Thursday, 28 December 2017

Various types of valuable minerals in Afghanistan yet to be unearthed

Afghanistan Mining Potential, Challenges and The Way Forward
by Mohammad Ismail Amin - Mining Expert based in Kabul, Afghanistan.
This article was originally published on KHAAMA PRESS

Afghanistan strategic location is not only of an immense importance but also the tremendous natural resources the country possesses.
According to AISA research, there are various types of valuable minerals in Afghanistan that are yet to be unearthed. Afghanistan potential as a rich country in terms of natural resources is of significant to driving the country’s donor dependent economy into a self-sufficient state. Lack of peace, exploitation of minerals by warlords, lack of regulation and infrastructure have not allowed the country to stand on its feet.
In this article, I will be looking at the general mining practices around the world and comparing it with Afghanistan and by the same token explain how the challenges that jeopardizes professional mining in the country.

Lack of detailed Geological and Geographical information of the mining sites
The fact is that Afghanistan has the most complex and varied geology in the world, it is very essential to study and collect enough of information regarding the geology and geography of the mining sites. Unfortunately, Afghanistan remained in war for almost 4 decades, from the foreign invasion to civil wars and it has paralysed the mining sector in terms of collection of geological data, geophysical prospecting which is directly related to the mineral discovery, subsurface geological features usually with economic objectives. Though, in this regard Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) is the national custodian of geoscientific information but mining sector needs more detailed information regarding minerals discovery.
The current mining operational practices and extraction of minerals, do not have enough of clues regarding the geology of the sites being mined, the hydrogeology of the area and more possible minerals being disturbed or avoided. The more important is the extraction of minerals indulges the more detailed geological, geographical and hydrogeological knowledge to avoid numerous environmental impacts and hazards which has to be taken in account.

Well defined Topography and Aerial Surveys
A topographic map with contour intervals gives detailed information regarding relief or terrain, the three-dimensional quality of the surface and the identification of the specific landform. Aerial surveys and mapping technologies have been used for over 40 years around the world in terms of assisting mining companies through all phases of a mine’s life, including exploration, resource evaluation, feasibility, mine design, development, operations and site rehabilitation.

From Afghanistan mining perspective, on small scale mining even though in some cases in large scale mining application most often we avoid the importance of Geographical information system (GIS), aerial digital surveys and we lack these foremost important facilities in order to come up with a successful mining practices. It is very essential for the companies working in mining sector to adopt the standard mining operations from start to end.

Selection of Suitable Mining Method
Mining method selection is one of the most critical and crucial part of mining engineering. However, the ultimate goals to select a suitable mining method is to maximum the profit, increase the extraction and recovery of mineral deposits and work on safe environment for the miners with least problems among the feasible alternatives. The selection of a suitable mining method is a real problematic task that needs consideration of many technical aspects, economic, political and social aspects. Technical feasibility, ore geometry and ground conditions are the important consideration that has to be taken in account along with low-cost mining operation. Every ore body has its own unique occurrences with various properties, and engineering judgement in this particular part has a great effect on the decision in such versatile job of mining. In Afghanistan, mostly we have observed the old conventional surface mining methods, where in some cases it contradicts with the mineral deposit or ore body. It is very much important to study, search and adopt the current mining methods that are being used around the world.

Selection of Suitable machinery and Equipment
We have witnessed millions of dollars are being poured into the mining industry but we are failed to equip the mining operations with suitable advanced machinery and equipment. According to the directorate of Policy, MOM, encourages the importation of latest technology, quarrying equipment and machinery that would improve the efficiency, productivity of mining applications but unfortunately yet it is not brought into actions. Lapis lazuli and tourmaline mines of the rugged north-eastern province of Badakhshan are considered to be the richest assets of mining industry in Afghanistan, but due to improper mining and direct rivals in the violent competition between warlords disrupt the mining sites. If these mines become standardised, formalized and facilitated with suitable equipment and machinery, a mine worker would not carry load of over a 100kg lapis lazuli down the valley. The selection of these machinery and equipment varies in terms of the mineral deposit, method of mining and items of equipment to perform a specified task. Since we have most of the surface mining applications, the selection of equipment to extract and haul mined material, which includes both ore and waste, over the life time of mining pit. With selection of suitable fleet of equipment and their application, not only minimize the capital cost but also minimize the operational costs. Keeping in consideration and classifying the equipment selection process into three main phases, such as type of fleet, size of equipment and calculation of the required numbers.

Lack of Advanced Technology & Software to Create Ore Body Model
The development and advancement of computer technology rapidly increasing day by day and it has made the mining applications very simple and easy. The very important and basic usage of the computerised software in the mining is the reserve estimation, geological modelling, layout evaluation and mine design, financial modelling, selection of equipment and scheduling, geotechnical information and monitoring the overall mining operation. The sad dilemma is that in Afghanistan mining sector most of the mines yet do not have the usage of all these software facilities. It is important for the government and the Ministry of Mines (MoM) to urge the artisanal and small-scale mining companies to use recent advanced software such as SURPAC, MINEX, OPTIMUM, SURFUR, VULCAN, iGantt and many more. These latest and advanced software should become a part of academic excellence in universities for degree and diploma programs and government ought to arrange such informative seminars and workshops on this. As these integrated computers aided mine planning and design software not only help to increase the deposit-grade recovery but also greatly reduces the cost.

Lack of Mining Experts
Mining is a versatile field, it needs a lot of knowledge and experience to understand. A mining expert and engineer ensure that new processes and advanced technologies are introduced so that current businesses are optimised, update and utilised. This can only be done by innovative ideas to ensure quantum leap in performance and competitiveness. The mining experts and engineers supposed to have scarce and crucial skills. Unfortunately, Afghanistan mining sector has got very less number of such skilful experts. In small scale mining, we have observed contract based labours those who are not mining engineers by profession neither they have earned mining diploma. A mining engineer and expert supposed to ensure the safe and efficient development of mines along with surface and underground mining operations, surrounding environment and technical skills.

Processing Plants
As the word ‘processing’ indicates to those methods are being employed in mining industry to clean, separate, and prepare coal, metals, and non-metallic minerals from mines into final marketable products. The processing plants are responsible for the extraction of the pure form of the mineral from the ore body which is later on securely packed and shipped to market and customers for further usage and conversion. This help in getting a first-hand revenue and profit thus mining company has direct connection and approach to market. Bakhund fluorite deposit (BFD) which is situated in Kandahar Province mined by a private mining company, their current production reaches up to 60000mt/year as they claimed to have a mechanised processing plant. Their production can reach up to double of the current per year production. Most of the small or large scales mines do not have well adequate processing plants where these mineral deposits are sent to neighbouring countries for processing and laboratory purposes which lessen the profit. It is very essential to have these processing plants in host countries rather than the profit is being shared and minimized.

Environmental Impacts
Environmental impacts have a direct relation with mining operations, if it is not carefully looked after it would create a mess that can have some serious hazards to human being, animal and plants. The mining sites which are mined supposed to be reclaimed and planted with trees and other plants in order to make sure soil erosion, land sliding and other disasters. While collecting the information and history, mining sites being mined are left behind without proper reclamation. Afghanistan environmental law and National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA) stresses out the law to be implemented after area being mined but unfortunately very less of this implantation is observed. The unprofessional way of mining, conventional mining method have brought water level into a record level down, but also contaminated it with various chemicals being used or dumped nearby water reservoirs. The use explosives materials on mine sites could harm the and chemically pollute the air.

Way Forward
As mentioned, the above article gives a bird eye view over mining operational activities. There are few recommendations to mining sector of Afghanistan that the government should take them in account and must insure deciding whether mining is an appropriate land use.
  • Before starting operational mining site activities, there should be a detailed feasibility study report, which would include acknowledgment of mining that modifies landscapes and has possible long-term impact on communities and natural resources, site geology, geographical information, operational mining methods and an economic feasibility report.
  • There must be surety of socially sensitive or environmentally responsible mining.
  • The government and private owned mines must insure the standard mineral processing equipment, i.e. crushing & screening, Grinding & classifying, separation equipment, thickening & dewatering.
  • Hire more mining experts and engineers in industry who got skills in various mining software and GIS.
  • Ensuring good governance and Mining free of corruption.

