Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Ministry of Defense announced on Wednesday that security forces in the north of the country are advancing with the support of the people’s forces. Fawad Aman, deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, said that five districts in the north and northeastern provinces had been liberated from the Taliban.
The deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense said that heavy and aggressive Taliban attacks in the northern provinces had been repulsed. In the past 24 hours alone, more than 200 Taliban members have been killed and more than 100 others wounded in operations by security forces and popular mobilizations, Fawad Aman said.
However, Paktia’s provincial council head Abdul Malik Zazai reported the collapse of Samkani, Janikhel, and Dand-e Patan districts to the Taliban. Zazai added that the Taliban also seized government equipment and vehicles.
Ghazni’s deputy provincial council head Amanullah Kamran stated that the ANDSF retreated from Ab Band district to Qarrabagh district, after several days of being surrounded. Kamran warned that Qarabagh, Muqur, and Gelan districts were also on the verge of collapse.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Interior said that people have stood up against the Taliban in different parts of the country to support their security forces, and have taken an active part in suppressing the group.
Local officials in Jawzjan province also confirmed that dozens of women in the province have taken up arms against the Taliban. Abdul Marouf Azar, spokesman for the governor of Jawzjan, said that the number of women reached dozens. Moslema Atai, the head of women’s affairs department in Jawzjan, is one of them. Azar added that these women rejected the Taliban war and stressed that they stood by the security and defense forces against the Taliban.
Hundreds of residents of Kabul’s Kohdaman district and supporters of Mir Amanullah Gozar, Kabul’s representative at the Lower House of Parliament, also took up arms against the Taliban and expressed support for the security forces.
Meanwhile, the Office of Prisons Administration has released a statement in response to a report published by International Human Rights Watch regarding torture of children in prisons of Afghanistan.
They rejected the claim of the Human Rights Organization that the arrested children are being tortured or abuse. “The allegations of child abuse mentioned in the report were completely baseless and no child in Afghan prisons has been convicted of any crime related to insurgents or opponents. There are children in women’s prisons because their mothers have been imprisoned for various crimes and these children are being cared by their mothers so that, school, educational and training facilities have been set up inside the prisons for them,” the statement added.
The statement also read, “Detainees and offenders under the age of 18 are also in the custody of juvenile correctional facilities in accordance with the laws of Afghanistan. These centers also have educational and training facilities that have all the equipment and training facilities available there.”
Kabul: Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan Mohammad-Ebrahim Taherian met with the chairman of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah and Afghan Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar on Wednesday.
During the meetings, the officials exchanged views on the current developments in Afghanistan and stressed on the need to continue the consultations. The meetings came as Taherian is heading to Islamabad to meet with Pakistani officials and discuss the latest political and security developments in Afghanistan. Taherian at the head of a political delegation will depart for Islamabad on Wednesday afternoon upon an invitation by Pakistani Prime Minister’s Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq.
Meanwhile, the latest developments in Afghanistan were also the focus for Moscow. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said, while delivering a statement at the 9th Moscow Conference on International Security, that the security situation in Afghanistan needs to be monitored closely for both neighboring countries and international organizations.
According to Russia’s RIA Novosti news agency, Shoigu, said, “It must be admitted that over 20 years of stay in Afghanistan, a significant military contingent of the Western alliance has failed to achieve significant results in stabilizing the situation in the country and forming sustainable public administration structures.”
He further added that there was high probability that after the withdrawal of NATO forces [from Afghanistan] a civil war would resume in the country with all negative consequences: further deterioration in the life of the population; mass migration; and the spread of extremism to neighboring countries.
Since the beginning of NATO’s official troop withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1, the Taliban militants have taken over 50 districts from Afghan forces, and the number is rapidly increasing, as per UN’s special envoy on Afghanistan Deborah Lyons. The Taliban are intensifying attacks across Afghanistan to gain more territory ahead of NATO’s troop withdrawal in September. The militant group now controls vast swaths of land.
