Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: With the withdrawal of foreign troops underway in full swing, many issues are cropping up, mainly of those who are concerned about their security once the troops leave. The latest in question are the guards who work at the Australian embassy. According to a Guardian report, the Taliban have publicly threatened Afghan security guards who have worked for the soon-to-be-shut Australian embassy, circulating pictures of them online and warning they would be targeted for cooperating with a foreign government.
The Australian government announced this week that it was shutting its embassy in Kabul, citing “an increasingly uncertain security environment” and saying its diplomats would not be safe “in light of the imminent international military withdrawal from Afghanistan”.
The guards have stated that since they stand outside the embassy, it makes them highly visible and a target for Taliban retribution, and many say they will not be safe inside Afghanistan. The Taliban have openly said anyone who has worked for or alongside foreign governments or military forces is a traitor and an enemy and will be targeted.
Meanwhile, there are also reports that the Australian government has approved humanitarian visas for guards. Earlier they were not eligible for the Australian government’s locally engaged employee humanitarian resettlement scheme, open to other directly employed staff, such as interpreters. However, the guards say such a visa process would take too long to complete and they would be living under threats till then.
One of the guards also said that the abrupt closure of the embassy leaves them with an uncertain future.
With US and its coalition forces leaving Afghanistan by September, the prospects for Afghanistan are bleak. A resurgent and emboldened Taliban have control of significant swathes of the country, and threatens much more.
Kabul: The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock has announced that it will lend 1.1 billion afghanis to 14,300 farmers in two three-and five-year terms.
The Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on Sunday by Emal Arman, President of the Agricultural Development Fund, ADF, and officials from First Micro Bank, Access Afghanistan, Finca Afghanistan and Tarh-e-Naw, financial institutions providing agricultural loans.
Minister of Agriculture Anwarul Haq Ahadi also spoke at the signing ceremony. Under the MoU, 1.1 billion afghanis is to be lent to the four institutions to provide small loans to farmers.
According to the terms of the memorandum, the four institutions must provide smaller loans to farmers and agricultural activities.
According to Anwarul Haq Ahadi, Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock, four specific sectors of agriculture will benefit from these loans. Of 1.1 billion Afghanis, 500 million will be given to the first small loan bank, 3 million Afghanis to Access Afghanistan, 100 million to FINCA and about 200 million Afghanis to Tarh-e-Naw.
The Ministry of Agriculture has said that 14,300 farmers are benefiting from these small loans in the country. According to the Ministry of Agriculture, the Agricultural Development Fund has lent 13.2 billion Afghanis to 104,066 farmers in 32 provinces since its inception.
Kabul: At least two people were killed and two others were injured when gunmen attacked security guards at a private bank in Gardez city in Paktia, as per a police source.
The source who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that gunmen had attacked a vehicle carrying money from the Bank of Afghanistan. The incident took place after noon on Sunday, in the city of Gardez, in the alley between the municipality and the Paktia Public Works Department.
The assailants came in a car, however, no other details have been provided about the attack.
Kabul: A police official was wounded in a clash between the police and gunmen of Khalid Niazi, the son and deputy of Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi in Herat. Local media reported that the clash took place at 12 noon on Sunday.
Witnesses to the incident reported that Khalid Niazi’s gunmen clashed with the police for several minutes and shot at security forces. A security source in Herat, who declined to be named, confirmed the incident.
According to him, in the Sufiabad area of Herat city, gunmen opened fire at a police checkpoint and shot at a police officer who was wounded. Sources put the number of wounded at about four, but government officials confirmed that only a police officer was wounded.
After the assassination of Mullah Abdul Manan Niazi, the commander of the Taliban splinter group, his son Khalid Niazi succeeded him and took command of his father’s armed men in Herat.
Kabul: The former Deputy Minister of the Ministry Urban Development and Lands, Khatera Sadat has been sentenced to four years and eight months in prison for embezzlement and forgery in some remittances by the primary court of the Anti-Corruption Justice Center.
The initial trial of Khatera Sadat and her accomplices was held on Saturday.
According to the Supreme Court, Mohammad Nasser, a finance and accounting expert at the Ministry of Urban Development; Zabihullah, a senior financial officer; Fakhreddin, the director of the regular budget; Hafizullah, a member of the Ministry of Urban Development; and Azimuddin, the director general of the Ministry of Urban Development, were charged with complicity in embezzlement. They have also been tried for fraudulent remittances.
The court sentenced each of the three defendants, Khaterz Sadat, Mohammad Nasser and Zabihullah, to four years and eight months in prison.
According to the court ruling, Fakhreddin was sentenced to three years and six months in prison and Azimuddin to one year and two months in prison.
Kabul: At least 248 civilians have been killed and 527 have been wounded in Taliban attacks over the past month, said Interior Ministry spokesperson Tariq Arian on Sunday.
Arian said that the Taliban had always chosen civilian targets for their offensive attacks. He added that attacking civilians is a war crime, and the defense and security forces have always responded to such attacks.
