Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Sergei Naryshkin, the director of the Russian Foreign Intelligence Service (SVR), has stated that the US is likely to deploy its troops in neighboring countries of Afghanistan after the withdrawal. Naryshkin, however, hopes that its CSTO allies will not meet the Americans halfway.
The Wall Street Journal reported earlier, citing sources, that the United States may deploy troops withdrawn from Afghanistan in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, adding that there are no agreements on this matter yet. Experts interviewed by Sputnik noted that Tashkent and Dushanbe are unlikely to agree to this in light of their close ties with Moscow.
“It is obvious that, when deciding to withdraw troops from Afghanistan, the US government would not want to lose control over this territory and has intentions to place at least some of the resources that they have today in Afghanistan, in neighboring countries. We understand that such attempts are being made. We hope that not only partners, but also allies in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will not agree to this,” SVR director said.
In fact, following a session of the Council of Foreign Ministers of the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) member nations on Wednesday, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said that the situation in Afghanistan directly affects the situation in the Central Asian.
The CSTO foreign ministers shared the view that it is necessary to strengthen the Tajik-Afghan stretch of the Organization’s southern border, Muhriddin said, adding that the CSTO Foreign Ministers Council approved a draft agreement on the jurisdiction and legal aid in cases relating to the temporary presence of collective security forces in the territories of the CSTO member states.
The next session of the CSTO Foreign Ministers Council is supposed to take place in Tajikistan in Q4 2021 prior to a session of the Collective Security Council.
Kabul: In order to improve coordination between contractors, three US industry groups are recommending that the Biden administration form ‘collaboration forums’ in Kabul and Washington after the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan.
The forums could address topics such as the changing security environment in Afghanistan, how contractors can best support the drawdown, and whether contractors will continue supporting Afghan forces from other countries in the region. “Better communications and prudent planning that includes contractors can help protect our people while executing the drawdown and achieving defence, development, and diplomatic goals,” a letter dated May 13, highlighting the same, read.
The letter is signed by the International Stability Operations Association (ISOA), the National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA), and the Professional Services Council (PSC). It is addressed to US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Agency for International Development Administrator Samantha Power.
US contract expenditure in Afghanistan totalled USD3.6 billion in fiscal year 2020, of which USD2.8 billion was for the US Department of Defense, the letter says.
The head of US Central Command said that the US military would remove its contractors from Afghanistan as well, but was looking at how they could continue to provide aircraft maintenance assistance and other help to Afghan forces from afar.
Meanwhile, the Special Inspector General For Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has said that the Taliban continue to threaten health-care facilities and abduct health-care workers to force them to provide medical care to its fighters, provide medicines, pay special taxes, or to close down and relocate to other areas.
According to SIGAR, US on-and off-budget assistance to Afghanistan’s health sector totaled more than $1.6 billion as of April 10, 2021.
During 2020, UNAMA verified 90 attacks which impacted health-care service delivery, comprising direct attacks against health-care facilities & providers, and indiscriminate attacks causing incidental damage to health-care facilities & their personnel. This figure was a 20% increase from the previous year.
UNAMA estimates that up to three million Afghans were deprived of essential health-care services.
Kabul: The protests which started after residents of Faryab opposed the appointment of a new governor for the province, is now threatening to spill over to six other provinces. The National Islamic Movement of Afghanistan has warned that if the government does not heed to the demands of the protesters, residents of six other northern provinces will join the protest.
Ehsan Niroo, spokesperson for Abdul Rashid Dostum, said that six days after the protests in Faryab started, there still hasn’t been any step from the government to speak to the protesters. “It is likely that tomorrow or the day after tomorrow, other provinces in the north and northeast of the country will see large marches,” he said.
Residents of Faryab province protested last week after the government appointed Mohammad Daud Laghmani and replaced Naqibullah Fayeq as governor of Faryab.
Dawood is now operating from the army base in Faryab, and protesters are not allowed to enter the provincial headquarters. The protesters say that Mohammad Daud is not familiar with the geography of Faryab and that someone who is familiar with the environment of the province should be introduced.
Protesters say the new governor was elected without consulting the people, and if his work continues in the province, Faryabi protesters will resort to civil disobedience. “The government can never rule the people by force,” said Noor Mohammad, one of the protesters.
