Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Security sources confirmed that security and defense forces stationed at the Kunduz airport, retreated from the 217th Pamir Corps and reached the Burka district of Baghlan via the Kunduz-Aliabad public highway with a regular plan, capturing the district.
It is pertinent to note that on Wednesday afternoon, the Taliban had surrounded the Kunduz Airport. Sources added that security forces encountered several Taliban ambushes on the way to Burka, inflicting heavy casualties on the group.
According to sources, security forces entered the Burka district when they clashed with the Taliban and drove the insurgents out of the Burka district. Sources emphasize that the security forces intend to enter Andarab districts through this route and join the security forces of Baghlan.
Also, local officials in Helmand province confirm that a Taliban car bomb had exploded at the entrance to the provincial police headquarters. Helmand Deputy Governor Bismillah Rouhani told Etilaat roz daily that the incident took place on Wednesday afternoon.
According to him, a number of Taliban fighters opened fire when the car bomb exploded. Rouhani added that the Taliban attack had now been repulsed. According to him, the incident also resulted in casualties, but the exact number has not been determined yet. However, Atallauh Afghan, a member of Helmand Provincial Council, said that according to preliminary statistics, three Taliban fighters were wounded in the attack.
Meanwhile, Fahim Qaim has been appointed as the new police chief of Balkh province. In an interview with Hashte Subh daily, Qaim confirmed that he was going to Balkh on the orders of President Ghani and that he was going to start working as the police chief of the province.
Fahim Qaim has served as police chief in Kabul, Kapisa, Maidan Wardak, Badghis and several other provinces. Previously, Dawood Tarakhil was the police chief of Balkh province. Meanwhile, the pressure of Taliban attacks on Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, has increased.
Also, Hasibullah Stanekzai, head of the Logar provincial council, said that Malik Mohabbat, a tribal elder in Mohammad Agha district, had been abducted by the Taliban on Tuesday and that his body had been found today. The Taliban have not yet commented.
On the other hand, an extraordinary meeting of the Emergency Committee, chaired by Brigadier General Abdul Sabur Qane, Governor of Herat Province, was held at Behzad Gallery, emphasizing on the need to take immediate steps to stabilize the needy, provide assistance and distribute it to the displaced in recent wars. The governor of Herat stressed that the officials need to cooperate with the victims and called on the departments and institutions to mobilize their resources to support the refugees of the recent wars. The governor of Herat emphasized on ensuring transparency in all stages of identifying the needy, attracting aid and distributing it to the deserving.
Under the instruction of the governor of Herat, a committee was set up under the supervision of the deputy governor for social affairs to take appropriate action within a day to stabilize the needy and ensure transparency in the process and take practical steps.
In other news, AJSC has strongly condemned the acts of violence, intimidation and bullying against many journalists in the past two weeks by the Taliban.
On August 1, 2021, Shakib Shams, a local reporter for Salam Watandar, and Satorie Karimi, a reporter for Pajhwok Afghan News were shot at and bullied by the Taliban in Herat province. On August 3, 2021, Maiwand Mirdanei, head of the political programs of Radio and Television Afghanistan (RTA) in Helmand province, was arrested by the Taliban on the road between Helmand and Kandahar and was released after AJSC’s intervention. On August 8, 2021, Sefatullah Zahedi, head of the local radio station Sokun in Helmand was threatened to death by the Taliban-affiliated social media accounts, accusing him of propagating propaganda in favor of the government. Also on the same day, Nematullah Hemmat, the head of Radio Bost in Helmand, was arrested by the Taliban for publishing a report, which accused the Taliban of releasing water of Kamal Khan Dam to Iran. He is still in the Taliban detention.
On August 8, Toofan Omari, the owner, and head of Sada-e Paktia Media Center and a prosecutor was assassinated in Deh Sabz district of Kabul. Although no group has claimed responsibility for the murder, the Taliban have committed similar acts of assassination of prosecutors and journalists in the past. In the latest incident, the Taliban yesterday summoned a number of Takhar provincial journalists and instructed them to tailor their publications based on the instructions of the group, otherwise, facing serious consequences.
AJSC believes that all forms of violence and harassment of journalists are transgression of freedom of expression and stand contrary to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Declaration of Islamic Human Rights, and Geneva Conventions. Violence and harassment of journalists are considered an international crime under the Rome Statute.
AJSC said that such violence is in direct contrast to the official statements made by the Taliban leaders. “The continuation of such a situation, in addition to undermining press freedom and journalists’ safety, will further isolate the Taliban among the country’s media community. The Taliban must understand that freedom of expression finds meaning in the presence of criticism, disagreement, and the publication of facts. AJSC urges the Taliban to stop such acts of violence against journalists so that journalists can work in a safe environment free from violence, aggression and bullying. AJSC also calls on the United Nations and the international community to increase their diplomatic pressure on those who violate freedoms of press and expression. These are some of the most significant gains of Afghanistan which need to be protected,” their statement read.
Kabul: The Afghan government confirmed on Wednesday that hundreds of prisoners had escaped due to heavy fighting in a number of provinces.
