Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has reaffirmed his country’s support for a peaceful, democratic, sovereign and prosperous Afghanistan.
There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and a negotiated political settlement is the only way forward, Qureshi said in a meeting with Speaker of Wolesi Jirga or the Lower House of the Afghan parliament Mir Rahman Rahmani on Tuesday, according to the Foreign Ministry of Pakistan.
The Pakistani foreign minister expressed hope that the Afghan parties would seize the historic opportunity and work out an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement for durable peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
He stressed on the importance of maintaining a constructive and conducive environment for advancing shared goals, saying there is a need to be vigilant about the role of spoilers, both within and outside Afghanistan, according to the statement.
While stressing on the need to deepen bilateral ties between the two countries, Qureshi said that strong fraternal ties with Afghanistan are based on bonds and affinities between the peoples of the two countries. Qureshi also emphasized on Pakistan’s commitment to safe and dignified return of Afghan refugees to their homeland, in a time-bound and well-resourced roadmap, supported by the international community.
Meanwhile, an Iranian Foreign Ministry official and Wahid Qetali, the governor of Afghanistan’s Herat province, in a meeting in Herat on Tuesday, underlined the need for further expansion of cooperation between the two neighboring countries.
Rasoul Mousavi, the director of South Asia Department of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, voiced Iran’s eagerness for promotion of economic and social relations with Afghanistan. Qetali stressed on the significance of boosting economic cooperation between provinces along the joint border on both sides.
He also expressed hope that practical measures will be taken by Iran and Afghanistan to facilitate and regulate transportation and transit between the two countries.
Kabul: Condemning the “high level of violence” and the security situation in Afghanistan, BRICS member states called for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive cease-fire in the war-torn country, during a virtual meet of BRICS foreign ministers.
The meeting was convened by Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and was attended by Brazil Minister of Foreign Affairs Carlos Alberto Franco Franca; Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, and Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi and South African Foreign Minister Naledi Pandor.
In a statement after the meeting, the ministers stressed that a “stable, democratic, inclusive, independent, prosperous, sovereign, peaceful” Afghanistan is crucial for the progress of the region.
“They expressed their deep concern about the continuing high level of violence and the security situation in Afghanistan and emphasized the need to preserve the gains made over the last two decades and to protect the rights of all Afghan citizens, especially women, children and minorities. They reiterated their commitment towards an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process and an important role of the UN in peace-making and peacebuilding in Afghanistan,” the statement read.
The ministers also welcomed all international efforts aimed at establishing sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
“They strongly condemned the continuing violence in Afghanistan, especially deliberate targeting of civilians by terrorist groups. They called for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive cease-fire. They stressed the urgent necessity of the elimination of the threat of UNSC proscribed terrorist groups to lasting peace in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
Meanwhile, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson on Wednesday announced that Chinese State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi will host the fourth China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue on Thursday via video link. The ministers will discuss topics related to the current peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, security cooperation and counterterrorism measures.
Kabul: The entry of passengers via the Torkham border crossing remained suspended between Pakistan and Afghanistan after the decision taken by the National Command and Operation Centre (NCOC) two weeks ago, sources said on Tuesday.
However, the border authorities said that patients with serious illness were granted permission to enter Pakistan from Afghanistan.
Sources at Torkham confirmed that Pakistanis with valid travel documents were allowed to enter the country via the Torkham border. They said that on the directives of higher officials they allowed patients with kidney and heart ailments needing urgent healthcare to enter Pakistan.
The source said that Afghan citizens with valid visas are not being allowed to enter Pakistan. He said that the ban was imposed two weeks ago by the NCOC in its meeting in Islamabad.
The police said Afghan citizens in Pakistan who want to return could go back to Afghanistan via the Torkham border. Meanwhile, goods transportation from and to Afghanistan continued amid strict implementation of COVID-19 SOPs.
Kabul: To discuss the latest developments in the political and security affairs in Afghanistan and the peace process, the Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs Mirwais Nab; EU Political and Security Committee Head Sofia Emmesberger, and Ambassadors of the European Union member states in Belgium, met during a virtual meeting.
The dynamics of the cooperation between Afghanistan and the EU were also discussed and expressing gratitude to the EU for its cooperation with Afghanistan during the last two decades and the sacrifices made by the EU member states to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan, Nab called the EU pledges in the 2020 Afghanistan Conference-Geneva, and the financial assistant of the EU to fight COVID-19 as a symbol of sincere friendship and cooperation.
