Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: In a resolution, the National Ulema Council of Afghanistan described the ongoing war as illegitimate and called for an immediate end to fighting. The resolution stated that the war is fratricide, murder of Muslims, and destruction of public and private infrastructure.
Addressing a press conference, Acting Council Chairman Mawlawi Sardar Zadran read the resolution and added that the current war is detrimental to Islam and Muslims, and has caused the killing of youth, destruction of public facilities and farms, and increased hatred and enmity among the people.
Zadrad added that ulema in Indonesia, Bangladesh, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, and most recently Afghan and Pakistani ulema in Mecca conference have already issued fatwa on the illegitimacy of this war in Afghanistan.
In other news, Member of Parliament (MP) for Parwan province Abdul Zahir Salangi announced that he will reward anyone that provides information about those who destroy electricity pylons. Salangi pledged to pay his two-month salary, around 500,000 Afghanis as a reward, as the scheme is the only solution he thought of. Salangi rejected rumors that local thugs were responsible for the destruction of the pylons, and blamed terrorist groups, in particular the Taliban, for the act. Salangi added that he had identified such culprits and handed over to the ANDSF, 2 years ago, by proposing a reward of 300,000 Afghanis.
In fact, the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) called on the people to propose schemes to protect electricity facilities. DABS Spokesman Mohammad Hashim Sangar Niazi told Etilat roz that DABS will receive people’s proposals through social media and contacts, it has provided, merge them with DABS schemes and will forward to the relevant government agencies for further procedures. This comes as at least 27 electricity pylons have been destroyed across the country, over the past 2 months. Recently, storms destroyed two pylons in Paghman district of Kabul province; however, other pylons were detonated with improvised explosive devices (IEDs). Currently, Kabul and several other provinces are facing power shortages, due to the issue. DABS released a statement, stating that 39 pylons were destroyed over the past 6 months, which caused it millions of Afghanis in financial losses.
Meanwhile, local officials in Herat province reported that two kidnapping groups were disbanded during an NDS operation. The groups had 11 members and were involved in several kidnapping cases. Provincial Governor Abdul Saboor Qane told a news conference that one of the groups had kidnapped a religious scholar from Guzara district, who has been released during the operation.
A kidnapper claimed that he was intending to build a madrassa from the religious scholar’s ransom, who would also get some reward in the afterlife. The kidnapped scholar said that he was in kidnappers’ custody for 23 days, who had asked for $500,000 USD as ransom. Local officials gave assurances that efforts are ongoing to free 3 individuals, who are still in kidnappers’ custody.
Also, the Office of Prisons Administration reported that former commander of the Afghan National Civil Order Police, Zmarai Paikan, has been transferred to the National Directorate of Security (NDS) for investigation. There has been a rumor that Paikan has been released from prison.
Head of the Office’s media department, Saifullah Jalalzai, told Hashte Subh daily that Paikan is still in government custody, and has been officially handed over to the NDS, for further judicial investigation. Jalalzai said that the Office is responsible to keep prisoners, and if the judiciary seeks further legal procedures into the cases, the prisoners will be handed over to them. Police arrested Paikan in August 2020, after 3 years of chasing. Three years ago, Paikan was sentenced to 8.5 years in prison on allegations of misusing his authority and cooperating with his son in a murder case.
Meanwhile, Badakhshan’s provincial repatriation and refugee directorate reported that recent violence and fighting have forced over 7,000 families to flee their homes in the province. Repatriation and Refugee Director Abdul Wahid Taibi told Hashte Subh daily that those displaced have sought shelter in Fayzabad district, the provincial capital, from the district suburbs and seven other districts, including 200 families from Kunduz province.
Also, the local Sima-e Solh radio/TV station in Samangan province temporarily closed due to an increase in insecurity, interference by the warring parties in providing information, and financial problems. Head of the station Ismail Sadat said that the recent insecurity has forced a number of media outlets in other provinces to close as week, and employees are not ready to work under current circumstances.