Meanwhile, Faryab MPs in the House of Representatives expect the government to hold talks with the people and send a delegation to Faryab to end the people’s protests and address their demands. “You are negotiating with the stubborn enemy of the people, the Taliban, but you are not negotiating with the people of Faryab,” said Fauzia Rufi, one of the delegates.
The Presidential Palace says that despite the reforms in Faryab province, a new governor has been appointed for this province and efforts have been made to return the situation in Faryab to normal.
Kabul: At the Open Governance Week commemoration program, Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, on Thursday said that reforms in government institutions, development and progress in open governance are likely to be affected by the peace talks.
However, the second VP said that the disruption in reform process in government institutions should not occur at any cost. Noting that reforms play a key role in the development of governance, Danesh said, “There is a risk that institutionalization and institutional reform will be hampered by the peace talks and stalled or slowed down. Stopping reforms in government institutions means refusing to provide services to the people and ultimately leading to continued poverty and backwardness.”
Another threat to the reforms are the challenges which “enemies” of the Afghan people habor for the political system in Afghanistan, said Danesh, as apart from the republic and a democratic system based on the constitution and the will of the people, any other system is contrary to economic progress and development, and the other is that the creation of new institutions for the government and the political system is time consuming.
The second vice-president said, “Just as millions across Afghanistan have spoken out in defense of the regime and the republic, the government must be aware of this danger. It takes tens of years, billions of dollars of money and a lot of energy until alternative institutions reach the stage of maturity to serve the people, and each interruption wastes the achievements of the last 20 years and pushes people back to zero.”
Danesh said that the Afghan government strongly supported peace talks and the achievement of a just and lasting peace; but in no way will it allow the country to be torn apart again and to jeopardize the republic and the constitution and the achievements of the last 20 years.
Emphasizing that the standards of governance must be re-applied in the peace process as well, the second vice-president said that peace is in fact a national program and for the people and not for specific individuals and groups.
Kabul: At least 2,000 Afghan refugees have voluntarily returned and 1,200 have been deported from Iran in the past two days, announced the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations on Thursday.
These people entered Afghanistan on Tuesday and Wednesday through the Islam Qala border in Herat. According to the Department of Refugees and Repatriations in Herat, among these people are 12 homeless children and 122 others from needy families.
Iran has one of the largest number of Afghan refugees, numbering as much as 2.4 million in 2018. According to the Afghan Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations, 1.4 million of them do not have legal immigration documents.
Kabul: Four civilians, including a man, his wife and two children, were killed on Thursday morning when a roadside bomb exploded in Kharestan area of Firuzkuh, the provincial capital, said Zalmai Karimi, spokesperson for the governor of Ghor.
According to him, the incident occurred when their motorcycle collided with a roadside mine. No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Two people were killed and another was wounded when a mine exploded in the “Barakhaneh” area of Ghor on Wednesday as well. No individual or group claimed responsibility for the incident.
Kabul: Following the recent statement from Amnesty international seeking safety of journalists, human rights defenders and media workers in Afghanistan, the Supporting open media in Afghanistan-Nai stated on Thursday that freedom of expression is endangered in the country.
Freedom of expression, one of the greatest achievements of the last two decades, is in jeopardy due to the poor security situation for journalists and media workers and the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, the statement said.
Nai has called for immediate action by the Afghan government to ensure the safety of Afghan journalists, adding, “The request is to seriously investigate cases of murder and violence against journalists and to make the security of journalists and media activists a priority.”
Nai also called on international bodies, especially the United States and the United Nations, to remove the Taliban, who are accused of killing journalists and media activists, from the “peace talks” category.
Amnesty International recently called on Afghan government officials to take immediate action to protect journalists.
After a year of widespread threats, intimidation, harassment and violent attacks against media workers in Afghanistan, the organization issued a statement on Monday in honor of World Press Freedom Day, requesting officials in the country to take immediate action to protect journalists.
Amnesty International says at least 11 journalists have been killed in targeted attacks in Afghanistan in 2020, and four more have been killed by unknown individuals this year, but almost all of them have not been investigated.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 505 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 10 deaths and 128 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 65,080, while the number of reported deaths is 2,782 and the total number of recoveries is 55,678.
