Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Traders involved in Afghan transit trade and bilateral trade between Pakistan and Afghanistan said they suffered losses amounting to billions in local currency, waiting for their cargo to be cleared at the Karachi port.
Clearance delays of up to 5-12 days is faced by traders sending cargo to Afghanistan, a member of the Pakistan-Afghanistan Joint Chamber of Commerce and Industry told the Daily Times. In comparison, domestic cargo maybe cleared in less than four days.
Afghanistan is landlocked and has signed a transit trade deal with Pakistan in 1965 which was revised in 2010. Afghan traders are allowed to use the Karachi port and now the Gwadar port to import goods and then use the overland route to get them across to Afghanistan.
Traders are facing mounting losses due to the clearance delays because shipping companies generally provide 21 days free detention including clearance time. When you add the delay and the eventual transport timing, it takes at least a month to complete the cycle of returning the empty container back to the shipping company. Traders are liable to pay US$ 100-120 per day as detention charges to the shipping company.
Delays are happening due to the compulsory physical examination and scan of the cargo. There is only one scanning machine at each Karachi port while hundreds of consignments arrive every day.
Due to the COVID-19 lockdown, many transit cargo containers have been lying at the Karachi port under severe demurrage and detention charges.
Stefano Pontecorvo, NATO’s new Senior Civilian Representative (SCR) in Afghanistan, arrived in Kabul today. The Italian ambassador will be working with the NATO-led Resolute Support mission which trains, advises and assists the Afghan security forces and institutions.
The diplomat will advise the NATO Secretary General and the North Atlantic Council on the Alliance’s efforts in Afghanistan and maintain relations with Afghan partners.
“Stunned by these beautiful views of Afghanistan as I’ve landed today. I’m honored to be in Kabul at this pivotal moment for Afghan peace process representing NATO. We remain committed to a peaceful and secure Afghanistan resulting from a comprehensive negotiated settlement,” Pontecorvo tweeted.
Pontecorvo has previously served as Italy’s Ambassador to Pakistan for more than four years. He replaces Ambassador Nicholas Kay of the U.K., who had been in the post since March 2019.
Systemic issues such as the differences in the negotiating positions of the U.S., the Afghan government and the Taliban may protract the stalemate in Afghanistan, a report by International Institute of Strategic Studies said.
The Institute’s annual ‘Armed Conflict Survey 2020’ (ACS) report covers 33 conflicts, from Afghanistan to the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The less likely scenario in Afghanistan, the report says, is a negotiated settlement which depends on the power-sharing agreement between the government and the Taliban. To accommodate the Taliban’s preferences would mean changing the Afghan liberal-democratic government to Islamic fundamentalism.
There is a high risk the government may lose support if they agree to share power. Afghans on the ground are not sympathetic to the Taliban. The ACS study found that 85.1% of their respondents had no sympathy for the Taliban. Even the 13.4% who said they had some sympathy, did so because they are Muslims or because they are Afghans.
They also found that peacemaking prospects have declined globally due to the proliferation of non-state actors and sophisticated technology. Over 60% of armed conflicts have been active for at least a decade.
Brief History of a Long War
Conflicts in Afghanistan first started after the Soviet invasion in 1979 during the Cold War era. The current U.S. engagement started after the 9/11 attacks with the goal to purge the al-Qaida terrorists.
Things escalated quickly with the U.S. overthrowing the government and then trying to eliminate the Taliban to establish a “democratic” state.
Even with the deployment of U.S., British and NATO troops, fighting has continued and there has been little to show for the progress.
The Afghan campaign has become the longest-ever “War on Terror” for the U.S. resulting in the deaths of at least 100,000 Afghan and 2.7 million refugees.
Peace negotiations made significant advances in in 2019 with the appointment of Zalmay Khalilzad as the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation. They drafted a principle framework with the Taliban’s agreement. The U.S.-Taliban peace negotiations were completed in February 2020.
