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World Bank Looks to Mismanaged Trust Fund to Aid Afghans

Afghan Online Press - Tue, 30/11/2021 - 01:36

Michael Hughes
AOPNEWS
November 29, 2021

The World Bank is hoping to tap a multi-billion trust fund that had been reportedly abused by the Ghani administration amid poor oversight as a way of bypassing the Taliban and aiding Afghans who are suffering from economic implosion in the face of winter.

The UN and other aid agencies have issued several alerts about starvation in Afghanistan as the winter months creep up. The World Food Program said there has been a 37% surge in the number of Afghans facing acute hunger in the past six months. The situation was exacerbated when the international community froze funding to Afghanistan when the Taliban captured Kabul in August.

The new scheme would free $500 million from the World Bank-administered Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), although it would exclude workers in the public sector, Reuters reported on Monday citing people familiar with the plans.

“For now, it [the plan] will not cover salaries for teachers and other government workers, a policy that the experts say could hasten the collapse of Afghanistan’s public education, healthcare and social services systems,” the report said. “They warn that hundreds of thousands of workers, who have been unpaid for months, could stop showing up for their jobs and join a massive exodus from the country.”

Moreover, the plans are complicated by sanctions and the ARTF’s sordid history of being mismanaged by the Afghan government and the World Bank itself.

According to the report, World Bank board members will meet informally on Tuesday with UN and U.S. officials to discuss options. A Bank official confirmed that they may redirect ARTF funds to UN agencies to support humanitarian efforts.

The State Department said the United States, the largest contributor to the ARTF, is working with the World Bank on an aid package but provided no other details, as of late Monday.

One of the options under consideration would entail depositing ARTF funds in the international accounts of Afghan private institutions who would then disburse Afghanis to organizations locally.

The plans are “basically just a few PowerPoint slides at this point,” one of the sources said as quoted in the report. 

Another source said the Bank will have zero visibility into the disbursements once assistance is transferred into Afghanistan.

“The proposal calls for the World Bank to transfer the money to the U.N. and other humanitarian agencies, without any oversight or reporting, but it says nothing about the financial sector, or how the money will get into the country,” the source said as quoted in the report.

The fact the plan calls for flooding Afghanistan with funds “without oversight” should not come as a surprise to those familiar with the inner workings of the World Bank including vis-à-vis the ARTF.

The ARTF, established in 2002 and backed by at least 34 donors, had been one of the largest sources of funding to Afghan government non-security related operations.  Donors have paid more than $10 billion into the ARTF to provide direct assistance to the government, according to the U.S. Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR).

In 2018, SIGAR in an audit said the ARTF needed to expand monitoring of “Afghan government employees’ salaries” and blasted the institution for lack of transparency, poor fiduciary controls, and no mechanisms for tracking performance.

For example, according to SIGAR, the World Bank could not determine whether six projects worth $2.25 billion had met objectives. The watchdog said the transparency issues uncovered put all ARTF funds “at risk of being spent improperly.” 

“Because the Bank does not adhere to its own performance measurement guidance and has not addressed known measurement and reporting deficiencies and limitations, there is the substantial risk that U.S. taxpayers will continue to provide funds for the ARTF without adequate safeguards,” the U.S. inspector general said.

The watchdog had warned that if the U.S. government continues to fund the ARTF “without the World Bank addressing the monitoring and transparency challenges,” USAID “will be hard-pressed to explain the purpose and logic for supporting the extension of the ARTF through 2025.”

USAID officials had expressed concerns since 2017 about the ARTF funding falling into Taliban hands and being abused just as the inspector general was accusing Kabul of wasting hordes of American taxpayer funds. 

U.S. officials for this reason wanted to cut off funding for any development projects being conducted in any territory under Taliban control.

Meanwhile, Ghani has been accused of absconding with Afghan funds as he fled the country. This came after his administration wasted or stole upwards to 30% of some $110-120 billion in rebuilding funds since 2001.

It is interesting that the World Bank, the United States and other international donors had zero qualms about letting the Ghani regime mismanage billions in development aid while stalling in attempting to pass through emergency assistance through Kabul with the Taliban in power. That said, there is no reason at this point to believe that the Taliban would manage the funding any more effectively.


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Taliban release over 210 prisoners in Afghanistan

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 20:55
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 30 (ANI): As Afghans are struggling with the ongoing law and order situation in the country, the Taliban on Monday released over 210 prisoners from a jail in Afghanistan. The Taliban undertook this move despite the fact that affiliates of Islamic State-Khorasan, Syria and Iraq-based terrorist groups are emerging as a big problem to public safety in the country. As reported by Sputnik, after t
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UAE restricting political activities of former Afghanistan President, claims Taliban

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:55
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): The political activities of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his close aides have been restricted by the United Arab Emirates, the Islamic Emirate stated. A member of the cultural commission of the Taliban regime, Ahmadullah Wasiq revealed about the restricted political activities of Ghani and his advisors on Sunday, reported TOLOnews. "The UAE imposed restrictions on the po
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Lance Klusener not to continue as Afghanistan head coach

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:53

Lance Klusener has decided not to continue as the head coach of Afghanistan. The former South Africa allrounder, who was appointed in the role in September 2019, will not extend his contract, which expires on December 31, 2021.

