Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
While attending a video conference on the development of the Afghan peace process, India said that putting an end to terror sanctuaries and safe havens is necessary for peace in Afghanistan.
At the Monday conference on “Strengthening Consensus for Peace” hosted by the Afghan government, India was represented by JP Singh, the new head of the Pakistan-Afghanistan-Iran desk in the Ministry of External Affairs.
India highlighted the fact that in order to achieve durable peace in Afghanistan, putting an end to terrorist sanctuaries and safe havens is an essential pre-requisite, the ministry said.
According to the latest U.S. and UN reports, Pakistan has been referred to as a “safe haven” or “harbour” for groups that target the entire region.
There is also growing concern in New Delhi about the spike in Taliban violence despite signing of the Doha deal with the U.S. in February.
Issues concerning Afghan peace and reconciliation process and support of the regional partners to an independent, unified, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan were discussed.
President Ashraf Ghani thanked Prime Minister Narendra Modi for extending assistance related to COVID-19.
India is one of the largest development partners of Afghanistan, with commitment of more than $3 billion.
It reiterated the importance of an inclusive, Afghan-led, Afghan-owned, Afghan-controlled peace and reconciliation process.
The Indian representative also expressed support for a constitutional order in Afghanistan, which would protect the interest of all section of Afghan society, including women, children and minorities.
Senate speaker Fazal Hadi Muslimyar said some Taliban prisoners who had been released by the government have already returned to the battlefield.
During his Tuesday address to the Senate, Muslimyar also said his intention was not to “create problems” against the Afghan peace process.
In excerpts of his speech shared on his Facebook page, Muslimyar said, “I am not against the release of Taliban prisoners, but those prisoners who go back to war, I am strongly against them being released.”
The Afghan government has released 4,015 Taliban prisoners so far as a “goodwill” measure on the road to peace, he said. “But unfortunately, some of them have returned to strengthen the battlefront.”
He cited the example of the Afghan security forces operation in Laghman province, the Taliban commander Rohullah, who was among the 22 killed and injured in Qarghayi district.
“I am not against the release of those prisoners who will start living a normal and peaceful life,” Muslimyar said.
He urged the U.S., as the mediating partner, to take this issue into consideration.
Local officials confirmed that four police officers were killed in the suicide blast in Nangarhar’s Kuz Kunar (Khewa) district on Tuesday morning, including the district’s Police Commander Mir Zaman.
Attaullah Khogyani, spokesperson for Nangarhar governor, said 11 others were wounded in the bombing, including two members of the Afghan security forces and nine civilians.
The fatalities of the suicide car bomber were the commander and his bodyguards.
All the injured are in a stable condition, Khogyani said.
In Zabul, authorities said Taliban insurgents attacked a convoy and killed at least three police officers and wounded three more in Shinkia district.
The Taliban has yet to comment on the attacks.
There are also reports of active clashes in Zabul’s Shinkay and Nowrak areas. Pro-Taliban social media accounts claimed that four people were taken by the Taliban in Qalat city. It has not been confirmed whether the abductees are military personnel.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) said on Tuesday that two suicide bombers affiliated to Islamic State-Khorasan (IS-K) who were targeting a “hospital and media outlet” in Kabul, were arrested in an operation by Afghan security forces.
The men, who were identified as Lotfullah and Ahmadullah, are residents of Shakardara district of Kabul, the NDS said.
The security forces arrested the two Daesh affiliated bombers in a “complex and targeted” operation.
The hospital they were planning to attack was the Mawla Ali Hospital in the Golaee Dawa Khana area in the western part of Kabul city.
They had been asked to come to Kabul by three other IS-K members who were also the masterminds of the attack.
Other details about the operation were not disclosed.
A trilateral meeting was held between the deputy foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China and Pakistan on Tuesday, announced the Afghan Foreign Ministry.
The video conference discussed bilateral and trilateral cooperation, Gran Hewad, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson said.
The leaders also discussed issues related to counterterrorism, the Afghan peace process and the intra-Afghan peace talks.
Hewad added that the meeting focused on the implementation of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed in 2018 where the three nations agreed to cooperate on counterterrorism and coordinate to call on the Taliban to negotiate with the Afghan government.
The Chinese and Pakistani representatives welcomed the Afghan government’s efforts for peace and start of the intra-Afghan talks. They also urged the Taliban to put an end to the violence.
Local officials in Kunar province say a Pakistani drone crossed the Durand Line and crashed in the Pashd region of Sarkano district on Monday night.
