Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Security forces and popular uprising forces recaptured Badakhshan’s Yaftali Payeen district. Local sources said that after the clashes that took place on Saturday, the center of district has been recaptured by the security forces.
According to sources, security forces and popular uprising forces continue to advance. The exact number of casualties on both sides is not yet known, and government spokesmen have not commented yet.
On the other hand, the Taliban have shot killed two civilians in the village of Saraysang, on the outskirts of Taloqan city of Takhar province. This incident took place at 1:00am on Saturday, Hashte Subh daily reported. Local sources told Hashte Subh daily that the Taliban shot and killed an influential local figure called the “Wahed Chopan” and a school staff member too. Takhar police spokesman Khalil Asir also confirmed the incident. The Taliban have not yet confirmed or denied the allegations.
The Ministry of Interior (MoI) has rejected the Taliban’s claims of controlling 85 percent of the Afghanistan’s soil.
A four-member Taliban delegation led by Maulvi Shahabuddin Delawar traveled to Moscow on Friday and during a press conference they claimed that they controlled 85 percent of the country’s territory.
Maulvi Delawar said their fighters had captured more than 200 districts but did not want to attack large cities.
However, in the past few days, the Taliban staged attacks on capitals of Badghis, Ghazni, Kandahar and Badakhshan provinces.
Tariq Arian, a spokesman for MoI, rejected the Taliban’s claims as untrue and said if they had much control, why their leaders and families lived abroad.
He said the Taliban casualties were surging and they buried their dead in Punjab province of Pakistan and other areas.
The Afghan government has always blamed Pakistan for protecting the Taliban, supporting them and treating their injured in Pakistani hospitals. “Do not loss the opportunity of peace,” Arian told the Taliban.
Meanwhile, Commander of the 203rd Thunder Corps Dadan Lawang stated that a plan was developed to launch air and ground operation to recapture the lost districts in Paktia province. Lawang told Etilaat roz daily that the ANDSF are paying close attention to civilian lives and make tactical retreats to protect civilians, whilst the Taliban are using civilian homes as shields. Lawan claimed that foreign intelligence supports the war in the province, which helped the Taliban to capture districts and destroy public facilities, but that they are also well prepared to deal with the situation. Lawang gave assurances that the situation will soon become normal, and those ANDSF who laid arms during the fall of districts want to serve and will be re-recruited. Commando forces also announced their preparedness to launch an operation as soon as they receive an order from their leadership. Zurmat, Rohani Baba, Mirzaka, Ahmadkhel, Zazi Aryob, Lazha Mangal, Samkanai, Dand aw Patan, and Janikhel districts are now controlled by the Taliban in Paktia province.
In other news, sources in Kandahar province said that unidentified gunmen had killed a midwife in the provincial capital. The incident took place at around 4:00 pm on Saturday, in PD1 of Kandahar city, near the Shohada’ Square. The woman was a midwife in the maternity ward of Mirwais Hospital in Kandahar and died as a result of an attack by unknown gunmen on the spot. Kandahar police spokesman Jamal Nasser Barakzai confirmed the incident, but said the motive for the murder has not yet been determined. No individual or group has claimed responsibility
Meanwhile, head of Herat Breshna, Tamim Safi told a news conference that Iran has reduced 100 megawatts of its exported electricity until August 6, due to the lack of energy in Iran. Safi said that although the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has taken steps to address the problem, the existing agreement allows Iran to reduce its exported electricity, in case of a problem and the lack of energy in the country. Safi added that Iran currently provides 10 megawatts during the day and 30 megawatts at night, from 110 megawatts. Safi stressed the need for activation of a turbine at the Salma Dam to address shortages, but relevant officials have yet to agree. Safi reported that a transformer purchased from Uzbekistan with a cost of $1 million USD has been installed and activated at the Noor-e Jihad substation.
Also, the Afghanistan Railway Authority (ARA) confirmed to BBC that some of facilities and equipment of the Khawf-Herat Railway have been destroyed. ARA Spokesman Mohammad Ewaz Farhang said that the incident happened on July 7, after the ANDSF evacuated the area. The exact amount of damage has not been reported yet, as Farhang said, ARA employees are not present there, but the issue is under investigation to determine who the perpetrators were. Deputy MoD Spokesman Fawad Aman shared pictures from the Rozanak train station, and accused the Taliban of damaging its facilities.
