Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: On the occasion of April 28th, the anniversary of the Mojahedin victory, through President Ashraf Ghani’s decree and pardon order at least 500 prisoners were released from the Herat Central Prison on Wednesday.
Amrullah Noorzai, director of Herat Central Prison, said that the detainees were convicted of armed robbery, murder, drugs and carrying weapons.
Of the 500 released, at least 300 men and eight women were released from prison after their cases were reviewed, and 191 men and another woman were released during their imprisonment.
On the other hand, the head of Herat Central Prison says that 36 prisoners exchanged with Iran have also been released on Wednesday.
Kabul: Reiterating that peace is the only way forward for the war-ravaged country, the United States’ special envoy for talks with the Taliban, Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad, testified to the US Congress on Tuesday and said that peace is still possible in Afghanistan as US begins withdrawing its remaining troops and violence continues to escalate in the country.
Khalilzad is a key figure in the Afghan peace process as he has been responsible for leading 18-months of talks between the US and the Taliban in 2018-19 that resulted in the withdrawal agreement. Khalilzad has stated that working with the Taliban is conditional. “If they do want US assistance, they want international acceptance … those things will be all affected by how they treat their own citizens, first and foremost the women of Afghanistan, children and minorities,” he told the senators.
US Secretary of State and security experts are of the view that a hasty withdrawal from Afghanistan might lead the country into a civil war and possible takeover by the Taliban. Also, the Taliban has warned the global community that if withdrawal does not take place by May 1, the deadline set as per the Doha Agreement, it will continue on the path of violence.
However, Khalilzad expressed optimism stating that he does not believe that the government is going to collapse or that the Taliban is going to take over. The envoy said keeping US forces in Afghanistan did not make sense, as the conflict could not be solved by continued fighting. “The choice that the Afghans face is between a negotiated political settlement or a long war,” Khalilzad said.
This comes even as the US State Department advised has US citizens “wishing to depart Afghanistan to leave as soon as possible” and ordered non-essential US embassy workers to leave the country, saying “travel to all areas of Afghanistan is unsafe”. Ross Wilson, Chargé d’Affaires to the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, said, “In light of increasing violence and threat reports in Kabul, the US State Department has approved ordered departure status affecting a relatively small number of employees at the US Embassy in Kabul effective immediately. The vital work we are doing in support of the Afghan people will be able to remain in place”
US President Joe Biden had earlier this month announced withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by September 11, ending the 20-year war. The US had about 3,500 troops in Afghanistan alongwith 7,000 NATO forces as well as about 16,000 contractors. Khalilzad said the deal he signed with the Taliban last year includes the agreement to withdraw US contractors supporting Afghan forces on the same timetable as the US troop exit. Khalilzad said the US is helping the Kabul government find contractors to replace the departing American ones.
Kabul: In a forecast report released by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) on Wednesday, Afghanistan’s GDP growth will increase by 3% in 2021 and 4% in 2022 after the normalization of trade and economic activities
As per the Asia Development Outlook 2021 report, Afghanistan’s economic growth will continue to grow next year after a significant slowdown. In 2020, it was negative 5 percent due to the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic and the persistence of violence and instability in the country.
Narendra Sangro, head of ADB in Afghanistan, said that the country experienced unprecedented economic turmoil in 2020 due to the above stated reasons which reduced remittances, trade and revenue.
Sangro added that by successfully implementing the vaccine program and improving the post-epidemic situation, Afghanistan could be on track to achieve economic growth this year and next, as businesses and economic activity are expected to return to normal.
Kabul: The first stage of the national entrance exam official started on Wednesday across 25 provinces, announced Dost Mohammad Faizi, spokesperson for the National Examinations Office National.
According to the office, entrance exams in Samangan, Sar-e-Pul, Ghor, Nimroz, Badghis, Farah, Nuristan, Paktika, Daikundi, Zabul, Uruzgan, Helmand, Kandahar, Bamyan, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Kapisa, Panjshir, Laghman, Kunar, Parwan, Nangarhar and Baghlan have started and are scheduled to continue for the next two days.
The second stage of the exam will be held in eight provinces, including Faryab, Kunduz, Jawzjan, Ghazni, Balkh, Herat, Takhar and five districts of Badakhshan and the third stage will be held in Kabul.
As per the National Examinations Office, about 200,000 candidates are expected to take the entrance exam this year, of which 143,000 will be admitted to public universities and institutes of higher education, institutes, academies at public universities.
