Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The internal affairs committee of the Lower House of Parliament says the US aid cut is contrary to the Bilateral Security Agreement (BSA) with the Afghan government.
The Committee in a press release reacted to the recent decision of US Department of State, saying US military, economic, and political cooperation and support for Afghanistan is based on a long-term Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries, and the commitment to this treaty as a historic document for the elimination of terrorism, and the strengthening of security and stability in Afghanistan is mandatory.
“The United States must provide annual training, equipping, and consulting support to Afghan security forces so that the country can defend itself independently against domestic and foreign threats, and not let insurgents again pose a threat to the region and the world,” the press release said.
The Committee sought to work with international partners, especially the United States, to resolve the political crisis that threatened Afghanistan’s affairs.
It warned that if the current crisis is not resolved, security and social problems may become wider in the country.
This comes as the US has said it will cut its aid to Afghanistan by $1bn (£840m), blaming the failure of Ashraf Ghani and his main political rival, Abdullah Abdullah, to agree on an inclusive government for talks with the Taliban.
A further $1bn could be cut from the annual aid package of $4.5bn in 2021, the US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, warned after a surprise visit to Kabul on Monday failed to persuade the two men to strike a deal. Pompeo suggested the aid could be restored if they changed their minds.
The aid cut would represent about 5% of Afghanistan’s GDP, but Ghani claimed in a televised address on Tuesday that “the US reduction in aid will have no direct impact on our key sectors”. He expressed hope that the Afghan government could try to satisfy the US “through talks and negotiations”.
The Afghan president also blamed Abdullah, who he said had been offered an important role in the peace process, but had instead demanded changes to the constitution. Abdullah also released a statement saying that while Pompeo’s trip had created an opportunity to resolve the crisis, “unfortunately it was not utilised properly”.
“The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests,” Pompeo said in a sharply written statement. “Their failure has harmed US-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonours those Afghan, Americans, and coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country.
The secretary of state warned that other US projects, as well as US pledges at donor conferences, would come under review. He blamed the Afghan leaders for failing to abide by a joint declaration with the US made on 29 February to send a unified team to talks with the Taliban, and to free Taliban prisoners.
The proclaimed president Abdullah Abdullah in reaction to the attack on Sikh minorities said terrorists are trying to bring religious and social strife to Afghanistan.
Abdullah in a statement called the attack on Sikhs an “inhumane crime” and contrary to all Islamic values and principles, emphasising that attacking a religious minority was prohibited in any religion or religion.
Abdullah praised the security forces for their efforts in thwarting the attack.
At least 25 people were killed and 8 others were wounded in the attack at Dharamshala, a Sikh worship place in Kabul, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement, adding that “80 people, including women and children, were rescued.”
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Afghan Special Forces confirmed that all four suicide bombers who attacked Dharamshala, a Sikh worship area in PD1 of Kabul, were killed after nearly six hours of fighting.
The Sikh religious temple was attacked in the capital of Kabul early on Wednesday.
Narindra Singh Khalsa, a Sikh lawmaker, told news outlets that four people had been killed and the trapped people inside have been rescued.
The Islamic State group has reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack.
Afghanistan’s minority Sikh community has been targeted numerous times by Islamic extremists in recent years.
A suicide bomber killed more than a dozen people in the eastern city of Jalalabad in 2018 in an attack claimed by Islamic State.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says the coronavirus is now circulating in Afghan cities and the number of infections is on rise.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar in a press conference said that the total number of positive coronavirus cases has risen to 79 in Afghanistan.
Mayar warned that if the people do not follow the health instructions to prevent coronavirus, the virus will spread further.
The number of confirmed cases in Afghan provinces are as below:
Kabul – 7
Samangan – 4
Logar – 3
Kaspia – 1
Farah – 2
Balkh – 2
Zabul – 2
Ghor – 1
Daikundi – 1
Badghis – 1
Kandahar – 1
Ghazni – 1
Afghan security officials said that a clearing operation is ongoing at Dharamshala, a Sikh worship area in PD1 of Kabul, and those trapped inside are being rescued.
Gunmen and suicide bombers attacked a Sikh religious complex in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Wednesday.
Afghan security forces blocked off the area and were taking on the attackers.
A Taliban spokesman, in a message on Twitter, denied responsibility for the attack.
The extraordinary committee on prevention of Coronavirus led by the second vice-president Sarwar Danish has announced the none-essential movements restricted in Herat, Farah and Zaranj cities.
