Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Herat Police commander Colonel Obaidullah Noorzai was injured in a roadside bombing during a clash between the security forces and the Taliban in Pashtun Zarghun district.
The Afghan security forces convoy had been trying to clear Taqcha village in the district, when the car hit the mine.
Local officials claimed a civilian was killed and at least eight Afghan security forces and two civilians were wounded during the clash.
Six Taliban members were also killed while three others were wounded.
Taliban has yet to comment.
Russia has politically supported the Taliban to cultivate influence with the group and limit the Western military presence, said the U.S. Department of Defence, while pointing that Taliban violence is five times higher than those observed during the Reduction in Violence period (RiV).
The Department released their semi-annual report on “Enhancing security and stability in Afghanistan” covering events from December 1, 2019 to May 31, 2020.
In their threat assessment, the Department of Defence (DoD) reported that Afghanistan “faces a continuing threat from an externally supported insurgency and terrorist groups” with the Taliban and Haqqani Network as the main antagonists.
The Taliban has sustained “levels of violence five times higher” than the observations during the RiV period, despite its commitments to the U.S.-Taliban agreement.
However, in the regional actors, the report states that Russia is “very likely” to continue support of the U.S.-Taliban deal in the hope that it will “prevent a long-term” U.S. military presence in the country.
They point that while Kremlin has been vocal in its support for the Afghan peace process, they continue to “politically” support the Taliban but “publicly denies their involvement.”
China too engages the Afghan government and the Taliban, but with the motive that regional peace would “protect Chinese personnel and investments abroad” while securing their western borders from Uighur militants.
The highlight of the report is the signing of the conditions-based U.S.-Taliban Agreement and the release of the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration on February 29, in Doha, Qatar.
The report states that the U.S.’ vital national interest in Afghanistan is to ensure the territory is never again used as a safe haven from which terrorists can attack the U.S., their Allies, or interests abroad.
“The primary goal of the South Asia Strategy is a durable and inclusive political settlement to end the war in Afghanistan,” the Department said.
During the initial portion of the reporting period, U.S. Forces-Afghanistan (USFOR-A) adjusted their operational approach to intensify pressure on the Taliban to reduce violence and create the conditions that led to the signing of the U.S-Taliban Agreement.
Since the February 2020 Reduction in Violence (RiV) period, U.S. operations have continued to focus on counter-terrorism operations against Islamic State-Khorasan Province (IS-K), Al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations, while operations targeting the Taliban were in defence of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF).
A distinct line of effort was added to the campaign plan to enhance ANDSF effectiveness, responsiveness, and overall protection of key government infrastructure like provincial centres, highway checkpoints and the Kabul metropolitan area.
Afghan partners established the Combined Situational Awareness Room (CSAR) and supporting Regional Targeting Teams as a cross security pillar network to prioritize, resource, and enable ANDSF operations based on a collective understanding of the security environment.
These new developments positively impacted the ANDSF’s capability to deny the Taliban and IS-K the ability to accomplish their objectives. For the foreseeable future, however, all ANDSF components will continue to rely on contracted logistic support and on the U.S. for the vast majority of the funding needed to sustain combat operations.
On March 1, following the U.S.–Taliban Agreement in Doha, NATO Resolute Support Mission began reducing forces in accordance with the agreement to approximately 12,000 personnel while U.S. personnel began their reduction to approximately 8,600 personnel.
Advising efforts shifted from persistent to periodic during this period, consistent with Resolute Support’s operational campaign design that emphasizes “point of need” advising.
The U.S. also continued to implements its R4+S strategy in Afghanistan which talks about “reinforcing” the ANDSF’s operational capabilities, “realigning” their strategies in keeping with the Afghan government’s, “regionalising” efforts to expand the burden of Afghan peace with coalition forces and regional partners, “reconciling” the differences between the U.S., Afghanistan and other partners including the Taliban, and to achieve specific U.S. objectives at “sustainable” costs.
The U.S. remains committed to helping Afghans create a secure and stable Afghanistan by supporting inclusive efforts to achieve peace. The best path to a lasting peace in Afghanistan is a negotiated political settlement among Afghans, the report concludes.
The UN reported that 88,530 people were displaced by conflict in 2020, with almost 23,000 people were displaced in fights between the Afghan security forces and a “non-state armed group” in Badakhshan, Baghlan and Takhar provinces last week.
The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) in Afghanistan’s weekly humanitarian report between June 22 to June 28, said an additional 44,230 people had been affected by natural disasters in the country so far.
