Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Paktia’s provincial government announced the prevention of a car bomb explosion in Gardez city. Provincial governor’s office stated that the National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel captured an explosives-laden vehicle during a special operation in Gardez city, before it reached its target.
The office claimed that the vehicle had intended to target the introduction ceremony of the new provincial governor, which was scheduled for Monday; however, intelligence information led to its capture.
Also, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced that it targeted a core of Taliban’s key military commanders in Maidan Wardak province, and killed dozens of insurgents, including senior commanders. The NDS stated that the operation was conducted against a Taliban gathering in Mamaki area, in accordance with prior intelligence, where the commanders were planning to attack ANDSF positions and destroy public infrastructure.
The NDS added that a large number of weapons and ammunition were destroyed during the operation. The NDS gave assurances that it is observing all movements and activities of terrorist groups and it will suppress and eliminate central and military cores of terrorist groups in a long-term planning.
Meanwhile, local officials in Ghazni province reported that the Taliban carried out attacks against some parts of Jaghori and Nawur districts. Jaghori District Governor Arif Bahonar told Etilatroz daily that Taliban insurgents launched an attack against ANDSF outposts in Kotal Loman, from Tamaki area of Qarabagh district, and the clash has intensified.
Bahonar claimed that 12 Taliban insurgents were killed after the ANDSF targeted their position, in Tamaki village, on Sunday. Additionally, Nawur District Governor Tahir Zahedi told Etilatroz daily that the Taliban launched an attack against Qoshang area from Ajristan district, on Sunday night. Zahedi added that the Taliban captured and burned an outpost in Qoshang area, and the area is partially controlled by the group. Provincial Police Chief Hekmatullah Kochi said that Taliban attack against a people’s uprising forces in Jaghori district was repulsed, but he rejected Taliban attack against Nawur district.
Kochi gave assurances that adequate coordination is in place amongst the ANDSF in the mentioned districts, and they enjoy enough facilities, and if required, further assistance will be provided and operations will be launched there. Kochi added that the Taliban are unable to attack or capture Jaghori and Nawur districts, as the locals are opposed to the group.
In other news, the Taliban also attacked an Afghan National Army (ANA) base near the Afghan-India Friendship Dam (Salma Dam) in Chishti Sharif district of Herat province, killing 16 soldiers, as per reports. Provincial council member Wakil Ahmad Karokhi told Etilatroz daily that the Taliban captured the base on Sunday night and took away the ANDSF equipment from the base. Karokhi urged the government to take serious measures to secure the dam. Local officials and the Taliban have yet to comment on the report.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior’s (MoI) counter-crime police personnel launched a targeted operation in Panjshir province in coordination with provincial police, and arrested an individual, named Hamid aka “Hamid Ghancho,” who heads an organized criminal group. The MoI stated that the suspect is accused of murder, issuing death threats, and extortion from shopkeepers in Kabul city’s PDs 2 and 4, and the suspect has confessed to his crimes. The MoI added that an AK-47 has also been confiscated.
Also, local sources in Parwan province reported the arrest of four suspects on suspicion of detonating electricity pylons. Sources told Hashte Subh daily that a traffic policeman noticed and arrested two individuals with a jug near a pylon on Sunday, who were waiting to plant improvised explosive device (IED) near the pylon. The traffic policeman informed the National Directorate of Security, who then arrested two others in connection with the case. Recently, the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS) reported that 39 pylons were either destroyed or detonated across the country, over the past six months. The NDS, in a statement, announced that head of the group that detonated pylons along with his three colleagues, who are Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISKP) members, have been arrested. The NDS added that some terrorist materials have also been confiscated.
Kabul: The Ministry of Mines and Petroleum announced on Monday that it intends to auction the Zarkashan Copper and Gold Project in Ghazni province, during the mining week, to attract national and international investment for development and extraction.
The Ministry stated that the project will attract an investment of about 15 billion Afghanis in the mining sector and 200 people will get an employment.
