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Report blames Trump’s Administration for 330% increase in civilian casualties

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2020)

Outgoing President Donald Trump’s decision in 2017 to loosen military rules of engagement in Afghanistan that were meant to protect civilians was followed by a sharp increase in civilian deaths, a report released on Monday revealed.

The report by Brown University Watson Institute’s Costs of War Project, one of the premier authorities on civilian casualties in the 19-year-long war, found a 330 percent increase in the number of Afghan civilians killed by US-led airstrikes from 2016, the final year of the Barack Obama administration, to 2019.

Author of the report, Neta C. Crawford, said: “Some of this harm could be avoided by tighter rules of engagement, as well as better training. A negotiated ceasefire might also yield results at the bargaining table and at the same time avoid escalating harm to Afghan civilians from airstrikes.”

From 2007 to 2016, US-led and Afghan government forces killed an average of 582 civilians each year, the report found.

From 2017 to 2019, during Trump’s tenure, those same forces killed an average of 1,134 civilians each year, a nearly 95 percent increase.

The sharp increase in civilian deaths followed a decision by Trump, in consultation with former Defense Secretary James Mattis and other military and civilian officials, to relax rules of engagement in the Afghan war in order to give US commanders more battlefield flexibility and to gain leverage at the bargaining table with the Taliban.

“From 2017 through 2019, civilian deaths due to US and allied forces’ airstrikes in Afghanistan dramatically increased,” the report states.

“In 2019 airstrikes killed 700 civilians – more civilians than in any other year since the beginning of the war in 2001 and 2002. After the US and Taliban reached a peace agreement in late February 2020, US and other international air strikes declined, and so did the harm to civilians caused by those strikes.”

According to the United Nations, US-led and Afghan government airstrikes killed more civilians than did Taliban militant attacks during the first half of 2019.

The new report found that as US-led bombings declined following the agreement reached with the Taliban in February 2020, Afghan government airstrikes have increased.

“As a consequence, the Afghan Air Force (AAF) is harming more Afghan civilians than at any time in its history,” the report states.

“In the first six months of this year, the AAF killed 86 Afghan civilians and injured 103 civilians in airstrikes. That rate of harm nearly doubled in the next three months. Between July and the end of September, the Afghan Air Force killed 70 civilians and 90 civilians were injured.”

“As with the international airstrikes, some of this harm could be avoided by tighter rules of engagement, as well as better training,” the report states.
The report also highlights the fact that a reduction or even total withdrawal of US ground troops does not mean an end to war or civilian casualties, as most American combat is one-sided and takes place in the air.

The report also states that there were more weapons dropped from the air in 2018 and 2019 than at the height of US presence in Afghanistan in 2011.

According to the Costs of War Project report, more than 43,000 Afghan civilians have been killed during the 19-year US-led war.

While Taliban insurgents have killed the most civilians, thousands of men, women, and children have also been killed by US, allied, and Afghan government bombs and bullets, the report states.

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Govt to purchase local products in move to boost domestic market

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

The Afghan National Procurement Authority (NPA) and the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries (ACCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Saturday, that will compel government entities to purchase only domestic products where possible.

According to the MoU, which was signed between Ilham Omar Hotak, NPA Chief, and Shirbaz Kaminzada, Chief of the ACCI, all government departments will have to use domestic products from next year (1400 Solar Calendar).

Hotak said at the event that government will in the future have to purchase domestically produced or manufactured products, despite the estimated 25 percent price difference.

Hotak urged the ACCI to guarantee the quality of products, stating “all industrialists should standardize their products.”

“We want to use all alternatives to promote our domestic products in the year 1400 and all government bodies will be bound to use domestic products.”

The ACCI officials, meanwhile, stated they would invest more in the country if the government promised to support local products.

ACCI Chief, Shirbaz Kaminzada stated: “If domestic products are included in government deals we are ready to invest in other sectors as well.”

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Taliban ‘prevents’ 3.5 million children from getting polio vaccine

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

More than 3.5 million children have been deprived of anti-polio vaccinations due to restrictions imposed by the Taliban in several provinces, the Ministry of Public Health claimed Saturday.

The Ministry stated that the Taliban’s restrictions on the house-to-house vaccination campaign has increased from three to ten percent of homes in the last three years.

Mirjan Rasikh, head of the Polio Eradication Program said: “Although the Taliban promised to cooperate in implementing the vaccine, they have prevented it more so than in the past.”

“Children in Paktia and Maidan Wardak have missed the immunity doses against the polio virus due to the Taliban’s restrictions,” Rasikh said.

The vaccination campaign began last week.

The Taliban not only failed to cooperate with the process but also prevented thousands of children from getting the vaccine in Maidan Wardak, Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, Kunduz, Takhar, Paktika, and Paktia provinces, the Public Health Ministry said.

A number of civil society activists in eastern provinces have meanwhile called on the Taliban to allow the vaccination campaign to be implemented in areas under their control.

“The Taliban prevented the campaign in areas under their control. We asked them to allow the children to get the vaccine,” Sayeed Jamal Asifkhel, a Paktia civil society activist stated.

Meanwhile, children in Bamiyan, Daikundi, and Ghor provinces also missed out on the vaccine program as healthcare workers were prevented from rolling out the vaccines due to poor weather conditions.

In November last year, the Taliban announced that the group would cooperate in implementing the vaccination campaign, but later the group’s spokesman told Ariana News that the campaign was stopped due to what he put down to “abuses” during the vaccination process.

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Andarabi claims Taliban ‘playing for time’

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(Last Updated On: January 23, 2021)

Masoud Andarabi, Minister of Interior Affairs, said Saturday the Taliban is playing for time in the ongoing peace negotiations in Doha and waiting to see what the new US administration decides following the inauguration of Joe Biden last week.

Biden’s administration has confirmed that they will review the US-Taliban agreement signed in February last year and that they will assess whether the Taliban has met the conditions as per the deal, which includes ensuring a reduction in violence and the cutting of all ties with Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups.

According to the deal, if Taliban meets the conditions, Washington will withdraw the last of its troops by May.

Andarabi meanwhile said in an interview with BBC, that the Taliban has increased the level of violence and ramped up targeted attacks across the country in a bid to pressurize the government into giving in to their demands.

He said the group wants the government to release the remaining Taliban prisoners and to accept an Islamic Emirate.

Andarabi also said the Taliban believes in conflict as a solution.

“The Taliban are waiting for the withdrawal of US forces and the group is targeting civil society activists and journalists in order to [get the government to] release more [Taliban] prisoners, as well as to impose Islamic Emirate ideology in governing,” he said.

The Interior Minister added that the Taliban attacks jeopardize all hard-won achievements of the last two decades.

“How committed are they (Taliban) to the values that we have gained with giving hundreds and thousands of sacrifices?” Andarabi asked.

The Taliban has not commented yet. The group, however, has frequently emphasized its commitment to bringing peace to Afghanistan

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