Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The National Security Council spokesperson Rehmatullah Andar tweeted on Wednesday that over 2,000 families have been displaced in Afghanistan amid deadly clashes between security forces and Taliban insurgents in eastern Laghman province that borders Kabul.
“Ask the Taliban where and to whom the ‘Islamic system’ is being implemented. With their arrival [in Laghman] institutions have been looted and people are fleeing,” Andar tweeted.
Clashes between security forces and Taliban insurgents in several provinces have caused concerns among residents. Interior Minister Hayatullah Hayat told the Upper House of Parliament on Tuesday that investigations have been launched into the fall of security check posts in a number of provinces without putting up resistance.
Districts were overrun by the Taliban in the provinces of Baghlan, Maidan, Wardak and Laghman in less than one month as the country witnesses mounting assaults by insurgents as foreign troops withdraw from the country. “Unfortunately, foreign intelligence agencies are propagating psychological warfare and the enemy propaganda is spreading baseless fears about the fall of the system,” said Hayat.
The Defense Ministry said on Monday a major Taliban offensive was pushed back in eastern Laghman, with at least 50 insurgents killed.
The counter-terrorism operation against the advancing Taliban was directly supervised by army chief Gen. Yaseen Zia in which more than 60 insurgents were also injured when special units of security forces repelled coordinated assaults in the Mehtarlam, Alingar and Alishang areas.
Kabul: To discuss bilateral cooperation and progress on the peace talks, Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), met the Australian Ambassador Paul Wojciechowski in Kabul on Wednesday.
The meeting comes against the backdrop of the Australian government closing its embassy in Kabul due to “security concerns”.
According to Sapidar, the meeting focused on peace efforts and bilateral relations between the two countries. Australian ambassador during his meeting with Abdullah, emphasized his country’s continued cooperation in the new chapter of global cooperation with Afghanistan.
According to the statement, the two sides also discussed the continuation of Australian aid to Afghanistan and support for the country’s peace efforts.
During his meeting with Abdullah, Wichowski noted that Australia will continue its assistance and cooperation with Afghanistan in the new chapter of its relations and cooperation with the international community.
Kabul: In yet another criticism for US President Joe Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal plan, Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell on Tuesday said that it was “dangerous wishful thinking”, as it was not “not clear-eyed or strategic”.
He said there was a lack of “a coherent plan to mitigate the geopolitical and humanitarian risks” and “there is every reason to believe Al Qaeda will regroup in its historic safe haven”. McConnell voiced concern over the US military’s future ability to conduct counter-terrorism “reconnaissance and strike missions” without a presence in Afghanistan.
“If the Taliban takes Kabul, will the Biden administration recognize it as the legitimate government of Afghanistan?” he asked. “Will we shutter our embassy and our aid programs? The reality is, they don’t know. They can’t say. There is no plan,” he added.
Biden administration officials insisted last week that they were planning to ensure the US would be able to continue its battle against terrorism after withdrawing. David Helvey, assistant secretary of defense for Indo-Pacific affairs, told Congress last Friday that the process was “ongoing”.
“We’re working to reposition our counter-terrorism capabilities, including by retaining assets in the region,” Helvey said. US Central Command said last week that the withdrawal was on schedule and that the military had completed up to 1/4th of the pullout.
Only 107 representatives were present and three agendas had been set in advance for decision-making, including – debate and vote in connection with the amendment of some items of the Law on Translation and Certification; Debate and Voting for Legislative Decree No. 260 in connection with the attached articles of the Law on Criminal Procedure and Debate and vote on Legislative Decree No. 45 of presidents on the law of the Supreme Audit Office.
These plans and decrees were not discussed and put to a vote due to the absence of more than half of the members of the House of Representatives. According to the Secretariat of the House of Representatives, 10-15 members of each of the 18 committees of the House of Representatives were absent.
The absence of representatives is one of the serious challenges facing this institution. Many sittings of the House of Representatives have been fruitless due to the lack of the required quorum.
