China Offers the Taliban a Warm Welcome While Urging Peace Talks

The New York Times

Worried about the war in Afghanistan, China has stepped up diplomatic efforts with the government and the group to encourage a political settlement after the U.S. withdrawal.

China offered a high-profile public stage to the Taliban on Wednesday, declaring that the group rapidly retaking large parts of Afghanistan would play “an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction” of the country.

Chinese officials began two days of talks with a delegation of Taliban leaders in Tianjin, a coastal city in northeastern China, significantly raising the group’s international stature after steady military gains that have taken advantage of the withdrawal of American and NATO combat forces from Afghanistan.

China’s foreign minister, Wang Yi, called the Taliban “a pivotal military and political force,” but urged their leaders “to hold high the banner of peace talks,” according to a statement by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

He pressed the group to work to burnish its diplomatic image and extracted a public pledge that the group would not allow fighters to use Afghan territory as a base to carry out attacks inside China, according to the statement.

The Taliban have been on a regional diplomatic blitz over the last month, visiting Tehran, Moscow and the Turkmenistan capital Ashgabat for talks with officials, as their military ascendancy in Afghanistan has grown. The increasing legitimacy bestowed on the insurgents by regional leaders has been met largely with public silence from the Kabul government, and Wednesday’s visit to Beijing was not an exception.

The visit to Tianjin was the Taliban’s most significant diplomatic coup yet.

Chinese officials have met with Taliban envoys before, including a meeting in Beijing in 2019, but not at such a high level and in such a public way. This meeting underscores how much the former rulers of the country, who were toppled by the United States 20 years ago after the Sept. 11 attacks, have succeeded in reshaping how international powers deal with them.

The foreign ministry and the Chinese state news media showed Mr. Wang warmly greeting Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the deputy leader of the Taliban, and also posing with other Chinese diplomats and all nine members of the Taliban delegation.

Intentionally or not, the display was a sharp contrast to the frosty reception that he and other Chinese officials had offered in Tianjin two days earlier to Wendy R. Sherman, the American deputy secretary of state.

Barnett R. Rubin, a former State Department official and United Nations adviser on Afghanistan who is a senior fellow at New York University’s Center on International Cooperation, said the meeting in China was not a show of support for the Taliban but for a peaceful end to the war.

“It is an effort to use China’s influence to persuade the Taliban not to seek a military victory but to negotiate seriously for an inclusive political settlement,” he said.

China has showed growing concern about the fate of Afghanistan. It shares a short border with China at the end of a narrow, mountainous region called the Wakhan Corridor. Last month, Taliban forces seized much of the province, which borders Xinjiang, a largely Uyghur Muslim region in western China where the government has detained hundreds of thousands in the name of fighting extremism.

Mr. Wang once again on Wednesday criticized the United States and its NATO allies for a hasty withdrawal that could again plunge the country into chaos, according to the ministry statement.

Although it has not said so explicitly, China appears to be trying to act as a mediator between the Afghan government and the Taliban, encouraging some sort of political settlement.

China has long sought to play a larger diplomatic role in Afghanistan, but it was always overshadowed by the outsize influence of the United States as the leader of the military mission supporting the government in Kabul. That may be changing now that the Americans have largely withdrawn combat forces and the Taliban appear to have the military initiative.

China’s leader, Xi Jinping, spoke by telephone with Afghanistan’s president, Ashraf Ghani, on July 16, and also urged his government to find “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned” solution.

Although China long criticized the American military involvement in Afghanistan, it also relied on it to help contain what it considered crucial to its security: the use of the country as a base for extremists fighting for the independence of Xinjiang, which separatists call East Turkestan.

After the Sept. 11 attacks, the United States designated the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as a terrorist organization, in part to cultivate China’s support for American efforts in the “war on terror.”

The Trump administration revoked the designation last year, saying there was no evidence that the group continued to carry out attacks, an assertion that China disputes. China has cited the threat of Uyghur extremism as a reason for its mass detention camps in Xinjiang.

