Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Saudi Arabia has recorded its first death from the coronavirus in a 51-year-old Afghani resident, Health Ministry spokesman Mohammed Abdelali told a televised news conference on Tuesday.
The man’s health deteriorated quickly after reporting to a hospital emergency room in the city of Medina and he died on Monday night, Abdelali said.
Saudi Arabia has confirmed 562 cases of coronavirus.
The Resolute Support (RS) Commander Gen. Scott Miller on Tuesday held a video conference with senior Afghan National and Defense Security Forces (ANDSF) in which he reaffirmed the Resolute Support’s commitment and support for Afghan security forces, and discussed Taliban violence levels and COVID-19 prevention, the mission said in a statement.
“I reiterate to you and everybody on this particular VTC, our commitment and support. And we know we’ll work through the political difficulties and we’ll be something that the Afghan people can be proud of as well as our own nations,” Miller said.
His meeting comes after the US announced that it will reduce its financial assistance to Afghanistan.
Miller stated that Resolute Support remains committed to the Afghan security forces and the Afghan people.
“That is evidenced daily by our military activities, but it’s also evidenced by our commitment from day to day as we work to accomplish all of our objectives,” he said.
He said that the Taliban will get a response if they escalate violence. According to security officials, the Taliban attacks have increased at least 10 provinces in the last five days.
“If the Taliban escalate violence and they have, they know they’ll get a response. For our part, the Taliban explicitly know and agree that we have the right to defend not only ourselves, but our Afghan security force partners. And so if they attack, there will be a response,” Miller said.
Pakistan Customs has directed its terminal operators at the ports to make necessary arrangements for holding containers related to Afghan transit trade until clearance at the western borders restores, the NEWS reported.
The Pakistani government decided to close the customs stations at the western borders in the wake of coronavirus COVID-19, Pakistani authorities said.
The trade activity at Chaman stations, bordering Afghanistan, has been put on halt for the last 20 days, following the Pakistan’s government decision.
“Terminal operators may make necessary arrangement for stacking of transit containers within the transit area earmarked for storage and examination of transit containers till such time the operations at western borders completely restores,” the Directorate General of Transit Trade of Pakistan Customs said in a statement.
At Torkham border, all the containers of frozen chicken and animal products from China and other countries have been barred from clearance on account of Afghan government’s directives due to coronavirus.
There has been a chockablock of forward transit containers at the customs bonded areas due to closure of border customs stations at Torkham and Chaman – the two border crossing points.
The Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan has confirmed that four coalition servicmembers have tested positive for the coronavirus.
The RS in a press release said that the Servicemembers were newly arrived in the country and were precautionary screening facility when they become symptomatic, were moved to isolation and tested.
“We have taken the necessary precautions to identify and quarantine any personnel these four Servicemembers may have been in contact with,” the press release reads.
According to RS, there are approximately 1500 servicmembers and civilians living in screening facilities as a preventive measures.
“These Servicemembers are living in screening facilities out of an abundance of caution, not because they are sick,” it said.
RS also added that as of March 24, 38 Resolute Support personnel exhibiting flu-like symptoms are in isolation and receiving medical care.
The Ministry of Defense (MoD) says at least seven Taliban insurgents including a key commander of the group have been killed in Maimi District of Badakhshan province.
MoD in a statement said that the Taliban insurgents started their attacks on the center of Miami district at around 22:00pm on Monday night.
According to the statement, at least eight other Taliban insurgents were wounded in the incident.
This comes as the Taliban group has ramped up their operations against the Afghan security forces.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says based on the World Health Organization (WHO) warning, 80 percent of the Afghanistan population could infect the coronavirus.
The Health Minister, Ferozuddin Firoz in a press conference said that in total, the country so far has registered 42 positive coronvirus cases.
“The situation is under control, but the number of positive cases will increase in the upcoming days,” Mr. Firoz said.
The health minister has once again warned Afghan citizens to avoid wedding parties and gatherings.
“Formal measures to restrict non-essential movement in Herat province will be in effect tomorrow, the health minister said,” he added.
Mr. Firoz stated that the Taliban group agreed that the health workers can send medical materials to the areas under their control.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday said that former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah’s demand was unconstitutional as he played down US aid cut due to their feud.
In an address to the nation, Ghani said that Abdullah was demanding an arrangement and a structure which goes against the Constitution.
He said that it was not in his authority to change the Constitution.
Ghani said that he had offered Abdullah major role in peace process and his supporters cabinet roles when they met on Monday, when US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was visiting Kabul.
Pompeo has announced that the US will reduce aid to Afghanistan by $1 billion this year, adding it was prepared to cut a similar amount next year, citing Ghani and Abdullah’s failure to reach an agreement.
Ghani said that the aid can’t won’t have direct impact on key sectors, adding his government will try to fill the gap through alternative sources.
He, however, also said that they would try to convince the US through talks.
Ghani also called on the Taliban to agree to ceasefire due to coronavirus, adding in case of a disaster, the group would be responsible for it.
