Latest news and happenings of Afghanistan and region…
Kabul: First Vice-President Amrullah Saleh in an interview with CBS News said that Taliban militants were never going to honor assurances given to the US to rein in their attacks while referring to the recent spate of takeovers of areas by the Taliban.
“Taliban are terrorists. Simple. I don’t trust the insurgents at all, and it was a mistake for the United States to negotiate with the Taliban in the first place,” he said.
President Joe Biden’s justification for going ahead with the withdrawal initiated by his predecessor was, in part, that they had “degraded the terrorist threat of al Qaeda” in Afghanistan. But Saleh said that, too, was misguided thinking.
“The whole idea of coming to Afghanistan was to teach a lesson to terrorists and their allies: Don’t do it again. Have we taught them that lesson? No,” he said.
Afghan forces have killed or captured dozens of al Qaeda fighters in the last few days alone, the vice-president said.
“If we say the Taliban have separated themselves, decoupled themselves from terrorism, that is absolutely baseless,” he said. “The Taliban operate shoulder-to-shoulder with al Qaeda today.”
Saleh has survived several assassination attempts, including one in which a suicide bomber and gunmen killed 20 people in an attack on his office. Just last fall he was wounded in a roadside bombing in Kabul that killed 10 people. His young son was in the car, but also escaped unharmed.
With the withdrawal of U.S. forces and their NATO allies, Saleh knows Afghanistan is facing a dangerous few months, and that if there’s any hope of peace, the Taliban need to stop waging war.
“They can kill people. They are killing people every day. But if they are waiting for a moment of surrender from the Afghan people, it won’t come,” the vice-president said, adding that Afghanistan needs the US “to remain engaged diplomatically, economically, and strategically.”
Kabul: More than 110 attacks by the Taliban have been reported in different parts of the province of Herat during the month of Ramadan, said Herat Governor Sayed Abdul Wahid Qatali on Saturday.
“The security forces have proven that they are a united front against terrorism. For 20 days, 25 of our security forces in the Farsee district have resisted a 200-strong Taliban fighters attack,” he said.
He made no mention of the casualties of Taliban fighters and security forces.
On the other hand, he stressed that the Taliban could not achieve any victory through military means, “Our nation stands against terrorism and the onslaught of mercenaries. The Taliban no longer dream of attacking Herat.”
The governor of Herat said they still hoped for an end to the war and a ceasefire.
The governor of Herat claims that the Taliban have damaged about $ 20 million in infrastructure in Shindand district and blown-up government and civilian facilities, roads and bridges.
Kabul: With the foreign troops withdrawing, Taliban has increased its violent take overs of area across seven provinces over the past week, but the defense and security forces have thwarted many of their plans and caused heavy casualties to the Taliban, said Hamdullah Mohib, the national security adviser, in a joint press conference of the top brass of security officials in Afghanistan on Saturday.
Emphasizing that the Taliban do not want peace and wish to seize power by force, Mohib called on the insurgents to drop their weapons and not sacrifice themselves for an “illegitimate war”. “If the Taliban takes over, its recapture will result in widespread Taliban casualties. The Taliban insurgents should know that “your leaders are abusing you and the war is illegitimate and you should not sacrifice yourself for the sake of your leaders,” Mohib said. The national security adviser stressed at the press conference that the Taliban only had the ability to target electricity pylons, suicide attacks and mosque bombings.
On the rising violence in the country, Acting Defence Minister Yasin Zia said that fighting has intensified over the last few days in many provinces, including Helmand, Kandhar, Farah and Ghazni. Zia added that Afghan forces are advancing slowly as Taliban are using civilian houses “as shield”. He said that 1,000 Taliban fighters have been killed and wounded in Kandahar, Helmand, Baghlan, Farah, and Ghazni provinces. Zia said the Taliban had been hit hard. According to him, the bodies that were recovered by the security forces show that al-Qaeda is present in the ranks of the Taliban.
