Newsfeed; Saturday, April 17 2021

Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Migration in Afghanistan Likely To Rise: UNHCR

    Kabul: With impending withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) has expressed concern over the possible deterioration of the situation in the country leading to large-scale migration if the Afghan peace talks fail.

    “If the peace agreement is sustainable and respects the rights of the people, Afghanistan will have a future even without international forces, but if the talks fail, we unfortunately anticipate another increase in insecurity,” said Filippo Grande, UN High Commissioner for Refugees. “We will witness an increase in violence and migration from Afghanistan.”

    US President Joe Biden earlier this week announced withdrawal of troops from the war-ravaged country by September 11. The announcement comes even as there is increasing clashes and counter-clashes between Afghan government forces and the Taliban. Politicians and government officials do not consider the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan appropriate in the current situation and have warned that if foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan, the country will be embroiled in a civil war. There are increasing civilian deaths in the country and human rights’ organization are worried about the rising precedent.

    Meanwhile, US intelligence agencies have warned in a report that the unconditional withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan will pose new challenges for the country.

    Washington, however, has said that the US goal in Afghanistan has been met and now is the time for foreign troops to leave the country. Meanwhile, the Afghan government has said that the people will stand by the Afghan security forces in defense of the country and that the Taliban will not be able to gain power in the country militarily.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Afghanistan’s Free Speech Hub Established

    Kabul: A group of Afghan journalists and media officials on Saturday established the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub”. The Free Speech Hub aims to create an inclusive, pluralistic, and professional organization for journalists and media workers.

    The first official conference of the Afghanistan Free Speech Hub was held on Saturday with the introduction of Anisa Shahid who was stated as the “best Afghan journalist” of the year.

    The statement from Afghanistan Free Speech Hub said that it was concerned about further restrictions on space and freedom of expression in the wake of a wave of violence and targeted killings of journalists, civil society activists and civilians.

    According to the statement, the Afghanistan Free Speech Hub expects that the existing cultural, political and legal framework for freedom of expression will not fall victim to political bargaining during and at the end of peace talks.

    The statement said that in the past six months, ten journalists and media workers had been victims of violence and targeted killings, and that “forces opposed to fundamental human rights appear to be seeking to silence or at least monopolize Afghan society”.

    The Afghanistan Free Speech Hub has called for an immediate end to the targeted killings of journalists and other civilians, and said that cases of murder and violence against journalists should be dealt with as a matter of urgency.

    According to the statement, guaranteeing the immunity of journalists and maintaining freedom of expression at the end of the peace process should be considered as a condition for continued financial and diplomatic assistance from the international community.

    The statement also said that transparency in the peace process would be ensured through the continued access of the Afghan people and the media to the details of the peace talks and the presence of representatives of Afghan journalists and civil society in the peace process.

    The Free speech Hub further stated that the maintenance of the existing legal framework, including Articles 16 and 34 of the Constitution, the Law on Mass Media and the Law on Access to Information, which guarantee freedom of expression, must be ensured in the peace process.

    On the other hand, the hub welcomes the recent progress in the peace process and also expresses the hope that the parties, understanding the past achievements in the field of freedom of expression, will support and protect the freedom of expression of Afghan citizens and work independently.

    “The experience of peace in other countries also shows that by suppressing freedom of expression and the right to publish the views and opinions of various social and political groups, it is unlikely that real and lasting peace will be possible,” the statement said.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Need Strategic Cooperation Pact say Tehran, Kabul

    Kabul: During a discussion over the phone, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told his Afghan counterpart, Mohammad Hanif Atmar that there is a need to finalize a comprehensive document on strategic cooperation between the two countries.

    Iranian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Saeed Khatibzadeh said that bilateral relations and developments related to the peace process in Afghanistan were discussed in the phone call.

    Emphasizing the importance of preserving Afghanistan’s democratic achievements over the past two decades, Zarif reiterated the Islamic Republic of Iran’s full support for the Afghan peace process.

    The Afghan Foreign Minister also expressed satisfaction with the increasing relations between the two countries, appreciating Iran’s effective role in the Afghan peace process.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    No Dialogue Between Afghan Negotiating Team And Taliban Currently: Mansour

    Kabul: In a revelation, Hafix Mansour, a member of the Afghan government’s negotiating team, said that there has been dialogue between the team and the Taliban following the Taliban’s decision to reject the change in timing of the withdrawal of foreign troops.

