Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Nemat Rawan, former news anchor and a media official at the Ministry of Finance, was killed by unidentified gunmen in PD14 of Kandahar city on Thursday, said Ghorzang Afridi, a security official at the Kandahar police HQ, adding that “the attackers were two people and escaped from the area”.
“The attackers also took his phone,” he added. Rawan had joined the Ministry of Finance as a media official three weeks ago.
The Afghan Journalists Safety Committee condemned the assassination and called on the government to pursue the matter seriously, so that the perpetrators are identified and brought to justice.
The assassination comes after a Taliban spokesperson had on Wednesday accused the media of violating the principle of neutrality in a Twitter message and warning.
The Committee also urged all journalists and media workers in these critical circumstances to strictly adhere to the immunity guidelines issued by the committee in their travels and reporting on neighborhoods.
Kabul: To control the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection, crossing at Pak-Afghan Torkham border was suspended for entry of non-Pakistani citizens on Wednesday, said Deputy Commissioner, Khyber Mansoor Arshad. Also, Pakistan on Wednesday, sealed its land borders with Iran and Afghanistan over apprehensions regarding transmission of new variants of the virus.
The border closures come even as the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 293 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours. The ministry also reported nine deaths and 211 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The Torkham border closing will be in effect from 6:00 pm on May 5 to May 20. Non-Pakistani individuals will be not allowed to cross into Pakistan, but Pakistani citizens with a passport will be allowed to enter the country. Similarly, only Afghan nationals will be permitted to move to Afghanistan via the Torkham border and no Pakistani will be allowed to go to Afghanistan.
The district top official Arshad further said that COVID-19 test of all Pakistan nationals coming into the country through Torkham will be conducted and in case of positive cases, the patient will be quarantined at Landi Kotal and Jamrud hospitals. In addition, wearing a face is a must while entering into Pakistan, the official added.
According to border security force, transportation of export and import will continue as usual on both sides of the border, however, COVID-19 tests of suspected drivers will be carried out, he said.
Meanwhile, the total number of cases now stand at 61,445, while the number of reported deaths is 2,673 and the total number of recoveries is 53,961.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Paktia, Parwan, Wardak, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Logar, Ghazni, Kunar, Laghman, Zabul, Ghor and Khost provinces.
Kabul: Like a pack of dominos, cities, districts and areas in Afghanistan are falling into the control of the Taliban even as foreign troops withdraw from the war-ravaged country. Local officials in Baghlan province on Thursday said that the Taliban had taken control of Kohna city of Baghlan without any clashes while Haji Gulbuddin, the Shah Wali Koot district governor of Kandahar province, said that the battle for the control of the dam had been going on for two weeks and that security checkpoints had finally collapsed on Wednesday night.
In Baghlan, Mahboobullah Ghaffari, a member of the Baghlan Provincial Council, said that the group captured the sixth district of the province on Wednesday night and a number of security forces, numbering up to 120, had surrendered to the Taliban with their equipment.
In Kandahar, the clashes are currently taking place near the dam in the areas of Mardjeh, Zartala and some other areas. “Our forces have been guarding the dam for a month now. We have repeatedly asked provincial officials to help complete our police force, but no one has taken action,” said Haji Gulbuddin to Voice of America. Ten days ago, the Taliban detonated a large bridge over the Dehla Dam, taking control of a large part of the dam. Local officials said that part of the bridge collapsed and the road leading to the Dehla Dam was completely cut off.
Dehla Dam is located 80 km from Shahuli Kot district of Kandahar province. The water of this dam is used to irrigate the agricultural lands of seven districts.
Col. Yahya Alavi, the spokesman for the 205th Atal Corps, said that military operations would soon begin to retake the Dehla Dam.
A security official in Shah Wali Koot district, who did not want to be named but was aware of the developments, said that an Afghan soldier was killed and four others were wounded in an attack on police checkpoints in Dehla Dam.
The Ministry of Defense, however, said that Qari Majid, the Taliban’s shadow district governor for Nahrin district in Baghlan province, was killed along with four other militants. The Taliban, however, denied the claim and said that none of their members were killed in Baghlan. According to the Ministry of Defense, nine insurgents were wounded in the operation and one of them was arrested.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense in a statement released on Thursday also said that 43 Taliban militants were killed in Lashkargah’s Nahr-e-Saraj district of Helmand province.
Fawad Aman, Deputy Spokesperson for the Ministry of Defense, said that 43 Taliban insurgents were killed and 19 others were wounded during the clashes between Afghan government and the Taliban.
Some Taliban weapons and ammunition were also destroyed during ANDSF operation. The Taliban have not yet commented on the incident.
According to reports, at least 1,000 families have been displaced due to the clashes, and many other families, including children and women, are trapped inside their homes in a miserable condition because the Taliban were stationed inside residential places.
MoD also stated that at least 179 Taliban fighters were killed and 91 others were injured in Kandahar, Badghis, Balkh, Farah, Helmand, Takhar, and Kunduz provinces in the past 24 hours during ANDSF operations.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said on Thursday that the Taliban had blown up 29 villages and damaged 11,000 houses in attacks on Kandahar’s Arghandab district.
According to him, 450 acres of wheat, 150 acres of vineyards, 50 acres of pomegranate orchards and dozens of poultry farms have also been damaged in the district along with displacement of more than 30,000 families.
