Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Afghanistan’s former president Hamid Karzai in an explosive interview to AP on Sunday said that the United States came to Afghanistan to fight extremism and bring stability to his war-tortured nation and is leaving nearly 20 years later, having failed at both.
Karzai’s remark comes just weeks before the last US and NATO troops leave Afghanistan, ending their forever war. Karzai said extremism is at its “highest point” and the departing troops are leaving behind a disaster. “The international community came here 20 years ago with this clear objective of fighting extremism and bringing stability… but extremism is at the highest point today. So, they have failed,” he said.
Their legacy is a war-ravaged nation in “total disgrace and disaster”, he said. Still, Karzai, who had a conflicted relationship with the United States during his 13-year rule, wanted the troops to leave, saying Afghans were united behind an overwhelming desire for peace and needed now to take responsibility for their future.
“We will be better off without their military presence,” he said. “I think we should defend our own country and look after our own lives. Their presence (has given us) what we have now. We don’t want to continue with this misery and indignity that we are facing. It is better for Afghanistan that they leave,” he added.
In April, when President Joe Biden announced the final withdrawal of the remaining 2,500-3,500 troops, he said America was leaving having achieved its goals. Al-Qaeda had been greatly diminished and bin Laden was dead. America no longer needed boots on the ground to fight the terrorist threats that might emanate from Afghanistan, he said.
Still, the US’ attempts to bring about a political end to the decades of war have been elusive. It signed a deal with the Taliban in February 2020 to withdraw its troops in exchange for a Taliban promise to denounce terrorist groups and keep Afghanistan from again being a staging arena for attacks on America.
There is little evidence the Taliban are fulfilling their part of the bargain. The United Nations claims the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are still linked. The architect of the US deal and current peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad says some progress has been made but without offering any details.
“The desire of the Afghan people, overwhelmingly, all over the country is for peace,” said Karzai, who despite being out of power since 2014 has lost little of his political influence and is most often at the center of the country’s political machinations.
As the final military withdrawal is already more than 50% complete, the need for a political settlement or even a visible path to an eventual settlement would seem to be taking on greater urgency even as Afghans by the thousands are seeking an exit. Karzai had a message for both sides in the conflict, “The two Afghan sides, none of them should be fighting.” While accusing both Pakistan, where the Taliban leadership is headquartered, and the United States of stoking the fighting, Karzai said it is up to Afghans to end decades of war.
“The only answer is Afghans getting together. We must recognize that this is our country and we must stop killing each other,” he said.
Meanwhile, the Acting Special Envoy of the European Union for Afghanistan Tomas Niklasson said on Sunday that Pakistan is not part of the problem, rather it is part of the solution for a peaceful and settled Afghanistan.
Niklasson was speaking to Geo News and stated that Afghanistan too, in the long run, is the solution for Pakistan owing to the broader connectivity it can provide to Central Asia. He said that Pakistan and Afghanistan share a long history and have a long border, but unfortunately there is “a high level of mistrust” between the leadership of both countries.
“What happens in Afghanistan will have an impact on what happens in Pakistan. An insecure, violent, unsettled Afghanistan will have spillover effects on Pakistan,” he said. He said he hears “very encouraging signals”, however, not just recently, but also recently, when it comes to relationship-building between the two nations.
“We can [instead] focus with a strategic and statesman-like manner on what has to be done and what the situation calls for.” He said that if Pakistan and Afghanistan can do that, “then there is hope. Then certainly, Pakistan is part of the solution, not the problem.”
“I also happen to think that Afghanistan is part of the solution for Pakistan,” he said, citing connectivity, trade, and energy from Central Asia.
Kabul: The first trilateral meeting of the Foreign Ministers of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Turkey, and Afghanistan – Mohammad Javad Zarif, Mevlut Cavusoglu, and Mohammad Hanif Atmar- began in Antalya on Sunday.
The Antalya Diplomacy Forum is an appropriate opportunity for high-ranking officials from around the world to hold discussions.