The Soviets and Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) conducted exploration, geophysical studies, and drilling in the project in the 1960s and 1970s, and found that the mine contains gold and copper. Additionally, the AGS and the US Geological Survey prepared remote sensing data packets for the project in 2009-2011, using contemporary methods of interpreting satellite images.
Kabul: The Independent Election Commission (IEC) introduced Noor Agha Shahidzoy as a replacement for Hamidullah Tokhi from Zabul province, Noor Mangal as a replacement for Ghafar Khan from Khost province, and Ajmal Gulab as a replacement for Sayed Mohammad Mohammadi from Kabul province, in accordance with the 3rd paragraph of article 50 of the electoral law.
Tokhi has been appointed as Zabul’s provincial governor, and Ghafar Khan as military deputy to the NDS chief, whilst Mohammadi died of COVID-19 infection.
In other news, the European Commission is allocating €25 million in humanitarian funding from its Solidarity Emergency Aid Reserve to fight hunger in Afghanistan. Janez Lenarčič, Commissioner for Crisis Management said, “In 2021, half of the population in Afghanistan is expected to suffer from acute food insecurity. The drought affecting the country is worsening an already dire situation with political insecurity and conflict, as well as the current strong third wave of the COVID-19 pandemic. The food shortage and limited water availability will increase the prevalence of severe malnutrition. In response, the EU is mobilizing humanitarian support to help alleviate hunger.”
The latest EU funding to Afghanistan comes in addition to the EU’s initial allocation of €32 million humanitarian aid for Afghanistan in 2021. The funding will support activities that contribute to addressing the increased needs stemming from drought, including the sectors of food assistance, nutrition, health, water-sanitation-hygiene, and support to humanitarian logistics. All EU humanitarian assistance is delivered in partnership with UN agencies, International Organizations, and NGOs. It is provided in line with the humanitarian principles of humanity, neutrality, impartiality, and independence, to benefit directly the people in need across the country.
Kabul: Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai stated that the IS phenomenon emerged during the US presence in an interview with Global Times. “The United States and its allies in NATO came to Afghanistan in the name of fighting terrorism and extremism and to bring stability to Afghanistan. Not only did stability not come, conflict did not end, rather new terrorist groups emerged. IS is a new phenomenon here. It emerged during the US presence here under their watch while they had full control of Afghan airspace and ground. Therefore, looking at the sufferings of the Afghan people, the emergence of IS, and the continuing conflict, it’s clearly turning out that the United States has failed,” he said.
He also said that the US is shifting the burden to the Afghan people. “I agree with President Biden that it is for the Afghans to decide their future and to bring peace. But it is also the responsibility of those countries, especially the United States, who came into Afghanistan in the name of bringing peace and stability. They cannot be absolved of their responsibilities here,” he added.
For the role of US in the future, Karzai said that any form of US presence in Afghanistan into the future must be beneficial to the wellbeing of the Afghan people and be for peace and security in Afghanistan. Karzai said that right now what is needed now is for Afghanistan and the neighborhood is to put hands together and to bring the needed stability to Afghanistan and the broader region.
On China, Karzai said that it has been a very constructive player for peace and stability in Afghanistan and has also been an economic partner with Afghanistan. “China tried to convene intra-Afghan dialogue in Beijing several times and some meetings were held there. One major meeting was attempted in 2019. We really want China to continue to contribute to peace in Afghanistan by creating a platform of talks through its own initiative in Beijing, and also through the joint exercise of troika,” he said.
He added that China has the ability to work between Afghanistan and Pakistan and improve relations between the two countries, to make sure relations between the two countries will be based on a civilized interaction.
Kabul: Parliament Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani expressed concern about the constant collapse of districts. Rahmani told the House session on Monday that the government must have regular measures and strategy in regards to the security situation.
Rahmani directed the Defense and Security Committees to invite security officials, in order to hear their plans for the prevention of district collapse and share them with the public. He added that the collapse of districts was expected after the withdrawal of foreign forces, but assured that the latest changes on the battlefield will not, under any circumstances, threaten the system and national sovereignty.