Arian also noted that the Taliban had destroyed two large bridges, 200 small bridges and 12 schools in the district. He estimated the value of these infrastructures at millions of dollars.
The Taliban, however, denied the allegations and blamed the government for destroying the infrastructure.
Zabihullah Mujahid, the group’s spokesman, said the government was carrying out air and missile strikes on areas under the group’s control in Arghandab. According to him, all the houses in Arghandab were damaged as a result of the bombing or mortar attack and no houses were left safe.
Mujahid added that the group had bombed only one belt in the district with remote-controlled mines, but had not moved any mines on roads or houses.
Clashes and counter-clashes continue across Afghanistan despite peace talks being underway.
Kabul: With a focus on Afghan peace process, women’s empowerment, bilateral cooperation, Afghanistan and Canada held the first Inter-Parliamentary Meeting virtually on Wednesday with the participation of chairs and members of the parliamentary friendship groups in Kabul and Ottawa, Afghanistan’s embassy in Ottawa said in a statement.
The meeting emphasized on the importance of ceasefire, preservation of the gains of the past two decades in Afghanistan, meaningful participation of women in the peace process and continuation of cooperation and partnership between Afghanistan and Canada in important and promising areas such as education, health, human rights, women’s empowerment and security sector based on shared objectives and values. They also condemned the recent spurt in violence and brutal attacks in Logar and other parts of Afghanistan by the Taliban.
The meeting was moderated by Sayed Mujtaba Ahmadi, Deputy Chief of Mission from the Embassy of Afghanistan in Ottawa.
Kabul: In another big development for the retrograde mission, after the handover of Camp Antonik in the southern Helmand province on Sunday, the NATO forces on Thursday, handed over another military camp, Camp Mike Spann, to the Afghan security forces in northern Balkh province, the 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement.
Addressing a ceremony at the Corps’ headquarters in Mazar-e-Sharif, the commander of Shaheen Corps General Ghulam Mustafa Wardak thanked the international community and Germany for assisting Afghanistan in establishing and training the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF). Wardak stated that the Afghan forces are capable of independently defending Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, NATO’s commander for the northern sector of Afghanistan General Ansgar Meyer stated that the Afghan forces have been able to independently carry out operations against militants since 2014. Meyer emphasized that the international community will continue to support Afghan forces in the logistics and armament sectors.
The handover of key army bases come even as the US has deployed two more B-52s at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, bringing the total number of the stratofortresses in the region to six. The deployment has been in place to provide protection to the withdrawing foreign troops, Air Forces Central said in a statement.
In addition to the bombers, the Pentagon has extended the deployment of the USS Eisenhower and will send additional ground troops for force protection as part of the withdrawal. “The Secretary is committed to a safe and orderly, responsible drawdown, and we have made it exceedingly clear that protecting our forces and the forces of our allies and partners as they withdraw is a main priority,” Pentagon spokesman John F. Kirby had said on May 5.
Kirby did not mention how US air assets might integrate with Afghan Air Force aircraft for possible operations to protect coalition or Afghan forces, if needed. However, he said, it is “too soon to get into specific integration of tactics or operations at this point”.
Afghan National Defense and Security Forces are “more capable than they have been in years” and have already led in operations against the Taliban before the withdrawal. Kirby said that will continue.
However, former Defense Secretary Robert Gates has warned the Biden administration that they must continue to provide support to Afghan forces once they pullout, as that is the only way to ensure lasting peace in the war-ravaged country.
Gates, who had served as secretary under former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama, said “Of all the possible endings in this situation, a happy one is the least likely. The Soviet (Union’s) installed government lasted for three years after the Soviets left, and it was only when the Soviet Union collapsed and all that military and economic assistance stopped that the government collapsed.”
Gates mentioned that he agrees with current Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and the Joint Chiefs of Staff and their recommendations that a small group of about 2,500 troops must remain in Afghanistan to bolster the country’s forces. However, he said it probably wouldn’t make much difference, as the Taliban is making increasing gains and controls more of Afghanistan every day.
The decision to pull troops out will only be successful if Afghanistan’s government survives, and if women are able to remain active in business and government life while girls can stay in school, said Gates.
The warning from security experts, such as Gates, come even as Taliban has started taking over provinces in the country and the peace talks remain suspended.
Kabul: In another big blow after the fall of Beraka district of the Baghlan province to Taliban, local officials in Ghazni province confirmed that a security base in the Arezoo area of PD3 of Ghazni city has fallen to the Taliban.
Nasir Ahmad Faqiri, head of the Ghazni Provincial Council, said that the security base was captured on Wednesday night, following a clash between the Taliban and army forces.
Faqiri added that no casualties have been reported so far, but a number of army forces are missing.
According to him, there is currently only one government base near 3rd Brigade of the 203rd Thunder Corps in the Arezoo area. The head of the Ghazni Provincial Council added that the base was also under attack by Taliban insurgents.
The area has been under heavy siege by Taliban insurgents for about three weeks. The Taliban also took at least 20 other members of the army with them.
Mohammad Yasin Zia, the army chief of staff, however, said that the number of troops stationed at the checkpoint was 17, from different parts of the army, police and national security. He added that the fall of the checkpoint did not pose a “very serious problem” for the government.