On the other hand, local officials in Balkh province reported that the Hairatan border crossing with Uzbekistan reopened to trade. Provincial Police Spokesman Adel Shah Adel told Etilat roz that the crossing had been closed to trade goods due to security threats, over the past days, and the situation has become normal now. The provincial police headquarters gave assurances that the ANDSF consider the security of the people, particularly traders at crossing points, as their main priority, and will spare no effort in this matter.
Also, the Office of Prisons Administration has had the responsibility to manage all prisons, except the Bagram one, and has carried out the relevant affairs in accordance with the principles, criteria, and the country’s laws, and has tried to provide as many facilities as possible to prisoners. The Ministry of Defense (MoD) has so far managed the Bagram prisons and the Office is expected to take that responsibility in the future. Therefore, an Office delegation along with an MoD delegation have been deployed to Bagram prison, to assess the needs, and visit the prison and prisoners’ condition, in order to identify challenges and problems, and have the necessary advice in solving them.
Kabul: The United States ramped up planning for an emergency evacuation of its embassy in Kabul, as the US troops continue their withdrawal from Afghanistan and concerns linger over the security in the conflict-torn country after their departure, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing US officials.
Not only diplomats but also thousands of US citizens in the country could be evacuated; however, while the preparations have been sped up, there is currently no need for immediate evacuation, the newspaper reported Friday. The plans are mostly classified, but the US is now keeping helicopters at the nearby Kabul airport that could be used for a possible evacuation, officials said. US President Joe Biden on Friday expressed concern over the internal issues the Afghan government is facing, although he said the US was still “on track” with the plan to pull out most of troops in the next two months.
The expanded planning for an embassy evacuation, reflecting an increase in concern that a Taliban offensive could overwhelm US security and Afghan government forces guarding the US Embassy, has not been previously reported. An evacuation could involve not only hundreds of personnel at the US Embassy but thousands of other Americans in the country.
The U.S. military routinely conducts planning for nearly any contingency, including what it calls noncombatant evacuations at embassies and other locations. Because of the more pressing concerns in Afghanistan, planners stepped up preparations, contemplating evacuation operations based on scenarios that are more specific, officials familiar with the planning said. US officials emphasized that there is no immediate need for an evacuation of American personnel and that preparations were still in planning, though with more urgency. The military is coordinating with the US State Department, officials said.
“It’s not the plan, it’s a contingency,” said one official. “It’s still squarely in the box of just-in-case.” An evacuation operation also could require a large influx of American airborne troops and large strategic aircraft to evacuate not only embassy personnel, but potentially other Americans in the country, an operation that could take days to complete, according to people familiar with such operations.
The U.S. Embassy staff in Kabul will expand to include the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul into one expansive compound, and is expected to house hundreds of personnel, officials said. U.S. officials said they have plans for as many as 650 U.S. military personnel to be assigned to the embassy. Marine Gen. Frank McKenzie, the head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in the region, will have the authority to assign an additional 300 personnel to the embassy, based on security needs, a senior U.S. official said.
The assignment of U.S. personnel to the embassy and airport would include security personnel for the embassy, as well as a Marine Corps quick response force for emergencies. Other personnel will be based at the embassy complex to assist the Afghan security forces with aviation and other needs, officials said. Every U.S. Embassy world-wide maintains a classified emergency action plan to be activated in a crisis, a U.S. official said. The documents, which are supposed to be updated yearly, lay out tripwires, such as deteriorating security or health conditions, that would spark action, the official said.
Spouses of some U.S. diplomats, but not children, currently are stationed at the Kabul embassy compound, the official said, although it remains to be seen if that practice will continue. With the shutdown of the Bagram air base, hundreds of other American military personnel will be assigned to Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul, officials said. Helicopters and their crews and maintenance teams also will be based there.
Other military personnel at the Kabul airport will monitor attacks in the area and operate the anti-rocket, artillery and mortar systems, at the Kabul airport. The Kabul airport also is guarded by troops from Turkey, a North Atlantic Treaty Organization ally in Afghanistan. The U.S. departure from Bagram left the U.S. military headquarters in Kabul as the remaining military outpost in the country, with several hundred U.S. troops still assigned there, along with troops assigned to the embassy and airport. U.S. officials say that all forces, weaponry, vehicles and other equipment now have been removed from Bagram, the largest installation the U.S. had in Afghanistan.
