Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) has welcomed the U.N. Security Council statement condemning in the strongest terms “the alarming number of attacks deliberately targeting civilians in Afghanistan.”
MoFA in a statement on Saturday said that as the statement rightly notes, heinous attacks against civil servants, media, judiciary, human rights defenders, prominent women figures, humanitarian and health workers have increased following the start of the Afghanistan peace negotiations.
The Security Council members also called for an immediate end to targeted attacks and “stressed the urgent and imperative need to bring the perpetrators to justice.”
The UNSC statement once again confirms the rightful demands and positions of the people and government of Afghanistan.
“We reiterate that cessation of violence, ending targeted killings, and establishing a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire would lay the foundation for a political settlement and achieving sustainable peace in Afghanistan,” the statement said.
“To this end, we welcome the UNSC statement that stresses the need for “full, equal and meaningful participation of women” in the peace process, “a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” and “an inclusive political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan,” the statement added.
The Army Chief of Staff has confirmed that the 217th Pamir Corps in Kunduz province will be merged with the 209th Shaheen Corps in Balkh province.
Speaking at a press conference with senior security officials on Saturday, Army Chief of Staff Mohammad Yasin Zia said the Ministry of Defense was also working on reforms in times of war.
According to the Chief of Staff, the focus is on reforms at the Ministry of National Defense headquarters and other areas with organizational inflation or additional staff.
He added that the reform program is aimed at better managing the battlefields.
Mohammad Yasin Zia added the 217th Pamir Corps will not only be included in the reforms, but that the reforms will be implemented in many other places.
According to him, the forces of the camps, which are located in safe areas, will be sent to the front lines of the war to try to improve the operations.
President Ashraf Ghani today in a meeting with the presence of Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum evaluated the security situation of the northern provinces of the country.
The Presidential Palace in a statement on Saturday said that in addition to evaluation of security situation, President Ghani also praised the performance of Afghan security forces.
Attracting people to the ranks of the security forces and paying more attention to equipping and supporting these forces have also been among the topics discussed at the meeting.
Marshal Dostum, who recently returned to Kabul after two years, has always said that if he is allowed, he will defeat the Taliban on the battlefields within six months.
Hamdullah Mohib, the National Security Adviser (NSA) says the Afghan government will attend the Moscow and Istanbul peace summits.
Speaking at a press conference in Kabul on Saturday, Mr. Mohib said that the Foreign Ministry and the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) are currently working to increase the level of participation of other countries and the Taliban in the upcoming meetings in Moscow and Istanbul.
“We send our delegation to Russia and Turkey based on the level of cooperation between the countries and the Taliban,” he said. “If the level of participation would at the level of the delegation, the government’s negotiating delegation will participate, and if the level changes, we will participate in these meetings at the same level.”
According to Mr. Moheb, the decision of the Afghan government to participate in the next two meetings has been finalized.
On March 18, Moscow is scheduled to host a meeting to accelerate the Afghan peace process. Senior Afghan government officials, representatives of the Taliban and some countries have been invited to attend.
Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşo also said that Istanbul is preparing to host the Afghanistan peace talks in April.
However, in another part of his speech, Hamdullah Mohib referred to Russia’s position on the integration of the Taliban on the interim government of Afghanistan and said: “The interim government does not cure any pain. We want peace, but some parties escapes peace are raising other issues, including the interim government.”
Mr. Mohib stressed that at present the Taliban are not ready for real peace in Afghanistan.
Russia has invited Qatar as an honorary guest to a meeting on Afghanistan in Moscow, the country’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman said on Friday.
A multi-nation meeting on the Afghan peace process will take place on March 18 at the level of the special envoys, Maria Zakharova said at a news conference in Moscow.
Russia, the US, China and Pakistan will attend the meeting.
“A delegation from the government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the Supreme Council for National Reconciliation, prominent Afghan political figures, the Taliban, and, as an honorary guest, Qatar, are also expected to attend,” she said.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov will address the gathering, she said.
“During the meeting, it is expected to discuss ways to advance the inter-Afghan talks in Doha, reduce the level of violence and end the armed conflict in Afghanistan, and establish this country as an independent, peaceful and self-sufficient state, free from terrorism and drug crime,” Zakharova said.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres discussed the situations in Afghanistan, this week and agreed to remain in close contact on the issues, Department of State spokesperson Ned Price said on Friday.
“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke with UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres yesterday to discuss Afghanistan. On Afghanistan, Secretary Blinken thanked Secretary-General Guterres for his commitment to helping advance talks on a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Price said in a statement.
Price said that the top US diplomat thanked the global body chief for his commitment to move forward talks on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan.
The situation of women journalists is worsening in Afghanistan, according to the annual report that the Centre for the Protection of Afghan Women Journalists (CPAWJ) which has recently published. The report blames threats, violence, targeted killings, the impact of the coronavirus pandemic and the peace talks with the Taliban, as well as traditional attitudes towards the place of women in Afghan society.
The CPAWJ has registered more than 100 cases of aggression against women journalists – including insults, physical attacks, death threats and murders – in the past 12 months. Of the 21 cases referred to the Centre by the women concerned, ten were evaluated by the interior ministry, five were investigated by the police and four of the women were placed in refuges.
The report reveals that Afghan women journalists were badly affected by the lockdown imposed as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to official figures, 20% of them lost their jobs or were forced to take unpaid leave by their employer, and only a few have been lucky enough to get their jobs back, while some media outlets have seen no improvement in their financial situation since the end of the lockdown.
