Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini arrived in Herat on Tuesday to oversee the hauling down of the Italian flag marking the upcoming end to Italy’s almost 20-year mission in Afghanistan.
Italy is set to leave its Herat mission at Camp Arena to local troops. The repatriation of the 800 soldiers and military materiel will be concluded shortly, Italian defense sources said.
Guerini said, “We don’t want Afghanistan to return to being a safe haven for terrorists. We want to continue to reinforce this country also by giving continuity to the training of the Afghan security forces so as to not squander the results achieved in these 20 years.”
Guerini added that hundreds of Afghans who collaborated with the Italian troops will be flown to Italy starting in mid-June. “We won’t abandon the Afghan civilian personnel that collaborated with our contingent in Herat, nor their families,” he said, adding that 270 had already been identified and another 400 were set to follow.
Meanwhile, the German Defense Ministry said on Monday that it had been forced to deal with an unexpected problem regarding their troops in Afghanistan — a surplus of beer. Defense Ministry spokeswoman Christina Routsi explained that Germany’s troops in Afghanistan had been permitted to consume alcohol at times and in limited quantities. Soldiers were allowed two cans of beer — or the equivalent in other beverages — per day.
But Germany’s commander of its armed forces in Afghanistan, citing a high enemy threat level, banned all consumption of alcohol. Routsi said this created a problem for the German military, as there was already a large quantity of alcohol in the country for the troops.
She said under the stationing agreement between Germany and Afghanistan, the import of alcohol into the country is prohibited, with the exception of Camp Marmal, the German base in Afghanistan. Alcohol cannot be sold in Afghanistan, due to local religious restrictions, or destroyed for environmental reasons.
Routsi said the military had to hire a civilian contractor to take the 22,600 liters of alcohol — including almost 60,000 cans of beer — out of the country ahead of the German troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan as the NATO mission in the country ends in the coming months.
Kabul: Members of the Ghazni Provincial Council said on Tuesday that security forces have retreated from the Jaghatu district building in the province.
Ghazni provincial council deputy Amanullah Kamrani said that the headquarters in the Jaghatu district of Ghazni province had been moved to Sedaqat market and that security forces had retreated from the district center to Kotal Shamsuddin after Monday night’s Taliban attack.
According to Kamrani, air and ground aid has not reached the security forces since the Taliban attacked district in Sedaqat Bazaar.
The deputy head of the Ghazni provincial council said that one member of the security forces has been killed in the attack.
Shamsuddin Pass is located on the border of Jaghatu and Nahor districts of Ghazni province.
Amanullah Kamrani says clashes are also taking place in the area.
The administrative headquarters of Ajiristan and Rashidan districts of Ghazni are also located near the administrative headquarters of Jaghatu district.
Fighting is also going on in Ab Band district of Ghazni province. It was previously rumored that the district had fallen to the Taliban, but local officials denied it.
Security forces also launched a tactical retreat a few days ago in Ghazni’s Deh-e Yak district.
Meanwhile, twelve members of the uprising forces were killed, one has been wounded and another captured in an attack by gunmen in the Pashtun Zarghun district of Herat province.
A Pashtun Zarghun district security official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media, told RFE / RL that the incident took place when dozens of Taliban insurgents attacked uprising forces.
The Taliban have claimed responsibility for the attacks.
Qari Yusuf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesperson, claimed that security forces had suffered heavy casualties in the attacks. But government officials have not yet commented on the matter.
Kabul: The Government of the Islamic Republic of Iran has formalized access to banking services – including debit cards, for Afghan refugees in the country. Before the new policy was announced, banks around the country followed different practices, which meant that some refugees could access banking services but most could not. Now, all refugees will have a more secure means of managing their finances.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, spokesperson Babar Baloch at a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva said, “Without a bank account, refugees are compelled to keep large sums of money at home and travel with cash when making or receiving payments – increasing their risk of losing savings due to security incidents like fire or theft. In Iran, as elsewhere, there has also been a growing preference for digital payments instead of cash to avoid unnecessary physical transactions during the COVID-19 pandemic. Salary payments, online purchases, university registrations, and reimbursements of healthcare fees are now also mostly made via online bank transfers. This makes the issuance of bank cards a very important and welcome step that can greatly benefit refugees in their daily lives.”