The three Foreign Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to further enhance solidarity and cooperation among the peoples of the three countries based on deep-rooted historical, religious and cultural commonalities and shared values that will serve to strengthen peace, stability, prosperity and cooperation in the region,
They also underlined their commitment to further expand cooperation particularly in the areas that would contribute to economic progress and sustainable development. They expressed their willingness to enhance their cooperation on regional connectivity in the fields of transport, trade, energy and infrastructure, in this regard agreed to conclude a Memorandum of Understanding,
The three ministers also underlined the importance of further strengthening cooperation in the fight against terrorism and violent extremism in all their forms and manifestations, transnational organized crime and illicit trafficking in narcotic drugs and their precursors, and arms, human trafficking, crimes against cultural and historical heritage, cybercrimes and illegal migration. They further expressed their determination to increase cooperation in people-to-people contacts, education, social and cultural exchange and tourism.
The ministers also recognized the importance of the Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process (HoA-IP) as a substantial platform that contributes to regional stability in fields ranging from political and security cooperation to economic integration and acknowledged the role of the regional and neighboring countries, in particular the Islamic Republic of Iran and Pakistan, in hosting Afghan refugees and called for creating conducive conditions in Afghanistan for their voluntary, safe, dignified and sustainable repatriation,
Apart from this, they also agreed to enhance cooperation in the field of migration and urged international community to increase technical and financial assistance to host countries in taking care of the essential needs of Afghan refugees and to provide support to the repatriation and reintegration efforts of the Government of Afghanistan and emphasized on their commitment to support a sovereign, independent, democratic and unified Afghanistan.
The ministers deplored the continuing high level of violence in Afghanistan and particularly condemned attacks targeting civilians and reiterated that sustainable peace can be achieved only through an inclusive Afghan-led and Afghan-owned political process that aims a permanent and nationwide ceasefire as well as an inclusive political settlement.
The countries also declared their ongoing support to the Afghan Peace Negotiations for the achievement of a just and durable political settlement. They recognized the efforts of Turkey together with Qatar and the UN to hold a high-level meeting in Istanbul aimed at giving momentum to the ongoing Afghan Peace Negotiations and called on the Taliban to fulfill their commitment for ending violence, establishing immediate and permanent ceasefire and achieving an inclusive negotiated settlement leading to lasting peace in Afghanistan desired by the Afghan people, the region and the international community.
They also called upon countries to refrain from applying unilateral economic sanctions as tools of political or economic pressure and reiterated the importance of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action and its full implementation by all sides for the security and economic welfare of the region and beyond.
The ministers reiterated their commitment to cooperation and solidarity during the COVID-19 pandemic, and working with the spirit of cooperation, unity and solidarity to protect the health of all our citizens, and make efforts to ensure equitable access to the vaccine.
It was agreed that the next meeting will be held in Tehran on a date to be determined in due course.
Meanwhile, Iranian minister Zarif had arrived in Antalya on Thursday, June 17, to attend the Antalya Diplomatic Forum. He met with some officials present, including the foreign ministers of Iraq, Venezuela, Afghanistan, Croatia, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Poland as well as EU Foreign Policy Chief Josep Borrell and the Head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah. Zarif and Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu discussed ways to expand economic cooperation and they reached an agreement to hold tripartite sessions among Ankara, Baku and Tehran to discuss railroad and waterway projects. Zarif also met his Pakistani counterpart Shah Mahmood Qureshi and touched upon the results of the Iranian presidential election, expressing hope that the trend of Tehran-Islamabad cooperation in bilateral and regional domains will keep growing in the new Iranian administration.
Qureshi, in turn, referred to the fragile situation in Afghanistan, and emphasized on the need to further cement Iran-Pakistan cooperation in establishing stability and fighting chaos in Afghanistan.
Kabul: More reports came in on Sunday of districts collapsing to the Taliban.
Local sources in Balkh province confirmed the fall of Charbolak district to the Taliban.
According to these sources who spoke to Hashte Sobh daily, the Taliban launched a series of offensive attacks to oust the district on Saturday night, and at 9am on Sunday, Taliban took full control of the district.
A security source, who did not want to be named, told the daily, that the district had been captured by the Taliban after heavy fighting and dozens of Afghan troops had surrendered to the Taliban. Meanwhile, Abdullah Masroor, deputy head of the Balkh provincial council, said that the district had fallen to the Taliban after heavy fighting, but did not provide further details.
Meanwhile, local sources in Takhar province also told Hashte Sobh daily that after the fall of Baharak district, five other districts in the province have fallen to the Taliban. Takhar Provincial Council head Wafiullah Rahmani told the daily on Sunday that Bangi, Chal, Hazar Smach, Yangi Qala and Namak Ab districts had fallen to the Taliban since Saturday.