This comes even as the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) Dr. Abdullah Abdullah met with U.S. Charge d’Affaires Ross Wilson on Saturday. Dr. Abdullah said that the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan supported calls for peace in good faith and tried to achieve lasting peace, but the Taliban escalated violence and attacks, and failed to seize the opportunity for peace. Abdullah reiterated that war is not the solution, intensification in Taliban attacks has angered the Afghan people, and the public have started defense and resistance.
Abdullah emphasized that remaining committed to peace does not mean that he is indifferent towards Taliban attacks, and the group should know that it cannot win using force, as the Afghan people, political leaders, and all sections of the society are united alongside the ANDSF to defend the country. Wilson said that the escalation in fighting further complicates the situation. Wilson added that the U.S. and international community want the success of the peace process and an end to fighting and violence, remain committed to defending the Afghan people, and they do not see war a solution, nor do they support violence or the use of force.
On the other hand, Abdullah said that the Taliban had delayed seizing the opportunity to achieve peace as the war intensified and attacks intensified. According to Abdullah Abdullah, the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, however, has spoken in good faith to the voice of peace.
All this comes even as President Biden on Thursday pledged to bring home American troops by August 31 and defended his bipartisan decision to do so despite some critics who say the move could “create problems.” Lawmakers and veterans alike have been pressuring Biden to offer further details on how he intends to help thousands of Afghans who helped the U.S. military as translators, drivers and in other jobs who now fear they will be targeted by the Taliban after U.S. troops leave.
The president also praised the more than 800,000 American service members, DOD civilians and contractors who served in Afghanistan since 2001. “The United States cannot afford to remain tethered to policies creating a response to a world as it was 20 years ago,” Biden said. “We need to meet the threats where they are today,” he said.
The terror threat has shifted to different areas including Somalia, West Africa and South Asia and the Middle East. Biden said the U.S. military is studying where forces can best be used. “But make no mistake: Our military and intelligence leaders are confident they have the capabilities to protect the homeland and our interests from any resurgent terrorist challenge emerging or emanating from Afghanistan,” he said.
Meanwhile, nearly 20 U.S. senators now back legislation to help protect Afghan civilians who supported U.S. forces during the 20-year-long war in their country, a lead sponsor of the bill said on Friday, a day after President Joe Biden set a target date of Aug. 31 for withdrawal.
Democratic U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen said at least 17 Democratic and Republican senators are now sponsoring her bill to increase the number of authorized visas and take other steps to improve the efficiency of a program to help bring to the United States Afghans who helped U.S. troops.
On the other hand, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday said Turkey and the US agreed on the “scope” of how to secure Kabul airport under the control of Turkish forces after Washington’s withdrawal from Afghanistan. Turkey promised to provide security for the airport once the troops leave next month, in a move hailed as an example of improved relations between Ankara and Washington.
Erdogan said the issue was discussed between Turkish and American defense ministers on Thursday, adding: “During discussions with America and NATO, we decided on what would be the scope of the mission, what we would accept and not accept.” Turkey’s move comes after Erdogan held talks with US President Joe Biden in Brussels on the sidelines of a NATO summit in June.
Washington hailed Ankara’s “clear commitment” to playing a lead role on securing the Hamid Karzai International Airport after the leaders’ discussions. The dialogue between the NATO allies continued to cement the details of the future Turkish mission with a visit to Turkey by a US delegation last month and multiple phone calls between Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar and Pentagon chief Lloyd Austin. Kabul Airport is the main exit route for Western diplomats and aid workers. The concern is that following the US withdrawal, the airport will fall into the hands of the Taliban, so NATO is keen to quickly find a solution.
Meanwhile, China Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Wang Wenbin has said that the developments of the situation in Afghanistan is at a critical juncture and as close neighbors of Afghanistan, the SCO member states can play a positive role in promoting the peace, reconciliation and reconstruction process in Afghanistan.
On the US withdrawal, he said that US should earnestly fulfill its due responsibilities and honor its commitment. “It needs to ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan, make sure the withdrawal doesn’t lead to turbulence and fighting, and prevent a resurgence of terrorism in the country. It should earnestly assume its due responsibility in such areas as Afghanistan’s security, development and humanitarian needs, honor its commitment, ensure a smooth transition in Afghanistan, make sure the withdrawal doesn’t lead to turbulence and fighting, and make sure Afghanistan won’t become a powder keg in the region and a safe haven for terrorism again,” he said.
He added, “The US, in disregard of its responsibilities and obligations, hastily withdrew from Afghanistan, leaving a mess and turmoil to the Afghan people and regional countries. As a friendly close neighbor of Afghanistan, China always supports the Afghan people in safeguarding their national sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity and taking national destiny into their own hands. China always follows the “Afghan-owned and Afghan-led” principle and strives to promote the political settlement of the Afghan issue. We stand ready to work together with the international community and regional countries to advance the peace and reconciliation process and help Afghanistan realize peace and stability at an early date.”
