Over the past three months, Chinese officials have tried to bargain with the Taliban, by offering to build a road network if they can secure peace in Afghanistan once the U.S. withdraws troops, the Financial Times (FT) reported on Tuesday.
Two senior Pakistani tribal leaders with close ties to the Taliban, spoke to FT and said Beijing diplomats have been talking to Taliban over the past three months.
“Chinese officials have told the Taliban to bring peace [to Afghanistan] and China will invest in roads to begin with,” one leader told the publication.
The road networks, six-lane highways and motorways would link major Afghan cities and promote local trade and investments, the Chinese offered.
They have also promised “sizeable investments” in energy and large-scale infrastructure projects that would involve transporting oil and gas from central Asia through Afghanistan.
FT also spoke to a senior Pakistani government official in the foreign ministry, who confirmed that Chinese officials have been meeting with Taliban representatives since the U.S. peace deal was signed in February.
A former Pakistani intelligence official spoke to FT and said China had repeatedly pressed the Taliban towards peace and enticed them with economic benefits of a “revitalised Afghanistan.”
“The Taliban recognise China for not only having the financial means but also the motive to develop Afghanistan,” he told FT.
With just 24 new cases of Coronavirus reported in the past 24 hours, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said that the outbreak is slowing down in Afghanistan.
Akmal Samsor, spokesperson for the MoPH, said on Wednesday that the Coronavirus positive rates have reduced further, meaning in Week 35 of the pandemic only 10% of the samples overall were found to be positive, compared to 12% in Week 34.
However, the point to note is, through the past week that started on Sept. 5, the government’s laboratories have barely tested 1,000 samples.
Samsor said that despite the opening of schools, the number of COVID-19 cases have not increased and if this continues, then the first wave of infections may end before winter.
Referring to a possible second wave, he told people who have comorbidities and are over 50 years old, to get a flu vaccine.
However, Samsor noted that the cases of wild polio have increased in Afghanistan since the beginning of the year.
They have recorded 44 cases this year, compared to the 29 that were reported in the entire last year.
The MoPH said they have launched a polio vaccination campaign in several provinces despite the threat of the pandemic.
Fazel Fazly said the Afghan government has released 6,300 Taliban prisoners as a measure to leave “no room for excuses” for the Taliban.
Fazly, who is the Director General of the Administrative Office of President Ashraf Ghani, said, he met First Vice President Amrullah Saleh after he was attacked on Wednesday.
“He [Saleh] is doing well with a more strengthened resolve. But unfortunately a number of innocent Afghans lost their lives and got injured, Fazly wrote on Twitter.
“This attack indicates a trend. Last year VP Saleh was targeted when we were approaching the presidential election, a critical juncture in our history. The Afghan government has removed all the barriers for direct talks and a comprehensive ceasefire.”
He added, “We left no room for excuses by taking measures, such as releasing 6,300 Taliban prisoners without any guarantees/commitments by the other side. Now that there’s regional and international consensus on Afghanistan peace, there are attempts to sabotage the process by targeting Afghan leadership.”
“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s negotiation team is ready to start direct negotiations. Shedding the blood of defenceless Afghans must stop, NOW!” he added.
The bombing attack on Saleh’s convoy in Kabul left him and his son with slight injuries, however, bystanders and pedestrians were affected. Over 10 civilians were killed and 15 were wounded, including Saleh’s bodyguards.
This came at a time when Afghanistan is bracing for peace negotiations, but Taliban’s political office claims that as many as 100 of their prisoners are still unreleased by the government.
The Afghan government on the other hand, said they had completed the release of all but 6 of the promised 5,000 Taliban inmates, fulfilling the conditions of the Doha agreement for the start of the intra-Afghan peace talks.
Kunduz police said they have rescued three young children who were being trafficked to Pakistan.
Hijratullah Akbari, spokesperson for the Kunduz Police Command said on Wednesday that the three boys, residents of Charkh Ab area east of the provincial capital, were around 10 years old.
They were studying in a religious school in a remote area and had been kidnapped from there by unknown individuals.
Akbari said the children were rescued by the police on Tuesday evening.
However, it was unclear who the perpetrators were and why they were smuggling the children to Pakistan.
Akbari added that the police are investigating the child trafficking case.
The city of San Diego in the state of California, declared Wednesday, Sept. 9, both as Ahmad Shah Massoud Day in District 7, and Massoud Foundation Day citywide.
The Mayor of “America’s Finest City,” Kevin Faulconer signed the Massoud Foundation Day proclamation, establishing it citywide on Tuesday.
Scott Sherman, City Councilman from District 7, praised Ahmad Shah Massoud and his legacy, along with the contributions of the foundation in strengthening Afghan and U.S. relations.
