Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Security sources said that a policeman was killed and 12 members of the security forces were captured as a result of a Taliban attack on a security checkpoint in the Guzara district of the province.
A senior security source told Subhe Kabul daily that Taliban fighters attacked a police and public security checkpoint in the Pul-e-Malan area of Guzara district in Herat province on Wednesday night. According to the source, following the attack by Taliban fighters, Gholam Siddiq, the director of the operation, went to the area with several security soldiers to help the area, and after several hours of fighting, they retreated from the checkpoint.
The source added that the clashes between the two sides continued until 02:00 on Thursday morning and finally, this security checkpoint was set on fire by Taliban fighters. The source said that during the clash, one policeman was killed and the director of the operation, two national police soldiers, six public security policemen and three public protection forces were captured by Taliban fighters. The Taliban have not yet commented on the matter.
Meanwhile, Amrullah Saleh, the first vice-president, has said that the violence had made the international community mobilize in support of human values and rights. Saleh wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that at a special meeting of the Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB), representatives of the international community expressed their support for the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and stressed on the need for continued assistance.
At the same time, he said, representatives of the international community have condemned the killings and violence perpetrated by the Taliban and called for meaningful dialogue. Saleh said, “I said at the beginning of my speech that the Taliban had a political miscalculation. Suppose that if the Taliban had not ridiculed the peace talks, the United Nations would have thanked them today in its declaration.”
He added that the Taliban did not understand human values and did not recognize human rights. Referring to the Taliban’s mistreatment of Kandahar’s local comedian Mohammad Khasha, the first vice-president said, “Playing and filming Khasha’s young body shows that the Taliban is no more than a savage in terms of intellect.”
Also, Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior adviser to the presidency, too said that Taliban insurgents are committing war crimes and shooting civilians in Hazara areas. Mohaqiq wrote on his Facebook page on Thursday that two nights ago, Taliban fighters captured and shot four civilian workers in the Dar-e-Suf district of Samangan province. Mohaqiq called on the United Nations and Human Rights Watch to investigate and condemn the Taliban for their crimes against humanity against Shiites and Hazaras.
Kabul: Herat Governor Abdul Sabur Qane said that the Taliban launched attacks on security forces and the People’s uprising forces on Wednesday night in three villages in Guzara district of the province, which continued until Thursday morning. According to him, the Taliban attacks were repulsed by the security forces with the support of the air force, as a result of which 40 Taliban were killed and 42 others were wounded.
The Taliban also attacked Karukh district of Herat on Wednesday night which resulted in the death of seven Taliban insurgents including the group’s commanders.
Although the governor of Herat did not comment on the casualties of government forces in the attacks, a security source told Salam Watandar that two security forces were killed and seven others were wounded in a Taliban attack on the Pul-e-Malan checkpoint in Guzara district.
Meanwhile, Herat residents say the Taliban have reached the city gates. But the governor of Herat assured the people that the forces have a plan to retake the lost districts and said that the security situation in the province would improve in the near future. Currently, including two major commercial ports, 15 districts in Herat are under Taliban control.
In other news, the Ministry of Telecommunications and Information Technology said that the Ministry only has the task of preparing policies to improve the activities of the telecommunications and information technology sector, and the regulation of telecommunications services is not one of the ministry’s responsibilities.
The ministry wrote in a statement on Thursday, that citizens can share their views with the responsible departments. The Ministry of Telecommunications has not specified which institution is responsible for regulating telecommunication services, but apparently the ATRA administration is also responsible for regulating telecommunication services. In recent days, the activity of Salam telecommunication network has stopped in some areas.
This has led a number of citizens to accuse the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology of negligence. The Ministry of Communications has said that Salam and Afghan Telecom are not currently operating under the management of the ministry.
Kabul: The Ministry of Information and Culture reported that United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has accepted Afghanistan’s request to register three works in the list of intangible cultural heritage of the world for 2022.
