Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: In a move that comes as a big relief to those who have been helping foreign troops in Afghanistan, Joint Chiefs Chairman General Mark Milley said that the Pentagon and State Department are developing plans to evacuate Afghans working with the US as they are currently in danger of being killed by the Taliban after international troops withdraw from the country.
“We recognize that there is a significant number of Afghans who have supported the US and the coalition. They could be at risk. We recognize that a very important task is to ensure that we remain faithful to them, and that we do what’s necessary to ensure their protection, and if necessary, get them out of the country, if that’s what they want to do,” Milley said.
About 18,000 interpreters are waiting for approval for a Special Immigrant Visa, which allows interpreters to bring their families to the United States, according to the veterans group No One Left Behind. Milley did not offer specifics on how the US would help those interpreters leave the country, such as through airlift, but acknowledged that time was quickly running out to help them. US forces are set to leave Afghanistan by September, but that timetable may be pushed up as soon as July, the New York Times reported this week.
Meanwhile, the US Embassy in Kabul is prioritizing issuing special immigrant visas to Afghans who have worked with the US military and government in Afghanistan. The US Embassy in Kabul has stated that it remains committed to assisting and supporting Afghans who have worked with the US military or government in Afghanistan and whose lives are in danger.
“The priority that my colleagues and I are giving to special immigrant visa applications is a reflection of that commitment,” Ross Wilson said.
The US Embassy in Kabul said that in order to complete interviews with applicants as well as to address applications that were delayed due to the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020, the US State Department recently increased the number of US embassy staff in Afghanistan temporarily. “Afghans who work or have worked with the United States will not be forgotten,” said the US embassy in Kabul. The special immigrant visa is a complex and lengthy process for Afghan citizens who have worked with the US military or government in Afghanistan and who themselves and their families are under threat. Applicants must have worked with the US military or government for at least two years between October 7, 2001 and December 31, 2022.
The US Embassy said that after the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the US Embassy in Kabul will remain active.
Kabul: The Kabul-Ghor highway remained closed to traffic on Thursday morning as a number of residents of Lal and Sarjangal districts protested on the highway.
The protesters have issued a declaration calling for the security of this highway and the creation of two security checkpoints along the Firuzkuh highway and Lal and Sarjangal districts.
“We promised them that we would establish two security checkpoints in Tasraqi and Kotal Shiniyeh. However, it has not been done yet. The central authorities should take measures as our security forces have come, but due to the lack of vehicles and reinforcements, we have not been able to build the checkpoints,” said Abdul Zahir Faiz Zada, the governor of Ghor.
According to residents of Lal and Sar-e-Jangal districts, seven passengers were killed by gunmen on the Ghor-Herat-Ghor-Kabul highway in the past month. Meanwhile, a number of Ghor residents say that flights to the province have been suspended for three months due to unknown reasons.
Kabul: Responding to remarks by Abdullah, father of Shukria, a girl who went missing after the Sayyid al-Shuhada school attack in western Kabul, the Interior Ministry said on Thursday that no person named Shukria had been transferred to any hospital in Kabul.
Shukria’s father had said he still hasn’t found what happened to her daughter and alleged that government agencies are not cooperating with him. He said he had not been allowed to enter the National Security Hospital and Police hospital to find Shukria.
According to Shukria’s father, his daughter went to school on the day of the attack and was present in the classroom, but has not been heard from since the explosion.
However, Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian said that the police had thoroughly investigated the complaint of Shukria’s family and had inquired all the hospitals where the dead and wounded victims of the attack had been transferred.
Arian added, “No wounded or martyr was transferred to any hospital with these characteristics, and the security cameras of hospitals and health centers were also observed in the presence of Shukria’s family.”
The spokesman for the Interior Ministry stressed that the police were continuing their search and investigation in coordination with the intelligence services to respect the request and complaint of the Shukria family. He added that if he receives any information, he will share the details with Shukria’s family.
The attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school, described by the Human Rights Commission as a clear example of genocide, killed about 90 people and injured more than 240 others.
Kabul: All facilities and support of the US and NATO military are being transferred to the defense and security forces even as the international troop withdrawal is almost 1/4th complete, announced President Ghani on Thursday during a speech, “Opportunity to Change the Game”.
