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Record levels of hunger persist in Afghanistan, WFP warns in latest report

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(Last Updated On: May 10, 2022)

Almost half of Afghanistan’s population – 19.7 million – are facing acute hunger according to the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis conducted in January and February this year by food security cluster partners of the United Nations.

The report, published on Monday, predicts that the outlook for June to November this year sees a slight improvement in the food security situation, with a reduction in the number of people facing acute food insecurity to 18.9 million people.

This is due in part to the coming wheat harvest from May to August, and this year’s well-coordinated scale-up of humanitarian food assistance – alongside increased agricultural livelihood support.

However, gains will be limited – the report warns.

Lingering drought and the deep economic crisis mean that unprecedented hunger will continue to threaten the lives and livelihoods of millions of people across Afghanistan.

“Of particular concern – and for the first time since the introduction of the IPC in Afghanistan in 2011 – a small pocket of ‘catastrophic’ levels of food insecurity – or IPC Phase 5 – has been detected in the country,” the World Food Program (WFP) reported.

“More than 20,000 people in the north-eastern province of Ghor are facing catastrophic levels of hunger because of a long period of harsh winter and disastrous agricultural conditions.

Unprecedented levels of humanitarian assistance focused on bolstering food security have made a difference. But the food security situation is dire, the report stated.

“Humanitarian assistance remains desperately important, as do the needs to rebuild shattered agricultural livelihoods and re-connect farmers and rural communities to struggling rural and urban markets across the country. Unless these happen, there will be no way out of this crisis,” said Richard Trenchard, FAO Representative in Afghanistan.

“Food assistance and emergency livelihood support are the lifeline for the people of Afghanistan. We mounted the world’s largest humanitarian food operation in a matter of months, reaching more than 16 million people since August 2021,” said Mary-Ellen McGroarty, WFP’s Country Director and Representative in Afghanistan.

“We are working with farmers, millers, and bakeries, training women and creating jobs to support the local economy. Because the people of Afghanistan would much prefer jobs; women want to be able to work; and all girls deserve to go to school. Allowing the economy to function normally is the surest way out of the crisis, otherwise suffering will grow where crops cannot,” she added.

The upcoming harvest will bring some relief to millions of families struggling with income losses and food shortages.

However, for many, the harvest will only offer short-term relief and very little opportunity for recovery.

In addition to this, the war in Ukraine continues to put pressure on Afghanistan’s wheat supply, food commodities, agricultural inputs, and fuel prices. Access to seeds, fertilizer and water for irrigation is limited, labour opportunities are scarce and enormous debts have been incurred to buy food over the last few months.

Both FAO and WFP continue to scale up their programmes across the country. WFP has reached more than 16 million people so far in 2022 with emergency food assistance, and is supporting local markets, working with retailers and local suppliers. WFP continues to invest in people’s livelihoods through skills training and climate adaption projects so that families can cultivate their land and grow their own food.

FAO continues to scale up its assistance to farmers and herders in rural areas and will assist more than nine million people in 2022 through a range of interventions supporting crop, livestock and vegetable production, cash transfers and the rehabilitation of vital irrigation infrastructure and systems.

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U.S. warns of possible North Korean nuclear or missile test during Biden Asia trip

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2022)

U.S intelligence shows there could be a North Korean nuclear test, or missile test, or both, before, during or after President Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan starting this week, the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, said on Wednesday.

“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” Sullivan told a White House briefing.

Sullivan said the United States was coordinating closely with South Korea and Japan on the issue and had also discussed North Korea with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi about North Korea in a phone call on Wednesday.

“We’ve indicated in quite clear terms that our intelligence does reflect a genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or frankly both, in the days leading into, on, or after the president’s trip to the region,” Sullivan said.

He said the United States was prepared to make both short and longer term adjustments to its military posture as necessary “to ensure that we are providing both defense and deterrence to our allies in the region and that we’re responding to any North Korean provocation.”

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told the same briefing Biden would not visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea during his visit to South Korea, which begins on Friday.

The White House said last week Biden was considering such a trip.

“He will he will not visit the DMZ … not on this trip,” Jean-Pierre said.

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SIGAR finds single key factor to ANDSF collapse was withdrawal of US troops

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

The United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that the single most important factor behind the Afghan National Defense and Security Force’s (ANDSF) collapse in August last year was the US’ decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan.

This decision was taken after the US signed an agreement in February 2020, under former president Donald Trumps administration, with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) – an agreement adhered to by President Joe Biden.

In their latest report, SIGAR stated that due to the ANDSF’s dependency on US military forces, these events destroyed ANDSF morale.

The ANDSF had long relied on the US military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries.

The US-IEA agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population, SIGAR reported.

The agreement set in motion a series of events crucial to understanding the ANDSF’s collapse, SIGAR stated.

Among those included a drop in the number of US airstrikes; the fact that ANDSF remained reliant on the US military, especially as “the United States designed the ANDSF as a mirror image of US forces.

“This created long-term ANDSF dependencies. The United States created a combined arms military structure that required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership,” SIGAR stated adding that the ANDSF had stockpiles of US-provided weapons and supplies, but did not have the logistics capabilities to move these items quickly enough to meet operational demands and had to rely on a thinly-stretched Afghan Air Force to do so.

“As a result, ANDSF units complained that they did not have enough ammunition, food, water, or other military equipment to sustain military engagements against the Taliban (IEA).

“Additionally, the Afghan government failed to develop a national security strategy and plan for nationwide security following the withdrawal of US forces,” SIGAR stated adding that instead, former president Ashraf Ghani frequently changed ANDSF leaders and appointed loyalists, while marginalizing well-trained ANDSF officers aligned with the United States.

The constant turnover weakened military chains of command, trust, and morale in the ANDSF. “Young, welltrained, educated, and professional ANDSF officers who grew up under US tutelage were marginalized and their ties to the U.S. became a liability.”

SIGAR also stated that the United States created more long-term dependencies by providing the ANDSF with advanced military equipment that they could not sustain and that required a US military or contractor presence and that the US lacked any real way to measure the ANDSF’s development.

“The metrics DOD used were inconsistent and unable to measure the development of ANDSF capabilities and capacities over time,” SIGAR stated.

SIGAR also stated that while ANDSF members have either left Afghanistan, or are in hiding, there are those who “have joined extremist groups in Afghanistan.”

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IEA confirms mediation talks between Pakistan govt and TTP held in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

Talks were held in Kabul between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), acting as mediator, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted.

Good progress has been made in the talks and both sides agreed to a short-term ceasefire, Mujahid tweeted.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in good faith, strives for a successful negotiation process and expects both sides to be tolerant and flexible,” Mujahid said.

This comes after reports circulated in news outlets that a Pakistani delegation led by Lt General Faiz Hameed, former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), visited Kabul and reportedly held talks with representatives of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

However, there was no official confirmation from either side about the development but reports suggested that it was part of a renewed push by the IEA in Afghanistan to broker some kind of a deal between Pakistan and the TTP, The Express Tribune report said.

TTP members and official sources in Kabul also confirmed to VOA that Gen Faiz was in Kabul for talks with the TTP.

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