The three works include Behzad style of miniature art independently for Afghanistan; Silk production industry jointly with Azerbaijan, Iran, Turkey, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan and Yalda night jointly with Iran. The Ministry called the move by UNESCO, an achievement and assured the protection and preservation of cultural heritage.
The registration of cultural heritage has previously led to disputes between countries in the region, including Iran and Afghanistan. In the latest case, about seven months ago, the registration of miniature art as an intangible heritage of Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan and Uzbekistan without mentioning the name of Afghanistan was followed by an official complaint from the Afghan government.
Meanwhile, on Thursday (July 29) the Government of Afghanistan celebrated the National Flag Day. On this day, the Afghan flag is hoisted across the country. The Afghan flag has changed dramatically over the last 100 years. Every government and political group that has come to power has changed the flag of this country in terms of its political views and perceptions.
The current flag of Afghanistan, which is red, green and black, was first approved by the Loya Jirga in solar year 1307 during the rule of Amanullah Khan. Before that, the color of the Afghan flag was black, after that, there were many changes in the Afghan flag, but in 2003, the same three colors were used, but with a slight change, as the Afghan national emblem was inserted.
The use of the flag in Afghanistan has a historical background and is said to have been used in this country since the reign of Yama, the first king of Afghanistan. Habibullah Rafi, a historian and member of the Afghan Academy of Sciences, says the philosophy of changing the black flag to three colors was that Shah Amanullah wanted to reflect the struggles of the people. According to Rafi, the color black represents the period of captivity in Afghanistan, the color red represents the period of jihad and the sacrifice of Afghans for independence at that time, and the color green represents the country’s prosperity after independence.
Kabul: The Taliban have carried out attacks in some areas around the city of Herat since midnight on Wednesday. Local officials in Herat confirmed that Taliban attacks in the Pul-e Malan area have been repulsed by security forces.
At the same time, on Thursday, the scope of the clashes reached around the industrial town in Guzara district of Herat. Popular uprising sources said that Andisha, a residential area close to the industrial town, witnessed fighting between the Taliban and security forces.
Herat Industrial City is located near the airport of the province. Sources said that flights to Herat Airport have been canceled following clashes around the industrial town.
Heavy clashes have also been reported in the Siavoshan area of Guzara district in Herat. Scattered clashes in Herat’s Guzara district have caused a number of residents to flee their homes. Local officials in Herat have confirmed clashes in Guzara and Karkh districts, claiming heavy casualties among the Taliban.
In other news, a number of Afghan women have issued a joint statement urging the Taliban not to use women as slaves. The statement, read on Thursday at a news conference by a number of Afghan women civil and political activists in Kabul, said that the Taliban should not pressurize women into forced marriages. The statement stressed that the parties to the war in Afghanistan must accept immediate, permanent and unconditional ceasefire as soon as possible, and that the Taliban must end the killing of civilians and targeted assassinations.
Afghan women have also called on the Taliban to refrain from war crimes, desecration of the bodies of those killed, prisoners and wounded, damage to human dignity, destruction of public property and infrastructure, and forced displacement. They added that the group should cut all ties with other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda, ISIS, Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad.
In the statement, the women said that the United Nations, international human rights organizations and Amnesty International should closely monitor the dire situation of the war in Afghanistan. They added that countries involved in Afghanistan and the United Nations should address the displaced and victims of the war immediately. Afghan women have called for serious and continued monitoring of the peace and post-peace process in Afghanistan by these countries and the United Nations.
They also called for efforts to build trust between the government and the nation, a political consensus with political leaders, both men and women, within Afghanistan, countries in the region and world powers for lasting peace and a system based on the will of the Afghan people and speed in peace negotiations. The statement said that there was no winner in the war and that Afghanistan’s history had shown that gaining power through war would not be sustainable and would not be universally accepted. Addressing the Taliban, Afghan women have said that the opportunity for a meaningful peace and political solution with the support of the countries concerned in the Afghan issue has now been provided through negotiations and there is no excuse for them to continue their war.