Under the new policy, UNHCR hopes to channel its assistance through bank transfers, giving refugees a more dignified and flexible choice in how they use their cash. “Financial inclusion can contribute to refugees’ resilience, empowering them to meet their needs in a safe, sustainable and dignified manner, and helping them avoid negative coping mechanisms,” Baloch said.
For over 40 years, Afghan refugees have been welcomed and generously supported by the Government of Iran. Recognizing this contribution, UNHCR continues to call for more equitable international responsibility and burden sharing with Iran. As of today, the US$97.9 million needed to assist Afghan refugees in Iran during 2021, is only 8 per cent funded.
Meanwhile, in Afghanistan according to a report released on Tuesday by Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), the healthcare system is ill-adapted to the challenges faced by the Afghan people.
The report, The Continued Struggle to Access Medical Care in Afghanistan, brings together medical data, interviews and questionnaires from patients, their caretakers and staff in MSF’s projects in Helmand, Herat, Kandahar and Khost provinces. It clearly shows a healthcare system that is failing the population, and echoes the findings of previous MSF reports released in 2014 and 2020.
Over the years, MSF has continued to expose the discrepancy between the promises of the donor-promoted model of public healthcare delivery and the reality on the ground. “Poorly functioning health facilities, unaffordable costs, and patients who undertake long and dangerous journeys. These all reduce people’s ability to access timely medical care,” says Filipe Ribiero, MSF Afghanistan country representative.
Last year, international donors cut funding for services in Afghanistan increasing pressure on an already fragile public health system and on health partners. The emphasis needs to be on Afghans receiving quality treatment closer to home, in line with their needs and financial circumstances.
Kabul: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said on Tuesday that Pakistan has refused to give its military bases to the US amid the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.
In an interview with Geo News, FM Qureshi said that Pakistan wants a stable Afghanistan, but there are some elements who do not want peace in the region. “We want to see the peace process going forward along with the withdrawal of troops. The world does not consider Pakistan part of the problem.”
The foreign minister categorically stated that Pakistan has refused to give military bases to the US and added that he has told all the political parties in a briefing that they have no such intention.
“Search for bases could be their wish. There’s no question of giving them bases, we have to see our interest,” he said.
Meanwhile, in a press briefing at the White House on Monday, US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that they had constructive discussions through military, intelligence, and diplomatic channels with Pakistan about the future of America’s capabilities to ensure that Afghanistan never again becomes a base from which Al-Qaeda or IS-K or any other terrorist group can attack the United States.
He did not share further details and said, “But in terms of the specifics of what that will look like, that will have to remain in those private channels as we work through them.”
Sullivan said the they are talking to a wide range of countries about how they build effective, over-the-horizon capacity, both from an intelligence and a defense perspective, to be able to suppress the terrorism threat in Afghanistan.
Kabul: South Korea has requested its citizens leave Afghanistan, a foreign ministry official said on Tuesday, as violence worsens in the war-torn country, with the United States pushing to withdraw its troops by September.
The government has called on citizens to withdraw temporarily from Afghanistan by June 20. A small number of Korean businesspersons and embassy personnel are still in the country.
“As part of a preemptive step to protect overseas citizens, we have been requesting citizens currently in Afghanistan to leave the country,” the official told reporters on condition of anonymity.
“Fortunately, there have not been any attacks targeting the Korean Embassy or South Koreans,” he added.
Kabul: Health officials in Herat province said that the capacity to admit patients infected with the coronavirus at the COVID-19 Shidayee private hospital in the province is now full.
Abdul Hakim Tamana, Herat’s director of public health, said on Tuesday that all 130 beds in the hospital were now full and added that authorities were working to release some of the patients who had recovered from the hospital.
This comes as the Ministry of Public Health recorded 1,724 new COVID-19 cases and 54 deaths on Tuesday. The total positive cases now stand at 84,050, while the death toll is 3,305.
