Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: As US prepares to completely withdraw from Afghanistan, in a strategic move, the HIMARS weapon system has been moved to Afghanistan from Kuwait to ensure the security of the troops on the ground and support the retrograde process, said Central Command of the US Armed Forces.
HIMARS (High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems) multiple rocket launchers, is a full-spectrum, 24/7, precision weapons system that can hit targets more than 43 miles away. The deployment comes even as the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower has been moved to the region and four B-52 bombers have been placed at the Al Udeid Air Base, Qatar, on April 26, to support the Afghanistan drawdown.
The bombers are deployed to protect US and coalition forces as they withdraw because of increasing violence and warnings from the Taliban. The US Central Command said that is committed to providing the necessary force protection to ensure the drawdown is conducted in a safe and orderly manner and hence, these measures are being taken. In fact, the US Defense Department had also mentioned that the number of troops on ground will increase as these temporary forces will help the military on ground with logistics and other support during the withdrawal process.
On April 25, General Austin Scott Miller, the US and NATO forces commander in Afghanistan, said that the US and coalition forces have started the withdrawal process and they will continue to support their Afghan counterparts. “It’s my objective to ensure that the Afghan security forces are in the best possible security posture. Also, we will conduct an orderly withdrawal from Afghanistan and that means transitioning bases and equipment to the Afghan security forces,” he said.
A joint committee of Afghan and US officials has reportedly overseen the handover of US airfields and bases. Afghan government officials have said the International Forces will also hand over $ 1 billion worth of military equipment.
US President Joe Biden had announced the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan ending the 20-year war. Even his top generals, as per reports, had advised against the decision and sought a residual force to be kept in the war-ravaged country in order to help stabilize the country. Experts opined that a hasty withdrawal would cause chaos in the country and lead to a civil war.
This has led to the US administration being cautious in its withdrawal process. The US President has reiterated time and again that no matter what the situation, troops will not go back to Afghanistan, however, the country will receive all manner of support to ensure peace and stability in the region.
The threats from Taliban seem very realistic to Washington as the peace talks are currently stalled. The Istanbul Summit scheduled to help the Afghan peace process has been postponed indefinitely and the Taliban has refused to participate in peace talks till the foreign troops have withdrawn.
Meanwhile, the Taliban has submitted it’s draft peace plan to the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) and the council is working to ensure a unified peace plan including the Afghan administration’s view and the Taliban’s stance.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 169 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 59,745, while the number of reported deaths is 2,625 and the total number of recoveries is 53,154.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Takhar, Nimroz, Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Logar, Ghazni, Kunar, Laghman and Uruzgan provinces.
Officials at the Ministry of Public Health also told Reporterly that universities and schools continue to function across Afghanistan as the country has not actually encountered the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
Kabul: Sending across a strong message, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas met the chairman of the High Council For National Reconciliation (HCNR) Abdullah Abdullah in Kabul on Thursday and also met with Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi in Islamabad and both the meetings had only one agenda- the Afghan peace process.
Highlighting the importance of international aid for Afghanistan, the German FM in Kabul stated that even after the troop withdrawal, Germany will continue to support the war-ravaged country in all other fields and said that if Taliban protects the advances made by the country in the fields of education, human and women rights, then international aid will continue.
Abdullah’s office stated that the German FM communicated Chancellor Merkel’s message that Germany will stand by the people of Afghanistan and “shall continue its support in different fields including to the ANDSF”.
“We consider Germany as a strategic and reliable partner of Afghanistan and appreciate its contribution to the peace process. We also underlined the importance of a unified position within the republic in support of peace as well as preserving our gains,” Abdullah said.
The German foreign ministry tweeted that during the meeting with President Ghani and Abdullah, Maas said, “We will continue to support Afghanistan. A lot of progress has been made in the country from life expectancy to the issue of girls being able to go to school. This is also the result of the engagement of the Bundeswehr which has ensured greater security. The military mission is ending, but we are continuing our engagement in all other fields of cooperation.”
Meanwhile, in Islamabad, Qureshi said that all stakeholders in Afghanistan must engage constructively for a comprehensive political solution to the Afghan peace process, when he met Mass.
Mass and Qureshi discussed how a peaceful and stable Afghanistan will be possible due to constant support of Pakistan and stated that withdrawal of troops is a must for political settlement to arise. He said that all efforts must be made for reduction of violence leading to ceasefire in Afghanistan. He said that peace in Afghanistan is vital for regional trade and security.
