Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Amnesty International, the human rights group, called on countries and organizations to support the Afghan government as the COVID-19 cases in the country surpassed 10,000 in early June, according to the World Health Organization (WHO).
The statement drew attention to Afghanistan’s urgent need for adequate oxygen supplies and access to Covid-19 vaccines. “These latest figures are of grave concern,” said Zaman Sultani, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International. “It’s clear that the country has been hit by the third wave of Covid-19 and without urgent international support to contain this surge, the situation could quickly spiral out of control.” This comes even as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) recorded 1,647 new COVID-19 cases with 78 deaths in the past 24 hours on Tuesday. The total number of cases now stand at 94,919, while death toll is 3,761.
Afghanistan, which is home to 39 million people, currently has around 2,000 oxygen concentrators and 1,063 hospital beds for Covid-19 patients, according to Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health (MoPH). Forty percent of the population in Afghanistan is already allocated a vaccine under schemes covered by COVAX and from international donors such as the World Bank, however, only 641,295 doses were administered as of June 8, according to WHO.
The country received just 968,000 vaccines from the Indian Government and the COVAX facility. This is enough to fully inoculate just 1.24 percent of the population, according to Amnesty. China also provided Afghanistan with 700,000 vaccines, but an exact date for when the next batch will arrive has not been confirmed.
Kabul: Following the escalation of Taliban attacks and the fall of districts, a meeting was held for the third day in a row, chaired by President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday.
According to the Presidential Palace, President Ghani stressed on the need for greater coordination between the country’s security and defense agencies.
The meeting was held at the Presidential Palace before noon on Tuesday.
Ghani has instructed the security services to speed up their efforts and take urgent action in order to thwart the plots and plans of the “evil enemy” and ensure the security of the people. According to the ARG, he discussed the latest developments of the general security situation in the country at the meeting.
During the meeting, security and defense officials reported on the security situation in the country, the Taliban’s movements, and plans to repel the attacks. The meeting was also held on Sunday and Monday. In the past two months, about 20 districts have fallen to the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, said that recent incidents in Afghanistan, especially the killing of civilians and children in schools, are a clear example of war crimes, crimes against humanity and in some cases genocide.
Danesh said that international and human rights bodies should document these crimes by international fact-finding commissions in accordance with international standards. According to him, the mere provision of international rules and regulations is not enough to prevent civilian casualties, and more practical mechanisms and requirements must be put in place to stop the humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
Recently, however, targeted attacks have been launched against Hazara and Shiite citizens of Afghanistan. The victims of these attacks are civilians. So far, Hazara political leaders, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the European Union and a number of political figures have called it a genocide.
Government of Afghanistan, however, so far, has not responded to the demands of citizens, especially residents of western Kabul, to call these attacks a genocide and to address them. However, Danesh says that the Afghan government and security agencies are committed to complying with all international conventions and humanitarian law; But the other side (the Taliban) has so far paid no attention to respecting the rights of civilians.
Kabul: During a meeting with the Pakistani ambassador to Kabul, the Deputy Foreign Minister asked him to clarify the recent remarks of the Pakistani Foreign Minister about Afghanistan.
The meeting took place between Mirwais Nab, Deputy Foreign Minister for Political Affairs, and Mansour Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to Kabul, on Tuesday. According to the Foreign Ministry, Nab asked Ahmad Khan to clarify the recent remarks of Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi about Afghanistan.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Monday, at the Afghanistan-Pakistan bilateral meeting, referring to the possible visit of President Ghani to the United States, said that if the purpose of this visit is to blame Pakistan and hold the country responsible for all challenges and not make progress, then, it will not help.
Qureshi called participation in the peace process a joint responsibility, and said his country had honestly played its part in the Afghan peace process. According to him, the people of Afghanistan must decide on the progress of their country and choose those who are able to do so.
The Foreign Ministry, however, did not elaborate on the Pakistani ambassador’s response to Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s remarks. In the meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Mansour Ahmad Khan said that his country emphasizes on the role and position of the Afghan government for the success of the peace process.
Kabul: Following the recent collapse of some districts in Afghanistan in recent weeks, Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said that the surrender of districts is unplanned. “The successive liberation of the districts by the security forces is not part of a regular plan. It is not right that they handed over districts based on a plan,” Abdullah told a meeting of the Friedrich Ebert Foundation on Tuesday.
According to him, several factors cause the security forces to leave the districts and areas. Abdullah added, “Despite the fact that the consecutive fall of the districts has caused concern among the people, many support the security forces. We know the situation is bad, but it is the responsibility of all of us to bear the burden and get through the current situation,” he said.