Without Bagram, the U.S. has no existing remaining capability for providing combat air support to U.S. or coalition forces, including Afghan troops, from inside the country. Future air support operations must come from bases in Qatar and other installations in the Middle East, or from an aircraft carrier in the region. All of those are hours away from Afghanistan, diminishing their immediate effectiveness, officials have said.
Meanwhile, President Ghani met with Resolute Support Commander General Scott Miller at the Presidential Palace on Friday. The Palace stated that both sides discussed the continuation of U.S. assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan, particularly to the ANDSF, in the new chapter of relations between Afghanistan and the international community.
On the other hand, Afghan Ambassador to Czech Republic Shahzad Gul Aryubi met with Czech Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar in Prague, and discussed the country’s continued support to the ANDSF. Aryubi told Radio Azadi that Czech Republic has so far trained 420 Afghan pilots and it remains the country’s main focus of assistance to Afghanistan. Aryubi said that Czech Republic is willing to cooperate with the Afghan Air Force (AAF) in technical issues. Aryubi added that he has discussed the new chapter in bilateral relations with Czech President, Prime Minister and Defense Minister.
Kabul: Acting Public Health Minister Vahid Majroh announced the identification of black fungus infection, among COVID-19 patients.
Majroh stated that the new disease is on the rise, which will take further lives, if citizens become more irresponsible.
Majroh added that COVID-19 cannot be stopped through oxygen, even if each home receives an oxygen machine, but it can be prevented by wearing facemasks, avoiding crowds particularly in closed spaces, repeatedly washing hands during the day, avoiding those who have COVID symptoms, and receiving COVID vaccine.
Majroh gave assurances to the public that the government is utilizing all accessible capacities to purchase and provide COVID vaccine, as Afghanistan like other 3rd world countries is facing serious challenges. Majroh added that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) will receive 1.5 million doses of Johnson and Johnson from the US next week, and about 500,000 AstraZeneca doses from COVAX facility in mid-July, and hoped that the MoPH and National Procurement Authority will soon be able to purchase additional vaccine doses.
This comes even as the MoPH has recorded 1,272 new COVID-19 cases and 92 deaths over the past 24 hours. The total cases now stand at 124,757, while death toll is 5,199.
Majroh also held a meeting with health officials from the capital and other provinces to discuss measures to prevent the spread of black fungus. Participants discussed the virus effects, symptoms, mode of transmission, treatment, and MoPH’s preparation to combat the disease,
Majroh directed health officials to implement special measures and establish separate isolation wards within healthcare centers, and assigned a number of technical committees on the treatment of patients, raising public awareness, and using the existing facilities within the centers. Majroh stressed the importance of coordination among healthcare agencies in combating the disease.
The first case of black fungus was identified in Kabul some days back. Fever, cough, vomiting, blackheads on the nose and mouth, and nausea are common symptoms of the disease, and most people with the COVID-19 are at risk. Several media outlets quoted the MoPH that three cases of the variant have been recorded in Kabul, Baghlan, and Samangan provinces.
Also, Saudi Arabia will restrict travel to and entry from Afghanistan over coronavirus concerns, the state news agency (WAS) reported on Saturday. The ban goes into effect on July 4 and will apply to anyone who has been in the country within the last 14 days, it said. Saudi citizens returning before Sunday will be exempted. In fact, the Kabul embassy too has closed down due to the COVID-19 concerns.
Kabul: The Islamic State organization is swallowing up territories in Afghanistan amid NATO’s withdrawal from the region and an irresponsible approach by a number of officials in Kabul, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Friday.
“It is important to shine the spotlight on Afghanistan, where Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) members are actively concentrating their forces, and they do so, taking advantage of an irredeemably drawn-out process of hammering out real peace negotiations. We are worried about this, because Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K) is actively acquiring territories – mostly in Northern Afghanistan, right on the borders of countries that are our allies, amid the irresponsible behavior of some officials in Kabul and amid the hasty withdrawal of NATO, who is unable to report the achievement of at least some goals,” he said.