Abdul Ghani Musamim, a spokesman for the Kunar governor said that the plane entered about 700 kilometers inside the Durand line on the Afghan side before crashing, reports Hasht e Subh.
The cause of the crash and what the drone’s capabilities are, have not been determined yet.
Security agencies have not yet commented and Musamin said an investigation will be undertaken.
Another news website, Sayhoon, quoted local journalists who said the drone was shot down by the Afghan security forces and called it a “spy drone.”
Social media also claims that members of Pakistan military crossed into Afghan territory to recover the drone.
The Ministry of Public Health reported 194 new Coronavirus cases along with 22 fatalities and 126 recovered patients in the last 24 hours.
The government’s testing facilities were able to check 495 samples through the day.
The ministry reported that the country’s current tally is 33,384 cases to date.
New cases were reported in Herat (57), Daykundi (32), Takhar (23), Kabul (15), Badghis (12), Balkh (11) and Ghazni (11) provinces.
Six people each in Kandahar and Wardak, five each in Badakhshan and Parwan, three in Panjsher, two each in Logar, Khost and Kunar provinces, and one in Laghman and Nangarhar were also found to be positive for COVID-19.
Afghanistan currently has 12,314 active cases of Coronavirus with 20,150 people who have recovered and 920 who have succumbed.
President Ashraf Ghani appointed five provincial governors and a new envoy to Pakistan on Monday.
Rahmatullah Yarmal was named the governor for Laghman province. He had been serving as the acting governor of Zabul province and before that as their deputy governor.
Former member of parliament Haji Mohammad Daud Kalakani was named governor for Samangan province. He had been elected to the Lower House of the Parliament in 2005 and 2010 from Kabul.
Nuristan gets Abdul Ghafoor Malikzai, the current Badghis governor.
Presidential adviser Major General Taj Mohammad Jahid was appointed Baghlan governor. The former Minister of Interior and military commander of the 207th Corps has decades of experience in the army.
Ghani also appointed Mohammad Umer Daudzai as his special representative to Pakistan. Daaudzai has previously served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan and Iran, the interior minister and chief of staff to former President Hamid Karzai.
He has also worked as Ghani’s Special Envoy for Regional Consensus Building on Peace and as Head of the High Peace Council.
A community sensitive to signs of domestic violence is key to ending violence against women during the COVID-19 pandemic, said participants in a series of UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA)-backed radio programmes broadcast across Afghanistan.
In the interactive shows, radio hosts answer questions posed by local residents with the participation of governmental officials, religious leaders, rights activists, academics and community elders.
In this particular broadcast in Helmand, they discussed the impact of the Coronavirus pandemic on their families affected by domestic violence and talked about ways to cope effectively with the situation.
The head of Helmand’s local branch of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission said the lockdown has led to increased domestic violence in the province and noted that public health officials and human rights defenders have not been able to reverse the trend.
The head of Helmand’s Department of Women’s Affairs also added that low income families “will struggle more than others and might vent their frustrations on family members, particularly women and children” during the pandemic.
Activists and leaders in Nangarhar and Ghazni also spoke about the increased complaints of violence against women. They talked about raising awareness and telling both women and men “to be patient, to take care of each other.”
The director of Badakhshan’s Department of Women’s Affairs also spoke about victim support during one of the broadcasts and adopting a legal helpline to help reduce the psychological pressures on women during lockdowns.
In June, Afghanistan’s Attorney General’s Office reported 249 cases of women being beaten in family environments during lockdowns. Also in June, a preliminary report was issued by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission indicating that that from 1 January until the end of May, the Commission registered 754 cases of violence against women across Afghanistan.
UNAMA reports that the programme participants spoke about the need for more helplines, additional women’s shelters, strengthened trust between victims and judicial organs, and more effective engagement with women in during the pandemic. Some also pointed to the role of media and religious leaders as crucial for raising awareness about the importance of ending domestic violence.
Local officials said at least 15 insurgents were killed and wounded in ground and air operations by the Afghan security forces in Baghlan province on Monday night.
Ahmad Jawid Basharat, spokesperson for Baghlan’s police chief said on Tuesday, that the “Taliban” members had blocked the traffic on the Pul-e-Khumri – Samangan highway for several hours when the operation was launched.
A combined effort by the National Directorate of Security, police and the Afghan security forces were able to kill at least nine, including Qari Juma Gul, a key Taliban leader.
Basharat said six other terrorists were injured during the operations and some of their military equipment had also been seized.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the attack.
Blockchain start-up Fantom has unveiled its Smart Medicine pilot project to rectify the problem of substandard or counterfeit medicinal drugs in Afghanistan.
