The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) and the Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation (MoRR) have launched a $10 million program, funded by Saudi Arabia, to provide essential services to support the sustainable reintegration of returnees, internally displaced people (IDPs) and host communities.
Under the program, UNHCR and the MoRR and its partners will build 37 schools, health clinics and infrastructure projects – including roads and water pipe networks – across Afghanistan in 2020.
“The Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan is firmly committed to ensuring the voluntary repatriation and sustainable reintegration of all displaced Afghans,” said Noor Rahman Akhlaqi, Minister of Refugees and Repatriation.
“The government’s decision to put an end to the protracted displacement of its citizens is steadfast, and we do our best to create conditions conducive internally to achieve this goal. It constitutes one of our highest national priorities”, said Akhlaqi.
The program was launched on 1 June 2020, helping three million people in Afghanistan. It is expected to be complete at the end of May 2021.
Up to 14 projects funded Saudi Arabia – including the construction of schools and health clinics in Bamyan, Kabul, Nangarhar and Kandahar – are currently ongoing in various parts of the country with the potential to benefit 32,100 people in Afghanistan.
The Afghan government and UNHCR have identified 20 priority areas for return and reintegration where returnees and displaced people are living among local communities.
These areas have been selected based on the high number of returnees, assessed needs, and suitability for coordinated efforts by a range of humanitarian and development actors.
Since 2002, more than 5.3 million Afghan refugees have been assisted to return home.
“We are grateful to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia for this very generous donation for supporting the people of Afghanistan”, says Caroline Van Buren, UNHCR Representative in Afghanistan.
“This donation is critical to UNHCR’s work with the Afghan Government to ensure that refugee returnees have access to the essential services and the facilities they need to rebuild their lives while also supporting the communities as a whole,” she said.
Today, there are some 4.6 million Afghans outside Afghanistan, of whom 2.7 million are registered refugees. Collectively, they represent one of the longest-displaced, longest-dispossessed populations worldwide.
NATO to provide provisional funding to help run Kabul airport
NATO has not yet decided on who would run the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul once foreign troops have withdrawn, the organization’s secretary-general Jens Stoltenberg said Monday night.
Stoltenberg said however that Turkey would play a “key role” in running the airport and that NATO is committed to providing transitional funding for the key facility.
This comes after Turkey offered to run and guard the airport after the withdrawal of troops.
However, the Taliban issued a warning and said such a move would be a “mistake” and that any country doing so would be considered invaders.
“The presence of foreign forces under whatever name or by whichever country in our homeland is unacceptable for the Afghan people and the Islamic Emirate (Taliban),” the group cautioned in a statement.
The Taliban insisted that the security of airports, foreign embassies, and diplomatic offices is the responsibility of Afghans, saying that “no one should hold out hope of keeping military or security presence” in Afghanistan.
In a communique issued by the Heads of State and Government participating in the NATO Summit, it was stated that NATO will retain a Senior Civilian Representative’s Office in Kabul to continue diplomatic engagement and enhance its partnership with Afghanistan.
“Recognising its importance to an enduring diplomatic and international presence, as well as to Afghanistan’s connectivity with the world, NATO will provide transitional funding to ensure the continued functioning of Hamid Karzai International Airport,” the communique read.
“We will also step up dialogue on Afghanistan with relevant international and regional partners. We continue to support the ongoing Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process, and call on all stakeholders to help Afghanistan foster a lasting inclusive political settlement that puts an end to violence; safeguards the human rights of Afghans, particularly women, children, and minorities; upholds the rule of law; and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.”
NATO looking at setting up training base for Afghan forces in Qatar
Security officials under NATO command have approached Qatar to secure a base that can be used to train Afghan special forces as part of a strategic commitment after foreign forces withdraw from Afghanistan, three senior Western officials told Reuters.
After two decades of war, forces from 36 countries involved in NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan are set to pull out of the country in coordination with a U.S. troop withdrawal by September 11.
“We are holding talks to earmark a base in Qatar to create an exclusive training ground for senior members of the Afghan forces,” said a senior Western security official in Kabul.
The official, whose country is part of the U.S.-led NATO alliance in Afghanistan, requested anonymity as he was not authorized to speak with journalists.
An integral part of Resolute Support has been to train and equip Afghan security forces fighting the Taliban, which was ousted from power in 2001 and has since waged an insurgency.
“We have made an offer but it is for authorities in Qatar to decide if they are comfortable with NATO using their territory as a training ground,” said a second security source based in Washington DC.
A third source, a diplomat based in Kabul, told Reuters bringing “Afghan special force members to Qatar for about four to six weeks of rigorous training” was under discussion.
Qatar’s government and NATO’s communications office did not respond to questions about the proposal to use the Gulf state as a base for training Afghan forces.
The Afghan government also did not respond to a request for comment.
Khalilzad says US ‘not leaving Afghanistan’ despite troop pullout
The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States will not abandon the war-torn country even after the withdrawal of its forces.
Addressing a press conference during his visit to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan on Sunday, Khalilzad said: “Our forces are leaving Afghanistan, but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. We will work hard for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”
“We will continue our security assistance, and we will continue our economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.
This comes as concerns continue to grown around the uncertainty in Kabul amid a spike in violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic.
In Nur-Sultan, Khalilzad said he regularly discusses Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative Zamir Kabulov, RFE\RL reported Monday.
“Russia and the United States are working well together in promoting peace in Afghanistan,” according to him.
Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region in a drive to muster support for the peace process ahead of the US and NATO troops withdrawal, which is expected to be finalized by September 11.
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