According to Rahmani, the districts collapsed after fierce clashes between security forces and the Taliban. According to the head of the Takhar Provincial Council, Mawlavi Zahir, the district police chief, was killed along with four others in a clash between security forces and the Taliban in the Namak Ab district of the province. The district is now under the control of the Taliban. Baharak district of Takhar fell to the Taliban on Saturday.
Local officials in Takhar and the Ministries of Interior and National Defense have so far said nothing about the fall of Takhar districts.
Meanwhile, sources in Samangan province confirmed to Hashte Sobh daily that the district of Dara Suf Bala fell to the Taliban on Sunday morning. Hashem Sarwari, deputy head of the Samangan provincial council, told the daily that the fighting between security forces and the Taliban had started on Saturday night and that the district was under the full control of the Taliban by Sunday morning.
According to Sarwari, the forces that had come from Dara Suf Payeen district to Dara Suf Bala district yesterday retreated together with the forces stationed in this district. A Taliban spokesman also claimed to have taken control of district. Zia Arianjad, Samangan’s representative in parliament, also said that district had fallen.
On the other hand, local sources in Jawzjan province said that Khanqah district of the province had fallen to Taliban.
Sharif Sharifi, secretary of Jawzjan provincial council, told Subhe Kabul daily that the Khanqah district of the province, which is located on the Jawzjan-Balkh highway, had fallen to Taliban before midnight on Sunday.
According to him, the district was considered one of the most important districts on the Jawzjan-Balkh highway, and with the Taliban taking control of it, they could easily access the Faryab, Sar-e-Pul and Jawzjan provinces.
Meanwhile, local sources in Kunduz province said that Dasht-e Archi district of the province had fallen to Taliban fighters. A local source in Kunduz province told Subhe Kabul daily that on Sunday, defense and security forces pulled out from Dasht-e-Archi district of the province, after which Taliban fighters took control of the district.
According to the source, there were no clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters. Recently, some districts in the northern provinces of Afghanistan have fallen to Taliban due to the lack of reinforcements. The Ministry of Defense has repeatedly denied that districts have fallen to Taliban fighters, saying that defense and security forces have used tactical retreats to prevent civilian casualties.
Even, local sources in Jawzjan province said that Taliban fighters have entered the market of Faizabad district after capturing Khaneqah district of the province. Shir Mohammad Noor, a member of the Jawzjan provincial council, told Subhe Kabul daily that Taliban insurgents had entered the bazaar in Faizabad district; but security forces are not present at the district police headquarters.
According to him, clashes between security forces and Taliban fighters have not started yet; but the Taliban have entered the district market. However, a local source told the daily that the center of Mangjik district of Jawzjan province had also fallen to Taliban fighters.
On the other front, a number of members of the Faryab Provincial Council said that the clashes have reached the outskirts of Maimana, the capital of Faryab province. At the same time, the Faryab police said that fresh forces had been sent to the province.
Although Abdul Manan Qate, a member of Faryab Provincial Council, warns of possible escalation of the conflict after a Taliban attack inside Maimana, Faryab police spokesman Karim Yurish said that Taliban movements will be repulsed as new forces arrive. Before noon on Sunday, Abdul Manan warned that that the city of Maimana is in danger of collapsing if new troops were not sent to Faryab.
It is also reported that the Dahandara Dam in Faryab province has been captured by the Taliban. This dam was being built with a budget of hundreds of millions of Afghanis.
Meanwhile, Jamshid Tutakhel, the Kabul police chief, said that threats had increased in Kabul districts and that police should step up operations in those areas. Tutakhel said on Saturday in a meeting with district police chiefs that the police concentration should be increased in the police districts.
He said, “In addition to intensifying your activities, do not let any Taliban escape alive. Terrorists, criminals and Taliban should not be able to raise their heads.”
He stressed that if Taliban escaped from the police alive, the police chiefs of Kabul districts would be held accountable. At the same time, he stressed that if any of the Kabul police district chief could not do so, he should resign. According to him, resigning is more honorable than keeping terrorists and criminals alive. Taliban attacks have recently intensified in a number of Kabul districts.
Meanwhile, following the fall of several districts to the Taliban in recent weeks, Takhar elders are mobilizing the people to retake those districts and secure Takhar. Takhar elders announced at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday that a group had been sent to support security forces in Takhar.