Afghanistan: TAPI gas pipeline Project to kick off in first months of 2018

Afghan officials said that the practical work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gaspipeline Project will kick off in 2018. Senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani on financial and banking affairs said the project will be up and running in 2019. He said three gas distribution centers will be established in Kandahar, Helmand and Herat provinces to benefit from the project. The project will transfer gas from Turkmenistan to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India via a 1,814 km pipeline. The pipeline will start being constructed in Afghanistan in the first months of the next year. The Afghan government has plans to generate at least 100 megawatts of power by using the TAPI gas. “The TAPI project will provide a total of 33 billion cubic meters of gas to Afghanistan, Pakistan and India. Afghanistan will take 500 cubic meters of gas during the first 10 years, one billion during the next 10 and 1.5 billion during the subsequent years. There will be three off shoot points within Afghanistan in Kandahar, Herat and Lashkargah. We are working on the exact business plan for the use of this natural gas,” he said the senior advisor to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.

Tuesday, 26 December 2017

The role of China in the Afghan peace

The ambiguity of US goals, and the dichotomy between American actions and words in Afghanistan have seriously hurt the global credibility of the superpower. In addition to the majority of Afghans, the regional countries which initially backed the military presence of the US-led western coalition in Afghanistan now see the presence with skepticism, and even as a threat to their interests.
Although the United States accomplished its goals of intervening in Afghanistan in a very short span after toppling the Taliban regime, it later on created various pretexts to prolong its military presence. Some observers even see continued violence in Afghanistan despite American presence as “American game”. It is widely believed that the United States doesn’t want to fully prevent violence in Afghanistan in a bid to prolong its military presence; therefore, it is meaningless to expect the country to restore peace and stability in Afghanistan.
That being the case, Afghanistan has no option, but to seek alternative ways. One of the options is to encourage regional powers, particularly China, to help Afghanistan in its quest for peace. The continuation of violence and war in Afghanistan can threaten the interests of China which has major economic projects in the pipeline for the region, so that is why it considers a stable Afghanistan in its favor. By the same token, China’s role in Afghan peace is pivotal because it wields significant influence over Pakistan as the main backer of insurgents fighting in Afghanistan. There are even estimations that China has more influence over Pakistan than the United States has.
Unlike its long-held policy of staying away from getting involved in Afghan affairs, China has played an active role in Afghan issues over the last few years given their significance. One of the recent examples of China’s involvement in Afghanistan is the initiation of the Afghanistan-China-Pakistan Trilateral Meeting of foreign ministers, one of which will be held today in Beijing. This dialogue is a positive step only when the participants discuss the root causes of problems, and implement their commitments than deliver a ceremonial speech. Beijing has greater leverage on Islamabad it can use to press Pakistan to abandon its support for terrorists. Since instability in Afghanistan can threaten Chinese economic interests not only within Afghanistan but also in the entire region and that only a secure and stable Afghanistan serves Chinese interests, China can be trusted to play an intermediary role in, or facilitate Afghan peace.
>>> READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE "China’s role in Afghan peace" on
- The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Ivo Toniut.

To resolve Kabul’s electricity shortage needed $ 20 million a year of Govt subsidies to run a new $ 335 million power plant no one has ever used

USAID paid over 300 million dollars for a Power Plant in Kabul no one is using
Steps are being taken to resolve Kabul’s electricity shortage problem by increasing output at thermal plant as the residents of Kabul are frustrated due to the lack of electricity every year from October to March 8-10 hours every day. Officials at the Tarakhil thermal power plant said that daily 250 megawatts of electricity will be added to the Kabul electricity grid. According to the officials by providing more fuel to this power plant, its power generation capacity will be doubled. This is the largest thermal power plant in the capital, and was built in the past few years with the help of over 300 million dollars from USAID. The plant consumes about sixty thousand liters of fuel in six hours, in order to produce 250-300 megawatts of electricity. Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat, an energy supplying company, uses the plant in emergency situations and in winter. “In the first step, the Tarakhil thermal power system will be switched on and the capital’s electricity shortage problem will be solved and in case the problem is not solved then we will also turn on the thermal power plant of the northwest of the capital,” said Khowja Muzafar Siddiqi, Tarakhil thermal power plant manager. According to the officials the power plant is fully computerized. Whenever any problems occur at the plant the alarm activates, and the plant engineer will receive a message on his computer that will indicate what the problem is. “The technology that has been used in this plant is not used in other plants, here the technology is very advanced, and all the security and management issues has been considered in this plant,” said Samim Ahmad the Tarakhil thermal power plant technical manager. Officials at Da Breshna Sherkat said that in order to decrease electricity shortages in Kabul the plant must be active. Although, it is said that every kilowatt electricity from the thermal plant is about 40 Afghanis. “We run the plant from 4:30 p.m till 2:30 am because this time is the busiest time and ...” said .....

Monday, 25 December 2017

To eradicate poverty in Afghanistan is essential empowerment of women

By Kathleen Campbell, VicePresident for Programs at Women for Women International
About the author: Kathleen Campbell is the Vice President for Programs at Women for Women International. Prior to WfWI, Campbell was the Senior Deputy Assistant to the Administrator in USAID’s Office of Afghanistan and Pakistan Affairs. Campbell, a Harvard Law School graduate, has over two decades of international experience managing development and humanitarian programs.
This article was first published on Central Asia Institute’s Journey of Hope 2017 Magazine.

In 2003, I moved to Kabul with my husband and our first child to work with a research institute. Our daughter was six-months old. Like many first-time mothers I knew nothing about looking after a baby. We wanted to hire a nanny who spoke English so I could communicate all my misguided knowledge about baby care. We interviewed a number of young women recommended to us. They had learned English in refugee camps in Pakistan, but they were inexperienced when it came to child care. Ultimately, we met with a lovely woman in her thirties. She didn’t speak any English. She picked up our daughter with ease and proceeded to answer, in Persian, our questions about what would she do if the child was crying. Finally, having kept our daughter quiet and amused, she turned to our translator and said: “ I have raised seven children, do they have any more questions?”

We hired Zeba on the spot.

Like Zeba, most Afghan women are incredibly resourceful and have important skills, yet social and economic barriers prevent them from reaching their full potential. Insecurity, persistent social norms, illiteracy, and lack of employment opportunities and access to markets prevent many Afghan women from formally contributing to Afghanistan’s economy.

The number of civilian deaths due to the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan hit a record high in 2017. According to the United Nations’ Afghanistan mission, the number of women casualties increased by 23 percent, an unprecedented level since 2001. Lack of security poses a threat to women’s economic empowerment as fewer families will back women’s public participation if they don’t feel they will be safe.

In addition to conflict, women also face harassment and social barriers that prevent them from being part of the formal economic sector. Research by Women and Children’s Legal Research Foundation showed that nine out of ten Afghan women living in seven provinces around the country have faced harassment. Surveyed women said they faced harassment in workplaces and educational institutions as well as on the streets. According to the Asia Foundation’s Survey of the Afghan People, 74 percent of Afghans say women should have the right to work outside the home, however obstacles such as harassment prevent the vast majority from doing so.

Afghanistan also has one of the lowest literacy rates in the world and women are disproportionately impacted, largely due to six years of Taliban rule when girls’ schools were closed. As a result, according to The World Bank only 24% of Afghan women over the age of 15 can read and write. Without these skills, women are far less likely to access formal employment opportunities. Without security, safety, and literacy most Afghan women, especially those in rural areas, cannot access markets. As a result, less than 20 percent of Afghans surveyed say women contributes to their household income.

These obstacles not only violate women’s right to be economically empowered and self-sufficient, but also harm the country as a whole. According to the World Bank, Afghanistan’s per capita income is the lowest in South Asia. The country’s unemployment rate is at 40 percent and 36% of the country lives under the poverty line. This means more than one in three Afghans do not have enough money to buy food or cover other basic needs. The majority of this poverty is concentrated in rural areas where women face particularly high rates of social and economic exclusion.

The good news is that we already have the solution to decreasing and maybe even eradicating poverty: women. A study by McKinsey Global Institute shows that with women’s equal participation in the labor force, the global GDP could increase by 26 percent to $28 trillion dollars. Even if every country matched the gender parity rates of its “fastest growing neighborhood, global GDP could increase by up to $12 trillion in 2025,” the report argues. While the study doesn’t include Afghanistan, it shows that in doing so, South Asia and the Middle East and North Africa regions could increase their GDP by up to 18 percent.

