Tolo News: First Vice President Amrullah Saleh has said that undocumented vehicles are one of the biggest challenges to tracking down criminals. He said that these vehicles should be registered within two months, otherwise the government will seize them as part of a new security plan for Kabul. Military analysts believe that criminals and mafia are behind the undocumented vehicles. Click here to read more (external link).
Ariana: Star cricketer Rashid Khan has appealed to cricket bodies to give Afghanistan the chance to play more tournaments against leading cricket teams in order to improve their game. “To become a big player you have to play against the best,” Rashid told the TMS does the IPL podcast on Tuesday. Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, the first four members of the Test cricket family, are yet to welcome Afghanistan into the fold in competition. Click here to read more (external link).
Tolo News: The Ministry of Public Health on Saturday reported 82 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 398 samples tested in the last 24 hours. According to the Public Health Ministry’s data, the cumulative number of total cases is now 40,369, the number of total reported deaths is 1,499, and the total number of recoveries is 33,790. Click here to read more (external link).
As the Afghan Taliban tries to negotiate a political settlement with the government, many musicians in the country are worried about the impact a deal will have on their ability to work, as VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports from Kabul.
Tolo News: The Ministry of Public Health on Saturday reported 87 new positive cases of COVID-19 out of 523 samples tested in the last 24 hours. According to the Public Health Ministry’s data, the cumulative number of total cases is now 40,287, the number of total reported deaths is 1,497, and the total number of recoveries is 33,760. Click here to read more (external link).
1TV: Raising the issue of forming an interim government at this stage will not help the peace process, head of Afghanistan’s High Council for National Reconciliation, Abdullah Abdullah, has said. Speaking in an interview with Iran’s state broadcaster IRIB during his visit to the neighboring country, Abdullah said that the talks are at a very early stage as the negotiators are discussing rules of procedure. Click here to read more (external link).
Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty
October 19, 2020
U.S. envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad warned on October 18 after a car bomb killed 14 people in Ghor in central Afghanistan that continued high levels of violence in the country could threaten the peace process.
Khalilzad said in a series of tweets that violence has “stalked” Afghans for far too long and the “tragedy” in Ghor, where the car bomb was set off outside a police headquarters, is the most recent example.
“The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky,” Khalilzad said on Twitter. “Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.”
He urged “strict adherence to all articles of the U.S.-Taliban Agreement and U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration” and said the sides should “not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.”
Khalilzad said violence remains “distressingly high” despite the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction.
“We must adhere to the letter and spirit of what was negotiated and the recent understanding,” he tweeted. “They provide a path to minimizing Afghan loss of life and protecting an historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed.”
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus retweeted Khalilzad’s tweets and added her own, saying the United States rejects the Taliban’s allegations of U.S. violation of the agreement.
“The Afghan people want peace,” Ortagus said on Twitter. “Full adherence to the U.S.-Taliban Agreement & the U.S.-Afghanistan Joint Declaration is critical to advancing the peace process.”
Khalilzad also mentioned “unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric,” saying they “do not advance peace.”
Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Tariq Arian said a car laden with explosives detonated in central Firoz Koh, the capital of Ghor Province, around 11:00 a.m. local time.
Dr. Omar Lalzad, director of Ghor Central Hospital, told RFE/RL that at least 14 people were dead and 119 injured in the blast, the latest act of deadly violence in the war-torn country.
The Ghor police chief told RFE/RL that 35 Afghan security personnel were among the wounded. He said all the other victims were Afghan civilians.
The governor’s office in Ghor said in a statement that the Taliban were behind the blast. A Taliban spokesman in the region told RFE/RL he could not immediately confirm if the militant organization was behind the attack.
The bomb blast comes as Taliban and Afghan government negotiators are meeting in the Qatari capital, Doha, to negotiate an end to 19 years of war in the country.
The Taliban has refused to observe a nationwide cease-fire despite the ongoing peace talks, which kicked off on September 12.