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) recorded 813 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection and 86 deaths in the past 24 hours.
The total cases now stand at 133,578, while the death toll is 5,724.
This comes even as more than 1.4 million doses of the Johnson & Johnson COVID-19 vaccine arrived in Afghanistan, the United Nation’s Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) said on Friday. Donated by the United States to COVAX, the 1,484,900 doses were delivered through the COVAX facility’s dose-sharing scheme to the government of Afghanistan, UNICEF said in a statement. This is the first of two vaccine consignments to arrive this month, bringing the total donation to around 3.3 million doses. The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) announced the start of delivering J&J vaccine, in Kabul and some other provinces. Deputy MoPH Spokesman Mirwais Alizai said that the Ministry prioritizes vulnerable individuals, those above 55 years of age, individuals with chronic or persistent disease, those who work in crowded area, particularly with concerned clients, school and university teachers and professors, students above 18, internally displaced persons, journalists, and healthcare personnel. Alizai hoped that the next shipment of the vaccine will arrive in Afghanistan by the end of July.
Meanwhile, looking at the increase in cases, MoHP extended the quarantine period until July 23. As per the guidelines – All wedding halls and conferences will remain closed for another 2 weeks (July 23), and the municipalities are required to cooperate in this regard; all citizens are expected not to go to crowded areas, out of their home, and use facemasks in case of emergency; the public and private agencies, which have a large number of clients, should observe social distancing of minimum 1.5 meters; municipalities across the country should identify crowded areas, and implement clear mechanisms to control the situation and organize social distancing; all unnecessary meetings at public and private agencies should be avoided; all mullah imams and worshippers are requested to observe a distance of at least 1.5 meters during prayers, perform congregational prayers in open spaces, or leave windows for open to pass through; drivers and passengers of public vehicles must wear masks and ventilate the vehicles; in order to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in confined prison settings, visits to detainees should be suspended until further notice; all government employees over 55 or those suffering from chronic diseases (diabetes, heart disease, cancer, or women with over 4 months of pregnancy) should work from home; all swimming pools, public baths, sauna, sports complexes and competitions should be closed for another 2 weeks and the municipalities and other relevant agencies should control it; all security agencies and other authorities are requested to prevent gatherings, where social distancing is ignored; restaurants should provide services by observing social distancing of 1.5 meters between clients, enable proper ventilation, and try to serve clients in open spaces. Municipalities should seriously control and cooperate in this regard; condolence ceremonies should be halted in closed spaces and all citizens are requested to observe personal hygiene, including repeatedly washing hands with soap, using facemasks in crowded areas, and social distancing of 1.5 meters. Take the virus seriously to avoid searching for treatment and oxygen at the hospitals.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization said health care is under siege in Afghanistan as the United States accelerates its troop withdrawal from the country. Afghanistan is one of the largest and longest-standing humanitarian emergencies in the world. The country is subject to almost every type of hazard — an escalating conflict, a rapidly spreading pandemic and most recently a severe drought. The WHO said 18.4 million Afghans need humanitarian assistance — a situation that has serious health consequences. It said increasing violence has led to more civilian trauma cases.
The regional director for the WHO Eastern Mediterranean Regional Office, Rick Brennan, said there has been a 29% increase in civilian casualties in the first quarter of this year compared with the same period last year. He said the arrival of people with complex war-related injuries is putting an enormous strain on health workers and facilities. “Moreover, this year there have been 30 attacks on health care across the country, including the total destruction of an immunization center late last month and a reported artillery attack on a health center in Kunar province just two days ago,” Brennan said. “Such attacks are a violation of the right to health. They limit people’s access to health care at a time of increased need and they contravene international humanitarian law.”
Increasing instability has coincided with the quicker than expected pullout of American troops from the country. Brennan described the current situation as fluid, fast-moving and terribly concerning. He said many health care workers have left their posts because of security concerns, though some reportedly were starting to return.
“I think it is a mixed picture right now. But we are clearly concerned of declining access to health care. … We are concerned about our lack of access to be able to provide essential medicines and supplies and we are concerned about attacks on health care,” Brennan said. Brennan said the WHO is not in direct communication with the Taliban. However, he said the WHO has received indirect requests to continue to provide health services in districts taken over by the Taliban. He said he believes the WHO has a good reputation, particularly in areas where it has run polio vaccination campaigns. That, he added, is likely to be instrumental in the WHO’s ability to maintain a field presence in those areas.