Underscoring the recent development in the Afghan Peace Process, political and economic affairs, regional and international consensus against the return of Taliban, Nab called the EU an important and trustworthy partner of Afghanistan.
Appreciating the statement by the EEAS, EU Council, and the European Parliament supporting the Afghan Peace Process preserving gains of the last two decades, Nab stressed on the importance of continuation of the EU financial and technical support to the ANDSF to fight against terrorism.
Referring to the recent terrorist attack on Sayed al-Shuhada High School in Kabul, EU Political and Security Committee Head Emmesberger and Deputy Executive Asia and the Pacific, EEAS Paola Pampaloni condemned the killing of students, journalists, civil society activists and civilians, and called for continued talks to achieve a peace that preserves the common gains of the Afghan people and the international community over the past two decades.
Deputy Foreign Minister responded to questions raised by the EU member states’ ambassadors in Belgium, including Estonia, Belgium, Italy, Romania, France, Spain, Germany, Sweden, Latvia, Portugal and Greece, on the latest security and political developments in Afghanistan; regional cooperation; the Afghan security forces’ capability to defend the country; and bilateral and multilateral cooperation between Afghanistan and other countries and regional and international organizations.
Emphasizing the continuation of financial-development cooperation and diplomatic presence of their respective countries in Afghanistan following the withdrawal of Resolute Support forces from Afghanistan, the participants supported the Afghan Peace Process while preserving the gains of the last two decades.
Kabul: Explaining that terrorists attacks continue unbated across the country because the perpetrators are not deterred of the results, Mohammad Mohaqiq, the president’s top adviser on political and security affairs, said that most perpetrators are released after being arrested, either through “bribes” or “by the mercy of the government.”
Speaking on the fourth anniversary of the assassination of Salem Izadiar, son of Mohammad Alam Izadiar, the first deputy speaker of the Senate in Kabul, Mohaqiq said, “Who targets these civilians? They are the ones who later believe that if they are caught (arrested), they will be released the next day, either by bribery [or] or by the mercy of the government [from prison].”
Mohqiq added that thousands of such perpetrators of terrorist incidents are currently being released from the country’s prisons without trial.
The president’s senior adviser on political and security affairs implicitly named the Taliban and said that the group is seeking the release of thousands of other terrorist suspects from the Afghan government. He added that foreign countries have also repeatedly made such demands.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, however, said that the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks are only sympathized by the government on social media. He said that the Afghan government should work to heal the suffering of the Afghan people. “Our government must try to be what it used to be, have its own law, country and authority, and take care of its martyrs and be kind to its people,” Mohaqiq said.
He also called for the identification and trial of the perpetrators of terrorist incidents, including the perpetrators of the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school in western Kabul and Tuesday night’s explosions in the city.
Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), during the same event said that the citizens of the country have the right to protest against the failure of the government and that their right to protest must be protected in accordance with the constitution.
Abdullah said that the only wish of the families of the victims of the terrorist attacks was for justice to be administered in accordance with the law. “The bottom line is that if the families of the martyrs want anything today, it is justice,” he said.
According to Abdullah Abdullah, with the implementation of justice, at least mercy will be applied on on the wounds of the victims’ families, and trust between the people and the government will increase.
Referring to the government’s responsibilities in the face of protests, Abdullah stressed that a distinction must be made between ordinary citizens and those who carried out terrorist attacks, and that people must have the right to protest and criticize the government.
“When this border is called into question, then the responsibility falls on us, the people must be satisfied, otherwise, there will be mistrust, and this atmosphere of mistrust will only help the enemies of the Afghan people,” he said.
The chairman of the HCNR stated that if the government fails to implement justice and the rule of law, the people have the right to blame the government.
Kabul: During a meeting with Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon in Islamabad, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said that peace in Afghanistan is important for trade and economic growth between the two countries.
“Pakistan and Tajikistan face common challenges when it comes to peace in the Central Asian region. We suspect that if there’s no political settlement achieved in Afghanistan after foreign troops leave, it will be harmful to both the countries,” Khan said.
He added that this will not just affect trade, but also increase terrorism in the region. Khan emphasized that Pakistan can reach its potential when there’s peace in the region. “This was disrupted when India took unilateral steps against Kashmir. Relations with India can’t get better unless it reinstates Kashmir’s special status,” he added.
