Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Local sources in Farah province confirmed on Tuesday evening that most of the areas in the city of Farah, the capital of the province, has fallen to Taliban fighters.
Credible sources told Tolo News and Pajwok News Agency that the National Directorate of Security is currently under siege by the Taliban and there is a clash going on; but other government departments like the governor’s compound and police headquarters have fallen to the Taliban.
Taliban attacks on Farah city began on Monday night and intensified on Tuesday. Farah is the seventh city center in Afghanistan to fall to the Taliban in the past week, after Kunduz, Zaranj, Taloqan, Sar-e Pul, Aibak and Sheberghan.
Meanwhile, India has asked its nationals to leave Afghanistan on Tuesday on a “special flight” from Mazar-e-Sharif – the country’s fourth largest city – amid intense fighting with the Taliban.
“A special flight is leaving from Mazar-e-Sharif to New Delhi. Any Indian nationals in and around Mazar-e-Sharif are requested to leave for India in the special flight scheduled to depart late Tuesday evening,” the Indian consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif tweeted.
It asked Indian citizens who want to leave by the special flight to submit the details like their full name and passport number to the consulate immediately. Around 1,500 Indians are currently staying in Afghanistan, according to government data.
Last month India pulled out around 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar following intense clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters around the city.
The embassy later put out a security advisory for India nationals visiting, staying and working in Afghanistan to keep themselves updated on the availability of commercial flights and make immediate arrangements to return to India before the flight services are impacted in the area they are staying at. The advisory also asked Indian mediapersons in the country to get in touch with the embassy for specific advice on locations they are travelling to.
New Delhi has been supporting a national peace and reconciliation process that is Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled.
This comes as fighting in the Balkh province escalated substantially, resulting in the fall of a number of districts to the Taliban. Balkh officials said that they reassured the consulates that they would ensure security and protection but that the consulates closed their doors instead. Some politicians in Balkh have meanwhile established a new mobilization council in the province to protect the city of Mazar.
This council, which consists of officials and representatives of the parties, elected Atta Mohammad Noor as the chairman of the council. Noor said the People’s Mobilization Forces were obliged to defend the city of Mazar-e-Sharif against Taliban attacks and to take part in offensive operations to retake lost territory.
Meanwhile, Turkey’s Justice and Development Party’s (AKP) spokesperson Ömer Çelik said that nobody should consider Turkey as a refugee camp, elaborating on recent discussions after Afghans started fleeing to Turkey. “State departments are having talks with all relevant parties. There is a division of roles between state institutions. Turkey embraces people fleeing death. Other than that, we do not allow it to be abused,” he told reporters at a press conference.
“Turkey is not anyone’s refugee camp. No one should think of this region as a concentration camp,” Çelik added. Turkey is not capable to shelter further refugee influx, he said but emphasized that nobody should use “fascist language” while discussing the matter. His remarks came over the U.S. new resettlement plan for Afghans who have assisted the U.S. officials and troops during its mission in Afghanistan since 2009. The plan names Turkey among the application spots for eligible Afghans who want to migrate to the U.S.
In other news, Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again called on the Pakistani government to focus on expeditious identification, apprehension, and prosecution of the perpetrators of the abduction of the envoy’s daughter. The Afghan Government delegation recently visited Pakistan in connection with the abduction and torture of the Afghan Ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad, which had taken place on July 16, 2021.
During this visit, the Pakistani side shared some information and findings with the Afghan delegation on the case. However, the remarks by Pakistani officials pointed at a different version of the case, and unfortunately did not address the basic issues such as how the incident took place and the identification of the perpetrators.
As agreed between the two sides in Islamabad on the first day, the Afghan delegation demanded that the Pakistani officials should share all information related to the case with Afghanistan for further technical investigations. Unfortunately, the information was not shared with the delegation. The hospital and medical reports along with other available evidence clearly indicate that Silsila Alikhel had been abducted and tortured. The Government of Afghanistan, in coordination with the victim, is ready and will continue to cooperate to identify and apprehend the perpetrators.
Kabul: Security officials said that around midnight, as a result of air and ground attacks by the security forces in Kapisa province, Ahmad Beyk hill of Nijrab district was recaptured by the security forces.
Shayeq Shorish, head of the Kapisa police headquarters’ press office, told Hashte Subh daily that 11 key Taliban members had been killed in the attacks. According to him, the security forces were not harmed in this operation.
On the other hand, the Women’s United Voice Advisory Group on Peace Policy said that the Taliban’s actions in relation to ” jihad marriage ” should be documented worldwide and the group’s crimes against women should be documented in cooperation with human rights organizations.
“[Afghan women]’s voice must be conveyed to the UN Security Council,” members of the group said in a press conference on Tuesday. The group also stressed on the need to provide protection for women human rights defenders with the support of the Committee to Defend Human Rights in Afghanistan. The group also called for a meaningful presence of women in peace talks. According to the members of this group, so far, the role of women in this process has been symbolic and they have not been given a significant role at the decision-making level.
