Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Pointing to the start of intra-Afghan talks, Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said that no one could question the Afghan government’s commitment and will to achieve lasting peace.
On a video released by state news agency, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA) on Sunday, Sediqqi said that the Afghan government has made great efforts to achieve a lasting and acceptable peace for every citizen.
“As a result of government efforts, today we have reached a turning point,” Sediqqi said.
“People want peace, and the president has promised to start the face-to-face talks,” he added.
Pointing to the difficulty in reaching this stage of the peace process, he said the government had always been clear about their boundaries.
“We have clarified the definition and the limits of our peace.”
He said that most countries in the world have supported the call by the Afghan people and the government to preserve the gains of the past 19 years and end the war.
“We showed that we entered the peace process as a united and cohesive nation,” he said.
According to Sediqqi, the establishment of stability in Afghanistan is in the interest of the countries of the region and the world.
He said that the Afghan government is leading the peace process to the best of its ability so that the people can have confidence in a bright future.
Earlier, he had also rubbished the statement claiming that 70% of Afghanistan was controlled by the Taliban.
He called it a part of Taliban propaganda to undermine the peace process.
A flag lowering ceremony was held at Marmal camp in Mazar-i-Sharif, Balkh, as the final batch of Croatian soldiers who were part of NATO’s Resolute Support mission departed from Afghanistan on Saturday, the Croatian Defence Ministry said.
With the return of the final 70 Croatian personnel of the 12th Croatian contingent from Afghanistan, it marked the end of Croatia’s participation in the NATO-led Resolute Support.
Train Advise Assist Command (TAAC)-North commander Brigadier General Ansgar Meyer said he was proud to have had the honour to command the Croatian troops, and thanked the contingent for their work and professional approach to their tasks and to members of other nations.
The main flag-lowering ceremony was held at Ehreinhain Memorial, a monument to all the fallen members of the coalition forces in Afghanistan.
In an article on their website al-Emarah, the Taliban responded on Sunday, to media reports of why women were not included in their delegation that was in Qatar for the inaugural peace talks with the Afghan government.
The article, titled “Why are there no women in the Taliban team?” said critics need to understand that “delegates are not sent to the decision-making stage on the basis of gender, race, position, and other privileges” but based on the “commonalities and higher values of all sections of society, including men and women, small and large, East and West.”
“Whoever can defend these values is the individual representative of the society,” the author writes.
“The intra-Afghan peace negotiations are the basic decisions for the future of Afghanistan, not an exhibition of gender and racial diversity of the Afghan society, for someone from all walks of life to be present,” he adds.
The commentary, written by Abdul Sattar Saeed, argues that as long as foreigners are not present in the dialogue, even as observers, but only the citizens of Afghanistan, “arguing among themselves,” there should be no reason to comment on the racial or ethnic profile of the group.
He gives the example of an ethnically diverse Pakistan, Iran, Turkey and Iraq, and questions the possibility for negotiations “in such a way that they represent the people of each stratum?”
“Our nation is Muslim. In Islam, the field of work and responsibilities of men and women are known,” he says.
Saeed argues that the Taliban “represent the Afghans” and that religion and history “teaches how understanding, dialogue and compromise should take place and what the negotiating rules should be.”
Regarding the representatives of different ethnic groups, the Taliban says that they will be there on the “board of the Islamic Emirate”.
Commenting on the diversity of Afghanistan, they remark that not all fingers are the same, and “natural difference can never weaken the strong belonging of the Islamic Brotherhood.”
“Therefore, whoever is a Muslim, is righteous and is faithful to the religious ideals of the nation, whether he is from any province and speaks in any dialect, can represent the individual of this nation, if we look closely, this is not the weakness of the Islamic Emirate but its strength, Saeed writes.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 75 new cases of Coronavirus over the past 24 hours in Afghanistan, taking the tally to 38,716 confirmed cases for far.
The MoPH laboratories tested 532 samples over the past day.
New cases tested positive in the provinces of Daykundi (25), Herat (12), Kandahar (12), Ghor (7), Balkh (7) and Kabul (4).
The ministry also said that no people had succumbed to the virus while 404 had recovered, pushing those figures to 1,420 dead and 31,638 recovered.
On the second day of intra-Afghan talks on Sunday, five-member delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban will meet to set the agenda for the negotiations.
Faraidoon Khwazoon, spokesperson for the High Council for National Reconciliation, said that on the second day of the intra-Afghan talks being held in Doha, Qatar, the two delegations will meet.
Khwazoon said, “Today a small five-member delegation from both sides will meet.”
The two negotiating delegations met after the opening ceremony on Saturday to “get to know each other better” said Nader Nadery, a member of the Afghan peace delegation, and senior advisor to President Ashraf Ghani.
Each team introduced a contact group who will be discussing the rules and procedures as well as the agenda for the first round of the talks.
Nadery, along with Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Zarar Ahmad Moqbel, Fawzia Koofi, Mawlawi Enayatullah Baligh, Mohammad Nateqi and Mohammad Khalid Noor were appointed to the contact group.
