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Abandoning Afghanistan now, amid crisis, would be ‘historic mistake’

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(Last Updated On: November 18, 2021)

Urgent steps must be taken to address the looming humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan and stave off economic collapse, speakers at Wednesday’s UN Security Council meeting on Afghanistan said.

“To abandon the Afghan people now would be a historic mistake — a mistake that has been made before with tragic consequences,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), who said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover has left the Afghan people feeling abandoned, forgotten and punished by circumstances that are not their fault.

Lyons said that engagement with the IEA administration over the past three months in Kabul and the provinces have been “generally useful and constructive”, and that the new government want to have a United Nations presence and international recognition, and is looking to overcome the trust deficit between them and the international community.

She said gaps remained however, including the issue of inclusiveness in the government.

According to Lyons, UNAMA has not shied away from raising difficult issues with the IEA, particularly on women’s rights and girls’ education.

She said the IEA has taken cognizance of such concerns, but they have made it clear that for now there are limits to concessions they are willing to make on some issues.

Lyons also said the IEA has not been able to stem the expansion of the Islamic State (ISIS-K/Daesh), which has become increasingly active, “stepping up attacks from 60 in 2020 to 334 in 2021.” She said the group has gained ground across all provinces.

Addressing the dire humanitarian situation in the country, she said it is preventable, as the paralyzed economy is largely due to financial sanctions.

With the winter approaching, she said, up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity. In addition, while the risk of famine was once restricted to rural areas, 10 out of 11 of Afghanistan’s most densely populated urban areas are now anticipated to be at emergency levels of food insecurity, she said.

Lyons cautioned that the continuing deterioration of the economy threatens to heighten the risk of extremism, adding that the paralysis of the banking sector could push more of the financial system into unregulated informal money exchanges which can facilitate terrorism, trafficking and drug smuggling. “Such pathologies will first affect Afghanistan and then infect the region,” she warned.

According to the UN, close to 23 million people need urgent humanitarian assistance and poverty is widespread, with Afghanistan poised to experience “near-universal poverty” — a 97 percent poverty rate by the middle of 2022.

Council members noted that with the economy on the brink of collapse, aid alone cannot adequately address the crisis. In turn they urged that the UNSC must find ways to address the current banking problem and continue to exempt humanitarian and service-delivery operations from sanctions.

They also said the dormant peace process that began in Doha must be resuscitated, hold the IEA to commitments they made and hold it accountable for past and ongoing violations of human rights.

The Council must also engage Afghans not as victims, but as stakeholders in building sustainable peace in Afghanistan, the members urged.

In the Council discussion, members also called for immediate and unhindered assistance. Some delegates condemned the recent spate of terrorist attacks, while others raised concerns about the repression of the rights of women, protesters and journalists, and reports of human rights violations, including arbitrary executions.

China’s delegate said Afghanistan must be able to pursue a sound path towards development and called on the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to consider the resumption of financial support.

“When teachers and doctors have not received salaries for half a year, where does one begin to speak of girls’ education, or fighting the pandemic?”, he asked, adding that such measures are morally unacceptable and worsen the humanitarian crisis.

Pakistan’s representative also called for the lifting of the freeze on Afghanistan’s assets, noting that his country has committed $30 million in assistance to the country, together with wheat, rice, emergency medical supplies, and other essential items.

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Afghan weather services issues flash flood warning

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Afghanistan Meteorological Department issued a flash flood warning on Thursday, stating that heavy rain and high wind gusts can be expected across a wide section of the country on Friday and Saturday.

The provinces likely to be affected are Badakhshan, Nuristan, Kunar, Laghman, Nangarhar, Kapisa, Panjshir, Takhar, Baghlan, Parwan, Bamiyan, Samangan, Kabul, Maidan Wardak, Logar, Paktia, Khost, Paktika, Ghazni, Zabul, Uruzgan, Daikundi, Ghor, Kandahar and Helmand.

According to the department, between 15 and 70 mm of rain can be expected in parts of the country over the next two days.

Thunderstorms can also be expected in some provinces, including Kabul.

On Thursday, United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said in a statement that in the past week – between August 11 and 15 – heavy rainfall caused floods and flash floods across several provinces across the eastern, southern, south-eastern, and central regions of Afghanistan, leading to numerous fatalities.

The latest UNOCHA report states that the number of fatalities has increased to 41 people (11 in Parwan province, 11 in Nangarhar province, and nine in Logar province), while 17 individuals were injured.

Across the impacted areas, heavy rainfall destroyed or damaged almost 790 houses (434 in Nangarhar), affecting more than 3,720 families in total.

Floods have destroyed crops, agricultural land, and the local transportation infrastructure, isolating several communities, UNOCHA stated.

A number of international humanitarian organizations are assisting the local affected population with food, emergency shelter and non-food items, as well as conducting inter-agency impact and needs assessments.

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PACF hands over 25 tons of food items to support Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

The Pak Afghan Cooperation Forum (PACF) on Thursday handed over 25 tons of food items to Afghan authorities as part of its ongoing support to the people of war-hit Afghanistan.

The truckload of the food items, arranged by the PACF, were handed over to the Afghan authorities at the Chaman crossing, app reported.

The handing-over ceremony was attended by Deputy Commissioner of Chaman Hameed Zahri and senior officers of the Afghan Foreign Office including Maulwi Waheedullah and Mullah Hikmatullah.

According to the report since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), takeover in Afghanistan last year, Pakistan had sent over a total of 15,390 tons worth Rs2, 650 million of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

The humanitarian assistance had been sent to Afghanistan via 83 convoys, including 743 trucks and four C-130 flights, till August 5, read the report.

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A group of 9/11 victims call for frozen funds to be given back to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 19, 2022)

Families of 9/11 victims have called on US President Joe Biden to release billions of dollars belonging to Afghanistan.

In a letter sent to Biden this week, 77 family members of 9/11 victims called on the president to modify an executive order from February which froze the Afghan central bank’s $7 billion of assets being held by the Federal Reserve Bank of New York.

“Any use of the $7 billion to pay off 9/11 family member judgments is legally suspect and morally wrong,” the family members wrote in a letter first reported by Politico.

The letter came amid a report in the Wall Street Journal that the US had ruled out releasing the funds following the US killing of al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri in Kabul earlier this month.

The US froze the money after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) swept to power following the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan. The IEA and US had been engaged in talks about releasing the funds.

Biden planned to give $3.5 billion to Afghanistan for humanitarian purposes and the balance to families of 9/11 victims.

But the revelation that the al-Qaeda leader was living in Kabul derailed talks between the US and the IEA on a compromise over the funds.

The 9/11 victims’ families said that, while they had filed lawsuits seeking justice for their loss, they didn’t intend for the compensation “to take money away from starving Afghans”.

“This money is theirs, not ours,” the letter said. “Simply put, this money belongs to the Afghan people, not 9/11 family members – and they need it more.”

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