Kabul: The extended Troika on the Afghan peaceful settlement comprising representatives of Russia, the United States, China, and Pakistan will hold its next meeting in Doha in early August, Special Russian Presidential Representative for Afghanistan, Director of the Second Asian Department at Russia’s Foreign Ministry Zamir Kabulov told an online briefing on Thursday.
“We are in constant contact over the phone with my counterpart [US Special Representative for Afghanistan Zalmay] Khalilzad, who is now [staying] in Washington. Next week, we are planning to meet in Doha with him and with our Chinese and Pakistani counterparts for the next encounter of the extended Troika,” the Russian envoy said.
“Beijing recently appointed its new envoy for Afghanistan whom I do not know and expect to meet him in Doha on August 11. We will continue substantive consultations both in the bilateral and extended Troika formats and are ready for broader talks with interested international actors,” he added.
US President Joe Biden announced on April 14 that he had made a decision to complete the operation in Afghanistan that had been the longest overseas military campaign in US history. The situation in Afghanistan has started to deteriorate in the wake of the US decision as the Taliban is intensifying its offensive in some areas of the country. The Taliban movement has claimed that it has gained control of about 85% of the country’s territory, including the border regions with five countries — Iran, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Turkmenistan.
In fact, Kabulov said that more than half of the territory of Afghanistan is under the control of the Taliban. “In any case, this is certainly more than a half,” the Russian envoy said in response to a question about the extent of the Taliban’s control of the territory of Afghanistan.
The Russian envoy said, however, that the Taliban movement would hardly be able to seize the entire territory of the country. “We do not think that this scenario [the seizure of Afghanistan by the Taliban] will prevail, but we are ready for any development,” the Russian diplomat stressed. The retreat of the Afghan government forces is the cause for the Taliban’s mounting offensive, he added.
This comes even as no decisions have been made as of yet about the details and scope of the mission Turkey will potentially shoulder in securing and operating Kabul Hamid Karzai International Airport in Afghanistan’s capital city, Turkish security sources stated, adding that the negotiations are expected to be finalized in August. Talks with both the United States as well as countries that are expected to contribute to the mission continue, the sources said.
Regarding the security of the surroundings of the airport, sources said that Turkey’s mission will be limited to the duty it has been carrying out for six years – securing and operating solely the airport. “The security of the surroundings of the airport will be ensured by Afghan forces.”
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan said recently that Turkey is considering operating the major Kabul airport after the U.S.-led pullout and that Ankara is ready to discuss the peace process with the Taliban, adding that the group must stop the occupation. The airport is in a strategic location close to the Afghan presidential palace and foreign diplomatic missions in Kabul and is the only place from which to evacuate diplomats in emergency situations. The Turkish Foreign Ministry has called for a fair burden-sharing of the task given that the “uninterrupted, safe operation of the airport is indispensable for the continued presence of diplomatic missions in Afghanistan.”
At the end of a series of meetings with NATO leaders on the sidelines of the alliance summit in June, Erdoğan stated that Turkey was seeking Pakistani and Hungarian involvement in the mission in Afghanistan following the departure of the U.S.-led NATO force. However, the Taliban have opposed Ankara’s proposal, saying that Turkey should also withdraw its troops in line with the 2020 deal for the pullout.
Meanwhile, in other news, Indian External Affairs Minister India S Jaishankar said on Thursday that India is working with the world community to push political negotiations to find a lasting solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and will never accept any outcome decided through the use of force. There was a very detailed discussion on the situation in Afghanistan with visiting US secretary of state Antony Blinken on Wednesday and there is “a very strong convergence” in the positions of India and the US on this issue, Jaishankar said while answering a question in the Rajya Sabha or upper house of Parliament.
“We were very clear that there must be a negotiated political settlement in Afghanistan, that there cannot be a military solution, there cannot be a takeover by use of force in Afghanistan, that we will work with the international community to ensure that political negotiations for a settlement are pursued seriously and we would never accept any outcome which is decided by force,” he said.
Also, Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu addressed the rising anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, saying Pakistanis and Afghans sent money to Turkey during the Turkish War Independence when the nation was going through a “difficult time.” Soylu said that it was through this money that İşbank – Turkey’s first national bank – was founded.