Germany and Norway ready to host peace talks
Coinciding with the start of intra-Afghan talks, Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, met with Special Representatives from Norway, Pierre Albert Ilsas, and Germany, Potzel Markus.
Both hailed the start of the peace talks as a “historic moment” and expressed their country’s readiness to host the next round of the negotiations.
Four members of the People’s Uprising Forces were killed in a Taliban attack in Logar’s provincial capital on Saturday.
Didar Ahmad Lawang, spokesperson for the provincial governor said the Taliban launched an attack in the Pul-Matani area are Pul-e-Alam on Saturday night.
The attack was repulsed after several hours of fighting and with the arrival of reinforcements.
He added that at least eight Taliban fighters were killed, and a number of others were injured, but they did not have the exact figures.
The last hostage of a group of seven employees of an Indian engineering company who were kidnapped by the Taliban in 2018, returned to India on Saturday, The Hindu reported.
The other six employees had been released in batches in the past two years, with Mantu Singh, of Bihar state, the last captive.
The Taliban has insisted on the release of other prisoners held by the Afghan government, which was finally completed this week.
The Hindu reports that Singh returned to New Delhi in an Air India flight on Saturday.
Acting Minister of Interior Masoud Andarabi inspected the security status of Balkh province during his visit which started on Friday evening.
At a press conference on Saturday, Andarabi said police forces had been given specific responsibilities to crack down on criminal networks, to set up prosecutors’ offices to detain suspects and to stop corruption.
Following their investigations, the acting head said that commanders of six security districts in Mazar-i-Sharif were “relieved of their duties” and called to Kabul.
Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said the fired commanders were from PD 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.
The director of Balkh Crimes Unit and a commander of the highway police were also fired.
Andarabi said he had instructed Balkh Police Command to carry out operations against criminal networks in coordination with special police units and to inform the people about its implementation.
He had travelled to Balkh after a wave of criticism for rising insecurity and criminal activity.
At least five policemen were killed when the Taliban insurgents launched an attack near Kunduz provincial centre on Saturday.
Hijratullah Akbari, a spokesperson for Kunduz Police Command, said the Taliban had attacked the Shinwari security checkpoint outside Kunduz city late night.
According to Akbari, three Afghan National Police and two local policemen were killed while four others were injured.
During the clashes, a tank was also destroyed.
Shinwari added that the Afghan forces regained control of the checkpoint.
Kabul police said two blasts occurred on Sunday morning, injuring two civilians.
Ferdowz Faramarz, a spokesperson for the Kabul Police Command, told Reporterly that the first explosion took place at around 9:30 a.m. in the Kote Sangi area of PD5, injuring two people.
Another mine explosed at around 8:48 a.m. in the Bagh-e-Dawood area of Paghman district of the province but caused no casualties.
Faramarz said the investigations are ongoing.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for planting the mines.
A police crime investigation officer and four other policemen were killed during a Taliban attack in Tagab district of Kapisa on Saturday.
Abdul Shayeq Shoresh, spokesperson for the Kapisa Police Command said that seven policemen were also wounded during the attack.
Taliban fighters attacked Tagab police headquarters at around 9 p.m. on Saturday.
“The Taliban ousted people from their homes last night and used residential houses as a defensive stronghold,” said Shoresh said.
The clashes finally ended at 3 a.m. once the Taliban attack was repulsed.
He added that the Taliban also suffered heavy casualties, but the exact number is not known.
The top commander of the U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) in the region visited Kabul at the same time as the start of the intra-Afghan talks in Qatar, to meet President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday.
Marine Gen. Kenneth “Frank” McKenzie met Ghani to discuss the start of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, the defence and security situation in Afghanistan and the region, the Presidential Palace said.
“My purpose in coming on this important and historic day is to reaffirm the United States’ support for the Government of Afghanistan, the Afghan people and security and defence forces of Afghanistan,” McKenzie said.
He added that all U.S. decisions are made in consultation with the Afghan government.
During their meeting, Ghani praised the support of the U.S. for an independent, united and democratic Afghanistan.
Intra-Afghan talks begin
The visit by the CENTCOM commander to Kabul, came after the intra-Afghan talks between the government and the Taliban in Doha, Qatar, officially began on Saturday morning.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo attended the opening ceremony, where representatives and envoys from over 15 nations and international institutions were present virtually.
On the side lines of the ceremony, Pompeo met separately with Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, as well as Taliban deputy Mullah Baradar, to discuss the intra-Afghan talks.
German Envoy on Afghanistan Potzel Markus said they were ready to host the upcoming round of the intra-Afghan peace talks in their country, said the High Council for National Reconciliation on Saturday.
Markus met Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the Reconciliation Council in Doha, Qatar, on the side lines of the opening ceremony of the intra-Afghan talks.
During the meeting, Potzel hailed the start of the talks and called it a major turning point and a historic event.
Both parties discussed the negotiations and its intricacies.
Abdullah assured him of Afghanistan’s commitment to achieving peace, as the country had already paid great costs to pave the way for lasting peace.