Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The National Council of Money Exchangers of Afghanistan today went on strike in protest to the recent decision of the Central Bank to turn money exchange dealers to “monetary service companies”.
A number of money changers in Sarai Shahzadeh (financial and trading market) in Kabul today staged a sit-in protest, chanting slogans against the decision of the Central Bank of Afghanistan and demanding the continuation of exchange activities on an individual basis.
But the Central Bank of Afghanistan says that “the benefits and facilities of monetary service companies are greater than individual licenses, and most members of the leadership of the money changers’ union have obtained corporate licenses.”
Most money, currency, loan and lending services in Afghanistan are provided through private exchange networks, which are spread in different countries and in all districts of Afghanistan.
A statement from the National Council of Money Changers of Afghanistan said that the Sarai Shahzada and all exchange markets and monetary services across the country will be closed from today until the money changers’ problem is resolved with the Central Bank of Afghanistan.
The statement said that obtaining a license for a monetary service company should be “optional”.
The central bank has canceled the distribution and renewal of individual licenses, regardless of the central and provincial money changers’ proposals, which has caused problems for their bank accounts and administrative problems, the statement said.
The statement called on money changers in Kabul and the provinces not to buy foreign currency from the central bank until the issue is resolved.
The Central Bank of Afghanistan (Da Afghanistan Bank) said that it has transformed the activities of money changers into monetary companies based on commitments with international partners to combat money laundering and terrorist financing.
The government’s delegation has submitted its findings to the Ministry of Interior (MoI) about the security situation of Behsud district of Maidan Wardak province, the Ministry’s spokesman, Tariq Arian said.
MoI in a press release on Saturday said that the joint security delegation members, which visited the Behsud district last week to investigate the security situation have met with the influential people in the district.
“Considering the findings of the delegation, the Ministry of Interior is seriously investigating the issue of civilian casualties during a in Behsud district,” the press release said.
Regarding the findings, the MoI leadership has summoned the Maidan Wardak Police chief to Kabul for further investigations.
“In case of proving any violation, the wrongdoers will be dealt with in the light of the law,” the press release added.
Afghan National Security Adviser (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib, says the Taliban have abandoned the peace talks in Doha and warned that the Afghan security forces are ready to fight them in the battlefields and defend the people.
“The Taliban want power and are ready to destroy Afghanistan to gain it,” NSA Mohib said in a press conference on Saturday. “If the Taliban do not want peace, we must defend our people. President Ghani is committed to peace; But the Taliban are the main obstacle to the peace process.”
Mohib expressed hope that there would be a general peace in Afghanistan, but stated: “Anyone who is thinking of collapsing the system will not get what he/she wants. We will not allow them to collapse the system and carry out their nefarious goals here.”
NSA said that the recent visits of the Taliban delegation to the regional
countries indicate that no country supports the establishment of the Emirati system in Afghanistan.
In the meantime, the Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi at the same press conference said that the Taliban militants are incapable of falling districts and the city centers.
“The Taliban have just started fighting in Kandahar; But they have no soldiers and have asked for people from other provinces. The defense and security forces have inflicted heavy casualties on them,” Andarabi said.
The Interior Minister stressed that if the Taliban do not want peace, the security and defense forces will be fully prepared to suppress them.
This comes as nearly a month has passed since the start of the second round of peace talks in Qatar; But during this time, the two sides have held a formal meeting only once or twice, which has been more ceremonial. The Taliban delegation has recently begun trips to Iran, Russia and Turkmenistan, distancing themselves from peace talks.
Mohammad Naeem, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said that Mullah Baradar and the group’s delegation met with Turkmenistan’s deputy Prime Minister and foreign minister this morning.
According to Taliban’s spokesman, the two sides discussed major pipeline and railway projects and the Taliban delegation expressed their cooperation and confidence in the better implementation of these projects.
According to him, the current situation and peace and stability in Afghanistan were also discussed during the meeting.
This comes as the Taliban political delegation headed by Mullah Baradar visited Turkmenistan after their trip to Iran.
