Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), which is steering peace talks on behalf of the Afghan government, hopes a “tangible progress” towards settlement at the Istanbul meeting scheduled in April.
Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Abdullah said the presence of decision-makers in the meeting needs to be utilized to push forward the settlement of issues in Afghanistan.
“There have been a lot of discussions between both sides in the past few months in Doha. The Doha process will continue and then we have the Istanbul meeting. The Istanbul meeting will be held at a high level. There will be top leaders of Afghanistan and Taliban — that’s how it is anticipated,” Abdullah said.
The head of HCNR urged that this opportunity at Istanbul should not be used to give speeches; instead, it should work for some “tangible progress.”
“The final, final, final agreement, of course, it takes time, but we should at least agree on few principles. And an agreement on a cease-fire will be very, very important,” Abdullah added.
Abdullah emphasized that it was time to go beyond the US – Taliban agreement signed in Doha in 2020 that stipulates the withdrawal of the US troops from Afghanistan by May 1. He sought to cut a deal directly between the Afghan government and the Taliban.
The Sri Lankan Muslim Congress has issued a statement condemning terrorist attacks and escalating violence in Afghanistan, denying its relevance to religious principles.
The statement praised the efforts of the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan to release Taliban prisoners and to express goodwill towards a political solution that will lead to a lasting and just peace in the country.
Expressing support for the Afghan peace talks, the declaration stressed the need to end violence and ensure lasting peace in the country.
Welcoming the action of the Islamic scholars of Sri Lanka, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called the provisions of this declaration an important step towards strengthening the consensus of the scholars of the Islamic world and the international community in supporting the Afghan peace process.
Following Moscow peace summit on Afghanistan, the parties are preparing for an upcoming Istanbul meeting, where they will hold full-fledged direct peace talks under UN auspices.
In an interview with Anadolu Agency, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, now a top Afghan peace negotiator, shared his vision of the current situation in the peace process and his role in it.
Karzai praised the meeting in Moscow, saying it was well-prepared and let the sides have open talks on the most acute problems.
“Russia had excellent preparations for the meeting and the joint statement that came out was very significant. Every side expressed its feelings. The four countries [Russia, China, the US, and Pakistan], Turkey’s representatives, Qatar also spoke, so did the Afghan sides. This was the first time that a large gathering of the Afghans worked together. The event overall was very productive and positive,” Karzai said.
The Moscow meeting showed that the major world powers got together on Afghanistan, so there was an environment of cooperation, and that is what Afghanistan needs, Karzai said.
“The Afghans spoke freely, without any hesitation, expressed their grievances, demands, proposals. Overall, the meeting was excellent,” he said.
But the issue of the US troops’ withdrawal was not on the agenda of the meeting; the focus was on encouraging two things — major powers’ cooperation on Afghanistan and Afghans’ use of this opportunity to settle themselves — Karzai said.
The next step in achieving a peace settlement for Afghanistan is the meeting in Istanbul, Karzai said, noting: “Turkey, like Russia, is an old friend of Afghanistan, and we are definitely going there. But the nature of the meeting will be different.”
In Moscow, the Afghan sides were guests and observers of the troika plus — Russia, China, the US, and Pakistan — meeting, while the Istanbul meeting is convened for direct negotiations of the Afghan sides, he added.
The Afghanistan Salvation Movement, led by Hazrat Omar Zakhilwal, announced its existence in Kabul on Thursday.
“The position of the path to save Afghanistan is clear,” Mr Zakhilwal said at the ceremony of the Movement’s establishment. “We want to end helplessness and loneliness, and we do not even need a foreign soldier.”
“We want peace; a peace that strengthens national unity, not a repetition of the bitter experiences of the past.”
In the meantime, Jafar Mahdavi, deputy director of the Afghanistan Salvation Movement, said at the ceremony that the country is currently on the margins and that it was unacceptable for foreigners to make decisions about the Afghan people.
According to him, the plan to hold elections in six months proposed by the government is not in the interest of the people.
“The people want lasting peace and we will not allow the wrong decision to be made about the people of Afghanistan,” Mr Mahdavi said.