Meanwhile, a number of MoUs in trade, education, culture, and defense have been signed between the countries during the meeting, including a joint declaration on next steps in building a strategic partnership for regional solidarity and integration.
Kabul: According to the Afghan government’s media center, at least 21,000 tons of Afghan products have been exported to the region and the world, including India, China, the Gulf, Turkey and the European Union, through air corridors.
There have been 1,800 flights to transport Afghan exports to world markets, according to figures released by the government media center. The government’s information and media center added that the total value of exports of these items by the end of April this year is estimated at $460.5 million.
The statement also said that in May 2021 alone, Afghanistan exported a total of 408.7 metric tons of various export items worth $ 12.5 million by air to regional and global markets.
Among the largest exports are 180.7 metric tons of dried fruit, fresh fruit, carpets and handicrafts to the European Union and 146.8 metric tons of medicinal plants, including hops and saffron to India.
In fact, Afghanistan’s exports from May 2020 to May 2021 show a 28 percent increase. The government media center also added that Afghanistan’s exports are estimated to reach 9,000 tons this year.
Kabul: In a move that comes as a massive relief for major international players and even the Afghan government, the Turkish government has agreed to take over responsibility for Kabul’s international airport in a $130 million deal with NATO, an Afghan government official told The National.
Turkey had earlier been uncertain about providing support after the withdrawal of foreign troops which led many stakeholders to fear that there could be security incidents in the most important Afghan airport for foreign individuals. However, the latest deal could lay to rest the concerns raised.
Currently, hundreds of NATO troops are already stationed at the airport and the details about the exact takeover are yet to be confirmed, the official said.
Last month, Afghanistan’s Civil Aviation Authority asked NATO to hand over control of the air traffic control tower at Kabul’s airport, leading to concerns over the Afghan government’s capacity to safely and securely run its international airports after the withdrawal.
“We don’t have the capacity to run the airports with Afghans alone due to a lack of expertise, nor do we have the financial ability to bring in private contractors,” a senior government official had been quoted as saying. Mahmood Shah Habibi, head of the Afghanistan Aviation Support Association, said, “This news will provide assurances to the international community and it is a better solution because the Taliban have never attacked the Turks.”
“However, it should be a joint venture with the Afghan government or the responsibility should be transferred over to Afghans over the next few years. Afghans were contracted by the NATO, but NATO has never admitted that Afghans can do the job because it didn’t want to lose contracts,” he added.
It is interesting to note that even the US on Tuesday had vowed to secure the Kabul airport during a meeting between Ross Wilson, Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Kabul, and Minister of Foreign Mohammad Hanif Atmar.
Kabul: The acting Minister of Public Health has expressed serious concern about the lack of oxygen in the country as the number of coronavirus cases increase exponentially. The warning comes even as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 1,118 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
Acting Minister Vahid Majrooh wrote on his social media page on Tuesday night, that the rising number of infections has led the Ministry of Public Health to allocate another hospital for Covid-19 patients in Kabul. “If the citizens do not cooperate with us, we will soon see a crisis,” he said.
There are currently 14,481 active cases of coronavirus across the country. The acting minister added that the oxygen deficiency is also now becoming a serious problem. He urged people to stay indoors for two weeks and wear masks outside.
Meanwhile, the ministry also reported 27 deaths and 222 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. The total number of cases now stand at 75,144, while the number of total reported deaths is 3,034 and the total number of recoveries is 57,946.
The Ministry of Public Health has performed 481,836 Covid-19 tests since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Kabul: Various members of the Lower House of Parliament have said that the government should prevent the genocide of Hazara people and not allow the catastrophe that occurred in Iraq to be repeated in Afghanistan.
Mohammad Arif Rahmani, Ghazni’s representative in the House of Representatives, at a meeting on Wednesday criticized the silence of the representatives and said, “The Afghan parliament should not witness these genocides and massacres, it is morally bad. You and I, whoever we are. Hazara, Turks, Pashtuns, Tajiks, Uzbeks, we are from Afghanistan. Today, if the people’s representatives are silent about the genocide series of the Hazara people, I think they do not fulfill their patriotism right. Parliament has not issued a single statement even after 40 to 41 attacks.”
