Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Taliban group has said that the “reduced violence period” is over and announced resumption of operations against the government forces, a spokesman for the group said.
“As per the (US-Taliban) agreement, our mujahideen will not attack foreign forces but our operations will continue against the Kabul administration forces,” the spokesman said.
Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the defence ministry said the government was “checking to see if (the truce) had ended”.
“We have not had any reports of any big attacks in the country yet”, he added.
The Afghan authorities and the Taliban agreed to a “reduced violence period” in the country, which began at midnight on February 22.
On February 29, a peace treaty between the US and the Taliban was signed in Qatar’s Doha.
An explosion went off near a football ground in eastern Khost province on Monday evening, killing three people and wounding seven others, local officials said.
The blast happened in Zanikheil village of Nadir Shah Kot district, said Talib Khan Mangal, a spokesman for Khost governor.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the bombing.
It comes as the Taliban have reportedly said that attacks will be brought back to previous levels, following a seven-day Reduction in Violence that led to the signing of peace deal with the United States.
The Presidential spokesman, Sediq Sediqqi says the Afghan Gov has not made any commitment to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before the start of any potential negotiation.
“We need to see the significant issues;a permanent ceasefire by the Taliban, their relationship with outside state and non-state actors, and drug curtails be addressed,” Sediqqi said.
He stated that the government will discuss the issue of prisoners as part of the peace deal which is to be a comprehensive discussion during the negotiations.
“A prisoner release “cannot be a prerequisite for talks”, but must be part of negotiations. This is the right and the self-will of the Afghan people,” he added.
President’s spokesman expressed hope that the Taliban will comply with their commitments made in the agreement with the U.S. signed on 29th Feb, which are cutting ties with al-Qaida, and other terrorists, and sit down with the Afghan government for a negotiation leading to a political settlement.
The Taliban will not participate in intra-Afghan talks until roughly 5,000 of its prisoners are released, its spokesman said on Monday, Reuters reported.
“If our 5,000 prisoners – 100 or 200 more or less does not matter – do not get released there will be no intra-Afghan talks,” Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters by phone.
A pact signed between the United States and the Taliban in Doha on Saturday said that up to 5,000 jailed Taliban would be released by March 10, however Afghan president Ashraf Ghani on Sunday rejected the demand.
Taliban insurgents have abducted 55 civilians in central Maidan Wardak province, local officials said on Monday.
The spokesman of Wardak governor, Muhibullah Sharif Zai said the victims were abducted from Chak District over the last two days.
He declared that the abductors were demanding the release of their prisoners held by the government.
District Governor Fazlhaq Haqmal said that the Taliban said that they abducted the people over the allegations of cooperating with the government.
Haqmal added that the Taliban said that they abducted the people over the allegations of cooperating with the government.
He, however, said that the Taliban were seeking release of their prisoners in exchange for them.
The abduction comes as the United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal in Doha on Saturday.
A Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson on Monday welcomed the peace agreement signed between the United States and Taliban in Doha and said that it was important for a political settlement of the Afghan issue.
“China welcomes the signing of the deal between the US and Afghan Taliban. We think it is important for a political settlement of the Afghan issue,” Zhao Lijian said during his regular briefing while responding to a question about the deal that sets the stage to end the nearly two-decades-old conflict in Afghanistan.
The agreement lays out a timetable for the final withdrawal of the United States troops from Afghanistan.
The spokesperson said that China firmly supported the Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, broad and comprehensive and inclusive peace and reconciliation process.
“We hope, taking this as an opportunity, the seed of peace can grow and prosper in Afghanistan,” he added.
Zhao Lijian said that the foreign troops in Afghanistan should withdraw in an orderly and responsible manner to ensure a smooth transition and void a security vacuum especially prevent the terrorist groups from growing stronger in Afghanistan.
He remarked that in the meantime, the international community should continue to support and participate in the peaceful reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
“We call on the Taliban and all parties in Afghanistan to seize the opportunity and start intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible to discuss political and security arrangements acceptable to all and make joint efforts for lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added.
He said that China would continue to work with international community to support and help the Afghan peace and reconciliation process.
While commenting on the Afghan government’s joint statement with the US issued on February 29 in Kabul, the same day when the US and Taliban signed a peace deal, he said that representatives of foreign missions in Afghanistan including China and some international and regional organizations attended the ceremony.
Zhao Lijian reiterated that the Chinese side supported the Afghan government, Afghan Taliban and all parties in Afghanistan in starting and advancing intra-afghan talks as soon as possible.
“On the basis of respecting the will of all parties in Afghanistan, China will like to continue to be a supporter, mediator and convenience provider for the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan and will continue to play a constructive role,” he added.
The National Assembly (NA) of Pakistan will hold a national dialogue on 17th of March on how to take up challenges to post US-Afghan peace deal inked in Qatar on Saturday.
Pakistani National Assembly Speaker, Asad Qaiser has welcomed the US-Afghan peace deal terming it a commencement of sustained peace and stability in Afghanistan that would also contribute positively to connectivity and regional prosperity as well.
