Clashes have intensified between the Afghanistan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) and Taliban militants in 14 provinces in the past ten days – inflicting heavy casualties on both sides.
Government sources said clashes have been recorded in 33 districts in total and that at least 30 members of the ANDSF and 401 Taliban insurgents have been killed in the skirmishes.
In addition, 126 ANDSF members and 114 militants have been wounded.
Officials said in the past 24 hours, 25 policemen were killed in an Taliban ambush in Uruzgan, 19 Afghan forces were killed in Maidan Wardak, 15 policemen were killed in an explosion at an outpost in Maroof district of Kandahar, six policemen were killed in Tagab district of Kapisa, and nine security personnel were killed in Kunduz.
Sources said the Taliban has over the past 10 days increased attacks against government forces in Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Logar, Nangarhar, Laghman, Kunar, Kandahar, Kunduz, Takhar, Baghlan, Badakhshan, Balkh, Helmand and Uruzgan provinces.
Details of civilian casualties were not however released.
Concerns continue to rise regarding the escalation in violence, with global leaders calling for a humanitarian ceasefire.
On Monday, US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad voiced his concern and called for an immediate reduction in violence.
In a post on Twitter, Khalilzad said: “Over the last few days, there has been a clear rise in violence in Afghanistan.
“This escalation is regrettable as Afghans, including many civilians, are losing their lives.
“Given the recent start of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations, it is imperative all sides reduce violence significantly,” he said.
This comes as Afghan negotiators and the Taliban’s talks team discuss intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha.
However, a marked increase in violence has been evident over the past ten days – specifically since the start of the peace talks.
Citing UN figures, EU Special Envoy for Afghanistan Roland Kobia said on Friday violence in Afghanistan in the last five weeks has been “the highest in the last five years”.
Uzbeks refuse to return military aircraft flown from Afghanistan last year
Uzbekistan authorities say dozens of aircraft flown into their country in August last year, during the collapse of the former government, belong to the United States and will not be returned to the interim government in Kabul.
Afghan air force personnel flew almost 50 helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft to Uzbekistan in mid-August as former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) forces took control.
Several more aircraft and Black Hawk helicopters were also taken to neighboring Tajikistan.
The IEA has however repeatedly requested that these aircraft are returned to Afghanistan.
But in a recent interview with VOA, Ismatulla Irgashev, a senior presidential adviser, said the aircraft would not be going back to Kabul.
“The U.S. government paid for them,” said Irgashev, his nation’s most senior diplomat dealing with Afghan matters. “It funded the previous Afghan government. So, we believe it is totally up to Washington how to deal with them.
“We’ve kept this military equipment in agreement with the U.S. and have told the Taliban (IEA) so.”
Little has been said since about the issue, in part because of the sensitivity of the issue in Uzbek-Afghan relations and the reluctance of officials on all sides to discuss it, VOA reported.
But U.S. defense officials confirmed to VOA that both Uzbekistan and Tajikistan have no plans to give the aircraft to the IEA.
Blinken and Austin visit Kyiv; announce assistance package to Ukraine
The United States announced new military assistance for Ukraine and a renewed diplomatic push in the war-ravaged nation as President Joe Biden’s secretary of state and Pentagon chief completed a secrecy-shrouded trip to Kyiv.
In the highest-level American visit to the capital since Russia invaded in late February, top envoy Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told Ukraine’s president, Volodomyr Zelenskyy, and his advisers that the U.S. would provide more than $300 million in foreign military financing and had approved a $165 million sale of ammunition, the Associated Press reported.
They also said Biden would soon announce his nominee to be ambassador to Ukraine and that American diplomats who left Ukraine before the war would start returning to the country this coming week. The U.S. Embassy in Kyiv will remain closed for the moment.
Austin and Blinken announced a total of $713 million in foreign military financing for Ukraine and 15 allied and partner countries; some $322 million is earmarked for Kyiv. The remainder will be split among NATO members and other nations that have provided Ukraine with critical military supplies since the war with Russia began, officials said.
U.S. officials said they believed the new assistance would satisfy at least some of the Ukrainians’ urgent pleas for more help. New artillery, including howitzers, continues to be delivered at a rapid pace to Ukraine’s military, which is being trained on its use in neighboring countries, the officials said.
UN chief heading to Turkey ahead of Moscow, Kyiv visits
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres will visit Ankara before heading to Moscow next week to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and then to Ukraine for talks with President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, a UN statement said on Saturday.
Guterres will visit the Turkish capital on Monday, where he will be received by President Tayyip Erdogan, the statement said.
The UN aid chief, Martin Griffiths, said on April 18 that Turkey was a valuable host for humanitarian talks between Ukraine and Russia.
Eri Kaneko, Guterres’ associate spokesperson, told a news briefing on Friday that Guterres would head to Moscow on Tuesday and meet Putin as well as have a working meeting and lunch with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, hoping to discuss what can be done to bring peace to Ukraine, Reuters reported.
The United Nations also said on Friday that Guterres would meet with Zelenskiy on Thursday, Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba and staff at UN agencies to discuss the scaling up of humanitarian assistance efforts.
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