Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: With the ongoing discussions about Afghan peace process, the importance of all stakeholders has come to the fore, including the role of women and youth in ensuring peace in the war-ravaged country. This stance was reiterated by the US special representative for Afghanistan peace Zalmay Khalilzad who held a virtual meet with members of the Youth Contact Group on Saturday.
Khalilzad discussed the participation of the youth in the peace process, a statement said, including that the activities and operations of the Youth Contact Group for peace and status of the youth provincial peace Jirgas, youth meaningful representation in Intra – Afghan Negotiations and political agreements and agreements obtained after peace were discussed.
The Youth Contact Group for Peace also presented their demands which have been sourced from youth who took part in the 29-provincial peace Jigras across Afghanistan to Khalilzad. The group seeks more active participation of the youth and its representation in the Afghan peace talks.
The Contact Group also spoke about the representation of women in the peace talks and their basic rights; the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and also diplomatic relations with friendly nations to achieve lasting peace in the country.
In the meet with Khalilzad, the group stressed on inviting an all-inclusive “Loya Jirga” to legitimize agreements in the peace process, keep Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, to avoid the structure of the country from collapsing.
Khalilzad agreed to organize a joint meeting with the group in the future to ensure a meaningful and independent youth representation in peace talks.
Kabul: Herat-Turghandi and Herat-Islam Qala highways reopened for traffic on Saturday after the strike by the victims of the Islam Qala customs fire was called off, said Jilani Farhad, spokesperson for the governor of Herat. Farhad added that the strike had started a week ago and had caused food and fuel prices to rise in the country.
According to him, the strike ended when the delegation of the Ministry of Finance and the House of Representatives met the victims. A decision to speed up the process of fulfilling the demands of the those who suffered heavy losses in the fire and compensate the victims through the Ministry of Finance was taken.
Thousands of transit trucks were destroyed in the Islam Qala customs fire nearly a month ago and the victims demanded compensation from the government.
Kabul: Emphasis on organizing joint cultural events, festivals, as well as mutual cultural days between Azerbaijan and Afghanistan was the focal idea discussed when Anar Karimov, Azerbaijan’s Minister of Culture, met Amanullah Jayhoon, Afghan ambassador to the country, on Saturday.
Both the sides discussed the expansion of cultural cooperation and agreed that the people of the two countries were related by the common historical and cultural values.
Karimov appreciated Azerbaijan-Afghanistan relations, including cooperation in the field of culture.
The minister also thanked Ambassador Jayhoon and the Afghan state for supporting Azerbaijan’s cause during the Patriotic War (September to November 2020), as well as adopting resolutions, recognizing Azerbaijan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Congratulating Azerbaijan on the victory in the Patriotic War, the ambassador said that Afghanistan would always stand by Azerbaijan.
They also exchanged views on cultural cooperation, including museum studies, launching the national corners at the National Libraries of both countries, as well as organizing joint exhibitions and events to mark the 880th anniversary of Azerbaijani great poet and thinker Nizami Ganjavi.
Kabul: The UK strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19), known as “English”, is fast spreading in Afghanistan, confirmed the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday.
COVID-19 cases have been reported from the eastern provinces of the country, said Ghulam Dastgir Nazari, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health. However, the spokesperson has not given the exact number of cases.
The UK strain was first reported in Britain and is a mutated version of the Sars-Cov-2 virus which causes the COVID-19 infection.
He added that the comparison of statistics over the last two weeks with previous weeks showed that a large number of citizens were infected with the virus while estimating that the UK strain of the virus may have affected a larger number of people.
The spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health stressed on the importance of health measures, the use of masks and frequent hand washing to prevent the infection. He also warned that if the health tips are not followed, a third wave of the coronavirus could spread in the country.
According to health ministry statistics, more than 57,000 people in the country have been infected with the coronavirus and more than 2,500 others have died.