Rahmani called on the warring parties to prevent civilian casualties, urged the government to avoid discrimination and maintain balance in distributing military equipment to people’s uprising forces across the provinces. Member of Parliament (MP) for Daikundi province, Ali Akbar Jamshidi, criticized the Ministry of Defense and National Directorate of Security for failing to address the lack of military equipment in the province, as the province has witnessed fighting over the past month.
MP for Maidan Wardak province Mahdi Rasikh said that about 100 districts fell to the Taliban, over the recent weeks, and managing the ongoing war has slipped from government’s control. MP for Farah province Abdul Sattar Hussaini claimed to have obtained documents, showing that drones have hovered over districts, which have fallen to the Taliban within days afterwards. Hussaini added that he has shared the issue with security officials, who have expressed ignorance about it.
However, the Afghanistan government forces plan a counteroffensive in the country’s northern provinces after losing ground to the Taliban, Russia’s RIA news agency cited National security adviser Hamdullah Mohib. He said that government forces had not expected the Taliban offensive but would “absolutely, definitely” counterattack.
Mohib also spoke to Sputnik and said that the United States has already handed over to the Afghans most of the weapons it was planning to give, and they are using them to defend the people and territorial integrity of the country. “So, they will be handing over some equipment, but most of it has already happened. And we’re using it as we speak and defending the Afghan people and Afghanistan’s territorial integrity”, Mohib said, when asked if the US would transfer the remaining military equipment to Afghan government forces after leaving the country. Most of the US troops have already left, with only a limited number of soldiers left, “and those troops were involved in training and advising and assisting capabilities”, the adviser said.
At the same time, the national security adviser noted that the government is struggling to see a positive response from the Taliban militants. “We, unfortunately, have not seen enthusiasm or good faith efforts from the Taliban for peace talks so far”, Mohib said.
“The Taliban used the vacuum in which the Americans and other international troops were retrograding and launched an unannounced offensive. And that took many of the Afghan security forces by surprise. Because like I said, we were expecting peace, not war”, he said. Yet, the people of Afghanistan are “determined” and want to “live in freedom”, Mohib continued. “We want to see the Taliban included in the government and be represented, but Afghans are not ready to have the Taliban dominate all of Afghanistan and dictate the way Afghan people must live”, the security adviser said. As serious as the situation is, the government hopes that it will not completely lose control of the north, Mohib said.
Meanwhile, in the last two months, the war has spread to unprecedented levels in most provinces. The fighting has forced thousands of families to flee their homes and seek refuge in relatively safe district and provincial capitals under difficult conditions.
The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations says that during the two months of the war, about 22,416 families were displaced from different provinces. Abdul Basit Ansari, the ministry’s press adviser, told Hashte Subh daily that most of the displaced were from Kunduz, Baghlan, Helmand, Ghazni, Takhar and Badakhshan provinces. Ansari added that the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations has helped 20,000 families with food, carpets and tents. He called on partner institutions to co-operate with the ministry so that they can cover more IDPs.
The Department of Refugees and Repatriations of Baghlan Province has announced that about eight thousand families have been displaced in the past month due to the escalation of the conflict in the province. The Department of Refugees and Repatriations in Badakhshan Province has said that more than 7,000 families have been forced to flee their homes due to recent violence and fighting in the province. Abdul Wahed Taybi, Badakhshan’s director of refugees and returnees, said thousands of families had fled their homes as a result of heavy fighting in the province.
The head of Badakhshan’s refugees and returnees added that in the last few weeks alone, some 2,500 families have been displaced from different districts due to the escalation of fighting. He stated that more than 200 families have come to Badakhshan from Kunduz. Only 139 displaced families from Kunduz have been assisted. Abdul Wahed Taybi says assistance is being provided to other families.