    “The intra-Afghan talks in Doha has been stopped. The talks have been suspended for some time now,” he added. The Taliban have also confirmed that talks between Afghans and them have stalled.

    Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid told RFE/RL that all areas would be reconsidered after announcing a change in the date of the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.

    The US President Joe Biden earlier this week announced that it would withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by 9/11. At the same time, the Taliban made their participation in the peace talks conditional on the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.

    Peace talks between representatives of the government and the Taliban began last year in Doha, the capital of Qatar, and after two rounds of talks, their talks came to a standstill and now it is announced that it will be stopped completely.

    However, Feraidon Khwazoon, spokesman for the High Council for National Reconciliation, told RFE / RL that the council was fully prepared to attend the Istanbul summit: “The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is fully prepared for the Turkish summit. A single plan has been worked on, and whenever this meeting takes place, we will participate in it and present a single plan on behalf of Afghanistan.”

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Troop Withdrawal In Cooperation With British Allies: Estonian Defense Minister

    Kabul” Emphasizing the close cooperation of the British and Estonian governments, UK Defense minister Kalle Laanet said that it is essential for the country that the troop withdrawal from Afghanistan is in close cooperation with our closest allies, the UK.

    US President Joe Biden announced the withdrawal of all troops from Afghanistan by Septmeber 11, ending the forever war. After a discussion over the phone with his UK counterpart Ben Wallace on Thursday, Laanet said, “We need to consider the security situation on the ground before withdrawal.”

    “The UK is one of our most important allies, with whom our defense forces personnel have served shoulder to shoulder in the more complex regions of Afghanistan,” Laanet added.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Taliban ‘Intelligence Chief’ For Balkh Province Killed

    Kabul: Ajmal “Mashak”, the Taliban intelligence chief for the Balkh province and eight other Taliban insurgents have been killed in air strikes by security forces.

    Hanif Rezayi, spokesperson for 209th Shaheen Corps, said that Ajmal “Mashak”, the Taliban’s chief intelligence officer in the Balkh district, was killed in a targeted and retaliatory attack by the Afghan Air Force in Hussain Khel village of Balkh district on Thursday evening.

    He added that eight other Taliban insurgents were also killed and five others were seriously wounded during the operation and some of their weapons were also destroyed.

    According to Rezayi, “Mashak” was not only responsible for Taliban intelligence in Balkh, but was also involved in the assassinations of armed forces and government employees.

    The Taliban intelligence chief played a pivotal role in the assassinations of two female officers and was involved in the targeted killing of Dr Saleh Samim, the chief physician of the 209th Shaheen Corps.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Ministry of Health Reports 72 New Cases of COVID-19

    Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday reported 72 new positive cases of the coronavirus (Covid-19) infection in the last 24 hours.

    The ministry also reported zero deaths and 10 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.

    The total number of positive cases now stands at 57,793 while the number of reported deaths is 2,539 and the total number of recoveries is 52,115.

    The new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Nangarhar, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Kunar and Uruzgan provinces.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Safety Concept for Afghanistan Section of TAPI Signed

    Kabul: A Concept of Ensuring the Security of the Afghan section of the Turkmenistan-Afghanistan-Pakistan-India (TAPI) gas pipeline has been signed between Turkmenistan and Afghanistan on Thursday.

    The Safety Concept is an important step in the timely implementation of the TAPI gas pipeline project, including the development of a Safety Plan and Protocol, which are annexes to the Host Government Agreement, the report said.

    The parties exchanged views on the ongoing work on the TAPI gas pipeline construction project. The parties discussed the implementation of measures to be carried out by the end of August 2021.

    The Turkmenistan–Afghanistan–Pakistan–India Pipeline (TAPI), also known as Trans-Afghanistan Pipeline, is a natural gas pipeline being developed by the Galkynysh – TAPI Pipeline Company Limited with the participation of the Asian Development Bank.

