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Taliban advances in Afghanistan, U.S. and Britain to evacuate embassies

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2021)

The Taliban claimed control over two of Afghanistan’s biggest cities on Thursday, according to media reports, as the United States and Britain said they would send thousands of troops to help evacuate their embassy staff, Reuters reported.

According to Reuters the capture of Kandahar and Herat – the country’s second and third largest cities – would represent the Taliban’s two biggest military victories since they began a broad offensive in May.

The fall of major cities was a sign that Afghans welcome the Taliban, a spokesperson for the group said, according to Al Jazeera TV.

The U.S. State Department said Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday and told him the United States “remains invested in the security and stability of Afghanistan”. They also said the United States was committed to supporting a political solution to the conflict.

In response to the Taliban’s swift and violent advances, the Pentagon said it would send about 3,000 extra troops within 48 hours to help evacuate embassy staff, Reuters reported.

“We expect to draw down to a core diplomatic presence in Afghanistan in the coming weeks,” said State Department spokesperson Ned Price, adding the embassy was not closed. A person familiar with the matter said there were no guarantees the embassy would remain open.

The State Department said it would also increase the tempo of Special Immigration Visa flights for Afghans who helped the U.S. effort in the country.

Britain said it would deploy around 600 troops to help its nationals and local translators get out.

According to Reuters as the United Nations warned that a Taliban offensive reaching the capital would have a “catastrophic impact on civilians,” the United States and Germany urged all their citizens to leave Afghanistan immediately.

In Qatar, international envoys to Afghan negotiations called for an accelerated peace process as a “matter of great urgency,” and for an immediate halt to attacks on cities.

The fall of both Kandahar and Herat was reported by media including the Associated Press. Combined, the cities represent the two biggest prizes yet for the Taliban in their offensive over the past week.

“As you can see, we are inside the Herat police headquarters right now,” a Taliban fighter said in a video shared by a group spokesperson, Qari Yousuf Ahmadi.

Earlier on Thursday, the Taliban captured Ghazni, situated on the Kandahar-to-Kabul road some 150 km (90 miles) southwest of the capital, Reuters reported.

On the border, Afghans stranded in Pakistan after the Taliban closed a commercially vital crossing point clashed with Pakistani forces. The death of an Afghan traveller of a heart attack as he waited in the dusty heat near the Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing sparked an attack by others on Pakistani security forces, who responded by firing tear gas and charging with batons.

On Wednesday, a U.S. defense official cited U.S. intelligence as saying the Taliban could isolate Kabul in 30 days and possibly take it over within 90.

With phone lines down across much of the country, Reuters was unable to immediately contact government officials to confirm which of the cities under attack remained in government hands, Reuters reported.

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Parwan residents receive much needed food from Bayat Foundation

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

Hundreds of vulnerable families in Parwan province received much-needed food aid from Afghan charity the Bayat Foundation this week.

The leading charity organization distributed foods parcels – that included flour, cooking oil, and rice – to at-risk families in the province.

Bayat Foundation, so far, has distributed food supplies to thousands of vulnerable people in Logar, Maidan Wardak, Paktika, Herat, Balkh, Nangarhar, Ghazni, Baghlan, Jawzjan, Paktia, Khost, Kunduz, Kandahar, Kunar, Urozgan, Kabul, and Bamiyan provinces.

Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Head of Bayat Foundation, stated: “Today we brought food supplies to Charikar city in Parwan province to distribute to deserving and displaced people.”

“The aid included flour, rice, and oil. We will distribute aid to other provinces soon,” Haji Mohammad Ismail added.

Grateful recipients of the food aid thanked the Bayat Foundation and said they needed the food desperately.

“We are grateful for the much-needed aid [by Bayat Foundation] and call for the continuation of this assistance,” said a resident of Parwan.

Another recipient of the Foundation’s assistance said: “Food prices are high and we face unemployment; therefore, people are suffering financial hardship. This aid will help people.”

Bayat Foundation provides at-risk families with food supplies ahead of and through winter every year. This year, the foundation has ramped up efforts to reach as many desperate families in the country as possible amid the ongoing economic and humanitarian crisis.

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AIB takes delivery of 6th cash aid package from UN

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

The sixth transfer of humanitarian aid in US dollars from the United Nations has arrived in Afghanistan, Da Afghanistan Bank said on Monday.

The aid, totaling $32 million, was immediately handed over to the Afghanistan International Bank (AIB) on Sunday.

Da Afghanistan Bank, the central bank, has thanked the UN for its assistance in helping to overcome the current economic crisis in the country.

Last month the United Nations announced it would provide $20 million a week in cash as humanitarian aid to Afghanistan by the end of March this year to save the banking system from running out of cash.

The Central Bank of Afghanistan announced four days ago that it had also received the fifth package of $32 million in cash from the United Nations.

After the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, the United States froze nearly $10 billion in foreign reserves belonging to Afghanistan.

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IEA wraps up first day of talks with Norwegian authorities

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Monday members of their delegation, led by acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, to Norway met with Norwegian officials on Sunday and discussed issues related to the current situation in the country.

According to a statement issued by the (IEA), “a one-day joint meeting was held between officials of the acting Afghan government and a number of personalities in Oslo, the capital of the Kingdom of Norway”.

“During the meeting, the participants listened patiently to each others’ opinions and exchanged views on the current situation in the country.

“They affirmed that Afghanistan is the shared home of all Afghans, and stressed that all Afghans need to work together for the political, economic and security prosperity of the country.

 “The participants of the meeting recognized that understanding and joint cooperation are the only solutions to all the problems of Afghanistan,” read the statement.

The IEA also said all participants declared such meetings to be in the interest of the country.

Speaking at the end of the first day of talks, IEA delegate Shafiullah Azam told The Associated Press that the meetings with Western officials were “a step to legitimize (the) Afghan government,” adding that “this type of invitation and communication will help (the) European community, (the) U.S. or many other countries to erase the wrong picture of the Afghan government.”

Norway’s Foreign Ministry meanwhile said in a statement last week that Afghan representatives have been invited to Oslo from  23-25 January to meet Norwegian authorities, the international community, and other Afghans.

The statement noted that the meetings do not represent a legitimization or recognition of the IEA “but the de facto authorities must be talked with so that we prevent political situation leading to a worse humanitarian disaster”.

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