The Kunduz Department of Refugees and Returnees says that as a result of the war in the past month, 12,000 families have been forced to flee their homes. Ghulam Sokhi Rasooli, director of Kunduz province for refugees and returnees, said that as a result of heavy fighting between security forces and the Taliban in the province, more than 12,000 families had been displaced. According to Rasouli, these IDPs are from Imam Sahib, Aliabad, Khanabad, Chahardara and central areas of Kunduz. The head of the province’s refugees said that in a recent month, in coordination with aid agencies, of a total of 12,000 displaced families, 6,500 families needed help, and the process of distributing aid to these families is currently underway.
The Department of Refugees and Repatriations in Takhar Province says that as a result of the recent fighting in Takhar Province, about 9,000 families have been forced to flee their homes. Yasin Labib, director of refugees and returnees in Takhar province, said about 9,000 families from 13 districts and the capital of Takhar province had taken refuge in Taloqan following the fall of the districts.
Faryab’s provincial repatriation and refugee directorate reported that fighting has forced 5,670 families from Andkhoy, Gurziwan, Khwaja Sabz Posh, Pashtun Kot, Qaysar, and Almar districts to flee their homes and shift in Maimana city, over the past month. Provincial Repatriation and Refugee Director Ghulam Farooq Mohammadi told Hashte Subh daily that the directorate has received nearly 8,000 applications from 6 districts, asking for humanitarian assistance. Mohammadi added that the directorate has started surveying the families and will start providing assistance, once the survey is complete.
Meanwhile, First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh also said that thousands of families have fled Taliban onslaught to major cities. “Some have found refuge in homes of relatives thanks to our traditions and others are in makeshift tents or street corners awaiting a “hand” of help. We are doing what we can and with what we have,” he added.
In other news, civil rights and political activists, and youths in Helmand province called on the international community, particularly the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), not to solely observe development, and mediate to immediately end the way and achieve a ceasefire. In a letter to UNAMA, the activists called for the increased role of the UN Security Council to control the situation, put pressure on Pakistan, as violence has hit its peak.
The letter urges the UN to seriously call on the Taliban to stop fighting and choose the path of peace, and there is a need for the resumption of peace negotiations and UN’s mediation in the process. UNAMA declined to comment, however, the office has told the activists that it will not remain indifferent. The Taliban have yet to comment on the report.
In fact, a South Korean foreign ministry official said on Monday that all South Koreans remaining in Afghanistan must leave the country by no later than July or face criminal punishment, as unrest grew in Afghanistan amid the ongoing withdrawal of U.S. and its allies’ forces. Afghanistan is currently banned for travel, along with five other foreign countries, including Iraq, Syria and Somalia. A violation of the travel ban is punishable by up to one-year in prison or a 10 million-won fine (US$8,837) under Korean law. A “very small” number of Koreans are still in the country despite the government’s repeated requests for withdrawal, the foreign ministry official said, declining to give details on how many are staying due to safety concerns. A government delegation, headed by a senior foreign ministry official from Seoul, visited Kabul last week to meet with and persuade them to leave as soon as they can, according to the official.
Kabul: Acting Public Health Minister Vahid Majroh held a remote meeting with World Bank representatives to discuss the purchase of oxygen machines.
Majroh called for the World Bank’s cooperation to accelerate its efforts in purchasing eight promised oxygen machines, and added that the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) requires 10 machines, to curb one of the main challenges during the 3rd wave of COVID-19.
Senior Health Specialist at the World Bank Habib Ahmadzai assured of the Bank’s continued cooperation with the MoPH, and added that providing oxygen machines topped its priority. Both sides also discussed ways to provide COVID-19 vaccine for Afghanistan, and Majroh said that the vaccine is the only effective method to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) stated that it has delivered 50% of the 700,000 Chinese sinopharm vaccine and gave assurances that it is not injurious to health, as the World Health Organization has approved it.
Deputy MoPH Spokesman Mirwais Alizai said that the vaccine may be followed by vomiting, mild fever, nausea, boredom, anorexia, or muscle that is injured, redness, and swelling or pain, but these symptoms are not of a concern. Statistics by the MoPH indicate that over 900,000 individuals have so far received COVID-19 vaccine.
