Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Filippo Grandi has said the international conference on Afghan refugees would recognize the role of Pakistan in hosting them for the past four decades.
“We know Pakistan has faced so many challenges and sacrificed a lot,” he said while speaking to media in Quetta ahead of ‘International Conference on 40 Years of Hosting Afghan Refugees in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity’ scheduled to be held in Islamabad on February 17 (Monday).
The conference is being co-hosted by the Pakistan government and the United Nations refugee agency and will be attended by Secretary General Antonio Guterres and UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.
Grandi said UNHCR wants to use the opportunity to tell the world powers that they need to share the burden more on the issue. “In the past, it was easier to mobilize resources as it was a political issue globally. But now, it is on the contrary,” he added.
The high commissioner said he wanted to visit the provincial capital during his current visit.
“This is my third visit to Pakistan as high commissioner though I have visited the country several times. I was very keen to visit Quetta during my current visit.”
Acknowledging that Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (K-P) province is hosting the largest number of Afghan refugees, Grandi said efforts of Balochistan should also be recognized as it hosts the highest number of Afghan refugees (0.35 million) after the K-P.
The campaign team of the Presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah has warned to stand against rigged elections’ results and they will not accept a “forced” and “rigged” decision.
Falz Ahmad Manawi, head of Abdullah’s campaign team in a press conference regarding the start of audit process on disputed votes by the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said the commission has violated laws with beginning this process.
He emphasized that there is no such thing as special audit in electoral law.
“IEC conducted recount in several provinces in the absence of Electoral Complaints Commission’s representatives and candidates’ observers,” head of Abdullah’s campaign team said.
Manawi declared that votes without biometrics or casted out of valid time are not acceptable to them.
“We are suspicious about both the electoral commissions’ activities. IEC is making “one-sided” decisions,” Manawi said.
He warned that the “Stability and Partnership” electoral team would withdraw from election process.
“Any possible option is on the table, if a similar scenario to the 2014 elections is repeated. We will resist for stability at any cost,” Manawi added.
NATO’s senior civilian representative in Afghanistan, Nicholas Kay says that both the Afghan security forces and civilians need to see a significant reduction in violence as part of an imminent peace deal between the Taliban and the United States.
Nicholas Kay in an interview with RFE/RL said that a significant reduction in people being attacked and losing their lives and also one imagines that it should also be an enduring thing, nobody wants this to be a short-term provision and It’s a step eventually toward a complete cease-fire.
“The majority of violence and enemy-initiated attacks at the moment are against Afghan targets, government forces, and Afghan civilians. And it’s important in a reduction in violence that the Afghans see that reducing significantly,” he told RFE/RL.
Kay emphasized that this is really the time for peace and Taliban should respect the will of the people.
“Neither side should be preparing for a spring offensive. Reduction in violence should mean exactly that. A reduction in violence that is noted by the Afghan people and that is enduring. And that would not be compatible with the spring offensive,” he added.
An Afghan source close to the negotiations has said that US officials in Munich, Germany, reassured President Ashraf Ghani and his team that America won’t abandon them, according to a CNN report.
The source said that Americans told the Afghans: “We guarantee you if they [Taliban] break [terms of deal] US will have enough lethal power to destroy them, we are with the Afghan now and we will be with Afghanistan forever.”
The source made the comments as NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the US and NATO were prepared to reduce their military presence in Afghanistan if the Taliban demonstrated a willingness to reduce violence and come to the negotiating table.
“We are not leaving Afghanistan … NATO has said, the US has said, we are prepared to adjust our presence if the Taliban demonstrates real will and capability to reduce violence,” Stoltenberg said during his address at the Munich Security Conference.
“The aim of our presence in Afghanistan is to send the message to the Taliban that they will never win on the battlefield, but they have to sit down and make real compromises around the negotiating table,” NATO’s Secretary General added.
Ceylon Chamber (CCC) will be signing a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) shortly to promote trade between the two countries.
This decision was taken subsequent to a discussion between CCC and Ambassador of Afghanistan to Sri Lanka, M. Ashraf Haidari, held at the Embassy of Afghanistan in Colombo.
During the discussion, the Ceylon Chamber of Commerce Senior Assistant Secretary General, Lilakshini de Mel, briefed Ambassador Haidari on the role of the 19 business councils coming under the purview of the Chamber and indicated that the “Sri Lanka – Afghanistan Trade Desk” will be initially established in February 2020 to further promote trade, investment and tourism between Sri Lanka and Afghanistan.
The Afghan Security Forces killed at least five Taliban insurgents during an operation in southern Kandahar province, the security officials said.
The Special Operations Corps in a statement said that the security forces killed 5 Taliban insurgents during a joint raid in Khakriz district of Kandahar.
