Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghanistan’s Ghazanfar Bank will be opening its branch in Iran’s southeastern Chabahar Port to facilitate bilateral trade between the two nations.
Ghazanfar has been granted approval by the Central Bank of Iran and all the necessary permits and licenses have been issued.
“Currently, we have some problems in transferring currency and trade with Afghanistan, and the establishment of this branch would be a great help to the trade exchanges between the two countries and can act as a financial channel,” said, Hossein Salimi, head of the Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce.
The India-funded port has also been approved for integration with the Free Zone by the Iranian Guardian Council.
This inclusion is expected to boost the cargo through the port.
Chabahar is also an “exception” to the U.S. sanctions imposed on Iran.
Jamiat-e-Islami announced the suspension of seven members including Waqif Hakimi, Enayatullah Shadab and Abdul Sattar Murad of the Leadership Council of the political party on Thursday.
The members were let go “in line with the reforms and with the aim of ending the abuse of the party’s name and logo,” for making the “wrong moves” and conspiring within the party.
The decision was made in consultation with senior members, a day after several members of the party’s Leadership Council, including Atta Muhammad Noor, removed Salahuddin Rabbani, the executive chairman of the party.
The political party said that there had been a number of domestic and foreign conspiracies within their ranks as these people had made “inappropriate deals.”
In their statement, the party said there had been a number of domestic and foreign conspiracies against them since the 2001 Bonn Summit.
The party said the “serial assassinations of prominent figures of the party” including former leader and Afghan president Burhanuddin Rabbani, along with the “attempts to weaken and marginalize it through bribery and dealing with its affiliated figures” were attempts at weakening the party.
As a result of this strategy, a number of people affiliated with the party “have been deceived.”
Jamiat-e-Islami added it has begun work on emerging as an active political opponent to the government and would introduce an improved committee in line with the party’s principles and Code of conduct.
They also announced the formation of an independent, non-governmental negotiating team to actively participate in the intra-Afghan peace process.
Abdul Wasi Intezar, the deputy of Surkhrod district succumbed to his injuries after an IED exploded in Nangarhar province’s Jalalabad on Thursday afternoon.
Intezar and his child were both in the car at the time of the explosion and were rushed to the hospital.
Nangarhar Governor Shah Mahmood Miakhil confirmed the death and blamed “terrorists and enemies of the homeland” for targeting “those who are loyal to the values of the country and its people.”
The car carrying Intezar was targeted by a magnetic improvised explosive device in PD1 of Jalalabad city.
The Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs is hosting several strategic dialogues in the upcoming week as the country’s leaders decide when the intra-Afghan talks will begin.
Gran Hewad, spokesperson for the foreign ministry said there will be three meetings held during the week as of now.
There will be a regional summit with about 20 countries, Afghanistan’s strategic partners and UN representatives, as well as another international meeting with about 19 countries.
According to Hewad, the talks are aimed at strengthening regional and international consensus on peace in Afghanistan, and will be focusing on the immediate start of international talks, the release of prisoners and the resumption of ceasefire.
A third round of Strategic Dialogue will also be held with the the Deputy Foreign Ministers of Afghanistan, Pakistan and China in attendance.
A bilateral meeting between Afghanistan and Pakistan also has to be held, he said. However, the date has not been decided yet.
The Angor Adda and Kharlachi border crossings on the Durand Line will be reopening for trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan, said Pakistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq on Thursday.
He said the two sides were making arrangements and the crossings will likely become operation from July 12.
The Angor Adda border crossing straddles the provinces of Paktika’s Barmal district in Afghanistan, and South Waziristan in Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The Kharlachi crossing, which was closed on March 15 due to the COVID-19 outbreak, goes through the Kurram district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa in Pakistan.
Both crossings will only be opened for trade and are not meant for pedestrians.
On Wednesday, Sadiq had also said that the terminal master plans for Torkham and Chaman crossings, which reopened on June 22, have been shared with Afghanistan to “enable concurrent and complimentary development” on both sides.
Sadiq said, “An enhanced compatibility in trade infrastructure on both sides will help realize shared goal of optimum trade, connectivity and people-to-people facilitation between the two countries.”
President Ashraf Ghani told national television that while Afghan people have consensus on bringing peace, they have to decide on the price they are willing to pay.
“Any peace that comes, it should be acceptable to the people, said Ghani during his interview with state news agency, Radio Television Afghanistan (RTA), on Wednesday.
The president also said that the beginning of the intra-Afghan talks will be decided next week and that there is a “strong possibility” that the initial talks will be hosted in Qatar.
He said that the government’s focus has always been on “how to achieve lasting peace.”
“As a president, I am responsible for bringing peace to the entire nation,” Ghani told the press.
He indicated that the process of the release of Taliban prisoners will be finalized by the coming weekend, however, pointed out that it could not be one-sided, and the Taliban had to reciprocate.
Earlier in the day, Ghani had visited Logar province where he pointed that the Taliban had increased their attacks against Afghan security forces even as they pledged to not attack U.S. soldiers in the Doha agreement signed in February.