Women journalists are concerned to see their demands – and they themselves – ignored in the peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban. The CPAWJ insists on the importance of its August 2020 appeal to the Afghan government, international community and countries involved in Afghan matters, including the United States, to reach an immediate agreement on a ceasefire.
Supported by more than 200 civil society activists, government officials, media directors and journalists, the appeal also calls for protection and security for women journalists and for guarantees for the freedom to inform and for freedom of expression in the talks.
Of the 173 media organisations that signed the CPAWJ charter against harassment of women journalists (43 of them in Kabul and 130 in 19 provinces), 94 have continued to adhere to it,the report says.
Drafted three years ago by the Centre in partnership with Reporters Without Borders (RSF) and supported by civil society activists, the charter aims to promote the position of women, support women journalists, respond to their problems and complaints, and combat gender discrimination. Although 173 of Afghanistan’s 325 national and local media outlets signed it, “the problems of security and tradition, and economic challenges continue to be major obstacles to its implementation,” the report says.
Speaking for “Sexism’s toll on journalism,” the report that RSF published on International Women’s Day, and after four Afghan women journalists and media workers were murdered in the past three months, CPAWJ director Farida Nekzad said: “Eliminating women journalists is tantamount to imposing silence on all other women. In Afghanistan, men think through men’s eyes. They don’t want to pay attention to the issues that concern us. A news organisation without women is a guarantee that many subjects will never be covered.”
Afghanistan is ranked 122nd out of 180 countries in RSF’s 2020 World Press Freedom Index.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) Saturday reported two new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported no deaths and three recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours in Kabul and Kandahar provinces.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,959 the number of total reported deaths is 2,457 and the total number of recoveries is 49,471.
The new cases were reported in Kabul and Baghlan
The Afghanistan Meteorological Department has issued a rain, snow and flash flood warning for 20 provinces from today to tomorrow.
According to a warning posted on the AMD’s website, the department stated between 10 and 40mm of rain forecast for a number of provinces.
The provinces include Herat, Badghis, Faryab, Ghor, Sar-e Pul, Jawzjan, Balkh, Samangan, Kunduz, Bamiyan, Daikundi, Uruzgan, and Ghazni provinces.
The AMD also warned of the possibility of heavy snow on the Salang pass and Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Parwan, Panjshir, Kapisa, Laghman, Nangarhar, Nuristan, Badakhshan, Kunar, Kabul and parts of Helmand and Farah provinces.
Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar met with his Danish counterpart Jeppe Kofod via video conference on Thursday evening.
The Ministry of Foriegn Affairs (MoFA) in a statement said that the two sides discussed the finalization of the Strategic Partnership Agreement between the two countries, advancing the Afghan peace process, good governance, and the continuation of Denmark’s valuable assistance to Afghanistan.
Calling Denmark a valued partner, Mr. Atmar honored the sacrifices of Danish soldiers and expressed gratitude for Denmark’s humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan over the past 20 years.
Discussing good governance, Minister Atmar assured Danish Foreign Minister that Kabul was committed to combating corruption and spending international aid transparently, effectively, and responsibly.
Referring to the endstate of the Afghan peace process, Minister Atmar stated that the Government of the IRoA believed in a political settlement supported by the Afghan nation and international community, and that can lead to lasting and sustainable peace.
Expressing his government’s strong support for the peace process, Foreign Minister Kofod said that Afghanistan must not become a terrorist haven again. Emphasizing the preservation of Afghanistan’s democratic and human rights achievements, Mr. Kofod added that we must “avoid putting progress and sacrifices at risk.” He assured the Afghan Foreign Minister of Denmark’s continued commitment to the Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.
The UN Security Council called on Friday for the “full, equal and meaningful participation of women” in Afghanistan’s peace process, without mentioning recent US efforts to end the conflict there.
“The members of the Security Council recognized that a sustainable peace can be achieved only through a comprehensive and inclusive Afghan-led, Afghan-owned peace process that aims at a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” the council said in a statement.
The council “condemned in the strongest terms the alarming number of attacks deliberately targeting civilians in Afghanistan.”
Without naming any particular group, the council said its members “also expressed their deep concerns about the threat posed by terrorism to Afghanistan and the region.”
“The members of the Security Council strongly encouraged parties to the negotiations to pursue confidence-building measures, including reductions in violence, and to continue to engage in good faith,” it said.
Washington recently submitted a draft peace agreement to the authorities in Kabul and to the Taliban, including the creation of a “new inclusive government,” according to a letter from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken that was revealed by Afghan media.
A powerful car bomb blast on Friday night killed at least eight people and injured 47 in Shalbafan area of PD14 of Herat province near a security outpost, officials said Saturday.
The death toll in the explosion late Friday that also destroyed 14 houses is expected to rise because several of the injured were critical, said Rafiq Sherzai, a spokesman for the provincial hospital.
One among the dead and 11 of the injured were Afghan Security Forces personnel while the remainder were civilians, including women and children, said Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian.
No one has claimed responsibility.
Within hours of the attack, the UN Security Council at a press briefing in New York condemned an “alarming” increase in attacks in Afghanistan targeting civilians even as the Taliban and the Afghan government hold on-again-off-again talks in Qatar.
“These heinous attacks have targeted civil servants, the judiciary, the media, health care and humanitarian workers, including women in prominent positions, those who protect and promote human rights, and ethnic and religious minorities,” the council said.
The Islamic State group has claimed responsibility for many of the targeted killings while the Taliban and the government have blamed each other for trying to sabotage efforts to reach a peace agreement.