Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Ministry of Finance has sent a draft budget document for the mid-fiscal year 1,400 to the Parliament for approval.
Rafi Tabe, a spokesman for the Ministry of Finance, told Etilaat Roz daily that the draft budget document was submitted to the state Ministry for Parliamentary Affairs on Sunday with the signature of Mohammad Khalid Payenda, the Acting Minister of Finance. Tabe added that in this budget document, the optional budget has been reduced due to the poor security situation in the country’s customs and instead the non-optional budget has been increased.
According to him, the total budget ceiling for the middle of the fiscal year 1400 is 448.5 billion Afghanis. Of this total, 317,909 billion afghanis is the fixed budget and 130,580 billion afghanis is the development budget.
According to him, in different codes, the ordinary budget has been increased in different cases, especially for the payment of pensioners and the addition of two thousand Afghanis in the salaries of low-ranking government employees, which has been applicable since the beginning of 1400.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Finance stressed that in addition to the existing needs, a number of new activities are included in the development budget. He cited the cost of transferring airline responsibility to the Afghan government and the digitalization and electronic-government project.
On the other hand, Rafi Tabe added that most of the national health programs, education, water and natural resources management, financial sector, basic infrastructure, energy and extractive industries, and accounting and digitalization are funded from existing non-discretionary funds. However, he expressed hope that the country’s parliament would approve the budget draft soon. Tabe stressed that with the approval of this budget draft by the parliament, an additional 2,000 afghanis in the salaries of teachers, and low-ranking employees will be implemented from the first month of this solar year.
Kabul: Takhar’s provincial police headquarters reported that the ANDSF repulsed Taliban attacks against Ganj Alibek and Chobar areas of Taloqan city. The police added that the Afghan Air Force conducted strikes against enemy positions in those areas, inflicting heavy casualties to the group.
Also, Ajmal Omar Shinwari, a spokesman for the country’s armed forces, said that 24 districts had been liberated from Taliban control as a result of operations by defense and security forces. According to him, the defense and security forces have changed their offensive position in some parts of the country. Speaking at a news conference in Kabul on Sunday, Shinwari said that the Taliban presence in a number of district centers was short-lived and that specific plans had been drawn up to liberate those districts.
Shinwari added that the district is not just a building, but includes all of its land. According to him, the land belongs to the government and the services are provided by the government. On the other hand, he said that the defense and security forces have launched 244 ground and air operations in the last four days, as a result of which 967 Taliban fighters have been killed and 596 other fighters of this group have been wounded.
Ajmal Omar Shinwari said that as a result of the operation, 92 Taliban were arrested, 50 mines were discovered and 49 explosions, including two car bombs, were prevented.
Meanwhile, Kandahar’s Police Spokesman Jamal Naser Barakzai told Salam Watandar that a civilian minivan hit a roadside IED along the Arghistan to Kandahar highway on Sunday, killing five members of a family. Barakzai added that the family was heading towards Kandahar city for shopping for Eid. Barakzai blamed the Taliban for the explosion, and the group has yet to comment on the report.
Also, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) announced the recapture of Surkh-o-Parsa ditrict of Parwan province, inflicting heavy casualties to the Taliban and capturing their weapons, ammunition, and vehicles. The MoD added that the clearance operation is ongoing in the province.
This comes even as Balkh’s Provincial Police Chief Ghulam Daud Tarakhel chaired a security meeting about the security measures on Eid al-Adha in the province. Tarakhel was briefed about developments in the province, and he gave serious instructions to the provincial security and intelligence officials to ensure the security of the people during Eid al-Adha, treat the public in good and professional manner, so that local residents can celebrate the holidays well. Provincial security and intelligence officials assured that they have taken serious measures to ensure security and spare no effort in this regard.
On the other hand, Paktia’s provincial NDS arrested an individual in Gardez city, for spreading anti-government propaganda on Facebook. The individual has pleaded guilty in his initial statement and the case will be referred to judiciary soon.
Meanwhile, the Lower House of Parliament reacted to the remarks of Mufti Abdul Shakoor, a member of Pakistan’s National Assembly, about Afghanistan, calling it irresponsible and a clear interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. In a statement, the parliament stated that the Pakistani MP had criticized the Afghan system in his remarks, who had not only expressed happiness with the killing of the Afghan people, but also supported the Taliban presence in the country.
According to the statement, Mufti Abdul Shakoor said that “the Taliban in Afghanistan is playing a good role in protecting Pakistan,” and that Islamabad should support the group. The parliament called the remarks as being against the principles of diplomacy and said that no one is allowed to interfere in the internal affairs of the country. The parliament added that supporting terrorism by regional countries is detrimental to all and called on the Pakistani government and parliament to stop these “inhumane and un-Islamic” statements.