Tamana also stressed that the Razi Hospital with a capacity of 50 beds for the care of critically ill patients is going to be reactivated.
Meanwhile, the director of Herat Public Health expressed concern that the COVID-19 private hospitals in Herat may soon face the lack of oxygen. According to him, the power supply to Herat, which was cut off this morning as a result of the destruction of a base of Iranian imported electricity, has also exacerbated the problem.
However, Abdul Hakim Tamana stressed that there is currently no problem of oxygen in Herat, but the number of COVID-19 patients is becoming more serious.
He added that he was also talking to the Ministry of Public Health about activating a 100-bed hospital for COVID-19 patients.
Herat health officials are urging people to take the coronavirus seriously and to wear mask and to refrain from participating in rallies.
Kabul: Dushanbe Mayor Rustam Emomali held talks with Kabul Mayor Mohammad Daoud Sultanzoy on Monday regarding expanding a multifaceted cooperation and expressed satisfaction with the process of development of friendly relationship.
Emomali and Daoud Sultanzoy also discussed specific issues related to expansion of the mutually beneficial cooperation between the capitals of the two countries. Establishment of close ties and dialogue on the exchange of experience of in the field of urban management and infrastructure development, implementation of joint cultural and humanitarian programs and implementation of educational health, tourism and trade development projects, were also discussed.
Kabul: Hundreds of residents of Faizabad city of Badakhshan province, protested against the lack of water, electricity supply and rising security incidents in the city.
The march started at 8am on Tuesday from Shahr-e-Naw Faizabad, and about a thousand protesters marched to the old city and the provincial office armed with sticks and clubs, chanted various slogans outside the gate of the Badakhshan governor’s office.
Nik Mohammad Nazari, spokesperson for the governor of Badakhshan, said angry demonstrators attacked soldiers and staff at the provincial office with stones and sticks in violation of civil principles, setting fire to petitions and a number of other government documents at booths outside the province.
He said that in the fire, 2,000 petitions and documents of the people were burned and destroyed and a number of bodyguards of the provincial office were injured by the people.
Hamidullah Manqad Haydari, a member of the protest leadership, said that between 2,000 and 3,000 people had taken part in the demonstration, calling for drinking water supply, better security and the opening of the Shurabak dam.
Eight people were injured in the violence between the two sides. The demonstrators claim that the soldiers shot at them and wounded 16 people.
The protests are currently still underway.
Kabul: The Executive Board of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Tuesday completed the first review of Afghanistan’s economic reform program supported by the Extended Credit Facility (ECF) arrangement. The completion of this review makes SDR 103.6 million (about US$149.4 million) available immediately for disbursement.
Afghanistan’s 42-month ECF arrangement of SDR 259 million (about US$370 million) was approved by the Executive Board on November 6, 2020. It aims to support Afghanistan’s recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, anchor economic reforms, and improve donor financing. Since the onset of the pandemic, Afghanistan also benefitted from the IMF’s disbursement of SDR 161.9 million (about US$220 million) under the Rapid Credit Facility and a debt service relief of SDR 7.2 million (about US$10 million) under the Catastrophe Containment and Relief Trust.
The COVID-19 pandemic and rising security challenges have challenged Afghanistan. While the government’s determined response, supported by donors, helped mitigate the pandemic’s impact, including by containing the economic contraction, poverty worsened and the fiscal deficit widened. Security has deteriorated and uncertainty has risen as the peace talks between the government and Taliban stalled, with the US and NATO troops set to withdraw by September.
Following the Executive Board discussion, Mitsuhiro Furusawa, Deputy Managing Director and Acting Chair, made the following statement, “Afghanistan is confronting the fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic amid rising insecurity and uncertainty. Aided by donor support, the authorities boosted health and social spending to cushion the impact on the vulnerable. Nevertheless, the pandemic caused an output loss, worsened poverty and set back self-reliance efforts. Growth is expected to resume this year, but the outlook is subject to considerable downside risks, including from adverse security developments, drought and the pandemic. Should they materialize, it will be essential to boost spending for healthcare, support to the vulnerable, and food security, using fiscal space created by spending reprioritization and grants.”