There are currently 6,568 active cases of coronavirus nationwide.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Public Health has performed 440,127 Covid-19 tests since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Kabul: Perpetrators of dozens of terrorist incidents, including the masterminds of the attack on the Enlightenment movement and the attack on 400-bed ANA hospital, have been arrested by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), announced the press office of the first vice-president in a statement released on Thursday.
The statement added that the NDS had dismantled an important cell of the terrorist IS-K group in different parts of Kabul and arrested its members in an operative operation and the detainees include Sharifullah, Abdul Wahed, Mohammad Saber, Ayub, Aziz Rahim, Abdul Matin and Khadija.
Based on the Kabul national security investigation, Sharifullah, Abdul Wahed and Qari Saber had confessed that so far they were involved in 51 explosions, four car and bicycle explosions, one car bomb, three mine explosions, two rocket launches and one abduction.
The detainees have confessed to their involvement in plotting dozens of deadly attacks, including bombings, kidnappings, rocket attacks and targeted killings. According to Saleh’s press office, these individuals have also confessed to assassinating prominent religious leaders and scholars in different parts of the country and bombing religious and public places.
As per the detainees, the IS-K network has so far rented 20 houses in different parts of the city and used them to move people and build mines. The press office of the first VP said that the group had transferred 50 suicide bombers from Nangarhar to Kabul so far.
The statement also adds, “People arrested have confessed to be involved in making bombs in the house of Khaleq Kandahari, a close associate of Dr. Naqib who had a history of being a member of Hezb-e-Islami and later became a member of the Haqqani network led by Taj Mir Javad. Dr. Naqib was organizing ISK networks in Kabul, where he was killed in a recent operation in PD17 with another suicide bomber.”
However, Saleh’s press office said that the main attacks were on the Enlightenment movement, Shash Darak, Mufti Noman in Shakar Dara district, an attack on a car carrying Ministry of Hajj staff, an attack on protesting lawyers at the Zanbaq intersection, and a mine explosion among supporters.
Kabul: The Afghan embassy in Ashqabad on Thursday announced that Turkmenistan will build an oil and gas field at Herat University.
Abdullah Fayez, head of Herat University, and Atamanov Bayramrad Yilimovich, head of Turkmenistan University of Oil and Gas, met via a video conference on Wednesday and legal, technical and educational facilities was discussed.
The head of Herat University also called for one-year joint specialized programs to strengthen scientific-educational cooperation between the two universities. Embassy’s advisor, Ahmad Tariq Noorzad, also spoke about the schedule, and finalizing the legal framework and other technical cooperation to build an oil and gas field in Herat University.
According to the embassy, Turkmenistan has rich scientific-professional experience in the oil and gas sector. The Afghan Embassy in Ashqabad has expressed hope that the establishment of an oil and gas field in Herat University will strengthen economic cooperation, especially in regional projects, including the TAPI between the two countries.
Meanwhile, the university entrance exam for students started on Thursday in Badakhshan province. Students in Badakhshan province will take exams in five districts which are Faizabad, Baharak, Sheghnan, Darwaz, and Khawan.
The university entrance exam in the city of Faizabad started in the presence of the government board, university officials, students and the media in the building of Badakhshan University.
“At least 10,827 students are taking exams in five districts of Badakhshan province, of which 46% are girls,” said Abdul Shakur Davar, a professor at the Polytechnic University and head of the Badakhshan entrance exam board. He added that 6,103 people will appear for the test in Feyzabad, 1,794 in Baharak, 309 in Khawan, 788 in Darvaz, and 1,732 in Sheghnan, of which 4,759 are girls and 6,068 are boys.
Kabul: Responding to the criticism from President Ashraf Ghani and National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi on Wednesday said that on the one hand, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani urges Pakistan for cooperation and, on the other hand, levels baseless allegations against Islamabad.
Speaking in a session of Pakistan’s parliament, Qureshi asked Ghani to decide what he wants from Pakistan.
Meanwhile, the Afghan Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) in reference to Qureshi’s remarks said that Afghanistan considers it its responsibility to tell the truth.
