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Taliban Demands Release of 82 Prisoners in Exchange for Two Professors

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2019)

The Taliban militant group has given a list of 82 prisoners – to be exchanged with two foreign university professors – to the U.S. Special Envoy for Afghanistan Reconciliation.

Wahid Muzhda, a pro-Taliban political analyst on Thursday told Ariana News that the list includes key members of the group including designated governors, war commanders, and two key members of the Haqqani Network, Anas Haqqani and Hafiz Rashid, who are kept in Bagram, Pul-e-Charkhi and Afghan Intelligence agency prisons.

Kevin King and Timothy Weeks from Australia were teaching at Kabul’s American University of Afghanistan (AUAF) before gunmen took them hostage near the campus in August 2016.

Meanwhile, government sources said the U.S. chief negotiator Zalmay Khalilzad has told Afghan leaders that releasing of these inmates will facilitate the resumption of Afghan peace process including the intra-Afghan talks.

Recently, the Afghan National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib said Khalilzad discussed the release of two professors during his latest visit to Kabul.

Mohib further explained President Ashraf Ghani’s new plan for peace that requires Taliban to announce at least a month of ceasefire before the start of any negotiations.

For the past couple of years, the government was ready for negotiations with the Taliban without any pre-condition and that has changed now, he added.

Here in Kabul, Afghan officials are holding meetings with foreign diplomats on daily basis, discussing the peace process.

On Wednesday, President Ghani’s National Security Advisor met with the Russian Ambassador to Afghanistan Aleksandr Mantytsky in Kabul where they discussed the regional consensus for peace.

In addition, in a video message sent to media outlets, Spokesman of the National Security Council Kabir Haqmal re-emphasized on the government’s Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

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Elections planned for summer, including Ghazni poll

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Tuesday that various elections will be held across the country in summer, including the long overdue Ghazni parliamentary elections as well as  provincial council, district council and municipal elections. 

Saleh said that in a meeting chaired by President Ashraf Ghani and members of the Independent Election Commission (IEC), he was tasked with reporting on the constituency for the provincial council elections for another month.

According to Saleh, constituencies is one of the most complex and sensitive issues in elections as it could lead to various groups in society feeling sidelined or undermined.

“Our wish is that all these elections are held. But if we can’t hold them all due to logistical problems, we will definitely hold one or two,” said Saleh.

The Ghazni elections meanwhile where delayed in 2018 due to serious security issues. 

Ghani meanwhile met with the IEC two days ago to discuss election plans. 

In a statement issued by the president’s office, ARG stated that IEC commissioners showed their preparedness for holding elections across the country.

Ghani welcomed the IEC’s plans and said government was committed to the principle of elections and would provide the necessary resources.

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Taliban ambush security checkpoint in Badakhshan

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)

Abdullah Naji Nazari, a member of the Badakhshan Provincial Council, said Tuesday the Taliban attacked a checkpoint in Pul-e-Soch in Badakhshan’s Jurm district at midnight on Monday. 

The attack lasted for two hours. 

According to Nazari, three soldiers were killed, three were wounded and three others were captured. 

Nazari added that five armed Taliban were killed and eight others were wounded in the attack.

Local officials have not yet responded to calls for more information. 

Taliban has also not commented. 

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Neighbors ‘colluding’ with Taliban over drone warfare: military experts

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(Last Updated On: January 19, 2021)

A number of former military chiefs and members of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) have said the Taliban are not able to get access to hi-tech drones without the help of neighboring countries. 

The use of drones is one of the Taliban’s latest tactics. The group has not only used the devices to gather surveillance footage of possible targets but have also used them to carry out bombardments against military installations. 

Sources in Kunduz said on Monday the Taliban also carried out an airstrike on a national army battalion in Imam Sahib district of the province on Sunday – using drones. This comes after they dropped explosives on the 217 Pamir Corps.

The use of this technology by the Taliban is not new, but in recent months such attacks by the group on military bases have increased. 

“The use of drones by the Taliban has concerned the people. The group has attacked the 217th Pamir Corps and an ANA battalion in the Imam Sahib district of Kunduz,” said Mohammad Yusof Ayoubi, head of Kunduz Provincial Council.

Military experts say the use of such technology by the Taliban alone is not possible, and that countries in the region are involved in the attacks. 

They say there are now free markets in parts of Pakistan, where the Taliban obtain drones and advanced weapons.

“Advanced weapons are still sold freely in parts of Pakistan. The Afghan military can easily thwart Taliban airstrikes, even with Kalashnikovs,” said former military chief Dawlat Waziri.

Although the Ministry of Defense did not comment on the use of Taliban drones, the National Directorate of Security (NDS) has already confirmed the use of such technology by the group.

The House Defense Committee also says the Taliban are active near military bases due to the lack of intelligence.

“Weak intelligence has led to a large presence of the Taliban near military bases. This must be stopped,” said Mir Haidar Afzali, Chairman of the Defense Affairs Committee of the Wolesi Jirga.

Military experts say the attacks are dangerous, but say security and defense agencies could easily prevent them.

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