Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Turkish search and rescue teams were able to recover seven bodies after a boat carrying refugees mainly from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Iran, capsized in eastern Turkey’s Lake Van on June 27.
The boat was carrying up to 60 Afghan refugees according to some reports and went down in stormy weather.
Turkish Interior Minster Suleyman Soylu said they have detained 11 people in connection with the incident, including multiple traffickers who claimed to be on the boat when it sank.
According to them, the boat had a capacity of 20 and was heavily overloaded.
The lake is near the border with Iran, and hundreds of refugees from Central Asian countries, arrive there almost weekly.
Local officials in Ghazni report that the Taliban designated governor for Khwaja Omari district was killed along with three other members of the group during a security operation on Friday night.
Ghazni governor’s spokesperson Wahidullah Jumazada, said that Mullah Nawab, also known as Ahmad Zia, was among the four killed by the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces.
A series of operations had been carried out in the past 24 hours in the districts of Khwaja Omari, Deh Yak and Muqur.
In the operations, an additional eight Taliban members were also wounded, including a commander named Ahmad Zakhm.
The Taliban has not commented on the incident.
In a video message, NATO’s Senior Civilian Representative in Afghanistan Stefano Pontecorvo called on the Taliban to end violence to pave the way for the intra-Afghan peace talks.
“The Taliban violence has to go down. It is simply unacceptable,” Pontecorvo said in a video message posted on his Twitter account. “It is creating an issue, a problem for getting to the peace talks.”
Pontecorvo said he was in Brussels with General Scott Miller, NATO Resolute Support mission and U.S. Forces in Afghanistan commander, where they met with NATO leadership, including Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
They updated everyone on the “situation in Afghanistan” and the intra-Afghan negotiations.
“I am glad to see that once again NATO and Allies’ firm commitments to Afghanistan and to Afghanistan’s National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) has been reiterated,” said the NATO envoy.
Forces News spoke to a British Army officer about the impact the Coronavirus pandemic on the close to 1,000 U.K. troops deployed to Afghanistan as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission.
Lieutenant Tom Redman, Task Line Commander with 4th Battalion of The Royal Regiment of Scotland (4 SCOTS), told Forces News: “We’re taking the same measures that everyone in the U.K. is taking.
“We’re keeping our 2-metre distance, hygiene has taken on new prominence, we’re wiping down surfaces regularly, we’re just trying to protect the force so that we don’t diminish the quality of our output.”
Redman said they had “generally” good internet connection and “very good post service” which helps the soldiers stay in touch with their families and friends.
“We continue to provide our output and we continue to respond and support the government of Afghanistan,” Redman told military news website.
“So there’s been no real change to our capability and we ensure that our skills and training are to the highest level.”
In addition to their duties, 4 SCOTS are also working through the global pandemic at a time when the intra-Afghan talks are scheduled to start, and violence has increased.
Iranian Minister of Roads and Urban Development Mohammad Eslam said that the transnational railway project’s section from Khaf in Iran to Herat in Afghanistan will become operational before March 2021.
The third-section of the project will also be inaugurated in the third quarter of the Iranian calendar year which is from September 22 to December 20.
Eslami said “a part of Khaf-Herat Railway will be constructed by Iran while the remaining part will be built by neighbouring Afghanistan” and added that Iran had almost completed their construction.
The railway line is around 66km and will connect Afghanistan to “Iran’s national railway network as well as other parts of the world” with the intention of it being extended all the way from the Indian Ocean to Europe.
The minister also pointed to the transit route and said, “Iran has a variety of routes such as North-South Corridor and also East-West Corridor in a way that transiting Afghan territory and investing in Afghanistan is an essential for Iranian traders and also this country.”
The Khaf-Herat part of the Iran-Afghanistan rail corridor is meant for both passenger and cargo services.
The Kapisa provincial police confirmed a National Directorate of Security (NDS) lieutenant colonel had been killed in a drive-by motorcycle shooting in Mahmood Raqi on Saturday morning.
