phone:+92 51 9203967

Weekly Contemporary Developments

1 - 31 May, 2020

  • Roadside bomb kills seven in Afghanistan
    KUNDUZ: Seven civilians were killed by a roadside bomb linked to the Taliban in northern Afghanistan, officials said on Tuesday, even as authorities pressed for peace talks with the militants. Overall violence across much of Afghanistan has dropped, however, since May 24 when the Taliban announced a surprise three-day ceasefire to mark Eidul Fitr holiday. The latest blast struck a small truck carrying a group of labourers late Monday in the volatile district of Khan Abad, in the province of Kunduz. No group claimed responsibility, but Kunduz provincial spokesman Esmatullah Muradi pointed the finger at the Taliban. “The Taliban usually plant roadside bombs to target security forces, but their bombs usually kill civilians,” he said. (Dawn, 3 June, 2020)
  • 2 policemen killed in insider attack in Uruzgan
    KABUL: Two police officers were killed and two more wounded when a Taliban infiltrators opened fire on them in the southern province of Uruzgan, provincial officials said. Zelgai Ebadi, provincial spokesman, said that the incident happened late Monday at a police checkpoint at the southern outskirts of Tarin Kot city, the provincial capital. Ebadi said that the attacker had taken arms and ammunition from the checkpoint and deserted to the militants. The infiltrator is said to have recently joined police force.Tens of soldiers and police have been the victims of attacks carried out by Taliban infiltrators commonly called as insider attacks. Besides, the militants’ infiltrators have launched attacks on the foreign troops, killing and injuring dozens of them. (Afghanistan Times, June 3, 2020)
  • Afghanistan, Pakistan agree to remove hurdles in bilateral trade
    KABUL: Pakistan’s Sarhad Chamber of Commerce and Industry (SCCI) and Afghan diplomats agreed to make joint efforts to remove hurdles to bilateral Pak-Afghan trade and transit trade. The agreement came during a meeting between the SCCI, Pak-Afghan Joint Chambers of Commerce and Industry (PAJCCI) former senior vice president, and Frontier Custom Agents Association (FCAA) President, Ziaul Haq Sarhadi and Najeebullah Ahmadzai, Afghan Consul General in Peshawar, said a press release issued yesterday. Ahmad Shah, Director, Fawad Arsha Afghan Attaché, Dr Hameedullah Fazil Khel, Deputy Trade Attaché, Ghulam Sipas First Secretary and others relevant officials, members of business community, importers and exporters were present in the meeting. (The Kabul Times, Kabul, June 1, 2020)
  • US troop pullout from Afghanistan ahead of schedule
    The US military withdrawal from Afghanistan is considerably ahead of schedule, an official told AFP on Wednesday, as President Donald Trump reiterated calls for the Pentagon to bring troops home. The developments came as questions loomed over the next phase of Afghanistan's long war following a historic, three-day ceasefire that led to a major drop in civilian casualties. The truce, which the Taliban called to mark the Muslim celebration of Eidul Fitr, ended Tuesday night, leaving Afghans anxious about whether it would be extended, or when the war might come raging back. Violence levels remained low even after the end of the ceasefire, but Afghan security forces conducted air strikes in the south that killed 18 "militants", police said. Under a deal the US signed with the Taliban in February, the Pentagon was to bring troop levels down from about 12,000 to 8,600 by mid-July, before withdrawing all forces by May 2021. ( Dawn, 28 May, 2020)
  • Trump says he wants full Afghanistan pullout but sets no timeline
    US forces have already begun withdrawing after 19 years of war as part of an agreement signed with Taliban in February. President Donald Trump on Tuesday renewed his desire for a full military withdrawal from Afghanistan but added that he had not set a target date, amid speculation he might make ending the United States's longest war part of his re-election campaign. "We're there 19 years and, yeah, I think that's enough ... We can always go back if we want to," Trump told a White House news conference. (Al Jazeera, 27 May, 2020)
  • Afghan Government to Free 900 Prisoners; Taliban May Extend Truce
    There are hopes that the prisoner release could lead to new reductions in violence. The Afghan government announced it would free 900 prisoners on Tuesday, its single largest prisoner release since the United States and the Taliban signed a peace deal earlier this year that spells out an exchange of detainees between the warring sides. The announcement came as a three-day ceasefire with the insurgents draws to an end. The Taliban had called for the truce during the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Fitr that marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. There are expectations that the prisoner release could lead to new reductions in violence, and Taliban officials say they are considering an extension of the ceasefire. (The Diplomat, 26 May, 2020)
  • Afghanistan: Taliban prisoner release amid Eid al-Fitr ceasefire
    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani has announced the release of up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners, after the Islamist group proposed a ceasefire.The announcement came shortly after the Taliban agreed the surprise three-day truce with Mr Ghani's government for the Muslim festival of Eid al-Fitr. The president said their release was a "goodwill gesture" designed "to ensure the success of the peace process".Mr Ghani also said his government was ready to hold further peace talks. "President Ghani today initiated a process to release up to 2,000 Taliban prisoners... in response to the Taliban's announcement of a ceasefire," a presidential spokesman wrote on Twitter. (BBC, 24 May, 2020)
  • Afghan Taliban leader says committed to deal with the US
    In Eid message Haibatullah Akhunzada asks US 'not to waste' the opportunity offered by the deal to end 19-year-old war. The leader of the Taliban said on Wednesday that his group was committed to a landmark deal with the US, despite being accused of carrying out hundreds of attacks in Afghanistan since it was signed in February. Haibatullah Akhunzada urged Washington "not to waste" the opportunity offered by the deal to end the US's longest war in a message released ahead of next week's Eid al-Fitr holiday, which marks the end of the Islamic holy month of Ramadan. (Al Jazeera, 20 May 2020)
