Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said on Thursday it facilitated the release of 10 Afghan security force members detained by the Taliban and handed them over to Afghan authorities.
It followed the release by Afghan Taliban on Tuesday of American and Australian university professors held hostage for more than three years, raising hopes for a revival of peace talks.
“The 10 Afghan National Security Forces members were released and handed over to the ICRC in Helmand Province, in the District of Nahr-e Saraj,” Juan Pedro Schaerer, the ICRC’s head of delegation in Afghanistan said in a statement.
The statement further adds, “We transferred them across the frontline to Lashkar Gah where we handed them over to the Afghan authorities at the governor’s office.”
The European Commission has allocated an additional €40 million in emergency assistance for those affected by the worsening humanitarian situation in Afghanistan, as well as for Afghan refugees in neighboring Pakistan and Iran. This brings total EU humanitarian aid for the Afghan crisis to €77 million in 2019: €61 million in Afghanistan, €9 million in Pakistan, and €7 million in Iran.
“The humanitarian outlook in Afghanistan is as bleak as ever. Not only has the conflict between the government and non-state armed groups intensified since the beginning of the year, but devastating floods have also hit this war-torn country. The EU is boosting humanitarian aid to help those most in need, especially children,” said Commissioner for Humanitarian Aid and Crisis Management Christos Stylianides.
The new funding will provide aid to the most vulnerable families across the country, focusing on the victims of war, forced displacement and natural disasters, as well as returning Afghan refugees. This includes providing emergency healthcare, shelter, food, access to clean water and sanitation facilities, and protection services, targeting women and children. The EU will also continue to provide education for children who have had to leave their schools.
Two US Senate Foreign Relations Committee lawmakers have introduced a bipartisan bill that would establish congressional oversight on any peace deal process to end the now 18-year war in Afghanistan.
The committee’s top-ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez (N.J.) and his colleague Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.), introduced the “Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act,” which would require congressional oversight “for U.S. diplomatic efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and any agreement that emerges from that process,” according to a statement from the two.
“Unfortunately, like other war powers discussions, Congress has taken a backseat in the debate over the future of our mission in Afghanistan while the conflict has descended towards a stalemate,” Young said in the statement.
“As we pursue negotiations with the Taliban and work to end our involvement, Congress must be a part of the process to ensure that our mission is brought to a responsible end.”
The legislation comes after President Trump in September declared peace talks with the Taliban “dead.”
Qatar has welcomed the release of US and Australian university professors who were held in Afghanistan, as well as the release of a number of Afghan detainees.
Quoting a Foreign Ministry statement on Thursday, the official Qatar News Agency (QNA) said the State of Qatar, in addition to its intensive efforts as a mediator in the peace talks between the United States and the Taliban, has played an active role in facilitating the release of detainees and ensuring continued cooperation between all parties concerned.
“Qatar sees the exchange of detainees as a goodwill gesture from the Afghan government and the Taliban to move forward with peace talks and make progress to end the war in Afghanistan,” the QNA report said.
Qatar thanked all parties concerned for their continued co-operation to release the detainees, while congratulating the US and Australian professors’ families on their safe return.
The statement reaffirmed Qatar’s commitment to achieving lasting peace in Afghanistan through continued mediation efforts.
U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary said that the United States, India and Afghanistan had all suffered from terrorism and were determined to stop it
Two and a half months after talks between the U.S. and Taliban collapsed, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for Afghanistan Nancy Jackson said a political settlement in Afghanistan did not mean that the violence would cease.
“…No-one should be under any illusion that a political settlement will immediately mean an end to violence,” Ms. Jackson said at a conference on the India-Afghanistan relationship at the Hudson Institute , a Washington DC-based think tank.
“There will still be violent extremist groups like ISIS, and there will still be armed groups pursuing their own criminal or political objectives. A comprehensive peace agreement will, however, enable Afghans to work together to fight these common threats…” Ms. Jackson said.
Ms. Jackson said that the United States, India and Afghanistan had all suffered from terrorism and were determined to stop it.
“In 2017, the President’s South Asia Strategy acknowledged that military power alone will not bring peace to Afghanistan or stop the terrorist threat arising from that country, “ Ms. Jackson said.
“Rather, our military effort is designed to create conditions for a negotiated settlement. This effort involves military resolve in Afghanistan, with decisions based on conditions on the ground,” she added.
US President Donald Trump in a phone conversation on Thursday thanked President Ghani for his cooperation in the release of two AUAF Professors and invited Ghani to for an official visit to the US, which Ghani accepted, President’s spokesman Sediqqi tweeted late Thursday.
According to Sediqqi, President Ghani briefed Trump about his “seven-point peace plan” for the Afghan government, and President Trump emphasized the need for a ceasefire as a precondition for peace. Trump also said that in order for the peace process to succeed, the Afghan government’s management and involvement are needed and must begin from now on.
The conversation took place as Ghani is on an official visit to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).
U.S. President Donald Trump traveled to Dover Air Force Base in Delaware on Thursday to receive the remains of two American soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan this week.
Trump, who met with families of the soldiers, was accompanied at the base by first lady Melania Trump, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley and national security adviser Robert O’Brien.
The president and the other officials looked on as six military personnel in army fatigues, white gloves and black berets lifted the flag-draped transfer cases onto a van.
The Pentagon on Thursday identified the two soldiers as Chief Warrant Officer David Knadle of Tarrant, Texas, and Chief Warrant Officer Kirk Fuchigami Jr. of Keaau, Hawaii.
The two soldiers killed in a helicopter crash in Afghanistan have been identified.
Chief Warrant Officer 2 David Knadle, 33, and Chief Warrant Officer 2 Kirk Fuchigami Jr., 25, were killed on Wednesday when their chopper went down in the Logar province, according to a release from the Pentagon. Knadle was a resident of Tarrant, Texas, and Fuchigami hailed from Keaau, Hawaii.
Both of the servicemen were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 227th Aviation Regiment, 1st Air Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division based out of Fort Hood in Texas.
The statement said the two men were killed “while providing security for troops on the ground,” although exact details about the incident, including what caused it, have not been released. On Wednesday, the Pentagon said that it appeared the helicopter’s crash was not related to enemy fire.
Officials are investigating the crash.
In total, 19 American soldiers have been killed in combat this year, marking the deadliest year for troops in the country since the end of Operation Enduring Freedom in 2014, when the combat mission in the country formally ended.