Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: In a bid to set the path for a smooth transition period, the Afghanistan government has been busy forging border agreements with its neighboring nations.
After a five-hour intense meeting on Saturday, the second agreement on border cooperation was signed by the Deputy Governor General for economic affairs of southeastern Iranian province of Sistan and Baluchestan, Mandana Zangeneh; and the Deputy Governor of the southwestern Afghan province of Nimroz, Abdolnabi Barahooei in Zaranj.
Zaranj City in Afghanistan hosted the signing ceremony and it can connect Afghan businesspersons to Chabahar free waters in south of Iran due to its proximity to the Iranian border.
The Iranian official noted that joint meetings will help facilitate transportation in borders and also secure livelihood of those living in joint borders. Zmaryalai Ahadi, the Governor of Nimroz who was present at the signing ceremony, said he is keen to make development in joint borders.
Meanwhile, US senators too introduced a bipartisan bill to promote and generate economic benefits for Pakistan and Afghanistan. The bill is called the ‘Pakistan-Afghanistan Economic Development Act’. The legislation proposes the setup of reconstruction opportunity zones along Pak-Afghan border areas.
Trade in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border region will help bolster economic development and improve the livelihoods of local populations leading to political stability.
Also on May 1, Pakistan reopened its border with Afghanistan at Chaman which would remain operational for 18 hours a day during entire week.
Such inter-border trade and agreements will help bolster Afghan’s efforts to ensure peace and stability in the region.
Kabul: The chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, said that he is unconvinced the Taliban want peace. Making these remarks in an interview with AP, Abdullah said, “Messages go back and forth between a variety of Taliban to senior negotiators, including me. I have received countless messages from Taliban officials, some written, some as voice messages. Sometimes they are detailed, and other times terse and brief. But I am yet to see a commitment to peace from the insurgent group on which I can rely,” Abdullah said.
Abdullah said his response to the Taliban has been consistent, “Put everything that you want on the negotiating table. We are ready to discuss it. We are ready to find ways that it works for both sides.”
However, he said that the withdrawal of troops adds pressure on both sides to find a peace deal. The fractured Afghan political leadership must too unify in its peace talks with the Taliban or risk the withdrawal of US and NATO troops leading to more violence, he said.
“History and millions of Afghans — already frustrated by what they see as government ineptitude and runaway corruption — will judge them harshly if unity eludes the powerful leaders now in Kabul,” Abdullah said, adding that the withdrawal comes with “huge challenges”.
“An inclusive, peaceful settlement, this is what everybody believes in. If we don’t have peace then, of course, nobody has forgotten the recent history of the country. So, everything has to be done in order to mitigate the serious consequences of the withdrawal,” he added.
Kabul: At least 604 criminal-military cases have been investigated by the military deputy director in the first three months of the 1,400 solar fiscal year, announced the Attorney General’s Office (AGO).
The cases filed includes 26 cases of murder, eight cases of theft, seven cases of drugs, 24 cases of corruption, two cases of traffic, one case of morality and 536 cases of other crimes.
According to the statement, 247 of these final cases and those accused of being involved in them were sentenced to three months to 30 years in prison.
The other 11 cases were retained due to lack of necessary documents and another 462 cases were returned to the relevant authorities.
The Attorney General’s Office has stated that the amount of 5,413,794 Afghanis has been transferred to the government account from fines of these defendants. According to the statement, most military crimes were registered in Kabul, Nangarhar, Kandahar and Herat provinces.
Kabul: Stating that foreign troops are evacuating their bases one after another, Mohammad Yasin Zia, acting Minister of the National Defense and Chief of Staff of the Army, announced on Saturday that the formal withdrawal process from Afghanistan has begun in practice.
Zia, during a press conference with senior security officials in Kabul, said that there has been no change in the schedule for the withdrawal of foreign troops and work is underway regarding logistical issues. Foreign forces may evacuate the Shurabak base on Sunday, gather at their main bases in Bagram and then, leave the country.
Places where there are logistical issues, are likely to be handed over to Afghanistan by this week. The acting defense minister added that Afghanistan was taking the evacuated points.
Zia also said that there was no concern about a vacuum being created as the Afghan security forces were able to defend themselves independently. He added that forces will continue to receive help from foreign forces for air strikes.
US President Joe Biden on April 14 announced withdrawal of all forces from Afghanistan by September 11, ending the forever war. The United States has made some arrangements, including the deployment of B-52 bombers in the region and the deployment of missiles in Afghanistan to secure the withdrawal of its forces. It has also sent hundreds of special forces to Afghanistan.