However, they emphasized that women should be given an “equal share of the same rights as men, including veto power” in peace decisions. Members of Group have called for documentation of Taliban crimes against women, with local officials in a number of provinces saying the Taliban have imposed restrictions on women in areas under their control.
This comes even as the Minister of Justice said that Afghan minors are being taken across the Durand Line under the pretext of Islamic education and are being trained in terrorism. Justice Minister Fazil Ahmad Manawi told a news conference in Kabul on Tuesday that children aged 13 and 14 were often taken to remote areas and districts of Afghanistan by so-called religious scholars with deceptive Islamic teachings and sent to Balochistan, Pakistan; but these children are being trained in terrorist education instead of Islamic teachings.
According to him, there are no specific statistics in the field due to the lack of necessary control at the borders; but recently, exactly 13 teenagers who have not reached the age of 18 have been secured by the security forces and are now being taken care at the orphanage. “A number of their families have called and sent their children for Islamic education,” he added. “Most of them are from remote districts of Badakhshan.”
Manawi also confirmed the report of the US State Department on human trafficking in Afghanistan, especially children, and the existence of Bacha Bazi (child sexual abuse) in Afghanistan; but he said war and insecurity hamper government investigations into the matter. He pointed out that based on the report of the Attorney General’s Office in the first quarter of this year, 40 Bacha Bazi cases are under investigation.
“To combat the phenomenon of child trafficking and child abuse, we need a collective struggle in which everyone works together to raise awareness,” the justice minister said. He stated that the Ministry of Justice is trying to prepare a detailed report on these two cases in full detail and will provide it for further action.
Also, CARE said that the drought and hunger crisis are increasing women’s vulnerability in the country. The triple crisis of the economic hardship created by the pandemic, drought and the current insecurity leaves women in an incredibly difficult situation. CARE is deeply concerned that hard-won gains by women and girls are being rolled back. As per CARE statement, “It is imperative that humanitarian agencies are afforded safe, unfettered access to affected communities to continue providing much-needed assistance. Vulnerable groups in Afghanistan need our support at this critical time.”
Meanwhile, Shukria Barakzai, a former Kabul MP and who also served as Afghanistan’s ambassador to Norway in an interview with Independent Persian said that after 20 years, Afghanistan is in a more dangerous place from a political, social and economic point of view which was truly unpredictable. “It is hard to think about all the bloody events that the people of Afghanistan will have to bear even before the US withdrawal is complete,” she said.
Speaking on the Afghan-Taliban peace process, the former member of parliament said, “The articles of the agreement didn’t help the peace process. The violence didn’t recede and the political process in Afghanistan failed. We’ve seen crimes and atrocities, further destruction of government sites and harming of women, violation of their rights and an assault on democracy. It’s a human catastrophe. The political future of Afghanistan has been put in doubt.” Speaking on the country’s future, Barakzai said: “Afghanistan is currently recognized as an independent and sovereign state with diplomatic relations. But if Taliban come to power, Afghanistan will be marginalized again.”
Kabul: Afghanistan recorded 278 new confirmed cases of COVID-19 on Tuesday, raising the total tally to 151,291, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health said.
The ministry reported an additional 357 recoveries from the infection and 17 new deaths in the country, raising the COVID-19 related death toll to 6,978. The number of recoveries reached 104,305.
To combat COVID-19, the ministry has repeatedly urged people to wear face mask in crowded places, practice social distancing.
Kabul: The Afghan Ministry of Defense announced that 150 Taliban members were killed and 19 others were wounded in an attack by ground and air forces in Dehdadi district of Balkh province last night. According to MoD, Imam Bukri checkpoint and Dehdadi district have been cleared of Taliban influence.
The ministry said large quantities of Taliban ammunition and weapons were also destroyed in Dehdadi district. The Taliban also claimed to have captured 19 outposts, checkpoints and large areas from government forces in Dehdadi district and around Mazar city, including the Kude Bargh area, and had killed or wounded 30 government soldiers.
The conflict in northern Afghanistan has intensified in recent days. Despite the surging intensity of the clashes in recent days, 209 Shaheen Corps announced on Tuesday that General Zabihullah Mohmand was introduced as the new commander of this corps on Monday night.
The Taliban attacked the Imam Bukri checkpoint and Dehdadi district in Mazar-e-Sharif on Monday. Clashes between Taliban and army forces in Kude Barq area continued for hours, and according to reports, army forces entered the area yesterday for hours with air support, but with the wounding of Munib Amiri, the Infantry Brigade Commander at the 209th Shaheen Army Corps, the area collapsed to Taliban.
Then on Tuesday morning, an explosion was heard from the 209th Shaheen Corps and a fire was reported at the scene. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack by firing mortars into the ammunition depot. Nazarkhoda Pamiri, the deputy spokesman for the Shaheen Corps, told BBC that on Tuesday morning a fire broke out in an ammunition depot where bullets and unusable ammunition were stored, and that the explosion was caused by a fire restrained.