Safiaullah Jalalzai, a spokesman for the Afghanistan Prison Administration, told VOA on Wednesday that the detainees had escaped from war-torn provinces. “The vast majority of them were prisoners convicted of criminal offenses, drug traffickers, kidnappers and criminals convicted of armed robbery,” he added.
Jalalzai said that the escape of these prisoners would cause them to resume their criminal activities in the community. But the spokesman for Afghanistan’s prison administration stressed that the Afghan government would look for the perpetrators by establishing security and improving the situation.
Last week, videos of prisoners escaping from Takhar prison and some other provinces were posted on social media. Dozens of prisoners have already escaped from prisons in some Afghan provinces following attacks by the Taliban and ISI-K. The Afghan government released nearly 5,500 Taliban prisoners last year under US pressure, a move that Afghan Vice-President Amrullah Saleh said was one of the government’s biggest mistakes.
The Afghan government says many released Taliban fighters have returned to the battlefield despite their commitment and are currently fighting Afghan security forces. In the latest case, the Taliban have demanded the release of another 7,000 prisoners in order to build trust, according to the group’s representatives, and start peace talks, a request that has so far been rejected by the Afghan government.
Meanwhile, security officials in Khost province said on Wednesday that at least one child had been killed and four others wounded in a mortar attack on a residential house in the province. The attack took place on Tuesday night in the Sabri district of Khost, Najib Ahmad Najib, spokesman for the province’s police chief, told VOA on Wednesday. Najib added that the mortar had been fired by a Taliban fighter to target Afghan troops, but had hit a residential house, killing a child. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said two days ago that the escalation of violence against children in Afghanistan is shocking.
In other news, David Miliband has criticized “significant” foreign aid cuts by the UK, warning further withdrawal of support to Afghanistan would “compound the agony” for civilians. The former foreign secretary, who now leads the International Rescue Committee, said the region was facing a “crisis” following a major Taliban surge in the wake of UK and US military withdrawal earlier this year.
The major advances come in the wake of aid cuts by several major European countries, including the UK, which slashed its foreign aid assistance from 0.7% of national income to 0.5%. Speaking on Wednesday, Miliband told the BBC that he feared further political and diplomatic withdrawal from the country in the wake of the reduction in military support. “This should definitely be seen as a regional crisis rather than just a national trauma for civilians who are being caught in a terrible crossfire at a time when international aid flows are falling,” he said.
“The British government’s aid contribution is falling from about £80m-a-year to just less than £20m-a-year, so significant cuts. “The UN appeal is underfunded to the tune of about 50% and that is at a time when 18 million Afghans out of a population of about 40 million are dependent on international humanitarian aid.”
He added: “Our great fear at the moment is that once the military decision has been taken, that is obviously no longer for discussion, that there will be a humanitarian and diplomatic withdrawal as well which will compound the agony for Afghan civilians.”
Miliband also criticized plans by some European nations to press ahead with the deportation of Afghan refugees back to their home country, saying the move would be “completely contrary to international law”. “The idea that now is a moment to return Afghans to Kandahar or even to Kabul seems fanciful. This is a time when, certainly those who are in danger because of the work they have done need to be sheltered.”
His comments come after several senior Tory MPs called for further action to tackle the Taliban resurgence, with former defence minister Tobias Ellwood saying the current approach was “the west’s biggest own goal so far this century”.
Meanwhile, the Director General of Department of South Asian Affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry informed of his talks with European envoys and charge d’affaires residing in Tehran to find a solution for Afghan crisis. In a tweet on Wednesday, Seyed Rasoul Mousavi wrote, “If Europe wants to do something for achieving peace in Afghanistan, it must act today, because, it will be too late tomorrow.”
During the meeting with European ambassadors in Tehran, Mousavi called on them to take urgent measure in line with establishing peace in Afghanistan. If Europe wants to do something for establishment of peace in Afghanistan, it must act today, for, tomorrow it will be too late, he reiterated. Effective steps must be taken for peace in Afghanistan before collapse of all structures, Director General of Department of South Asian Affairs at the Iranian Foreign Ministry added.
On the other hand, just weeks before US troops fully withdraw from Afghanistan—and as Taliban fighters conquer more territory across the country—Ahmad Massoud says he is open to negotiations with the Taliban. “I am willing and ready to forgive the blood of my father for the sake of peace in Afghanistan and security and stability in Afghanistan,” said Massoud, son of the anti-Soviet resistance commander Ahmad Shah Massoud, in an interview with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center. Massoud’s father was assassinated by al-Qaeda days before the 9/11 attacks in 2001.
But he and other Afghans are not willing to “give in to the will of terrorism,” added Massoud, who is based in the government-controlled Panjshir province in northeastern Afghanistan. “We are ready to create an inclusive government with the Taliban” through political negotiations, he explained, but what’s unacceptable is an Afghan government marked by “extremism and fundamentalism” that would pose a grave threat not just to Afghanistan but to the region and the wider world.
Massoud reflected on what brought Afghanistan to this perilous point and outlined the way forward for a peace process he believes has failed. The 32-year-old is among the prominent voices pushing for the resurrection of a coalition of anti-Taliban ethnic militias akin to the Northern Alliance of the late 1990s. Massoud believes the only way the Taliban can play a role in Afghanistan’s future is if its members cease fighting—a message he says regional powers must help deliver. “It is [the Taliban] who are spreading the fire, not us,” he stated.
