Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says NATO allies and partners remain firmly committed to Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability through the Resolute Support training mission.
The US Secretary of State in a series of tweets said, “We will ensure that Afghan soil is never again used to launch an attack on America or her allies.”
“As stated at the NATO Defense Ministerial, the U.S. and our NATO Allies and partners are pushing for a responsible ent to the war in Afghanistan,” he said.
“As Allies we must remain unified: we went in together, we will adjust together, and when the time is right, we will leave together,” Mr. Blinken added.
Sarwar Danesh, the second Vice President, says the Taliban group still avoids serious talks on key issues related to the Afghan peace process.
Speaking at the ceremony for introducing Nilab Mubarez as the new head of the Afghan Red Crescent on Tuesday, Mr Danesh said that peace was a two-way process and that no trust will be formed in the peace process until the other side and its supporters made a serious decision, take practical and meaningful steps and accept the ceasefire.
According to him, the Afghan government has so far taken the necessary steps to show its goodwill in the peace process and is fully prepared to discuss a variety of issues; But the Taliban have carried out more attacks since the beginning of the process, killing civilians, women, Ulema, human rights activists, journalists and civil society activists.
Mr. Danesh emphasized that the Government of Afghanistan supports a peace that is just and lasting and guarantees the continuity of the constitution and the achievements of the Afghan people over the last twenty years.
He added that the Afghan government continues to welcome any reasonable peace plan, but only on condition that it does not cause the country to collapse and return to its dark past.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani will propose a new presidential election within six months, under a peace plan he will put forward as a counter-offer to a U.S. proposal that he rejects, two senior government officials told Reuters.
Ghani will unveil his proposal at an international gathering in Turkey next month, signalling his refusal to accept Washington’s plan for his elected government to be replaced by an interim administration, the officials said.
“The counterproposal which we are going to present at the Istanbul meeting would be to call for early presidential elections if the Taliban agree on a ceasefire,” one senior government official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.
Another Afghan government official said: “The president would never agree to step aside and any future government should be formed through democratic process, not a political deal.”
A third senior official also said Ghani’s proposal would include possible early elections, although he did not specify the exact time frame for the vote. The third official said Ghani had already shared his road map with Khalilzad.
U.S. Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has been circulating a proposal which would replace the Kabul government with an interim administration. But Ghani has voiced vehement opposition to any solution that requires his government to step aside for unelected successors.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday reported 15 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 1 death and 9 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period time.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 56,192 the number of total reported deaths is 2,466 and the total number of recoveries is 49,752.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Nangarhar, Kunar, Uruzgan and Khost.
The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) says almost 49,000 people have left their homes this year due to fighting.
OCHA in a report said that many remain displaced across Afghanistan, as conflict and poverty prevent them from returning to their areas of origin.
“Displacement due to ongoing conflict and natural disasters is continuing to drive humanitarian needs in Afghanistan,” the report said.
OCHA in its report added that close to 147,000 people have returned from neighboring countries to Afghanistan so far this year including 145,000 from Iran, and 1,600 from Pakistan, while a small number also returned from Europe.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday pledged to rebuild and revitalise the transatlantic NATO military alliance and to share American plans on any possible withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Speaking on his first visit to NATO headquarters, Blinken said the alliance was at a pivotal moment in facing threats around the world, as well as climate change.
“I’ve come here to express the United States’ steadfast commitment (to NATO),” Blinken told reporters as he met NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg. “The United States wants to rebuild our partnerships, first and foremost with our NATO allies, we want to revitalise the alliance.”
After four years of friction with Washington under the presidency of Donald Trump, who said the alliance was obsolete, NATO’s European allies have also welcomed the change in tone under new U.S. President Joe Biden.
Stoltenberg has set out areas where NATO could modernise over the medium term – from climate measures to more sustainable funding of military operations – and needs U.S. support,
Asked about any possible withdrawal from Afghanistan, Blinken said a U.S. review of options was still underway and he would listen and consult with allies. NATO foreign ministers will discuss Afghanistan over the next two days in Brussels.
“We went in together, we have adjusted together and when the time is right, we will leave together,” Blinken said of Western involvement in the country.
President Ashraf Ghani today inaugurated the 1,400 new academic year by ringing the school bell at Kabul’s Amani High School.
Addressing the event on Tuesday, President Ghani said 11,173 teaching positions will be announced and the promise of increasing teachers’ salaries will be fulfilled by the middle of the year.
“The teachers’ salary increase is feasible from the beginning and will be implemented in the middle of the year,” Ghani said. “I told the finance minister that they must put everything else aside and implement the increase of teachers’ salaries.”
