Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghan forces, during a cleanup operation, have killed at least 18 Taliban insurgents in the Takhar province, officials said on Saturday.
The operation, backed by military planes, was conducted over the last two days in the troubled Darqad district of the province, resulting in the death of at least 18 Taliban fighters and injury of 11 others, Afghan army said in a statement.
The government forces also cleared Norkhil village of the insurgents and destroyed three of their hideouts, during the mop-up, the statement said.
The Taliban group has not commented regarding the incident so far.
Afghanistan Presidential Palace in a statement on Saturday said that there are 13 Afghan nationals among the victims of the Ukrainian jetliner crash in Iran in which 176 people on board were killed.
“Regretfully, there are 13 Afghan nationals among the victims of the Ukrainian airlines plane crash. I, hereby, express my deepest sympathies and condolences to the families and friends of the victims. Our hearts go out to them during this tragic time of grievances,” Ghani said in a statement.
President Ghani said he has directed government institutions to look for information about the relatives and family members of the victims living in Afghanistan to provide them with required support.
This comes as Iran on Saturday admitted that it has “unintentionally” shot down the Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 aboard.
The statement came Saturday morning and blamed “human error” for the shootdown.
A US vehicle was struck by an improvised explosive device (IED) in southern Kandahar province on Saturday, a spokesman for Resolute Support confirmed.
Sources say the blast happened in Dand district of Kandahar province.
“A U.S. vehicle struck an IED this morning. We are assessing the situation and will provide more information as it becomes available,” the RS said in a statement.
Taliban claimed responsibility for the incident.
Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority has said that flights over Afghanistan have increased by 25 percent amid tensions between the United States and Iran.
ACAA in a statement on Saturday said that the International Civil Aviation Organization and International Air Transport Association requested Afghanistan and other countries in the region to help facilitate more overflights, following escalation of tensions in the region.
The authority said that airlines had already changed their routes to Afghanistan due to security issues in Iran and the Persian Gulf.
Tensions between the United States and Iran have escalated dramatically after a top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was killed last week in a US air strike in Iraq.
The Taliban expects that a date to sign a peace agreement with the United States will be fixed soon, its spokesman has said.
“A date to sign the agreement has not been fixed. We expect to fix it soon,” Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for Taliban’s political office, said as quoted by Russia’s TASS news agency.
US negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad renewed talks with the Taliban last month on steps that could lead to a ceasefire and a settlement of the 18-year-long war.
The commander of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and United States Forces in Afghanistan, General Scott Miller, Afghan Acting Defense Minister, Asadullah Khalid have visited the Balkh province to evaluate the security situation.
The 209 Shahin Corps in a statement on Saturday said that a security meeting was held in the Marmal camp of Balkh in presence of US, NATO commander, Gen. Scott Miller, the acting defense minister and other senior security officials.
According to the statement, the officials focused on the current security situation, the vulnerable areas, and insecure districts and assured that significant developments will be made in the security units with the implementation of complex operations and suppressing the insurgents.
The Pak-Afghan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) has agreed on the provision of the same facilities under Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) that were available to the trade community under (ATTA).
The consensus in this regard was reached during a meeting which has been held in Kabul.
The participants agreed on the promotion of bilateral trade, addressing the reservations of the business community on the new transit trade agreement, the establishment of a liaison committee for the removal of hurdles to bilateral trade, exchange of trade delegations and promotion of investment.
The Taliban group has said that it believes escalating military tensions between the United States and Iran are unlikely to hurt the group’s negotiations with Washington.
Suhail Shaheen, who speaks for the Taliban’s negotiating team, told VOA their meetings with U.S. interlocutors over the past year have brought the two adversaries in the 18-year-old Afghan on the verge of signing a peace deal.
He dismissed reported concerns U.S.-Iran tensions threatens the peace initiative.
“The developments will not have negative impact on the peace process because the (U.S.-Taliban) peace agreement is finalized and only remains to be signed (by the two sides),” Shaheen asserted.
The progress, he insisted, has been achieved because both the Taliban and the U.S. agree the Afghan conflict could only be settled through peaceful means.