For several months now, the level of violence has risen as the Afghan peace talks have officially begun. In addition to the day-to-day fighting between Afghan security forces and the Taliban, which has also resulted in civilian casualties, the level of targeted assassinations and the detonation of magnetic mines in Kabul and other provinces has increased in recent months.
However, security agencies have repeatedly reported the arrest of individuals accused of involvement in assassinations and bombings.
The Taliban, meanwhile, has denied the allegations, saying security forces were the main culprit. Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the group, said more than 200 civilians had been killed and wounded in attacks by security forces over the past month.
Human rights organizations have called on the warring parties to cease fire and uphold international humanitarian law in the conflict.
Kabul: The President of Afghanistan has asked the Afghanistan Investment Facilitation Unit to conduct necessary investigations in cooperation with the Central Bank of Afghanistan and the National Electricity Company (Breshna) for the investment of a group of Chinese investors.
The Presidential Palace had announced that a group of Chinese investors have traveled to Afghanistan to invest in coal-fired power generation.
China is now investing in Afghanistan’s mining and oil sectors. In one case, the Afghan government outsourced the mining of one of the country’s largest copper mines, Aynak Copper, to China.
Most of Afghanistan’s electricity is now imported from Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. These countries supply 80% of Afghanistan’s electricity.
Insurgents destroyed 13 Afghan power towers in two weeks last month, cutting off power to Kabul, Logar, Ghazni, Paktia, Maidan Wardak, Laghman, Nangarhar and Kapisa provinces.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Sunday reported 929 new positive cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 25 deaths and 169 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 71,690, while the number of reported deaths is 2,944 and the total number of recoveries is 57,450.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Faryab, Helmand, Wardak, Badakhshan, Bamiyan, Ghazni, Laghman, Panjshir, Zabul, Ghor and Farah province.
Kabul: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami, on Sunday announced that during a trilateral meeting with President Ashraf Ghani and former president Hamid Karzai, a number of important issues on the peace process were agreed upon; however, he added that President Ghani could not gain the support of his team.
Hekmatyar said that inter-government disputes had left the Afghan government with no clear plan for peace. “The participation of political leaders in the Istanbul meeting with a unified plan; the creation of a transitional government with a decision-making council consisting of representatives of the eight factions, including the Taliban; release of all Taliban and Hezb-e-Islami prisoners and a ceasefire, were some of the issues discussed during the meeting. Election in a jirga whose members are not appointed, but elected as a result of the election, and the establishment of the Supreme State Council, were other points of focus,” he said.
As per Hekmatyar, President Ghani agreed to announce these cases to all parties within eight days and gain their support; but that did not happen. “In order to gain a clear understanding of the Taliban’s position and to make the right decision, it was agreed to form a delegation and hold an informal meeting with the Taliban so that we understand whether the Taliban has the will for peace or war? If they have the will for peace, a high-ranking government delegation, including leaders, will attend the Istanbul meeting; but it has not happened yet,” said Hekmatyar.
However, the Hezb-e-Islami leader said that if the Afghan government failed to build internal consensus on decision-making, political parties would make another decision on peace and war in Afghanistan. “If the government can put an end to its unhealthy internal disputes and rivalries and take a reasonable stand on peace and establish a single and competent decision-making body, and accept this council as the highest decision-making body for important national issues; I will support it,” he said.
He added, however, that if the new council, like the Ministry of Peace and the High Council for Reconciliation, were ineffective and futile, nothing would be achieved. Hekmatyar said that in order to overcome the current insecure and unstable phase, agreements and measures are needed to help the citizens of Afghanistan prevent the collapse of the system and the disintegration of administrative and security-military organizations and institutions, and to ensure the peaceful and lawful transfer of power.
Kabul: Arifullah Arif, head of policy and planning for Ministry of Urban Development, was shot dead by unknown individuals at 9am on Sunday in the Niazbek area of the PD5 of Kabul city, said Kabul police spokesperson Ferdows Faramarz.
He added that another man, Abdul Raziq, was injured in the incident and that the incident is under investigation.
The Ministry of Urban Development and Land has not officially commented on the matter.
Kabul: In a big development, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to Russia Said Tayeb Jawad announced in an interview with TASS news agency that Kabul is ready to purchase weapons and equipment from Moscow.
“We are hoping that Russia will consider repairing the existing Russian equipment, especially helicopters. Security forces’ cadets – particularly those from the Ministry of Interior are getting training here in Russia,” he said.
Jawad also said that he hoped that Russia would train Afghanistan’s pilots and mechanical engineers.
Apart from military cooperation, Jawad said that Afghanistan is also looking at the possible purchase or production of Russia’s COVID-19 vaccine Sputnik V. “If they tell us that they will give it to us, we will find a way, either purchasing it or whatever way is possible,” he said.
Jawad said that it has been five months since Russian Special Presidential Envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov’s statement on a possible handover of a batch of Sputnik V vaccine to Afghanistan, but that there has been no progress on that front. “We asked the government [of Russia], but we did not see any movement on this,” he said.
“We are worried about a second or third wave like in India and other places, we know that the Sputnik vaccine is very effective, so if they provide it to us, we will take it,” he said.
Meanwhile, another stakeholder in the Afghan peace negotiations, UK said that it may send warplanes to Afghanistan to assist in the withdrawal of UK and US troops.
