Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: As per the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) assessment report released by the Afghan government and its partners on Tuesday, at least one-third of the population of Afghanistan are acutely food insecure due to the impact of COVID-19, rise in food prices, high unemployment rates, income loss and recurrent La Nina weather conditions which causes drought in the country.
“With doubling of our focus on mitigating adverse effects of COVID-19 on the most vulnerable, we have managed to bring the numbers down from a projected 42 to 35 percent, which is an achievement, however, this is still far from our vision of a hunger-free Afghanistan as a third of our people are struggling to feed their families,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Anwarul Haq Ahady.
While the Government prepares its response to an impending drought, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) warn that current resourcing is inadequate to protect lives and livelihoods at risk.
“Millions of Afghan families already struggle to survive, and now they face the second drought in three years. A bag of wheat is 30 percent more expensive than the four-year average. We need to act now,” Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP Representative in Afghanistan said.
However, significant funding gaps for humanitarian agencies pose a challenge in meeting even the most basic humanitarian needs in the coming months, the report stated. While the onset of the summer harvest may bring employment and improve access to food, the report warns the harvest is expected to be “below average” and the “food security situation is expected to deteriorate further during the 2021-2022 lean season”.
“In order to understand the IPC report figures, we need to take into account two things. First, this analysis was conducted before any of the drought-like effects could be felt. Second, the projection period coincides with the harvest season, but the most serious effects of the lower rain and snowfall are affecting agriculture and livestock production with cascading food security impacts during the subsequent lean season. These figures actually call for immediate action that mitigates the impacts on agriculture and livestock production and prevents rural people from abandoning their agriculture-based livelihoods and displacing to urban areas,” said Rajendra Aryal, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.
Early evidence of agricultural drought has been found in 25 hotspots across the country. This weather event is expected to severely affect both agricultural and livestock production in 2021.
According to FAO estimates, wheat production decreased by 16 to 27 percent in the last five drought events induced by La Niña; the potential impact on livestock production of this year’s event is expected to affect 30 percent of ruminants in 18 provinces.
Kabul: At least 19 people have died and 10 others are missing due to heavy rains and floods in nine provinces since May 1, according to the National Disasters Management Authority on Tuesday.
Ahmad Tamim Azimi, spokesperson for the Disaster Management Authority said the provinces include Badakhshan, Ghor, Maidan Wardak, Baghlan, Bamyan, Samangan, Herat, Khost and Daikundi.
According to figures, 12 people were killed in floods in Herat, three in Samangan, two in Ghor and one in Daikundi.
The spokesperson added that 64 houses were destroyed totally and 259 houses were partially destroyed and 405 families have been displaced in the floods.
Azimi said provincial teams had been instructed to begin the survey and identify flood victims.
According to the latest forecast of the Meteorological Department, at least 25 provinces of the country will see heavy rains and floods on Wednesday.
These provinces include Herat, Farah, Badghis, Badakhshan, Takhar, Baghlan, Ghor, Faryab, Sar-e Pol, Balkh, Samangan, Baghlan, Panjshir, Parwan, Kapisa, Bamyan, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Ghazni, Daikundi, Paktika and Kabul.
Kabul: Outbreak of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, closure of borders and arrest of heads of human and migrant trafficking networks have led to a 50 percent reduction in human and migrant trafficking, said Justice Minister Fazl Ahmad Manawi at a press conference on Tuesday.
Over the past year, 70 people have been arrested on human trafficking charges in Afghanistan. Manawi added that one of the 34 identified networks of human trafficking and migrant trafficking are under the scrutiny of security agencies.
He said that the Attorney General’s Office had received and worked on the cases of 50 people arrested on charges of human trafficking and migrant smuggling, including five accused of human trafficking and another 45, accused of smuggling migrants.
He clarified that the Supreme Court had tried eight people on charges of human trafficking and migrant smuggling, four of whom had been sentenced to moderate imprisonment, and four others, including a woman and three men, had been acquitted.
The Minister of Justice said that currently 235 cases of human trafficking, migrant trafficking and child trafficking are pending in the courts of first instance, appellate courts and the Supreme Court, including 158 cases of human trafficking, 56 cases of migrant trafficking and 21 cases of child labor.
