Shaharzad Akbar, Chairperson of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, briefed the UN Security Council on Tuesday and warned that rushing the peace process could tip the balance and set off a full-scale civil war.
In her address, she also said the country’s peace talks remain dominated by a group of elite men, some of whom have themselves been responsible for perpetuating violence.
According to her, any settlement that excludes the wider public will almost certainly be short-lived and is unlikely to lead to lasting peace.
“Building peace takes more than a deal among elites,” she said, calling for a more inclusive national endeavour that ensures the participation of women, minorities, youth, civil society and the vibrant Afghan media, as well as victims.
She said a minimum of 30 percent of the participants in the peace talks should be women, and more steps are needed to achieve full gender balance in the future.
“At the recent conference in Moscow, I, like many Afghan women, was shocked and angered to see only one Afghan woman, Dr. Habiba Sarabi, in a room full of men discussing the future of my country,” she said.
She said Afghan women have fought for their human rights for many decades, and have made considerable progress in education, employment and political participation. They are experts everywhere, from the fields of politics to public administration, security, business, science and information technology.
Excluding or marginalizing them from the main discussions about the future of Afghanistan is not only unjust and unacceptable but unwise and unhelpful to a lasting peace, she said.
Emphasizing that Afghans are exhausted by war and yearn for peace, she underlined the urgent need to bring the population relief from relentless violence. The peace process must reflect the concerns and aspirations of all people, with citizens’ fundamental rights recognized and upheld — not violated or “bargained off”.
Peace in Afghanistan will contribute to peace in the region and the world, she stressed, welcoming the heightened role of the United Nations and the Security Council in that process.
As Council members took the floor, many pledged their unwavering support for the people of Afghanistan but some emphasized the need to ensure that the ongoing talks in Doha and elsewhere remain both Afghan-led and Afghan-owned, while stressing that no solution to the country’s problems can be imposed from the outside.
Several delegates also pointed to the potential imminent withdrawal of foreign forces from Afghanistan as a move that must be very carefully considered, as it may have serious security implications or risk reversing hard-won gains already achieved.
Targeted killings labelled War Crimes
The representative of Estonia declared: “With the violence and attacks on civilians, the need for humanitarian assistance and the COVID-19 pandemic, the conditions now in Afghanistan are looking worse than they have in a decade.”
It is particularly troubling to hear that the security situation in the country has deteriorated to its worst level since UNAMA’s inception, and the recent wave of deliberate attacks targeting civilians is indefensible, he said.
Emphasizing that such assassinations may be war crimes and that they must be investigated and perpetrators held to account, he said the increasing violence is also impeding the work of humanitarian actors at a time when nearly half the population of Afghanistan requires assistance.
Echoing other speakers’ calls for an immediate, permanent and comprehensive ceasefire, he went on to note that the soaring violence has contributed to diminished public confidence in the peace process.
The representative of Norway said her country’s four overarching priorities in the Council — peace diplomacy, the equal participation of women, the protection of civilians, and climate change and security — are all highly relevant to Afghanistan, and she intends to bring these issues to the forefront.
Welcoming initiatives towards securing international support for the Afghan peace process, including the recent meeting in Moscow and the upcoming meeting in Turkey, she said these initiatives must complement and build on the Doha talks.
She also said the full, equal and meaningful participation of women is also essential, not only at the negotiating table but in every room where decisions about the future of Afghanistan are being made.
The representative of Niger said attacks and other acts of intimidation against civilians should not be used as a means of pressure to obtain concessions from the other party in the negotiations. He said any good negotiated solution must include the protection of constitutional rights of Afghan women and youth.
He also stressed the need to address the question of disarmament, demobilization and reintegration of ex-combatants, as well as security sector reform.
The representative of Vietnam urged all parties to fully respect international humanitarian law and allow unhindered humanitarian services, while also calling for stronger efforts to combat the threats of terrorism, drug trafficking and crime.
The representative of Tunisia expressed regret that the negotiations taking place in Doha have not yet brought about the expected results and said all parties must abide by their responsibilities under international law and protect civilians.
He called on the Taliban in particular to end its attacks, honour its counter-terrorism commitments and engage with the government.
He agreed with other speakers that violence must end in order for Afghans to regain confidence in the peace process and that women must be fully and meaningfully included in all aspects of those negotiations.
The representative of France said the full, active and effective participation of women in all formats of the peace process is essential for its long-term success and said peace will not be sustainable as long as drug trafficking continues to gain ground.
The representative of Kenya expressed grave concern that terrorism persists in Afghanistan as a means for political ends, and urged all parties to cease hostilities while welcoming regional and international efforts to support the peace process. He said women remain underrepresented in key bodies, including both negotiating teams, as well as the High Council for National Reconciliation.