    The pipeline will transport natural gas from the Galkynysh Gas Field in Turkmenistan through Afghanistan into Pakistan and then to India. Construction on the project started in Turkmenistan on December 13, 2015.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Use Istanbul Summit As An Opportunity: Hekmatyar Advices Taliban

    Kabul: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hezb-e-Islami party has urged the Taliban to attend the Istanbul Summit, scheduled to draw up a peace roadmap for Afghanistan along with the US, UN and Qatar, and use it as an opportunity.

    The Taliban should negotiate with the Afghan peopleif they want peace, said Hekmatyar at a news conference in Kabul on Saturday. According to Hekmatyar, the Taliban have passed the stage of negotiating with the Americans.

    He stressed that not announcing a ceasefire during the negotiations by the Taliban is not in the interest of this group and creates a negative mentality towards the Taliban in the world and among the people of Afghanistan.

    Gulbuddin Hekmatyar also told the Taliban to present “their side” to the world at the Istanbul summit if they had strong and justified reasons for their position. “Someone who has good reasons should not be afraid to negotiate with anyone,” he said.

    The Hezb-e-Islami leader also spoke about the withdrawal of troops by September 11 and said that the delay in the troop drawdown from Afghanistan was not for logistical reasons, but for political reasons, which the US has so far not shared with the people of Afghanistan.

    “Withdrawal of troops is a step forward, but it was a decision unilaterally made in violation of the Doha agreement and would not help resolve the Afghan crisis,” he added.

    The US, UN and Qatar are planning a peace summit in Istanbul with the Afghan government and the Taliban to chalk out a future roadmap for the country. Taliban has refused to participate in any peace talks till the troops have been withdrawn, while the Afghan government is ready with a unified peace plan for the April 24 summit.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Mass COVID-19 Vaccination Drive Begins in Afghanistan

    Kabul: The Healthy Ministry on Friday announced that the Afghanistan government has started administering COVID-19 vaccines to all citizens above the age of 18.

    Designated health centers in all 34 provinces have started vaccinating citizens with the Oxford-AstraZeneca jabs, according to the ministry.
    A spokesperson said that healthcare workers, teachers, public sector employees, nomads, and people above the age of 50 remain the priority for getting the vaccine shot.

    He added that the country expects 1.5 million vaccine doses in the coming months from the COVAX facility, a global initiative aimed at delivering vaccines to low- and middle-income countries. Afghanistan started its first vaccinations toward the end of March and plans to cover at least 60% of the population by 2022.

    Owing to limited resources, the country with 39 million people has only conducted close to 3,80,000 COVID-19 tests to date. The positive case count in Afghanistan currently stands at around 57,700, including over 2,500 deaths.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Need to Ensure Double Peace in Afghanistan: S Jaishankar

    Kabul: The future of Afghanistan should not be a return to the past and there is a definite need to ensure double peace in the country, which means peace inside and peace outside the borders in the region, said Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar said on Friday.

    Jaishankar’s comments come after US and NATO announced withdrawal of their troops from the war-ravaged country by September 11. “We have always believed that this should be an Afghan-led, Afghan-owned and Afghan-controlled process,” added Jaishankar, saying that the future should be democratic and with the will of the people.

    “The international community should take care not to throw the baby out with the bathwater,” he warned while addressing a panel on the future of Afghanistan at the Raisina Dialogue, which was attended by Afghan NSA Hamdullah Mohib and Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif.

    On Taliban, Jaishankar said, “The situation is evolving and everybody wants to make the best contribution that they can and shape the outcomes in Afghanistan as positively as they can. So, anybody responsible would consider all the aspects of that.” Iranian foreign minister Javad Zarif said the outfit should be a part of the peace process in Afghanistan, but it should not “control” the process. Taliban, he said, should abandon violence and work in the peace process within the Afghan constitution.

    MEA also issued a statement on Afghanistan saying, “Any political settlement should be inclusive and should preserve the socio-economic and political gains of the past 19 years. India supports a united, democratic and sovereign Afghanistan. We are deeply concerned about the increase in violence and targeted killings in Afghanistan. India has called for an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire. The Chief of the Defence Staff in India General Bipin Rawat on Thursday said that he is concerned about a vacuum developing in Afghanistan after the planned US and NATO troop withdrawal from the war-ravaged country.

    General Bipin Rawat told a security conference that the worry was that “disruptors” can step into the space created by the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan. He declined to name the countries that could act as disruptors.

