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US urges Afghan government, Taliban to begin prisoner releases

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(Last Updated On: March 19, 2020)

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad said Wednesday that the United States would like to see prisoner releases begin as soon as possible in line with the U.S.-Taliban agreement. 

Khalilzad said in a tweet that so far no prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides.

“Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides, the United States understands,” he noted.

Khalilzad said that the technical teams from both sides can work together and focus on technical steps to begin prisoner releases as soon as possible. 

“I will participate in the initial meetings,” he added.

“While preferable to meet face-to-face, Coronavirus and the resulting travel restrictions likely requires virtual engagement for now,” said Khalilzad, calling on all sides to avoid provocative media statements.

The US official further said, “The time has come to move forward on prisoner releases.”

“The Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield. A violation will undermine the peace process­,” Khalilzad tweeted.

On February 29, the US and Taliban delegations signed a deal in Doha, the capital of Qatar in which the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners by 10th of March was highlighted. In exchange, the group would also release 1000 Afghan soldiers who are in the Taliban’s captivity.

President Ashraf Ghani signed a decree on March 11 to release 1500 Taliban prisoners, a move to pave the way for the start of the intr-Afghan dialogue, which was scheduled for March 10 that has not held so far.

According to the decree, the remaining 3500 prisoners would be released after a tangible reduction in

violence by the Taliban and all released prisoners will have to give “a written guarantee to not return to the battlefield.”

The Taliban reject Ghani’s release plan saying that the group had never agreed to the conditional release of the 5,000 prisoners from Afghan jails.

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AWCC rolls out internet services to Nangarhar’s Hesarak district

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(Last Updated On: February 23, 2024)

Officials from Afghan Wireless Communications Company (AWCC) say they have activated 3G and 2G internet services in Hesarak district of Nangarhar province.

The company’s officials said that now thousands of families in this district have access to the internet.

They added that the company will expand 3G and 2G internet services in other districts of this province as well.

“This base is built as standard and today we activated 3G and 2G internet services here,” said Attaullah Sahil, head of AWCC in the eastern zone.

Nangarhar officials meanwhile welcomed AWCC’s move to provide the Hesarak people with internet services and said they hoped residents of other areas will also be provided with the same service.

“An Afghan wireless base has been activated in this district that currently provides 3G and 2G internet services,” said Zabihullah Zaki, Nangarhar’s director of Information Technology and Telecommunication.

In the meantime, the residents of Hesarak district are happy that they have access to the new generation of internet services but call for costs to be reduced.
“We are very happy that the Afghan wireless base was activated here,” said a resident of Hesarak district.

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Muttaqi to UNAMA head: Doha meeting had no tangible outcome

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi said in a meeting with UNAMA head Roza Otunbayeva that the Islamic Emirate closely monitored the Doha meeting and observed that the meeting did not render a “particular result”.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the spokesman of the foreign ministry, said in a statement on X that Muttaqi said the Islamic Emirate hopes that the interactive meetings with the Islamic Emirate will lead to good results.

According to Muttaqi, for the meetings to be effective, there should be comprehensive discussions with the Islamic Emirate on issues related to Afghanistan.

Balkhi, quoting Otunbaeva said from the point of view of Antonio Guterres, the Secretary General of the United Nations, no action should be taken to complicate the work with the Islamic Emirate in appointing a special representative for Afghanistan.

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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Work gets underway on Hairatan-Mazar section of Balkh to Uzbekistan railway line

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(Last Updated On: February 22, 2024)

Reconstruction of a section of the Mazar-e-Sharif-Uzbekistan railway line has started at a cost of $6.3 million, Balkh provincial officials said.

Local officials said the 75-km long line will start at Balkh airport and stretch to Uzbekistan.

The reconstruction of this railway line has been contracted to an Uzbek company and is expected to be operational in three months, officials said.

This railway line, which carries freight, links Hairatan land port to Mazar.

“The cost of this contract is approximately six million and 300 thousand US dollars,” said Mohammad Shafiq Mahmood, the head of Balkh railway.

Local authorities have said the reactivation of this line is important for economic growth and the expansion of trade ties.

“We thank our friendly neighbor Uzbekistan for coming here and starting this project,” said Noorul Hadi Abu Idris, the deputy governor of Balkh.

Mazar-e-Sharif-Uzbekistan railway transports commercial goods from the city of Termez in Uzbekistan first to the commercial town of Hairatan and then to the Maulana Jalaluddin Muhammad Balkhi Airport.

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