“The members of this movement have good experience in governance,” said Farooq Wardak, another member of the leadership of the Movement. “This movement is not person-centered; It is result-oriented. We must all work together for peace.”
Mr Wardak said the move supported ongoing peace efforts and would be opposed if any party wanted to ignore the values.
It is worth mentioning that the members of the leadership of the Afghanistan Salvation Movement are Farooq Wardak, Jafar Mahdavi, Fazlullah Hadi Vazin and some other political figures.
Director General at Afghan Government Office of Public and Strategic Affairs, Waheed Omar says that President Ghani has prepared a plan called the “Roadmap for Peace”.
Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, Mr Omar said that what was published in the media in the name of the president’s plan for the election was not an election plan; It is a roadmap for peace.
“This plan covers various aspects of the peace process,” he said. “One of the issues raised is the transfer of power by people’s votes. The president believes that any transfer of national authority without elections will not lead to lasting peace, but will create a risk that Afghanistan will become more destabilized.”
Recently, Reuters reported, citing sources, that Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani was scheduled to propose a presidential election in the next six months at the Istanbul summit.
Afghan government officials told Reuters that Mr Ghani’s plan was being opposed to the US peace plan and would mean that he would not accept it.
“The proposal we make at the Istanbul summit is that if the Taliban agree on a ceasefire, we will call for early presidential elections,” an Afghan official said.
However, Waheed Omar stated that no matter what the Istanbul meeting or other meetings are about, the red line for the president would be elections.
Mr Omar stressed that anyone with the intention of peace must stop the violence and that the peace process will be accelerated whenever the Taliban accept the ceasefire.
Nearly four months after the deadly attack on Kabul University, local officials in Nangarhar province say the National Directorate of Security (NDS) forces have arrested another mastermind of the attack, who was also in contact with the IS-K group.
ZiaulHaq Amarkhail, the governor of Nangarhar, tweeted today that Hazrat Ali, known as Abu Saeed Azam, was arrested along with two other suspects as a result of a special operation of NDS operatives.
Amarkhail added that these people were arrested last night in Achin district of Nangarhar.
According to him, Hazrat Ali, who also planned the attack on Kabul University, had contacts with IS-K leaders, even with members of the group in Iraq, Syria and Belgium.
Previously, the NDS officials announced that five masterminds of the attack on Kabul University had been arrested in separate operations.
Hazara diaspora civil society organizations have called on the Afghan government to resolve the conflict in Behsud district of Maidan Wardak province peacefully instead of waging military operations and retaliation, which according to the organizations could further escalate violence and insecurity in Behsud and its surrounding areas.
Hazara diaspora civil society organizations expressed deep concerns about the tense situation unfolding in the Behsud district of Afghanistan’s Maidan-Wardak province.
The organizations in a statement said that the response from Afghan government leadership and its military officials to the tragic incident of the Army helicopter crash has created considerable concerns among the local population in Behsud.
the organizations have touched to a telephone conference with the families of victims on 20 March, in which President Ashraf Ghani called for “revenge” for the Afghan army’s deaths. they also talked about similar statements by other security and defense officials, that the Hazara diaspora organizations have called some of which are very concerning.
“Such statements are deeply unsettling as they incite violence and promote extrajudicial killing in breach of International Law. With troops’ deployment and the retaliatory measures underway in Behsud, we are deeply concerned about the possibility of further intensification of violence resulting in gross human rights abuses in the district,” the statement reads.
The organizations voiced deep concern that if the current tense situation in Behsud is not adequately addressed, the crisis could spark full-scale violence in the district and greater Hazara regions since the conflict in Behsud has deep historical and inter-ethnic dimensions too.
“Despite the local population and their political representatives’ pleas, the government has failed to resolve the land issues between the Kuchi and the local population to prevent disputes,” the statement said.
“The Taliban’s attacks on the Hazara travelers on Jalriz Road connecting Kabul to central Afghanistan have been ongoing for many years and the government has been unable to provide security measures to protect the people. These factors underline the circumstances in which Alipur’s militia forces emerged as a local self-defense mechanism to protect the local population against the Kochi and the Taliban invasions of Hazara villages, as well as to protect travelers on the road.”