China has other interests to protect in Afghanistan as well. It has made considerable investments in the country, including a pledge to spend $3 billion to develop the Aynak copper mine. Many of those investments have remained stalled because of the country’s instability.

Chinese officials have in recent months signaled that Afghanistan could benefit from development projects under the country’s Belt and Road Initiative, a global effort to invest in infrastructure.

The Taliban, in previous statements, have said they would welcome Chinese investments. On Wednesday, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office, Mohammad Naeem, thanked China for extending an invitation to meet, according to a statement posted on Twitter. The group appeared eager to address China’s main concern.

“The Islamic Emirate,” he said, “assured China that Afghan territory will not be used against the security of any country.”

Najim Rahim and Adam Nossiter contributed reporting. Claire Fu contributed research.

China Offers the Taliban a Warm Welcome While Urging Peace Talks
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China says Taliban expected to play ‘important’ Afghan peace role

KABUL (Reuters) -China told a visiting Taliban delegation on Wednesday it expected the insurgent group to play an important role in ending Afghanistan’s war and rebuilding the country, the Chinese foreign ministry said.

Nine Taliban representatives met Foreign Minister Wang Yi in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin on a two-day visit during which the peace process and security issues were discussed, a Taliban spokesperson said.

Wang said the Taliban is expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan”, according to an account of the meeting from the foreign ministry.

He also said that he hoped the Taliban would crack down on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement as it was a “direct threat to China’s national security,” referring to a group China says is active in the Xinjiang region in China’s far west.

The visit was likely to further cement the insurgent group’s recognition on the international stage at a sensitive time even as violence increases in Afghanistan. The militants have a political office in Qatar where peace talks are taking place and this month sent representatives to Iran where they had meetings with an Afghan government delegation.

“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.

Naeem added that the group, led by Taliban negotiator and deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund, was also meeting China’s special envoy for Afghanistan and that the trip took place after an invitation from Chinese authorities.

Asked about the Taliban visit, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in New Delhi that it was a “positive thing” if Beijing was promoting a peaceful resolution to the war and “some kind of (Afghan) government … that’s truly representative and inclusive.”

“No one has an interest in a military takeover by the Taliban, the restoration of an Islamic emirate,” he said in an interview with CNN-News18 television.

Security in Afghanistan, with which China shares a border, has been deteriorating fast as the United States withdraws its troops by September. The Taliban has launched a flurry of offensives, taking districts and border crossings around the country while peace talks in Qatar’s capital have not made substantive progress.

“(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.”

Reporting by Kabul bureau; Additional reporting by Beijing bureau; Editing by Kevin Liffey, William Maclean and Grant McCool

China says Taliban expected to play ‘important’ Afghan peace role
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Kandahar residents fear Taliban advance on Afghan city

By

Al Jazeera

Thousands of Afghans displaced and many forced to flee to safer places as the Taliban surrounds Kandahar city.

Kandahar, Afghanistan  Last week, Kawsar Sama and her family packed up their belongings and got on a flight to the capital city of Kabul. For the 21-year-old and her family, life in the southern city of Kandahar had become dangerous as the Taliban has pushed into the districts surrounding Afghanistan’s second-largest city in recent weeks.

“It’s too risky for people to send their children to school. You’d only go to the market if you absolutely had to, and even then, so many of the stores would be shut. Life had stopped,” Sama said from her family’s temporary home in Kabul.

Though she says the Taliban is yet to enter the city centre itself, the fighting has come to the districts. Residents Al Jazeera spoke to said this has left them feeling trapped, in constant fear that the Taliban could arrive any day.

For the Taliban, taking full control of a city home to hundreds of thousands of people a month before the final withdrawal of US-led foreign forces would be a big victory, but to the Kandahari people that all-consuming thought is a nightmare.

Navid Amini, 23, has spent his entire life in the city of Kandahar, but he says he has never seen anything like what has been going on in the province in recent weeks.

