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‘My Heart Breaks for Taliban, They Are Afghans’ – Ghani

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(Last Updated On: September 14, 2018)

Following the reports of high number of casualties to government forces in the ongoing conflict, President Ashraf Ghani says his heart not only breaks for the Afghan military forces but also for the Taliban fighters who are engaged in 17-year-old battle in his war-weary country.  

“The worst part of my job is early morning, I get my first security briefing and I get the casualty figures. It is not just that my heart breaks for our security forces who are true heroes but also for Taliban; they are Afghans and I am the president of all Afghanistan,” Ghani said in an interview with VICE News on Thursday (Sept. 13).

Some political commentators said that comparing the security forces to the Taliban is a “mistake”. “The president probably made the remarks in order to build trust in process of paece talks [with the Taliban],” said a political analyst Mohammad Yaqub Watanmal.

Referring to the Taliban’s last month’s major attack in strategic province of Ghazni that lasted several days,  Ghani stressed that when they have received the correct information,  the security forces have recovered the province within 12 hours.  

“The first 72 hours, the right information didn’t come, it was failure of intelligence,” he told VICE News. “The minute the right intelligence came, within 12 hours we recovered the city.”

Despite of growing security issues in parts of the country along with political issues around elections and peace process, Ghani said that the U.S. strategy in Afghanistan to win the war against the Taliban is working.

“For the first time, the possibility of peace is really at hand,” Ghani said.

The president insisted that there is reason to believe that this time will be different, pointing to the Eid al-Fitr ceasefire between government forces and Taliban as a proof that the country is moving forward towards peace. 

“The ceasefire showed that this country is ready for reconciliation,” Ghani said. “We are offering to overcome the past grievances and move forward and this I think is genuine because if they insist on a military victory that’s something the Afghans will not accept.”

In part of his speech, he also warned that  if U.S. troops were to withdraw, the country would become a breeding ground for terrorism.

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Czechs approve program to help Afghan translators

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

The Czech government on Friday approved a program of help for Afghans who worked with Czech troops during their deployment in NATO missions, AP reported.

Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar said the help meant for Afghan interpreters and their families includes their relocation, an offer of asylum and financial aid.

Metnar said the goal of the program is to ensure safe and decent living conditions for them after NATO troops pull out of Afghanistan, AP reported.

The government’s move came days after the Czech veterans, current service members, human rights organizations and others urged the government to help resettle the Afghans because of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, AP reported.

President Milos Zeman asked his government on Thursday to approve the program without any delay because of fears that Afghans who worked with the Czech military could be killed by the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry declined to provide further details about the program, which is classified in order to protect its recipients, AP reported.

The number of Afghans wasn’t given.

The last Czech service members pulled out from Afghanistan in June.

Since 2002, a total of 11,500 Czech soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan, AP reported.

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UN office attacked in Herat, at least one guard killed

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Friday that its main compound in western Herat province was attacked by “anti-government elements,” killing at least guard and other officers injured.

In a statement issued on Friday, UNAMA condemned in the “strongest terms” today’s attack.

“The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces,” the statement read. 

The UN added that it is urgently seeking to establish a full picture of the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” Lyons stated.

 According to the statement, no UN personnel was hurt in the incident, in which entrances were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account,” said Lyons.

 “Attacks against civilian UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes,” the UN noted.

Immediately, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sources, however, told Ariana News that at least six people – including two security guards of UNAMA, three policemen, and a member of the public uprising forces – were killed and 19 others were wounded in clashes with the Taliban militants in the Guzara, Anjel and Karokh districts at the outskirts of Herat city on Friday.

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Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, villages evacuated

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

The death toll from wildfires on Turkey‘s southern coast has risen to four and firefighters were battling blazes for a third day on Friday after the evacuation of dozens of villages and some hotels.

More than 70 wildfires have broken out this week in provinces on Turkey‘s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as well as inland areas, President Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that 14 were still burning.

Planes from Russia and Ukraine helped battle the flames and another from Azerbaijan was joining them. “As of midday, with the arrival of the planes, we are turning in a positive direction,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers.

Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said fires raged on in six provinces and officials promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting them.

Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas and television footage has shown people fleeing across fields as fires closed in on their homes.

Pakdemirli said fires were still blazing in the Mediterranean resort region of Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” he said.

Wildfires have broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, authorities said. On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Fires also burned large swathes of pine forest in the mountainous north of Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.

In Turkey, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people in Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of Antalya. Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated there.

One person was found dead on Thursday in Mugla’s Marmaris area, 290 km west of Manavgat. The blaze continued in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, Pakdemirli said.

Erdogan said at least five planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 1,080 firefighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts at 1,140 sites.

Istanbul governor’s office banned entry to forest areas until the end of August as a precaution against fires.

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