Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said on Tuesday that he agrees with US Secretary of State Tony Blinken that certain conditions must be met before the multinational force in Afghanistan leaves the country.
“For 20 years now, German soldiers have been standing shoulder to shoulder with the American partners in Afghanistan”, Maas said. “I agree with [Secretary of State] Tony Blinken that the certain conditions need to be met before we leave because we didn’t make all these great sacrifices over the years just to see Afghanistan descend into chaos once more.”
The United States might completely withdraw troops from Afghanistan by 1 May, but other options are also not off the table just yet, Afghan media reported on Sunday, quoting a letter sent by Blinken to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani.
The letter reportedly contained several proposals put forward on how to accelerate the peace process in Afghanistan, including a revised deal for a 90-day reduction of violence and a UN-facilitated conference with international stakeholders, including Russia, China, India, Iran and Pakistan.
Last February, the United States and the Taliban agreed to a peace deal which contained conditions for the launch of a reconciliation process between the radical movement and the Afghan government.
Hundreds of women from 15 provinces of Afghanistan have signed on white textiles, calling on the international community to prevent their achievements and rights from being dealed in the Afghan peace process.
Some of these women are residents of insecure parts of the country and some are members of the families of war victims who have written alongside their signatures that violence in the country must end and that the Taliban must recognize women’s rights.
The signatories called on women leaders around the world to support the rights of Afghan women and to force the Taliban to accept the current Afghanistan.
“The High Women’s Council is an address for women’s voices to reach the leadership,” said Hosseineh Safi, the Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs.
The Dutch embassy in Kabul also emphasized the role of women in the peace process with the Taliban.
A day after it emerged that India is finally at the table with five other countries to decide on the roadmap for peace in Afghanistan after six months of hectic behind-the-scenes diplomacy, Russia on Tuesday said that India plays a “very important role” in Afghanistan, and its “eventual deeper involvement” in dedicated dialogue formats is “natural”.
This was in response to The Indian Express report, published on Tuesday, that this mechanism has been suggested by Washington.
In an official statement, the Russian embassy said, “Dialogue between Russia and India has always been very close and forward-looking on all global and regional issues, including the situation in Afghanistan.”
It has been intensively maintained in bilateral and multilateral formats, including the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, Moscow consultations, etc, it said.
“Due to the complexity of the Afghan settlement, moving towards a relevant regional consensus and coordination with other partners, including the US, is critical. We proceed from the importance of the implementation of the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February 2020 and approved by a UN Security Council resolution,” the statement said.
Pakistan’s exports of goods and services to Afghanistan witnessed a decrease of 14.13 percent during the seven months of current financial year (2020-21) as compared to the corresponding period of last year, State Bank of Pakistan (SBP) reported.
The overall exports to Afghanistan were recorded at $543.650 million during July-January (2020-21) against exports of $633.121 million during July-January (2019-20), showing negative growth of 14.13 percent, SBP data revealed.
On year-to-year basis, the exports to Afghanistan during January 2021 however witnessed increase of 3.75 percent, from $89.963 million last year to $93.341 million.
On month-on-month basis, the exports to Afghanistan also rose by 13.56 percent during January 2021 when compared to the exports of $82.195 million in December 2020.
On the other hand, the imports from Afghanistan into the country during the period under review were recorded at $107.461 million against $87.237 million last year, showing increase of 23.18 percent in (July-January) 2020-21.
Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission (IARCSC) says five members of a criminal network including an employee of the commission have been arrested in cooperation with the Attorney General’s Office (AGO) after an Afghan citizen informed the activities of the network to the commission.
According to IARCSC, one of the members of the network was a contractor employee of the commission who was arrested on Tuesday.
The commission added that members of the criminal network fraudulently demanded money from a civil servant through “implicit” and incorrect information.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 23 new positive cases of coronavirus tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry reported no deaths and 35 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,917 the number of total reported deaths is 2,451 and the total number of recoveries is 49,444.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar, Maidan Wardak, Faryab, Laghman, and Nuristan provinces.
MoPH also added that at least 37,736 people have received coronavirus vaccination so far.
The Afghanistan Meteorological Department has issued a rain, snow and flash flood warning for 20 provinces for the next two days.
According to a warning posted on the AMD’s website, the department stated between 10 and 25mm of rain forecast for a number of provinces.
The provinces include Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz, Samangan, Balkh, Sar-e Pul, Ghor, Bamiyan, Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Logar, Paktia, Khost and Paktika.
The AMD also warned of the possibility of heavy snow on the Salang pass.
Twenty years after being blasted out of Afghanistan’s Bamiyan province, one of the country’s famed Buddha statues made a brief virtual return Tuesday night as a three-dimensional projection filled the alcove that hosted the statue for centuries.
The projection topped off a day commemorating the destruction of the two famous Buddha statues by the Taliban in March 2001 in central Afghanistan’s Bamiyan valley.
“We do not want people to forget what a horrific crime was committed here,” said Zahra Hussaini, one of the organisers of the “A night with Buddha” event.