Members of Afghan Special Forces regroup after heavy clashes with Taliban during the rescue mission of a policeman besieged at a check post, in Kandahar province, Afghanistan on July 13, 2021 [File: Danish Siddiqui/Reuters]

‘It’s chaos’

Like Sama, Amini says each Taliban advance in the surrounding districts exacerbates the fear among the people.

“There is war all around the city,” Amini said by phone from Kandahar. On Wednesday, residents told Al Jazeera that there was fighting in four different districts, and that the Taliban had captured a key commercial building.

Last week, Human Rights Watch released a report accusing the Taliban of summarily rounding up and executing people believed to work for the government and members of the Afghan National Security Forces.

The HRW report came just after the United Nations issued a warning to all parties to the conflict that they are “tracking the many allegations of harm to civilians” in the province.

The Taliban says it “categorically rejects” the accusations, which it called “propaganda”.

The group went on to say: “We invite all humanitarian and international organisations along with the media to visit Spin Boldak district. We will facilitate their travel and let them prove where and when anyone was killed?”

Dur Mohammad, 42, does not buy the Taliban’s words. He says his nephew, Ahmadullah, who had been part of the police, was taken in the night more than a week ago. He has not been heard from since.

Mohammad says the family was lied to by the group when they first took over Spin Boldak district earlier this month.

He says they sent letters assuring anyone who had worked with the government or foreign forces that no harm would come to them so long as they reported to the leadership and admitted to their “crime”.

“So, we told him to come back. For four days he was fine, then one night they just took him and we haven’t heard from him since.”

‘Just tell us where the roof is’

However, as the war between the two sides grows more violent, the possibility of travelling to the districts is proving more difficult.

Earlier this month, Danish Siddiqui, an award-winning Reuters photojournalist, was killed in crossfire while embedded with the Afghan National Security Forces in Spin Boldak. The government blamed the Taliban for his July 16 killing.

But the government too has taken worrying action towards journalists trying to report from embattled areas.

On Tuesday, there were reports that the Afghan government had detained four journalists for trying to enter Spin Boldak district, bordering Pakistan.

The Ministry of Interior has accused the reporters, working for local radio and TV outlets, of spreading “propaganda” for “the enemy”.

Amnesty International has called for the immediate release of the journalists. “These journalists were returning from Spin Boldak district after investigating about civilian casualties. We call for their release,” the rights group tweeted.

Sama says one does not have to go far to hear of the Taliban’s cruelty, though.

“Even in the outskirts of the city, they come to people’s houses, take what they want and kick entire families out of their homes.”

Zainab, 21, says that her family home, only 20 minutes from the city, was recently raided by the Taliban.

“It was all us women at home when they came storming in, they said, ‘Don’t worry, we won’t do anything to you. Just tell us where the roof is.’”

Zainab said the fighters went straight to the roof, where they started firing on buildings belonging to police with rocket-propelled grenades (RPGs) and rockets. Their home, she said, had become the target of crossfire between the warring sides.

An Afghan security person stands guard along a road in Kandahar [Javed Tanveer/AFP]

‘This is a dark place for everyone’

Amini says that in Mirwais Mina, a community 15 minutes from the city, residents have noticed a change in the Taliban’s demeanour.

“They’re not the same Taliban as even two weeks ago,” Amini’s friends relayed to him, saying that even in the last several days the nature of the Taliban has changed.

Most worrying is the fact that the fighters have been seen digging and placing wires into the ground surrounding the main roads and civilian areas.

“They have dug bombs into the ground. It’s obvious the civilians cannot even cross a metre to somewhere safer,” Amini said.

Afghan internally displaced families are pictured upon their arrival at a refugee camp in Kandahar, who fled from the outskirts of the city due to the ongoing battle between Taliban fighters and Afghan security forces [Javed Tanveer/AFP]

A recent United Nations report found a threefold increase in the number of civilian casualties from the use of IEDs. According to the UN, the first six months of 2021 saw 501 civilians killed by IEDs and a further 1,457 injured.

In recent weeks, crossfire has also become a prime cause of casualties in the province.