The two sides have carried out several deadly attacks against each other since peace talks got under way last month.
On October 16, the Taliban agreed to suspend attacks in southern Afghanistan that had displaced thousands of people in recent days.
It came after Washington vowed to stop all air strikes and night raids in accordance with the bilateral U.S.-Taliban agreement.
The U.S. military had been conducting air strikes in support of Afghan forces that were attempting to repel a Taliban offensive in Helmand Province, which threatened to derail efforts to end Afghanistan’s war.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has documented more than 1,280 Afghan civilian deaths during the first half of 2020 — mainly as a result of fighting between Afghan government forces and Taliban militants.
With reporting by AP and AFP
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.
October 18, 2020
ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN – A suicide bomber has detonated his explosives-packed vehicle outside a provincial police headquarters in central Afghanistan, killing at least 15 people and wounding more than 50 others.
Afghan officials condemned Sunday’s attack in Firozkoh, the capital of Ghor province, as an act of terrorism, saying mostly civilians were among the victims. The powerful blast also damaged nearby government offices, they said.
Mohammad Omer Lalzad, the head of the provincial hospital, told VOA that “a number of injured people are in critical condition.” Lalzad said he expected the death toll to rise.
No group has claimed responsibility, although the Afghan Interior Ministry blamed Taliban insurgents.
The acting U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan condemned the attack.
“Innocent Afghans were again killed today through a senseless bombing in #FerozKoh in #Ghor province. This destruction and bloodshed must stop. Afghans deserve to live their lives in peace,” Ross Wilson tweeted.
Meanwhile, the insurgent group Sunday accused the U.S. military of violating a February peace deal between the two sides by carrying out “excessive airstrikes” in Taliban-held areas in southern Helmand province and elsewhere in the country.
Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi, a spokesman for the Islamist Taliban, said the agreement signed in Doha, Qatar, Feb. 29 prohibits American forces from launching airstrikes in areas other than combat zones or during active fighting.
“All contents of the U.S.-Islamic Emirate [Taliban] agreement are unambiguous, but the opposite side has violated its commitments on numerous occasions, are engaging in provocative actions and bombing non-combat zones,” Ahmadi said.
“We categorically reject the Taliban’s claim the United States has violated the U.S.-Taliban Agreement. U.S. airstrikes in Helmand and (western) Farah (province) have been and continue to be solely in defense of the ANDSF as they are being attacked by the Taliban,” tweeted U.S. military spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett. He was referring to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces.
He said the strikes are consistent with the U.S.-Taliban agreement and Washington’s understanding with Kabul.
“The entire world has witnessed the Taliban’s offensive operations in Helmand — attacks which injured and displaced thousands of innocent Afghan civilians. We reiterate our call for ALL SIDES to reduce the violence to allow the political process to take hold,” Leggett said.
Last week, the Taliban staged large-scale offensives in Helmand, making territorial gains in and around Lashkargah, the provincial capital, and blocking roads leading into the city.
The United Nations says the fighting has displaced more than 35,000 civilians and caused about 200 casualties in the province, where the Taliban controls or influences most of the territory.
The U.S. military said last Monday it had carried out airstrikes against Taliban positions in support of Afghan security forces to repel insurgent advances in Helmand.
Gen. Scott Miller, the commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, defended the action, saying it was in line with the terms of the February deal. He urged the Taliban to reduce the levels of violence in the country.
The allegations and counter allegations threaten to derail peace negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government under way in Doha, Qatar.
The direct intra-Afghan peace talks, which stemmed from the U.S.-Taliban accord, are aimed at finding a political power-sharing arrangement among Afghan rivals to end the country’s 19-year-old war and pave the way for the complete withdrawal of American and coalition forces from Afghanistan by May 2021.
On Thursday, U.S. special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said his delegation and the Taliban had agreed to take steps to reduce the violence in keeping with their peace agreement. Khalilzad did not share future details but expected the violence to go down in coming days.