In fact, on the Logar car bombing, Ahmad Zia Siraj, director-general of the Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) said that the Haqqani Network was behind the attack and one arrest has been made. He also spoke about the release of prisoners and said that most of the prisoners released by the Taliban are civilians and that no decision has been taken yet on the release of Taliban prisoners as those released have re-joined the war.
Regarding the withdrawal of foreign troops, Mohib said that they would hand over most of their equipment worth $1 billion to the Afghan government and US forces are destroying some of their equipment and taking some with them.
Mohib also said that efforts are underway for holding the Istanbul conference and progress about the peace conference will be announced after Eid ul-Fitr, adding that a Pakistani military delegation will soon visit Kabul. Mohib also added that international pressure has increased on Pakistan to stop supporting terrorists.
Meanwhile, NSA Mohib also said that the health of National Defense Minister Assadullah Khalid has improved and he would resume duty after Eid al-Fitr.
Meanwhile, intense fighting is taking place in Baghlan, Ghazni, Kandahar and Helmand provinces. Government forces in some provinces have countered Taliban attacks, as per the Ministry of Defense.
These battles have displaced a large number of the country’s citizens in the areas under conflict. MoD in a recent tweet said 250 militants and insurgents were killed and further 106 others were wounded across Afghanistan.
The ministry further added, ANDSF also discovered and neutralized 29 various types of landmines and IEDs placed to target civilians and security force members in the regions.
Afghan Military’s commando forces have retaken the Dahan-e-Ghori district in northern Baghlan province as fierce battles continue in the region. Security sources told media that Afghan commando reinforcements were deployed and three outposts fallen to the Taliban were recaptured.
Reports indicate that the Taliban also attacked Nahrin district in Baghlan province on Friday night, but the attacks were rebuffed by the Afghan National Defense and Security forces. On Friday, Afghan military’s commando units have launched air and ground offensives on the Taliban in Baghlan-e-Markazi in Baghlan province. According to security sources, at least 27 Taliban militants were so far killed in the Baghlan operations.
This comes as the Ministry of Defense denied Taliban claims of ‘surrendered 200 Afghan troops’ in Baghlan-e-Markazi, and added that 17 Taliban were killed during the operations.
Meanwhile, Ahmad Zia Siraj, the director general of national security, also added that all “enemy” psychological warfare activities, especially on social media, were being launched from Pakistan. “Wherever you go, we operate and you either die or you are imprisoned; So it is better to lay down your arms and start a normal life,” he said.
He also said that the Pakistani government has recently stepped up its efforts to bring peace to Afghanistan, and if it succeeds, a way may be found to bring peace. Mohib during the press conference also said that a Pakistani military delegation was scheduled to visit Kabul soon.
Meanwhile, Pakistani Chief of Army Staff General Qamar Javed Bajwa held a meeting with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al-Saud in Jeddah on Friday and discussed recent developments in the Afghan peace process, bilateral defense, security, collaboration for regional peace and connectivity.
Kabul: With more reports of assassinations of journalists pouring in from Afghanistan with the latest victim being former television journalist Nemat Rawan, the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and its affiliate, the Afghan Independent Journalists’ Association (AIJA), stated that they were deeply concerned about journalist safety and media freedom in Afghanistan
Rawan, who was a communications specialist with the ministry of finance, was killed by gunmen in a targeted assassination in Kandahar city on May 6. While no one is yet to take responsibility for the attack, the Taliban have been blamed for the recent wave of attacks on journalists in Afghanistan. The day before Rawan’s death, a Taliban spokesman said media workers who undertake “bias reporting” would be “held responsible”.
On the other hand, the chief of Afghan intelligence agency Ahmad Zia Saraj had allegedly also in a closed-door parliament hearing said that some journalists and analysts work in favor of the Taliban and that his agency would not tolerate those people. However, the NDS chief has denied all claims to such reports by the media.
“Afghanistan Independent Journalists Association (AIJA) condemns the killing of media workers and journalists and urges the Afghan intelligence agencies to investigate all murder cases of journalists in particular the killing of Rawan. The agencies must find out if his killing was related to his journalistic works or otherwise”, said the AIJA in a statement.