Meanwhile, Majroh met with International Committee of the Red Cross’s health representatives on Monday, and discussed joint cooperation. Majroh called for ICRC’s cooperation in providing emergency kits, required equipment for the COVID-19 hospitals, purchasing oxygen machines, and training healthcare personnel.
This comes even as the MoPH has recorded 1,485 new COVID-19 cases and 77 deaths. The total cases now stand at 127,464 while death toll is 5,360. The ministry also announced that the number of black fungus cases has risen to seven.
Kabul: The Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced on Monday that security and defense forces have recaptured 10 to 14 district centers from the Taliban. Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said that the security forces are present in all parts of the country.
He added, however, that the centers of a number of districts have been temporarily relocated to protect the lives of defense and security forces soldiers. According to Arian, the Taliban also carried out sabotage and bombings in the areas where they were stationed and drove people away.
MoI also stated that Taliban insurgents wanted to attack security checkpoints in Qalat, the capital of Zabul province on Sunday night, but they were quickly repulsed by security and defense forces. At least 11 Taliban insurgents were killed and 14 others were wounded.
In fact, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on Monday, the deployment of new Commando forces to Fayzabad district, Badakhshan’s provincial capital. The MoD stated that the Commando forces along with people’s uprising forces will launch major clearance operations across the province, and will defend the people and their properties. The MoD added that adequate forces have been deployed to defend the people. However, residents of Badakhshan are worried about the deteriorating security situation in the province. Some Badakhshan residents told RFE/RL that Taliban fighters have reached the gates of the provincial capital. In four days, the Taliban ousted 16 districts in the province as per reports. But local officials said that the Taliban are not allowed to enter the city. Badakhshan Governor Bashir Samim assured the public that the Taliban will not be able to overthrow the provincial capital and the government will soon regain the lost districts. “The local government has established a strong defensive line on all four sides of Badakhshan. All preparations have been made for the defense of Faizabad, and our people should gather in this area,” he said.
Provincial governor’s office reported that the ANDSF along with popular forces conducted air and ground operations on the outskirts of Fayzabad district last night, inflicted heavy casualties to the group, and cleared a lot of areas.
Also, the Taliban captured Khwahan, Shekay, Nusay, Maimay, Sheghnan, Ishkashim districts in Badakhshan Province in the night of July 4-5. These districts have a common border with Tajikistan stretching for 910 km, the Border Troops of Tajikistan reported. The MoD claimed that the majority of those killed in Fayzabad district were Chechen, Uzbek and Pakistani nationals.
Other regional partners too had been concerned about the rising violence in Afghanistan. In fact, consultations were held in Moscow on the preparation of a draft of the Target Interstate Program of the Collective Security Treaty Organization to strengthen sections of the Tajik-Afghan border. First Deputy Commander – Chief of the General Staff of the Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Tajikistan, Colonel Nasimjon Rajabzoda has provided the information on the situation on the Tajik-Afghan section of the state border, the manning and condition of weapons, military equipment and technical means of border protection of units of the Border Troops of the State Committee for National Security of the Republic of Tajikistan. After that, an exchange of views took place on the agenda of the consultations. Following the results of the work, a Protocol was signed.
Also, President of Tajikistan Emomali Rahmon held a telephone conversation with the President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf Ghani and the conversation focused on the alarming development of the military-political situation in Afghanistan. They paid special attention to the aggravation of the situation in the northern regions of Afghanistan bordering on Tajikistan. Rahmon with alarm informed the Afghan President about the new facts of the forced crossing of the state border line by the Afghan military personnel.
It was also emphasized the unchanging position of Tajikistan to the Afghan problem, which consists in non-interference in its internal affairs and full support of the efforts of the official authorities to establish peace, stability and security in the country. “Tajikistan, as a close neighbor of Afghanistan, has been and remains an interested party in establishing stability and tranquility in this country and supports all efforts to advance the inter-Afghan peace talks,” Tajikistan President Emomali Rahmon noted in this regard. The parties also exchanged views on other topical aspects of bilateral relations, including cooperation in the field of security, emphasizing the importance of ensuring proper border protection.
