Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Office of the National Security Council (NSC) said that the process of prisoner exchange was completed between the Afghan government and the Taliban on Thursday.
Javid Faisal, spokesperson for the NSC wrote on Twitter that the Taliban has released all the Afghan commandos they had detained.
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has received our commandos held hostage by Taliban, after which the government released the remaining 400 convicts, except the few for which our partners have reservations,” Faisal said.
He was referring to the seven Taliban prisoners who had been accused of killing foreign troops and nationals troops. The Afghan government is transferring these detainees to Qatar.
The NSC also said that the remaining prisoners are those who have been blacklisted in some countries. The governments of France and Australia had formally raised concern about the release of these prisoners.
Faisal added that “diplomatic efforts are ongoing” to resolve those issues.
“We expect direct talks to start promptly,” Faisal said.
The Afghan government’s negotiating team is expected to leave for Qatar today.
President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday, led a high-level government delegation to Parwan’s provincial capital, Charikar that was devastated in the floods.
The delegation included First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib, and various other officials.
They surveyed the flooded areas of Charikar and met with families of the victims. The province lost 157 people while 927 homes were completely or partially destroyed.
Parwan Governor Fazluddin Ayar thanked Ghani for the government’s support in the search and rescue operations and their promise to rebuild the damaged infrastructure.
President Ghani thanked the State Ministry for Disaster Management and Humanitarian Affairs for their work.
“We are from Parwan and Parwan is from us. The pain of Parwan is the pain of Afghanistan and of every Afghan. We will not forget Parwan’s pain,” he said, expressing his condolences to the affected families.
He said the Ministry of Finance had been instructed to pay attention to the disaster budget and that the Presidential Palace Support and Operations Unit had proposed 90 million AFN for the cleaning of the Parwan Canal.
The president instructed the relevant departments to conduct a clear investigation into the flood management, and said there should be a nationwide mobilization.
He added that Parwan’s water and land management will be looked into and within a week, the government bodies will investigate the effects of the floods and proceed with a coherent plan of action.
President Ashraf Ghani signed three agreements totalling $23.95 million financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to construct hospitals and procure essential supplies to support the national Coronavirus response.
The agreement was signed by acting Minister of Public Health Ahmad Javad Osmani and representatives of the Housing Construction Corporation, the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), and the World Health Organization (WHO) at a ceremony in Kabul on Wednesday.
The support is part of ADB’s Emergency Assistance for COVID-19 Pandemic Response for Afghanistan programme.
“The agreements signed today will help construct hospitals in the high-priority provinces and address the immediate need for medicines and medical equipment to treat the affected population and improve health services across the country,” said ADB Country Director for Afghanistan Narendra Singru.
“The support is part of an integrated approach to improving patient treatment and management to support the government’s response to COVID-19.”
Ghani expressed his appreciation for ADB’s swift response and highlighted the importance of the support in helping the country to contain the COVID-19 pandemic. He also said the treatment facilities will be completed within six months.
“We should not neglect the second wave of the Coronavirus and shall move forward upon learned lessons of the past,” the president added.
The project will construct 10 hospitals equipped with isolation wards and intensive care units, adding 750 new hospital beds.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) appointed 12 ambassadorial candidates and extended the term of office of a current ambassador on Thursday.
In a press release, the MFA said this move would “further strengthen the diplomatic apparatus” and help in achieving Afghanistan’s foreign policy priorities.
The new members are:
U.K. – Zalmai Rassoul, former Foreign Minister and National Security Advisor.
Germany – Yama Yari, former Minister of Transport.
Kyrgyzstan – Bismillah Waziri, former Chief of Staff of the Afghan Armed Forces.
Russia – Said T. Jawad, current ambassador to the U.K. and Ireland.
Austria – Manizha Bakhtari, former ambassador to Norway.
Azerbaijan – Amanullah Jaihoon, current head of the Fourth Political Directorate of the MFA, and former ambassador to Turkey.
Italy – Khalid Ahmad Zakaria, current head of the Fifth Political Directorate of the MFA.
Pakistan – Najibullah Alikhil, current ambassador to Turkmenistan.
Turkey – Amir Mohammad Ramin, current director of regional cooperation at the MFA.
India – Farid Mamondzai, former Deputy Director of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance.
Turkmenistan – Khan Wali Khan Basharmal, current Deputy of the Administrative Office of the President.
Meanwhile, Shafaq Khawati, was nominated for Special Ambassador for Immigration in Iran, while the term of Wahidullah Weiss, the current ambassador to Australia, was extended for another year.
The new ambassadors will be reporting to their posts soon.
Of the appointees, five hold doctoral degrees and eight have a master’s.
Residents of Ghazni staged a sit-in protests asking the government to act on the increase of security incidents in the province on Thursday.