Other Council Members also emphasized the need to end the violence and for women to have a greater role in the peacemaking process.
The representative of India said that an immediate and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan is “the need of the hour”, while the representative of Russia stated there is a need to consolidate all international and regional efforts and new initiatives must be carefully contemplated.
Mexico’s representative of Mexico meanwhile expressed concern that women remain underrepresented at all levels of decision-making.
It is notable that out of 46 members of the newly created Afghan Commission on Women’s Affairs, only nine are females, he said.
Women must be fully and meaningfully included and their voices must be heard, he added.
The representative of Ireland also voiced concern over the low levels of female representation at last week’s meetings in Moscow, and shared the opinion expressed there by the sole female delegate, Habiba Sarabi, that “51 per cent of people should not be ignored”.
The representative of the United States, Council President for March, speaking in her national capacity, said for peace agreements to be durable and just, the universal human rights of all, including women and minorities, must be respected.
It is also critical to do more to support women and girls in Afghanistan. Violence was meant to silence.
“I will not be silent,” she said, adding that Afghan women will not be either. Their strong voices must be included in discussions on their future.
UN food agency cuts rations to 2 million Afghans as funds dry up
The UN World Food Programme (WFP) had to cut rations to another two million Afghans this month and is warning of a “catastrophic” winter if funding runs out with little food for remote communities in place, the agency’s country director said.
The cut in rations comes amidst growing alarm over shrinking aid for Afghanistan, where a UN humanitarian response plan is only about a quarter funded, even after the budget was downgraded in the face of funding shortfalls.
WFP funding for food and cash assistance is expected to run out by the end of October and the agency has had to steadily cut assistance through the year to 10 million Afghans.
The positioning of food to areas that will be cut off in winter has also been limited. The WFP said if no funding comes through, 90% of remote areas in need will be cut off without food and even in accessible locations, people will get no supplies during the harsh weather.
“That is the catastrophe that we have to avert,” WFP Afghanistan Country Director Hsiao-Wei Lee told Reuters.
About three-quarters of Afghanistan’s people are in need of humanitarian aid as their country emerges from decades of conflict under an internationally isolated IEA administration that took over as US-backed foreign forces withdrew in 2021.
Development assistance that for years formed the backbone of government finances has been cut and the administration is subject to sanctions and central bank assets abroad have been frozen.
Restrictions by the Islamic Emirate on women, including stopping most female Afghan humanitarian staff from working, are an obstacle to formal recognition and have also put off donors, many of whom have turned their attention to other humanitarian crises.
“What I do in my engagements with them is remind them that at the end of the day, we must focus on those who are most in need,” Lee said of donors.
“The cost of inaction is ultimately borne and paid for by the most vulnerable and poor mothers and children.”
Three million people are now getting food aid but after October, they might be getting nothing.
The WFP needs $1 billion in funding to provide food aid and carry out planned projects until March, Lee said.
For Kabul resident Baba Karim, 45, the cash he has got twice this year from the WFP has been a vital supplement to the less than $2 a day he earns working odd jobs at a market with a push cart.
“I’m so worried about what will happen next, now that the assistance has ended,” said the father of five.
“I lie awake at night worrying about the future of my children.”
Pulisic scores again to help Milan thrash Torino, Roma slump to Verona loss
AC Milan forward Christian Pulisic struck to set Stefano Pioli’s side on their way to a 4-1 thrashing of Torino in their opening home game of the season in Serie A on Saturday, while Hellas Verona snatched a 2-1 victory over visitors AS Roma.
Pulisic’s opener, two Olivier Giroud penalties and a close-range lob by Theo Hernandez moved Milan provisionally top after they got off to a winning 2-0 start at Bologna on Monday.
“An excellent match, the weekly work made us level up,” Pioli told DAZN. “The team has made an important journey in recent years and top-level reinforcements have arrived… A good group is forming in terms of attitude, availability.”
U.S. international Pulisic looks set to become a new idol at the San Siro after his move from Chelsea as he put Milan ahead in the 33rd minute by firing home from close range in front of a capacity crowd for his second goal in two games, Reuters reported.
Torino defender Perr Schuurs temporarily spoiled the mood when he leveled three minutes later with a first-time effort but that was the visitors’ only shot on target all night.
Giroud restored Milan’s lead with a penalty minutes before halftime, calmly firing the ball into the roof of the net after the hosts were awarded a penalty for handball.
Hernandez chipped goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic to add the third in first-half stoppage time following a couple of one-twos with Rafael Leao before Frenchman Giroud converted another spot kick in the second half after Schuurs’ foul on Leao.
Torino, who were held to a 0-0 draw at home by newly-promoted Cagliari on Monday, lacked the ideas to pose any danger in front of Mike Maignan’s goal as Milan kept the ball and continued pushing to increase the scoreline.
