Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Spokesman for the ANDSF Ajmal Omar Shinwari announced on Wednesday that the security forces have recently conducted 278 joint, independent, air, and special operations across seven provinces.
Addressing a press conference at the Government Media and Information Center (GMIC), Shinwari claimed that 2,367 Taliban insurgents were killed, 1,412 others were wounded, 182 individuals including eight Islamic State–Khorasan Province (IS-K) members were arrested, and 165 improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were detected and neutralized, during these operations.
Shinwari explained that the Taliban have recently conducted five suicide and 70 IED attacks, which killed 43 civilians and wounded 170 others. Shinwari gave assurances that the situation is under control across most provinces, and the ANDSF will make good achievements soon, by conducting attacks. Shinwari added that the ANDSF have recaptured 14 districts.
On the other hand, hundreds of ulema, tribal elders, and youths rallied in support of the ANDSF, and announced their preparedness to pick up arms to protect their forces, public property, districts, and villages if necessary. Led by former provincial council head, Sayed Karim Khan Khaksar, the residents gathered at the gate of the 1st Infantry Brigade of the 203rd Thunder Army Corps. During their speeches, the participants said that the ANDSF are the guardians of the Afghan people’s honor, dignity, territorial integrity, national sovereignty, and religious values, local residents believe in ANDSF’s sincerity and firmly support them.
They added that Khost is the common home of all tribes and no one will be allowed to attack districts, villages, cities, and public facilities, and decided to retaliate any attacks aimed to destabilize the province. Provincial Governor Mohmand Katawazi, Police Chief Saifullah Sarhadi, 1st Infantry Brigade Commander Gulbuddin Alokozay, and the provincial head of the National Directorate of Security Abdul Samad Mandozai assured the participants of security. Katawazi appreciated the patriotism of participants from various ethnic groups, and added that the tribes are vigilant in supporting their people and territory, and stand by the ANDSF.
“The intensity of the war is understandable; this is not the first time that we, the people of Afghanistan, are going through a difficult military phase. We are now at a critical and crucial military stage,” said Bismillah Mohammadi, acting Minister of National Defense.
Meanwhile, local officials in Paktia province reported that head of PD5 police station of Gardez city, Wali Khan Hemmat, was killed during clashes with the Taliban on Tuesday night. Provincial Police Spokesman Hayatullah Nizami told Etilaatroz daily that the Taliban carried out an attack against a security outpost in Mehlan area of the PD last night, and the ANDSF killed five Taliban insurgents in response. The Taliban have yet to comment on the report.
Also, local officials in Ghazni province told Etilaatroz daily that Taliban fighters have attacked parts of Nawur district of the province. Tahir Zahedi, Nawur district governor, said that the Taliban had launched their attack from the Sheghna pass, first on the Diwal area and then on the Hesarak area of the district. Zahedi added that security forces had retreated from the Diwal area. Clashes are currently taking place in the Hesarak area near the district center between the two sides. According to Zahedi, at least three Taliban fighters were killed and many others were wounded in the clashes. Also, Taliban fighters attacked the Qushanak area in the west of Nawor district three days ago from Ajristan district.
Meanwhile, a gathering of religious scholars was held at the Loya Jirga Hall today, attended by Kabul’s provincial officials, in support of the resolution recently announced by the Afghan and Pakistani ulema about war and peace in Afghanistan. Provincial Hajj and Religious Affairs Director Sayed Mohammad Sherzadi stressed the need for holding such gatherings and said that when the ulema and Islamic world thinkers called the current war as unjustifiable and illegitimate, there is no other excuse to continue the current war.
Sherzadi added that the gathering was held to call for peace and the participants are the architects of peace. Provincial Governor Mohammad Yaqoob Haidari said that ulema have active role in all areas of society, in addition to serving mosques and in the field of guidance. Haidari added that ulema have had an important role in the fight against COVID-19 and the country’s ulema along with ulema from Islamic countries described the current war as illegitimate and called for its cessation, and that the people expect that a suitable solution will be created to end the war and achieve peace, which will lead to the establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan. Head of Kabul Ulema Council Abdul Qader Qanet said that the ongoing war is illegitimate and fratricidal, and called on the Taliban to accept peace that the people and ulema want. Ulema declared the current war as illegitimate and called for nationwide peace.