Lavrov noted that Russia holds consultations with CSTO member states in order to ensure security in Central Asia amid Islamic State – Khorasan (IS-K)’ ramped-up activities. “Of course, we seek to persuade political circles about the need to stop dragging out the negotiation process, and that agreements on a transitional government must be achieved,” the top diplomat noted. “We are also doing it within the so-called ‘extended troika’ of Russia, China, the US and Pakistan.”
Even, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan commended the goodwill of the Russian Federation for a peaceful resolution of Afghanistan’s crisis through constructive peace negotiations. Although not a direct party to the Doha Peace Agreement, the Government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has fulfilled all obligations, including the release of more than 6000 Taliban prisoners. The government of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has always emphasized peaceful settlement of conflict and is committed to meaningful peace talks leading to a comprehensive ceasefire and lasting peace in Afghanistan. However, as the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan almost completed, the Taliban have intensified their attacks. While appreciating regional and international support to our gains over the last two decades under the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, we call for establishment of an international committee to monitor the implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2513. The monitoring of the committee will clearly affirm that the Taliban, while not fulfilling their commitments to peace, have escalated violence to a level that even threatens the security and stability of the region.
Even, Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri lauded Iran’s position in resolving the crisis in Afghanistan, and called for further cooperation between Islamabad and Tehran. “The Islamic Republic of Iran has an important role to play in Afghan peace process,” Hafeez Chaudhri said. Reacting to the recent proposal of Iran’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian Fard to revive Tehran-Islamabad-Kabul trilateral mechanism to help advance the peace process, he said that Iran is a very important regional country and a neighbor of Afghanistan and certainly it has an important role to play in Afghan peace process.
Referring to Pakistan’s close cooperation with Iran on Afghanistan, the Pakistani foreign ministry spokesman said, “Pakistan in past had worked with Iran on Afghan peace and we think all countries, especially the immediate neighbors of Afghanistan, must contribute towards the Afghan peace process.” Last week, Taherian Fard traveled to Afghanistan and Pakistan to discuss the latest developments related to peace and Tehran’s consultations with Afghanistan’s neighbors. In a meeting with Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar, Taherian Fard proposed a tripartite meeting of Kabul, Islamabad, and Tehran.
This comes even as Acting Defense Minister General Bismillah Khan Mohammadi spoke over the phone with his US counterpart and both sides acknowledged the shared sacrifices of US and Afghan Forces, according to a Pentagon readout. “On July 1, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III spoke with Minister of Defense of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Bismillah Khan Mohammadi to congratulate him on his new appointment as Afghan Defense Minister. Secretary Austin stressed that the Department of Defense is deeply invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan, and in the pursuit of a negotiated settlement that ends the war. He also reaffirmed the United States’ commitment to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) as the withdrawal of US forces continues,” the statement from pentagon said.
Minister Mohammadi expressed his appreciation for the United States’ continuous support to the Afghan Security Forces and the Afghan people, a statement from Afghan Defense Ministry said. Both ministers acknowledged the shared sacrifices of US and Afghan forces, including the most recent attacks on the ANDSF by the Taliban. Secretary Austin made clear the United States’ intent to transition to a new relationship with Afghanistan and with the Afghan forces, one that continues to help the Afghan Government meet its responsibilities to its citizens, according Pentagon statement.
Meanwhile, the Polish President Andrzej Duda and Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Błaszczak participated on Friday in the celebration of the Operational Command of the Armed Forces Day and the official end of the mission of the Polish Military Contingent in Afghanistan. During the event, the President handed a military banner to the Operational Command of the Armed Forces under the name of Bronisław Kwiatkowski.
He stressed that Polish soldiers were proudly representing their homeland in Afghanistan, adding that the mission was among the biggest challenges that the Polish Army has been facing so far. “We are here to support our allies in need, because we count on reciprocity should our homeland need such support,” he stressed. The mission in Afghanistan was one of the longest and most difficult foreign operations of the Polish Army. Poland has been present in the country for almost 20 years with over 33,000 Polish soldiers and employees of the Defense Ministry participating in the mission.