Also, as per the Oxfam report, a year of COVID-19 witnessed a 17% rise in extreme hunger in Afghanistan. As per the report, the country remains the third most food insecure in the world, closely behind Yemen, with 13.2 million people – or 42 % of its total population – facing acute hunger. “The second wave of the virus, compounded by a surge in violence due to the US troop withdrawal, resulted in major loss of business, informal employment, massive displacements, and a sharp drop in remittances. Against this backdrop, La Niña-fuelled drought has worsened during the Winter and Spring seasons, decimating farmers’ crops and making food more scarce compared to average years,” stated the report.
As a result, people’s purchasing power has declined by nearly 20%, particularly as casual labourers and pastoralists lost their daily income during the pandemic. Decreased remittances have also driven people into crippling debt. Since March 2020, Oxfam has supported nearly 100,000 of the most vulnerable people in Herat, Diakundi, and Nangahar provinces with cash to buy essentials and food. To prevent the spread of COVID-19, Oxfam has also provided hygiene kits and hand washing facilities and delivered health awareness campaigns.
Kabul: The Attorney General’s Office (AGO) reported that it has registered and addressed 454 criminal cases in the military, in the 2nd quarter of the fiscal year (April-June). They include 22 murder cases, 12 theft, two moral crime, four drugs, five traffic-related, seven corruption, and 402 other crimes, including beating, the loss of weapon, the escape of suspect, among others.
Of these, 188 cases have been finalized and the defendants have been sentenced to imprisonment and fines, 18 cases have been preserved for lacking sufficient reasons and 262 other cases have been rejected and referred back to the relevant agencies. As a result of addressing the cases, a fine of 4,187,265 Afghanis have been approved and transferred to the government. The majority of these cases have been registers in Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar and Parwan provinces.
In other news, the Road Registration Commission in the city of Faizabad, Badakhshan, named a road after “Martyrs of the Security and Defense Forces”. In this ceremony, Ahmad Bashir Samim, Governor of Badakhshan Province, Abdullah Naji Nazari, member of the Provincial Council, Jalal Yaftali, former commander of the 203rd Thunder Corps and Abbas Tavakoli, commander of the 217th Pamir Corps, spoke and thanked the security forces.
The road in Do Saraka area of Faizabad is named after “Lieutenant Hojatullah Haqjo and the martyrs of the security and defense forces”. Hojatullah Haqjo was one of the commanders who was recently killed in a battle with the Taliban in Yaftal Bala, in the eighth PD8 of Faizabad.
Kabul: President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday called on the Taliban to resume peace talks and not to destroy Afghanistan any more.
“The Taliban are responsible for prolonging the war,” said Ghani while speaking at a meeting in Khost province on Saturday. The Taliban should be asked who they are fighting for, “If Afghanistan falls and Afghans are killed, who will benefit?”
According to him, the Afghan government has made great efforts to establish peace and wants peace; but the Taliban has continued to use violence. Ghani called on the Taliban to enter into the peace process under the Sharia law and not to destroy Afghanistan at the behest of foreigners. He called on the Afghan people to unite for peace, democracy, independence and mutual acceptance. “If the Taliban are committed to Afghanistan, they must commit that they will not accept the Durand Line,” Ghani added.
Ghani also chaired a senior security meeting and said that a location had been set up in the United Arab Emirates to repair air force equipment. In this security meeting, President Ghani thanked the country’s security and defense forces for “defeating the enemy” and for their high morale and high capacity. He also said that the security and defense forces do not face a shortage of facilities and that international obligations are in place to fund and equip them.
Earlier, Hamdullah Mohib, the country’s national security adviser, told a news conference in Kabul that a number of government troops had left their checkpoints due to lack of air support and lack of facilities and equipment. Mohib also said that more than 2,000 of them had rejoined the security and defense forces. According to him, the lack of facilities and equipment has been partially eliminated over the past two weeks. On the other hand, the country’s national security adviser on repairing the equipment of the security and defense forces had said that most of this equipment will be repaired inside the country. He said contracts had been signed to repair another piece of equipment and repairs would begin soon. He did not provide further details.
Meanwhile, Second Vice-President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh and Jamiat-e Islami Party Leader Salahuddin Rabbani welcomed jihadi leader Mohammad Ismail Khan’s decision to fight the Taliban. Khan has recently started leading a people’s resistance force against the Taliban.