Also, Deputy Interior Minister for Support Riaz Darmal announced that the 1st major maintenance workshop for the Afghan Air Force (AAF) aircraft opened in Abu Dhabi on July 17, as three helicopters arrived for maintenance and the process will continue. Darmal added that with the repair of the planes, the AAF’s strength will be tripled soon, and will force the enemy to negotiate peace. Darmal claimed that the war is between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but these “puppet” Taliban are prey for the interests of foreigners.
Meanwhile, addressing a press conference, Kandahar’s Provincial Governor Rohullah Akhundzada claimed that some security officials were evacuating their outposts due to ethnic and political ties. Akhundzada added that the Taliban didn’t go to some outposts four days after the ANDSF had evacuated, and pledged to introduce to the people of Kandahar, those elders who have filled their pockets in the name of Kandahar people over the past 20 years.
Senior Deputy Interior Minister for Security Affairs Abdul Rahman Rahman also walked through Kandahar city and met with residents and shopkeepers, to assure that the ANDSF will defeat the enemy and security threats will be completely eliminated, allowing the people to return to normal life. Rahman visited the provincial central prison and a number of other security checkpoints, to give moral and praise the ANDSF.
On the other hand, the Ministry of Information and Culture said that with the escalation of the war and the capture of the areas by the Taliban, over 100 historical sites are under threat. Information and Culture Minister Mohammad Qasim Wafayeezada told a news conference on Sunday that historical monuments, representing several great human civilizations, have been seriously threatened by violence.
He referred to Takhar’s Ay Khanum and said that after the Taliban took control of the area, unknown individuals, possibly “opportunistic mafias,” began digging and blocked the presence of people in the area, meaning that “there are hands trying to steal historical monuments so that Afghanistan is emptied of its rich history of historical heritage.” Wafayeezada called on the people to pay attention to this issue and not to allow the cultural, artistic and literary richness to be easily plundered.
Wafayeezada added that 32 historical monuments in Samangan province, 31 in Balkh province, and five in Helmand province are under threat and, in some cases, they have been damaged due to war and explosions. Wafayeezada said that the protection of these historical monuments is the responsibility of all and call on the Taliban to prevent the destruction of the sites
Kabul: Concerns have been raised about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection after Eid al-Adha. Officials at the Ministry of Public Health said that they have launched awareness programs to curb the coronavirus pandemic. A number of Herat residents have also expressed concern about the rising graph of coronavirus in recent days in the province, calling for the implementation of preventive plans to curb the virus. In their view, COVID-19 deaths have increased dramatically in recent days.
Although some relatives of patients expressed concern about the lack of beds, medical facilities and oxygen supply at COVID-19 hospitals, the Ministry of Public Health assured that hospital beds will be increased if needed. Dastgir Nazari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health, told Hashte Subh daily that the ministry had launched awareness programs in coordination with other government agencies to prevent the spread of the virus.
According to him, public awareness programs have been launched through media campaigns, village development councils and mosque pulpits. He added that the purpose of launching this program is to convey the message of the health sector to the people with the aim of observing hygienic and preventive measures on Eid al-Adha days so that people can avoid crowds, observe social distance and use masks when leaving home.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health warns that based on the ministry’s experience and statistics, the number of cases of coronavirus in Afghanistan has increased significantly in the days following Eid al-Fitr, and that Eid visits will provide more opportunities for the virus to spread.
The spokesman for the Ministry of Public Health stated that hospital beds would be increased if needed and that new hospitals had been set up in recent months to treat coronavirus patients in a number of provinces, including Herat.
After the coronavirus hit Herat, two special hospitals were set up to treat COVID-19 patients, and as the disease subsided, one of them was closed; but a few months ago, it was reopened.
Meanwhile, Herat’s provincial public health directorate urged local residents to follow the below-mentioned points during Eid holidays including, limiting Eid celebration to messages through phones and internet, and avoid movement and picnic; offering Eid prayers in an open space, observing social distancing and wearing facemasks; avoiding contacts such as handshake and hugs; stopping livestock from moving in the vicinity of residential areas; avoiding touching livestock while purchasing for sacrifices and slaughtering should happen at a distance from residential area, among other rules.
Also, as Eid al-Adha approaches, the Ministry of Public Health warned of a resurgence of the coronavirus and urged people to avoid visiting public places in this situation. The Acting Minister of Public Health, Vahid Majrooh, told a news conference on Sunday, that although the coronavirus has been declining in some provinces, it is still a state of emergency. He stressed that the highest number of positive cases of coronavirus is currently recorded in Zabul, Takhar, Faryab, Herat, Farah, Khost, Paktika and Ghor provinces.
