Originally published on Jun 19, 2017ANI News


Ambassador Shaida Mohammad Abdali in Indian Standard Time

Originally published on The Times of India (Mar 09 2017)


Bring Taliban to the table to nip IS, says Afghan NSA
New Delhi
The so-called Islamic State terror group (or Daesh) and the Taliban in Afghanistan are not opposed to each other. They have “a symbiotic relationship“. “People who are now saying that Daesh is the enemy of Taliban and Taliban will fight Daesh are wrong,“ said Hanif Atmar, national security adviser of Afghanistan in an exclusive chat with TOI.

Atmar said, “No Daesh has come from Syria or Iraq, it's the morphing and mutating of Taliban, TTP (Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan) and IMU (Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan) into Daesh. They are the same people, but there is a lot of re-branding here.“ They may be fighting in Nangarhar, but they are collaborating against the Ashraf Ghani government in north-eastern Afghanistan, he added. The next round of meetings in a few weeks with Russia, India, the US and other players, Atmar added, would work out what he said would be “regional and global strategies“ to tackle the growing instability in Afghanistan. Having been given four attack choppers to Afghan forces, what is Afghanistan's “wishlist“ from India?
“Rather than going into details of our defence cooperation, I would say the most important objective here is strengthening of the Afghan National Security Forces. We have demonstrated our will and capability to fight. The enemy we are fighting is three times bigger than that we were fighting in 2009-14.Then, we had 1,50,000 international soldiers. There are much less now. They need tools and resources. For this, we invite India as one of our most strategic partners, the US, Nato. But we will keep details away from public conversation.“ The security situation in 2017 is far worse than it was in 2009-10.

Taliban, supported by Pakistan, now provide sanctuary to groups like LeT and JeM that threaten India, and ETIM (East Turkestan Islamic Movement) that threaten China, among others, Atmar said. The Hafiz Saeed-led terror group may be largely (Pakistan) Punjab-based, but staying true to its birthplace in Kunar, Afghanistan, LeT, Atmar indicated, had found safe haven under Taliban.In other words, the situation is back to the time when Taliban played host to al-Qaeda.

Therefore, the “peace and reconciliation“ project, now being bandied about by Russia and China can't happen in the way they want it, which is using Taliban against Daesh.“First of all, the violent extremist organisations that we are confronted by are not just Taliban. There are four groups-Taliban and Haqqanis; second, Pakistani groups, including LeT, JeM, LeJ, TTP . The third are regional groups like ETIM and IMU. The last are international terrorists like Daesh and al-Qaeda.“ Atmar said, “Our response cannot be peace and reconciliation. We can make peace and reconciliation with the Afghan groups based on certain principles, but can't reconcile with the other three...Rather than getting Taliban to fight Daesh, bring Taliban to the negotiating table, you will never have Daesh.“

(For the full interview, visit http:www.timesofindia.com)

Uri attack: 2 POK `guides' released

The NIA released on Wednesday the two “guides“ from Pakistan-occupied Kashmir as initial charges against the duo that they helped terrorists in the attack on the Uri Army camp on September 18 couldn't be substantiated. They have been handed over to the Army who will facilitate their return to PoK. As first reported by TOIon February 26, NIA decided to file the closure report after its probe did not find evidence to corroborate the initial “confessional statement“ the two youths made to the Indian Army.

Originally published on Indian Empire (March 2017, Vol. 12 No. 10)


''Educating girls doesn't only mean educating the entire family but the whole nation"


We had last interviewed H.E. Dr Shaida Mohammad Abdali, Afghanistan's Ambassador to India, in our October 2015 edition. This time the focus of our interview was centered around women's empowerment, a key subject that Afghanistan is grappling with at the moment. Ambassador Abdali put things in perspective in this interview with  Editor  and Publisher Sayantan Chakravarty


Q: In April 2016, the New York Times wrote that Western efforts to improve the lives of Afghan women in sports had failed conspicuously. But there seems to be a lot going on within Afghanistan itself to allow women greater opportunities in sports. Your views please…


A: On the contrary, Afghan girls have been making head­ ways in sport since Taliban was driven from power in 2001. Girls teams at the national level have been formed in various fields in sport, there are now national female boxing team, national women's cricket team and a national female football (soccer) team, Afghan Women's cycling team, not to mention their active participation in martial arts such as Kung Fu, Taekwondo and Wushu. Afghan girls competed in sport at regional and national level; Tahmina Kohistani is an example who participated in Olympics 2012.