Jose Mourinho’s Roma fell short at Verona who were quick to take the lead when midfielder Ondrej Duda scored from close range in less than four minutes after visiting goalkeeper Rui Patricio saved a fierce long-range shot by Filippo Terracciano.
Roma had a golden chance to equalize shortly after through midfielder Lorenzo Pellegrini who controlled the ball on the edge of the box but his low shot went inches wide, Reuters reported.
Instead, Verona doubled their lead in first-half stoppage time through forward Cyril Ngonge who left the Milan defense standing as he netted on the counter with a solo run.
Algeria midfielder Houssem Aouar pulled one back for Roma after the break but the visitors were unable to rescue a draw despite Verona finishing with 10 men following an 84th minute red card for Isak Hien for a foul on Andrea Belotti.
Verona, who secured another season in Serie A via a relegation playoff last term, are provisionally second after winning their opening match at Empoli 1-0.
“We conceded an avoidable goal which intimidated us a bit … (but) these matches create mentality and a strong identity,” new Verona manager Marco Baroni told a press conference.
Roma, who were still without Mourinho as he serves a 10-day touchline ban for criticising a referee at the end of last season, have one point after being held to a 2-2 draw by visiting Salernitana last weekend.
Wagner chief on passenger list of crashed plane
The head of the Wagner group, which in June attempted to topple Russia’s military leadership, was registered to fly on a plane that crashed Wednesday, Russian news agencies said.
The whereabouts of Yevgeny Prigozhin were yet to be officially confirmed, but news of the crash that is believed to have left no survivors triggered reactions from Ukraine and the United States, AFP reported.
The incident took place exactly two months since Prigozhin’s rebellion — seen as the biggest challenge to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s authority since he came to power — and as uncertainty has surrounded the fate of Wagner and its controversial chief.
Russia’s ministry for emergency situations on Wednesday announced the crash of a private plane travelling between Moscow and Saint Petersburg.
According to preliminary information, all 10 people on board died, including three crew members, the ministry said.
Russian news agencies later reported Prigozhin on the list of passengers of the plane.
“The plane that crashed in the Tver Region listed Yevgeny Prigozhin among its passengers, (Russia’s aviation agency) Rosaviatsia said,” TASS news agency reported, with RIA Novosti and Interfax issuing similar reports.
Videos on Telegram channels linked to Wagner posted footage — that AFP could not independently confirm — showing the wreckage of the plane burning in a field.
Rosaviatsia said it set up a special commission to investigate the crash of the Embraer – 135 (ЕВМ-135BJ) belonging to MNT-Aero.
Russia’s Investigative Committee, which probes serious crimes, said it opened an investigation into the crash.
The bodies of eight people have been found so far at the site of the crash, RIA Novosti said citing the emergency services.
Putin was meanwhile giving a speech for the 80th anniversary of the Kursk battle in World War II.
He did not mention the crash and hailed “all our soldiers who are fighting bravely and resolutely” in the special military operation in Ukraine.
But rumors of Prigozhin’s death reached other capitals, with Kyiv and Washington reacting.
“I don’t know for a fact what happened, but I’m not surprised,” US President Joe Biden said.
“There’s not much that happens in Russia that (President) Putin’s not behind. But I don’t know enough to know the answer.”
Ukrainian presidential aide Mykhaylo Podolyak said on social media that the plane crash was “a signal from Putin to Russia’s elites ahead of the 2024 elections. ‘Beware! Disloyalty equals death’.”
During the offensive in Ukraine, launched on February 24, 2022, Prigozhin — who previously operated in the shadows — came into the spotlight.
He spearheaded the capture of several Ukrainian towns including Bakhmut — and harshly criticised Russia’s conventional military leadership.
But Prigozhin was locked in a bitter months-long power struggle with the defence ministry that he accused of trying to “steal” Wagner’s victories.
Tensions degenerated into a short-lived rebellion on June 23 and 24.
Thousands of mercenaries took up weapons and marched from southern Russia towards Moscow with the aim of toppling the country’s military leaders.
The mutiny ended with a deal, mediated by Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko, under which Prigozhin was expected to move to neighbouring Belarus with some of his men.
Some of the fighters went to Belarus where they began training the ex-Soviet country’s special forces.
But the fate of Prigozhin remained unclear: he seemed to enjoy a certain amount of freedom and took part in a meeting at the Kremlin where he refused to cede command of his mercenary group.
Still, he mostly remained out of the public eye.
His Telegram channel — where he usually communicated — has been inactive since the end of June.
Wagner-linked Telegram channels instead purportedly relayed rare messages.
On Monday, video circulated showing him apparently in Africa, which he vowed to make “freer”.
The group maintains a strong military presence in Africa, where it has partnered with several nations, including Mali and the Central African Republic. – AFP
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