Three members of the Meshrano Jirga, the Upper House of Parliament, were sentenced to 10 years and one month in prison each by the primary court of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center on charges of accepting $40,000 in bribe money from customs officials in Balkh, the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) said on Saturday.
According to AGO, senators Muhammad Anwar Bashliq, Muhammad Azim Qoiash and Liyaqatullah Babakarkhail are accused of asking for $60,000 in bribe money from customs officials in the Hairatan port in Balkh province.
AGO officials said that the Senators were arrested last year in December while accepting $40,000 in bribe money.
The AGO said that the primary court of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center made the decision based on seven reasons against the senators.
The senators were also fined $40,000, the AGO said.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday reported 5 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1,151 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported two deaths and nine recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,335 the number of total reported deaths is 2,410 and the total number of recoveries is 48,027.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar and Ghazni provinces.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) has rejected the findings of a recent report by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), saying that the electoral fraud was reduced to a minimum level in the 2019 Presidential elections.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul today, Hava Alam Nuristani, the head of IEC, said that the use of biometric technology and anti-fraud measures, the use of paper and electronic voter lists and the use of electronic results forms in Presidential election has reduced electoral fraud to a minimum level.
Nuristani also called the system for summarizing the results and the system for tracking sensitive election materials in the 2019 presidential election, among other things that, according to her, had reduced fraud in the election.
“As a result of the total number of votes presented [in 2019 presidential election], 1,823,948 real votes were confirmed, which is unprecedented in the Afghan elections,” she said.
In the meantime, the head of IEC, referring to the expenses in the past presidential election, explained that $149.9 million had been considered for this election, which of that, $ 90.5 million was pledged by the Afghan government and another $ 59.4 million by the international community.
She also said that out of the total national budget, $ 29.5 million was earmarked for the last presidential election, of which 26 million was spent by the Electoral Commissions.
Referring to the findings of the SIGAR report on the weakness of the leadership and the presence of unqualified employees in the IEC, she said that the IEC has carried out organizational reforms at various levels in the center and provinces and has been able to attract educated and experienced staff.
“There is a great work capacity in the Secretariat of the Election Commission. The entire election process was managed and executed by the staff of the Secretariat of the Commission, which shows the capacity and ability of the staff of this commission,” IEC chief said.
However, she stressed that current IEC officials are not accountable for how former IEC officials and commissioners act.
SIGAR has recently published a report stating that the Afghan Electoral Commission has always suffered from weak leadership, unqualified staff, minimal accountability for fraud and shortcomings, and inadequate decision-making structures.
In addition to these factors, the report stated that insecurity alone has been a major obstacle to widespread political participation, and that polling stations on election day have been closed since 2004 more than ever before.
Part of this report mentions the 2019 presidential election and states that only 63% of polling stations were open at that time.
Afghanistan’s capital witnessed three explosions in less than two hours on Saturday morning.
According to security officials, at least two civilians and one Police were killed and five other civilians were wounded in the blasts.
The first explosion took place at a shop in Bagh-e Qazi area of PD1 at around 09:14am (local time).
According to Police, six civilians including three Afghan Hindus were wounded in the first explosion.
Police said the second blast occurred when people were addressing the wounded of the first explosion.
Police stated that two civilians including an Afghan Hindu was killed in the second explosion.
In the meantime, the third blast happened when a ranger type vehicle targeted by an IED blast in Khair Khana area of PD11 at around 10:40am which one security force was killed in the incident.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incidents so far.
US President Joe Biden issued an executive order on Friday to review the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghan combat translators who helped the U.S. military, a program with tens of thousands of backlogged requests.
A White House release said the order would review practices to ensure the U.S. was honoring its commitment to helpful allies in war-torn countries, to expand the program and enhance access to the program for those vulnerable to persecution, including women, children and those who could be discriminated against for gender or sexual orientation.
