Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Guljan Samar, the first female district governor in Daikundi province, who was appointed as district governor ten days ago by presidential decree, officially took office on Wednesday. She now forms part of the eight percent of women currently in the leadership level of departments in the government in Afghanistan.
Samar said that establishing good relations with people, striving for good governance as well as fighting corruption along with implementation of development projects were her priorities.
Samar stressed that she will regularly report on the progress of projects and other district affairs to the local administration. The new district governor also expressed concern about the drought, adding that in cooperation with aid agencies and other agencies, he will make efforts to attract emergency aid.
Fatemeh Akbari, Daikundi governor’s economic and social deputy, said that the presence of women in the leadership of government departments is a positive and effective step towards good governance. Also, according to the deputy governor of Daikundi, the presence of 26% of women in civil service departments distinguishes Daikundi from other provinces in terms of the presence of women in government institutions.
However, the appointment of a woman to lead the local government is not new, and so far Daikundi has experienced two female governors and a female deputy governor; But this is the first female district governor to be appointed in Daikundi.
Kabul: The German Defence Ministry on Wednesday announced that it is planning to pull its troops from Afghanistan by early July as the United States announced plans to withdraw by September 11.
“We want to shorten the withdrawal period. A withdrawal date of July 4 is being considered,” a ministry spokesperson told Agence France-Presse (AFP), stressing that the final decision would be made by NATO.
With 1,100 troops, Germany has the second biggest contingent of soldiers after the US in the country.
The withdrawal comes despite a deadlock in peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government.
NATO had agreed last week to begin their troop drawdown by May 1.
The 9,600-strong NATO training and support mission, which includes the US troops and depends heavily on Washington’s military assets, deployed personnel from 36 NATO members and partner countries in Afghanistan.
Kabul: Calling an end to the bloodshed and an immediate ceasefire to the war, a number of victims of the war in Herat province met on Wednesday through the province’s civil society network.
They added that the citizens of Afghanistan seek peace and added that people with disabilities have always been among the most vulnerable in the country during the years of the current war.
Ghulam Farooq Rasab, a civil activist in Herat, said that the main concern of war victims in the province was the lack of uniform application of the law as the rights of the differently-abled have always been violated.
Mohammad Qasim Takavar, head of the Herat War Victims’ Committee, appealed to the Afghan government and the Taliban to make the right decision for the future of the country and ensure rights of citizens are upheld.
Saying that the war has brought the country on the brink of destruction, he called for an immediate ceasefire from both the government and the Taliban.
The meeting ended with a call for equal application of the law to all citizens, implementation of salaries and benefits for the differently-abled according to national law, end to discrimination against them and the right to political participation in government.
Kabul: Sayed Saadat Mansour Naderi, Minister of State for Peace on Wednesday stated that the reason for postponing the Istanbul meeting was the Taliban’s “lack of interest” in the talks.
Naderi made the statement in the House of Representatives saying that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is ready to negotiate and participate in the Istanbul Summit at any time.
He attributed the postponement of the Istanbul meeting to the Taliban as the group was not interested in the peace talks.
Naderi also spoke to members of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) about the peace plan.
The organizers of the Istanbul Summit (Turkey, Qatar and the United Nations) have announced the postponement of the summit in a joint statement on Wednesday morning.
The statement, issued by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs in Kabul or UNAMA, said that in light of recent developments and after comprehensive consultations with the parties, it was agreed that the Istanbul Conference would be postponed until further notice.
The meeting was scheduled to begin on April 24 and continue until May 4.
Kabul: Adding to the list of concerns arising out of the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is former US President George W Bush who said on Wednesday that he is concerned that withdrawing all troops could harm women and girls in the long run if the “brutal” Taliban returns to power.
US President Joe Biden last week announced the withdrawal of troops from the region ending America’s longest war.
“My first reaction was, these girls are going to have real trouble with the Taliban. A lot of gains have been made, and so I’m deeply concerned about the plight of women and girls in that country. I think the administration hopes that the girls are going be OK through diplomacy. We’ll find out. All I know is the Taliban, when they had the run of the place, they were brutal,” the former president said.
The war in Afghanistan began on October 7, 2001, less than a month after the September 11 attacks, when Bush was president.
The move to drawdown combat troops in Afghanistan was first manoeuvred by former President Donald Trump last year, with a May 1 deadline through the Doha agreement. Trump outlined an agreement with the Taliban, saying troops would withdraw from the region in exchange for a promise from the Taliban for a reduction in violence, counterterrorism guarantees, and a pledge to kickstart intra-Afghan peace talks.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 139 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported four deaths and 29 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 58,346, while the number of reported deaths is 2,561 and the total number of recoveries is 52,301.
