Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghan health officials have reported 14 new cases of the coronavirus in the country.
The head of Public Health department in Herat, Abdul Hakim Tamana told Reporterly that at least 11 cases were recorded in Herat and three others in Farah province.
This comes as the total number of coronavirus cases in Afghanistan reaches to 110.
The European Union in a statement on Friday condemned recent attacks in Afghanistan and called for a permanent ceasefire in the country.
“This is the long-standing demand of a large majority of Afghans, strongly supported by the EU,” the statement read, referring to a permanent ceasefire.
The statement mentioned recent attacks, including an attack on a Sikh temple in Kabul and an attack on Afghan forces in Zabul, and said, contrary to the spirit of the Doha agreement, military and terror attacks continue to take place across Afghanistan.
“The EU will continue to help protect and promote the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Afghans, including ethnic and religious minorities, and to promote a long-overdue peace process that brings peace, tolerance and stability to the country and guarantees freedom of worship for all people of Afghanistan,” the statement said.
Turkey has already set an eye to hosting the talks, expressing willingness to mediate between the conflicting parties.
“Turkey has generally opted to put itself forward as a neutral venue for intra-Afghan talks and to play a mediator role,” said Tanya Goudsouzian, an Istanbul-based Afghanistan affairs specialist, underlining that this is not a new idea for Turkey.
The deal between the U.S. and the Taliban was signed in Doha, Qatar, after an 18-month-long negotiation process. After nine rounds of often on-off progress, more than a year later agreement was finally reached, ensuring that the U.S. would withdraw its troops from the country with 14 months.
The U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad congratulated Afghan political and civil society leaders on Friday on forming a negotiating team for talks with Taliban.
“This consensus is a meaningful step that moves the parties significantly closer to intra-Afghan negotiations,” he said on Twitter.
Late on Thursday, Afghanistan’s government announced a 21-member team to negotiate with the Taliban, in a tentative sign of progress for the United States-brokered peace deal that had previously been marred with delays, in part due to a bitter feud between Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and his political rival Abdullah Abdullah.
Reacting to the criminal attack on a Kabul gurudwara by IS-K terroeists, Dr Zafarul-Islam Khan, Chairman of Delhi Minorities Commission (DMC) severely condemned it and called for severest punishment to the criminals who executed, planned and supported this crime.
He called upon the Afghan authorities to arrest these criminals and execute them at the earliest.
He said IS-K is a fanatic organisation which relies on the ideas of Khawarij outlaws who reared their heads in early Islam and were rejected by Muslims all these past fifteen centuries
Dr Khan said IS-K is deadlier than Corona virus and should be mercilessly exterminated form the face of the earth.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced that Kabul will enter to locked-down due to the coronavirus outbreak in Afghanistan tomorrow.
The lockdown will begin Saturday and will continue for at least three weeks, government officials said.
The health minister Ferozuddin Feroz said the lockdown plan will be put in place because Kabul has a large population and the coronavirus is spreading. He says the lockdown will go into effect tomorrow (Saturday).
He said that it is estimated that over 25 million people will be infected with the coronavirus in Afghanistan and at least 16 million of them will show symptoms. But he said the spread can be prevented if measures are implemented.
Acting interior minister Gen. Massoud Andarabi said all buses that carry more than four passengers will not be allowed to travel in Kabul or enter the city from other areas.
President of Uzbekistan Shavkat Mirziyoyev has held a telephone conversation with the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani.
The leaders exchanged warm congratulations and best wishes on the occasion of the spring holiday Navruz.
It was emphasized that this bright holiday of prosperity and renewal of nature traditionally symbolizes the common cultural and spiritual heritage, the aspirations of friendly peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.
In turn, Ashraf Ghani expressed deep gratitude to the leader of Uzbekistan for congratulations, as well as the support and active efforts to achieve peace and socio-economic reconstruction of Afghanistan.
He emphasized that Tashkent International Conference on Afghanistan, held two years ago at the initiative of the President of Uzbekistan, was a key event, the starting point in the process of launching the political process for peaceful settlement of the Afghan problem, the search for mutually acceptable forms and mechanisms of dialogue between interested parties.
During the conversation, the current situation and measures taken in connection with the spread of coronavirus infection in the region were discussed.