“They are saying, ‘Afghans are coming to Turkey,’ but they are not only coming to us, they are also going to the West. I would like to say to those who are criticizing this: When this nation was in a difficult time, when it did not have even one weapon and bullet, Pakistanis and Afghans sold their bracelets and sent it [the money] to Turkey,” Soylu said. “With the money that was leftover, İşbank was founded. If we forget everything, the future generations will also forget us,” he said.
Soylu made the remarks amid a rising anti-refugee sentiment in Turkey, with some opposition politicians vowing to ensure the return of refugees to their countries if their parties win the elections, in what appears to be an attempt to attract voters.
Thousands of Afghans have been reported to cross into eastern Turkey from Iran in recent days, after a rise in violence in their own country as the United States and its NATO allies withdraw and Taliban fighters seize territory. Turkish officials said last week they had detained 1,500 irregular migrants, most of them Afghans, near the Iranian border in the previous 10 days.
Kabul: Afghanistan state ministry in peace affairs on Thursday published its four-month report on civilian casualty, which demonstrates a surge in violence by the Taliban.
The report states that the Taliban have conducted 22,000 attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces which have left hundreds of thousands of people displaced. The report is published one day after many youths protested against the ongoing conflicts in Kandahar province which have displaced various families.
As per the report, a total number of 5,587 civilians were killed and wounded as a result of 93 suicide attacks, 650 rocket shells, 1,675 mine explosions, and 844 assassinations by the Taliban.
Meanwhile, 24,609 Taliban fighters have been killed and wounded as a result of ANDSF operations in the time span mentioned, reads the report. The statement released by the ministry further reads that foreign troops’ withdrawal from Afghanistan has prompted the Taliban to escalate violence. The statement too blamed regional intelligence for encouraging the Taliban to gain victory militarily.
As per the report, 621 schools have been shut by the Taliban fighters which has led to 42 percent of students be devoid of education.
Sayed Abdullah Hashemi, head of monitoring the reduction of violence at the state Ministry for peace Affairs, said that since the beginning of the current solar year, violence by Taliban militants has increased by 35 percent. Speaking at a news conference on Thursday, Hashemi said that 2,566 civilians had been killed and 3,021 wounded in Taliban attacks since the end of last solar month.
Hashemi said 650 women and 925 children were among the dead and 290 women and another 888 children were among the injured.
Meanwhile, as a result of the recent clashes in Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province, more than 6,000 families from around Sheberghan have been forced to flee their homes. For the past two months, clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters have been raging in villages around the city of Sheberghan. Officials from the Jowzjan Department of Refugees and Returnees said that they have distributed food items to more than 3,000 war-affected families over the past two months with the help of all-inclusive institutions.
Abdul Malik Rostami, head of the Jawzjan Department of Refugees and Immigrants, told the Subhe Kabul daily that the families had been displaced from 53 villages in Sheberghan following the recent fighting. These villages are located south of Sheberghan on the Jawzjan-Sar-e Pul highway No. 2, where currently fighting between the security-defense forces and Taliban fighters.
Rostami says that due to the war situation and the need of the displaced for food, clothing, health and housing, aid from partner institutions should be increased. He wants to set up a large refugee camp in the city of Sheberghan. According to Rostami, in addition to the displaced people from this province, a large number of residents of Faryab and Sar-e-Pul provinces have also taken refuge in the city of Sheberghan. He said that at present, the first need of the displaced in the city of Sheberghan is cash. He hopes that non-governmental aid organizations will understand the Department of Refugees’ concerns about the situation of the displaced.
Large numbers of displaced people have lost their livelihoods, such as agriculture and other local resources, because they have been displaced from villages and districts. This situation, in addition to the lack of timely assistance from the government and international organizations supporting migrants, has left many of these IDPs without access to health assistance in addition to food security.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Thursday reported 419 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 52 deaths and 966 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 146,523, while the number of reported deaths is 6,677 and the total number of recoveries is 96,692.