Meanwhile, health sources in Kandahar province said that five civilians were killed and 19 others were injured in overnight clashes in the province. The figures are for the dead and injured who were taken to hospital.
A source at Mirwais Kandahar Hospital told Hashte Subh daily on Tuesday that 24 people had been killed and wounded in the clashes in Kandahar overnight. This number of civilians were killed and wounded in Sarpozai and Mirwais Mina areas, in the areas of PD5 and in the areas of Mahbas and Ade Herat in PD8, as well as in the village of Qalay Hajian Arghandab.
The health source also reported that two government forces were killed and 12 wounded. Meanwhile, army forces in Kandahar say that 36 Taliban fighters have been killed and 20 others wounded in airstrikes in Pashmul and Bazaar districts of Zherai district.
In addition, the army reported that 25 Taliban insurgents were killed and nine others were wounded in the Chaman Salo Khan, Kalchabad and Qala-e-Hashmat areas of Kandahar’s PD5. According to security sources, a number of key Taliban commanders were among those killed.
In other news, three civilians were killed and 18 others were injured in an explosion in the Kolah Sabz area of Ghazni’s PD1. Baz Mohammad Hemmat, director of the Ghazni Provincial Hospital, confirmed the news, saying that the incident took place while security forces were defusing a landmine discovered at the scene, which exploded in the area.
On the other hand, State Minister for Disaster Management, Ghulam Bahauddin Jilani, said that in the last two months, more than 60,000 families in the provinces have been displaced by the escalation of the war. The number of families who have recently been displaced from their homes and taken refuge in Kabul as a result of the violence, especially in the north, has risen to 17,000 according to the Minister of State for Disaster Management.
Jilani, who spoke at a news conference on Tuesday at the Government Information and Media Center, about the displacements across the country over the past two months, expressed concern that the figure of displaced people in Kabul may reach 30,000. Jilani clarified that the urgent process of caring for the families, who have mainly gathered in the Saray Shamali area and Kabul Shahr-e Naw Park, started on Monday and continued until midnight.
He said that the emergency committee consisting of the Ministry of State for Disaster Management, the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations and Kabul province has started work on setting up a camp for temporary accommodation of IDPs in one part of Kabul city and this camp is scheduled for to be ready in a week. According to him, there will currently be a capacity to distribute 3,000 to 5,000 tents to eligible displaced families in the camp.
According to the Ministry of State for Disaster Management, the number of displaced families from the recent two-month war in the provinces has reached 60,000, of whom 53,000 have received emergency assistance. The Minister of State for Disaster Management, meanwhile, called on international organizations to work with the Afghan government to address the needs of internally displaced people and to urge the Taliban to address the plight of people in the following areas to prevent widespread displacement of families.
Kabul: Eight Taliban fighters were killed in a counterattack by security and defense forces in Farah province, as per the Ministry of Interior.
A car bomb through which the group wanted to carry out a suicide attack on was eliminated by the air forces before reaching the target.
Also, Najib Ahmad Najib, a spokesperson for the Khost police headquarters said that a mine planted inside the hospital exploded at around 10:00 a.m. on Tuesday. According to him, one soldier and four civilians were injured in the incident. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Also, Gen. Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, Acting Minister of Interior, traveled to Maidan Wardak on Tuesday to assess the security situation.
During the visit, the Acting Minister of Interior held an extraordinary meeting with the leadership of the police and other security and defense agencies in the province, and after assessing the security challenges to improve the situation, gave the necessary instructions to the officials. In addition, the Acting Minister of the Interior, in a meeting with tribal elders and influential people, assured them that the security and defense forces would suppress terrorist groups, especially the Taliban, given the constant support of the people. On the other hand, he praised a number of members of the police and security forces stationed in Maidan Wardak province for their work and achievements in providing security.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court of Afghanistan has announced that Qazi Mohammad Salem, the acting head of the primary court in Chahar Asyab district of Kabul province, has been killed in a “terrorist” attack. According to the Afghan Supreme Court, he was shot and wounded on Tuesday last week and died on Monday.
He was born in 1969 in Kabul province and was a graduate of Kabul Sharyat Faculty. Mohammad Salem had been working in the Afghan judiciary since 2002.
This comes even as Russia, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan have completed joint military drills on the Kharb-Maidon range located 20 kilometers from the border with Afghanistan, Commander of Russia’s Central Military District Colonel General Alexander Lapin said.
According to him, “for the first time, the joint force grouping used aircraft, reconnaissance and combat systems and assault troops based on the experience gained in Syria.” Lapin pointed out that the exercise had taken place amid rising tensions in Afghanistan and the threat of terrorist groups entering Central Asian countries. “I am sure that future joint activities will help us strengthen military cooperation and protect our countries from military aggression,” he said.