Admiral Tony Radakin, the First Sea Lord, told The Times that the HMS Queen Elizabeth aircraft carrier could sail to the Indian Ocean to offer protection against attacks from the Taliban. It would be the first UK combat mission in Afghanistan since 2014 and would involve 18 F-35 stealth jets from No 617 squadron and the US Marine Corps.
The head of Britain’s armed forces, General Nick Carter, at the time said he accepted the decision although he did not welcome it. Britain said it would withdraw about 700 troops, while Nato Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said the alliance would pull out about 7,000 military personnel.
The drawdown will end on September 11, marking the 20th anniversary of terrorist attacks on New York.
Admiral Radakin explained the role that HMS Queen Elizabeth could play in any impending maneuvers. “You could put the aircraft carrier in the safe space of the Indian Ocean with all of its logistics, all incredibly safe, and then you put aircraft over the top of Afghanistan in order to support the troops,” he said.
The flight time between the Arabian Sea and Afghanistan is approximately two hours.
The aircraft could be involved in action similar to the US jets launched from USS Eisenhower in April, in retaliation for a Taliban rocket attack on Kandahar airfield.
Kabul: At least six guards of the Herat-Khaf railway have been killed when the vehicle they were travelling in was targeted by a mine explosion at 2:45pm in Ghorian district, said Herat Governor Sayed Abdul Wahid Qatali.
Ghatali did not provide further details. However, it is pertinent to note that guards of the Herat-Khaf railway have repeatedly been the victims of roadside bombs.
The construction of the fourth section of the Herat-Khaf railway inside Afghanistan is currently underway. Last year, the third section of the Herat-Khaf railway was inaugurated.
Meanwhile, in Farah province, Abdul Nasser Fitrat, a teacher at the province’s Teachers’ Training College, was shot dead at 4am on Sunday in PD5 of Farah city, said Farooq Khalid Hazrati, a spokesperson for the Farah Police.
He did not provide further details, but added that the Farah police had begun an investigation into why the teacher was killed.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Kabul: The government delegation for Afghan peace process will soon leave for Doha to resume the intra-Afghan talks, said Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), on Sunday.
Abdullah met the chairman and members of the government’s negotiating team at the Sepidar Palace on Saturday, as per the press release issued by HCNR. During the meeting, Abdullah stressed on the government’s determination to seize the opportunity to end the war and achieve peace through dialogue and negotiation.
He stressed on the need to create political solidarity between the country’s leaders and political currents in order to support the peace process. A few days ago, government delegations and the Taliban met in Doha after a several-month hiatus.
At the time, the two sides announced that intra-Afghan peace talks would resume in Doha between delegations from both sides. To facilitate the Doha talks, a meeting led by the United Nations, Turkey and Qatar was scheduled to take place in Istanbul, attended by representatives of the Afghan government, the Taliban and regional countries, as well as world powers, however, it still stands postponed.
Kabul: Stating that Pakistan will benefit with peace in Afghanistan and peace in India, Pakistan Minister for Foreign Affairs Shah Mahmood Qureshi said that Afghanistan is a sovereign country and they could have relations with India.
In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera TV, Qureshi said that Pakistan would have no objection over Indo-Afghan ties and India’s ‘reconstruction’ efforts in Afghanistan.
“However, India has its limitations, with regard to peace negotiations as it is not the immediate neighbor of Afghanistan and did not host millions of Afghan refugees,” he said.
“We are still trying to break the stalemate that existed there,” he said, adding that Pakistan always acted as a facilitator between the Afghan government and Taliban, reiterating that even the US had said that Pakistan played an important role in bringing the Taliban to the negotiating table. He said that Pakistan would never be irrelevant due to the regional picture and the new global changes. “Pakistan has always been relevant,” he said.
Qureshi added that Pakistan always advocated that peace and stability in Afghanistan was a shared responsibility. He said that Pakistan could not be blamed if things went wrong in Afghanistan. He said that Pakistan has played its part in the peace and stability of Afghanistan and would continue to do so. “We cannot be held responsible if there were internal squabbling inside Afghanistan.”
He said Pakistan would be the net beneficiary of peace in Afghanistan since it had been making sincere efforts for peace and stability there. He added that even US special representative on Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad had acknowledged Pakistan’s constructive role in facilitating the US and Taliban peace agreement in Doha and pushing the peace and intra-Afghan dialogue forward.
He said that all big countries have consensus over Afghanistan. He also added that China played a big role too as it was its neighbor and their interests in peace and stability were inevitable. “China is building an economic corridor and the Gwadar port would facilitate the Central Asian Republics who are part of Shanghai Cooperation Organization, so their interest is natural,” he stressed.
Kabul: At least six people have been killed and 10 have been injured in a mortar attack by Taliban insurgents at a wedding in the village of Anar in Tagab district on Saturday, said Kapisa police spokesperson Shayeq Shooresh.
He said that a mortar fired by the Taliban insurgents had hit a house where a wedding was taking place. The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
Tagab is one of the most insecure districts in Kapisa. The Taliban are active in the district.