World Tour – Violence threatens Afghan peace process


NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Wednesday, September 30th. This is WORLD Radio. Thanks for joining us today! Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard. Coming next on The World and Everything in It: World Tour with Africa reporter Onize Ohikere.

ONIZE OHIKERE, REPORTER: Afghanistan-Taliban peace talks—We start today in the Middle East.

AUDIO: [SOLDIERS YELLING]

Violence in Afghanistan continues to rise, despite ongoing peace talks between the government and the Taliban. Afghan forces launched an airstrike earlier this month, killing Taliban fighters and dozens of civilians. A day later, Taliban forces attacked security checkpoints, killing 24 Afghan soldiers. 

Both sides blame each other for the rising violence. Almost 100 civilians have died during the past two weeks, even as government officials and Taliban representatives discuss a vision for a united Afghanistan. 

Abdullah Abdullah is a key negotiator in the peace talks.

ABDULLAH: At the moment, unfortunately, the level of violence is very high. The number of security incidents initiated by the Taliban in different parts of the country has increased, not decreased.

Some analysts aren’t surprised. They expected the Taliban to increase attacks during peace talks, using the show of strength as a negotiating tactic. 

The United States brokered a deal with the Taliban six months ago to launch the peace talks. Washington promised to withdraw its troops from the country. And Afghanistan vowed to release 5,000 jailed Taliban fighters. In exchange, the militants promised to release 1,000 Afghan troops and cut ties with al-Qaeda and other terror groups. 

But so far, the Taliban has failed to follow through on several key promises: It continues to work with al-Qaeda and has only released about 250 Afghan soldiers.

AUDIO: [TALIBAN NEGOTIATOR SPEAKING]

So far, the two sides have only discussed a framework for how to negotiate. Officials say they have resolved most procedural issues, but they’re stuck on which school of Islamic thought they will use to resolve disputes. 

ABDULLAH: Both sides come from two different worldviews—views about the life, about rights of citizens.

The Afghan government hopes to preserve civil and democratic rights, while the Taliban could push for strictly enforcing Islamic rule.

Germany looks for a new nuclear waste site—Next, we go to Europe.

AUDIO: [SPEAKING GERMAN]

Germany is looking for a site to store its radioactive nuclear waste. The nation’s waste management organization issued a report on Monday listing 90 different sites that are geographically suited to storing the material.

After Japan’s Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011, Germany decided to phase out its nuclear power generation. But the country is still trying to decide what to do with all the leftover waste.

Officials are looking for a site that can house almost 2,000 containers of the material for 1 million years. Authorities aim to reach a decision by 2031, and to begin using the site in 2050.

Sudan food prices skyrocket—Next, we go to Africa.

AUDIO: Actually it has been quite catastrophic, if I may.

Sudan has declared an economic state of emergency.

AUDIO: Last July, inflation was at 144 percent. August was almost 167 percent.

The country’s inflation rate is at a record high. The prices of staple goods have skyrocketed. Beef has almost doubled in cost, and the price of bread and sugar has increased by 50 percent over the past few weeks.

Many Sudanese blame the government for the economic downturn. In April, the government raised the minimum wage from 245 Sudanese pounds to 3,000. Critics say the government funded the new policy by simply printing more money, driving up inflation. Devastating summer floods also wiped out crops.

Ten million people in the country currently face severe food shortages.

Mali civilian leader sworn in after coup—Next, we go to Mali.

AUDIO: [NDAW SPEAKING FRENCH, APPLAUSE]

An interim president took the oath of office on Friday, five weeks after the military ousted the country’s previous leader. Last month’s coup toppled the government after weeks of protests and unrest. The military leaders appointed the interim president as part of the transition to civilian rule. He swore to honor international accords and crack down on the Islamist insurgency.

Mali has been in upheaval since a 2012 uprising. Jihadists remain active in the area, and the violence has claimed thousands of civilian lives. That conflict, coupled with government corruption and a weak economy, led to mass protests against the previous president. It all culminated in last month’s military coup.

The interim president will hold power for up to 18 months before the next election.

Mine-sniffing rat wins award—And finally, we end today in Asia.

AUDIO: [MAN SPEAKING KHMER]

A rat has won an award for saving lives in Cambodia. Magawa is an African Pouched Rat trained to sniff out landmines. Decades of conflict have left Cambodia littered with millions of explosives. The leftover landmines kill or injure dozens of people every year.

An organization trained Magawa and rats like him to sniff out the TNT in unexploded bombs.

AUDIO: They’re completely depending on their smell and hearing and if you look at them they’re sniffing all the time.

Because the rodents are small, they don’t trigger the landmines. Magawa has discovered 67 explosives in the past seven years. And he can clear an area the size of a tennis court in half an hour. A human with a metal detector might take four days to clear that much space.

That’s this week’s World Tour. Reporting for WORLD, I’m Onize Ohikere in Abuja, Nigeria.


(Press Information Department via AP) In this photo provided by Press Information Department, Abdullah Abdullah, left, chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, meets with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, in Islamabad, Pakistan, Tuesday, Sept. 29, 2020. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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