In addition to increasing the number of women in the labor force, we need to invest in decreasing inequalities in access to tools and resources for women who are already a part of it. For example, according to the International Labor Organization, women make more than 40 percent of the world’s agricultural force, however they control less than 20 percent of the land. They also often lack tools and resources such as fertilizer, seeds and consistent access to water. World Bank estimates show that if women had access to these “productive resources”, up to 150 million fewer people would face hunger every day. In Afghanistan, of employed women workers, the majority work in agriculture and livestock sectors, but despite legal rights for land ownership, only 10 percent of Afghan women own land independently. Increasing women’s control and access over resources and land can increase productivity in rural communities impacted by poverty.

Reports and statistics from Afghanistan and around the world prove what we at Women for Women International (WfWI) have known for nearly 25 years: stronger women build stronger economies and stronger nations. This is why we have been providing women survivors of conflict and war in eight countries and regions around the world with direct cash and an empowering training program that equips them with the skills they need to rebuild their lives. Through our yearlong program women not only learn vocational skills, but also gain business and numeracy skills and become aware of their health needs and human rights. As a result, their daily personal earnings increase from $0.34 at enrollment to $1.07 at graduation. While at the beginning of our program, 33 percent of the women we serve around the world worry about running out of food, by the end only six percent do. In addition to economic gain, women we serve learn about their rights and their involvement in financial decision-making at home increases by 28 percent.

In Afghanistan, we’ve served nearly 110,00 women since 2002. We’ve trained women in vocational skills like animal husbandry, agriculture and agribusiness, tailoring, and handicrafts. On average the monthly personal earnings of the women we serve in Afghanistan increases from less than three dollars at enrollment to more than $38 at graduation. These changes go beyond statistics. They impact real women in one of the hardest places on earth to be a woman.

Take for example Zarin. A 34-year old mother of five, she struggled in poverty and without access to jobs, but she always had big dreams for her children. She decided to join WfWI’s program after she learned about if from other women in her community. She already had some tailoring skills, but at the program she solidified them and learned numeracy and business skills as well as about her health and rights.

“During the year, I gained a lot of experience. I learned how to do business. I learned about women’s health and how to protect our health and be clean,” Zarin says.

Today Zarin has opened a tailoring shop in a crowded market in Kabul, something uncommon for Afghan women. She not only pays her eldest daughter’s university fees and supports her family but also employs six other women.

Zarin’s shop is a success and she dreams of expanding her shop and providing more women with employment opportunities. “When we make our own money, we don’t need to depend on men for anything.”

Zarin is not alone. During our fifteen years of experience in Afghanistan we’ve met many women who have proven themselves champions of their own lives and that of other marginalized women in their communities. From Zeba to Zarin, the women of Afghanistan are resilient, courageous, and capable. With the right tools and skills, they have the ability to pull their families, neighborhoods, and even country out of poverty. For sustainable change and to address poverty in Afghanistan, we have to prioritize Afghan women’s economic empowerment. They are the hope.

High caliber Russian company to complete construction of Machalgho dam in the eastern Paktia province of Afghanistan

The Ministry of Energy and Water (MoEW) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan signed a contract for the construction of the Machalgho dam, in Paktia province, with a Russian company to the value of about USD 23,000,000.
Energy and Water Ministry said the dam will be 47 meters high and will be one of the biggest dams in the country. Once complete it will irrigate over 3,000 acres of land. Construction of the dam started seven years ago, however, work came to a halt and the contract with the construction company was cancelled last year after it failed to complete the project on time. The dam has been built on the Jelga River in Paktia province. Work will however start soon by the Russian company that was awarded the contract. “The contract was terminated due to problems in speed and work quality,” at the ministry said. “The Paktia people really wanted this dam to be built and I think their demands will be fulfilled,” a local politician said.

Saturday, 23 December 2017

Kazakhstan willing to invest in cereal warehouses in Afghanistan

Officials from the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) of Afghanistan said that currently Afghanistan’s strategic warehouse capacity for cereal is estimated to be about 270,000 tons and that government warmly welcomes investors willing to invest in the establishment of cereal warehouses, especially for wheat. Afghan officials said that the establishment of storage facilities, especially for wheat, would help cut down on import costs of wheat that comes from central Asia. Kazakh media reported that Kazakhstan wants to invest in the establishment of wheat warehouses in the country. Afghanistan currently imports thousands of tons of wheat from Kazakhstan annually. However officials in Kazakhstan have not lodged an official request regarding investment in the cereal warehouse sector, but Afghan officials said that with the establishment of such storage facilities, Afghanistan will be able to cut down on import costs, especially that of wheat coming in from central Asian countries including Kazakhstan. “We need strategic reserve facilities to be built in the country, but to make it happen it must come from which address and source? This issue so far has not been discussed between the ministry of agriculture and with the Kazakh side,” said a spokesman for MAIL. Economic commentators say that if warehouses are established along the borders, the Afghan government will be able to decrease its expenditure on the importation of wheat and that it will also help with Afghanistan’s food safety programs.

Friday, 22 December 2017

German Defense Minister said the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in recent years was too rapid

German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen
The German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen visited Mazar-e-Sharif City in the northern Balkh province. She said the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan in recent years was too rapid. 
The German minister called for a longer-term commitment. Von der Leyen criticized the rapid reduction in forces since the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) ended its combat mission in Afghanistan in 2014 but said the international community had now learned it needed to be more patient, the Reuters reported. "I haven't forgotten how it was at the beginning when we got out of ISAF too quickly with too big reduction in troop numbers," she said. She said everyone knew the security situation in Afghanistan remained tense. She added that Afghans continued to need support, advice and training from foreign soldiers. "There's still a lot to do but I'm convinced that we're going in the right direction with our mission there," the German minister said. "We'll need to have a lot of stamina - Afghanistan will occupy us for a long time yet," she said. US President Donald Trump announced a new open-ended policy for Afghanistan in August, authorizing an increase in US troop numbers to advise and train Afghan security forces and conduct counter-terrorism operations. At the peak of the ISAF mission at least 150,000 foreign soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan compared with almost 17,000 now - of which 10,000 are Americans. US officials are pressing Germany to send in more troops to Afghanistan as part of the increased international presence but say they do not expect any decisions until after the formation of a new German government. The German parliament voted last week to extend by three months Germany's military support for the Afghanistan mission to allow a new government to consider a longer-term extension.

Thursday, 21 December 2017

Today Thu 21 Dec 2017 in a street of the beautiful Herat, Afghanistan 
#ForeignCurrency #ExchangeRates 

Tuesday, 19 December 2017

ADB выделил USD 360,000,000 на строительство и ремонт дорог в ИРА

Азиатский банк развития (ADB) подписал соглашение с правительством Афганистана о предоставлении 360 миллионов долларов США на проекты развития транспорта в республике.
Свои подписи под документом поставили заместитель директора АБР по Афганистану Шанни Кэмпбелл и министр финансов Эклиль Хакими. Подписание соглашения состоялось в присутствии президента и других министров, а также депутатов афганского парламента.

In violation of the warning by the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani, unprocessed marble continues to be smuggled abroad

In violation of President Ashraf Ghani’s warning, unprocessed marble - also known as white gold of Afghanistan - continues to be smuggled abroad. During his visit to Herat about two years back, President Ghani had promised taking serious steps to prevent the export and smuggling of unprocessed marble from Herat.
At a meeting with businessmen, he had said: “I have received a report about the sale of Herat’s marble in Iran. I warn you against selling Afghanistan’s raw marble. I will close any company committing this illegal act.”
However, local officials, civil society activists and industrialists in Herat are concerned at the smuggling of raw marble. They say most of the stone is trafficked in raw and semi-processed form to Iran.
Mohammad Anwar Rahmani, the Herat customs head, confirmed to Pajhwok Afghan News the smuggling of Herat marble. He said the stone was transported through Taliban-controlled areas or other routes where government’s writ was weak.
“If the smuggling of raw and half-processed marble is prevented, the customs revenues will go up by 15 percent. We suffer a loss of 50 million afs annually due to the smuggling of marble to Iran and other countries.”
According to him, Herat customs department annually collects 20 million afs from marble exports through the Islam Qala crossing.
Several public representatives from Herat allege that some government officials and Wolesi Jirga members aid the smuggling of marble.
Massouda Korkhi, a legislator, told Pajhwok: “Herat’s raw marble is smuggled abroad by people having influence in the parliament and within the government.” However, she did not name any individual.

