Newsfeed; Saturday, February 20 2021

Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Pakistan Has No Favourites in Afghanistan: Qureshi

    Pakistan has no favourites in Afghanistan, the country’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi was quoted as saying by The News on Saturday.

    Pakistan’s message to all sides is to work together “constructively for peace, stability and prosperity”, Qureshi said, adding that this would open new vistas for trade, economic cooperation and regional connectivity.

    Afghanistan’s Massoud Foundation head Ahmed Wali Massoud called on the Pakistani foreign minister in Islamabad on Saturday.

    They exchanged views over the Afghan peace process and Pakistan-Afghanistan bilateral relations, a press statement issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said.

    Qureshi welcomed Massoud’s visit to Pakistan and lauded the historic contribution of Commander Ahmed Shah Massoud as a key Mujahideen leader during the Afghan resistance.

    He highlighted Pakistan’s facilitation of the US-Taliban peace agreement and the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations.

    Historic opportunity must be seized by the Afghan leaders to achieve an inclusive, broad-based and comprehensive political settlement, Qureshi stressed, expressing concern over the current level of violence in Afghanistan.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Taliban Must Stop War, Return to Negotiations Table: NSA Mohib

    Hamdullah Moheb, The National Security Adviser, says that if the Taliban want peace, it must stop the war and return to the peace negotiations table.

    Speaking at a joint press conference with the defense and security officials on Saturday said: “The Afghan government is committed to peace. The Taliban must first stop their terrorist attacks. They use civilian homes as a shield and target civilians every day.”

    According to him, there is no need for war when there is a political solution. He stressed that at present, the Taliban war is illegitimate.

    In the meantime, Ahmad Zia Saraj, the director of National Directorate of Security (NDS) said that if the Taliban did not accept peace and they would be suppressed.

    He added that currently, a large number of terrorist groups are operating in Taliban-controlled areas and providing military training to the Taliban.

    “Foreign countries have greatly complicated the war in Afghanistan,” Mr Saraj said. “We also told the regional countries that the war in Afghanistan will not last, it will spread to other countries as well.”

    Shah Mahmoud Miakhil, the first deputy of Defense Minister, also said that countries around the world also believe that the Taliban are not committed to peace.

    According to him, the security and defense forces are fully prepared for war and peace in the spring.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Rain, Snow, Flash Flood Warning Issued for 12 Provinces of Afghanistan

    The Afghanistan Meteorological Department has issued a rain, snow and flash flood warning for 12 provinces for the next two days.

    According to a warning posted on the AMD’s website, the department stated between 10 and 5mm of rain forecast for a number of provinces.

    The provinces include Takhar, Kunduz, Baghlan, Balkh, Samangan, Jawzjan, Sar-e Pul, Faryab, Ghor, Badghis, Herat, and Badakhshan.

    The AMD also warned of the possibility of heavy snow on the Salang pass.

    Conditions meanwhile along the Salang pass are expected to improve slightly with snowfalls clearing up on Sunday.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Taliban Will Not See An Interim Govt As Long As I Am Alive: Ghani

    Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says that an interim government will not be established in Afghanistan as long as he alive.

    “As long as I live, they (Taliban) will not see the interim government,” said President Ghani, speaking to a number of victims” family members of security and defense forces on Saturday.

    He stated that the Taliban’s request for an interim government was only to confuse the public.

    This comes as the Taliban delegation recently spoke about the creation of a new Islamic government during a trip to Tehran and Moscow.

    Abbas Stanekzai, the deputy head of the Taliban delegation that headed a delegation to Russia a few days ago, said the current government led by Ashraf Ghani is a major obstacle to peace in Afghanistan.

    According to him, if President Ghani ousts from power, peace will be established in Afghanistan.

