Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Pakistan National Disaster Management Authority (NDMA) on Wednesday handed over Personal Protection Equipment (PPEs) to Afghanistan to combat Covid-19. The NDMA said that on behalf of the government of Pakistan, PPE kits and medical equipment have been handed over to the Ambassador of Afghanistan.
The items included 500 oxygen cylinders, oxygen concentrators, ICU ventilators, BIPAPs, digital X-Ray machines, thermal guns and PPEs kits. In fact, Afghan refugees residing in Pakistan are getting the coronavirus vaccination and so far, around 1,500 people have taken the jab. UNHCR’s spokesman Qaiser Afridi said that the government was providing vaccination facilities to all refugees and Afghan citizens who are registered with the database system of NADRA.
The much-needed healthcare items arrived in Kabul even as the Ministry of Public Health reported 2,313 new positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 101 deaths in the past 24 hours. This is the first time that the official death toll has crossed 100 over the 24 hours. The total positive cases now stand at 98,844, while the reported death toll is 3,943. In fact, the Kabul Municipality announced that it will temporarily stop its city buses in Kart-e Naw and Ahmad Shah Baba Mina areas of Kabul city, effective from June 19, to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The municipality administration stated that the bus service will resume across Kabul city, after the COVID-19 problem is resolved. The Municipality urged the minivans to reduce the number of passengers, to combat COVID-19. It also called on citizens to observe social distancing and healthcare instructions.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Red Crescent Society said that the COVID-19 cases have reached a crisis point as infections and deaths are spiralling out of control, threatening to engulf the country’s fragile health system, as a consequence of decades of armed conflict, and compounding disasters.
Hospital beds are full in many areas across the country and oxygen supplies cannot keep up, the society noted. Dr Nilab Mobarez, Acting President of Afghan Red Crescent Society said, “Afghanistan is at a crisis point in the battle to contain COVID-19 as hospital beds are full to capacity in the capital Kabul and in many areas. This surge is fast spiralling out of control adding huge pressures on our fragile health system and millions of people living in poverty. Thousands of trained Red Crescent volunteers are risking their lives to help infected people with urgent medical care and to enhance prevention measures. We fear that we are just a heartbeat away from the kind of horror that we have already seen in countries like India and Nepal.”
The Afghan Red Crescent Society is running 140 healthcare facilities, including a 50-bed COVID-19 hospital in Kabul and 70 mobile health teams. Volunteers have screened more than 650,000 people for the disease. In rural areas many people have difficulty accessing medical care, safe water, hygiene supplies or accurate information about the virus and how to prevent it.
Necephor Mghendi, head of Afghanistan Country Delegation for the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said, “COVID-19 is another cruel blow for millions of Afghans already dealing with the constant threat of violence, displacement, food insecurity and poverty. We’re seeing large numbers of people having to make terrible choices between finding a way to feed their families and growing risks of getting sick. IFRC is working with the Afghan Red Crescent to urgently deliver more medical equipment, including an oxygen generation plant for its COVID-19 hospital in Kabul. More international support is needed to help win this race against this virus, so we can save thousands of lives.”
The IFRC is seeking vital funding for its global emergency COVID-19 appeal, with only around 40% of funding requirements for Afghanistan covered so far. The global emergency appeal funds are crucial to continue supporting the lifesaving actions of the IFRC and member Red Cross and Red Crescent National Societies around the world.
Kabul: In a dramatic development involving direct deals and intelligence secrets, the Shinkay district collapsed to the Taliban on Wednesday night.
Ata Jan Haqbayan, head of Zabul’s provincial council, released a contentious video and then claimed that provincial officials, including deputy governor, mediated the collapse of Shinkay district to the Taliban. However, first Vice-President Amrullah Saleh stated that the evacuation was an “intelligence secret” and disclosing the “operational secrets in the name of freedom of speech” will enable the Taliban to use the information for their advantage.
The video shared by Haqbayan shows Taliban insurgents escorting the ANSDF. Haqbayan even alleged that the ANSDF along with local officials handed over all weapons and equipment from the last battalion in the district, in return for their safe passage to Qalat city.
Haqbayan warned that if the situation continues, the province will soon fall to the Taliban, who will reach Kabul city.
The Taliban confirmed that the group captured the district last night.
Saleh admitted that the country is going through “hard times,” however, he said that Taliban’s casualties are 3 times more than those of the ANSDF. Saleh urged citizens not to believe in propaganda.
Kabul: The Kabul police announced on Thursday that 18 people from different parts of Kabul have been arrested as a result of several police operations.
