Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Taliban deputy Mullah Baradar and his delegation spoke with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo via video conference, Taliban’s spokesperson tweeted.
Suhail Shaheen said, Pompeo and Baradar discussed the full implementation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement that was signed in February in Doha.
They also spoke about the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan, the release of the remaining prisoners and the intra-Afghan peace process.
“We are committed to starting intra-Afghan talks, as we have said before. But delays in the release of prisoners are pushing the start of the talks,” Baradar indicated.
He also noted that the Afghan government has established new checkpoints in the Taliban-occupied districts, and this has led to an increase in attacks and violence.
Baradar also assured Pompeo that they will follow the Doha deal and “not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against the security of the U.S.” and other countries.
Pompeo acknowledged the reduction in violence and major attacks, but said, this should be further reduced by all parties, Shaheen noted.
Baradar also demanded the release of remaining Afghan detained from Guantanamo Bay.
The Afghan National Army (ANA) fired the mortars that killed 28 people and wounded 14, in the market in Sangin, Helmand on Monday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) reports in their “initial” and “impartial” findings.
In their findings, UNAMA cites “multiple credible sources” who said the ANA fired the lethal mortars “in response to Taliban fire” but missed the intended target.
UNAMA urged both parties to “stop fighting in civilian-populated areas” and said the final casualties of the rocket attack are yet to be verified.
They also stated that “1000s of civilian casualties” every year are from such “indirect fire incidents in ground engagements.”
“The UN urges Afghan government to set up independent investigation team for Monday’s incident,” the body said. “UNAMA is prepared to assist all parties, the victims and their families in establishing the facts.”
Local officials confirmed an explosion in Nangarhar’s Jalalabad city on Tuesday evening.
Ataullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar, said the incident occurred in PD2 inside the Aka Khail market at around 1650 local time.
The nature of the blast is being investigated, Khogyani said and the blast caused a fire. A vehicle was also burned.
At least four children were killed in the floods in Parwan’s Shenwari district, with the death toll likely to rise, local officials said.
Wahida Shahkar, spokesperson for Parwan’s governor said incessant rains on Monday night had led to the floods in the Sufi Khel area of the district.
The victims, two girls and two boys, were members of the same family, while another child was also injured.
Shahkar said that reports indicate 30 homes were destroyed and it is likely that the level of flood damage may increase.
More than 80% of Afghanistan’s poppy cultivations are in Taliban-controlled areas who rely on the trade to maintain their finance, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) said.
Hashem Ortaq, Deputy Minister for Counter Narcotics at MoI said that police have detained more than 5,000 drug traffickers in 4,833 operations since 2019. The smugglers also included 89 government officials and nine foreigners.
Over 1,000 metric tons of narcotics was seized and recovered along with 105 drug production laboratories and three drug depots.
Ortaq added that the government’s anti-narcotics operations managed to destroy 702 hectares of poppy cultivations.
Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Afghan Refugees Department has given a June 30 deadline to 2,700 Afghan families settled in urban parts of Mansehra district to repatriate voluntarily or else they would be expelled.
“If they didn’t follow the government orders, we would send them to their native country by force,” said Abdullah Khan, head administrator of the Afghan Refugees Department on Monday, Pakistani media reports.
Each family leaving voluntarily would be paid $200.
The department was also relocating another 1,050 Afghan families from the Barari and Ichrian refugee camps to keep them away from China-led development projects in the region.
The relocation of the families had been scheduled in March to make way for the China Pakistan Economic Corridors’ Hazara Expressway, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic it was delayed.
The camp members were given the option of relocating to another camp in Khaki in the same district, to Haripur or to return to their country.
Only about 30 families decided to return to Afghanistan, while the others will be sent to Khaki.
Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian and Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar discussed mutual water resources in Tehran on Monday.
Ardakanian and Atmar spoke about joint projects in the Harirud river which originates in Afghanistan and flows north into the Afghan-Iran frontiers and then eventually into Turkmenistan.
