Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a report said that efforts by religious and community leaders to foster peace and reconciliation in the country’s south and nationwide were reinforced by a series of UN-backed events through 2019 enabling hundreds of Ulema and tribal elders to discuss best approaches in trying circumstances.
A tribal leader, Azeem Khan Samandar, told UNAMA in an interview that Ulema, as custodians of peace, will continue to preach unity and work for peace as they have done throughout history.
“We have been talking in our communities, expressing different views on the peace process,” said Samandar, a regular participant at UN-backed events. Samandar said that Afghans, despite their differences, are united in their demand for peace. “Despite our different perspectives, everyone is thirsty for peace,” he said.
“Afghanistan’s religious scholars known as Ulema play an essential role in setting moral and ethical standards for their communities. They often work as peace brokers and are respected at all levels of society, exerting influence on individual and community decisions. Traditionally, local disputes have been resolved with their intervention, a tradition which has continued today, especially in parts of the south with no formal judicial system,” UNAMA said in its report.
The events in Afghanistan’s south, organized by UNAMA’s Kandahar field office which were broadcast by local media are estimated to have reached 1.5 million residents in Helmand and Kandahar provinces.
An Afghan group will publish a picture book about the slain Japanese Dr. Tetsu Nakamura, who dedicated his life to improving lives in Afghanistan.
Gahwara, a nongovernmental organization based in the country, plans to issue in June a total of 2,500 copies in Dari and Pashto, both of which are official languages in Afghanistan. The book, which will be about Nakamura’s work in Afghanistan over the past three decades, may also be translated into Japanese.
Nakamura, who was a representative in Afghanistan of Japanese aid group Peshawar-kai, would be leading a safe and comfortable life if he had stayed in Japan, said the NGO’s founder, Zabih Mahdi, expressing his gratitude for his contributions.
The doctor, who was killed last month at age 73, sacrificed himself and changed Afghanistan, he said, stressing that he wants to spread the message that Afghans must sacrifice something in order to improve living conditions in the country.
For the publication of the picture book about Nakamura, Japanese mail-order company Felissimo Corp. will supply financial assistance so that copies of the book can be distributed to schools and kindergartens in Afghanistan for free.
A ceasefire is necessary to create a conducive environment for peace talks, Afghan National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib said on Wednesday.
“Peace for our people means the end of violence, this is why we insist that a ceasefire is necessary to create a conducive environment for talks,” Mohib said speaking at Raisina Dialogue, a multilateral annual conference in New Delhi.
“A ceasefire is a catalyst for sustainable peace because the Afghan people earnestly want it and it will prove to our people and government that our enemies are not only serious about peace but that it is within their control to maintain their part of a future deal,” Mohib said.
He also emphasized on the importance of countries’ cooperation for peace in Afghanistan.
“As our efforts toward peace gain momentum, we must have the cooperation and support of our neighbors for peace to be sustainable,” Mohib said.
According to Mohib, Afghanistan’s national quest for peace is beneficial to the regional and to the world and that there is no victory for violence and terrorism.
The official also warned the Taliban that if they refuse to answer call to peace, they should be prepared to “face the full force of the Afghan nation.”
Officials of the Afghan Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock in Kandahar province have reported a 15% hike in the province’s raisin production.
As per Wasdam report, with the establishment of new raisin houses in the province 35,000 tons of raisins have been produced from 280,000 tons of grapes, which indicates a 15% increase in raisin production.
According to the provincial head of agriculture Hafizullah Sayedi, ¾ of Kandahar’s grapes are exported fresh to domestic and international markets and ¼ of the grapes are exported as raisins.
The Afghan government undertook the project of revamping Afghanistan’s traditional raisin houses in 2018 in a bid to boost raisin production and exports.
Vice President Mike Pence traveled to Delaware late Tuesday night to visit with the families of two soldiers killed over the weekend by a roadside bomb in southern Kandahar province.
The two US soldiers were killed Saturday while on patrol for the American-led NATO mission known as Resolute Support, the Pentagon said in a statement.
A Taliban spokesman claimed responsibility for the attack.
“Let them be assured that America will never forget or fail to honor the service and sacrifice” of the two soldiers, Mr. Pence had told the crowd in Milwaukee, which fell momentarily silent.
The deaths of the two soldiers were the first American casualties of the year in Afghanistan.
The issue of supporting the reconciliation processes in Afghanistan is of particular importance in the region, Turkmen President Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedov has said at the international forum in Ashgabat.
As per Turkmen Dovlet Khabarlary state news agency report, the Turkmen president reaffirmed readiness of Turkmenistan, as a neutral country and direct neighbor of Afghanistan, to create all the necessary conditions for establishing a peaceful dialogue on Afghanistan.
“There is no alternative to the negotiation process,” the head of state said. “Previous experience has shown that the methods of using power are counterproductive and have no prospects.”
The implementation of big infrastructure projects involving Afghanistan, primarily in such vital spheres as energy, transport and communications is the key condition for Afghanistan’s political stabilization, economic and social recovery, its successful integration into regional and world economic processes, the report said.
“We will continue to work on the implementation of projects and are ready to expand our cooperation with international organizations in rendering comprehensive support to Afghanistan,” Berdimuhamedov added.
Turkmenistan supports the implementation of a number of regional infrastructure projects involving Afghanistan.