About 17,000 Afghan translators or others who helped the U.S. abroad are currently seeking special visas to resettle in the U.S., fearing retaliation from the Taliban and other terror groups. With immediate family members who would come too, the number increases to about 70,000 Afghans, according to The Washington Post.
The average wait time for a translator to make it through the 14-step program to obtain a visa is three years, and in December, more than 1,000 Afghan and Iraqi interpreters signed a petition pleading with Biden to simplify the process.
Following the continuation of Coronavirus pandemic, the Afghan health authorities say the first shipment of COVID19 vaccine will arrive in Kabul tomorrow.
Masooma Jafari, the Deputy Spokesman of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), said in a press release on Saturday that an Indian company that manufactures vaccines, will send the vaccines shipment to Afghanistan tomorrow (Sunday).
She noted that it is possible that a total of 500,000 doses of the vaccinated aid would be sent in one shipment from India.
In particular, Jafari emphasized that the World Health Organization had promised two weeks ago that it would certify the Indian-made coronavirus vaccine.
She cited that if the vaccine is approved by the World Health Organization by the end of the week, it would be implemented but would not be implemented until it is approved in time.
The Deputy Spokesman for the Ministry of Health noted that a committee has been formed by the Ministry of Health to prioritize individuals who should be vaccinated in the first stage.
Masouma Jafari added that individuals including health workers, teachers, detainees, security forces, people who live in dormitories, people with side diseases and internally displaced peoples have been given priority in the first phase of the vaccination.
At least one security force was killed and one other was wounded in a Taliban’s attack in Kijran district of Daikundi province on Friday night, local officials said.
Gul Aqa Sajadi, the director of Police press office in Daikundi said that the Taliban attacked a security outpost in Tapa Poor area of the district.
According to Sajadi, the attack repulsed after an hour of clashes.
Sajadi noted that Taliban also suffered heavy casualties but the exact figure is not clear.
At least six people, including three Afghan Hindus, were wounded in an explosion at a shop in the Bagh-e-Qazi area of Kabul city on Saturday morning, police said.
The blast took place at around 09:40 am (local time). The nature of the explosion is unknown so far, police said.
In the meantime, one security force was killed in an IED blast which targeted a ranger type vehicle in Khairkhana area of PD11 at around 10:41am today, Police confirmed.
No group has claimed responsibility for the incidents so far.
The ongoing coronavirus pandemic has been responsible for an increase in conflicts and the heightened threat from terrorist groups, UN experts have claimed in a report which has been recently released.
The panel of experts evaluated that the risk of violence in conflict zones increased significantly throughout the second half of 2020.
The primary reason is said to be that militants were able to operate easily and move freely despite lockdown restrictions affecting local populations, including security personnel.
According to the panel, militant groups continue to operate in conflict countries while cells belonging to the IS-K group remain in place which the biggest threat, however, is apparently in Afghanistan, which remains the worst country in the world for terrorism.
In February last year, an agreement between the Taliban and the US was signed in Qatar.
However, with power to be shared and the US to withdraw most of its troops gradually, the agreement broke down during the year.
It is reported that over 600 Afghan civilians and 2,500 security officers have since been killed. Iran has now offered itself as a mediator, hosting Taliban figures a week ago and urging the creation of an inclusive government in Kabul.
US Defense Chief Lloyd Austin reaffirmed the US’s commitment to an “enduring” partnership with the Afghan government during a call Friday with President Ashraf Ghani.
Austin and Ghani “discussed the shared sacrifices of U.S. and Afghanistan forces and collective gains made over the last 19 years,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“President Ghani and Secretary Austin discussed the Afghan peace process and the imperative for a negotiated settlement to end the war. Both sides emphasized the importance of seizing this opportunity for peace,” it added.
The call comes as Afghanistan faces rising attacks from the Taliban and other militant groups that have included a devastating string of targeted assassinations of government officials, and religious, political and civil society figures.
The US has roughly 2,500 troops in Afghanistan working to support and defend Afghan forces from the Taliban, down from about 14,000 in 2020