Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Australia’s top military official said on Sunday the country’s defense force must ‘own’ a recent report on soldiers committing crimes in Afghanistan and pledged changes to ensure that atrocities do not happen again.
The report, published on Thursday after an inquiry into the conduct of Special Forces personnel in Afghanistan between 2005 and 2016, found that senior commandos forced junior soldiers to kill defenseless captives in order to “blood” them for combat.
Defense Force Chief General Angus Campbell said on Sunday he would be held to account to ensure the report was dealt with thoroughly, as well as for duty and performance as the commander in the Middle East in 2011.
“I want the ADF (Australia Defense Force) to acknowledge that this is something we’ve got to own because if we don’t own it, we won’t fix it and if we don’t fix it, this horror may appear again and I just cannot accept that,” Mr. Campbell told ABC television.
The report, which recommended referring 19 current and former soldiers for potential prosecution, caused shame and anger in Australia, a country that usually honors its military history with fervor.
“I see layers of responsibility here,” Campbell said. “I’m determined to see deep, comprehensive and enduring change where it is needed.”
Afghan air force personnel will no longer receive training in the United States on flying and maintaining their A-29 Super Tucano turboprop attack aircraft, the US Air Force said.
For the past five years, Afghan students have been trained by instructors from the 81st Fighter Squadron at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. The program graduated its final class on Nov. 13th, the Air Force said in a statement. All future A-29 training will be conducted in Afghanistan by local instructors, it said.
“Today is the beginning of a new chapter in our partnership,” Kelli Seybolt, deputy undersecretary of the Air Force for international affairs, said in the statement. “We are committed to the continued support of this program in order to strengthen independent Afghan capabilities and achieve sustained peace.”
More than 30 pilots and 70 maintenance technicians have graduated since the program at Moody began in 2015. It was scheduled to end in 2018 but was extended through this year.
European Union officials have stressed that the role of neighboring countries of Afghanistan, including the Arab Gulf states is very important for advancing the peace process in Afghanistan, the Kuwait Times reported.
“The Gulf countries play a very important role and some of them play important financial roles and security roles which are not so publicly known,” one EU official told an online press conference in Brussels ahead of next week’s, 23-24 November, major online pledging conference of donor states and Afghan officials hosted by Geneva.
“The currently most important contribution is of course done by the Amir of Qatar by hosting the peace talks in Doha. That is a very important contribution for many months already even though they are in preliminary talks but the intra-Afghan talks then can hopefully take off,” said the official speaking on condition of anonymity. “Hosting talks between the US and the Taliban was a key contribution.
We know that several other Gulf countries are lending their support to different countries in the region to bring peace in Afghanistan,” he noted. The official appealed “not only to India, China, Russia but also to partners in the Gulf to be part of the international financial efforts in support of stability and development in Afghanistan.”
“The regional role of the neighbors, the Gulf countries, India, Iran, Pakistan China, is very important and we hope to have a constructive role of these countries,” said the EU official. “The time when Europeans and Americans and Japanese and few other partners have to take care of everything in Afghanistan will definitely be over.
But this does not mean that we go. We will stay but work with other partners for peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he said. Another EU official told the same press conference that the Gulf countries “do have a very important role indeed but perhaps they can do more to look at Afghanistan as a way of cooperating together.”
“I think Afghanistan is an opportunity for the Gulf countries to cooperate together,” he added. The role of neighbors is key, he said remarking that the visit of Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan to Afghanistan this week “is very important and it shows a sign of dialogue or rapprochement.” The EU officials declined to comment on the recent announcement by the US to further reduce its troops from Afghanistan noting that the EU as such has no troops in Afghanistan.
But of course some EU member states that are NATO members do have troops in the country, he said, and quoted comments made by German foreign minister Heiko Mass who said that an hasty reduction of troops in Afghanistan could have negative effect for peace and jeopardize peace talks.
The head of Afghanistan’s High Council National Reconciliation blasted the killing of at least 39 Afghan civilians by Australian forces during an interview with Anadolu Agency.
“There is no way to define this brutality. There is no way to explain what has happened. It is incomprehensible,” Abdullah Abdullah told Turkey’s leading news provider.
“These are crimes against innocent people, and I was shocked,” said Abdullah, during an official visit in Turkey on Nov. 19-20.
“At the same time, the Australian government has come very clear with it — about what has happened,” he said.