He said these continued attacks indicate that the Taliban are not committed to the Afghan peace process.
“I want the bloodshed to end in the country,” he acknowledged. “But if the Taliban continue the war, the Afghan people will stand up against them.”
“We accept that the Taliban is a reality in Afghanistan, no one can deny this; the peace will come.”
Eight mortar rounds were fired during his visit and also when his helicopter departed the area.
Ghani called this insecurity unacceptable and said serious measures will be taken in Logar.
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) said a total of seven foreign militants, three Pakistani and four Uzbeki nations, were among the militants killed by the Afghan National Army in Ghazni on Wednesday.
The MoD claimed there were Taliban members who had attacked Afghan security checkpoints and were repulsed as a result.
However, on June 25, Rahmatullah Nabil, former chief of the National Directorate of Security, had tweeted that there may be a “possible major attack on the strategic city of Ghazni” as reports indicate various “foreign and domestic terrorist groups” have intensified their logistical supply from across the Durand Line.
“The possible attack is being planned/facilitated by al-Qaeda’s AQIS branch,” Nabil wrote citing that major leaders of the group had been “traveling frequently in recent weeks” in the provinces of Zabul, Ghazni, Logar, Paktika and Waziristan.
Local officials in Ghazni have also noted a marked increase in violence and the presence of foreign fighters has also been reported.
This comes amidst the new U.S. Department of Defence report which finds that Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS) in Afghanistan “routinely supports and works” with the Taliban to undermine the Afghan government and have an “enduring interest” in attacking the U.S. and Western troops.
The Associated Press (AP) report that an oxygen factory which was shut seven years ago, has reopened and is now giving free refills in the Afghan capital.
Factory-owner Najibullah Seddiqi closed operations in Kabul frustrated with power cuts and rampant corruption that kept him from getting contracts with hospitals.
However, he did not sell his machinery.
“I saw a man crying for his wife who died from coronavirus due to lack of oxygen,” Seddiqi told AP. “That moment I made the decision to reopen my factory.”
He hired 12 men, working in two shifts, and even moved in temporarily to be on hand.
As news spread on social media, relatives of those ailing with COVID-19 lined up at the factory for free refills of oxygen.
Seddiqi refills 200 to 300 small cylinders a day for COVID-19 patients. He has also started selling to hospital and retailers for a much lower rate than the current prices.
Afghanistan has been struggling with shortages of medical oxygen, with prices of new canisters skyrocketing 10-fold to $250.
Once people started stockpiling them, the prices to refill a canister went up to $25, almost five times than what it once was.
Even in times of price gouging, Sediqqi refills 700 large cylinders for sale a day for $3.80 each. It’s enough to cover his free distribution, he told AP.
On Tuesday, Acting Health Minister Ahmad Jawad Osmani said they were trying to solve oxygen production problems by working with suppliers in Afghanistan and also looking at importing oxygen generators from China.
Seddiqi’s factory is one of six in Kabul that produce oxygen — but his is the only one giving free refills.
“My only aim is to save as many lives as I can,” he said. “When the virus spread ends, then I’ll go home.”
Afghanistan has recorded 32,022 confirmed Coronavirus cases so far, as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported the addition of 186 lab-confirmed cases over the past 24 hours.
The daily number of tested samples continued to decrease with only 519 checked across the country, even after the government mobilised the private sector to respond to the pandemic.
Fatalities continued to increase with 33 new deaths reported during the day and an additional 19 people said to be in critical condition.
The total number of recovered cases also increased as 440 people got better.
The MoPH reported new cases were discovered in Kabul (61), Herat (34), Daykundi (31), Kunduz (16) and Balkh (14).
Seven in Logar, six each in Parwan and Kandahar, three in Baghlan, two in the provinces of Wardak, Laghman and Ghor, and one each in Nangarhar and Helmand, also tested positive for COVID-19.
The country has 15,174 active cases of Coronavirus with 16,041 recovered and 807 deaths.
The Ministry of Defence on Thursday announced that Taliban insurgents have suffered casualties as a result of the counter-offensive by the Afghan defence and security forces in Ghazni and Helmand provinces.
The Ministry said that 15 insurgents were killed and 11 injured when Taliban members attacked the positions of the Afghan security forces in the Noghi and Asheghwal areas of Ghazni province on Wednesday.
According to their statement, the fatalities included several Pakistani and Uzbek foreign fighters.
Some military equipment was also seized including weapons. Ammunitions and long-distance cameras.
In Helmand, 18 Taliban members were killed and five injured as they attacked the security posts in Grishk and Nadali districts on Wednesday.
The army also discovered and diffused dozens of mines in Sangin and Nawa districts.
One civilian was killed while five police officers and four civilians were injured in two separate bomb blasts in Mazar-e-Sharif on Wednesday.
Adel Shah Adel, spokesperson for the Balkh police said that the deputy head of PD3 was among the injured.
On Wednesday morning, a landmine exploded in a pothole on the road leading to the military hospital in PD3 and a second blast occurred when police arrived at the scene.
Four of the wounded were taken to the hospital and are said to be in a critical condition.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.