Danesh stated on his Facebook page that Khan was a forerunner of jihad and resistance, and has a great past in fighting extremism and foreign intervention, and he was one of the founders and supports of the political system and the constitution. Danesh called on all political figures and ethnic groups to follow suit, support the existence of national sovereignty, political system, and constitution against the Taliban, in choosing between survival and annihilation. Danesh added that all have the national responsibility today to prioritize the unity in the ranks and action against the fearlessness and shamelessness of the enemy.
Rabbani stated that after the frequent evacuation of some districts to the Taliban, especially in northern provinces, there are sparks of hope of resistance across the country, as the country has entered a sensitive phase of intelligence games and dangerous conspiracies. Rabbani urged Jaimta-e Islami commanders in southwestern zone to form a single and concise position against the enemy, under the leadership of Khan. Rabbani called on other party commanders to stand by the ANDSF with any means possible, to repel the enemy, defeat their ranks, and thwart conspiracies and not allow the past two decades of achievements to be lost. Rabbani also called on security agencies to provide people’s forces with all facilities, so that they can defend values and cities. Rabbani concluded that war is not the solution and no group can rule Afghanistan militarily, and all must make peace.
On the other hand, hundreds of local residents of Maidan Wardak province staged a protest and closed the Kabul-Kandahar highway in Maidan Shahr city on Saturday, demanding that the central government include the province’s full name “Maidan Wardak” in all government and non-government documents, including the electronic identity cards (e-IDs). Protesters warned to continue their protests if the demand is not met.
Kabul: Local officials in Badghis province confirmed that a large-scale attack by Taliban insurgents on Qala-e-Naw, the provincial capital, has been repulsed.
Badghis Governor Hesamuddin Shams told Etilaat Roz that the Taliban had launched their attack on Qala-e-Naw at 10:30pm on Friday. Shams added that the Taliban attack had been repulsed by security and defense forces after six hours of fighting.
He called the Taliban attacks widespread and “violent” and stressed that the Taliban used light and heavy weapons during the conflict. According to him, the Taliban suffered heavy casualties during the clashes. He explained that according to preliminary statistics, more than 50 Taliban fighters had been killed or wounded.
In Ghazni, however, local residents reported that fighting between the ANDSF and Taliban have reached in residential areas of Naw Abad and Qala-e Shahada areas, after the collapse of several security outposts. Provincial council head Nasir Ahmad Faqiri stated that the security situation in the city is not good and accused the Taliban of targeting civilian homes with mortars, whilst fighting is ongoing in PD6. Deputy provincial council head Amanullah Durani said that the Taliban have stationed in civilian homes, as fighting is ongoing in northern and western parts of the city.
Durani warned that if reinforcements don’t arrive soon, the situation will become more complicated. Residents expressed concern about security developments, and called on the central government to address the problem.
In Herat, local officials in Herat acknowledged that security forces have retreated from most of the province’s districts, including the ports of Turgundi and Islam Qala. Herat Governor Abdul Sabur Ghaneh told a news conference on Saturday that the security situation would change soon with the launch of military operations.
“Complete measures are being taken to control the recent situation in Herat,” he said. “I assure the citizens of Herat that they will continue with their daily duties and work, and that the city is in full condition.” The governor of Herat added that security forces and the People’s Forces, led by Mohammad Ismail Khan, are mobilizing and that the government is working on a specific plan to launch an offensive by the security forces and the People’s Forces against insurgents. In recent days, security forces have retreated from 17 districts in Herat, and the Taliban have taken control of those districts, including the border ports of Turghundi and Islam Qala.
Also, Laghman’s provincial military council announced that the ANDSF have broken the siege of Alishing district and reopened the Mehtarlam to Alishing highway, during a joint operation. The council claimed that dozens of Taliban insurgents, including key commanders, were killed during the operation. However, the council added that the Alishing district headquarters was temporarily shifted to a new place in the district, to timely provide support and personnel, and facilitate public access to services and will shift to its previous location after a comprehensive assessment of the situation. The Taliban had claimed on Friday that it had captured the district.
On the other hand, Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, the first deputy head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said that the distribution of government defense facilities to the popular uprising forces was not justified. Farahmand wrote in a tweet on Saturday that each of the government leaders is moving facilities and equipment to defend his province.
Meanwhile, Ata Mohammad Noor, told The Associated Press that the Afghan military is badly demoralized. He said that Washington’s quick exit left the Afghan military logistically unprepared for the Taliban onslaught. He added that even he had not expected the Taliban’s rapid wins, particularly in nearby Badakhshan province in the country’s northeast corner. “It was surprising for me that in 24 hours, 19 districts of Badakhshan were surrendered without a fight,” said Noor.