    In the aftermath of the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, India will have tremendous concern on the resurgence of the Taliban and its territory being used as a safe haven for terrorist, experts said.

    “Regional countries, especially India, will have tremendous concerns about the US pullout from Afghanistan and the likelihood of a Taliban resurgence in the country,” Lisa Curtis, who was Deputy Assistant to the President and NSC Senior Director for South and Central Asia from 2017-2021 under the previous Donald Trump administration told PTI. “When the Taliban controlled Afghanistan in the late 1990s, they welcomed militants and terrorists of all stripes to train, recruit, and fundraise from Afghanistan. Many of those militants, including the Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad, trained for operations in India, such as the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament,” Curtis said.

    Meanwhile, Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif added that Iran and regional countries will not allow Afghanistan to go back to the status of 1990s.

    Zarif said that the US exist from Afghanistan is “a positive move” but the Taliban should not use this opportunity to increase violence. He added that Iran welcomes the “responsible withdrawal” of the US forces from Afghanistan and believes that the presence of foreign forces has never been beneficial to the security of the region and Afghanistan.

    He noted that the Taliban should use this opportunity to instantly begin serious talks with the Afghan government, adding that the Taliban cannot wait for the vacuum to arise because they want to take advantage of this vacuum and bring Afghanistan into civil war.

    There is growing concern that a hasty exit from Afghanistan could leave the country in disarray and that a civil war could take place. There is increase in violence as the Afghan government and the Taliban are involved in clashes and counter-clashes ahead of the Istanbul Summit. There are increasing concerns from human rights group about civilian casualties in the country.

    The US, UN and Qatar are planning a peace summit in Istanbul with the Afghan government and the Taliban to chalk out a future roadmap for the country. Taliban has refused to participate in any peace talks till the troops have been withdrawn, while the Afghan government is ready with a unified peace plan for the April 24 summit.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Security Situation in Region After Withdrawal Uncertain: NSA

    Kabul: With foreign troop withdrawal imminent in Afghanistan, Hamdullah Moheb, Afghanistan’s national security adviser, said that the country is now going to face terrorist threats which will be felt across borders.

    Moheb’s comment came during an online discussion, Raisina Dialogue, wherein he highlighted that the existence of global terrorists still remain unanswered.

    Moheb added that the Afghanistan government will begin talks with the United States and NATO on these threats and other unspecified issues. “We are in a state of uncertainty. Many issues are unclear. The details of the issues will be revealed as a result of the negotiations we will have with the United States and NATO. In order for us to facilitate a transfer, it must be clear that the security forces and How is defense supported? How is the transfer of power process going? And what will be the next of those relationships?” he questioned.

    Foreign ministers of Iran and India were also present during the interaction.

    Meanwhile, Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani said during a conversation with the Spanish Foreign Minister on Friday that relations with the United States have entered a new chapter, the Presidential Palace quoted President Ghani in a statement.

    President Ghani has said that they are currently in talks with the United States and NATO on the timetable for the withdrawal of troops and what facilities and equipment will remain with Afghan forces.

    President Ghani also said that the results of the withdrawal of American troops should be weighed.

    The NSA’s warnings come even as there is growing concern that a hasty exit from Afghanistan could leave the country in disarray and that a civil war could take place. Troop withdrawal from Afghanistan should be conditions-based, otherwise, it will once again face the bitter experience of the past. Hasty withdrawal would worsen the situation and lead to civil war, said Afghan parliament speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani on Tuesday.

    Even a US report on global threats issued on Tuesday said that US intelligent agencies are not keen about the chances of a peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government for the coming year. The intelligence agencies have warned that the Taliban believes it can successfully use force to shape the political reality on the ground. “Kabul continues to face setbacks on the battlefield, and the Taliban is confident it can achieve military victory,” according to the report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI).

    In the aftermath of the foreign troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, India will have tremendous concern on the resurgence of the Taliban and its territory being used as a safe haven for terrorist, experts said. Meanwhile, there is increase in violence comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban are involved in clashes and counter-clashes ahead of the Istanbul Summit. Collection of intelligence in Afghanistan will weaken after the troop withdrawal, said CIA Director William Burns. The Taliban too has added that the group will resort to countermeasures, and the consequences will be the responsibility of the Americans.

