Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani today met with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad, the Presidential Palace said.
Arg in a statement said that Khalilzad briefed President Ghani about his recent regional trips and activities.
The statement added that the two sides also discussed the recent developments in the peace process and the next steps for the intra-Afghan talks.
In the meantime, the Chairman of High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah today met with US Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
The HCNR office in a statement on Monday said that this is the second trip of Khalilzad to Kabul after presenting of US peace plan.
According to the statement, the two sides discussed about the latest developments in the peace process.
They also discussed the last decisions of HCNR Leadership Committee, the Moscow-Turkey peace summits, Doha talks, acceleration of peace talks and reduction of violence in the country.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani praised the security forces at a cabinet meeting on Monday for preventing large-scale attacks in the northern provinces, especially Balkh, by detaining 80 IS-K members.
The Presidential Palace in a statement said that all institutions and governors must continue to support the security institutions.
The head of National Directorate of Security (NDS), Ahmad Zia Saraj, announced that security forces had arrested 55 members of the IS-K group in connection with the abduction of Abdul Rauf, a nine-year-old who has been abducted in Balkh.
The men were detained in Balkh, Jawzjan and Faryab provinces, and Tajik and Uzbek nationals are among them, according to NDS chief.
Saraj said the detainees had confessed to being involved in 13 terrorist incidents and that seven more had been prevented by their arrest.
He also noted that these individuals were involved in maintaining and planning the abduction of Abdul Rauf and were members of a gang that also played role in the attack on Kabul University.
Abdul Rauf, a Balkhi child, was abducted by unknown gunmen and has not been rescued for several months, despite the authorities’ commitment.
The NDS chief added that security forces are close to where Abdul Rauf is being held and will rescue him at the earliest time.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Monday reported 23 new positive cases of coronavirus tested in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported one death and 4 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 55,995, the number of total reported deaths is 2,460 and the total number of recoveries is 49,481.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Kunar and Laghman provinces.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said in a meeting with the visiting Pakistani Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq that Iran backs peace in Afghanistan.
According to Iranian media, the Pakistani representative at the head of a political and security delegation arrived in the Iranian capital late on Saturday.
In the meeting with Pakistan’s special envoy on Sunday, Zarif stressed the need to promote regional cooperation to help establish peace in Afghanistan and preserve achievements gained by Afghan people.
Sadiq said that his consultations with Iranian foreign minister was satisfactory.
The Pakistani envoy elaborated on Pakistan’s stance on developments in Afghanistan.
About Sadiq’s visit, Pakistan’s Embassy in Tehran had stated that it was to follow a high level of talks between the special envoy and top Iranian officials on regional issues and events in Afghanistan as well.
Two separate explosions in the Afghan capital of Kabul killed at least five people and injured 16 others, Police said.
The blasts occurred consequently within an hour in different parts of the city and targeted vehicles on Sunday night.
The first incident took place in Sar-e Kariz area of PD3, and the second explosion hit a vehicle in Pul-e Sukhta area of PD6.
Similar incidents have become frequent in some Afghan provinces over the past fortnight.
Afghan Journalists Safety Committee has expressed deep concern about a recent tweet by the spokesman of the Ministry of Interior (MoI) Tariq Arian, about a private media outlet being involved in the transfer of explosives.
AJSC in a press release on Monday called on MoI to provide official clarification on this issue to the media community.
“The MoI, as an institution responsible for ensuring the security of the people, needs to be utmost judicious in making statements about incidents because dissemination of unreliable and unverified information not only confuses the public but also undermines the working relations between the ministry and the media,” the press release said.
According to the information obtained by AJSC, the statement of MoI is not consistent with facts.
AJSC believes that vague and incorrect remarks from official government institutions weakens credibility of the institutions.
“In a situation where journalists and the media are being directly targeted & targeted attacks against them are on the rise, such a statement is a major blow to freedom of expression and the position of media,” the press release added.
AJSC urges the @moiafghanistan to seriously investigate this matter. If the allegations are proven to be untrue, MoIA shall take the necessary steps according to the laws.
It is noteworthy that, in the past too, the Ministry of Interior Affairs has published statements inconsistent with facts, a serious challenge that needs to be addressed by the Ministry.
At least 25 Taliban members were killed in avalanches at Tangi Zaghni area of Jaji Aryoub district of Paktia province, officials said.
Hayatullah Nezami, the provincial Police spokesman told Reporterly that the Taliban militants were killed under avalanches when they entered Afghanistan from Pakistan.
According to him, the identities of the killed Taliban insurgents have not been recognized and Police efforts are underway to specify their identities.
The Taliban group has not commented on the incident so far.
US Rep. Stephen F. Lynch, the Chairman of the Subcommittee on National Security, will hold a hearing with Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) John F. Sopko tomorrow on Tuesday.
The US House Committee on Oversight and Reform in a statement said that The hearing will examine the eight areas of U.S. reconstruction activity in Afghanistan that SIGAR has identified in its “2021 High-Risk List” as especially vulnerable to waste, fraud, and abuse.