That, however, is a daunting task. Massoud explained that today’s Taliban fighters have become “even more radicalized than their fathers who fought in the 90s” thanks to their links with modern jihadist groups such as ISIS and al-Qaeda. “The Taliban have not been reformed,” he asserted.
While he said he respects the US decision to withdraw militarily from Afghanistan, Massoud blamed Afghanistan’s current plight in part on the timing and sequencing of the February 2020 agreement between the US government and the Taliban, which he argued should have come after the Afghan government and the Taliban had reached their own political settlements. As a result, and given the Taliban’s current “momentum,” he said, the talks in Doha between the Taliban and Afghan government are effectively “over” for now.
The most effective way to pressure the Taliban to talk is through deterrence. Once the group’s leaders realize they can’t achieve their goals militarily in Afghanistan, they’ll likely be more open to political dialogue, Massoud maintained.
Kabul: Afghan officials said that the Taliban have attacked Kandahar from several directions, but security and defense forces have repulsed the attacks.
Mohammad Sadeq Essa, spokesman for the 205th Atal Corps, told VOA on Wednesday that the Taliban had carried out attacks in the third, sixth, fifth and 15th PDs of Kandahar, and clashes are currently taking place between the two sides in these areas. He added that the city of Kandahar would soon be cleared of the Taliban and the situation would return to normal.
“This morning, large numbers of Taliban fighters attacked parts of the city and put a lot of pressure on the Kandahar public prison. Our joint forces repelled Taliban attacks and protected the prison,” he added. He also said that Taliban gatherings in the province had been bombed by the Afghan Air Force, killing 15 Taliban fighters.
As fighting escalates in central Kandahar, the city is said to have taken on a “war face” and hundreds of families have fled the area. The Taliban said they had seized parts of Kandahar City in the attacks, but the provincial police chief issued a statement denying the group’s claim, saying Afghan troops are present in all areas of the city.
Meanwhile, Mohammad Davood Farhad, director of the Mirwais Regional Hospital, told VOA that 68 injured people had been transferred to the hospital since last night, including eight women and nine children. “Dozens of wounded are currently being treated at Mirwais Hospital, and we are currently providing services to war victims,” Farhad added. Mirwais Hospital is located about one kilometer from Kandahar Public Prison, and officials say clashes have erupted near the hospital.
Also, the Taliban have announced an attack on the city of Tarinkot, the capital of Uruzgan province. Uruzgan officials also confirmed the attacks but said they had responded strongly. Mohammad Omar Shirzad, the governor of Uruzgan, said that last night Taliban fighters attacked the Tarinkot from the east and west, which was met with a strong response from security forces. Shirzad says that the people’s forces also fought the Taliban last night alongside the security forces and gave a clear warning to the Taliban.
However, security sources told Salamwatandar that Taliban fighters launched attacks on the areas of Sardawra township and Kunduz airport. According to sources, the forces stationed at Kunduz Airport have retreated with their vehicles and equipment to the 217th Pamir Corps. Sources said that security forces in the 217th Pamir Corps have been deployed and warplanes are currently bombing the Taliban around Kunduz airfield. Kunduz security and local officials have not yet commented.
In other news, Hibatullah Alizai was appointed as Chief of the Army Staff replacing Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai. Government sources confirmed to Hashte Subh daily that President Ghani has appointed Alizai as the chief of army staff. Hibatullah Alizai was earlier the commander of the Special Operations Corps. Sami Sadat has been appointed commander of the Special Operations Corps. He was previously the commander of the 215th Maiwand Corps.
Also, a security source in Ghazni province said that Qazi Abdul Matin Atayee, an employee of the appellate court in Ghazni province, has been assassinated.
The source said that the incident took place on Tuesday evening on Hindu Ha Alley in the PD2 of Ghazni city. According to the source, he was targeted by the “unidentified men” when he returned home. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On the other hand, the NDS arrested a would-be suicide attacker in Pachir wa Agam district of Nangarhar province on Wednesday, before reaching his target, as per the provincial governor’s office.
Meanwhile, the “Movement of Change” political movement, led by Fawzia Koofi, a member of the peace negotiating team for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, said on Wednesday that the Taliban must respect the dignity of women.
Fatema Massoud, a member of the Movement of Change political movement, read a statement at a news conference in Kabul on Wednesday, saying that the warring parties must allow women and girls access to their services and rights like other citizens. The statement stressed that the two sides in the war should not take the opportunity of humanitarian aid to the people of Afghanistan, especially women. According to the statement, the people of Afghanistan, especially women and children, have suffered casualties during the wars in different parts of the country. The Afghan government and the Taliban have vigorously refrained from vandalizing public facilities, killing civilians, arbitrarily punishing them, forcing them to flee and dozens of other human rights abuses.
Koofi said the situation needed serious attention and that the Taliban should act responsibly in the areas under their control. She stressed that if the Taliban group is thinking of forming a government in Afghanistan, it must be in front of the people; women in particular. Fawzia Koofi also called on the international community to stop being an “observer” in Afghanistan. According to her, the international community must use its political power to ensure lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has taken complete control of Afghanistan’s borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, Russia’s defense minister revealed on Tuesday, noting that the terrorist organization has promised not to move across either frontier. “For us, it is important [to note] that the borders with Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have been taken under control by the Taliban,” Defense Minister Sergey Shoygu told a youth educational forum on the outskirts of Moscow.
