Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The Pakistani Prime Minister at a joint press conference with President Ashraf Ghani said that Pakistan would do everything possible to reduce violence in Afghanistan. “Pakistan has played an important role in initiating talks between the Taliban with Afghanistan, but violence has increased in Afghanistan even after peace talks begin,” added Prime Minister Khan.
“We assure you that we will work beyond your expectations,” Mr. Khan continued.
He thanked President Ashraf for inviting him to visit Kabul and said that he wanted to come here for the last 50 years, but now he has got this chance.
It is Imran Khan’s first visit to Afghanistan after assuming the office of Pakistan’s Prime Minister in May 2018. He was accompanied by his Commerce and Investment Adviser, Foreign Minister, and some other officials during the visit. Mr. Khan arrived in Kabul on his Afghanistan visit today. Earlier yesterday, Pakistan Foreign Ministry said that this Afghan visit by Imran Khan is about the exchange of high-level matters between the two countries.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) on Thursday said that the Chief of Australian Defense Force Angus Campbell has offered a “sincere and unreserved” apology to the Afghan people, after a long-awaited report on the conduct of Australian Special Forces soldiers found “credible information” of unlawful killings by Australian soldiers.
MoFA in a press release said that Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison has expressed “his deepest sorrow over the misconduct by some Australian troops”, as Defense prepares to release a long-awaited report into alleged war crimes.
A statement from the presidential palace said Morrison called President Ashraf Ghani overnight and told him that future investigations into the allegations would ensure justice.
The findings from an inquiry by the Inspector-General of the ADF (IGADF) on the conduct of Australian special forces during the Afghanistan war have examined allegations of unlawful killings and other possible breach of law committed mainly by elite soldiers during their lengthy deployment.
According to the palace, Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne also wrote to her Afghan counterpart to extend “apologies” for the misconduct by some Australian military personnel.
An excerpt from Senator Payne’s letter reads: “The Australian Minister for Defence, Senator the Hon Linda Reynolds CSC and the Chief of the Defense Force, General Angus Campbell AO DSC, are now considering the inquiry’s extensive findings and recommendations and will make public statements subsequently.”
“The PM called President Ghani yesterday to foreshadow the release of the report today,” it said.
Morrison said the report contained some disturbing allegations and the Australian government was taking them very seriously.
“President Ghani appreciated the direct contact, noted the many Australians who had served with distinction in Afghanistan and said he was counting on Australia’s justice system to follow up on these matters.”
The shocking Australian military report into war crimes has found evidence that elite Australian troops unlawfully killed 39 Afghan prisoners, farmers and civilians.
Britain Defence Secretary Ben Wallace on Thursday said the country is likely to follow US and drawdown its troops from conflict-ravaged Afghanistan , adding that Britain would continue to protect the security of the country.
The announcement has come days after President Donald Trump affirmed that American troops will be reduced to half in Afghanistan by mid-January.
Wallace, however, stressed that the withdrawal by both UK and US was not a total pull out. He said if the US withdraws at some stage, Britain will also seek to plan a similar move.
Local officials on Thursday reported that a Taliban offensive in Maimi district of Badakhshan has fallen to the Taliban group.
Abdullah Naji Nazari, member of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, told Reporterly that the Taliban had carried out large-scale attacks on the Maimi district of the province this morning.
Nazari added that the Taliban had taken control of Maimi district in the attack.
The Badakhshan provincial council member stressed that the details of the Taliban attack had not been released due to the interruption of telecommunication networks, but that there were “rumours” that the Maimi district police chief had been killed in the Taliban attack.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Bashir Samim, head of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, denied the fall of the Maimi district of Badakhshan and stressed that the Taliban siege in the district has been tightened. Badakhshan police spokesmen and other officials refused to comment.
Following Australian top military commander General Angus Campbell’s admission over involvement of its forces in the unlawful killing of Afghan civilians, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has called for criminal prosecution against involved personnel.
In a press release on Thursday, the AIHRC welcomed Australian government’s move to initiate investigation against officers involved in alleged killings. It urged Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison to ensure criminal prosecution of the perpetrators and disclose the atrocities to full extent that took place between 2007 and 2014.
The commission stated that the Australian government, now as well as in the future, should pay heed to Afghan victims’ demands for justice, adding that they should be offered compensation without further ado.
Italy has expressed its commitment to the current situation in Afghanistan. Italian Defense Minister Lorenzo Guerini said on Wednesday that Italy would not step back from its responsibility in Afghanistan. Italy would continue to play its role in Afghanistan as before. “The US decision already announced, which they shared with allies on Tuesday,” Guerini said while addressing parliament on Wednesday.
Guerini said that he had spoken to NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday and assured him that whatever decision will be taken in the coming months, Italy will take it ‘together with its allies.’
He said that NATO would decide in February, when the new US administration would have sat down. “NATO’s ministerial meeting in February will review its role in the current situation in Afghanistan with its allies regarding future roadmap”, added Guerini. During that time, we will also talk whether we have to continue the mission, how to continue, or to return the army deployed there completely.
According to the Italian Defense Ministry, there are currently 900 Italian security personnel, 148 vehicles, and 8 aircraft in Afghanistan. They are currently present inside Train Advise Assist Command West (TAAC-W) in Herat and Kabul.