In fact, even US Chargé d’Affaires Ross Wilson said that the Taliban offensive is bringing hardship to communities across Afghanistan already grappling with drought, poverty and COVID. “It violates Afghans’ human rights and provokes fear that a system this country’s citizens do not support will be imposed. We call on the Taliban to negotiate in good faith and with a genuine will to bring about a political settlement and a permanent end to fighting,” Wilson tweeted on Wednesday.
Also, Jihadi leader Mohammad Ismail Khan met with Herat’s provincial military council, consisting of Provincial Governor Abdul Saboor Qane, the 207th Army Corps Commander Khial Nabi Ahmadzai, Provincial Police Chief Sayed Merajuddin Sadat, Provincial Head of National Directorate of Security Abdul Hasib, and Commando Brigade commander, in the presence Industry and Commerce Minister Nisar Ahmad Ghoryani and MP Sayed Taha Sadiq.
Khan stressed on the importance of trust in the people’s forces and coordination between these forces and the ANDSF, and mentioned the poor security situation of the province. Khan said that if the people’s forces, and resistance forces and the ANDSF maintain necessary coordination and a unified management, Herat and the western zone will become a stronghold against conspiracy and aggression.
Emphasizing on careful planning and speed of action, Khan asked provincial military officials to enter the implementation phase of codified security plan without wasting time. In addition to providing information about the security situation of Herat province, the military council emphasized on the coordination between the people and ANDSF, and assured that the security situation will change with the measures taken.
Also, officials at Herat’s provincial office of the National Statistic and Information Authority (NSIA) reported that registration for electronic identity cards (e-IDs) has been suspended over the past three days, due to the fiber optic cable being cut off in the province, and urged citizens not to visit the e-ID sites until the internet is restored. Provincial NSIA Head Mohammad Qasim Salehi told Hashte Subh daily that six e-ID sites are operating in the province, each of which registers and processes the documents of between 300-700 individuals on a daily basis.
Salehi added that 285,000 individuals have so far received e-IDs in the province, and the number of e-ID sites will soon increase to nine, after the purchase of registration machine. Salehi said that the disconnection of electricity and internet is one of the main obstacles in their way, and hoped that the relevant agencies will soon resolve these problems.
On the other hand, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, in a statement said that the violence in Afghanistan has reached new heights of egregious human rights violations, demonstrating the escalating and devastating tactics of directly targeting civilian populations by terrorist groups. She called for the international community to consider with the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and its people how collective efforts towards prevention, redress and accountability for such grave violations of human rights, which may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity, can reach victims and survivors and make a difference in their lives.
“We commend the work of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan for undertaking these open discussions on the Government’s responsibility and efforts to protect citizens and human rights defenders from such violence and unveil the complete truth about the events surrounding gross human rights violations, their circumstances, their perpetrators, and their causes,” the statement read. The statement particularly welcomed the launch of a protection mechanism by Presidential decree in December of last year and urged the Government to continue working with the Independent Human Rights Commission and civil society to ensure this mechanism can serve its purpose and serve the rights of victims of human rights violations and terrorism as central to its aims. It further called for enhanced engagement with the Independent Human Rights Commission and consideration of mechanisms that may advance accountability, justice and ultimately prevention and attention to existing communications.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced on Wednesday that it has recorded 1,092 new cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and 62 deaths in the last 24 hours.
The total number of positive cases in Afghanistan now stand at 130,113, while the death toll is 5,477. This comes even as the third wave of the virus is spreading rapidly in the country and there have also been 10 cases of black fungus infection being reported.
Also, the Pakistani authorities donated seven containers of Covid-19 relief medicines to Afghanistan on Tuesday. A ceremony was held at Zero Point at Torkham border to hand over the medicines to the Afghan authorities.
Meanwhile, Acting Public Health Minister Vahid Majroh met with CEO of Qatar Charity Mohamed Ali al-Ghamdi, and discussed joint cooperation between Qatar Charity and the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) and the Ministry’s requirements.
Majroh appreciated Qatar’s assistance to the MoPH, particularly during the 1st wave of COVID-19, shared MoPH’s requirements with the Charity, and demanded that al-Ghamdi assist the Ministry with short-term and long-term plans in the fields of nutrition, medical equipment in COVID-19 centers, purchase of oxygen machines, establishment of an inherited disease treatment center and a treatment center for children with cancer, especially bone marrow transplant. Al-Ghamdi said that his visit is aimed to strengthen cooperation between Qatar Charity and Afghanistan’s health sector and revealed that the Charity will open an office in Kabul to continue its cooperation directly with the Afghan government.
Kabul: Addressing a press conference in Kandahar, Acting Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal assured the people that the lost districts will be recaptured by the security forces.
