Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: The Al-Qaeda has not been able to keep itself active since the killing of Osama bin Laden by the US in Abbottabad, Pakistan, on May 2, 2011, and is weakening by the day, said Muhammad Amin ul Haq, Bin Laden’s close aide, to Nikkei Asia on the 10th anniversary of the Al-Qaeda founder’s death.
Haq, as per a United Nations Security Council webpage, had once coordinated security for bin Laden. He added that Laden’s death was a serious blow to the group as he was highly respected by other Al-Qaeda leaders and also by the Afghan mujahedeen who fought Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s.
“All the other key leaders in al-Qaida came from Egypt, and they were not famous,” Haq told Nikkei in handwritten replies in his native language Pashto, sent from a secret location. “They were unable to do any significant work after Osama’s death, and found no space for themselves in Iraq or Syria. Al-Qaeda is weakening day by day. People who have sympathy for the ideology of Al-Qaeda number in the hundreds of thousands around the world, and it would not be an exaggeration to say there are hundreds of thousands in Afghanistan alone. But Al-Qaeda is weak in terms of manpower, and it is difficult to give an exact number for its members,” he added.
Haq is today a prominent figure in the Afghan Taliban working in its prisoner commission, which collects details about Taliban prisoners in Afghan jails. He was also in negotiations with the US in Qatar on the sidelines of Taliban-US talks for the release of thousands of Taliban prisoners.
Haq said that what remains of al-Qaida would most probably fall in line with Taliban instructions. He said, however, that the Taliban might allow Al-Qaeda and other foreign militants to resume operations on Afghan soil if the US keeps “violating” the Doha Agreement signed in February last year for the withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
“Al-Qaeda, like any group, looks carefully at the situation,” Haq told Nikkei. “If its leaders think keeping silent and adopting a low profile works best, they will keep quiet. But if they consider an active role as benefiting them, then they will resurface.”
Fears have arisen that the Al-Qaeda will once again resurge after foreign troops withdraw from Afghanistan and the country will become a terrorist haven. In fact, in an interview with FRANCE 24, former commander of the US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and former CIA director, General David Petraeus, said, “I do fear that two to three years from now, we are going to regret the decision to withdraw the remaining 3,500 US troops. This is not going to end the endless war in Afghanistan; it is going to end the US and the coalition involvement in that war militarily.” Apart from the Taliban taking over the provinces, General Petraeus also warned of the possibility of an Islamic State group resurgence in the region. “I do think there is a risk of the Islamic State [group] establishing a sanctuary in the Afghanistan-Pakistan region,” the former top US commander added.
Kabul: At a time when the freedom of press is of utmost importance so that an independent media can help guide the peace process, there have been various threats to the media. However, the media community has come forward to take a stance and asked the warring factions- the Afghan government and the Taliban- to not drag it into an unnecessary battle.
On Wednesday, Supporting Open Media in Afghanistan-Nai said in a statement that it was shocked by the simultaneous warnings from the Taliban and the National Directorate of Security (NDS) to the media; while the Free Speech Hub, a journalist-centric non-profit institution serving Afghan journalists, said it was concerned over recent threatening remarks by different warring parties and calling on all sides to respect and protect freedom of press.
Meanwhile, Afghan Journalists Safety Committee (AJSC) also condemned the Taliban spokesman’s statement and considered it as a threat to journalists and the media. AJSC also called on the National Security Directorate to formally clarify their position about the allegations made about the NDS Director.
The remarks come after Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, wrote in a series of tweets on Wednesday, that some media outlets had been propagandizing the issue against Taliban, had one-sided publications and that there would be dire consequences, if it continues. While Aref Rahmani, a member of the House of Representatives, wrote in a series of tweets that NDS chief Ahmad Zia Saraj said that the press, politicians and experts must be aware of the Taliban’s psychological warfare, and those who communicate with and propagandize in their favor will be treated as terrorists.
Taking note of such comments by the two warring factions, Nai said, “The parties involved, regardless of national and international law, warn the media and violate these laws, and expression of such warnings can create fear and intimidation among the Afghan media community.” It added that the Taliban needs to know that Afghanistan’s media operate independently and in accordance with the country’s applicable media law. No force can use the Afghan media as an intelligence tool while it told the NDS chief that restricting the media is not in the interest of the peace process.
Nai called on the Afghan government to provide reassurance to the media in such a situation so that the media can provide good information in this sensitive situation.
Meanwhile, AJSC also said that threats are not the way forward. “According to Article 34 of the Constitution, freedom of expression is inviolable, and according to Article 6 of the Media Law, journalists are legally protected in their professional activities related to the publication of reports and criticism. If there is a violation or misconduct by the media, there are legal channels to address it. On the other hand, according to the Doha resolution, the Taliban must be committed to protecting the fundamental rights of citizens, of which freedom of expression is one example,” AJSC said.
The fact that both sides involved in the conflict accuse the media of violating the principle of impartiality also shows that the media is not affiliated with any party, it added.
