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Sanjay Dutt’s new thriller weaves the story of an Afghan cricket academy

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(Last Updated On: November 22, 2020)

Well known Indian actor Sanjay Dutt’s latest movie “Torbaaz” highlights the hardships children in Afghan refugee camps face and how, as an army officer, he tries to lure children away from terrorist activities and focus instead on cricket.

Dutt plays the role of an army officer who also takes on the role of cricket coach to teach Afghan children living in a refugee camp about the game.

Also starring in the movie – which was mostly filmed in Afghanistan – is Rahul Dev, who plays the role of a terrorist leader who tries to get the children of the refugee camp to become suicide bombers.

Because of COVID-19, the December 11 release will be on Netflix, Indian media outlets reported, and not at movie theatres as hoped for.

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Afghan leaders head to Washington to meet Biden

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani left Kabul on Wednesday evening along with a high level delegation for a two-day official visit to Washington, the Presidential Palace (ARG) said.

“He will meet US President Joe Biden, other administration officials and US lawmakers, ARG said.

Ghani is accompanied by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, foreign minister Haneef Atmar, National Security adviser Hamdullah Mohib, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) chairwoman Shahzad Akbar and other government officials.

Abdullah’s office said that Abdullah will meet with Biden, other American officials and the lawmakers to discuss “a wide range of issues pertaining to current and future relations, commitments and peace.”

The Afghan Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said a delegation from the AIHRC has traveled to the US with Ghani to discuss the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

AIHRC also said humanitarian aid to the country, and support for human rights defenders and civil society will be discussed. Violations of international humanitarian law in the country will be addressed.

Meanwhile, Whitehouse spokesman Jen Psaki has said the timeline for troops withdrawal will not change by September and that part of the discussion between Biden and Ghani on Friday will be on Biden’s commitment to working with the Afghan government in future.

The discussion will also probably take in Biden’s commitment to providing humanitarian support and over-the-horizon support around security, Psaki said.

This comes after the White House said that: “President Biden looks forward to welcoming Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, to the White House on June 25, 2021.”

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Thousands of children losing access to education as schools caught in crossfire

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

Save the Children has called for all parties in the escalating conflict in Afghanistan to abide by international humanitarian law and ensure children and schools do not become collateral damage.

In a statement issued by the organization, Save the Children stated that last week in Kandahar, it found about 25 schools damaged in one district alone, potentially preventing almost 28,000 students from returning to their classrooms when they reopen.

While schools are currently closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the country, they must be protected as safe spaces for children, Save the Children warned.

A number of schools were burned to the ground in the northern province of Faryab, including a school supported by Save the Children which was destroyed by rockets and stray bullets on 22 June.

Mohammad Moradi, the headmaster of the school, said: “Our school had 947 students and 18 teachers, and Save the Children helped us with textbooks and facilities for hand washing. Unfortunately, our school building is now gone.”

Athena Rayburn, Director of Advocacy and Media at Save the Children Afghanistan said: “Children in Afghanistan have already endured the trauma of war for too long. The destruction of these schools is a violation of Afghan children’s rights and will prevent them from being able to return to school – the only chance they have for a better future.

“Children play no part in conflict and yet, as is too often the case, they are paying the price for this escalating violence. The hopes and dreams of an entire generation of children are being destroyed.

“All parties to the conflict must ensure the protection of children and schools. Children and the places that provide them with safe haven must never become collateral damage.”

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Covid outbreak at US Embassy in Kabul grows to 159 cases

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

The COVID-19 outbreak at the US Embassy in Kabul has grown to 159 cases, according to a diplomatic cable sent Tuesday, CNN reported.

This comes amid a devastating third wave of the deadly disease in Afghanistan.

CNN reported that a source familiar with the cable said it noted that several people at the diplomatic mission are on oxygen or have been medically evacuated from the post, which was put under immediate lockdown last week to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the growing outbreak at the embassy has reportedly prompted frustration among some in the diplomatic community over the lack of a vaccine mandate for those posted abroad, which they argue hampers the United States’ ability to conduct effective foreign policy.

CNN reported that an embassy management notice dated June 17 warned that “COVID-19 is surging in the Mission,” noting that there were 114 people with coronavirus and in isolation, one death and several medical evacuations.

“Military hospital ICU resources are at full capacity, forcing our health units to create temporary, on-compound COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients,” the notice said.

CNN reported that according to the embassy notice, “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” and it called for those coming to the embassy to be vaccinated before arrival, noting that “failure to do this puts everyone in the community at risk.”

The surge in cases has fueled tensions in Kabul, sources told CNN, with some pointing the blame at unvaccinated contractors. Most American diplomats, third country nationals and locally employed staff have been vaccinated — the rate is more than 90% of staff in the latter two categories, according to the management notice, CNN reported..

According to an official at a major international security provider for the US in Afghanistan, almost 50% of its American staff in Afghanistan have been vaccinated and nearly all of its non-American staff have been.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged the outbreak last week but would not provide specific numbers, saying the embassy had “adjusted its operations to do all we can to ensure the continued safety, security, and health of our staff as they continue to advance U.S. interests and our relationship with the Government and the people of Afghanistan.”

“This includes requiring all staff to telework and to adhere to physical distancing and masking requirements and other applicable regulations,” he said, adding that they “expect that normal embassy operations will resume once embassy leadership is confident that chain of transmission has been broken.”

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