    Reacting to Stanekzai’s remarks, the Presidential Palace said that no system other than the Republic of Afghanistan is acceptable to the people of Afghanistan.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Herat is Not Place for IS-K: Governor Tells Ansari

    Following the recent remarks by Mawlavi Mujib ul-Rahman Ansari, the Imam of the Gazargah Mosque in Herat province who claimed that serving for the Afghanistan system is a “grave sin”, the provincial governor Sayyed Wahid Qatali said that Herat is not a place for the producing of IS-K (Daesh) terrorists.

    Speaking at a press conference on Saturday, Qatali said: “The UAE reached to orbit, Iran is looking for oil and atom, Saudi Arabia is building bridal cities, but circles are attempting to change Herat into a place to produce IS-K terrorists.”

    The governor of Herat said to Ansari: “You blew up the electricity tower by your niece. No one tell you anything. Having guns is not your responsibility, that is the security forces that have given two million martyrs to defend the country.”

    “Do not hurt the feelings of the people, this nation wants to think of prosperity, it has ruled over its waters, it has ruled over the dams of Salma, Kamal Khan and its mines; The foreign conspiracy does not help us,” he told Ansari.

    The recent remarks of Mawlavi Ansari, who called on the security forces to “starve to death in order to be in the system” provoked a strong reaction, with social media users backing the security forces.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Russian Envoy Visits Islamabad, Discussed Afghan Peace with Pakistani Authorities

    Russian President’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, on Friday met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi and exchanged views on the Afghanistan peace process.

    Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said in a statement that “both Pakistan and Russia have convergence of views on matters of mutual interest including an inclusive political settlement of the conflict in Afghanistan.”

    Qureshi noted that Pakistan had consistently supported the Afghan peace process.

    “He highlighted Pakistan’s facilitation of the U.S.-Taliban Peace Agreement and subsequent commencement of Intra-Afghan Negotiations,” the statement reads.

    Russian Envoy Kabulov also met with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa in Rawalpindi.

    Pakistan’s media wing stated in a statement that during the meeting matters of mutual interest, regional security situation particularly developments in Afghan Peace Process were discussed.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Islam Qala Customs Office Resumed Activities After Fire Broke Out

    The Ministry of Commerce and Industry has announced that the activities of Islam Qala Customs office have been resumed to transfer export and import cargoes between Iran and Afghanistan.

    Fawad Ahmadi, the spokesman of Ministry of Commerce and Industry said on Saturday, that trucks carrying goods from Afghanistan to Iran and vice versa had been stopped for a number of days after a fire broke out in the Islam Qala Customs parking lot in Herat province.

    Islam Qala border customs, located 120 km from the city of Herat on the border with Iran, caught fire on Saturday, last week.

    The fire lasted for several hours and Iran was asked to help to contain it.

    The fire is estimated to have caused millions of dollars in damage.

    Following the preliminary investigations, the delegation members of the Ministry of Interior said that 12 senior officials Islam Qala Customs office, the Customs Protection Unit, officials from the Norm and Standard Administration, and officials from companies that sampled fuel have been introduced to the Attorney General Office.

    In the meantime, the findings of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Investment Board review show that widespread corruption in customs, mismanagement and lack of facilities to contain the fire have increased the financial damage of the fire.

    The House of Representatives is also examining the possibility that the event was “intentional.”

    The Herat local administration has denied any formal complaints about the fire, but says it has tried several times to address verbal complaints from traders.

    The Ministry of Finance officials insist on further investigations and warn that all those who have been negligent or involved in corruption will be brought to justice.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Ministry of Health Reports 24 New Cases of COVID-19

    The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday reported 24 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.

    The ministry also reported two deaths and 17 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

    The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,604 the number of total reported deaths is 2,432 and the total number of recoveries is 48,820.

    The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Parwan and Badakhshan provinces.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Afghanistan to Face Sanctions if Human Trafficking Not Stopped: Justice Minister

    Fazel Ahmad Manawi, the Minister of Justice, who is on a visit to Nimroz province, says that if human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants are not stopped, sanctions will be imposed on different parts of the country.

    Citing the US State Department’s annual report on human trafficking, the Minister of Justice said that Afghanistan had dropped to the third place in the report’s 2020 rankings.