“Our evidence shows that, although the number of cases has decreased in a number of provinces, Covid-19 is still lurking,” said the acting Minister of Public Health. The Ministry of Public Health is concerned about the principles of prevention and health. “Even though we have crossed the peak, it is still possible to climb again.”
He said that the arrival of Eid al-Adha, the fifth wave of the coronavirus in Iran and the increase in positive cases in Pakistan, has increased the concern of the Ministry of Public Health. He called on people to avoid going to their friends’ houses during Eid and congratulate each other on Eid al-Adha through messages and cyberspace.
However, Majrooh warned that if the recommendations of the Ministry of Public Health were not followed, the spread of the coronavirus would increase. “If you do not heed these recommendations, you will accelerate the spread of the virus based on scientific evidence,” he said.
This comes even as the Ministry of Public Health announced on Sunday that 887 people have been infected with the coronavirus in Afghanistan during the past 24 hours. The ministry said in a statement on Sunday that with the registration of these cases, the total number of people infected with the coronavirus in Afghanistan has increased to 141,499.
In the past 24 hours, 66 people have died from the coronavirus and the death toll has risen to 6,213. In the past 24 hours, 966 people have recovered from the infection.
Kabul: The acting defense minister said at a graduation ceremony for a number of army special forces that the Taliban are not achieving their goals through violence, but were “increasing the pain” of the people.
The graduation ceremony of 135 people, including 20 women members of the Special Commando Unit of the Army Special Operations Camp, was held on Saturday.
Acting National Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi said at the ceremony that the army and government are determined to defend the country. The acting defense minister stressed that the Taliban do not achieve their goals through violence and war, but that they increase the suffering of the people. He thanked the people for standing by the security forces despite the escalation of violence in most parts of the country.
Mohammadi said that the security forces are right and their struggle is to defend the homeland and it is the right thing. Addressing the newly graduated commando forces, he said, “Prove your abilities.” Newly graduated troops are set to enter the battlefields.
On the other hand, 34 Taliban insurgents were killed and wounded in counter-attacks by security and defense forces in Pashtun Kot district of Faryab province. Taliban insurgents group attacked the “Sabz” area of Pashtun Kot district of Faryab province. Their attacks were met with a strong response from the security and defense forces of the country. A member of the group was killed and 22 other members, including several key individuals, were injured. Some weapons, ammunition and vehicles of the enemy vehicle were also destroyed.
Also, a number of Herat residents and local officials donated blood to security forces. Herat residents said that the aim of the blood collection campaign is to support the security and defense forces. They said that in the current crisis, the security forces are defending the homeland, and that every resident of Herat needs to donate blood to save the lives of the wounded by the security forces. Herat Governor Abdul Sabur Qane praised the people’s practical support for the security forces and the presence of the province’s residents in defending them. Meanwhile, Herat Blood Bank officials say that 50,000cc of blood has been collected through this campaign. According to them, the amount of blood collected will be donated to the needy wounded of the security and defense forces.
Meanwhile, regarding the abduction and torture of the daughter of the ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan, Ambassador of Pakistan to Afghanistan Mansoor Ahmad Khan said that Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan has directed Pakistan Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed to utilize all resources to apprehend the persons involved in the kidnapping of the daughter of Afghan Ambassador in Islamabad.
Khan tweeted that the Pakistan Prime Minister has further directed the Interior Minister that Islamabad Police and other law enforcement agencies must investigate the incident on top priority, bring the truth of the matter to the fore and apprehend the culprits within 48 hours.
Khan tweeted that all efforts are being made to thoroughly investigate the matter and apprehend the persons involved in the incident.
In fact, Minister for Interior Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed on Saturday said that the authorities are in touch with one of two taxi drivers whose services the daughter of the ambassador of Afghanistan to Pakistan utilized on the day she was abducted. He said the authorities tracked down one of the taxi drivers and are in touch with him. The Pakistan Foreign Office had earlier issued a statement saying that the culprits are being traced to be brought to justice. “The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and relevant security authorities are closely in contact with the ambassador and his family and extending full support in the matter,” the statement added.
It said that the security of the ambassador and his family “has been beefed up” and in the meanwhile, law enforcement agencies “are trying to trace and apprehend the culprits to be brought to justice”. According to a statement by the Afghan foreign ministry, the ambassador’s daughter was abducted for several hours and tortured.
