Australian Special Forces reportedly shot and killed an Afghan prisoner because there was not enough space on their aircraft during a drug operation at Camp Bastion in 2012.
October 21, 2020
ISLAMABAD – Officials in Afghanistan say a stampede near Pakistan’s consulate in an eastern border city and insurgent attacks elsewhere in the war-torn country have killed about 50 people.
Witnesses said thousands of Afghans had gathered Wednesday morning in a stadium outside the consulate in Jalalabad waiting to collect tokens required to apply for a Pakistani visa before jostling broke out between applicants.
A provincial government spokesman told VOA at least 15 people, including eleven elderly women, were crushed to death in the ensuing stampede. Attaullah Khogyani said that many more people were trampled, including women, as they tried to exit the stadium. He expected the number of casualties to rise.
A Pakistan Embassy statement issued in Kabul expressed “deep grief and sadness” over the loss of Afghan lives. It noted that the stadium is five kilometers away from the Pakistani consulate in Jalalabad where Afghan authorities gather and organize visa applicants.
Pakistan has recently relaxed visa rules for Afghans to encourage people-to-people contacts between the two countries, which share a nearly 2,600 kilometer border.
The new visa policy has prompted thousands of people to rush to the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul and four consulates elsewhere in Afghanistan to apply for visas to secure medical treatment, education and jobs in the neighboring country.
Pakistan hosts nearly three million Afghan refugees and economic migrants, who have fled decades of hostilities, religious persecution and poverty in their war-torn country.
Authorities in Afghanistan’s northeastern Takhar province said Wednesday that the Taliban there had killed at least 34 government forces in overnight attacks. A local government spokesman told VOA the provincial police chief for security was also among the slain men.
Meanwhile, fresh clashes have erupted between Afghan security forces and the Taliban near Lashkargah, the embattled capital of the southern Helmand province.
A provincial government spokesman, Omar Zawak, told VOA the insurgents attempted to enter the city from a forested area but Afghan forces quickly countered the action and killed more than 25 assailants in the process. Zawak confirmed the fighting killed at least one Afghan soldier and wounded several others.
The official claim could not be verified from independent sources and the Taliban did not immediately comment on the latest fighting in Helmand.
Lashkargah has been under a major Taliban attack for two weeks, cutting off road links into the city and reportedly displacing 40,000 civilians. The United Nations says the fighting has caused more than 200 casualties.
Gun-battles were also raging in neighboring Kandahar province Wednesday following two Taliban suicide car bombings there. Officials confirmed the attacks but did not immediately share any details about casualties.
The increased violence in Afghanistan has undermined ongoing U.S.-brokered peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government.
The dialogue in Doha, Qatar, is the product of a U.S.-Taliban agreement reached in February aimed at closing the 19-year-old Afghan war, America’s longest.
The deal requires all American and allied forces to leave the country by May 2021. In return, the Taliban is bound to fight terrorism on Afghan soil and reach a political power-sharing arrangement with rival factions to end four decades of conflict in Afghanistan.
As Afghan government and Taliban negotiators try to broker a peace deal in Doha, RFE/RL’s Gandhara begins a new series that asks Afghans: “What’s at stake for you in the Afghan peace talks?” Atefa Tayeb draws a “red line” when it comes to education for girls and women, and says access to schooling is not negotiable.
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 21, 2020
NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg has said the military alliance will not leave Afghanistan until security conditions allow, as rising violence threatens to derail ongoing intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar.
“We went into Afghanistan together, we will adjust together, and when the time is right, when the conditions are met, we will leave together in a coordinated and orderly way. This is a commitment by all allies and I’m absolutely certain that all allies will live up to this commitment,” Stoltenberg told reporters in Brussels on October 21, ahead of a two-day NATO foreign ministers’ meeting.
NATO has led international security efforts in Afghanistan since 2003, two years after a U.S.-led coalition ousted the Taliban from power, and currently has around 12,000 troops in the country to train and assist the national security forces.
Some 8,000 U.S. soldiers were involved in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in August, and NATO allies and their partners rely on U.S. air power, transport, and logistics to operate.
U.S. commanders say the plan is to reduce the American troop presence to 4.500 by November, according to the Associated Press.
On October 7, U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted that he wants all U.S. troops to leave Afghanistan by December 25, but his national-security adviser, Robert O’Brien, last week said the number of U.S. troops would shrink to 2,500 early next year.
