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Weekly Contemporary Developments

22 January - 11 February, 2020

  • Afghanistan: Suicide attack in Kabul kills several
    At least five people have been killed after a suicide attack targeted a government-run defence ministry in Kabul, the first major attack in the Afghan capital in months. "Five, including three military personnel and two civilians, were killed," interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi told Reuters, adding that 12 people were wounded, five of them civilians. The blast took place at the entrance gate of the Marshal Fahim Military Academy. The Taliban armed group have refrained from attacking major urban centres in an effort to keep talks with the US on track, though violence in the provinces has continued, bringing frequent attacks on Afghan and US security forces The Taliban has waged an armed rebellion since it was toppled from power in a US-led invasion in 2001.The Trump administration seeks to withdraw American troops from Afghanistan after more than 18 years of war. The last major attack in the capital was in November 2019, when at least 12 people were killed by a minivan packed with explosives that targeted a foreign security company's convoy during Kabul's morning rush hour. Four foreign nationals were among those wounded in the attack that targeted an SUV belonging to private Canadian security company GardaWorld in a crowded neighbourhood near the interior ministry. ( Al Jazeera 11.2.2020)
  • 'Insider attack' by Afghan soldier kills two US troops
  • Two US soldiers were killed and six wounded in a so-called insider attack in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province when an Afghan soldier in uniform opened fire late on Saturday, the US military said. A member of the Nangarhar Provincial Council, Ajmal Omer, said the gunman was killed. There have been numerous attacks by Afghan national army soldiers on their allied partners over the 18 years of Afghanistan’s protracted war. An Afghan defence ministry official, who was not identified because he was not authorised to speak to the media, said the shooter was an Afghan soldier who had argued with the US forces before opening fire. He was not a Taliban infiltrator, the official said. (Guardian 9.2. 2020)
  • US contractor kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan: Official
    An Afghan security official says the former US navy member was abducted last week in eastern Khost. A United States security contractor has been kidnapped in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan official confirmed. An Afghan security official with knowledge of the incident told AFP news agency on Thursday the former US navy member had been working in Afghanistan as a contractor when he was abducted last week in eastern Khost province, near the Pakistani border. ( Al Jazeera 6.2.2020)
  • Trump renews pledge to bring back US troops from Afghanistan
    US president says he wants to end America's longest war, as his administration engages Taliban in peace talks. US President Donald Trump has renewed his pledge to bring back US troops from Afghanistan as his administration aims to end the United States’ longest war. "We are working to finally end America's longest war and bring our troops back home," Trump said on Tuesday during his State of the Union address to US Congress that touched on few foreign-policy points. "I am not looking to kill hundreds of thousands of people in Afghanistan, many of them totally innocent," Trump told the joint session of Congress. "It is also not our function to serve other nations as a law enforcement agency. These are war-fighters, the best in the world, and they either want to fight to win or not fight at all," he said. The US president offered his blessing for continuing negotiations with the Taliban armed group, which has been fighting the US-led NATO troops and the Afghan forces since 2001 when the Afghan group was deposed from power. The talks between the two sides have failed to make headway in recent weeks, with Washington insisting on reduction in violence as a condition to reach a deal. ( Al Jazeera 5.2.2020)
  • US envoy briefs Afghan president on peace talks with Taliban
    Zalmay Khalilzad says he is hopeful of reaching an understanding on reduction of hostilities with Taliban. The United States' special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has told Afghan President Ashraf Ghani that there has not been any significant progress in his peace talks with the Taliban. However, Khalilzad said he was hopeful of reaching an understanding with the group on reduction of hostilities, but did not offer any timeframe, according to a statement issued by the presidential palace. ( Al Jazeera 2.2.2020)
  • Pentagon identifies 2 US airmen killed in Afghanistan plane crash
    The cause of crash is under investigation, but US officials say there is no indication the plane was downed. "The plane, which was on an intelligence mission, was brought down in Sado Khel area of Deh Yak district of Ghazni province," said Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid in a statement. He did not say how the plane was brought down but said the crew on board included high-ranking US officers. The armed group, which has been waging a war against US-led forces since 2001, often exaggerates enemy casualty figures.The remains of the two airmen were recovered from the crash site in Ghazni Province by the US forces. McKenzie said as far as he knew, the US troops did not meet any resistance while going to the crash site. "The main resistance was from the weather, which was really significant back there," he said, adding that "appropriate precautions" were taken in moving the recovery team to the site "because the last thing you want to do is have another mishap or have other people lose their lives in attempt to get up there". The incident came as the US and Taliban hold talks about the signing of a peace deal that would end the 18-year war in Afghanistan.The Taliban has been waging an armed rebellion in Afghanistan since it was toppled from power following the September 2001 attacks in the US. ( Al Jazeera 31.1.2020)
  • Afghan police officers killed in Taliban 'insider' attack
    At least 11 officers killed and six injured after Taliban fighters storm police base in Baghlan capital Pul-e Khumri. At least 11 Afghan police officers have been killed after Taliban fighters stormed a police base in Pul-e Khumri, the capital of Baghlan province, local government officials told the Associated Press. The fighters first overran a checkpoint near the base late on Monday and were apparently able to breach the compound with ease because a sympathetic policeman opened a door for them. Details were provided by Mahbobullah Ghafari, a Baghlan provincial councilman. A local police official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to brief reporters about the attack, also gave the same account. Six others were wounded in the overnight attack in Pul-e Khumri, provincial council member Samiuddin Nazir told DPA news agency. A spokesman for the Taliban, Zabiullah Mujahid, however, put the death toll at 17, adding that one officer was taken hostage. The group has, at times, exaggerated its claims. The attack comes one day after the Taliban claimed it shot down an American military plane in Ghazni province - a claim the US military denies. ( AL Jazeera 28.1.2020)
  • Trump wants 'significant' drop in Taliban violence of talks
    Speaking to Afghan president, Trump repeats 'need for significant reduction in Taliban violence for meaningful talks'. US President Donald Trump told his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, on Wednesday he wants to see a "significant" drop in violence by the Taliban before "meaningful" negotiations can happen, the White House said in a statement. During a meeting of the two leaders held on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, "Trump reiterated the need for a significant and lasting reduction in violence by the Taliban that would facilitate meaningful negotiations on Afghanistan's future," the White House said. Washington has for weeks been calling for the violence to be reined in, posing it as a condition for resuming formal negotiations on an agreement that would see US troops begin to leave Afghanistan in return for security guarantees, after a near two-decade fight. ( Al Jazeera 23.1.2020)
  • Afghanistan violence soars amid US-Taliban talks: Watchdog
    A record high of 8,204 attacks took place in the last quarter of 2019, according to the latest SIGAR report. Violent attacks in Afghanistan jumped to record levels in the last quarter of 2019 compared with previous years, a US government watchdog has said, underscoring the 18-year-long conflict's continued toll on the country. There were 8,204 attacks between October and December last year - up from 6,974 in the same period in 2018 - according to a report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR). ( Al Jazeera 23.1.2020)