In recent weeks, however, the Taliban have repeatedly claimed to have taken control of some districts; a claim that has always been denied by the Ministry of Defense.
The Ministry of Defense has repeatedly stated that in order to prevent civilian casualties, the security forces have made a tactical retreat, and after a few days, they have regained control of the lost areas. However, referring to the peace talks, Abdullah said that the Afghan government and the international community agreed that there was no military solution to the current crisis in Afghanistan; but the Taliban have not been satisfied so far.
According to him, with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the last reason for the continuation of the war has disappeared and the continuation of this war is no longer legitimate and the only solution is the continuation of peace talks.
Meanwhile, Herat’s new governor, Abdul Sabur Ghane, said on his first day in office that divisions between security and defense forces were exacerbating the problem of war. Ghane stressed on the need to eliminate divisions in the ranks of the government military.
Ghane said that the commander of the 207th Zafar Army Corps should manage the war and that ANP and national security forces should participate in the war in coordination with the army corps. “Experience has shown that fragmentation has exacerbated the problem of war on the battlefield,” he said.
Ghane even called on the people of Herat to support the security and defense forces in the fight against the Taliban. The new governor of Herat province made the remarks while there are clashes underway between security forces and Taliban fighters in Ghorian and Obe districts of the province.
The Taliban have seized the district building and the police headquarters in the Obe district of Herat, and government troops are under heavy siege at an army base.
Kabul: The Foreign Ministry welcomed the joint statement issued by the NATO Summit in Brussels and said that the Government of Afghanistan appreciated the support and cooperation of NATO in the fight against terrorism and the establishment and capacity building of security and defense forces and institutions over the last two decades.
A statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday said that terrorism remains a serious threat to the security of Afghanistan and NATO member states, and that combating it requires continued and strategic cooperation. “In the new chapter of relations with NATO, the Government of Afghanistan emphasizes on the importance of its cooperation in maintaining and strengthening the achievements of the last two decades, including the protection of the Afghan security and defense forces, the rights of women, children and minorities,” the statement said. “It emphasizes on the freedom of expression and the rule of law and the joint fight against terrorism.”
The one-day summit of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) member states was held in Brussels on Monday and ended with the issuance of a joint statement on various issues, including Afghanistan.
The Joint Statement of the NATO Summit concludes its mission and the beginning of a new chapter in relations with Afghanistan, reaffirming its commitment to continue to support the people and government of Afghanistan in maintaining the achievements of the next two decades in Afghanistan. Emphasis has been placed on standing by Afghanistan’s defense and security forces, as well as continuing NATO’s civilian presence in Afghanistan.
NATO has stressed that if a political agreement is reached, it must be ensured that Afghanistan does not once again become a safe haven for terrorist groups.
Meanwhile, the UK Ministry of Defense has chartered aircraft to move military personnel between Kabul and Birmingham International Airport. Lasting 8 days, the use of charter aircraft will cost £1.1 million. The first charter will last from the June 18- June 21 and cost £740,000.
The second charter will last from the June 22- June 27 and cost £375,000. The contract award notice for both the first and second charter states that the firm ‘Air Charter Service’ has won the tenders. On their website, the firm explains that they have experience in arranging cargo aircraft charters to hostile environments.
“We have considerable expertise in arranging cargo aircraft charters to destinations that are difficult to reach, whether that be either an isolated location or a hostile environment. ACS also has extensive experience in mass evacuations requiring multiple aircraft to move survivors out of affected areas rapidly. We can deliver essential items such as humanitarian aid, industrial materials, consumer goods and much more,” it stated.
Kabul: Omid Habibi, a doctor, was assassinated at a private clinic in Farah city, the capital of the province, said Farooq Hazrati, a spokesperson for the Farah Police Command.
Hazrati added that the doctor was assassinated at 12:30pm on Tuesday in front of his house in the PD1 of Farah. Hazri also said that the doctor was assassinated by two motorcyclists.
According to him, the motive of this incident is not clear yet, but the police are trying to arrest the perpetrators.
Kabul: Severe drought in Afghanistan could trigger the displacement of thousands of families, according to the latest International Rescue Committee (IRC) assessment across five provinces in the West, South and East of Afghanistan.
This comes during an alarming increase in violence in recent weeks, with attacks on civilians including women and aid workers causing fresh instability throughout much of the country. With 80% of Afghans relying upon rain-fed agriculture and cattle-grazing for their incomes, livelihoods are set to be decimated as a drastic decrease in rainfall has caused food and water scarcity across the country. At the same time, an increase in fighting has also broken out in several of the worst drought affected areas, particularly in Helmand province, ahead of the withdrawal of foreign troops in the country. The coincidence of devastating drought and a steady increase in violence threatens a devastating economic downturn and greater instability.