Tajikistan’s Defense Minister Colonel General Sherali Mirzo, in turn, noted that the three countries had held counter-terrorism drills like that for the first time. Uzbekistan’s Chief of the General Staff Shukhrat Kholmukhamedov also noted that the situation in Afghanistan “requires us to remain vigilant and maintain our combat capabilities.”
And UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet warned on Tuesday that failure to stem the rising violence and commission of human rights violations and abuses is having disastrous consequences for the people of Afghanistan.
“We know that urban warfare results in scores of civilians being killed. We have seen it before, too many times. In Afghanistan, since 9 July in four cities alone – Lashkargah, Kandahar, Herat and Kunduz – at least 183 civilians have been killed and 1,181 injured, including children. These are just the civilian casualties we have managed to document – the real figures will be much higher,” High Commissioner Bachelet said, warning that even before the latest Taliban military offensives on urban centres, the UN had documented a steep increase in civilian casualties.
“Parties to the conflict must stop fighting to prevent more bloodshed. The Taliban must cease their military operations in cities. Unless all parties return to the negotiating table and reach a peaceful settlement, the already atrocious situation for so many Afghans will become much worse.”
Bachelet also urged all States to use their influence – bilaterally and multilaterally – to bring the hostilities to an end. “States have a duty to use any leverage they have to de-escalate the situation and reinvigorate peace processes. The fighting must be brought to an end,” the High Commissioner stressed, noting the peace-related meetings taking place this week in Doha.
According to reports documented by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, most of the civilian harm is being caused by ground engagements. Airstrikes have also resulted in civilian casualties. In addition, since the start of the May Taliban offensive, at least 241,000 people have been displaced, and the protracted fighting in the cities has resulted in damage to essential infrastructure like roads and bridges, and other civilian objects.
In the areas that have already been captured by the Taliban and in contested areas, Bachelet said the Office was receiving reports of summary executions, attacks against current and former Government officials and their family members, military use and destruction of homes, schools and clinics, and the laying of large numbers of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), including pressure-plate IEDs which function as anti-personnel landmines.
Bachelet reminded all parties of their obligation to take all necessary measures to protect civilians, especially when fighting in populated areas. Directing attacks against civilians is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime. Perpetrators of serious violations of international human rights and humanitarian law must be held accountable, she stressed.
The High Commissioner also expressed particular concern about early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women. “People rightly fear that a seizure of power by the Taliban will erase the human rights gains of the past two decades,” she said.
“We have received reports that women and girls in various districts under Taliban control are prohibited from leaving their homes without a Mahram, a male chaperone. These restrictions have a serious impact on the rights of women, including the right to health – and clearly, in the midst of a war, the need to access urgent medical care for themselves and their families is a matter of life and death. Hampering a woman’s ability to leave home without a male escort also inevitably leads to a cascade of other violations of the woman’s and her family’s economic and social rights,” Bachelet warned.
Serious curbs on the freedom of expression and the ability of journalists to do their crucial work by both parties are also of deep concern during this time of uncertainty and chaos, the High Commissioner said. “The people of Afghanistan are speaking of their deep fears of a return to the worst of the human rights violations of the past,” Bachelet said. “Women, minorities, human rights defenders, journalists as well as others who are particularly vulnerable need particular protection. There are very real risks of renewed atrocities against ethnic and religious minorities.”
“We will continue to monitor the human rights situation, in spite of security and other challenges, and I urge the international community, including through the Human Rights Council and the Security Council, to take urgent action to prevent further atrocities and to ensure that civilians in Afghanistan do not – once again – have to bear the brunt, and aftermath, of a prolonged and deadly conflict.”
Also, the Afghanistan Journalists Center remains gravely concerned about the wellbeing of local journalists amid a rise in threats and attacks on local media outlets across Afghanistan as well as journalists reporting for international media. “We strongly condemn killing of Toofan Omari and call on the Afghan authorities to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice and ensure the safe release of journalist Nematullah Hemat,” said Ahmad Quraishi, AFJC executive director “we urge the Afghan government and international community for support for media in the deteriorating climate in Afghanistan as US troops withdraw and fighting between the Afghan army and Taliban militants intensifies.
According to the Afghanistan Journalists Data, a total of 123 journalists and media workers have been killed in Afghanistan over the past two decades, with seven journalists and media workers including four women losing their lives in 2021, most of them deliberately targeted.
Kabul: Local sources in Farah province report the intensification of widespread attacks by Taliban fighters on Farah city, the capital of the province.
Abdul Samad Salehi, a member of the Farah Provincial Council, told Subhe Kabul daily that Taliban insurgents had launched attacks on Farah on Monday night and are continuing. According to him, Taliban fighters had entered parts of the PD4 of Farah city, but were repulsed by security forces.
Salehi added that Taliban attacks on the city of Farah had started on Tuesday from three directions and that there were sporadic clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters around the city. The Farah provincial council member said security forces did not suffer any casualties, but the Taliban suffered heavy casualties.