“I want to ask Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani: On the one hand you are asking Pakistan to help, but, on the other hand, your employee levels allegations against Pakistan and criticizes the Pakistani institutions. What do you want? We want peace, we want friendship, we want stability, we want regional connectivity, we want economic cooperation, we want bilateral trade, we want to shift geopolitics to geoeconomics. But what do you want? Make up your minds,” said Qureshi.
Last week, Mohib in address to a gathering in the eastern province of Nangarhar, strongly criticized Pakistan’s Afghan policy.
“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is obliged to tell its people the truth as it sees fit, the concerns of the Afghan people regarding terrorism are shared with Pakistan on a regular basis,” said Hamed Tahzeeb, a deputy spokesperson at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar on Tuesday spoke about a recent trip of a high-level Pakistani delegation to Kabul. He said the two sides reached agreements about the peace process in Afghanistan, but the two countries now need to take practical steps to expand bilateral cooperation on peace in Afghanistan.
Kabul: A database of experts has been created by the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, called the Afghan Civil Service Force, with an aim to identify people with higher expertise, professional knowledge, creativity and commitment for the highly specialized levels of the civil service.
Fahim Rasa, head of information and public relations for the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission, said that the experts’ database was officially unveiled on Thursday.
The database that can collect statistics from experts in specialized fields. As per Rasa, professionals in ten specialized fields who want to get into the higher specialized levels of the civil service can register their general information and specialized information “at the appointed time” in the database.
Fahim Rasa said that departments, institutions, individuals can also nominate qualified people to be included in the database of experts.
Kabul: Dawlat Shah district of the Laghman province has fallen to the Taliban insurgents on Thursday, said Gulzar Sangarwal, a member of the Laghman provincial council.
Sangarwal said, “Security forced retreated from the region on Wednesday night due to lack of supplies, support and backup, as they had been under the Taliban siege for several days”.
District was handed over to the Taliban without any interference from local elders and influential figures in the area, Sangarwal said.
He stressed that the security condition in the Alisheng district is bad too and there is a possibility of the region’s collapse to the Taliban.
On the other hand, Rahmatullah Yarmal, governor of Laghman province also confirmed the development. The district is located 47 kilometers to the north of Mehtarlam city, the region also shares border with the Panjshir province.
It is said that Dawlat Shah district was surrounded by the Taliban since the past six months. Reports indicate at least 15 Afghan National Defense and Security Force members were killed and there was no way to take the wounded out of the area.
Meanwhile, local officials in Zabul province said that seven security forces were killed and five others were injured in two separate incidents in the province.
Atajan Haq Bayan, head of the Zabul provincial council, said that the Taliban had attacked a checkpoint in PD1 of Qalat city at 10pm on Wednesday, killing five security personnel, including the head of the Zabul operations unit, and wounding three others.
Haq Bayan also stated that two security forces were killed and two others were injured when a roadside bomb exploded in Zabul. He warned that if the security situation in Zabul province is not addressed, the province will fall to the Taliban.
Kabul: At least nine civilians have been killed after a roadside bomb exploded in in Lashkar Gah, the provincial capital, said security officials in Helmand province.
The source added that children and women were among those killed in the blast. He added that two other civilians were also injured in the incident.
As per sources, the accident occurred when a car ferrying the civilians hit the roadside mine.
No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack, but Taliban insurgents are active in most of Helmand.
Kabul: At a seminar discussing peace in Afghanistan, Mohammad Mohaqiq, leader of the Islamic Unity Party of Afghanistan and senior adviser to President Ashraf Ghani on security and political affairs, said that the UN Security Council should recognize the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada girls’ school in western Kabul as “genocide” and prosecute the perpetrators.
The seminar was titled, Discussing the Last Hundred Years and Joint Support for Peace in Afghanistan” and was hosted by the Chinese Embassy in Kabul. The United Nations Security Council had condemned the attack calling it cowardly and brutal and sought the perpetrators to be brought to justice.
The Sayyid al-Shuhada school in western Kabul was attacked on May 8 with a car bomb and two landmines. The attack garnered widespread reactions. The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president, described it as genocide and a crime against humanity.
The families of the victims have also called for the Afghan government and the international community to recognize it as an example of “genocide.”
