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Daily Brief: Afghanistan Aid Talks Follow Migrant Deal

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October 5, 2016

Daily News Brief

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Afghanistan Aid Talks Follow Migrant Deal

More than seventy countries are participating in talks in Brussels (AFP) that are expected to raise $3 billion in annual aid to Afghanistan until 2020. That amount would be under the $4 billion per year pledged at the last aid conference four years ago in Tokyo (BBC). The aid follows a pact (RFE/RL) signed Tuesday in which Afghanistan agreed to facilitate the EU's return of asylum seekers to the country. The agreement may include a new, designated terminal at Kabul's airport for returned migrants (EU Observer). Afghans are second only to Syrians in the number of those seeking asylum in Europe. Meanwhile in Afghanistan, security forces said that fighting continues (Al Jazeera) around the northern city of Kunduz, which briefly fell to Taliban militants last year.


"According to the United Nations’ refugee agency, UNHCR, there were more than 3.8 million Afghan refugees in 2001. The number had dropped by the mid-2000s, a time of hope that came with the presence of NATO forces in Afghanistan. But as the security situation deteriorated, the number of refugees swelled again, reaching some 2.6 million by the fall of 2015. Most Afghans who flee go to neighboring Pakistan and Iran, but increasingly they have also headed farther west. More than 178,000 Afghans applied for asylum in Europe in 2015, almost four times the number for the previous year, according to E.U. statistics. Some 5.8 million Afghans have voluntarily returned to Afghanistan since 2002 under a UNHCR repatriation program. But many have also been forced back: Last year, nearly 260,000 undocumented Afghans were deported from Pakistan and Iran alone," Mae Jeong writes for the New York Times.

"Pakistan believes that Afghanistan colludes with India to destabilize Pakistan, and Pakistan has kept millions of Afghan refugees on its soil with little perceived recognition and appreciation. Afghanistan has the world’s second-largest refugee population; they were recently eclipsed by Syria. The main reason is Afghanistan has been at war for nearly forty years. Afghanistan also has a huge internally displaced population challenge. Kabul has swelled to more than four million people. The unemployment rate is around 40 percent. It’s a major potential humanitarian crisis that hasn’t been adequately addressed," Christopher D. Kolenda said in this CFR interview.

"How [National Unity Government] leaders deal with the security crisis, amid their own internal disagreements and weakening legitimacy, will determine Afghanistan's future. Most Afghans still prefer the post-Bonn order that has governed Afghanistan since the Taliban. People prefer a democratic state, despite its inadequacies. Ordinary Afghans, the ones legitimising the government through high turnout in elections, accept the current system and support the state. That's why the NUG, as a symbol of the first peaceful transition of political power in Afghan history, should continue for its constitutionally defined term. Even its strongest political opponents - groups such as the Enlightenment Movement - agree that the NUG must serve its full five years," Waliullah Rahmani and David Kilcullen write for Al Jazeera. 


Thailand Releases Protest Leader

Student protest leader Joshua Wong was returned to Hong Kong after being detained at the airport in Bangkok, where he planned to take part in discussions with activists to mark the four-decade anniversary of a Thai university massacre (CNN). A Thai government spokesperson denied that Bangkok was responding to a request from Beijing (AP)

MYANMAR: Lawmakers repealed (DW) 1950s legislation that allowed authorities to make arrests under broad definitions of treason. State Counselor and former political prisoner Aung San Suu Kyi was convicted under the law.

CFR's Priscilla A. Clapp writes about U.S. policy options to ensure a democratic future for Myanmar in this Council Special Report.


Labor Unrest in Kazakh Oil Town

More than 2,000 workers staged a strike over pay and workers' rights in the Kazakh town of Zhanaozen, the heart of the country's oil industry (Eurasia). A larger strike in 2011 ended in clashes with police that left sixteen dead.


Iranian Bill Would End Executions for Drug Crimes

The Iranian parliament is considering a bill to abolish the death penalty for convicted drug smugglers (NYT), who make up a majority of executions. The United Nations estimates that Iran put a thousand people to death for a range of crimes last year.  

Iran's Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif discusses regional politics and the country's relationship with the United States at this CFR event.

IRAQ: Iraq and Turkey pulled their respective ambassadors after Turkey's parliament approved a continued Turkish troop presence near Mosul (Middle East Eye). Turkey says its troops are there at the invitation of the Kurdish regional government.


Ethiopia Arrests Prominent Blogger

Security forces arrested prominent blogger and university lecturer Seyoum Teshome, a critic of the government (Al Jazeera) and frequent commentator in foreign media. Last week dozens of protesters in the Oromia region were killed in a stampede after police fired tear gas and bullets at the crowd.

UGANDA: South Sudanese refugees who fled to Uganda say many are dying due to poor health services (VOA) in refugee camps. Residents warned of a rise in cases of acute diarrhea and malaria.

CFR's Global Conflict Tracker follows the political struggle behind the civil war in South Sudan.


Hungary PM Proposes Amendment to Limit Migrants

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban will propose constitutional amendments (EU Observer) to ban refugee resettlements from elsewhere in the European Union without approval from parliament. Migrants began a 125-mile march from the Serbian capital of Belgrade to the Hungarian border to protest for the right to pass through the country on the way to western Europe (RFE/RL).

EU: The European Commission is studying a proposal to give free InterRail passes to teenagers to travel across Europe (FT), a measure that some proponents say will help heal fissures across the bloc and stem rising nationalism. 


Storm Hits Cuba After Several Killed in Haiti

At least seven people are feared dead after Hurricane Matthew hit (Guardian) Haiti and the Dominican Republic before making landfall in Cuba. The National Weather Service said the storm's threat to life and property is high as it approaches Florida and the U.S. southern coast (Reuters).

COLOMBIA: President Juan Manuel Santos said a cease-fire with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia will end on Oct. 30 after voters rejected a peace agreement in a referendum (Colombia Reports). A FARC commander ordered members on Twitter to "move toward secure positions" to protect against provocations.

This CFR Backgrounder examines Colombia's civil conflict.

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