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Pilot killed by unidentified armed men in Parwan

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(Last Updated On: July 16, 2021)

An Afghan military pilot was killed in an attack by unknown armed men in northern Parwan province on Friday, sources said.

Nusrat Koshan, an Afghan Air Force officer, was killed at around 6:30 Friday evening during a skirmish with armed men in the Bagram district of the province, sources added.

Bagram Governor Lala Shirin Raufi told Ariana News that the incident took place in the “Dorahi-e-Qale Khwaja and Qale Narzoy” of in the district.

Raufi said the assailants managed to flee from the area.

No group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Last week, Reuters reported citing two senior Afghan government officials that at least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated off base in recent months.

According to Reuters, this series of targeted killings, which haven’t been previously reported, illustrate what U.S. and Afghan officials believe is a deliberate Taliban effort to destroy one of Afghanistan’s most valuable military assets: its corps of U.S.- and NATO-trained military pilots.

In so doing, the Taliban — who have no air force — are looking to level the playing field as they press major ground offensives.

Reuters confirmed the identities of two of the slain pilots through family members but could not independently verify the names of the other five who were allegedly targeted.

In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had killed Afghan Air Force Major Dastagir Zamaray, and that it had started a program that will see the Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”

A U.N. report documented 229 civilian deaths caused by the Taliban in Afghanistan in the first three months of 2021, and 41 civilian deaths caused by the Afghan Air Force over the same period.

In response to questions from Reuters, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed the group had killed Zamaray, and that it had started a program that will see Afghan Air Force pilots “targeted and eliminated because all of them do bombardment against their people.”

Afghanistan’s government has not publicly disclosed the number of pilots assassinated in targeted killings and the Defense Ministry did not respond to requests for comment by Reuters.

The Pentagon meanwhile told Reuters it was aware of the deaths of several Afghan pilots in killings claimed by the Taliban, but declined to comment on U.S. intelligence and investigations.

Afghan military pilots are particularly attractive assassination targets, current and former U.S. and Afghan officials say. They can strike Taliban forces massing for major attacks, shuttle commandos to missions, and provide life-saving air cover for Afghan ground troops. Pilots take years to train and are hard to replace, representing an outsized blow to the country’s defenses with every loss.

Shoot-downs and accidents are ever-present risks. Yet these pilots often are most vulnerable in the streets of their own neighborhoods, where attackers can come from anywhere, said retired U.S. Brigadier General David Hicks, who commanded the training effort for the Afghan Air Force from 2016 to 2017.

“Their lives were at much greater risk during that time (off base) than they were while they were flying combat missions,” Hicks said.

Although Taliban assassinations of pilots have happened in years past, the recent killings take on greater significance as the Afghan Air Force is tested like never before, Reuters reported.

“Pilots are on top of the Taliban’s hit list,” the senior Afghan government official said.

That Afghan official and two others, speaking on condition of anonymity, said they’re working to protect pilots and their families, moving some to on-base housing and relocating others to safer civilian neighborhoods.

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US to provide $55 million in additional aid for immediate earthquake assistance: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

In response to the deadly earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan last Wednesday, the United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide nearly $55 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to meet urgent needs of people affected. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday the United States would provide the additional funds for immediate humanitarian assistance. 

The new funding brings total US humanitarian assistance to over $774 million in the last year, Blinken added.

According to a statement issued by USAID on Tuesday, this additional assistance includes support for USAID partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to continue to reach earthquake-affected people with urgently needed shelter materials, water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, and other relief items. 

“These vital supplies include emergency shelter kits, cooking pots, jerry cans for water collection and storage, blankets, solar lamps, clothing, and other household items. In addition, this support will provide hygiene kits, menstrual hygiene supplies, and water treatment kits. 

“Given that the area impacted by the earthquake was already experiencing an acute watery diarrhea outbreak, this relief will help mitigate a larger waterborne disease outbreak in the aftermath of this disaster, when there is greater risk given the lack of access to safe water,” the statement read. 

The US response came just hours after the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $110 million to provide lifesaving assistance to more than 360,000 Afghans who were affected by last week’s earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said early Tuesday that the new appeal is part of this year’s Humanitarian Response plan, which calls for $4.4 billion, but is massively underfunded at just over one third.

“We and our partners are borrowing supplies, personnel, and resources from other humanitarian programmes,” UNOCHA said in a statement.

Wednesday’s earthquake killed over a thousand people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Paktika and Khost provinces.

“I’m appealing to the world — please help. We need money. We need funding. We need support to resolve this tragedy,” Ramiz Alakbarov, UN resident relief coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a video message while visiting an area in Paktika province.

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IEA to hold ‘Grand Assembly’ in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is scheduled to hold a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, for three days starting Wednesday, and will bring together almost 3,000 mainly religious scholars from across all 34 provinces. 

According to IEA officials, the participants, which include two religious scholars and one further representative from every district, are expected to present suggestions to the leadership of the IEA on ways to resolve challenges currently facing the country.

The assembly will be held in the Loya Jirga hall in Kart-e-Mamourin in Kabul city.

So far the agenda of this Loya Jirga has not been announced officially but according to sources, a number of issues will be tabled including that pertaining to matters of national importance, and maybe the issue of reopening girls’ schools.

“In such gatherings we can solve many problems and the participation of women is essential to address their rights and problems; girls’ schools must be reopened and the current crisis in all sections must be solved,” said Dewa Patang, a women’s activist. 

The main agenda will reportedly focus on finding solutions to current crises in the country, sources said.  

“Based on the information that I have, all participants who are invited to this gathering are scholars and patriots who are committed to their country and Islam,” said Toryali Hemat, a political analyst.

Members of the public meanwhile feel the Loya Jirga members should present possible solutions to resolving problems in the country – both economic and social – in order to draw a clear road map for the future of the country. 

Historically, a Loya Jirga has been convened in order to elect a new head of state, approve a new constitution or resolve critical issues.

Loya jirgas have reportedly been organized since the rise to power of the Hotak dynasty in the early 18th century. 

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Pakistan to pay for imported coal from Afghanistan in rupees

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved the import of coal from Afghanistan in rupees instead of US dollars, saying the move will help the country save precious foreign exchange.

Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting on improving the transportation system of coal imported from Afghanistan in the country, the Express Tribune reported.

He expressed deep concern over the rising price of coal on the international market, saying it was the main reason for generating expensive electricity from coal-fired power plants in the country.

“The coal imported from Afghanistan in rupee terms will not only generate cheap electricity but also help save the country’s precious foreign exchange,” Sharif said.

The prime minister was informed that import of coal from Afghanistan would save more than $2.2 billion annually.

Sharif also directed the Ministry of Railways to take all necessary steps to ensure prompt delivery of coal imported from Afghanistan to power plants.

The PM ordered the formation of a committee of all officials concerned headed by the defence minister to expedite the import process.

Esmatullah Burhan, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, told a press conference on Tuesday that Pakistan was a good market for coal exports, which should not be lost.

He said that revenue from coal exports under IEA rule were far higher than under the last government.

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, finance ministry spokesman, said tax on coal exports was increased to 30% from 20%.

The official said that until now coal was being sold at $90 per ton, but from now on it will be sold at $200 per ton.

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