“Both the Taliban and the government have killed people, whether it’s by mistake or on purpose, they have killed people,” Amini said of what is causing thousands of civilians to flee their homes.

One camp in the city is now home to more than 22,000 internally displaced people who come from the neighbouring districts and provinces. Overall up to 150,000 people have been displaced due to the war raging in rural areas of Kandahar.

Nasir Ahmad, 24, said his brother, sister-in-law and mother were shot by what he believes to be Taliban fighters.

“They were on a motorcycle on the street with my brother when they were shot during a cross-firing,” Ahmad told Al Jazeera. “My mother was hit in the stomach. My brother has bullet injuries in his back while his wife sustained chest injury.”

Amini, the 23-year-old, says the current situation has changed the way he sees the city he has called home his entire life.

“I see children scream, old women crying. Everything a young man should not see. This is a dark place for everyone. This is not the place you want to live.”

Abdul Matin Amiri reported from Kandahar. Ali M Latifi contributed from Kabul.

Kandahar residents fear Taliban advance on Afghan city
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Taliban Takeover Would Make Afghanistan ‘Pariah State’: Blinken

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Wednesday told reporters in India that Afghanistan would become a “pariah state” if the government commits atrocities against its own population.

“An Afghanistan that does not respect the rights of its people, an Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state,” Blinken said. He said that the violence carried out by the Taliban against the Afghan people was deeply troubling and not a good sign for the future of the country.

“Yes, certainly what we were seeing on the ground in the last week is the Taliban making advances on district centers, challenging some provincial capitals,” Blinken said, adding: “We have also seen these reports of atrocities committed by the Taliban in areas that it has taken over; that are deeply, deeply troubling and certainly do not speak well of the Taliban’s intentions for the country as a whole.”

Blinken, who was in New Delhi for talks with Indian leaders, said the only path to peace in Afghanistan was through negotiations, and that all parties must take them seriously.

“The Taliban says that it seeks international recognition, that it wants international support for Afghanistan. Presumably it wants its leaders to be able to travel freely in the world, sanctions lifted, etc. Well, the taking over the country by force and abusing the rights of its people is not the path to achieve those objectives,” he said.

“There’s only one path and that’s at the negotiating table to resolve the conflict peacefully and to have an Afghanistan emerge that is governed in a genuinely inclusive way and that’s representative of all its people,” he further said.

India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar also underlined the importance of the peace negotiations in Afghanistan.

“The gains to Afghan civil society, especially rights of women, minorities and social freedom –over the last two decades are self-evident,” he said, adding that “Afghanistan must never be home to insurgents, nor become a source of refugees.”

He also said that it is essential that peace negotiations are taken “seriously by all parties.”

“The world wishes to see an independent, sovereign, and democratic Afghanistan, at peace with itself and its neighbors,” said Jaishankar.

Taliban Takeover Would Make Afghanistan ‘Pariah State’: Blinken
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Americans evenly divided on whether Afghanistan War was a mistake: Gallup

Americans evenly divided on whether Afghanistan War was a mistake: Gallup
© Getty Images

Americans are evenly divided on whether the war in Afghanistan was a mistake, as the U.S.’s troop withdrawal from the region nears completion.

Gallup reported on Monday that 47 percent of Americans believe U.S. military involvement in Afghanistan was a mistake, while 46 percent support the mission.

President Biden announced in April that all U.S. troops would be withdrawn from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks that gave rise to the longest war in American history.

Earlier this month, however, Biden moved up the target date for pulling all troops from the region, revealing that the U.S. military mission would end by Aug. 31.

More than 2,400 U.S. service members have died in Afghanistan, according to Gallup. The war, which has cost the U.S. more than $2 trillion, has left upwards of 20,000 U.S. troops injured.

The poll, conducted between July 6 and July 21, was the second time in history that fewer than half of Americans said U.S. involvement in Afghanistan was not a mistake, according to Gallup.

Support for sending troops into Afghanistan was high in October 2001, shortly after the U.S. sent troops into the country, with 80 percent of Americans supporting the move, and 18 percent opposed.

