Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo spoke by phone on Tuesday with Afghan President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani over the progress made in the ongoing peace talks with the Taliban, the President’s office said in a statement.
“The Secretary informed me about the Taliban’s proposal with regards to bringing a significant and enduring reduction in violence,” Ghani said.
According to the statement, the President emphasized that the government’s primary objective is to end the senseless bloodshed.
“This is a welcoming development and I am pleased that our principal position on peace thus far has begun to yield fruitful results,” Ghani asserted.
“To do so, the Afghan people stand with us with their full consensus and I assure them that their leadership maintains the courage, competence, and the necessary resources to achieve this objective,” he added.
“President Ghani has assured Pompeo that Afghanistan will manage the next steps in a manner that positively supports the overall peace process and will report to the public,” the statement reads.
India’s Ministry of External affairs in the strongest terms condemned the heinous terrorist attack, which led to the casualties of a number of Afghan patriots today morning in front of Marshal Fahim National Defence University in Kabul.
“We express our heartfelt condolences to the relatives of the deceased and the injured and to the Government and people of Afghanistan. We pray for the speedy recovery of those injured,” the ministry said in a statement.
“The international community must unite in the fight against terrorism and hold the perpetrators and sponsors of terrorism to account,” the statement added.
UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, is calling on the world not to let hope fade for millions of displaced Afghans, impacted by more than four decades of unrest in Afghanistan and their host communities in the region.
UNHCR spokesperson Andrej Mahecic in a press briefing at the Palais des Nations in Geneva said that the Government of Pakistan and UNHCR are jointly convening a ministerial meeting in Islamabad next week to send a global reminder about the fate of millions of Afghans living as refugees, many of whom feel the rest of the world may have already abandoned them. This is an impression that we must prove wrong.
“Against this backdrop of ongoing need, global support for the Afghan refugee situation has been on the decline. UNHCR has seen funding levels drop for its already under resourced operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran over the years – making it hard to invest in Afghan lives and continue support to affected local host communities,” Andrej Mahecic said.
“Ongoing efforts to achieve a peace settlement in Afghanistan have again generated hope among Afghans refugees about the possibility of return. The conference will be an important precursor for the way forward,” he added.
The Joint Turkmen-Afghan workshop on ensuring security of regional infrastructures in the framework of the “Istanbul Process” on cooperation on Afghanistan has started in Mary, the Turkmen Foreign Ministry reported.
As per AKIpress report, the representatives of the Ministries of Foreign Affairs, Internal Affairs, Defense and Energy, as well as the specialists of oil and gas sectors of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan, and the authorized representatives of the “Istanbul Process” states-participants are participating to the session. The workshop is organized in assistance of the OSCE Centre in Ashgabat.
The workshop is aimed at raising the functionality of the regionally connecting infrastructure in the context of the “Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process,” assistance to the regional cross-border co-operation through sharing of good practices and discussing international experience and approaches pertaining to the management of potential threats.
During the first day of the event, the parties noted the positive cooperation experience between the corresponding organizations of Turkmenistan and Afghanistan and considered the advancement of regional infrastructural projects, including the construction of the TAPI gas pipeline and electric power lines.
The workshop will continue until the 12th of February.
Kabul Mayor Ahmad Zaki has met Tehran Mayor Pirouz Hanachi on the sidelines of World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi.
During the meeting, Zaki said that Tehran can illuminate the path for Kabul which needs Tehran experience, particularly in the field of public transportation.
Hanachi, for his part voiced Tehran Municipality’s readiness for cooperation and transfer of experience to Kabul in the field of promoting public transportation.
World Urban Forum will be held from February 8-13 to prove an opportunity for sharing urban management experience among managers from around the world.
The Islamic State’s South Asia branch remains active, ambitious and threatening, and has established contacts with other terror groups like Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan and has the potential to exacerbate the security threat to countries neighbouring Afghanistan, a UN report has warned.
The 10th report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL to international peace and security and the range of United Nations efforts in support of Member States in countering the threat said that the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan (ISIL-K) came under severe military pressure from the security forces of Afghanistan and Taliban fighters towards the end of 2019, leading to its virtual expulsion from what had been its Afghan headquarters in Nangarhar Province.
The report said that even though the Afghan authorities took custody of more than 1,400 people, including ISIL-K fighters and their dependents, the terror group remains a threat to regional security.
“It has established informal contact with other terrorist groups, including Jamaat-ul-Ahrar, Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan and Lashkar-e-Islam, which regularly mount attacks on border posts of Pakistan. The approach of Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant-Khorasan has the potential to exacerbate the security threat to countries neighbouring Afghanistan,” the report said.
The report added that most of the ISIL-K fighters taken into custody by the Afghan authorities were Afghan nationals but also included foreigners from Azerbaijan, Canada, France, India, Maldives, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkey and Uzbekistan.
It said the impact on the number and geographic distribution of the group’s fighters is assessed as significant.
Afghan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah has met with Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
The Executive Office in a press release on Tuesday said that both sides discussed over the results of the September Afghan Presidential Elections.
“While discussing the political situations and presidential elections, the two sides emphasized on the announcement of a transparent and acceptable election results,” the press release said.
This comes as Yamamoto in a meeting with the electoral complaints commission’s officials has urged more clarifications on their recent decisions.
A group of 172 Taliban insurgents surrendered to Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in Herat and Ghor provinces, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) said.
MoD in a statement said that 160 of the insurgents surrendered in Shahrak district of Ghor.
The statement stated that three commanders of the group – Abdullah, Mohammad Yousuf and Mullah Sarwar also surrendered to Afghan forces. The militants surrendered in Jam, Sher Bacha and Astora Villages of the district.