The protests, which had started on Wednesday, asked for the removal of high-ranking provincial civilian and military officials, like the governor, the head of security and the army commander, for their inability to curb the violence in the province.
Head of the Ghazni Provincial Council Nasir Ahmad Faqiri said that the continuing “inadequacy” of the Ghazni officials in providing security had led to the protests.
The people were also calling out the central government on the increase of corruption, failure to provide services to the people and the cessation of development activities in the province.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said that 45 new cases of Coronavirus were reported across Afghanistan in the past 24 hours from the 523 samples tested.
One person succumbed to the virus while 75 recoveries were also reported in the past day.
The new cases were reported in the provinces on Kandahar (20), Herat (9), Kabul (6), Ghor (4), Farah (3), Paktia (2) and Uruzgan (1).
There are currently 7,488 active cases in Afghanistan.
According to the MoPH, the country has confirmed 38,288 COVID-19 cases so far, along with 1,410 death and 29,390 recoveries.
Afghanistan will transfer seven Taliban prisoners who release had been demanded, to Qatar ahead of the peace talks, reported Reuters on Thursday.
Speaking to Afghan officials and Western diplomats, Reuters said that the captives would be released soon.
An Afghan official said the prisoners had not been released yet as they were guilty of killing foreign soldiers.
Local media also reported that the prisoners will be transferred and kept in Qatar.
On Wednesday, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh had said that six Taliban prisoners had been blacklisted by foreign countries for killing their soldiers.
The families of the victims had launched international campaigns and Afghan relations would have deteriorated if the government had released these prisoners.
The state news agency Radio Television Afghanistan had reported that the Taliban have released all the Afghan commandos they had detained.
This was an important condition set by the Presidential Palace for the prisoner exchange to be completed.
Chief Afghan peace negotiator Masoom Stanekzai tweeted on Thursday that talks with the Taliban would start “soon.”
“The recent resolution of the Peace Advisory Loya Jirga is in fact, a roadmap for direct peace talks based on the national interests of the country,” he wrote.
“The negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, on behalf of the people and the government, will soon begin peace talks with the goal of a prosperous, free and united Afghanistan in which the rights of all citizens are protected.”
The Afghan government’s peace negotiating team will be arriving in Qatar today.
The Cabinet Law Committee, chaired by Second Vice President Sarwar Danesh, ruled that virginity testing will not be authorized without the consent of the woman and an ordery by the court, with perpetrators being imprisoned.
The meeting of the Cabinet Law Committee was held on Wednesday where they discussed amendments to the article related to virginity testing in the country’s penal code.
The members of the meeting decided that the amendments were made in order to preserve the dignity and human rights of women.
Danesh instructed the Ministry of Justice to incorporate their decisions to amend the articles of the penal code and submit them to the cabinet for a final approval.
Before this, a virginity test was subject to one of two conditions, either when ordered by a court or it a woman consents to the exam. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) had called for an unconditional ban on virginity tests last year.
The AIHRC had called these tests a violation of the country’s Constitution, Islamic Law and international regulations.
The 209th Shaheen Corps said on Thursday, that six children were killed in a landmine explosion in Sancharak district of Sar-i-Pul province.
Around 5:45 pm on Wednesday, a handmade mine exploded inside Mohammad Issa’s home in Gajwa village of the district.
Hanif Rezaei, a spokesperson for the 209th Shaheen Corps, said the children were between the ages of 5 to 12 years. In addition, two women were also injured in the explosion.
The army said the bomb was planted by the Taliban.
The militant group has not commented on the incident yet.
Former Afghan politician Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani was sentenced to three years of probation and six months of home confinement after he pleaded guilty to theft of public money, said Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) on Wednesday.
Nuristani pleaded guilty to “theft of public money,” admitting that he received over $100,000 in government benefits by concealing foreign travel and residency
between July 2015 and December 2018.
The former Herat governor and chairman of the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan had admitted to concealing and repeatedly lying to the U.S. Social Security Administration to receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) since 2015.
He also acknowledged that he knew an SSI recipient must reside within the U.S., and that he was required to report any foreign travel lasting over 30 days.
In 2018, he had been appointed to the Afghan Senate, but he was receiving SSI for claiming to be a residence of El Cajon, California.
He admitted to receiving $27,492.44 in SSI payments and to causing a loss of $73,090.34 to the state of California for healthcare payments and services as a result of his fraud.
Special Inspector General John F. Sopko said: “Make no mistake, no one is above the law in Afghanistan or the United States, no matter how prominent or powerful they may be… Just because someone can get away with criminality in Afghanistan, he or she should not think the same applies here in the United States.”
Nuristani made full restitution to the Social Security Administration and the California Department of Health Care Services.