Support for the war increased the next year, with a record-high 93 percent of Americans saying it was not a mistake to deploy troops to the country.

In 2014, however, backing for the war slipped. That year was the first time U.S. adults were as likely to say it was a mistake to send troops into Afghanistan as they were to say it was not, Gallup reported.

Of the Americans polled that year, 49 percent said the U.S. made a mistake sending troops into Afghanistan, while 48 percent said it was not a mistake.

Support rose again in 2015 and 2019. This year, it is back on par with the results from 2014, according to the polling organization.

As the U.S.’s withdrawal effort nears the completion concerns are growing about the stability of the Afghan government once American forces vacate the country, particularly as the Taliban continues to make gains in the region.

The U.S. military carried out two strikes against the Taliban last week, targeting captured equipment, according to CNN. The efforts were in support of the Afghan forces in Kandahar province.

Gallup polled a random sample of 1,007 adults in all 50 U.S. states and the District of Columbia. The margin of sampling error is plus or minus 4 percentage points.

Americans evenly divided on whether Afghanistan War was a mistake: Gallup
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Taliban claims to favour ‘settlement’. Can it be trusted?

Al Jazeera

The armed group says it wants a ‘political settlement’, but its fighters continue to press ahead with military campaigns on the ground.

Kabul, Afghanistan – The Taliban leadership has reiterated that they want a “political settlement” to the Afghan conflict, but the swift military gains made by the group has alarmed experts and residents, who say they intend to capture power militarily.

Earlier this week, a top US military general issued a stern warning about the trajectory of the Afghan war a month before the complete withdrawal of international forces from Afghanistan.

Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman General Mark Milley said on Wednesday the Taliban has “strategic momentum”. He did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover.

At a news conference, Milley said the group has been “putting pressure on the outskirts” of the capitals of half of the nation’s 34 provinces.

Sources speaking to Al Jazeera have confirmed Milley’s assessment, saying some of the biggest provinces, including Kandahar, Helmand, Herat, Takhar, Ghazni, Badakhshan, face security threat from the Taliban.

Given the size of provinces like Kandahar, Helmand and Herat, both physically and in terms of population, any Taliban advance in these areas is seen as a boon to the group.

Military battles in these provinces also pose considerable risk to civilian lives.

The Taliban creeping closer to urban centres and key commercial hubs has forced the government to overhaul its war strategy. Its new focus is to safeguard city centres, border crossings and crucial infrastructure, according to media reports.

Washington, which has already withdrawn 95 percent of its troops from the country, has carried out air raids in recent days to support government forces.

Pashtana Durrani, an education advocate based in the city of Kandahar, says in recent weeks the group has made it very clear that they have every intention of taking Kandahar, which “is a highly valuable city, both in terms of symbolism and finances”.

The Taliban now has access to another key dry port and the customs revenue after they captured the district of Spin Boldak.

A customs official speaking to Al Jazeera on condition of anonymity said the Taliban allows trucks to pass through the crossing, but takes its cut – up to 50,000 Afghanis ($628) – from the drivers. However, this could not be verified independently by Al Jazeera. With hundreds of vehicles passing through these crossings each day, the group stands to make a hefty sum.

“If you hold Spin Boldak, you hold the money,” said Durrani.

The Taliban also enjoys a presence in Maruf, a district three hours to the north. This gives the group a presence of more than 100km (62 miles) in two directions of Afghanistan’s second-largest city.

Durrani says the Taliban is very intent on taking Kandahar and other cities.

“It’s not a scare tactic, it’s the reality. They are killing people.”

On Thursday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) issued a warning to all parties to the conflict that they are “tracking the many allegations of harm to civilians” in Kandahar. The Ministry of Interior claims that at least 100 civilians were killed by unknown gunmen in the days since the Taliban took Spin Boldak.

The Taliban denies involvement in those killings.

On Friday, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen said in the Qatari capital, Doha, that his group did not want civil war. The Taliban has been engaged in months-long peace talks with the Afghan leadership, while its commanders have pressed ahead with military campaigns on the ground.