Q: What steps are being taken to improve formal education and literacy among girls in Afghanistan? In India they say that if you educate a girl, you end up educating an entire family. Do you agree with this point of view?


A: Absolutely, the Afghan government attaches great importance in educating girls because we believe educating girls doesn't only mean educating the entire family but the whole nation and the future of our country. Unfortunately more than four decades incessant conflict in Afghanistan badly affected education, more so girls' education as girls were completely banned from formal education under the Taliban regime. That is why the government is taking girls' education seriously and has been doing everything within their means to improve girls' access to education. Data suggests that significant progress has been made in this regard as the percentage of girls attending school has risen from nearly zero in 2001 to 37% of the total students attending schools.

The Ministry of Education has been implementing the National Literacy Program to raise literacy rate to 60% by 2020 on national level which is now somewhere above 36% with more focus on girls and women to address the gender parity in literacy rate.


Q: The average life expectancy of an Afghan woman is low. What efforts are being taken by the present Government to address this important issue?


A: In general, we can see tangible improvement in women's status in Afghanistan comparing to 15 years back. ,according to Afghanistan's Ministry of Public Health estimated life expectancy for women has risen to 62-64 as compared to the past which was estimated between 47-5O years. Improving Women's situation in Afghanistan has been a priority for Afghan government; both the president and the chief executive have laid stress on this issue in their remarks on many occasions. The result from the latest health survey conducted   by   Ministry   of    Public   Health   shows   that Afghanistan had made notable progress in health sector. As per the survey over 60 percent of the Afghan people now have access to basic health services, to increase access to health care services to 75 percent, the ministry is working to create 300 new health care centers. Steps are being taken to raise awareness among women about their health especially birth related issues and encourages them to use the health care provided by the government.


Q: Due to risk factors caused by war over the last three decades, the incidence of very young girls that arc married away by families has been high. Reversing this must be an enormous challenge before Afghanistan's society. Your views please ...


A: As I said the Afghan government is committed to improve women's status in all spheres of life be it health, social, poli6cs or economic. Despite the challenges that still hamper women progress, things have dramatically changed for women.

Afghan government ratified the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Discrimination against Women in 2003 which automatically repeals all sort of erroneous practices against women and Afghan government along with international NGO's as part of their efforts for protecting women's rights, have been raising awareness among people to do away with practices that violate women's rights. Reversing this overnight is very difficult task but Afghanistan is making steady progress in this regard.


Q: What steps are being taken to help Afghanistan's 1.5 million widows, most of them under the age of 35?


A: Decades of imposed war in Afghanistan has left large number of war widows. To help this widows the Afghan government is paying a monthly allowance to the wives of demised soldiers and conducts vocational training program with the support of some NGOs to make the widows self-sustaining.

Originally published on The New Indian Express (12th March 2017)

Afghanistan Ambassador to India Dr Shaida M Abdali talks to Ritu Sharma about India’s firm presence in peace-building mechanisms in the conflict-riddled country, the change in government in the US and the need for bringing back Afghan Hindus and Sikhs. Excerpts:

Q: How will the changing political situation in the US affect peace-building in Afghanistan?
A:The war against terrorism began 15-16 years ago by the US. Sanctuaries for terrorists still exist, and so do their support networks. Their 16-year war has not brought us the right results. We hope they will rethink their entire approach towards the war against terrorism.

Recently Russia, Pakistan and China had a dialogue and India and Afghanistan were left out.
Some may, no doubt, be trying to single out India. But when it comes to Afghanistan, it wants India to be always there to support us, because we believe in India’s sincerity against war on terrorism. We will never agree to any mechanism when it comes to-peace building in Afghanistan where India does 
not exist.

Q: SAARC has failed to take off and other South Asian countries have got together to be part of BIMSTEC. Does Afghanistan feel left out?
A: We want SAARC to function. We have always backed mechanisms in the region that are aimed at unity, economic cooperation, regional peace and stability. Afghanistan will continue to support SAARC, and at the same time, Afghans will always be looking at other mechanisms where Afghanistan has its interest.
Q: What about Chabahar Port?
A: Luckily after 13 years of efforts the Trilateral Transit Trade Agreement on Chabahar was recently signed. We are trying our best to make sure that Chabahar does not remain a beneficiary factor only for the three countries but for the rest of the region.