The Afghan peace talks has finally seen some momentum on Thursday after the Istanbul Summit had been indefinitely postponed.
Kabul: An army base belonging to the fifth brigade of the 207the Zafar Corps has been evacuated by the Afghan army forces in the village of Kariz Elias in Herat’s Golran district after the troops and equipment there had been transferred to Kamana base in Kahsan district, as per officials.
The base was evacuated after an investigation by the Ministry of National Defense and the Herat Military Council. Meanwhile, the Kamana base will be used to provide security and save the lives of residents of Kahsan and Golran districts.
However, the Taliban has claimed that the base had collapsed as a result of an attack by its fighters. The group added that a large amount of light and heavy weapons and government armored vehicles had fallen into the hands of its fighters in the village of Kariz Elias.
A video posted on social media after the Taliban attacked the base also shows the white Taliban flag hoisted over Kariz Elias.
Violence has increased in the border districts of Kahsan and Golran in Herat province this year. Abdul Ghani Nouri, a former Kahsan district governor, was killed by a roadside bomb this week along with a security official on his way to Golran district.
Kabul: With increasing number of daily positive cases being reported in the country, the Ministry of Public Health has called on the private health sector to help curb the third wave of the coronavirus pandemic.
The role of the private health sector was emphasized and discussed in the critical situation by Vahid Majrooh, Acting Minister of Health, in a joint leadership meeting with representatives of the private health sector, chairmen of the technical committees of the Ministry of Public Health and directors of public health of the provinces, on Thursday.
Majrooh also reviewed functions of the health departments and instructed the officials of proper measures and said that together they can fight the COVID-19 third wave.
During the meeting, participants expressed their challenges and suggestions regarding the availability of oxygen, installation of oxygen generators in health centers, distribution of promotional materials, deployment of screening teams at airfields, and measures of COVID-19 laboratories.
The provincial health centers and implementing the vaccination drive was also discussed.
Kabul: Hamedullah Mohib, National Security Advisor; Shamim Khan Katawazai, Head of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance; Mohammad Yassin Zia, Acting Minister of National Defense; Hayatullah Hayat, Acting Minister of Interior and Ahmad Zia Saraj, National Directorate of Security chief, visited Ghazni on Thursday to inspect the security situation.
Meeting the demands of the military and civilian sectors and how to improve security in the area, were some of focal points of the visit by the top brass, as per Wahidullah Juma Zada, spokesperson for Ghazni governor.
The level of insecurity in the province has recently increased due to threat from the Taliban. Qarabagh district of the province has been witnessing clashes between security forces and the Taliban for a week. As a result of these clashes, more than a thousand families have been displaced from this district and taken to safe areas.
Kabul: With the coronavirus pandemic wreaking havoc across the world, the governor’s office in Herat province in a statement on Thursday announced that Iran has closed the border of Islam Qala starting April 29 to curb the spread of the mutant variant of COVID-19.
However, transport and transit activities between the two countries have not stopped. Dr. Noor Ahmad Mohammadi, head of the Safari Clinic in Islam Qala, informed that an average of 2,000 passengers enter Afghanistan from Iran every day.
Mohammadi added that at present “we have health efforts for this number of people, but if the number of returnees increases, it will be better to have more medical supplies.”
During the first wave of COVID-19 pandemic, Herat was regarded as the center of the outbreak due to its proximity to Iran and the influx of Afghan immigrants.
According to official statistics, the total number of Covid-19 patients in Iran has reached more than 2,438,000 and a total of more than 70,000 have died. In Afghanistan, the total number of cases stands at 59,576, while the number of reported deaths is 2,618 and the total number of recoveries is 52,974, till April 28.
Kabul: Varita Quincy, 35, from Snellville, Georgia, has been sentenced to 51 months in prison and has been ordered to pay restitution of $179,708, for conspiring to steal property including generators, a truck and other items worth over $150,000 from a military installation in Kandahar between April and July of 2015, according to US federal prosecutors.
Quincy pleaded guilty to her crimes on October 13, 2020, to conspiracy to defraud the US and commit property theft. She also pleaded guilty to making false statements.
Co-conspirator Larry Green of Chesapeake, Virginia, negotiated the sale of the stolen property with a third-country national middleman who then facilitated the sale to unknown persons in Kandahar, the press release stated.