Atmar noted that Afghanistan and Iran have made “good progress” on bilateral cooperation regarding common border rivers since the 1972 Hirmand agreement.
Both sides decided to conduct technical and specialized studies in this field and cooperate with each other based on the rights of both nations.
The European Union (EU) ambassadors in Kabul are deeply concerned about the escalation in violence in Afghanistan and called for an immediate humanitarian ceasefire, the group said on Tuesday.
In a statement released on their social media profiles, EU condemned the “targeted killings which have risen sharply in recent weeks, directed against clergy, journalists’ and media workers, human rights defenders, healthcare personnel”
“It appears to be a deliberate attempt to stifle debate in advance of peace negotiations,” they surmised.
“These crimes need to be investigated and the responsible brought to justice.”
The rise of violence since the end of the three-day Eid Al Fitr ceasefire was deemed “unacceptable” by the ambassadors.
The diplomats said the attacks by the Taliban against Afghan security forces were “undermining the prospect for intra-Afghan negotiations” and asked for the enforcement of a full-fledged ceasefire.
Violence against civilians has also continued, the delegation noted, calling it “a violation of international humanitarian law, which profoundly undermines the confidence and trust” that is needed for the intra-Afghan talks.
“The violence must stop now,” they reiterated and called a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire necessary for the talks to start.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) said Taliban suffered heavy casualties, including the loss of a key commander, after their attacks were thwarted.
In a tweet, the MoI reported that 22 Taliban members were killed and 15 wounded after Afghan security forces repelled attacks on outposts in Zabul, Logar and Ghor provinces.
No dates were mentioned.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense announce that 21 Taliban fighters were killed and nine were wounded after an attack was repulsed by Afghan forces in Khost province’s Musakhel district on Monday night.
Another statement by the MoI on Monday said that 36 of the group’s men had been killed and seven were wounded by the Afghan security forces in Kabul, Khost and Zabul over the weekend.
The Taliban has yet to comment.
A spokesperson for Helmand’s governor confirmed that two civilians were killed in a roadside blast on Tuesday morning in Helmand’s Nawa district.
Omar Zwak said the blast occurred at around 8am in the Mangalzoi area when a civilian car collided with the mine.
Another person was injured in the incident.
The governor’s office has said the mine was planted by the Taliban, but the group has not commented yet.
This followed a string of attacks in the province as most of the districts are under Taliban control and clashes are ongoing.
On Monday a rocket attack and car bomb killed at least 23 civilians and wounded 15 others in Sangin district of the province.
Earlier in the day, a roadside bomb had exploded and killed six civilians in Washir district.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced that 769 samples were tested for Coronavirus in the past 24 hours of which 279 were positive, taking the country’ tally to 31,517 confirmed cases.
According to the MoPH, the country’s laboratories could handle up to 2,000 tests a day, however in recent weeks, the daily sampling rates have been declining.
The MoPH said the positive cases were reported in the provinces of Ghor (68), Kabul (41), Herat (38), Bamyan (35), Paktia (18), Badghis (13), Kunduz (11) and Balkh (11).
Seven people each in Takhar and Kapisa, six in Logar, four in Kandahar, three each in the provinces of Badakhshan, Panjshir and Uruzgan, two each in the provinces on Nangarhar, Wardak, Kunar, Helmand and Zabul, and one person in Parwan also tested positive for COVID-19.
There were 12 people who died and 197 who recovered in the past 24 hours, taking those tolls to 745 deaths and 14,016 recovered cases to date.
National Security Council (NSC) spokesperson Javid Faisal accused the Taliban of 24 civilian casualties every day in Afghanistan.
Faisal tweeted out the data on Tuesday: “On average, the Taliban has carried out 44 attacks and killed or wounded 24 civilians every day in Afghanistan since the February 22 reduction in violence week.”
The reduction in violence referred to the week leading up to the signing of the Doha peace deal between the U.S. and the Taliban. Monitoring agencies said violence was at an all-time low then, before it increased again.
Faisal called for a reduction in violence in Afghanistan.
“The success of the Doha deal and peace in Afghanistan requires an immediate reduction in violence and the start of direct talks.”