Within the week of the report, heavy rains in Kunar, Laghman and Nagarhar impacted 945 people, with deaths of seven children. In the eastern provinces, 20,888 people received humanitarian aid and 347 children were vaccinated from polio and measles.
In the northern part of the country, 50 security incidents were recorded in Balkh, Faryab, Samangan, Jawzjan and Sar-e-Pul provinces. UNOCHA also provided cash assistance to 4,655 people displaced by conflict in Jawzjan.
UNOCHA also raised concern about the rise of security incidents in Helmand, Kandahar and Zabul provinces and its effects on humanitarian activities across the region. They counted at least 27 civilian deaths and over 25 wounded in Helmand alone from the June 29 bombing in Sangin market and the roadside blast in Washir.
Herat province saw the return of 6,523 undocumented immigrants from Iran, accounting for part of the 350,140 such returnees from the neighbouring country to date.
The security situation remained unstable across the centre with insecurity and clashes in Kabul and Wardak provinces. UNOCHA’s initial reports indicate that 2,772 people were displaced in Wardak due to fighting.
A total of 126,000 vulnerable people in Kabul city received food assistance as part of the UN’s COVID-19 response.
The Dasht-e-Barchi Hospital, whose maternity wing was attacked on May 12, re-opened on Wednesday.
Ahmad Jawad Osmani, head of the Ministry of Public Health, told a news conference that the hospital would resume its normal activities from today.
Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) stopped its activities at the hospital after gunmen stormed the maternity wing and killed 16 mothers, two children aged seven and eight, two caretakers, and an MSF midwife.
The perpetrators of the attack have not been identified yet and MSF decided to withdraw from the facilities due to future security concerns.
The health minister appreciated the work done by MSF at the facilities and pointed out that the reconstruction was also aided by the organisation.
He added that he shared the security concerns of MSF with other agencies and encouraged them to continue their work.
Osmani added that MSF will still cooperate in managing the 100-bed hospital, but will not be providing health care and pay for hospital staff.
He also called on the warring parties to not attack healthcare facilities and workers.
MSF had been working with the hospital since 2014, providing maternity services and pre and postnatal healthcare for mothers and infants.
The organisation called it one of their largest projects in the world.
Ahmad Jawad Osmani, head of the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH), said they had sent medicines and medical supplies to 34 provinces as part of their increased efforts to meet the needs of Coronavirus patients in Afghanistan.
Afghanistan also added 319 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, pushing their total to 31,836 cases confirmed to date.
Osmani added that oxygen suppliers were facing production problems due to electricity and balloon shortages. He added that the government worked with Breshna to solve the problems. UNICEF and the Ministry of Defense have also helped with providing additional oxygen supplies. The MoPH also has plans to import oxygen generators from China.
The minister also said that in his trips to other provinces, like Helmand and Zabul, he noted that they did not have oxygen generators and were getting their supply from neighbouring provinces.
Osmani said the ministry will look into other options too, including sending shipments from the capital to these provinces.
He found that Kandahar, Zabul and Helmand were facing serious challenges in their fight against COVID-19. The MoPH has stepped in to provide as much help as they can.
The MoPH said 678 samples were tested during the last 24 hours and the positive cases were found in the provinces of Kabul (133), Daykundi (56), Herat (42), Farah (21), Takhar (14), Badghis (11), Kandahar (10), Balkh (8), Badakhshan (6), Baghaln (5), Nangarhar (5), Logar (3), Wardak (2), Zabul (1), Panjsher (1) and Laghman (1).
The ministry also reported 28 fatalities during the day and 1,520 patients who had recovered.
The country’s figures are 15,411 active cases with 774 deaths and 15,651 recovered cases.
Janis Shinwari, a former combat translator who worked with U.S. troops in Afghanistan became an American citizen on Monday.
The translator was credited with saving the lives of at least five soldiers who had been targeted by the Taliban.
“That’s not something many of us can say,” said Ken Cuccinelli, acting deputy secretary for the Department of Homeland Security who presided over the ceremony.
Shinwari’s two children also became U.S. citizens.
He had worked for eight years alongside U.S. forces and managed to save troop members who had been ambushed by Taliban fighters in Ghazni province in 2008.
His work put him on the Taliban’s death list, making him a marked man.
Like many other combat translators, Shinwari had applied for a special immigrant visa which took three years to come due to administrative delays.
“This process is getting, like much longer and most of them [applicants], they got killed by Taliban waiting,” Shinwari said.
Shinwari is a co-founder of a non-profit No One Left Behind, that advocates to bring interpreters who work alongside U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan to the U.S. The organisation also supports the interpreters with monetary help as they re-start their lives.