Mirzakwal said that the visit to Kandahar was aimed to assess the security situation the province would see new changes and high-ranking officials would be dismissed. Mirzakwal added that 30,000 new forces will be soon trained to improve security.
Chief of Army Staff Wali Mohammad Ahmadzai reported changes within the 205th Army Corps and assured that the Taliban were unable to advance, but will be pushed back, and recapture whatever the group had seized. Provincial Governor Rohullah Khanzada said that the war was only propaganda, which caused problems for the people, and added that during his recent conversation with President Ghani, he had assured that Kandahar would never be evacuated and the Taliban would never have the chance to capture the province.
Meanwhile, Chief of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Joint Staff, Colonel-General Anatoly Sidorov, heading the organization’s task force has arrived in Tajikistan to monitor the situation along Tajikistan’s common border with Afghanistan, as per the CSTO press center.
While in Tajikistan, the CSTO task force members are scheduled to visit southern regions of Tajikistan and hold talks with senior representatives of the Ministry of Defense and the Main Border Guard Directorate of the State Committee for National Security and other relevant agencies of Tajikistan. Sidorov reportedly noted that the main purpose of the visit to Tajikistan was for the CSTO task force to monitor the situation along the Tajik-Afghan border and prepare proposals on joint measures in the framework of the CSTO.
Recently, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Andrei Rudenko said that Moscow stood ready to provide Tajikistan with any assistance it needed. “It all depends on how the situation develops in northern Afghanistan. The situation there is quite tense, since, according to some sources, up to 70 percent of the border with Tajikistan is controlled by the Taliban,” Rudenko said, according to the Interfax report.
In fact, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said on Wednesday that Russia will do everything, including using its military base in Tajikistan, to defend its allies from the threat coming from Afghanistan. “We will do everything to prevent any aggressive moves against our allies, including using the Russian military base on the border between Tajikistan and Afghanistan,” the Russian top diplomat said after talks with his Laotian counterpart Saleumxay Kommasith.
Lavrov recalled that Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with his counterparts from Tajikistan and Uzbekistan, and was in contact with other Central Asian leaders. “Obligations within the framework of the Collective Security Treaty Organization remain in full force. Representatives of the organization’s Secretariat visited a section of the Tajik-Afghan border, evaluated the situation, and will report to the permanent council,” he stressed.
The foreign minister noted that Russia was watching closely the situation in Afghanistan. “The situation is tending to a rapid deterioration, including in the context of the hasty withdrawal of US and other NATO troops, which have failed to achieve tangible results in terms of stabilizing the situation there over the decades of their stay in this country,” Lavrov stated.
On the other hand, more than 1,000 refugees from Afghanistan Badakhshan province, who were forced to flee into Tajikistan’s Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO), have been placed in safe places, Gholib Niyatbekov, a spokesman for GBAO governor, told Asia-Plus. First Vice President Amrullah Saleh requested that the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRS) and other charity organizations to transfer the dead bodies of dozens of “aggressors” to their families, in coordination with the Quetta Shura. Saleh added that the weather is warm and he is not in favor of disrespecting the corpses.
In fact, the Head of Swedish Committee’s Programs Khalid Fahim told Radio Azadi that an increase in insecurity across some districts has impacted the Committee’s operations. Fahim said that the Committee has temporarily suspended its operations in insecure districts, for the safety of its employees; however, the Committee continues its assessments and will resume operations, when the condition is proper. Fahim declined to provide further details, but added that the Committee will resume operations at some districts in Takhar, Badakhshan, Jowzjan, and Samangan provinces, after security assessments. Swedish Committee for Afghanistan operates across 17 provinces, with 6,500 employees.
In other news, The Free Speech Hub expressed its deep concern about latest comments by government officials about media broadcasts and reports of Taliban limiting local media across districts. The organization stated that the freedom of expression and media is considered the most important achievement in Afghanistan, over the past two decades, and the media have been operating in accordance with the mass media law and measured global standards, considering the principle of balance and impartiality. The organization called on the warring parties to respect the principle of freedom of expression and impartial activity of the free media in the country.
According to Nai – Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan, lawful media need legal support from MPs and law enforcement, and legalization processes should not be an excuse for pressure on media. “Even if the conference was not intended to impose restrictions, but apparently the government has tried to restrict the work of media in the current situation. It should be noted that with the escalation in insecurity and the collapse of some districts in the north, a huge wave of propaganda messages from opposition groups was spread on social media, and the government is now looking to discuss with media representatives and journalists about their publications under the name of publication quality and legality,” the statement said.
