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Afghan woman putting her life at risk to rid her home of mines

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(Last Updated On: April 4, 2021)

The UK Embassy in Kabul says that over 1.6 million Afghans have received mine risk education and more than 30 km2 of productive land have been also cleared of mines and unexploded ordnance (UXOs) in the last three years to save lives and promote agriculture.

Marking the Mine Awareness Day, the British Embassy stated with the UK has been providing support to United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) in the last three years, aimed at helping the war-torn country manage mine clearance operations.

Fezeh Rezaye, a 26-year-old mother of two, is a member of a 19-strong, all-female demining team, honored for their efforts by the Arms Control Association, which awarded them the Arms Control Person International Award in 2019.

Rezaye explains that how a tragic incident led her to put aside her ambition to be a teacher, and take up a risky demining job instead.

“I had known several people from my village who have been injured or killed by mines in Bamyan. Even our landlord lost his leg in a landmine accident. But it was the death of seven children, all from the same family in our village that really affected me. They had been together in the mountains when they were all killed by a mine explosion. I thought about my own children, that this could have happened to them,” said Rezaye.

Before joining demining team Rezaye was teaching literacy to rural women in Bamyan province. She says that everyone including his family disagreed with her decision to become a deminer.

“My friends and family, including my children, disagreed with my decision to become a deminer. I would tell them that, for the sake of my future and for my children, I wanted Bamyan to be free from mines so that everyone can study and enjoy life,” Rezaye said.

Most families in Afghanistan look at this job as dangerous and risky work and are not welling their daughter’s life.

Rezaye also speaks about threats and challenges against her job in the country.

“I am concerned about my job security because, once these are cleared, I may not be able to work in other provinces, many of which are dominated by the Taliban,” said Rezaye.

Rezaye says that she is also interested in completing a master’s in sociology or archaeology.

Rezaye and her female demining team were the first female deminers team in Afghanistan.

“Winning the Arms Control Award made a big difference for me and the team. After we won, we were recognized by Afghan society and became idols for many women. We were the first female demining team in Afghanistan, and we proved that women can work as hard as men, that we are equal to them, she added.

More than three decades of armed conflict in Afghanistan has left a sorry legacy, with mines, and other explosive remnants of war, contaminating the country. Since 1989, the Mine Action Programme of Afghanistan (MAPA) has been working to clear this dangerous material but, with the conflict still ongoing, some 120 civilian mine-related casualties are recorded every month, and it is considered unlikely that the target of declaring the country free from mines will be reached.

Although explosive remnants of war remain on some firing ranges, Bamyan was declared mine-free since 2019, making it the first mine-free province in Afghanistan, following years of demining work that saw explosive devices removed from some 27,012,116 square meters of contaminated land with explosive devices.

But, in general, Bamyan society is more open than other parts of the country: this is a poor province, with high unemployment, and demining is one of the few opportunities for women to earn money.

As of 2020, Afghanistan is one of the countries most affected by landmines and explosive remnants of war (ERW) in the world. Around 32,000 hazardous areas have been cleared or otherwise canceled since 1989, yet some 1,495 communities remain affected by explosive ordnance (EO) to this day.

Over 38,000 explosive ordnance casualties have been recorded since 1979 (2,090 women, 2,322 girls, 14,646 boys, 19,590 men) of which almost 10,000 resulted in death and more than 29,000 in injuries.

In recent years, improvised explosive devices (IEDs) have become one of the leading causes of civilian casualties in the country.

In 2019 alone, explosive ordnance contamination resulted in 1,692 casualties (143 girls, 122 women, 716 boys, 711 men), resulting in 650 deaths and 1,042 injured victims. The accidents were almost entirely caused by ERW and improvised mines (IM).

Men and boys tend to be killed and injured at a far higher rate than women and girls. Numbers for all groups at least doubled in 2014-2019 compared to 2008-2013, largely due to a sharp increase in IM casualties.

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Taliban warns foreign forces to leave by May 1

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

Taliban on Wednesday afternoon warned the US and NATO to stick to the agreement of troops withdrawal on May 1 and said if the Doha agreement is not adhered to problems will be “compounded” and those in breach of the deal will “be held liable”.

In a series of tweets, Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said: “The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan seeks the withdrawal of all foreign forces from our homeland on the date specified in the Doha Agreement.

“If the agreement is adhered to, a pathway to addressing the remaining issues will also be found.

“If the agreement is breached and foreign forces fail to exit our country on the specified date, problems will certainly be compounded and those whom failed to comply with the agreement will be held liable.”

This comes ahead of an expected official announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops with be pulled out by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken meanwhile said in Brussels on Wednesday that the coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11.

Blinken said it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

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Austin arrives in Brussels ahead of troop withdrawal announcement

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin arrived in Brussels on Wednesday ahead of a planned announcement by US President Joe Biden that troops will withdraw from Afghanistan by September 11.

Reuters reported earlier that a coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11. President Joe Biden is expected to make a formal announcement later Wednesday that will end two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission.

NATO foreign and defense ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement.

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NATO forces to leave together from Afghanistan: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: April 14, 2021)

A coalition of NATO-led troops in Afghanistan will leave the country in coordination with a planned U.S. withdrawal by September 11, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels on Wednesday.

His remarks came ahead of a formal announcement of the end of two decades of fighting.

Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries, but also from Australia, New Zealand and Georgia, outnumber the 2,500 U.S. troops in Afghanistan but still rely on U.S. air support, planning and leadership for their training mission, Reuters reported.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in Brussels that it was time for NATO allies to make good on its mantra that allies went into Afghanistan together and would leave together.

“I am here to work closely with our allies, with the (NATO) secretary-general, on the principle that we have established from the start: In together, adapt together and out together,” Blinken said in a televised statement at NATO headquarters.

“We will work very closely together in the months ahead on a safe, deliberate and coordinated withdrawal of our forces from Afghanistan,” Blinken said, standing alongside NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg,

NATO foreign and defence ministers will discuss their plans later on Wednesday via video conference. A senior NATO diplomat told Reuters that no ally was expected to oppose U.S. President Joe Biden’s formal announcement, expected later on Wednesday, for a complete U.S. withdrawal of troops by Sept. 11.

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