According to the statement, the security forces killed the insurgents during a joint military operation.
The security forces also discovered and defused five Improvised Explosive Devices (IED) during the operation, the statement added.
Kabul Police have confirmed that a currency exchanger has been killed by unknown men in Kabul city.
According to Kabul Police spokesperson, Ferdawas Faramarz, “Around 08:00 am, Sunday morning, a currency exchanger named Mohammad Yaqoob was killed in Ahmad Shah Baba Mina, PD12 Kabul, but his money was not taken away.”
Faramarz noted that the case is under investigation.
This comes as President Ghani in a meeting with Kabul currency exchangers has promised to set up a special anti-kidnapping task force in cooperation with the National Directorate of Security, the Ministry of Interior and the General Attorney Office.
Afghan Police have confirmed that at least nine addicts have been killed by unidentified gunmen in Kabul city.
Ferdaws Faramarz, the Kabul Police spokesperson said some unknown armed men killed 9 addicts, in PD6 of Kabul on the outskirts of the Ghorikh Mountain on Saturday night.
According to Faramarz, the reason behind the incident is not clear so far but investigations have been started.
The Afghan government has launched the Afghanistan National Trade Policy (ANTP)–a new initiative to spur growth and create jobs by boosting the export capacities of the country’s private sector, to trade with regional and global markets.
Afghanistan’s Minister of Industry and Commerce Ajmal Ahmady said: “This national trade policy takes center stage in transforming the direction of the economy’s productive sectors toward producing and exporting high value-added products so that the country’s full export potential can be realized. The policy document outlines the key principles and strategies that will guide the Afghanistan’s strategic integration into global markets.”
The Government anticipates that the ANTP will support the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework – the country’s overarching policy strategy – and implementation of its WTO commitments, National Export Strategy, National Priority Program on Private Sector Development, and national export targets.
US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad met with India’s External Affairs Minister, S Jaishankar and discussed regional and global issues with them.
The Munich Security Conference, being held from February 14-16, is the world’s leading forum for debate on international security policy and is held annually. It was established in 1963.
Jaishankar took to Twitter and said, “Met US4AfghanPeace Zalmay Khalilzad at MSC2020. Appreciated his update on the Afghanistan negotiations.”
The meetings come in the backdrop of a possible deal between the US and the Taliban to reduce violence, which could eventually lead to withdrawal of American troops from the war-torn Afghanistan.
At the Munich Security Conference, the Afghan leader refused to confirm the US-Taliban deal but said a proper announcement will be made in a week to ten days. He also said the US and Afghanistan are now on the same page.
According to DW News, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani told a panel at the Munich Security Conference that his government is taking a practical approach to resolving the 18-year-long Afghan conflict.
“We are not going to solve this conflict on the basis of ‘paper discussions,'” the Afghan leader added as quoted by DW News.
Ghani expressed some doubts about the Taliban’s intention, alluding to the “Trojan Horse strategy,” but said that he needed to test the group’s commitment nonetheless. “We are going to take a substantial step forward and test. Testing is going to reveal [if the peace with the Taliban works].”
The US-Taliban deal seems closer than ever after the Islamist group agreed to a seven-day reduction of violence in Afghanistan.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres arrived in Pakistan on Sunday to attend the international conference on Afghan refugees.
The two-day conference titled “40 Years of Afghan Refugees Presence in Pakistan: A New Partnership for Solidarity” will be held in Islamabad. The UN chief who is on his first visit to the country since assuming office will address the conference.
The conference would be recognition of Pakistan’s “tremendous generosity” in hosting millions of refugees from Afghanistan over four decades, the UN chief’s spokesperson Stephane Dujarric told the regular noon briefing in New York.
The conference will be inaugurated by Pakistani Prime Minister Khan and is being organized by the Government of Pakistan and the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR).
Pakistan is one of the largest refugee-hosting nations in the world, home to an estimated 2.4 million registered and undocumented people who have fled Afghanistan, some as far back as the Soviet invasion of 1979.
Seven Taliban insurgents, including two local Taliban leaders, were killed in an overnight army airstrike in northern Takhar province in the latest raid against the insurgents, authorities have said.
“Acting on a confirmed intelligence tip, the airstrike was conducted by Afghan Air Force in Masjid-i-Safid village of Baharak district. The strike also injured three militants and destroyed several militants’ motorcycles,” spokesman Mohammad Jawad Hijri said.
Among those militants killed were Jalal Sirat, alias Nasrat, deputy commander to Taliban special force Sara Keta, and a local Taliban leader named Ahmadullah Taluqani. The official said no civilians were hurt during the strike.
The targeted militants were found to be involved in terrorist crimes in Takhar and neighboring provinces in the past.