Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi during the inaugural session of the Pak-Afghan Bilateral Dialogue in Islamabad on Monday, said that Pakistan cannot be held responsible for all the ills and crisis in Afghanistan.
He added that Pakistan will continue to play a positive role in the success of intra-Afghan peace talks. He stressed on Pakistan’s reconciliatory role in the Afghan peace process and the agreement between the US and Taliban in Doha will help in maintaining peace in the region.
He maintained that Pakistan’s efforts have been recognized internationally as part of the solution and not part of the problem. The Pakistan foreign minister highlighted that there is no military solution to the Afghan conflict. He said a peaceful and stable Afghanistan is in the interest of Pakistan and the whole region.
Regarding the current situation in Afghanistan, he stated that the only way forward to ensure peace and security is a reduction in violence. He pointed out that both the Afghan government and the Taliban will have to demonstrate flexibility to reach a settlement.
However, expressing concern over the statements of Afghanistan’s vice-president and the National Security Adviser against Pakistan, he said that the blame game must stop as it will not help any cause. He said that there are spoilers inside and outside Afghanistan and both the parties should be fully cognizant of their nefarious designs.
He mentioned that Pakistan does not interfere in the internal matters of Afghanistan and that Pakistan is taking all possible measures for border management with Afghanistan.
Kabul: Kazakh President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev on Monday discussed with Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special representative for reconciliation in Afghanistan, prospects of an “enhanced” bilateral relationship amid the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from the war-torn country.
Tokayev received Khalilzad, who arrived in Kazakhstan on a working visit. “They discussed the prospects for the development of the Kazakh-US enhanced strategic partnership in the context of ensuring security and stability in Afghanistan, including in the light of the withdrawal of US and NATO troops from this country,” a statement by the Kazakhstan presidency said.
Khalilzad expressed gratitude to Tokayev for the opportunity to meet in person and praised his role aimed at restoring stability in Afghanistan. He shared his assessments of the current situation in Afghanistan, and US efforts on the intra-Afghan peace process, which is ongoing in Qatar since last December but has made little progress.
Meanwhile, in other news, the papal mission to Afghanistan faces an uncertain future as foreign military forces, led by the United States, carry out a gradual withdrawal from the strife-torn nation, the priest who leads the mission told ucanews.com
“What is worrying is the future. I hope that what has been done remains, that there is no going back as is feared,” said Barnabite Fr. Giuseppe Moretti, superior of the ‘Missio Sui Iuris’ in Kabul since 2002. Moretti said his concerns are rooted in an upsurge in violence.
“In recent months, people who have collaborated in the development of the country, professional women or young students, have been killed,” he told the Vatican news service Fides. The mission’s work is limited to charitable and humanitarian activities because the Islamic faith is recognized as the state religion in the country.
Kabul: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Monday that Iranian police have detained a number of Afghan refugees living in Tehran near the Afghan Embassy in Tehran.
A statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressed concern over the detention of the refugees.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has said that Kabul’s concerns have been shared with Iran through the Afghan embassy.
According to the ministry, the Iranian side has promised Afghanistan a comprehensive review. The ministry said that it is pursuing the issue through diplomatic channels.
The reason for the detention of Afghan refugees in Iran has not yet been announced.
Meanwhile, even officers from the Podlaski Border Guard unit stopped 24 illegal migrants, who were mostly from Afghanistan and Chechnya, after they crossed the Belarusian-Polish border.
The group of illegal migrants had reached Poland on foot through the so-called ‘green border’ in the East of the country.
They were stopped near the small town of Zubrzyca Mała located a few kilometers from the border itself by a Border Guard patrol.
The Border Guard unit spokeswoman, major Katarzyna Zdanowicz, informed that there were 24 persons in total — 11 Afghan citizens, nine Chechens, two Palestinians, one Armenian, and one Jordanian citizen.
After carrying out necessary actions by the Border Guard, the court decided to relocate the migrants to guarded centers for foreigners in Białystok, Kętrzno and Lesznowola.
Kabul: Amrullah Saleh, the first vice-president, said that the Taliban fighters had created a narrow line of advance with the fall of some areas, which did not have depth and width. “Those who know the war with the Taliban, know that this narrow line will become the mass graveyard of this group of terror and ignorance,” Saleh wrote on his Facebook page on Monday.
According to him, there has been no change in the way Taliban fighters treat people. The First Vice-President added, “Do not be deceived by propaganda. Resisting the Taliban is defending human values and dignity. Taliban has no message for the people of this country other than asking for obedience and submission to a slave life.”
Saleh made the remarks as more than 30 districts had fallen to Taliban militants in recent weeks. The Ministry of Defense, however, has repeatedly denied that the districts fell to the Taliban, saying that defense and security forces had used tactical retreats to prevent casualties.
In the most recent case, the Sayad district in Sar-e-Pul province, the Saghar district in Ghor province and the Khanabad district in Kunduz fell to Taliban. Currently, the only Khanabad district in Kunduz is under the control of security forces again.
Kabul: A number of civil society activists in Bamyan have expressed concern about the growing number of coronavirus patients in Bamyan, saying that the province’s 20-bed hospital is facing a shortage of beds, oxygen and medical staff.