    Fazel Ahmad Manavi pointed out that the United States imposes a series of sanctions on the countries that are in this position, which will make the economic and political situation of the countries difficult.

    Manavi has traveled to Nimroz to investigate the situation of human and migrant trafficking at the head of a government delegation.

    The delegation consists of the Deputy Minister of Labor and Social Affairs, the Deputy Minister of Refugees, the Deputy Minister of Human Rights of the Ministry of National Defense and the Director of Human Rights of the Ministry of Justice.

    According to the Ministry of Justice, during the visit, Manawi met with the governor of Nimroz to discuss the prevention of human trafficking and the smuggling of migrants.

    He also spoke at a meeting held at the headquarters of the Nimroz Provincial Commission on Human and Migrant Trafficking, saying that human and migrant trafficking is an international problem and that the Afghan government has set up a High Commission to Prevent Human Trafficking.

    “We are here to send the message that human trafficking and migrant smuggling are serious issues and must be stopped,” he said.

    He called on the authorities in Nimroz province to take a serious and decisive approach in this regard.

    In the meantime, local officials in Nimroz province have said that the reason for the large number of migrants through the province is the vastness of the province with large plains and long open borders with Iran and Pakistan, as well as poverty, war and unemployment.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Taliban Threat in Afghanistan ‘will Significantly Rise’: German Defense Minister

    German defense chief Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer says militants have vowed to carry out more attacks targeting international troops if the NATO alliance doesn’t leave Afghanistan by a May deadline.

    In an interview with DW, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer warned there could be further instability if NATO forces stayed past that May 1 deadline.

    “What’s clear is — and this is what the Taliban have announced — that with the decision not to leave the country by April 30, the threat level will rise, significantly rise — for the international troops and also for us,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said.

    Kramp-Karrenbauer added that the German military in Afghanistan is preparing “how to react” to the deteriorating security situation “in the appropriate way.”

    Attacks in Afghanistan, including a bomb that killed the deputy governor of the capital, Kabul, in December, have prompted calls for a delay to the pullout agreed when Donald Trump was US president.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    US Subcommittee Examined Strategy in Afghanistan with Afghanistan Study Group

    Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, Chairman of the US Subcommittee on National Security, held a hearing on Friday to examine the final report released by the Afghanistan Study Group (ASG), which Congress established in December 2019 to “consider the implications of a peace settlement, or the failure to reach a settlement, on U.S. policy, resources, and commitments in Afghanistan.”

    “Nearly 20 years of U.S. involvement in Afghanistan might very well be defined by the next three to six months—likely with profound consequences for U.S. national security and the future stability of the region,” Subcommittee Chairman Lynch said in his opening statement.

    The Subcommittee heard testimony from the three co-chairs of the Afghanistan Study Group:  Kelly A. Ayotte, General Joseph F. Dunford Jr. (Ret), and Nancy Lindborg.

    At the hearing, Members discussed the many policy questions and strategic challenges facing the Biden administration as the May 1, 2021, deadline approaches for the withdrawal of U.S. and coalition forces from Afghanistan, as outlined in the February 2020 U.S.-Taliban agreement.

    General Dunford, former Senator Ayotte, and Ms. Lindborg warned that a withdrawal of the remaining 2,500 U.S. servicemembers from Afghanistan in May 2021—as required by the Trump Administration’s February 2020 agreement with the Taliban—would result in “catastrophic” consequences for the security and stability of Afghanistan, including the potential resurgence of terrorist organizations that could threaten the U.S. homeland.

    The Co-Chairs testified that it is in the national security interests of the United States for the Afghan Government and the Taliban to reach a sustainable and inclusive peace agreement that supports regional stability and protects the human rights of all Afghans, including women and girls.

    All three witnesses testified that the United States should utilize diplomatic, civilian, and military lines of effort to help create meaningful political dialogue between the Afghan Government and the Taliban with the goal of eventual withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Angela Merkel Says Violence Level in Afghanistan Still Too High

    The German Chancellor Angela Merkel on Friday said that the level of violence remain excessive in Afghanistan.