The Taliban “promised not to make any attempts to cross the border and attacks on neighboring territories,” Shoygu said. Shoygu also noted that Moscow would set up bases on the territories of two of its CSTO allies – Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan. With the Taliban on the border, Russia has been conducting war games in Central Asia alongside Uzbek and Tajik troops. Taking part in the drills were 2,500 soldiers, including 1,800 from Russia.
Kabul: The National Water Affairs Regulation Authority (NWAR) announced that a feasibility study and detailed design of more than 42 water dams across the country has been completed.
Ahmad Wais Basiri, technical deputy director of NWAR, told a news conference on Wednesday that a feasibility study and detailed design of more than 42 dams across the country had been completed. However, the NWAR says that its main focus on managing the country’s water resources is to attract strategic investments from the private sector and international institutions in the field of water resources management.
Basiri also said that technical documents have been completed to finance the Panjshir Sea water transfer project to Kabul. The project is to be implemented with the financial support of the Asian Development Bank, during which 100 million cubic meters of water will be transferred annually from the Panjshir Sea to Kabul. According to Basiri, more than 2.2 million people in Kabul will benefit from the project.
Basiri pointed out that a total of 228 surface water monitoring stations and 800 groundwater monitoring stations are active in 27 provinces of the country. On the other hand, the Asian Development Bank is investing $ 700,000 in the digitalization of the NWAR. Basiri stressed that the plan to privatize the water distribution and modernize the traditional water distribution system is one of the important activities of the NWAR. On the other hand, the technical deputy of the NWAR called on the people to save water due to drought, climate change, population growth and reduction of the country’s water resources.
Meanwhile, a meeting of Pak-Afghan customs officials was held at Torkham border on Tuesday to bring an ease in bilateral trade and commerce activities between Pakistan and Afghanistan via Torkham border.
Pakistan’s Customs Deputy Collector Amanat Khan led the Pakistani side while Afghan Customs head Khial Zaman Amarkhel and Abdul Hamid Dost led the Afghan side. He said they also discussed the issue of 600 empty trucks stranded on the Afghan side of the border. He said that clearance of goods documents was the core issue with Afghanistan. The participants agreed to facilitate the traders and transporters to further increase import and export from and to Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, on the directives of NCOC, Pakistani border authorities allowed Afghan students to enter Pakistan via Torkham border. Additional AC Ashrafuddin visited Torkham border and monitored the Afghan students’ entry into Pakistan. The official said that the Afghan students enrolled in Pakistani educational institutions would go through official formalities and would follow standard operating procedures (SOPs) against Covid-19 SOP.
Kabul: Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai, Chief Negotiator of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan in a meeting with the special representatives of the Afghanistan peace supporting countries in Qatar said that the attacks on the cities, which is against all international rules and standards, has caused a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan.
“These attacks have created a climate of mistrust between the two negotiating sides. If Taliban are ready for a serious discussion in the negotiations, why they don’t present their plan for a common political future? The Afghan government has made much efforts to reach an outcome to be acceptable to the Afghan people in result of the negotiations, but it seems that the Taliban are using an exclusivist approach to use excuses and deception to reach a political agreement,” he said.
Stanekzai added that everyone believes that a military solution isn’t the right and rational option to achieve a lasting peace, but the Taliban prefer war and repeat it. While negotiations are under way, how can the Taliban justify their actions by targeting cities, civilians and killing innocent people in Afghanistan? “The intervention that is currently taking place in Afghanistan with a huge number of foreign fighters poses a serious threat not only to Afghanistan, but also to the region,” he said.
He said that Afghanistan should not become the center of conflicting interests of other countries. While consensus among Afghan politicians is important and improving under the leadership of the President of Afghanistan, at the same time in order to achieve a lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan, creating unity and consensus among the international community to prevent the intervention on expediting the war, continue civilian killing, and destroying of Afghanistan is very crucial, he added.
Also, 1st VP Saleh, said that the Minister of Hajj and Endowments has now been instructed to open the gates of mosques to all our displaced compatriots who have come to Kabul due to the terror of the Taliban. “I instruct all the security forces and the police that no one can prevent these needy families from entering the mosques. Worship is nothing but service to the people. No human heart can bear the heartbreaking scenes of women and children under the scorching sun. Displaced and fleeing compatriots – Kabul is your home. Our houses are open to you. Move to the nearest mosque,” he said.
Meanwhile, the European Union said on Tuesday it was eyeing more support for Afghanistan’s neighbors as a senior official warned fighting could force half a million people to flee abroad.
“The first priority is to continue to provide the best possible support according to the means available to those countries that are the most affected,” a senior EU official said. “So it’s important to continue strengthening direct support to those countries and the different types of organizations, non-governmental organizations or international organizations that are present in the field and providing assistance to displaced persons and refugees.” The 27-nation bloc is nervously watching as the Taliban sweeps across the conflict-wracked country as foreign troops depart. Brussels fears the violence could lead to a repeat of the 2015 crisis that saw around a million migrants – many from Syria – arrive in the EU and sparked major political problems at home.