The Ministry of Health has called on Afghan citizens to follow health guidelines to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
Kabul: Residents of Kandahar called on the international community to put pressure on the Taliban to reduce violence during a protest rally on Thursday. Dozens of civil society activists, young people and civilians in Kandahar called the recent clashes costly and called for the implementation of the Doha Agreement between the Taliban and the United States.
They called on the Taliban to refrain from fighting in populated areas and to retreat. Hekmatullah Afghan, one of the protesters, said the Taliban had not kept their promises and violated the rules ahead of time. According to him, the Taliban have attacked major cities in violation of the Doha agreement. He called on the Taliban to lay down their arms and work for peace and national interests.
Protesters also said that in the current war, civilians are suffering the most and that the warring parties must agree on a long-term ceasefire. Farid Larivi, another protester, said civilians were currently suffering the most casualties. According to him, a large number of civilians have been killed and displaced in recent wars. The protesters issued a four-point resolution calling for an end to Taliban attacks and urging the warring parties to focus on the peace process.
In other news, security officials in Jowzjan province said that Uzbekistani Taliban are recruiting residents of the area. Samad Khan, commander of the Sheberghan city garrison and a commander affiliated with Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, told Subhe Kabul daily that two Taliban commanders, both Uzbekistan nationals, had been relocated to Darzab district of the province and are recruiting locals.
According to him, Darzab district is under the control of Taliban fighters and Chechen and Uzbekistan citizens have been active in the district before. Meanwhile, Abdul Ghani Nezami, commander of the 2nd Infantry Brigade of the 209th Shaheen Corps, confirmed the matter and told Sobhe Kabul daily that the current leader of the war in Sheberghan, the capital of Jawzjan province, is Sheikh Matiullah, a Pakistani Taliban commander.
It is worth mentioning that for two months now, fighting has been going on between government forces and Taliban fighters in Jowzjan province. During this period, Taliban fighters have managed to capture nine districts of the province, as per reports.
This comes even as NATO has launched a military training program for soldiers from Afghanistan in Turkey. It marks the first military training program outside the country for soldiers from Afghanistan after the end of the NATO training mission there. According to information from Ankara, members of the Afghan Special Forces were flown to Turkey on Wednesday for a training course. It is supposed to be the prelude to regular training programs outside Afghanistan.
A NATO spokesperson in Brussels confirmed the start of the training program to DPA, but would not comment on the location or details for security reasons. “In addition to continued funding and diplomatic presence, NATO’s continued support to Afghanistan includes out-of-country training for Afghan special forces. This training has now begun,” he said.
The basis of the continued NATO support for the Afghan government’s troops is a decision by the heads of state and government of the 30 alliance countries. They had assured the country at their summit meeting in June that they would continue to provide assistance even after the end of the military mission. “We affirm our commitment to continue to stand with Afghanistan, its people, and its institutions in promoting security and upholding the hard-won gains of the last 20 years,” the final declaration said.
In other news, after spending at least $837 billion, the U.S. military is leaving an Afghanistan that “remains poor, aid-dependent, and conflict-affected, with any potential economic growth in the short term further limited by the lingering effects of the Covid-19 pandemic,” according to the latest report by Congress’s independent watchdog.
The grim accounting was offered on Thursday by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the office that has documented billions in waste and corruption since lawmakers created it in fiscal 2008. The report was published just weeks before American forces are expected to complete their withdrawal after nearly 20 years. “The news coming out of Afghanistan this quarter has been bleak,” John Sopko, the inspector general, wrote in his report covering the quarter ending June 30, with some updates for more recent events. “The Taliban offensive that began early in the quarter accelerated in June and July.” The $837 billion spent on “U.S. warfighting and reconstruction” over two decades doesn’t include billions more for classified intelligence operations, veterans’ medical and disability benefits and international financial aid.
U.S. leaders from President Joe Biden to General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, say the outcome of the contest between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents is far from settled, although Milley has acknowledged the Taliban has “strategic momentum.” With nearly all U.S. forces leaving, the Afghan government and the roughly 303,000 members of its military and national police face about 75,000 Taliban militants.
