Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday said the government is ready to respond to Taliban’s demands if they stop bloodshed.
The president arrived in southern Kandahar province today to assess the security situation of the province. He was accompanied by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, National Security Advisor Dr. Hamdullah Mohib and some ministers.
He first attended a meeting of military and civilian officials in Kandahar at the headquarters of the Atal Military Corps.
The meeting was attended by local civilian and military officials who presented their demands and proposals regarding advanced equipment, uniforms, promotions, appointments, treatment of the wounded, personnel rotation, privileges, electronic IDs, timely supplies, anti-corruption and security and defense.
The president told them that all their requests and suggestions would be addressed in time as there was no problem with regard to availability of resources.
The chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah on Thursday underlined the need for reduction in violence in the country.
Abdullah Abdullah, addressing a gathering of women in Kabul, called the government’s peace negotiating team a united front.
The reduction of violence has been a longstanding demand of the masses, according to the reconciliation chief, who regretted the public aspiration was yet to be realised.
The peace process had reached an important stage, Abdullah remarked, saying a start to negotiations was important to the government and people.
The reduction in violence topped the agenda proposed by Kabul’s negotiating, he said, stressing: “Both sides must enter discussion on the issue.”
“With the release of Taliban prisoners, we should have had a ceasefire or a significant reduction in violence,” Abdullah added.
Mark Milley, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, held unannounced talks with the Taliban peace negotiators in Doha, capital of Qatar, to urge a reduction in violence across Afghanistan, AP reported.
Gen. Milley met for about two hours with the Taliban negotiators on Tuesday and flew Wednesday to Kabul to discuss the peace process with President Ghani, the report said.
“The most important part of the discussions that I had with both the Taliban and the government of Afghanistan was the need for an immediate reduction in violence,” Milley told three reporters, including one from the AP, who accompanied him to Qatar and Afghanistan. “Everything else hinges on that.”
Under ground rules set by Milley for security reasons, the journalists traveling with him agreed not to report on either set of talks until he had departed the region, according to the report.
It was Milley’s second unannounced meeting with the Taliban’s negotiating team; the first, in June, also in Doha, had not been reported until now, said the AP.
The AP also reported that Gen. Scott Miller, the top commander of US and coalition forces in Afghanistan, said in an interview at his military headquarters in Kabul on Wednesday that the Taliban have stepped up attacks on Afghan forces, particularly in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, and against roadways and other infrastructure.
“My assessment is, it puts the peace process at risk — the higher the violence, the higher the risk,” Miller said. Miller meets at least once a month with Taliban negotiators as part of Washington’s effort to advance a peace process.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 232 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1,647 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 15 deaths and 38 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 50,202 the number of total reported deaths is 2,032 and the total number of recoveries is 38,686.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Nangarhar, Takhar, Baghlan, Nimroz, Laghman, Parwan, Ghazni, Logar, Badghis, Badakhshan, maidan wardak, Ghor, Kunar, Panjshir, Farah, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.
Turkey’s presidency on Wednesday submitted a motion to extend the deployment of Turkish troops in Afghanistan for 18 months as part of NATO’s support mission in the war-torn country.
“Turkey, which has deep friendship and brotherhood ties with Afghanistan, has always backed the unity, integrity and independence of Afghanistan,” the motion read.
The motion will be debated in parliament after Dec. 18.
A legislation was put into effect on Jan. 6, 2019, allowing the Turkish government to send troops to Afghanistan to support the NATO-led mission Resolute Support.
After ending the 17-year combat mission in Afghanistan in 2018, the mission has evolved into training and advising of the nascent Afghan security forces.
Around 12,000 foreign troops from 28 NATO allies and 14 other partner nations agreed to support the NATO mission in Afghanistan.
The legislation that was first passed in 2015 also grants the government authority to permit foreign army personnel to be transported to and from Afghanistan through Turkey.
Doha Forum, in collaboration with The Wilson Center in the US, hosted a virtual webinar that addressed the topic of empowering Afghan women’s rights in light of the ongoing Afghan peace negotiations.
As per the Gulf Times report, the session hosted a group of the most prominent Afghan women who play an important role in shaping the current Afghan-Taliban negotiations.
The session was moderated by Congresswoman Jane Harman, CEO of The Wilson Center.