The Upper House of Parliament- Senate House has urged the government to share its seven-point peace plan with the Senate for approval.
The Chairman of Senate House, Fazal Hadi Muslimyar declared that he supports the peace offer.
He stated that the reduction of violence and temporary ceasefire could not meet the Afghan problem and both sides should declare a lasting ceasefire.
In October, the National Unity Government (NUG) proposed a seven-point peace plan with Taliban militants.
The first point of the peace plan document reads: ‘We propose to the US to jointly develop an implementable mechanism and plan with Afghanistan for withdrawal of US forces and a CT cooperation framework for post-withdrawal period. This could build upon the US’s discussions with the Taliban and salvage parts of the past year’s efforts that were undertaken by the Americans.
The second point states that ‘once the Taliban have assurances (only assurances at this stage) that foreign troops, which they claim to be the problem, will leave, the previously constructed inclusive 15-member Negotiations Team will participate in negotiations with the Taliban.
The World Bank has announced support from the development and economic programs of the Afghan government, the Presidential Palace said.
The Afghan Presidential Palace in a press release on Wednesday said that President Ghani met with Hartwig Schafer, the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region and his accompanying delegation and discussed an array of issues including the bank’s assistances to Afghanistan, regional connectivity, and the Afghan government’s national programs, reforms and investment opportunities.
According to the press release, the president elaborated on Afghanistan’s economic prospects and development initiatives, particularly in the areas of education, mining, customs, and revenue collection.
“The Afghan government has embarked on significant reforms in an effort to improve service delivery, enhance efficiency and build capacity at government entities. He added that government is strongly committed to establishing reforms to provide effective, fair and modern services,” President Ghani said.
The president iterated that investments in Afghanistan should be mainly concentrated on power and renewable energy projects, construction of irrigation dams, water management, poverty elimination, and improving agricultural productivity and its value chain.
The press release added that the president underscored that regional connectivity and economic and trade initiatives are of a great importance for Afghanistan.
In the meantime, Hartwig Schafer, the World Bank’s Vice President for the South Asia Region expressed the bank’s support for economic and development projects of the government of Afghanistan.
Afghan National Security Adviser (NSA) Hamdullah Mohib has met with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif and Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu on the sidelines of the Raisina Dialogue 2020 which is underway in New Delhi, India.
During the meeting, the NSA Mohib and Iranian FM conferred on a host of bilateral and international issues, particularly the situation in Afghanistan, NSA office said in a statement.
Both sides reviewed the latest political conditions and regional developments.
In the meantime, Mohib met with Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Reinsalu and discussed peace, development and mutual cooperation as Estonia starts its tenure as a non-permanent member of UN Security Council.
The officials are in the Indian capital taking part in the 4th ‘RAISINA Dialogue 2020’, which started on Tuesday and will continue till Thursday (Jan. 14-16).
The Acting Transport Minister Yama Yari has resigned his post.
Yama Yari has written in his Facebook page that he sent a resignation letter to President Ashraf Ghani, citing the reason of his resignation as having personal problems.
For the past five years, Yama Yari has served in the National Procurement Bureau, the previous Ministry of Public Works, and the current Ministry of Transport under the National Unity Government.
Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan Abdulaziz Kamilov met Minister of External Affairs Subrahmanyam Jaishankar as part of a working visit to New Delhi.
The Ministers discussed the current bilateral cooperation and its prospects drawing on the agreements reached between President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The Ministers also discussed the schedule of the upcoming bilateral events in 2020 and prioritized economic cooperation.
A special attention was paid to situation in Afghanistan. The sides reaffirmed interest in the soonest stabilization of the situation in Afghanistan that will pave the way for expansion of cooperation in the regions.
India-Central Asia Dialogue Ministerial Meeting with participation of Afghanistan is believed to help achieve that goal. The first such meeting was held in January 2019 in Samarkand.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), in collaboration with the World Food Program (WFP) and Iran’s Bureau of Aliens and Foreign Immigrants’ Affairs, has established a greenhouse in a settlement in Semnan Province, providing the Afghan refugees with new sustainable livelihoods opportunities, the United Nations Information Center (UNIC) in Tehran said in a press release.
FAO Programme Consultant Hooman Moezzi said that a group of 15 Afghan refugees has been selected to be empowered to manage the greenhouse independently, being advised and equipped with necessary agricultural skills by this initiative.
FAO, as a UN specialized agency, leads efforts to defeat hunger, improve nutrition, increase agricultural productivity, raise standard of living in rural populations and contribute to economic growth.
According to the last official government estimates, Iran hosts 951,142 Afghan refugees. Approximately 97% of these refugees live in urban and semi-urban areas, while the remaining 3% reside in 20 refugee settlements located throughout the Country.
Former President of Afghanistan Hamid Karzai has expressed hope for dialogue between the Taliban and Afghanistan’s government.
The Taliban has been conducting talks with the US-appointed peace negotiator while a direct dialogue between Kabul and Taliban is yet to begin.
“I hope the day comes and the Afghan government and the Taliban talk with each other about reaching a peace deal,” The Hindu quoted Mr Karzai as saying.
Mr Karzai is in New Delhi to participate in the government sponsored Raisina Dialogue.
The other Afghan participant is Dr Hamdullah Mohib, National Security Adviser of the government in Kabul.