KABUL, Aug 7, (Agencies): Militants linked to Islamic State have released photos that purport to show weapons and equipment that belonged to American soldiers and were captured by the group in eastern Afghanistan.
The photos, which came to light on Saturday, show an American portable rocket launcher, radio, grenades and other gear not commonly used by Afghan troops, as well as close up views of identification cards for a US Army soldier, Specialist Ryan Larson.
The US military command in Kabul denied any suggestion the soldier had been captured, saying he “has been accounted for and remains in a duty status within his unit.” American special operations troops have been fighting alongside Afghan forces in a renewed offensive against militants who claim allegiance to Islamic State in Nangarhar Province, which borders Pakistan. “SPC Larson was attached to a unit conducting a partnered (operation) with Afghan Forces,” US military spokesman Commander Ron Flesvig said in an emailed statement on Sunday.
“The soldier’s ID and some of the equipment were left behind after the (operation). The loss of personal identification is unfortunate.” Furthermore, a senior Afghan police official regarded as one of the country’s most powerful men has banned the use of the Pakistani currency in the key southern province of Kandahar.
The police chief of Kandahar, Gen Abdul Raziq, said he has declared the use of the Pakistani rupee in business transactions a crime. But he says he hasn’t yet decided on the punishment. The rupee has been widely used in Afghanistan’s eastern and southern provinces bordering Pakistan. The Iranian currency is used in the western border provinces. “I’m not against business, but I don’t want any other currency to be used in our country, especially the Pakistan and Iranian currencies,” Raziq told The Associated Press Sunday. Raziq’s ban came into effect last week.
Traders said it had an immediate effect, with the afghani strengthening in recent days. “This is very good news, as people have been confused about what currency they should use and keep,” said Kandahar tribal elder and businessman, Ahmad Shah Khan. He said the afghani had strengthened to 560 for 1,000 Pakistani rupees, from 630 per 1,000 before the ban. The official Central Bank exchange rate Sunday was 622 per 1,000. The afghani has also strengthened against the dollar, from 68 to 65 since the ban was introduced, traders said. The official rate is currently 67.5 afghanis to the dollar.
Azrakhsh Hafizi, the head of the international relations committee of the Afghan Chamber of Commerce welcomed Raziq’s decision and urged officials nationwide to adopt the ban of foreign currencies. The use of the US dollar in transactions elsewhere in the country, including the capital Kabul, should also be banned, Hafizi said. “The central bank almost every week buys afghanis in the market in order to maintain the stability of the Afghan currency but if we used only the Afghan currency all over the country there would be no need,” he said.
Raziq’s move coincides with a cooling of relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan following the breakdown of a peace process initiated last year by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the apparent failure by Pakistani authorities to move against Taleban leaders believed by Kabul to enjoy refuge over the border.