On the other hand, Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz promised on Tuesday that authorities will ensure the perpetrators are “punished with the full force of the law.” “I find it intolerable for people come to us, say they are seeking protection and then commit cruel, barbaric crimes in Austria,'” he said. “Politically, this means for me that we will stick to our consistent line,'” said Kurz, who has taken a tough approach to asylum and migration policy. “With me, there will definitely never be a halt to deportations to Afghanistan or a watering-down of asylum laws toward asylum-seekers who commit crimes.”
This comes even as President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani will travel to Tashkent to attend a High-Level Conference on Central and South Asia: Regional Connections, local media reported. The conference will be held on July 15-16. The situation in Afghanistan will be discussed during this event.
Kabul: Local officials in Panjshir province reported that a natural water reservoir burst in Peshghor village, which led to flash floods and closed the routes of Hisa-e Awal and Paryan districts to the provincial capital, Bazarak district.
Provincial Police Spokesperson Ghulam Mohammad Mohammadi told Etilat Roz that the incident happened on Friday night, and also caused financial losses to local residents, destroying three madrassas, several bridges and culverts, and dozens of acres agricultural land, however, it had no human casualties.
In July 2018, the reservoir’s “iced bank” melted due to warming weather, which killed 10 residents and destroyed 500 homes, some partially.
Kabul: The General Directorate of National Security personnel thwarted a terrorist attack plan on a Herat-Kabul flight.
Sayed Idris, son of Rajab Ali, a terrorist who, under the guise of an artist, had planted a bomb containing RDX explosives, a hand grenade and chemicals in a musical instrument and tried to detonate it during a flight had been caught during counterchecks by NDS, NP stationed in Herat’s Khawaja Abdullah Ansari Airport.
In fact, Ian McCary, Deputy chief of Mission of US embassy in Kabul said, “I am disturbed by reports that the Taliban is shutting down media organizations in the districts they assault, attempting to conceal their violence in a press blackout. It seems they seek to silence media to hide their destruction of public infrastructure, looting, and killings of Afghan civilians and soldiers. The Taliban is using violent propaganda and hate speech to intimidate, threaten & attack Afghans on social media. Violence and terror cannot create peace.”
Meanwhile, the Biden administration is exploring having three Central Asian countries temporarily take in thousands of Afghans who worked with US forces and face threats from the Taliban now that American troops are withdrawing after 20 years, three sources familiar with the matter told Reuters on Friday. They said Washington is in talks with Kazakhstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan about letting in the at-risk Afghan citizens. Two of the sources were U.S. officials and all requested anonymity.
The three sources said an agreement did not appear imminent with any of the countries. The decision to move at-risk Afghans risks inflaming a sense of crisis in Afghanistan, as fighting between U.S.-backed Afghan forces and the Taliban has surged in recent weeks, with the militants gaining control of large amounts of territory. Thousands of Afghan translators and interpreters face threats from the Taliban after working for two decades alongside the U.S. military. The United States announced plans last week to seek refuge for thousands of vulnerable Afghans in countries outside Afghanistan so their U.S. visa applications could be processed from safety, but Washington did not specify where they would go.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki provided no further details on Friday. “One of the reasons that I’m not going to get into security details about what third country they might go to, and how many, is exactly for that reason, but certainly our timeline is to relocate these individuals to a location outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown,” Psaki said.
President Joe Biden has said those who helped the United States will not be left behind, and on Thursday a senior Republican lawmaker said plans to evacuate at-risk Afghans will include their family members for a total of as many as 50,000 people. “We are identifying a group of Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applicants who have served as interpreters and translators, as well as other at-risk categories who have assisted us. They will be relocated to a location outside of Afghanistan before we complete our military drawdown by September, in order to complete the visa application process,” a senior administration official said.