National security forces have retaken some contested districts and the Afghan government still controls all 34 provincial capitals, including Kabul, Sopko wrote. Yet the nation’s military “appeared surprised and unready, and is now on its back foot,” even after the U.S. spent at least $83 billion to train, equip, operate and sustain it. In addition, “civilian casualties hit a record high in May and June, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan,” Sopko wrote. U.S. military officials reported 2,035 civilian casualties in April and May, which included 705 deaths and 1,330 injuries. “The overall trend is clearly unfavorable to the Afghan government, which could face an existential crisis if it isn’t addressed and reversed,” Sopko wrote. The U.S. withdrawal, which is to be completed in August, will greatly complicate further assessments of where and how much control the Taliban is gaining in districts, according to Sopko.
One of the bright spots for the Afghan military has been its air force, a blend of seven types of aircraft including A-29 Super Tucano propeller planes performing close-air support with precision guided munitions and U.S. and Russian-made transport helicopters. The U.S. has spent about $2 billion on the air force. But there’s been a rapid deterioration. As of June 30, only 167 of 211 aircraft were operational, and the force lacks qualified air crews. Five of the seven airframes had decreases in readiness in June and this “coincided with the Taliban offensive and the withdrawal of U.S. and Coalition forces, including aircraft-maintenance contractors,” Sopko wrote.
Even as the U.S. military pulls out, leaving several hundred troops to guard the American embassy in Kabul, the watchdog work of Sopko’s agency continues, but in more dangerous and limited circumstances. About $6.7 billion is currently appropriated and awaiting to be disbursed in Afghanistan, with additional billions expected to follow. Conducting oversight of those funds “will be much more difficult,” Sopko wrote, but it “can be done.” Investigators “will expand their work with U.S.-based Afghans and international law-enforcement officials to fight activities like corruption, narcotics production and trafficking, and money laundering,” he said.
Kabul: Local officials in Nuristan province said that about 100 people have been killed in floods in Kamdish district of the province.
Zaheda Faizan, the deputy governor of Nuristan, told the Subhe Kabul daily that the floods started in the village of Mirdish in Kamdish district on Wednesday. According to her, more than 300 houses were destroyed and about 100 people were killed as a result of the flood in this area.
Faizan said that so far, the bodies of more than 40 people have been found. On the other hand, Saeedullah Nuristani, the head of Nuristan Provincial Council, said that at least 80 houses were completely destroyed and more than 150 people are missing as a result of floods in Kamdish district of the province. According to him, the bodies of more than 40 people have been found so far.
Meanwhile, in other news, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its Afghanistan affiliates, the Afghanistan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA) and the Afghanistan’s National Journalists Union (ANJU) urged the authorities to release journalists detained by the NDS immediately.
Four Afghan journalists, Bismillah Watandoost, Qudrat Soltani, Mujib Obaidi, and Sanaullah Siam were arrested by Afghanistan’s National Directorate of Security (NDS) on July 26 following their reporting trip to Spin Boldak, a district captured by the Taliban earlier this month.
The AIJA said, “The AIJA considers the detention of these journalists by the security agencies being against the law of mass media and calls on the security agencies to release the journalists as soon as possible and to pursue this issue through the Media Complaints and Violations Commission.” The ANJU said, “We are concerned about the journalists being arrested last week by (the) government for their news-reporting.” The IFJ said, “The arrest of journalists for merely attempting to investigate the government’s claim is a breach of the spirit of free and independent media. We urge the authorities to release all four media workers immediately.”
Kabul: Following the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and the reluctance of the Taliban to engage in serious talks, President Ghani said that he will never give in to plans that will ruin the country.
“We have seen reports involving the devastation of Afghanistan and prepared from abroad by networks that want to turn Afghanistan into a battlefield,” Ghani said at a ceremony marking National Flag Day on Thursday. According to him, if the Taliban believe in judging by the sword, the Afghan defense and security forces are ready to respond with the sword; but the use of force does not work, and the basic solution is to continue the dialogue and political agreement.