This comes even as people, especially in the west of Kabul, are currently preparing for Muharram. Around the world, Shiite Muslims mourn the first ten days of Muharram. Preparations for the event are being made at a time when fighting is raging in many Afghan provinces, with a number of civilians being killed and wounded daily by Taliban attacks. The security situation in west Kabul has been continuously vulnerable over the past year, and from time to time it has been attacked by suicide bombers or landmines, killing and injuring hundreds of residents. In the latest incident, an attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school in Kabul’s Dasht-e-Barchi killed many female students.
Despite these threats, however; residents of western Kabul want to prepare for Muharram just like previous years. The poor security situation has worried many citizens. Meanwhile, Governor of Kabul said that immigrants and displaced people from the provinces who came to Kabul as a result of the war will be transferred to a suitable place for their urgent treatment.
An extraordinary emergency meeting was held in Kabul province under the chairmanship of Kabul Governor Mohammad Yaqub Haidari with the participation of members of the Emergency Committee. First, members of the Kabul Emergency Committee provided information on the situation of IDPs and refugees displaced by war and insecurity in various areas, and shared their views and suggestions on relocation, provision of health services, care for them, and assistance from partner organizations.
Meanwhile, Kabul Governor, after hearing the views of members of parliament, instructed the Immigration and Disaster Management Departments of Kabul Province to jointly survey the IDPs and assess their basic needs and address them urgently. The governor of Kabul stressed on the need to relocate IDPs and relocate them to appropriate locations and provide basic services as soon as possible. He instructed the Departments of Economy, Refugees of Kabul Province to coordinate all partner institutions to help these displaced persons and use all their resources. He also instructed the Public Health Department of Kabul Province to provide health services so that the mobile public health team could provide them with ongoing health services.
Meanwhile, in other news, there are also problems of those who have migrated from Takhar and Kunduz provinces following heavy fighting there. Large numbers of people gradually left their homes and areas and moved to safer areas. Many families left Kunduz for Badakhshan. They accuse the Taliban of mistreatment and say they have been forced to leave their homes. A number of other families and those who were able went to Kabul. Many of these displaced people are housed in the Khair Khana Park. Many have also gone to the homes of friends and acquaintances. The situation of Takhar and Kunduz refugees in Kabul is also deplorable.
Takhar province has 17 districts, of which only two districts are currently under the control of security forces. Although the exact number of displaced people in Takhar province is not known, Ahmad Yasin Labib, Takhar’s director of refugees, had previously told Hashte Subh daily that thousands of displaced families needed food and shelter following the fall of Takhar districts. According to him, about 12,000 families have fled from insecure areas to safe areas in the province.
Labib stated that of 12,000 displaced families in the city of Taloqan, the department has provided assistance to only 3,400 families. According to him, other families are not in good condition and need immediate help. The head of refugees and returnees says that due to the rising cost of raw materials in the province, displaced families cannot afford to buy their necessities. Currently, relief agencies in Takhar, Jowzjan, Nimroz, Helmand and Kunduz provinces have been suspended due to the severity of the war.
Even in Daikundi, the story is the same. About two months have passed since the Taliban launched their offensive in Patu district of Daikundi province. More than 2,000 families from different parts of the district have been displaced following clashes between the Taliban and security forces. The families have been displaced from Sartagab, Lora Shew, Zain, Karizak, Beri and several other villages and have taken refuge in Qakhoor village of Patu district center, Kiso village of Kiti district and the capital of Daikundi province.
Displaced people from the Patu war, who live in a camp in Nili, the capital of Daikundi, complain about the government’s negligence, saying that the local government and partner institutions have not paid much attention to their plight. Noor Mohammad, one of the IDPs told Hashte Subh daily that he and his family had been displaced from the village of Spermi to the town of Nili for several days, but had not yet received any assistance. Noor Mohammad adds that his family of fourteen is in a very bad situation. He says he has been to government offices several times, but no one has heard his voice: “I was told we would help those who have been relocated to the camp, but not to others.”
Another source from Daikundi says that the lack of electricity, lack of safe drinking water, food and fuel, lack of clothes, lack of baths and toilets are the main problems in the IDP camps. The Daikundi Office for Refugees and Repatriations, however, says that assistance has been provided to war refugees in Patu district and that many of the complaints and reports are untrue. Mustafa Alavi, director general of reintegration at the Daikundi Immigration Office, told Hashte Subh daily that more than 2,300 families displaced by the war have been registered so far. According to Alavi, 490 families in the Qakhoor area of central Pato, 872 families in the city of Nili, and 936 other families in the village of Kiso in the Kiti district have been surveyed in two stages.