The new cases were reported in Kandahar (40) Kabul (31), Nangarhar (26), Takhar (3), Kunduz (7), Logar (3), Ghazni (3), Laghman (15), Panjshir (1), Zabul (2) and Khost (2) provinces.
Kabul: At least 81,000 people have been displaced in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, said the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).
Nangarhar and Kandahar have experienced the worst situation with 18,000 and 12,000 displaced since the beginning of January until the end of March. Then come, Faryab and Baghlan with the highest displacement in the last three months.
OCHA in its report also said that 59 percent of IDPs were children and adolescents under the age of 18.
War is considered to be the main cause of displacement of people in Afghanistan in the first place and then natural events.
Kabul: Reiterating that the Istanbul Summit is only part of the broader diplomatic engagement to help bring peace in Afghanistan, the US State Department’s spokesman Ned Price said on Tuesday night that the summit was never meant to replace the Doha talks.
Doha talks is an ongoing process and the US continues to invest their resources in it, as it knows that there is no military solution to the problems in Afghanistan and only political settlement and an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led process, will bring in peace, stability, and security to the people of Afghanistan, he added.
The Istanbul Summit was postponed indefinitely, which confirmed on Wednesday morning by the three co-hosts, United Nations, Turkey and Qatar, in a statement.
“In view of recent developments, and after extensive consultations with the parties, it has been agreed to postpone the conference to a later date when conditions for making meaningful progress would be more favorable,” the statement read.
The postponement comes after the Taliban’s announcement last week that they would not attend any peace conference until all foreign troops had withdrawn from the country.
Kabul: All national and international fliers entering Afghanistan must carry a negative coronavirus (Covid-19) test report with them mandatorily, announced the Afghan Ministry of Public Health on Wednesday, which is seen as a measure to prevent the third wave of the pandemic in the country.
“We are facing a serious threat from the third wave of the pandemic and hence, the decision was taken,” said Mirwais Alizi, deputy ministry spokesman.
“Most of the COVID-19 cases have been recorded in Nangarhar, Herat, Maidan Wardak and Kabul,” he added. The decision comes even all a mass vaccination drive has been started by the government for all above the age of 18.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Naeem Salehi, spokesperson for the Afghan Aviation Authority, said that the notification would be applicable to all national and foreign companies.
An average of 1,500 to 2,500 people are tested daily in private and public laboratories. Of these, 80 to 120 test positive for the coronavirus infection.
Till Tuesday, total number of cases stood at 58,213, while the number of reported deaths is 2,557 and the total number of recoveries is 52,272.
Kabul: Coming down heavily on the warnings of the Taliban of continued violence, the UK has announced on Wednesday that the UK and their NATO allies will return to Afghanistan for another military campaign if there is any “threat” to the UK or its allies
UK Under Secretary for the Armed Forces James Heappey said that the UK “reserves the right” to send its troops back to Afghanistan, including as part of a “unilateral” action, should it see a “threat” coming from this country again.
There are chances that parts of Afghanistan turn into “an ungoverned space” which in turn provides a safe haven for international terrorists who then can threaten “the UK homeland or to the interests of our allies”. At such times, London would not hesitate to act “unilaterally and multilaterally through NATO,” Heappey, himself a former Army officer, who served in Afghanistan, said.
The comments come even as there is growing fear that the withdrawal of troops will create a vacuum in the war-ravaged country which the Taliban might take advantage of. Heappey added that the Alliance would “go back in if those security situations deteriorate to such extent that our national security is threatened”.
Even the US recently stated that it reserves its power to retaliate if the terrorist activities once again flourish in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the peace summit in Istanbul, on which many had pinned their hopes, has been postponed indefinitely because the Taliban has refused to come to the negotiating table.
Kabul: The Afghan Pharmaceutical Services Union and a number of pharmaceutical wholesalers called off their strike on Wednesday, after they announced that their demands had been accepted by the government.
The pharmacists had called for a strike on April 16 to protest against what the National Food and Drug Administration (FDA) said was a plan to divest imports of medicine to five companies. The Pharmaceutical Services Union had claimed that there were five companies who would be only given the import of medicines and medical supplies contract. The pharmacists demanded the “chain pharmacies” project and revision of list of illicit medicines.
The union had said that many containers of medicine were not allowed to enter the country at customs.
Assadullah Kakar, president of the Pharmaceutical Services Union, has however said that if the demands are not implemented, the nationwide strike would resume after Ramadan.
According to him, the National Food and Drug Administration has said that there is no “absolute” monopoly plan for the import of medicines and chain pharmacies.
The end of the strike comes as a major relief for those battling the coronavirus pandemic on several fronts in the country.
Kabul: There is an urgent need to broaden bilateral cooperation in various fields, said Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Bahador Aminian to Afghan Deputy Foreign Minister Meerwais Nab in a meeting in Kabul on Wednesday.
Aminian and Nab looked at the various ways in which bilateral relations could be boosted in various areas.