They said that the Taliban are unable to gain popular support by continuing the war and violence and seizing districts. “Even if the districts are lost, it does not mean surrendering,” said Mohibullah Nouri, one of Takhar’s elders. “All the people of Takhar… all the commanders and elders of Takhar have mobilized to defend Takhar and that land of resistance with all their might at the cost of their lives and at the cost of their blood.”
Sayyed Ashraddin Eini, the representative of the people of Takhar in the parliament, also stated, “The necessary coordination has been done; both with the people and the influential and the local commanders and here with a group of lawyers.” According to Takhar residents, the Taliban should know that they cannot rule the people by force and violence.
Kabul: Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar has said that with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, there has been a misconception of victory for the Taliban. Atmar made the remarks on Saturday during a speech entitled “The Transforming Threat of Terrorism” at the Antalya Diplomatic Forum in Turkey.
Atmar added that the Taliban’s misrepresentation could disrupt the common achievements of the last two decades, including the rights of women, girls, children and minorities. During his speech, the Foreign Minister noted the close ties of international terrorist groups with the Taliban and its impact on the Afghan peace process.
Citing a recent report by the UN Security Council’s Monitoring Committee, Atmar said that despite the Taliban’s agreement with the United States, terrorist groups including Al-Qaeda, the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and the Khorasan branch of ISIS still remain among the Taliban and operate in Afghanistan. “Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan is involved in the trafficking of heroin and other narcotics, earning millions of dollars a year,” the Foreign Ministry said in a statement quoting Atmar.
“Smuggling drugs, weapons and people is one of the main sources of income for the Taliban in Afghanistan,” he said. Atmar added that al-Qaeda and its affiliates are present in 11 provinces of Afghanistan.
Atmar added that terrorist groups are taking advantage of the situation caused by the coronavirus outbreak and are preventing the treatment of the health problem by increasing the level of violence. He added that terrorist groups use cyberspace to recruit fighters, spread hatred and spread propaganda.
Meanwhile, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, deputy head of the Taliban’s political office in Qatar, also listed the Taliban’s view on the future of Afghanistan.
In a memo titled “How to have a stable, strong and prosperous Afghanistan?”, which discusses the peace process and the Taliban’s position on these negotiations and the future system, he said that in order to achieve “stability”, the establishment of a “strong Islamic system” is important.
He said that for the international community, including the United Nations, a strong, united, and corruption-free Afghanistan is better than an “involuntary, decentralized and corrupt system.” The Taliban’s political deputy described the Doha agreement as a “way” that has opened up good opportunities for peace. He wrote that the implementation of this agreement, including the release of prisoners, the end of the blacklist and other remaining materials, will pave the way for an end to the current dilemma.
“The real Islamic system is the best way to solve the problems of Afghans,” he wrote. He also addressed the concerns raised after the withdrawal of the international forces, saying that the response to these concerns was related to the “intra-Afghan talks” and that the opportunity for talks should not be lost on speculation.
He also called on the international community to allow Afghans to decide their own destiny and that of their country.
Kabul: On World Refugee Day (June 20), the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations of Afghanistan estimates that some 6.5 million Afghans are living as migrants or asylum seekers in about 70 countries.
Iran and Pakistan host the largest number of Afghan refugees. More than four million more Afghans, have been forced to flee their homes and areas as a result of fighting and escalating violence. The Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations said that there are about four million internally displaced people in Afghanistan, and since the beginning of the solar year 1,400, about 128,800 people have been displaced from their original areas.
Although according to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, aid is being provided to Internally Displaced Persons (IDPs), in most parts of Afghanistan, IDPs are complaining about the lack of timely and timely assistance, leading the government to underemployment and lack of planning.
It is feared that with the escalation of violence in Afghanistan, not only will the number of those forced to flee the country increase, but also the number of internally displaced persons.
Currently, there are 2,215,445 registered refugees from Afghanistan living in Iran and Pakistan. Only a little number of refugees (1,072) have returned to the country in 2021, according to the United Nations (UN) data.
Even the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) has expressed concern over the plight of Afghan refugees in countries and refugee camps around the world, and called on migrant organizations to pay special attention to the plight of these refugees.
A statement from the Independent Human Rights Commission (IHRC) released on Sunday, on the occasion of World Refugee Day, said that the escalation of the war and the country’s volatile security situation have led to increased civilian casualties, displacement, displacement and more migration from Afghanistan.