Kabul: The first basic oxygen production device has been unveiled by the robotics group “Aria TopTech” of the Faculty of Computer Science, Herat University.
The Herat governor’s office said in a statement that the device was built at a cost of 50,000 afghanis and is capable of producing 7.5 liters of oxygen per minute.
Abdul Hakim Tamana, Herat’s director of public health, said that the oxygen produced by the device is 95% pure and, if mass-produced, will solve the problems of oxygen deficiency during the coronavirus pandemic. Earlier, Afghan robotics girls had developed the basic artificial respiration device, which was widely acclaimed.
With the rise in the number of coronavirus patients, the main concern is the lack of oxygen in the COVID-19 care centers. Herat health officials said that an oxygen generator will soon be installed at Herat’s Covid-19 Hospital to provide oxygen to 65 patients.
More than 150 patients are currently undergoing treatment at Herat Hospitals.
This comes even as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has recorded 1,575 new coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 86 deaths in the past 24 hours. The total number of positive cases now stand at 109,532, while the death toll is 4,452.
Kabul: Ahmad Bashir Samim, chairman of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, has been appointed governor of the province, replacing Mohammad Zakaria Soda.
The Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG) announced on Wednesday that Ahmad Bashir Samim has been nominated as the governor of Badakhshan province, based on a proposal from the department and a presidential decree.
Ahmad Bashir Samim has previously served as a senator, member of the Badakhshan Provincial Council and chairman of the provincial Council. Mohammad Zakaria Soda, the former governor of Badakhshan, has been fired following protests by the people this month, which was and is still going on due to lack of water, non-opening of the Shurabak dam and insecurity.
More than 40 people were killed and injured during the violent protests in Faizabad. The delegation of the House of Representatives, which had gone to Faizabad to investigate the case, had demanded the removal of the governor and his introduction to the prosecutor’s office.
Meanwhile, reporters in the north zone of the country complained about lack of access to war information. They said that they have been in frequent contact with army and police spokesmen these days to get information about the fall of the districts to the Taliban, but have been unable to get information.
Thus, despite the enactment of the Access to Information, journalists across the country still face the challenge of lack of access to information, they said on Wednesday. “Government agencies fail to share information with the media. They either do not provide information to reporters in a timely manner or remain silent,” they said.
Meanwhile, pro-free media organizations have called the government’s concealment of facts a violation of the Right to Information law and called on the government to make information available to journalists. In the provinces, however, only members of the provincial councils are willing to provide information.
Journalists’ lack of access to information has become a more serious challenge in the northern areas these days than ever before. With fighting escalating and nearly 30 districts falling in recent days in northern Afghanistan, none of the government spokesmen were willing to share information with the media.
The reporters have called on the central government to allow local governments to provide information to journalists in the context of war in most of the country’s provinces. Deputy Minister of Information and Culture for Publications, Abdul Manan Shiway-e Sharq, reiterated that the Afghan government is committed to protecting the freedom of expression. However, Sharq stated that the majority of social media users are sharing unbalanced and unprofessional news and information, without distinguishing between positive and negative freedoms.
Sharq added that there are about 3 million users on social media, who are operating in an unbalanced and unprofessional manner, which is a kind of media anomaly. Sharq urged social media activists to distinguish between positive and negative reports, and called on the people not to trust those, who aren’t professional reporters.
Meanwhile, Nangarhar’s Provincial Governor’s Office reported the arrest of an IS-K member in Jalalabad city. The Office stated that the suspect was transporting a suicide vest, 2 hand-grenades and night letters, when the NDS arrested him in PD4.
The Office added that the arrestee has confessed to his crime, and the case is under investigation.
Meanwhile, the Acting Minister of Information and Culture Mohammad Tahir Zuhair called for people’s cooperation to protect cultural heritage, particularly in insecure areas. Zuhair said that cultural heritage is public property, thus the public should cooperate with the ministry to protect heritage. Zuhair expressed concern that the mafia, smugglers, and opportunists may use the current opportunity to plunder historical sites and cultural heritage.
