Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Acting Interior Minister Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal claimed on Saturday that the Taliban are trying to transfer government-acquired weapons to Pakistan.
The acting interior minister, who is in Paktia, said that the Taliban wants to transport tanks and other military equipment to Pakistan via Zabul. “There is also information that the Taliban are moving some tanks to Pakistan via Zabul,” he said. “The Security Council and the Supreme Command of the Armed Forces have ordered a permanent air patrol to target any tank moving to Pakistan,” he added.
“The equipment belonging to the security forces has been transferred to the other side of the Durand Line,” said Shamim Khan Katawazi, head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance. “There is a picture and evidence that Pakistani soldiers took pictures with.”
However, Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid denies the group’s transfer of equipment to Pakistan. Fighting continues between government forces and the Taliban in Paktia. Local officials in Paktia said that they have detained Pakistani fighters fighting for the Taliban in the province during the operation to retake the Mirzaka district. Mirzaka district fell to the Taliban three days ago. Many parts of the district have been destroyed or set on fire during the war. Local officials in Paktia say the Taliban have set fire to many security checkpoints and destroyed roads. “Unfortunately, they are setting fire to government facilities and destroying them,” said Paktia Governor Halim Fadai.
On the other hand, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) is investigating a raid conducted by the 01 Unit in Deh Yahya area of Deh Sabz district, Kabul province, on Friday. The NDS stated that a delegation has been appointed to seriously assess and review the raid, and share its findings immediately. Reportedly, five individuals were killed in the incident. Dozens of Deh Sabz residents staged a protest against the district headquarters on Friday and claimed that all the victims were civilians.
Meanwhile, dozens of residents of Karokh district, Herat province, held a gathering to announce support for the ANDSF. In the presence of provincial officials, they pledged to fight the Taliban until the last drop of their blood.
Provincial Governor Abdul Saboor Qane said that the Taliban have no place amongst the people and the public alongside the ANDSF will defeat the Taliban. Qane vowed to provide the necessary facilities. Provincial council member Jahantab Taheri warned the Taliban to stop violence or the public will voluntarily eliminate them. Mohammad Mohaqiq also went to Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pul province and met with his supporters to organize popular mobilizations against Taliban fighters.
Meanwhile, the 207th Army Corps Commander Khial Nabi Ahmadzai condemned the Taliban for massacring the people and destroying infrastructure, and added that the Taliban are foreign mercenaries, who will be defeated.
In fact, the Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced the recapture of Talha and Barfak district of Baghlan province, on Saturday. Baghlan police chief Sayed Ashraf Sadat told the media on Saturday that security forces and popular uprisings had recaptured Talha and Barfak districts from the Taliban on Friday.
Doshi and Khenjan districts of Baghlan province were liberated from the Taliban by popular uprising forces on Friday. Large areas of the Shortapa district of Balkh province have been cleared of Taliban presence, Atta Mohammad Noor said on his Facebook page.
Noor has been on the war front with his son Khalid Noor, Mohammad Farhad Azimi, Governor of Balkh, Head of Balkh National Security, Commander of the Border Brigade, and a number of commanders of the people uprising forces.
Meanwhile, Herat civil activists handed over a petition of messages and signatures of citizens of the province collected in support of the defense and security forces to the army base in the west of the country.
According to the organizers of the program, the collection of signatures and messages of support from people from different parts of Herat had started a week ago. Arash Bashayar, one of the organizers of the program, told Hashte Subh daily that while the intensity of the war of grief has spread in the country, it shows support for the bravery of the defense and security forces, hatred of killing and bloodshed.
He emphasizes that a number of civil society activists donated blood to the wounded of the army and expressed their support for them. On the other hand, the commander of the army in the west of the country is pleased with the support of the people and civil activists in the defense and security forces, and emphasizes that this support is in the interest of the security forces in the hot battlefield against the Taliban.
Khayal Nabi Ahmadzai, commander of the army forces in the west of the country, told Hashte Subh daily that the forces under his command are ready to defend the people in this area and will not give up any effort to ensure their security. He added that in addition to the domestic armed opposition, the country’s defense and security forces are currently fighting various terrorist groups that have entered the battlefield with the support of foreign countries.
In the final part of the support program, a number of civil society activists donated blood for the wounded of the army forces who were wounded in the recent battles. Amanullah Teymouri, deputy director of the Army Hospital in the west of the country, said that 16 civil society activists donated eight liters of blood to the wounded of the security forces, which could solve the problem of some of the forces who need blood.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday said that the capacity to detect the delta variant of the coronavirus has been developed by in-house specialists in the ministry’s central laboratories.
Acting Minister of Health, Vahid Majrooh, told a news conference at the government’s media center that currently 55-60 percent of coronavirus positive cases are of the delta-type variant. Majrooh also said that the delta type of coronavirus is spreading rapidly and widely in the country and one of the reasons for the increase in the number of positive coronavirus cases and the deterioration of the situation is the circulation of this type of coronavirus.
