Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani had a telephone conversation with the Turkish President Tayyip Erdoğan today, the Presidential Palace (Arg) said.
Arg in a statement on Sunday said that President Ashraf Ghani and Tayyip Erdoğan agreed to hold a trilateral meeting between the Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Turkey and Pakistan aimed at supporting the peace process, as well as to hold a conference of Afghan and Turkish religious scholars on Afghan peace process.
According to the statement, President Ghani thanked Turkey for its strong support at the Geneva Conference and said that Afghanistan and Turkey have friendly and historic relations and this year will mark the 100th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries.
In the meantime, the Turkish President, in turn, expressed deep concern over the ongoing violence and targeted killings by the Taliban in the country and called for a ceasefire, saying the Taliban should stop violence and find a political solution.
President Erdogan has also promised further cooperation with the Afghan security and defense forces, and in education and infrastructure fields.
The Lower House of Parliament on Sunday announced the establishment of a “Peace Commission”, and accused the government and the Taliban of secrecy over the peace process activities.
The speaker of Lower House, Mir Rahman Rahmani on today’s session at Parliament said that with the establishment of the new peace commission, the House of Representatives will be directly involved in the intra-Afghan talks.
Rahmani stated that the peace commission, chaired by him, has 21 members and is working on a comprehensive peace plan.
“The government says the Taliban do not want peace, the Taliban says the government does not want peace, the Americans say we are reviewing the agreement, while the Afghan people are being killed every day,” he said.
“The principle of representation of the people is made by the Lower House. We must first meet with the leadership of the High Council for National Reconciliation, the political leaders involved in the affairs of Afghanistan and then involve in Doha talks; So that we can finally prepare the final plan and use it to ensure a real peace,” Rahmani asserted.
He called the issue of peace in the country important, vital and crucial, and said that the Lower House should be aware of what is going on in the process.
Rahmani added in part that the commission is working on how to get the Wolesi Jirga directly involved in the talks and find out what is going on in the process.
The Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) in a meeting titled “Government Accountability to the Nation”, announced that during the current solar year of 1399, about 3,800 cases of violence against women were registered in the capital and other provinces of the country.
The Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs, Hossniyah Safi, presented a report on the activities of the ministry today on the tenth day of the government’s “accountability to the nation.”
Ms. Safi said that in the fiscal year of 1399, the Deputy for Economic Empowerment of Women was established in the Ministry of Women Affairs.
She stated that the Ministry works to empower women by finding them jobs and building their capacity.
In part of her speech, she said that in the upcoming solar year of 1,400, all women’s gardens in the country will be changed into women’s empowerment centers.
She noted that in the fiscal year of 1399, about 3800 cases of violence against women were registered in the capital and provinces.
Ms. Safi further pointed out that 644 people, including registered cases, have been reunited with their principled relatives, 315 cases in the year 1398 and 1399 have been followed up through telephone calls, and the defendants in 88 acute cases have been arrested.
According to her, legal advice has been provided for 756 cases, and in addition, the ministry has provided legal advice to more than 7,000 women during the same period.
She cited that the Ministry’s authorities have taken views of 3,000 women on peace and shared them with the Ministry of Peace and the Peace Negotiation Team, proposed the appointment of women as deputy governors in all provinces, received the views of 2,800 women experts and women’s representatives on the National Framework Document.
The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations Team says no discussions have been held with the Taliban negotiating side on the establishment of an interim government in Afghanistan.
Members of the Afghan negotiating team in a press conference on Sunday said that the Taliban team has not been able to hold an official meeting with the republic side for some time and the peace talks have been stalled up to now.
“Peace talks have been interrupted due to the Taliban’s lack of seriousness,” Rasul Talib, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team said. “In Doha, we look forward to seizing the opportunity to resolve the war crisis peacefully; Not to wait for the other side to take a stand in another countries.”
In respons to the Taliban’s lack of seriousness against the republic team, Mr. Talib said, “This is opposite. The Taliban have taken us so serious that they cannot come and defend the issues they raise at the negotiating table. We are ready for dialogue with a strong will, and we proved this in the first round of talks.”
He stated that in the first round, the two sides agreed on the basis of the talks, and expressed hope that the negotiating delegations would start the talks as soon as possible to agree on the next issues.
Responding to recent remarks by the deputy head of the Taliban delegation in Moscow, Mr Talib said that there was no discussion of an interim government on the agenda in Doha.