"Having spent two years with the team, I will take away some memorable moments with me," he said in a press statement on Monday. "As I walk away from Afghanistan cricket team and its crick

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Local group raising funds to bring Afghanistan family to Newmarket - Newmarket News

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:49
Local group raising funds to bring Afghanistan family to Newmarket NewmarketToday.ca
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A Taliban Commander Seizes People’s Lands in Takhar

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:36

8am: Local sources in Takhar province say a Taliban commander has seized people’s lands by force. According to sources, the Taliban commander has usurped the personal property of the people in the Khwaja Bahauddin district of the province. Click here to read more (external link).

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Taliban removing Turks from their lands and giving it to Pashtuns

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:31

BBC: A group of locals in the northern Afghan province of Jawzjan have reportedly been forced to “migrate”. A number of Uzbek / Uzbek and Turkmen residents in Jowzjan’s Qushtepe district say “houses and thousands of acres of land have been confiscated by nomads” and that Taliban officials have “imprisoned protesters”. Click here to read more (external link).

تظاهرات مردم ولسوالی قوش‌تِپه جوزجان علیه #کوچ_‌اجباری اوزبیک‌ها و ترکمن‌های‌محل از سوی طالبان و‌غصب خانه و هزاران جریب زمین‌‌شان از سوی کوچی‌ها. آنها مدعی‌اند که کوچی‌ها موتر و تراکتور‌های مردم محل را نیز گرفته‌اندو آنهایی‌که مخالفت کرده‌اند از سوی طالبان زندانی و شکنجه شده‌اند pic.twitter.com/9MsySkLqIN

— Moheb Mudessir (@MohebMudessir) November 28, 2021

Here’s a video received on the forceful displacement of Uzbek and Turkmen tribes in Juzjan. #Taliban pic.twitter.com/vBhbLtI2TV

— Deepa. K. Parent (@DeepaParent) November 29, 2021

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St. Louis expects up to 100 Afghan refugees per week through end of year

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:31
St. Louis expects up to 100 Afghan refugees per week through end of year fox2now.com
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Decentralizing the power structure is the first step to real inclusivity, Massoud says

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:27

Ahmad Wali Massoud

Aamaj: The founder and president of Massoud foundation, Ahmad Wali Massoud tweeted that the international community must realize that it is not possible to form an inclusive government under Taliban rule. “Decentralising the power structure to engage all provinces is the first step to real inclusivity,” Massoud said. Click here to read more (external link).

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Newmarket welcomes Afghan family that fled Taliban and lived in Indonesian refugee camp

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:23
Newmarket welcomes Afghan family that fled Taliban and lived in Indonesian refugee camp Toronto Star
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EU continues talks with Taliban to secure humanitarian access in Afghanistan

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 19:18
Brussels [Belgium], November 29 (ANI): The European Union on Monday said that it will continue talks with the Taliban delegation in Doha to secure humanitarian access in the country and to possibly resume EU diplomatic representation in Kabul. Addressing a press conference, Nabila Massrali, European Commission spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy said, EU will continue the talk and we will continue to enga
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Taliban ask the EU for help to run the Kabul airport

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 18:56

Aamaj: Yesterday November 28 the EU said that the Taliban representatives asked them for help, to keep running the Kabul airport. The EU delegation once again emphasized that Taliban should observe women rights, and take effective steps towards inclusive government. Earlier Taliban said that they would not allow foreign forces to be in Afghanistan. Click here to read more (external link).

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Undercover Taliban Agents Seized Kabul From Within

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 18:51

Taliban (file photo)

8am: Three and a half months after the fall of the national government, US media recently reported that the Taliban covert forces had captured Kabul and other Afghan cities from within. Fugitive President Ashraf Ghani left Kabul three months and a half ago (August 15). As he fled the country, control of all provinces, including the capital, fell to the Taliban. Click here to read more (external link).

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Afghans Complain Of Beatings, Harassment As Taliban Inspects Smartphones

Afghan Online Press - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 18:28

By RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi
Abubakar Siddique
November 29, 2021

Yasir had locked up his shop and was walking to his home in the Afghan capital, Kabul, when he was stopped by Taliban fighters, who demanded to see his smartphone.

“They went through my phone and saw photos of me playing sports, working out at the gym, and hanging out with my friends,” Yasir, who did not give his real name for fear of Taliban retribution, told RFE/RL’s Radio Azadi.

“Then they beat me,” he added. “They slapped me and then kicked me for having music on my phone. I could do nothing but wonder what crime I had committed.”

Yasir is not alone. Afghans across the country have complained that Taliban fighters are prying into the personal photos and videos, contacts, and social media accounts on their smartphones.