He said that achieving sustainable peace and security and ensuring long-term development, progress and prosperity in Afghanistan and the region was in Pakistan’s best national interest.
The Pakistani speaker has observed that peace in Afghanistan would create conducive environment for Afghans to return to their homeland with honour and take part in the national development.
Speaking on Afghanistan peace deal, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar said that real negotiations will start now, whether Taliban joins democratic setup or democratic setup adjusts to Taliban.
“I would remind people that this isn’t the Afghanistan of 2000-2001, many things have happened since then. To US & West our message has been that it’s in global interest that the achievements of the last 18 years are secured, protected & not jeopardized. To my mind the real negotiations will start now & then we have to see the assumptions that we had, how cohesive are various players & what are their demands. Does Taliban join a democratic setup or a democratic setup adjusts to Taliban,” India’s External Affairs Minister said at the two-day conclave, titled ‘CPR Dialogues 2020: Policy Perspectives for 21st Century India’ in the national capital.
Two Indonesians have tested positive for novel coronavirus after coming into contact with an infected Japanese national, President Joko Widodo said on Monday.
A 64-year-old woman and her 31-year-old daughter had become infected after contact with a female Japanese visitor, who lived in Malaysia and had tested positive after returning from a trip to Indonesia, Widodo told reporters at the presidential palace.
“After checks, they were in a sick state. This morning I got a report that the mother and the daughter tested positive for coronavirus,” he said. The two patients were being treated at Jakarta’s Sulianti Saroso infectious diseases hospital.
Veterans of America’s longest war are finding themselves torn as the U.S. signs a potentially historic peace accord with the Taliban in Afghanistan.
For many, the U.S. is long overdue in withdrawing its forces after more than 18 years of fighting. Others question the trustworthiness of the Taliban, whose hard-line government the U.S.-led forces overthrew in 2001. Skeptics worry the Taliban’s re-integration could cause Afghanistan to backslide on such issues as human rights.
‘I know the Taliban, and I never thought they could be trustworthy,’ said Cmdr. Tom Porter of the U.S. Navy Reserve, who oversaw media operations in Afghanistan during the U.S.-led troop surge that began in 2010. ‘I know they have a different view of time and history than we do.’
Porter said he’s concerned the Taliban could abide by the accord long enough to see American forces leave, then try to wrest control of Afghanistan under an assumption the U.S. won’t be willing to return for another fight.
‘If you´re the Taliban, people have come and gone and invaded that place for thousands of years,’ said Porter, head of government affairs in Washington for the group Iraq and Afghanistan Veterans of America. ‘Genghis Khan has come and gone. They´ve got a long view of things.’
The United States and the Taliban signed a peace agreement aimed at ending the 18-year war in Afghanistan, potentially helping President Donald Trump fulfill a key campaign promise to extract America from its ‘endless wars.’
Veterans Minister Johnny Mercer says a spate of suicides among veterans who fought in Afghanistan is causing him “significant” concern.
Some 14 former and serving military personnel are thought to have killed themselves in the past two months, the Times has reported.
The paper said that “a high proportion are veterans of a particular grouping involved in Operation Herrick, Britain’s combat mission in Afghanistan between 2002 and 2014”.
Mr Mercer, Conservative MP for Plymouth h Moor View, told the paper he was particularly concerned about recent deaths involving “a specific unit that served at a specific time in Afghanistan… the bloodiest time”.
“He said the spate of suicides would bring forward Government plans for new mental health treatments for veterans, which are due to begin next month and complement NHS programmes on issues like PTSD, addiction, and debt, the paper said.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced that there suspected cases of coronavirus have been reported in Balkh and Kabul.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar declared that at least two cases of coronavirus were reported in Kabul and one other in Balkh during the past 24 hours.
Mayar noted that the results of the cases will be announced after 24 hours.
This comes as so far more than 50 cases of coronavirus have been reported in Herat, Kabul, Balkh, Baghlan, Ghor, Helmand and Logar.
The Ministry of Transport of Uzbekistan informed aviation authorities and companies of Afghanistan and Iran about temporary suspension of flights to these countries since March 1.
Such decision was made to prevent spread of COVID-19 in Uzbekistan, the Foreign Ministry of Uzbekistan said.
Uzbek authorities pledged to restore flights upon improvement of the coronavirus situation in those countries.
Uzbek citizens have been recommended to refrain from travel to coronavirus affected countries until improvement of the situation.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres has vowed to use his influence in the next two years to fight for global gender equality, including persuading governments to repel discriminatory laws, increase female representation in peace-processes and include unpaid domestic work in GDP.
The Secretary-General gave a speech on the theme “Women and Power” at the New School, a New York University.
Guterres who has two years remaining of his five-year mandate as UN Secretary-General says that in that time he intends to “deepen (his) personal commitment to highlighting and supporting gender equality in all areas of our work.”
Guterres says he will personally contact governments that have discriminatory laws on their books to advocate for change. In addition, he will use the influence of the United Nations to make sure women have equal representation in peace processes.