At a news conference on Monday, activists criticized the current state of the COVID-19 Hospital in Bamyan, saying that a “humanitarian catastrophe” would ensue if the existing problems were not addressed. Qadir Shahab, a civil society activist in Bamyan, said that there are currently more than 40 patients in the 20-bed hospital.
According to him, this shows that the hospital currently provides services to patients at more than double its capacity. “When this wave reaches its peak, the hospital will not be able to treat all patients,” Shahab said.
Lack of oxygen is another challenge mentioned by Bamyan civil society activists, who have called for the attention of central and local government officials. The Civil Society and Human Rights Network in Bamyan found on Sunday while monitoring the COVID-19 Hospital, that it was severely deficient in oxygen.
According to Bamyan civil society activists, the shortage of medical staff is another serious challenge faced by the hospital. According to them, 10 employees of the COVID-19 vaccine injection unit are currently working on part-time basis at the hospital. Also, due to the lack of medical staff, the staff have to work 24 hours a day without interruption, which makes the process of medical services difficult, they added.
This comes even as the Ministry of Public Health on Monday reported 1,804 new positive cases of COVID-19 and 71 deaths in the last 24 hours. At least 296 people recovered in the past 24 hours and now the total number of positive cases is 93,272.
Meanwhile, as per a Reuters report the Afghan-Japan and Ali Jinnah hospitals treating people with COVID-19 in Kabul have had to close their doors to new patients because of a lack of beds.
A senior health official and doctors, spoke to Reuters on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorised to speak publicly about the matter, and said both the hospitals were facing persistent shortages of oxygen and other medical supplies.
However, Mirwais Alizay, deputy health ministry spokesperson, said that hospitals had close sometimes due to higher patient numbers but he denied that hospitals were facing serious shortages of supplies, saying issues with oxygen had been solved.
Masi Noori, a doctor at Afghan-Japan hospital, said it had been closed to new patients for several days because it had run out of beds.
Eid Wali, head of Ali Jinnah hospital, said it had to stop taking new patients when its COVID-19 beds were full.
Kabul: The Ministry of Defense confirmed on Monday that defense and security forces have recaptured Khanabad district of Kunduz province from the Taliban.
MoD spokesperson Ruhollah Ahmadzai said that Taliban fighters had retreated from the district with heavy casualties. He also said that the clean-up operation in the district is underway in full swing.
The district fell to the Taliban at 6:00am today. Earlier, a security source said that three government soldiers were killed and three others were wounded during a Taliban attack on the district.
The Taliban have not yet commented on the recapture of the district by the government forces. In recent weeks, however, the Taliban have stepped up their attacks on a number of districts in the country. In less than eight weeks, more than 20 districts have fallen to the group.
Meanwhile, security sources in the north of the country have confirmed that Sayyad district of Sar-e-Pul province has fallen to the Taliban after intense clashes.
A security source, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told Hashte Subhe that the district had fallen on Sunday night. The Taliban also sent a message to the media stating that the district had been taken over by the group.
Security agencies, however, have not yet officially confirmed the fall of the district. Sar-e-Pul province has been witnessing widespread attacks by the Taliban for some time.
The Taliban has even taken over parts of the provincial capital.
Meanwhile, the Faryab Police announced that the attack on Shirin Tagab district by the Taliban group led by a retired Pakistani general had been repulsed.
The Faryab police press office said in a statement on Monday that the Taliban, led by a former Pakistani general named Sheikh Matiullah, attacked security checkpoints and the center of Shirin Tagab district at around 12:00 on Sunday night.
According to Faryab police, the attack was repulsed by security forces, killing 25 Taliban insurgents and wounding seven others.
The Faryab Police added that several key members of the Taliban are among those killed.
The Faryab Police Command stated that no security forces or civilians were injured in the clash.
The Taliban have not yet comment
Kabul: Mir Rahman Rahmani, Speaker of the Lower House of Parliament, called on the government’s political leaders and security officials to involve the people in defending the country through large-scale political mobilization.
The Speaker of the House of Representatives on Monday, in the plenary session of the House, said that all war plans and strategies by the security agencies should be changed in the current situation. Rahmani added that the country’s youth and people must come forward to defend the country.
Rahmani said that the escalation of violence across the country, especially targeted attacks in western Kabul, had raised concerns in the House of Representatives. He praised the security forces’ fight against the Taliban.
However, a number of members of the House of Representatives also strongly criticized security officials for the escalation of violence and the recent collapse of districts. The Speaker of the House of Representatives instructed the House Internal Affairs and Defense Committees to investigate the causes of the failures.
Meanwhile, the level of war and conflict in the country has increased. In the past two months, 25 districts in different provinces of the country have fallen to the Taliban. Security agencies say they have tactically retreated from these districts.
The Taliban, however, claim to have taken control of these districts by launching offensive attacks.
Meanwhile, in the Parliament, the acting Minister of Health Wahid Majrooh also addressed the session of the House of Representatives. He warned that the COVID-19 situation in the country will worsen if citizens do not take the restrictions and health tips seriously for the next two-four weeks.