According to him, the security agreements with the United States and NATO remain in force and only the form of cooperation and support will change in the new chapter of relations after the withdrawal. “The region was not ready for the withdrawal of international forces, Afghanistan has no permanent friend or foe but Afghanistan has lasting interests. Afghanistan does not want to be a proxy battlefield, we will choose a policy of neutrality for friendship and non-interference in the conflicts of others,” Ghani said.
He added that terrorism would not be eradicated without a clear cultural plan. He said that military force was needed to fight terrorism; but it must be accompanied by spiritual and cultural power.
Ghani said that peace in Afghanistan would lead to economic growth in Pakistan and that Islamabad should therefore take fundamental steps to break the climate of mistrust and seize the opportunity for peace to be friends with the Afghan people. He stressed that in order to eliminate the danger of transnational terrorist networks, the society must be aware and mobilize to counter it.
Meanwhile, even Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar is skeptical of the outcome of the troop withdrawal in Afghanistan. Ahead of the most expansive in-person engagement by Jaishankar with top Biden administration officials, he reiterated a deep Indian unease with the US plan to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan for “political expediency”.
The gains of the last 20 years in Afghanistan, during which an entire generation of Afghan grew up not knowing what the previous 20 years were like, is “something worth protecting, defending, nurturing” and they should not be “lightly sacrificed at the expediency of politics of the day”, Jaishankar said in a virtual conversation with former US National Security Adviser HR McMaster, who was one of the Trump administration’s most ardent advocates of stronger ties with India. He is now with the Hoover Institution, an arm of Stanford University.
“I think people do worry of what would happen if things go badly,” Jaishankar said, citing conversations he has had with counterparts around the world, especially in Europe, about the future of Afghanistan post US withdrawal, without settling the key issue of who will be in charge.
New Delhi, irrespective of the party in power, has long advocated some US military presence in Afghanistan, no matter how small, for a scarecrow deterrent impact on terrorism in not only Afghanistan but all of South Asia, especially in Pakistan.
Kabul: The Government of Afghanistan has reaffirmed its commitment to menstrual health education and to the challenge of social norms and cultural taboos that prevent girls from fulfilling their potential, on the eve of World Menstrual Hygiene Day (May 28).
On Thursday, a program, “Unveiling of National Menstrual Health Guidelines for Out-of-School Girls and Young Mothers”, was held in Kabul, with participants emphasizing that menstruation and menstrual health management are social issues which have received less attention.
“Teachers, parents and elders have a great responsibility towards the younger generation of Afghanistan and to their health,” said Rula Ghani, wife of President Ghani, Afghan first lady . “We need to inform them and increase their awareness of the biological changes they expect to occur as they grow older so that they can better understand their personal health.”
According to her, this can help young girls realize their full potential and protect themselves from common health problems. There are currently more than 4 million out-of-school children in Afghanistan, 60% of whom are girls. One of the main reasons for girls dropping out of school and not attending school is the lack of water, sanitation and sanitation facilities, which are some facilities that are necessary to maintain menstrual health.
Rangina Hamidi, the acting minister of Education, said that there is a need for more awareness and education about girls’ menstruation. “Men need to know that menstruation is not a disease,” she said. “Rather, it is a sign of new life and plays an important role in their future lives. Families and teachers should also consider girls’ menstruation as a valuable and hopeful event and treat them with respect and dignity,” she added.
To understand the challenges faced by Afghan women and girls in terms of menstrual health, UNICEF conducted a survey earlier this week using the U-Report mechanism. The survey received more than 3,000 responses, and at least half of the girls said they did not know what was happening to them at the beginning of their menstrual cycle and why; 38% said that they felt sad and upset during their cycle; 18% felt unclean, and 30% said they missed school for at least two to five days a month because of menstruation.
Kabul: Kobra, the director of the children’s rights center, was shot dead by Taliban insurgents on Wednesday evening in the village of Kokshib, about 15km northwest of Farah, said Farooq Khalid Hazrati, a spokesperson for the Farah Police.
