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Peace won’t be found in silence or fear, says AIHRC chair 

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

One year ago today – February 28 – Afghans were buoyed by the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha, which they hoped would bring peace. Instead, today, a year later, targeted killings have spiked leaving thousands of civil society activists, government officials, journalists and even doctors fearing for their lives. 

Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), wrote in an op-ed piece, published in the Washington Post, that “every night, I lie awake wondering who will be next. I think of a colleague whose teenage son checks his car every morning for magnetic bombs. A husband saying goodbye to his wife as she leaves for work, wondering if today will be the day she is killed on her way to the office.”

She said that a year after the deal was signed, instead of ushering in peace “one of the most tangible changes has been an increase in targeted killings, mostly unclaimed, that have created an environment of terror and fear. 

“There were nearly three times the number of such attacks in 2020 compared with 2019; the casualties include the deaths of 11 human rights defenders and media workers in the past five months,” she wrote. 

Akbar pointed out that some of Afghanistan’s most important gains, its activists, community leaders and scholars, are being silenced at a time when, after the US-Taliban deal, Afghans had hoped for a reduction in violence and for inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

“While the Taliban denies involvement in most targeted attacks, it benefits from the environment of fear and hopelessness around the peace process and the lack of critical voices demanding an inclusive peace. 

“This reign of terror for Afghan civilians must end in order for a real peace process to begin,” Akbar wrote. 

She also pointed out that as the United States reviews its Afghanistan policy, it still has leverage — including the existing UN sanctions on the Taliban, the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and legitimacy, and the presence of international forces in Afghanistan — to help stop these attacks and encourage a ceasefire and an inclusive peace process.

She stated that her AIHRC colleagues know what it is to feel terror as the organization has lost three of its staff members in the past 18 months.

Akbar pointed out that these high levels of violence are forcing families to flee the country. 

“Every day I hear of another friend, journalist, academic, women’s rights activist or businessperson leaving the country. Their departures are creating an absence that will take another generation to fill. Those who can’t leave feel silenced by fear and have little chance of influencing the peace process,” she wrote.

Akbar also noted that it has been years since the last mass demonstration by Afghans – “for fear of attacks”. 

She also said that following the recent wave of assassinations, public debate has closed down, even in the virtual sphere. “This is even more true beyond Kabul, in rural areas where conflict has been the most savage.”

Akbar stated that while US President Joe Biden’s team has signaled that it will withdraw its last troops as per the agreement with the Taliban, if the group reduces violence. she said: “This is welcome but not enough. Even with overall violence levels down, targeted killings are silencing the voices needed to build pressure for peace.”

“The United States does not want Afghanistan to collapse into a catastrophic civil war as soon as it withdraws, after 20 years of assistance. But the narrow focus of the US-Taliban deal ignored the wider needs of the peace process, including the importance of civic space and the protection of civilians. This approach should be urgently reconsidered in Biden’s review,” she said.

Akbar stated that public participation is not a bonus that is “nice to have” but rather an inclusive process that builds momentum for peace and boosts the credibility of the process. 

Bringing traditional and nontraditional civil society voices to the table from across Afghanistan will bring a sense of urgency and bottom-up pressure on the parties.

She also stated that public participation can best be guaranteed through a ceasefire and that the US and its allies should utilize their leverage with both sides and the region to continue to push for an interim and immediate ceasefire that will create an opportunity for national engagement. 

“An immediate end to targeted killings, a ceasefire and the restoration of civic space will allow for broader inclusion in the talks, reviving hope and confidence in the process,” she said.

Akbar stated that the US can encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to create this enabling environment for peace. Afghans could then force hope back onto the table.

“We will not find peace in silence and fear,” Akbar stated.

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First cargo flight takes place from UAE to Balkh since IEA takeover

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

For the first time since the Islamic Emirate’s takeover, a flight from the United Arab Emirates to Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport in Mazar-e-Sharif city was carried out through the air corridor, officials said.

The airport officials said that sixteen tons of commercial goods, including electronic devices related to Bayat Power company were transferred from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif city.

“This is the first time that a flight from Dubai to Mazar-e-Sharif has been made through the air corridor; discussions with traders are ongoing and we hope to keep this corridor active in the future,” said Abdullah Motmaen, director of customs of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport.

Meanwhile, Balkh Chamber of Commerce and Investment officials stress the beginning of the general process of transferring commercial commodities by air corridor.

“In the transfer of commercial goods, air corridor is so important,” said Asadullah Asadi, head of Balkh’s chamber of commerce and investment.

Earlier, through the air corridor of Maulana Jalaluddin Mohammad Balkhi Airport, Pine nuts and other commercial items were exported to the countries of the region.

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IEA will attend future UN meetings if demands accepted: deputy PM

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Deputy Prime Minister for Political Affairs Mawlavi Abdul Kabir has called the recent decision of the United Nations for the participation of the Islamic Emirate at the second Doha meeting on Afghanistan “unfair” and said that if the demands of the IEA are accepted by the UN and countries in future meetings, the acting government will participate on behalf of Afghanistan, the deputy PM’s office said in a statement.

Abdul Kabir made these statements on Thursday at a graduation ceremony in Kabul.

Kabir added that “Afghanistan, as an independent country and Islamic Emirate as a legitimate Islamic system, assures all its neighbors and the international community that the acting government is striving for economic and development cooperation based on a balanced and moderate policy.”

He also stressed that there would be no threat to anyone from Afghanistan.

While fighting against drugs and corruption, sustainable stability can only be guaranteed under the rule of the Islamic Emirate, which Afghans and the international community have understood, according to the statement.

He stated that with the arrival of the Islamic Emirate, the national budget was prepared from internal revenues for the first time, and in addition to paying the expenses of civil administrations and development projects, the expenses of the Islamic Army and security departments are also paid from the national budget.

The second meeting of special representatives of countries regarding Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday of this week in Doha, in which the delegation of the Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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Strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan exist: Thomas West

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Thomas West, the US special envoy for Afghanistan, described the recent UN meeting in Doha as productive, emphasizing a strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan, including the desire to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, and work.

“No country wants to see the emergence of a terrorism threat from Afghanistan. All want to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, work, and public life,” West stated in a post about the conference.

West also noted the international commitment to the Afghan people, highlighting the effort to provide humanitarian aid to over 26 million Afghans last year. However, he expressed concerns about sustainability and the need for an approach that empowers Afghans economically.

The envoy acknowledged the Islamic Emirate’s enforcement of a poppy ban, which the UNODC reported resulted in a 95% reduction in cultivation. He underscored the need for more coordination in supporting alternative crops for farmers and recovery for addicts.

West appreciated the participation of Afghan civil society members, both from within and outside Afghanistan, discussing economic needs, human rights, and the importance of continued engagement, including with the Taliban.

Regarding future steps, West welcomed the continuation of the current meeting format and calls for a UN-led process to develop a roadmap for Afghanistan’s full integration into the international community. “The Afghan people’s well-being, and the international community’s shared interests, must guide this work,” he concluded.

The second meeting of special representatives for Afghanistan was held on Sunday and Monday in Doha. The Islamic Emirate did not participate.

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