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U.S. ‘deeply troubled’ by attacks on civilians as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 29, 2021)

The United States said on Wednesday it was deeply troubled by reports of escalating attacks on civilians as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan and Washington pulls out its last remaining troops and ends its longest war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a visit to India, said the only path to peace in Afghanistan was through negotiations, which all parties must take seriously.

Taliban insurgents have captured districts across Afghanistan and seized vital border control points in recent weeks, as Washington withdraws its last troops after 20 years. The Pentagon now estimates that the fighters control more than half of Afghanistan’s district centres.

The surge has raised the prospect that the militants could return to power. Millions of people fled their extreme violence during their last period of rule from 1996-2001, when they staged public executions of their foes, banned women from work and education and hosted Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

The Taliban say they will treat civilians well if they return to power, and will not allow the country to be used as a base for international terrorism.

Describing reports of attacks on civilians as “deeply, deeply troubling”, Blinken said: “An Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state.

“There’s only one path, and that’s at the negotiating table, to resolve the conflict peacefully.”

The United Nations reported this week that civilian casualties had been surging in recent weeks, with as many killed in May-June as in the previous four months. The report did not cover casualties in July, when fighting has intensified further.

Afghans in government-held areas have been alarmed by domestic media reports in recent days of abductions and killings of civilians in areas where the Taliban have advanced. The Taliban deny they are carrying out revenge killings.

U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered all U.S. troops out of the country, fulfilling a policy pledge made by his predecessor Donald Trump, despite warnings from American generals of the potential for renewed civil war without foreign troops to protect the Kabul government.

Peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar have largely stalled, with the Taliban showing little interest in negotiating while they are gaining on the battlefield.

CHINA HOSTS TALIBAN DELEGATION

Taliban delegations have visited neighbouring countries in recent weeks, gaining international standing for a movement that had been treated as outcasts and banned as terrorists for most of the past two decades.

The latest regional power to host them was China, whose Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a nine-person delegation led by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin during a two-day visit.

Wang said the Taliban were expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to a readout of the meeting from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Taliban delegations have also visited Iran and Russia in recent weeks. The group has an office in Qatar.

“Politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings,” Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem tweeted about the China visit.

“(The) delegation assured China that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China,” Naeem said. “China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan’s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country.”

Moscow, which fought for a decade in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said it was beefing up the combat capabilities at its military base in Tajikistan, a small former Soviet republic that borders Afghanistan.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, visiting Tajikistan on Wednesday, said the security situation had rapidly deteriorated in Afghanistan during a “hasty” U.S. withdrawal.

Shoigu said Islamic State fighters were moving into Afghanistan from countries including Syria and Libya, describing their arrival as “quite seriously organised”.

“We are paying increased attention to strengthening the combat capabilities of our base and refining plans to jointly repel possible insurgent infiltration,” he said.

A senior Russian diplomat has said Moscow views Taliban gains in northern Afghanistan as having a security upside because the group is hostile to what Russia regards as more dangerous Islamist extremists.

Russia is set to hold military drills on Aug. 5-10 near Tajikistan’s Afghan border, involving more than 1,000 Russian soldiers as well as Uzbek and Tajik forces.

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US commits $150 million in aid for Afghans

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2022)

The United States announced Friday $150 million in new aid for Afghanistan to improve food security and support women and girls in the country.

The US Agency for International Development said an $80 million commitment to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) will improve food security and nutrition for Afghans experiencing severe food insecurity, including women, women-headed households, and smallholder farmers and herders.

With this assistance, USAID will help Afghan farmers increase the production of nutritious food using environmentally-sustainable practices, and increase the availability of quality seeds and other agricultural inputs.

This funding will also improve smallholder farmers’ resilience to climate and economic shocks through crop diversification and promoting agricultural best practices, including through support to small-scale food producers, women, family farmers, pastoralists, and fishers.