During the panel, Fatima Gailani, member of the Afghanistan negotiating team and former president of the Afghan Red Crescent Society, stated that “Taliban is very focused on tradition, which is why their women are not well represented within their society. There are many examples of female representation in Islams history. This is why religion should not be used an excuse to alienate women”.
She also added that “Islam should not be confused with tradition. Our religion is very progressive, and it was the first to grant women the right to inheritance”.
Habiba Sarabi, former Afghanistan Minister of Women’s Affairs and former Minister of Culture and Education, pointed out that “the new team representing Afghanistan is very diverse. We have men and women and people from different political parties and religious backgrounds”.
Roya Mahboob, an Afghan businesswoman and entrepreneur, highlighted the bright side as she explained that today’s Afghanistan is not the same as 20 years ago. She added, the younger generation wants more and is willing to work for it.
During the pandemic, a group of Afghan teenagers worked with MIT engineers to design an open-source ventilator.
The session dealt with several topics, the most prominent of which was the importance of the leadership role of women in the future of Afghan peace and security.
Welcoming the recent progress in the Intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan has reiterated Pakistan’s steadfast support for a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Pakistan’s PM discussed the progress in the on-going Afghan peace process in a phone call on Wednesday.
Khan reiterated Pakistan’s call on all the Afghan sides for taking measures for reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire.
The premier underlined that Pakistan’s outreach to all Afghan stakeholders is part of its facilitative efforts to ensure progress towards an inclusive, broad-based, and comprehensive political settlement.
The two leaders also agreed to continue their engagement for supporting the peace process and enhancing bilateral cooperation and strengthening Pakistan-Afghanistan relations.
On Wednesday, a delegation from Doha-based Taliban’s Political Commission (TPC) arrived in Pakistan on a three-day trip.
The delegation will also meet the PM during the visit which is taking place on Pakistan’s invitation as part of its efforts for outreach to all Afghan stakeholders for a peaceful resolution of the conflict.
About 200 COVID-19 test kits were sent to Kabul for use by coalition forces following a spike in coronavirus cases in the area, the Australian government department of defense said.
The ADF’s Joint Task Force (JTF) 633 in the Middle East sent the Australian-supplied GeneXpert kits to NATO’s Operation Resolute Support’s role 2 medical facility in Afghanistan.
This increased the pool of existing GeneXpert kits.
Australian Medical Officer in Kabul Major Eric Richman said the demand for COVID-19 testing had increased because of the spike in cases.
“The GeneXpert testing equipment complements the Australian-supplied BioFire Torch systems in place,” Major Richman said.
The kits arrived at Hamad Karzai International Airport three days after the initial request.
President Ashraf Ghani met with General Mark Milley, the US Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff yesterday evening in Kabul, the president’s office (ARG) confirmed.
According to a series of tweets, ARG stated that both sides expressed their concerns over the escalation of violence in Afghanistan and discussed the Afghan peace process and the immediate need for a ceasefire in the country.
Milley assured Ghani that the United States will continue to support the Afghan Defense and Security forces.
Ghani and Milley’s meeting meanwhile comes just two weeks after Milley stated that the US was in the process of pulling at least 2,000 troops out of the country and that only 2,500 would remain by January 15.
Speaking to Brookings Institution at the time, Milley said: “We’re in the process of executing [the drawdown] right now. That’s happening as we speak.”
He said that the US had achieved only a “modicum of success” after nearly 20 years of working to establish a stable democracy in Afghanistan.
Pakistan has expressed hope for peace in Afghanistan, but at the same time said that responsibility for a reduction in violence in that country “cannot be shouldered by the Taliban alone”.
The comments were made by Pakistan foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during a press conference in Islamabad on Wednesday following a meeting with an Afghan Taliban delegation led by Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar.
Qureshi said Pakistan wants a reduction in violence and wants it to proceed towards a ceasefire. “For a stable Afghanistan, a comprehensive and inclusive settlement is required,” he told the media.
A delegation of the Taliban Political Commission (TPC), headed by Baradar, arrived in Islamabad under tight security on Wednesday on a three-day trip during which the delegation will also be meeting with Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan.
In his press conference, Qureshi said that peace talks have now begun, but the reduction in violence that was expected is so far not being witnessed.