Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
An international airport will be built in Bamyan province said the Afghan Civil Aviation Authority (ACAA) on Wednesday.
Qasim Wafayzada, Director General of the ACAA, accompanied a high-level government delegation and experts, during an official visit to Bamyan.
He said they had shortlisted some places and were reviewing them to select a suitable location for the airport.
The areas of Markaz, Shahidan, Shibartu and Yakawlang were some of the places under considerations.
With 38,855 confirmed COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan so far, the Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday, said that the use of masks can help reduced the number of infected patients and even prevent a second wave of infections in the coming winter.
Speaking at a news conference, Akmal Samsor, spokesperson for the MoPH said the ministry was working implementing a comprehensive plan against a possible second outbreak.
Under the program, the status of COVID-19 health centres, hospitals and diagnostic laboratories in 34 provinces will be monitored by the MoPH.
Samsor added that a new Coronavirus detection laboratory had started in Kunduz province and it will be managing samples from Badakhshan, Takhar, Kunduz and Baghlan provinces.
New cases on the rise as testing slows
Afghanistan reported 40 new cases of COVID-19 in the past 24 hours, along with 10 fatalities and 405 recoveries.
The government was able to test 161 samples for Coronavirus in the past day.
New cases were reported in the provinces of Herat (12), Balkh (11), Daykundi (10), Wardak (3), Kabul (2), Kandahar (1) and Badakhshan (1).
The number of people who have recovered has gone up to 32,503, while the number of fatalities is at 1,436.
Kunduz officials said six security personnel were killed during a Taliban attack in Dasht-e-Archi district of the province on Tuesday night.
Kunduz governor’s spokesperson Esmatullah Moradi said on Wednesday, that the incident took place at around 8 p.m. when Taliban attacked security checkpoints along the border of Khwaja Ghar district of neighbouring Takhar province and Dasht-e-Archi district.
The clashes continued for over eight hours until early Wednesday morning, Moradi said.
He added that Taliban fighters were also killed but their exact numbers are not known.
At least two civilians were killed and 12 others were wounded in an explosion in Takhar’s Kalafgan district on Tuesday evening.
The provincial police said an IED placed in a motorcycle exploded at 5:15 pm on in Kalafgan city of the district, in front of a gas cylinder store.
The initial blast led to the cylinders exploding and damaging around 20 surrounding shops in the market area.
According to the police, preliminary investigations indicate that the target may have been General Khair Mohammad Temor, a former police chief and jihadi commander, who was passing the area.
Temor survived the attack.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the blast.
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad told the BBC that he was “not happy” about the February agreement’s condition to release 5,000 Taliban prisoners.
He added that “you have to make hard decisions” when referring to how the Doha agreement between the U.S. and the Taliban finally led to the start of the peace negotiations in Qatar.
When asked about released Taliban prisoners returning to the battlefield, the envoy said they “do not have any evidence.”
However, the Ministry of Interior and a report by Queen’s University in Belfast, Northern Ireland, has shown that released Taliban have gone back to fighting.
The release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners was a condition set without the involvement of the Afghan government.
President Ashraf Ghani had warned that this was a substantial “cost” for the peace process and said their release was a “danger” to the world.
“I appreciate the challenges the government faced,” Khalilzad told the BBC, denying their release was a mistake.
“I applaud them [the Afghan government] for making the difficult decisions that they did. That decision made today possible.”
Laghamn officials said a person was killed in a traffic accident in the Alishing district of the province on Wednesday morning.
Asadullah Dawlatzai, spokesperson for the Laghman governor, said the accident took place in the Gonahpal valley of the district.
He said 10 other people were injured in the accident and were taken to a hospital in . The injured have been taken to a hospital in the provincial capital Mehtarlam.
Dawlatzai explained that the accident occurred when a passenger car on its way from Alishing to Mehtarlam went off-road.
The negotiating teams of the Afghan government and the Taliban held their first direct session on Tuesday evening in Doha, but said there is work pending before the peace talks start.
“The meeting of both negotiating teams with full members took place today at 4:30 p.m.,” senior Afghan government negotiator Nader Nadery and Taliban spokesman Muhammad Naeem both said in identical statements on Twitter.
“Heads of delegations reiterated the need for patience and tolerance as we move forward in this path,” the statement added. The heads of both delegations gave speeches.
“There is agreement on major parts of the rules and procedure. It was decided to finalize the remaining part ASAP [as soon as possible],” he tweeted.
They discussed the schedule and timing of daily meetings and two point person were appointed from each side to coordinate.
Negotiators had agreed to rules and procedures, but some issues were still outstanding, the statements said, without going into further details.
Tuesday’s meeting was the second meeting with the full negotiating teams in attendance since the one held after the opening ceremony on Saturday when they formed contact groups.
A ceasefire or reduction in violence would be of top priority in the talks.
However, Suhail Shaheen, a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, said on Tuesday that a ceasefire will be impossible unless there was consensus on the future government in Afghanistan.
“We want these issues to be solved soon. We want a ceasefire. It is in the [US-Taliban] agreement. All Afghans want it, but if it is in a way that we don’t talk on it [future government] and we agree on a ceasefire while their administration (Afghan government) is there. This is not a reality,” Shaheen said.
Khalilzad in India
U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation was in New Delhi on Tuesday and met with India’s Minister of External Affairs S Jaishankar, National Security Advisor Ajit Doval, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and other senior officials.
“Glad to receive Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad this evening. Useful discussions on the Doha Meeting and its follow-up,” Jaishankar tweeted with a picture of their meeting.
Khalilzad discussed the Afghanistan peace negotiations and the need for a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.
Speaking at an Atlantic Council event, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Tuesday, there are fewer than 200 Al Qaeda left in Afghanistan today.
Under the February deal between the U.S. and the Taliban, the militant group had vowed to break ties with Al Qaeda and other foreign groups and engage in peace talks with the Afghan government.
In return, the U.S. promised to completely withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, ending its “occupation” in Taliban terms.
“We are now delivering a set of outcomes that will reduce the cost of blood from our American service men and women,” Pompeo said.