He said that two days ago, 19 samples of suspected cases were tested in the central laboratories of the Ministry of Public Health, of which 11 samples were detected as delta and eight samples were detected as alpha UK type virus. The capacity to detect the UK variant of the coronavirus was previously established in the central laboratories of the Ministry of Public Health.
This comes even as the MoPH recorded 1,095 new positive coronavirus (COVID-19) cases and 56 deaths in the past 24 hours. The total cases now stand at 114,220, while the number of deaths is 4,650.
On the other hand, the acting Minister of Public Health said that the process of testing suspected cases of coronavirus is a long process, but recently Afghan experts have shortened the process by eliminating two steps. Majrooh said that the steps of transferring samples in VTM tools from one province to another and extraction kits have been removed from the process of testing samples suspected of having the coronavirus. He argued that equipment and consumables were scarce and expensive in these two stages.
Also, Majrooh said that people still do not follow the health instructions properly and hotels are open in some provinces. Majrooh said that the effects of quarantine and restrictions on the activities of some guilds and the blocking of universities and schools are seen, but the restrictions in cities are not well managed. He added that the situation would be better if the quarantine situation is managed properly.
However, Majrooh said the Ministry of Public Health is “under intense pressure” from various sections of society to reopen private schools and universities. Majrooh added that the Ministry of Public Health has to prepare a plan to determine the fate of private schools and universities. According to him, a national committee will be formed within the ministry today to work in this field.
The committee said that starting today, the committee will work with officials from the Ministries of Education, Higher Education, the Higher Directorate of Technical and Vocational Education, and the Association of Private Schools and Universities to prepare a mechanism for reopening schools and universities with minimum precautions.
Kabul: The World Bank Board of Executive Directors on Saturday approved a $132 million grant from the International Development Association (IDA) to help Afghanistan continue implementing critical reforms to improve public spending and fiscal transparency, strengthen governance, and mobilize private investment toward economic recovery.
The 2021 Incentive Program Development Policy Grant aligns with the government’s priorities under the Afghanistan National Peace and Development Framework II (ANPDF II). It complements a $300 million grant from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund (ARTF), a multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors.
“It reaffirms the World Bank’s strong commitment to helping the Afghan people recover and build back better from the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan. “In these difficult times, the World Bank stands ready to work closely with the government of Afghanistan to maintain its reform momentum and sustain its progress toward inclusive growth and self-reliance.”
Amid political uncertainty, the COVID-19 pandemic has severely impacted Afghanistan’s economy, public finances, and social development outcomes. In 2020, the Afghan economy shrank by around 2 percent as lockdowns drove significant job losses, especially for informal and service workers. In recent months, poverty has likely increased further because of worsening droughts and difficult economic conditions, compounded by intensifying insecurity and political uncertainties.
In fact, in response to a recent surge in COVID cases in Afghanistan, the United States will donate three million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccine to the people of Afghanistan through COVAX. COVAX is working to ship those doses to Afghanistan.
In fact, a press videographer who was traveling with President Ashraf Ghani’s delegation tested positive for COVID-19, according to a notification released by Congress’s Office of Attending Physician on Friday. Several members of the high-level delegation, including Foreign Minister Hanif Atmar and negotiating team member Matin Bek, were exposed to the infected person and hence, avoided meeting the Presidents.
Kabul: Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution, said that a proposal for employing third-party mediation to revive peace talks had been sent to Afghanistan’s warring sides.
Qatar has proposed that Afghanistan’s warring sides agree to third-party mediation to revive stalled peace talks, a Qatari official has said. News of Doha’s diplomatic push comes as Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and other Kabul leaders and officials are in Washington and met US President Joe Biden.
The withdrawal of US and NATO is mostly set to be complete within weeks, much earlier than its scheduled September 11 date. The Taliban have made unprecedented gains in northern Afghanistan and fears abound that the country will descend into full-blown war in the absence of a peace deal. At a virtual conference co-organized by the Arab Center Washington DC, Qatar’s special envoy for counterterrorism and mediation of conflict resolution, Mutlaq Al-Qahtani, said a proposal for employing third-party mediation had been sent to both Afghan government negotiating teams and representatives of the Taliban.
It included both agenda items for negotiators, as well as a time frame ending ahead of September 11, Qahtani told the panel. The intra-Afghan talks that began in September followed a landmark agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, brokered by Qatar, that paved the way for Washington’s withdrawal in exchange from pledges by the insurgents not to attack foreign forces or allow Afghanistan to become a breeding ground for extremist groups.