AJSC also called on the United Nations to create a monitoring scheme that would ensure protection of press freedom during the peace process.
Kabul: We are fully prepared militarily, if the parties involved in the peace process believe that the Afghan problem can be solved through military use, said Ahmad Massoud, son of national hero Ahmad Shah Massoud, at a ceremony marking 28th April, the day of the Mujahedeen’s victory. However, he also mentioned that no one seeks war and everyone must work towards peace
While appreciating the peace talks and all the efforts taken by different parties for it, he maintained that if the people and the parties saw that there was a military solution to the Afghan problem, they would mobilize, consult and support the Mujahideen under the instruction of the ulema.
Massoud emphasized that with the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan, no other group has an excuse for war and must work for peace. “We want peace and are ready to sacrifice ourselves for it, and Mujahideen want the implementation of Sharia and the Islamic law. Taliban must seize the current opportunity to end the war,” he added. According to him, much longer than the Taliban, the Mujahideen fought for God and his religion.
However, Massoud criticized the policy towards the Mujahedeen for the past 20 years, wherein the governments had kept the Mujahedeen and Jihad on the sidelines and in isolation. He also claimed that President Ashraf Ghani does not believe in the strength, power and cohesion of the Mujahedeen and the role of the ulema.
Massoud claimed that the presidential palace had not allowed the ceremony to take place in the Loya Jirga tent. He said the presidential palace thought it could use this tactic to prevent the ceremony, but on the contrary, the ceremony was attended by thousands.
Kabul: At least 46 people have died, six have been injured and 15 others are missing due to the floods in 15 provinces of Afghanistan, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi, spokesperson for the National Disaster Management Authority.
He said that there were light showers starting May 1, which intensified on May 4, causing floods in several provinces. The highest number of casualties was recorded in Herat province, where 22 people died.
Azimi added that in these floods, about 800 houses were partially and completely destroyed, 460 families were displaced, and about 2,450 livestock were lost.
After Herat province, Ghor province had the most casualties, followed by Samangan, Daikundi, Baghlan, Bamyan, Khost, Badghis, Sar-e-Pul, Badakhshan, Panjshir, Takhar provinces. Farah and Maidan Wardak have also witnessed casualties and damage caused by floods.
The provincial committees have sent survey and technical teams to the area and food has been distributed. Rehabilitation process is underway. At least 50,000 afghanis would be distributed to the heirs of the dead and 25,000 afghanis to the injured.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Wednesday reported 365 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVID-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported 10 deaths and 56 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 61,162, while the number of reported deaths is 2,664 and the total number of recoveries is 53,750.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Baghlan, Takhar, Kunduz, Nimroz, Paktia, Helmand, Bamiyan, Wardak, Badakhshan, Kapisa, Ghazni, Badghis, Laghman, Panjshir, Ghor, Khost, Farah and Nuristan provinces.
Kabul: The Parliament’s Communications and Telecommunications Commission has given the Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (Breshna) two weeks to address the complaints from Kabul residents regarding their monthly electricity bills, after the Breshna CEO Ahmad Davood Noorzai explained the citizens’ complaints.
Noorzai and other officials of Breshna have been asked by the Parliament commission to provide the necessary facilities according to the needs of the citizens.
Breshna said in a statement, “There has been no change in the electricity tariff, but a change has been made in the category. It is a long process and people have different perceptions of it, while the argument of increasing money in electricity-bills is not true.”
Breshna also said that at the meeting of the House Communications Commission, it was decided that a joint committee would be set up by the technical and professional officials of the commission and Breshna to review the two-month and one-month electricity bill plans.
Kabul: Juma Shah, the police chief for Sar Rawza district in Paktika, has been killed and three of his security guards have been wounded in a blast in the province on Tuesday night, local security officials said.
Shah was on his way to Dewana Baba area when the Taliban attacked the security forces, a local official said, adding that “the police chief wanted to support the forces in fighting against the Taliban, but his vehicle was targeted by a roadside bomb.”
No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.
Kabul: One person has been killed and three were injured after a minibus ferrying healthcare workers was targeted by a bomb in Kabul on Wednesday morning, a Kabul police official said.
The injured have been taken to hospitals by the police, said Ferdaws Faramarz, spokesperson for the Kabul police chief.
The bus ferrying doctors, nurses and other healthcare workers from Kabul towards northern Panjsher province when it was attacked in the northern district of Kalakan in Kabul province, he added.
No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack.
The attack comes just a few days after the foreign troops officially began leaving the country on May 1. They will be fully out by September 11.
US Charge d Affairs Ross Wilson called for an immediate stop to the attacks on civilians in Afghanistan. “We condemn Wednesday morning’s attack on the bus of health workers in Kabul. I offer my condolences to the victims and their families. We demand an immediate stop to attacks on all civilians including doctors, health workers, and students in Afghanistan,” Ross Wilson said in a tweet.
“I reiterate that Afghans must be able to deliver medical services, go to school, and live without fear. Civilians are not targets. Hospitals, medical clinics, and schools are not targets,” he added.