Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Former Da Afghanistan Bank employees and activists have raised concerns over the leadership of Ajmal Ahmady, the bank’s new governor.
Qasim Rahimi, former deputy head, and Younus Sadat, the former head of the finance department of the bank, were dismissed last week for alleged corrupt behaviour after having served in the bank for 15 years.
Rahimi and Sadat said that on assuming office, Ahmady consolidated power with a circle of 15 people who had “no official position at the bank” and called their dismissal illegal.
They said their dismissal would have required going over classified paperwork that would then be prepared and shared with the Attorney General’s Office so that they can file charges.
Both dismissed officials claim that Ahmady shared these papers with his confidants, possibly endangering the $9 billion financial resources of the country.
Civil society organisation also published a statement on Saturday, expressing concern over Ahmady’s actions.
According to the Governance and Anti-Corruption Committee of the Joint Working Group on Civil Society Organizations, the head of the central bank must be a non-political person and all actions related to the bank must guarantee its independence.
“The recent appointment of the central bank governor is political and therefore questionable,” said Ekram Afzali, head of Integrity Watch Afghanistan (IWA).
Afzali described the dismissals of Rahimi and Sadar as a political move and said the government should guarantee the independence of the central bank through non-political appointments.
“The current head of the Central Bank does not meet the requirements of the law,” said Najiba Ayubi, head of Killid Group.
She says according to the law, the head of the central bank must not be a member of the Council of Ministers, the National Council or other high-ranking government institutions.
However, Ahmady had been the former acting minister of industry and trade.
The central bank has not yet commented on the dismissed employees’ claims.
Airstrike and ground clashes in Kandahar and Helmand province have killed at least 26 Taliban militants and wounded six more.
Jamal Naser Barakzai, spokesperson for the Kandahar police department said NATO’s Resolute Support Mission conducted the airstrike in Dar-e Syasan in Kandahar’s Arghandab district at 1 am on Saturday.
The offensive was launched at militants who were targeting Afghan security forces in the district. It killed 15 militants and wounded six.
The Afghan security forces also managed to kill six Taliban militants when they attacked a security outpost in Kandahar’s Marouf district.
In Helmand’s Washir district, at least seven Taliban, including the group’s commander was killed in an operation by the Afghan forces on Friday night.
The Afghan army identified the commander as Yahya, also known as Ebrat.
Severe acute malnutrition among Afghan children below five years old has increased 13% within five months, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said at a press conference in Geneva.
Their data shows the number of children below five years old suffering from life threatening malnutrition rose from 690,000 in January to an estimated 780,000 in May 2020.
“This 13% increase over this short period of time is incredibly alarming,” she said. “Children suffering from severe acute malnutrition – especially those with other complications such as measles, or diarrhea, are at death’s door. They require specialized treatment.”
This comes amidst the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and decades of insecurity in the country.
“Coping strategies have been stretched to the limit, hospitals are struggling, and even where services are available, families are afraid to bring children in for inpatient treatment due to fear of contagion,” the UNICEF official said.
“We fear worse is yet to come.”
The UNICEF recommended for the scaling up of nutrition services both at community and facility level to prevent more children slipping into severe malnutrition and to make sure life-saving treatment is available for those that do.
As many as 20 U.S. senators wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, urging the administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Afghan minority communities of Sikhs and Hindus.
In the bipartisan letter, they called on the State Department to prioritise resettlement opportunities under the U.S. Refugee Admissions Program allocation ceilings for Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities.
The population of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan have plummeted through the years due to persecution by militant groups. The communities which once numbered around 250,000 have fewer than 1,000 individuals left.
The latest incident was the abduction of an Afghan Sikh in Paktia province.
“This Administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority,” the senators wrote.
They also call on Pompeo to offer additional support to members of the Sikh and Hindu communities that choose to remain in Afghanistan.
They also asked to endure that religious minorities benefitted from the U.S. COVID-19 assistance and development aid.
Billing mistakes at NATO’s headquarters in Kabul led to coalition forces receiving free meals at U.S. expense for over three years, a report released by Defence Department Inspector General found.
The problem occurred because the military only billed their 17 allies for half the months between January 2016 and September 2019, leading to a deficit of more than $6 million.
Further billing mistakes undercharged recipients by nearly $3 million.
The report only looked at NATO’s Resolute Support headquarters and not the other bases.
The over $9 million expense was blamed on logistics personnel who failed to establish terms and condition with each partner country before dining services were provided.
“Unless USFOR-A [U.S. Forces Afghanistan] establishes terms and conditions with coalition partners before providing services, develops training specific to Afghanistan and performs oversight, the DOD will continue to not initiate bills for the full reimbursable amount for dining facility services,” the Inspector General said.
There are 17 nations that pay the U.S. for dining services and an additional 20 coalition countries who would be unable to assist the mission without financial help.
The Inspector General encouraged USFOR-A to collect the missing payments, develop agreements with each coalition partner and update personnel training.
The Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) and the National Development Company (NDV) have signed a contract for the restoration of 12 historical monuments in seven provinces worth 122 million AFN.
