Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Top U.S. politicians and Afghan women have urged leaders to preserve the advances made by women in the past 19 years as the government of Afghanistan negotiates with the Taliban in Qatar.
Adela Raz, Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations in New York, told Forbes, her expectations are “realistically high” for women’s rights in Afghanistan, despite the presence of only four women in the Afghan delegation.
Despite the Taliban’s views on women’s roles in an Islamic society, Raz told Forbes she was optimistic about the women negotiators who had gone as part of the government’s delegation.
She also warned: “We should not take us for granted to say the Taliban have changed [when it comes to women’s rights].”
“I think we see this now and then it’s going to be revealed very soon, that Yes, I think there is an agreement for them to end violence, but we think there is a very fundamental differences on our definition of freedoms and rights. Those are in this would be very complex.”
Members of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee also said the Afghan government “must make unequivocally and abundantly clear that women will have a significant role to play in any future Afghanistan.”
“At such a critical moment in Afghanistan’s future, we offer our unwavering support and encouragement for the progress that your country has made in the area of women’s empowerment and urge you to make this an ongoing priority of your government,” said Representatives Eliot Engel, chairman of the committee, and Michael McCaul, the Republican Leader of the committee.
The Taliban’s demand for a new constitution based on “Islamic principles” has prompted concern among rights activists.
Turkmenistan said they were planning to start work on the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline in their country.
The TAPI Pipeline Company Limited CEO Muhammetmyrat Amanov said they were intending to start construction activities from Turkmenistan to the Afghan border in Herat.
Amanov said there were challenges posed by the COVID-19 outbreak but progress had been made.
They also said once work was completed on the Turkmen section, it would start construction activities in Afghanistan.
The commencement of construction work in Afghanistan will immensely boost the confidence of international investors who have been waiting for the completion of the project.
Millions of displaced people and their host communities are suffering due to the massive underfunding amid the coronavirus pandemic, the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) said on Friday.
“The agency has so far received just 49% ($4.5 billion) of the $9.1 billion required for its global operations this year,” the UNHCR said.
“The consequences of this funding gap are particularly devastating in low- and middle-income countries, which currently host more than 85% of the world’s refugees,” it said.
The pandemic has destabilized economies, exacerbated internal displacement and reduced access to asylum in many countries.
According to the report, Afghanistan has only been funded 41% and there is a $161.5 million funding shortfall.
The low funding levels have forced UNHCR’s operations in Afghanistan and its neighbouring countries, to cut or reduce programmes across a range of sectors, including protection monitoring, health services, school construction and vocational skills training, with further reductions expected in the second half of 2020 should more funding not be received.
“As violence, persecution and civil strife continue to uproot millions, the coronavirus pandemic is destabilizing entire sectors of the economy, with millions depending on fragile incomes that are now at risk,” said the UN Deputy High Commissioner for Refugees Kelly T. Clements.
“In these unprecedented times, the world needs to broaden its focus making sure displaced populations and their generous but under-resourced hosts are not forgotten. The time to step up support is now,” he said.
Members of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) on Friday, welcomed the start of the intra-Afghan peace talks in Doha, saying they reaffirmed the UNSC’s commitment to the sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and national unity of Afghanistan.
The UNSC statement said that the members “recognised that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that aims at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire as well as an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.”
They strongly encouraged both warring parties, the Afghan government and the Taliban, to “continue pursuing confidence-building measures including reductions in violence, and to continue to engage in good faith.”
The members of the UNSC reaffirmed the importance of the UN’s role in promoting peace and stability in Afghanistan and welcomed the efforts of all regional and international partners of Afghanistan in facilitating intra-Afghan negotiations and in helping the parties reach peace.
According to the statement, they also thanked the Qatari government for facilitating the first round of negotiations.
They also emphasized the importance of the implementation of relevant resolutions, including resolution 2513 (2020) which was adopted in March 2020 stressing the importance of a “peaceful, stable and prosperous Afghanistan” and asking both parties to enter the negotiations in good faith.
A Taliban attack in Khanabad district of Kunduz claimed the lives of three Afghan army soldiers, local officials said on Saturday.
Kunduz governor’s spokesperson Esmatullah Moradi said that on Friday night, Taliban militants attacked security checkpoints on the public highway near Aks Dawood village.
Moradi said the Taliban also suffered casualties, but their exact figures are not known.
The 217th Pamir Corps said that 24 Taliban militants, including a Pakistani national, were killed and 18 were injured in clashes in Aliabad and Dasht-e-Archi districts of the province.
U.S. President Donald Trump called the Taliban “tough” and “smart,” but said they U.S. was dealing well with the militant group.
“We’re dealing very well with the Taliban,” Trump told a news conference on Friday.
“They’re very tough, they’re very smart, they’re very sharp, but you know it’s been 19 years and even they are tired of fighting, in all fairness.”
While Trump is eager to seek a resolution to the conflict in Afghanistan due to his election campaign, his administration has called the beginning of the talks promising.
“We’re having some very good discussions with the Taliban, as you probably heard,” the president said, referring to the peace negotiations with the Taliban.
“And so we’ll be out of there, knowing that certain things have to happen – certain things have to be fulfilled. But 19 years is a long time, 8,000 miles away. Nineteen years is a long time.”
The U.S. has said they are on track to withdraw completely from Afghanistan by spring 2021, subject to the Taliban meeting certain conditions and security guarantees.
This is as recently H.R. McMaster, Trump’s former national security adviser, called the plan to withdraw troops from Afghanistan “unwise.”
Meanwhile, the Afghan government’s negotiating team and the Taliban delegation are expected to hold a meeting later on Saturday to discuss remaining issues under debate by the “contact groups” of the two sides.
Ayub Gharwal, deputy head of the Paktia Provincial Council was killed on Saturday morning, in an armed attack in the provincial center.
Paktia Governor Halim Fidai said that Gharwal had been on his way to the Paktia Universit at 5 a.m., when he was attacked by unknown armed men in the Boland Manzel area of Gardez city.
Fidai said that Gharwal was wounded in the attack and succumbed to his injuries in the hospital.
Paktia police has started investigating the incident.
President Ashraf Ghani condemned the terrorist attack and instructed the relevant authorities to conduct a comprehensive assessment of the incident.
He also repeated his call to the Taliban for a “humanitarian, universal and lasting ceasefire,” the Presidential Palace said.
At least one Afghan security forces member was killed and eight others were wounded in a suicide bombing in the Dehdadi district of Balkh on Saturday morning.
Provincial police spokesperson Adil Shah Adil said the target of the attack was a National Directorate of Security (NDS) commander, Mohammad Hashim Khan Ahmadzai.
Ahmadzai was injured in the blast that targeted his convoy at 10:30 a.m. in the Golaee Khasa village.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said they tested 95 samples for Coronavirus in the past day, of which 22 were found positive.
The cases were reported positive in Balkh (17), Nangarhar (3) and Kunar (2) provinces.
There were no deaths or recoveries reported in the past day.
Afghanistan has confirmed 38,919 cases of COVID-19 so far with 32,576 recoveries and 1,437 deaths.