Kabul: The National Statistics and Information Authority (NSIA) announced on Tuesday that the country’s population estimate in 1400 solar year is 33.6 million.
According to the NSIA, of the total population, about 17.1 million (51.0%) are men and about 16.5 million (49.0%) are women.
It added that of 33.6 million people, 23.8 million (70.8%) belong to the rural community, 8.3 million (24.7%) are urban population and 1.5 million (4.5%) are nomads.
The population of the country is estimated by administrative, urban, rural and gender units, which includes 34 provinces, including 364 main districts, 24 temporary districts and 34 provincial capitals.
It says that the publication of the population estimate shows the country’s population status and provides easy access to population information to national and international institutions to build policies, programs and make big decisions.
Kabul: Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan on Monday held a telephonic conversation with the British Prime Minister Boris Johnson and exchanged views on the current trajectory of bilateral relations, the Afghan peace process, COVID-19 pandemic and climate change.
On Afghanistan, Khan reiterated Pakistan’s support for an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace and reconciliation process. The prime minister reiterated his longstanding stance that there was no military solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and that a negotiated political solution was the only way forward.
Underscoring the importance of a responsible withdrawal, Khan apprised his British counterpart of Pakistan’s ongoing efforts to support the Afghan peace process, as part of a shared responsibility.
Meanwhile, even Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has said that Pakistan is playing an active role of a facilitator for peace in Afghanistan and the country’s stance has been acknowledged that there is no military solution to the conflict.
In fact, Pakistan’s Punjab Governor Chaudhry Mohammad Sarwar said that he had successful meetings with more than 100 politicians and other dignitaries, including members of Congress, Senators, Governors and various Mayors during his recent visit to the US.
The Governor said that he apprised them about Pakistan’s role in the Afghan peace process under the leadership of Prime Minister Imran Khan. He said he was glad that the US was finally acknowledging Pakistan’s efforts for Afghan peace process, regional peace and stability.
Afghanistan’s other regional partner, China, too emphasized on better cooperation. “The China-Pakistan-Afghan Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue has become an important platform for the three sides to enhance understanding, deepen mutual trust and cooperation,” said Cheng Xizhong, visiting professor at Southwest University of Political Science and Law and former defence attache in the South Asian countries.
The Fourth China-Afghanistan-Pakistan Trilateral Foreign Ministers’ Dialogue on Afghanistan’s Peace and Reconciliation Process was held via video link on June 3.
Kabul: Emphasizing that the US and coalition forces and the international embassies supporting them are there at the invitation of the current Aghan government led by President Ashraf Ghani, CENTCOM’s General McKenzie said on Monday, “We won’t be there unless we’re, you know, we are invited to be there.”
He said the invitation may disappear if a new governing structure emerges that includes the Taliban. The United States is planning to keep an embassy in Kabul after US troops depart unless Afghanistan’s next government tells US officials to leave, the head of US Central Command conceded on Monday.
Australia closed its embassy last month, citing the inability to guarantee security for its diplomats after withdrawal. In April, US Embassy-Kabul ordered all staff whose jobs do not require them to physically be in Afghanistan to depart.
Protection of staff who remain will fall primarily to the Afghan government, McKenzie said. “It will be first and most important their responsibility to protect that embassy, although we will always take whatever measures are necessary to protect our diplomats in any embassy anywhere in the world,” he said.
American consular staff who remain in country are flooded with requests to process Special Immigrant Visas for Afghans who have worked with American or coalition forces over the years to help them leave as well. On Monday, the Taliban issued a statement urging those Afghans to remain in the country.
To date, the State Department has completed processing about 20 percent of the 18,000 visa requests it has received from Afghans who worked for them over the last two decades. The vast majority of those applications are just in their beginning stages, with time running out.
But McKenzie suggested that even if the drawdown has largely finished, the military will be able to help get those allies out of the country — if they are tasked to do so. “We will have the capability to exercise whatever orders we’re given,” McKenzie said.
Meanwhile, NATO is still figuring out how it can continue to train Afghan forces after NATO troops depart Afghanistan, the alliance’s top official said on Monday.