Quincy also admitted to using her position to create or cause the production of false official documents. These documents led to the property theft by allowing unknown and unvetted Afghan nationals and their vehicles onto the military installation, deceiving security officers and gate guards and compromising the security of US military and civilian personnel.
Kabul: At least 118 Taliban insurgents have been killed and 30 others were reportedly wounded in Afghanistan in Afghan National Defense and Security Force operations, said the Ministry of Defense in a statement released on Thursday.
The statement added that four Taliban affiliates were also detained during the operations which were conducted in Laghman, Ghazni, Kandahar, Zabul, Herat, Ghor, Balkh, Helmand, and Takhar provinces.
The Afghan National Army also discovered and defused 169 IEDs placed by the Taliban militants on public roads.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Defense also said that two Pakistani nationals were killed along 48 Taliban insurgents in the Maiwand, Khatriz, and Zherai districts of Kandahar province.
The Pakistani Taliban affiliates Qari Hamza and Qari Hakim besides Haji Rohani, the Taliban’s authorized individual for overall extortion operations, and Qari Bismillah were killed during clashes with ANDSF.
In another security incident, General Command of Police Special Unit (GCPSU) members detained two individuals accused of assisting and coordinating with the Taliban insurgents in PD12 Kandahar city, the provincial capital, Ministry of Interior reported.
GCPSU during a separate operation in the Naziyan district of Kandahar detained four people over assisting Taliban militants.
Kabul: US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Pakistan Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa on Wednesday via a phone call to discuss the drawdown of troops in Afghanistan.
“Secretary Austin reaffirmed importance of the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship and appreciated Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan peace process. The two sides also discussed the drawdown in Afghanistan,” a Pentagon press release stated.
US President Joe Biden earlier this month announced withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan by September 11.
Kabul: Highlighting the worst-case scenario, Gen Mark Milley, the US military’s top officer, said that withdrawal of foreign troops can likely lead to Al-Qaeda’s return and civil war in the war-ravaged country.
The US Army Chief’s comments are among the many criticisms listed by security experts after the announcement of the troop drawdown by September 11 by US President Joe Biden earlier this month. “Tough situation, no good answers to any of it,” Gen Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said.
“In the worst-case analysis, you have a potential collapse of the government, a potential collapse of the military, you have civil war, you have all the humanitarian catastrophe that goes with it and the potential for the return of Al Qaeda sometime down the road,” added Gen Milley.
However, he also said that there is more focus on outlining a deal and peace agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan government. He also emphasized on the enduring US support to Afghanistan even after the troop drawdown. “We are not going to take our eye off the ball. We are going to monitor from positions where we can gain access,” he said.
Asked if the Pentagon would have preferred to leave a residual force in Afghanistan, Gen Milley said the military only offers recommendations to the president. “We are not advocates. So, we present courses of actions… the president is the decision-maker,” he said. Earlier, it was reported that Biden had rejected the proposal of his top military generals who had recommended keeping a residual force in Afghanistan and waiting till a peace agreement is reached.
The US is coordinating its withdrawal with regional countries, including Pakistan. On Wednesday, US Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, the Pentagon said.
“Secretary Austin and Gen Bajwa discussed the importance of regional stability and the desire for the United States and Pakistan to continue working together on shared goals and objectives in the region,” the Pentagon said.
Kabul: Russia, US, China and Pakistan or the extended troika have scheduled a meeting for April 30 to discuss the peaceful settlement in Afghanistan and decide on a unified opinion on the advancing the intra-Afghan talks, Russian Special Presidential Representative for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov said on Wednesday.
“US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad, representatives of Pakistan and China and I will meet on April 30 in a meeting of the extended troika,” he said, adding, “We will be discussing solutions to the current situation in the intra-Afghan negotiations. We will be trying to work out a common position to give an impetus for the talks to take place.”
Earlier on March 18, the extended troika had held talks with the participation of Russia, China, the United States and Pakistan as well as representatives of the Afghan government and the Taliban (banned in Russia), Afghan politicians, Qatar and Turkey.
The next step in the Afghan peace process is the Istanbul conference, which for now has been postponed indefinitely. The Afghan administration is ready with a unified plan and the Taliban too have submitted their draft plan. However, all this comes even all foreign troop withdraw has started from the war-ravaged country.