The United Nations says that so far this year there have been no “large-scale displacements” across Afghanistan’s borders despite the Taliban’s advance. And the EU official said that the number of arrivals from Afghanistan since the start of January was around 4,000, 25 percent lower than in 2020. But another official from the bloc said the UN estimated that 500,000 people could be pushed to leave Afghanistan for neighboring Pakistan, Iran and Tajikistan as the situation deteriorates.
The UN says that Iran and Pakistan already host “more than two million registered Afghan refugees in total” after decades of conflict in the country. While the bloc hopes to stave off a massive influx of people, an official said that Brussels was working to help resettle Afghans who worked for the EU.
“We are in intense cooperation with all our member states, to make sure that our local agents and their dependents may either if they wish go to a European Union member state or go to another state in the region,” the official said. The EU’s ambassador to Kabul currently remains in Afghanistan despite the deteriorating security situation and officials insist the bloc aims to maintain its diplomatic presence. Officials said that nine member states also have functioning embassies still working in the country.
Also, Save the Children is extremely concerned for around 36,000 children displaced by clashes in Afghanistan’s northeastern city of Kunduz. Save the Children staff in Kunduz said at least 60,000 people have fled their homes amid gunfire, airstrikes and explosions after conflict escalated in Kunduz over the weekend. Children injured by airstrikes and shelling have no access to proper medical care, the agency warned. Aid agencies are currently unable to access the displaced families with food or medicines. Christopher Nyamandi, Country Director of Save the Children Afghanistan, said, ““Our staff in Kunduz tell us the situation is becoming more and more desperate. Families have been forced to flee their homes and gather in safer areas of the city, where they are living out in the open under tarpaulins with the sound of gunfire and explosions all around. Children injured in the blasts have no access to medical care. They have nothing to eat. They are hungry and traumatized.”
“Airstrikes are ongoing in Kunduz, putting even more children’s lives at risk and causing a great deal of distress to families living outside. Basic services like water, healthcare and schools have shut down. Markets have been destroyed and are now mostly closed, leaving families without anywhere to get food.
“A war zone is no place for a child, and we’re extremely concerned for the safety of children living without shelter, food or basic medical care. We urge all parties to put an end to the violence and protect civilian lives, especially those of children – and respect the obligations under international humanitarian law. All efforts must be made to come to an enduring peace settlement so that Afghan children, who have already lived their entire lives through war, can grow up in a country free of violence and hunger,” Nyamandi added.
In fact, even AIHRC said that numerous displaced families, especially women and children, across the country are in urgent need of shelter, food, clothing and medicine.
“Displacement, along with the outbreak of the Corona virus, has made drought, unemployment and poverty life more difficult than ever for the people of Afghanistan, especially those displaced by war and insecurity. Given this difficult situation, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) calls for more and more serious attention from the government, the international community, and domestic and international aid agencies to address the immediate and fundamental needs of the displaced. One of the lasting harms of war is the displacement of more children and their deprivation of education,” their statement said.
The Commission reiterated its call on the United Nations and the international community to use all available means and capacities to stop the war and to resume peace talks in order to prevent a wider humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), twenty medical teams have been assigned to provide services to the displaced in Kabul. Dr. Wahid Majrooh, Acting Minister of Public Health, in an emergency meeting with Dr. Abdul Karim Tutakhel, Deputy Head of the Presidential Affairs Office, representatives of the Ministry of Emergency Situations and Kabul Police discuss and exchanged views how to reach IDPs from war-torn provinces.
The Acting Minister of Public Health assured the ministry’s measures to take care of the displaced, saying that 20 medical teams along with 50 ambulances have been assigned to provide medical services in the displaced camps.
He said that there is very good coordination between the health departments and the aid agencies, and all the health departments have been mobilized to serve the needy, especially those who have been affected by the war. The Acting Minister of Public Health called on all health workers to be very kind to the displaced patients because they have suffered severe psychological damage and need compassion and consolation. On the other hand, Dr. Abdul Karim Tutakhel, emphasizing the joint cooperation of the Department of Public Affairs with the Ministry of Public Health and relevant institutions for the care of the displaced, said that creating shelter for the displaced is our priority and we are trying to prepare a specific place for them.
The Deputy Director of Cohesion Affairs thanked the leadership of the Ministry of Public Health for its efforts to control the third wave of the Corona virus and praised the ministry’s work. Also, the representative of the World Health Organization who was present at the meeting said that the Health Organization is ready for any cooperation with the Ministry of Public Health, especially in this critical situation.
Kabul: Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), called on the international community not to remain indifferent to the unprecedented humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and to send a clear message to the Taliban about peace.
Abdullah made the remarks on Tuesday at a joint meeting of Afghan peace partners in Doha, Qatar. The first day of the three-day summit was attended by representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Qatar. During his speech at the meeting, Abdullah accused the Taliban of violating their commitments to speed up negotiations and a political solution to the Afghan issue.
According to Abdullah, the Taliban, in violation of their commitments, have intensified war and violence and launched offensive attacks on cities. Abdullah added that the current war has led to an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, with thousands displaced, killed or wounded, and the Taliban committing crimes.