Alavi added that food aid has been distributed to 1,830 families by the World Food Organization (WFP). Assistance was also provided to 124 other families in the second phase. These include flour, oil, salt and other first aid. The UNHCR has provided assistance to 411 families in the Qakhoor area of central Pato and 592 families in the village of Kiso in Kati district, UNHCR
Alavi acknowledged the lack of electricity in the IDP camp, but added that efforts were being made by Breshna to provide electricity to the camp. He denied the lack of drinking water, baths, toilets and lack of clothing in the IDP camps, and said aid needed had been distributed to the displaced.
This comes even as MSF Helmand project coordinator expressed concern about the rising violence. “There has been relentless gunfire, air strikes and mortars in densely populated areas. Houses are being bombed, and many people are suffering severe injuries,” says Sarah Leahy, coordinator of the MSF Helmand project.
“Fighting within the city makes it harder for us to respond; our staff are part of the community and they, like many people, are afraid to leave their homes. It’s just far too dangerous and life is at a standstill,” says Leahy.
“Some of our colleagues are staying overnight in the hospital so they can keep on treating patients. The situation has been dire for months but now it is even worse.” Despite the challenges, the MSF-supported Boost hospital remains operational and has seen a marked increase in trauma needs over the past week. “In just one day we performed 10 surgeries on people injured by violence, which is unheard of for us as we are not Lashkargah’s main provider of trauma care,” says Leahy. “Before last week we were operating on average on two war-wounded people per day.”
The main trauma centre in the city is run by another organisation, and is also under immense pressure; the people they cannot admit are sent to MSF for care. Between 29 and 31 July alone, MSF treated 70 war-wounded patients. In total from 3 May until 31 July, we have treated 482 war-wounded people, nearly all (92 per cent) for injuries caused by shells and bullets, and around a quarter (26 per cent) aged under 18. The patients seen by MSF are just a fraction of the total number injured by the violence.
“The fighting exacerbates health needs beyond trauma care. Given the lack of well-functioning and affordable medical facilities in Helmand, people rely on the 300-bed Boost hospital, the only referral hospital in the province, for essential neonatal, paediatric, inpatient, intensive care, maternity, malnutrition, and surgical services among others. Since May, however, MSF staff have witnessed an alarming increase in the severity of patients’ illnesses when they arrive at the hospital. People have described how, despite needing medical care, they have been forced to wait at home until the fighting subsides or to take dangerous alternate routes. With fighting taking place not far from Boost hospital, and people too afraid to leave their homes due to the violence, access to healthcare is dangerously limited,” said Leahy.
Also, as per International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), hundreds of thousands of civilians are at risk as fighting intensifies in and around Kunduz, Lashkargah, Kandahar, and other Afghan cities. ICRC is calling on both parties to the conflict for immediate restraint. The ICRC calls for civilians and vital infrastructure such as hospitals to be protected from attack and any collateral damage caused by fighting in populated areas.
Since 1 August, 4,042 patients wounded by weapons have been treated at 15 ICRC-supported health facilities, an indication of the intensity of the recent violence. “We are seeing homes destroyed, medical staff and patients put at tremendous risk, and hospitals, electricity and water infrastructure damaged,” said Eloi Fillion, ICRC’s head of delegation in Afghanistan. “The use of explosive weaponry in cities is having an indiscriminate impact on the population beyond its target. Many families have no option but to flee in search of a safer place. This must stop.”
“Health-care facilities, medical workers, and ambulances must be spared at all cost,” said Fillion. “We also call on all fighting parties to allow humanitarian organisations like the ICRC and ARCS to safely evacuate the injured and bring much-needed assistance to the civilian population.”
Kabul: The defense and security forces and commandos, with the support of the air force and popular uprising, repulsed Taliban attacks in Balkh province.
As per 209 Shaheen Corps, the Taliban wanted to break the Imam Bukri line of defense in Dehdadi district and the Langar Khana of Nahri Shahi district with their offensive attacks on Monday. As a result of these clashes, more than 80 Taliban insurgents were killed, an enemy base and a large amount of equipment and explosives were destroyed.
Also, as per the Badakhshan governor’s office, the Taliban’s offensive was repulsed on Monday night by several strongholds in the city of Faizabad, the capital of Badakhshan province. Meanwhile, police in PD11 of Herat city also arrested two Taliban terrorists from the area. The residents of Dolayna district of Ghor province belong to Maulavi Talha Shindandi’s group, a Taliban commander who also fought in the battles east of Guzara district and west of Injil district. The detainees confessed to being terrorists and their case file was handed over to the relevant body.
However, amid the advance of the Taliban, the US is showing no signs of stepping up air attacks, with a Pentagon spokesman saying that Washington now sees the fight as one for Afghan political and military leaders to win or lose. “When we look back, it’s going to come down to leadership and what leadership was demonstrated, or not,” by Afghans, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said at a news conference. “It’s their country to defend now. It’s their struggle.”
US officials said that military commanders have bluntly laid out their assessments that conditions in Afghanistan are deteriorating. Afghan special operations forces have been able to hold off the Taliban in key centres, including Kandahar and Lashkargah, they said. But in locations where the commandos have not been sent in, regular army forces have been overrun.
Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke with his top Middle East commander, General Frank McKenzie, on Monday, officials said. But defence and military leaders have not provided any new recommendations to beef up US operations in defence of the Afghans. The US has been launching up to a handful of air attacks a day on the Taliban and officials said there has so far been no order to increase that tempo.
There are no US attack aircraft in Afghanistan as the US troop withdrawal continues, so warplanes are travelling from several hours away to reach their targets. Kirby refused to say how many air attacks the US has carried out in recent days and he declined to say whether the Biden administration might continue the air attacks past Biden’s August 31 withdrawal date, given the Taliban advance.
In the meantime, “we will continue to support them … where and when feasible, understanding that it’s not always going to be feasible,″ Kirby said of Afghan government and military leaders.
On the other hand, Foreign Secretary Masud Bin Momen of Bangladesh on Monday said that the United Nations should step up efforts at this critical juncture in Afghanistan as Bangladesh does not want to see people in Afghanistan suffer anymore. “While we welcome peace talks involving important players, I think, the United Nations as a neutral broker should step up efforts at this critical juncture,” he said adding that Bangladesh wants to see a fellow South Asian State, a fellow member of SAARC and its people remain free from any sufferings.
On the fast-evolving situation in Afghanistan, the foreign secretary said that they are currently observing a radical transformation taking shape in Afghanistan, which is sure to have a profound effect on the geo-political balance of power in the region and beyond.
Also, government ministers from six European countries have called on the EU leadership to continue returning migrants to Afghanistan. A leaked letter posted online on Monday revealed that the interior ministers of Austria, Denmark, Belgium, the Netherlands, Greece and Germany urged the European Commission last week not to accept a decision by the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation to halt forced returns to the country for three months.
The ministers in the August 5 letter say they “fully recognise the sensitive situation in Afghanistan in light of the foreseen withdrawal of international troops” — but that they do not “foresee any cause to stop or suspend returns.” The ministers go on to say that they “would like to highlight the urgent need to perform returns, both voluntary and non-voluntary, to Afghanistan. “In view of the expected likelihood that Afghanistan will continue to be a significant source of irregular migration to the EU, we would like to underline the importance of returning those without genuine protection needs.”
The ministers claim that stopping returns “sends the wrong signal and is likely to motivate even more Afghan citizens to leave their home for the EU.” The European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE) was just one of the human rights organisations that branded the letter “shameful”. “Seriously? Turmoil and violence in [Afghanistan] escalating alarmingly. Priority for six EU states: returning people and preventing displaced Afghans arriving in Europe,” the ECRE said on social media.
This comes even as UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is extremely concerned by the rapid escalation of conflict in Afghanistan this week. Amid intensified clashes in Nimruz province in the country’s south-west, nearly 200 Afghan refugees have been forced to flee to the Islamic Republic of Iran over the weekend. “It is estimated that since the beginning of the year nearly 400,000 Afghans have been internally displaced within the country – some 244,000 since May alone. UNHCR urges the Iranian authorities to keep the Milak border crossing open in light of the intensifying humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan. Not doing so may put thousands of lives at risk,” the statement read.
On the other hand, the Committee to Protect Journalists said on Monday that Afghan authorities must immediately and thoroughly investigate the killing of journalist Toofan Omar and ensure the safe release of journalist Nematullah Hemat. “Afghan authorities must conduct an independent and thorough investigation into the killing of Toofan Omar and must spare no expense in securing the safe release of Nematullah Hemat from Taliban custody,” said Carlos Martínez de la Serna, CPJ’s program director. “Journalists must be able to cover this important moment in Afghanistan’s history, and authorities should do everything possible to ensure they can do so safely.”
Kabul: Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), and Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, state minister for Peace Affairs, arrived in Doha on Tuesday.
“A delegation of Afghanistan, led by Dr Abdullah is in Doha and is scheduled to attend a meeting at the level of Special Representatives for Afghanistan,” said Fraidoon Khwazoon, HCNR spokesperson said, adding that the delegation will deliver its message to countries in the region and the world.
A three-day meeting is scheduled to be held in Doha with representatives of the Afghan government and peace partner countries. “The meeting is aimed at coordinating with the countries involved in the Afghan peace process, accelerating peace talks and ending the ongoing violence in the country,” the source was quoted as saying. Representatives of the Taliban are also expected to attend the meeting.
This comes even as the United States envoy on Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, “will press the Taliban to stop their military offensive” at talks in Qatar’s capital this week, the State Department announced after the armed group seized a string of provincial capitals. “Ambassador Khalilzad will be in Doha to help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” the department added in a statement on Monday.
