Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
US President Donald Trump has vowed to draw down troops in Afghanistan and, frustrated it is not proceeding quickly enough, the Pentagon shakeup is designed to reach that goal before the end of the year.
The hiring of Ret. Army Col. Douglas Macgregor as an adviser to acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller is a signal for just that, according to an Axios report.
“They want them more publicly to talk about getting out of Afghanistan by the end of the year,” and specifically by Christmas, according to a White House source.
Col. Macgregor has already expressed that publicly in a 2019 interview on Fox News’ “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” including moving the U.S. embassy from Kabul.
Macgregor’s “decades of military experience will be used to assist in the continued implementation of the president’s national security priorities,” a Pentagon statement to Axios read.
Head of the National Iranian Gas Company (NIGC) said that the initial plan and the necessary infrastructure has been prepared for launching gas exports to Afghanistan.
“The initial plan has been prepared and the private sector will be in charge of the gas exports to Afghanistan,” Hassan Torbati told reporters at a ceremony to launch 181 gas supply projects in Fars province.
He noted that diplomatic negotiations are underway and the government has already provided the full infrastructure needed for transfer of gas to its eastern neighbor.
Iranian energy supplies, including electricity, are mostly available to western parts of Afghanistan where the security of transfer infrastructure can be properly guaranteed.
At least two uprising forces were killed in Taliban’s attack on their outpost in Sayed Karam district of Paktia province, local officials confirmed.
The Taliban launched their attack on Wednesday night in the Khankhel area of Sayed Karam district, Lutfullah Kamran, security chief of the Paktia police told Reporterly.
Kamran added that three other members of the uprising forces were wounded in the clashes.
He said Taliban fighters had also been killed during the clashes, but the exact number had not yet been cleared.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 186 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 592 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported ten deaths and 57 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 42,795 the number of total reported deaths is 1,591 and the total number of recoveries is 35,024.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Kunduz, Bamiyan, Helmand, Daikundi, Badghis, Parwan, Nimroz, Logar, Badakhshan, Ghazni, Maidan Wardak, Ghor and Zabul provinces.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) has expressed deep concern about the deteriorating situation for journalist safety in Afghanistan.
According to Afghan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA), the journalist was killed when the car bomb exploded in his car. The IFJ and AIJA are gathering more information about the incident.
With the targeted killing of Daei, the number of journalists killed in Afghanistan this week reaches two. Last week, Yama Siawash, former journalist was killed in a targeted explosion in the Makrorayan-e-Char area of Kabul.
The killing of the journalists follows the devastating terrorists-attack on Kabul University on November 2, killing 20 people and injuring more than 40, is a reminder of the deteriorating security situation in the country.
Afghanistan is one of the world’s deadliest countries for journalists. According to the IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report, six journalists were killed in Afghanistan in 2019.
The killings come during the IFJ’s 2020 End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists campaign to demand governments put an end to impunity and to highlight and denounce crimes targeting journalists.
President Ashraf Ghani has strongly denounced the terrorist attack on a reporter of the Radio Azadi in Lashkargah city of Helmand on Thursday.
“Enemies of Afghanistan assassinated Elyas Daei, Da Azadi Radio journalist by an IED this morning in Lashkargah of Helmand in an attempt to hide their heinous crimes & to silence the expressive voice of media,” President said in a press release released by the Presidential Palace.
According to the press release, President said the terrorist groups by committing such heinous crimes and attacks cannot strict the freedom of expression as the legitimate right of our citizens for which they have gone through immense hardship and paid sacrifices to achieve.
“The government is fully committed to preserving and expanding the freedom of expression,” Ghani said.
He has also offered his deepest sympathies to the family of Elyas Daei and Afghan media and wished speedy recovery for his brother and others who sustained injuries in the incident.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says one new positive case of polio has been registered in Marouf district of Kandahar province.
Mirjan Rasekh, the head of public awareness of the polio eradication program of MoPH said that a 1-year-old boy is now permanently paralyzed by the poliovirus.
With the registration of this new positive case of polio virus, the total number of infected people during the year 2020 has reached 54 nationwide. Of the 54 cases of polio, 36 were in the south, eight in the west, six in the southeast, two in the east, one in the northeast, and one in the northeast.
Rasekh added that 74 percent of those infected were in area under the control of Taliban who had not received the full dose of the polio vaccine.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) has said that Afghanistan remains the deadliest country for civilians, with the Afghan women and children make up half of the fatalities.
Robert Mardini, Director General of the ICRC who is currently visiting Afghanistan said that the escalation of violence in Afghanistan in recent months has worsened the humanitarian situation in the country, adding that hundreds of injuries among them, many civilians have been admitted to hospitals in Kandahar, Helmand and Ghazni provinces.
“At the same time, access to basic medical care is already limited because many clinics in the rural areas have closed, while others are either too far, dangerous to access, or expensive to reach for many people,” ICRC said.
Robert Mardini visited Andar district and Ghazni provincial hospital.
“The purpose was to see the situation on the ground, meet the communities, and listen to them, discuss the humanitarian issues and treatment of the wounded and sick,” he said.
He called on both sides of the Afghan conflict to do their best to safeguard civilians from harm.
A special investigator will be appointed to consider criminal cases against Australian special forces in Afghanistan, as Scott Morrison declared that a report to be released next week would contain “very difficult” and “disturbing” findings.
According to the Guardian, the prime minister said he would also set up an independent oversight panel to give people confidence the Australian defence force was tackling the serious cultural issues uncovered by the four-year investigation into alleged war crimes.
The announcement of both moves is a sign that the report, to be released next week, will contain damning conclusions about the conduct of Australian special forces in Afghanistan.
An inquiry led by the assistant inspector-general of the Australian Defence Force, Maj Gen Justice Paul Brereton, has been examining the conduct of elite Australian forces in at least 55 incidents of alleged breaches of the laws of armed conflict between 2005 and 2016.
The Iranian foreign minister on Wednesday met with Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan in Islamabad to discuss ways to “further strengthen” bilateral cooperation with special emphasis on trade and economic relations.
Emphasizing the need for enhanced bilateral cooperation with special emphasis on bilateral trade and economic relations, Khan underscored the need to work closely for promoting peace, security and development in the region.
Highlighting Pakistan’s efforts towards facilitating peace and stability in neighboring Afghanistan, he reiterated his stance that there was no military solution to the 19-year conflict.
The premier reaffirmed Pakistan’s support for “Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” peace process hoping that the “historic opportunity” would be seized by all Afghan parties to secure a political settlement.
“Peace in Afghanistan would be beneficial for the entire region as it would create new opportunities for trade and economic cooperation as well as regional connectivity,” he went on to say.
Javad Zarif, for his part, conveyed “personal” greetings and commitment of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to work closely with Khan for further strengthening bilateral cooperation in diverse fields.
A large number of Afghan refugees and those who have taken a temporary shelter in India’s capital New Delhi held a demonstration urging UNHRC to take cognizance of their deteriorating life standards.
Afghans said they were forced to take shelters in different countries, including India owing to a protracted conflict in their home country.
Hence, they seek social protection packages and work permits from UN. There are around 11,000 registered Afghan refugees in India.
It continues to welcome those who have been persecuted. Afghans say they are grateful to New Delhi. But an insecure future has really made them vulnerable.