Basir Mujahid, a spokesperson for the Kabul Police, said that the men had been detained as a result of several operations over the past two days. He added that the detainees were charged with murder, wounding, armed robbery, robbery, telephone and vehicle theft.
According to him, these individuals have been identified and arrested in the third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, eighth, ninth, tenth, sixteenth, seventeenth, eighteenth and nineteenth PDs of Kabul.
The Kabul police spokesperson said that they had also seized four rounds of ammunition from them. In recent months, however, criminal offenses, especially armed robberies, have increased in Kabul. The Security Pact program, launched months ago to reduce crime, has failed to reduce crime in Kabul as much as possible.
Kabul: With less than 100 days remaining before the September 11 deadline for US troops to withdraw from Afghanistan, many organizations and politicians are coming forward to urge the Joe Biden administration to hasten the evacuation process of Afghan interpreters.
A Republican congressman Michael Waltz implored President Biden on Wednesday to immediately order the evacuation of Afghans who helped US troops. “If he doesn’t act, and he doesn’t get these people out, blood will be on his hands and on his administration’s hands,” said Waltz. “The time for talk, the time for debate is over,” he added.
At the heart of the issue is the Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) program for Afghans who worked for US troops. The program has been plagued with years-long delays and faces a backlog of thousands of applicants. The Biden administration has said it is accelerating processing the applications, but lawmakers have warned there is not enough time, leaving Afghans who helped the United States at risk of being hunted down and murdered.
Lawmakers and others have been urging the administration to evacuate those at-risk Afghans to Guam or another safe location while they wait for the applications to be processed. Waltz was speaking at a news conference alongside members of the American Legion and Republican Jason Crow (D-Colo.), all amplifying the call for an evacuation. “I think the most practical thing is to evacuate pending applicants to Guam,” Crow said. “We have a history of doing it. We don’t have to reinvent that wheel.”
The United States used Guam as a way station in 1975 while it processed Vietnamese refugees it evacuated amid the fall of Saigon.
The American Legion, a non-profit organization, also demanded that the US government act now as failure to do so puts the lives of these translators and their families in serious jeopardy as they face death threats from ISIS, the Taliban, Al Qaeda and others.
“Our wartime allies saved countless American lives despite grave dangers to themselves and their families,” American Legion National Commander James W. Bill Oxford said. “It would be a moral failure to withdraw our troops and leave behind the brave Afghan interpreters who stood shoulder-to-shoulder with US troops through multiple operations,” he said.
As of April 2021, there are approximately 18,000 Afghan interpreters in limbo under the SIV program due to bureaucratic red tape and limited spots.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden and Russian President Vladimir Putin agreed on Wednesday to begin cybersecurity and arms control talks at a summit that highlighted their discord on those issues, human rights and Ukraine. In their first meeting since he took office in January, Biden asked Putin how he would feel if a ransomware attack hit Russia’s oil network, a pointed question making reference to the May shutdown of a pipeline that caused disruptions and panic-buying along the US East Coast.
While Biden stressed that he did not make threats during the three-hour meeting, he said he outlined US interests, including cybersecurity, and made clear to Putin that the United States would respond if Russia infringed on those concerns. Both men used careful pleasantries to describe their talks in a lakeside Swiss villa, with Putin calling them constructive and without hostility and Biden saying there was no substitute for face-to-face discussions.
US-Russia relations have been deteriorating for years, notably with Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea from Ukraine, its 2015 intervention in Syria and US charges – denied by Moscow – of meddling in the 2016 election won by Trump.
Both Biden and Putin said they shared a responsibility, however, for nuclear stability, and would hold talks on possible changes to their recently extended New START arms limitation treaty. In February, Russia and the United States extended New START for five years. The treaty caps the number of strategic nuclear warheads they can deploy and limits the land- and submarine-based missiles and bombers to deliver them.
A senior US official told reporters that Biden, Putin, their foreign ministers and interpreters met first for 93 minutes. After a break, the two sides met for 87 minutes in a larger group including their ambassadors.
Kabul: Spokesperson of the Afghan foreign ministry Gran Hewad in a video message on Thursday stated that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s remarks about securing the Kabul airport and the requirement of the presence of other state forces, have been misinterpreted.
According to him, from the meetings that the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Ambassador of Afghanistan had with the Turkish officials, the purpose of Erdogan’s talks was to support the security forces and achieve lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan.
Hewad described the relations between Afghanistan and Turkey as profound and said that the country has always emphasized on the solution of Afghanistan’s problems through peaceful means. According to Hewad, the purpose of these talks was to gain the support of the countries in the region, especially Pakistan, for the peace process in Afghanistan and to ensure security in this country.
