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A battlefield decision might be needed if Taliban shun peace: Ghani

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2021)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said on Monday if the Taliban wants peace, then it has to be peace that respects the gains of the citizens of Afghanistan and among them, first and foremost, women.

In an interview with PBS News Hour, Ghani also said if the Taliban does not want peace and wants to gain power through violence and impose a “dictatorial regime” then “all the patriotic forces of Afghanistan would have to rally and make a decision. And that issue, unfortunately, would have to be decided on the field of battle.”

In terms of foreign troops withdrawing and the possibility of increased violence, Ghani said the Afghan security forces are ready for battle. “We have been ready for months.”

He noted that the U.S. withdrawal is a strategic decision “that clarifies a lot of things.

“The war will become simpler, because their — all their allegations of international conspiracy or international desire to stay permanently, et cetera, has now come to an end. We need to work together,” he said.

He also stated that countries in the region are glad the U.S. has no intentions of staying longer.

“Consequently, we need to get together to arrive at a collective security strategy.

Despite a push by the Taliban to gain territory in provinces, Ghani said: “The Taliban are not holding.”

He said the Taliban are carrying out “sporadic attacks” that are a “destructive force”.

“Arghandab was the only district in Kandahar where they tried to hold. And now the people hate them with passion,” he said.

On peace talks, Ghani said that key to a political dialogue is that the Taliban accept that the future political system of Afghanistan is based on elections.

“That is the fundamental bottom line. Other things are discussible, negotiable. But if that fundamental issue is not granted, then the question of rights and the question of gains that have occurred in the last 20 years, particularly vis-a-vis women, youth, minorities, all walks of life, will be put into question.”

Asked whether he would step down Ghani said No. Sticking to what he has repeatedly said about only handing over power to an elected leader, he said: If there is war — no.

“If there is war, I am the commander in chief. I will not abandon my people. I will not abandon my forces. I am willing to die for my country. I have no interest in power. I’m committed to the principle of ensuring order. Afghan society wants order.”

However, he said the threat of terrorism has changed. It has not disappeared.

The terrorist networks are not just from the region, he said, adding that there are Daesh women and children from 16 different countries that Afghanistan is trying “to return”.

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Families find the bodies of two missing Kabul women

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2021)

The bodies of two young women employed by Afghan Film in Kabul, who had been missing since Saturday’s explosion, were finally tracked down by their families on Sunday.

The families of Tayeba Mousavi and Fatama Mohammadi confirmed Sunday they found the women’s bodies at the government forensic medicine department.

The discovery comes after both families had desperately searched for the women at all hospitals.

According to the families, both women had been burnt beyond recognition.

Tayeba was a talented artist who worked for Afghan Film and was currently working on a movie.

Yesterday, Tayeba had a meeting with the Ministry of Information & Culture. She was killed in the first of two explosions after leaving the meeting. She died outside the Ali Jinah Hospital in an IED explosion.

Tayeba had also been doing a master’s degree at Kabul University. She had no father and was the breadwinner of her family.

At least seven civilians were killed and six others wounded in two separate explosions on Saturday afternoon in Dasht-e-Barchi in PD13 and in PD6 near the Ali Jinnah Hospital.

In both instances IEDs were detonated against vehicles, according to police.

The Ministry of Interior reported that all the victims were civilians.

So far, no group has claimed responsibility for the attacks.

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Afghans jailed in Greece over Moria migrant camp blaze

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(Last Updated On: June 13, 2021)

Four Afghan asylum-seekers were sentenced to 10 years in prison in Greece on Saturday for their part in a fire that destroyed the Moria migrant camp last year, in a case that highlighted the chronic refugee problem on Europe’s borders.

The men, charged with arson with risk to human life over the fire on the island of Lesbos last September, were found guilty after a court rejected a request by lawyers for three of them to be tried by a juvenile court because they were under 18 at the time.

Before the blaze, Moria was considered Europe’s biggest migrant camp, a sprawling and overcrowded town of tents and improvised shelters notorious for its poor and often dangerous living conditions.