“The drawdown is on track and we’re drawing down our troops in a coordinated way,” said Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s Secretary General. He was in Washington to meet with President Biden – who very publicly pledged to pull out US forces by 9/11/2021 – and with key members of Congress ahead of next week’s NATO summit in Brussels. Preserving the safety of NATO troops as they withdraw is “our main concern,” he said, but it’s also important to “preserve hard-won gains.”
Stoltenberg emphasized that a NATO civilian presence will remain, helping build capacity at Afghan institutions. NATO will also continue to fund the Afghan National Security Forces, which depend on foreign money to meet payroll.
It’s still to be determined, however, how NATO will continue training Afghan troops. The idea is to bring Afghans to other countries for training, but it sounds like most of the details are yet to be determined. “We are looking at how we can provide training outside Afghanistan,” said Stoltenberg. “We can train Afghan forces in other countries. We are ending our military mission in Afghanistan, but we are not ending our support for Afghans,” he emphasized.
Kabul: At least 3 million Afghans are feared to be acutely affected by drought this year, as per a study by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC).
At least 14.1 million Afghans, 35% of the population, now face “crisis” or “emergency” levels of food insecurity, NRC stated. It noted that the situation was bad in Badghis, Faryab, and Sar-e-Pul provinces, where nearly 2.3 million people’s livelihoods depend on rain-fed agriculture, livestock, and natural pastures.
The assessments in March in these three provinces painted a grim picture of the conditions which were worsened by poor infrastructure due to years of conflict, limited access to markets and other critical services. It further said that as a result of the deteriorating situation, internally displaced persons have increasingly resorted to negative coping mechanisms.
Ruhullah Amin, the deputy head of the National Environment Protection Agency, told Anadolu Agency that despite being among the lowest contributors (less than 1%) of the greenhouse gases, climate change scenarios for Afghanistan have suggested temperature rises of 1.4-4.0 degrees Celsius since 1970, a corresponding drop in rainfall, as well as more irregular precipitation patterns.
Extreme weather conditions such as long spells of droughts followed by untimely torrential rains coupled with raging insecurity displaced more than 500,000 people in Afghanistan last year alone, according to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs.
The NRC urged the humanitarian community in Afghanistan to step up coordination and planning as drought conditions may worsen and early displacement may accelerate in the coming weeks. “Humanitarian and development partners should promote integrated approaches to prevent displacement and build communities’ resilience to cope, adapt and prepare for climate induced shocks, including through sustainable livelihoods and access to safe water,” it said.
Kabul: Osman Taheri, deputy spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, announced on Tuesday that the closure of universities, schools and courses has been extended for another two weeks in 16 provinces to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Ministry of Public Health had on May 29 announced closure of universities, schools and courses in Kabul, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Logar, Nangarhar, Paktia, Parwan, Maidan Wardak, Panjshir, Balkh, Laghman, Badakhshan, Kapisa provinces, to prevent the spread of the third wave of the coronavirus.
Taheri added that all sports clubs, pools and wedding hotels in the provinces have been closed for two weeks. Previously, the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, got leave for government employees. Such government employees include the elderly, pregnant women, and employees with chronic illnesses.
Kabul: UN Secretary-General’s Personal Envoy on Afghanistan Jean Arnault and his delegation met Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian, Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan on Monday and discussed issues related to the latest developments in Afghanistan, including the peace process and the security situation in the country.
Emphasizing that Iran considers peace and security in Afghanistan important, Taherian expressed Tehran’s support for the Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process. He also said Iran is ready to cooperate in facilitating and advancing intra-Afghan dialogue, according to Fars News. The special envoy also insisted on the need to preserve the achievements of the Afghan people over the past two decades.
The two sides also expressed concern about the escalation of violence in Afghanistan in recent months and called for a reduction in violence and the prevention of civilian casualties. Iran has long voiced support for the Afghan peace talks while stressing the necessity for these talks to be owned and led by the Afghans themselves.
