some armed groups imposed restrictions on women based on their ideological beliefs. Guards harassed university students in Tripoli for refusing to wear the hijab. Some women faced harassment while attempting to travel out of Libya without a male guardian.”
“Record numbers of migrants and asylum seekers embarked on the perilous sea journey from Libya to Europe with 60,000 reaching Italy alone in 2014. The Italian navy’s large- scale rescue operation, Mare Nostrum, rescued around 100,000 from unseaworthy boats, but at least 3,000 still perished at sea.”
Professor Garikai Chengu states that the West has shown that unfettered free markets and genuinely free elections simply cannot co-exist.
Muammar Gaddafi
Sirte was once home to Libya's former dictator Muammar Gaddafi before he was killed by a NATO-led rebellion in 2011.
“Organized greed always defeats disorganized democracy. How can capitalism and democracy co-exist if one concentrates wealth and power in the hands of few, and the other seeks to spread power and wealth among many?”
So, if it is not too late, the US should ease its grip on Syria and leave it to the country to decide how “to spread economic power amongst the downtrodden many rather than just the privileged few.”

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Lavrov: Turkey Has Long Supported Daesh Oil Trade, Terrorists' Efforts

While Russia only recently revealed evidence of Turkey’s involvement in terrorist oil smuggling, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said Moscow has long known about the issue, but until recently did not want to believe that Ankara was as deeply involved as it seems to be.

As Daesh, also known as ISIL/the Islamic State, spreads its terror across the globe, its operations are financed primarily through illegal oil trade. Extracting crude from fields in Iraq and Syria, the terrorist group earns, roughly, $3 million per day.
Earlier this month, Russia presented satellite images which show how that the oil is being sold via smuggling routes through Turkey.

While Ankara has denied its role in Daesh’s oil trade, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov has said these allegations were a long time coming.

"Frankly, we have known for a long time how Turkish territory is being used for commercial operations with ISIS (Daesh), for the transfer of weapons and terrorists to Syria, as well as to provide extremists and militants with an opportunity to heal and rest, and then get ready for new operations, not only in Syria, but also in other regions, including our North Caucasus," he said in an interview with Italian media on Wednesday.

Lavrov also linked Turkey’s illicit activities to the downing of the Russian Su-24 warplane in Syrian airspace last month.

"We see no other explanation other than a desire [by Turkey] to disrupt counterterrorism efforts and make them less effective, or to prevent the Russian Federation from working in Syrian airspace, or perhaps even to derail the political process beginning to take shape on the basis of the Vienna agreement," Lavrov said.

The foreign minister also asked "why is it [Turkey is] not bombing terrorists as such, but the Kurds instead?"
A number of other countries have also put forth evidence of Ankara’s dealings. Most notable, perhaps, are allegations from the Iranian government.

"Iranian military advisors in Syria have taken photos and filmed the routes used by ISIL’s oil tankers to Turkey," Iran’s Expediency Council Secretary Mohsen Rezaie told reporters on Friday.

"If the Turkish authorities are unaware of the Daesh oil sales in their country, then we can provide them with such intelligence."

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has also supported Russia’s claims. A statement on the prime minister’s website "stressed the importance of stopping oil smuggling by the terrorist gangs of Daesh, most of which is smuggled through Turkey."

Turkey, part of the US-led bombing coalition, has denied any affiliations with Daesh, and has instead blamed the Syrian government of dealing in illegal oil. Ankara has not offered any evidence for those claims.

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Watch Hands Go Up When Hillary Clinton Asks Who's Been Affected By Substance Abuse

New Hampshire's struggles with a heroin and opioid epidemic have gained national attention as presidential candidates swinging through the early primary state have been confronted with personal tales about the drug's impact. But the extent of the epidemic -- how it has overwhelmed the state's cities, hospitals and fire departments -- is still hard to fathom.

Consider this: By the end of November, the Manchester Fire Department had responded to 683 suspected overdose calls during the year, or more than two a day. According to fire department data, the city had also witnessed 81 overdose-related deaths, the youngest being 18 years old, and the oldest being 68. (Manchester has a population of about 110,000.)

The latest example of the epidemic's severity came in a town hall Hillary Clinton held Tuesday in Salem, New Hampshire, where the Democratic front-runner was asked about what role the government has to play in helping the afflicted. "I’ve had two town halls right here in New Hampshire ... where the only subject was substance abuse," she said. "And I have had some of the most emotional discussions with family members, with recovering addicts, with people who finally got the help they needed.” And then, Clinton asked for a show of hands from those who have witnessed or been affected by a mental health problem or substance abuse. That prompted this:

In May, when Clinton first began touring New Hampshire and Iowa, she was stunned at the volume and intensity of questions about the opiate crisis, so sheasked her staff to begin drafting policy solutions. That plan was unveiled in September.