Recep Tayyip Erdogan had recently said that Turkey is the only country suitable for managing the situation in Afghanistan after the withdrawal of international troops. He told a news conference after the NATO summit that he needed US logistical, financial and equipment assistance to visit Afghanistan, and discussed the role and cooperation of Pakistan and Hungary with US President Joe Biden.
There have been numerous reports that Kabul airport security is being handed over to Turkey. NATO leaders have agreed to provide funding for the protection of Kabul airport.
Meanwhile, Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar will depart for Turkey on Thursday evevning, at the official invitation of Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu.
Atmar will attend the Antalya Diplomacy Forum, which will happen on June 18-20. Additionally, Atmar will attend the trilateral meeting of Afghanistan, Iran and Turkey, and discuss mutual matters with his regional and international counterparts.
Officials, politicians, bureaucrats, diplomats, academics, business people, media and opinion-makers from over 40 countries are expected to attend the conference, to discuss and find solutions to current regional and global issues, Turkish officials said.
Kabul: At least three people have been killed and seven others have been injured in a traffic accident in PD12 of Kabul, said Kabul police spokesperson Basir Mujahid.
The incident took place at 5:10am on Thursday in Kabul. Mujahid added that the incident took place when a car collided with two three-wheelers in front of a fuel station. He said that the injured were taken to the nearest hospital.
Mujahid said that after investigating the incident, the driver of the car was handed over to the Kabul Traffic Department.
Kabul: About 40 days after the deadly attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school in western Kabul, the families of the victims say that the perpetrators have not yet been identified and arrested, and that credible international bodies must investigate the case.
The families on Thursday read a resolution at a press conference in Kabul, saying that the attack was aimed at depriving girls of their right to “life”, “education” and progress, and was an example of genocide. They also called the attack a violation of all international law and Islamic values.
The resolution emphasizes that targeted attacks on Hazaras have recently intensified, and to prevent the targeted genocide of this ethnic group, national human rights organizations, including the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission and international bodies such as the United Nations, the European Union and international human rights organizations must recognize this genocide.
The families of those killed and injured in the attack said that due to the increase in targeted attacks on Hazara people, special security measures should be taken in all parts of the country. They also called on the government to take the necessary security measures to prevent another attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school.
The resolution also called on the Afghan government to determine the fate of Shukria, a student at Sayyid al-Shuhada School who has been missing for since the attack on the school, and to put an end to her family’s concerns. The families of the victims called on the Afghan government to address the shortage of 190 teachers at the school. They emphasized that the demand was based on the needs of the school, not on “privilege”.
In a part of the resolution, it is emphasized that in order to honor the blood of the victims of the attack on the school of Sayyid al-Shuhada, on May 8, the day of the attack should be named “Martyrs of Education” in the official calendar and a monument should be erected on the school grounds.
The attack on the school of Sayyid al-Shuhada took place on May 8, with a car bomb blast and two landmine explosions. According to official figures, more than 50 people – mostly female students – were killed and more than 100 were injured in the attack. But the families of the victims of the attack claim that 85 people were killed and more than 250 others were injured in the attack.
Following the attack, the AIHRC called it a genocide and said that the killings and other violence in Afghanistan should be investigated by a team of experts and independent of UN investigators. The commission called on the United Nations to “immediately” announce its commitment to identifying the perpetrators of the crime and to publish its report within two months. Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, also called the attack genocide.
Later, Thomas Nicholson, the EU Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a meeting with female students at the Sayyid al-Shahd school that the killing of Hazaras should be stopped. Also, after the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school and several other attacks in western Kabul, a number of Afghan citizens launched a campaign on Twitter to protest the targeted killing of Hazaras.
Launched under the name (#StopHazaraGenocide), the campaign said the world should recognize the killing of millennials as “genocide” and work to protect the Hazara people.
Kabul: Balkh police on Thursday said that the Taliban used a tank full of explosives to attack the police headquarters of Dawlatabad district of the province, which was identified and destroyed 50 meters from the police headquarters.
Adel Shah Adel, a spokesperson for the Balkh police, said that the incident took place on Wednesday night near the district police headquarters, injuring civilians. He added that the Dawlatabad police headquarters had also been partially destroyed.
Meanwhile, Jalil Qaderizada, the district governor of Dawlatabad district, said three civilians and a security guard had been killed in the blast. The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.
Meanwhile, in Daikundi province, four members of the uprising forces were killed in a Taliban attack in the village of Sartgab in Patu district of the province, said Naqibullah Malistani, security chief of the Daikundi police.
