Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) rejected the Pakistani Foreign Ministry’s claim that Afghanistan launched cross-border attacks across the Durand Line into Pakistan’s Binshahi Sector in Dir.
In a statement on Thursday, the MFA said as “one of the main victims of terrorism from its sanctuaries in the region,” Afghanistan “does not allow any terrorist group to use its territory against Pakistan or other countries.”
“The sacrifice of the security forces in the fight against terrorism throughout Afghanistan is a clear example of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’s strong fight against terrorism,” the ministry noted.
Pakistan had said that “terrorists operating from Afghanistan” had resorted to firing mortar and heavy weapons at Pakistani posts on Wednesday afternoon, followed by clashes between the Afghan Border Police Posts and Pakistan’s border troops.
The Afghan MFA said that at the request of the Pakistani forces, a border flag meeting between the security officials of the two countries was held on Thursday.
This showed “the strong will of the Afghan government to cooperate with Pakistan to eradicate terrorists,” MFA said.
The Afghan government considers the “closure of terrorist nests and sanctuaries to be effective and beneficial through sincere cooperation and the use of bilateral mechanisms,” said the MFA, pointing to the Afghanistan-Pakistan Action Plan for Peace and Solidarity (APAPPS).
Taliban members torched two oil tankers and clashed with security forces along the Baghlan-Samangan highway near Pul-e-Khumri, said the Baghlan Police.
Ahmad Javid Besharat, spokesperson for Baghlan Police, said the incident took place on Thursday, near the Bagh-e-Shamal area in the provincial capital.
The clashes also caused traffic to halt along the highway, with social media photos showing drivers waiting.
Four Taliban fighters were killed and two others were injured in the clash, and no casualties were reported among the security forces.
Local media also reported that the Taliban hijacked seven oil tankers along with their drivers. However, Besharat did not confirm this report.
Taliban has yet to comment on the incident.
Former president Hamid Karzai urged the people to support the Peace Consultative Loya Jirga in a Facebook post on Thursday.
Talking about the Loya Jirga to be held on Friday, Aug. 7, Karzai hoped that it would “emphasize the immediate start of intra-Afghan negotiations… take all necessary steps to ensure a comprehensive ceasefire after the Jirga… and the establishment of lasting peace in the country.”
He urged the people to support the Jirga. “If this Consultative Jirga takes steps to achieve the above goals, it is worthy of our support and endorsement, and in this way we will soon be able to bring our dear country Afghanistan to independence, peace and national sovereignty and free it from foreigners.”
Karzai said that while efforts to establish peace in the country have been going on for a long time, they had been delayed and hampered at various stages.
“It is the national responsibility of Afghans on both sides to immediately remove any obstacles to intra-Afghan peace talks and build trust,” wrote the former president.
He emphasized that “genuine intra-Afghan dialogues” could only be held in an atmosphere of mutual understanding, respect and trust.
First Vice President Amrullah Saleh lashed out at critics who commented on the cost of the Loya Jirga, and said the Afghan government spends 4.2 billion AFN annually for the protection and security of high-ranked officials, some of whom work to undermine the system.
In a Facebook post on Thursday, Saleh called out people who said the government was spending too much for the Peace Consultative Loya Jirga, which is around 330 million AFN.
“I was waiting for criticism of other figures,” he wrote, adding that the government spends 4.2 billion AFN annually for the security of senior officials.
“A number of these figures [senior officials] and personalities unfortunately spend more than half of their time weakening the system in order to achieve their personal desires and aspirations to feed their greed,” Saleh rued.
“We hope to discuss this astronomical consumption. Let’s find out how much money is spent to protect which person, that’s the best.”
The vice president said the Peace Consultative Loya Jirga was invaluable since “advising the nation and respecting the opinion of the nation is more valuable than any price.”
“The reasons for this great and courageous action will be clearly explained in the President’s speech tomorrow,” he wrote.
In the previous year, the Loya Jirga had been convened at the cost of 369 million AFN.
South African mobile operator MTN Group is exiting Afghanistan and the Middle East, it said on Thursday.
MTN Group President and Chief Executive Officer Rob Shuter said they would now be focusing on Africa.
“As part of the review of our portfolio, we believe the group is best served to focus on its pan-African strategy and to simplify its portfolio by exiting the Middle East region in an orderly manner.”
The Middle East “environment is becoming increasingly complex and it contributes less to the group’s earnings,” Shuter summarized.
In Afghanistan, the operator has been accused by families of U.S. soldiers, of having aided the Taliban and Al Qaeda and paying them protection money.
Shuter said they would dispose off assets in a phased manner with Afghanistan, Yemen and Syria earmarked first. They only contribute about 4% to the group’s earnings.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) said they tested 753 samples for COVID-19 in the past 24 hours and found 108 new positive cases.
During the past day, four people succumbed to Coronavirus while 98 made a full-recovery, taking the country’s tally to 36,937 confirmed cases so far, with 1,298 fatalities and 25,840 people who have recovered.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Kabul (39), Herat (28), Ghazni (18), Kandahar (10), Logar (3), Badghis (3), Nimroz (2), Bamyan (2), Nangarhar (1), Helmand (1) and Kunar (1).
The ministry said there were 9,799 cases active in the country at the moment.
Two former generals who served in Afghanistan, have urged British ministers to “do the right thing” and give sanctuary to Afghan translators who served alongside U.K. troops during the Afghan War, reports the Daily Mail.
