How will the 2014 US troop withdrawal and Pakistan‘s upcoming elections affect regional and global politics?
And as they do so, new stories emerge rekindling hope that peace will finally come to the region as well as political, social and economic stability.
Afghanistan is set for a 2014 US troop withdrawal and Pakistan is gearing up for elections in May – for the first time in its history a democratically elected government has completed five years in office.
So how will these major changes affect regional and global politics?
Some of the highlights of the issue include:
- Kabul: A city of hope and fear – With the US set to withdraw its troops from Afghanistan in 2014, what does the future hold for the country’s capital?
- A journey along Pakistan’s Indus River – Fed by the water from the melted snow of the Himalayas and prone to monsoon floods, the ebb and flow of the river impacts on the lives of hundreds of thousands of Pakistanis.
- Buzkashi: Riding into the scoring circle – Afghanistan’s national sport was banned under the Taliban but it now attracts thousands of passionate fans.
- Pakistan’s troubled milestone – As the country heads towards elections, the mood remains one of cynicism rather than celebration.
- Embracing a new Afghan challenge – A skiing competition – including an event for women – reflects a new sense of optimism in a country that is simultaneously holding its breath ahead of the 2014 US troop withdrawal.
- Navigating Hell’s Road – Meet the Pakistani truckers who must battle arguably the world’s most dangerous road in order to ferry goods to remote mountain villages.
Attempt by suicide bombers in army uniforms to free Taliban prisoners leaves at least 55 dead in western Farah town.
Suicide bombers disguised as soldiers have stormed an court in western Afghanistan, killing at least 46 people in an attempt to free Taliban fighters standing trial, officials say.
At least nine fighters were also killed in Wednesday’s attack, which occurred in Farah, the main town of Farah province.
It was not immediately clear whether the accused men had escaped the court complex, although a hospital doctor said one prisoner was among those being treated for injuries.
“In total, 34 civilians and 12 [Afghan] security forces have been killed in the attack. We have also discovered the bodies of eight attackers, more than 100 people have also been injured.”
The multiple bomb-and-gun assault will raise further questions about the Afghans’ ability to secure the country as NATO reduces its combat mission by the end of next year.
Wednesday’s death toll was the highest in Afghanistan from a single attack since a Shia Muslim shrine was bombed in Kabul in December 2011, killing 80 people.
|From the perspective of one neighbourhood in Herat|
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the Farah attack.
“Our fighters attacked several government buildings in Farah according to their planned tactic. They conducted the attack with small arms and grenades,” the group said on its website.
“The fighting happened after information that Karzai’s administration wanted to try several fighters in a cruel way in this court.”
Taliban fighters frequently target government compounds equipped with suicide vests, rockets and machine-guns.
“At around 8am [03:30 GMT] five attackers riding in two military-style vehicles drove to the provincial court building, one [vehicle] detonated at the gate and three attackers entered the building,” Agha Noor Kentos, police chief of Farah, told AFP.
Wounded being treated
Wakil Ahmad, a doctor at Farah hospital, said medics were treating scores of wounded including two judges and one court prisoner.
The governor’s compound was around 200 metres away from the scene of attack, an AFP reporter said.
Last year armed men dressed in Afghan police uniforms and wearing suicide vests stormed a government compound in Farah and killed seven people.
In November a roadside bomb planted by Taliban fighters killed 17 civilians, mostly women and children, on their way to a wedding party in Farah.
Al Jazeera’s Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, recalled
meeting a former Taliban commander last week, when there was an attack on a police training headquarters, before Karzai travelled to Doha for talks on the possible opening of a Taliban office in the Qatari capital.
She said the Taliban commander told her there was still a war going on and that until the Taliban’s demands were met, among which was the release of Taliban prisoners, attacks such as the one on the police centre would continue in Afghanistan.
The Taliban insurgency has raged since a 2001 US-led invasion put an end to its five-year rule over large parts of Afghanistan.
The group has increasingly widened its attacks outside its main power bases in the east and south, where NATO forces have focused their attention, to other areas such as Farah which borders Iran.
NATO combat troops are due to pull out of Afghanistan by the end of 2014, leaving responsibility for security to Afghan security forces.
However, there are fears that the violence will increase with their departure.