Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar met Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), on Sunday.
They deliberated on the latest developments of the Afghan peace process, and exchanged views on the release of prisoners by the government and the Taliban to facilitate the urgent start of the intra-Afghan talks.
The importance of strengthening regional and international consensus on the Afghan peace process and the establishment of a humanitarian ceasefire, were also discussed, along with preparations for the Senior Officials Meeting to be held on July 28.
The UN envoy highlighted the outcomes from the recent international and regional consultation meetings on Strengthening Consensus for Peace and emphasised the importance of continuing such initiatives in the future.
She also reiterated UN’s continued support for a peaceful and prosperous Afghanistan and agreed to advance work on the “peace economy.”
Concluding the meeting, Atmar thanked the Lyons for the UN’s positive role and continued commitment to Afghanistan.
Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab met the new German ambassador to Afghanistan Axel Zeidler on Sunday.
Nab congratulated Zeidler on his appointment and wished him success. He also thanked Germany for its assistance and cooperation to Afghanistan in various fields.
“We look forward to working closely together on many areas of strategic importance, including the peace process. Germany is a dear friend and our strategic partner with a key role in the post-settlement Afghanistan,” Nab later tweeted about the meeting.
Nab also appreciated Germany’s offer to host the intra-Afghan talks and support for the peace process.
Referring to the friendly relations between Afghanistan and Germany, Zeidler said he hoped that the relations between the two countries would be further strengthened and expanded during his stay.
Afghanistan has written to the UN Security council (UNSC) over continued violations of its territory by Pakistani military, said Afghanistan’s Permanent Representative to the UN Adela Raz.
Raz wrote to the President of the Security Council, Germany, to report on the violations of the Afghan territory on July 15, when Pakistani military forces began unprovoked artillery attacks against Afghan border posts and civilians in the Sarkano and Asadabad districts in Kunar province.
She said more than 160 artillery rounds were fired and the attacks claimed the lives of four Afghan security forces and six civilians, leaving eight wounded.
“We would like to once again reiterate, as we have in previous communications, that the issue of violations of Afghan territory by Pakistani military forces has continued despite numerous appeals made to the Government of Pakistan, bilaterally and through other measures, to cease their illegal and provocative activities in our sovereign territory,” Raz wrote.
The envoy held Pakistan accountable for violating the principles of the Charter of the United Nations as well as international law and international humanitarian law.
Raz said the Afghan government was working bilaterally to de-escalate the situation, but should this fail, they would call on the Security Council to take measures and actions necessary.
She also requested that the letter of complaint regarding Pakistan’s continued activities be circulated as a document of the Security Council and kept on record for reference should attempts at de-escalating prove unfruitful.
President Ashraf Ghani visited the construction site of the Kamal Khan Dam during his visit to Nimroz province on Sunday.
Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi tweeted that Ghani was welcomed by the people when he arrived at Zaranj, the provincial capital, as the head of the high-level delegation.
Sediqqi said that according to provincial officials, 80% of the construction work of Kamal Khan Dam had been completed and it is scheduled to be put into operation within four months.
“The people of Nimroz expressed hope that with the completion and operation of the Kamal Khan Dam, one of their long-held dreams will be realized and change their living conditions,” the spokesperson tweeted.
Kamal Khan Dam
The dam is located 18 km north of the Chaharbarak district and 95 km south of Zaranj city in Nimroz province.
According to the Ministry of Energy and Water, construction of Kamal Khan dam first began in the 1970s, but the war and political developments halted it.
The third phase of construction was inaugurated by Ghani in 2017, and it was due to be completed within 42 months.
On its completion, the dam will irrigate more than 80,000 hectares of agricultural land and create job opportunities for dozens of residents.
Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denied the UN’s latest monitoring report which said thousands of foreign fighters are in Afghanistan, and called the statements “false” on Sunday.
He restated that the Taliban is committed to the deal signed with the U.S., and will “not allow anyone to pose a threat to the security of America and its allies from our land, or operate training camps, or fundraise and create excuses for the continuation of war.”
