Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Kabul-North highway, which was closed to traffic in the minaret area of Jabal Saraj by local residents who were protesting against the killing of a young boy by unknown individuals, reopened on Monday.
Parwan Governor Fazluddin Ayar told the BBC that the perpetrators of the young boy’s murder had been “arrested by intelligence forces in the province”.
According to Ayar, local residents brought the body of the victim to the crossroads of Jabal Siraj and closed the highway in protest. The two-day protest and the blocking of the road stopped hundreds of passenger cars and trucks on this route.
Kabul: Various transport companies and drivers of the Kabul-Herat highway protested on Monday, against extortion on this route.
Protesters say anti-social elements in the provinces along the Kabul-Herat highway extort money from drivers. Ahmadullah Abdali, head of the Ahmad Shah Abdali Transport Company, said that despite the presidential decree and the Ministry of Transport warning, extortion of drivers still continues.
He referred to the Land Transport Cohesion council, which charges drivers for transport companies on the Kabul-Herat highway. Ahmadullah Abdali claimed that the cost of land transport costs between 500 and 1,000 afghanis.
According to him, this action is illegal and the Land Transport Cohesion Council should be abolished.
Transport companies and drivers warned that they would go on strike if their demands were not met. The Land Transport Cohesion Council, registered with the Ministry of Justice, has not formally commented on the matter.
A number of drivers also accused the Taliban of extorting money on the Kabul-Herat highway. About three months ago, transport companies staged a protest against extortion on highways. The protests lasted for 20 days.
The strike by transport companies and drivers has given way to rise in prices of raw materials and food items in the markets.
Kabul: At least three districts in Shahrak, Ghor, Gizab, Uruzgan and Qaisar, Faryab have fallen to the Taliban, said Afghan Defense Ministry spokesperson Ruhollah Ishrat Ahmadzai on Monday.
He added, while speaking to the BBC, that Afghan security forces had retreated in three districts: Shahrak, Gizab and Qaisar. He added that the ministry is working with police and national security forces to launch a recapture operation in the near future.
Ahmadzai said Afghan security forces had retreated to “protect the lives and property of the people”.
Meanwhile, Ghor Governor Abdul Qadir Faizada also told the BBC that security forces evacuated the Shahrak district at around 5pm on Sunday “to prevent civilian casualties”. The governor of Ghor said that seven security forces were killed and 13 others were wounded in the province. According to him, 18 Taliban were killed and 24 others were wounded during the clashes in Shahrak district of the province.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that the Taliban had taken control of Shahrak district, but did not comment on the casualties. Ghor is one of the central provinces of Afghanistan. Shahrak district is located in the south of the province and borders Chesht district of Herat province.
While, Mohammad Omar Shirzad, the governor of Uruzgan, also confirmed that the Gizab district of the province had fallen to the Taliban. Gizab has been under siege by the Taliban for several days. The Taliban have claimed that all Afghan security forces have surrendered to the group.
However, Shirzad has denied the allegations, saying all security forces are safe, they have made a tactical retreat and no one has surrendered to the Taliban. Ahmadzai said that in Gizab, the Taliban had moved into people’s homes and cleared the area. He said tactical and operational operations are underway at the scene.
In fact, even Qaisar district had fallen to the Taliban after hours of fighting in Faryab province. Two days ago, a Taliban car bomb exploded at the Qaisar district police headquarters. Following the blast, a security source reported heavy fighting between security forces and the Taliban in the district.
The source said that the Taliban seized the district police command on Sunday morning and security forces retreated to the district and municipal buildings.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid also told the BBC that they had taken over the district police headquarters. Faryab shares a border with Turkmenistan and is a strategic province in the north of the country.
Meanwhile, Paktia Governor Mohammad Halim Fadai said that dozens of mostly foreign fighters have been killed in the province. “Afghan forces killed 50 insurgents, most of them foreigners, in Paktia on Sunday night and wounded many more,” Fadai said.
Fadai did not specify which countries the foreign fighters killed belonged to. However, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesperson, denied the claim that the Taliban had suffered heavy casualties.
Meanwhile, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) announced that as a result of a special operation by its forces, a vehicle loaded with ammonium nitrite explosives was seized in Nangarhar province. The statement said that 1,300 kilograms of explosives had been placed in a vehicle.
NDS added that the vehicle was transporting explosives for Taliban “movements” from Maidan Wardak to Nangarhar. According to the NDS, in the event of an explosion of this vehicle full of explosives, it was estimated that there was a possibility of destroying public places within a radius of 1,300 meters.