The State Department said that several planned rounds of meetings were scheduled over three days to discuss the situation in Afghanistan. Representatives from countries in the region and beyond as well as from multilateral organisations “will press for a reduction of violence and ceasefire and a commitment not to recognise a government imposed by force”. “A negotiated peace is the only path to ending the war, and the United States will continue to work with all parties and with regional and international stakeholders to advance a consensus on a political settlement.”
Meanwhile, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani spoke via the telephone on Monday afternoon with a number of security and defense officials and district governors. The President, while examining the general situation of the areas in which the above-mentioned officials are serving, praised the courage and sacrifice of the security and defense officials in defending the country and confronting the enemy. On the other hand, the mentioned officials and district governors assured the President that they are ready to defend the republic, territorial integrity and national status in any situation and will continue their struggle to achieve this sacred goal until the last moment of their lives.
Also, a security meeting, chaired by President Ashraf Ghani, discussed the country’s general security situation and food security. In this meeting, which was held on Monday evening in the Presidential Palace, first in the presence of representatives of the private sector, food safety was discussed and the problems of the mentioned sector were heard and the necessary decisions were made. Then, the private sector was thanked for providing raw materials and it was emphasized that their problems will be solved. Also in this meeting, the general security situation of the country, especially the cities and areas that are under attack, was discussed and the necessary decisions were made in the defense of the cities and areas, equipping and sending troops and ammunition, the necessary instructions.
The meetings with political leaders comes to discuss their decision to form a command center for public uprising forces in the fight against the Taliban. The discussions focused on the details of the plan, sources told Tolo News. The decision was made in a meeting of political leaders with President Ghani on Monday. The meetings that followed the leaders’ session included Ghani’s meeting with former vice-president Mohammad Karim Khalili, Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh, presidential adviser and head of People’s Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan Mohammad Mohaqiq and a senior member of Hizb-e-Wahdat, Sadiq Mudabir, who all have an influence on central parts of Afghanistan, sources said.
More meetings are expected to occur between President Ghani and political leaders from various parts of the country to discuss the details of mobilizing public forces under the command center, sources said. Monday’s meeting was also attended by Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, the former vice-president, who was reportedly one of the political figures to have suggested the plan. Some politicians showed their support to a move to mobilize public uprising forces against the Taliban, saying it will prove effective in boosting unity in the fight against the group. However, they expressed their concern over a lack of healthy management of the resistance forces. “The move by the government for public mobilization is good, but the practical framework should be reviewed. The public forces should follow guerrilla warfare,” said Abdul Hafiz Mansour, a member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.
Also, President Ghani also met with UN Special Representative for Afghanistan Deborah Lyons. During the meeting, which took place at the Presidential Palace, while discussing the general situation in the country, concerns were expressed about the escalation of violence by the Taliban. Lyons said the escalation of violence and attacks by the Taliban is against the spirit of peace and that human rights abuses and civilian casualties should not occur. She also stressed that the necessary steps should be taken to ensure peace in Afghanistan. On the other hand, President Ghani said that the main goal of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is to end violence and war and to establish a just and lasting peace, and that we have taken fundamental steps in this direction.
In other meetings, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) met with former president Hamid Karzai and the peace process and the current situation in the country were discussed and it was emphasized that there is no military solution to the Afghan problem. Abdullah also met Cihad Erginay, Ambassador of the Republic of Turkey. It was emphasized during the meeting that the escalation of the war and the continuation of Taliban attacks on cities is against the spirit of peace. We also noted that political and jihadi leaders in their recent meeting stressed their unequivocal support for the security forces and the strengthening of the popular resistance forces to defend the country and the system. Erginay lamented the escalation of the war, saying that the world did not support a system that came to power by force and that the only solution to Afghanistan’s problem is to reach a political agreement. The meeting also discussed the current situation in the country, the continuation of peace talks, and the prevention of escalation of wars.
Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh has voiced “deep concern” over continued clashes in neighboring Afghanistan as the war between the Afghan government and the Taliban continued to rage on. Speaking at his weekly press briefing on Monday, Khatibzadeh said, “Iran is deeply concerned about the developments in Afghanistan. The Islamic Republic of Iran has always considered the security of Afghanistan as its own security and has used all its facilities and capacities to contribute to the peace, stability, and tranquility of Afghanistan at bilateral, regional, and international levels.”
He added, “In this context, we are ready and willing to pursue the Tehran Peace Initiative to form an inclusive government in a genuine intra-Afghan dialogue, including all the groups that exist in Afghanistan today.”
The spokesman also called on Afghanistan’s neighbors to hold regular and structured dialogue in order to coordinate their efforts, manage the humanitarian issue of war-displaced people, prevent the geography of Afghanistan from being exploited by extremist groups, and help end the war, bloodshed, and fratricide. Khatibzadeh said Iran is ready to facilitate and play host to such a dialogue.
“The Islamic Republic of Iran has hosted millions of its own Afghan brothers and sisters for the past four decades and has never had anything but a kinship view of the Afghan people, and this humane view has always existed and will continue, God willing,” he pointed out.