President Ashraf Ghani had a telephonic conversation with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier today.
Both the leaders exchanged Navroz greetings noting that the festival symbolizes the shared heritage and cultural linkages between the two countries.
The Leaders discussed the evolving situation in the region particularly in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic and reaffirmed their commitment to boost cooperation.
Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) has called on Pakistani government to open the Torkham border crossing.
ACCI in a press release on Tuesday said that following the spread of Coronavirus (COVID-19) worldwide, the regional countries have taken preventive measures at transit and trade crossings to prevent the spread of the virus.
The Torkham crossing, one of Afghanistan’s major trade and transit crossings, has recently been closed for preventive measures against the Corona virus, the press release said.
According to the press release, halting transit supplies at the Torkham Pass will cause damage to Afghan and Pakistani traders and facilitating the trade affairs in these circumstances can help the people of Afghanistan in taking preventive health measures.
ACCI has called on Pakistani
Chambers of Commerce and Industry, the Afghan political representation in Pakistan and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce to come up with a comprehensive mechanism to address the problem.
Afghan security officials say at least 25 Taliban Insurgents have been killed and 33 others have been wounded in Balkh province.
The Special Operations Corps in a press release said that after Taliban insurgents attacked security positions in Balkh, Dawlat Abad and Chamtal districts, the security forces targeted the insurgents’ hideouts.
According to the press release, a Taliban commander named Mullah Hafiz among the killed and two other commanders identified as Mullah Reyhan and Qari Janat are among the 33 wounded.
This comes as the Hewad, Palas Posh, Khaja Namlok, Tajarkhel, Bahauddin and a number of other villages were clearled of insurgents after the clashes.
Abdullah Abdullah has appreciated the US cooperation with the Afghan people, and its efforts for the intra-Afghan negotiations aimed at a lasting peace in Afghanisan.
Abdullah in a press release said that US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s trip to Afghanistan provided an opportunity to resolve the current crisis but unfortunately it was not taken advantage of.
“Pompeo passed on the message from the US government about the immediate need to resolve the crisis between Afghan leaders,” he said.
Abdullah further assured the people of Afghanistan that he sees negotiations as the solution for the crisis, adding that “peace is a top priority for us while keeping the Afghan security and defense forces fully impartial.”
A Humvee Armored Personnel Carrier packed with explosives went off prematurely in Badghis province of Afghanistan, killing at least 4 Taliban Insurgents.
The Special Operations Corps in a statement said the Taliban militants were looking to use the explosives-laden Humvee in an attack against the Afghan forces in Bala Murghab district.
However, the explosives went off prematurely which killed 4 Taliban Insurgents and wounded another insurgent.
Local officials in Balkh province say a 200-Bed hospital to tackle coronavirus has opened in the province.
The office of Balkh governor said the hospital locates near the Mawlana Jalauddin Balkhi international airport.
This comes as the total number of confirmed cases in Afghanistan reaches to 42.
The World Bank’s executive board is expected to this week consider the first fast-track funds to help Afghanistan respond to the coronavirus pandemic, its president said.
In a LinkedIn blog, David Malpass said funding for the projects could come out of a $14 billion (Dh51.42bn) Fast Track Facility approved last week to help countries deal with health and economic effects of the coronavirus.
The respiratory disease has infected more than 305,000 people around the world, and killed more than 13,000.
Mr Malpass said World Bank teams were preparing projects in 40 countries for up to $1.7bn under the fund.
Projects in Afghanistan was the most advanced and would be presented to the board this week, he said, preparing them for formal approval.
Work was also advancing on projects in 14 other countries, Mr Malpass said, without identifying them.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Taliban deputy leader Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in Qatar, the group’s spokesman said.
The meeting came after Pompeo visited Kabul where he met President Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah trying to make them reach an agreement on an inclusive government.
Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said that the meeting with Pompeo discussed better implementation of their deal and quick release of prisoners so that intra-Afghan talks begin for future political establishment and permanent ceasefire.
Pompeo also assured that US troops were withdrawing from Afghanistan according to the timeline.
The protection and maintenance department of Salang Pass says the strategic Salang highway has been closed to Cargo Trucks following the heavy storms and bad weather.
The department in a press release on Tuesday said that the weather in Northern Salang is
cloudy and the snowfalls are sporadically underway.
According to the department, the current situation may continue up to tomorrow’s night and advised the drivers to take the necessary measures.
Taliban group via its Health Commission assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combating the coronavirus,’ said Suhail Shaheen, the Taliban’s spokesman, on Twitter, using the term the group uses to describe itself.
Zabihullah Mujahid, another Taliban spokesman, told Reuters fighters were encouraging people to listen to health workers and messages broadcast by Mullahs, and would force anyone not obeying to comply.
A Taliban commander in southern Helmand province said the group would provide what services it could for people who became infected, but added that they neither had adequate facilities nor trained personnel to deal with an epidemic.