Kabul: The New York Times on Sunday published a report outlining the CIA’s struggle to put together a new counterterrorism strategy as US troops withdraw from Afghanistan. “The CIA is seeking ways to maintain its intelligence-gathering, war-fighting and counterterrorism operations in the country,” The New York Times reported, citing CIA analysts warning of the “ever-growing risks” of a Taliban takeover.
The report focused on Pakistan, saying “the CIA used a base there for years to launch drone strikes against militants in the country’s western mountains, but was kicked out of the facility in 2011, when US relations with Pakistan unraveled. Any deal now would have to work around the uncomfortable reality that Pakistan’s government has long supported the Taliban.”
The Times article stated that discussions are ongoing over the use of Pakistan for more bases, “In discussions between American and Pakistani officials, the Pakistanis have demanded a variety of restrictions in exchange for the use of a base in the country, and they have effectively required that they sign off on any targets that either the CIA or the military would want to hit inside Afghanistan, according to three Americans familiar with the discussions.”
The Times reported that US diplomats are exploring the possibility of establishing US bases in the region with former Soviet republics, but expect that Russia’s President Vladimir Putin would oppose this.
Citing “several people familiar with the assessments,” the Times report said that recent CIA and military intelligence reports on Afghanistan have been “increasingly pessimistic” and have “highlighted gains by the Taliban and other militant groups in the south and east, and warned that Kabul could fall to the Taliban within years and return to becoming a safe haven for militants bent on striking the West.”
William J. Burns, the CIA director, told US senators in April, “When the time comes for the US military to withdraw, the US government’s ability to collect and act on threats will diminish.”
The CIA head visited Islamabad, Pakistan in recent weeks to meet with the chief of the Pakistani military and the head of the directorate of Inter-Services Intelligence, but a CIA spokeswoman declined to comment when asked about Burns’s travel to Pakistan, said The Times.
According to “American officials familiar with the conversations,” The Times reported, “Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III has had frequent calls with the Pakistani military chief about getting the country’s help for future US operations in Afghanistan.”
The report noted that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke this month with his counterpart in Tajikistan, “though it is not clear if base access was discussed during the call.
Meanwhile, according to military experts and a recent US Defense Department inspector general’s report, NBC News has highlighted that the Afghan government forces could lose the single most important military advantage they have over the Taliban — air power — when private contractors and US troops leave the country in coming weeks.
Roughly 18,000 foreign contractors in Afghanistan provide an array of key services to the Afghan security forces, but they are expected to leave the country along with US and NATO troops in the coming weeks. NBC reported that without the help of foreign contractors, Afghan forces will no longer be able to keep dozens of fighter planes, cargo aircraft, US-made helicopters and drones flying for more than a few more months.
While the Biden administration has vowed to keep up US financial support for the Afghan army and police, and Afghan officials say they are able to defend the country against the Taliban, the departure of contractors represents a potentially devastating blow for the Afghan government in its fight against the Taliban.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and senior officials have long acknowledged the “critical role” played by the Afghan Air Force and other military aircraft, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby told NBC News, adding that the Defense Department will continue to provide the resources they need.
Meanwhile, with the surging violence, the International Federation of Journalist (IFJ) and its Afghanistan-affiliate, the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) is alarmed by the increased targeting of women journalists and has sought action by the Afghan government.
Mina Khairi, a 27-year-old journalist, who was seriously injured in targeted explosion on June 3 in Kabul, later died in hospital the same day. Khairi, her mother and two others were killed by the car bomb attack, which occurred in the Chahar Qala area of Kabul’s District 6 area on June 3. Khairi’s sister, Hasina Khairi, was also critically injured in the explosion and died three days later on June 6.
No group has yet claimed responsibility, while the Taliban has publicly denied involvement in the incident. The Taliban, however, issued a warning to Afghanistan journalists on May 5 against presenting “one-sided news in favor of Afghanistan’s intelligence”.
Mina Khairi is the fourth female media worker to be killed in 2021. On March 2, three female media workers: Mursal Wahidi, Sadia Sadat, and Shahnaz Roafi, were gunned down in targeted attacks.
According to recently released IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report, there were ten journalists’ killings in Afghanistan in the period May 1, 2020 and April 30, 2021 as well as rising incidents of threats and intimidation of journalists.
The IFJ General Secretary, Anthony Bellanger, said, “The IFJ expresses its serious concern to the recent wave of murder of female journalists in targeted attacks in Afghanistan. This latest attack highlights the critical need for extra security for journalists and a clear strategy to combat the targeted attacks against women journalists.”
