Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
President Ashraf Ghani addressed a conference on reforms and strengthening of the Afghan security and defence forces at the Char Chenar Palace on Tuesday.
National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said that Afghanistan’s security and defence forces are currently conducting 96% of their military operations without foreign assistance and this number will increase to 100% next year.
Mohib added that the aim of the conference was to make effective use of the forces and their capabilities.
The event was attended by officials and heads from the Office of the National Security Council (NSC), the Ministry of Interior (MoI), the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).
The heads of various security institutions said that there had been no change in the government’s fiscal policy for the forces, but called for transparency in the expenditures and mechanisms for reforms.
They said the conference would clarify the roles and responsibilities of all security institutions, improve their support and coordination, and ensure better operations.
Mohib in his address, said, “You are not the holders of an office, but the protectors of Afghanistan.”
He also pushed to effective measures to protect civilians and increased coordination between the people and the Afghan forces.
Ghani praised the ongoing sacrifices of the Afghan forces, and referring to the ongoing attacks in Helmand, said the security forces were able to make a difference within a “few hours” of being on-the-ground.
Stating that the effective use of force is important, the president called for a “new perspective” to react to different situations.
He added that Afghans need a legitimate system to protect their independence, which is, in-turn, protected by the “legitimate use of force.”
Ghani said the increase in coordination between the security and defence forces has led to better coordination and reforms will facilitate improved decision-making.
A global rights organisation has called on President Ashraf Ghani to “abolish” the virginity exams through an executive order and to enforce that order.
Heather Barr, interim co-director of the Women’s Rights Division at Human Rights Watch (HRW), called the tests “scientifically invalid” and its findings “medically meaningless.”
A recent report by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) that surveyed 129 women who underwent the virginity exam, found 92% of the tests were done without their consent or a court order.
This happened after a 2018 amendment to the Afghan Penal Code made it compulsory for either a court order or the woman’s consent to be required for their examination.
“So-called “virginity tests” should never be performed. They have no scientific validity, are demeaning, and can constitute sexual assault,” Barr said.
She also spoke about the efforts made by AIHRC for working on such an issue.
“It’s not an easy topic to discuss in Afghanistan – or anywhere really – but it causes so much harm and trauma, and the AIHRC’s perseverance is so important,” she tweeted on Tuesday.
Women and girls in Afghanistan have to undergo such tests in case of zina and sometimes unrelated crimes like theft or murder, HRW said.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) formed a ‘Human Rights and Victims’ Human Rights Advisory Group’ to consult with the Afghan government and Taliban negotiating delegations on securing the rights of war victims and addressing their demands during the peace talks.
In a press release on Tuesday, the AIHRC said the advisory group was set up in keeping with their four mechanisms they had proposed to increase the participation of victims, experts and the public in the peace process.
“The AIHRC has always considered the Afghan peace talks as a unique opportunity to end the war, the suffering of the Afghan people, and the need to address the demands of the people, especially war victims, for human rights and broad and meaningful participation in the peace process,” the statement said.
The Afghan government’s negotiating team welcomed the commission’s proposals to form the group which would include human rights activists and civil society members.
The AIHRC received 23 applicants and selected eight volunteers, five men and three women, who are experts in legal and civil matters.
The members are Freshta Karimi, Sayed Abdullah Ahmadi, Bibi Maryam Zarmati, Abdul Basir Toryali, Humira Saqib, Lal Gul Lal, Abdul Wadud and Bilal Ahmad Niazi.
The members of the advisory group will present their proposals to both negotiating delegations and any their questions that may arise.
They will also hold consultations with civil society networks to provide accurate, effective and expert opinions.
The AIHRC will facilitate the meeting of the advisory groups with the negotiating teams during the peace talks.
Paktia officials said on Tuesday, that the Taliban had attacked civilian homes in Mirzakah district and killed three people.
Abdul Rahman Mangal, spokesperson for the governor of Paktia, said the fatalities included a tribal elder.
The Taliban had allegedly carried out an “aggressive” attack in a residential area at 1 a.m. on Tuesday, the provincial police said.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.
Former Bamiyan member of parliament Abdul Rahman Shahidani has denied joining the Taliban after the provincial governor’s office sent a letter to intelligence and security agencies asking them to check the information.
The news was first shared as a rumour on social media after Shahidani shared pictures of himself in the UAE, where he was posing in popular tourist spots.
On Tuesday, Bamiyan Governor Sayed Anwar Rahmati confirmed the rumours and his office said their preliminary reports indicate it to be true.
Shahidani, who is in the UAE for a medical treatment, denied the reports and told the media to question the governor about his source of information.
The governor’s office spokesperson Latif Azimi also said that they had sent a letter to government agencies to “investigate the matter and check the news as soon as possible.”
