Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The European Union (EU) said that the intra-Afghan talks should begin as soon as possible and there should be no further delays.
In a tweet on Monday, Roland Kobia, EU’s Special Envoy for Afghanistan said “the last prisoners to release can be discussed with the ceasefire as first items.”
“At this point, the ideal is the enemy of the efficient,” Kobia emphasized.
Intra-Afghan negotiations were expected to start in mid-July, but disagreements between the warring parties on the exchange of prisoners, has delayed it, along with the increase in violence.
The government said it has released 4,400 Taliban prisoners, while the group said they had released nearly 800 government prisoners.
The process has stalled due to the government’s insistence that they would not release 592 detainees who have been accused of moral and criminal offences.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has also opposed the release of those Taliban prisoners who are convicted of war crimes.
However, the Taliban have refused, till now, to give a new list of prisoners to substitute those, and insists that the release of 5,000 of their detainees is a pre-condition for the start of the talks.
Mongolia reported 25 peacekeepers who had returned from Afghanistan tested positive for COVID-19, while New Zealand said a man who flew in from Afghanistan via Doha tested positive.
Mongolia has airlifted 113 peacekeepers from Afghanistan so far, of which 53 have tested positive so far.
New Zealand reported three new cases on Sunday, one of whom was a man in his 30s who had flown in from Afghanistan on July 14.
The House of Representatives postponed their summer recess by a day to review and clarify the government’s Dastarkhan Milli (National Dining Table) programme.
The House of Representatives will now go on break on August 1.
Acting Minister of Finance Abdul Hadi Arghandiwal has been summoned before the House on Tuesday, to address the session on the programme’s finances.
The secretary of the House Finance and Budget Commission said that they should have been rightfully informed by the government about any changes in the budget, but members found the information through the media instead.
President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated Dastarkhan Milli on Saturday and announced that it will be implemented in two phases and will reach out to 90% of Afghanistan, while costing $ 244 million.
Ministry of Public Health spokesperson Akmal Samsor said that the number of patients with Coronavirus have decreased in recent weeks.
During a conference on Monday, Samsor urged the people who had symptoms of COVID-19 to get tested so they can control the spread of the virus within the community.
Samsor added that the MoPH’s surveillance teams tracked people who had been in contact with infected patients, and “so far, more than 23,000 people have been tracked, of which 4,492 have tested positive,” he added.
The MoPH said that in the past few weeks, the trend of COVID-19 transmission in Herat, Badghis and Bamyan provinces, had been higher than in other places.
The spokesperson urged the residents to follow the health instructions, especially wearing masks, sanitizing and maintaining social distancing, to prevent the spread of Coronavirus.
Afghanistan has recorded 35,503 cases of COVID-19 so far, of which 1,183 have died and 23,663 have recovered.
The mastermind of Taliban “terrorist attacks” in Kabul’s Qarabagh district has been arrested by security forces, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said on Monday.
Fawad Aman, deputy spokesperson for the MoD, said that the senior Taliban member was arrested last night and goes by the name “Baryali.”
Aman said that Baryali was responsible for Taliban’s “terrorist and destructive attacks” in the district.
The 111th Division of the Afghan Army made the arrest in the village of Bagh-e Alam.
Aman said that Baryali’s brother, Jamil, is the Taliban-designated district governor for Qarabagh district.
The Ministry of Agriculture (MoA) has announced that the yield of date palms in Helmand have been good this year.
MoA quoted officials at the Helmand Department of Agriculture who said that date palms in the province, which had previously been barren, had performed well this year.
“Fortunately, as a result of the efforts of the Ministry of Agriculture, all the grafted dates have borne good fruit, and their physical growth is improving day by day,” added Zalmai Alko, director of the Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock of Helmand.
Alko noted that the department has approved a plan to build commercial date orchards in the province and will be implementing it this fiscal year.
Earlier, the officials of Nangarhar Agriculture Department had announced a fivefold increase in date yields compared to last year.
National plan for the construction of date orchards
Date yields have risen in Helmand and Nangarhar provinces, after the National Economic Council approved a $15.11 million plan to build the orchards last year.
The plan includes building commercial date orchards, using dry and uncultivable land to build date orchards, producing improved date seedlings of different breeds, producing good quality produce for local markets, paving the way for work in the horticulture sector and creating new investment opportunities.
Growing grapes in Helmand
Helmand, which is infamous for its poppy plantations, is trying to diversify and build a market for other produce.
“It is forecast that Helmand will supply about 90,750 tons of grapes to the local market in Helmand and other provinces this year,” said Alko.
The Afghan government is committed to supporting farmers who are growing grapes, dates, melons, watermelons, and other legal crops.
In the past 24 hours, 40 cases of Coronavirus have been identified in Afghanistan, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said, and the total is now at 35,503.
The ministry said that 17 people in Herat, 17 in Ghor, four in Kandahar and two in Nangarhar had tested positive.
The MoPH said that two people had died in the past day, while 22 had recovered, pushing those figures to 1,183 deaths and 23,663 recoveries so far.
Security sources told local media that at least four Afghan security forces were killed and another was injured, in a Taliban attack in the Qadis district of Badghis province.
The source confirmed that the Taliban attacked a security forces convoy in the Qarchaghi village of district on Sunday night.
Najmuddin Borhani, spokesperson for the Badghis governor, confirmed the attack by Taliban insurgents, but said no details were available.
The president of the Quetta Chamber of Commerce and Industries (QCCI) expressed serious concern about bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan as the Chaman border crossing remains closed.
QCCI president Ghulam Farooq Khan Khilji and senior vice president Badaruddin Kakar said the continued closure of the terminal has ground most trade operations in the region on both sides of the border.
“Even financially stable people in import, export and service businesses are facing a serious economic crisis,” Khilji said.
During a meeting at the QCCI office on Saturday, they said that the continuous closure at Chaman has caused massive unemployment as thousands of daily wagers working at both sides of the border lost their jobs.
The QCCI urged the Pakistan government to immediately open the Chaman border so that trade activities between the two countries could be resumed.
They warned that if the border remained closed, industrialists and traders may go bankrupt and lose their livelihoods.
They expressed anger over what they called the government’s non-seriousness over this issue and said some people were doing politics over the closure of the Pak-Afghan border.
Speaker of the Pakistani National Assembly Asad Qaiser said that the border crossing remained closed due to concerns of COVID-19.
During a July 17 meeting, representatives from Ministries of Interior and National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination were directed to resolve the issue on priority basis.
The Afghan security forces destroyed at least 20 underground tunnels of the Taliban during an operation in Helmand province, the Special Operations Corps said on Sunday.
The security forces said that the militants had been planning to to launch attacks in Sarband and Deh Adam Khan areas of Greshk district.
The Special Forces spoiled Taliban’s plan to launch attacks, injured at least 4 militants, and blew up the tunnels, during the operations.
They also discovered and defused at least 12 improvised explosive devices during the operations.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the incident.
Chancellors of the Iran University of Medical Sciences and Afghanistan’s Khatam al-Nabieen University signed a memorandum of understanding on medical cooperation for enhancing scientific, educational, and research relations between the two universities.
The most important spheres of cooperation between the two universities include holding training courses, joint projects, scientific, educational, informational and research exchanges, as well as bilateral meetings of academics and taking advantage of special potentials in medical and paramedic fields.
It was announced in early February, that Iran and Afghanistan would increase academic exchanges in the field of medical sciences and expand scientific and academic cooperation.