Uzbekistan ambassador to Pakistan, Saadaulla Tashmatov at a roundtable discussion on Wednesday emphasized to have peaceful resolution to handle Afghan conflict with a view to promote meaningful integration and cooperation among regional players.
Speaking at the “Uzbekistan-Pakistan Joint Collaboration for Peace and Stability in Afghanistan”, Tashmatov said both Peshawar and Termiz were willing to play constructive role in establishing peace and stability in Afghanistan and that the two countries were eyeing enhanced connectivity through Afghanistan.
He added that only peace and stability was the way forward to improve negotiations and contribute in the social as well as economic development of Afghanistan.
The United Nations Refugee Agency has said that the returning of Afghan refugees from Iran and Pakistan has stopped. The reason behind this is the corona epidemic of the last 8-9 months, violence, insecurity, and future concerns. In 2002, when the Taliban collapsed in Afghanistan after US operations, refugees started returning from Iran and Pakistan. United Nations Refugee Spokesperson Babar Baloch told VOA that he had seen refugees returning to their homeland after decades having experienced a kind of exile.
“I was present at Border Point in Pakistan when I saw these people going. In 2002 and the following years the number was around 1 million. Even then, we had helped about 5 million Afghan refugees to return through UNHCR’s voluntary return program,” added Baloch. Baloch says that now this chain has stopped. Their return was banned in March due to Covid-19. He says that the recent attacks on civilians in Afghanistan, especially the hospitals and the recent attack on Kabul University, have served to discourage them in this regard. He says that the Afghans hope that the US-mediated peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan government will be successful and end the decades-long conflict in the country.
“The international community has been continuously active in Afghanistan for the last two decades, and that is why there have been some positive changes in the infrastructure or economic sector, so there is still a need to pay attention here,” said Baloch.
However, even after the decline in the repatriation of refugees, if believed to the report of the International Organization for Refugees, more than 742,000 refugees have returned home this year, most of whom have returned from Iran. Also, according to current figures, there are still 2.4 million Afghan refugees in Pakistan and Iran.
Calling out the US over its troops’ drawdown plan, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said that such a move will hamper peace talks between Afghan government and the Taliban. He stated that a premature withdrawal will complicate the ongoing crisis.
Maas said that it was important to realize that any hasty decision would jeopardize the status quo in Afghanistan.
He added that the German government was tracking the developments and mulling over the consequences of such an action on the 1,200 German troops stationed in Afghanistan as part of the larger NATO mission.
The German foreign minister reiterated that they were concerned over how the US announcement will complicate negotiations that are not yet over.
He further said it was important to ensure that there was no obstruction to the ongoing discussions because of premature removal of half the forces.
A group of influential and respected Kuwaiti scholars released a press to condemn the ongoing war in Afghanistan and rejected its affiliation with Islam and jihad. These scholars, given the explicit religious texts, have called for an immediate end to the war and the provision of lasting peace in Afghanistan.
“In our view, there is no excuse or legitimate reason for the current war in Afghanistan, especially after the Taliban signed a peace treaty with the United States, so it is certainly not permissible for either side to attack the other. It is also mentioned in the press release that even from the perspective of religious texts, there is no reason to link this war to Islam or Jihad.
Citing verses from the holy Quran and the hadiths of the Prophet, this group of scholars has called for an end to the war in Afghanistan, a ceasefire, and peace throughout the country, which is the main goal of the holy religion of Islam. The Foreign Ministry of Afghanistan has thanked the Kuwaiti Ulama for issuing the above press release and expressing their faith in the political resolution of the Afghan issues. The ministry stressed that the Taliban should leave such a war, which the Ulama also called Haram (religiously illegal) according to Islam.
Amid the ongoing talks over the US troops’ drawdown in Afghanistan, the Alliance in Support of Afghan People (ASAP) have raised concerns over the move. They said the move could undermine the efforts by Afghan government and armed forces to establish security and stability in the country.
ASAP asserted that the reduction of American forces to half was a terrifying prospect and dilutes the advantage that Afghan government and other mediators have in the peace talks with the Taliban.
It further stated that such a move would jeopardize the faith of Afghan people in the government as they will be left on their own.
The statement also questioned the capability of limited troops to carry out counter-terrorism operation in the conflict-ravaged country.
The Alliance in Support of the Afghan People (or ASAP) represents a cross section of American national security, military, civilian and human rights leaders who advocate for continued U.S. engagement that protects, sustains, and advances the progress the Afghan and American people have made in Afghanistan since 2001.
Australia’s top military commander General Angus Campbell in a press briefing announced that the Australian special forces allegedly killed at least 39 civilians and non-combatants while deployed in Afghanistan between 2007 and 2014.
Campbell, who is the chief of the Australian Defence Force, revealed that there was “credible evidence” of Afghan civilians being unlawfully killed in 23 separate incidents.
In a 465-page ‘Brereton report’ , Campbell called the probe findings a damage to moral authority of Australian military force. He apologised to the people of Afghanistan saying the killings have profoundly disrespected the trust of Afghan people in the Australian military.
As part of 23 separate executions, a large number of deceased were prisoners, who were non-combatants. The report revealed that the incidents did not happen in the heat of the moment and that the soldiers purposely hid the killings.
Campbell emphasized that the unlawful killing of innocent people would never be acceptable and it is important to do some course correction. The Brereton report has suggested corrective measures as part of its findings that includes monetary support to deceased’s families and investigation of the suspected soldiers by Australian Federal Police.