Newsfeed; Wednesday, May 19 2021

Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    US May Seek International Effort To Secure Kabul Airport After Withdrawal

    Kabul: At a time when the retrograde mission has reached a completion percentage of 13-20 percent as announced by the Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, there are efforts underway by the US administration and its NATO allies to seek international help to secure the Kabul airport once the drawdown is complete.

    Securing of Kabul airport is of utmost importance to the US, who have promised an over-the-horizon strategy to combat future terror threats from Afghanistan, as US Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said that a secure airport would be essential to ensuring that the United States and European allies could maintain embassies in Afghanistan.

    “We are working out the details of how to secure the airport, how to support the Afghan military securing the airport, and what countries are willing to contribute to do that,” Milley told reporters shortly before landing in Washington after talks with NATO allies in Brussels.

    Efforts to foster a peace agreement between Kabul and the Taliban would suffer greatly if the United States and its European allies can’t keep embassies open because of security threats inside Afghanistan. Milley said of the airport, “That is one of the keys to maintaining a diplomatic presence.”

    He said NATO chiefs of defense discussed the issue in Brussels on Tuesday. But decisions about any security force deployments by individual countries for the airport would be made later by political leadership, he said.

    Meanwhile, Kirby said that the retrograde from Afghanistan “continues at pace” with a few harassing attacks which have had no impact on the movement. US Central Command said that it has withdrawn approximately 115 C-17 loads of material from Afghanistan and turned over more than 5,000 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The command noted that they have turned over five facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense.

    Kirby said commanders in the region hope that conditions remain the same. “We certainly hope that that remains the case going forward. We’re not going to take anything just on hope and face value. We have to assume, and we have to plan for the potential that it could be resisted and could be opposed by the Taliban. So, we’re continuing to take all precautions, make sure that General Miller has all the options at his disposal to be able to do this safely.”

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    US Disappointed With Rising Violence: Wilson

    Kabul: US Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson in an interview on Wednesday said that the US is deeply disappointed with the Taliban behavior and the continuation of unjustifiable levels of violence against the Afghans.

    He blamed the Taliban for the escalating violence Afghanistan and violating agreements in peace parleys and said that he saw no justification for the Taliban-linked violence, considering the group’s involvement in negotiations with the Afghan government.

    However, he explained they were still trying to achieve a political settlement that would lead to a ceasefire and a permanent end to the war. He went on to say the Islamic State terrorist group was still a potent force in Afghanistan.

    In fact, according to a new report by the US Defense Department’s Office of Inspector General, during the first three months of 2021, the Taliban stepped up attacks against the Afghan people, maintained close ties with Al-Qaeda and actively planned for large-scale offensives — all while peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government failed to make any progress.

    “US Forces-Afghanistan reported a historic increase in enemy-initiated attacks since the signing of the US-Taliban agreement, with nearly 37 percent more enemy-initiated attacks this quarter than during the same period in 2020,” the report from the Pentagon’s internal watchdog said. Enemy-initiated attacks in the first and second quarters of fiscal year 2021 remained above historical averages, with 11,551 reported this quarter and 10,431 last quarter.

    The report cited analysis from the Defense Intelligence Agency saying that from January 1 through March 31, the Taliban’s military strategy was to prepare for large-scale offensives against provincial centers, complex attacks against the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ bases and operations to degrade the Afghan forces’ capabilities.

    In the first two months of 2021, the Taliban surrounded the provincial capitals of Baghlan, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz and Uruzgan provinces to prepare the offensives, and they continued assassinating government employees, security officials and journalists, the report says.

    The inspector general’s report cited a Defense Intelligence Agency assessment that Taliban threats to resume hostilities against coalition forces if they did not withdraw by May 1 were credible and that the Taliban were very likely to respond with indirect fire, suicide bombings and attacks with vehicle-borne IEDs, or improvised explosive devices.

    Meanwhile, Norway Prime Minister Erna Solberg acknowledged that the decades-long operation in Afghanistan had failed to show results, even as both Norway’s participation and its pullout have been slammed by the opposition, NRK reported.

    The Norwegian force of 95 is scheduled to be among the last to leave Afghanistan by the September 11 deadline. The pullout officially started on 1 May. “An important lesson from Afghanistan is that the conflict cannot be resolved militarily,” Solberg said.

