Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said that the prisoner exchange process is getting affected as the Taliban has failed to release the remaining security forces detainees.
Speaking at a conference on Monday, Sediqqi said the prisoner “exchange” process cannot be one-sided and that the Taliban should also release the remaining prisoners and remove the obstacles to the start of the intra-Afghan talks.
“Some countries have opposed the release of dangerous Taliban prisoners, and we are working to resolve this issue,” he said, referring to the objections raised by Australia and France.
He reiterated that the 400 prisoners had committed serious crimes and the risks remained that on their release, they could threaten the security of Afghanistan and the world.
He expressed hope that the problem would be resolved, but said the government was still concerned as the “Taliban have not yet released our captives.”
Although the Taliban had previously said they had released more than 1,000 security forces prisoners, Sediqqi said a “small number” were still unreleased.
“We have taken great steps and we are ready to take other steps, but now the responsibility is with the Taliban, and the group must stand by its commitments,” the spokesperson said.
Earlier, intra-Afghan talks were scheduled to commence in Doha, Qatar, this week, as soon as the prisoner exchange process was completed.
First Russia, and now Iran have been linked to bounties paid to the Taliban for targeting American and coalition troops in Afghanistan, reported CNN on Monday.
They found that a foreign government had made payments to the Haqqani Network – led by Taliban deputy Sirajuddin Haqqani – according to a Pentagon briefing document the news organisation reviewed.
The name of the foreign government that made these payments was classified, but sources confirmed to CNN that it refers to Iran.
The Pentagon identified payments linked to at least six attacks carried out by the Taliban in 2019, including a Haqqani claimed suicide attack at Bagram Air Base in December, which killed two civilians and injured at least 70 others.
The internal Pentagon documents that CNN reviewed, showed that the funding linked to the Bagram attack would “probably incentivizes future high-profile attacks on the U.S. and coalition forces.”
The lack of action by the administration and public condemnation of Iran or the Taliban, has been seen as them trying to conserve the gains made in the peace negotiations with the Taliban. This would enable President Donald Trump to fulfil his long-stated campaign promise of bringing all the U.S. troops back home from Afghanistan.
President Ashraf Ghani met with Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov and his delegation on Monday, where they discussed regional security and shared messages ahead of Afghanistan’s Independence Day.
Ghani said at the meeting that the “struggle of the Afghan government and people against the Islamic State (IS) and terrorism is an exceptional struggle. Our people have made many sacrifices for the security of the region and the world”.
He added that Afghanistan and Russia have a common vision in the fight against terrorism and that actions taken against IS by the Afghan government “have been comprehensive and fruitful”.
The Afghan government is also taking serious steps against Central Asian terrorist groups, the president said, and added that the issue around drugs was a serious threat to both countries and to the region.
The message from Russia’s President Vladimir Putin was delivered at the meeting, where he congratulated Ghani on Afghanistan’s 101st anniversary of Independence.
Putin, while expressing his satisfaction over friendly relations between the two countries, said that he was “confident that constructive bilateral cooperation in various fields would be further expanded”.
The Russian leader also said that the fight against terrorism and the drug threat was in the “fundamental interests” of the people of both countries and that this action “strengthens regional stability and security”.
Ghani also highlighted the importance of trade relations and development of bilateral cooperation between the two countries.
He also appealed to Putin to support and invest in the Afghan railway system.
Recalling the trade and transit cooperation between Afghanistan and Central Asia, Ghani stressed the importance of Afghanistan’s exports to Russian markets, especially fruits.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said that the Taliban should reciprocate the goodwill shown by the the people and government of Afghanistan, and agree for the intra-Afghan peace talks to start.
Abdullah met with members of the board of the Peace Advisory Loya Jirga on Monday, and called the Loya Jirga the true will of the Afghan people.
He added that the resolution of the Jirga, a collective decision of the Afghan people that will be used by the government’s peace negotiating committee.
He stressed that no decision would be taken against the collective interests of the citizens.
Delay in intra-Afghan talks
Earlier, state television, RTA, had reported that the intra-Afghan talks would begin on Aug. 16, in Doha, Qatar.
However, the delegation is yet to depart from Afghanistan, and news has emerged of delays.
