Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Afghan government Saturday postponed the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners, an Afghan official said, a decision that could sabotage a peace deal signed last month between the Taliban and the United States.
Jawed Faisal, spokesman for the Afghan National Security Adviser’s office, said the releases were being delayed because more time was needed to review the list of prisoners.
The move comes despite President Ashraf Ghani’s decree earlier this week promising the start of the releases Saturday as a good will gesture to get intra-Afghan negotiations started.
The Afghan Presidential Palace announced that all governmental and private education institutions are closed in the country for one month.
“Based on the suggestions of the Ministries of Education, Public Health and Higher Education, the institutions closed for one month,” President’s spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.
This comes as the total number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in the country reaches to 11.
Pakistan’s Tribal Districts (NMTDs) Medical Director Riaz Afridi says that they have stationed a mobile hospital equipped with modern facilities, including kits to test for COVID-19, and an isolation ward for suspected and confirmed cases at the largest crossing point between Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Afridi on Friday told The Express Tribune while visiting the Torkham border.
Apart from the thermal scanners and other equipment installed at the mobile hospital, he said that mobile thermal scanners have also been provided to employees of the merged districts.
A new case of coronavirus positive patient was reported in Herat province of north-western Afghanistan which mounted the total number of cases related to the viral infection to 11 on Saturday.
With this, the total number of cases in Herat province has gone up to six.
As per the Ministry of Public Health of the country, the other cases were reported from the provinces of Kapisa, Balkh and Samangan.
President Ashraf Ghani in a message on the National Day said the coronavirus poses a serious threat and required the country take precautionary measures.
A 100-bed treatment center for isolation and treatment of COVID-19 has been inaugurated in Jalalabad, Nangarhar.
Nagarhar Governor Shah Mahmood Miakhel and Deputy Head of Public Health Services Provision, Feda Mohammad Paikaan, inaugurated the center.
“We’ve taken necessary precautions to prevent the spread of coronavirus in Nangarhar city in collaboration with the relevant departments,” said Mihakhel.
The governor also called on the general public to avoid handshakes and hugs and big crowds to prevent spread of the virus.
Canadian Ambassador to Afghanistan Dave Metcalfe has said the Afghan women should be given chance to contribute to the ongoing peace efforts.
In a ceremony in Kabul, the Canadian ambassador said, “No country can disregard half of its population in any effort of national reconciliation. Beyond the negotiating table, women’s participation is fundamental for all dimensions of building a sustainable peace—women’s engagements in post-conflict resolutions have tangible positive impacts on stabilization and reconstruction of economies and social fabric.”
“Women’s voices are necessary not just in subjects of health or education, but at the forefront of core political issues such as representation and integration,” he said at a gathering titled “Creating Access for Inclusive Peace Process in Afghanistan (CPA).
Several US troops in Afghanistan are experiencing flu-like symptoms but have tested negative for influenza, a US lawmaker said raising the possibility that they may have coronavirus.
Mark Pocan, a Republican congressman, criticized that the troops, who are 75 miles from Iran where the coronavirus is rampant, have not been tested for coronavirus, Military.com reported.
He said that he learned of the situation after one of the soldiers’ families contacted his office.
“If we’re not providing proper health care to military personnel, especially so close to where there is a real flare of the pandemic near Iran … that would be awful,” Pocan told Military.com.
The congressman declined to name the military base in Afghanistan where the troops are sick, citing concerns the service member’s family had about coming forward. Herat province in Afghanistan has half of 10 confirmed coronavirus cases and US has troops operating there.
Afghanistan National Security Council (NSA) says the Taliban group should have to work with the Afghan government to find a solution.
The spokesman of NSC, Jawid Faisal said, “We proposed a mechanism for the peace process to move forward.”
“Taliban should work to find a solution, get their prisoners released and push for peace,” he added.
Faisal stressed that the ball is in their court now to decide on whether to remain part of the problem or become part of the solution.
Afghan local officials have confirmed that at least five security and uprising forces were killed in Taliban’s attack in Badghis province.
The spokesman of Badghis governor, Najmuddin Borhani said, “The Taliban insurgents attacked security forces’ outpost at around 20:00pm on Friday night at a distance of 3 kms to Qades district.”
According to Borhani, at least two national police, two uprising forces and one Police Special Unit soldier were killed in the attack.
He added that at least three Taliban insurgents were also killed and four others were wounded in the incident.
U.S. troops in Afghanistan are not being tested for the novel coronavirus, U.S. military officials told the House Armed Services Committee.
There is “no availability of testing for COVID-19” for troops there, a U.S. Central Command representative told the committee in a March 12 statement made available by the committee on Friday.
