US Administration officials have announced that they expect the long-debated Bilateral Security Agreement, which will allow US forces to remain in Afghanistan after the end of 2014, to be signed by incoming president-elect Ashraf Ghani next week. Officials said the document would be official signed within “days” of his Monday inauguration. The deal allows some 10,000 American troops to remain in Afghanistan performing combat support operations with the Afghan National Army. Both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah, promised to sign the BSA and its NATO equivalent, the SOFA, which would allow US and NATO forces, governed by the ISAF, to stay beyond 2014.
Former President Hamid Karzai had long refused to sign the agreement until Afghanistan’s next president was inaugurated, apparently on reasons of principle, but the protracted election dispute fed the desperation on the part of US officials to get the deal signed. With Abdullah filling the position of chief executive, a newly created position to appease the losing party with a prominent place in Afghanistan’s new unity government.
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- The US State Department has put Turkmenistan on its list of CPC’s (“countries of particular concern”), which is usually the designation for countries that have autocratic forms of government and bad human rights records. The CPC designation has been in use since Turkmenistan’s former ruler Saparmurat Niyazov, took over the country after the fall of the Soviet Union and the US pressured him for a long time introduce legal reforms and register non-Muslim religious groups. His successor, the current president Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov proclaimed new human rights commitments when he came to office in 2006.
- President-elect Ashraf Ghani also faces another challenge from Afghanistan’s traditional society – hiding his wife, Rula Ghani, who is a Lebanese-American Christian. The couple met when studying at the American University in Beirut in the 1970’s. According to Mawlawi Habibullah Hussam, a prominent Kabul based religious scholar and imam, Rula’s mere presence in the presidential palace is cause for concern. There was additionally talk of illegitimizing Ghani as President due his Christian wife, a development which harkens back to religious conservatives’ anger when Queen Soraya, the wife of Amanullah Khan, publicly appeared without a veil several times with her husband, sparking waves of insurrection.
- Renewable energy usage in Tajikistan is on the rise. The country’s Prime Minister Qohir Rasulzoda released a statement at the UN Climate Summit that the matter was an important one for Dushanbe in order to combat ever-changing climate issues. The Tajik official also stated that the issue has been uniquely important in Tajikistan due to the role it’s played in promoting economic and social development in rural parts of the country.
- Officials in Moscow have begun to consider an all-powerful internet “kill switch” which would disconnect the entire country from the internet in case of “emergencies.” Sources quoted in Vedomosti stated that Moscow broadly defined “emergency” as a case of military action against Russia or even “serious protest actions,” suggesting the Kremlin’s control over internet usage could become even greater.
- The commander of Iran’s principal narcotics bureau has criticized NATO for allowing opium and other narcotics flow across the Afghan-Iranian border. Ali Moayyedi stated that the efforts put forth by international coalition forces has been lackluster and that in lieu of curbing the production of the drug, availability of opium derivatives such as heroin has skyrocketed, citing a UN report that listed a 49% increase in the drug’s production.
- Reports emanating from Kabul indicate that Afghan President Hamid Karzai will leave office in controversial fashion. In an upcoming farewell speech, Karzai is expected to attribute the lack of progress over the last several years, as well as the current state of Afghanistan, to an American agenda that “did not want peace for Afghanistan” due to ulterior movies and “other goals.” The rhetoric will likely come as no surprise to American officials due to their troubled history working with Karzai on such initiatives as the bilateral security agreement.
- The Asian Development Bank is allocating some $110 million for the rehabilitation of the Toktogul Hydroelectric Power Plant in Kyrgyzstan. This was announced after a meeting of the Kyrgyz Vice Prime Minister and ADB officials. These rehabilitation projects for power are more necessary than ever with Kyrgyzstan’s source of power cut off by Uzbekistan and winter looming. Additionally, these renovations are instrumental in speeding accession into the Customs Union.
- Kazakhstan’s Defense Ministry confirmed that a military aircraft crashed near the capital of Almaty. The plane, a SU-27 (Sukhoi) was conducting a training session and its wreckage was later found 15 kilometers away after it disappeared from radar. The pilots are still missing, and an investigation is being launched.
- Human Rights Watch has called on British Petroleum (BP) to address human rights violations in Azerbaijan, a country where BP maintains several oil and gas producing projects, citing their involvement in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, an agreement that allows for the transport of Azerbaijani gas to Europe. Human Rights Watch encouraged BP and other European nations to use this leverage to “encourage better governance of resource-rich countries by fostering open debate about how oil, gas, and state revenues are used.”