Monday, July 06, 2015 Local time: 18:01

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  • Afghanistan's New Northern Flash Points

    In the years after the collapse of the Taliban regime, following the resolution of a conflict between rival factions of Afghanistan's former Northern Alliance, "relatively calm" was commonly used to describe the situation in the country's north. The label no longer fits, however, as widespread fighting and an influx of foreign militants have drastically altered the scene. A number of factors have contributed to the new reality in the north, but one of the biggest is the security vacuum caused by the withdrawal of NATO troops in 2014 and the handover of responsibility to Afghanistan's fledgling security forces and military. The region has become a desirable destination for undesirables as a result. The arrival of the annual Taliban spring offensive in April 2015 revealed the north as a major battleground between government troops and Taliban forces, fighting that in years past had centered primarily on the Pashtun centers of southern and eastern Afghanistan. And there were also reports of new arrivals: Central Asian militants, loyal to the Islamic State group, who were flushed out of their safe havens in Pakistan's tribal regions by a Pakistani military offensive. Pakistan's restive border region (including Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Province and North Waziristan and other Federally Administered Tribal Areas) has for years harbored militants from the Pakistani Taliban, Central Asia, Arab countries, and Chechnya. Reports from locals in northern Afghanistan that "foreign faces" were being seen in increasing numbers led officials to look to northwestern Pakistan as a source. This raised the prospect that representatives of a number of militant groups known to have taken refuge in Pakistan could be among the arrivals. They include various factions from the Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (the umbrella group known as the Pakistani Taliban); Al-Qaeda-linked groups such as the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU, a primarily Uzbek group known by Afghans as Jundullah); and Jamaat Ansarullah (a Tajik splinter group of the IMU). Announcements by leaders of the IMU that they had sworn allegiance to the Islamic State (IS) leadership raised fears of a dangerous new brand of extremism in Afghanistan. There have been numerous cases of fighters swapping the Taliban's flag for IS's black flag, claims by Afghan officials that the IS was indeed operating on Afghan soil, evident recruiting efforts, and signs of a brewing rivalry between the Taliban and IS. But to this point it is unclear what level of penetration, if any, the Arab leadership of IS has on the ground in Afghanistan. A June 2015 Pentagon report concluded that Islamic State's "presence and influence in Afghanistan remains in the initial exploratory phase." The report also said that while the IMU had publicly expressed support for Islamic State "as the leader of the global jihad," it was worth noting that the Afghan Taliban has "declared that it will not allow [IS] in Afghanistan." Meanwhile, more sightings of foreign militants in northern Afghanistan have also led to suggestions that Central Asian fighters could be positioning themselves in northern Afghanistan to cross back into bordering Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan.

  • In Kabul Afghan soldier Essa Khan Laghmani explains how he shot and killed six Taliban attackers inside the Afghan parliament in June.

    Former U.S. Envoy Says Pakistan Needs To Crack Down On Afghan Taliban

    A former U.S. envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan has called on Islamabad to go after Afghan insurgents on its soil to boost ties with Kabul.

  • Abdul Rahid Dostum

    Afghanistan's Underbelly: The Exposed North

    The Afghan government has turned to a risky war strategy to tackle the Taliban in the country's north -- teaming up two rival former warlords with a history of animosity toward each other.

About Gandhara

Gandhara, an ancient region comprising parts of today's Afghanistan and Pakistan, inspires this page, which provides foreign policy audiences with reporting, analysis and commentary direct from our local correspondents in Afghanistan and Pakistan with the aim of promoting peace in the region. 


Atta Mohammad Noor

Atta Noor: Unlikely Coalition To 'Inflict A Powerful Blow' Against Taliban

Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of Afghanistan's Balkh Province, has blamed the government's weak leadership for the soaring violence in the country's north. More


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Dramatic Video Of Pakistani Train Wrecki
Pakistani rescue workers rushed to the scene where a train had crashed into a canal after a bridge collapsed, killing at least 17 people. More than 200 people were on the train, and passengers could be seen climbing to safety along the roof of the train - which was partially submerged in the canal. The cause of the bridge collapse was not clear. (Reuters)

Video Dramatic Video Of Pakistani Train Wreck

Pakistan's military said on July 3 the death toll from a suspicious train accident in the eastern Punjab Province has risen to 17.

Video Heatwave Boosts Ice Price In Pakistan

Ice dealers are making a tidy profit in Pakistan, where a heatwave, Ramadan fasting, and electricity outages have combined to cause a surge in demand.

Video Suicide Bombing Strikes NATO Convoy In Kabul

A Taliban suicide bomber targeted a NATO convoy in Kabul on June 30, killing at least one civilian and wounding many others. The attack came just hours before another suicide bombing that targeted a police headquarters in Helmand Province.

Video Pakistanis Seek Relief As Heat Wave Continues

A brutal heat wave in Pakistan is continuing to disrupt the holy month of Ramadan, when many people refrain from eating and drinking during the daytime. In Peshawar, locals were able to escape the heat, but in the worst-affected city, Karachi, the death toll continued to rise.

Video Rain Relieves Pakistan Heatwave

A welcome downpour provided relief in Pakistan, interrupting a heatwave that has resulted in nearly 800 deaths in recent days. The Pakistani government has been strongly criticized in local media for its handling of the heatwave.


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  • Kambiz Hosseini moderates a new satire program for RFE/RL's Persian Language Service, Radio Farda.  December 26, 2014. 
  • Georgia--Marina Vashakmadze multitasks as RFE/RL's Tbilisi bureau chief and one of the presenters of the Georgian Service's award winning women's program, Gender Stories. 
  • Azerbaijan--Award winning investigative reporter and RFE/RL contributor Khadija Ismayilova has been in jail since Dec. 2014​ ​in what is widely viewed as an act of retribution by Azeri authorities for exposing corruption linked to the country’s ruling family.
  • Sergei Dorofeev, presenter of  Current Time, RFE/RL's new TV news program for Russian speakers in countries bordering Russia. 
  • Uzbekistan--Though prohibited from opperating in the country officially, RFE/RL's Uzbek Service has used social media to cultivate a network of citizen journalists who assist in reporting on the ground, including on forced labor in the annual cotton harvest. 
  • China -- RFE/RL Kyrgyz journalist Janyl Jusupjan interviews a trader near the Kyrgyz-China border. May 16, 2011.

  • Armenia -- RFE/RL journalist at work in Yerevan, undated. RFE/RL journalists were among those beaten and detained while covering demonstrations in the capital in June 2015. 
  • Radio Mashaal correspondent Umar Daraz Wazir, conducting an interview in Bannu, Pakistan. October 2014
  • Bosnia and Herzegovina--Lejla Omeragic Catic and Enes Hrnjic at RFE/RL's Balkan Service bureau in Sarajevo on January 28, 2014. 

The Story Continues

Over the last two decades, some of RFE/RL’s European language services have closed as local independent media took their place, but new services have also opened for countries still struggling to overcome autocratic institutions, violations of human rights, and ethnic and religious tensions.

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Informed Comment

Debating Room

Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai

Amid Rising Political Tempers, Afghans Question Karzai

Afghans have questioned former President Hamid Karzai's motives in opposing the foreign and domestic policies of incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. More

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Press Room

June 05, 2015

Gandhara: Open Call for Article Submissions on Afghanistan, Pakistan

RFE/RL's Gandhara website is seeking submissions from outside writers and experts on the region to write opinion or analysis pieces geared toward a global policy audience.