The IFJ said, “The political tensions in Afghanistan and the imminent withdrawal of US troops in September 2021 do not bode well for media workers who remain vulnerable to attack for not toeing the line of government or the Taliban. Critical efforts are urgently needed to protect freedom of expression and independent journalism in Afghanistan.”
The targeting and killing of journalists have escalated in the country since peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began last year. Another former journalist, Yama Siawash, was killed along with two others in a targeted explosion in Makrorayan-e-Char area of Kabul on November 7. There were 10 documented killings of journalists in Afghanistan between May 1, 2020, and April 30, 2021, as per a IFJ South Asia Press Freedom Report, Truth in a Time of Contagion: The Viral Frontline.
Meanwhile, of the violence, the most affected group remains women of the country. In fact, Afghan women representatives discussed the latest political and security developments with their US counterparts, including the peace talks, and their concerns about the consequences of the withdrawal of the Resolute Support forces.
The meeting was attended by Acting Minister of Women’s Affairs Hasina Safi; Chairwoman of the House Committee on Women and Human Rights Nahid Farid; Member of Parliament Shinkai Karukhil, and Zohra Ahmadzai, Deputy Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation and Advisor to the First Lady.
On the US side, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee Adam Smith and US Senators Lindsey Graham, Young Kim, Steve Chabot, Andy Kim, and Michael Waltz attended the dialogue.
Participants emphasized on the role of women in peace talks and Afghanistan’s future. Afghan parliamentarians termed the withdrawal of forces and continued cooperation with Afghanistan’s security forces the best opportunity to defend Afghanistan independently.
They termed the escalation of violence, the continuation of targeted killings, the Taliban’s continued links with al-Qaeda and other terrorist organizations a clear violation of the Doha Agreement, and the group’s unwillingness to seek a political solution. Women parliamentarians called on their US counterparts to cooperate on persuading the Taliban and their regional supporters to accept an immediate and permanent ceasefire in the country.
Kabul: The Ministry of Public Health (MoPH) on Saturday reported 87 new positive cases of the coronavirus (COVOD-19) infection in the last 24 hours.
The ministry also reported three deaths and 21 recoveries from COVID-19 in the last 24 hours.
The total number of cases now stand at 61,842, while the number of reported deaths is 2,686 and the total number of recoveries is 54,40.
MoPH added that the new cases were reported in Kabul, Kandahar, Balkh, Nangarhar, Wardak, Kapisa, , Ghazni, Kunar, Laghman, Ghor and Khost provinces.
Meanwhile, according to the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Finland will contribute 3 million euros to the Covid-19 Emergency Appeal of the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) to help India, Afghanistan, Lebanon and Niger.
Also in other news, blockchain platform Fantom and the Afghanistan Ministry of Health jointly announced the successful trial of Fantom products and the official rollout of the National Medical Importation Security Initiative, the global Newswire reported on May 7.
Built on the blockchain-powered Fantom Tracker product, this anti-counterfeit pharmaceutical initiative responds to a critical need in Afghanistan for proven tools to identify illegal and fraudulent medicines. The rollout in Afghanistan will be boosted by regional expansion, and Fantom will simultaneously offer its solutions across Central Asia.
Kabul: Death toll from recent floods in the country has risen to 78 while 32 people are missing and over 30 have been injured across 22 provinces, said Ahmad Tamim Azimi, spokesperson for the National Disasters Management Authority on Saturday.
A wave of monsoon rains in 22 provinces of the country started last week. Ahmad Tamim Azimi told Reporterly that rains in some of these provinces caused severe floods that caused casualties and financial losses.
The provinces include Herat, Ghor, Badghis, Bamyan, Daikundi, Badakhshan, Nuristan, Farah, Parwan, Panjshir, Takhar, Badakhshan, Khost, Maidan Wardak, Kabul, Kapisa, Baghlan, Sar-e-Pul, Samangan, Uruzgan and others.