They said it was “disgraceful” and “unacceptable” for the plight of these translators to have dragged on for so long as Britain owed them “an incredible debt.”
British Defence Secretary Ben Wallace and Home Secretary Priti Patel have been criticised for delaying the process which would grants sanctuary to at least 150 translators who were denied visas.
The British news website published the names and stories of 48 translators who feared retribution from the Taliban and the IS-K after they were refused sanctuary in the U.K.
Another 12 translators who were still in Afghanistan had said they lived in danger of being hunted down and killed for their work with the U.K. forces during the war.
There were also translators who were already in the U.K. but had been waiting for their families to join them since the last few years.
Wallace and Patel had promised in late July to work out a better deal for those left behind.
In a virtual talk on Wednesday, acting Foreign Minister Haneef Atmar said Kabul wants to establish a humanitarian ceasefire as soon as possible during their talks with the Taliban.
“In terms of what we want to discuss with the Taliban, the number one issue will be a humanitarians ceasefire,” Atmar told the participants as a Hoover Institution talk.
“It’s key now because our people are being killed by both the violence and the COVID-19 pandemic,” the minister said, adding that an agreement would allow them to “deliver the critical life-saving and life sustaining services to the population” during the pandemic.
Atmar said they would also discuss the implementation of the Doha peace agreement.
He said the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan should be conditional and begin at a time when no foreign fighter are present.
He also said that the government’s non-negotiable issues, “red line” were the protection of the republic, human rights and established institutions.
The acting minister said that the international community must guarantee the implementation of the agreement with the Taliban.
The Ministry of Finance has been asked to earmark an amount of 330 million AFN for the government to organise the upcoming Peace Consultative Loya Jirga where they are expecting 3,500 to 4,500 people.
In a proposal to President Ashraf Ghani, his Office of Operations and Support said that a budget of 330 million afghanis was needed to hold the Peace Consultative Loya Jirga.
The budget was in keeping with the 2019 Loya Jirga, where they had asked for 369 million AFN.
The Loya Jirga is scheduled to convene in Kabul on Friday.
Ghani has appointed a commission consisting of 24 members to organise this jirga with chief negotiator Masoom Stanekzai as the head.
With the end of the ceasefire, clashes between the Afghan National Defence and Security (ANDSF) and the Taliban have restarted across the country.
In Ghazni, the ANDSF intercepted two Taliban attacks on Wednesday, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) said.
The first clash happened when the Taliban attacked a military convoy in Gilan district along the Ghazni-Kandahar highway, where six militants, belonging to the Mullah Shafiq group, were killed and six more were wounded.
The second clash happened in Arzoo village, near the provincial capital Ghazni city, where Air Force was called in. As a result, four Taliban fighters – members of Khalid group – were killed.
Weapons and ammunition were seized following both the clashes.
Taliban has yet to comment on these reports.
The European Union (EU) and the UN Development Programme (UNDP), in partnership with the Ministry of Higher and Secondary Special Education of the Republic of Uzbekistan, launched the 2020 application process for education grants for Afghan women to study in Uzbekistan.
Afghan women with high school diploma, complete 12 years of education, can apply for the scholarship if they want to “enhance their professional skills” via the Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) programme in Agronomy.
The main selection criteria include basic knowledge of English, the fundamentals of biology and chemistry, as well as successful completion of a written English test and interviews with members of the Selection Committee.
The scholarship covers tuition fee, accommodation, travel and monthly stipends in Uzbekistan.
The scholarship programme is funded by the EU and implemented by UNDP. It is a new cross-border initiative that provides an opportunity for Afghan women to study in universities in Central Asia to “enhance their skills and re-invent themselves professionally,” the press release said.
The application process started on July 20 and will last until Aug. 15, 2020 and comprises three stages.
Award winners will have to attend a foundation Uzbek language course, basic English language, and basic courses in Chemistry and Biology during the first year of study.
After obtaining necessary language skills and basic training in biology and chemistry, students will enrol at their TVET programme in Agronomy.
The scholarship will last for three years from September 2020 until May 2023. During this time, students will live and study at the Educational Center for Training Afghan Citizens in Termez, Uzbekistan.
Faryab Police Command said they had arrested an officer who had escaped after killing three of his colleagues, on Wednesday.
The runaway officer, Qudratullah, “shot and killed” three other police officers while they were on duty in the Almar district in Faryab, around three months ago.
The culprit then escaped and was arrested in Ghor province, said Abdul Karim Youresh, a spokesperson for Faryab governor’s office.
The members of the UN Security Council (UNSC) condemned the Nangarhar Prison attack that claimed the lives of 29 people in Jalalabad, “in the strongest terms,” calling it “heinous” and “cowardly.”
The statement released on Wednesday by the UNSC said they “reaffirmed that terrorism in all its forms and manifestations constitutes one of the most serious threats to international peace and security.”
The members of the Security Council underlined the need to hold perpetrators, organizers, financiers and sponsors of these reprehensible acts of terrorism accountable and bring them to justice.
They urged all countries, in accordance with their obligations under international law and relevant Security Council resolutions, to cooperate actively with Afghanistan and all other relevant authorities, to investigate the attack in Jalalabad.
“Any acts of terrorism are criminal and unjustifiable, regardless of their motivation, wherever, whenever and by whomsoever committed,” reiterated the UNSC.
The attack, for which IS-K claimed responsibility, had left almost 50 people wounded, with 272 of the detainees still missing. In their official statement, the IS-K said their main goal had been to free group members who had been imprisoned.