Nai said that it believes that this government reaction can be a restrictive measure against the media, as it for the first time wants to openly react to the media and impose restrictions on publications of private media. “This comes as the media are operating legally and are trying to provide information in accordance with the principles of journalism and maintaining a balance in their reports. At the time when the media and journalists are going through the worst situation and a large number of media outlets are under Taliban control, the government needs to do something to assist journalists and media outlets under Taliban control,” the statement added.
If the government observes a violation of the private media, it is necessary that it acts in accordance with the law and should not act against the law by imposing restrictions on their publications, Nai said. It called on the government to define in a constructive discourse the use of terms such as: national interest, public interest, psychological security, etc, so that the relationship between legal and lawful agencies is not overwhelmed, neither now nor in the future.
Kabul: Deputy Interior Minister for Policy and Strategy Naqibullah Fayeq stated that the president has ordered the Ministry of Interior (MoI) to re-establish the Afghan Local Police (ALP) – also called Arbaki – within the MoI framework, as the force was the most effective in defending villages against the Taliban, and was disbanded last year.
Fayeq added that the ALP has no difference from the Afghan National Police (ANP), as they will be trained, follow military law, receive salary, and do their duty 24 hours; however, unlike the ANP, the ALP will be positioned in their own area and province, and thus, enjoy the support of locals.
Fayeq said that the security agencies can defend the country, as these agencies have the capacity to recruit tens of thousands of soldiers. Fayeq explained that on Tuesday, the cabinet welcomed people’s uprising forces in raising morale, but defending the country must be within the ANDSF framework and those who have motivation to fight the Taliban, should join the security agencies.
Fayeq added that the president also reported to the cabinet that special units were prepared to repel Taliban attacks and recapture the lost areas.
In other news, on the recommendation of Laghman’s provincial military council and in accordance with President Ghani’s instructions, and approval of the National Security Council, all personnel, weapons, and ammunition of the military base in Badpash district were successfully relocated to the newly designated location in the district, to help timely supply and equip the ANDSF, and prevent any problems.
The military council assured the people in the province that the ANDSF are preventing any terrorist activities by the enemy day and night, in order to protect the people against their evil deeds. All decisions regarding the relocation of mobile and static bases is conducted after a thorough evaluation under the direction of the central government, with appropriate actions in military and civilian aspects. Also, reportedly, the ANDSF evacuated Ab Kamari and Muqur districts of Badghis province yesterday.
Meanwhile, talking to Etilaatroz daily, Badghis’s Provincial Governor Hesamuddin Shams reported that the Taliban have entered Qala-e Naw city, the provincial capital, and the clash is ongoing between the ANDSF and Taliban insurgents. Provincial council head Abdul Aziz Bek confirmed that heavy clashes are ongoing, and the lack of deployment of reinforcements has created panic in the city, whilst prisoners have escaped from the provincial central prison. In fact, Ministry of Interior said that ANDSF presence in and around Qala-e-naw city of Badghis province has been increased to defend the city. In fact, security forces launched airstrikes in the city of Qalano, the capital of Badghis. Abdul Aziz Beyk, head of the Badghis provincial council, told Salamutandar that security forces fighters had arrived in the province and were operating. The head of the Badghis provincial council added that the Taliban were fleeing as the air force arrived. The police headquarters and the national security department of Badghis province were cleared of the Taliban. Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the @MoDAfghanistan, confirmed the news, saying that the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties in the operation and that the group’s fighters were fleeing from Badghis.
In fact, First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh stated on his Facebook page that he is in contact with Badghis provincial National Director of Security Chief Mehrab Khan, Afghan National Army (ANA) Brigade Commander Hasibullah Khan, and Governor Hesamuddin Shams in Qala-e Naw city, Badghis province. Saleh said that the officials are brave and patient and called on citizens not to become enemy spokesmen.
Meanwhile, doctors at Badghis Provincial Hospital said that 12 people, including women and children, have been wounded and one has been killed in clashes between the Taliban & security forces in Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital. Health officials have reported that four of them are in critical condition.
Kabul: Special Envoy of Qatar’s Foreign Minister for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al-Qahtani arrived in Kabul on Tuesday where he met a number of senior Afghan political leaders including former president Hamid Karzai to discuss how to expedite the stalled Doha peace talks.
The visit of the Special Envoy to Kabul comes as a group of politicians led by Abdullah Abdullah postponed a trip to Qatar for talks with the Taliban following an unprecedented escalation of Taliban attacks.