Described by rights groups and the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR as unfit for humans, the camp had become a symbol of Europe’s stumbling response to the migration crisis on its southern borders, which left much of the burden to be carried by small islands like Lesbos.

Greek authorities believe the fire was deliberately lit by camp occupants after quarantine measures were imposed following the discovery of COVID-19 cases among people living on the site.

The blaze sent more than 12,000 people, mostly Syrian, Afghan and Iraqi refugees who had already endured a dangerous sea crossing, fleeing for their lives, forcing most to sleep in the open for days without shelter, food or water or sanitation.

No one was killed in the fire.

A new temporary camp was set up on the site of an old army firing range but tenders have been launched for new closed centres on Lesbos and the nearby island of Chios that the government says will provide safer accommodation but which critics say risk becoming like prisons.

The four men were among a group of six Afghans detained by police following the fire. The other two were sentenced in March to five years in prison.

Defence lawyers said the men had been framed by a witness and that the court’s decision was “an inconceivable conviction without evidence”.

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Rights watchdog warns of looming COVID crisis

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(Last Updated On: June 12, 2021)

Amnesty International has called on the Afghan government to address oxygen shortages and procure an adequate amount of COVID-19 vaccines and other essential medical supplies with the support of the international community.

“Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and these latest figures are of grave concern. It’s clear that the country has been hit by the third wave of COVID-19 and without urgent international support to contain this surge, the situation could quickly spiral out of control, with existing shortages of life-saving supplies posing serious challenges,” said Zaman Sultani, South Asia Researcher at Amnesty International.

The organization stated that Afghanistan’s COVID-19 case numbers have been steadily increasing and that these latest figures are of grave concern.

According to the Public Health Ministry (MoPH), 973 people tested positive for COVID-19 in the last 24 hours, bringing the total infections to 79,861 people in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, 67 COVID-19 patients have died in the same period, the ministry said.

Amnesty International’s Sultani stated: “At the same time, Afghanistan’s vaccination drive has also been held up due to supply shortages. We have seen a similar situation unfolding in Nepal and India and one of the main lessons is to learn from their mistakes and be prepared for the worst before it’s too late.”

Highlighting the lack of preparation by the Afghan government to fight the Coronavirus, Amnesty International said that “more than a year into the pandemic, the government’s emergency preparedness remains inadequate.”

According to the Ministry of Public Health, Afghanistan currently has only around 2,000 ventilators and 1,063 hospital beds dedicated to treating patients with COVID-19 – this for 39 million people. According to MoPH, the country only has 1,500 ICU beds.

“The lack of emergency preparedness and the state of Afghanistan’s public health infrastructure means the country is not equipped to deal with the type of surge we have seen elsewhere in the region. Afghanistan must make diagnostics widely accessible to effectively detect outbreaks and proactively address an imminent outbreak of cases,” said Sultani.

The organization noted that the current wave poses an even greater risk of infection for Afghanistan’s four million internally displaced people (IDPs), who are living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to water, sanitation, and health facilities.

“During this crisis, the Afghan government must ensure that IDPs can access healthcare, sanitation, and clean water and develop a plan that prioritizes vaccinating IDPs, whose living conditions leave them extremely vulnerable to a highly infectious virus like COVID-19,” Sultani added.

This comes as a shipment of COVID-19 vaccines donated by China arrived in Kabul on Saturday amid the surge in infections, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Chinese government has donated 700,000 doses of Sinopharm vaccines to Afghanistan.

The much-needed vaccines comes as the country has been hit by a third wave of the virus, which has raised concerns among officials.

Addressing a ceremony marking the arrival of the vaccines, President Ashraf Ghani stated “vaccines are a gift of life, and we thank China for its assistance.”

Chinese Ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu, meanwhile, assured Ghani of China’s further support to Afghanistan to fight the pandemic.

Afghanistan, so far, has administered 968,000 doses of AstraZeneca, which were donated by the Indian government, and COVAX.

The MoPH stated that 280,000 members of Afghan security forces, more than 120,000 doctors and health workers, and 560,000 civilians have been vaccinated so far.

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