Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi on Monday said that the United States has realized that it could not just pack bags and leave Afghanistan, like it had done it the past, because it still had a role to play in the region and the war-torn country.
“I was pleased to hear that the US has realized that they cannot pack their bags and leave, like they left earlier on. They have to have a plan of withdrawal, and that plan should be supportive of peace and reconciliation,” he said at a press conference in Islamabad.
“Even when they are drawing down, they do have a role to play in the region, and in Afghanistan. International community is important, their continued support will be required,” he added, sitting alongside United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres.
“Lastly, we all collectively have to be wary of the spoilers. There are spoilers inside, and there are spoilers outside. So collectively, we have to defeat their designs and attain peace,” the foreign minister warned, referencing similar statements made by the UN in the past.
A chopper of the National Army made emergency landing in Nimroz province on Monday, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) has confirmed.
“An Afghan Army MD-530 Helicopter made emergency landing due to the technical problems in Khoshrod district of Nimroz at around 11:45am (local time) on Monday,” MoD said in a statement.
According to the statement, an Air Force pilot was superficially injured.
This comes as the IS-K group has claimed to gunned down the helicopter.
The UN secretary-general on Monday welcomed recent progress in Afghan peace talks between the U.S. and the Taliban.
Addressing an international conference on refugees in the Pakistani capital Islamabad, Antonio Guterres said the UN always supported efforts for peace in Afghanistan.
Delivering a keynote address at the event marking the four-decade presence of Afghan refugees in Pakistan, Guterres expressed hope that the peace efforts would lead to intra-Afghan negotiations to pave the way for sustainable peace in the war-torn country.
“We know big challenges lie ahead, but the message of this conference and the presence of so many senior government officials from all over the world is a testament of open commitment to a new partnership for solidarity and the better future for the people of Afghanistan and Pakistan, and for the world,” he said.
The opening session of the two-day conference was also attended by Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan, U.S. top peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, Afghan Vice President Muhammad Sarwar Danish, Turkish Deputy Interior Minister Ismail Catakli, UN High Commissioner for Refugees Filippo Grandi and other senior officials from roughly 20 countries.
Guterres praised Pakistan for hosting millions of Afghan refugees over the last 40 years, saying: “Pakistan today is still the world’s second-largest refugee-hosting country. On every visit here, I’ve been struck by the extraordinary resilience, exceptional generosity and overwhelming compassion. I saw solidarity not just in words, but in deeds.”
Urging the international community to support refugee-hosting countries, he said: “We must recognize that international support for Pakistan has been minimal compared to your own national efforts. As we look to the challenges ahead, the global community must step up.”
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on Monday it would announce the long-delayed final presidential poll results in three-to-four days.
The special vote recount and audit process, aimed at tackling fraud votes, will be completed today, Mohammad Hanif Danishyar, a member of the election body, told reporters in Kabul.
The results were delayed for about five months over accusations of fraud.
The preliminary results showed incumbent President Ashraf Ghani as the winner, defeating his top rival and the current chief executive of the country Abdullah Abdullah.
US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said on Monday that a future US Taliban agreement will lead to fortification of Pak-Afghan trade ties as well, ushering in a new phase.
Last week, Afghan Taliban said their top leadership in Doha held an important meeting with Zalmay Khalilzad in the presence of the foreign minister of Qatar.
The US envoy was addressing the international conference titled “40 years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity” in Islamabad.
During his address, Khalilzad said the solution to the Afghan peace process is quite a difficult one.
“Making warring factions sit together is a big challenge,” said the US envoy, adding that a US-Taliban agreement will pave way for plausible peace in the country.
Zalmay Khalilzad said the neighboring countries of Afghanistan played a major role in the Afghan peace process.
Taliban spokesperson has claimed that the organization has finalized a peace deal with the U.S. to end more than 18 years of war.
Suhail Shaheen has told BBC that the two parties had reached an agreement and suggested the deal would be signed by the end of February.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah confirmed on Monday’s Ministerial Council session that a deal had been agreed, though noted that whether it is signed will depend on the success of a proposed period of reduced violence.
“The agreement between the Taliban and U.S. has been finalized and the signing of the agreement is based on the reduction in violence over seven days and then it will continue,” Abdullah explained. “It is also an opportunity for the opposite side to show that they want peace in the country.”
The U.S. has been negotiating an end to the country’s longest running war since July 2018.
Mohammad Sarwar Danish, the second vice president, at a conference on Afghan refugees in Islamabad on Monday said that the refugees should not be used as a political pressure tool by any country.
The 2nd VP emphasized that millions of Afghans have returned home over the past five years from Pakistan and Iran.
