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Helmand fighting disrupts critical health services: UNOCHA

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(Last Updated On: October 15, 2020)

Heavy fighting in southern Helmand province, near Lashkargah city, has not only displaced thousands of people but it has also interrupted critical health services as clinics have been forced to shut down in some areas, the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said on Thursday. 

In an update on the fighting, which broke out on Saturday night when the Taliban launched coordinated attacks across the province, UNOCHA said clashes were reported in Nahr-e-Saraj and Nad-e-Ali districts on Wednesday – two of the areas that have been hardest hit since Sunday. 

The UN agency also stated that the highway between Helmand and Kandahar remains closed. 

UNOCHA said they were verifying the numbers of displaced people after local authorities estimated 35,000 (about 5,000 households) had been forced to flee their homes earlier this week. 

Health clinics in a number of areas have also been affected, the report stated adding that two clinics in Nawa and Bolan closed on Wednesday due to active fighting in the areas while seven other health facilities in Nad-e Ali, Marja, Nahr-e-Saraj, Lashkargah and Nawa also closed down due to threats to health staff. 

“Before closing, the health facilities were operating in a reduced capacity, focusing on trauma care only. The closure of the health facilities affects more than 38,000 people in the area and deprives them of access to critical health services,” the report read.

Meanwhile, food distribution to needy households started on Wednesday. The Afghanistan National Disaster Management Authority (ANDMA) handed out food to 120 households (approximately 800 people ), with up to 1,000 additional households (7,000 people) – who have been displaced – expected to receive ANDMA assistance in Lashkargah in the coming days. 

Electricity and telecommunication lines are still disrupted in some areas, hindering the flow of information. This has affected people’s ability to communicate and humanitarian partners’ ability to conduct assessments, UNOCHA said. 

Meanwhile, the UNHCR will deliver assistance to 600 households (200 tents and 400 non-food item kits). 

UNOCHA “is working with clusters to deliver further assistance, including tents, food and water which have been highlighted as immediate needs,” their report stated adding that the World Health Organization will relocate three Mobile Health Teams (MHTs) to provide medical services to the displaced population in Lashkargah city.

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Two former US defense secretaries advise against pulling out all troops

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(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

Two former US defense secretaries have both said they would advise President Joe Biden against withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.

This comes amid the Biden administration’s ongoing review of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago in Doha, which stipulates the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country by May 1.

However, in an interview with Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution, former defense secretary Mark Esper said the withdrawal deal negotiated with the Taliban was always contingent on conditions to be met by the Taliban.

“We implemented our side of it in good faith, but it’s fair to say the Taliban have not,” Esper said, noting the Taliban have not delivered on any of their key promises, namely a reduction in violence, good faith negotiations with the Afghan government, and a full break with al-Qaeda.

Esper said he would have opposed Trump’s post-election order to reduce U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,500, which he says has effectively undercut any leverage the U.S. had over the Taliban.

“I made this clear when I was in the administration at the end, I thought we should hold it 4,500 until the conditions on the ground were met.”

Esper said Trump has put Biden in a tough situation and said: “We have to make sure that again, Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorism. And I say that as somebody who wants to get out of there as badly as anyone else.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the Washington Post, Robert Gates, who served under former president Barak Obama, said the “least bad option’ is for the U.S. to stay until the Taliban get the message that the U.S. won’t leave until they get serious about peace.

“My view is that I think the steps the president has taken in terms of hinting that we might not pull the rest of our troops out on the first of May is exactly right. I think that we do need to take into consideration the possibility of having a presence in Afghanistan at roughly the current level, or maybe even slightly more, along with our NATO allies.”

“We have about 2,500 troops there now,” Gates says, and they need to stay, he argues, “for an indefinite period of time, at a minimum until that presence forces the Taliban to realize that they can’t just take all the marbles once we leave.”

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Kabul University lecturer killed in IED explosion 

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(Last Updated On: February 18, 2021)

A university lecturer was killed in a targeted IED explosion in Kabul city late Thursday morning.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened at about 11.25 am in PD3, close to Kabul University and said another person was also killed in the incident. 

The victim, Mubasher Muslimyar, was a lecturer in Islamic studies at the university.

Muslimyar was killed while driving in a Toyota Corolla which was targeted in a magnetic IED attack. 

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.  

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Biden says he will never hesitate to use force to protect America

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

In a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would never hesitate to use force to defend America but also promised to work with leaders around the world to bring an end to wars that have dragged on “for far too long”. 

“As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary,” Biden said adding that the “central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”

He told DoD staff present at the event that the US Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world.

Biden promised to work with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and world leaders “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”

Biden did not however give any indication as to what his decision is yet on the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline. 

An agreement signed in February 2020 by the Trump Administration and the Taliban notes that all US troops are supposed to be gone by May this year. 

So far, indications are that the withdrawal of troops will be based on conditions on the ground, opposed to a calendar date. 

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