Closure of factories
Officials of the Herat Industrialists’ Union claim marble smuggling has resulted in the closure of marble factories in the province.
Hameedullah Khadim, head of the union, said about 45 marble-processing factories were operational until recently in the Herat industrial park. But due to the absence of marble stone, most of the factories have ceased to function.
“The first-degree, high-quality marble, before being processed, is smuggled by mafia to Iran and other countries. Thus the local factories are supplied with the 2nd and 3rd-degree marble for processing.”
Several factory heads complained of a shortage of the stone. Since the beginning of current year, Herat miners worked for only three months.
Toryalai Ghawsi, the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) deputy head for Herat and owner of a factory, said due to the shortage of marble, he had suffered a 55 million afs loss.
“In the past, the government would extract the stone and place it at factory owners’ disposal. But currently, the market is free and the good-quality stone is not supplied to factories and the government pays no heed. Earlier, about 45 factories were active in this sector, but now the number has dropped to 20 to 25 factories.”
Ghawsi pointed to four kinds of marble excavated in the province --top marble, 1st, 2nd and 3rd degree marbles -- but the factories were given the low-quality stone for processing.
“We once had 52 workers but now we have only 15. If we work 24 hours consistently, we produce 400 square metres. And in 48 hours, our production reaches 1,500 square metres.”
Currently, each square metre of processed top-quality marble is priced at 800 to 800 afs, the 1st degree marble at around 500 to 600 afs, the 2nd degree at 300 afs and the 3rd degree at 200 afs in Herat markets.
“We obtain one tonne of raw and irregular top marble for 8,000 afs, one tonne of 1st degree for 5,650 afs, the same quantity of 2nd degree for 3,500. But the 2nd-degree marble is sold for only 300 afs.”
While stressing the construction of a bridge on Harirod River in Chasht-i-Sharif for resolving people’s problems, he asked the government to monitor the activities of factories and miners to ensure the extracted marble was distributed in a just manner to factory owners.
Ghawsi claimed factories in Herat had high capacity and advanced equipment, which could process marble in a standard way.
But Abdul Sami Tokhi, an extracting company owner, said Herat factories lacked the ability to process marble stone because they only prepared it in a semi-processed form for export.
Meanwhile, Miners Union denied the smuggling of marble. It said local factories were unable to process raw marble to internationally accepted standards.
Attaullah Popal, head of the Miners Union and owner of a mining firm, said extraction from Herat mines continued for only two months. “Our work was stopped due to water-shedding from Salma Dam for four months. The Chast-Herat road asphalting took three months. Overall, we have worked very little this year.
“We have extracted less than 1,000 tonnes, but we paid a tax on 13,000 tonnes to government. Tax on a tonne of marble is 830 afs. Unfortunately, we suffered a $30,000 loss every month and we haven’t paid salaries to our employees over the past five months.”
He called the shortage of electricity, lack of bank loans to factories, dilapidated roads and the absence of a bridge on Harirod River the factors that contributed to their losses.
In the past years, 17 mines of marble existed in Herat. But now the number has fallen to 11. Abdul Jamil Ilyasi, former head of Herat Mines and Petroleum Department, recently said that 33 mines of marble existed in Chasht and Oba districts.
Of the mines, 11 were being tapped in the two districts and about 18,000 to 25,000 tonnes of marble could be extracted from each mine in the province.
Ilaysi had also expressed concern over the smuggling of raw marble to foreign countries from Herat because the factories did not have the capacity to process marble or meet international standards.
Despite all this, Zia-ul-Haq, the head of Herat Mines and Petroleum Department, spurned the claims of marble smuggling. He said the marble was being exported in semi-processed form.

Herat marble
Herat marble mines are situated 125 kilometers east of the provincial capital, stretching from Oba to Chasht-i-Sharif district.
Four types of high-quality marbles – fine crystalline marble ranging in colour from pure white to subtle light green white, Carrara and granite – were identified in Chasht-i-Sharif district.
In 1976, the Chasht-i-Sharif mine was estimated to have 500 metres length and 100 metres width and the capacity to produce 9.5 million cubic metres of marble. However, recent studies show the length of the mine is more than 20 kilometres.
Herat marbles are considered the finest in the world and the stone has many times secured first position among 52 countries of the globe.
Rokham, Tarawartanm, Chaqmaq in Chasht, Zandajan and Ghoryan districts are some of the mines that are currently being extracted in Herat. They are major mines of white marble in the country.
The Chasht-i-Sharif mine extraction has been handed over to a number of private companies by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum under formal contracts. About 1,000 tonnes of marble are daily excavated from the mine and exported half-processed.
Abdul Qadeer Ahmad, a marble seller in Herat City, said: “We sell construction stones, including marble from Herat and other stones coming from Iran and China.”
He added: “The quality of local stones is better than that of Iran and China. But, unfortunately, due to lack of security, technical extraction is taking place in Afghanistan and the stones we import from Iran happen to be cheaper.”
Dawood Ahmadi, another marble trader, said: “The Herat stone has a good market here. The Iranian and Chinese varieties are cheaper. Also, Heratis favour and use the 2nd and 3rd-rated marble. The best marble has more buyers in Kabul and Mazar-i-Sharif.”

Border police efforts
The Afghanistan Border Police (ABP) says serious security measures had been taken to curb the illegal trafficking in raw marble stone.
Gulbuddin Alokozay, ABP’s 5th brigade commander, said dozens of tonnes of marble had been saved from being smuggled. “We confiscated five truckloads of marble destined for Iran and arrested three individuals this year.”
Meanwhile, Jilani Farhad, the governor’s spokesman, confirmed receiving reports about marble smuggling from Herat. Steps had been taken for preventing the unlawful practice, he claimed.
“Several individuals, who wanted to smuggle marble, have been referred to judicial organs. We have also sent more security personnel to Chasht-i-Sharif mines.”
However, officials of the Herat attorney office did confirm the arrest of smugglers this year.
>>> READ ORIGINAL ARTICLE by Storai Karimi on Pajhwok @

About 80% of marble companies in Afghanistan are on verge of collapse because of the non-extension of semi-precious stones contracts

Almost 80 percent of marble companies in the country are on verge of a financial recession because of the non-extension of semi-precious stones contracts, officials from the Stone Industry Union said.
The contracts for the extraction of stone have not been extended for the past three years, officials said, adding that the situation has stopped the process of extraction of marble and has led to an increase in the illegal extraction of the stone. Marble factory owners have said that currently, only around 20 percent of marble factories are operational in the country.
“They are not allowing us to produce the marble legally, so it forces us to resort to illegal ways. They have created the situation themselves. Either the government is a thief or it has links with them,” said Nematullah, Chairman of the Stone Industry Union.
According to the Union, the body is suffering a loss of over 400 million Afs annually due to the ambiguity that surrounds the contracts for the extraction of marble in the country. They accused the government of negligence. “The government must undertake new contracts to save factories from demise,” said Abdul Bari, a marble factory owner in Wardak province. The ministry of mines and petroleum has said it is currently assessing over 1000 contracts of small capacity mines. “So far it has not been decided whether to extend these contracts through the ministry of mines and petroleum or through the economic council, but the plan is that the ministry of mines and petroleum deal with the contracts,” said Abdul Qadeer Mufti, spokesman for the ministry of mines and petroleum. Abdul Qadeer is an employee of a marble factory which recently collapsed due to financial recession. The company had over 20 workers six months ago, but now it hardly manages to pay the salary of three employees. He said that the company has failed to pay his wage for the past three months. “These days both employees and the factory owners are engaging in problems. Today we hardly manage to buy a loaf bread,” said Abdul Qayoum.

Monday, 18 December 2017

Head of Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority, Mr. Mahmood Shah Habibi, questioned by lawmakers over alleged corruption

Head of Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority was questioned by lawmakers on Monday 18 December 2017 over alleged corruption in appointments, collection of revenues and other problems.