He claimed that in some areas the Taliban were small in number, perhaps even too few to capture a district, yet the military handed over their weapons and left. The 57-year-old Noor is one of the powerhouse players as Afghanistan enters what many fear will be a chaotic new chapter, with the final withdrawal of U.S. and NATO troops. He commands a personal militia with thousands of fighters. Once the governor of Balkh province, where Mazar-e-Sharif is the capital, he effectively still runs the province. As head of Jamiat-e-Islami, one of Afghanistan’s strongest parties, he wields influence across the north.
Noor was harsh in his criticism of the fractious Afghan leadership. “We advised the government then that they had to work on the morale of the military, they had to be unified, but they did not listen,” he said. Noor also criticized the Afghan government’s fighting strategy, saying the Afghan National Security and Defense forces’ leadership has overused its elite commando units. Though the Afghan air force has well-trained pilots, Noor said the fleet was overused and under-maintained. Noor also slammed the quick U.S. departure as irresponsible. “We needed factories to produce our own ammunition and workshops to repair the aircraft and other vehicles that were given to the Afghan forces,” said Noor. “But the international forces did not work to build a foundation, a self-sufficiency in Afghanistan.”
Kabul: The Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced on Saturday that it has recaptured Ali Abad district in Kunduz province.
The MoD stated that the ANDSF cleared Ali Abad district bazaar during an operation, and inflicted heavy casualties to the Taliban.
On the other hand, the former commander of the 203rd Thunder Army Corps, Jalaluddin Yaftali, travelled to Badakhshan province to fight the Taliban, after resigning from his position. Yaftali stated that he extended his resignation to the president on the day when the Taliban attacked the province, and thanked the president for approving his resignation. Yaftali said that he loves all Afghanistan; however, his birth place was attacked and that he would fight to repel “aggressors.”
Yaftali called on elders in the province to support him against the Taliban. Yaftali warned that anyone who preaches in favor of the Taliban will be thrown into the Kokcha River, and urged local residents to get ready and not to allow former President Burhanuddin Rabbani’s stronghold be invaded. Yaftali gave assurances that he has adequate facilities, including money and airplane, as the central government has pledged to support him against the Taliban.
However, Farah’s provincial council member Khair Mohammad Noorzai told Hashte Subh daily that the Taliban captured Shaikh Abu Nasr Farahi Port on Friday night. Noorzai added that the border crossing is the 2nd largest commercial port in Afghanistan, whose closure will have negative impact on the revenues of the province and central government, as all food and non-food items, including fuel, are imported through the port.
Local sources in Herat province also reported that fall of Islam Qala and Torghundi border crossings to the Taliban, but the provincial officials have yet to comment on the report. Spokesman for the Ministry of Interior (MoI) Tariq Arian said that security officials are present in the area, but not on duty. Arian added that the MoI plans to eliminate threats, and implement measures to retake and suppress the Taliban and their infiltrators.
Spokesman for the Ministry of Industry and Commerce Ahmad Fawad Ahmadi said that the border crossings will not remain in Taliban control long, as Herat’s provincial officials have pledged to retake the Islam Qala port soon, to normalize imports and exports. Ahmadi warned that if the situation remains instable, it will have negative impact on the transfer of goods, imports, and exports. Spokesman for the Ministry of Finance (MoF) Mohammad Rafi Tabe accused the Taliban of attacking Islam Qala port to disrupt Afghanistan’s economic ties with Central Asia. Tabe added that MoF leadership has discussed the issues with security agencies and the situation will soon become normal.
Meanwhile, security sources in Kandahar province confirmed that two civilians were killed in an explosion which targeted the convoy of Pir Mohammad, the district governor of Daman district in Kandahar province. Jamal Nasser Barakzai, a spokesman for the Kandahar Police, told Etilaatroz that the incident took place at around 9:30am on Saturday in the Ghara area of Kandahar’s PD5.
Barakzai added that three other civilians, including a woman, had been injured in the blast. He stressed that Daman district governor was not harmed in the incident. The spokesman for the Kandahar police command did not elaborate, but said police are investigating how the blast occurred. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Also, Kabul Police Headquarters confirmed that two civilians were killed in an explosion inside a property dealer shop in Kabul. Ferdaws Faramarz, a spokesman for the Kabul Police, said the incident took place at around 9:10am on Saturday in the Karte Naw area in the PD8 of Kabul. Faramarz added that four other people had been injured in the blast. He explained that the incident was caused by an explosion of embedded explosives placed inside the shop. No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
On the other hand, Takhar’s provincial police confirm that a prominent people’s uprising commander, Agha Gul Qataghani, in the province has been killed while fighting the Taliban. Qataghani was wounded during clashes on the outskirts of Taloqan city on Friday afternoon, and later succumbed to his injuries at the hospital. Provincial Police Spokesman Khalil Asir said that Qataghani has previously worked as Taloqan city mayor and provincial police chief, who was a prominent commander against the Taliban and Soviet.