In a press release, Mujahid said that the claims of the 26th report of the Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team about 400 to 600 Al Qaeda operatives in Afghanistan, and Islamic State in Khorasan Province (IS-K) operating in the northern provinces was false.
He said many Al Qaeda operatives had returned to their own countries since the political changes in the Arab world. He said Taliban had also “waged large-scale wars” against IS-K.
Mujahid emphasized that they “have proven the unity of our ranks” and there were no fighters looking into aligning with IS-K.
He said “anti-peace” elements were trying to derail the peace process and create mistrust between the U.S. and the Taliban regarding the Doha agreement.
The Iranian embassy in Kabul rejected the statement made by the U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, and said they fully support the peace talks and respects the national sovereignty and the Afghan government.
The U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Khalilzad, had said that Iran had “not been as supportive” about the intra-Afghan negotiations, and attributed it to strained ties between the U.S. and Iran, during a talk on Friday.
The Iranian embassy refuted the statement and said, “Iran supports the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan based on the results of the Afghan-owned, Afghan-led dialogue.”
“U.S. officials should carefully study these positions before making any comments on Iranian officials’ views on regional and Afghan issues,” the statement added.
Khalilzad’s comments referred to a statement made by Iran’s Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair Abbas Araghchi who had questioned the U.S. intentions in striking a deal with the Taliban about the future of Afghanistan, in the absence of any representation from the Afghan government.
“We believe that the U.S. should not be trusted and that the U.S. presence in the region is dangerous and will cause a lot of discord in the region,” he had said.
Afghanistan saw an increase in Coronavirus cases as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) found 121 samples positive from the 741 they tested in the past 24 hours.
The total number of cases in the country is now 36,157, with 9,718 cases active.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Khost (30), Herat (25), Ghor (20), Takhar (9), Kandahar (8), Balkh (5), Badghis (4), Badakhshan (4), Kabul (3), Daykundi (3), Wardak (2), Helmand (2), Paktia (1), Nangarhar (1), Kunduz (1), Kunar (1), Zabul (1), and Uruzgan (1).
The MoPH said 12 people had died in the past day and 387 had recovered, taking that tally to 1,259 deaths and 25,180 recovered so far.
The Ministry of Information and Culture (MoIC) announced that 2,000 private media outlets and organisations have not renewed their licenses due to tax evasion.
Tahir Zaheer, acting head of the Ministry, warned these organisations on Saturday, that they will face legal action if the licenses are not renewed.
In a meeting on identifying their sources of income, the MoIC heads presented ideas and suggestions for increasing the revenues.
“We can only increase our revenue in the fields of museums, Afghan advertisements, prints, hotels, tourism and Afghan films when we compete with the private sector,” said Zaheer.
Zaheer asked all revenue departments of the MoIC to submit their plans for reviews and asked the Afghan Film Directorate to submit three comprehensive plans to raise their revenues.
Meanwhile, Sayeda Mojgan Mostafavi, deputy minister of tourism, finance and administration at the MoIC, explained their revenues had been affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. She expressed hope that it would improve within the next five months.
She said various institutions owe “tens of millions of Afghanis” to the MoIC, and asked them to repay their loans as soon as possible.
On Thursday, the MoIC had announced that the five-star Kabul Serena Hotel owed them about $100 million. For non-payment of rent.
The Afghan embassy in Saudi Arabia said that Riyadh would be building 600 schools in Afghanistan, instead of the 100 they had announced earlier.
According to the embassy, Afghanistan’s proposal to build more schools was made at a meeting held on Saturday, between officials from the embassy, the ministries of finance and rural development, and the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD).
Afghan Ambassador Ahmad Jawid Mojadidy said, “I’m pleased to thank SFD for their positive response to our request to build 600 schools in Afghanistan.”
The SFD would be providing a $50 million loan for the construction of the schools.
At the suggestion of the Afghan government, the construction would be done by the Rural Development Councils instead of construction companies, and their quality will be monitored by an independent consulting firm.
The SFD has also accepted funding and design for the Kabul Ring Road project and assured the Afghan side that the Armalik-Laman section will be completed by the end of this year.