Heads of states emphasized the importance of further close coordination of actions and taking decisive steps to monitor the sanitary-epidemiological situation in the two countries.
Presidents also considered pressing issues of bilateral cooperation, primarily in trade-economic, energy and transport-communication spheres, as well as exchanged views on the international agenda.
An agreement was reached on intensifying efforts to prepare and implement joint infrastructure projects designed to ensure the sustainable development of Afghanistan and increase the welfare of the country’s people.
Seven Servicemen of the North Macedonia’s army who have been taken part in the NATO Led Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan, will return home on Friday.
The Macedonian soldiers will be transported back home after landing tomorrow in the evening.
A group of soldiers of the country’s rotating NATO mission in Afghanistan will come back to Macedonia early because NATO is reducing its troops from Afghanistan.
The Afghan economic growth cannot withstand the 1 billion dollars aid cut by the US and the financial pressures originating from the spread of coronavirus, according to a survey by the Biruni Institute.
The survey warns that if the Afghan government adopts austerity and a cost reduction policy, the Afghan economic growth rate will slump by 10 percent.
“If the government decides to apply an austerity policy in the face of an outbreak of coronavirus, and reduce the budget by one billion dollars, the economic growth rate will slump by 11 percent,” said Omar Joya, a researcher of Biruni Institute.
According to economic researchers, the dependency of Afghanistan on foreign aid makes the country very vulnerable to the policies of donor nations.
“In case one billion dollars is reduced, the results will be devastating, because today, in view of of the coronavirus, we need incentives and financial packages to fight the coronavirus, not reduction in aid or contraction,” said Nazeer Kabiri, the head of Biruni Institute.
Currently, over 50 percent of the national budget is being paid by the foreign donors, and of that 37 percent is paid by the US.
Afghanistan will release at least 10,000 prisoners over the age of 55 in an attempt to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, officials said on Thursday.
“The president has issued a decree that several thousand prisoners will be released soon due to coronavirus,” an official in President Ashraf Ghani’s office said.
Those released will not include members of Islamist militant groups the Taliban or Islamic State, and the process will be completed within 10 days, said two government officials.
“Prisoners with serious health problems, women, children, the elderly above 55 years will benefit from the decree,” said Attorney General Mohammad Farid Hamidi.
New York City saw more deaths from the coronavirus in one day this week – Wednesday, 25 March – than US fatalities in Afghanistan over the past four years.
The biggest city in the United States, which has become the national epicentre of Covid-19, recorded 81 deaths; by contrast, since the start of 2016, some 75 US personnel have been killed in America’s longest war.
In one hospital in the borough of Queens, 13 people admitted with symptoms of Covid-19 died on 25 March alone. One doctor at the hospital told the New York Times the situation there is “apocalyptic”.
Remarking on the sheer scale of New York’s daily death toll, MSNBC host Joe Scarborough wrote: “More Americans died today in New York City of the Coronavirus than died in Afghanistan over the past 5 years. The President needs to get serious about this pandemic now. It is only going to get worse.”
As New York City’s battle with the coronavirus epidemic continues to escalate, both mayor Bill de Blasio and state governor Andrew Cuomo are making frank predictions about just how bad they expect the situation to become.
Speaking at a press conference on the city’s deadliest day so far, Mr de Blasio said he expects that half or more of the city’s population – that is, four million people – will contract the coronavirus. He described that forecast as “worrisome, very deeply worrisome, for all of us”, but also said “we have to start with the truth”.
The families of Sikh citizens who died on Wednesday in an attack on Dharamshala, a Sikh place of worship in Kabul, on Thursday cremated the remains of the victims and urged the government to investigate the attacks.
Some Sikh citizens said they are “tired of living in Afghanistan”.
25 people were killed and more than eight others were wounded during an attack on a Sikh place of worship in the Shorbazar area of Kabul, the Ministry of Interior said in a statement.
Seven of the killed were male, seven others were female, and one was a child.
Children, who were studying in the Dharamshala, said that gunmen killed their teachers In front of them.
The attacks sparked reactions in Afghanistan and in the world.
Based on the United Nation (UN) figures, more than 100 civilians have been killed between March 1 and March 20, 2020 in Afghanistan.