The Taliban has not commented on the data.
Save the Children condemned the deaths of children in a rocket attack in Helmand on Monday and asked for the war on children to stop.
Country Director Milan Dinic said condemned the Helmand attack that killed at least 23 civilians including two children and called it a “a sad reminder that no child is safe in Afghanistan until the weapons are put down.”
He was gravely concerned by the increase in violence. “These past few months have been some of the deadliest in recent times, with a spike in the number of attacks that involved civilians.”
“At a time when the country should be focusing on the COVID-19 outbreak and the devastating effects it is having on millions, the extreme violence means less chance of support for people who need it and less access for children to education and other services,” Dinic said.
Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Zahid Nasrullah Khan told Reuters in an interview that negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban were expected to begin soon if the final conditions of the Doha peace deal are met.
Pakistan had facilitated the signing of the Doha deal which stipulates the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners and a reduction of violence in Afghanistan.
Khan said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the talks could begin next month, as announced by the Afghan government last week if the two conditions are met.
However, Khan told Reuters that the rising violence has caused some concern.
“The rising violence is a concern for Pakistan as it is for other countries who want to see the U.S.-Taliban agreement implemented in letter and spirit and to reach the first milestone [of the intra-Afghan negotiations],” he said.
He told the news agency that a ceasefire agreement may be struck for the negotiations to begin.
Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian met Taliban deputy Mullah Baradar in Qatar to confer on the peace process in Afghanistan.
The Sunday meeting discussed the plight of Afghan refugees in Iran, border issues, reduction in violence and the importance of an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace dialogue.
Iranian media reports that the two sides also conferred on the interference of foreign forces in the region and the intra-Afghan peace talks.
Baradar highlighted that “once our prisoners are released, we are ready to start intra-Afghan talks,” said the group’s spokesperson.
Baradar also called on Iran to “treat the Afghan refugees” in an “Islamic brotherly manner.”
Taliban has forced the reopening of schools in districts of Ghazni that are under their control, despite fears that COVID-19 cases may rise.
Ghazni’s provincial council members have said that the schools in these areas have been opened for the past 10 days without any measures to prevent the spread of Coronavirus in place.
The provincial council has warned that cases may rise in Ghazni because of this action taken by the Taliban.
Taliban fully controls seven districts in the province while four others are under partial control.
The Afghan government had extended the closures of schools and other educational institutions till September.
The Ministry of Education said they had not received any report of the school reopenings.
Corruption in Covid-19 fund will not go un-noticed: Ghani
President Ashraf Ghani warned officials that any corruption and negligence in the handling of COVID-19 response budget will be dealt with accordingly and ordered an investigation.
“The Presidential Palace inspector should assess all accusations and allegations of corruption in the Coronavirus response budget spending and inform the people about the details of the expenses,” presidential spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.
The order was issued after parliamentarians alleged that millions of afghanis had been “embezzled.”
Member of the Lower House Shahpoor Hassanzoi said, “There is corruption in the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the fund has been divided between officials.”
Another member of parliament Nilofar Jalali Kofi accused the MoPH of collaborating with “economic mafia.”
The government has allocated $155.7 million for the COVID-19 response, of which the MoPH has reportedly spent $36.7 million.
The international community has pledged an additional $700 million towards the Coronavirus response in Afghanistan.
Local officials in Uruzgan province confirmed that Shah Mohammad Shah, the police chief of Dehrawood district, was killed in a guerrilla attack by the Taliban on Monday.
Zargi Ebadi, a spokesperson for the Uruzgan governor said Shah was attacked by armed men in Tarankot, the provincial capital, around 8pm. His two bodyguards were injured and taken to the hospital.
Shah had joined the Afghan National Police in early 2000s and had fought the Taliban on the frontlines of Tarinkot district. However, he was blinded in an attack by one of his subordinates who detonated a blast that also killed four of Shah’s men.
He was named the police chief of his home district in 2016 when Taliban forces were making gains in the area and were in danger of seizing control.