    A total of 9,200 Norwegians have served in Afghanistan. Ten soldiers were killed in the line of duty, and two Norwegian civilians lost their lives in connection with the war. “Unfortunately, it is far from being a stable state and a peaceful, democratic society”, Solberg admitted.

    Solberg cautioned of the risks associated with massive international withdrawal. “There is a significant risk of withdrawing before there is a peace agreement between the Afghan parties”, PM Solberg said.

    She stressed that her government aims to maintain development assistance in the coming years. “Our support is also dependent on development. If the Taliban were to seize power through violence, we will not be able to support such a regime”, she emphasized. “Norway plans for a continued diplomatic presence in Kabul. But this presupposes that the safety of the employees at the embassy can be safeguarded”, she added.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Taliban Destroys 3 Bridges In Kunduz

    Kabul: At least three bridges in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz province have been destroyed by the Taliban with bomb explosions, said 217th Pamir Corps in a statement on Wednesday, adding that the bridges had been built for the passage of civilians.

    According to the statement, these bridges will be repaired by the security forces. Meanwhile, Mohammad Yusuf Ayoubi, head of the Kunduz Provincial Council, said that Taliban attacks had recently increased in many parts of the province, including Imam Sahib, Dasht-e-Archi and Chahar Dara districts.

    Inamuddin Rahmani, a spokesman for the Kunduz provincial police command, said that Taliban insurgents attacked security checkpoints in Dasht-e-Archi district at 1:30am on Wednesday, but were defeated by security and defense forces.

    Rahmani added that according to preliminary information, three members of the Taliban’s laser unit were killed and wounded in the clashes. He also said that two security personnel were injured in the clashes.

    A spokesperson for the Kunduz police command said that the Taliban had also attacked army checkpoints in Chahardara district on Tuesday, but added that their attacks had been countered by security and defense forces.

    At least six soldiers have been killed in Taliban attacks in Dasht-e-Archi and Chahar Dara districts, according to some reports. Also, fighting took place in the center of Imam Sahib district of Kunduz on Tuesday. The Taliban targeted the district police chief’s house.

    A number of media outlets reported, citing their sources, that at least two security forces were killed and nine others were injured in the Taliban attack.

    A Kunduz police spokesperson confirmed the attack and said that national security forces had suffered casualties. He did not provide specific casualties.

    The Taliban did not comment on the clashes in Dasht-e-Archi and Chahar Dara districts of Kunduz, but said that seven commandos, including one commander, were killed and nine others were wounded when the militants attacked government forces near the Imam Sahib district police headquarters.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Daily $7- $8 Million Not Collected Due To Corruption In Customs: Payenda

    Kabul: At least $7 million to $8 million government revenue per day is not collected due to corruption in customs, said Mohammad Khalid Payenda, Acting Minister of the Ministry of Finance at the House of Representatives’ summoning session on Wednesday.

    He added that the corruption includes collusion of customs officials with commissioners and local officials, including governors, police commanders and other local officials. The acting finance minister also said that in addition, other individuals and institutions are involved in this.

    He has previously said that about 40 to 50 percent of national revenue is not generated at customs. Payenda also emphasized in part that the “mobile surveillance offices” are the most corrupt offices in the customs and all the officials and employees of those institutions are affiliated with high-ranking government officials, including members of parliament.

    He said he also has a list in this case. The issue was met with reactions from members of the House of Representatives, who called on Mr. Payenda to make the list public.

    “Share the list,” Mir Rahman Rahmani, the speaker of the parliament, told him. do not be afraid.”

    Following these discussions, it was finally decided that Payenda would present the list at a plenary session of the parliament next Monday.

    The Acting Minister of Finance also said that the four previous ministers of this ministry have inflicted great persecutions on this ministry. According to him, these “persecutions” have not been compensated for more than three or four months.

    However, Mohammad Khalid Payenda said 74 billion afghanis had been collected from the country’s customs so far. According to him, 101 billion afghanis of revenue is to be collected from customs during the current fiscal year.