After a lantern-lit procession, hundreds gathered at the base of the cliff where the statues once stood alongside a network of ancient caves, monasteries and shrines.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar met with Ambassador of the Russian Federation to Kabul, Mr. Dmitry Zhirnov, the Ministry of Foriegn Affairs (MoFA) said.
MoFA in a statement said that FM Atmar thanked the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the warm and cordial reception extended to him and his accompanying delegation, and highlighted the achievements of the visit in expanding bilateral relations in the political, security and economic arenas.
According to the statement, the Russian ambassador to Kabul talked about holding the Afghan peace talks in Moscow, and informed Mr. Atmar of invitations extended to the Afghan government leaders and politicians.
The Afghan Foreign Minister discussed the significant role of Russian Federation in strengthening the regional and international consensus for achieving a sustainable peace in Afghanistan adding that soon he would share the perspectives of the Afghan government with Russia regarding the Moscow meeting.
UN Secretary-General Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons has met with the chairman and members of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Negotiating Team in Doha.
She arrived in Qatar on Tuesday, to talk to government and Taliban negotiators about speeding up the peace process.
In the meantime, local media reported that a summit similar to the Bonn conference will be held on March 27 in Istanbul, Turkey, chaired by the United Nations.
According to the State Ministry for Peace, the UN Special Representative for Afghanistan at the meeting spoke about “recent issues related to the peace process” and said that the international community’s efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan should be consistent with those of the government and the structures of the system, the constitution and the people of Afghanistan should be respected in this process.
According to her, the peace process must be carried out in a calculated and correct manner and the people of Afghanistan must be assured of these developments.
The Afghanistan Journalists Center(AFJC) and 40 other civil society organizations from around the globe, in a letter to the UNSC and UNAMA, highlight the wave of journalists’ killings in Afghanistan and urge them to stand in solidarity with the Afghan journalists to help ensure their safety and media freedom given the role they play in a peaceful and democratic transition during and after the ongoing peace negotiations.
AFJC in the letter to the elected members of the UN Security Council and Deborah Lyons, Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said, “The Afghanistan Journalists Center (AFJC) and undersigned civil society organizations, dedicated to the defense and promotion of free expression and the safety of journalists, are deeply concerned by the torrent of targeted killings of journalists in Afghanistan since early 2020. These attacks have had a devastating impact on Afghanistan’s vulnerable civic space, press freedom, and related democratic rights, and we write to urge you to take immediate action.”
“Media freedom and freedom of expression are human rights recognized under international legal conventions that Afghanistan is a party to, as well as domestic law. Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights protects the freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas, while enforcement of Afghan Media Laws ensuring the security of journalists and media outlets is a fundamental responsibility of the Afghan government. Although some efforts have been made by the government to protect and uphold these rights, they have not been sufficient to prevent violations, and prosecute the perpetrators of violence against journalists. The Afghan government has made repeated pledges to ensure the security of Afghan civilians, yet there remains a culture of impunity for those responsible for carrying out targeted killings of journalists,” the letter said.
“We, the undersigned organizations, call on the United Nations Security Council and UNAMA to support the media community by calling on all parties to stop violence against journalists in accordance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 2222 (2015) and other established UN standards for the protection of journalists in conflicts and warzones. Among these are the 2012 UN Plan of Action on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity, which also calls for the need to “strengthen provisions for the safety of journalists in conflict zones,” the letter added.
In an online meeting between the officials of the Afghanistan-Iran Chamber of Commerce and Investment, trade opportunities and strategies between the two countries were discussed on Monday.
Iranian officials said at the meeting that the “consumer nature” in Afghanistan was similar to that of Iranians, and that Afghanistan is an economically good partner for Iran.
The website of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries quotes Muzaffar Alikhani, Secretary General of the Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber, as saying that “Iran exported up to $ 4 billion to Afghanistan, while between $ 40 million and $ 50 million, Afghanistan exported to Iran.”
Different institutions of the two countries have provided different statistics on the value of Iran’s exports to Afghanistan, but what is common to all statistics is that in recent years Iran has been the number one exporter of goods to Afghanistan.
During the meeting, Ahmad Saeed Azimian, deputy director of investment at the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment, praised Iran’s assistance in the Islam-Qala customs office, calling it “the reason for the strengthening of trade and economic relations between the two countries.”
In a report from this online meeting, the website of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce quotes Seyed Hossein Salimi, Chairman of the Iran-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce, as saying that by utilizing the capacities of Afghanistan, many semi-active industries can be activated.
Regarding trade problems with Afghanistan, Mr. Salimi said: “Our most important problem is banking exchanges. At present, the issue of commodity-to-commodity purification has been raised as an effective solution until the establishment of banking exchanges. Afghans, on the other hand, have problems with visas, foreign exchange, and residency in Iran that we must work to address.”
During the meeting, Farzad Mehrani, director of chamber affairs and joint chambers of Iran, also said that the Afghan market has the advantage that foreign competitors are less active, and we are ready to increase the exports of our goods and services to Afghanistan.
Last year, the Afghanistan National Statistics Authority estimated Afghanistan’s total imports at $ 8.3 billion a year, saying that after Iran, the countries with the most exports to Afghanistan were China and Pakistan, followed by Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan, respectively.