Qais Hasan, the Head of parliamentary Commission for Communications, said that THERE IS NO TRANSPARENCY in contracts made by the authority and that its officials are working for personal interests.
Mr. Mahmood Shah Habibi, Head of CAA
He said that the appointments in the authority are made based on connections rather than merit. He added that weak management at the authority is one of the reasons why Afghan airlines are on EU blacklist.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Hassan Fahimi, an MP representing Sar-i-Pul province in the Lower House, said that the government limited the parliament’s monitoring of Civil Aviation Authority by making it independent.
Earlier, a list of Civil Aviation Authority personnel went viral on social media, which showed that majority of the personnel belong to a single ethnic group.
The Authority is also blamed for hike in airline ticket prices.
>>>

Saturday, 16 December 2017

Afghanistan - Women in Herat are highly interested in sports as many gyms have been opened for them in the city

Afghan companies face many challenges using the Internet for marketing

Ways to improve online markets in the country have been discussed at a gathering of government officials and investors in the Afghan Capital Kabul, as many Afghan consumers complain about the high cost of Internet services which is hampering online business.  According to government statistics, at least 30% of Afghan people use internet services, but at a very high cost. “Everyone has become tired of letters and signatures, therefore we established an office under name of Asaan [Easy] through which we want to ease the administrative processes of our public services particularly for investors,” said the minister of communication and information technology. Participants at the event regarded media websites and other internet sites as the main tools for digital marketing. The deputy head of Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI), Yunus Mohmand, said companies are faced with many challenges of using the internet for marketing. “The price for internet services is very high. Students contact us and say they need internet for their lessons, but they cannot afford it,” he said. Meanwhile, representatives of private banks said they are at the forefront of using internet for their marketing. “Customers can do their dealing by using their phones or computers. These plans ease the online dealing and it will improve the non-cash paying in Afghanistan,” said a representative of a private bank in Kabul. According to the Ministry of Communication and Information Technology, at least 8 million of Afghans have access to the internet provided by 6 telecommunications companies and 50 internet services companies. The minister of communication said at least 3 billion USD has been invested in the information technology and telecommunication. He said the amount will increase to 5 billion USD by 2020.

Friday, 15 December 2017

Spy satellites are revealing Afghanistan's lost empires

The lost caravans of the Silk Road in Afghanistan were recently discovered using satellite images. Images of spy satellites are revealing the lost Silk Road outposts and traces of empires that have disappeared in the desert regions of Afghanistan, reveals new research. The new archaeological knowledge comes from decades of images collected by commercial satellites and spies and drones, Science reported. Among the findings are: huge caravanserai, or outposts used by travelers on the Silk Road for millennia, and underground canals that were buried by the desert sands. The archeological sites are too dangerous to explore in person, so the new mapping effort allows researchers to study Afghanistan's archaeological heritage safely, experts said recently at a meeting of the Oriental Research Schools in the United States. "I would expect tens of thousands of archaeological sites to be discovered, only when these sites are registered can they be studied and protected," David Thomas, an archaeologist at La Trobe University in Melbourne, Australia, who has done remote sensing work in Afghanistan, but has not He is a member of the mapping team, he told Science. Some of the most striking sites are the massive caravasares used by Silk Road travelers dating back to the 17th century. These clay access stations could house hundreds of people and their livestock and were interspersed every 12 miles (20 kilometers), the distance caravans could travel a day before resting, Science reported. The Silk Road was a massive network of routes that spanned the world from Japan and Korea in the east to the Mediterranean Sea in the west. For centuries, luxuries such as tea, precious gems, perfume, spices and, of course, silk, from the east made their way westward along these land routes, according to UNESCO. At the midpoint of Central Asia, the geographical region that is now Afghanistan was at the crossroads of these old trade routes and, therefore, benefited from all the trade that flowed through the region. When the silk routes flourished, the empires of the region accumulated great wealth, according to the United Nations Assistance Missions in Afghanistan (UNAMA). The conventional wisdom was that once maritime routes were opened between India and China and the West in the 15th and 16th centuries, these caravan routes, and once rich empires that benefited from them, declined, according to UNAMA. However, the new spy satellite images reveal that these commercial routes continued to prosper a few centuries later. The effort is also discovering the lost history of other periods of time. The images compiled in the 1970s are being reexamined to reveal hidden channels that extend through the country's Helmand and Sistan provinces, Science reported. These channels were probably built during the Parthian Empire and helped agriculture to flourish. The images also revealed the crucible of religions that once thrived in the area, from the fire temples of Zoroaster to the Buddhist stupas.

>>> ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED in Live Science @ 
By Andrew Lawler, a contributing correspondent who writes frequently about archaeology.

Turkmen Government may reduce electricity price for Afghanistan

Turkmenistan will reduce the price of electricity imported to Afghanistan, according to a statement from Afghanistan CE Abdullah Abdullah’s office. The announcement was made during the meeting between visiting Turkmenistan Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Rasit Meredow with CE Abdullah Abdullah. Turkmen foreign minister said his country’s leadership has decided to sell one unit of electricity against two cents to northwestern provinces of Afghanistan to facilitate people there. The neighboring country will also provide scholarships to Afghan students for higher studies in energy and transport disciplines. The two parties also discussed Azuru Corridor and the Kabul process during their meeting. Abdullh thanked Turkmenistan for its continuous support and said Afghanistan was looking forward to more cooperation with the neighboring country in energy and transit areas.

Wednesday, 13 December 2017

I cani-eroe reduci dall’Afghanistan - Petizione online per salvarli

Kevin e Dazz erano di stanza in Afghanistan, nella provincia di Helmand, al seguito delle truppe britanniche. Hanno salvato centinai di vite aiutando i soldati a individuare mine ed esplosivi.
Poi quattro anni fa sono andati in pensione e sono rientrati in Gran Bretagna. Da allora sono ospitati in un centro ad hoc, nel Leicestershire. Adesso le autorità hanno deciso di sopprimerli: «Non possono essere affidati a nessuna famiglia, sono pericolosi». Come raccontano i media britannici, Kevin e Dazz saranno soppressi la prossima settimana. Ma gli ex colleghi dei due pastori belgi, i militari che li hanno avuti al loro fianco in missione, stanno tentando di salvarli. Per questo hanno scritto un appello al Defence Animal Centre. «Le persone che hanno lavorato a stretto contatto con questi cani sono devastati dalla notizia che i due animali verranno uccisi. Non esiste un protocollo per decidere se ex cane militare deve essere soppresso o no – spiegano i veterani – Il comandante decide e basta. È un modo terribilmente crudele di trattare animali che hanno dato così tanto. Faremo qualsiasi cosa per salvarli». «Quando è possibile ci impegniamo a dare una nuova casa ai cani che hanno lavorato con noi – ha detto un portavoce dell’esercito britannico – . Purtroppo ci sono occasioni in cui questo non è possibile». Intanto è stata lanciata una petizione online per fare pressione sul .... >>> LEGGI L'INTERO ARTICOLO

Kabul juice factory trying to export Afghanistan juice to Central Asia markets

Omid Bahar, a juice production factory in Kabul, is trying to export Afghanistan juice to India and other central Asia markets. Factory employees say Afghanistan’s fruit is of good quality and demands for the country's juice are on the rise in domestic and world’s markets. Omid Bahar is now trying to grow its investments to make this possible. Pakistan has increased custom charges on Afghanistan juice up to 60 percent and that it prevents Afghanistan juice from being exported to that country, the official said. The factory was established seven years ago with a low capacity of fruit processing, but now they can produce 200,000 liters juice and milk daily, say employees. “Last year, the market for our products was less, but this year it is good, it is improving,” a technical employee of the factory Ali Reza said. The owner of Omid Bahar factory, Abdul Rahman, said this year they were able to change thousands of tons of fruits to powder and then use the powder for making juice. Abdul Rahman said they are trying to export 17 types of juice to the Indian and Central Asian markets. “At the first step, we have exports to India. We have sent some products to Pakistan in order to get feedback from them. We have the capacity of producing 200,000 liters of juice every day. It is high for Afghanistan, we should start exporting our products (to other countries),” said Abdul Rahman. Currently, over 150 people work in the Omid Bahar factory and if the factory’s activities are expanded, more people will be hired. “We will not have to migrate to other countries for work if there are factories like this in Afghanistan,” Reshad, an employee of the factory said.

Terrorists and criminal groups created the most insecurity in areas of Afghanistan which are very rich of rare metals

The Ministry of Mine and Petroleum (MoMP) of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan says it is worried that terrorists and insurgents might extract minerals from several mines of the Country, including gold, uranium and other rare metals.