Rahmatullah Amiri, a Kabul-based analyst who has been tracking the Taliban’s movements for several years, says securing such a wide expanse has already proven difficult for the Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF).

Sources speaking to Al Jazeera said the Taliban knows that the ANSF are stretched thin due to endemic corruption and they are taking advantage of the situation to capture districts surrounding big cities at an accelerated pace.

For years, the security forces have been complaining of not receiving their wages, food, ammunition and even assistance in transporting the bodies of their fallen soldiers to their families.

“If there wasn’t corruption, the annual budget for the security forces would be more than enough, but the money has been squandered,” said Amiri, referring to the $3.3bn Washington alone has pledged to support the 352,000-strong Afghan forces over the next two years.

In March, the Special Investigator General for Afghanistan Reconstruction, the top US watchdog for Afghanistan, said, “Afghanistan’s endemic corruption provides oxygen to the insurgency and undermines the Afghan state.” This statement falls in line with what sources have been saying about one of the factors leading to the Taliban’s recent territorial gains.

Parliamentarians, leaders of armed groups and analysts speaking to Al Jazeera have all repeatedly said this pattern of soldiers and police being unable or unwilling to fight has worked to the advantage of the Taliban.

Earlier this month, there were reports of more than 1,600 Afghan soldiers fleeing to Tajikistan over a two-week span. Durrani says this is not something soldiers in Kandahar can afford to do with ease.

“Even if they want to flee, they have to flee to Helmand, which is even more hostile. Or to Zabul or Uruzgan, which is already taken over by the Taliban.”

Instead, she said soldiers in Kandahar either die fighting or end up joining the Taliban, which is unlikely as many of them come from a long line of military families.

Amiri, the analyst, says that mistakes made by the Kabul leadership and other influential figures have proven to be the Taliban’s “biggest advantage”.

“Politics is a major issue,” he says pointing to the fact that the provincial police chief of Uruzgan has been replaced three times over the last two years.

Likewise, over the last year, the leadership in Kabul has appointed three different men to head the defence and interior ministries.

At the provincial level, Amiri says, this musical chairs approach to the appointment has a big effect on local security.

“Often, when these people are appointed, they have little understanding of the area they are meant to work in, and even fewer connections to the people,” he said, adding that it is especially problematic at a time when the Taliban has made efforts to simultaneously increase its foothold in the southern, western and northern regions.

Ahmad Ali Hazrat, the head of the provincial council in the eastern province of Nangarhar, agrees that mistakes have been along the way, but he is optimistic that the government will reverse the trend in the coming weeks.

Days after the Eid al-Adha holiday, the government announced a curfew in all but three provinces, which many see as a sign that the security forces will increase their operations.

Fawad Aman, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defence, told Al Jazeera government forces are making gains in the districts of Herat and challenging the Taliban’s claims to authority.

His certainty about the strength of local people fighting alongside the security forces comes from recent experiences in Nangarhar. In 2018, residents in several districts of the eastern province started to take up arms against the so-called ISIL (ISIS) fighters and drove them away from the very districts they had claimed as strongholds for years.

“Even two years ago, Daesh was so powerful in Nangarhar, but it was the people rising up that defeated them and stripped them of their power,” Hazrat said referring to ISIL’s Arabic name Daesh.

But he knows the government and people cannot let their guard down.

“The Taliban have made their strategy very clear. They want to take Afghanistan again by force,” Hazrat said.

Amiri, the analyst, agrees with Hazrat’s view of the Taliban, which has killed thousands of people in the past 20 years of its armed rebellion.

He says the government must be genuine, precise and diligent in its efforts to secure the provinces. Mistakes, he said, come at too high a price.

“It’s not that the Taliban are suddenly better and stronger, they’re using the political situation and the defections to their own benefit.”

SOURCE: AL JAZEERA
Taliban claims to favour ‘settlement’. Can it be trusted?
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Afghanistan faces worsening food crisis amid conflict, droughts

Afghanistan Times
AT News

KABUL: Officials are warning that the country will slip into food crisis because of the conflict and droughts with millions of people in vulnerable areas at risks of food shortage.

