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Fuel tanker explosions on Afghan-Iran border spotted from space

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(Last Updated On: February 14, 2021)
Two explosions of fuel tankers at the Islam Qala border crossing between Afghanistan’s western province of Herat and Iran were powerful enough to be spotted from space by NASA satellites on Saturday afternoon. 
 
One of the explosions happened at about 1.10pm Afghanistan time and the other about half an hour later at 1.42pm local time. 
 
According to local officials the fire started at about midday when a fuel tanker exploded at the customs facility at the border crossing. 
 
This caused a massive fire that consumed more than 500 trucks carrying natural gas and fuel, sources and Iranian state media indicated. 
 
Younus Qazizada, the head of the Herat Chamber of Commerce and Industries, said the fire had caused millions of dollars in damage. “Preliminary investigations show that more than $50 million of damage has been caused by the fire so far,” he said.
 
The Islam Qala border crossing is around 120km west of the city of Herat, and is a major transit route between Afghanistan and Iran.
 
The US allows Afghanistan to import fuel and oil from Iran as part of a special concession that exempts Kabul from US sanctions against Iran. 
 
It wasn’t clear early Sunday what caused the blast but officials said the fire was being investigated. The exact number of casualties was also not known although at least a dozen people had been taken to hospitals on Saturday night for injuries sustained in the fire. 
 
Wahid Qatali, Herat’s provincial governor, told The Associated Press on Saturday night: “For the time being, we can’t even talk about the casualties.”
 
The intensity of the flames meant ambulances were having trouble reaching the wounded or getting close to the site of the blast, said Mohammad Rafiq Shirzy, spokesman for the regional hospital in Herat city. 

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One year after IEA takeover, Afghans hail security but worry about crippled economy

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

Afghans on Monday welcomed the improved security situation across the country, on the anniversary of the Islamic Emirate’s (IEA) take over, but raised concerns about the deteriorating economy, rising poverty levels, the high unemployment rate and newly imposed social restrictions.

One civil society activist in Herat province, Shakila Ahmadi said the IEA take over “had negative effects on people’s lives; schools were closed and girls were barred from going to school; there was human capital flight and university lecturers left the country.”

“There should be better moves so that women can return to work. Women should be allowed to work not only in the health sector, but also in other areas,” said Rafia Khatibi, an employee at Herat’s main hospital.

Syed Dawood, a Herat resident, urged IEA to form an inclusive government and allow women to work and get an education.

Despite restrictions on women, some businesswomen have however restarted operations in Herat.

Khalil-ur-Rahman Saqib, a resident of Badghis province, said: “Unfortunately, to be honest they have not performed well in the areas of development and education.”

In Balkh, people have different opinions about the performance of the IEA over the past year.

“The number of drug addicts was high in the city then, but now it has been reduced,” said Sayedullah, a resident of Balkh province.

Ebadullah, another resident of Balkh, complained of rising unemployment and urged IEA to create job opportunities.

Abdul Raouf Tawana, a religious cleric in Balkh, called on the IEA to make their government inclusive and try to gain public support and make the government sustainable.

Officials in Balkh said the security situation has improved after the IEA’s takeover.

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Reflections of a year in power, since take over by IEA

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

Exactly one year ago today, August 15, 2021, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) regained control of the country after a 20 year war. In this time they have had enormous challenges to deal with.

The past year has been full of political ups and downs, with many calls being made for a more inclusive government.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan took control of the country last year while a puppet system collapsed and the Islamic Emirate took control of affairs suddenly and immediately. IEA moved the affairs of the country forward. Alhamdulillah, despite all the sanctions and problems, we have achieved a lot,” said Inamullah Samangani, the head of GMIC.

With the establishment of the Islamic Emirate in the country, many political leaders, leading officials of the previous government, parliament members, human rights defenders, journalists and some civil rights activists left the country and sought refuge outside of Afghanistan. But the leader of the Islamic Emirate issued a general amnesty order to control the situation.

Four months into the rule of the Islamic Emirate in the country, the new government was still in political and economic isolation, and with each passing day, international pressure and sanctions against the Islamic Emirate increased.

After four months, Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi traveled to Iran for the first time to meet with Iranian officials. He met with Mohammad Ismail Khan, a former jihadi leader, and Ahmad Massoud, the leader of the so-called National Resistance Front.

Muttaqi wanted them to return to the country.

Nine months after taking power, a commission was formed to entice Afghan refugees abroad to return home.

This commission was based on an order issued by the supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate, Haibatullah Akhundzada.
Since it’s inception, a number of prominent figures have returned home.

In the past year, the failure to form an inclusive government, the imposition of restrictions on women and girls, and the violation of human rights has however led to strong criticism by the foreign community against the Islamic Emirate.

Some refugees have said these issues are preventing them from returning home.

After ten months of being in power, the IEA held a mass gathering of Ulema. There were about 3,000 scholars in attendance.

In a rare trip to Kabul, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada delivered a speech.

He emphasized that the IEA is ready to interact with the world, but Islamic laws are a red line for them.

In the past year, the Islamic Emirate repeatedly criticized foreign interference in Afghanistan’s internal affairs and asked the countries of the region and the world to stop meddling in the country’s internal affairs.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan also says that the new government of Afghanistan is now independent and other governments should not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs.

However, one year later, the new government of Afghanistan has still not been recognized and so far it has not been able to take up its official position at the United Nations.

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On eve of takeover anniversary, Ghani defends decision to flee Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2022)

On the eve of the anniversary of the Islamic Emirate’s takeover of Kabul, Afghanistan’s former president on Sunday defended what he said was a split-second decision to flee, saying he wanted to avoid the humiliation of surrender to the insurgents.

Ashraf Ghani also told CNN that on the morning of August 15, 2021, with the IEA at the gates of the Afghan capital, he was the last one at the presidential palace after his guards had disappeared. He said the defense minister told him earlier that day that Kabul could not be defended, Associated Press reported.

Ghani had previously sought to justify his actions on the day Kabul fell but offered more details Sunday. He alleged that one of the cooks in the palace had been offered $100,000 to poison him and that he felt his immediate environment was no longer safe.

“The reason I left was because I did not want to give the Taliban (IEA) and their supporters the pleasure of yet again humiliating an Afghan president and making him sign over the legitimacy of the government,” he said. “I have never been afraid.”

Critics say Ghani’s sudden and secret departure August 15 left the city rudderless as U.S. and NATO forces were in the final stages of their chaotic withdrawal from the country after 20 years.

Ghani also denied persistent allegations that he took tens of millions of dollars in cash with him as he and other officials fled in helicopters.

In a report issued last week, a congressional watchdog said it’s unlikely Ghani and his senior advisers transported that much cash on the escape helicopters, AP reported.

“The hurried nature of their departure, the emphasis on passengers over cargo, the payload and performance limitations of the helicopters, and the consistent alignment in detailed accounts from witnesses on the ground and in the air all suggest that there was little more than $500,000 in cash on board the helicopters,” wrote the Office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, which has tried to monitor the massive U.S. spending in the country over the years.

The agency added, “It remains a strong possibility that significant amounts of U.S. currency disappeared from Afghan government property in the chaos of the Taliban (IEA) takeover, including millions from the presidential palace” and the vault of the National Directorate of Security. The report, however, said the watchdog was unable to determine how much money was stolen and by whom.

In the end, the IEA seized the capital without significant fighting last August, capping a weekslong military blitz in which they rapidly captured provincial capitals without much resistance from the increasingly demoralized Afghan security forces.

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