The talks between the warring sides were bogged down over procedural issues of nearly 60 days but they eventually agreed on the framework of discussions. Yet the so-called peace process, taking place in the Qatari capital, collapsed soon after, with both sides blaming the other for the deadlock. “We do not think facilitation is enough, they [Afghan negotiators] need formal mediation,” Qahtani said.
Qahtani explained that while the parties were yet to finalize their agreement on the mediation, one party apparently required two mediators while the other party needed one, without elaborating.
Meanwhile, Afghan Ambassador to Russia Said Tayeb Jawad told Sputnik that the Taliban are lying during the peace talks in Doha, as they are not really ready to negotiate peace and have missed the opportunity that was given to them in Qatar.
“No doubt that they are lying. They have not reached an agenda for over a year; it is the matter of two-three days. Not to mention the fundamental issues. They had been invited to Istanbul and at first they say they’ll come, then they said that they won’t,” the ambassador said.
“The Taliban didn’t accept proposals from the international community, in particular, from friends in Moscow or in Doha. In Moscow, the Taliban weren’t ready to get down to talks with Afghans. They were only present at general meetings,” he added. The diplomat added that both the central government and opposition are ready to discuss any agenda the Taliban would offer, as everyone is tired of the Taliban position – “we are ready for talks, but we won’t hold talks.”
Meanwhile, the Special Representative of the President of the Republic of Uzbekistan for Afghanistan Ismatilla Irgashev met with the Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the People’s Republic of China Jiang Yan on June 25, Trend reported citing Uzdaily.
The sides exchanged views on the development of the situation in Afghanistan and considered issues of mutual assistance to the peace process in this country. The expediency of continuing efforts to support peace and stability both on a bilateral basis and within the framework of international organizations, in particular the SCO-Afghanistan Contact Group, was voiced.
The enormous role of regional countries in continuing all-round economic and humanitarian support to the brotherly Afghan people, as well as efforts to establish a lasting and comprehensive peace in Afghanistan, was noted.
Afghanistan’s Ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay, speaking to CNN News18, agreed that “India has legitimate concerns in Afghanistan”. The Taliban is now sitting at the negotiating table and India is trying to tap into its leadership in Doha.
Ambassador Mamundzay said that the Afghanistan government has expectations from India of sending “a clear message to the Taliban to let go of violence and preserve the gains of the last 20 years, particularly the democratic gains”. He said, “As the world’s largest democracy, India has always stood for democratic values in Afghanistan and the government and people of Afghanistan expect New Delhi to continue supporting these principles.”
Kabul: A US defense official quoted by Fox News said on Friday that the United States military has launched two drone strikes against Taliban positions in northern Afghanistan.
The strikes came hours before President Ashraf Ghani’s meeting with US President Joe Biden on Friday, the report says. An unknown number of Taliban fighters were killed in Baghlan and Kunduz provinces, where the strikes took place, Fox News reported.
The Ministry of Defense has not commented on the airstrikes, but the ministry in a statement on Friday said that the Afghan Air Force targeted Taliban positions in Imam Sahib, Khan Abad and Gor Tapa districts in the northern province of Kunduz. The ministry said that 35 Taliban fighters were killed in the Afghan forces airstrikes in Kunduz, including three key commanders of the Taliban – Qari Jawad Hashemi, Haidari and Mawlawi Qadir.
Meanwhile, the Afghanistan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) announced that it officially received the responsibility for the watchtower and meteorology station of the Maulana Jalaluddin Balkhi International Airport in Mazar-e Sharif, Balkh province, from NATO on Friday.
The airport is the 2nd air base, whose responsibility is officially transited to the Afghan government from NATO. On May 14, the US Embassy in Kabul announced that US forces had completed the transition of Kandahar Airfield to Afghan authorities, after nearly two decades. The ACAA has already announced its readiness to take responsibility for all airports.
Meanwhile, local officials in Parwan province, north of Kabul, told Etilat Roz that the Shinwari and Siahgerd districts of the province have fallen to Taliban insurgents.
Parwan Governor Fazluddin Ayar said on Saturday that Taliban fighters had taken control of the two districts following the retreat of security forces from the two districts. Ayar added that clashes between security forces and the Taliban had also taken place in Shinwari and Siahgerd districts.
According to him, the Taliban suffered casualties during the clashes, but the exact number has not yet been determined. However, the governor of Parwan said that preparations had been made to retake the two districts and that a clearance operation would be launched soon.
Parwan province in the north of Kabul is one of the most insecure provinces where Taliban fighters are present and active in parts of the province.
In fact, even as Taliban attacks intensify and a number of districts fall to the group, Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, the acting interior minister, said that the Taliban will be “eliminated” in the next three weeks. Speaking to a special gathering of police special forces in Balkh province, Mirzakwal said that he is confident that the force would crack down on the Taliban and that the group would be humiliated, weakened and destroyed over the next three weeks.