The Afghan deputy foreign minister also thanked Iran for its cooperation on strengthening the regional consensus to support the Afghan peace process.
The Iranian ambassador reaffirmed Iran’s commitment to continue comprehensive cooperation with Afghanistan, in line with the success of peace talks, preservation of the constitution and the achievements of the past two decades with Afghanistan.
Kabul: There are more reports of districts under Ghazni province being attacked by the Taliban over the past week. At least 14 Taliban insurgents, including one of their commanders, Sulaiman, have been killed and six others have been wounded in a clash between security forces and the Taliban group in the village of Godian in Ab Band district on Tuesday, said police officials from the Ghazni province.
A police soldier was also killed in the clash, the statement said.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Wares Naimi, acting head of the Ghazni police spokesperson’s office, told Reporterly that the Taliban had also attacked the Muqur district of the province on Tuesday night.
Naimi did not specify the casualties caused, but said that the group had clashed with the uprising forces in the district last night.
Also, clashes have been going on in Gharbagh district of Ghazni for a week now.
Kabul: At a repatriation ceremony in New York, the Manhattan District Attorney Cy Vance, Jr. handed over 33 looted antiquities, valued at roughly $1.8 million, to Afghan officials on Tuesday.
The objects have been linked to antiquities dealer Subhash Kapoor, from whom US authorities have recovered more than 2,500 relics from all over the world at a total estimated value of $143 million. The ceremony was attended by Afghan ambassador to the US, Roya Rahmani, as well as acting special agent in charge Eric Silverman of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
“The preservation of Afghanistan’s heritage and history is paving the path for civilization and society to grow,” Rahmani said, calling the recovered pieces “irreplaceable pieces of Afghanistan’s diverse culture and rich history”.
“Crimes of culture involving looted and stolen religious relics, like the two dozen Buddhist statues being repatriated to the people of Afghanistan, not only tear at the societal fabric of nations, but also deprive millions of believers worldwide of the earlier sacred symbols of their faith,” Vance said in a statement.
He added that since last August, his team has repatriated 338 stolen objects to seven countries.
Kabul: The list of delegates who will represent the republic at the Istanbul Summit has been finalized, announced the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) on Wednesday.
The Summit, now scheduled to be held after the holy month of Ramadan, may see a delegation consisting of 15-17 members representing the Afghan government.
“The list will be made public in the near future,” said Faraidoon Khawzon, spokesperson for the HCNR. However, the HCNR leadership committee so far has not convened its meeting about the peace roadmap prepared by the republic side.
The Taliban has refused to come to the negotiating table because they say that the US needs to honor its agreement signed under the Trump administration to withdraw all US troops from Afghanistan by May 1.
The US, Turkey, Qatar and UN have reportedly attempted to convince the Taliban to attend the planned meeting in Turkey.
Kabul: In a disheartening development for the ones advocating for peace in Afghanistan, the Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Wednesday that the peace conference scheduled to be held between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Istanbul on Saturday has been postponed.
The US-backed talks, hosted by Turkey, Qatar and the UN, had been organized to reach a peace agreement to ensure lasting peace in the region. Peace seekers had hoped that the summit would have added some form of stability to the present Afghanistan government as US President Joe Biden and NATO forces announced withdrawal of all foreign troops by September 11.
Turkish Foreign Minister announced that the talks had been postponed until after the holy month of Ramadan, which ends in mid-May.
Critics say that the talks have been rescheduled as the Taliban has refused to participate in any peace conference till all the foreign troops have been withdrawn from Afghanistan. The minister added, “Holding an Istanbul peace summit would be meaningless without the presence of the Taliban.”
“We have decided to postpone the conference due to the fact that” the delegations have not been formed yet and there is no transparency regarding the participation in the conference,” he added.
The Afghan government and parliament have called on the Taliban to attend the Istanbul Peace Summit and “not to miss the opportunity.”
In fact, globally calls are growing for the Taliban to come to the negotiating table and end the bloodshed. Andreas von Brandt, the EU ambassador in Afghanistan, on Saturday had urged the Taliban to take the upcoming UN-led conference on Afghanistan seriously and hoped that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them at the upcoming Istanbul conference. The Taliban have not released their official statement yet.
Kabul: In a late-night development, a suicide bomber targeted the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) convoy in Shahid square of PD15 in Kabul at 9:50pm on Tuesday, security officials said.
Tariq Arian, Afghan Interior Ministry (MoI) spokesperson, said that five security forces and civilians were wounded in the incident.
Large smoke clouds could be seen bellowing from the rooftops as a loud blast shook the Afghan capital. Seyed Hamed Roshan, MoI deputy spokesperson, said that two military vehicles have been destroyed. There was also financial damage as shops and residential houses in the vicinity were affected.
The ministry is investigating the incident. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.