According to President, one million children will go to school this year, and another 1,800 new schools will be built.
In another part of his speech, the President said that currently, Afghan printing centers, have the ability to print textbooks and there is no need for donor countries to rely on another country to print textbooks.
He added that for the first time, very good quality paper is being produced inside Afghanistan and a 20% tariff will be imposed on it in order to increase domestic production.
Mr Ghani said this year would be the year of Afghanistan’s digitalisation, and that providing digital services to teachers, students and staff at the Ministry of Education and the Ministry of Higher Education is a priority for the government.
It is worth mentioning that with the ringing of the school bell by President Ghani, the new academic year officially began in the schools of the cold areas provinces.
Jean Arnault, the UN Secretary-General’s personal envoy for Afghanistan and regional issues, had a phone conversation with Ebrahim Taherian, the Iranian foreign minister’s special envoy for Afghanistan.
In the Monday phone call, the two sides reviewed various aspects of Afghanistan developments, and highlighted the necessity of mitigating the pains of Afghan people and accelerating the achievement of peace and sustainable stability through diplomatic and political solutions.
Arnault and Taherian also underlined the UN’s key role in building consensus among all the friends of Afghanistan and in line with reinforcing the position of people and legal institutions in the country.
US Defence Secretary Lloyd J. Austin on Monday praised Pakistan’s cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.
Austin, in telephone conversation with Pakistan’s Army Chief Gen Qamar Bajwa, according to a readout of the conversation issued by Pentagon, “expressed gratitude for Islamabad’s continued support for the Afghan peace process”.
The US defence secretary called Gen Bajwa while returning from Afghanistan, where he paid an unannounced visit on Sunday to understand the situation in the country.
The Biden administration is currently undertaking a review of the deal signed by its predecessor with the Taliban in February last year under which US troops are to withdraw from Afghanistan by May 1.
The review process would lead to the decision by the new administration on whether or not to adhere to the agreed timeline for troop pullout.
Austin, while speaking at a press conference in Afghanistan before his departure, said his engagements in Kabul would inform his “participation in the review we are undergoing here with the president. It’s very
Afghan local officials say a 35-year old man has committed suicide after killing his elder brother in Garizwan district of Faryab province.
The spokesman of Faryab Police, Abdul Karim Yourish said that the incident happened on Thursday last week.
According to Yourish, the man first entered to his brother’s house and then killed him with a scissor.
He added that the reason behind the incident is not clear so far, adding that the incident area is under the control of the Taliban group.
Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar on Monday held wide-ranging talks with a focus on the peace process in Afghanistan, which is making efforts to build regional and international consensus on the peace talks.
Key issues, including strengthening security cooperation, regional connectivity and trade and investments were also discussed during the meeting between Mr Jaishankar and Mr Atmar, who arrived in Delhi on Monday afternoon on a three-day visit against the backdrop of renewed efforts to speed up the Afghan peace process.
The Afghan foreign minister’s visit to India came days after Russia hosted a conference between Afghan government and the Taliban in Moscow, and pressed for a ceasefire in the war-ravaged country.
The Afghan foreign minister also said that he was looking forward to holding talks with senior officials of India on the Afghan peace process as well as on security and economic cooperation.
The Afghan foreign ministry said the purpose of Mr Atmar’s visit to India is to discuss bilateral relations, strengthen regional and international consensus on the Afghan peace process, and enhance cooperation in security, economic, political and cultural spheres.
In the meantime, Jaishankar in a tweet said, “Welcomed FM M Haneef Atmar of Afghanistan. Detailed conversation on the peace process. Also exchanged views on our bilateral cooperation and development partnership.”
Indian External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi also said S Jaishankar reiterated India’s long-term commitment towards making Afghanistan a united, peaceful and prosperous constitutional democracy respecting the will of its people.
NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Monday said “all options remain open” on Afghanistan, as allies wait for Washington to decide on a looming withdrawal deadline.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken is heading to Brussels for two-days of meetings with NATO foreign ministers, looking to shore up ties on his first official trip to Europe.
High on the agenda is the future of the alliance’s 9,600-strong mission in Afghanistan after former US leader Donald Trump struck a deal with the Taliban to withdraw troops by May 1.ّّّ
“There are no easy choices and for now, all options remain open,” Stoltenberg said at a press conference.
“The security situation is difficult and we will take all the necessary measures to keep our troops safe.”
Current US President Joe Biden is reviewing the accord and said last week it would be “tough” for Washington to meet that date.
That prompted outrage from the Taliban, who warned that the US would be “responsible for the consequences.”
NATO allies have said they are willing to stay in Afghanistan longer, if Washington decides to remain as well.