Khalilzad was also responsible for setting up the intra-Afghan peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban. This has not come to a pass yet but both sides have shown interest and taken initiative.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) reported 545 new cases of Coronavirus have emerged in the last 24 hours, bringing the total to 15,750 confirmed cases. There are currently 14,057 cases active in the country.
For the first time in more than two weeks, the number of cases in Kabul has decreased.
New positive cases have been reported in Herat (117), Paktia (92), Kabul (66), Nangarhar (50), Samangan (48), Farah (36), Sar-e-Pul (22), Bamiyan (20), Logar (17) and 14 cases each in Ghor, Badakshan and Panjshir.
Twelve cases each were reported in Maidan Wardak and Faryab, four in Balkh, three in Kunar, and two each in Laghman and Badghis.
The ministry reported eight deaths and 100 recovered patients, taking those figures to 265 deaths and 1,428 recoveries.
UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres has thanked Qatar’s Amir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani for supporting the UN humanitarian airlift operations from Doha to Kabul during the Coronavirus pandemic.
The UN humanitarian flights enable the access and deployment of emergency aid to Afghanistan. Qatar Airways has signed a two-year partnership with the UN to deliver humanitarian relief and assistance to at-risk populations.
Guterres praised Qatar’s efforts, calling it “the ideal support” that showed the “responsibility and solidarity” that is needed to meet the challenges presented by the global COVID-19 pandemic.
The UN Chief also expressed his gratitude to Qatar for facilitating the redeployment of some UN staff in Yemen.
The estimated population of Afghanistan is estimated at 32.9 million in the solar year of 1399.
The solar calendar starts on the first day of spring, which is March 20.
The report was published by the National Office of Statistics and Information. According to the estimates, about 16.8 million – 51% – are men and about 16.1 million – 49% – are women.
According to the Statistical Office, 23.4 million (71%) of the people live in rural areas, 8 million (24.4%) are urban and 1.5 million (4.6%) are nomadic.
The estimated population for 1399 consists of 34 provinces (364 main districts, 24 temporary districts and 34 provincial capitals).
The report is prepared annually in Dari, Pashto, and English by the Office.
Azerbaijan’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Elmar Mammadyarov indicated the country’s interests in working closely with Afghanistan during a telephonic meeting with Mohammad Haneef Atmar, the acting Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs.
Atmar, reports AZERTAC, stressed on the importance the Afghan leaders placed on expanding bilateral cooperation with Azerbaijan. He said the country was interested in expanding bilateral, trilateral and multilateral ties with Azerbaijan to develop better relations between the two.
He expressed gratefulness for Azerbaijan’s involvement in Afghan security and the deployment of Azerbaijani peacekeepers as part of NATO’s Resolute Support Mission to Afghanistan. The Afghan minister then congratulated Azerbaijan for successfully chairing the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM).
The Azerbaijani minister too, expressed interest in engaging with Afghanistan on different platforms.
He also mentioned that Azerbaijan is in the process of drafting a proposal to hold a special session of the UN General Assembly under the theme “We are together against COVID-19.” The same theme is part of NAM’s summit-level initiative.
Azerbaijan is heading NAM for the 2019-2022 term. Mammadyarov said they wanted to increase the role of NAM and strengthen solidarity during the current global crisis.
The two ministers also spoke about existing opportunities for expanding cooperation in political, economic, trade and transport spheres while strengthening the legal and treaty basis of the relations. Some projects mentioned were the Lapis-Lazuli Transport Corridor and the fibre optic line along the Caspian Sea.
Afghan security officials confirmed that Sayed Munir, head of Kapisa’s traffic department, was shot dead by unidentified gunmen on Monday morning in the provincial centre.
The incident occurred in Qala-e-Sayed Khan village in Kapisa city, while Munir was on his way to work, said Kapisa Police spokesman, Abdul Shayeq Shoresh.
Police said investigations are underway regarding the incident.
No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.