According to the commission, large numbers of Afghan refugees in countries and refugee camps around the world have been left without legal action for years. Therefore, the AIHRC has called on the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other relevant agencies to pay special attention to the plight of Afghan refugees in countries and refugee camps.
The commission noted that instability, protracted war and unstable security situation have led to an increase in migration from Afghanistan. The AIHRC says Afghanistan is one of the countries with the highest number of refugees in the world. Afghanistan Human Rights also called on the warring parties to respect the right of the people to live in security and peace and to end violence.
The commission also called on the Taliban and the government to cease fire and work for a just and lasting peace.
On the occasion, President Ashraf Ghani said that the international community has given the Taliban political status. Ghani also said at the ceremony held on Sunday at the Presidential Palace that the Taliban were responsible for continuing the war and that they destroyed public facilities and targeted civilians on a daily basis.
“This illegitimate war imposed by the Taliban must be sanctioned and condemned by the region and the international community,” Ghani was quoted as saying in the presidential palace newsletter.
He called on the countries of the region, especially Pakistan and Iran, not to hesitate in their active role in establishing lasting and just peace and stability in Afghanistan.
On the other hand, President Ghani considered the refugees and diaspora as an integral part of the Afghan nation and national capital and added that according to the constitution, no Afghan citizen can be deprived of the right to be “Afghan”.
Referring to the diaspora’s effective role in development programs, Ghani added that the issue of migration could not be addressed without a clear vision and attention to the changes that are taking place. He stressed that eight national programs are currently being designed and implemented, and that international assistance should be outcome-oriented, not process-oriented.
“It is the responsibility of the government to create the right conditions for the return of refugees,” he said. The Minister of Refugees and Repatriations of Afghanistan, the Deputy Special Representative of the United Nations and the Representative of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees also spoke at the event.
They stressed on the need to reduce violence in Afghanistan, and to continue to support the United Nations’ efforts in marketing, peacebuilding, and state-building within the framework of the Peace Development Plan.
Kabul: Bismillah Mohammadi took over as Acting Minister of Defense and Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal took over as the new Acting Minister of Interior.
Bismillah Mohammadi replaced Assadullah Khalid while Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal has been appointed instead of Hayatullah Hayat. These changes had been unveiled at the leadership level of security agencies as Taliban attacks in the provinces have escalated. On the other hand, Vali Mohammad Ahmadzai has been appointed as the Chief of Staff of the Army. He will replace Mohammad Yasin Zia in this position.
President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, in introducing the new officials of the security agencies, expressed hope that by introducing them, positive changes in the field of security in the country will be unveiled. Ghani said he hopes serious changes will be made on the battlefield with the introduction of Bismillah Mohammadi, who is credible among the security forces.
Ghani added that as the head of the legitimate government, they are committed to all human rights in the war, but that the Taliban are violating all these laws and destroying Afghanistan. According to him, the war was started by the Taliban and the group is responsible for it. “We have shared a regular peace plan with the world and the Afghans, but where is the Taliban plan?” Ghani was quoted as saying in the ARG statement.
Ghani also said that the Taliban must choose between peace and enmity with the Afghan people. He stressed that if the Taliban chose an enemy, “the people will respond decisively”. Referring to the increase in civilian casualties, President Ghani called on the international community not to remain neutral on the Taliban and to “accept that our human rights are being deliberately violated by the Taliban in the war.”
The Taliban have seized more than 30 districts in the past two months and destroyed public facilities in those districts.
Meanwhile, Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said that in the middle of war, progress and retreat should not be counted as collapse, and that the Taliban do not have a two-day presence in any area. Arian reacted to the Taliban’s claim that a number of districts had fallen, saying that the Taliban did not see any use of resources or services in any place, and that the group’s presence in non-strategic areas “definitely does not mean victory”.
Arian stressed that the Taliban group is incapable of maintaining any part of the country’s geography and that “progress in the surrounding areas is not considered in the sense of the legitimacy of the victory”.
He added, “The Taliban, with all their strength and external support in the last 15 years, have not been able to maintain even one district and at least understand what it has to offer to the people of that district, other than blowing up and destroying public facilities.”
According to the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior, in some parts of the country, saving the lives of soldiers is a priority. He also stressed that the Taliban had failed to inflict heavy casualties in the past six months, especially in Helmand, Kandahar and Baghlan provinces.
Arian has stated that the security and defense forces have entered a new state of war and are carrying out the defense of the country independently without the presence of foreign forces. “Until today, 2021, the same heroic Afghan forces are bravely and courageously defending their land and people on the battlefield.”