“There has been a thorough investigation of the cases and they have all the details of it.
“And there is a commitment to prosecute those who are responsible,” he said.
“But this is, unfortunately, something which shocked people as a whole because the report has come with a lot of details on the miseries of the people involved in the war and also what they’ve gone through,” he added.
Australian authorities released details Thursday of the probe into the killings by their special forces in Afghanistan.
Australian Defense Forces chief Gen. Angus Campbell sought an apology from Afghans as he shared the horrifying details.
“To the people of Afghanistan, on behalf of the Australian Defense Force, I sincerely and unreservedly apologize for any wrongdoing by Australian soldiers. I have spoken directly to my Afghan counterpart, Gen. [Yaseen] Zia, to convey this message,” he said in a televised speech.
AFP: Female assassins who lured an Afghan security official to his death with promises of sex before shooting him and dumping his body at a cemetery are among thousands of Taliban criminals freed as part of a fragile peace plan.
While the ultra-conservative Islamists ban women from many areas of life – often forcing them to stay home and barring them from most jobs – they are not above using them as killers.
Muzghan and her aunt Nasreen walked free from jail in September after confessing to being members of the Taliban’s ultra-violent Haqqani network.
The two women had been on death row after several killings, including the murder of an Afghan intelligence agent at their home.
They had used Nasreen’s daughter as bait “under the pretext of selling her body,” on the orders of a Taliban commander, a security official said.
The pair then shot the man with a pistol fitted with a silencer and crammed his corpse into a metal box that they left in the local graveyard, case files say.
Court documents seen by AFP show the two were prolific killers – adept not only at setting the deadly “honeytrap” but also at brute murders – including of their own relatives.
Two men from their family who worked as policemen died at the women’s hands – one was poisoned and the other killed when they planted a “sticky bomb” under the seat of his car.
It is not uncommon for relatives to take opposing sides in Afghanistan’s long-running conflict.
Before their 2016 arrest, the pair also worked with other people including Muzghan’s husband to carry out a deadly grenade and shooting raid on a Sufi shrine, and another on a police station, their rap list adds.
“I was arrested for murder, kidnapping and cooperating with the Haqqani network,” Muzghan said in a video that authorities made prior to her release.
“I will not join this group again.”
It is vanishingly rare for women to take part in attacks for the Taliban, notorious for banning school for girls, forcing women to wear burqas and sometimes executing those accused of adultery.
Of more than 5,000 Taliban prisoners released under a prisoner swap that the insurgents made a precondition to peace talks with the Afghan government, only five were women.
Cases like theirs are “almost unheard” of, analyst Ashley Jackson from the Overseas Development Institute think tank said.
“The Taliban’s norms and ideology firmly relegate women to the domestic sphere,” she said.
“To allow them to take part in, or admit that they played a role in waging the war, would go against core ideological tenets of the movement.”
The prisoner swap, which also saw the Taliban free about 1,000 Afghan security forces, garnered international condemnation when it emerged insurgents who had killed foreign troops were being released.
Kabul has said many of the freed insurgents went straight back to the battlefield.
Nasreen and Muzghan were among a final batch of 400 of the most dangerous prisoners to be released.
Though the Taliban insisted on their freedom, spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the women were “ordinary members of Taliban families” arrested during US operations.
“Of course, women members of (insurgent) families cooperate… but women are not included, recruited or ordered to take part in operations,” he said.
A third woman prisoner released in the swap was Nargis, an Iranian national who became an Afghan citizen and a police officer after marrying a local man.
She was convicted of killing a US police trainer in Kabul in 2012, in what officials say was the first insider attack by a woman.
Taliban officials said two other women from insurgent families were among the released prisoners and all have now returned to their homes.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday reported 207 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1,307 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 12 deaths and 687 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 44,706 the number of total reported deaths is 1,687 and the total number of recoveries is 35,934.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Paktia, Daikundi, Nimroz and Paktia provinces.
The German Armed Forces, Bundeswehr, continues to invest in military facilities in Afghanistan and plans to allocate nearly 50 million euros ($59 million) for the construction of bases, despite a possible withdrawal of troops in the foreseeable future, Der Spiegel has reported, citing internal Bundeswehr documents.
Earlier, the Rheinische Post newspaper reported that the German Defense Ministry is considering a complete withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan in less than four months. A defense official told the newspaper that Berlin was mulling withdrawing troops even before a similar announcement was made by the Trump administration.