He added that a number of government officials are among those accused of human trafficking and migrant smuggling. “A senior Interior Ministry official and a former executive director of the National Unity Government are among those prosecuted for human trafficking and migrant smuggling,” he added.
Manawi said that in the past year, 75 Afghan nationals smuggled into Iran had died and 64 others had been injured for various reasons.
The Minister of Justice called human trafficking and migrant trafficking a global threat and expressed hope that the international community would cooperate with the Government of Afghanistan in this regard.
“There is a concern that the withdrawal of foreign forces will not increase the activity of human trafficking networks,” he said. “But we make sure that we prevent any activity of these networks.”
Kabul: The German government on Monday canceled a planned deportation flight to return migrants to Afghanistan, senior officials said.
A spokeswoman for Interior Minister Horst Seehofer said that the “return measure” had been postponed due to “logistical” problems. However, officials quoted by the AFP news agency said that the federal government was concerned about the safety of the police officers accompanying the potential returnees.
International troops officially began withdrawing from Afghanistan on May 1. Refugee advocate groups have called for the cancelation of all future flights. They said that the deportations had been axed owing to the deteriorating security situation in the country, which was invaded by a US-led NATO alliance in 2001.
The need for increased security measures in Kabul made flights impossible between May 1 and May 6. Officials said that Germany would not scrap its policy of allowing deportations to Afghanistan.
Last month, German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said Berlin would do all it can to help local Afghans who had assisted Germany’s military during the campaign.
A procedure for admitting local Afghan staff who need refuge already exists, although there are a number of disputed cases. According to the Defense Ministry, 781 people have been approved for residency in Germany since 2013.
German officials are trying to streamline the process to make easier for those Afghans to seek a new life in Germany.
Kabul: At least nine security force personnel have been killed and 16 others have been taken captive by the Taliban after clashes erupted between the two warring factions on Monday night in Jar Khoshk area in Baghlan-e-Markazi district in the northern province of Baghlan, local media reported.
“The clashes continued till Tuesday morning; however, the Taliban has not commented on the matter yet,” the report said.
On Monday, 20 army soldiers were killed and many civilians were wounded in the country’s western Farah province in Taliban attacks, according to local officials.
According to officials and sources, 20 soldiers were killed in Farah, four in Baghlan, eight in Badakhshan and five in Herat in the last 24 hours.
Badakhshan, Herat, Kabul, Logar, Nangarhar, Baghlan and Helmand provinces also witnessed security incidents and Taliban attacks in the last 24 hours. In these provinces, at least 19 civilians and security forces were killed and 22 more were wounded.
Figures by security agencies show that 164 small and large attacks by the Taliban have occurred over the last 24 hours, up from 141 on the previous day.
Kabul: Billions of dollars in government budgets are lying unused in five government departments, said President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday at the Education Week meeting in Kabul, without naming the departments concerned.
He added that “the blocking of billions of dollars” by these government offices was unacceptable and “only two departments have closed $1.6 billion,” he stressed.
At the same time, Ghani reiterated that if a department has not been able to utilize or spend the budgets allocated to them in one year, then, the budget of these departments will be given to other departments.
“We do not have the opportunity to waste money,” the President added.
The President also mentioned how the Taliban had damaged billions of dollars-worth infrastructure in Afghanistan, including in the education sector.
“Taliban has damaged infrastructure worth $1 billion,” he told the 31st Government’s Governance and Human Resources Week, while asking the Taliban why they resort to violence and appealed to them to take the path of peace.
He also asked the group to plant flowers and wheat instead of planting mines and take part in the development of the country.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Tuesday reported 234 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported six deaths and 133 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 60,797, while the number of reported deaths is 2,654 and the total number of recoveries is 53,694.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Kunduz, Paktia, Nimroz, Parwan, Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Badakhshan, Ghazni, Kunar, Zabul, Uruzgan, and Paktika provinces.
Kabul: At least 14 people have been killed in flash floods following heavy rainfalls on Monday in Rokha village of Adraskan district in the western province of Herat, the provincial governor’s spokesperson Jailani Farhad said.
Farhad said that four children, a woman and five men are among the victims of the incident. The floods also destroyed dozens of hectares of land and killed many cattle.