Kabul: Turkey will keep its troops in Afghanistan only if political, financial and logistic support is provided by the allies, as NATO prepares to withdraw from the country, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar, Hürriyet Daily News reported on Monday.
Recently, Ankara had held talks with the US and the airport issue was also discussed at the NATO defense ministers meeting and had agreed to provide security to Kabul airport. However, Akar added, “If these are provided, we can stay at Hamid Karzai International Airport. We are waiting for your reply regarding our terms.”
Calling Afghan people as “brothers,” he said, “The goal is to ensure peace in Afghanistan. We have a historical brotherhood. We want to be able to stay in Afghanistan as long as the Afghan people want to help them.”
Turkey has 500 soldiers in Afghanistan as part of the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM).
Kabul: As per the British government, the war in Afghanistan has cost taxpayers £22.2billion for the 20-year deployment, with the UK supporting the US War on Terror triggered by the September 11 terror attacks in 2001.
The revelation comes as the final British troops prepare to leave the war-ravaged nation. The final cost is likely to be even higher because the bill disclosed by Defense Minister James Heappey only counts cash from a special Whitehall pot for the conflict.
Revealing the cost in a written parliamentary answer, Heappey said: “As at May 2021, the total cost of Operation Herrick to HM Treasury Special Reserve is £22.2billion.” Herrick was the Ministry of Defense’s codename for the deployment of British soldiers to Helmand Province in 2006 – five years after UK troops were first sent to Afghanistan with allies.
While the financial cost is huge, the impact on some UK servicemen and women has been devastating – with the UK government confirming the latest grim toll of dead and injured. “There were 457 fatalities on, or subsequently due to, Op Herrick. Of which 403 were due to hostile action. Op Herrick ran between January 1, 2006 and November 30, 2014, during which there were 10,382 UK Service personnel casualties. Of these 5,705 were injuries, and the remainder being illness or disease,” said Heappey.
“Between January 1, 2006 and March 31, 2021, there were 645 UK Service personnel who were categorized as very seriously injured, seriously injured or who sustained a traumatic or surgical amputation due to Op Herrick. This includes any amputations in recent years that were elective or necessary during treatment as a result of previous injuries sustained,” he added.
British combat troops left in 2014 and the UK’s remaining 750 troops in Afghanistan – Black Watch soldiers who are involved in training local forces after – started to pull out of the country last month.
Millions of pounds worth of gear is expected to be left in Afghanistan because it is too expensive and tricky to ship it back to Britain. Heappey said, “The majority of UK military equipment will be returned to the UK. Some equipment may be de-militarized and disposed of in theatre should it be deemed uneconomical to recover to the UK.”
On Sunday, it emerged dozens of RAF transport planes will be sent to fly 3,000 Afghan interpreters and their families from Kabul to the UK amid fears for their safety after allied troops leave.
Kabul: A Tajik-Afghan business forum was organized at Dushanbe on June 4 to focus on the opportunities for expansion of trade and economic cooperation between the two countries and was attended by Tajik Deputy Prime Minister Usmonali Usmonzoda; Afghan Ambassador to Tajikistan Mohammad Zahir Agbar; Afghan Minister of Industry and Commerce Nisar Ahmad Ghoryani; heads of relevant ministries and departments of Tajikistan and Afghanistan and representatives of the business communities of the two countries.
Investment opportunities from Tajikistan and Afghanistan were presented at the forum. It is expected that 24 entrepreneurs from Afghanistan, working in various fields of business, will visit a number of industrial enterprises and free economic zones in Tajikistan, meet Tajik colleagues to discuss cooperation. The event was organized by the Ministry of Industry and New Technologies of Tajikistan (MoINT) with the support of the UNDP in Tajikistan within the framework of the Project for Livelihood Promotion in Tajik-Afghan Cross-border Areas (LITACA).
A legal foundation of bilateral cooperation between Tajikistan and Afghanistan includes 85 cooperation documents. To-date, six bridges have been built across the Panj River to consolidate permanent overland links between Tajikistan and Afghanistan.
Kabul: At least four security force personnel have been killed and seven others have been injured in an attack by Taliban fighters in the Chora district of Uruzgan province, said Uruzgan Governor Mohammad Omar Shirzad.
He added that the attacks were launched on Sunday night and the clash is still ongoing between the two sides. Shirzad added that the dead included two army soldiers and two police officials.