“Now Therefore Be It Proclaimed that I, City Council member Scott Sherman, on behalf of the City of San Diego, and the proud residents of the Seventh District do hereby declare Wednesday, September 9th 2020, as Ahmad Shah Massoud Day!”
“It gives me tremendous joy to see Americans commemorate my father in San Diego and I would like to express my utmost gratitude towards all the councilmen and the mayor for making this happen,” said Ahmad Massoud, the Afghan leader’s son, who is currently leading a Movement to bring peace in Afghanistan.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said 24 samples from the 209 tested were found to be positive for Coronavirus in the past 24 hours in Afghanistan.
Two people succumbed to the virus while 332 recovered, the MoPH said.
The current Afghan figures are 38,544 confirmed cases so far, with 6,077 active. There have been 1,420 deaths and 31,045 recoveries reported.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Ghor (13), Herat (9), Kandahar (1) and Laghman (1).
U.S. President Donald Trump is expected to announce a further reduction of American troops in Afghanistan in the coming days, senior officials told reporters on Tuesday.
The official said that Trump will make a similar announcement regarding troops in Iraq on Wednesday i.e. today, with the announcement on Afghanistan expected soon.
The senior administration official told reporters onboard Air Force One to expect the announcements, as Trump returned to Washington after campaigning for his re-election..
“We kept America out of new wars, and we’re bringing our troops back home,” the president told the crowd in North Carolina.
The decision comes as Trump trails his Democratic rival Joe Biden in polls ahead of the presidential elections in November.
U.S. has already reduced its troops in Afghanistan to around 8,600 after signing the Doha peace deal with the Taliban.
Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that initial investigations show a planted bomb was responsible for the explosion that struck the convoy of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh in Kabul on Wednesday morning.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian said on Wednesday that investigations into the blast had begun and the cause was found to be a planted improvised explosive device (IED) and it was not a suicide attack.
The Taliban denied involvement in the attack, which comes ahead of the peace talks between the Afghan government and the militant group in Qatar.
Saleh’s convoy was targeted by an IED around 7:30 a.m. in the Taimani area of Kabul, while he was on his way to work.
With his left hand bandaged, Saleh released a video statement, assuring the public he was fine and had only sustained minor injuries on his face and his left hand.
President Ashraf Ghani has condemned the “terrorist attack” that claimed the lives of at least 10 people and wounded 16, including Saleh’s bodyguards.
“By committing such crimes, terrorists and their foreign backers are against peace, democracy and a bright future for the country, which are the fundamental demands of our countrymen,” Ghani said.
“The strong faith of the people cannot be weakened and the fight of our security and defence forces against terrorists will continue in earnest and resolutely.” he added.
The international community also condemned the attack.
“This is an attack on the Republic, & desperate act by spoilers of peace efforts, who must be collectively confronted,” the European Union (EU) Delegation in Afghanistan said in a statement on Twitter.
Ghani has instructed a comprehensive assessment of the incident.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said that according to initial reports, two people were killed and 12 others were injured in the explosion in Kabul on Wednesday morning. While the MoI did not mention the target, the convoy of First Vice President Amrullah Saleh was attacked.
MoI spokesperson Tariq Arian said that an explosion took place at around 7:35 a.m. today morning in the Taimani Area of PD4 in the Afghan capital.
Arian added that so far two people have been reported dead and 12 injured have been transferred from the scene of the explosion.
Arian did not specify the target of the blast and said that the area had been blockaded and investigative teams were present on the scene.
Failed attack on Amrullah Saleh
The Office of the First Vice President released a statement: “The sworn enemies of Afghanistan today once again wanted to harm Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president.”
They added that Saleh was not harmed in the blast and that the attack failed.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blast.
India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar made a stopover in Tehran to meet his Iranian counterpart Javad Zarif on Tuesday.
Jaishankar tweeted after the meeting that he and Zarif had “discussed strengthening our bilateral cooperation and reviewed regional developments.”
It was reported that the topics discussed included the Chabahar port project and the emerging situation in Afghanistan.
The strategic meeting, which followed the meeting of the two defence ministers on Sunday, is being seen as India’s attempts to stay involved in the Chabahar project as China and Iran are on the verge of signing an economic and strategic agreement worth $400 billion.
“Afghanistan’s sworn enemies once again tried today to harm the First Vice President, Amrullah Saleh,” said Saleh’s office on Wednesday.
The office added that Saleh was not harmed in the blast and that the attack had failed.
Kabul Police spokesperosn Ferdows Faramarz told Reporterly that the explosion took place at 7:35 a.m. this morning in the Taimani area of PD4.
No official details are yet available about the nature of the blast and the casualties.
Four people have been reportedly taken to hospitals as a result of the explosion.