According to Tahir Zuhair, acting minister of information and culture, the projects include the restoration of Takht-e Rostam stupa and monastery complex in Samangan, Chagni Fort in Nimroz, and the Haji Shahid Mosque in Kunduz
Zuhair said the work will be carried in collaboration with the relevant officials of the Department of Preservation and Repair of Historic Monuments.
Face-to-face talks with the Taliban may begin in mid-July, claimed Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi during a press conference on Saturday.
An earlier report by Reuters had also quoted an Afghan government source to have said the same.
Sediqqi said the Afghan government had so far released 3,891 Taliban prisoners and their negotiating team was ready to take effective steps to start the intra-Afghan peace dialogue.
“The Taliban are still creating obstacles to peace,” he pointed, referring to their use of violence which “has undermined the peace process.”
He urged the Taliban to uphold their end of the deal and release captured security and defence forces.
A source close to the Taliban told Reuters they were willing to move forward with the talks as long as “most of the 5,000 prisoners demanded were released.”
He also touched upon the news of further U.S. troop withdrawal and said that would not affect Afghan security.
“Relations between the governments of Afghanistan and the U.S. are based on mutual and lasting commitments, and a reduction in U.S. forces will not affect the country’s security,” he added.
“The Afghan security forces will have the lasting support of the NATO Resolute Support Mission.”
The Office of the National Security Council (ONSC) has released its latest statistics which claim the Taliban killed 21 civilians and wounded 30 others in the past week.
“Taliban movements and violence” were noted in 14 provinces, the ONSC said.
Takhar reported the highest incidents, with 19 casualties.
The Taliban have not yet commented.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said the two people killed in the Kabul car explosion on Saturday morning, were there employees.
One of the victims, the woman, was a legal adviser to AIHRC, while the other man was the driver of the vehicle.
Early on Saturday morning, a Toyota Corolla exploded after a magnetic bomb was triggered in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of PD 12 in Kabul.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack which comes barely a week after five employees of the Attorney General’s Office were killed on their way to work.
At least 30,902 people across Afghanistan were arrested for drug trafficking in the last between 2009 and 2019, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian.
“Smugglers continue to support the Taliban financially and militarily,” Arian said as the country marked the beginning of the National Mobilization Week against Drugs.
The Eleventh Report of the United Nations Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team (MT) also found that narcotics cultivation, production and trafficking were the main source of the Taliban’s revenue.
Arian added that the Afghan government has made significant achievements to fight the narcotics trade in recent years. However, insecurity in the border provinces where most of the poppy cultivations are, have made it difficult.
The Lower House of the Parliament urged the Presidential Palace and the Sepidar Palace to introduce their nominated cabinet members for a vote of confidence before the session’s summer break.
Some members say the government’s delay is intentional so that the parliamentarians go on the month and a half recess.
Ministers said that even if the nominees are introduced now, it will take the Parliament some time to verify their credentials and citizenship and called it a tactic to pressurize them to make decisions in a short period of time.
However, they are willing to delay the summer break, if necessary, to finalize the members of the cabinet in due process.
They have asked the government to hasten the nomination process so that the ‘acting’ ministers can go for a vote of confidence and start working for their ministries. In the last few years, such acting ministers had not been accountable to the parliament for their work.
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi has previously said that most of their candidates have already been appointed, and they are waiting for the list from Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that 20 COVID-19 patients have died in the country over the past day, pushing Afghanistan’s death toll to 703.
The ministry reported that they tested 529 samples through the day, of which 165 new Coronavirus cases were reported. The country’s current tally is 30,616 confirmed cases to date, with 10,674 recovered cases and 19,239 active cases.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Paktia (34), Herat (27), Ghazni (21), Kandahar (19), Paktika (17), Khost (10), Nuristan (8), Nangarhar (7), Laghman (7), Balkh (7), Helmand (4), Uruzgan (3) and Samangan (1).
The MoPH dashboard did not show any tests conducted in Kabul over the past day, at the time of writing this report.
Kabul police said two people, including a woman, were killed in an explosion in the Afghan capital’s Police District 12 on Saturday.
The blast was triggered by a magnetic bomb attached to a Toyota Corolla at 7:45 am in the Pul-e-Charkhi area of Kabul.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.
A mortar shell fired by the Taliban hit a home in Khost’s Domanda district, and killed four children, the Ministry of Interior said.
Tariq Arian, spokesperson for the ministry, said five more were injured in the attack.
The Khost governor’s spokersperson said the dead were all from a single family and the five injured included a woman.
The Taliban is yet to comment on the attack.
Herat, which shares borders with Iran and Turkmenistan, reported a loss of 3.1 billion AFN in revenue, the province’s customs officials said.
Shamroz Khan Masjedi, spokesperson of the Ministry of Finance said the loss in customs revenues was driven by the decrease in trade from neighbouring nations.
Traders have raised concern about corruption and control of powerful men who embezzle the revenues at Herat Customs office.
They say the revenue at Herat should have been higher since traders were exporting more to Iran once Pakistan had closed the border crossings in March.
However, Masjedi said a digital x-ray machine and cameras have been installed at the border points to check such practices.