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Afghan interpreters with Australian visas unable to get to safety

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(Last Updated On: June 8, 2021)

The Australian government has granted 90 visas since the beginning of May to Afghans who worked alongside Australian forces but the interpreters say they have been unable to leave Afghanistan due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The Guardian Australia reported that while officials have offered to help the Afghans get on commercial flights to Australia in the near future, this has not been possible for many.

Speaking from Kabul on Tuesday, one interpreter said that without access to military flights, their situation would not change.

“If they can’t relocate us, what is the point of having a visa?” the man said. He was among 41 interpreters who wrote to the government twice earlier this year pleading for urgent help.

Last month Australia suddenly closed its Kabul embassy, saying it could not guarantee the security of staff in the light of the impending withdrawal of Australian troops by 11 September.

The Guardian reported that on Tuesday another interpreter said his family was awaiting passports, but without access to the embassy and its staff he had no certainty of being able to leave.

Another former translator has been sent into hiding after a letter stamped and signed by the Taliban was taped to his front gate, ABC reported.

Earlier on Tuesday Scott Morrison told reporters the government was “working urgently and steadfastly” to resolve the matter.

“This is not the first time that we have had to support in these circumstances, bringing people to Australia under the appropriate visa arrangements for humanitarian visas that are in place,” the prime minister said.

“We have done this before safely. And we will be able to do it again … We are very aware of it. And we are working urgently and steadfastly and patiently to ensure that we do this in the appropriate way as we have done on earlier occasions. I was the minister responsible at the time last time we were doing this when I was in immigration, so I’m very well aware of the sensitivities and the need to move swiftly.”

In March 2020, Australia closed its borders to non-nationals and non-residents due to the Coronavirus pandemic and has since been allowing only limited international arrivals, mainly citizens returning from abroad.

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UN chief Guterres appointed for second term

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres was appointed for a second-five year-term on Friday by the 193-member U.N. General Assembly.

“I will give it my all to ensure the blossoming of trust between and among nations large and small, to build bridges, and to engage relentlessly in confidence building,” Guterres told the General Assembly after taking the oath of office.

The 15-member Security Council earlier this month recommended the General Assembly re-appoint Guterres. His second term starts on beginning on Jan. 1, 2022.

Guterres succeeded Ban Ki-moon in January 2017, just weeks before Donald Trump became U.S. president. Much of Guterres‘ first term was focused on placating Trump, who questioned the value of the United Nations and multilateralism.

The United States is the largest U.N. financial contributor, responsible for 22% of the regular budget and around a quarter of the peacekeeping budget. President Joe Biden, who took office in January, has started restoring funding cuts made by Trump to U.N. agencies and re-engaged with the world body.

U.S. Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield said the United Nations faced historic challenges, but she hoped that with Guterres at the helm “the next five years will see more peace, more security, and more prosperity than the last.”

“It will require hard work, political will, and accountability from all U.N. member states,” she said in a statement, adding every member states should have “an impassioned commitment” to human rights.

Guterres, 72, was prime minister of Portugal from 1995 to 2002 and head of the U.N. refugee agency from 2005 to 2015. As secretary-general, he has been a cheerleader for climate action, COVID-19 vaccines for all and digital cooperation.

When he took the reins as U.N. chief, the world body was struggling to end wars and deal with humanitarian crises in Syria and Yemen. Those conflicts are still unresolved, and Guterres is also now faced with emergencies in Myanmar and the Tigray region of Ethiopia.

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Afghanistan, Kazakhstan sign military cooperation agreement

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

A bilateral agreement on military cooperation between Afghanistan and Kazakhstan was signed on Friday, the Afghan National Security Council (NSC) said.

According to the NSC, Afghan National Security Advisor NSA Hamdullah Mohib and Kazakh Defense Minister Nurlan Yermekbayev signed the agreement during Mohib’s visit to the Kazakhstan’s capital Nur-Sultan.

The NSC stated that the pact was aimed at paving the way for military-to-military mutual support across various domains.

“The agreement enables joint exercises, military medicine cooperation, equipment modernization, logistical and technical support, battle training, and military intelligence collaboration between the two nations,” Mohib’s office said.

Rahmatullah Andar, spokesman for the NSC stated that “Joint military exercise bilateral meeting about defense policies, medical cooperation, renewing equipment, technical and logistical support, military training and intelligence military cooperation included in the agreement.”

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Another three districts fall to Taliban; gov’t forces retreated

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

The Taliban militants have captured another three districts in the last 24 hours, sources said.

According to the sources, Dahana-i-Ghori district in Baghlan province; Awba district in Herat; and Shirin Tagab district in Faryab province were captured by the Taliban, bringing the total fallen districts to 37 since May 1.

 In Herat, the Awba district fell to the Taliban early Friday morning following days of heavy clashes between the Afghan army and the militants.

Sources said that an army base was under siege by the Taliban for four days and the Afghan forces retreated from the district this morning.

 In Baghlan, the Afghan forces retreated from the Dahana-i-Ghori district on Thursday night.

Amanullah Sanjani, an army commander, was killed in the skirmish.

Meanwhile, the provincial council of Faryab stated that the Shirin Tagab district of the province was fallen to the Taliban following a heavy skirmish with the insurgents.

The Taliban released footage from the district that appears to show that dozens of Afghan forces have surrendered to the group. No credible source, however, confirmed the footage.

According to Ariana News findings, at least 195 members of the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have been killed and 105 others wounded in Faryab, Kunduz, Takhar, Herat, Baghlan, and Sar-e-Pul provinces this week.

The Afghan Army stated that at least 256 Taliban militants were killed and 150 more wounded in air and ground operations across the country. 

This comes as the Taliban capturedthe Shinkai district of Zabul province without any clash fighting after mediation by tribal elders and local officials, sources said. 

The footage shows that militants are escorting the Afghan Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) out to the provincial capital Qatal city.

“Its Zabul DG, officials and ANDSF convoy that was escorted by Taliban security from Shinkai district till Qalat city. This deal was mediated by DG, tribal elders. The mediation was that Shinkai and ANDSF weapons are handover over to the Taliban. Big shame!” Haji AttaJan Haqbayan tweeted.

Haqbayan warned that the Zabul province would also collapse to the hands of the Taliban “if the situation goes this way.”

He also shared a video of an Afghan army officer, who was on duty in ANA Battalion of Shinkai district, who is saying that hundreds of weapons were seized by the Taliban,

“Provincial officials of Zabul must be investigated,” Haqbayan said.

Afghan Army, meanwhile, confirmed that the Taliban overrun district.

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