Afghanistan commander defects, joins group linked to Taleban

Updated 13 November 2013
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Afghanistan commander defects, joins group linked to Taleban

KUNAR, Afghanistan: An Afghan army special forces commander has defected to an insurgent group allied with the Taleban in a Humvee truck packed with his team’s guns and high-tech equipment, officials in the eastern Kunar province said on Sunday.
Monsif Khan, who raided the supplies of his 20-man team in Kunar’s capital Asadabad over the Eid Al-Adha religious holiday, is the first special forces commander to switch sides, joining the Hezb-e-Islami organization.
“He sent some of his comrades on leave and paid others to go out sightseeing, and then escaped with up to 30 guns, night-vision goggles, binoculars and a Humvee,” said Shuja ul-Mulkh Jalala, the governor of Kunar.
Zubair Sediqi, a spokesman for Hezb-e-Islami, confirmed that Khan had joined the group, saying he had brought 15 guns and high-tech equipment.
The NATO-led coalition is grappling with a rise in “insider attacks” by Afghan soldiers who turn on their allies, undermining trust and efficiency.
It has reported four lethal incidents over the past month taking the total number this year to 10, according to a Reuters tally.
Kunar, like other provinces along the border with Pakistan, is among the more insecure and volatile parts of Afghanistan.
Local security forces have started a manhunt for the commander and tribal elders have promised to help.
“We are trying our best to use elders’ influence in that area to bring back all equipment,” Jalala said.
A record number of insider attacks — accounting for about one in every five coalition combat deaths — last year prompted the coalition to briefly suspend all joint activities and take steps to curb interaction between foreign and Afghan troops.
That has cut down the number of incidents, but some soldiers say the measures have further eroded the trust painstakingly nurtured between the allies over more than 12 years of war.
All entrants to the Afghan National Security Force have to pass an eight step vetting process, which includes providing identification cards, letters of recommendation by village or district elders and undergoing tests.


North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

Updated 32 min 33 sec ago

North Korea faces lowest crop harvest in 5 years, widespread food shortages -UN

  • South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme
  • Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, although a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people

SEOUL: North Korea’s crop production this year is expected to drop to its lowest level in five years, bringing serious shortages for 40 percent of the population, as a dry spell and poor irrigation hit an economy already reeling from sanctions over its weapons programs, the United Nations said on Thursday.
In its latest quarterly Crop Prospects and Food Situation report, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said the poor harvest of the country’s main crops, rice and maize, means 10.1 million people are in urgent need of assistance.
“Below-average rains and low irrigation availability between mid-April and mid-July, a critical period for crop development, mainly affected the main season rice and maize crops,” the FAO said. The report, which covers cereal supply and demand around the world and identifies countries that need external food aid, didn’t disclose detailed estimates of production by volume.
North Korea has long struggled with food shortages and a dysfunctional state rationing system, and state media has in recent months warned of drought and other “persisting abnormal phenomena.”
The crops shortfall comes as the country bids to contain the spread of African swine fever in its pig herd, following confirmation of a first case in May.
The disease, fatal to pigs though not harmful to humans, has spread into Asia — including South Korea — since first being detected in China last year, resulting in large-scale culls and reduced production of pork, a staple meat across the region including in North Korea.
The FAO report followed earlier UN assessments this year that the isolated country’s food production last year fell to its lowest level in more than a decade amid a prolonged heatwave, typhoon and floods.
South Korea has pledged to provide 50,000 tons of rice aid to its northern neighbor through the UN World Food Programme (WFP). But its delivery has been delayed by Pyongyang’s lukewarm response amid stalled inter-Korean dialogue and denuclearization talks with the United States, Seoul officials said.
In July, the North’s official KCNA news agency said a campaign to mitigate the effects of drought was under way by digging canals and wells, installing pumps, and using people and vehicles to transport water.
But North Korea has told the United Nations to cut the number of its staff it deploys in the country for aid programs. citing the “politicization of UN assistance by hostile forces.”
Sporadic famines are common in North Korea, but observers said a severe nationwide famine in the 1990s killed as many as a million people.