“In peace, all the pain of the Afghan people will be healed,” the president said. Ghani said that the Afghan people wanted a strong government; a government that can represent them within the law, not a government by force.
In another part of his speech, the President emphasized that the flag of Afghanistan is a symbol of the pride of the people of this country for several thousand years and a clear example of national determination and will. The Government of Afghanistan has declared Thursday (July 29, 2021), as National Flag Day, and in recent years, the Afghan flag has been flying throughout the country.
This comes even as Taliban delegation met with Chinese Foreign Minister. Mullah Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, led a delegation to China and met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi. The Chinese foreign minister told the Taliban delegation that the group was expected to “play an important role in the peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction process in Afghanistan,” according to Reuters. The Chinese foreign minister also said he hoped the Taliban could suppress the “East Turkestan Islamic Movement”, which China considers a threat to its national security.
In fact, during a visit to India, US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken expressed concern about the continuing Taliban attacks and called on the Taliban to stop the violence and return to the negotiating table. He said the United States will continue to develop economic, humanitarian and support Afghan security forces with a strong embassy and programs to support women and girls. Blinken has called on the Taliban to stop the violence and come to the negotiating table. According to him, the only solution to Afghanistan’s problems is the negotiating table, not the battlefield.
Meanwhile, in other news, it has been about a week since the night curfew was imposed in 31 provinces. Announcing the government’s decision, the Interior Ministry said that the curfew will be in force in all provinces except Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar from 10:00 pm to 4:00am. The plan is said to be aimed at preventing the Taliban from infiltrating cities and possible attacks by the group.
At the same time as the official start of the process, Bamyan police have banned people from touring the city during the night. A number of residents of Bamyan province have opposed the government’s decision and called for its repeal. Following the criticism, the governor of Bamyan now says the security situation in the province is normal and there are no concerns.
Bamyan Governor Mohammad Tahir Zaheer told Hashte Subh daily that the provincial police had called for the lifting of the curfew in the province due to its assessment of the security situation. The governor of Bamyan added that the curfew has not been lifted yet, but the police has asked the Interior Ministry to make an exception for Bamyan and remove it from the 31 provinces included in the plan. He emphasized that the security situation in Bamyan province, especially inside the city, is quite normal and there are no concerns. The governor also clarified that Bamyan is a tourist province and it is “better” to remove the restrictions on night tourism during the tourist season.
But Homayoun Ilkhani, spokesman for the Bamyan Police told Hashte Subh daily that he was unaware of the command’s request to lift the curfew. He said the decision to ban night curfew had been taken by the central leadership and that Bamyan police were required to comply. However, some Bamyan residents see the government’s decision as detrimental to the province’s tourism industry.
Kabul: Stressing that any kind of support to terrorism is a crime against humanity, Indian defense minister Rajnath Singh on Wednesday said that members of the Shanghai Cooperation Organisation (SCO) must actively work together to create a safe, secure and stable region, which includes helping a war-torn Afghanistan.
Addressing the SCO defense ministers’ meet at Dushanbe, Singh said that the eight-member grouping (India, Russia, China, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan) has a “collective stake” in ensuring peace and prosperity in the region, which is threatened by “instability and violent extremism” all over again.
“It is in the same spirit that India helps the people of Afghanistan, which is facing violence and devastation over decades. So far, India has completed 500 projects in Afghanistan and is continuing with some more, with a total development aid of $ 3 billion,” he said. “Peace and prosperity cannot co-exist with terrorism. Any act of terror and support to such acts, including cross border terrorism, committed by whomsoever, wherever and for whatever motives, is a crime against humanity. India reaffirms its resolve to fight terrorism in all its forms.”
He reiterated the resolve of India, which with its geostrategic location is both a Eurasian land power as well as a stakeholder in the Indo-Pacific, to work within the SCO framework for the overall benefit of the region. “Our intent and aspirations are focused on the prosperity and development of the entire region. We affirm this intent through our national policy of Security and Growth for All in the Region, commonly known by the acronym ‘Sagar’,” he said.