“Given all these concerns, we are worried that the current military retaliation, particularly the use of national security forces for political purposes will result in loss of public confidence in ANDSF and escalation of violence beyond Behsud. This will further jeopardize Afghanistan’s stability and security and provide opportunities for spoilers, including regional actors, to exploit the situation for their interests, and undermine a historic opportunity for a peace settlement with the Taliban,” the statement added.
The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 28 new positive cases of coronavirus in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported no death and 135 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period time.
The cumulative number of total cases is now 56,254 the number of total reported deaths is 2,467 and the total number of recoveries is 49,937.
The new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Wardak, Logar, Laghman, Paktika.
Russia’s presidential envoy for Afghanistan said on Wednesday that the Afghan problem could be settled through the establishment of an interim coalition government.
Speaking at a news conference in Moscow, Zamir Kabulov said: “When neither side can prevail, the conflict usually ends with political compromises.”
“The formation of an interim government is not only realistic, as far as we understand with the Americans, Pakistanis, and Chinese partners, there is no alternative to it. We all know perfectly well from the history of other conflicts and civil wars in other countries that when neither side can prevail, usually such a conflict ends with the finding of political compromises,” he said.
“In this sense, we are talking about the need for a coalition provisional government, because both sides must stop killing each other and find a formula for joint governance of the country,” he suggested.
However, this does not mean that the Troika plus on Afghanistan – Russia, China, the US, and Pakistan – would force the Afghan sides to it, Kabulov added.
The envoy admitted that the resumption of hostilities in Afghanistan also depends on the fulfillment of the February 2020 US-Taliban agreement and suggested finding mutually acceptable outcomes to avoid a military escalation.
Afghan security officials say a fire that broke out at a clothes market in the west of Kabul this morning extinguished.
Kabul Police spokesman, Ferdaws Faramarz said that the fire broke out in Istageh Maghaza area of PD13 at around 08:40am today and extinguished after one hour.
He noted that the fire did not cause any casualties; But it has left lots of financial losses.
The cause of the fire and the extent of the damage will be announced later, he added.
Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar had underscored the importance of a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire for a successful Afghan peace process during a meeting in New Delhi with his visiting Afghan counterpart Haneef Atmar, the Indian foreign ministry said on Wednesday.
Atmar has been in India on a three-day India visit from 22 March mainly to discuss the Afghan peace process with Indian leaders and explore ways to further strengthen bilateral cooperation in a range of areas including trade and investment and defence.
“The external affairs minister (EAM) highlighted that enduring peace in Afghanistan is important for the peace, security and prosperity of the region and the world,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.
It also said Jaishankar underscored the importance of a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire for a successful Afghan peace process.
“Jaishankar “reassured the Afghan foreign minister of India’s long-term commitment towards a peaceful, sovereign, stable and inclusive Afghanistan, where the rights of all sections of the society are protected within a democratic constitutional framework,” the statement added.
Elaborating on implementation of Afghanistan’s newly-built Kamal Khan Dam, Iran’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Saied Khatibzadeh said on Wednesday that the Hirmand River legal system, that was signed between the two countries in 1972, is still effective in which Iran’s water share is defined in it so Afghanistan respects it.
“Of course the natural environment’s water right and safeguarding the living status of the region’s water ponds is a different issue, about which the Iranian officials have been negotiating with the Afghan government for a long time, and fortunately the Afghan officials, too, care about their water share, because if the water ponds are dried the resulting natural phenomena, such as sand storms will be hazardous for the people on both sides of the border,” he added in response to reporters’ questions.
Khatibzadeh meanwhile emphasized that the issue of development of Sistan has been in the focus of attention of Iran’s various governments and in order to pursue with the development plans for the province water is needed.
“In that respect the government has been studying and implementing numerous plans, including desalination of Oman Sea water, taking advantage of deep water resources, transferring water from other resources inside the country, and more important than all, improvement of the water usage patterns,” he added.
The Iranian foreign ministry spokesman also emphasized that the Iranian government welcomes the Afghan President’s proposal for turning the water issue into a topic for bilateral cooperation and stressed that Tehran is ready for taking any practical step in that respect.