“Military personnel who believe they are at risk or have flu-like symptoms have immediate access to on-base medical care,” the command official said. “This care includes screening and thorough medical diagnosis. If at any time in the course of medical examination members are suspected or considered high risk with symptoms (a requirement to meet testing protocols per the Center for Disease Control & World Health Organization), the medical community will send samples to appropriate testing facilities at Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany and/or civilian testing facilities in Munich, Germany, to conduct a COVID-19 test.”
The statement also indicated that “precautionary quarantine or isolation care procedures are in place at each of our Military Medical Treatment Facilities in Afghanistan.”
The committee has asked Defense Department officials similar coronavirus questions about U.S. troops stationed or deployed in or near other risk countries in addition to Afghanistan. The committee is still waiting for replies, an aide said.
The number of attacks being carried out across Afghanistan by the Taliban are “still too high” in the wake of a newly signed peace agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban, the head of U.S. military operations in the Middle East said Friday.
Speaking to reporters at the Pentagon, Gen. Frank McKenzie, commander of U.S. Central Command, explained that Taliban-led attacks are not taking place in cities or against U.S. or allied forces but rather at checkpoints and isolated locations.
“The level of attacks in my judgment is not consistent with a group that wants to pursue and be a fair and faithful partner, going forward,” he said. “So those attacks are too high.”
Earlier this week, the four-star general told a Senate panel he has “no confidence” in the Taliban’s willingness to pursue a peace process with the U.S.-backed Afghan government in Kabul amid ongoing tensions between the two sides and a simmering political crisis.
Afghanistan has endorsed Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s proposal to chalk out a joint strategy to combat the coronavirus outbreak.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said that the government has welcomed the proposal and readiness of the other SAARC members to work together devising a unified strategy to fight the coronavirus in the region.
“The Afghan government strongly welcomes the proposal of the Prime Minister of India and readiness of the other SAARC members to work together devising a unified strategy to fight the Coronavirus in the region,” Sediqqi tweeted.
Prime Minister Modi on Friday had proposed that the leaders of the SAARC countries should chalk out a joint strategy to fight coronavirus.
“I would like to propose that the leadership of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) nations chalk out a strong strategy to fight Coronavirus. We could discuss, via video conferencing, ways to keep our citizens healthy,” PM Modi had tweeted.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) has announced three more positive cases of coronavirus in three provinces of the country.
The spokesman of MoPH, Wahidullah Mayar the positive cases were recorded in Balkh, Kapisa and Samangan.
According to Mayar, the number of positive cases in the country reaches to ten.
He added that around 181 suspected cases have been tested in the laboratories of the Ministry and the remaining cases were negative.
The government of Pakistan on Friday announced the complete closure of borders with Afghanistan for two weeks in a bid to prevent the coronavirus spread.
According to the Pakistan’s ministry of interior, the decision is taken in pursuance of the directions passed by the National Security Committee.
“The borders are being closed in the best interest of all three brotherly countries,” the Ministry added.
Moscow hopes for the prompt elimination of all hurdles standing in the way of implementing the US-Taliban agreement, Russian Foreign Ministry Spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said.
“Russia welcomed its signing and hopes for its complete implementation,” the diplomat stated. “We expect that in the near future all hurdles standing in the way will be eliminated and a solution achieved that will allow for the release from custody of five thousand Taliban and one thousand government troops ahead of direct intra-Afghan talks on peace and the country’s post-war reconstruction in full conformity with the agreement,” Zakharova commented.
She voiced concern over a critical situation, which is “fraught with further destabilization of the already complicated internal political situation in the country and negative effects on yet-to-be launched inclusive intra-Afghan talks,” which became a realistic possibility after the conclusion of the Doha agreement.
The fear of terror attacks or coronavirus did little to deter thousands from packing a Kabul stadium Thursday to watch horsemen play polo with a headless goat carcass in Afghanistan’s first buzkashi league.
The standing-room-only crowd cheered, hooted and whistled as riders dressed in bright uniforms raced across the muddy field, each man trying to ensure that his team had custody of the 50-kilogramme carcass.
Buzkashi, which means “dragging the goat” in Persian, involves grabbing the carcass, galloping across the field and dropping it into a “circle of justice”, drawn in chalk and located at either end of the ground.
Organisers say they want to make the week-long league an annual affair, with plans to stage it in different cities each year.
Like much else in Afghanistan, the league’s success will depend on the security situation — the Taliban has attacked sporting events in the past and had banned buzkashi during its five years in power.
India-Chabahar-Afghanistan corridor became officially operational with the shipment of two containers through Mumbai, Chabahar and the Dogharoon border, according to the Director-General of Customs Transit of Iran.
Mostafa Ayati, Director General of Customs Transit of Iran said on Friday that the cargo was shipped this morning from Chabahar Customs to Afghanistan’s Herat via Dogharoon Customs.
The corridor had previously been opened through the Afghan-Indian route by shipment of 24 TIR Carnets, he said, adding that by sending these two containers on their way back from India, transport of goods under cover of TIR Carnets in the eastern corridor was successfully operational.