“The main basis for the Afghan cabinet is the official statements made by the Taliban at the negotiating table,” he added. “Outside the negotiating table, there may be statements by Taliban members that were also made in Moscow, but our guess is that these statements were mostly propaganda and intended to divert public opinion.”
Recently, Abbas Stanekzai, the deputy head of the Taliban delegation leading a delegation headed to Russia, and said there that the current government led by Mohammad Ashraf Ghani is the main obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.
According to Stanikzai, if President Ghani resigns from power, peace will be established in Afghanistan.
However, Mr. Talib says that the issue of Afghanistan can only be resolved through dialogue, and if the Taliban have anything to say, they should formally raise it at the negotiating table.
During last week, police in the Pardubice Region of northeast Czechia have detained three groups of migrants from Afghanistan hidden in trucks traveling from the Balkans, rmx.com reported.
The truck drivers claim they were not aware of their passengers.
According to the report, in just four days, 14 young migrants, mostly Afghans, were detained. All three cases had the same scenario: Afghans arrived hidden in the semi-trailers of trucks from the Balkans, without the apparent knowledge of the drivers.
The first two cases took place on Monday, last week.
People driving by alerted police to migrants jumping out of the trailers in the industrial zones of Semanín near Česká Třebová and Staré Čívice near Pardubice.
They were all young men, often under the age of 18.
“I do not remember so many cases in our region in such a short period,” said regional police spokeswoman Eva Maturová.
According to the witnesses, people were jumping out of the moving trucks and fleeing on foot. The police, with the help of trained dogs, tracked down three Afghans in Semanín and six Afghans in Čívice.
Afghans have asked for asylum in both Romania and Bulgaria, some even in both countries at the same time.
“In both cases, Romania was the alleged starting point for the trucks. Both drivers stated that they had no idea about the foreigners in their cargo area; they drove the truck through Hungary and Slovakia to the Czech Republic. They also said that the cargo door was not sealed inside the EU and that nothing was checked after taking over the truck in Romania. The inspection took place only after it was discovered that they had uninvited passengers inside,“ said Maturová.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has welcomed the idea of formation of an all-inclusive government with the participation of all ethnic and political groups in Afghanistan.
According to Iranian media, Zarif made the remarks in a Sunday meeting with a delegation of the Taliban, led by deputy head of the group’s political bureau Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Tehran.
“Political decisions could not be made in a vacuum, and the formation of an all-inclusive government must take place in a participatory process and by taking into account the fundamental structures, institutions and laws, such as the Constitution,” the top Iranian diplomat said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif also expressed Iran’s readiness to facilitate dialogue among the Taliban, the Afghan government and other Afghan groups, noting, “The noble people of Afghanistan have been wronged. The war and occupation of Afghanistan have dealt heavy blows to the Afghan people.”
The senior Iranian diplomat further expressed hope that the Taliban would focus efforts on an immediate end to the pains and problems of Afghan people, so that the establishment of peace in Afghanistan would strip the outsiders of a pretext for occupation.
At the beginning of the meeting, head of the Taliban delegation gave a report of the Afghan peace process and the intra-Afghan negotiations.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar also noted that the relations between Afghanistan and Iran are based upon friendship and good neighbourliness, expressing hope for the expansion of relations between the two countries with the establishment of peace and calm in Afghanistan.
International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials told Reuters.
“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.
“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”
The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.
Trump hailed the accord – which did not include the Afghan government – as the end of two decades of war. He reduced U.S. troops to 2,500 by this month, the fewest since 2001.
Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources said.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday reported 38 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1648 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported four death and 70 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,059 the number of total reported deaths is 2,404 and the total number of recoveries is 47,679.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Baghlan, Kunduz, Badakhshan, Helmand, Laghman and Kunar.
Relatives and supporters of an American contractor who was abducted a year ago in Afghanistan and is believed to be in the custody of a Taliban-linked militant group are pressing the new Biden administration to bring him home.
They also want to condition future peace talks or troop withdrawals on his release from captivity.
Navy veteran Mark Frerichs of Lombard, Illinois, vanished on Jan. 31, 2020. U.S. officials believe he is in the custody of the Haqqani network.
The Taliban have not publicly acknowledged holding him.
It’s unclear to what extent, if at all, Frerichs’ fate will be complicated by the declining American military presence in Afghanistan committed to by the Trump administration.