Kabul: The US retrograde mission is now over 50 percent completed, said US Central Command on Wednesday, while also announcing that they will not be providing the specific percentage of the exit process going forward for operational security and to preserve force protection.
Since the Biden’s decision, the US Department of Defense has retrograded the equivalent of approximately 763 C-17 loads of material out of Afghanistan and have turned nearly 14,790 pieces of equipment to the Defense Logistics Agency for disposition. The 14,790 pieces of equipment comprise almost entirely federal excess personal property. Most of this equipment is not defensive articles or considered to be major equipment.
Also, the US has officially handed over six facilities to the Afghan Ministry of Defense. “We anticipate additional transfers of bases and military assets in the future which will support the ANDSF/GIRoA as they work to stabilize and defend their nation,” said Centcom.
Meanwhile, the first group of former Afghan interpreters whose lives are in danger because they worked for the British military are due to arrive in the UK under a new government scheme, as per Sky news reports. An aircraft reportedly carrying more than a dozen Afghans who were employed by UK forces, as well as family members, landed in Midlands on Tuesday.
The Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the flight because of security concerns for the men, women and children who have asked to flee Afghanistan after threats from the Taliban. The Taliban considers those associated with the US and NATO-led mission in Afghanistan to be traitors.
Concerns over the safety of former staff, most of them interpreters, prompted the UK ministry and the UK Home Office in May to expand the eligibility criteria of a relocation scheme for Afghans seeking to flee. Earlier, the government resisted pressure to allow large numbers of men and women to relocate, saying such a move would deprive Afghanistan of a talented pool of young people who would be crucial for the country’s future prosperity.
More than 3,000 Afghans are expected to accept the offer, along with about 1,300 who have already made the journey under a previous, more restrictive policy. They are expected to be flown to the UK in groups.
Meanwhile, during a joint meeting with participation of members of territorial defense zone No 1 that took place on June 20, Yodgor Fayzov, the Governor of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region (GBAO) also discussed the latest developments in Afghanistan.
“Our working meeting was not specifically devoted to the issue of instability in the neighboring country. The fact is that every three or six months we hold working meetings to discuss situation in neighboring countries,” GBAO governor told Asia-Plus in the interview.
“At this meeting, we discussed how the instable situation in Afghanistan can affect can affect the lives of our people and what to do in case of a potential threat,” said Fayzov. “Therefore, we must always be on high alert. Although the situation on our stretch of the Tajik-Afghan border is stable and so far, there is no threat.”
“The tense situation in border areas of Afghanistan obliges us to ensure internal stability, and in the event of the possible violation of state border, to take to take appropriate reciprocal measures and defend our country,” he noted. GBAO has a long border with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, and therefore, it is necessary to regularly strengthen activities of the territorial defense zones. The border security has been strengthened and border guards are on high alert.
“In case of aggravation of the situation of residents living on the other side of the border, we are ready to accept refugees. Of course, if they need it. That is, in any case, in difficult times you need to support your neighbor. During the civil war in Tajikistan, these people accepted our refugees, and today we will help them.”
“Taking into account our economic and political opportunities, we are ready to accept more than 10,000 refugees our Afghan brothers and take care of them in a safe place,” GBAO governor noted.
Kabul: The Afghan foreign minister at an online meeting of members of the UN Security Council said that the Taliban has not fulfilled its obligations to the United States. “They have not cut ties with international terrorism,” Mohammad Hanif Atmar said.
“They have taken refuge not only in Al-Qaeda, but also in other terrorist groups in the region, such as Lashkar-e-Taiba, the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, the Islamic Movement of East Turkestan and the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan,” he added. The Taliban has previously denied links to terrorist groups, including Al-Qaeda.
The Afghan foreign minister also said in a speech on Wednesday that the Taliban had pledged to reduce violence in an agreement they signed with the United States on February last year. But not only has the violence not diminished, he said, but the Taliban have intensified the war to a level not seen in the past 20 years.