On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken met his Tajik and Uzbek counterparts. The State Department said in readouts of the meetings that Afghanistan was discussed but provided no further details. Washington agreed to withdraw in a deal negotiated last year under Biden’s predecessor, Donald Trump. Biden rejected advice from military leaders to hang on until an agreement could be reached between the insurgents and Afghanistan President Ashraf Ghani’s U.S.-backed government. Biden told Ghani in Washington last week the Afghans must decide their own future. Ghani said his job was now to “manage the consequences” of the U.S. withdrawal.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has assured Tajikistan that the current high levels of Taliban attacks are not permanent, and will decline after religious madrassas in Pakistan restart. Deputy Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab met with Tajikistan’s Deputy Foreign Minister Muzaffar Huseinzoda on the sidelines of the EU-Central Asia High-Level Political and Security Dialogue in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, and discussed security developments in Afghanistan and the region.
Nab said that the developments on the battlefield were not unexpected with the sudden withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan, however, these changes are short-term, and the Taliban will soon face a military stalemate and the situation will improve. The MoFA quoted Huseinzoda that Tajikistan is optimistic about Afghanistan’s future and remains committed to strengthening and expanding bilateral relations and cooperation. Tajik media reported that with Taliban attacks in northern provinces, Tajik forces have transited to high alert.
Kabul: As the final withdrawal date for US forces in Afghanistan grows close, all eyes are on the turbulent relationship between the Taliban and the government in Kabul. Abdullah Abdullah, head of the Afghan government’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said that the peace talks have made little headway – but the Taliban offensive has.
The reconciliation chief told CNN on Friday that peace talks with the Taliban had made “very little headway” and were proceeding at a “very slow pace.” While the US negotiated a peace deal with the Taliban in February 2020, allowing US forces to leave the country as the Taliban forswore terrorist tactics, no such deal was reached with the Kabul government, which the Taliban regards as a US puppet regime lacking in legitimacy. The Taliban ruled the country from 1996 until 2001, when a US invasion ended their brutal Islamist regime.
Although Taliban-Kabul talks began, they have been slow-going, and amid the US withdrawal, many have raised fears the Afghan government may quickly crumble against the insurgent force the US and its allies couldn’t defeat after nearly 20 years of war. Speaking to reporters in Washington, DC, following meetings with US President Joe Biden and other top US officials last week, Ghani said that “the false narrative of abandonment is just false.”
However, Abdullah, who accompanied Ghani to the US, told CNN that “had it been our choice … we would have thought differently.” However, the two men struck a tone on the issue of a potential Taliban victory. “It will not happen,” Abdullah said. “The Taliban have failed. They promised that they will de-link with al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups. We don’t have many signs of that. So that’s the danger for us, as well as for the region.”
“Too much has been gained for things to go back to the way they were before October 2001,” he added. “There might be temporary setbacks here and there, which is what we are witnessing but part of those gains are irreversible.” Ghani said last week that regional nations should “bet” on his government in Kabul, which will continue to receive US support for its civil and military budgets.
In fact, India on Friday expressed concerns over increased violence in Afghanistan. “We are concerned with increased violence in Afghanistan based on which we have issued a security advisory for Indians based there,” the Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said. Even talks on a proposal by Turkey to operate and secure a key international airport in Afghanistan are ongoing, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar noted, adding that Ankara is discussing the plan with several countries. According to him, there must be some political decisions in the United Nations and NATO, and an agreement must be reached with the Afghan government, Reuters reported.
Turkey is counting on political, financial, and logistical support from various countries, he added. He said that the final decision has not yet been made, but negotiations with the United States continue, and the plan will be implemented after the approval of the Turkish President. Earlier, Turkey offered to ensure the security of the Kabul international airport named after Hamid Karzai after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan. Turkey has over 500 troops in Afghanistan. Akar earlier said that Turkey has no plans to introduce additional troops.
Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch joined Afghan and international human rights organizations calling for a United Nations-mandated fact-finding mission to investigate escalating attacks on civilians in Afghanistan to promote justice and accountability.
The joint statement read, “The undersigned organizations welcome the call you made to the Human Rights Council on June 21 to consider “mechanisms for an effective prevention response” to the rapidly deteriorating situation in Afghanistan. We are writing to urge you to take action to support the establishment of a United Nations-mandated Fact-Finding Mission in Afghanistan, as requested by the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).”
