Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
US President Donald Trump has pushed his military and national security advisers in recent days to pull all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan amid concerns about a major coronavirus outbreak in the war-torn country, NBC reported quoting two current and one former senior U.S. officials.
As per the NBC news report, Trump complains almost daily that U.S. troops are still in Afghanistan and are now vulnerable to the pandemic, the officials said.
His renewed push to withdraw all of them has been spurred by the convergence of his concern that coronavirus poses a force protection issue for thousands of U.S. troops in Afghanistan and his impatience with the halting progress of his peace deal with the Taliban, the officials said.
They said the president’s military advisers have made the case to him that if the U.S. pulls troops out of Afghanistan because of the coronavirus, by that standard the Pentagon would also have to withdraw from places like Italy, which has been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, officials said.
“There is concern from a variety of places that we could leave Afghanistan,” one senior U.S. official said, pointing to concerns voiced by U.S. allies, members of Congress and U.S. military officials.
One senior administration official and a defense official said that while the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Afghanistan because of the coronavirus has been under discussion, a more likely outcome would be to consolidate American forces at bases in one or two parts of the country.
U.S. defense officials says cases of the coronavirus in Afghanistan are likely to be drastically underreported, estimating there could be at least 10 times as many cases there as the government has officially tallied. As of Monday, the Afghan Ministry of Public Health reported 1,703 confirmed cases of COVID-19 and 57 deaths in a country with an estimated population of 35 million.
Afghan local officials have confirmed that a nurse of the emergency room at Feryab provincial hospital infected with the coronavirus along with two of her family members.
The governor of Faryab, Naqibullah Fayeq said the infected coronavirus patients have been in contact with hundred others which is alarming.
He noted that the nurse’s family members have been referred to the hospital which their tests confirmed positive.
This comes as the Ministry of Public Health has confirmed that about 158 health workers have been infected with the coronavirus in the country.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) says at least 172 new cases of the coronavirus were registered in the country during the past 24 hours.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar in a press conference said that the new cases include 34 Cases in Balkh, 33 in Herat, 27 in Kabul, 21 in Kandahar, 8 in Paktika, 8 in Baghlan, 7 in Kunduz, 5 in Sar-e Pul, 5 in Ghor, four cases in each provinces of Samangan and Nimroz, three cases in each provinces of Faryab, Nangarhar, Laghman, Khost, two in Helmand and one in each provinces of Paktika and Panjshir.
According to Mayar, Kabul, Herat, Kandahar and Balkh are at the top list of coronavirus high record.
He noted that at least 13 coronavirus patients including six ones in Paktia, five patients in Herat and two others in Kandahar are among the recovered during the past 24 hours which the number of recovered patients in the reaches 220.
He cited that seven patients including two in Herat, two in Balkh, one in Sar-e Pul, Kunar and Kandahar have died of the virus during the past 24 hours.
Mayar added that the only provinces which has not recorded any cases is the Nuristan province.
This comes as the the death rate from coronavirus in Afghanistan is 3.34 and the number of recovered is 13 percent in the country.
Officials at the Public Health department in Herat province say at least 33 new cases of the coronavirus were registered in the province during the past 24 hours.
The spokesman of Herat Public Health Department, Muhammad Rafiq Sherzai said around 113 suspected samples of the coronavirus were tested in the province’s laboratory which 33 of them confirmed positive.
According to Sherzai, the new cases include 23 men and 10 women which the tally reaches 423 in the province.
This comes as the coronavirus death toll in Herat reaches 10 with 102 patients recovered so far.
More than 500 civilians, including more than 150 children, were killed due to the fighting in Afghanistan during the first quarter of 2020, according to a United Nations report released on Monday, highlighting the urgent need for all parties to the conflict to do more to protect civilians from harm, especially in view of the looming threat posed to all Afghans by COVID-19.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented a total of 1,293 civilian casualties (533 killed and 760 injured) in Afghanistan during the first three months of the year, underscoring the heavy toll the conflict continues to inflict on the civilian population.
The report tracks a disturbing increase in violence during March at a time when it was hoped that the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban would commence peace negotiations, as well as seek ways to defuse the conflict and prioritize efforts to protect all Afghans from the impact of COVID-19.
“I call on all parties to seize the opportunity offered by the Secretary-General’s call for a global ceasefire to focus collective efforts on fighting a common enemy, the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA. “To safeguard the lives of countless civilians in Afghanistan and to give the nation hope of a better future, it is imperative that violence is stopped with the establishment of a ceasefire and for peace negotiations to commence.”
UNAMA in a press release expressed concern about the escalation in violence during March and increasing civilian casualties.
According to the press release, the trend is all the more striking as it followed a 22 to 28 February ‘reduction in violence’ period between Pro-Government Forces and the Taliban, as well as the 29 February agreement signed between the United States and the Taliban.
“Anti-Government Elements (AGEs) continued to be responsible for the majority of civilian casualties – 55 per cent – during the first quarter, causing 710 civilian casualties (282 killed and 428 injured),” the press release reads.
UNAMA in its press release attributed 39 per cent to the Taliban, 13 per cent to Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant–Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP) and the remainder to undetermined AGEs. The number of civilian deaths attributed to AGEs – particularly the Taliban – increased by 22 per cent in the first quarter of 2020 as compared to the same period in 2019, mainly due to an increase in targeted killings and summary executions.
“Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) were responsible for 32 per cent of all civilian casualties during the first quarter of 2020, causing 412 civilian casualties (198 killed and 214 injured). Of concern, PGFs were responsible for more child casualties than AGEs during the first three months of the year and over twice as many child deaths, mainly due to airstrikes and indirect fire during ground engagements,” the press release said.
In the meantime, the Mission voiced concern about an uptick in civilian casualties in March as a result of their operations, mainly from ground engagements, particularly the use of indirect fire, and airstrikes.
According to the press release,
The last civilian casualty incident of the quarter attributed to international military forces occurred on 17 February, before the ‘reduction in violence’ period.
UNAMA stressed that children and women continue to be disproportionately impacted by the violence, saying from 1 January to 31 March 2020, UNAMA documented 417 child casualties (152 killed and 265 injured) and 168 women casualties (60 killed and 108 injured).
“Despite increasing levels of violence and civilian casualties in March, the overall number of civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2020 represents a 29 per cent decrease in comparison to the first quarter of 2019 and the lowest figure for a first quarter since 2012,” the press release added.
The Public Health department in Herat province has reported one additional death of the novel coronavirus on Monday.
The department in a statement cited that the patient died of the virus in the COVID-19 center on late Sunday.
According to the health authorities, the coronavirus death toll in Herat province reached 10 including 7 men and three women.
This comes as the COVID-19 death toll in Afghanistan now reaches 51.