Local officials said that the Obe and Karokh districts of Herat also witnessed flash floods, but there was no immediate information about the possible damages there.
Most parts of Herat witnessed heavy rainfall over the past two days.
Kabul: In a new development for the peace process, the US and the Taliban may have been holding negotiations in order to shift the troop withdrawal deadline to July, as per Tolo news sources.
US President Joe Biden had earlier announced that the US would withdraw its forces by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks as against the May 1 deadline which it was supposed to follow under a peace agreement with the Taliban signed in 2020 by the Trump administration. However, the Taliban believed that it was a violation of the agreement and warned Washington of violent consequences. Hence, US may be looking at reaching a compromise in order to reduce violence in Afghanistan, a local media outlet Tolo News reported, citing anonymous sources.
According to the sources, the Taliban proposed an alternative to the US to withdraw by July, a date between September 11 and May 1– the original deadline for the withdrawal. However, the sources added that no decision has been made by the US on the matter. The Taliban has also promised to resume the inter-Afghan peace talks, if the new deadline is accepted. The group also reportedly promised to reduce the level of violence in the country if the US accepts the proposal, as per the Tolo media outlet source.
Violence has been on the surge in the war-ravaged country even as troops are withdrawing and the peace talks are underway. However, Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said that US drawdown will not be affected by the Taliban’s small, harassing attacks in Afghanistan.
“What we’ve seen are some small, harassing attacks over the course of the weekend that have not had any significant impact, certainly not on our people or our resources there and bases,” Kirby said in a press briefing when asked if there is concern over an increase of Taliban attacks in Afghanistan. “We’ve seen nothing thus far that has affected the drawdown or had any significant impact on the mission at hand in Afghanistan.” Kirby said the US Defense Department is still working on details of what the bilateral security relationship with the Afghan government will look like once US forces completely withdraw from the country, but it will be financial in nature.
US and NATO forces started their formal withdrawal from Afghanistan on May 1.
However, India’s ambassador to the United Nations has vehemently denounced the April 30 terrorist attack in central Logar province, wherein 26 people died, and is concerned about the increasing violence.
Ambassador TS Tirumurti underlined the importance of sustained efforts to end the violence and protect civilians under all circumstances. He called for stop ping the perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these heinous acts of terrorism and bringing them to justice.
Tirumurti asked all states to abide by their obligations under international law and Security Council resolution for active cooperation with the Afghan government in this regard. In fact, the Security Council press statement was issued on Tuesday by Council President Zhang Jun (China) condemning the Logar incident. “The members of the Security Council expressed their deep concern about the continuing high level of violence and the security situation in Afghanistan, especially the number of civilian casualties, and stressed the importance of sustained efforts to end violence and protect civilians. The members of the Security Council reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security,” the statement read.
Meanwhile, Iran is also doing all it can to bring peace and stability to Afghanistan and are concerned about the increasing violence, a foreign ministry official said in Tehran.
Fars News Agency quoted Saeed Khatibzadeh as saying on Monday: “We are in contact with the Afghan government and other groups to achieve (desired) results.” Last month, Iran’s Special Envoy Mohammad Ebrahim Taherianfard promised Tehran’s full support for lasting peace in Afghanistan in a telephone conversation with Minister of Foreign Affairs Hanif Atmar.
However, the US does not seem keen on a relationship with Iran. “The US military has neither the need nor the appetite to set up a deconfliction communication channel with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), despite recent tensions with its vessels in the Persian Gulf,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
“I don’t believe that there’s a need […] no appetite for any sort of of operational or strategic communication between us and the IRGC. We have diplomatic channels that we work through appropriately to communicate our displeasure to Tehran,” Kirby said.
Kirby has also claimed that IRGC boats have swarmed US ships in the Persian Gulf in recent weeks and in one instance a US vessel fired warning shots to fend off what it claimed were harassing activities. Kirby said that both sides had the ability to communicate throughout those incidents by bridge-to-bridge radio.
“You don’t need a hot line with the IRGC to communicate and you can do it in real time,” he said.
The incidents did not turn violent, but they were “unnecessary, unsafe and certainly unprofessional,” Kirby added.