Some Afghan government sources have also been quoted as saying that the intra-Afghan talks had been delayed indefinitely, either due to the Taliban’s release of prisoners not in accordance to the government’s list, or the Afghan government’s failure to complete the release of the remaining Taliban prisoners.
At least 40 Taliban fighters have been killed and 22 have been wounded in clashes across seven provinces, said the Ministry of Defense (MoD) and other security authorities.
An initial report by the 201 Selab Corps stated that five Taliban members had been killed and four others injured in clashes in the Dangam district of Kunar province on Saturday night. Consequently, Indian news agency ANI also reported that five Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) members, including two senior commanders of the group, had been killed in an encounter with the National Directorate of Security and the Afghan army.
In the Qads district of Badghis, 17 Taliban fighters were killed and seven were wounded after they had attacked security checkpoints.
At least five Taliban fighters were killed and two others, including a commander, were wounded in a joint security forces operation in the Shakardara district of Kabul, the MoD said. In the clearing operations, the MoD further arrested 25 members of the Taliban.
Four Taliban militants were killed and one was wounded in the Andar district of Ghazni following an attack on the security forces, the 203rd Thunder Corps said.
At least four Taliban insurgents were killed and four others were injured when an IED they had been building exploded prematurely in the Sikandar Khel village of Chahar Bolak district of Balkh, the 209 Shaheen Corps said.
At least three Taliban were killed and four were wounded in clashes with security forces in Siya Gird district of Parwan on Sunday night, said local police officials.
Two other Taliban were killed in clashes with security forces in Jalrez district of Wardak also.
Meanwhile, the Afghan National Police detected and defused seven roadside bombs in operations across Paktika, Ghazni and Zabul provinces, said the Ministry of Interior.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 77 new cases of Coronavirus in the past 24 hours, bringing the Afghan tally of confirmed cases to 37,676.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Herat (25), Balkh (17), Kabul (11), Nangahar (5), Daykundi (5), Takhar (4), Kunduz (3), Bamyan (2), Badakhshan (2), Panjshir (2) and Baghlan (1).
The MoPH said that two people had succumbed to the virus in the past day while 89 had recovered.
Afghanistan has 8,987 active cases of COVID-19 as 1,377 people have died from the virus and 27,312 have recovered.
The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriations (MoRR) said dozens of families have fled after a series of Taliban attacks in Kabul province’s Shakardara district, north of the capital.
The families have relocated to Kabul city or other districts as the clashes between the Taliban and the government forces intensified in the past two days, the ministry said on Monday.
The capital too has been affected, with at least one explosion or news of security locating and defusing a device, reported daily.
In addition to the increase in roadside mine explosions, the Taliban has increased their activities in the Shakardara, Qarabagh, Farza, Kalkan and Mir Bacha Kot districts of Kabul in recent months.
The government’s peace negotiating team member Fawzia Koofi, was also attacked in the Qarabagh district of Kabul on Friday.
The MoRR said that the exact number of internally displaced people would be announced after a survey. The families would also receive assistance from the Immigration Department of the province and some partner institutions.
President Ashraf Ghani said he was not willing to bargain or pay a ransom for peace to sacrifice any value of the republic, and they had the consensus of the people to back-up this decision.
The Presidential Palace (ARG) said Ghani was addressing young leaders during the International Youth Day celebration organized on Sunday, which was also attended by United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) head Deborah Lyons and representatives from NATO.
Ghani expressed gratitude for the international assistance to Afghanistan and said that the world should also be grateful to the country. “Our nation has made many sacrifices in the fight against terrorism.”
He also said that if necessary, he would use the country’s development budget to strengthen and equip the military forces.
“We must join hands, support each other and support the republic in a united front. We will not build roads if necessary, but our security and defence forces will not go hungry.”
The president told has said that Afghans must have the strength to unite the Taliban, and that he is not willing to deal and bargain, and “if the world trades on us, we will refuse.”
The leader also said that peace is the main priority of all Afghans, and while the “path to peace is not a straightforward one, and success depends on the strength of stability and responsibility.”
He called on the youth to raise their voices for national values.
“Transform Afghanistan from instability to stability, from poverty to wealth… and to see the role of yesterday clearly in your today and tomorrow.
He urged them to hold discussions on peace and formulate plans for the development of the country.