Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
High-ranking Afghan and Iranian officials in a meeting in Kabul have conferred on peace talks in Afghanistan and other regional developments.
The meeting was held between the Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah and Iranian Ambassador to Kabul Bahador Aminian.
In the meeting, the two officials also discussed bilateral ties and other issues of mutual interest. Aminian had also in December held a meeting with Abdullah in Kabul.
During the meeting, Abdullah appreciated Tehran for its cooperation with Kabul in different arenas, describing Iran as a strategic partner of his country.
Aminian, for his part, said that Afghanistan is a close friend of Iran, and added that Iran regards the development and security of Afghanistan as its own security and development.
“Relations between the two countries are based on common values and historical-cultural ties,” he said.
The two sides also exchanged views over presidential elections in Afghanistan and steps to reach peace as well as development of bilateral relations between Iran and Afghanistan.
China has appointed Liu Jian as the new special envoy for Afghanistan, Chinese Foreign Ministry’s Spokesperson Geng Shuang said on Wednesday.
“Special Envoy Liu is a senior diplomat who has served as China’s ambassador to Afghanistan, Malaysia, Pakistan and other countries”, he said during his regular briefing.
The spokesperson said that Liu Jian was an experienced and familiar with Afghanistan and added that China had been actively participating in and promoting the peace and reconciliation process in Afghanistan, and attached great importance to communication and coordination with relevant parties and international cooperation related to Afghanistan.
“China will continue to play a constructive role in the early realization of peace and stability in Afghanistan,” he added.
Geng Shuang informed that the former Special Envoy for Afghanistan of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Deng Xijun, made active contributions to promoting the political settlement of the Afghan issue.
The State Minister for Human Rights Sima Samar says the majority of Afghan people demand peace in the country, but there are some circles that find their interests in continuation of war.
Sima Samar in a press conference in Kabul on Wednesday said, “Peace does not mean ending war, but living in the shadow of social justice, where human rights are respected and there is no discrimination.”
She declared that eliminating poverty, paying attention to economic growth, providing justice, addressing the rights of victims of war, providing quality education and providing the workplace for people recruited to the peace process are the important elements for achieving peace.
Samar emphasized that Afghanistan is not capable of unconditional population growth and the country’s economic growth is far below than the population growth.
“Peace without justice is not sustainable in any way,” she said.
The State Minister added that the Afghan people’s demand is that the popular figures who involve in war crimes should not be in power.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has met with US Chargé D’Affaires Ross Wilson and discussed on Afghanistan Presidential election and the peace process.
The Executive Office in a statement on Wednesday said that CE Abdullah has congratulated Mr. Wilson for his new position and wished him success in fulfilling his responsibilities.
“During the meeting, the two sides discussed the presidential election, addressing of electoral complaints, efforts for peace and the consideration of internally displaced people during the cold season,” the statement said.
Previously, Mr. Wilson has met with President Ashraf Ghani and both sides agreed on the importance of the U.S-Afghan enduring partnership for Afghanistan’s future.
The Illinois army National Guard received notice that approximately 400 soldiers with the 2nd battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment Headquarter in Marion will deploy for a tour in Afghanistan, ST. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.
The “citizen soldiers” are part of the Illinois Army National Guard, 2nd Battalion, 130th Infantry Regiment, which is headquartered in Marion, and has four armories in West Frankfort, Effingham, Litchfield and Mt. Vernon.
Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker told them that they represent the “very best of this state.”
“The fundamental strength of the National Guard is that it is a force of ordinary citizens committed to extraordinary work,” he said.
Afghanistan’s economy grew by an estimated 2.9 percent in 2019, driven mainly by strong agricultural growth following recovery from drought, but lingering political uncertainty dampens private confidence and investment, says the World Bank.
