Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Ministry of Defense said Thursday in a statement that at least 85 insurgents were killed in 16 provinces of Afghanistan.
As a result of offensive and clearing operations of Afghan defense forces backed up airstrikes in Nangarhar, Kapisa, Paktika, Maidan Wardak, Khost, Ghazni, Daikundi, Zabul, Uruzgan, Farah,Badghis, Ghor, Faryab, Balkh and Helmand, 85 insurgent were killed and 23 others were wounded, according to the statement.
The statement added that 14 insurgents have also been arrested and a number of vehicles and ammunition were destroyed during the operations.
Afghanistan Meteorological Department has warned Thursday about the possibility of snow and flash flood for a number of forecasted provinces and areas in Afghanistan.
The provinces with possibility of snow with height of 15 – 25 cm include Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunar, Nuristan, Panjsher, Kapisa, Laghman, Parwan, Baghlan, Samangan, Sari pul, Bamiyan, Wardak, Ghazni, Daykundi, Ghor, Badghis, Balkh, logar and Kabul, including Salangs, according the department’s announcement.
Nangarhar, Ghor, Badghis and Herat are vulnerable to flash flood with amount of 15 – 20 mm rainfall, the announcement added.
Afghan Journalists Safety Committee director, Najib sharifi, said Thursday during a press conference at Government Media and Information Center that 2018 marks the deadliest year for Afghan journalists & Media family.
Mr Sharifi said that Taliban and IS-K are responsible for the majority of cases of violence against journalists with 50 cases and individuals linked to Government come second with 44 cases.
“we are extremely concerned about the deliberate and direct targeting of journalists and media. In 2018, 11 journalists were killed in two separate attack targeting journalists.”
With 17 journalists killed and 104 cases of injury, physical assault, intimidation, and detention, “2018 marks the deadliest year for Afghan journalists & Media family”, according to AJSC director.
“In a bid to mitigate the vulnerabilities of journalists, AJSC Conducts free-of-cost safety training,” said Sharifi, “we request journalists to participate in them because these training programs are vital for their safety.”
NSA’s press office says Thursday Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib leaves Kabul for 2-day official visit to China.
Mohib will meet senior Chinese officials to discuss Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process and bilateral ties, according to the statement.
Meanwhile, President Ghani’s special envoy for consensus on peace, Umer Daudzai, is on his first regional trip to Islamabad discussing Afghan peace.
The Afghan president’s special peace envoy said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press that the war that has ravaged this country for over 17 years and cost the United States about $1 trillion will end in 2019.
“We are naming 2019 as a year of peace for Afghanistan,” Daudzai summed up his optimism in an interview with The Associated Press.
However, Mohammad Omer Daudzai also cautioned there won’t be peace until the Taliban, who have held several rounds of talks with Washington’s special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, agree to direct talks with the Afghan government, The Associated Press reported.
Pakistan has “influence” over the Taliban but “forcing” them into talks is unproductive, said Daudzai in the interview, urging Islamabad instead to “encourage them to come to the negotiation table, make them realize it is to their benefit.”
The Afghan troops, battered by near-daily Taliban attacks, can survive a U.S. troop withdrawal but would “for some time to come need U.S. air support.”, said Daudzai.
He also warned the U.S. against discussing troop withdrawal in talks with the Taliban that do not include Kabul.
Daudzai, who was appointed last month, made his first visit to the region to Islamabad.
Meanwhile, The US State Department late Tuesday said Khalilzad has started another tour of the region that will take him to India, China, Pakistan and Afghanistan. This is his first visit since his appointment that did not include Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office and where he has held extensive talks with the religious movement.
Mohammad Javad Zarif spoke Wednesday as quoted by India’s NDTV about the role of Taliban in the aftermath of settlement in Afghanistan.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif has said that it is impossible to have a future Afghan government without a role for the Taliban. However, he said the group should not have a dominant role in a future Afghan government.
“I think it would be impossible to have a future Afghanistan without any role for the Taliban. But we also believe that the Taliban do not have, should not have, a dominant role in Afghanistan, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said.
However Zarif continues to say that “Of course, at the end of the day that is the decision that the Afghans need to make.”
Zarif shows optimism about the role of Pakistan in Afghan peace process.
“We believe that Pakistani position on Afghanistan is evolving and we believe that Pakistan now is trying to play a positive role in getting a peace process underway in Afghanistan,” Zarif said as quoted by NDTV.
On the possible pullout of half of US troops from Afghanistan, Zarif said Iran believes the presence of US forces has not helped security and stability in Afghanistan.
This comes after a delegation of Taliban visited Tehran on late December 2018 and held talk with high ranking Iranian officials and last week visits of Iranian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Araghchi, to Kabul to brief Afghan officials on Taliban visit to Iran.
High Peace Council said in a statement on Thursday that Umer Daudzai Head of HPC Secretariat and President’s Special Envoy to Region for Peace Consensus accompanied by Afghan Ambassador to Pakistan, Atif Mashal, met with Mr. Esfandyar Wali Khan chairman of Pakistan Awami National Party.
Both sides discussed Pakistan’s role in peace process, regional & Afghanistan-Pakistan issues, according to the statement.