01 - 21 January, 2020

  • India needs to stand guard as US leaves Afghanistan: Hindustan Times
    The rise of jihad in the Valley was also due to the weak regimes of VP Singh and Chandrashekhar with fractured politics in Delhi ensuring that the Centre became a bystander in the Valley. (20.1.2020 Hindustan Times) Afghanistan remembers Japan’s Tetsu Nakamura, the slain doctor who brought water to thousands Nakamura had worked in the country for more than three decades, helping secure clean water and irrigate arid land by building canals His killing saw an outpouring of grief in Afghanistan, where an estimated 2 million people in 2018 lost secure access to food due to drought (19.1.2020 South China Morning Post)
  • Afghan government demands complete ceasefire with Taliban
    Taliban had reportedly offered 10-dayJJJ truce and hold follow-up discussions with Afghan government officials. The Afghanistan government has demanded a complete ceasefire as a way forward for peace talks in response to a reported 10-day truce offer by the Taliban. On Friday, Reuters News Agency reported that the Taliban will implement the short ceasefire with United States troops, a reduction in violence with Afghan forces, and hold discussions with Afghan government officials if it reaches a deal with US negotiators in peace talks in Doha, according to two sources close to the matter. ( 18.1.2020 Al-Jazeera)
  • US strike targeting Taliban commander causes civilian casualties
    Mullah Nangyalay was killed but local officials say the attack also hit dozens of innocent bystanders. More than 60 civilians were killed or wounded in a US drone attack targeting a top Taliban splinter-group commander in the western Afghanistan province of Herat, local officials said. The Taliban commander, named as Mullah Nangyalay, was killed in Shindand district close to the border with Iran, Herat provincial governor's spokesman Jailani Farhad said on Thursday. "According to the people, over 60 civilians were killed and wounded in the operation," Toryalai Tahiri, deputy head of Herat provincial council, told Afghan local media TOLO News. Quoting Wakil Ahmad Karkhi, a member of the Herat provincial council, TOLO News reported "civilians have been killed and wounded alongside Mullah Nangyalai's fighters" in an American attack.( 10.1.2020 Al Jazeera)
  • Taliban attacks kill more than 20 Afghan security forces

    In fresh wave of violence, Taliban kills security forces in country's north, underscoring group's strengthened position. (1.1. 2020 Al Jazeera)