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Afghanistan now ranks 2nd on crisis committee’s Emergency Watchlist

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(Last Updated On: April 1, 2021)

Afghanistan has risen to second on the UK’s International Rescue Committee’s annual Emergency Watchlist due to a triple threat of conflict, COVID-19 and climate change.

In its latest report, issued on Tuesday, IRC said the number of people in need for 2021 nearly doubled compared to early 2020, and Afghanistan rose from sixth to second on the IRC’s Emergency Watchlist.

According to the IRC, as peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban fail to make progress, Afghans remain under continued threat of violence, with many fleeing their homes in search of safety. Amid this volatility, women and girls are also at greater risk of experiencing violence within their own homes.

“When Afghans cannot provide for their family, we see a surge in violence against the most vulnerable family members,” says Vicki Aken, country director for the IRC in Afghanistan.

“This forces many families, including children, to risk their lives in desperate attempts to leave Afghanistan and seek safer, better lives elsewhere. A peaceful resolution to the ongoing conflict is the only sustainable solution to meeting chronic need in Afghanistan.”

The IRC stated that among the reasons Afghanistan is one of the countries most at risk of humanitarian catastrophe in 2021 is because of political uncertainty which “is likely to drive conflict between the Taliban and Afghan government forces”.

The organization stated that fighting in late 2020 alone forced 35,000 people from their homes and could indicate a larger escalation in conflict yet to come.

The report also found that ongoing conflict makes it difficult for many Afghans to access health care.

In line with this, ongoing conflict also forced 38 health facilities to close in 2020, making it difficult for many Afghans to receive lifesaving care during the COVID-19 pandemic, and preventing aid workers from meeting increased humanitarian needs.

COVID-19 has also pushed Afghans into poverty, making food insecurity likely to continue to grow in 2021, the IRC reported adding that as the pandemic continues, an additional six million Afghans are at risk of poverty and 42 percent are expected to face crisis levels of food insecurity.

The IRC also stated that reports of early marriages and violence against women have increased in the wake of ongoing conflict and women continue to be targeted by armed groups.

In addition to this, increasing natural disasters are uprooting families and driving greater humanitarian needs.

The organization reported that natural disasters and extreme weather conditions continue to plague Afghanistan, partly due to climate change. “In fact, the country is ranked one of the top 10 most vulnerable to climate change across the globe,” the report stated.

Over one million people remain displaced due to natural disasters and around half of the districts in Afghanistan experienced a natural disaster in 2020, affecting over 110,000 people, read the report.

“Impending drought this year threatens much of the country, posing further displacement and widespread hunger. Already, 42 percent of the population is experiencing food insecurity, and this will increase as the drought takes hold,” read the report.

The International Rescue Committee has been working in Afghanistan since 1988, reaching over one million people each year with emergency aid and recovery programmes.

The annual Emergency Watchlist is a global list of humanitarian crises the IRC expects to significantly deteriorate over the course of the coming year.

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No guarantees about Afghanistan’s future post-pullout: American NSA

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

No one can offer guarantees about Afghanistan’s future after U.S. troops leave, a top White House official said on Sunday, even as he stressed the United States would stay focused on terrorist threats emanating from the country.

This comes after US President Joe Biden announced on Wednesday that United States will withdraw all remaining troops from Afghanistan by September 11.

In an interview with Fox News Sunday, the White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan was asked about the risk of a repeat of what happened in Iraq, where Islamic State (ISIS) militants seized territory after U.S. troops withdrew in 2011.

That led then-President Barack Obama to send troops back into Iraq.

Sullivan said Biden had no intention of sending American forces back to Afghanistan, but he added: “I can’t make any guarantees about what will happen inside the country. No one can.”

“All the United States could do is provide the Afghan security forces, the Afghan government and the Afghan people resources and capabilities, training and equipping their forces, providing assistance to their government. We have done that and now it is time for American troops to come home and the Afghan people to step up to defend their own country.”

But Afghan President Ashraf Ghani rejected what he said were “false analogies” with the war in Vietnam as well as any suggestion his government was at risk of folding under Taliban pressure after U.S. troops leave. Afghan security forces were capable of defending the country, he said.

“The Afghan defense and security forces have been carrying over 90% of the operations in the last two years,” Ghani said in an interview with CNN.

Meanwhile former president Donald Trump said in a statement that leaving Afghanistan was “a wonderful and positive thing to do,” but called for a more rapid departure. Trump had set a May 1 deadline to withdraw.

CIA Director William Burns told the Senate Intelligence Committee on Wednesday that America’s ability to collect intelligence and act against extremist threats in Afghanistan will diminish after the departure of U.S. troops, Reuters reported.

A United Nations report in January said there were as many as 500 al-Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and that the Taliban maintained a close relationship with the group. The Taliban denies al-Qaeda has a presence in Afghanistan.

Announcing his decision to withdraw troops, Biden said the United States would monitor the threat, reorganize counterterrorism capabilities and keep substantial assets in the region to respond to threats to the United States emerging from Afghanistan.

“He has no intention of taking our eye off the ball,” Sullivan said of the president.

“We have the capacity, from repositioning our capabilities over the horizon, to continue to suppress the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.”

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Germany will not abandon Afghan staff, minister says

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

Germany will not let down its Afghan staff as the international military mission in the country, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer pledged on Sunday.

“I feel it is Germany’s sincere duty to not leave these people without protection now that we will permanently withdraw,” the defence ministry in Berlin said on Twitter, quoting extracts from an interview with German news agency DPA.

U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO on Wednesday announced that they would withdraw the roughly 10,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Germany is the second-largest contingent with about 1,100 troops.

The withdrawals have raised concerns that Afghanistan could erupt into full-scale civil war, providing al Qaeda space in which to rebuild and plan new attacks on U.S. and other targets.

The German forces currently employ about 300 Afghans as interpreters and in other jobs, according to the defence ministry in Berlin.

Since 2013 Germany has admitted nearly 800 Afghans at risk in their own country after working for the foreign military, as well as about 2,500 family members.

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Two policemen killed in Taliban group attack in Baghlan

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

At least two policemen were killed and six others were wounded in a Taliban group attack in Baghlan province on Sunday night, police said Monday.

Police said the Taliban attacked Fabreka Qand Township in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district.

According to them, at least six Taliban insurgents were also killed and eight more were wounded in the ensuing clash between the insurgents and Afghan security forces.

“Afghan forces responded strongly to the Taliban’s attacks and pushed them back,” said Jawed Basharat, spokesman for Baghlan police.

Sayed Kamal Wardak, district governor for Baghlan Markazi district told Ariana News that the clash started on Sunday night at around midnight and lasted until 5am on Monday.

“At least one police Humvee burnt out and another one was seized by the Taliban,” said Wardak.

Police chief Sayed Ashraf Sadat along with other reinforcements are in the area and said the Taliban suffered heavy casualties but he did not provide further details.

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