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Taliban fighters capture key Afghan border crossing with Iran

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2021)

Taliban fighters seized control on Thursday of a key district in western Afghanistan that includes a major border crossing with Iran, Afghan security officials said, as the Islamist insurgents continued their rapid military advances around the country.

In the last week, the Taliban have overrun areas bordering five countries – Iran, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, China and Pakistan – as foreign forces end their two-decade intervention and the domestic security situation deteriorates.

Pitched battles between Taliban fighters and Afghan government forces were also underway in the northern Balkh province bordering Uzbekistan.

Two senior security officials told Reuters on condition of anonymity that the Islam Qala border crossing with Iran, located in Herat province, had fallen to the Taliban and that Afghan security and customs officials had fled across the border.

Al Alalam TV, Iran’s official Arabic language service, also reported that Afghan soldiers had entered Iranian territory via the border crossing to escape the Taliban.

Tariq Arian, spokesman for the Afghan interior ministry, denied the reports and said the border crossing was still under the control of government forces.

Calls by Reuters to the offices of the provincial governor and police went unanswered.

Another security official said Taliban fighters had seized five districts in Herat without a fight.

Earlier this week, more than 1,000 Afghan security personnel fled into Tajikistan as the Taliban captured most of the northern province of Badakhshan, which also borders China and Pakistan.

CLASHES IN WESTERN PROVINCE

The defence ministry said Afghan government forces earlier on Thursday wrested back control of Qala-e-Naw, capital of the western province of Badghis, which had been stormed by the Taliban on Wednesday.

Hundreds of troops were deployed to the region, the ministry said, adding that fighting was continuing on the fringes of Qala-e-Naw, where insurgents had earlier seized key government buildings in the city including police headquarters.

“The city is fully (back) under our control and we are conducting operations against the Taliban on the outskirts of the city,” Defence Ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said.

The ministry said 69 Taliban fighters were killed in operations on the edge of Qala-e-Naw – the first major provincial capital entered by the insurgents in their latest offensive.

The rest of Badghis province is in Taliban hands. Western security officials say the Taliban have captured more than 100 districts in Afghanistan. The Taliban say they hold over 200 districts in 34 provinces comprising over half the country. Major cities remain under government control.

The insurgents have been gaining territory for weeks but accelerated their thrust as the United States vacated its main Afghan base, effectively ending an intervention that began with the ousting of the Islamist Taliban government in 2001.

Taliban advances have been especially dramatic in northern provinces where they had long been kept at bay.

Stop-start peace talks between the government and insurgents remain inconclusive. Taliban delegations visited Iran on Wednesday and were in Moscow on Thursday.

Defending the decision to pull U.S. forces out of Afghanistan, President Joe Biden said on Thursday he did not expect the Taliban to take over the whole country and that he trusted the Afghan military.

“We’re ending America’s longest war,” he said.

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IEA leader meets with Chinese officials in Qatar, discusses bilateral issues

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

China’s foreign minister Wang Yi has again urged the US to ease sanctions against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help the country overcome a looming humanitarian crisis.

Speaking during the first high-level meeting with the Afghan interim government in Qatar on Monday, Wang emphasized the seriousness of the problem unfolding in Afghanistan.
It was Wang’s first meeting with acting deputy prime minister Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar since July, when the IEA leader visited Tianjin in northern China shortly before the takeover of Kabul, Hong Kong’s South China Morning Post reported.

“Afghanistan is facing quadruple challenges, namely the humanitarian crisis, economic chaos, terrorist threats and governance difficulties. Overcoming these challenges requires more understanding and support from the international community,” Wang said.

“China urges the Western countries led by the United States as a whole to lift sanctions, and calls on all parties to engage with the Afghan Taliban (IEA) in a rational and pragmatic manner to help Afghanistan embark on a path of sound development.”

Wang also pledged that China would continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

Beijing announced last month that it would donate 200 million yuan (US$31.3 million) in aid, including food and coronavirus vaccines, to the war-torn nation, SCMP reported.