Hazrati added that Kobra had gone to a Taliban-held area without the coordination of security forces and had been targeted by members of the group. The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
Kabul: With rising incidents of violence in Afghanistan and especially in western Kabul, the Council of Shiite Scholars of Afghanistan, in response to the attack on the school of Sayyid al-Shuhada, has asked the government to pay serious attention to the security of the Hazara and Shiite community.
The Hazara and Shiite people are special targets of terrorist groups, said Mohammad Fayyaz Uruzgani, spokesperson for the Council of Shiite Ulema of Afghanistan, adding that the “Shiite people had been repeatedly targeted by terrorist attacks in recent years for belonging to a jurisprudential ethnic group and religion, which was a clear example of “genocide.”
Uruzgani said that although all the people of Afghanistan have been attacked by terrorists, the facts show that the “Hazara and Shiite community” have been the specific targets of attacks. He noted that high-ranking government officials have also acknowledged this along with the global community.
He highlighted attacks in Dehmzang, Sakhi pilgrimage, Abolfazl pilgrimage, Baqer al-Uloom mosque, Al-Zahra mosque, Dasht-e-Barchi, Javadiya, Herat, Mir Zawlang village of Sarpol, Imam Zaman mosque, Fatehullah castle, Dasht-e-Barchi, Tabyan cultural center, among others.
The council issued a resolution calling on the government to take practical steps to ensure the security of this segment of society. “A comprehensive plan prepared by the Security Coordination Commission is now on the president’s desk,” said a spokesperson for the Afghan Shiite Ulema Council.
He added that the president should implement the plan. Uruzgani stated that if this security plan is not considered effective by the security institutions, the government should order the security authorities to prepare and implement an effective plan as soon as possible.
Earlier, the president had met with a number of elders in western Kabul and said he was implementing a green security plan in the area. Now, a few years after this promise, this plan has not been implemented and the west of Kabul is witnessing explosive and suicide attacks from time to time.
Kabul: The Kabul municipality announced on Thursday that it will close wedding hotels for another week to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. “Wedding operators do not have the right to reserve gathering ceremonies for a week more,” the agency said.
The announcement comes even as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 764 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours. The ministry also reported 12 deaths and 251 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The Kabul municipality said that the move aims to prevent the spread of the third wave of the coronavirus as wedding hotels are one of the important factors in the spread of the infection.
It has also urged citizens to follow the health recommendations of the Ministry of Public Health to protect themselves against the coronavirus.
The total number of cases now stand at 69,130, while the number of reported deaths is 2,881 and the total number of recoveries is 56,962.
There are currently 9,287 active coronavirus cases nationwide. The Ministry of Public Health has performed 459,060 Covid-19 tests since the outbreak of the pandemic.
Kabul: At least seven people have been killed and nine others were wounded on Wednesday afternoon when several mortar shells hit the bazaar of Qaisar district of Faryab province, said Mohammad Hanif Rezaei, a spokesperson for the 209th Shaheen Corps.
Rezai said that the Taliban had intended to target the Qaisar district police headquarters, but that the group’s mortar shells had hit the market in the district. People’s shops were also damaged.
Faryab police spokesman Abdul Karim Yurish had earlier said that four civilians were killed and eight others, including six civilians and two soldiers, were injured in the incident. The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
Meanwhile, Sharifullah Fazli, the district governor of Kama, and two others were wounded in an explosion in Behsod district of Nangarhar province, on Thursday morning, sources said.
The incident took place in Behsod district when a sticky bomb attached to his vehicle detonated. No group has claimed responsibility for the incident. Officials have not yet commented on the matter.
With rising violent incident, Sarwar Danesh, the second vice-president said that the security plan for western Kabul has been handed over to the president. Danesh, in a meeting with a number of social and cultural institutions in Daikundi province on Wednesday, said that serious measures have been taken to ensure security in the central and western parts of Kabul. He added that a plan has been prepared in consultation with the people and handed over to the president to ensure security in western Kabul.
However, the second vice-president did not elaborate on the plan.
The plan came as President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani gave Danesh two weeks to prepare a plan to secure the area after the attack on the Sayyid al-Shuhada school in western Kabul. President Ghani had previously promised a green security plan for western Kabul, but that plan has not yet been implemented.