Improving Afghan agriculture through boosting productivity and quality

Farming innovations improve livelihoods and incomes 
in Afghanistan’s Balkh Province
- North Regional Coordinator
Ahmad Fahim Jabari works as the North Regional Coordinator for the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) based in Mazar-e-Sharif, Balkh - Afghanistan. A graduate from the agriculture faculty of Balkh University, Jabari has been associated with the project since 2009.

Every working day, I work closely with my colleagues and coordinate with other stakeholders. I am happy with my job as a member of the National Horticulture and Livestock Project (NHLP) because we work to strengthen rural development, the foundation of Afghanistan’s economy.
When I joined NHLP as the information and communication officer in 2009, I realized that farmers in northern Afghanistan were all but unaware of improved practices and technologies in horticulture, livestock, and irrigation systems. Their production and productivity were low, and maintaining consistent product quality was a challenge. As a person who studied agriculture and has lived in northern Afghanistan, I remember that farmers were never convinced by the idea of adopting modern horticultural techniques and, despite their hard work, they earned little.
At the beginning of the project, it was hard for the farmers to trust NHLP, the new techniques that were introduced were proven to be more efficient and economically viable. The project is transforming the traditional system of horticulture and livestock to a more productive and modern one. The new orchards are designed and laid out well, and planted with fruit saplings that are marketable and adapted to the weather and geography of the province.
Through the NHLP, we have provided support to farmers in northern Afghanistan, including Balkh Province. In Balkh Province, NHLP has more than 60 different horticulture and livestock activities. The project has, for example, established about 2,000 hectares of new orchards and more than 150 water harvesting and catchment structures. Further, over 2,000 women have received kitchen gardening support, while 1,100 women have received poultry support.
Day by day, our efforts in NHLP are showing positive results. Farmers are using the agro-techniques learnt through the project to continously improve results. NHLP interventions have changed the lives of many farmers, women and men, by encouraging and supporting them to cultivate marketable products. The farmers supply local and national markets, and in some areas, they produce enough to export. We can see high quality horticulture and livestock products by Afghan farmers in the markets, which clearly show NHLP contributions. More farmers are becoming interested in knowing about the project, with the interest growing each year.
Farmers now believe NHLP to be their own project and are willing to adopt the improved technologies on a shared cost basis. With this support, we have been able to expand our activities in most areas. When we travel around the northern provinces, we can see the new orchard systems, modern horticulture methods, great products, new raisin drying houses, new irrigation systems, and improved livestock husbandry. Sadly, the security situation of our country sometimes adds to the challenges of the NHLP team, but we manage to do our field activities when the situation improves.
From farmers to their families to communities, NHLP is making lives better and richer in rural Afghanistan and I am proud of being part of the story.

NHLP operates under the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL). With a $190 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), NHLP is working toward the overarching goal of promoting the adoption of improved production practices by the target farmers with gradual roll-out of farmer-centric service delivery system and investment support. Its horticultural activities are currently implemented in about 300 districts in 31 target provinces, numbers that may grow as conditions allow. The project will run through to the end of 2020.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Released the implementation results of a 2-year food fortification project in The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) in Afghanistan released the implementation results of a two-year food fortification project in Afghanistan on Sunday, 10th of December. The document, released during a stakeholders’ workshop, highlights the achievements, challenges, and lessons learned during the life of the project. USAID’s $9.7 million commitment aimed to increase availability and access to essential vitamins and minerals—also known as micronutrients—through fortified edible oil, wheat flour, and iodized salt by laying a strong foundation for a sustainable fortification program. More than 70 percent of the energy intake of Afghans is grain-sourced, and an average Afghan consumes around 400 grams of wheat flour bread daily—three times higher than the average world consumption. “This project is of critical importance,” said USAID Health Office Director in Afghanistan, William Slater. “Many people in Afghanistan suffer from micronutrient deficiencies and to focus on increasing access to fortified foods, is an effective approach to combating malnutrition.” The USAID, GAIN, and MoPH partnership helped reduce taxes on premix imports from 32 percent to 2 percent, enhanced the capacity of the Ministry of Public Health central food laboratory, and facilitated the endorsement of Afghanistan’s food fortification regulation, which now makes food fortification mandatory. “Micronutrient fortification of staple food is one of the most effective ways to prevent micronutrient malnutrition”, said Greg Garrett, Director of Large Scale Food Fortification at GAIN. “In the past two years, USAID, GAIN, and the Government of Afghanistan worked together through an agreed action plan to advance the food fortification agenda, through advocacy efforts, legislation and private sector participation, as well as increasing demand for fortified food in the Afghanistan market.”

Eleven Minister Candidates receive votes of Confidence in Afghanistan’s Constitutional Cabinet

For almost a year, more than half of Afghanistan’s cabinet members were in an acting minister capacity only, putting their legitimacy into question. In late November 2017, the President finally had 12 minister candidates introduced to parliament. They faced votes of confidence on 4 December 2017. All but one – the only woman – passed. Now, just three ministries remain to be led by acting ministers, with another ministry in an unresolved status.

The vote in the Wolesi Jirga
Previous votes of confidence in the Wolesi Jirga have been protracted, controversial affairs (see AAN analysis here). But this time, almost everything went quickly and smoothly. 12 candidates were introduced to the house by Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh on 25 November 2017. On 4 December, 11 of the 12 were voted into full office within hours. Among them were candidates for two key security cabinet posts. All had already been leading their respective ministries in an acting minister’s capacity, most of them, like Bahrami for the Defence Ministry, for months, although Dr Najibullah Khoja Omary (higher education) had only been in office for a few days. Many of their predecessors have been voted out of office by the Wolesi Jirga in late 2016 (AAN analysis here).
224 MPs were present in the 4 December session, so the candidates had to receive at least 113 votes to become a minister.
The only candidate who was unable to do so was the only woman in the group, Nargis Nehan, a former civil society activists nominated for the crucial mining and petroleum ministry. She received only 107 ‘yes’ votes. Another candidate, Shahzad Gul Aryubi for the Ministry of Telecommunication, cleared the threshold by just two votes. Along with Karimi (for agriculture) there are now two cabinet posts filled by south-eastern Pashtuns, a group that generally feels underrepresented at the central government level. (A long-serving predecessor of Aryubi’s, Amirzai Sangin, also came from the southeast.)
The candidate with the next lowest number of ‘yes’ votes was Faizullah Zaki, now Minister of Labour and Social Affairs. He is an Uzbek and known stalwart of the Jombesh party led by estranged First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum (see here) who is in Turkey officially for medical treatment; Uzbek candidates have previously regularly failed to win a majority in the house.
With Wais Barmak (Interior) and Tareq Shah Bahrami (Defence), the two candidates for security portfolios made it through securely. The same went for Gul Agha Sherzai for the touchy tribal and border affairs ministry that has historically had among its tasks keeping up relations with the Pashtuns and Baloch in Pakistan in what Afghans consider the country’s lost eastern territories, taken away in the British colonial times. As a former key mujahedin commander in the Kandahar region, a representative of Afghanistan’s warlord period has again become a minister. (The last one was Ismail Khan from Herat, who was Minister for Water and Power under Hamed Karzai.) With strong followings in eastern and southern Afghanistan – where he served as provincial governor of Kandahar and Nangrahar – Gul Agha’s appointment can be read as an attempt by the president to win over those potential voter bases for the upcoming presidential election. (In 2014, Gul Agha supported Abdullah.)
Another important election is that of new economy minister Muhammad Mustafa Mastur, until recently a long-standing deputy finance minister, well educated and seen as competent by many donors but also, as Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s nephew, politically very well-connected.
The reasons why the Wolesi Jirga vote went comparatively smoothly are open to speculation. President Ashraf Ghani had openly warned candidates against making payments to or doing other deals with MPs. This had become a ‘tradition’ ahead of earlier votes (see this AAN report from 2010). This time, the president, was quoted in the Afghan media by his spokesman, Shah Hussain Murtazawi (who is also still acting), as saying that any candidate offering money “will be removed from the list of nominees.” Kandahar MP Khaled Pashtun told AAN he was surprised that “this time” there was no money handed out before the vote.
Another strong incentive was surely that parliamentary elections will soon be upon us, officially planned for July 2018 (or possibly later that year – see AAN analysis here). In that situation, candidates can be expected to avoid the wrath of the president who, if past elections are anything to go by, personally and through his apparatus, will play a key role in determining who will run and who gets his support. The president’s knowledge about government contracting (he personally chairs the National Procurement Commission, among other bodies) also gives him leverage over MPs (see the quotes about the ownership of mining and other companies below).
MP Assadullah Sa’adati from Daikundi told AAN that the smooth vote was also a reaction to a high-level opposition MPs meeting that was held in Kandahar on 2 December 2017. Balkh governor Atta Muhammad Nur claimed in a video posted online (see here) that the plane planned to carry him and acting Jombesh leader Bator Dostum had reportedly been prevented by “the government leadership” from reaching Kandahar. In Sa’adati’s interpretation, a number of MPs wanted to show by voting for the government’s candidates that the house was not controlled by this opposition alliance.
An analysis of the new ministers’ backgrounds also reveals that, unlike previous offerings of candidates, many are not easily identified with the two camps in the National Unity Government (NUG), that of President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah. With upcoming elections casting shadows ahead, the emergence of new ‘opposition’ groups (see AAN analysis here and here) and developments in Abdullah’s Jamiat party, the two camps have started to lose cohesion. Also, more professional candidates with less clear political affiliation have started to come in. So, the earlier much fought-over 50:50 formula for the distribution of government positions is losing importance and was not (or could not be) implemented anymore this time. (More biographical detail about the 12 candidates below.)
Vice President Danesh, when introducing the 12 prospective ministers in late November, said the candidates for the remaining open cabinet posts (Ministers of Education, Foreign Affairs, and Culture and Information) and three members of the Supreme Court would be introduced for a vote of confidence “in the near future.” He said the Afghan government had tried to find eligible candidates in the previous three days, but had failed to do so.