Arian added that there are progresses, retreats and casualties in the war, but the Taliban’s casualties are at least three times those of the security and defense forces. According to him, the Taliban’s “horrific crimes” have killed thousands of civilians through landmines and suicide bombings.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Interior further said that the security and defense forces are actively present in the trenches and will never allow even a part of the country’s geography to fall permanently. He noted that a plan to retake and suppress the Taliban is under way in a number of districts where the Taliban claimed to be present.
In fact, following the increase in Taliban activity in the Ghorband Valley of Parwan province, local officials say that 500 residents of the province have mobilized against the Taliban. Parwan police chief Abdul Rauf Uruzgani said that about 40 people belonging to Abdul Zahir Salangi, a Parwan MP, arrived in Shinwari district of the province on Saturday night with the support of the country’s military.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Center for Journalists is criticizing the government and security officials for what they call a systemic attempt to withhold information surrounding the ongoing war in the country. The watchdog called on the Interior Ministry officials to refrain from restricting access to information and to respect the law.
In a statement released on Sunday, it said that the Ministry of Interior has unilaterally created a WhatsApp information portal, which has been set up to provide information and respond to journalists in emergencies, but reporters cannot leave a message or ask questions. “While the war is intensifying across the country, security officials are simply not willing to be interviewed and provide information,” said the statement, criticizing this action as a step towards restricting freedom of expression and access to information.
The Afghan Journalists’ Center condemned the Interior Ministry’s move as an attempt to tighten restrictions on freedom of expression and create more restrictions on access to information.
Kabul: Amid the withdrawal of US and NATO forces from Afghanistan ahead of the September 11 deadline set by US President Joe Biden, and India’s policy on the rapidly changing ground situation in favor of the Taliban mired in doubt and uncertainty, the Taliban said on Saturday that they believe in “peaceful coexistence” with their neighborhood and region.
“Pakistan is our neighbor, we have shared values and history. India is also our regional country. No one can change one’s neighbors or region. We must accept this reality and have peaceful coexistence. That is in the interest of all,” Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in response to questions on how the Taliban viewed India’s role in Afghanistan after the US withdrawal, and what their views were on the Kashmir issue.
He described the Taliban as a “nationalist Islamic force”, whose goals were “the liberation of Afghanistan from foreign occupation and establishment of an Islamic government” there. There have been reports recently that Indian officials have established contact with some sections in the Taliban, possibly Mullah Baradar too. India was left out of the Afghan peace process, which first saw the Trump administration do a deal with the Taliban for withdrawal of forces. Pakistan played the facilitator, and in the next phase, brought the Taliban and Afghan government representatives together for talks.
Through the last two decades, New Delhi’s development assistance of around $3 billion to Afghanistan gave it a good-size footprint in that country, much to the chagrin of Pakistan. But India’s future role in Afghanistan is uncertain, especially if the Taliban become the dominant political force. Appearing to confirm reports that Delhi may be adjusting to the new reality by reaching out to the Taliban, a spokesperson for the Indian Ministry of External Affairs said India was in touch with all “stakeholders” in Afghanistan.
But Shaheen said he had no comment on these reports “because I don’t know about it”. However, in response to public remarks by Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla on Friday that the Taliban’s “relentless pursuit of power through violence”, “targeted assassinations” and “territorial aggression” had made the situation in Afghanistan “fluid” and “uncertain”, Shaheen said this was a “distortion” of the reality.
“That India says Taliban are triggering violence is an effort to distort the ground realities. This undermines their credibility in the Afghan issue,” he said.
He alleged that the Afghan forces “launched vast offensives against us immediately after the third day of the ceasefire in Baghlan, Helmand and Herat provinces. When we reacted to their offensives, their forces didn’t hold the ground, evacuating military posts and bases one after the other. This is what it is.”
Meanwhile, Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Saturday said that the only way forward toward peace in Afghanistan is through reconciliation, coexistence and talks among Afghans, and reiterated that Islamabad’s approach toward its neighbor has changed and it will favor a future arrangement that is acceptable for all Afghans.
In an interview with Tolo News, he rejected Taliban sanctuaries in Pakistan and said most of their leaders “are in Afghanistan”. He also denied the existence of Quetta and Peshawar Shuras, or councils in Pakistan and said he “has been hearing of these terms for now decades.” Regarding progress in Afghan peace process, the Pakistan foreign minister said President Ghani has “a very important responsibility on his shoulders” and he must “show the leadership and the flexibility” necessary to achieve progress in the peace process.