The Taliban have said the delay in the withdrawal of foreign troops violates the Doha agreement, and the group is awaiting a decision from its leadership to respond. The Taliban have also stressed that delays in the withdrawal of foreign troops have opened the door to any “appropriate action”.
Kabul: Taliban on Saturday announced that since the US and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces have failed to meet the May 1 set as per the Doha Agreement to withdraw all their troops from Afghanistan, the violation of the agreement has opened the way for the group to take every counteraction it deems appropriate against them.
“We are awaiting decision from our leadership based on the sovereignty, values, and higher interests of the country,” Zabiullah Mujahid, Taliban spokesperson tweeted. He reiterated that the Taliban will act against the US and NATO forces for failing to meet the deadline.
US officials have warned the Taliban against attacking departing US forces and that such actions will be dealt with all possible force. US and international troops will respond to any Taliban action during the withdrawal process. This comes even as violence is increasing across Afghanistan in clashes and counter-clashes between the Afghan government and the Taliban. In fact, in a new quarterly Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) report there has been a whopping 82% increase in “insider attacks” on Afghan government security forces in the first quarter of 2021, resulting in 115 personnel killed and 39 wounded. The report noted that ANDSF suffered a total of 31 insider attacks from January 1 to April 1, and the number of casualties they caused were more than double compared to the same period in 2020. Taliban insurgents posing as Afghan police or military personnel are behind most of these insider attacks.
Even though formal withdrawal of foreign troops began on May 1, there is little hope that the drawdown can help build peace in the war-ravaged country as the peace talks are currently on a standstill. Many experts have warned that the country will fall into the wrong hands once all the troops are out. However, the US has maintained that it will maintain an “over the horizon” support to Afghanistan.
The Pentagon’s No. 2 official said modernized technology and processes will effectively enable “over the horizon” support from outside the country. It’s not 2001, it’s 2021. The 20-year gap between the beginning of the war in Afghanistan and the soon-to-be end has brought a “wide range of tools,” including the National Counter Terror Center and the Department of Homeland Security to help protect the homeland, as well as improvements in space, cyberspace, and with unmanned systems, “and other approaches” to help protect US and allied forces.,” said Pentagon Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen H. Hicks. The US has already deployed an aircraft carrier and four B-52 bombers in the region to help with the process.
Pentagon planning has focused on a “safe, orderly” drawdown in the country, and Hicks said she doesn’t expect to see a “fall of Saigon” scenario where Kabul falls after U.S. and coalition forces leave.
Meanwhile in other news, Mohammad Naeem Wardak spokesperson of the Taliban political office in Qatar also denied an allegation in some media reports that the Taliban protected US forces’ bases.
Kabul: The process of sending Afghan workers to Gulf countries has been finalized and the first convoy of Afghan workers with work visas will be sent abroad this year, said Minister of Labor and Social Affairs on Saturday.
He added that the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia are interested in accepting Afghan workers. At least 10,000 Afghan workers will soon be sent to the United Arab Emirates and about 100,000 workers to Saudi Arabia.
“Our effort is to form the first flight of Afghan workers in 1400, which is really a change in the Afghan labor market,” said Bashir Ahmad Tahing, Minister of Labor and Social Affairs.
However, according to statistics provided by a number of international organizations, unemployment and inadequate work in the country has increased significantly in recent years, which is why a number of young people are trying to find work by going to the Gulf countries illegally.
According to statistics, there are currently hundreds of thousands of Afghan workers working in the Gulf countries, but most of these workers have gone to these countries with passports from neighboring countries.
Kabul: At least 30 soldiers have been reported as missing following a Taliban attack on the outpost of the Afghan National Army in the city of Ghazni on Friday night that led to hours of heavy clashes between the two sides, a provincial council member Khaliqdad Akbari said.
The outpost has fallen to the Taliban, he added. Sources aware of the developments said that the soldiers were stationed at the outpost.
Taliban, however, has not commented on the attack.
Violence remains high in the country despite efforts to move the peace process forward amidst the announcement of the withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan on April 14.
According to statistics provided by sources, 226 Afghan civilians and military personnel have been killed in Taliban attacks in 24 provinces since April 15. Of the figure, 69 are civilians and 157 are security force members.
Kabul: Afghanistan is fighting a battle against time in the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. With the threat of the third wave looming large, the country administration has started mass vaccination drives across provinces. According to the Ministry of Public Health, 349,816 citizens of various guilds have received the COVID-19 vaccine so far.
This number comes even as on Saturday, the Ministry of Public Health reported 183 new positive cases of COVID-19 of 1,162 samples tested in the last 24 hours. The ministry also reported six deaths and 66 recoveries from COVID-19 in the same period.