Abdul Shayeq Shurish, the provincial police spokesperson, said the incident took place in the Dangarkhil area of the capital when the officer, Moheb al-Rahman, had been on his way to work.
He was shot by unknown gunmen who fled the scene immediately.
Similarly, a roadside mine blast in Paktia province on Friday morning killed an NDS special operations forces soldier and wounded two others in Sayed Karam district.
The NDS official was later identified as Abdul Qadir and the incident was claimed by pro-Taliban sources.
A commission has been appointed to conduct the funeral, burial and mourning ceremonies of Yousuf Ghazanfar, President Ashraf Ghani’s Special Representative for Economic Development and Poverty Reduction, who succumbed to COVID-19 on Friday.
Ghazanfar had been undergoing treatment at a hospital in Turkey.
The presidential order read: “A state commission headed by Mohammad Shakir Kargar, Chief of Staff to the President, is tasked with conducting the funeral, burial and Fateha ceremonies.”
The commission also include the Ministries of Defence, Interior, Guidance, Hajj and Religious Affairs, Information and Culture, as well as the Office of the National Security Council, the General Directorate of National Security, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, and the Office of the President.
It has been instructed to take and implement all necessary measures “for the conduct of special state funeral and mourning ceremonies in the capital and provinces of the country.”
Ghazanfar had endorsed Ghani in the 2019 Presidential elections and was a leading businessman and shareholder of Ghazanfar Bank.
He had also been a member of the Lower House of Parliament’s Committee of Financial and Budget Affairs.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) arrested 46 police officers on charges of abuse of power, embezzlement and extortion on Friday.
Tariq Arian, the MoI spokesperson said these officers were arrested in Kapisa, Jawzjan, Takhar, Nuristan, Nangarhar, Samangan, Sar-e-Pul, Laghman, Paktika, Balkh, Helmand, Parwan, Ghazni, Khost, Ghor and Farah provinces.
Their cases have been sent to the Office of the Attorney General (AGO) for the judiciary proceedings.
Arian noted that the MoI was serious about bringing reforms and fighting corruption within the ranks of the police and would not spare efforts.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported a jump of 348 new Coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours, which have now taken Afghanistan’s tally to 32,672 confirmed cases.
There were 1,833 patients who recovered during the day while seven succumbed to the illness. Those figures now stand at 19,164 recovered cases and 826 fatalities to date.
Of the 868 samples tested, positive cases were reported in Kabul (164), Bamyan (33), Herat (28), Balkh (23), Badakhshan (20), Badghis (14), Nimroz (12), Daykundi (9), Baghlan (7), Helmand (6), Wardak (5), Ghor (5), Panjsher (5), Paktia (4), Takhar (3), Nangarhar (3), Parwan (2), Zabul (2), Kunar (2) and Laghman (1).
There are currently 12,682 active cases in the country.
The presidents of Afghanistan, Turkmenistan and Azerbaijan held a virtual tripartite meeting on Thursday to discuss trade cooperation.
Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev, Turkmenistan’s President Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov and President Ashraf Ghani were in attendance as the leaders talked about a joint committee to work on regional connectivity, railway development, fibre optics, and transportation.
The committee, proposed by the Azerbaijani leader, will include ministers of transport and other officials from the three countries.
Ghani thanked the two leaders for their cooperation in support of the Lapis Lazuli Corridor that opened in 2018 to link Afghanistan to Turkey.
He also thanked the Turkmen leader for extending the railway line to Turgundi city in Herat province.
Welcoming the idea of a joint delegation, Ghani announced that they are ready to work in the public and private sectors in the areas of trade and investment. International partners are also ready to cooperate in the expansion of railways in Afghanistan for economic development.
He further added that the U.S. is committed to supporting development of dry ports in eight locations.
Berdymukhamedov proposed for the possibility of simplifying customs operations by introducing a control system based on the Single Window principle. He also added that Afghan iron ore mines are ripe for investments.
The plans for a Fibre Optic Corridor were also lauded for bringing a “positive change” in not only Central and South Asia, but even China.
Towards the end, Ghani reassured the leaders that the Afghan government is committed to the peace talks.