“Growth picked up in Afghanistan in 2019. This is good news, but insecurity and political uncertainty are holding back the Afghan economy,” said World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan Henry Kerali. “Afghanistan needs to ramp up the pace of reforms to generate faster growth necessary to improve the living standards of its people and reduce poverty.”
The World Bank in a press release said that as drought impacts further recede and private sector confidence improves following conclusion of the presidential election, growth is expected to accelerate to 3.3 percent in 2020.
“Domestic revenue collection reached a new high of 14.5 percent of GDP in 2019, up from 13.3 percent in 2018. Strong revenue performance reflected both progress in establishing a robust tax system and substantial one-off revenues, including transfers from the Da Afghanistan Bank,” the press release reads.
“The international community needs to maintain its support to Afghanistan over the medium-term to sustain the country’s recent development progress and help realize its long-term growth and self-reliance prospects. In this effort, the Afghan government needs to assure its international partners that progress is being made on governance and that aid resources are used efficiently,” said Kerali.
“To improve confidence in the short-term, the Development Update notes the need for Government to accelerate improvements in business environment and anti-corruption reforms,” the press release added.
A number of youths and civil society activists staged a protest under the title of “Route and Enlightenment” in Ghor province on Wednesday, local officials said.
The spokesman of Ghor governor, Abdul Hai Khatibi told Reporterly, “The protesters staged a demonstration in Firoz Koh city, the center of Ghor province and closed all government offices.”
According to Khatibi, the protesters demand the construction of roads and providing electricity for the residents, calling a budget should be allocated in the national budget draft.
Khatibi declared that the local officials have delivered the message of protesters to the central authorities.
He added that the movement has been formed about two years ago and the government delegations have previously met the members of the movement, but no practical step has been taken so far.
In the meantime, the protesters warned to continue the protest until a budget allocated for the construction of roads and electricity.
Forty Taliban insurgents have surrendered to Afghan National Army in the western province of Ghor amid military pressure in the mountainous region, Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed on Wednesday.
“About 40 Taliban militants laid down arms and gave up fighting in Shahrak district of western Ghor province on Tuesday,” the ministry said in a statement.
The latest surrendering came as a joint cleanup and search operation conducted by Afghan army, police and intelligence agency personnel has been continuing in Shahrak.
About 150 Taliban surrendered to army in Shahrak over the past weeks, according to the statement.
The statement said the former militants found out that “Taliban militants are fighting to harm Afghans so they decided to quit that wrong pathway and join the pace and reconciliation process.”
The surrendered militants also handed over their weapons.
Afghanistan purchased 14,000 tons for $7.5 million from Kazakhstan from January to November 2019, says a media report.
AKI Press reported the central Asian country earned $21.6 million from petroleum exports during the 11-month period.
Kazakhstan exported 42,700 tonnes of gasoline — up from 15,400 tonnes worth $7.4 million in 2018.
Afghan Lawmakers at the Lower House of Parliament on Wednesday approved the new fiscal year’s (1399 solar year) budget.
Of the total amount of the budget or 428 billion AFN, some 289 billion AFN will be allocated for ordinary budget, while 139 billion AFN for development budget.
Based on the 1399 budget plan, of the 139 billion development budgets, 64 billion of them are optional and the other 75 billion are none-optional.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Finance, praised MPs for approving the budget and emphasized that the ministry is working in partnership with budgetary units to significantly increase development spending by taking into effectiveness, efficiency and development priorities.
A Resoulute Support drone strike in western Afghanistan earlier this month killed and injured 15 civilians, including three women and three children, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said in a report.
The incident was “a clear violation of human rights,” the commission said in a statement.
“The commission has repeatedly called on domestic and foreign forces to be more careful in conducting military operations so that civilians are not harmed,” the group said.
A spokesman for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan confirmed an American aircraft conducted the strike but said further questions should be directed to the Afghan Defense Ministry.
Afghan officials had warned, however, that the killing of the Mullah risked weakening government support from locals in the area of the strike, as he was a comparatively popular religious figure.