Kabul: In a meeting with Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) on Saturday, Zalmai Khalilzad, the US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan, said that the United States’ fully supports Afghanistan’s peace efforts. He added that his country would stand by the Afghan government and its people in peace and post-peace efforts.
In the meeting, which was held at the Sapidar Palace at noon, a number of political and jihadi leaders of the country were also present. Khalilzad also said that the world expects Afghanistan to go to the Istanbul summit with a single plan. Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Saturday morning and also met President Ghani at the Presidential Palace. His visit to Kabul comes as the Istanbul Summit on Peace in Afghanistan is scheduled to take place in the next few days.
“The United States and the world want to accelerate the peace process and make the most of the opportunity to end the war and establish lasting peace in Afghanistan,” Khalilzad was quoted as saying by Saidar.
Meanwhile, Abdullah Abdullah praised the efforts by the US to achieve peace and said that Afghanistan is committed to achieving a just and lasting peace.
Abdullah also said that the country is ready to participate in the Istanbul Summit and the High Council for National Reconciliation, as a great national umbrella, is working to lead and manage peace in this direction.
“The council has taken important steps in unifying the varying views, and the country will attend the Istanbul summit with a common plan and vision,” he added.
As per reports, the Summit is scheduled to be held on April 16, according to an agreement between the United States, the United Nations and Turkey. The meeting is scheduled to discuss the political future and the transfer of power in Afghanistan.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday reported 16 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection tested in the last 24 hours.
The Ministry said that no deaths or recoveries were reported on Saturday in the past 24 hours.
The total number of positive cases in Afghanistan now stands at 57,160 while the number of reported deaths is 2,521 and the total number of recoveries is 51,962.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Baghlan, Helmand, and Zabul provinces.
Kabul: In the second such statement in two weeks, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has called on warring factions in Afghanistan to end the violence in the war-ravaged country.
A statement issued by (AIHRC) on Saturday stated that a woman and her child were killed in a mortar shell fired by government forces on a residential house in the Sabri district of Khost province. Six others were injured, including a woman and a child.
On April 4, AIHRC had in a statement said that at least 21 people, including eight women and 10 children, were injured as a result of clashes between security forces and Taliban militants in The Kotaly area of Alishang district of Laghman Province. AIHRC said that such clashes are not only causing loss of life, but are also the reason behind the financial losses for the people of the area. The AIHRC called the civilian casualties alarming and called on all parties to end the violence, while respecting the collective will of the people to achieve a comprehensive, just and lasting peace.
The independent body has also sought an investigation in the incident to ensure justice for the victims of the April 9 tragedy, while stating that the local officials were not cooperative while providing the initial information regarding the incident.
The commission said the Afghan government was expected to take the lead in such cases and, by reporting the truth to the people, fulfill its responsibilities to find the truth, provide justice and ensure that such events do not happen again.
The reports of civilian casualties has been on the rise even as the Afghan government and the Taliban are scheduled to participate in a peace dialogue in Istanbul this month to discuss the Afghan peace plan.
Kabul: The upcoming Istanbul Summit in Turkey to discuss the Afghan peace process was the main agenda during Zalmai Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation’s Kabul visit on Saturday.
Khalilzad met President Ashraf Ghani, said the Presidential Palace in a statement and added that progress in the peace process and preparations for the Istanbul summit were discussed.
Meanwhile, official at the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) said that Zalmai Khalilzad also met with Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the HCNR and members of the leadership committee of the High Council for National Reconciliation to discuss the peace process and the Turkish summit.
Khalilzad’s visit to Kabul is taking place as the Afghan government prepares to attend the Istanbul Summit, which is likely to be held on April 16.
The Istanbul Summit on Peace in Afghanistan will see participation of representatives of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Taliban, regional countries and world powers led by the United Nations in Turkey.
Kabul: The Long War Journal in a report published on Friday has stated that the Al Qaeda and its regional branch, Al Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, continue to operate across Afghanistan despite repeated Taliban claims that the group has no presence in the country.