This comes even as President Ashraf Ghani visited various parts of Bagram Airport, whose responsibilities have been transferred to the Afghan security and defense forces after the withdrawal of international forces. The President said that the transfer and relocation of equipment at Bagram Airport, an inter-ministerial team of the Security Sector should conduct an investigation to determine the movable and immovable equipment and after prioritization, the necessary measures will be taken in this regard.
Also, Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib announced on Friday that Afghanistan welcomes any technical, anti-terrorism operation support from external partners, including the militaries of Russia, China and India. However, any external assistance should not interfere with internal Afghan government matters, Mohib emphasized.
This comes even as Jowzjan’s provincial repatriation and refugee directorate reported that over 4,000 families have been displaced in the province due to the escalation in violence, over the past month. Repatriation and Refugee Director Abdul Malek Rustami told Hashte Subh daily that those displaced from Aqcha, Fayzabad, and Mardyan districts, from villages across the Jowzjan to Sar-e Pul highway, Sar-e Pul and Faryab provinces have sought shelter in Sheberghan city. Rustami added that 2,200 families have so far been identified, and 652 families received assistance; however, the lack of a specific place for those displaced remains a major challenge, along with security issues, and the lack of facilities, personnel and transportation facilities to address the problems of those displaced.
Also, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has expressed concern over the continuing violence and war in the country and called on the warring parties to come to the negotiating table to end the suffering of the Afghan people. The rights body said on Friday evening, that the unprecedented spread of war and escalation of violence in the country has resulted in the death of hundreds of civilians, displacement of thousands, deprivation of the right to travel, lack of access to shelter, food, health services.
The Independent Human Rights Commission added that road closures in parts of the provinces have led to shortages and rising food prices. According to the commission, along with this unemployment, the destruction and looting of people’s property and the destruction of public facilities has caused more poverty and deprivation of the people, which is extremely painful and worrying. It has stated that in the current situation, nothing is more important than acting on the will of the people and stopping the war. The AIHRC added that the people are the main victims of the violence and that if the parties, especially the Taliban, respect the will of the people, they must end the suffering by ending the war and returning to the negotiating table.
Kabul: President Ghani inaugurated the Khost International Airport on Saturday, which is the 5th international airport in Afghanistan, after Kabul, Balkh, Kandahar, and Herat.
Spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) Mohammad Naeem Salehi said that the airport has been built to facilitate economic growth, particularly for the safe trade of pine nuts via cargo, connecting the Ghulam Khan border crossing to the capital, providing air transportation facilities, and connecting Khost residents to the people across the country and overseas.
Salehi added that the airport has been built in five phases, costing 1.881 billion Afghanis, which has been paid by the CCA’s development budget.
President Ghani returned to Kabul in the afternoon, after inaugurating the Khost airport and assessing the overall situation of the province, as per the Presidential Palace.
Kabul: Air power is essential for Afghan security forces to successfully take on the Taliban, and the Afghan government is looking to India and the US to provide more combat helicopters and associated logistics support, Afghan ambassador to India Farid Mamundzay said on Friday in an interview with Hindustan Times. On Pakistan’s role in the peace process, Mamundzay said Islamabad has not delivered as expected.
On the security situation, he said, “Following the announcement by the US president about the withdrawal of US and international troops, the Taliban has waged a war against the Afghan government and the public. And that has made the situation very dire, not only in terms of security, but this has caused a humanitarian catastrophe. Over 200,000 people have been displaced since April 14, 2021, close to 4,000 civilians who have been killed. So, this could have been handled in a more organized and planned manner. Now, the withdrawal would be completed in several weeks time. We were expecting that we will go through a very troubling time once these forces leave. And we are right, we are going through that phase now,” he said.