“Pakistan during that time (during the war in Afghanistan) was a haven for the Afghans,” Danish said, adding that “this makes the friendship between the countries even stronger.”
“Without doubt, a presence of such as huge number of refugees has caused problems to the host countries, but our refugees have also had a good impact on these countries, with the economy and construction,” he said.
“The Afghan government has welcomed the return of Afghans to their country,” he said, adding that “the refugees should not be used as a political pressure tool by any country.”
“This has been caused instability in Afghanistan,” he added.
Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday reaffirmed that Pakistan seeks peace in Afghanistan as instability in the war-torn country is not in its interest.
“It is my belief that the people of Afghanistan have suffered more than any other human community and I pray from my heart that these peace talks are successful,” said PM Imran in reference to the ongoing talks between the US and the Afghan Taliban in Doha.
The premier was speaking at the two-day international conference titled “40 years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity” which began in Islamabad today.
The prime minister said that the whole country was on the “same page” with regards to Afghanistan. He added that previously it was said that the government and the country’s security forces were not on the same page; however, this was not the case at the moment.
The premier highlighted that Pakistan was not seeking peace in Afghanistan because it has been hosting 1.4 million Afghan refugees, but because the people of Afghanistan deserve peace.
Afghan local officials have confirmed that at least 14 Afghan army forces have been killed in Taliban’s attack in Kunduz province.
A provincial council member of Kunduz, Amruddin Wali told Reporterly that the Taliban insurgents stormed an outpost in Se Darak area of Kunduz city on Sunday night.
According to Wali, at least 14 army forces were killed and three others were wounded in the incident.
In the meantime, the spokesman of 217 Pamir Corps, Abdul Hadi Jamal has confirmed the incident, saying the reinforcements have arrived at the area and the situation is now under the control of security forces.
Jamal noted that there is no exact figure about the casualties of Afghan security forces.
He added that Taliban’s casualties are more than Afghan security forces.
President of Kazakhstan Kassym-Jomart Tokayev held talks with President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference, Akorda reports.
They discussed cooperation in trade and economic, transport and logistics, humanitarian and other fields.
The two exchanged views on regional and international agenda as well.
Tokayev said Afghanistan is a good partner of Kazakhstan.
The Kazakh President informed his Afghan counterpart that a special representative of Kazakhstan for Afghanistan will be appointed soon.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has announced that the special audit process of the Presidential votes has concluded at the main office of the commission.
IEC said that based on received reports from Kabul, Badakhshan, Takhar, Sar-e Pul, Faryab, Ghazni, Nangarhar, Helmand and Kandahar branches, the ballots recount and the implementation of the Election Complaints Commission’s decisions in Ghazni, Helmand and Sar-e Pol has been successfully completed.
IEC officials emphasized that the final result of the Presidential elections will be announced as soon as this process ended.
At least 56 Taliban insurgents have been surrendered to the Afghan security forces in Herat and Ghor provinces, security officials said.
The 207 Zafar Corps Press Office in a press release on Monday said that 56 Taliban militants along with three of their group leaders named Haji Mullah Nasir, Mullah Rabani and Mullah Hussain have been surrendered to security forces in Kamenj and Ostora villages of Shahrak-e Ghor district and Cheshte-e Sharif district of Herat province.
This comes as so far, around 638 Taliban insurgent have been surrendered to security forces in Shahrak-e Ghor and Chesht-e Sharif districts.
US Gen. Jack Keane, a Fox News senior strategic analyst has reacted to a new U.S. deal with the Taliban that could see a reduction in violence and lead to the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan.
“We gotta have a healthy dose of skepticism,” Keane told “America’s News HQ.” “Our government officials know the Taliban can’t be trusted… everybody’s clear right there.”
Speaking at the Munich Security Conference on Saturday, Defense Secretary Mark Esper said the deal “looks very promising” but it was not without risk. Esper also told reporters that U.S. troop levels could be reduced to about 8,600 — from 12,000 currently in the country — if the 7-day truce is successful. However, Defense Department officials said counterterrorism operations will continue in the country.
Keane said that while there may actually appear to be a reduction in violence, it may be in large part due to the time of year and not an indication of the Taliban’s willingness to negotiate with the United States.
“We’re in the dead of winter,” he explained. “What they do in the wintertime is prepare for a spring offensive.”
“People don’t want to hear this but even if we had a peace settlement between the Taliban and the government, I still think you need a small force there with intelligence and counter-terrorism capability… to make certain that the Al Qaeda and ISIS do not do harm to the U.S.,” Keane said.
He added, “the Taliban will not agree to that, so we’ll see, but if we can get to that point, we’re months away from this struggle.”