The ministry is rushing to vaccinate the public as vaccines are considered to be providing a protective shield against the virus and hence, the number of daily cases can reduce. Statistics released by the Ministry of Public Health, show that 97,568 health workers, 47,322 teachers and 22,405 government employees have been vaccinated. Similarly, other groups and guilds that have received the vaccine, combine to form a total of 349,819 people.
Afghanistan has received two shipments of vaccine – first from India and the second shipment was assisted by COVAX. A third shipment is to be imported from China.
Meanwhile, the new cases were reported in Kabul (63), Kandahar (22), Nangarhar (13), Takhar (4), Balkh (11), Faryab (1), Helmand (28), Bamiyan (3), Maidan Wardak (5), Daikundi (3), Logar (4), Kunar (11), Laghman (14), and Zabul (1) provinces.
The deaths were reported in Kabul (4), Nimroz (1) and Laghman (1) provinces.
As of Saturday, the total number of known COVID-19 cases stand at 60,122, while the number of reported deaths is 2,637, and the total number of recoveries is 53,272.
So far, 404,894 samples have been tested in government centers and there are 4,213 known active COVID-19 cases in the country, as per data from the ministry.
Kabul: Statistics from the Ministry of Public Health show that in the last two weeks or so, the number of daily fresh positive cases and deaths due to Covid-19 disease has increased and the health ministry has warned the public that if people do not follow the health requirements, there is a possibility of a humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.
On Friday, 194 fresh positive cases had been reported while six died of the infection and 51 recovered from COVID-19. The total number of COVID-19 cases stand at 59, 939 while the death toll is 2,631 and 53,204 people have recovered from the disease so far.
Despite implementing a mass vaccination drive in the country for all above the age of 18, the COVID-19 infections have spread across provinces including Kabul which has made the Afghan administration launch a public awareness campaign. In coordination with the Ministries of Hajj and Rural Development, religious scholars are raising awareness about the “third wave” of the coronavirus through mosques and villages in remote areas and districts. According to the fatwa of the Ministry of Hajj, receiving the vaccine during Ramadan is not a problem. At least 35,000 citizens of the country received the COVID-19 vaccine on Friday.
The new strain of virus is wreaking havoc in India and Iran has also closed all its common borders with Afghanistan to Afghan citizens. Dastgir Nazari, spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health, said that there are about 100 cases of the “UK type” virus in various provinces, including Kabul. As per the ministry, people in various provinces and major cities are paying less attention to health issues. The ministry had added that even though the third wave has not started in the country, the public needs to follow all precautions and health guidelines.
Medical experts believe that the recklessness of the people and the inattention of the government in curbing the new wave of the coronavirus are likely to have dire consequences, and that the number of positive cases and deaths due to Covid-19 disease will increase in the coming days.
Recently, the ministry had released plans to ban flights from India, which is worst-affected by the pandemic currently and put in place restrictions on public gatherings in order to prevent the spread of the virus.
Kabul: One Afghan security personnel has been killed and at least 24 others have been injured in an explosion during Tarawih prayer inside a mosque at Bagram base, said Parwan security officials on Saturday.
Abdul Wase Rahimi, security chief of the Parwan Police, said that the incident took place at 9am at the first battalion of the 2nd Brigade of the Army forces stationed at Bagram Airport on Friday.
Another source, aware of the development but who did not want to be named, said that the blast was caused by a mine that had been moved into the mosque which exploded during Tarawih prayers.
No individual or group has claimed responsibility for the attack yet.
Kabul: On the eve of the deadline of May 1 set as per the Doha Agreement to withdraw foreign troops from Afghanistan, grim news hit the capital of Logar province. At least 21 people have been killed and over 90 others have been wounded after a suicide bomber drove a truck into the Logar guest house, local officials said on Saturday.
No group had till now claimed responsibility for the late Friday night bombing in Pul-e-Alam, the capital of Logar province. However, the Interior Ministry put the onus of the attack on the Taliban. There was no immediate response from the Taliban. The Taliban, who had demanded that all US troops pull out of Afghanistan by May 1, have not offered any guarantees for the safety of the departing troops.
Hasib Stanikzai, head of the Logar provincial council, said that at the time of the attack, a group of local police personnel were staying at the guest house, waiting for transportation to go back home. Other rooms were occupied by students from more remote districts who had come to the provincial capital for university entrance exams. There has been no indication as to why the guest house was targeted. In Afghanistan, guest houses are lodgings often provided for free by the government, usually for the poor, travelers and students.
Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said that the attack was under investigation and that the roof of the guesthouse had collapsed in the bombing. There were fears bodies could be trapped beneath the rubble, he said.