Guterres concluded his speech by saying: “Gender equality is a question of power; power that has been jealously guarded by men for millennia… The 21st century must be the century of women’s equality. Let us all play our part in making it so.”
US Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has reacted to the signing of a peace deal between the US and Taliban group in Afghanistan.
“The agreement between the United States and the Taliban for a conditions-based U.S. troop drawdown, following a seven-day reduction in violence, is an important initial step toward advancing security and stability in Afghanistan. However, many significant additional steps remain to achieve comprehensive and enduring peace. These steps include the opening of critical intra-Afghan negotiations between Afghan political leaders, the Taliban and civil society to advance a political settlement and permanent, sustainable ceasefire agreement,” Pelosi said.
She emphasised that Afghan women must be at the negotiating table and their voices must be heard.
“The participation of women in the peace process is critical for the security, economy and governance of Afghanistan. We cannot afford to turn back from or lose ground on the important advancements made by and for women and girls in Afghanistan,” Pelosi asserted.
She stressed that the United States Congress continues to stand by the people of Afghanistan in our shared mission to advance a future of security, stability, peace and prosperity for all in the country and region.
“We must do everything we can to keep our troops safe and bring them home, and to give peace a chance,” she added.
In intense clashes taking place in Syria’s Idlib province in recent days 21 members of Iran-backed Afghan and Pakistani militias were killed, Qom News an Iranian website has reported.
The report says 18 members of Pakistani Shiite fighters of Zeynabyoun Brigate and three members of Afghan Shiite Fatemyoun Brigade died in battles.
The burial ceremony of those killed took place on Sunday, March 1 in Iran’s holy city of Qom.
Pakistan says neighboring Afghanistan should resolve its reservations with Islamabad bilaterally rather than involving the United States, referring to a section of a joint US-Afghan declaration on peace efforts.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi made the comment in an interview with Reuters on Sunday, a day after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg signed a declaration of peace efforts.
The declaration, whose signing coincided with the signing in Doha of an agreement between the Taliban militant group and Washington, stated in one of its clauses that the US “commits to facilitate discussions between Afghanistan and Pakistan to work out arrangements to ensure neither country’s security is threatened by actions from the territory of the other side.”
However, this section infuriated Islamabad, prompting Pakistan’s top diplomat to say that Kabul should talk “directly” to Islamabad on bilateral issues.
A series of U.S. aristrikes killed six militants of the IS-K terrorist group in eastern Kunar province.
The 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan Military in a statement said the U.S. military’s unmanned aerial vehicles targeted the IS-K militants in Suki district of Kunar on Sunday.
The statement further added that the airstrikes targeted the IS-K militants in Dewa Gul Vally of the district, killing at least 6 of the militants.
The 201st Silab Corps also added that the airstrikes also killed Ghani, the commander in charge of IS-K prisons and Qari Zahir, another local senior commander of the group.
US Defense Secretary Mark Esper has said President Trump’s peace deal with the Taliban, which opens the door for withdrawing American troops from Afghanistan, is part of a broader goal to refocus the United States’ military resources on preparing for a potential future war with China, Fox News reported.
Speaking in Kabul, Esper expressed the need for the U.S. to stay a step ahead of China and Russia on the battlefield, including in space and in strategic weapons such as hypersonic missiles and advanced nuclear weapons.
To do more to prepare for the China challenge, Esper said, the U.S. must reduce commitments in lower-priority regions so more military units could train together at home on skills related to conventional warfare.
Esper spoke of the prospects for a complete withdrawal while cautioning that the United States “will not hesitate” to strike terrorist threats in Afghanistan if the Taliban were to falter in its promise to prevent extremist groups from using Afghan soil to launch attacks on the homelands of the U.S. or its allies.
“We still have a long way to go,” Esper said.
Late last year, the defense secretary said he would be willing to reduce troop levels even if no deal could be made with the Taliban.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Sunday expressed hope that negotiations would begin in the coming days between Afghanistan’s government and the Taliban after the United States signed an agreement with the Taliban on a U.S. troop pullout.
Pompeo told CBS’s “Face the Nation” program the agreement signed on Saturday was historic and contained detailed commitments by the Taliban to reduce violence in the country, paving the way for negotiations among the Afghan people on the future of the country for the first time in nearly two decades.
“We are hopeful that there will be inter-Afghan negotiations that commence as well,” Pompeo said, adding that U.S. President Donald Trump would be actively engaged in the process. Pompeo gave no date for Trump’s promised meeting with Taliban leaders.
A weapon cache of the Taliban militants has accidentally exploded in Shirin Tagab district of the northern Faryab province, but caused no loss of life, said a statement of provincial police.
The incident took place in Islam Qala village of the restive district as a result huge quantity of arms and ammunitions of the militants were destroyed, the statement added.
The weapon cache blast comes day after the inking a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban group which paves the way for the withdrawal of the U.S.-led coalition forces from Afghanistan.