“If we do not take the quarantine seriously for the next two-four weeks and do not follow the health recommendations, the sector will be burdened,” said Majrooh.
According to him, the coronavirus is currently spreading in Afghanistan and the chain of infection should be broken by following the health tips of the citizens. Majrooh added, “In terms of having beds, the capacity has doubled. We face the challenge of lack of oxygen. The oxygen devices which we have, do not meet today’s needs. Ali Jinnah Hospital is for 200 patients; but now more than 300 patients are hospitalized there.”
He said that the Indian government had promised Afghanistan 16 million doses of coronavirus vaccine; but because of the crisis in that country, only 500,000 doses of vaccine reached Kabul.
He added that currently 700,000 doses of Chinese government-assisted COVID-19 vaccine have reached Afghanistan and will be distributed to priority individuals based on rations. Majrooh said that the Ministry of Health had paid for 21 million doses of coronavirus vaccine; but there is no vaccine yet. He added that COVAX program has promised to help Afghanistan with at least 500,000 doses of the coronavirus vaccine.
On the other hand, the Acting Minister of Health also said that 1,000 oxygen balloons donated by the Uzbek government were empty. “The balloons assisted by the Uzbek government were empty, which caused a misunderstanding. Now, a national trader has promised to fill 300 balloons of a total of 1,000. If all these balloons were full, 500 of them would be distributed in Balkh and another 500 in the provincial provinces,” he said.
Majrooh said that the use of the face masks has been mandatory for a month now and that this should start with the House of Representatives. Recently, however, the number of positive cases of coronavirus and related deaths has increased in Afghanistan. Kabul has the highest cases and mortality rate in Afghanistan.
Kabul: Local sources in Kunduz province said that the capital of Khanabad district of Kunduz province fell to the Taliban on Monday morning.
Ali Abad district of Kunduz fell to the Taliban on Sunday.
Mohammad Yusuf Ayoubi, head of the Kunduz Provincial Council, said that after the fall of Khanabad district, shops had been set on fire and many had fled their homes due to the clashes.
He added there have been casualties as a result of the Taliban attack, but no details are available.
He said that the district headquarters, the police chief and the Khanabad district bazaar had fallen to the Taliban.
The head of the Kunduz provincial council said that Abdul Sattar Mirzakwal, the governor of Kunduz, has left the province.
Mohammad Yusuf Ayoubi claims that the southern part of Kunduz, where the Ali Abad and Khanabad districts are located, is completely under the control of the Taliban.
He called the security situation in Kunduz worrying.
Kabul: President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Sunday said that Turkey will be the “only reliable” country left to stabilize Afghanistan after the US pulls out its troops, indicating that Washington could rely on its NATO ally.
Erdogan also said that he would discuss the issue in his first face-to-face meeting with US President Joe Biden on the sidelines of a NATO summit in Brussels on Monday, after strained relations between their two countries. “America is preparing to leave Afghanistan soon and from the moment they leave, the only reliable country to maintain the process over there is obviously Turkey,” Erdogan told reporters at an Istanbul airport on Sunday before leaving for Brussels. Relations between the US and Turkey have been stressed in recent years, and Erdogan said he wanted to turn a new page with the Biden administration. “We expect to see an approach from the US without ifs and buts,” Erdogan said.
Turkey has reportedly said it is prepared to keep troops in Afghanistan to protect Kabul airport, the main exit route for western diplomats and humanitarian workers. Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish officials had informed their American counterparts about Ankara’s plans in Afghanistan after the US troop pullout, without providing details. They are “pleased and happy. We will be able to discuss the Afghanistan process with them,” he said.
Turkey has made clear its intentions to stay in the war-torn country, but the details remain unclear. A Turkish official said Turkish troops could remain “as long as certain conditions including legal and financial are met.”
However, on Saturday, the Taliban had warned that foreign forces should hold “no hope” of keeping a military presence in Afghanistan after the US and NATO withdraw troops, warning the security of embassies and airports would be the responsibility of Afghans.
Meanwhile, US President Joe Biden is in Brussels for the NATO summit on June 14 as he continues a European tour dedicated to repairing relations and reassuring Washington’s transatlantic partners after four tumultuous years of his predecessor, Donald Trump.
Biden will join the summit with the leaders of all 30 members of the alliance, and hold a private meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan. After not meeting face to face since 2018 because of the coronavirus pandemic, alliance members have plenty of hot topics to deal with, including an ongoing pullout of troops from Afghanistan, relations with Russia and China, and defense spending. US National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said, “US President will cover a range of issues during the session with the leaders, including, of course, the immediate issue of the drawdown in Afghanistan, where we’re proceeding on an in-together, out-together basis, and coordinating very closely with our Allies as we draw down our remaining forces. He will also consult on ensuring security for an embassy presence that can continue to provide support to the Afghan National Security Forces and to the Afghan government, as well as humanitarian and civilian assistance to the Afghan people, especially to its women and girls.”
Ahead of the summit, NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the meeting comes “at a pivotal moment for our Alliance, and for our collective security” and presents a “unique opportunity” to renew ties.