Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: After Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), in a series of tweets expressed regret on the ongoing peace process saying that the consultations seem to be happening mainly with male political leaders on Wednesday, Human Rights Watch too on Thursday stated that women should have full participation in the talks between Afghan government officials, opposition political leaders, and the Taliban under United Nations auspices.
Human rights advocates in Afghanistan have raised concerns that women and victims’ organizations will be sidelined in the talks, tentatively scheduled for April 16, 2021, in Istanbul, Turkey. “In 10 days, there is a conference about the future of Afghanistan in Turkey. No one, not the office of the President of Afghanistan, not Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, not the UN, not the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, not the co-hosts or the Taliban are telling the Afghan public about the agenda, the intended outcome and mechanism/s for public input, Shaharzad had said.
There has been no clarity on the role of the two negotiation teams and no defined role in the main event for AIHRC, civil society and the victims. The Istanbul Summit is being held to discuss proposed peace plans that include a possible interim government. Influential Afghan political figures, including former president Hamid Karzai and other heads of political factions, are likely to attend along with government officials from the HCNR. The US government has supported these talks in an effort to accelerate negotiations before the foreign troop withdrawal as the deadline of May 1 looms large.
Women’s rights activists in Afghanistan have for years raised concerns that the government will trade away women’s rights to reach an accommodation with the Taliban. The Afghan government has often resisted including women in peace talks. “As the Afghanistan conference host, the United Nations needs to ensure that women are full participants in the core talks,” said Heather Barr, interim women’s rights co-director at Human Rights Watch. “UN officials should make clear that women should not be relegated to side discussions but need a central role in determining Afghanistan’s future,” Barr added.
Earlier on March 18, a meeting of the extended troika took place in Moscow to discuss the Afghan peace talks and many political leaders figured in the talks. However, there was only one woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in the Afghan government delegation even though the government’s official delegation on intra-Afghan talks that have been ongoing in Doha, Qatar, includes 4 women among its 20 members. In both settings, the Taliban delegation has been entirely male.
The UN has repeatedly stated its commitment to ensuring the full participation of Afghan women in the peace process. UN Security Council Resolution 1325, adopted in 2000, calls for women’s “equal participation and full involvement in all efforts for the maintenance and promotion of peace and security.” Since then, the Security Council has passed seven additional resolutions on women, peace, and security.
The US, in particular, has an important role to play in promoting full participation by women in the upcoming talks, Human Rights Watch said. “The US should not stay silent if the Afghan government shuts women out of peace talks,” Barr said. “It’s critical for the Biden administration to be clear that Afghan women need to be full participants in all talks, and that women’s rights are not a bargaining chip,” Barr added.
Kabul: While the Afghan government is fully prepared to attend the Turkish summit, they want regional and global guarantees on peace, said Amrullah Saleh, Afghanistan’s first vice-president in an interview with the BBC.
“We want global and regional guarantees of peace because the world owes Afghanistan. Because the deal that is being made should not mean that a group has entered from a window to seize, coup, kill and conspire,” Saleh said on Thursday.
Amrullah Saleh stressed that the most important point of the Afghan President’s plan for peace is that “peace should not be a 25-person deal, but should be digested by the entire Afghan society”.
“Peace should not be an ethnic, regional, linguistic, group or intellectual authority, and the authority of the entire Afghan nation should be represented in it. Peace must end for all reasons of war,” he added.
Speaking to a BBC correspondent in Kabul, Saleh said that “peace is not possible in a hurry” and that President Ghani’s peace plan was the “deepest” plan he had ever seen.
Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani has drafted a three-phased peace roadmap called “Final Achievement” and outlined it two days ago at a ceremony at the presidential palace.
Ghani mentioned the early elections and his non-candidacy in this election in the proposed plan.
Saleh called the election the most sensible part of the plan. “Ashraf Ghani, the President of Afghanistan, is the spokesperson for the national conscience today,” he added.
Asked if he was under pressure from the United States, he said, “Whether we like it or not, our country is ours … At the end of the day, we respect our national feelings and our people, and we move in line with our nation.” Saleh also spoke about the multiplicity of plans within Afghanistan and said he was confident that the country would present a single plan at the Turkish summit.
Ghani’s Vice-President also said the Taliban had no plans for peace. “If you consider the Taliban, you will see that they are a noisy, and unplanned group that we saw in the Moscow summit. They had nothing to say, but insult,” he said.
He said that if the Taliban presented its peace plan, then it would be judged. “But so far what we hear from Taliban is violence, war and killing.” Turkey’s “crucial” meeting on peace in Afghanistan is scheduled for April 16 in Istanbul.
The meeting will last for ten days as per reports and will try to get the Afghan government, the Taliban and various political groups to agree on Afghanistan’s “political future”.
The Istanbul Summit has been pinned as one of the most important meetings on the future of peace in Afghanistan, in which the international community expects Afghan groups to agree on an end to the war and the “formation of a transitional peace government” in the country.
Kabul: Flights have resumed at the Hamid Karzai International Airport on Thursday after being suspended for more than an hour, said sources at the country’s aviation authority.
Aviation Authority spokesperson Mohammad Naeem Salehi said that the flights had been suspended on Thursday due to technical problems.