Also, UN humanitarian chief in Afghanistan has appealed for $850 million to help the war-torn country cope with the impact of the Taliban offensive, protracted malnutrition for a third of the country, a severe drought, and the return of 627,000 Afghans this year, most of them deported from neighboring Iran. Ramiz Alakbarov told reporters at UN headquarters after a virtual briefing from the capital of Kabul that at least 18 million Afghans are in need of assistance and the UN plan is to provide help for at least 15.7 million of them.
But he said the UN’s $1.3 billion appeal is only 37 percent funded – $450 million – with the United States the largest donor. He said the remaining the $850 million being sought is desperately needed. Alakbarov said the second drought in three years and the Taliban’s offensive have led 270,000 people to flee their homes in rural areas toward urban areas and regional centers, where they need food, water, shelter and sanitation. The UN is also seeing “very intensive movements of population in the areas when the Iranian and Pakistan borders are now largely closed,” with Afghans trying to use paths away from the official crossings to try to leave the country, he said.
Alakbarov expressed hope that Afghanistan’s neighbors will look at the situation in terms of human rights and their responsibility to protect people from suffering and allow Afghan refugees into their countries. The United Nations registered 627,000 Afghans who have returned from neighboring countries so far this year, he said, and “most of them are from Iran.” Alakbarov reported a significant increase in attacks on humanitarian workers this year. He said 35 humanitarian workers have been killed and 63 injured, which “represents a 30% increase compared to last year.” He also reported threats and interference involving aid staffers, citing 1,095 incidents in the first six months of 2021, compared to 1,100 in all of 2020. He said most difficulties faced by aid workers arise from military activity, including having to deal with mines on roads, being caught in cross-fire, and coming under attack from groups that target female health workers, women who do vaccinations and mine-clearing teams.
Alakbarov said that in the current situation, “everything is a challenge” and “Covid-19 hasn’t made it easier,” with deaths from the coronavirus doubling in the last 2½ months. While the UN has humanitarian supplies in Afghanistan for needs through August, he said, the closure of border crossings could pose future problems. He added the insuring security at Kabul airport is absolutely imperative.
Kabul: Iran is planning to host a meeting between the Afghan government and other Afghan groups to bring peace to war-torn Afghanistan, as per reports of Fars News. The Iranian news agency did not mention if the Taliban will take part in the Tehran peace talks but it said all Afghanistan’s “internal groups” will be present in the meeting, implying that a delegation from the Taliban may participate in the meeting. It also did not set any date for the talks, but said they will take place “soon.”
According to Fars News, these days Iran is trying to ensure peace, stability and lasting security for the people of Afghanistan by holding dialogue sessions and interaction between the groups and the government, while denying violence and focusing on a political solution. Iran’s initiative in holding this meeting can save the people of Afghanistan from the current crisis to a great extent, it added.
The meeting will be hosted by an Iranian organization called “Global Forum of Islamic Awakening” and will be held virtually. Iran has recently played host to Afghan peace talks for the second time. In early July, delegations from the Afghan government and the Taliban descended on Tehran to discuss ways to achieve peace in the midst of U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, who led the talks, urged both sides to show courage in making peace.
The Iranian foreign minister added, “What I ask you is that use this opportunity and end the war in Afghanistan as soon as possible, and provide the Afghan people with the chance to develop.” He also voiced Iran’s readiness to facilitate peace talks. “The Islamic Republic of Iran is always ready to facilitate your talks in any way you prefer,” he pointed out. In fact, Rasoul Mousavi, Director-General of West Asia Department in Foreign Ministry said on Sunday that Afghanistan has no way out but dialog, understanding, compromise, forgiveness, closing eyes to the past and looking into the future. In a tweet he wrote that he just returned home from Kabul, Afghanistan and expressed concern about what was happening to the Afghanistan flag. “Opportunities pass like clouds. The opportunity of peace must be taken today, not tomorrow, as it might be late,” he added. Mousavi travelled to Kabul in recent days to meet several senior officials of Afghanistan, including Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.
This comes even as a senior delegation of the Afghan government and Taliban representatives have met in Doha for high-stakes negotiations as violence escalates on the ground in Afghanistan on Saturday. The two sides have been meeting on and off for months in the Qatari capital but the talks have lost momentum as a string of battlefield gains by the Taliban has coincided with foreign forces finalizing their withdrawal from Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, as per Afghan president’s special envoy for Pakistan Omar Daudzai, a part of the Pakistani establishment may favor return of Taliban’s Islamic Emirate. In an interview with 1TV, Daudzai said that Pakistan should be convinced by the international community and Afghanistan that an inclusive political settlement would benefit both the countries.