    In total, the government’s internal resources are estimated at 216 billion afghanis in the budget document for the 1400 fiscal year.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Peaceful Afghanistan Good For China’s BRI Initiative: Abdullah

    Kabul: Emphasizing what peace in Afghanistan means to the region, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), on Wednesday said that peace and stability in the country will lead to stability in the region which in turn will help in implementing large-scale regional plans and the Belt and road initiative (BRI) of China.

    With this plan, China wants to connect two thirds of the world’s population in seventy countries through a network of land routes (belts) and sea routes (roads) and Afghanistan is a major country in this route.

    Abdullah’s remarks at a seminar on “Discussing the Hundred Years and Joint Support for Peace in Afghanistan” in Kabul, came just days after China had expressed concern that if a hasty troop withdrawal takes place, Afghanistan will become unstable and this will lead to problems for the BRI.

    The chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation added that the people of Afghanistan want peace and that the leadership of the council, despite the escalation of violence, is working to achieve a political solution with the consensus and support of the people.

    “After 2001, we tried to solve the country’s problems,” he said. “Despite the challenges, Afghanistan has changed today, and we have a lot of spiritual and material resources to work with China and the region.”

    According to Abdullah, peace cannot be achieved unilaterally, and efforts, commitment and joint work are needed to achieve peace and stability.

    The seminar was hosted by the Chinese Embassy, the China Center for Contemporary International Studies and the Afghanistan-China Friendship Association to mark the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Communist Party and the 102nd anniversary of Afghanistan independency.

    At the seminar, Sang Tao, Minister of International Relations of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of China, and his deputy, Xinzhou, stressed on the good relations between Afghanistan and China.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Protesters In Faryab Threaten To Block Air Route

    Kabul: Warning the government that they will not allow any airplane to land or take off from Faryab, the protesters who entered the fifth day of protests on Wednesday, stated that the government has still not met their demands, as per reports from Salam Watandar.

    Residents of Faryab and supporters of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan have been protesting against the appointment of Mohammad Daud Laghmani, the newly introduced governor of Faryab.

    Ehsanullah Qawanch, head of the Faryab youth movement, said that a number of MPs wanted to come to Maimana from Mazar-e-Sharif to join the protesters, but had not been allowed to travel by the government. According to him, that is why they went to the Maimana airport and did not allow any plane to land in the city.

    The head of the Faryab youth movement also warned that a number of delegations are scheduled to enter the city of Maimana to take the entrance exam, and that the plane carrying them will not be allowed to land.

    Hamidullah Khairandish, an activist of the National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan in Kabul, posted a picture on his Facebook page: “We wanted to go to Faryab, the land route is closed by the Taliban and the air route by the Republic.”

    Sayed Zinuddin Abedi, head of Faryab Civil Society, said the government should respond satisfactorily to the legitimate demands of the people and not disrupt the relative situation in the province. He also called on the protesters to proceed peacefully and open the gates of government offices.

    Meanwhile, Rahmatullah Turkestani, chairman of the Faryab People’s Council, convened a meeting and called on the government and protesters to resolve their problems through understanding.

    Meanwhile, the Speaker of the House of Representatives also expressed concern over the continuing of people’s protests against the new governor of Faryab. Mir Rahman Rahmani called on the government, and the influential officials in Faryab to put an end to this “tense” situation and “the concerns of the people.”

    Mir Rahman Rahmani emphasizes that governors do not have sufficient “administrative and financial” powers and only exercise the powers delegated to them by the government. The Speaker of the House of Representatives pointed out that this kind of governance, on the one hand, undermines local talents and, on the other hand, weakens governance. He called for more powers to be given to governors.

    Also, the provincial security committee meet was held under the chairmanship of Mohammad Daud, the governor of the Faryab province on Wednesday. In this meeting, security problems and the opinions of security officials were examined.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Ministry of Health Reports 453 New Cases of COVID-19

    Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 453 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.

    The ministry also reported 10 deaths and 411 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

    The total cases now stand at 64,575, while the number of reported deaths is 2,772 and the total number of recoveries is 55,529.

    MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Kunduz,Parwan, Paktia, Wardak, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Logar, Panjshir, Laghman, Kunar, Ghor, Jawzjan and Farah provinces.

