US President Barack Obama announced May 31 that prisoner of war Bowe Bergdahl had been released into US custody in exchange for five detainees held at Guantánamo Bay. Bergdahl was the only confirmed US prisoner of war from the conflict in Afghanistan remaining in enemy custody. The Obama administration brokered the deal for Bergdahl's exchange through the Qatari government; once Bergdahl was secured, five high-profile Guantánamo Bay detainees, including the former head of the Taliban army, were transferred to Qatar. Republicans in the US Senate and House of Representatives criticized the exchange, which had been conducted in violation of a law requiring the president to notify Congress 30 days before any detainees are transferred from Guantanamo bay (PDF). The Obama administration maintains that the provision of the law requiring the notification is an unconstitutional violation on his rights as Commander-in-Chief (signing statement, PDF).
Pakistan government jet fighters bombed what were said to be militant strongholds in North Waziristan early on May 21, killing at least 60 people—including insurgent commanders, officials said. A further 30 are confirmed injured in what a government spokesman called "precise aerial strikes." The statement said the taregted militants were "involved in recent attacks including a blast at an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp in Peshawar, bomb attacks in Mohmand and Bajaur tribal regions…and attacks on security forces convoys in NWA (North Waziristan). The strikes were carried out in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan, and the villages of Mir Ali, Datta Khel and Ghulam Ali. On April 17, the outlawed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan announced that it would not extend a 40-day-ceasefire, but would keep the dialogue option open provided the government took steps indicating "clear progress" on its two key demands of a demilitarized zone and release of non-combatant prisoners. (Dawn, Pakistan Express-Tribune, May 21
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Feb. 8 issued the 2013 Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict (PDF), which found a total of 8,615 civilian casualties in 2013, a 14% increase since 2012. According to the report, 74% of the total civilian deaths and injuries in 2013 were inflicted by anti-government forces, and many of those were caused by either suicide attacks or Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). In addition to the overall increase in civilian deaths, the report details the increased peril for women and children. 2013 was the worst year since 2009 in terms of the number of women and children killed in conflict-related violence and the UNAMA called on all parties of the conflict to take further action to protect women and children.
A spokesperson for Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Jan. 9 said that the administration will be releasing 72 prisoners the United States considers dangerous militants from Bagram prison, stating that there was not enough evidence to continue to hold them. The government said that there was no evidence against 45 of the detainees and that there was insufficient evidence against the other 27 to bring them to trial. Karzai's spokesperson stated that the continued detention of the prisoners was an illegal violation of Afghan sovereignty, and that the government could not allow Afghan citizens to be held for months and years at a time without being subject to trial. A US State Department spokeswoman reportedly responded to the decision by stating that the 72 prisoners are dangerous criminals and that there is strong evidence linking them to terrorist activities and the killings of Afghan citizens and US troops.
Pakistan's military partially complied with a Supreme Court ruling on Dec. 7 by producing before the court several prisoners out of the hundreds it has been secretly holding without charges. Human rights lawyers and relatives of the prisoners have fought to obtain information about the detainees, some of whom disappeared from jails while others were directly apprehended by security forces. Most have not appeared in court to be officially charged with a crime, and other prisoners were acquitted in court but seized by the military after their release. The court ruled that the army had to produce the prisoners to establish that they were still alive. Fourteen men in the courtroom had scarves over their faces, but the military would not identify how many of those men were prisoners and how many were relatives or other people who could have identified the prisoners. The identities of the 14 men were not revealed.
Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Dec. 1 urged the prosecutor's office of the International Criminal Court (ICC) to expedite inquiry into international crimes committed in Afghanistan. In November the ICC released the Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (PDF) finding that over 14,300 civilians have been killed in Afghanistan since 2007 and that violence against women has increased. The report also stated that armed anti-government groups and government armed forces have reportedly recruited and used children in attacks. The HRW said that the Afghanistan situation has been under analysis by the ICC since 2007 and that given the alleged ongoing commissions of war crimes and crimes against humanity, the ICC should now expedite their fact-finding mission to Afghanistan.
The latest Afghanistan Opium Survey (PDF), released Nov. 13 by the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), finds that the country produced record levels of poppy in 2013. Total production reached 5,500 tons—up by nearly 50% over last year's figure of 3,700. Cultivation amounted to 209,000 hectares (516,000 acres)—a 36% increase over last year. The previous record was 193,000 hectares (477,000 acres) in 2007. And prices dropped by 12%—clearly due to boosted production. Eradication efforts fell by 24%, and the seizure rate lagged behind that of other opium-producing countries.
The Afghanistan Justice Ministry has proposed new provisions to the nation's penal code that allow for stoning as punishment for adultery, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported Nov. 25. According to the advocacy group the provision of the proposed penal code, drafted by a Justice Ministry led working group, provides that married individuals found guilty of engaging in sexual intercourse outside a legal marriage will be stoned to death. Also included in the draft law is that if the "adulterer" is unmarried the individual faces a sentence of 100 lashes. Under the Taliban regime which ruled Afghanistan from the mid-1990's through the 2001 US intervention stoning was the punishment for adultery and other moral crimes. According to HRW, Afghanistan is a signatory to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights which precludes nations with the death penalty from making adultery a capital offense.