Afghans are in dire straits facing food insecurity due to the conflict and droughts, and this situation calls for all-out measure to reduce poverty and reach out to populations grappling with food scarcity and hunger, said Minister of Agricultural, Irrigation and Livestock, Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi.

During a virtual United Nations Foods Systems Summit attended by 111 countries on Monday, Ahadi expressed concerns over the increasing level of poverty and food insecurity in the country because of the conflict and drought.

Ahadi said the Afghan government is committed to provide healthy food to people, calling on the international community to help Afghanistan in overcoming the food crisis.

Earlier, the international Oxfam organization in a report said that Afghanistan is the worst countries in terms of food security.

The report said, more than 13 million Afghans are facing food insecurity.

This comes Afghanistan has been pushed deeper into an already dire food security crisis, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, extreme weather events, ongoing conflict and high food prices, with many people are now facing acute hunger.

The intensification of violence across the country displaced many people from their residences and facing them with shortage of food, if the situation continues, there is possibility Afghanistan would face humanitarian crisis.

Afghanistan faces worsening food crisis amid conflict, droughts
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NATO Chief Reiterates Support for Afghanistan

This comes as the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) continue to fight the Taliban in at least 20 provinces.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg on Tuesday said there is a need for a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan.

“The security situation in Afghanistan remains deeply challenging, and requires a negotiated settlement. NATO will continue to support Afghanistan, including with funding; civilian presence; and out-of-country training,” tweeted Stoltenberg after speaking on the phone with President Ashraf Ghani.

This comes as the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) continue to fight the Taliban in at least 20 provinces.

The Taliban has captured the center of Barg-e-Matal district in Nuristan province in eastern Afghanistan, and reportedly also attacked Taluqan city, the center of northern Takhar province yesterday.

“The situation is getting worse in Taluqan city day by day, the war and violence have increased,” said Zabihullah, a resident in Taluqan.

“The Taliban are committing all sorts of atrocities in their areas which are very shocking,” said Abdullah Qarloq, the governor of Takhar.

Security sources said that at least 20 civilians and military personnel have been killed in the past week in fighting in Takhar.

“We have statistics which show that 149 civilians and military personnel were transferred to the hospital,” said Dr. Hassan Basij, the head of Takhar’s hospital.

New clashes have also been reported in the northern province of Kapisa.

“25 Taliban fighters were killed and wounded during the battle, four members of the public uprising forces and two civilians were also killed,” said Shaqayeq Shorish, a spokesman for the Kapisa police.

Fighting was also reported between the security forces and the Taliban in eastern Afghanistan.

“With the fall of Barg-e-Matal, the Taliban are now moving toward Kamdish district which borders Pakistan,” said Ismail Atikan, MP.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have confirmed that Abdul Haq Omari, the son of Mohammad Nabi Omar, a member of the Taliban’s negotiating team, has been killed in a battle with the security forces in Paktia.

“Our impression, and the impression of the world, is that the war is not the solution, if the war was a solution, the Taliban would have obtained their goal during these 20 years,” said acting Defense Minister Bismillah Mohammadi.

Meanwhile, the killing of prominent Afghan comedian Khasha Zuwan Kandahari by the Taliban has sparked strong condemnation from social media users in Afghanistan.

The Taliban claimed that he had insulted the hostages and Taliban clerics and was killed during a crossfire. But footage on social media shows that the Taliban fighters arrested him, put him in a car, insulted him and threatened him with death.

NATO Chief Reiterates Support for Afghanistan
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Afghan Civilian Casualties Soar as U.S. Exits, Monitors Say

Adam Nossiter and 

The New York Times

Bouquets of flowers sat on empty desks as a tribute to those killed in the bombing outside the Sayed Ul-Shuhada school in Kabul, Afghanistan, in May.
Credit…Rahmat Gul/Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian casualties and rights violations are rising sharply in Afghanistan, human rights groups say, with the Taliban carrying out the bulk of the offenses as they wage a campaign against the government amid the void left by departing American forces.