He added that after the problem was resolved, operations resumed.
Flights were suspended even as a Pakistani parliamentary delegation was scheduled to travel to Kabul on Thursday morning. Mohammad Sadeq, Pakistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan, tweeted that the Pakistani parliamentary delegation had been postponed due to security threats at the airport.
He added that the plane in which Assad Qaisar was travelling was ready to land when the watchtower had announced the closure of the airport.
Some media sources quoting officials at the Hamid Karzai international airport said that the reason the plane with the Speaker of the Pakistani Parliament was not allowed to land was that there were reports of explosives being moved in one of the buildings near the airport.
Earlier, the House of Representatives had announced that Qaisar’s visit to Kabul had been delayed. The agency, however, did not specify the reason for the postponement of the trip.
Kabul: The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has announced that Maulvi Hekmatullah Sabawoon, Taliban district governor, and Sayed Khan Tariq, Taliban deputy intelligence chief for Jeghato district of Maidan Wardak province, have been killed.
The ministry said in a statement issued on Thursday said that the men were killed in airstrikes in the Akhtarkhil area of Jeghato district on Wednesday night.
Four other militants were killed in the attacks, which targeted a Taliban hideout, the statement said.
The Ministry of Defense added that as a result of these airstrikes, a large amount of Taliban weapons and ammunition were destroyed.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 76 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported five deaths due to the virus and 16 recoveries from the COVID-19 infection in the last 24 hours.
The total number of COVID-19 cases now stands at 57,019 and the total reported deaths is 2,52 while the recoveries stand at 51,965.
Kabul: The vision and readiness of the Afghan administration for the upcoming Istanbul Summit in Turkey was discussed during a meeting with Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Chairman of the Peace Negotiating Team of Afghanistan and some members of the delegation, including Francesco Maria Talo, Permanent Representative of Italy to NATO; Gianfranco Petrozella, Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for International Cooperation.
Stanekzai spoke via an online link to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Frigerio, and the Italian Ambassador, Vittorio Sandley, who was in Kabul as part of a delegation. The meeting was also attended by Minister of State for Peace Affairs Syed Sadat Mansoor Naderi and a number of officials from the Ministry of Peace and Security.
The negotiating team called the Turkish conference a good opportunity to move the peace talks forward and stressed on the need to maintain and strengthen the basic structures, foundations and values that have been established in the country. Subsequently, the Italian delegation reaffirmed its support for the establishment of a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan during the peace talks.
“I expressed gratitude and admiration to Italian troops of the Resolute Support Mission in Herat who are committed to our security at home and to a better future for the people of Afghanistan. We stand with the Afghan people in their yearning for peace,” said Talo.
Kabul: At least 2,490 tons of honey had been produced in the capital and provinces, as per statistics released by the statistics of the Department of Statistics and Information of the Ministry of Agriculture on Thursday.
The ministry added that Paktia, Nangarhar, Khost, Herat, Laghman, Badakhshan, Kunduz and Bamyan are the most important honey-producing provinces.
According to the Ministry of Agriculture, there are currently 6,757 large and small bee-keeping farms in the country, most of them are located in Badghis, Herat, Badakhshan, Paktia, Kunduz, Daikundi, Bamyan, Logar, Sar-e-Pul, Farah, Maidan Wardak, Kapisa, Takhar, Baghlan and Khost provinces.
The ministry said that one kilogram of pure honey sells for 500 to 2,000 afghanis in the domestic market, depending on the type of honey.
Kabul: After the Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack on the Kandahar airfield on April 7, the Pentagon stated that even though no casualties were reported, the attack is a threat to fragile peace discussions in the country.
Preliminary reports showed the rockets landed outside the perimeter of the airfield, with no casualties and no damage, Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby said on Wednesday. Kandahar has served as a key airfield for the US forces and has been the headquarters of Train, Advise, Assist Command-South, with American and NATO forces based on the installation.
With the May 1 deadline to withdraw foreign troops from Afghanistan soil round the corner, the Taliban has warned of more bloodshed if the deadline is not met. The Taliban in a statement said, “the (insurgent) commission for military affairs can take all necessary steps to defend itself and the local population if these operations (by Kabul) are not immediately suspended”. With more operations and clashes being reported, human rights groups too are worried about the civilian casualties increasing due to the rising violence. Both warring factions alleging that they have inflicted massive casualties in clashes and counter-clashes, even as the two are likely to discuss the Afghan peace process in the imminent Istanbul Summit in April.
“We always have the right of self-defense for our troops, but our focus right now is on supporting a diplomatic process here to try to bring this war to a negotiated end with an enduring peace,” Kirby said. Kirby added that the US military needs to do a fuller assessment of “what happened and why, before any potential operational decision is made” to respond.
“I can’t deliver a comprehensive analysis of what we believe they were trying to achieve or what message they were trying to send,” Kirby said. “We condemn the attack and we believe this decision to provoke even more violence remains disruptive.”
Kandahar has hosted scores of USAF aircraft, including A-10s, E-11s, F-16s, KC-135s, C-130s, and MQ-9s, among others. Also, the US forces in Afghanistan said the “airfield operations have been transferred” to the Afghan government, but said “there are still US and NATO troops present.”