Meanwhile, President Ashraf Ghani, referring to the recent increase in Taliban attacks, said that the continuation of the current situation cannot give the group political legitimacy. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced as a result of Taliban attacks and violence, according to President Ghani. However, President Ghani has called on the Taliban to stop the violence and destruction of the country’s economy and work together with the government. The Taliban have taken control of more than 60 districts in the past two months. Thousands of families have been displaced by Taliban attacks. Security and defense forces have recaptured a number of these districts from the Taliban. In a number of provinces, popular mobilizations against this group have been formed in some other parts of the country.
On the other hand, Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, said that the security situation in many provinces would soon change. The press office of the second vice-president said in a statement on Wednesday that Danesh had met with members of the Human Rights Defenders Committee.
During the meeting, members of the Human Rights Defenders Committee, referring to the security situation in Afghanistan, expressed their concern about the security situation of human rights defenders in a number of provinces and called for their security. According to them, human rights defenders in 21 provinces of Afghanistan are under security threat, and in eight provinces, the security threats are high.
Sarwar Danesh said during the meeting that the security situation would soon improve and that the level of threats against human rights defenders would decrease. Ministry of Defense has also repeatedly said that the defense and security forces have taken a tactical retreat to prevent the spread of casualties.
Deputy Interior Minister for Policy and Strategy Naqibullah Fayeq also traveled to Mazar-e Sharif city, to assess the security situation. During the visit, Fayeq stated that the central government supports people’s uprisings against the Taliban across the country. Fayeq added that the government will distribute adequate weapons, ammunition and vehicles to those, who are ready and volunteer to defend their homes and territory. Fayeq gave assurances that the Taliban will never be able to capture cities and the lost areas will soon be recaptured. Fayeq said that Taliban’s recent advancements were mostly based on propaganda.
Senior Presidential Advisor on Security and Political Affairs, Mohammad Mohaqqeq, also travelled to Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province on Wednesday, to mobilize the people against the Taliban. Mohaqqeq said that Mazar-e Sharif city is the threshold for the government, public, and political factions. Mohaqqeq added that the city had previously witnessed Taliban’s violence and urged the public to stand firmly and foil Taliban’s tricks used to capture other areas.
Mohaqqeq said that he had previously called on the Taliban to gain power through peace, elections, and logic, as the ANDSF were the sole legitimate force to carry guns, however; the group forced the people to pick up arms, and fight alongside the security forces. Mohaqqeq highlighted that his visit is aimed to collaborate with other factions. Recently, Head of Jamiat-e Islami Party’s splinter group Atta Mohammad Noor, and Member of Parliament (MP) for Balkh province Abbas Ibrahimzada travelled to Mazar-e Sharif city, to mobilize the people against the Taliban.
Meanwhile, five civilians were killed and 20 more, including women and children, were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in the southern province of Kandahar on Tuesday night, the provincial police said on Wednesday.
The incident happened on Kabul-Kandahar Highway in Maiwand district in Kandahar on Tuesday night after a passenger vehicle was hit by a roadside mine, police said. Health officials confirmed the casualties and said “the wounded include women and children.” No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast. This comes as Maiwand district fell to Taliban following clashes on Monday.
Even, Khash district of Badakhshan province fell to the Taliban, after two days of fierce clashes. Provincial council member Abdullah Naji Nazari stated that the district collapsed after reinforcements failed to arrive. Nazari called on the central government to take immediate action to repulse Taliban attacks. The Taliban confirmed that the group captured Khash district last night.
Kabul: A US delegation is due to arrive in Turkey this week, the Pentagon confirmed on Tuesday, as Washington and Ankara look to put the finishing touches on a deal that would give Turkish authorities a senior role in overseeing the Kabul airport in Afghanistan.
The Pentagon did not disclose who would be travelling, but the Turkish Defense Ministry said that the delegation is “technical” in nature and is expected to arrive in Ankara on Thursday. Efforts to secure the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan will lead the talks.