USAID and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) signed a $40 million agreement to increase international support for Afghan children, particularly adolescent girls, to realize their right to education.

This is USAID’s newest contribution to Afghanistan’s education sectors and comes after the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) March announcement blocking girls above grade six from school. 

With the funding provided by USAID through this agreement, UNICEF will have the resources to provide hundreds of thousands of vulnerable Afghans with desperately needed cash assistance to keep their children in school.

USAID also announced a $30 million commitment to support gender equality and women’s empowerment in Afghanistan.

This funding will be programmed through the United Nations Entity for Gender Equality and the Empowerment of Women (UN Women).

The “Enabling Essential Services for Afghan Women and Girls” activity will increase Afghan women and girls’ access to social protection services; provide resources and support for women-led civil society organizations working to advance women’s rights in Afghanistan; and increase women’s economic empowerment through skills and business development training and entrepreneurship support, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) said in a statement.

The funding will provide direct support for Afghan women’s civil society organizations.

“As women and girls face rising rates of gender-based violence in Afghanistan, this funding for UN Women will also provide women and girl survivors of violence with access to free and safe accommodation, legal aid and healthcare, psycho-social support, counseling, and vocational training,” USAID statement said.

The funding will also help UN Women respond to the urgent and immediate livelihoods needs of Afghan women, and help them build income security through private sector partnerships that will create job opportunities and help Afghan women launch or rebuild their micro, small or medium businesses.

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Mysterious fires destroy dozens of homes in Jowzjan

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

More than 50 homes have been destroyed by mysterious fires in a village in Afghanistan’s northern Jowzjan province, officials said this week.

The fires have happened in Bala Mardian village of Faizabad district.

Sirajuddin Ahmadi, police chief of Jowzjan, said that the fires are increasing day by day.

“Yesterday 12 homes caught fire. Today people held Khatm Qur’an ceremony (reading Qur’an) and prayed. Within an hour today, three or four homes caught fire. I hope officials and leaders of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will pay special attention to the victims,” Ahmadi said.

There are no reports of deaths caused by the fires.

Noorullah Musafir, the provincial director of labor and social affairs, however, said that some people including women and children were hospitalized.

Meanwhile, local residents said that mysterious creatures could be seen during the fires.

“People are suffering from the problem. They initially thought that it was human, but later it was found that only children and women can see it. A creature is seen in the home, but when we enter the home, no one is there,” a Jowzjan resident said.

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DAB says technical agreements in place to print new bank notes

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(Last Updated On: August 12, 2022)

The country’s central bank – Da Afghanistan Bank (DAB) said Thursday they have reached agreements with a number of foreign countries and money printing facilities to print new bank notes for the country.

“We have collected and burned the old money, we have reached an agreement with the money printing offices and countries and we expect to proceed according to the plan and present you with the results, we are proceeding based on national interests; discussions have been held with countries and banks and they will help Afghanistan,” said Lutful Haq Noor Pasarlay, DAB’s policy deputy head.

Abdulqahar known as Haji Muhammad Edris, the acting head of De Afghanistan Bank, also spoke at the event and mapped out achievements made by the central bank in the past 12 months.

“Maintaining the stability of the value of the Afghani currency, maintaining the sustainability of commercial banks, providing banking services, facilitating cross-border transfers and developing new systems were some of the issues in the attention of Da Afghanistan Bank during the last year,” said Abdulqahar.

According to officials, in order to improve the banking sector and prevent criminal activities, the law to prevent terrorism financing, the regulation of preventive measures against money laundering, the management plan for the liquidity problem of the banking sector, the plan to revive the financial and banking sector, and the crisis management policy, have been drawn up and will soon be adopted.

The officials also said that in order to release Afghanistan’s foreign exchange reserves, several internal and external meetings have been organized with the relevant parties and discussions have been held on technical matters.

The last meeting of technical representatives of Afghanistan and the United States, for releasing Afghanistan’s frozen assets, was held in Tashkent, Uzbekistan.

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