The case of the mining ministry
Narges Nehan’s rejection has been commented upon widely, with a number of observers pointing to widespread misogyny in a parliament (see example here) with strong conservative elements that has previously voted against women rights legislation such as the EVAW law (AAN analysis here). Women candidates have disproportionally been voted down by the Wolesi Jirga – in January 2015, after a similar vote, AAN wrote that “MPs rejected all the Hazara, Uzbek (the third and fourth largest ethnic groups respectively) and women candidates. However, this time, reported Hasht-e Sobh, women MPs did vote for Nehan, but the men did not.
But Nehan’s rejection is probably not only because of her gender or because, as two MPs told us, she was seen as too close to the president. The Ministry of Mining is a ministry with much to offer in the way of potential revenue for the country, contracts and opportunities for graft. Afghanistan’s mineral riches include “24 potential blockbuster deposits,” as the Journal Science put it. Those include the Ainak copper mine, the coal and iron mines in Hajigak and the gas fields of northern Afghanistan as well as gold mines in Baghlan and elsewhere, gem stones and still to be explored deposits of lithium and probably even uranium. So far, largely untapped, they are considered by many, including in the Afghan government and among its international allies, as the road out of Afghanistan’s economic crisis and to prosperity.
But many of the deposits lie in areas contested by the government, criminal networks and insurgent groups. (1) Some, such as Ainak, Hajigak and northern gas and oil field where tenders have been won by Chinese and Indian companies, continue to be fought over by foreign investors (see AAN reporting here and this recent Buzzfeed report). Also, according to a June 2017 USIP report, “industrial-scale looting” and “massive corruption” is already on-going in smaller Afghan mining operations.

The report’s authors says:
… prior political penetration of power holders and their networks in government, who became increasingly entrenched over time, explains this pattern of looting, which is engaged in with impunity owing to massive corruption of government agencies charged with overseeing the extractives sector, main highways, and borders. (…)
Mining companies that obtain contracts tend to be owned by politically connected per- sons, including, in many cases, members of the Afghan parliament (MPs), their family members, their associates, and power holders with access to armed groups and their networks. The beneficial ownership of mining companies—that is, who shares in the profits—tends to be hidden, particularly when shareholders are persons not allowed under law to have a contract with the government (as is the case for MPs).
In an earlier report, in 2015, USIP had criticised that the “decentralization of licensing for smaller mines to provincial mining departments has led to even greater corruption and secrecy.” Illegal extraction, “without any revenue coming to the government”, is estimated as happening at 1,400 sites.
This situation makes control over the mining and petroleum ministry highly lucrative – and, judging by the volatility of those sitting in the minister’s seat, a difficult post to occupy. There have been at least six ministers and three other acting ones since the downfall of the Taleban regime. One of them, Muhammad Ibrahim Adel, who had presided over the Chinese winning a number of key contracts, was toppled for alleged corruption, discovered by his US advisors (read here), while another, Juma Muhammad Muhammadi, died in an air crash in 2003. One of the longest serving ministers, Wahidullah Shahrani (2010-13), who, since his return to the country, had risen through important positions (Presidential Adviser on Economic Affairs, Deputy Head of the Central Bank, and Deputy Minister of Finance. Became Minister of Commerce in 2008 respectively) promised reforms and more transparency when coming into office and released details of a large number of mining and energy contracts in an effort to counter rampant corruption of government officials. But Global Witness, a non-government organisation specializing in world wide mining, still found in 2016 that of a “series of commitments to increase transparency (…) and reforming contracting, girded by a stronger legislative and regulatory framework (…), most of them remain to be implemented.” Also the resignation of the last full minister, Daud Shah Saba, in March 2016, remained officially unexplained. He had told AAN that he intended to concentrate on generating revenue from on-going medium-scale and small mining known for its particular susceptibility for looting and mafia and insurgent network control. Before his resignation, as Afghan media reported, he had complained about “curbs” on his authority and on mining contracts.
The appointment of reform-minded Nehan – who had previously shown her capabilities in various government positions including in the ministries of finance, education and higher education and as Vice Chancellor of Kabul University, responsibly for administration and finances (her official biography is here), overlapping with the current president in some of thoese institutions – must have been perceived as a threat by the ‘looters’. Immediately, after taking over in late March 2017, she announced she would work with civil society and in September 2017, she stated that most of the mining contracts signed in the past 15 years needed to be reviewed. Afghan and international civil society, that includes groups looking into mining (see here) had cautiously welcomed Nehan’s appointment, earlier this year. But unsurprisingly, there also were already allegations of corruption under her, as MPs told AAN – which could easily be baseless and part of the power struggle over the ministry.

The following candidate ministers have been elected (sorted by number of ‘yes’ votes).
The biographies use official biographies, data collections such as Afghan Bios and by Kabul daily Arman-e Melli as well as various AAN colleagues’ archives.

Wais Barmak: Minister of Interior
(173 yes, 35 no, 10 blank and 6 invalid votes)
Barmak, a Tajik from the Panjsher, has been acting Minister of Interior since 13 August 2017. He was the only candidate who served in President Karzai’s cabinet, as the Minister of Rural Development and Rehabilitation, from 2011 to 2013.
In the 1990s and into the early 200s, he worked with the International Committee of the Red Cross, ACBAR (the umbrella organisation of NGOs in Afghanistan), as senior programme officer, and as a senior official with UNDP. Under the National Unity Government (NUG), he worked for many years in the Ministry of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, as executive director of the National Solidarity Programme, senior advisor on disaster management, senior advisor to the minister, then as deputy minister and finally minister. Under the NUG, he has served as special envoy for the president for good governance and security and, from October 2015, as State Minister for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs and head of the Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority.
Barmak got his masters in development studies from the School of Oriental and African Studies at the University of London and his Bachelor of Architecture from Kabul University.

Gul Agha Sherzai: Minister of Borders and Tribes
(158 yes, 49 no, 12 blanked and 5 invalid votes)
Sherzai, ‘the lion’s son’, is rarely called by his real name, Muhammad Shafiq. He is the son of a famous mujahedin commander, Haji Abdul Latif, who was linked to Pir Gailani’s Mahaz-e Melli-ye Islami-ye Afghanistan (National Islamic Front of Afghanistan, or NIFA) which was loyal to the former king Muhammad Zaher Shah. He is a Barakzai Pashtun from Kandahar. Under the 1992-96 mujahedin government (and after his father’s assassination), he was the provincial governor of Kandahar and, at that time, had a relatively good name among Kandahari commanders. In 1994, he fled to Pakistan before the Taleban took over the province, and returned to the city in 2001, becoming Kandahar governor, once again, in 2002. He was one of the key allies of the United States especially the Special Forces in the south, and his behaviour towards those associated with the old regime, capturing them for US bounties, using torture and extorting money was one element which sparked the insurgency. (1)
Sherzai became too powerful for his fellow Kandahari, President Karzai and he moved him first, briefly, to the Ministry of Urban Development in 2004, and then to the governorship of Nangrahar province. A shrewd businessman, Gul Agha also projected himself as a philanthropist; he loved to see his name on project signboards that appeared all over the provincial capital, Jalalabad. Away from his original tribal base, he managed to establish a following in the east, too. At the same time, there were accusations against him of pocketing money in the name of construction projects, grabbing government land and being unable to protect the province from Pakistan inroads and shelling (AAN reporting here). When he stepped down in order to run in the 2014 presidential election (where he scored only 1.57 per cent of the vote), Nangrahar residents went on strike and blocked the main Torkham-Kabul highway in a show of support. In the election’s second round, he supported Abdullah, who reportedly also introduced him for this cabinet post.