Also, Pakistan Minister for Interior Sheikh Rashid on Saturday told the National Assembly that 88 percent work on the fencing of the border with Afghanistan has been completed whilst the remaining work will be completed soon. He said that the political parties should also discuss the regional security situation.
For more regional cooperation, Pakistan and India will also be participating in a meeting of NSAs of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) in the Tajikistan capital. Indian NSA Doval will be joining the meeting “in-person” on June 23-24, unlike the NSA-level virtual meeting of the SCO countries last September. Four months after India and Pakistan decided to adhere to the ceasefire pact along the Line of Control (LoC), National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is likely to be in the same room as his Pakistan counterpart Moeed Yusuf in Dushanbe next week.
The meeting is likely to be attended by Afghanistan’s NSA Hamdullah Mohib, Russian NSA Nikolai Patrushev and their counterparts from China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Given the fluid situation in Afghanistan and the fragile peace between India and Pakistan holding for the last four months, Doval’s participation and his bilateral meetings on the sidelines will be key, sources said, adding that no meeting has been planned “so far” with his Pakistan counterpart.
Kabul: Oxygen is in short supply in Afghanistan as the country is battling a third wave of COVID-19 cases and its hospitals are being overrun. Health ministry spokesperson Ghulam Dastigir Nazari said that the government is working to install more oxygen supply plants in 10 provinces where up to 65 percent of people tested in some areas are positive for COVID-19.
Afghanistan has requested the global community at large and even its immediate neighbors to help bridge the gap in the supply and demand of healthcare equipment. However, the country is still running out of cylinders as well, with Iran sending 900 on Saturday and Uzbekistan sending 1,000 last week.
The reported positive case count is more than 100,000, and reported deaths number more than 4,000, but health officials say they’re much higher. The outbreak has even sent the US Embassy in Kabul into lockdown. In fact, the Ministry of Public Health on Sunday recorded 1,927 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 93 deaths in the past 24 hours. The total number of cases now stand at 103,921, while the death toll is 4,215.
Meanwhile, officials of Herat Public Health Department announced the arrival of the first shipment of oxygen imported from Iran to this province. Abdul Hakim Tamanna, Herat’s director of public health, said in a statement that the first oxygen tanker arrived in Herat from Mashhad, Iran, on Saturday.
He added that this consignment has been licensed to leave Iran with the cooperation of the Public Health Department of Khorasan Razavi Province of Iran and the Afghan Consulates General in Mashhad and Iran in Herat. According to him, the process of importing oxygen from Iran will continue in the coming days and the problem of oxygen shortage in Herat and neighboring provinces will be solved. According to the agreement reached between Iran and Afghanistan, two oxygen tankers are scheduled to enter Herat from Iran every week.
On the other hand, Nangarhar’s Provincial Coronavirus Committee, headed by Governor Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhel, has decided to make wearing face masks mandatory for all citizens, effective from June 20. The decision also obliges travelers, that enter Jalalabad city, to wear a mask or face police action.
The Committee directed Jalalabad municipality and law enforcement agencies to prevent crowds of over 10 people across the city, close halls and sports complexes, and implement preventive measures at parks. The Committee called on Education, and Hajj and Religious Affairs Directorates to close all educational institutions, including madrassas, as instructed by the central government, and pay special attention to social distancing and wearing masks during prayers in mosques.
Meanwhile, the Acting Minister of Public Health, Wahid Majrooh, told a news conference on Sunday that all Afghan provinces are facing the wrath of the coronavirus, and that there had been no “decline” in the coronavirus graph.
He added that the spread of the third wave of the coronavirus has accelerated across the country, especially in the central, western and southern provinces. He added that the death rate is high, and the cases in the third wave are far worse than the first and second waves.
Majrooh added that the need for oxygen is very high among patients and the demand for and hospitalization has increased to such an extent that doubling the number of beds across the country will not meet the needs.
According to the acting Minister of Public Health, the ministry initially focused on certain provinces, including Nangarhar, Kabul and Herat, but now the virus has spread across the country.
In addition,he expressed concern about the possibility of the spread of the coronavirus strain (delta) in the country, and said that work is underway in central laboratories to diagnose this type of strain and the result will be known within the next 48 hours.