He added that there is an active conflict going on and in almost 150 districts in Afghanistan and the Taliban have captured many centers of the districts. “We are going through a turbulent time, but the resilience of our people and the heroic patriotism of our forces is there to defend Afghanistan,” he said, adding that air support is the game-changer for them. “Our assessment is, if we have the required air support, the Taliban would never be able to capture any district. The Afghan forces are still in their development phase, we have not yet got to a stage where we have a full conventional army. Taliban have the same equipment, weapons and ammunition that we have. Our superiority lies in air support and we appreciate the support that the US has recently promised, that they would support us with more air support. We call on all responsible countries in the region, including Russia, Iran and India, to provide us with the required air support. There are two components in air support – one is logistics, which also requires support, and one is helicopters used for fighting on the battleground, which is more critical than the logistic support,” added.
He also said that they look to India for the light combat helicopters or LCH, of which they recently received two. However, they have not officially raised the request for this because they are awaiting helicopters from the US.
On the Taliban, he said that the Taliban are delaying the peace process. “We started the process with very good faith back in September, fulfilling all those commitments that a responsible government was supposed to do. But we were faced with a group that didn’t respond positively to the requests and desires of the Afghan people,” he said.
On Pakistan, he said, “I think the country in the region with the most influence over the Taliban is Pakistan, which has been hosting the Taliban over the past 20 years. The Quetta Shura, Miranshah Shura, Peshawar Shura – they all exist in Pakistan. We understand that Pakistan may not fully control the Taliban, but they have a significant amount of leverage and influence over the Taliban. We expected Pakistan to play a very constructive role to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table, use that influence that the Pakistanis used to help the Americans.”
On India’s support to Afghanistan, he said that India can and should continue with economic and development assistance as that could be used as leverage. “When peace talks begin, it could be used as a way to send the right signals to the Taliban, that should they value democratic processes and preserve the gains of the past 20 years, India would continue assisting the Afghan people,” he said.
However, he added that Afghanistan would not want foreign boots on the ground.
Meanwhile, Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov and discussed regional issues like the situation in Afghanistan, Iran and Syria. “The situation in Afghanistan occupied a lot of our attention because it has a direct implication for regional security. We believe that the immediate need of the day is really a reduction in violence and if we have to see peace within Afghanistan and around Afghanistan,” Jaishankar said. “It is important for India and Russia to work together and ensure that much of the progress that we’ve seen in economic, social and democratic terms are maintained. We are both committed to an independent, sovereign, united and democratic Afghanistan,” he added.
This comes even as a Reuters report states that at least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months, according to two senior Afghan government officials. This series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what US and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.
In so doing, the Taliban — who have no air force — are looking to level the playing field as they press major ground offensives, added the report. Reuters confirmed the identities of two of the slain pilots through family members. It could not independently verify the names of the other five who were allegedly targeted. In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the group had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.” A UN report documented 229 civilian deaths caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, and 41 civilian deaths caused by the Afghan Air Force over the same period.
Afghanistan’s government has not publicly disclosed the number of pilots assassinated in targeted killings. The nation’s Defense Ministry did not respond to Reuter’s requests for comment. The Pentagon said it was aware of the deaths of several Afghan pilots in killings claimed by the Taliban, but declined comment on US intelligence and investigations. All this comes as just last week, U.S. forces left America’s main military bastion in Afghanistan, Bagram Air Base outside Kabul.
The Afghan Air Force is heavily dependent on U.S. training, equipment and maintenance as well as logistics to ensure a reliable pipeline of munitions and spare parts. The Pentagon has yet to fully detail how it will keep Afghan aviators flying after the U.S.-led mission formally ends in coming weeks, as ordered by President Joe Biden. The Pentagon told Reuters it would seek to provide Afghanistan with extra aircraft to ease the strain of combat losses and maintenance downtime.
On the other hand, Najia Anwari, a spokesperson for the State Ministry for Peace Affairs said that serious discussions are taking place between the Afghan Republic and the Taliban negotiators in Doha in the past few days. “These meetings are held after every single night between the two sides and the discussions are focused on a number of important issues,” she said.
Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said that he was surprised by recent advances by the Taliban. However, he added that a military takeover was not the solution to the conflict in Afghanistan. “I’m not surprised that the conflict has intensified, but I am surprised by the progress that the Talibs have made and I’m hoping that the Afghan forces with help from their friends will find their bearing and push back. But again, I repeat, there is no military solution,” said Khalilzad.
The Taliban know that they need to be accepted as part of the future of Afghanistan, not to be a pariah. To invade Kabul and impose a government will put all the things they want internationally at risk. We will not recognize a government in Afghanistan that is imposed by force,” Khalilzad said.The US State Department said that Khalilzad has started a new series of his trips to the region for Afghan peace. “One of the key reasons for the situation that we face today is the unconditional withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, the head of the parliament’s defense committee.