He said that seven other soldiers, including four army soldiers and two policemen, were wounded in the Taliban attack.
The governor of Uruzgan stressed that Taliban fighters had also been killed during the clashes. He said 15 of the group’s fighters had been killed so far, and about 20 had been wounded.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Monday reported 1,582 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 56 deaths and 376 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 82,326, while the number of reported deaths is 3,251 and the total number of recoveries is 58,988.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, the cases of coronavirus and related deaths in the country has increased unprecedentedly. It has called on the people to take precautionary measures.
Concerns about the shortage of beds for patients in hospitals and oxygen have also increased as the country’s third wave of the coronavirus spreads rapidly.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health announced that the process of implementing the first and second doses of coronavirus vaccine in the country has been stopped. The Ministry of Public Health has said that those who have received the first dose of the vaccine can take the second dose up to 16 weeks later.
The ministry has pledged to provide the coronavirus vaccine as soon as possible and to resume this process. The Afghan embassy in China has announced that 700,000 doses of coronavirus vaccine will be imported from China in three days.
Kabul: With the violence surging across all provinces in Afghanistan, various members of the House of Representatives are emphasizing that this House should be closed and that MPs should go to the battlefield alongside the security forces.
Abdul Sattar Hossaini, Farah’s representative in the House of Representatives, said in a session of the parliament on Monday, “The hall should be closed for two weeks and we must all go to their provinces and stand by the security forces. We should stand by the people and the security forces.”
Hossaini also alleged that according to his information, Taliban prisoners were being secretly released, while army officers were still being held. “If this is true, people will revolt,” he added.
Many lawmakers during Monday’s session criticized the government’s poor performance, calling the security situation concerning. Badakhshan MP Zabihullah Atiq said the security situation in the country was dire with many security checkpoints and districts falling to the Taliban every day.
Ghor MP Atta Mohammad Dehghanpour also said, “Shahrak district has fallen due to the government’s negligence. A large number of soldiers have been killed and their bodies have been left on the streets for three days.”
Local and security sources had confirmed to the media in Ghor that the Shahrak district had fallen to the Taliban; but Ghor Governor Zahir Faizzada said that at 5am on Sunday, security forces left the Shahrak district to prevent civilian casualties. He said that during the clash between the two sides, seven security forces and 18 Taliban insurgents were killed and 3 other security forces and 24 insurgents were wounded.
A number of other members of parliament also worried about the fragility of the security situation. Faryab MP Shafiqa Yulji said that of 14 Faryab districts, not one is in the hands of the government. “Yesterday, Qaisar district fell, 80 security forces were killed and wounded in Qaisar district. Nearly 2,000 homes have been destroyed. People are in a dire situation. There is also the possibility of Dolatabad falling,” she said.
However, Mir Rahman Rahmani, speaker of the House of Representatives, said in a summary that the Taliban’s campaign and attacks on security centers and cities had resulted in civilian casualties.
Rahmani stressed that the Taliban and other terrorist groups have shown that they are not committed to human and Islamic values by expanding the scope of indiscriminate violence. He added, “Terrorist attacks show that the enemies of Afghanistan still do not believe in a political solution to the Afghan crisis.”
Kabul: Two military personnel and a third person were shot dead in PD8 in Bagrami district of Kabul on Monday morning.
The perpetrators took their weapons and fled the area, reports indicated. Kabul police confirmed the incident adding that police are investigating the case.
“Three people, including two security force members named Zabihullah and Samiullah, were killed in an attack by unknown gunmen in two separate incidents in Kabul,” police said.
So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Kabul: Shahrak district of the Ghor province had fallen to the Taliban on Sunday evening, as per a source, who was aware of the developments but spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Meanwhile, Karamuddin Rezazada, a representative of the people of Ghor in the House of Representatives, said that security and defense forces had withdrawn from the town center without clashes.
Local officials in Ghor and officials of the Ministries of Defense and Interior have not yet commented on the matter.
The Taliban have not yet officially commented.
Meanwhile, a judge of the Kandahar Municipal Primary Court was assassinated by the Taliban in PD2 of Kandahar City on Sunday night, said Ahmad Fahim Qawim, a spokesperson for the Supreme Court.
He said that the judge was named Mohammad Fayyaz and had been assassinated while he was going home from the mosque after praying.
The Taliban has claimed responsibility for his assassination. Yusuf Ahmadi, a spokesperson for the group, said he had been killed because of causing problems in cases of Taliban fighters.