Nasir Rizaee, IRC Afghanistan Deputy Director, said, “This drought and potential displacement is yet another fresh trauma for Afghanistan, which is reeling from the shockwaves of COVID-19. The effects will be especially intense and far reaching: nearly half of the population is already experiencing food insecurity and people are struggling to make ends meet. There is a very real risk that millions of people will be pushed into an emergency, as we saw in 2018 where more than a quarter of a million Afghans were displaced as a result of drought. Alongside food insecurity we also expect to see cases of malnutrition rise significantly, especially among infants and young children.”
“The international community must do more to acknowledge that Afghanistan represents the modern face of humanitarian crisis. Conflict, insecurity and climate change are already impacting entire populations and the need for bold and urgent action to be taken by world leaders to safeguard the health and safety of people could not be more clear,” said Rizaee.
According to IRC analysis, people in Herat, Badghis, Pakitya, Helmand and Khost provinces will be worst affected, with 83% of those assessed reported seeing community members leaving to find better access to food and water in the last three months. Those surveyed reported a lack of food (34%), loss of livelihoods (29%), water sources drying up (13%) and conflict (13%) as the major reasons for leaving. Many were also impacted by the 2018 drought that left a quarter of a million people displaced.
Kabul: Local sources told Hashte Subhe that the Namak Ab valley in the Ghor province has fallen following a Taliban attack. The sources also added that six members of the uprising forces had been killed in the valley.
Security sources said that a commander of the popular uprising forces in the Ghorban Ha district of Parwan province was finally forced to surrender to the Taliban after 18 hours of fighting. The sources said that Commander Ghaffar had fought against this group for many years in the district of Parwan.
Another source, on the condition of anonymity, said that the Taliban had set fire to the house of the Commander Ghaffar. At least 23 other members of the uprising forces have surrendered to the Taliban along with Ghaffar.
Meanwhile, First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh has called the critics of the government “reactionary”.
“The enemy of the land and the people is known,” Saleh wrote in a short Facebook post on Tuesday. “It is a good thing to stand by the defenders of the soil and the people by any means. In such cases, the reactionary criticizes and writes sarcasm,” he said.
In recent days, Taliban attacks on government forces have escalated, causing government forces to retreat from several districts. Amrullah Saleh had said on Monday that the areas claimed by the Taliban to have fallen were just a “narrow line” without support. These areas will become mass Taliban cemeteries, and propaganda should not be deceived, he had said.
Amrullah Saleh’s remarks provoked widespread reactions and criticism on social media and networks.
Kabul: Clashes and counter-clashes between the Afghan government security forces and the Taliban are intensifying across districts in the country.
In Daikundi, two members of the uprising forces have been killed and another was wounded in clashes between security forces and the Taliban in the Patu district of the province. Naqibullah Malistani, security chief of the Daikundi police said that the Taliban Red Unit forces launched an offensive on the Patu district center at 10am on Monday; but they failed to take control of the district center.
According to the Daikundi police official, the Taliban decided to take control of Patu district on Monday night. According to him, based on preliminary information, 12 Taliban insurgents were also killed in Monday night’s clashes.
The security chief of the Daikundi Police Command also said that there were still sporadic clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters in the area. According to Malistani, a number of people in district, including residents of the Tamzan area, have fled their homes and the Taliban have moved into residential areas. He said that the people of these areas are somehow cooperating with the Taliban and about 600 families have left their areas and the Taliban have settled in them.
Malistani added that the security forces are still trying to maintain the areas they control; but it is up to the military council to decide whether they want to launch a purge operation to drive the Taliban out of the Tamzan area and other villages in Patu.
Meanwhile, army sources in the northeast say that at least ten villages in the central Baghlan district of Baghlan province have been cleared of Taliban fighters as a result of a commando operation.
Abdul Hadi Nazari, a spokesman for the 217th Pamir Corps, said that the operation was launched last night (Monday), as a result of which the villages of Mirwais, Sarak Haft, Sarake Hasht and Chamkala were captured by security forces. Nazari also said that the public highway from the Sugar factory area to Do Saraka area of the new city of Baghlan Markazi district has been cleared of the Taliban and security forces are present in the area.
According to him, three Taliban fighters were killed and two others were wounded during the operation. About a month ago, parts of the Baghlan Markazi district, including the cleared areas, fell to the Taliban.