Abdullah added, “Thousands of terrorists, along with the constant presence of al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations, from Jaish-e-Muhammad to Lashkar-e-Taiba, have entered Afghanistan and are fighting against our people.” Abdullah stressed that all political leaders and parties in the country prioritize peace, but that the continuation of the current situation and the ambiguity in the peace process are not acceptable to the people. According to him, people have serious questions about the continuation of fruitless and unilateral efforts.
Referring to the danger of the crisis spreading, he stressed that no country, including the countries present at today’s meeting, will benefit from the current crisis in Afghanistan. He has called on the Taliban to put their plan for a political solution on the table and accept the presence of a mediator in the talks.
Representatives of the United Nations, the European Union, the United States, Britain, Russia, China, Pakistan, Uzbekistan and Qatar have expressed concern over the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan and the escalation of hostilities. They called for an immediate end to the war and called for speeding up peace efforts. Representatives of these organizations and countries have called for an immediate resumption of peace talks, an immediate cessation of violence, the formation of a comprehensive government, and a political solution. They also stressed that war is not the solution and that they are ready to contribute to the reconstruction of post-peace Afghanistan.
Also, at the invitation of Dr. Mutlaq Al Qahtani, Qatari Special Envoy for Counter Terrorism and Mediation in Conflict Resolution, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative for Afghanistan is in Doha to participate in the Regional Conference on Afghanistan and meeting of Troika Plus. Pakistan’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Mr. Mansoor Ahmed Khan is accompanying the Special Representative.
On the other hand, a spokesperson for the Taliban’s political office told Al Jazeera TV on Tuesday that the group is committed to the negotiation path in Doha and does not want it to collapse. A member of the Afghan government delegation in the Doha negotiations also spoke to the Qatar-based channel, saying the government demands a mediator in the negotiations “to determine the seriousness of the parties.”
The Taliban spokesman said that “it was the government that rejected the principle of a mediator, not the Taliban,” according to Al Jazeera. “We ask the international community to accurately assess the reality on the ground,” he added. The Afghan government delegation member told Al Jazeera that the “Taliban has no interest in negotiating, but rather in achieving its goals with violence. The international community should pressure the Taliban to show seriousness.”
Also, chief spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said that the United Nations said it remains in touch with stakeholders in Afghanistan to find a political solution to the conflict. During a press briefing, Stephane Dujarric said on Tuesday said, “We continue to be in touch with all the parties, whether in Afghanistan or regional parties in an effort to find a political solution.”
The spokesperson also said the facts on the ground in Afghanistan as reported are “extremely worrying” and “extremely concerning”, Sputnik reported. “All this should be a reminder for the parties to actually focus on the political process,” Dujarric added.
This comes even as NATO has termed the security situation in Afghanistan “difficult and challenging” and called on the Taliban to cease their attacks. “We share the deep concern expressed by the UN Security Council about the high levels of violence caused by the Taliban’s military offensive, including attacks on civilians, and reports of other serious human rights abuses,” a NATO official told dpa in Brussels. There is no military solution to the conflict, the official asserted.
“The Taliban must understand that they will never be recognized by the international community if they reject the political process and try to take the country by force. They must cease their attacks and take part in peace talks in good faith.” The NATO official called for an “inclusive, Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.”
Such a peace process needed to make urgent progress towards a ceasefire and a political settlement that puts an end to violence; safeguards the human rights of Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; upholds the rule of law; and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists. “We call on all regional actors to play a constructive role, since a stable and secure Afghanistan is to everybody’s benefit,” the official added.
Last month the latest round of rejuvenated intra-Afghan negotiations failed to deliver a breakthrough, with the Afghan government and the Taliban only vowing via a joint statement to continue to expedite high-level peace talks in Doha. A joint statement issued after two days of talks said the two sides also vowed to safeguard civilian lives, infrastructure, and delivery of services in the war-ravaged country.
But, Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. envoy, traveled to Doha, Qatar, where the Taliban maintain a political office, to tell the group that there was no point in pursuing victory on the battlefield because a military takeover of the capital of Kabul would guarantee they will be global pariahs. He and others hope to persuade Taliban leaders to return to peace talks with the Afghan government as American and NATO forces finish their pullout from the country.
The success of the Taliban blitz has added urgency to the need to restart the long-stalled talks that could end the fighting and move Afghanistan toward an inclusive interim administration. The new pressure from Khalilzad follows condemnations from the international community and a similar warning from the United Nations that a Taliban government that takes power by force would not be recognized. The insurgents have so far refused to return to the negotiating table.
Khalilzad’s mission in Qatar is to “help formulate a joint international response to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan,” according to the U.S. State Department. He plans to “press the Taliban to stop their military offensive and to negotiate a political settlement, which is the only path to stability and development in Afghanistan,” the State Department said.
Kabul: Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Hanif Atmar met with Chargé d’Affaires of the US Embassy in Kabul Ross Wilson, to discuss security developments in the country and the Afghan peace process. The Foreign Minister spoke about the political-security situation and the recent developments in the Afghan peace process, asserting the call of the Afghan people for an immediate end to the Taliban attacks on cities and the killing of people in different parts of Afghanistan.