According to him, when the security agencies are asked about the perpetrators of such incidents, their address is clear that the Taliban, IS-K and the Haqqani network are involved in such terrorist attacks. “The Hazara people defended the same republican system, and the day the Americans came, the Hazara people surrendered their weapons to the government. Do these people deserve to be slaughtered? he asked. He emphasized that if the genocide of the Hazara people is not stopped, the tragedy that happened in Iraq will be repeated in Afghanistan.
Ali Akbar Ghasemi, Ghazni’s representative in the House of Representatives, said that people in western Kabul had been repeatedly targeted by terrorists; but every time, it is forgotten and the government does nothing to ensure the security of the people. Ghasemi suggested that if the government could not provide security to the people, it should allow residents of western Kabul to defend their territory.
Similarly, Mahdi Rasekh, a representative of Maidan Wardak, called Tuesday night’s bombings in PD3 security zone targeted and said that the government had made no effort to prevent such a case.
He stressed that the people of western Kabul have been targeted more than 35 times by targeted terrorist attacks, but western Kabul does not have even 400 security police personnel. However, Ahmad Javid Jayhun, who chaired the parliament, called on the government to take the security plan west of Kabul seriously and to share its actions and results with the people and the House of Representatives.
Kabul: At least eight people drowned in the Panj river after a car veered off the road in Badakhshan province at 8:30am on Wednesday, said Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan.
According to him, a Land Cruiser traveling from Mahmi district of Badakhshan to Faizabad, the capital of the province, deviated from the road in Rig Ravan area of Maimi district.
Nazari said that women and children, are included among those dead. He stated that four injured occupants of the vehicle have been rescued so far.
A spokesperson for the Badakhshan governor added that efforts were underway to recover the bodies from the river.
Kabul: At least 100 Taliban insurgents have been killed and 50 have been wounded in Laghman, Kunar, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Paktia, Maidan Wardak, Khost, Zabul, Badghis, Herat, Faryab, Helmand, and Baghlan provinces in ANDSF operation during the last 24 hours, said the Ministry of Defense (MoD) on Wednesday.
Meanwhile, at least two civilians were killed, and 10 other people were wounded in a blast targeting a security force convoy in eastern Nangarhar province on Wednesday morning, the provincial governor’s spokesperson Attaullah Khogyani said.
The blast occurred in the Bargeno area of PD4 in Jalalabad city, the capital of the province, while a security forces convoy was passing the area, Khogyani said.
“There are no reports of security force member casualties in the blast yet,” he said.
No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast. The Taliban has not commented on either of the matters yet.
Meanwhile, mentioning the rising violence, Zabihullah Farhang, spokesperson for the Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC), said on Wednesday that 634 civilians had been wounded during the month.
He said that the international humanitarian law has not been respected by the two warring factions and immediate ceasefire is the need of the hour. “The declaration of a ceasefire could reflect the real will of the Afghan people,” he added.
He also called on the international community to fulfill its legal and moral responsibility to uphold the human rights of its citizens and to end the violence in Afghanistan.
In fact, the UN team in Afghanistan on Wednesday also said that heavy civilian casualties recently documented by the UN mission underscores the need for all parties to do much more to protect civilians from harm.
In a briefing by Stephane Dujarric, the spokesperson for the UN Secretary-General on Wednesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) found that at least 23 civilians were killed and 49 were injured in just seven recorded incidents that took place over a three-day period last week in Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Sar-e-Pul, Parwan and Kapisa provinces.
Dujarric also stated that many civilians are being killed and injured by indirect fire from both the Afghan National Army and the Taliban. According to the UN, the organization is sharing its findings with the parties involved in the conflict and is calling on them to take all measures to protect civilians.
Kabul: Reporters Without Borders (RSF) has called on the International Criminal Court (ICC) chief prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to investigate murders of journalists and media workers in Afghanistan since March 2020.
As per RSF, 11 media workers, including journalists, have been killed in targeted attacks during the said period. Bensouda has been asked to investigate these murders – which the organization said on Wednesday could be regarded as war crimes – under article 15 of the ICC’s Rome statute.
Some of the victims include three women working for Enekaas TV who were gunned down in the eastern city of Jalalabad; Voice of Ghor radio station director Besmellah Adel Imaq who was shot dead in Firoz Koh, Ghor; Mohammad Aliyas Dayee of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Pashto-language service, who was murdered in Lashkargah; Malalai Maiwand, a TV presenter and representative of the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ), and her driver Taher Khan, who were murdered in Jalalabad; and Rahmatollah Nekzad, a reporter for international media, who was gunned down in Ghazni.