According to the SIGAR report, stalled intra-Afghan peace negotiations, the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, a deteriorating security environment, and the recent withdrawal of U.S. and Coalition forces put reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan “at greater risk than ever before.”
The hearing will also consider how the scheduled withdrawal of U.S military forces from Afghanistan in May 2021 might affect ongoing reconstruction efforts and prospects for a peace agreement that protects the rights of all Afghans, including women and girls.
Sabir Tokhi, a local representative for PD1 of Qalat city was killed in a magnetic IED blast in Zabul province this morning, local media reported.
According to reports, the incident took place at around 8:30 a.m. today in the Chawk area of Qalat city, Zabul police chief Hekmatullah Kochi said.
According to Kochi, the incident was caused by the explosion of a mine placed in the vehicle of Mohammad Saber Tokhi.
The Zabul police chief did not provide further details, but stressed that police investigations are underway regarding the incident.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast.
Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Sheikh Mohamed bin Abdulrahman al-Thani met on Sunday with the Head of the Political Office of Afghan Taliban, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar and US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.
Qatari Foreign Ministry in a statement said that during the meeting, they reviewed the latest developments in the intra-Afghan negotiations hosted by Doha, and stressed the role of Qatar and its efforts aimed at achieving reconciliation between all Afghan parties in order to realise the aspirations of the brotherly Afghan people for security, stability and peace.
However, the Qatari Foreign Ministry did not provide further details on the meeting.
In the meantime, Mohammad Naeem, the spokesman of Taliban’s political office in Qatar, wrote in a series of tweets that the meeting was tripartite and discussed the implementation of the Doha Agreement, the current situation in Afghanistan and the ongoing intra-Afghan talks.
Zalmai Khalilzad, meanwhile, has been on a regional tour in connection with peace in Afghanistan.
During his three-day visit to Kabul, Zalmai Khalilzad discussed the plan to establish a participatory peace government with Afghan government leaders and politicians, and left for Doha, where he is said to have engaged with the Taliban and other countries in the region.
Fighting in Afghanistan will intensify sharply and Taliban militants could threaten major cities unless a Biden administration diplomatic push to end the 20-year conflict yields results in the next two months, according to two senior U.S. commanders.
As per the Los Angels Times report, the US officials said Biden has not decided whether to proceed with the withdrawal.
The troop level, which was announced as 2,500, is temporarily as much as 1,000 higher, because of overlaps as units arrive before departing ones leave, officials said.
“If we withdraw and no deal was made with the Taliban, I think the government of Afghanistan is going to be in for a very stiff fight to retain possession” of towns and cities, Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, said in an interview after talks in Kabul.
If there is no deal by May 1, Biden could decide to keep U.S. forces in place temporarily to give the peace talks more time or keep them there indefinitely. But that would probably prompt the Taliban to renew attacks on American troops — assaults that have mostly stopped since the U.S.-Taliban deal in February 2020, officials said.
Iran’s Deputy Foreign Minister Abbas Araghchi and Pakistan’s special representative on Afghanistan affairs Mohammad Sadiq in a meeting on Sunday expressed concern over the presence of IS-K in Afghanistan.
During the meeting in Tehran, both sides described IS-K group as a threat to regional peace and security.
Araghchi said that peace will be supported by Iran in respect to the fundamental rights of the Afghan people and the preservation of the accomplishments of the past two decades.
Sadiq called for further cooperation between the two countries in establishing lasting peace in Afghanistan.
Pakistan’s special representative on Afghanistan affairs Mohammad Sadiq, heading a delegation, is paying a visit to Iran.
In related news in late January, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said that Iran and its allies will not allow IS-K terrorist group to reorganize itself in Iraq and elsewhere in the region once again.
Deputy Head of the Office of the President of Ukraine Ihor Zhovkva has met with Advisor to the President of of Afghanistan Kabir Khan Isakhel.
The government of Ukraine in a statement on Sunday said that interlocutors discussed a wide range of issues on the bilateral agenda, including the strengthening of trade, economic and military-technical cooperation.
According to the statement, the successful holding of the second meeting of the Ukrainian-Afghan Joint Intergovernmental Commission on Trade and Economic Cooperation and the achievement of a number of agreements on deepening economic cooperation between the two countries were noted.
During the meeting, the parties discussed the political and security situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the efforts of the Afghan authorities to promote intra-Afghan dialogue.
“Ukraine is closely monitoring the positive changes in Afghanistan. We share the Afghan party’s commitment to deepening bilateral relations. The time has come to intensify political dialogue and organize further bilateral contacts at the highest level. We are serious about developing our trade and economic cooperation, restoring bilateral trade,” Ihor Zhovkva stressed.
The Deputy Head of the Office of the
Ukraine President noted the opportunities to increase the supply of Ukrainian agro-industrial products to Afghanistan, which can contribute to food security.