Since the Taliban intensified their offensive in early May, the United Nations said in a report released on Monday, nearly 2,400 civilians have been killed or injured, as many as in the preceding four months. The total, the U.N. said, was the highest recorded for the May-to-June period since monitoring began in 2009.

The Taliban’s campaign, conducted mostly in rural areas, has reached the edges of provincial centers, including Afghanistan’s second-largest city, Kandahar, where thousands are fleeing as fighting encroaches on urban neighborhoods. The insurgents now control over half of the country’s districts but have not captured any of Afghanistan’s 34 provincial capitals.

What the U.N. calls “anti-government elements” — the Taliban, the Islamic State and undetermined others — were responsible for 64 percent of the civilian casualties, the organization said. Government forces were responsible for 25 percent, it said.

Separately, Human Rights Watch said that hundreds accused by the Taliban of collusion with the Kabul government had been detained by the insurgents in the border area south of Kandahar, and that some had been summarily executed.

“There are grave concerns that Taliban forces in Kandahar may commit further atrocities to retaliate against the government and security forces,” Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement.

In one such killing, a 17-year-old named Nangialy who had once worked for the police was taken from the family car west of Kandahar on July 9 and shot and killed by the Taliban, his uncle Mohammad Yousuf said.

The family was fleeing the fighting, Mr. Yousuf said, when Taliban fighters stopped their car.

“His mother screamed for them to spare him,” Mr. Yousuf recalled. “She said to the Taliban, ‘My son is innocent; he left the police job two months ago,’ and that she only has two sons. She pleaded with the fighters: ‘For God’s sake, don’t take him away from me.’”

A local imam tried to intervene, offering himself as a guarantor for the boy, but to no avail, the uncle said.

The U.N. report said that 46 percent of all civilian casualties for the January-to-June period involved women and children — 32 percent boys and girls, and 14 percent women.

A series of U.S. airstrikes in recent days has slowed the Taliban advance on Kandahar. A top American general said on Sunday night that the strikes would continue.

Adam Nossiter is the Kabul bureau chief. 

Taimoor Shah is a reporter based in Afghanistan’s Kandahar Province.

Afghan Civilian Casualties Soar as U.S. Exits, Monitors Say
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Afghan soldiers seek refuge in Pakistan after losing border military posts

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Forty-six Afghan soldiers sought refuge in Pakistan after losing control of military positions across the border following advances by Taliban insurgents, Pakistan’s army said on Monday.

Hundreds of Afghan army soldiers and civil officials have fled to neighbouring Tajikistan, Iran and Pakistan in recent weeks after Taliban offensives in border areas.

The Afghan military commander requested refuge at the border crossing in Chitral in the north, the Pakistan army said in a statement, adding the soldiers were given safe passage into Pakistan on Sunday night after clearance from Afghan authorities.

“Afghan soldiers have been provided food, shelter and necessary medical care as per established military norms,” the statement said.

The move comes at a time of poor relations between the neighbours. Afghanistan recalled its diplomats from Pakistan after the brief kidnapping of the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad earlier in the month.

Afghan officials did not respond to a request for comment.

The Taliban has escalated its offensive since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by September, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.

Washington has said it will continue to carry out air strikes to support Afghan forces facing insurgent attacks.

Afghan government and Taliban negotiators have met in Qatar’s capital, Doha, in recent weeks, although diplomats say there have been few signs of substantive progress since peace talks began in September.

Reeling from battlefield losses, Afghanistan’s military is overhauling its war strategy against the Taliban to concentrate forces around critical areas such as Kabul and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure, Afghan and U.S. officials have said.

The Pakistan army said the soldiers who sought refuge will be returned to Afghanistan after due process, as had taken place in the case of another batch of 35 soldiers earlier in July.

Reporting by Asif Shahzad; Editing by Peter Graff

Afghan soldiers seek refuge in Pakistan after losing border military posts
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