They mentioned attacks on June 8 when insurgents carried out an attack on civilian deminers working for the Halo Trust in Baghlan province; the May 8 attack on schoolgirls at Sayed-Ul-Shuhada school in Dasht-e Barchi area of Kabul, a predominantly Hazara-Shia neighborhood. They also mentioned the suicide bombing at Kabul University that killed at least 19 people, mostly students in November 2020; an attack at a maternity hospital in Dasht-e Barchi in May 2020 which killed 24 civilians including 11 mothers and a midwife; the attack on a Sikh temple in March 2020 that killed 26 civilians. “These atrocities have prompted the AIHRC to request an international fact-finding mission to look at attacks on Hazaras and other religious minorities, attacks on women and girls, and targeted killings of human rights defenders and other civilians since January 2020. According to the AIHRC’s call, the fact-finding mission should also investigate attacks against girls’ education and against healthcare centers in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
The mission should investigate and establish the facts and circumstances regarding the alarming increase in attacks targeting civilians since January 2020; collect, consolidate and analyze evidence and documentation and review alleged violations and abuses of international human rights law and international humanitarian law by all parties; identify those responsible and hold them accountable; secure an effective and coordinated response by the national authorities and the international community and make recommendations, in particular on accountability measures, with a view to avoiding and ending impunity and ensuring legal accountability, including individual criminal liability.
Kabul: US President Joe Biden said on Friday that the drawdown in Afghanistan is “on track”, but troops will not leave the country in the next few days. When asked by reporters at the White House whether the United States will complete withdrawal in the next few days, Biden replied, “No, we’re on track exactly as to where we expect it to be.”
“I wanted to make sure there was enough running room that we wouldn’t be able to do it all till September,” he added. “There’ll still be some forces left, but it’s a rational drawdown with our allies and there is nothing unusual about it.” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki later told reporters during a daily briefing that the withdrawal is expected to be completed by the end of August.
Biden in April ordered all US troops to leave Afghanistan before September 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that drew the United States into its longest war. Security situation in the war-torn country has deteriorated as Taliban militants continue heavy fighting against government forces and gain ground since the drawdown of US troops on May 1.
The Taliban advances have prompted the US intelligence community to conclude that the government of Afghanistan could collapse as soon as six months after the complete withdrawal of the U.S. military from the country, according to a report of The Wall Street Journal. “I think they have the capacity to be able to sustain the government,” Biden said on Friday. “But I am concerned that they deal with the internal issues that they have to be able to generate the kind of support they need nationwide to maintain the government.” He also noted that the Afghan military needs to depend on its own capabilities to ensure the security of the capital Kabul.
Biden’s words came as US troops had left a major military base in Afghanistan. A spokesperson for the Afghan Defense Ministry confirmed earlier in the day that all US and NATO forces in Afghanistan had evacuated the Bagram Airfield near Kabul, handing over the largest coalition base to Afghan government troops.
On Friday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby revealed that the United States had handed over control of the Bagram Air Base to the Afghan forces and removed its troops as part of the ongoing drawdown of the American military presence in the region. The Bagram Air Base outside of Kabul, Afghanistan, has seen looting after American troops handed it over to the Afghan forces, according to Darwaish Raufi, Afghanistan’s district administrator for Bagram, cited by The Associated Press.
Dozens of looters entered the base on early Friday shortly after the Americans left, Raufi told the news agency. They stormed through unprotected gates, ransacked several buildings, and were later arrested by law enforcement. “They were stopped and some have been arrested and the rest have been cleared from the base,” Raufi told The Associated Press. “Unfortunately, the Americans left without any coordination with Bagram district officials or the governor’s office.”
Currently, according to Raufi, Afghan security forces are in control of “both inside and outside of the base”. The looters invaded the base following the departure of American troops, with Pentagon spokesman John Kirby confirming that control of Bagram Air Base had been handed over to Kabul. The move was praised by the Taliban, with a spokesperson affirming that it was a positive step in the interests of both Washington and Kabul in achieving peace and security in the country. The departure of US forces in Afghanistan was directed by US President Joe Biden, with the goal to complete the withdrawal by September. “We consider evacuation of all US forces from Bagram a positive step and seek withdrawal of foreign forces from all parts of the country. Such is in the interest of both them and Afghans. Afghans can move closer to peace & security with complete withdrawal of foreign forces,” the Taliban statement said.