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Losing Afghanistan: The worst place in the world to be a widow

By Mellissa Fung

 Fifteen-year-old Lima is sitting in the corner of a small room silently listening as her mother talks to me about life as a widow: the hardship of trying to raise five children alone in Afghanistan.
Her mother, Zeba, wears a widow’s black headscarf, which she tugs over her face, covering more and more of herself as she speaks, until only her dark eyes are visible.
Her husband, Lima’s father, was “disappeared” eight years ago while working for a foreign contractor. They assume he was murdered, but there has never been confirmation. He’d left to escort a convoy, his usual duty, Zeba tells me, but he did not come back.
“When he escorted convoys before,” she told me in Dari, “he would typically be gone 10 to 20 days, and then he’d be back. But this time, he left and never came back.”There were rumours that the convoy was attacked and hostages were taken. A month passed. And then two. Zeba called her in-laws but they didn’t have answers and could not help. Her own father took pity on her, she says, and brought her back to his house, where he gave her a room to live in – with her children.
“Look at my life,” she says, gesturing around the small dark room, “I used to work outside the home. Now I am sick, and I have mental problems.”She shows me a bag full of pills.
“This is my medication. I do a bit of tailoring, but I don’t earn that much. I can barely cover my expenses.”
To be a widow in Afghanistan is to barely exist. It is not accepted – culturally – for a woman to live alone. And in this country of widows – there are an estimated 2 million, the result of more than 30 years of war – there are few options because most of them are illiterate or have never worked.
According to a UN estimate, the average age of a widow here is 35.
That’s how old Zeba says she is – but she’s not 100 per cent sure. She tells me she married early – it was arranged – and she was more or less happy even though her husband was prone to bouts of violence.
She makes tea and serves her children a piece of flatbread for breakfast before returning to work on an old sewing machine, donated by an NGO. It doesn’t work very well, she complains, but it’s all she has. She sews simple dresses, making between 150 and 200 Afghanis for each – about $2 to $3.
As her mother is bent over her machine, Lima steps forward.I ask her to tell me what she remembers, and it soon becomes clear she can’t distinguish her memories from her dreams.
“He loved me a lot. He loved all of us, but he loved me best.”“We were in our hometown (in Parwan province),” she continues, “and I just kept looking at the door every moment, expecting that he would come home. Twenty days passed, and I thought he would be home any minute. I heard him saying, ‘Wake up, my daughter, wake up.’”
But he never came home, and her life changed forever.
“Sometimes – sometimes my heart says that he’s still alive and sometimes I think he’s dead. There – there’s a heavy pain in my heart. Sometimes I think that I can imagine that if I had father and I could sit with him, but now he’s not with us. And sometimes when I see my mother’s suffering and working hard, and I think that if my father was alive, she would not work so hard.”
It’s now up to her, she says, to break the cycle of her family’s fate.
“The only one wish I have is to study,” she says. “I want to become a physician, save my mother from all these hardships, and support her. I want to become someone whom my brothers look at and learn from.”
It’s difficult to imagine, but Lima and her brothers are lucky, for children of a widow. Lima is going to school and has a roof over her head. A whole generation of children born to Afghanistan’s war widows do not have that luxury.
Better to be hungry than be killed
Nazanin is seven, but she looks no older than five. She’s a tiny girl-child, wide-eyed but wise beyond her years. She clings to her grandmother in the tiny mud hut they share with her older brother.
I meet her grandmother, Bibi Awa, at the Charahi Qambar refugee camp on the outskirts of the city.
She says she’s 60, but she looks much older. The lines drawn across her face are a silent testimony to the hardship she’s endured: the death of her husband and a son – Nazanin’s father – by a coalition airstrike, she tells me.
“They have made me a beggar,” she laments in a throaty voice. “Our children are begging in the streets.”
She’s lived here for five years after fleeing the fighting in the Kajaki district of Helmand province. Her small hut is decorated brightly, with pink and gold blankets she brought from home to make her grandchildren, Nazanin and her brother, Qudrat, who is seven, feel at home. Despite the harsh conditions, she says, life is better here, because they are away from the fighting.
“We do not find food to eat,” she says, shaking her head. “We do not find water to drink. We do not have oil to cook something. We do not have fire to warm ourselves. And we do not have honey, tea, coffee, and other things, but still we are a little bit happier because our ears are calm and we do not hear the fighting sound.”
Better to be hungry than be killed, she says.

Afghanistan Situation 'Extremely Unstable' One Year After NATO's Departure

A year after the withdrawal of NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops from Afghanistan, the situation in the country remains tense, not least due to Daesh militants, according to Russia's Afghanistan expert Andrey Serenko.

In an interview with Sputnik, Russia's Afghanistan expert Andrey Serenko said that after the end of the 13-year ISAF mission in Afghanistan on December 8, 2014, the situation in the country remains "extremely unstable".
He attributed it to the fact that apart from the Taliban, Afghan authorities are now also grappling with militants from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL).

"'The Afghan game' continues amid the emergence of Daesh and an inner split in the Taliban, which is currently gathering strength in the country," Serenko said.

He also referred to the political instability, conflict intensity and ever-increasing number of "active armed actions" in Afghanistan.

"In this sense, it is safe to speak about the deterioration of the security situation [there]," Serenko added.
According to him, the emergence of Daesh coincided with a reduction in the military activity of NATO countries in Afghanistan. 

"The Afghan security forces cannot fully carry out their duties on their own. The number of Afghan army servicemen and police is out of line with the challenges that they face," he said.

He referred to a lack of combat helicopters, ammunition and infrastructure related to fighting drug trafficking, something that Serenko said complicates the work of the Afghan security forces.

Acting without external support is a tricky task, which is why the Afghan security forces suffer heavy losses, Serenko said, adding that up to 30 Afghan servicemen and policemen die every day, according to unofficial information.

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