MoD also noted that 12 other Taliban insurgents led by Nasruddin surrendered to Afghan forces in Takht Valley of Chest-e Sharif district of Herat.
The Insurgents also handed over some heavy and light weapons to the Afghan forces, the statement added.
The leaders of National Unity Government (NUG) have condemned the suicide attack which took place on Tuesday near the Marshal Fahim Military Academy in Kabul.
President Ashraf Ghani “vehemently” condemned the attack, saying the government is committed to achieving a dignified and sustainable peace, for which it pursues a clear plan.
“The great nation of Afghanistan demands an immediate end to the violence, stopping the war, an overarching ceasefire, a dignified and sustainable peace, which are the priorities of the Afghan Government as well,” Ghani said.
In the meantime, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah in a tweet “strongly” condemned today’s “attack” and said “terrorists and terrorism have no place among our people” and “we are united in our resolve to defeat these evil forces.”
“Our thoughts and prayers are with victims and their families at this critical time,” Abdullah added.
On the other hand, the European Union envoy Roland Kobia also condemned the Kabul attack and said, “Be it to derail peace talks or to put pressure on them, terrorist attacks are unacceptable and counterproductive. They lose Afghan hearts and minds. The killing of civilians should stop, on both sides. You want to be heard? Do politics, not butchery.”
At least three military personnel and two civilians were killed and 12 others including five civilians were wounded in the attack, the Ministry of Interior confirmed.
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is expected to visit Pakistan on February 16, a spokesperson for the Foreign Office said, as the country prepares for an international conference on Afghan refugees.
The spokesperson said Guterres’ participation in the international conference — to mark “40 years of Afghan refugees presence in Pakistan: A new partnership for solidarity” and scheduled for February 17-18 — is an acknowledgement of the country’s hospitality towards the refugees, they added.
Pakistan is hosting the international conference in collaboration with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), wherein the UNSG is set to present his keynote speech during the conference and he would be apprised of Pakistan’s stance on the Kashmir issue during his visit, the spokesperson said.
Guterres is also scheduled to meet Pakistani President Arif Alvi and Prime Minister Imran Khan, as well as Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and members of the Parliament.
Taliban commanders are under specific orders to step up their attacks on American troops, Fox News senior strategic analyst Gen. Jack Keane said in response to an attack that killed two U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan over the weekend.
“Ever since the negotiations were broken off as a result of a killing of a U.S. soldier at the time when President Trump terminated those negotiations a number of months ago, the tactical commanders received orders to do everything they possibly can to increase the casualties to Americans,” Keane told “America’s Newsroom.”
“This is designed principally to break American will at home to suggest that the war is futile, and therefore, we should just walk away.”
Keane’s comments came after two U.S. soldiers were killed and six were wounded Saturday when American and Afghan troops were fired on during a mission in Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, U.S. officials told Fox News.
The casualties occurred when an Afghan wearing an army uniform suddenly opened fire, The Associated Press reported.
made a surprise visit to Afghanistan on Thanksgiving to announce he has resumed negotiations with the Taliban.
The Trump administration is weighing a decision to remove up to 4,000 U.S. troops from Afghanistan.
There are currently about 12,000 US troops deployed there. Keane said the deployment of American soldiers to Afghanistan remains in the “vital national interest” and that our men and women in uniform have served for 18 years there to make sure the country does not again turn into a base for terrorists.
Summia Tora became the first person from Afghanistan to win the highly prestigious Rhodes Scholarship and is one of the world’s top 102 students in the 2020 class.
Tora is in her final semester at Earlham College, a liberal arts college in Richmond, Indiana. She grew up as a refugee living in neighboring Pakistan, residing in a single bedroom in a house along with four other families inside of which she could hear sounds of drone landings in nearby Peshawar in northwest Pakistan. Tora and her family fled Afghanistan because of the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, but Tora was thankful to be in Pakistan because she was able to attend school.
Tora promised herself she would take her education seriously after an older girl told her about pretending to be a boy so that she could go to school in Kabul when she was six years old in 2002. Female literacy rates in Afghanistan are among the lowest in the world at only 17 percent with a high variation that indicates significant geographical and gender divides, according to UNESCO.
She admits her early trepidation about applying to Rhodes due to its legacy of imperialism. Originally intended to foster close relationships between the United States and Great Britain, it used to be only open to men from the United States, Germany, and the Commonwealth. Tora realized, however, she shouldn’t run away from its colonialist history. “It’s people like us who need to change [the Rhodes legacy],” she says.
After completing her post-graduate coursework on refugee and migrant movements, Tora plans to return home to Afghanistan.
At least three military personnel and two civilians were killed and 12 others including five civilians were wounded in a suicide attack which took place near a government-run defense university, the Marshal Fahim Military Academy, the interior ministry said on Tuesday.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing in Kabul, but both the Taliban and Islamic State militants regularly target Afghan forces.
The academy, modeled after European war colleges to train Afghan cadets, has been the scene of several attacks in the past, including an Islamic State-claimed assault last May.
In the meantime, the Ministry of Defense (MoD) in a press release said that at least four army forces and one civilian were killed and five military and civilians were wounded in the incident.
A Suicide bomber attack Marshal Fahim military academy in Afghanistan’s capital Kabul, casualties feared, Afghan officials confirmed.
The spokesman of the Interior Ministry, Nasrat Rahimi said that the explosion was due to a suicide bomber and civilians are also casualties in the blast, but the exact figure is not clear so far.
Ambulances have been seen near Marshal Fahim military academy close to the Qanbar roundabout.
Details to follow…