The areas under Taliban control in the north are increasingly strategic, running along Afghanistan’s border with central Asian states. Last month the religious movement took control of Imam Sahib, a town in Kunduz province opposite Uzbekistan and gained control of a key trade route. The inroads in Badakhshan are particularly significant as it is the home province of former President Burhanuddin Rabbani, who was killed by a suicide bomber in 2011. His son, Salahuddin Rabbani, is part of the current High Council for National Reconciliation. The slain former president also led Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami, which was the party of famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmad Shah Massoud, killed by a suicide bomber two days before the 9/11 attacks in America.
Meanwhile, Hua Chunying, China government official and Foreign Ministry Spokesperson and Director General, Information Department, MFA PRC said that the United States, which created the Afghan issue in the first place, should act responsibly to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan. “It should not simply shift the burden onto others and withdraw from the country with the mess left behind unattended. The most pressing task in Afghanistan is to maintain stability and prevent war and chaos,” Chunying said.
Meanwhile, the Foreign Economic Relations Coordination Headquarters of the Iranian foreign ministry held a session on Sunday to investigate developments in Afghanistan too. In fact, Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan and Iranian President-elect Sayyid Ebrahim Raisi spoke to each other on Sunday and emphasized on the need for continuing to facilitate an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned inclusive political settlement. In the regional context, Khan expressed concern over the worsening security situation in Afghanistan, and cautioned that the latest developments could lead to serious repercussions for both Pakistan and Iran, resulting in an influx of refugees towards their border areas. Raisi also expressed concern over the situation in Afghanistan and said, “Afghanistan’s security is important to us and this security must be established by Afghans.” Also, the developments in Afghanistan will come up for extensive discussion in the upcoming Pakistan National Assembly session which will meet on July 8 (Thursday).
On the other hand, the eighth High-Level Political and Security Dialogue between the European Union (EU) and the countries of Central Asia (Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan) took place in Tashkent on July 1, with the participation of Afghanistan as special guest, according to the EU Delegation to Tajikistan. Participants expressed their shared concern about resurging violence in Afghanistan and stressed their common determination to continue to work together to promote a genuine and inclusive peace process in the country.
Also, Russia is concerned about the developments in Afghanistan’s border regions after the withdrawal of US troops from there, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday. “Of course, after the Americans and their allies pull out of Afghanistan, the situation in that country is a matter of grave concern for us. We are keeping a close eye [on the situation] and note that, unfortunately, destabilization is taking place,” he said.
When asked whether Russia was exploring the possibility of sending additional troops to help Tajikistan protect the border, the Kremlin spokesman noted that Russian military servicemen and border guards would monitor the situation in Afghanistan’s border regions and make appropriate decisions. “As for an additional contingent, I cannot tell you. Of course, as the situation evolves, and we see that, unfortunately, it is not evolving in the best possible way, the necessary decisions will be made by our military and border guards,” he stressed. On Monday, the press center of the Border Guard Troops of Tajikistan’s State Committee for National Security said in a statement that more than 1,000 Afghan troops had retreated to Tajikistan after battles with the Taliban (outlawed in Russia). Afghan troops had to cross the Tajik border several times over the past two weeks.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan has housed its Afghan brothers but now it is time for them to return. His remarks come days after investigators discovered that an Afghan with Indian connections was behind a bomb blast attack in Lahore. “Steps have been taken for the honorable return of Afghan refugees,” he said on SAMAA TV’s Naya Din on Monday. “Terrorists are suspected to have entered Pakistan during the return of refugees.”
Pakistan became a safe haven for many Afghans in the long war that plagued the country for over a decade. However, the thinking in Islamabad is that now that the US troops withdrawal is about to wrap up, Afghans in Pakistan should return.