Local officials in Nangarhar province said at least two Taliban members were killed and five others wounded as they attacked a security checkpoint on Tuesday night.
Nangarhar governor’s office spokesperson Ataullah Khogyani said that the militants attacked a People’s Uprising Forces checkpost in Nazyan district’s Lalmi area.
Media accounts also state that two members of the uprising forces were killed.
The Taliban was repulsed by the security forces and dozens of the militants died during the clashed. However, the bodies of only two were left behind.
The Taliban has not yet commented.
President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, spoke to Zalmay Khalilzad, the U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, via a video conference.
They discussed the latest development in the Afghan peace process and the start of the international talks, Sapedar Palace said on Tuesday.
“We focused on violence reduction, prisoner exchanges and impending intra-Afghan talks. Also discussed future post-peace development needs,” Abdullah’s tweeted.
They also discussed regional support for peace and all sides stressed the need to reach an agreement on an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.
Sapedar Palace also said that the U.S. emphasized that peace in Afghanistan means the peace and development of the region, and the U.S. is ready to invest in that.”
U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad discussed the Afghan peace process when he met Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Abdulaziz Kamilov and Special Representative Irgashev Ismatullah Raimovich in Uzbekistan.
In a series of tweets on Wednesday, Khalizad said he was joined by U.S. International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) CEO Adam Boehler as they met the foreign ministers of C5+1 grouping – Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.
“We discussed the latest on the peace process and the critical role Central Asia has played and will continue to play in pursuit of peace; how it will benefit from peace with increased regional connectivity, trade and development,” Khalilzad tweeted.
They discussed how the DFC could invest in the region’s future.
Khalilzad then thanked the C5+1 for their cooperation and assistance. “We will need to work together to promote and encourage a political settlement when intra-Afghan negotiations begin”
“Work towards the shared goals of economic resilience, regional connectivity and integration starts now,” he added.
They discussed how a stable and prosperous Afghanistan is critical for regional peace, security, and prosperity in Central Asia.
“A Central Asia made up of sovereign and independent states working together with Afghanistan bridging to South Asia is in the interest of the region and of the U.S.,” said the envoy.
They also discussed investments in each country and cross-border opportunities. Then explored what a pooled, regional development fund might look like.
Khalilzad will be touching down in Pakistan on the next leg of his journey.
Authorities are concerned as people continue to visit Hakim Alkozay for his COVID-19 “cure” which has been banned by the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH).
Health officials said that Alkozay’s “secret medicine” contained opium derivatives and banned it in early June.
However, believers and desperate Afghans are turning to the purported cure as hospitals struggle to deal with the influx of patients.
The traditional herbalist, hakim, claims that three drops of his mixture will provide instant relief from Coronavirus symptoms.
“If someone is sick, they would obviously seek any cure they can find; they won’t care how much narcotics are in a medicine,” a Kabul citizen told The National.
He turned to Alkozay’s treatment when 24 mmbers of the family tested positive for COVID-19.
They did not go to the hospital and instead put themselves in home quarantine and started the hakim’s medicine soon after, along with traditional medication prescribed by a relative who is also a doctor.
The MoPH had found that the high amount of narcotics can cause addiction if not used properly. Moreover, it had not undergone any testing or randomised trials to check its claims.
When the government tried to close the Kabul clinic on May 31, people took to the streets protesting the closure.
Meanwhile, his other clinics in Herat and Kandahar remain open, despite ministry efforts to have the Herat clinic shut down.
The hakim continues to distribute his medicines free of charge with the help of local, unnamed donors.
Britain’s Royal Marine Major James Fuller received the rare honour of an American Bronze Star decoration for his service in Afghanistan.
The decoration is typically awarded to U.S. military personnel for heroism on the battlefield or meritorious service on the front line.
He was awarded for his 12-month tour-of-duty while on exchange with the U.S. Marine Corps as he served as an assistant operations officer with the U.S. Task Force Southwest in Afghanistan.
The Marine Corps Foreign Personnel Exchange Program offers foreign officers to serve with their U.S. brethren.
Fuller was a part of U.S.’ Operation Freedom’s Sentinel and NATO’s Resolute Support Mission and helped plan numerous missions with the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces and the U.S. Special Operations Forces.
Major Fuller received the Bronze Star in front of his U.S. comrades during a short ceremony at Camp Lejeune in North Carolina.
“This means a lot to me – I’m truly humbled. There wasn’t anything which I did differently from my U.S. Marine colleagues. The colour of your uniform or the flag on your arm didn’t matter – we all worked together for one goal. It was a team effort.”