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Taliban issue veiled threat in wake of US airstrikes in Helmand

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2020)

The Taliban on Sunday issued a veiled threat to the US Forces in Afghanistan after accusing the United States of having violated the Doha agreement by carrying out airstrikes in Helmand last week. 

In a statement issued by the group’s spokesman on Twitter, the Taliban said: “American forces have violated the Doha agreement in various forms by carrying out excessive airstrikes following the new developments in Helmand province.”

The Doha agreement was signed in February between the Taliban and the US and was conditions-based. 

In their statement Sunday, the Taliban said, according to the agreement, the “American forces are prohibited from carrying out airstrikes or targeting anyone in areas other than combat zones or during active fighting”. 

The group stated that over the past few days, drone and other fighter aircraft have carried out strikes in a number of areas in Helmand and in Farah and other provinces “which are all a direct and clear violation of the Doha agreement.”

The Taliban stated that “all contents of the US-Islamic Emeriate agreement are unambiguous, but the opposite side violated its commitment on numerous occasions, are engaging in provocative actions and bombing non-combat zones.”

 

In conclusion, the group stated, “all responsibility and consequences from continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

On Monday last week, US-Forces Afghanistan spokesman Colonel Sonny Leggett confirmed American forces had conducted several targeted strikes in Helmand over the previous two days to defend Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who had come under attack by the Taliban.

 Leggett said this move had been in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement and that USFOR-A had and will continue to provide support in defense of the ANDSF under attack by the Taliban.

This announcement was immediately followed by US-Forces Afghanistan Commander, General Scott Miller saying that “the Taliban need to immediately stop their offensive actions in Helmand Province and reduce their violence around the country. It is not consistent with the US-Taliban agreement and undermines the ongoing Afghan Peace Talks.”

Last Sunday the Taliban launched coordinated attacks in various parts of the province, including Lashkargah, the provincial capital.

Fighting waged for days and thousands of Afghans were forced to flee their homes. 

The Taliban’s attack meanwhile came amid peace talks in Doha between the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban. No actual progress has yet been made, despite talks having started more than a month ago. 

 

COVID-19

Global coronavirus caseload crosses the 40 million mark

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

The number of COVID-19 cases worldwide passed the 40 million mark on Monday, according to a Reuters tally. 

Reuters reported that this comes as the onset of winter in the northern hemisphere appears to have fuelled a resurgence in the spread of the disease. 

Experts however believe the true numbers of both cases and deaths are likely much higher, given deficiencies in testing and potential under-reporting by some countries.

The Reuters data shows the pace of the pandemic continues to increase as it took just 32 days to go from 30 million global cases to 40 million, compared with the 38 days it took to get from 20 to 30 million, the 44 days between 10 and 20 million, and the three months it took to reach 10 million cases from when the first cases were reported in Wuhan, China, in early January.

Reuters also reported that record one-day increases in new infections were seen at the end of last week, with global coronavirus cases rising above 400,000 for the first time.

The United States, India, and Brazil remain the worst affected countries in the world. 

 

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UN secretary general condemns Ghor attack 

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

UN Secretary-General António Guterres on Monday strongly condemned the attack in Ghor province on Sunday that killed and wounded dozens of civilians. 

In a statement issued by the organization, Guterres said he “strongly condemns the indiscriminate attack today on a provincial police headquarters in Afghanistan’s province of Ghor, in an area where many civilians are present.”  

The UN stated that according to preliminary reports, the car bomb claimed the lives of at least 13 people and injured dozens of civilians, including women and children. 

“Those who carry out such crimes must be held accountable,” the statement read. 

“The Secretary-General expresses his deepest sympathies to the families of the victims and wishes a speedy recovery to those injured,” Guterres said.

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US peace envoy warns high levels of violence could derail peace process 

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2020)

US special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad warned that “distressingly” high levels of violence could derail the peace process and the understanding that there is no military solution to the war in Afghanistan. 

In a series of tweets overnight Monday, Khalilzad appeared to have been responding to Sunday’s spat between the Taliban and the US Forces Afghanistan after the insurgent group accused the US of violating the Doha agreement by carrying out airstrikes in Helmand and Farah provinces last week. 

The US Forces Afghanistan responded not long after rejecting the claim and said they were within the terms of the agreement as they had been defending the Afghan security forces who had come under attack by the Taliban. 

The Taliban also issued a veiled threat in their statement and said: “All responsibility and consequences from the continuation of such actions shall fall squarely on the shoulders of the American side.”

Khalilzad meanwhile said in his Twitter statement: “Unfounded charges of violations and inflammatory rhetoric do not advance peace. Instead, we should pursue strict adherence to all articles of the US-Taliban Agreement and US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration and not neglect the commitment to gradually reduce violence.

“Continued high levels of violence can threaten the peace process and the agreement and the core understanding that there is no military solution. Violence today remains distressingly high in spite of the recent reaffirmation of the need for substantial reduction.

“Taliban attacks in Helmand, including on the provincial capital; Taliban attacks against Afghan security forces; & Taliban complaints of ANSF operations and coalition strikes led to a recent meeting in Doha.

“All sides agreed to decrease attacks and strikes and reduce violence and casualties. Although violence in Helmand has decreased, violence overall in the country remains high.

“Our expectation has been and remains that violence comes down and stays down.

“It was a focus of the Agreement we signed, further highlighted in connection with the releases of the last batch of prisoners and reaffirmed again in the most recent commitment all sides made to adhere to all aspects of the deal,” Khalilzad said. 

Reacting to the car bombing on Sunday in Ghor province that killed at least 13 people, Khalilzad stated: “Violence has stalked Afghans for far too long. It has robbed far too many Afghans of their loved ones. The tragedy in Ghor today is the most recent example.”

He said: “The belief that says violence must escalate to win concessions at the negotiating table is very risky. Such an approach can undermine the peace process and repeats past miscalculations by Afghan leaders.

“We must adhere to the letter and spirit of what was negotiated and the recent understanding. They provide a path to minimizing Afghan loss of life and protecting an historic opportunity for peace which must not be missed,” Khalilzad said.

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