Last week, during his weekly press conference, spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry Saeed Khatibzadeh said Tehran’s diplomatic efforts are focused on bringing peace and prosperity to Afghanistan. Iran has ratcheted up its diplomatic efforts to push forward the Afghan peace process. Seyed Rasoul Mousavi, the director of the Southern Asia Bureau at the Iranian Foreign Ministry, recently paid a 10-day visit to Afghanistan to discuss the peace process.
During his visit to Afghanistan, Mousavi discussed ways to expand political and diplomatic relations and reviewed the current situation in Afghanistan and met with the Afghan Foreign Ministry and government officials. He stressed in the meetings that Iran will continue to stand by Afghanistan and continue its friendly activities.
“Now, after the withdrawal of the occupying forces from Afghanistan, a new development has taken place in this country, and its construction depends on how the government and the people of the country use this opportunity. It is not a question of the presence of a military power that dominates the people, it is important which group or faction can gain the trust of the people and rule the hearts of the people,” Mousavi said.
“For a national consensus, the trust that has been developed between the United States and the Taliban needs to be transferred to the government, political figures, Mujahidin and the people, and the future of Afghanistan should not be based on the US agreement, but on the intra-Afghan agreement,” Mousavi noted.
Pointing to the Istanbul conference, he said, “During the trip to Afghanistan and discussions with the ambassadors of different countries and the United Nations representative in Afghanistan, it seems that the Istanbul meeting may not take place because they did not give an independent identity to this meeting and considered this meeting as a continuation of the Doha meeting in Qatar. When nothing new is unveiled and the United Nations does not play a more serious role in the Afghan peace process, all meetings are like the Doha meeting and will make no difference.”
The Iranian diplomat noted, “Now that the Taliban are invited to participate in the future of Afghanistan, we must have a new order for the United Nations in Afghanistan, which is in the framework of Chapter VII of the Charter. If dozens of other meetings are held in different cities, but if there is no new agenda, it is not possible to hope for negotiations and the Doha process will continue.”
He stated, “The United Nations should take a fresh look at Afghanistan and issue a resolution under Chapter VII, appointing a special envoy to examine the peace process in a special way.”
Kabul: The center of the Dawlat Shah district in the northern province of Faryab fell to the Taliban on Monday evening, a member of the provincial council, Abdul Ahad Elbek said on Tuesday.
Elbek said that a number of the security forces have evacuated the center of the district after intense clashes with the Taliban. “The telecommunication services are not working and there are no reports of casualties on both sides,” he said.
Local officials have not commented on the fall of the area to the Taliban. Also, this week, the center of Qaisar district of the province was also fell to the Taliban following heavy clashes.
Meanwhile, local sources in Ghor province say that four civilians and a policeman were killed in a Taliban attack in Khamshur area of Lal Wa Sarjangal district of Ghor province.
According to these sources, the Taliban attack occurred on Monday night. Roghaya Nayel, a Ghor MP in the House of Representatives, also confirmed the Taliban’s attack on the Khamshur area.
According to her, the Taliban targeted a security checkpoint in the Khumshur area, killing civilians and soldiers. There are also reports that clashes continue in parts of the district of Ghor.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
On the other hand, while the Ab Band district of Ghazni province is rumored to have fallen to the Taliban, local officials say security forces are active in the district and reports of the collapse of the district are incorrect.
Local officials in Ghazni have confirmed the evacuation of two security checkpoints in the district to prevent civilian casualties. Ghazni governor’s spokesperson Wadidullah Juma Zada confirmed that the Taliban attacked security checkpoints in several areas of Qala-e-Sarfaraz and Antenna in the district at 4am on Monday.
A spokesperson for the Ghazni governor said 14 members of the Taliban had been killed and seven others wounded in the clashes.
Wadullah Juma Zada added that three security personnel were killed and two others were injured in the clashes. The spokesman for the Ghazni governor said that two checkpoints of five members of the Afghan National Police and the uprising forces, called Antenna checkpoints and Sarfaraz Fortress, which were located between residential areas, had been evacuated to prevent casualties among security forces and local residents.
He says that the forces stationed in these checkpoints have been transferred with all their equipment to the district headquarters and Ab Band police headquarters.