Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Amid uncertainty over the peace talks with the Taliban, Afghanistan is likely to receive reduced pledges for aid from international donors who will meet at the 2020 Afghanistan Conference in Geneva later this month, sources told Reuters.
Despite the ongoing, albeit at a stand-still, peace talks in Doha, and Washington’s decision to withdraw its troops by May 2021, Afghanistan remains a country dependent on foreign aid.
In fact, donors may feel uneasy as the drawdown leaves behind a nation where the Taliban could secure greater influence and hardliners may try to roll back the progress made in the past 19 years.
Analysts see foreign aid as vital in helping donors shape policies of any future Afghan government and that it provides leverage over the Taliban.
“It’s one of the primary forms of leverage the US and international community believe they have over the Taliban,” Andrew Watkins, an analyst for International Crisis Group, told Reuters.
“Any future Afghan state will rely on foreign aid almost as much as the current one does,” he said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has made Afghanistan’s plight worse, but donors are likely to tell Afghanistan to expect, possibly significantly, less aid, while also imposing stricter conditions and committing funds for a shorter period, three sources told Reuters.
All three sources said the U.S., Afghanistan’s largest donor, is likely to make deep cuts to its current annual contribution of around $800 million for civilian funding, beyond the money allocated for defence and security needs.
Other NATO members like Britain and France were also considering reducing pledges, while Australia was planning cuts of up to 30%, two sources told Reuters.
Afghan diplomatic missions around the world and several foreign consulates and embassies in Afghanistan mourned the victims of the Kabul University attack which has claimed the lives of at least 35 people so far, mostly young students.
The Afghan government announced Tuesday as the National Day of Mourning with flags at half-mast across the country and all the Afghan missions and consulates. The consulates also opened the condolence book for the diplomatic community to write their messages.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) condemned the attack as a “full-fledged war crime.”
“It’s harder and harder to have hope about the [peace] process when your children are being slaughtered on a daily basis inside schools, inside universities,” said Shaharzad Akbar, chairperson of AIHRC in an interview with NPR.
“We, as a nation are mourning our losses in the Kabul University terrorist attack,” said Presidential Palace spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi.
The French Embassy called the attack an “unspeakable crime that deliberately targeted civilians and education. This new attempt to destroy all that constitutes the strength of Afghanistan will be in vain.”
In Afghanistan, the U.S., Britain, Germany, Italy, Finland, the Netherlands, Sweden, China, and the European Union Delegation, also raised their flags at half-mast.
Spokesperson for the Afghan peace negotiating delegation in Doha, Nader Nadery, said the university was a “symbol of unity and national identity, a home to many generations of Afghans, poor and rich, a compass of moral authority, a place for brotherhood and sisterhood.”
He said the terrorists had attacked the “soul” of Afghanistan and called for an immediate ceasefire.
“We/the Afghan negotiating team showed every sign of urgency in this regard [for ceasefire], will the other side [Taliban] show the same and proof that it was not them?”
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) said on Tuesday that envoys and leaders from over 40 nations and organisations have condemned the Kabul University attack, which according to Reuters, has claimed the lives of at least 35 victims so far.
Two government sources told Reuters that around 50 others were wounded in the attack claimed by Islamic State (Daesh), and most victims were students at the university.
UN Secretary-General António Guterres in a statement expressed his “deepest sympathies” to the families of the victims and said this was the second attack in the capital on an education facility in the last 10 days – after the Oct. 24 Kowsar-e Danesh suicide bombing, also claimed by IS-K.
He said the attack is also “an assault on the human right to education.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said they will continue to support Afghanistan’s “brave struggle” against terrorism.
Pakistan’s Special Representative Mohammad Sadiq condemned the “mindless” attack and said they condemn “terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.”
Saudi Arabia also rejected “heinous acts” which target innocent lives and undermine security and stability.
The Qatar Ministry of Foreign Affairs reiterated their firm position of “rejecting violence and terrorism, regardless of the motives and reasons. “
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation expressed their “permanent rejection” of all forms of violence and terrorism aimed at destabilising security in contravention of religious and humanitarian values and principles.
A day after the Islamic State-claimed attack on Kabul University, that has claimed the lives of 22 so far, family members of the victims, students and civil society activist staged a protest in front of the campus.
The demonstrators gathered near the north gate of the university, demanding justice for the victims and the execution of those who helped the terrorists in carrying out the attack.
They called for the cancellation of the peace talks in Qatar until a ceasefire is declared as the university attack was the latest in the past months which led to massive civilian casualties. Posters on the walls of the campus, which many students were seen jumping over yesterday as they fled the gunbattle, read “Boycott Doha Talks” and “Republic Will Prevail.”
The more vocal activists shouted slogans of “We are many! You do not have enough bullets to kill us all!” and also condemned the government for its inaction and failure to protect their citizens.
They asked the U.S. government to reconsider their policy towards the Taliban and asked the Afghan government to withdraw all security and defence forces from “active defence” to offence.
The United Nations (UN) was called upon to include the Taliban and its allies in the terrorist blacklist, while the International Court of Justice in Hague was asked to try the Kabul University attack as a war crime and the Taliban as international terrorists.
An activist said she had given up hope on the government and asked the people to mobilise since their “daughters and sisters” are still in classrooms.
“We will continue our education. Who will protect us? Who is accountable?” they questioned.
A Taliban suicide car bomber was killed before he could reach his target in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz but an attack by the militants followed, where at least two security forces were killed and eight others were injured on Tuesday morning.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said in their official statement that a suicide attacker in an explosive-laden car, who wanted to hit an Afghan Border Force outpost, was identified and killed at around 7 a.m. on Tuesday. However, a group of Taliban engaged in a gunbattle with the Afghan Army afterwards and this resulted in some casualties.
The MoD did not mention any casualties but said some of the attackers were also killed while others fled. They said the situation was under control.
Safiullah Amiri, a member of the Kunduz Provincial Council, told Reporterly that the clashes continued till 11 a.m. and civilians were also killed, though their details are not available.
He said the casualties from the blast and the clashes were taken to the hospital.
Amiri said that the blast radius extended up to 4 kilometres and homes were also damaged nearby.
Presidential Palace spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi condemned the Taliban attack and said such suicide attacks were being carried out to harm the Afghan security forces and the citizens after the Taliban’s “humiliating defeats” in Helmand and Kandahar.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that in the past 24 hours, 95 new Coronavirus cases were found positive from the 457 samples tested across Afghanistan, pushing the confirmed cases to 41,728.
According to the MoPH, three patients have succumbed to the virus in the past day while 13 have recovered.
Samples tested positive in the Balkh (27), Takhar (16), Kandahar (15), Baghlan (10), Kabul (9), Kunduz (8), Nangarhar (7) and Bamiyan (3).
Afghanistan has 5,829 active cases with 34,355 recovered and 1,544 deaths.