    In a formal announcement, US President Joe Biden said on Wednesday, that he will withdraw all the remaining US troops from Afghanistan to mark the end of a “forever war”, rejecting calls for the US forces to stay to ensure a peaceful resolution to that nation’s grinding internal conflict. a conference is scheduled on the Afghanistan peace roadmap starting on April 24 in Istanbul that would include the United Nations and Qatar. The Afghan government is ready with a unified plan, however, the Taliban has rejected coming to the negotiating table till all foreign troops have not been withdrawn from the country.

    US President Joe Biden has also said India, Pakistan, Russia, China, and Turkey have a significant stake in the stable future of Afghanistan and these regional stakeholders should do more to bring peace in this war-torn country. “We will ask other countries in the region to do more to support Afghanistan, especially Pakistan, as well as Russia, China, India, and Turkey. They all have a significant stake in the stable future of Afghanistan,” Biden said.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    3 Security Forces Dead In Car Bomb Blast In Herat

    Kabul: At least four security personnel have been killed after Taliban insurgents detonated a car bomb at 10 pm on Friday at the Bazarak checkpoint in the Zandijan district of the Herat province, said Governor Wahid Qatali.

    Qatali added that Taliban attacks were countered by security forces, and reinforcements had been sent to the scene and the Bazarak checkpoint had been reinforced.

    The governor of Herat emphasized that during the past 24 hours, the districts of Chesht, Obe, Zandijan, Kashk-e-Kohna and Golran in the province also witnessed Taliban attacks, however, no government forces were harmed.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Afghan Special Forces Storm Taliban Prison, Free 20 Captives

    Kabul: The Afghanistan Special Forces stormed a Taliban prison in western Nimroz province of Afghanistan early morning on Saturday and freed 20 captives, announced Ministry of Defense.

    In the raid on the prison in Khashrood district, at least 20 members of ANDSF were released from the clutches of the insurgents, confirmed the Ministry of Defense.

    As per the Ministry of Defence, at least seven members of the Taliban, including Mawali Bashir, one of their key commanders, have been killed in the operation.

  • 17 Apr 2021 Share this post

    Rise in US Troops in Afghanistan Before Withdrawal Likely: Pentagon

    Kabul: There may be a slight rise in the number of US troops in Afghanistan before the complete withdrawal in order to get logistical, engineering and force protection help for the current boots on the ground, stated the Pentagon.

    The rise in number will be similar to the one when the US transitioned in Iraq, but the Pentagon did not provide a specific number, adding that it is necessary to ensure a safe and orderly drawdown.

    On Wednesday, US President Joe Biden announced an end to the forever war in Afghanistan after 20 years, which formed the longest war, US has been involved in. After Biden’s announcement, even NATO forces said that they will withdraw their forces by the US deadline of September 11.

    “It is not out of the realm of possibility that for a short period of time, there will have to be some additional enabling capabilities added to Afghanistan, to help effect a safe, orderly and deliberately planned drawdown of everybody by the president’s deadline, early September,” Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters at a news conference on Friday.

    “As we transitioned out of Iraq, of course, it’s logical to assume that you may need some logistics help, maybe some engineering help. You may have to add some force protection capabilities, temporarily, just to make sure that the drawdown goes in a safe, orderly and effective way,” Kirby said.

    Kirby added that the Department of Defense is still working out what the future bilateral security relationship is going to be with Afghanistan. However, he specified that it will be similar to bilateral relations with other countries, without boots on the ground. Military presence will be limited to those required to ensure protection of the diplomatic mission.

    The US, he said, will maintain counterterrorism capabilities to continue to prevent Afghanistan from becoming a launching pad for terrorist attacks on the US. “We have a vast range of capabilities available to us, and we’re not going to speak to the details of exactly how we’re going to maintain those capabilities and utilise those capabilities,” he said.

    This comes even as the Taliban has warned the US of consequences if it does not withdraw its forces by May 1, as per the Doha agreement. The US, UN, Qatar are scheduled to meet to discuss the peace roadmap for Afghanistan in Istanbul from April 24 at the peace summit. Taliban, however, has refused to be a participant of any peace talks before troop withdrawal takes place.

    President Ashraf Ghani thanked the US for their help in assisting the country in maintaining peace and added that the Afghan forces can now independently protect the country.