All of these journalists and media workers were targeted because of their work amid an armed conflict that has seen an increase in violence against journalists and civil society in general since early 2020, RSF said in a statement.
“RSF has every reason to believe that armed groups, especially the Taliban or Taliban affiliates, are responsible for this wave of killings. With a view to prosecuting those responsible, RSF has asked the ICC chief to determine whether they should be treated as war crimes or as another category of crimes defined by the ICC’s Rome Statute, such as crimes against humanity,” the organization stated.
At least 100 journalists, including 15 foreign journalists, have been killed in connection with their work in the past 20 years in Afghanistan, while more than 60 media outlets have been destroyed or attacked and hundreds of threats have been made against journalists and media, as per RSF records.
Kabul: The US withdrawal from Afghanistan is between 30-45% complete, the US Central Command (CENTCOME) said on Tuesday, adding that as of Monday US had officially handed over six facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense, and anticipates additional transfers of bases and assets in the future.
The Department of Defense has moved about 300 C-17 planes’ cargo loads of materiel out of Afghanistan and turned over nearly 13,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition, according to CENTCOM.
CENTCOM, which is providing weekly reports on the progress of the US exit from Afghanistan, also noted that it is only providing an approximate range of the percentage of completed work for operational security reasons.
“As the responsible and orderly exit continues, the size of the range will increase to preserve operational security,” CENTCOM said, adding, “This update includes the progress on the retrograde of troops and equipment from Afghanistan, the turning over of equipment and facilities to the ANDSF, as well as the destruction of some equipment,” officials said.
Last week, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told lawmakers that the retrograding of the US presence in Afghanistan is proceeding slightly ahead of schedule — with a CENTCOM report saying the withdrawal was nearly one-quarter complete.
Meanwhile, NATO Defence Ministers on Tuesday agreed that continued support for the Afghan forces, the government and the people is the best way for them to contribute towards the peace process and that they will keep a civilian diplomatic presence in Kabul.
In a virtual meeting, the ministers also agreed to continue providing advice and capacity-building support to Afghan security forces. Following the virtual meeting, which was convened to discuss preparations for the upcoming NATO Summit in Brussels on June 14 and the way forward in Afghanistan, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said, “We are ending our military mission, but we are not ending our support to the Afghans.”
He also stated that NATO will continue its civilian diplomatic presence in Kabul. “We are now working together with all the allies to make sure that we can provide support to important infrastructure, to support the international community at large.”
Stoltenberg said that over the past two decades, NATO Allies have provided substantive support to the Afghan security forces and helped to build a professional, strong Afghan army and security force, “which has proven very capable. And that has enabled [NATO] to gradually decrease our presence from more than 100,000 troops not so many years ago, to, at the beginning of this year,10,000 troops, and then we will end our military presence within a short time.”
Kabul: Two bombs exploded in Kabul on Tuesday evening, killing at least 10 people in the Afghan capital, and a third blast plunged the city into darkness.
Two bombs exploded at two different points west of Kabul (PD3). Apart from the 10 dead, 12 others were also injured in the two blasts, said Hamid Roshan, deputy spokesperson for the Afghan Interior Ministry.
A third bomb exploded near a power line north of Kabul, said a spokesperson for the government, Sanjar Niazi.
Roshan added, “A bus exploded in front of the Ahl al-Bayt Mosque in Sarkariz area of the PD3 first and about an hour later in the area of Almas Gharb in the west of Gulayee Dawakhana, another bus exploded.”
The first explosion took place near the house of Mohammad Mohaqiq, a well-known figure of the Hazara people, IPI news agency reported.
No group has claimed responsibility for the blasts. But the news agency reported that IS-K affiliated groups had previously declared war on the Shiite minority in Afghanistan. On the other hand, the group had previously claimed responsibility for the attack on Afghanistan’s power facilities.
“The enemies of humanity and the innocent people have repeatedly proved that they adhere to no human or Islamic values by resorting to such barbaric acts and targeting of civilians,” the Afghan Interior Ministry said in a statement.
The latest attacks come even as the United States and its allies are due to withdraw completely from Afghanistan in three months.