In other news, Ghulam Hussain Naseri, a representative of the Kabul people in the House of Representatives, reported the incursion of Taliban fighters and armed nomads into the Spichah area under the Kajab valley in the central Behsud district of Maidan Wardak province. The member of the House of Representatives, who also lives in Behsud district, said that there is currently fierce clashes underway between the defense forces and the Taliban and armed nomads.
Naseri, however, did not provide specific details about the casualties of the two sides involved. A large part of the Kajab Valley belongs to the Hisa-e-Awali Behsud district. Armed nomads engage with locals every year in the spring to gain pasture and infiltrate parts of Kajab and the central district of Behsud. According to local sources, in some cases the Taliban also collaborated with the nomads and launched offensive attacks.
Meanwhile, local sources in the east of the country confirm that a polio vaccination campaign worker was killed in an attack by unknown gunmen in Khogyani district of Nangarhar province.
Jan Mohammad Sahebzada, head of the polio eradication program in the east of the country, said that the incident took place at 7:30am on Tuesday in the Chamtala area of Khogyani district. Sahebzada added that another employee of the polio vaccination campaign was injured in the attack by unidentified gunmen.
Unidentified gunmen also attacked polio vaccination campaign staff in the Cheknurio area of the PD7 Jalalabad, central Nangarhar, on Tuesday morning, injuring two staff members. In addition to these attacks, two employees of the polio vaccination campaign were injured as a result of another attack in the PD3 of Jalalabad city. The attack was also carried out by unknown gunmen.
So far, no individual or group has claimed responsibility for the incident.
Meanwhile, security sources in Sar-e-Pul province said that the Gosfandi district of the province has fallen to the Taliban. A security source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told 8 Subhe that the district had fallen to the Taliban on Monday night.
Hussain Mujahidzada, a member of the Sar-e-Pul provincial council, also confirmed that the district had fallen. This is the fourth district to fall to the Taliban in recent days.
With the fall of this district, only Balkhab district and Sar-e-Pul center are under the control of the government. Security sources also describe the situation in these areas as fragile. Sar-e-Pul province has six districts. Local sources warn that the province could be handed over to the Taliban if the security situation in the province is not addressed.
Kabul: US Republican Senator James Inhofe proposed on Monday that the Biden administration leave at least 1,000 soldiers in Afghanistan, to avoid a security vacuum after the planned withdrawal in September.
“Maintaining a small troop presence for an additional six months would achieve important goals,” Inhofe wrote in an article on The Wall Street Journal’s website, referring to Biden’s September 11 deadline for a full withdrawal from Afghanistan. The lawmaker added that the extended timeline would help Washington “maintain a rapid counterterrorism force as the political and security environment evolves; enable more effective intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance”.
It would also facilitate protection of the US embassy during what the intelligence community predicts will be a chaotic transition; and allow more time to process visas for Afghans who helped US troops and now fear for their lives.
In fact, Norway announced that it would run the field hospital in Kabul for the rest of the year – that is, even after NATO has withdrawn its forces. The information was announced by Prime Minister Erna Solberg (H) at the NATO summit in Brussels on Monday. “We believe that we will continue to provide assistance to our Afghan partners in various ways, even though NATO’s military involvement is coming to an end. We have first and foremost said that we want to contribute with help and support on the humanitarian and development side. But we have also agreed – after we were asked about it – to extend the sanitary contribution for a transitional period,” Solberg said. An invite from Afghanistan would also have to be made to put in place the legal basis for Norwegian presence. Norway has signaled that operations can be maintained throughout the year but not beyond the first quarter of 2022.
She noted that safety must be ensured for those who work at the hospital. Solberg described the current security situation as confusing and fragile, adding that it could worsen when NATO withdraws its military forces from the country.
This comes amid rising violence in Afghanistan. In fact, the Afghan government forces have been pushed out of six district centers across the country in the past 24 hours, as Taliban insurgents gain more ground, local officials confirmed to Deutsche Presse-Agentur on Monday. The fallen districts are Obe in Herat, Saghar in Ghor, Sayad in Sar-e Pul, Arghandab in Zabul, and the Lash-e Juwayn and Pusht-e Road districts in Farah provinces.
Kabul: Turkish President Erdogan laid out the conditions for it to secure the Kabul airport, stating that besides US “diplomatic, logistic and financial assistance,” Ankara is also looking for Pakistan and Hungary’s involvement in the new mission in Afghanistan following departure of US-led NATO troops.
Erdogan, while speaking to reporters on Monday at the end of a series of meetings with NATO leaders on the sidelines of the alliance summit, said that these conditions have to be met if it were to maintain troops in Afghanistan to protect and run Kabul’s international airport.