  • FM Atmar praises Turkish support to Afghanistan
    KABUL: Acting Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammad Hanif Atmar on Wednesday had a telephone conversation with his Turkish counterpart Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu on a regional consensus for peace and a humanitarian ceasefire, a statement said. “A pleasure to speak to HE Mevlut Cavusoglu Turkish FM, who welcomed the agreement for inclusive government & we talked about strengthening regional consensus for peace and a humanitarian ceasefire,” the statement quoted Afghan FM as saying. FM Atmar said: “We remain enormously grateful to our Turkish friends for their continued support.” (The Kabul Times, Kabul, May 21, 2020)
  • Afghanistan's old political rivals sign deal
    Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah have signed a power-sharing deal, ending months of political uncertainty. Mr Ghani will stay on as president while both men will choose an equal number of ministers. Dr Abdullah will lead peace talks with the Taliban, should they get under way.It is hoped the deal in the capital Kabul will help to maintain the balance of power that existed before last year's disputed presidential election. (BBC, 18 May, 2020)
  • Afghan President orders resumption of offensive operations against the Taliban in blow to Trump's deal
    The Trump administration's peace deal with the Taliban was dealt yet another blow Tuesday as the Afghan government announced it was resuming offensive operations against the insurgent group following a spate of deadly terrorist attacks. Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani announced the resumption of offensive operations during a televised address to the nation that took place in the wake of several deadly terrorist attacks, including one that targeted a maternity hospital that killed at least 13 people, including two newborn babies. "I strongly condemn recent attacks on a hospital in Kabul and Nangarhar province which killed a number of innocent people including women and children," Ghani said Tuesday. The Taliban denied being responsible for the attack on the hospital and a second attack on a funeral procession that took place in Nangarhar province. ( CNN, 12 May, 2020)
  • US begins to withdraw some troops from Afghanistan
    The US has begun withdrawing some troops from Afghanistan, part of the initial drawdown to 8,600, a spokesman for US Forces in Afghanistan announced. The move is part of the historic agreement signed between the US and Taliban late last month that sets into motion the potential for a full withdrawal of US troops who have been fighting in the country since 2001.The US has 135 days from the signing of the agreement to reduce troop numbers from the current total of 12,000 to 13,000 currently in the country."In accordance with the U.S.-Islamic Republic of Afghanistan Joint Declaration and the U.S.-Taliban Agreement, U.S. Forces Afghanistan (USFOR-A) has begun its conditions-based reduction of forces to 8,600 over 135 days. USFOR-A maintains all the military means and authorities to accomplish our objectives—including conducting counterterrorism operations against al-Qaeda and ISIS-K and providing support to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces. USFOR-A is on track to meet directed force levels while retaining the necessary capabilities," US Forces Afghanistan spokesman Col. Sonny Leggett said in a statement. ( 9 May, 2020)
  • US Afghan envoy to meet Taliban in Qatar in new efforts for peace
    Zalmay Khalilzad will press Taliban, India and Pakistan to support a reduction in violence amid surging Taliban attacks. (Al Jazeera, 7 May, 2020)
  • Afghanistan president, feuding rival reach 'tentative' agreement
    Dispute was huge distraction for Afghanistan when coronavirus crisis was worsening and Taliban was stepping up attacks. (Al Jazeera, May 1, 2020)
  • US troop drawdown in Afghanistan running ahead of schedule
    The US now has fewer than 10,000 US troops in Afghanistan, putting the Trump administration ahead of schedule on the commitment to drawdown troops that it made in the US-Taliban peace deal signed earlier this year, three sources familiar with the numbers tell CNN. The US has until mid-July to fulfill its pledge to reduce troops to 8,600, from the total 12,000 to 13,000 in the country earlier this year. But it could hit that goal in a few weeks --- months before the deadline -- explained one US official. The coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the drawdown somewhat, one US defense official said. There has been a pause in a significant amount of military training activity due to the virus, which has made it easier to send some US troops home. (CNN, April 30, 2020)
  • Trump administration challenged to reveal troop levels in war zones
    Freedom of information request filed after Pentagon stopped publishing figures for Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria. The Trump administration is being challenged to reveal how many troops the US has in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria – and to explain why it stopped publishing those figures more than two years ago. The Just Security website and the Project on Government Oversight have filed requests under the Freedom of Information Act (Foia) for the number of military and civilian defence personnel assigned to the three countries since December 2017, when public records were stopped. They also requested “underlying documents that explain why the [defence department] withheld the numbers”. “The United States Government and all its institutions represent and are accountable to the American people,” the former defence secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in support of the requests. “The public and those who serve and defend this country and their families are entitled to know where we are sending our service men and women, why, and the numbers. That’s democracy. The Government works for the people.” (Guardian, 22 April, 2020)