In fact, second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh met with Al-Qahtani, to discuss the peace process. Danesh appreciated Qatar for hosting the Afghan peace negotiations over the past two years, and said that violence caused by Taliban attacks has discredited the peace process. Danesh added that the Afghan people are tired of war and violence and are waiting for the peace process to achieve a result; however, if the Taliban want to rule militarily, the people will never surrender to them.
Danesh highlighted that the Afghan government has implemented all necessary measures to advance the peace negotiations, from releasing prisoners to deploying negotiation team to Qatar, but the Taliban not only left the negotiating table, but also emphasize on increasing violence and escalating war. Danesh warned that if the Taliban fail to comply with the peace talks and resort to violence, war and violence will continue in a different way, adding that reducing violence to build trust and accept a political solution to the Afghan issue is one of the basic principles for the peace talks, and all ethnic groups in the country want a just and lasting peace. Danesh also said that the Afghan government respects and emphasized the mediating role of Qatar and UN for the continuation of meaningful talks, in order to advance the process and break the deadlock. Given the importance of Qatar’s role in the peace process, Danesh stressed on the continued efforts by Qatar to help resume the talks and bring this process to a result.
Al-Qahtani explained the peace talks process in Doha and emphasized the need to resolve the Afghan issue through negotiations. Al-Qahtani added that his government and he himself told Taliban representatives that the group cannot control the fate of the Afghan people through war and violence, and that there is no military solution to the conflict. Noting that political and security elements are involved in achieving peace in Afghanistan, Al-Qahtani stressed on the importance of participating in political power to end the war, and added that the continuation of war will have negative consequences for the regional and neighboring countries of Afghanistan. Al-Qahtani assured Danesh that Qatar has no secret agenda for the Afghan peace talks, but it’s trying to help both sides to continue constructive talks in this sensitive situation.
Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar also met A-Qahtani. In addition to discussing his visit agenda to Kabul, Al-Qahtani reiterated Qatar’s commitment to supporting an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process. Atmar thanked Qatar for hosting and facilitating the Afghan peace process, and emphasized the need on Islamic scholars’ role in convincing the Taliban to stop violence and return to the negotiating table.
Atmar also talked about the security and political developments in the country, and added that an increase in Taliban violence and its continued ties with foreign fighters and international terrorist groups are in contrary to the commitments of the Doha peace agreement. Atmar spoke of the goodwill and commitment of the Afghan government to find a political solution and fulfill its responsibilities for the success of the peace talks, including the release of over 6,000 Taliban prisoners, despite not being a party to the Doha agreement. Al-Qahtani stressed on the importance of a halt in violence to help resume the negotiations and find a political solution for the success of the peace talks.
Meanwhile, the Intra-Afghan Dialogue Summit, hosted by the Islamic Republic of Iran and attended by the representatives of the Kabul government and the high political delegation of Taliban, was opened on Wednesday morning with a speech by Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.
Addressing the opening ceremony, Iranian Foreign Minister Zarif highlighted the US’ failure in Afghanistan and more than two decades of its presence in the country which has resulted in major damages, and said, “Today the people and political leaders of Afghanistan must make hard decisions for the future of their country.” Pointing to the undesirable results of continued clashes in Afghanistan, Zarif said returning to the intra-Afghan negotiating table and commitment to political solutions are the best choice that can be made by Afghan leaders and political movements.
He also expressed Tehran’s preparedness to help the process of talks among the existing parties in order to settle the ongoing conflicts and crises in the country. Zarif also underlined Tehran’s commitment to help the all-out political, economic, and social development of Afghanistan following the establishment of peace. It should be noted that in this round of talks, the Afghan government’s delegation is headed by Yunus Qanuni, the former foreign minister of Afghanistan, and the Taliban delegation is led by Abbas Stanikzai, the deputy head of the group’s office.
In fact, Zarif and his Indian counterpart also met on Wednesday and stressed on the need to strengthen inter-Afghan talks that will lead to a comprehensive political partnership for Afghanistan. Indian Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar arrived in Tehran on Wednesday afternoon to convey a message from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to the Iranian President-elect Ebrahim Raisi. The two foreign ministers also stressed the need to strengthen inter-Afghan dialogue that will result in a comprehensive political partnership in Afghanistan. Referring to the talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban in Tehran on Wednesday, the Indian Foreign Minister thanked Iran for its efforts to bring the two sides closer to a comprehensive political solution.