Kabul: In a big development for the peace process, Atta-ul-Rahman Salim, deputy of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said on Wednesday that the Taliban had worked on a peace plan, a draft of which had been shared with the council.
He, however, did not elaborate upon the plan.
Speaking at a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Mojahedin victory, Salim said that the draft peace plan of the High Council for National Reconciliation had been prepared after consideration of several plans and had been sent to the council.
Salim called the draft peace plan of the High Council for National Reconciliation, which had been prepared and submitted in the second week of April, comprehensive and consistent with the objective realities of Afghan society and expressed hope that the integration of this plan with the Taliban peace plan would lead to a single plan in which all parties could achieve their worldly and hereafter happiness and righteousness.
The deputy head of HCNR stressed that combining the two plans would not be a difficult task, unless there were agendas and missions behind the scenes to sabotage and destroy the much-anticipated Istanbul Summit.
Salim said that they will participate in the meetings related to the peace of Afghanistan with the authority of the HCNR with a single plan and authority.
The Taliban have not yet released their version and had refused to participate in any peace talks till all the foreign troops are withdrawn from Afghanistan. The Istanbul Summit, scheduled for April 24, had been postponed indefinitely due to non-availability of Taliban.
Kabul: Stating that the third wave of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is more dangerous then the first and the second wave, the acting minister of public health on Wednesday said that people need to follow health guidelines strictly.
Vahid Majrooh, the Acting Minister of Public Health, who was at a ceremony to introduce the COVID-19 vaccine to religious scholars, said, “If people ignore health advice (washing hands frequently, wearing a mask and keeping a distance), Afghanistan, like India, could face a COVID-19 crisis. If the whole society is reckless and only the health sector and health personnel worke tirelessly, we will not be able to fight it.”
“We are facing another unequal war in the third wave of the coronavirus. We need everyone to fight it together,” he added.
On Wednesday, total number of cases stood at 59,576, while the number of reported deaths is 2,618 and the total number of recoveries is 52,974.
Kabul: Days after Mohammad Dawood had been appointed as the new governor of Faryab on the proposal of the Directorate and with the approval of the presidency, the former governor of Faryab, Governor Naqibullah Fayeq, has now been appointed as a member of the Senate House by President Ashraf Ghani.
The chairman of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, Shamim Khan Katwazai on Wednesday read the President’s decree on appointment of Fayeq during his visit to Maimana city. In another order, Ghani awarded a government medal to Naqibullah Fayeq.
The Senate has 102 members, with the constitution giving the president one-third of the power to appoint members.
The move comes even as Faryab residents and Junbish party, led by Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, opposed the removal of Fayeq as the governor when the Independent Directorate of Local Governance made the announcement on Friday morning of the appointment of Dawood as the governor.
Naqibullah Fayeq was appointed governor of Faryab in 2018. He worked in Faryab province for about three years. Fayeq used to be close to Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, the leader of the Islamic Movement Party.
Enayatullah Babar Farahmand, the first deputy of the High Council for National Reconciliation and a close associate of Marshal Dostum, stated that the decision was the President’s choice and had nothing to do with widespread people’s protests in Faryab.
Farahmand added that the widespread protests were not to determine the fate of several ousted senators or governors in a southern province, but to prevent the collapse of Faryab and other northern provinces. According to him, “the arbitrary decision of the Presidential Palace to appoint an ignorant and unfamiliar person in the geography and social contexts as the governor of Faryab is not acceptable at all.”
Kabul: The security situation in Central Asia is completely dependent on a stable and peaceful Afghanistan, said Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) Secretary-General Stanislav Zas after a meeting with Council of Defense Ministers of the CSTO member nations.
“In Afghanistan activities of international terrorist organizations are on the rise and the attention of the Taliban to northern parts of Afghanistan grows,” said Zas, adding that if this territory remains in their grasp, drug smuggling will stay in place as a major channel used to finance extremists.
This circumstance is alarming for the CSTO member states, Stanislav Zas noted.
His remarks come in the backdrop of many security experts warning of a civil war in Afghanistan and rise of Taliban in the country after foreign troops pullout. However, President Ashraf Ghani has time and again reiterated that Afghan security forces are capable enough to protect the sovereignty of their country.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 206 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported seven deaths and 180 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 59,576, while the number of reported deaths is 2,618 and the total number of recoveries is 52,974.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Kunduz, Paktia, Parwan, Maidan Wardak, Kunar, Laghman, Panjshir, Zabul, Khost and Nuristan provinces.