Yama Yari: Minister of Public Works
(156 yes, 46 no, 17 blanked and 5 invalid votes)
A Pashtun from Herat province, Yari came to the UK in the late 1990s and gained a degree in engineering and a master degree in engineering and business management from UK universities. He worked as an engineer including on the railways in Britain, before returning to Afghanistan to be an advisor at the Ministry of Public Works in 2013. He was Director General of the National Procurement Authority and then Director of the National Procurement Office and is said to be close to the president.

Mustafa Mastur: Minister of Economy
(155 yes, 49 no, 10 blanked and 9 invalid votes)
A Tajik born in Kabul (his family is from Panjshir), he has a bachelor in medicine from Kabul University and a masters in business administration from Preston University in Pakistan and a masters in the science of health management from the London School of Tropical Hygiene. He worked with NGOs, including the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan, before taking up positions in the Ministries of Public Health and Finance, becoming a deputy minister of finance in 2014. Mastur is a nephew of Chief Executive Abdullah.

Muhammad Hamid Tahmasi: Minister of Transport
(149 yes, 55 no, 11 blanked and 9 invalid votes)
Tahmasi is a Hazara from Ghazni Province, but is backed not by the traditional Hazara leaders, but President Ghani, his nomination also supported by Abdullah as a gesture to the mainly Hazara grassroots protest movement, the Enlightenment Movement (AAN background here).
Born in 1980, Tahmasi got bachelor and masters degrees in law from Kabul University in 2005 and a masters in criminal law from Kateb University, also in Kabul, in 2015. He served as a human rights officer with UNAMA, and worked in the Attorney General’s Office and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG). He was the head of the Auditing Unit in the Presidential Administrative Office (2013-2015) and deputy minister of the Ministry of Interior for Equipment.

Nasir Ahmad Durrani: Minister of Agriculture
(144 yes, 63 no, 9 blanked and 8 invalid votes)
A Pashtun from Logar province, Durrani obtained an engineering degree from Kabul University in 1975, and in the 1980s, did postgraduate studies in mine management and prospecting in the Philippines and, worked for a steel mines company in Peshawar (as a refugee) in the mid-1980s, before going onto Nebraska University in the US. He has worked in the energy sectors in France and the UK. He returned to Afghanistan in 2009 and was appointed advisor to the Ministry of Economy and later deputy Minister of Mines. Durrani is associated with the Hezb-e Islami faction led by Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal (AAN background here) which allied itself with Dr Abdullah during the 2014 presidential election. He was appointed Minister of Rehabilitation and Development and gained the MPs’ vote of confidence in 2015. In September, the president moved him to the agriculture ministry.

Tareq Shah Bahrami: Minister of Defence
(141 yes, 65 no, 9 blanked and 9 invalid votes)
Serving as acting minister since June 2017, Lieutenant General Bahrami, who is from Laghman, has a military, PDPA-era background. He holds a BA from the Kabul Military Academy and served as deputy company commander (1986), then commander and deputy battalion commander (1988 to 1989). A senior army officer told AAN that Bahrami spent the mujahedin and Taleban years in the Netherlands. After 2001, he returned to Afghanistan to serve in a variety of jobs in the interior and defence ministries, including 201st Corps Commander (2003 to 2008), commander of the 444 Commando Forces Unit in Helmand Province (2009 to 2012) and General Manager of Planning and the Operations Director for Special Forces unit in the Ministry of Interior in 2012. In 2015, he became the director of the National Coordination Centre in the National Security Council (NSC) and in March 2017 senior deputy minister for security affairs in the interior ministry. Bahrami holds a masters from the Advanced Command College in the UK.
Bahrami supported President Ghani during the 2014 presidential election.

Mujib Rahman Karimi: Minister of Rural Development
(129 yes, 76 no, 9 blanked and 10 invalid)
Karimi, a Pashtun from Khost province, was born in 1977 and has a degree in agriculture from Kabul University and a masters degree in development planning from the Asian Institute of Technology in Thailand. Karimi worked as a trainer and manager in the National Solidarity Programme in the Ministry of Rural Development (2003 to 2007) and UNAMA field officer in Khost (2007 to 2012). He also worked as a professor and head of the agriculture facility in the Shaikh Zahid University in Khost (2003-2013) where he was appointed dean in 2015.

Faizullah Zaki: Minister of Labour, Social Affairs, Martyrs and Disabled
(126 yes, 75 no, 9 blanked and 13 invalid votes)
An urbane Uzbek, born in 1958 in Jowzjan province, Zaki holds a bachelor degree in geology from Kabul University and later in worked in journalism. He made it from communist youth functionary (DYOA head for Kabul in the 1980s) to deputy leader of Jombesh, a non-mujahedin tanzim, ie the military-political network established and led by now First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum. He left Afghanistan in the early 1990s and worked for a family firm in Uzbekistan. Zaki became one of the major proponents of reforming and democratising Jombesh (background in this AAN paper), representing its non-commander wing and pro-federalism current. He comfortably won a Wolesi Jirga seat from Jowzjan in 2005, where he was far ahead of all other candidates with 20.6 per cent of the vote. When planning to run for a parliament seat in 2010, Dostum and nominal Jombesh leader Nurullah (who had his own ambitions to serve as an MP, but lost) stopped him, fearing he might become too independent. Zaki has served as deputy party chair.
MPs rejected him as nominee for the Ministry of Transport and Civil Aviation in 2015. In 2016, he was appointed as Deputy National Security Advisor (NSA) in 2016. He was a supporter of Ghani in the 2014 elections and one of his spokesmen.

Najibullah Khwaja Omari: Minister of Higher Education
(124 yes, 77 no, 13 blanked and 10 invalid votes)
Khawja Omari, who is a Hazara from Ghazni province and a relatively new face, was only appointed as acting minister of higher education on 22 November 2017. He has a masters degree in engineering and has served as Vice President of Bakhtar University in Kabul with various international NGOs and the World Bank and in the NSC as an advisor. Last time he did not get the vote of confidence to remain the minister because it was said that he did not possess a degree.

Shahzad Gul Aryubi: Minister of Communications and Information Technology
(115 yes, 81 no, 22 blanked and 6 invalid votes)
A Pashtun from the Aryubi district of Khost province, Aryubi has a degree from Pakistan. He has worked in various UN offices since 2000 and in USAID, the World Bank and the Ministry of Tribal Affairs and in 2015, he was appointed general director of Asan Khedmat (“easy service”) in the Finance Ministry: this is the so-called ‘one stop shop’ that will eventually bring all interactions between government and public under one roof, including getting licenses, IDs and passports and paying taxes

Not elected

Nargis Nehan: Minister of Mines and Petroleum
(107 yes, 93 no, 15 blanked and 8 invalid votes)
Nehan holds a master’s degree in business management and has received international training in the areas of leadership, result-based budgeting, gender budgeting, strategic planning, good governance, peace building and conflict resolution. She worked as the director of treasury in the Ministry of Finance in the early years of the Karzai administration, when Ghani was minister. She was also , Vice Chancellor of Kabul University at the Administration and Finance Department. Nehan has served as senior advisor both to the finance department in the Ministry of Education and to the planning department in the Ministry of Higher Education. She has been a member of the Civil Society Joint Working Group (CS-JWG), the Afghan Coalition for Transparency and Accountability (ACTA), and the Supreme Council of the Central Bank of Afghanistan – where she was the first ever woman member. In 2007 she co-authored a book with Ghani, “The budget as a Linchpin of the State: Lessons from Afghanistan.” She supported Ghani in the 2014 elections.
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