After signing a deal with the Ministry of Public Health and several pharmaceutical distributors in June, the project was developed to keep track of pharmaceutical drugs travelling along the supply chain to curb the distribution of fake products.
Michael Kong, the CIO of Fantom told Forbes, “With the outbreak of COVID-19 we have seen a sudden and dramatic demand for medical products, this, unfortunately, leads to opportunistic criminals looking to profit off the disaster, since 2018, we have seen an 18% increase in seizures of antivirals and a 100% in seizures of chloroquine. These issues can be dramatically reduced via the introduction of transparent supply-chains and distributed ledger technology.”
“Given that counterfeit medicines are a huge problem for Afghanistan, we signed an MoU with the Ministry of Public Health to conduct a pilot program—and organized several companies to participate in this program to prove the benefits of our technology,” Kong adds.
The pilot project is in conjunction with Royal Star Pharma, Nabros Pharma and Bliss GVS and will last for approximately two to three months.
Being able to verify the authenticity of medicines will prevent counterfeit products.
Fantom will supply labels to trace 80,000 products created by the companies, covering four areas of pharmaceuticals including hand sanitizers, joint creams, chewable tablets and fot creams.
The shipping labels will be scanned at every stage of the distribution process and the unique code can be publicly verified.
Officials confirmed that three people, including Mir Zaman, police commander of Kuz Kunar (Khewa) district, were killed in a suicide attack in Nangarhar province on Tuesday morning.
Attaullah Khogyani, a spokesperson for Nangarhar governor, confirmed that a suicide bomber detonated his vehicle in the district market, killing Zaman and two of his bodyguards.
According to Khogyani, five others were wounded in the incident.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Hundreds of Afghan commandos arrived in Ghazni province on Monday due to growing concern about possible attacks in the area.
Ghazni governor’s spokesperson Wahidullah Jumazada said the troops were equipped with advanced weapons and were supported by the Air Force.
The troop deployment comes after Ghazni city residents and officials noted a marked increase in violence in the province.
Former national intelligence chief Rahmatullah Nabil also flagged a “possible major attack” on Ghazni city as reports indicated the mobilization of various foreign and domestic terrorist groups.
Jumazada added that the rumoured attacks and the fall of Ghazni may be ruled out with the arrival of the commandos.
An Afghan truck driver died after suffering injuries during a scuffle with other transporters in the Bara district of Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province.
Nangarhar resident Sada Haji fought with transport union leaders and other drivers because he had not been allowed to cross the border with his export-laden vehicle for the past 10 days.
Pakistani media cites a local journalist who also reported that several others who were injured were taken to a nearby hospital.
The journalist said that the fight started because the drivers called out the union leaders for being unfair and granting permission to some trucks to cross the border to Afghanistan, while grounding others.
Taliban said they would hold talks with the Afghan government a week after the last of their 5,000 prisoners are released as mandated by the Doha agreement.
The group said the government of Afghanistan is postponing the peace process if they do not release all the insurgents. This comes after the government announced they would not be releasing 597 prisoners on the Taliban list as they were detainees charged with moral and criminal offences like murder and rape.
Suhail Shaheen, spokesperson of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, said that the talks would be held in Qatar as soon as their conditions are met.
“We have repeatedly said that the prisoner release should be completed to pave the ground for the intra-Afghan negotiations,” Shaheen said.
Sediq Sediqqi, Afghan presidential spokesperson, said they had released 4,015 Taliban prisoners so far.
Pakistan renewed its call for repatriation and reintegration of Afghan refugees and said it should be part of the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan.
Participating in the virtual conference on “Strengthening Consensus for Peace” hosted by the government of Afghanistan on Monday, Pakistan said it will continue to work for Afghan peace.
The Foreign Ministry of Pakistan said the international community was urged to support a time-bound and well-resourced programme for the return of Afghan refugees to their homeland with dignity and honour.
Pakistan still hosts more than 1.4 million registered Afghan refugees, according to the UN refugee agency. It also hosts about a million unregistered refugees.
The representatives from Pakistan stressed that the signing of a U.S.-Taliban peace agreement in Doha had created an opportunity that must be seized by the Afghan leadership to work together and achieve an inclusive and comprehensive political settlement, the ministry’s statement said.
The Pakistani side reiterated that there was a need for the international community to focus on ensuring an early start and successful completion of intra-Afghan negotiations and not let these be derailed by “spoilers” who did not wish to see the return of peace and stability in Afghanistan and the region.
They reassured that on Pakistan’s part, they will continue to work with all sides, and regional and international partners, in helping Afghanistan achieve durable peace, stability and prosperity.