The Committee has decided that in order to prevent the spread of the Corona virus in Afghanistan, especially in the vulnerable cities, the government announces a none-essential movements restriction in the cities of Herat, Farah and Zaranj.
The committee called on all citizens of the three cities to stay in their homes and not to leave their homes unnecessarily; to avoid crowding into any places and to take other precautionary measures to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
The Committee also decided to
stop all activities in parks, schools, universities and other public and private educational institutions, shrines, barbers, public baths, sports complexes and restaurants.
This comes as the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan reaches to 74.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will not self-isolate after returning from Afghanistan and Qatar on Tuesday because neither country was on a US government list calling for such precautions when he visited, a State Department medical official said.
The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also said Mr Pompeo’s choreographed movements in both places and the prior screening of people who came in contact with him meant it was a low or no-risk environment for him to catch the disease.
Asked if Mr Pompeo or his staff planned to self-quarantine for 14 days following their return Tuesday, the official told reporters in a call: “No, they are not,” and added: “There’s no intent to quarantine anyone because it’s not indicated.”
Prospects of a peace settlement in Afghanistan remain elusive as the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said that Afghan security forces have switched back to an ‘active defense’ posture against the Taliban as the militant group continues to target government forces across the country, despite a US-Taliban deal signed on 29 February aimed at setting the conditions to end the 18-year-old conflict.
“There has been no reduction in the attacks of the enemy. We have therefore ordered our forces to return to an ‘active defense position’ from defensive position,” said Asadullah Khalid, Afghanistan’s acting defence minister.
“From now on we should think on attacking the nests and hideouts of the enemies, taking the initiative … and leaving nowhere safe for the enemies to hide,” he added.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) says Afghan security forces have cleared the first floor of a Sikh temple in PD1 of Kabul, where “suicide bombers” are battling security forces.
The spokesman of MoI, Tariq Arian said, “A number of people have been rescued who were trapped inside the temple.”
A number of armed men attacked a Sikh Temple in Kabul city early on Wednesday and is standoff is underway as the security forces are trying to eliminate the assailants.
The Sikh worship area locates in Shor Bazar area of Kabul city.
Afghan local officials have confirmed that at least 9 Taliban Prisoners have been released in Maidan Wardak Based on President’s special decree.
The Maidan Wardak governor’s press office in a press release said that the Taliban prisoners were released based on the decree of (no 336) by President Ashraf Ghani.
The governor of Maidan Wardak urged the released Taliban prisoners to make further efforts in stabilizing the country, peace and the security.
This comes as President Ghani has recently signed a decree of releasing 5,000 Taliban prisoners in Afghanistan.
Afghani currency takes a dip against US dollar following the US government’s decision to slash $1 billion in aid to Afghanistan.
The announcement was made by US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on his unannounced trip to Kabul, where he held meetings with Afghanistan’s rival leaders.
The Afghani currency dropped to 77 against the US in Sarai Shahzada Market, Afghanistan’s largest informal financial institution in Kabul.
Pompeo declared in frank language that Washington was “disappointed” in the rival leaders’ failure to break the deadlock that has persisted since September’s election and form a government.
The United States has urged the Afghan authorities to fully investigate the attack on female mayor Zarifa Ghafari.
“We strongly condemn the recent attack on Zarifa Ghafari, the mayor of Maidan Shar, Wardak province. We are relieved that she and her fellow passengers survived this cowardly attack unharmed,” the State Department said in a statement.
The statement further added “We urge Afghan authorities to fully investigate and prosecute those who opened fire on her vehicle. The future of Afghanistan lies with those who seek peace and political solutions, not those who use violence and intimidation to threaten Afghan women.”
Four unknown gunmen attacked the vehicle of Ghafari in the 5th district of Kabul as she was travelling home from Maidan Shahr city of Wardak province two days ago.
Afghan Police have confirmed that an armed man is fighting with security forces from inside Dharamshala, a Sikh area of worship in Shorbazar area of Kabul city.
According to Police, gun fires can be heard from the area and a clash is still underway.
Details to follow.
United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres has announced the appointment of Deborah Lyons of Canada as his new Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).
Ms. Lyons succeeds Tadamichi Yamamoto of Japan, who has served in this critical role since 2016.
UN in a press release said, “The Secretary-General is grateful for Mr. Yamamoto’s important contribution and service to UNAMA since taking up his role as Deputy Special Representative in 2014 and then Special Representative.”
Ms. Lyons is a diplomat with 21 years of professional experience in political affairs, international cooperation and economic development.
Most recently, she served as Ambassador of Canada to Israel, and from 2013 to 2016, as Ambassador to Afghanistan.