“Turkey agreed to take the lead on the protection of the airport in this meeting,” Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said. “However, there are still details to be worked out on this issue. There is much more work to be done.”
US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan announced the US-Turkey deal on Friday following President Joe Biden’s summit with his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels last week. Biden “and President Erdogan agreed that they would work together to make this happen,” he said. Sullivan stated that two teams would be put in place to make sure Ankara receives the support it needs during this mission. US officials see securing the vital airport as a critical element to maintaining stability in Kabul as well as the continuation of the work of embassies, aid groups and NGOs.
The United States also called for an end to violence in Afghanistan, blaming Taliban insurgents for much of the bloodshed, three days ahead of a visit by President Ashraf Ghani to the White House. “We urge the sides to engage in serious negotiations that determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future,” State Department spokesman Ned Price said. “We continue to call for an end to the ongoing violence that has been driven largely by the Taliban,” Price said. The Taliban captured Afghanistan’s main border crossing with Tajikistan Tuesday, officials said, with security forces abandoning their posts and some fleeing across the frontier.
The taking of the far north Shir Khan Bandar was the most significant gain for the Taliban since the United States began the final stage of its troop withdrawal in May, with peace talks between the insurgents and Kabul deadlocked. “The violence must cease,” Price said.
“We continue to believe that negotiated settlement between the Islamic Republic and the Taliban is the only way to end 40 years of war, and to bring Afghans the peace they seek,” Price added. On Friday, President Joe Biden will meet with Ghani and with Abdullah Abdullah, who is overseeing the government side in the peace talks with the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan said that the US cannot win the war in neighboring Afghanistan even if Islamabad agrees to provide bases to Washington for counterterrorism operations.
If Pakistan bows to US demand, Khan said, it would again be targeted for revenge by “terrorists” if civil war breaks out instead of a political settlement in the conflict-wreaked country. He was referring to the more than two-decade-long militancy that has haunted the South Asian nation for siding with Washington in its so-called war against terrorism.
“After joining the US effort, Pakistan was targeted as a collaborator, leading to terrorism against our country from the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan and other groups. US drone attacks, which I warned against, didn’t win the war, but they did create hatred for Americans, swelling the ranks of terrorist groups against both our countries,” he wrote Monday in an opinion piece for The Washington Post.
“We simply cannot afford this. We have already paid too heavy a price. Meanwhile, if the US, with the most powerful military machine in history, couldn’t win the war from inside Afghanistan after 20 years, how would America do it from bases in our country?” he argued.
Islamabad has already refused to allow the US to carry out counter-terrorism operations following Washington’s scheduled pullout from Afghanistan. “Pakistan is ready to be a partner for peace in Afghanistan with the US. But as US troops withdraw, we will avoid risking further conflict,” he wrote.
Acknowledging that Islamabad made a mistake by choosing between warring groups, Khan said Pakistan has learned from that experience and had no “favorites” in Afghanistan. “We oppose any military takeover of Afghanistan, which will lead only to decades of civil war, as the Taliban cannot win over the whole of the country, and yet must be included in any government for it to succeed,” he said.
In fact, US Senator Lindsey Graham says the decision by the Biden Administration to withdraw all forces and not stay engaged with Pakistan is a major disaster in the making, even worse than the blunder in Iraq. He said in a series of tweets that it was stunning to hear that US President Joe Biden hasn’t reached out to Prime Minister of Pakistan Imran Khan regarding the US-Pakistan relationship and Afghanistan. “How do we expect our withdrawal from Afghanistan to be effective without coordinating with Pakistan? Clearly the Biden Administration believes that our problems in Afghanistan are behind us,” he added.
On the other hand, Iran Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh also said that Iran is closely watching the worrying developments in Afghanistan. He wrote in twitter post on Tuesday that “Iran favors an immediate reduction of tensions, respect for the rule of law and a comprehensive dialogue.” He stressed that “the US destructive policies have left long-term consequences in our region, and now it’s extremely irresponsible actions are causing more damage.”