Meanwhile, Taliban militants have stepped up attacks throughout Afghanistan even as the group is holding peace talks with government negotiators in the Qatari capital, Doha.
The talks “offer the best chance for peace in a generation,” Stoltenberg said, adding: “They must preserve the gains made at such high price over the last two decades, including for women and girls.”
NATO’s secretary-general urged the Taliban to “live up to their commitments, significantly reduce the levels of violence, and pave the way for a cease-fire.”
“They must break all ties with Al-Qaeda and other international terrorist groups. And they must negotiate in good faith,” he added.
Earlier this week, U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad warned that “distressingly high” levels of violence threaten to derail the peace process.
The intra-Afghan talks follow a deal signed by the United States and the Taliban in Doha in February.
Under the deal, foreign forces will leave Afghanistan by May 2021 in exchange for counterterrorism guarantees from the Taliban, which agreed to negotiate a permanent cease-fire and a power-sharing formula with the Afghan government.
With reporting by AP
Copyright (c) 2020. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.
Tolo News: Criminal incidents continue to take lives in Kabul despite the recent commitments by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh who pledged to fix the fragile situation in the nation’s capital. In the latest incident, Lemar Khalil, a former counter-narcotics commander of Kabul Police Headquarters was assassinated in Kabul. Also,a young girl was injured in PD18 of the city after armed men snatched her mobile phone and money on Tuesday night. Click here to read more (external link).
Tolo News: Youth and cricket fans marched through Khost city, capital of Khost province, on Wednesday, demanding the timely holding of The Million Cup Cricket League in the province. They also accused the Afghan Cricket Board (ACB) of trying to cancel the hosting of the league in Khost province, noting that the grand Paktia zone has legal rights to host the league. Click here to read more (external link).
Other Sports News
October 20, 2020
ISLAMABAD – The United States has lost $19 billion in Afghanistan since 2002 due to “waste, fraud and abuse,” the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a new report released Tuesday.
SIGAR monitors all U.S. spending in the 19-year war in Afghanistan, America’s longest.
The American oversight authority noted that the U.S. Congress has appropriated nearly $134 billion for Afghan reconstruction programs since the ouster of the Taliban in late 2001.
“Of that amount, SIGAR reviewed approximately $63 billion and concluded that a total of approximately $19 billion, or 30% of the amount reviewed, was lost to waste, fraud, and abuse,” the report said.
SIGAR’s audit identified approximately $1.8 billion in waste, fraud and abuse between January 2018 and December 2019.
The oversight office is tasked with reviewing reconstruction funding and presenting recommendations for putting the money to better use for other programs or efforts in the tumultuous South Asian nation.
SIGAR’s latest report comes as President Donald Trump’s administration presses the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents to negotiate a political settlement to permanently end the long conflict. The Afghan rivals are currently engaged in direct peace talks in Doha, Qatar.
The historic dialogue is the product of a peace-building agreement the Trump administration sealed with the Taliban in February to close the war and bring home all U.S. forces by May 2021.
The U.S. and its allies invaded Afghanistan after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in the United States and toppled the Taliban government at the time for harboring the al-Qaida terror network and its chief, Osama bin Laden, who masterminded the attacks.
The war has since cost Washington the lives of more than 2,400 U.S. soldiers and nearly $1 trillion.
SIGAR has routinely criticized the Afghan government’s efforts to curb rampant corruption as inadequate, saying it is a major concern among the frustrated donor community.
In a report released in early 2020, the U.S. agency said Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s administration “is more interested in checking off boxes for the international community than in actually uprooting its corruption problem.”
The anti-corruption efforts and reform programs will come under scrutiny next month when Afghan officials and international donors meet in Geneva to consider future aid commitments to Afghanistan.
1TV: Afghanistan’s National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib has warned that the country is facing real threat of civil war as US withdraws its troops. In an interview with BBC, Mohib said that the Afghan government is preparing for both peace and war and it will use all efforts to reduce the threat of a civil war. Click here to read more (external link).
Tolo News: Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of the Hizb-e-Islami party, at an Islamabad press conference on Tuesday said that the United States has been “defeated in Afghanistan,” adding that Washington has “no choice except to leave the country.” Regarding the current peace process between the negotiating sides in Doha, Hekmatyar said that the current talks in Doha are between the team of the Arg (Presidential Palace) and the Taliban, stating that the Doha talks are not intra-Afghan talks. Click here to read more (external link).