The journal has been tracking Al Qaeda’s presence in Afghanistan for over 10 years using press releases and public statements from the US military, NATO’s command in Afghanistan, and Afghan security services, as well as the jihadist groups’ own statements. Thabat, Al Qaeda’s media platform, has noted the group’s operations in 18 provinces in Afghanistan and Afghan security forces have also targeted Al Qaeda operatives in two additional provinces. In all, Al Qaeda is operating in at least 21 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces as per such reports.
Long War Journal’s analysis of 16 issues of Thabat has shown that the Al Qaeda and its allies had been responsible for many attacks in 18 provinces of the country since November 2020 till now. The provinces where Thabat reported on operations are Badakhshan, Balkh, Farah, Faryab, Ghazni, Helmand, Jawzjan, Kapisa, Kabul, Kandahar, Kunar, Kunduz, Khost, Logar, Nangarhar, Takhar, Uruzgan, and Zabul.
“Afghan press reports from September 2020 to the present confirms that Al Qaeda and its allies are operating in seven of the provinces noted by Thabat. Those provinces are: Badakhshan, Farah, Ghazni, Helmand, Kapisa, Kunar, and Nangarhar. Additionally, Afghan security forces targeted Al Qaeda in two other provinces that were not mentioned by Thabat: Nimroz and Paktika,” added the report.
Previously in March this year, Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security killed Abu Muhammad al Tajiki, a senior AQIS military commander in Paktika province. “In May 2019, General Austin Miller, the commander of Resolute Support Mission and US Forces – Afghanistan, noted that Al Qaeda is operating “across the country” and not confined to one region,” the report added.
Kabul: At least ten tankers with liquefied natural gas have been destroyed in a massive fire which broke out at the gas facility in the north of Herat on Saturday, says Jilani Farhad, spokesperson for the governor of Herat.
Farhad added that the fire occurred due to carelessness and non-observance of safety tips when transferring liquefied natural gas from one tanker to another. The fire which occurred at around 7am also left one person injured.
According to him, police and ANA firefighting teams managed to contain the fire within three hours.
Meanwhile, officials at the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Investment said that according to preliminary investigations, the fire has caused more than one million afghanis in loss.
Earlier, Islam Qala customs office in Herat had also suffered a fire that caused millions of dollars in damage in February.
Kabul: Nearly 700 unexploded ordnance and war remnants have been found during the New Zealand (NZ) Defence Force’s clearing of firing ranges used by New Zealand soldiers in Afghanistan.
An Organization for Mine clearance and Afghan Rehabilitation (OMAR) has been employed by the NZ Defence Force to clear the firing ranges in Bamyan province used by NZ forces, after a Stuff Circuit investigation in 2019. NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern had in 2012 promised complete withdrawal of NZ from Afghanistan.
NZ in March this year withdrew its last six personnel from Afghanistan and promised to clear the war-ravaged country of all “remnants of war” ending it 20-year deployment there. Since June 2020, at least 684 unexploded ordnances or explosive “remnants of war” have been discovered and destroyed by OMAR.
The cache comprises mostly Russian explosives, the organization added. Of the 684 ordnances, 490 were deemed of Russian origin, 171 were of a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) military origin (a figure which includes the possible New Zealand ordnances), 20 found were of Chinese origin, and three were Iranian.
The NZ Defence Force briefing, obtained under the Official Information Act, said despite Covid-19 delaying the start of the clearance effort, OMAR was now ahead of schedule. Work on four of the five ranges to be cleared was 39 per cent complete as of October 31, 2020, ahead of the expected 32 per cent. The clearance of the fifth range was yet to begin.
Kabul: Ghulam Naser, also known as Al-Khorasani, head of IS-K group for Kabul, has been arrested by the National Directorate of Security (NDS) from PD8, announced the first vice-president’s office in a statement on Saturday.