According to him, the Taliban have lost their combat capability and strength against the country’s security and defense forces. The acting interior minister also said that Taliban fighters are taking a defensive stance on the battlefield.
On the other hand, Acting Minister told the security forces not to despair because of the fall of several districts to the Taliban. According to him, the group has already completely lost the war against the security and defense forces. Mirzakwal also said that the Afghan government would no longer allow them to join the regime and would not negotiate with the group to secure peace. “The Taliban must be defeated and eliminated,” he stressed.
According to the acting interior minister, the group has no will to rebuild Afghanistan and is destroying its facilities and looting equipment wherever it captures districts. He added that the Taliban had transferred all the ammunition and equipment they had acquired in the southern, southeastern and western provinces of the country to Pakistan.
On the other hand, Mirzkwal, in a part of his speech, told the special police forces that whatever the forces want from the leadership of the Ministry of Interior and the government, the government will provide it for these forces.
On the other hand, officials at Breshna said that work on reconnecting power to Kabul is nearing completion and it is likely that by the end of Saturday, imported electricity will be connected to Kabul and a number of other provinces.
Officials said that the repair and installation of power pylons in South Salang had been completed and that Breshna’s technical team had been working since Friday to connect the power line which was cut in Khenjan district of Baghlan province. According to the official, the technical team of Breshna Company started repairing the broken line in this district on Saturday.
This comes as on Tuesday, a power line in Khenjan district was cut off due to heavy clashes between security forces and the Taliban in the district, and its repair was delayed as the fighting continued.
Kabul: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Friday that Washington was assessing whether the Taliban was serious about ending the conflict in Afghanistan, and that trying to take back the country by force was not consistent with peace efforts, foreign media reported.
Blinken, who was visiting Paris, acknowledged attacks on Afghan security forces were increasing. The peace process has stalled as Afghan security forces battle a Taliban spring offensive that threatens several provincial capitals. Ethnic militias have been mobilized to help government troops.
“We are looking very carefully at the security on the ground in Afghanistan and we’re also looking very hard at whether the Taliban is, at all, serious about a peaceful resolution of the conflict,” Blinken told a joint news conference with France’s foreign minister.
“But actions that would try take the country by force are, of course, totally inconsistent with finding a peaceful resolution.” The Pentagon estimates the Taliban now control 81 of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers. The US military has completed more than half its withdrawal from Afghanistan and is set to finish within weeks. Officials say between 600 and 700 US troops are likely to remain to help provide security for diplomats. It is unclear how Afghan security forces will perform after US troops depart.
Meanwhile, according to a new AP report, the United States plans to leave hundreds of troops in Afghanistan even after the promised withdrawal from the war-torn country. The Associated Press reported on Friday that about 650 American troops will stay in Afghanistan to provide security at the US Embassy after troops leave the country later this summer. Hundreds of more troops will also stay at the Kabul airport.
US officials told AP that the withdrawal may be completed in the next two weeks, which would be ahead of Joe Biden’s September 11 deadline to withdraw all troops from the country. The report stated that several hundred US forces will remain at the Kabul airport, at least until September, to assist Turkish troops who have agreed to provide security for the airport.
The officials stated that troops will remain until formal plans are in place for Turkey to secure Hamid Karzai International Airport, the main entry into Afghanistan. According to Pentagon press secretary John Kirby, security at the embassy in Kabul “would be beyond just what you would see in normal embassies. You should expect that it’ll be larger, in keeping with the security situation in Afghanistan.”
On the other hand, Pakistani Prime Minister Imran Khan said that Pakistan would want a civilized relationship with the US after it leaves Afghanistan, ending its longest war that comprises two decades. Khan stated this during his recent interview with The New York Times while discussing Pakistan’s future strategy after US leaves Afghanistan.
“After 9/11, Pakistan again opted to join the US war on terror. Now, after the US leaves Afghanistan, basically Pakistan would want a civilized relationship, which you have between nations, and we would like to improve our trading relationship with the US,” he said. When asked what he meant by a “civilized” relationship, PM Khan said that Pakistan desires “evenhanded” ties as the US has with India and the UK.
He added that Pakistan had always held a closer relationship with the US than neighboring India, adding that the both countries shared uneven relationship during the war on terror. He recalled that Pakistan lost 70,000 lives after joining the war that also caused losses to the tune of $150 billion. “The US kept expecting more from Pakistan. And unfortunately, Pakistani governments tried to deliver what they were not capable of,” he said. “What we want in the future is a relationship based on trust and common objectives. That’s actually what we have right now with the US — I mean, our objectives in Afghanistan are exactly the same today.”
He said, “Post the US withdrawal, I don’t know what sort of military relationship it will be. But right now, the relationship should be based on this common objective that there is a political solution in Afghanistan before the United States leaves because Pakistan doesn’t want a civil war, a bloody civil war in Afghanistan.”