Referring to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s propositions to hold two special sessions of the UN Security Council and the UN Human Rights Council on Afghanistan, Atmar called for Washington’s constructive support and cooperation with Kabul in that regard.
During the meeting, Atmar stressed on the importance of dialogue on the establishment of a ceasefire, the resumption of negotiations, and the restoration of lasting peace and stability in Afghanistan as issues to be discussed at the forthcoming UN Security Council session. The Minister of Foreign Affairs called on the UN Human Rights Council to send a fact-finding mission to Afghanistan to investigate human rights abuses and war crimes, and to prosecute violators and perpetrators of war crimes.
Wilson expressed concern over the flagrant human rights violations in Afghanistan, assuring Minister Atmar of his country’s efforts to fulfill the Afghan people’s desire to end the violence and ensure sustainable peace in Afghanistan. The two sides also talked about the agenda, the level of participation, and the issues to be discussed in the upcoming Doha meeting.
This comes even as the United States is evaluating the threat environment around its embassy in Kabul on a daily basis, State Department spokesperson Ned Price said on Tuesday, when asked about a potential further drawdown from the mission amid a Taliban takeover of seven regional capitals in Afghanistan.
“Obviously it is a challenging security environment. We are evaluating the threat environment on a daily basis,” Price told reporters in a briefing. “The embassy is in regular contact with Washington, with the most senior people in this building, who in turn are in regular contact with our colleagues at the NSC, at the White House.”
“But for right now, we’ve been able to continue those core activities that are important for us to conduct on the ground,” Price said, when asked if the worsening security situation was hampering diplomacy. Taliban insurgents tightened their grip on captured Afghan territory on Tuesday as civilians hid in their homes, and a European Union official said the militants now control 65% of the country after a string of gains as foreign forces pull out.
Pul-e-Khumri, capital of the northern province of Baghlan, fell to the Taliban on Tuesday evening, according to residents who reported Afghan security forces retreating toward the Kelagi desert, home to a large Afghan army base. The United States on April 27 ordered government employees out of its embassy in Kabul if their work could be done elsewhere, citing increasing violence in the city. Price added that the official posture has not changed since then.
“Of course, we do want to minimize the number of employees in Afghanistan whose functions can be performed elsewhere,” Price said.
On the relation of withdrawal of troops and deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, Price said, “President Joe Biden had no viable option other than to withdraw U.S. forces from Afghanistan. It was preordained. It’s a deal that this administration probably would not have made, certainly not in all the detail. But it’s the deal that we inherited.”
Taliban forces have swept across much of Afghanistan in the months since Biden announced that he would order U.S. troops to leave the country, culminating in the conquest of several provincial capitals since Friday. Allied officials have described Biden’s decision as “shock therapy,” but Price suggested that it should have surprised no one, given that the Trump administration struck a deal that called for the withdrawal of American forces by May 1.
“The idea that the United States could have maintained a significant military presence in Afghanistan was just not tenable,” Price maintained. “It was not in the cards, because according to that agreement that was negotiated by the United States, not this administration, but the previous one, if our forces remain there in great numbers after May 1, they could have become the targets of violence.”
State Department officials have repeatedly said they intend to maintain their diplomatic footprint in Kabul after the US troop withdrawal is complete. However, a further reduction of personnel at the embassy will quickly fortify concerns that the US is leaving Afghanistan while it descends into a possible civil war, and bring into question the Biden administration’s claim that they will be able to maintain diplomatic support for the Afghan government.
This weekend, the embassy urged US citizens in Afghanistan to depart the country “immediately using available commercial flight options.” “Given the security conditions and reduced staffing, the Embassy’s ability to assist U.S. citizens in Afghanistan is extremely limited even within Kabul,” the embassy security alert said.
Despite the drawdowns that have already occurred the embassy in Kabul “continues to pursue its full agenda of issues, including support of peace, security, economic, humanitarian, and other assistance, cooperation on counterterrorism and law enforcement, consular services, including especially the Special Immigrant Visa program, and public affairs,” a State Department spokesperson said.
On the other hand, even the Canadian government is making emergency preparations to get diplomats out of Kabul in case the Taliban threatens the embassy. Canadian Defense Minsiter Harjit Sajjan was advised in March on contingency plans for the Canadian Forces to help evacuate Canada’s heavily fortified mission in Kabul, according to a briefing note obtained by the National Post.
Much of the note, acquired through access to information legislation, was redacted before release. But it stresses that most NATO forces are exiting the country in parallel with the U.S. military withdrawal, to be completed by Sept. 1. A small number of Canadian Forces members are based at the mission in Kabul, and the Department of National Defense (DND) is carefully monitoring developments in the country, said Jessica Lamirande, a spokeswoman.
“While the situation is changing rapidly, with the support of on-the-ground planning and liaison assets, DND is developing contingency plans for a range of scenarios in the event that the (government) requests Canadian Forces assistance,” she said. National Defense will not disclose specifics of those strategies for security reasons, said Lamirande.
Meanwhile, even though U.S. airstrikes are helping to blunt Taliban advances across Afghanistan, Pentagon officials warn American air power alone will not be enough to push back the insurgent offensive. For weeks, the United States has been launching “over-the-horizon” strikes from its Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar and from its carrier strike group in the Persian Gulf, hitting Taliban targets with a heavy mix of AC-130 gunships and MQ-9 Reaper drones.