He said that Pakistan has invited 31 politicians including government officials and party leaders to a conference in Islamabad. The three-day conference was originally scheduled to begin on July 17, but it has been postponed to after Eid which is expected next week. Daudzai suggested that the conference was postponed to upon request by the Afghan side, so that it could be held with a more proper coordination between foreign ministries of the two countries.
However, Pakistan Federal Minister for Information and Broadcasting Chaudhry Fawad Hussain said that peace cannot be established in Afghanistan unless all warring factions sit together. “Durable peace in Afghanistan was an imperative economic progress for the whole region,” the minister said while talking to media.
The minister said categorically that Pakistan will not interfere inside Afghanistan but will play a role for restoration of peace. In other news, Pakistan Director General Inter-Services Public Relations Maj Gen Babar Iftikhar, speaking of the Afghan border, said that “all illegal crossing points have been sealed” and that deployment of troops to notified points has been ramped up. He said that the Pakistan Army is “keeping a close eye” on the situation in the region and is “playing its role with utmost seriousness” for the successful outcome of the Afghan peace process.
Meanwhile, the hurried US and NATO withdrawal from Afghanistan has sparked concerns in Moscow over the security of its Central Asian allies amid the Taliban’s continued advance. All of Afghanistan’s neighbors, including Russia’s Tajik partners, have beefed up border security in a bid to stop violence and instability from spilling over into their nations. Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden discussed the possibility of exchanging information on the conflict in Afghanistan at their June 16 summit meeting in Geneva, the Russian newspaper Kommersant reports, citing sources said to be familiar with the situation.
The discussions are said to have included a proposal by Putin to use Russian bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, possibly to provide the US with information obtained through the use of drones. The US “hasn’t given a clear answer for now”, according to one source. Russian presidential press secretary Dmitry Peskov on Saturday confirmed to RBC that the situation in Afghanistan was on the agenda of the June summit, but did not comment on whether the discussions included talks about Russia’s Central Asian bases. Russia has a major military presence in Tajikistan, which is one of Afghanistan’s northern neighbors. Moscow’s Collective Security Treaty Organization ally hosts the 201st Military Base in Dushanbe.
Also, US NSC Spokesperson Emily Horne stated that a Senior Administration Delegation’s Trip to Uzbekistan was joined by US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad and US Ambassador to Uzbekistan Daniel Rosenblum in Tashkent after the international conference. The delegation met with Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Afghan Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar to discuss the evolving security situation in Afghanistan. US support for the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, and US diplomatic support for a negotiated political settlement to the conflict was discussed. The delegation also met with Indian Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar to discuss regional security for Afghanistan and counterterrorism cooperation.
In fact, Taliban leader Hibatullah Akhundzada in his Eid message said, “We are celebrating this Eid at a time when majority of American and other foreign forces have evacuated our country and the remaining are following suit. In spite of the military gains and advances, the Taliban favors a political settlement in the country, and every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system, peace and security that presents itself will be made use of by the group. Our message remains that instead of relying on foreigners, let us resolve our issues among ourselves and rescue our homeland from the prevailing crisis.” He added that the group fully assures neighboring, regional and world countries that Afghanistan will not permit anyone to pose a security threat to any other country using our soil.
The Taliban leader has said the group has opened a political office “for good progress in negotiations and the political process,” obliges the negotiating team and is “committed” to resolving issues through dialogue.
This comes even as the negotiating delegations of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban in Qatar are trying to agree on the establishment of three working groups to discuss three specific issues. Sources familiar with the Doha meeting told the Etilaat roz daily that the three working groups are set to work on three issues simultaneously. The “future constitution, confidence-building and political roadmap” are the three topics discussed in the working groups.
According to these sources, the release of Taliban prisoners and the removal of Taliban leaders from the UN blacklist is in the section on “confidence building” and the establishment of a transitional government are part of the “political roadmap”. The source adds, “They are trying to agree on an agenda of three clear, fresh, effective and fast-track articles, and at the same time, the creation of three negotiating groups. These three groups will start working simultaneously.”
According to sources, the bilateral delegations, consisting of seven people from both sides, have completed their second meeting behind closed doors, and the third meeting was scheduled for Sunday afternoon. Abdullah Abdullah, Karim Khalili, Atta Mohammad Noor, Masoom Stanekzai, Fatema Gilani and Bator Dostum on behalf of the Afghan government and Abdul Ghani Baradar, Shahabuddin Delawar, Abdul Salam Hanafi, Mullah Din Mohammad, Mawlana Farid, Mullah Fazel and Sheikh Abdul Hakim Haqqani on behalf of the Taliban were present in the meeting.
Sources also that Majid al-Qahtani, Qatar’s special envoy for the peace in Afghanistan, was present as a mediator and facilitator.