The statement added that Al-Khorasani had been involved in dozens of terrorist attacks in Kabul city and had also been involved in murders and kidnappings.
The detainee was also involved in the kidnapping of a 14-year-old boy from the western part of Kabul, who was tortured and killed after being transferred to Taleh from Barfak, the statement added.
Kabul: The May 1 deadline of foreign troop withdrawal looming large, many military experts have pitched in their views on the fragile state of Afghanistan, including a NATO former top commander, who said that US presence on Afghanistan is necessary for at least six months more to ensure peace and order in the region.
“The most prudent course of action feels like a six-month extension and an attempt to get the Taliban truly meet their promises — like permitting a legitimate ‘conditions-based’ withdrawal in the fall,” said James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral who served as NATO’s top commander from 2009 to 2013.
US President Joe Biden had in late March given hints that troop withdrawal from Afghanistan would be difficult by May 1. “It’s going to be hard to meet the May 1 deadline. Just in terms of tactical reasons, it’s hard to get those troops out. And if we leave, we’re going to do so in a safe and orderly way,” he had said. A few days later, US intelligence agencies warned the President Joe Biden administration that if US forces withdrew from Afghanistan without a peace agreement and a power-sharing deal between the involved parties in the war, “Taliban fighters could take over Afghanistan in two to three years”.
Stavridis added that it will be unwise to withdrawal quickly as the world wants an orderly and lasting peace in Afghanistan. The US is working with the UN to finalize a peace deal between the Afghan government and Taliban to ensure a permanent ceasefire in the war-ravaged nation. The Istanbul Summit is likely to take place on April 16 and will last for 10 days as per media reports.
The Taliban, however, has warned to more violence if the May 1 deadline of withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghan soil is not met. Hence, the peace talks are of utmost importance in the current scenario.
Kabul: Afghanistan’s film nominations for the 10th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Film Festival 2021 to be held from May 4-8 have been officially presented to Professor Prashanthi Narangoda, Director of SAARC Cultural Center, headquartered in Colombo by Ambassador M. Ashraf Haidari on Saturday.
The film nominations include, The Boy and the Kite – Jawad Afkar; Hava, Maryam, Ayesha – Sahraa Karimi; Turning Point – Hezbullah Sultani and The Weaver – Mohammed Ayrek, among others. Professor Narangoda and Ambassador Haidari appreciated the efforts of the Director-General of the Afghan Film, Dr. Sahraa Karimi, who has gradually but consistently revived Afghanistan’s film industry.
In the 1980s, Afghanistan had a burgeoning film industry, working with like-minded artists of the region, including India, Iran, and Pakistan. However, in 1990s, Afghanistan’s film industry completely collapsed. In the post-Taliban era, the industry has slowly made a comeback.
The SAARC Film Festival Awards Ceremony will take place on May 9, and the Sri Lankan Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapaksa is expected to be the Chief Guest of the Festival.
Kabul: Qari Haidari, Taliban’s shadow district governor for Wardoj district of Badakhshan, and a number of key commanders have been killed in airstrikes by Afghan security officials, said the ministry of defence in a statement.
The airstrikes had targeted a scheduled Taliban gathering in Badakhshan province on Friday, as per security officials.
At least 26 Taliban insurgents were killed in all, said Abdul Hadi Nazari, spokesman of Pamir 207 Corps.
At least six hideouts were also destroyed in the airstrikes and 23 Taliban militants were wounded, added Nazari.
Kabul: An explosion at a liquified gas facility in Kamarkulagh area in the provincial capital of Herat city caused a massive fire at the facility on Saturday morning, said local officials.
According to officials, rescue teams arrived at the scene of the fire at the gas facility and 207th Zafar Corps had been called in for help.
Further details about casualties caused and damaged inflicted is yet to be ascertained.
In February, a huge fire in the border town of Islam Qala border in Herat had “inflicted hundreds of millions of dollars” in financial damage to investors, according to the private sector representatives in Herat.