Security and stability are the most essential components to create a conducive environment for the growth and economic development of the region. India accords high priority to the consolidation of trust in the security domain within SCO as well as strengthening ties with SCO partners on the basis of equality, mutual respect and understanding, said, Singh.
In other news, the 23rd Joint Coordination and Monitoring Board (JCMB) meeting was held on Wednesday at the Presidential Palace in Kabul and the main purpose of the meeting was to review progress on the Afghanistan Partnership Framework (APF) so that a positive Joint Review can be obtained at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in November leading to continuation of external assistance as pledged at the Afghanistan 2020 Conference held in Geneva in November 2020.
As per the co-chairs’ statement, “The international partners reiterated their commitment to a democratic and peaceful Afghanistan. They further emphasized that Afghan authorities have the primary responsibility to provide stability, security, and protection of all civilians throughout Afghanistan. The participants emphasized that Afghanistan needs a lasting ceasefire and an immediate end to the current violence. There is no military solution. Only an Afghan-led, inclusive political settlement that leaves no one behind—including women and girls—will bring needed support from the international community to bring the peace and prosperity that all citizens of Afghanistan deserve/have the right to enjoy. In the interest of the Afghan people, the Taliban and various terrorist organizations must lay down their weapons.”
The statement added that all partners committed to implement international agreements on human rights particularly the rights of women and girls to inclusive and equitable human and economic development for all Afghans; and to the protection of minorities.
The JCMB meeting emphasized the importance of implementing the national priority programs under Afghan National Peace and Development Framework – 2 (ANPDF-II) and need for an effective monitoring system and results framework. The meeting also included voices from civil society especially on preservation of civic space so the NGOs can deliver humanitarian services for people of Afghanistan.
In other news, Russian President Vladimir Putin has held a meeting with the permanent members of the Russian Security Council and Afghanistan was one of the key issues discussed, Kremlin Spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
Kabul: Sources in Helmand said that Attaullah Alokozay, the acting police chief of Nawzad district in the province, was killed during a recapture operation in PD5 of Lashkargah city, the capital of Helmand. Local officials in Helmand have not yet commented.
Meanwhile, sources in the Shohada district of Badakhshan province said that a 13-year-old boy has been mysteriously killed in the village of Posht Khana in the district. The district is under Taliban control. A local resident told Salam Watandar that when he returned home from school, his family was collecting fruit in a garden, and he joined them. According to him, his family members had sent the boy home to bring tea, and when he did not return, his younger brother went to search for him and found his body.
The resident adds that the boy was hanged from a wall after being killed so that it seems like an apparent case of suicide. The resident, who attended the funeral of the slain boy, said his family wanted their boy’s killer identified and arrested. Badakhshan local and security officials have not yet commented.
This comes even as the Australian Foreign Minister Marise Payne has said that the continuing violence, killing and torture of civilians, especially women and girls, by Taliban militants is concerning. Payne raised the issue in a telephone conversation with Afghan Foreign Minister Mohammad Hanif Atmar on Wednesday. The telephone conversation focused on the situation in Afghanistan, diplomatic relations, the continuation of humanitarian aid and the prospect of peace in Afghanistan.
The Australian Foreign Minister has said that his country supports a just, lasting and dignified peace in Afghanistan and emphasizes the importance of peace talks. He called on the Taliban to abide by their commitments to achieve peace. On the other hand, Mohammad Hanif Atmar said that the expansion of relations is important to preserve the common values and interests between the two countries, especially in the current situation in Afghanistan, which is facing a crisis of war, drought, food insecurity and Covid-19.
The Foreign Ministry has said that during the phone call, the two sides agreed to take practical steps, including reviving a permanent diplomatic presence in Kabul, prosecuting war crimes by a number of Australian Special Forces in Afghanistan, renewing the Mutual Partnership Agreement and signing a 4-year Development Assistance Memorandum of Understanding.