According to him, 2,600 houses have been partially and completely destroyed as a result of the floods. Nearly 3,000 animals have also perished.
Floods have also destroyed thousands of acres of farmland, roads and canals.
Ahmad Tamim Azimi says provincial anti-accident committees have begun the process of providing aid and reopening roads.
Kabul: Some good news is coming in on Saturday morning from Baghlan province as commando forces announced breaking the siege of Dehna Ghori district.
Safiullah Amiri, commander of the commando brigade in the north of the country, said that in a joint operation, security forces broke the siege on Friday night and forces entered the district. Three checkpoints which had fallen to the Taliban were recaptured and ten security forces were rescued from the Taliban and transferred to the district.
Amiri also said that he went to the district with the deputy commander of the 209th Shaheen Corps and moved more troops to the district and connected the road to the city center.
The military official added that the Taliban suffered heavy casualties in the clashes, but the exact number is unclear.
Meanwhile, the Taliban attacked the center of Nahrin district on Friday night, but government forces announced that the attack was countered.
The Taliban have not commented on the matter yet.
Kabul: In a progressive development for the Afghan peace talks, special envoys and special representatives of the United States, European Union (EU), France, Germany, Italy, NATO, Norway, and the United Kingdom met in Berlin on May 6, to discuss the future of the peace process.
In a joint statement, the global representatives said, “No government can be established by force in Afghanistan. Only an inclusive, negotiated political settlement among Afghans can bring lasting peace. There is a need to accelerate pace of the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace negotiations and urged the immediate resumption, without pre-conditions, of substantive negotiations on the future of Afghanistan.”
Taking note of the increasing violence in Afghanistan, the statement also condemned it and called for immediate end to the attacks. “Strongly condemn the continued violence in Afghanistan for which the Taliban are largely responsible. We demand all parties to take immediate and necessary steps to reduce violence and in particular, to avoid civilian casualties in order to create an environment conducive to reaching a political settlement. Taliban should stop their undeclared spring offensive,” the participants added. Participants stressed that the process of the troop withdrawal must not serve as an excuse for the Taliban to suspend the peace process
The safety of international troops must be ensured and that any Taliban attacks on our troops during this period will be met with a forceful response, the participants added while also reassuring that Substantial international development assistance will be needed for Afghanistan’s stability during peace negotiations and reaffirmed their commitment to mobilize international support for reconstruction following a peace agreement, based on the conditions as laid out in the outcome documents of the 2020 Geneva Conference, including the preservation and respect for the rights of all Afghans, including women and minorities.
Representative of the Taliban was also present for the meeting. Spokesman of the Political Office of the Taliban, Dr M Naeem said that Deputy Chief of the group, Shir Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, and his accompanying delegation attended the meeting via video conference.
Dr Naeem highlighted Taliban’s checklist for the meeting, including, “Problems should be solved through dialogue and obstacles should be removed from the negotiations and the names of the elders of the Taliban should be removed from the black list. A strong Islamic system must be established that maintains the independence and territorial integrity of the country and applies the law equally to all. Historically, multi-party governments in Afghanistan and the world have not worked well and will not work. The Taliban is committed to equalizing any working conditions. All foreign diplomats, journalists and employees of humanitarian organizations should be assured that their security is safe.”
Meanwhile, the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, tweeted, his observations of the meeting. “Following stops in Tashkent, Doha, Kabul, and Dushanbe which were focused on building regional consensus on Afghanistan peace, I concluded this trip in Berlin with a US-Europe meeting of allies. Afghan leaders from all sides of the conflict should seize this opportunity and negotiate a political settlement to end this war. If the Taliban does not choose peace, a future based on consensus and compromise, then we will stand with Afghans who strive to keep the Republic intact,” Khalilzad said.
In the US-Europe allies’ meet, the participants also expressed appreciation for the Government of Qatar for its long-standing contribution to facilitate the peace process, including hosting and supporting Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and appreciated the offer from the Republic of Turkey, the United Nations, and the State of Qatar to co-convene a senior-level peace conference in Istanbul.