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Meanwhile, in order to bring peace and stability in Afghanistan and reduce the violence, Democratic US Senator Chris Van Hollen has said the Reconstruction Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Pakistan and Afghanistan border regions will help usher in political stability and block the way for elements like al-Qaeda and ISIS after US withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Karachi-born Senator Van Hollen said so in virtual conference on the Pakistan-Afghanistan Economic Development Act with the Pakistani and US journalists which was hosted by Pak origin Democratic leader Tahir Javed. He said that through this, they have revived the effort to introduce these incentives to business in Pakistan and Afghanistan to promote employment and business activity to limit the likely chaos after US exit.
There are three ROZs proposed in Pakistan in newly merged areas of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP), other settled districts of KP and in areas in Balochistan which border Afghanistan. The senator said that he was open to extend the validity of present bill beyond proposed time line of 2030. He said that the bill offered duty free access to Pakistani origin textile and apparel products and more products can be added in coming years subject to US trade considerations.
International stakeholders of the Afghan peace process also met to discuss the security situation in the country. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said that he had discussed with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken the situation in Afghanistan.
“We agreed to continue our joint actions, which are developing quite successfully, on regional conflicts where the interests of the United States and Russia coincide. This is Afghanistan, where the expanded troika consisting of Russia, China, the United States, Pakistan is actively working. We discussed how at this stage we can make all our joint actions more effective,” Lavrov said following the meeting with Blinken.
Kabul: At least three Hazara passengers have been shot dead on the Ghor-Herat highway in the Bandabain area of Firuzkuh on Wednesday by Taliban insurgents, said Ghor Governor Abdul Zahir Faizzada said.
Faizzada added that the Taliban stopped the vehicle in which the three men were travelling, asked them to dismount and then, shot them.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the matter.
Last month, the Taliban insurgents also shot dead four civilians in the Sheniya area of Dawlatiyar district. These victims were also Hazaras.
Kabul: With the international troop withdrawal process slowly reaching the 20 percent mark, there are talks of the post-drawdown scenario in Afghanistan. Gen. Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, said on Wednesday that he will suggest ways to monitor and combat terrorist attacks from Afghanistan and the region after they withdraw completely.
The top US commander for the Middle East will submit these to the US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in early June. He also added that negotiations with Afghanistan’s neighbors for overflight rights and troop basing are “moving forward”, but will take time. It is pertinent to remember that Pakistan has denied one such request and will not allow any US army bases on its soil. Meanwhile, the top General said that multiple agreements on security will be signed in order to make way for the United States to keep an eye on the terrorist threat and aid the Afghan military.
However, he warned that it will take time and till then, there are great risks for the Afghan military. Speaking to reporters from The Associated Press and ABC News traveling with him to the Middle East, McKenzie declined to provide details about the recommendations he will make to Austin. He said he will also provide cost estimates for keeping surveillance aircraft over Afghanistan regularly.
McKenzie has made it clear that without any bases in neighboring countries, it will require far more aircraft to keep watch over Afghanistan because they will have to fly for four hours to six hours from other US military installations in the Middle East. The flight distance severely limits the amount of time the aircraft can spend in the air over Afghanistan.
Many security experts have warned that a troop pullout will lead to civil war in the war-ravaged country and ultimately takeover by the Taliban. However, US has emphasized that it will maintain its over-the-horizon capability to reduce threats from the region.
Meanwhile, New Zealand has announced that it will withdraw its last remaining troops from Afghanistan by May, concluding a 20-year deployment that was the country’s longest-running one.
However, one good thing from the deployment is the Renewable Energy Program in Bamiyan province, which has enabled the residents of the central province to have access to sustainable electricity.
The project was commissioned in 2012 and was ready for use in 2014, covering the city of Bamiyan, which attracts tourists from within and outside Afghanistan every year. Bamiyan residents make up almost 60 percent of the nation’s solar power users, according to the country’s power distributor, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS). The company earns 20 million Afs ($250,000) a year from solar energy users, with 75 percent of that income from solar energy users in Bamiyan.
The project comes as one of the progressive steps taken over the last 20 years to bring stability to Afghanistan and critics fear that with the complete drawdown of foreign troops, such advancements will be hurt the most if the Taliban comes back to power.