Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghan government forces and Taliban insurgents waged war against each other in the past 24 hours despite U.S. officials saying there had been a breakthrough in recent days in peace talks to end the 18-year-old conflict.
While negotiators from the warring sides pressed on with meetings in Doha, Qatar, the Taliban and the Afghan government both reported fighting on the ground.
As per Reuters report, the Afghan defense ministry said an air strike had killed a senior Taliban commander in northern Balkh province on Thursday evening.
“As result of a targeted air strike by Afghan air forces, Mawlavi Sardar Mohammad, a key member of the Taliban military commission was killed along with eight others,” the ministry said in a statement.
The Taliban did not confirm the air strike.
A Taliban spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the insurgents had killed six Afghan soldiers, including two officers, in an attack on a checkpoint in northern Kunduz province.
Afghan, Taliban and U.S. sources said a peace deal could be signed this month, allowing a withdrawal of some of 13,000 U.S. troops and thousands of other NATO personnel that remain in Afghanistan following the U.S. intervention to oust the Taliban in 2001.
U.S. President Donald Trump said on Thursday there was a “good chance” of reaching an agreement with the Taliban on a reduction of U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said an important breakthrough had been made in peace talks with the Taliban in recent days, and Defence Secretary Mark Esper said they had negotiated a proposal for a week-long reduction in violence.
Details about when that was set to begin were not immediately clear but a Taliban official said it would be this week.
Attacks in Afghanistan jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019 compared with previous years.
More than half of the Afghan produced opium is converted into heroin in Pakistani laboratories before being smuggled out to markets in Europe, Africa and the Indian sub-continent, a Hayerabad based think-tank has said in a report.
As per ANI report, the think tank stated that the drug trafficking from the said Asian countries has been growing by leaps and bounds despite best efforts to eradicate it.
“Afghanistan accounts for more than 80 percent of the world’s opium production. More than half of it is converted into heroin in Pakistani laboratories,” read an analysis by Center for Asia Africa Policy Research.
US Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. pressed for answers this week on how the nation can finally end its nearly 20-year war in Afghanistan, where two more American soldiers were killed last weekend.
He visited Dover Air Force Base on Monday night with President Donald Trump to honor Sgt. 1st Class Javier J. Gutierrez of San Antonio, Texas, and Sgt. 1st Class Antonio R. Rodriguez of Las Cruces, New Mexico.
“Congress needs to do its duty and decide whether to continue America’s longest war,” Paul declared as he opened congressional hearing. “One generation cannot bind another generation to war and should not. We now have soldiers fighting who were born after the 9/11 attacks. We need to reexamine what our mission is in Afghanistan.”
Paul has long advocated for an end to the war and has warned against America embroiling itself in perpetual conflict in the Middle East. He believes it’s vital to engage his colleagues in substantive discussions about Afghanistan, as he did with this hearing.
“I think the more we talk about it, the better chance we have of ending the war,” Paul told The Courier Journal on Wednesday morning. “The young men and women who serve overseas deserve better from us.”
Paul and other members of a subcommittee of the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs heard from several experts at Tuesday’s hearing who offered insights into how America might extricate itself from Afghanistan.
The US military continued to drop munitions on Afghanistan in January 2020 at the near record-breaking levels achieved for 2019, figures released by Air Force Central Command (AFCENT) show.
According to the Combined Forces Air Component Commander (CFACC) 2013-19 Airpower Statistics released on 13 February, 415 missions flown in Afghanistan in January resulted in weapons being released.
This is comparable to the 463 releases logged for the same month in the record-breaking year of 2019, and means that the 878 strikes logged for January 2019 and 2020 are significantly more than the combined 691 strikes recorded for same month over the previous four years.
US Sen. Mike Lee says it is way past the time to pull the plug on the war in Afghanistan, which he has called one of the most shameful political and military scandals in American history.
“Let’s get out. Nineteen years is too long. Let’s end it,” the Utah Republican emphatically stated at a Senate committee hearing.
Lee encouraged President Donald Trump to “follow his instincts” to withdraw U.S. troops fighting the Taliban in the longest-running war in American history.
Trump has conditionally approved a peace deal with the Taliban that may lead to the withdrawal of U.S. troops, the New York Times reported earlier this week.
“President Trump might be the only one that could make that hard choice because it would be a firestorm if anybody talks about actually ending this, but if anyone could do it, it might be him,” retired Lt. Col. Daniel Davis said during the hearing.
Lee said he completely agrees.