But there have been questions regarding the effectiveness of the strikes, with Taliban officials claiming the group has captured seven provincial capitals over the past five days, and tweeting on Tuesday that an eighth capital, Faizabad, in Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province, fell to them. “We have every confidence that those strikes are hitting what we’re aiming at and are having an effect on the Taliban,” Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday, saying additional strikes have been carried out “in just the last several days.”
Kirby acknowledged U.S. airstrikes alone would not be enough to hold Taliban fighters at bay. “Nobody is suggesting, nobody has suggested here at the Pentagon that airstrikes are a panacea that will solve all the problems, all of the conditions on the ground,” he said. “What we have said is that the Afghan forces have the capability, they have the capacity, they have a numerical advantage,” Kirby added. “It’s really going to come down to the leadership and the will to use those capabilities.”
At the White House on Tuesday, President Joe Biden echoed that call. “They’ve got to want to fight,” he told reporters, adding there will be no reconsideration of the U.S. decision to complete its military withdrawal by August 31. “We spent over a trillion dollars over 20 years. We trained and equipped with modern equipment over 300,000 Afghan forces,” Biden said. “They outnumber the Taliban.” “They have to fight for themselves, fight for their nation,” he said.
U.S. officials argue that fighting back will allow the Afghan government to gain leverage in ongoing negotiations with the Taliban. But despite an announcement earlier this month by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that the military had launched a new campaign to stabilize the country, there have been few signs of progress on the ground.
US President Joe Biden’s proposed fiscal year 2022 defense budget asks for an additional $300 million to support Afghan government forces in the absence of US troops U.S. officials also point out that the U.S. has already provided the Afghan air force with three refurbished Black Hawk helicopters since the withdrawal began this past May, and that another 34 are on the way. The U.S. is also in the process of purchasing more A-29 Super Tucano strike planes for Afghanistan and continuing to provide maintenance support from afar. Washington, too, has promised to continue to resupply the Afghan security forces with food and equipment, and pay their salaries.
U.S. officials, separately on Tuesday, voiced hope that their efforts may find a way to impress upon Taliban leaders that their current offensive is not in anyone’s interest. “There is room for diplomatic progress to be made,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said, pointing to the presence in Doha of Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. special representative for Afghanistan.
“The idea that we don’t have leverage or that the Islamic Republic, the government of Afghanistan doesn’t have leverage, is not the case,” Price told reporters, cautioning, “There are other tools at our disposal that fall short of reintroducing U.S. forces. We have not ruled any of those out.”
For the second day in a row, however, the Pentagon indicated that as the August 31 deadline for the U.S. withdrawal draws closer, U.S. airstrikes, at least, will become less likely. “The drawdown … in many ways, in many facets, is all but complete,” Kirby told Pentagon reporters. “The where and the when in terms of feasibility of these strikes is going to be different and it’s going to decline.”
Kabul: A security source in Badakhshan province confirmed that the city of Faizabad, the capital of the province, had fallen to Taliban fighters.
The source, who did not want to be named, told Etilaat roz daily that the Taliban had taken control of the city at around 11:00pm on Tuesday. He added that a number of security forces had retreated from the city to Kishm district following the Taliban attack. A number of security forces have also dispersed and retreated to the outskirts of the city.
Badakhshan is one of the most insecure provinces in the northeast of the country, where Taliban fighters are active. The group has stepped up its attacks in the province in recent months, and most of the districts in the province are now under Taliban control. The Taliban had intensified their attacks on Faizabad three days ago. The city is the ninth provincial capital to have fallen to the Taliban.
Prior to this, the cities of Zaranj in Nimroz, Sheberghan in Jowzjan, Taloqan in Takhar, Kunduz, Sar-e Pul, Pul-e-Khumri in Baghlan, Aibak in Samangan and Farah city fell to the Taliban.
Credible sources in Baghlan told Salamwatandar that the Taliban had on Tuesday evening reached the in Pul-e-Khumri city’s circle, the provincial capital, and had hoisted their flags over the circle. According to sources, the Taliban entered the building of the police headquarters, the governor’s office and the directorate of national security and seized all government offices.
Sources add that the Taliban have begun clearing out government offices. At the same time, all government forces and local officials have retreated to the army brigade in Kilagay, and fighting has begun around the army brigade. The Taliban also said in a statement that the group’s fighters had entered the Pul-e-Khumri city and seized all government offices. Baghlan security and local officials have not commented on the seize.
Also, the Taliban carried out large-scale attacks on Tuesday night to seize the city of Maimana, the capital of Faryab, which was repulsed by security forces. A security source told Salamwatandar that the Taliban had been defeated by casualties. According to the source, eight Taliban fighters were killed and a number of fighters of this group were wounded in the clash, and some of their weapons and ammunition were seized by the security forces.
But, in some forward development, Farah Police has announced that army soldiers have ousted the Taliban insurgents from the governor’s office, however, clashes are taking place in different parts of Farah city. Most parts of central Farah, including the governor’s office, were captured by the Taliban on Tuesday. There were also reports coming in on Wednesday morning that the security forces have managed to recapture Farah city.