Meanwhile, a delegation led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi met with a delegation led by Foreign Minister Wang Yi on Tuesday.

The two sides discussed issues including diplomatic relations, bilateral trade, China’s humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the creation of higher education opportunities for Afghan students in China, as well as opportunities and challenges in bilateral relations.

The acting minister thanked China for its comprehensive assistance and said that the new Islamic government would ensure that Afghan soil would not be used against any country, including China.

Muttaqi said Afghanistan had a balanced foreign policy based on co-operation and understanding.

“China has an important place in our foreign policy and is an important country in the region,” he added. The whole region, including China, benefits from Afghanistan’s stability.

The Chinese Foreign Minister welcomed the recent positive developments in Afghanistan and noted that Afghanistan and China have historical ties.

He said China would work in the future based on the common interests of both countries and would never interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs.

Wang said his country respected Afghanistan’s security, independence and territorial integrity.

The Chinese side also stressed its support for Afghanistan to chart its own course for development.

China is playing its part in Afghanistan’s reconstruction. The Foreign Minister said that his country would continue to provide emergency humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, Islamic Emirate spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid who is accompanying the delegation said that China provided $1 million to Afghanistan and has promised to provide $5 million more in humanitarian aid, especially medicine and food.

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John Kerry and Imran Khan discuss Afghanistan on sidelines of MGI summit

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The United States’ Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, John Kerry, spoke with Prime Minister Imran Khan in Riyadh yesterday on the sidelines of the “Middle East Green Initiative (MGI)” Summit.

In the regional context, the Imran Khan underscored the importance of a peaceful and stable Afghanistan for Pakistan and the region.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister stressed the need for the international community to work pragmatically to preserve peace and security, avert a humanitarian crisis in Afghanistan, and prevent an economic collapse.

Imran Khan also underscored the need for positive engagement and release of Afghanistan’s economic resources and financial assets for the welfare of the Afghan people.

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Afghanistan on ‘countdown to catastrophe’ as winter looms

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The combined shocks of drought, conflict, COVID-19 and an economic crisis in Afghanistan, have left more than half the population facing a record level of acute hunger, according to a new UN assessment published on Monday.

The latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) report co-led by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Food Programme (WFP), revealed that the lives, livelihoods and access to food for 22.8 million people will be severely impacted.

“It is urgent that we act efficiently and effectively to speed up and scale up our delivery in Afghanistan before winter cuts off a large part of the country, with millions of people – including farmers, women, young children and the elderly – going hungry in the freezing winter”, said FAO Director-General QU Dongyu. “It is a matter of life or death”.

According to the report, more than one-in-two Afghans will face Phase 3 crisis or Phase 4 emergency levels of acute food insecurity from November through to March (winter) and will require an urgent international response to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe.

“We cannot wait and see humanitarian disasters unfolding in front of us – it is unacceptable”, he added.

This is the highest number of acutely food insecure people ever recorded by the UN, during 10 years of conducting IPC analyses in Afghanistan.

And globally, the country is home to one of the largest number of people facing acute hunger.

“Hunger is rising and children are dying”, said WFP Executive Director David Beasley.

“We can’t feed people on promises – funding commitments must turn into hard cash, and the international community must come together to address this crisis, which is fast spinning out of control”.

Among those at risk are 3.2 million children under five, who are expected to suffer from acute malnutrition by the end of the year.

Last month, WFP and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) warned that without immediate life-saving treatment, one million children risked dying from severe acute malnutrition.

And for the first time, urban residents are suffering from food insecurity at similar rates to rural communities.

“Afghanistan is now among the world’s worst humanitarian crises – if not the worst – and food security has all but collapsed”, said the WFP chief.

“This winter, millions of Afghans will be forced to choose between migration and starvation unless we can step up our life-saving assistance, and unless the economy can be resuscitated”.

To meet rising needs, the UN will need to mobilize resources at unprecedented levels, yet the UN’s Humanitarian Response Plan remains only a third funded.

“We are on a countdown to catastrophe and if we don’t act now, we will have a total disaster on our hands”, Beasley said.

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