Turkey is reported to have offered to guard the Kabul airport, but questions remain on how security will be assured along major transport routes and at the airport, which is the main gateway to Kabul. “If they don’t want us to leave Afghanistan, if they want a (Turkish) support there, then the diplomatic, logistic and financial support that the United States will give us will of great importance,” Erdogan said.
Turkey, a majority Muslim nation which has close historic ties to Afghanistan, currently has some 500 soldiers in the war-torn country. “NATO leaders are yet to agree on who would run Kabul’s international airport following the troop withdrawal of the United States-led coalition from Afghanistan,” Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said, adding that Turkey would play a key role.
The leaders agreed to maintain funding for Kabul’s civilian airport after their military mission in the country ends later this year. “Recognizing its importance to an enduring diplomatic and international presence, as well as to Afghanistan’s connectivity with the world, NATO will provide transitional funding to ensure the continued functioning of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” a NATO summit statement said.
Erdogan also said he held a constructive meeting with US President Joe Biden and invited him to visit Turkey. On Afghanistan, Biden said, “There was a strong consensus in the room among the leaders on Afghanistan. Our troops are coming home, but we agreed that our diplomatic, economic, humanitarian commitment with the Afghan people will endure.” However, Czech President Milos Zeman, at the NATO summit, denounced the alliance’s troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, warning that it could turn the country into a new hotspot for terrorism, according to a spokesperson. “At the summit, President of the Republic Milos Zeman criticized the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan. He recalled that Czech soldiers had laid down their lives in the fight against terrorism in Afghanistan. He also warned that the Taliban, after taking over the entire country, could turn Afghanistan into a new center of terrorism,” Jiri Ovcacek tweeted.
On the other hand, security officials under NATO command have approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, three senior Western officials told Reuters. “We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.
The official, whose country is part of the US-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan, requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with journalists. An integral part of Resolute Support has been to train and equip Afghan security forces.
“We have made an offer but it is for the authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington DC. A third source, a diplomat based in Kabul, said bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was under discussion. Qatar, an energy-rich Gulf state has been home to the Taliban’s political office since 2013. In recent years, this has been the only known venue where authorized representatives of the hardline insurgent group has held talks with US officials, representatives of NATO, international rights groups and Afghan government officials. Two sources said the US, Britain and Turkey were among the NATO countries ready to send a force to train Afghans in Qatar. Stoltenberg said the coalition’s leaders “reaffirmed their commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan with training and financial support for Afghan forces and institutions.” They added that the alliance will “continue to provide training and financial support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, including through the Afghan National Army Trust Fund.”
The alliance also said it will keep a senior civilian representative’s office in Kabul to “continue diplomatic engagement and enhance our partnership with Afghanistan.” The group reaffirmed its support for the “ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process” and called on all individuals involved to “help Afghanistan foster a last inclusive political settlement” that ends violence and protects the human rights of Afghans, especially women, children and minorities.
A Taliban spokesperson said the group was not aware of NATO’s plan to train Afghan forces in Qatar. “In case Afghan soldiers receive military training abroad, if peace is established then maybe the well-trained should be hired to serve Afghanistan but if they come and fight against us and their nation, then of course, they will not be trusted by us,” said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson.
Meanwhile, the United Nations is preparing for further displacement of civilians in Afghanistan after US and international troops leave the country in September, UN refugee chief Filippo Grandi told Reuters on Monday. Violence has been rising as foreign forces started their drawdown and efforts to broker a peace settlement between the Afghan government and Taliban have slowed.
Referring to last week’s attack on demining workers, Grandi said that the security situation is declining. “Therefore, we are doing contingency planning inside the country for further displacement, in the neighboring countries in case people might cross borders,” he said, without offering details of those plans.
There are currently some 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan globally, while another 4.8 million have been displaced within the country, according to the UN refugee agency UNHCR, which Grandi heads.
“What’s needed is a high level of economic support for Afghanistan humanitarian assistance to maximize the chance the Afghan authorities have to stabilize the situation,” UN aid chief Mark Lowcock told Reuters on Monday. “There’s been very good and constructive outreach from the Biden administration, from the White House down, and we have actually had very productive discussions with them on that,” added Lowcock, who steps down from his role this month.
Earlier this month, the United States announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, bringing to nearly $3.9 billion the total amount of such aid it has provided since 2002. Some 18.4 million people, almost half the country’s population, need humanitarian help, according to the United, Nations, which has appealed for $1.3 billion in funding for 2021. So far it has only received about 23% of that.