Malistani added that three other uprisings forces members had been wounded in clashes during the Taliban offensive. According to him, the checkpoint of these forces in the village of Sartgab also fell to the Taliban. The area is currently under Taliban control. The Daikundi police chief also said that eight Taliban fighters were killed and four others were wounded in the clashes.
On the other hand, the Afghan province where Australian troops served for close to a decade could fall to the Taliban as foreign troops withdraw from the war-torn country, ABC News reported. Fierce fighting between government forces and Taliban insurgents is continuing across Uruzgan province with both sides claiming to have inflicted heavy casualties against each other. Sources told ABC News that Taliban now controls five of the six districts in Uruzgan province, while the provisional capital of Tarin Kot is considered contested.
Also dozens of relatives of the wounded members of the security forces, who have been captured by the Taliban in Herat’s Obe district since the past five days, gathered in front of the Herat Governor’s office and closed the office gates on Thursday.
Protesters claim that the government has so far taken no action to rescue about 50 critically injured security forces. They said that they are ready to take up arms alongside security officials to save the lives of the wounded. Meanwhile, Jilani Farhad, spokeperson for the governor of Herat, said that the governor of the province met with the representatives of the protesters and assured them said that their problem would be resolved by the end of the day.
According to reports from Obe district, the number of wounded security forces has increased from 49 to 65.
Meanwhile, local sources in Maidan Wardak province said that three people have been killed when a mortar shell hit a residential house.
Maidan Wardak police spokesperson Mohammad Hufiani said that the incident took place on Wednesday in the village of Foolad Khan in the provincial capital.
According to him, three people, including a man and two women, were killed and another was injured in the incident.
Hofiani added that the rocket was fired by the Taliban. The Taliban have not yet commented.
Kabul: Afghanistan National Security Advisor, Hamdullah Mohib, left for Kazakhstan, the NSA office confirmed in a statement on Thursday morning.
A statement published by the Afghan National Security Advisor office has stated that the Afghan NSA, Hamdullah Mohib, has left Kabul for Nur-Sultan, the capital of Kazakhstan. Mohib is leading a high-level Afghan delegation who will meet with the senior security and political officials of Kazakhstan to discuss mutual interest issues between both countries.
This comes even as Afghan officials had also previously travelled to the regional countries in order to work for a regional consensus on the Afghan peace process for ending the prolonged Afghan war.
Meanwhile, 48 hours after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels, US President Joe Biden on Wednesday met with another leader of a country Washington has thorny ties to: Russian President Vladimir Putin.
A factor driving Biden to push for normalized ties, even cooperation, with Ankara and Moscow is the increasingly fraught situation in Afghanistan. Biden’s decision to withdraw all US forces from Afghanistan has spurred internal instability in the country, where violence is escalating as the Taliban score more battlefield victories against the Afghan government and foreign forces disengage. But Washington’s decision to pull out has also triggered a regional power play, with different actors — from China to Turkey, from Russia to India — looking to take advantage of the diplomatic power vacuum in Kabul.
Afghanistan’s political, economic and military dynamics have long been influenced by larger and more powerful neighbors Pakistan and Iran. But one regional player, Turkey, is positioning itself in a key security role after the Americans withdraw. While other NATO members will have fully pulled out their forces by September 11, Ankara has announced that its forces will stay.
Turkey is not an immediate neighbor. It does not share a border with landlocked Afghanistan but lies further west, past Iran. But analysts see Turkey spotting a dual opportunity in Afghanistan. First, Ankara seeks to leverage some goodwill in its soured relationship with the US by offering to protect Kabul’s Hamid Karzai International airport, a crucial link to the world. The move, which came in the lead-up to Erdogan’s Monday meeting with Biden in Brussels, also fits into Ankara’s playbook of increasing its role on the international stage while positioning itself for a more influential role in Afghanistan.
In other news, German troops have been burning bulks of sensitive documents as they prepare to leave their Afghan base near the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif. “The Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan is destroying ammunition boxes that are no longer needed and documents containing sensitive Bundeswehr data at Camp Marmal,” the armed forces tweeted.
A senior officer said in a video, published by Bundeswehr on Wednesday, that shredded documents were burned in furnaces, while metal scrap was crushed in a large press to make it unusable. German media reported in early June that the troops were ordered to take leftover alcohol back with them when they head home. This includes 65,000 cans of beer and 340 bottles of wine.
Germany handed over the base to the Afghan government forces during a solemn ceremony last week. Camp Marmal is Germany’s largest foreign outpost.