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Afghanistan’s 4 million IDPs need urgent support amid pandemic

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(Last Updated On: March 31, 2021)

Amnesty International has called on the Afghan government and the international community to step up assistance to Internally Displaced People (IDPs) and provide urgent access to adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, and health.

“The Afghan government and the international community must urgently scale up efforts to support the country’s four million internally displaced people (IDPs), who have been left badly exposed throughout the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Amnesty International in a new briefing published on Tuesday.

The briefing, “We survived the virus, but may not survive the hunger” looks at the impact of COVID-19 on Afghanistan’s internally displaced,and details how the pandemic has made an already dire situation for IDPs even more precarious.

Living in overcrowded conditions, with insufficient access to water, sanitation, and health facilities, IDPs have little or no means of protecting themselves from contracting, spreading, and recovering from COVID-19, Amnesty International said.

The briefing also addressed the dire conditions in camps and the inadequacy of aid efforts targeted at IDPs.

Camps are cramped, unsanitary and lack even the most basic medical facilities.

According to Samira Hamidi, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for South Asia, “Afghanistan’s four million displaced people live in conditions perfectly suited to the rapid transmission of a virus like COVID-19.

“The camps are cramped, unsanitary and lack even the most basic medical facilities. Despite this deadly combination, IDPs have been provided with precious little support to mitigate their situation,” said Hamidi.

“With the number of IDPs increasing daily due to ongoing conflict and the danger of a further wave of COVID infections still present, the Afghan government and international community must do more to protect IDPs.”

“Amnesty International is calling on the Afghan government and the international community to abide by their obligations to IDPs under international law, and allocate specific funding and resources targeted at IDPs to meet their urgent need to access adequate housing, food, water, sanitation, and health,” Amnesty International stated.

Amnesty International spoke to IDPs in settlements in Kabul, Herat and Nangarhar, and found in most cases basic services such as access to water and sanitation have not been provided, and with cramped living spaces, social distancing is not possible, leaving IDPs unable to maintain the hygiene required to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

Amnesty International also found that IDPs have not been provided with access to adequate medical facilities in the camps.

A 45-year-old woman living in a camp in Nangarhar said: “Most families had the signs of coronavirus, but they were not able to do any test to find out whether they were affected or not. At least seven people who were believed to have contracted coronavirus died in the settlement but again we could not verify due to lack of tests and access to health facilities”.

According to the IDPs interviewed by Amnesty International, there has not been any targeted assistance to women or children by government agencies or international humanitarian organizations during the lockdown.

An IDP in Nangarhar said: “We are living with nothing honestly, we don’t have work, we don’t have money and we don’t have anywhere to live. All I want from the Afghan government and the international community is to help us return to our own villages, help us to rebuild our lives, and live in dignity.”

“COVID-19 clearly presented an enormous challenge to the Afghan government. Though unintended, measures aimed at tackling the pandemic have had a disproportionately damaging impact on IDPs – the country’s most vulnerable group. Dedicated resources and greater support from the international community must be forthcoming to mitigate that impact to the furthest extent possible,” said Hamidi.

Escalating conflict in Afghanistan over the past year has resulted in a rise in the numbers being displaced, with thousands of new cases being registered each week.

According to the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, around 327,000 people were displaced in 2020, 80 percent of whom were women and children.

The Afghanistan Humanitarian Response Plan, which envisioned much improved living conditions for Afghans by 2021, remains severely under-funded, with only 23 percent of requirements having been funded as of 24 July 2020.

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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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