United Nations High Commission for Refugees has completed disbursement of emergency cash assistance for 75,000 vulnerable Afghan refugee families badly hit by coronavirus pandemic in Pakistan.
In a press release, the UNHCR Representative in Pakistan, Ms. Noriko Yoshida said cash assistance to 75,000 refugee families is about leaving no one behind as COVID-19 pandemic does not discriminate.
She said with the support of government of Pakistan and international community, emergency cash assistance has made a difference in the lives of refugees during this very challenging time.
UNHCR’s emergency cash programme has supported a total of 450,000 Afghan refugees in Pakistan. One out of every three Afghan refugees has benefitted from this support.
The Secretary-General of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) has said that the IS-K terrorists moved to Afghanistan from the Middle East and posed a threat to regional security.
Speaking at a webinar, Vladimir Norov said he remained concerned over the deteriorating situation in the border regions of Afghanistan.
The webinar, Afghan Peace Process and Shanghai Cooperation Organization, has been organized by the think tank Islamabad Policy Research Institute.
“According to the SCO regional anti-terrorist structure, the numbers of fighters arriving in the north of the country [Afghanistan] are growing,” said Norov.
These terrorists were moved from Syrian and Iraqi conflict zones and posed a threat to the SCO member states, he added.
The Middle East-based terrorist network recently claimed responsibility for several terrorist attacks in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
Afghan local officials say at least five insurgents including a released prisoner of the group were killed in Herat province last night.
The spokesman of Herat’s governor, Jilani Farhad said that the Taliban militants planned to attack the checkpoints of uprising forces in Kalisak village of Zawul district who faced Afghan forces’ ambush.
According to Farhad, the Taliban group’s in charge of communication networks for Zawul and Shindand districts identified as Hafiz Muhammadi was among the killed.
Farhad added that Muhammadi was one of the Taliban prisoners who has been released by the government.
The National Security Council (NSC) has announced that a governmentx delegation today arrived in Maidan Wardak province to investigate the incident in Hese Awal Behsud district.
NSC in a statement on Sunday called the Behsud incident as a “clash between security forces and the uprising forces” that has killed and injured a number of citizens.
Residents blamed the incident on police shootings on people.
According to the statement, the deputy head of the National Security Council, will lead the delegation. The delegation includes the Deputy Director of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Deputy Director of National Directorate of Security, a member of the Maidan Wardak Provincial Council, the Presidential Asviser for Public Affairs and the influential figures of Maidan Wardak province.
The National Security Council has said that the purpose of the delegation’s visit is to further investigate the case and to provide urgent attention to the injured and killed in the incident.
NSC said a number of citizens had been “killed and wounded” in clashes between security forces and the uprising forces.
The statement emphasized that the delegation has been instructed to thoroughly and comprehensively investigate the incident and to take the necessary measures in the light of the applicable law of the country.
A number of members of the House of Representatives and the people say that a protest rally by residents of Hesa-e-Awal Behsud district of Maidan Wardak has been targeted by police, but the Interior Ministry says that a gathering under the name of protest turned violent by “irresponsible gunmen” belonging to Abdul Ghani Ali Poor.
Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said Ali Poor’s “irresponsible gunmen” had opened fire on people and police.
More than 10 people were reportedly killed and about 20 others were injured on Friday’s shootings, including children and the elderly.
A number of locals, numbering more than 100, are being held by police that the people claim security forces have taken them hostage.
The protest was said to be against the widespread presence of security forces, including Allah Dad Fadai, the police chief of Maidan Wardak province.
He has been reportedly present in Behsud districts for several days with a significant number of security forces, and his aim is said to introduce the new police commanders of these districts and strengthen the police checkpoints.
Leading a high-level government delegation, Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar arrived in Tashkent, capital of Uzbekistan, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs (MoFA) said.
MoFA in a statement said on Sunday that Mohammad Shaker Kargar, Chief of Staff to President, Nisar Ahmad Faizi Ghoryani, Minister of Industry and Commerce, Najibullah Yamin, Minister of Public Works, Ahmad Dawood Noorzai CEO of DABS, Kabir Khan Isakhel, Legal advisor to President and senior representatives of railways, and investment authorities and Deputy Minister of Finance are part of the delegation.
The purpose of the delegation’s visit to Uzbekistan is to participate in a trilateral summit of Afghanistan-Uzbekistan-Pakistan to strengthen regional connectivity, expand trade and transit, and promotion of regional cooperation.