Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Afghan security forces foiled an attempted car blast during an operation in Qaisar district of Faryab province on Wednesday, security officials said.
The spokesman of 209 Shahin Corps, Hanif Rezaie said a car bomb which attempted to target a key area in Qaisar district was halted at around 02:30pm yesterday.
According to Rezaei, the car bomb was identified by security forces before reaching its target and at least eight Taliban equipped with suicide vests were killed in the incident too.
This was the second car bomb attack in one day which was thwarted by Afghan forces in Faryab.
Nai-Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan in a new report published on Thursday said that 130 cases of violence against journalists have been in the country in 2020.
According to the report, the increase of insecurities and violence against journalists have caused that many of media workers leave their jobs.
The report stated that in 2020, 11 journalists were killed and 16 others were injured, as well as 13 cases of beatings, five abductions, three arrests, 23 threats and insults, and an attack on four journalists were recorded.
According to the report, there have been three attacks on the media organization this year.
“As those involved in this field, we are not satisfied with the government’s efforts in investigating cases of violence against journalists,” Chief Executive of Nai, Mujib Khalwatgar said in a press conference, criticizing the government’s performance in curbing violence against journalists.
Spike in Violence Against Journalists
Simultaneously with the increase of targeted assassinations in the big cities of the country, the targeted assassinations of journalists have also increased, as in the last two months, six journalists in different provinces of Afghanistan have lost their lives.
The Ministry of Information and Culture has confirmed that in the last two months alone, it has registered 37 threats against the lives of journalists and has taken measures against them with the help of security agencies.
The ministry said it had relocated a number of journalists to safety to contain the threats.
Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had previously announced that the first assassination of a journalist was recorded in Afghanistan in 2021, making it one of the deadliest countries for journalists in 2020.
Ministry of Interior Assures to Provide Security of Journalists
The Ministry of Interior’s spokesman Tariq Arian in response to Nai report, in a video message said that the government would address all security concerns against journalists and civil society.
Arian emphasized that ensuring the security of citizens, especially journalists and civil society is essential and that the Ministry of Interior works closely media outlets and civil society institutions.
A provincial council member of Ghor province named Ezatullah Bik was killed in a clash with the National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces on Thursday.
NDS in a statement said that a clash erupted after the NDS forces attempted to arrest Bik who was a suspect in the killing of both Bismillah Adil Aimaq, a local journalist, and Abdul Rahman Atishan, the deputy provincial council of the province.
“Instead of surrendering, Bik started fighting with NDS forces and was killed,” the statement said, adding: “An NDS officer was also killed during the clashes and another was wounded.”
Following reports of a temporary halt in intra-Afghan talks, the government’s State Ministry for Peace Affairs says the peace talks in Doha are continuing in a “normal” manner.
Najiya Anwari, the spokesperson of the Ministry of State for Peace Affairs, said today that since the beginning of the presence of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in Qatar, formal negotiations have started and the two sides have held several meetings at the level of contact groups.
“The situation is such that the teams will hold internal meetings on the content of the agenda and its title. The members of the Afghan government’s negotiating team are busy with work related to the agenda and other content of the talks.”
The remarks comes as yesterday Reuters reported that the talks stalled and the two sides negotiators wait for President-elect Joe Biden to signal whether he will stick to Donald Trump’s aggressive schedule to pull out troops.
A diplomatic source in Kabul told Reuters that expectations were low for progress before Biden takes office on Jan. 20.
The sides “do not want to commit to anything before the 20th. They wanted to have the process going in the meantime because that was one of the requirements of the international community, so they have the process. But it is stagnant,” he said.
In an agreement reached last year, Trump, who had long promised to end America’s longest war, signed the United States up to a full withdrawal in coming months.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 57 new positive cases of coronavirus out of 1,802 samples tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 14 deaths and 295 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 53,831 the number of total reported deaths is 2,324 and the total number of recoveries is 45,105.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Kunduz, Paktia, Baghlan, Nangarhar, Badakhshan, Wardak, Parwan, Logar, Laghman, Khost, Faryab and Uruzgan provinces.
Pakistan and Afghanistan are to hold the next round of parleys on new draft of Afghanistan Pakistan Transit Trade Agreement (APTTA) at the end of the current month or early next month as the term of pact will expire on February 11, 2021, Pakistani authorities said.
Pakistan’s Special Secretary Commerce Dr Sohail Rajput has said that the country’s National Assembly Standing Committee was informed that two rounds have been held on the new draft of APTTA so far.
“Both sides identified confronting issues and in talks sufficient progress was made in both rounds. In the last round, both sides reviewed the agreement clause by clause and shared amended proposals. The amended drafts of APTTA are with both sides,” said the Pakistani Special Secretary.
The first round of talks was held in Kabul in November 2020 whereas the second round was hosted by Pakistan in Islamabad on December 28-30, 2020.
The next round is expected to be held in a fortnight with an agreed venue, date and time.
Afghan and Turkmen officials officially opened the Aqina-Andkhoy railway in Faryab province on Thursday.
Addressing the opening ceremony of three joint projects between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, President Ashraf Ghani said that the two countries have a long-standing relationship and this relationship has been successful throughout history.
“We are proud that Afghanistan is renewing its long-standing ties with Central Asian countries after a hundred years,” President Ghani said.
He notes that the Afghan people will soon witness the launch of other projects that will turn Afghanistan into a crossroads for the region.
“Completion of the construction of a 500 kV line from Aqina to Sheberghan and a 220 kV line from Sheberghan to Mazar-e-Sharif is an important step for the development of economic relations and the connection of the two countries,” he added.
The value of Iran’s annual export to Afghanistan is anticipated to hit $5 billion in the next Iranian calendar year (March 2021-March 2022), the head of Iran’s Trade Promotion Organization (TPO) stated.
Saying that annual export to Afghanistan has surpassed $3 billion, Hamid Zadboum stressed that boosting exports is one of the bases of a resistance economy.
As per Tehran Times report, the director-general of TPO’s Asia-Pacific Office has recently said that balancing international trade, especially with Afghanistan is one of the major strategies of Iran in foreign trade, noting that TPO’s goal is to establish a balanced trade between the two countries.
Special strategies have been adopted by the Trade Promotion Organization for balancing trade with Afghanistan and for resolving problems in this field, Reza Seyed-Aqazadeh stated, adding that the issues and demands of Afghan businessmen will also be reviewed in a special working group in this organization to take the necessary measures and resolve their issues.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Haneef Atmar has met with the National Security Advisor to India’s Prime Minister, Mr. Ajit Kumar Doval, to discuss the ongoing peace talks in Doha and India’s potential contributions to the success of the Afghan peace process.
The Ministry of Foriegn Affairs (MoFA) in a press release said that FM Atmar thanked India for its unflinching support to Afghanistan’s government and people concerning peace, trade, and economic development.
According to the press release, Mr. Atmar underlined the importance of the Kabul-Delhi partnership and cooperation on regional security and preservation of gains made during the last twenty years in Afghanistan.
He reiterated Kabul’s position on an end-state to peace that must be acceptable for Afghanistan, its neighbors, and international partners.
In the meantime, the National Security Adviser to the Indian Prime Minister discussed his views about countering insurgent groups and shed light on the presence of international terrorist outfits in the region and how they could potentially affect lasting peace in Afghanistan.
The two sides agreed to continue their joint efforts to sustain and strengthen regional and international consensus for reaching a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.