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Ghani Sends Delegation to Hold Secret Meeting with Taliban in Doha

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(Last Updated On: November 11, 2019)

On Saturday November 9th, a source close to the Taliban told Ariana News, that a delegation from the Office of Afghanistan’s National Security Council has secretly travelled to Qatar, with the intention of meeting with the political representatives of the Taliban insurgent group.

Waheed Muzhda, a pro-Taliban political analyst who is familiar with the talks, said that the delegation will ask Taliban to announce a ceasefire in exchange for the release of their prisoners, including Anas Haqqani, a key member of the Haqqani Network.

According to Muzhda, President Ashraf Ghani’s delegation will also call on the Taliban to hold direct talks with Afghan government negotiators, during an intra-Afghan meeting that will be held in Beijing, in the near future.

However, Taliban leaders have not agreed to meet with Ghani’s visiting delegation in Doha, the capital of Qatar, a source close to Taliban said. Currently, the Afghan delegation is meeting with Qatari officials.

The Taliban’s political office in Qatar has declined comment.

Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danish on Friday said that the Afghan government is ready to release the Taliban prisoners in order to help promote confidence-building measures and create conditions for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

Danish emphasized that the Taliban must show their desire for peace by agreeing to a ceasefire.

However, the Office of the National Security Council of Afghanistan (ONSC) has rejected the report saying that, “No delegation from National Security Council of Afghanistan has been sent to any country to negotiate with the Taliban on any issue. We have always been very open and clear in any step taken towards the peace and dialogue.”

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German-funded road project completed in Samangan

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2020)

Samangan officials and representatives of the Afghan-German Cooperation inaugurated a reconstructed 3.8-kilometer long road in the northern province on Friday. 

The new asphalt road connects Aybak city to Dara-e Zhowandon village and with the Mazar-e Sharif to Kabul Highway. 

More than 22,000 citizens will benefit from the improved infrastructure, which was financed by the Afghan-German Cooperation’s Regional Infrastructure Development Fund (RIDF). The road cost AFN 94 million. 

Samangan’s Provincial Governor, Dawod Kalakani, said on Friday: “Today, I am very proud with the inauguration of this important road. We strongly support the continuation of German Cooperation activities.”

He said he hoped other roads in Aybak City will also benefit from this program;

The newly asphalted road enables easier mobility between Aybak and the districts of Khuram-wa-Sarbagh and Roy-e-Doab as well as to Mazar-e Sharif, north-eastern provinces and Kabul. 

This allows for residents to benefit from improved access to schools, local agricultural markets, health centers, nearby districts and provinces, and it aims to stimulate economic growth and improve the locals’ overall living conditions.

Zikrullah Nazari, the provincial director of Samangan’s road management agency said: “I would like to thank the technical support and advice of RIDF engineers during the implementation of the project for increasing the capacity of our staff. 

“We are willing to implement more projects with their cooperation so that in the future we can execute projects independently. We are committed and will maintain and take care of the newly built road.”

The road between Aybak and Dara-e Zhowandon village and the road connection with the Mazar-e-Sharif to Kabul Highway is now equipped with highly visible pavement markings, specific traffic lanes, and traffic signs. 

It also has gravel shoulders, allowing pedestrians to walk along the roadside safely. The drainage systems have been improved, protecting the road from drainage overflow and flooding, and the reconstruction, which took 18 months, created 300 jobs for the duration of the project.

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IMF, Afghanistan reach preliminary agreement over Extended Credit Facility

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(Last Updated On: August 15, 2020)

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Afghanistan authorities have reached a preliminary agreement on an economic reform program to be supported by a new three-and-half year US$364 million Extended Credit Facility (ECF).

This announcement comes just three months before the United Nations’ donor pledging conference for Afghanistan gets underway. 

In a statement issued by the IMF on Friday, the fund said the ECF will help mitigate the economic impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, maintain macroeconomic stability, and underpin reforms for economic resilience and good governance.

The fund also stated that continued financial assistance from international partners is critical to support objectives of Afghanistan’s National Peace and Development Framework for 2021-25, including inclusive growth, poverty reduction, and self-reliance.

Leading the IMF’s team was Azim Sadikov, and virtual discussions were held with Afghan officials through July and August on the country’s economic reform program. 

Sadikov said however that the agreement is subject to the approval of the IMF’s Executive Board, which would possibly consider the agreement in October after preliminary conditions have been met by Afghan authorities, including the improvement of accountability and transparency in procurement processes. 

“The new ECF arrangement will support authorities’ reform program to maintain macroeconomic stability and lay the ground for a sustained post-pandemic economic recovery while continuing to advance structural reforms,” Sadikov said. 

He said the reform program aims to gradually reverse the fiscal decline due to the pandemic and instead create space for development sending while increasing self-reliance. 

He stated improvements in customs collections and revenue administration need to be improved and the planned Value Added Tax (VAT) process needs to be implemented in 2022. 

“Monetary policy will continue to focus on maintaining price stability and a flexible exchange rate regime, while fostering confidence in the Afghani,” Sadikov said.

 He also said that reforms, in accordance with the new ECF arrangement, will focus on addressing issues that hamper economic growth and resilience. 

“To that end, the program will aim to improve fiscal governance, strengthen the anti-corruption regime, and bolster the financial sector,” he said. 

“Bolstering the financial sector, including by completing the reform of state-owned banks, will also be important to boost its capacity to contribute to growth.

 “Coming before the November pledging conference, the ECF arrangement is expected to catalyze donor financing, which is critical to support Afghanistan’s reform and development objectives under the multi-year National Peace and Development Framework,” he said. 

 The pledging conference is organized every four years and was last held in 2016 in Brussels. 

This year, Finland will host the conference, which will be organized by both the UN and Afghanistan. 

Previous international financial commitments largely end by December of this year.

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UN calls on Afghanistan to prevent further killings of human rights defenders

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2020)

Afghanistan must take early decisive action to prevent killings of human rights defenders, UN human rights experts said today, calling attention to a recent spate of such deaths.

“The killing of one human rights defender is a tragedy for society; the death of nine defenders since the beginning of this year shows the emergence of a truly alarming trend,” said Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders. “Already by August, Afghanistan has far exceeded last year’s figures.”

“Impunity allows the perpetuation of such crimes and implies a lack of recognition for human rights defenders’ role in society,” the experts said, noting that investigations in many cases have not yet yielded any results. “There needs to be full accountability for such egregious violations of human rights.”

Asmatullah Salaam, who worked on promoting the right to education in the province of Ghazni, was abducted and killed as he made his way to celebrate Eid with his family on 1 August. His death comes not long after Fatimah Natasha Khalil and Ahmad Jawed Folad were killed on their way to work at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission on 27 June. Human rights defender Ibrahim Ebrat was shot dead in Zabul in May.

“In January the Government of Afghanistan voiced support for the idea of creating a national protection mechanism for human rights defenders, but no progress has been reported and clearly defenders are still no better protected than they were before,” said the experts. “We urge the government to urgently put in place, as promised, an effective national protection mechanism.”

It is the responsibility of every government to protect human rights defenders against armed groups, they added.

“Afghanistan must do better at detecting and acting on early warning signs, such as threats and intimidation, protecting others who find themselves at risk, and thoroughly investigating violence, including killings, when they happen,” they said.  “We cannot allow these disturbing events to continue.”

The experts said they are talking with Afghanistan authorities, and pledged to closely monitor the situation.

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