Uruzgan officials said a Taliban member killed four People’s Uprising Forces at a checkpoint in the provincial capital of Tarin Kot on early Sunday morning.
Zargi Ebadi, spokesperson for the governor of Uruzgan, said that the incident took place at 4 am on Sunday, north of Tarin Kot. A security forces base is in the Chenarak area and Uprising Forces have been deployed to support them over there.
Ebadi said, the Taliban infiltrator has been working for the Uprising Forces for some time, before carrying out the attack.
The man also took some military weapons and set fire to a motorcycle, before escaping.
Ghazni officials said they had found the body of a female police officer who was killed after being abducted by the Taliban.
Wahidullah Jumazadah, spokesperson for Ghazni’s governor, said they had found her body in the Andar district on Saturday.
The officer was identified as Fatima, a resident of Jaghori district of the province, who worked for the Ministry of Interior in the prison administration.
Fatima had been abducted by the Taliban in Qarabagh district, when she had been on her way back home.
Jumazadah said they found another body, a man’s, alongside Fatima, but were yet to identify the person.
The official did not say anything about the killers.
Eleven members of the Afghan Sikh and Hindu community have been granted short-term visas by the Indian embassy in Kabul and are expected to reach Delhi on Sunday.
The first batch of persecuted members of the minority communities of Afghanistan includes the Sikh man, Nidan Singh Sachdeva who was abducted in Paktia, and 13-year-old Salmeet who was abducted from the Kabul gurudwara where she used to live.
Salmeet was allegedly lured by a Kabul boy to accompany him to Panjshir valley so they could get married. She was rescued by the police after a maulvi refused to solemnise the marriage. Salmeet had lost her father and uncle in the Kabul gurudwara attack in April.
“We have received six-month visas for 11 persons, including Nidan Singh who is still unwell after being tortured in captivity. He will be accompanied by a relative. The families of the two brothers, who were killed in the Kabul attack, will also leave. The daughter of one of them was recently rescued after an attempt to marry her forcefully,” said Chhabol Singh, a community leader and member of the managing committee of Gurdwara Dashmesh Pita Sri Guru Gobind Singh ji Darbar Karte Parwan in Kabul.
The returnees are expected to take a Kam Air flight under India’s Vande Bharat repatriation mission during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Manjinder Singh Sirsa, president of the Delhi Sikh Gurdwara Management Committee in India, said they had arranged the tickets and stay for the 11 Afghan returnees.
Provincial officials in Helmand said two government soldiers were killed in a series of car bombings in the Nahr-e-Siraj district of the province.
Omar Zwak, spokesperson for Helmand governor’s office, said that the incidents took place late night on the Kandahar-Helmand highway in the Nahr-e-Siraj district.
Three other government soldiers were also injured in the simultaneous explosions in front of the security checkpoints, Zwak said.
So far, no one has taken responsibility for the blast.
Following reports of the return of Taliban prisoners to the battlefield, the group’s spokesperson said that was not true, on Sunday.
Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson for Taliban’s political office in Qatar, tweeted last night that they had ordered all released prisoners to fully comply with the order to stay at home and not go to the battlefield.
He said that the prisoners had not returned to the battlefield, but the National Directorate of Security is carrying out “untimely attack” by arresting and detaining released prisoners.
“We call on the Kabul administration to refrain from such abuses and provocative acts,” Shaheen wrote, holding the government responsible for the consequences if anything was to happen as a result.
Return of released prisoners to the battlefields
Last week, Pato District Governor Sayed Taher Etemadi, told Reporterly that a released Taliban prisoner had been killed when the group attacked a People’s Uprising Forces checkpoint in the village of Sartgab in Daykundi province.
Acting Defence Minister Assadullah Khalid also said they had evidence that a number of Taliban prisoners who had just been released from government prisons had returned to the battlefield.
The Senate said in a plenary session that many of the released Taliban prisoners had returned to the Taliban front despite their written commitments.
The government has so far released about 4,400 Taliban prisoners with their written commitment not to return to the war.