In the first part of the plenary session of the House of Representatives, which is called the privilege hour, the members spoke on various issues. One of the topics discussed on Wednesday was the issue of exposing the officials involved in corruption, which was raised by the acting minister of Finance. The acting finance minister announced last Wednesday that government officials and members of the House of Representatives were involved in embezzling customs revenue.
He was scheduled to report to the House of Representatives on Monday this week, but did not attend the plenary session. Some members of the House of Representatives said that MPs accused of corruption had met with the acting minister of Finance to tell him to refrain from attending the House of Representatives.
Meanwhile, the Presidential Palace said on Wednesday that it will nominate new candidates for a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives at an “opportune time”.
Mohammad Amiri, the deputy spokesperson for the presidency, said in a video that the government respects the principle of separation of powers and all the powers of the National Assembly. The Ministries of Public Health, Interior, Women’s Affairs, Education, Information and Culture, Finance and Rural Development are currently headed by Acting Ministers.
In addition, the Central Bank of Afghanistan and the Attorney General’s Office are headed by Acting heads, and some of the Supreme Court nominees have not yet been nominated for a vote of confidence in the House of Representatives.
Since last December, when lawmakers did not give a vote of confidence to some of the candidates, the parliament has repeatedly asked the government to nominate new candidates for a vote of confidence in the parliament, but the government has not complied.
In the latest case, a number of lawmakers in the plenary session criticized the work of the Acting ministers, saying that none of the laws should be passed by the parliament until the government nominates new ministers for a vote of confidence.
Kabul: To counter US’ plan to establish over-the-horizon capabilities, the Taliban have issued a statement on Wednesday asking Afghanistan’s neighbors to not allow the US to establish a military base in their country.
The main reason for insecurity and war in the region is the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan, the statement said and hence, countries should not allow US to use their soil for military bases. According to the group, such an action is not only a big mistake, but also a historical notoriety.
The group has warned that it will not tolerate such provocation and will continue to take responsibility as in the past.
The Taliban have emphasized that Afghanistan’s neighbors should not allow their territory and airspace to be used against Afghanistan. The group has stated that it’s responsible for any action taken by countries that have allowed the Americans to establish a military base on their territory.
There have been recent reports that the United States is consulting with Pakistan to deploy its forces in the country for counter-terrorism operations in Afghanistan.
Kabul: The Afghanistan Health Ministry on Wednesday said that the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection may reach its peak in the next ten days. The ministry has advised citizens to take preventive measures seriously as Afghanistan does not want to face the same catastrophic situation as neighboring countries.
The health ministry said that it is prepared to fight the third wave of the coronavirus, but is concerned about the increasing number of positive cases. The ministry anticipates that the coronavirus will reach its peak in the next 10 days. The warning comes at a time when the ministry on Wednesday reported 623 new positive cases of COVID-19 in the last 24 hours. The ministry also reported 14 deaths and 193 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
Officials at the Afghan-Japan hospital said that they are facing a shortage of beds as the number of COVID-19 patients is rising, adding that they treat patients even in open areas, such as the courtyard of the hospital.
“We had 150 people who came for testing (COVID-19), of which 77 cases tested positive and 21 Covid patients out of 77 were hospitalized,” said Ebadullah Ebad, a doctor at the Afghan-Japan hospital.
“The negligence that exists in the society causes the coronavirus to be prolonged, and our positive cases to exceed our capacity. Once this happened, for sure we will be a witness to a breakdown in our health sector,” said Dastageer Nazari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health.
The total number of cases now stand at 68,366, while the number of reported deaths is 2,869 and the total number of recoveries is 56,711.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Faryab, Helmand, Wardak, Badakhshan, Daikundi, Logar, Laghman, Zabul, Uruzgan, Ghor, Khost, Farah, and Samangan provinces.
Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar has stressed on the need for finding “urgent and effective” global vaccine solutions and called for “greater production” and its “fairer distribution” in his meeting with UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres.
At their first in-person meeting on Tuesday since India began its eighth term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in January, the two leaders also discussed a full range of subjects including climate change, counterterrorism, developments in India’s neighborhood and underscored the need to adequately protect the “gains” of the last two decades in Afghanistan in the context of US withdrawal of troops.
“Discussed the Covid challenge, underlining the importance of finding urgent & effective global vaccine solutions,” Jaishankar wrote on Twitter after the meeting, which was held at the United Nations in New York. “Critical to ramp up the vaccine supply chain to ensure greater production & fairer distribution.”
They discussed that the proposal by India and South Africa for TRIPS waiver of Covid-19 vaccine patents can also contribute to greater production and more equity, said a readout of their conversation issued by India. The United States recently announced support for the proposal paving the way for negotiations to start towards adopting a text to that effect.
Kabul: Destruction of public infrastructure continues as violence escalates in the country with the Taliban destroying a paved road in Chak district of Maidan Wardak province and a bridge in Sorkhroud district of Nangarhar province.
According to sources in Maidan Wardak, Taliban insurgents also planted mines in other parts of the road they destroyed and blocked traffic to stop supplies to the district.
According to drivers in the district, the Taliban have warned them that it is their responsibility if they are killed by the roadside bombs. Residents of the Chak district condemned the Taliban’s actions, saying that by destroying the road, they could not even take patients to the district hospital, let alone transport them to Maidan Shahr or Kabul.
They called on the government to launch a clean-up operation in the district as soon as possible so that locals can get rid of the situation.
Meanwhile, Ataullah Khogyani, spokesperson for the governor of Nangarhar, said that the Taliban had destroyed a bridge in the Sorkhrud district of the province with a roadside bomb on Tuesday night.
The destroyed bridge is located in Bawli area of Surkh-Khorud district of Nangarhar. According to Khogyani, the bridge connected the communication route of four districts of Nangarhar, including Sorkhroud, Hesarak, Shirzad and Khogyani.
Khogyani said residents of the four districts had problems with the blast. He added that Zia-ul-Haq Amarkhail, the governor of Nangarhar, has instructed the authorities to start repairing the bridge as soon as possible in order to facilitate traffic.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the destruction of the bridge.
Kabul: At least 62 people, including 36 security personnel, have been freed from a Taliban prison in northern Baghlan province on Tuesday night by Afghan Commandos, the Ministry of Defense said in a statement on Wednesday.
The operation was launched in Nawrozak village of Baghlan-e-Markazi district and four Taliban insurgents were killed and “some of their weapons were destroyed”, the statement added.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the operation. On Monday night commandos freed 41 people, including 19 security force members, from a Taliban prison in western Herat province, the Special Operations Corps had said in a statement. Seven Taliban insurgents who were the prison keepers were killed during the operation.
Meanwhile, at least five national security force members were killed at 8am on Wednesday in an ambush by Taliban insurgents in the Abdul district, 15km south of Qala-e-Naw city in Badghis province, said Abdul Aziz Beg, chairman of the Badghis Provincial Council.
Bodies of the five security personnel had been taken to the provincial hospital.
In Badakhshan province too, over 500 families fled after the Taliban after they invaded the Yaftal district. For two days now, the Taliban have attacked the villages of Shokrleb, Ghazanak, Sarun and several other villages.
Families fled to the center of Yaftal Payan district and the city of Faizabad with the assistance of the government and Nick Mohammad Nazari, spokesperson for the Badakhshan governor, said on Wednesday, that eight Taliban insurgents had been killed and 15 others were wounded, including Abdul Rahman Ammar, the Taliban’s shadow district governor for Shahr-e Bozorg district.
He added that two members of the uprising forces had been killed and another wounded in the clashes.