    “Bundeswehr soldiers would be prepared to stay in the war-torn country for longer if needed,” Angela Merkel said.

    “Germany is prepared to stay in Afghanistan longer if it serves the mission’s success,” she told the Munich Security Conference. “The withdrawal must not end in the wrong forces gaining the upper hand there.”

    The mission must give democratic and peaceful forces in Afghanistan a chance, she said.

    The US signed an agreement with the Taliban in February 2020 that provides for the gradual withdrawal of all NATO forces from the country. In return, the Taliban committed to renounce violence and enter into peace talks with the government.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    Four Killed, Wounded in Kabul Explosions

    At least two people were killed and two more were wounded in two separate explosions in Kabul province on Saturday morning.

    Kabul Police spokesman, Ferdaws Faramarz said the first blast happened when a Corolla type vehicle targeted by an IED blast on Darulaman road in PD6 at around 08:00am this morning, wounding two people.

    The second explosion took place after a Corolla type vehicle hit by an IED blast in Kart-e Parwan area of PD4 at around 08:15am, killing two people.

    Faramarz did not comment on the identities of the victims, saying investigations are underway regarding the two explosions.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    US, Pakistan Military Officials Meet Over Troop Withdrawal from Afghanistan

    Senior US and Pakistani military officials spoke in Islamabad on Friday about the possibility of postponing the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, a move currently under review by US President Joe Biden’s administration.

    General Kenneth McKenzie, head of the US Army Central Command (CENTCOM), thanked Pakistan for its “contributions to the Afghan peace negotiations” and pledged to explore “new areas for collaboration.”

    “Certainly ISIS has launched some attacks. It pales against what the Taliban is doing,” McKenzie said, denouncing violence against Afghan forces, and “targeted assassinations in some of the urban areas.”

    “This is clearly the Taliban,” he said. “There is no way it’s anyone else. That’s very clear.”

    Pakistan’s military chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa meanwhile reaffirmed his country’s commitment to peace efforts, noting that peace in Afghanistan was important for peace in Pakistan, according to a statement.

    McKenzie has indicated that conditions have not been met for a withdrawal, which he says could create a jihadist group resurgence in the country, risking a collapse of the Afghan government.

    The meeting comes with the US expected to announce in the coming days whether it will stick with a plan to withdraw its military from the country at the beginning of May, as agreed under a US-Taliban accord reached in February 2020 in Doha.

  • 20 Feb 2021 Share this post

    US Defense Secretary Urges Reduction in Taliban Violence

    US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, in his first news conference as Pentagon chief, said on Friday that progress toward peace in Afghanistan and an end to U.S. military involvement there depends on the Taliban reducing attacks. He said, right now, “clearly the violence is too high.”

    He refused, however, to say when the U.S. will decide if it will meet the May 1 deadline for full troop withdrawal, or if America and its NATO allies will try to renegotiate the peace deal with the Taliban and keep some troops there longer.

    “We are mindful of the looming deadlines, but we want to do this methodically and deliberately,” Austin said. “But we’re focused on making sure that we make the right decisions, and we’ll go through this process deliberately.”

    Afghanistan is shaping up as a major national security dilemma for Austin and the rest of President Joe Biden’s fledgling national security team. There is little political appetite to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan, but pulling them out risks further empowering the Taliban and causing a resurgence in terrorism.

    Under the deal with the Taliban struck by the Trump administration one year ago this month, the United States promised a phased withdrawal of troops, so that by May 1 all foreign troops would be gone.

    For their part, the Taliban committed to starting peace talks with the Afghan government, ending attacks on American forces, and publicly renouncing all ties to al-Qaida and other extremist groups.

    Speaking to Pentagon reporters, Austin made it clear that the Taliban violence “must decrease now,” and that progress in negotiations with the Afghan government must move forward.