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Afghanistan ranked number 1 on Global Terrorism Index 

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

According to Global Terrorism Index 2020 Afghanistan remains the country most impacted by terrorism and was subjected to 26 of the world’s 50 worst terrorist attacks last year. 

The report stated that while terrorism deaths in the country declined in 2019 for the first time in three years, the Taliban remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its eighth year, is developed by leading think tank the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorism trends.

“Whether the peace talks in Afghanistan have a substantial impact on terrorist activity remains to be seen,” read the report.

According to the report, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2019 amounted to US$26.4 billion, a fall of 25 percent from 2018 but Afghanistan was the country with the highest economic impact, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Just ten countries accounted for over 80 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2019, the most deaths in a single country were recorded in Afghanistan, accounting for 41 percent of all deaths. 

This represents a slight improvement from 2018 when Afghanistan accounted for 45 percent of global terrorism deaths.

“The fall in deaths in Afghanistan is particularly noticeable given its recent history,” read the report. 

“Since the peak of violence in 2018, deaths have fallen by just over 22 percent in a year. This reduction was driven by a decline in terrorist deaths attributed to the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State (IS-K) which fell by 18 and 61 percent respectively.”

The report stated that IS-K has faced significant territorial losses in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces following attacks by coalition forces but despite the fall in terrorism deaths, 2019 was still the second deadliest year on record for Afghanistan.

The Taliban were the deadliest terrorist group for the second consecutive year while IS-K was the second deadliest group in the country.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when US Forces and NATO toppled the regime, which was thought to be harboring Al-Qaeda. After the regime was overthrown, the Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has since led an insurgency against the government of Afghanistan and the US-led Resolute Support Mission. 

But, as highlighted by the report, the Taliban has steadily regained territory across Afghanistan. 

As of January 2019, it was estimated that the Taliban controlled territory home to approximately 10 percent of the population.

The report states that the Taliban is active solely in Afghanistan but that the Taliban’s Pakistani affiliate group, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was responsible for 73 deaths and 30 attacks in Pakistan in 2019, demonstrating a Taliban-related presence outside of Afghanistan.

“In January 2019, the Taliban committed their deadliest terror attack of the year when a suicide bomber and armed assailants targeted a National Directorate for Security (NDS) base in Maydan Shahr district, Wardak, Afghanistan,” the report read. 

At least 129 people were killed and 54 people were injured in the attack.

Despite a decline in terrorist deaths from 2018 to 2019, Afghanistan remains the country most impacted for the second consecutive year.

Afghanistan accounted for 41 percent of deaths from terrorism globally, with the Taliban being responsible for 87 percent of these fatalities. 

The report stated that during 2019, deaths from terrorism declined by 22 percent, falling to 5,725. 

“While this reduction in the number of deaths provides some optimism, it is the second-highest number of deaths recorded from terrorism in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.”

In 2019, terrorism was widespread in Afghanistan with terrorist incidents recorded in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and deaths recorded in every province except Panjshir. The largest number of deaths from terrorism were recorded in Kunduz province with the majority of deaths attributed to the Taliban. 

In 2019, there were 500 deaths in Kunduz province, a 77 percent increase from the prior year.

According to the report, recent losses of territory and fighters, IS-K is believed to still have sleeper cells in cities such as Kabul and Jalalabad.

“The presence of the Khorasan Chapter continues to challenge the Taliban. In 2019, the Khorasan Chapter was active in seven provinces, compared to the Taliban who conducted terror attacks across all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 

“Sixteen clashes were recorded between the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter in 2019, mostly in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces,” which are located along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and have served as operational bases for the IS-K since the group’s inception in 2015.

In 2019, Afghanistan was not only the country most affected by terrorism it also had the highest economic cost of terrorism, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its GDP, read the report. 

No other country in 2019 experienced a cost of terrorism greater than four percent of its GDP.

For the full report CLICK HERE

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Pakistan’s peace envoy arrives in Kabul for talks

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(Last Updated On: April 25, 2021)

Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul Mansoor Ahmad Khan said Sunday that a high-ranking delegation led by Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghan Reconciliation arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan officials.

“Muhammad Sadiq, Pakistan’s Special Representative on Afghan Reconciliation, arrived in Kabul this morning for discussions with Afghan officials on peace,” Khan tweeted. 

During his visit Sadiq will also discuss security and related matters, the ambassador confirmed. 

Sadiq’s visit comes just two weeks after a scheduled visit by another Pakistani delegation was canceled due to security threats. 

Earlier this month, Pakistan’s Speaker of the House of Representatives, Asad Qaisar, and his accompanying delegation were forced to turn back to Islamabad after entering Afghan airspace following the reported discovery of explosive materials at the airport. 

At the time, Qaisar’s flight was turned back after NATO warned they had found explosives on the runway at Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul city.

Qaisar had been scheduled to visit Kabul for three days. 

According to officials at the time, the explosives had been planted on one of the runways years ago.

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CENTCOM chief in midst of ‘detailed planning’ for counterterrorism ops

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday. 

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan. 

He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.

“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said. 

“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”

McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. 

According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.

Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.

On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.

McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.

The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”

“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said. 

“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”

Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.

McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.

“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.

“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.

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Khalilzad wraps up 4-day trip to Turkey ahead of Summit

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(Last Updated On: March 30, 2021)

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has wrapped up a four-day visit to Turkey to discuss the upcoming Istanbul Summit on the Afghanistan peace process.

In a statement issued by the US Embassy in Turkey, the planned Istanbul Summit “is meant to help Afghan negotiators accelerate their efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and agree to a political settlement and a permanent ceasefire.”

The conference will complement peace talks currently ongoing in Doha, the statement read.

Khalilzad, who was in Turkey from March 26 to 29, met with a number of Turkish officials during this time, including Presidential Advisor Ibrahim Kalin, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

According to the embassy’s statement, American and Turkish officials consulted on the timing, format, and overall objectives and agenda of the conference to ensure that it will be well prepared and organized. 

“They agreed that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned conference, supported by high-level attendance from the international community, provides the best means to accelerate the peace process. 

“They also agreed to urge the Afghan parties to prepare for constructive participation in this conference.”

This comes after Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said last week he hopes “tangible progress will be made towards a peace settlement at the Istanbul meeting”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Abdullah said the presence of decision-makers expected to attend the meeting needs to be utilized to push to accelerate the settlement of issues in Afghanistan.

“There have been a lot of discussions between both sides in the past few months in Doha. The Doha process will continue and then we have the Istanbul meeting. The Istanbul meeting will be held at a high level.

“There will be top leaders of Afghanistan and Taliban — that’s how it is anticipated,” Abdullah said.

He also urged that the Istanbul opportunity should not be used to give speeches; instead, it should focus on working for tangible progress.

“The final, final, final agreement, of course, it takes time, but we should at least agree on few principles. And an agreement on a ceasefire will be very, very important,” Abdullah added.

Anadolu reported that Abdullah said it’s time to move beyond the US-Taliban deal, which stipulates the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and stated it was time to forge an agreement directly between the Afghan government and the Taliban. 

He also stated the Taliban’s readiness to move ahead would be tested in the coming days.

“Eventually, it has to be a comprehensive agreement between us, there is something between the US and the Taliban, but eventually, we need to agree. The readiness of the Taliban remains to be seen. It will be tested before the meeting in Turkey,” Abdullah told Anadolu.

No date for the Istanbul Summit has yet been confirmed but it is widely expected that it will take place early next month. 

 

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