Kabul: At a joint virtual conference of foreign ministers of Afghanistan, China, Bangladesh, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and China, the ministers emphasized that vaccine is a key weapon to defeat the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and it should be distributed in accordance with the principle of equity and justice.
The Foreign Ministers expressed that “vaccine nationalism” will hinder the global efforts to defeat COVID-19 and underscored the need to avoid the “immunity gap”.
State Councilor and Foreign Minister Wang Yi of the People’s Republic of China, Acting Foreign Minister Mirwais Nab of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Foreign Minister Pradeep Kumar Gyawali of Nepal, Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and Foreign Minister Dinesh Gunawardena of the Democratic Socialist Republic of Sri Lanka also exchanged views on international and regional cooperation on epidemic response and post-COVID economic recovery.
China expressed its readiness to provide continued medical supplies and technical assistance to participating countries to the best of its ability. The Foreign Ministers reiterated their firm support to WHO’s due role in the global cooperation against COVID-19 and acknowledged that tracing the origin of the virus is a matter of science and a global mission, the Foreign Ministers expressed opposition to politicizing the issue. The participating countries will strengthen cooperation to track COVID-19 mutation closely.
The Foreign Ministers recognized the serious impact of COVID-19 on the global economy and its complex implications for the sustainable development of all countries. The Foreign Ministers agreed to deepen Belt and Road cooperation, open their borders under the premise of pandemic prevention and control for smooth trade, keep the industrial and supply chains stable and secure, and give a stronger boost to economic recovery and the improvement of people’s lives.
The Foreign Ministers emphasized on the importance of strengthening cooperation in poverty reduction, food security and other non-traditional security fields to protect the livelihood of people with special attention to the most vulnerable groups.
Kabul: The Taliban should learn from history and think about the future of the country instead of resorting to war, violence and destruction, said President Ashraf Ghani said on April 28 congratulating the Mojahedin on their victory.
Even Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said that selfless sacrifice of the Mujahideen and resistance people of the country has proved that the fate of this nation can be decided only by their own hands and that is enough.
“The lesson of contemporary history is that no one can impose them on the people of Afghanistan by using force, violence and using authoritarian and undemocratic methods. Taliban should pursue their political goals by participating in national processes and democratize and follow the will of the people,” said President Ghani, while describing April 28th as the day of the struggle for the liberation of the people, which was the product of the sacrifice of the people of all races and strata and expressed the determination and national solidarity.
Ghani said that after the victory, the international community and the Mojahedin lost the golden opportunity for reconstruction and cooperation, and this negligence caused Afghanistan to enter a political, security and social crisis and to be in international isolation for a while.
However, Afghanistan’s international standing has now been restored and that the people, under the umbrella of the Islamic Republic, are on a clear path in the light of the constitution and the values of democracy, he added.
Abdullah Abdullah added that the victory of the Afghan people’s jihad opened new interactions in the region and the world and opened a promising prospect for the country.
“Following that, groups affiliated with the aggressor countries tried to make Afghanistan once again directly dependent on foreigners, but the heroic resistance of the Mujahideen and the resistance proved that the fate of this nation can only be decided by their own hands,” he added.
Kabul: Admitting that the US is not eliminating any scenario that could occur in Afghanistan after the foreign troop withdrawal by September 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday said that the war-ravaged country could see a civil war or the Taliban could take over it.
Blinken spoke to CNN and said that the Biden administration is ‘planning for every scenario’ that could arise from the move. “However, the US is ‘not disengaging from Afghanistan’ and will continue to be ‘deeply engaged’ in supporting the country long after troops have left,” Blinken said.
US President Joe Biden had announced earlier this month that the US will withdraw all troops from Afghanistan by September 11, the 20th anniversary of twin tower attack in New York, ending America’s longest war.
The US State Department had started most remaining staff at the US embassy in Kabul this week to come back home.
However, the decision to withdraw has garnered many concerns as security experts believe that a hasty withdrawal could lead the country into possible chaos. Besides these concerns, the Taliban too has threatened to attack the global community if the earlier deadline of May 1, set as per the Doha Agreement, is not met. It has also refused to participate in any peace talks till all the troops withdraw.
The Istanbul Conference, scheduled to bring in an agreement to ensure peace and stability in Afghanistan along with a ceasefire, has been postponed indefinitely.