Badakhshan Governor Mohammad Zakaria Soda also flew to the Yaftal district center on Tuesday. Officials say the reason for the slowdown is the Taliban’s use of local residents as human shields.
Local sources say the Taliban have captured three villages, destroyed several houses, killed three uprising forces and mutilated their bodies.
Kabul: Moving as swift as a gazelle, the retrograde mission of the foreign troops in Afghanistan is nearly 16-25 percent complete, announced US Central Command on Tuesday.
Approximately 160 C-17 loads of materiel and equipment have left Afghanistan, and more than 10,000 pieces of military equipment have been turned over to the Defense Logistics Agency, as per the announcement.
US-controlled installations in Afghanistan must also be returned to the Afghan Defense Ministry, and so far, five installations have been handed over.
After 20 years, the US is withdrawing from Afghanistan because the mission there is complete, said Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby during a press briefing. “The president has been very clear that our troops accomplished the mission for which they were sent to Afghanistan. That was to prevent the country from being used as a safe haven for terrorist attacks on our homeland, and there hasn’t been another attack on the homeland emanating from Afghanistan since 9/11. So, the president believes the mission has been completed,” Kirby said.
Now, Kirby said, there is a new mission: withdrawal from Afghanistan and development of a new relationship with the government of Afghanistan and the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
The United States will create a “new bilateral relationship with Afghanistan across the government: diplomatically, economically, politically and certainly from a security perspective,” Kirby said. “Our relationship with Afghan National Defense and Security Forces will continue, but it will continue in a different way.”
The US is not leaving the Central Command region outright, however. There are still threats in the region, and Kirby said the US will be ready to meet those threats by strengthening existing “over-the-horizon” capabilities there and growing new ones.
Kirby said the US already has some over-the-horizon capacity in the region, by virtue of forces already stationed there and long-range capabilities that are outside the region. “We know we need to think through this more deliberately and more thoughtfully going forward as we get closer to completing the withdrawal, and we’re working on that,” he said.
Meanwhile, Afghan security officials told the plenary session of the Senate on Tuesday that with the start of the withdrawal of foreign troops from the country, terrorists and regional intelligence had launched a negative propaganda and psychological warfare against the Afghan people.
The Senate had summoned Ahmad Zia Siraj, the Director General of National Directorate of Security and Hayatullah Hayat, the acting interior minister. The NDS chief announced the presence and activity of about 10,000 “foreign terrorists” in the country.
According to the Senate Office, Hayatullah Hayat, the acting Minister of the Interior, said at the meeting that foreign forces had a role to play and that there would be no problem with them leaving the country. According to him, 96% of the operations are carried out by the country’s security and defense forces, and by September of this year, they will lead all air and ground operations.
He further stressed that all commitments and agreements of foreign forces with the Afghan government are valid.
Hayatullah Hayat says that according to statistics, the Taliban have increased their attacks by 7% and the security and defense forces by 50% compared to the previous year. Ahmad Zia Siraj, the chief of NDS, spoke at the meeting about the heavy casualties inflicted on the Taliban, adding, “Terrorists have resorted to psychological warfare that people should not believe in this propaganda.”
The NDS chief noted that the Taliban had carried out 3,466 attacks across the country in the past two months. According to him, the defense and security forces have carried out more than 2,700 operations against the Taliban.
According to Siraj, as a result of attacks by security and defense forces, in addition to killing and wounding hundreds of Taliban members, 1,880 “security disruptors” were arrested, 1,300 of whom were involved in terrorist activities.
NDS chief at the meeting revealed the intervention of Pakistan and the activities of nearly 10,000 “foreign terrorists” in the country. He rejected the establishment of US bases on Pakistani soil, calling it baseless.
Security officials also announced the arrest of the mastermind of the deadly car bomb attack in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province. According to security officials, these individuals belong to the Haqqani network.
The attack killed 24 people and injured more than 100. All the victims were students who had come to Pol-e-Alam from Azra district to prepare for the entrance exam.