    Meanwhile, the Afghan embassy in India has confirmed that, according to preliminary statistics, 186 Afghan citizens have died of the coronavirus in India so far.

    According to the Afghan embassy, there are more than 4,000 Afghan families living in India, registered with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), numbering more than 21,000.

    Afghans living in India without official registration are still unclear. Ajmal Alem Zai, Afghanistan’s cultural representative in Delhi, told BBC that the deceased include two students, 22 Afghan refugees living in India.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    4 Checkpoints, Sanglakh Valley In Jalriz District in Maidan Wardak Collapses To Taliban

    Kabul: Four security checkpoints around the Sanglakh valley in Jalriz district had fallen to the Taliban, announced Mahdi Rasekh, Maidan Wardak’s representative in the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday.

    Rasekh said that a group of Taliban fighters had gathered in Jalrez district on Tuesday and that the checkpoints around the district and Sanglakh valley had come under Taliban control following the attack, which started at 3am on Wednesday.

    According to Rasekh, the Sanglakh Valley has completely fallen into the hands of the Taliban. Police forces stationed at checkpoints were captured by the Taliban and no casualties have been reported so far.

    The member of the House of Representatives claimed that the issue of the Taliban group gathering, had been raised with the security services, but no action had been taken.

    He added that the forces stationed in Behsud have not taken action and if the reinforcements are not sent, Jalriz district will fall completely into the hands of the Taliban.

    Mehdi Rasekh claimed that there is information that the Taliban will attack Behsud district after capturing Jalriz.

    The Ministry of Defense has not yet provided details on the matter. Fawad Aman, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense, has rejected the reports coming from Jalriz calling it inaccurate.

    Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in a statement said that at least 251 Taliban militants were killed and 193 others were wounded in 12 provinces over the past 24 hours.

    The statement said that a number of weapons and ammunition belonging to the insurgency group were also destroyed during the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces’ operations.

    MoD claimed that 67 various types of IEDs placed by the Taliban on the public roads were also discovered and defused by the Afghan National Army.

    The Taliban militants were killed and wounded in Ghazni, Zabul, Kandahar, Helmand, Uruzgan, Logar, Farah, Herat, Sar-e-Pul, Nimroz, Kunduz, and Baghlan provinces.

    Meanwhile, the Taliban also asserted that the group has inflicted heavy casualties on ANA, and a number of their outposts in some provinces have fallen to the Taliban.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Non-payment Of Full Compensation To Victims Of Kabul School Attack Is Discrimination: Parliament

    Kabul: Various members of the House of Representatives on Wednesday raised their voices against what they called “obvious discrimination” against the victims of the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school in western Kabul, as they have not been paid a full compensation by the government.

    Ali Akbar Jamshidi, a member of the House of Representatives, said that the families of each “martyr” of the attack received 50,000 afghanis and 20,000 afghanis for the treatment. Jamshidi, however, added that before this, “in every terrorist incident, as a principle, the Presidential Palace paid 100,000 Afghanis for the family of each martyr and 50,000 Afghanis for each wounded.”

    The compensation payment lists for the victims of the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school, published five days ago by Mohammad Noor Akbari, Chief of Staff of Office of the First Vice-President, show that the families of the 62 killed in the attack have been paid 50,000 Afghanis. The lists also show that between 14,000 and 20,000 afghanis were paid for the 142 injured in the incident.

    Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the House of Representatives, called the payment of 50,000 Afghanis to the families of each victim and 20,000 afghanis for the treatment of any wounded “obvious discrimination.” He instructed the Parliament’s Commons Committee on Kochis, Martyrs, and the Disabled to seriously assess the matter.

    The attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school was carried out on May 8 with a car bomb and two improvised explosive devices. The families of the victims of the attack called for the attack to be recognized as an example of “genocide” by the Afghan government and the international community.

    Meanwhile, taking note of the increasing violence in Afghanistan and attack on girls and women with the Kabul school attack, in a joint call for an immediate end to attacks against human rights defenders and need for protection and accountability, Amnesty International and other human rights groups emphasized that violence must end in the country.