Also, as part of the drawdown process from Afghanistan, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin approved a plan to transfer authority from Army General Austin S. Miller to Marine Corps General Frank McKenzie, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said Friday. Miller is the commander of US Forces-Afghanistan and the Resolute Support Mission. McKenzie is the commander of US Central Command. This is all part of the safe and orderly retrograde that will have all US troops out of Afghanistan by the end of August — well within President Joe Biden’s order. “We expect that transfer to be effective later this month,” Kirby said. “General Miller will remain in theater in coming weeks to prepare for and to complete the turnover of these duties and responsibilities to General McKenzie.”
Kirby emphasized that McKenzie will retain all existing authorities that Miller currently possesses and commander of US Forces, Afghanistan. “He will continue to exercise authority over the conduct of any and all counterterrorism operations needed to protect the homeland from threats emanating out of Afghanistan, and he will lead U.S. efforts to develop options for the logistical, financial and technical support to Afghan forces once our drawdown is complete.” This process will allow the United States to maintain a diplomatic presence within Afghanistan, as US and Afghan leaders hash out the new bilateral relationship between the nations. Austin also approved establishing US Forces Afghanistan to be led by Navy Rear Admiral Peter Vasely in Kabul. Army Brig. Gen. Curtis Buzzard will lead the Defense Security Cooperation Management Office, Afghanistan that will support Vasely. Buzzard’s office is based in Qatar. The security cooperation office in Qatar with Brig. Gen. Curtis Buzzard as its head will support the Afghan national defense forces, and security forces to include over the horizon, aircraft maintenance support Defense Department spokesman John Kirby said on Friday. The remaining US presence in Afghanistan will be focused on protecting a US diplomatic presence in the country, supporting security requirements at the Kabul airport, advising and assisting the Afghan national defense and security forces and supporting counterterrorism efforts, Kirby added.
However, Russian presidential envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said Friday that the US cannot and should not transform the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan into the relocation of its military facilities to Central Asia. “We have already sent such a signal to Washington at various levels, I hope it will be heard,” Kabulov told Russian news agency, RIA. Kabulov called “a dead end” the current confrontation between the Taliban and the Afghan government and urged all sides to establish a coalition government.
He promised international support in forming an interim government, stressing that “the final decision on the configuration and parameters of the future power structure should be made by Afghans themselves.” The envoy expects that a suitable occasion for the launch of the negotiation process will come closer to autumn. He does not exclude a meeting to push peace talks.
“We continue to work together in the format of an expanded ‘troika’ with the participation of Russia, the United States, China, and Pakistan,” he said. “We do not rule out the convening of its next round in the near future. In addition, we keep in mind the possibility of organizing another meeting of the Moscow format, which, as you know, unites all the countries of the region around Afghanistan, as well as the United States,” he said. As for discussions on Afghan issues in UN structures, including in the Security Council, it is expedient at a later stage — when Afghan parties have already reached the signing of a peace agreement, he said.
This comes even as the situation in Afghanistan and the withdrawal of Western military contingents was the focus of talks between Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev and national security adviser to the Afghan president, Hamdullah Mohib, the press service of the Russian Security Council said on Friday. “Nikolai Patrushev and Hamdullah Mohib focused their attention on the security situation in Afghanistan amid the withdrawal of Western military contingents and on the degradation of the military political situation in the north of Afghanistan,” it said.
Patrushev and Mohib also discussed issues around the progress of and prospects for the intra-Afghan peace dialogue, and further bilateral cooperation between Russia and Afghanistan within multilateral formats, including among security and law enforcement agencies. “The sides discussed in detail issues of combating terrorism and drug-related crimes, cooperation in the trade and economic, and military-technical spheres,” it noted.
Meanwhile, translators and other Afghans who assisted American forces during the war will be relocated to foreign countries while their US visa applications are processed, the White House said on Friday, declining to give further details.