“According to preliminary information, Abdul Rahman Shahidani, a former member of the Lower House of the Parliament, has joined the Taliban and traveled to Qatar,” the letter said.
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul on Tuesday, called on the Taliban to stop their attacks in Helmand and reduce violence around the country.
Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson tweeted that the Taliban’s attacks were incompatible with the February agreement they signed with the U.S.
He “strongly” seconded NATO Resolute Support Commander Gen. Scott Miller’s for the Taliban to reduce its violence nationwide.
“I strongly second Gen. Miller’s call for the Taliban to stop its offensive in Helmand and reduce its violence around the country. This violence, which is not consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement, leads only to unacceptable loss of life and destruction,” Wilson wrote.
He urged both sides to stop the violence so that Afghanistan can move towards a “lasting and much-needed peace for all.”
The ongoing Taliban offensive has seen security forces launching operations in the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah, along with Nad Ali district and Highway 601.
Security checkpoints have been set up in Nad Ali and along the highway, with the Afghan forces making advances and reclaiming lost territory.
The Helmand Department of Refugees and Repatriation has said that at least 4,500 families have been displaced due to the conflict in the province.
Afghanistan saw a spike of 58 new Coronavirus cases within a single day, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported.
The government laboratories were able to test 405 samples in the past day.
The MoPH reported new cases in the provinces of Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Farah and Uruzgan.
Over the past day, there was one death due to COVID-19 and 190 people who recovered from the disease.
Afghanistan has confirmed 39,928 cases so far, of which 1,480 died.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said 1,455 criminal cases have been reported across Afghanistan in the past month and 2,181 people have been arrested during their investigations.
In a press conference on Monday, MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian said 146 crimes have been reported in Kabul in the past 20 days and 133 suspects have been arrested so far on charges of armed robbery, drug trafficking, kidnapping and other crimes.
Arian added that in counterinsurgency operations in the past month, they had killed nearly 889 Taliban fighters, including a well-known commander of the group, and 449 were wounded.
He added that weapons, ammunition, explosives and vehicles belonging to the Taliban were also seized by security forces during the operations.
The MoI also announced that they had also arrested 15 individuals who admitted to being affiliated with the Taliban and the Haqqani Network, and were part of the targeted killing network.
In addition, they arrested a group of Taliban bomb-makers, and have discovered and defused 51 landmines in the past 20 days in Kabul.
Arian assured that the ministry has stepped up its efforts to curb criminal activities and targeted assassinations.
The Herat Money Exchange Union went on a strike on Tuesday, to protest lax security measures in the city after a member of the group was abducted from his home.
Bahauddin Rahimi, the Union’s president, told Reporterly that gunmen stormed into Haji Ismail Mohammadi’s home in central Herat city on Monday night and abducted him.
He called on security and local authorities to take measures and protect money exchangers as at least seven people belonging to the union have been abducted during the year .
Security and local officials in Herat have not commented on the abduction.
Nangarhar officials said a cleric was shot dead by unidentified gunmen in the provincial capital of Jalalabad city on Monday.
The press release from Nangarhar governor’s office said the incident took place at the Talashi Square area in the city.
The cleric, identified as Golnavaz, 30, and he was shot by men riding a vehicle.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Ukraine’s Deputy Prime Minister Oleh Urusky said they were ready to deepen relations with Afghanistan and improve their economic relations.
Urusky met Afghan Ambassador Wali Monawar, Ukrainian media reported on Monday.
“Ukraine is ready to deepen relations with Afghanistan. There is political will and significant potential for cooperation. Of course, the current level of trade between the countries is insufficient. We must set more ambitious goals and achieve higher rates of cooperation,” Urusky said.
The parties discussed the current state of bilateral relations and prospects for their future development, while stressing on the need to increase trade cooperation.
Monawar said that the leadership of both nations have mutual interest in the development of economic relations in various areas.
“Afghanistan would like to open a new page in cooperation between the countries. Currently, important areas of bilateral cooperation are education, energy, and military-technical field,” Monawar said.
Work is underway on agreements with Ukraine’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, along with the establishment of the Export Credit Agency.
The contact groups of the Afghan republic and the Taliban’s negotiating team met on Monday evening in Doha, said an identical official statement from both sides.
“Detailed discussions took place on the contested issues and both sides agreed to continue meeting as to reach a resolution,” they tweeted.
The expectation was that an agreement would be reached on the procedural rules of the negotiations within the coming days, but no such announcement was made.
Taliban’s political office spokesperson Naeem Wardak said that more meetings were held between the two teams before this one.
However, no formal meetings have been reported since the end of September.
Media reported that U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with both negotiating teams on Sunday to end the deadlock.