The presence of music or videos that the Taliban deems to be violating its strict moral code has often led to harassment and violence, residents said. In many cases, Taliban fighters have confiscated, broken, or erased data from smartphones.

The Taliban’s practice has provoked outrage in Afghanistan, a deeply religious and conservative country of some 38 million people. Many Afghans consider it offensive for strangers to look through their private information.

‘Undermines Peoples’ Dignity’

Yasmin, a young woman, said she no longer carried her mobile phone in public. She recalled how Taliban fighters beat up her male cousin when they discovered music on his smartphone.

“They beat him in front of his friends and passersby,” Yasmin, who did not reveal her real name because of safety concerns, told Radio Azadi. “They don’t care about how this kind of treatment undermines peoples’ dignity. They just want to impose their extremist worldview.”

A militant Islamist group, the Taliban adheres to a fundamentalist interpretation of Islamic Shari’a law.

During its brutal regime from 1996 to 2001, the Taliban banned music, independent media, and many sports. It also barred women from working and girls from attending school as well as forcing men to pray and grow beards.

Since regaining power in August, the Taliban has reimposed many of the same repressive laws and retrograde policies that defined its former rule.

Subhan Misbah, a legal expert based in Kabul, said the Taliban’s practice of searching smartphones violated the same Islamic laws that the group claims it is defending.

“Islamic Shari’a law forbids any interference in the personal privacy of anyone without permission,” he said. “Prying is only allowed if someone is suspected or accused of committing a crime. People engaging in these activities need to be investigated.”

‘Punish Violators’

The Taliban has denied that its fighters are searching residents’ smartphones.

“Nobody has been authorized to search anyone’s mobile phone,” Taliban spokesman Ahmadullah Wasiq told Radio Azadi. “We have not heard of such incidents.”

But Mufti Lutfullah Hakimi, the head of a Taliban commission established to weed out “undesirable” individuals within the group’s ranks, rejected that denial.

“Why are you infringing on peoples’ privacy by searching their pockets and snooping through their phones?” Hakimi asked during a speech in the southern city of Kandahar on November 23.

Afghans say the Taliban’s practice is nothing new. During its 20-year insurgency, Taliban fighters regularly stopped people at makeshift checkpoints on highways and searched their smartphones.

Many Afghans reported intimidation or harassment as the Taliban snatched smartphones and, in some instances, copied phone data.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in an audio message sent to Radio Azadi in October 2020, admitted that the militants searched the phones of people who they considered to be suspicious.

“We do not check anyone’s phone to look at their photos or data,” said Mujahid. “We only look at the phones of suspected individuals to complete our information,” he added. “We look at their contacts and other information to decide whether we need to detain them and take them away [for further questioning].”

When the Taliban regained power, some Afghans fearful of Taliban retribution scrubbed their digital profiles, deleting messages, music, and pictures on their smartphones.

Copyright (c) 2021. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
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Heads of state at Economic Cooperation Organization summit discuss Afghanistan crisis

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 18:18
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): In the absence of Afghanistan, the 15th summit of the heads of state in the Economic Cooperation Organization (ECO) was held on Monday in Turkmenistan as the country continues to face a daunting economic crisis, local media reported. According to Tolo News, the meeting follows the ECO's ministerial summit held on November 28 in Ashgabat. Iran, Pakistan, Turkey, Afghanistan, Azerbaij
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Taliban takes over Afghan Independent Bar Association

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 17:55
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): Taliban have taken over the Afghan Independent Bar Association (AIBA) and plans on using it as a government office under the Ministry of Justice, claimed AIBA members on Sunday. This comes as a great number of Afghan prosecutors and advocates--many of whom were women--left the country after the collapse of the former government in August, reported TOLOnews. TOLOnews quoted a spokesm
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Afghan PM issues decree to unblock frozen bank accounts of former government officials still in Afghanistan

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 17:18
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): Afghanistan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund issued a decree ordering the Central Bank to unblock the bank accounts of officials of the previous Ashraf Ghani government who have not left the strife-torn country. Afghanistan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund recently issued a decree ordering the Central Bank to unblock the bank accounts of those former governme
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U.S. democracy promotion not credible: magazine

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 17:05

WASHINGTON, Nov. 29 (Xinhua) -- America's democracy promotion is not credible, said an article published recently on The National Interest magazine's website.

The United States has not stayed committed to its "lofty statements," said the article published Thursday, citing the country's withdrawal from Afghanistan as an example.

"Thousands of our colleagues and partners seeking evacuation, along with their

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PM issues decree to unblock frozen bank accounts of former government officials still in Afghanistan

Afghanistan News - Mon, 29/11/2021 - 16:55
Kabul [Afghanistan], November 29 (ANI): Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund issued a decree ordering the Central Bank to unblock the bank accounts of officials of the previous Ashraf Ghani government who have not left the country. Afghanistan Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund recently issued a decree ordering the Central Bank to unblock the bank accounts of those former government officials who have no
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