    “From September 2020 until May 2021, a total of 17 human rights defenders have been killed, including nine journalists, based on information compiled by the Afghan Human Rights Defenders Committee (AHRDC). Nine of those killed were in the first five months of this year. During this period, over 200 human rights defenders and media representatives reported that they were receiving serious threats to the AHRDC and the Afghanistan Journalists Safety Committee. A report published by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in February 2021, noted that 65 media practitioners and human rights defenders have been killed since 2018. In most of these cases, no perpetrators have been held to account. It is vital to uphold and prioritize freedom of expression during this critical time in Afghanistan,” the joint statement said.

    The statement added that with the announcement of unconditional withdrawal and no progress on the peace process, the promotion and protection of the rights of human rights defenders and journalists does not seem to be a priority for the international players.

    Calling for proper representation of women in peace talks, the statement added, “Even though rights groups and women defenders have worked continuously to engage with the peace process, the Moscow summit in March 2021 did not see effective representation of women. A peace process, or negotiation, that fails to include women representatives adequately and effectively, and in parallel engages with the Taliban without benchmarks on human rights, undermines women’s safety and progress made on human rights over the past years.”

    The rights groups called for the Afghan government’s newly established joint commission to deliver on its objectives; insurance of human rights standards and the protection of human rights defenders articulated as key benchmarks for any sustainable peace process; offering human rights defenders immediate practical support on the ground at all levels; actively ensuring justice and redress for violence and threats and establishing a national monitoring mechanism, and an impartial and independent mechanism internationally to investigate the killings of human rights defenders, journalists.

  • 19 May 2021 Share this post

    Pessimistic To Think Taliban Will Take Over Kabul In Short Term: Khalilzad

    Kabul: Rejecting criticism that the Taliban will quickly overrun the Afghan government forces and conquer Kabul once international forces have fully withdrawn, Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad told the House Foreign Affairs Committee, on Tuesday, that such statements are “unduly pessimistic”.

    “I personally believe that the statements that their forces will disintegrate and the Talibs will take over in short order are mistaken,” he said. Violence has remained surged in Afghanistan even after a three-day ceasefire from May 12 to May 15. The Defense Ministry reported clashes in 18 provinces just a day after the ceasefire ended.

    Khalilzad also said that it is important that Pakistan understands its role in the peace process, adding that the Afghan government and the Taliban should do their part in the peace process. “We remain in close touch with Pakistan leaders, pressing them to exercise their considerable leverage over the Taliban to reduce violence and support a negotiated settlement. I believe Pakistan understands that the protracted war in Afghanistan is not in its interest,” he said.

    One of the critics was General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who wanted a leftover force in the war-ravaged country once the troops pullout. “On the one hand you get some really dramatic, bad possible outcomes,” Milley said on May 2. “On the other hand, you get a military that stays together and a government that stays together.”

    Republican Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican and withdrawal critic, asserted that there is “zero chance” the Taliban will abide by the commitments. “It seems all, but certain the Taliban will try to overrun the country and return it to a pre-9/11 state after we have withdrawn,” McCaul said. “They’ve already ramped up their attacks, taking new territory and bases since the (Biden) announcement was made,” he said.

    Meanwhile, there also have been developments on the peace front with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanif Atmar speaking to British Ambassador to Kabul, Ellison Blake and meeting Stefano, NATO Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan, on Tuesday.

    Atmar in his conversation with Blake called on the international community, especially the United Kingdom, to cooperate with the Government of Afghanistan in fulfilling the commitments of the Government of Afghanistan to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in strengthening the relevant authorities, taking note of the increasing violence in Afghanistan as soon as the withdrawal began. Both sides also discussed the establishment of lasting peace in the country, the continuation of cooperation and the further strengthening of relations between the two countries.

    During his meeting with Stefano, Atmar spoke about the latest political and security developments in the country, peace talks and a new chapter in relations between Afghanistan and NATO after the withdrawal of strong support forces.

    Emphasizing the strong will of the Afghan government to end the ongoing war and end the crisis in the country, the Foreign Minister called the establishment and strengthening of national consensus, regional and global areas in support of the peace process important, given the Taliban’s dishonesty in honest talks. He called on the Afghan government to put pressure on them and their regional backers to comply with meaningful peace talks, accept a ceasefire and end the ongoing war in the country.