According to Der Spiegel, Bundeswehr plans to allocate funds for the construction of two bases — one in Afghanistan’s Mazar-i-Sharif city and another in the Kunduz province. In particular, the construction of premises for Heryon-type drones and ground infrastructure for NH90 helicopters, which would in December replace old CH-53 models, is planned.
The German Defense Ministry is set to go ahead with investment plans as the timing of the withdrawal of troops is not yet determined, while the military requires new infrastructure for security reasons, the newspaper suggested. Der Spiegel also reported that Berlin recently canceled some 20 million euros in other Afghanistan-related defense projects.
Two female Police officers have survived an armed attack in Kapisa province on Sunday, local officials said.
Abdul Shayeq Shoresh, spokesman of Kapisa Police said unidentified gunmen opened fire on two female Police officers when they were on their way to work in Murad Khaja area of Hesey-e Dowom district.
According to Shoresh, the two officers were superficially wounded.
However, some sources claim that at least three female police officers were shot killed in the incident which the Kapisa Police rejected it.
The US Department of Defense has given the green light to an order from Afghanistan for the production and purchase of unmanned aerial vehicles for the needs of the Afghan army, BulgarianMilitary.com has learned, citing a press release issued by the Pentagon.
According to preliminary information, it is about 15 of the ScanEagle drones, and the order is worth nearly 10 million dollars.
ScanEagle for Afghanistan will be manufactured by Boeing’s subsidiary Insitu Inc, based in Bingen, Washington.
It is also clear from the press release that the Afghan army will receive additional batches, which are necessary for reconnaissance and surveillance operations.
According to preliminary information, the drones are expected to be delivered to Kabul at the end of 2021.
The military drone ScanEagle was born as an idea of an existing drone of the American company, which was designed to track fish passages. ScanEagle is a low-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle. The drone has other functions from its commercial variant, such as collecting meteorological data.
The UN Secretary-General António Guterres condemned the rocket attacks in Kabul today which resulted in the death of ten civilians and injury of 51 others.
UNAMA in a press release on Sunday said that Guterres expressed his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured.
According to the press release, the Secretary-General underlined the urgency of ending the violence in Afghanistan.
“He hopes the Afghanistan Peace Negotiations can swiftly achieve a de-escalation of the conflict and cessation of attacks in order to save lives,” the press release reads.
“The upcoming Afghanistan 2020 Conference on 23 and 24 November, co-hosted by Afghanistan, Finland, and the United Nations, is an opportunity to renew commitments to the peaceful development and future prosperity of the country,” he added.
The death toll in a rocket attack that pounded the Afghan capital early Saturday rose to ten and 51 wounded, the first Vice-President Amrullah Saleh confirmed.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced the death toll to eight by the end of Saturday.
In the meantime, Amrullah Saleh said that three brothers who were members of the security forces were also killed in a magnetic mine explosion in PD12 of Kabul.
The first Vice President called yesterday’s rocket attack as a failure attempt, saying “Serious” efforts have begun to investigate the areas where the rockets landed in the capital.
He added that the ammunition used for the rocket attack on Kabul will be found in northern villages and its transmission network will be identified soon.
Afghan security forces have recaptured the Maimay didstrict of Badakhshan province and cleared the district of insurgents in response to Taliban’s attacks, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
MoD has not commented regarding the casualties of both sides, but emphasized that the Taliban group has suffered heavy casualties.
The Maimay district was collapsed to Taliban on Nov. 19 as the group stormed many checkpoints of Afghan forces.
Qatar has renewed its continued solidarity with and support for the Afghan people in reaching national accord, and comprehensive and sustainable peace that regains the security and the stability the people deserve in order to guarantee honourable living following decades of fighting.
This came during the statement by the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani during a Security Council high-level virtual Arria-formula meeting on what the Council could do to advance the peace process in Afghanistan.
The Qatari Foreign Minister stressed the strength of ties between Qatar and Afghanistan, noting that the State regards itself an international partner that is committed to supporting Afghanistan’s journey towards stability, peace and prosperity.
He stressed that Qatar maintains its firm position in supporting Afghanistan in regaining peace and security, which is a main component of the State’s foreign policy as it has strived on providing support to enhance peace and security regionally and internationally, in addition to enhancing the settlement of disputes through diplomatic means.