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Taliban pose severe threat to govt and still close to al-Qaeda: UN report

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(Last Updated On: June 3, 2021)

An emboldened Taliban poses a severe and expanding threat to the government of Afghanistan, remains close to al-Qaeda, and believes it can return to power by force if necessary, according to a United Nations Security Council report released on Wednesday.

The report compiled by the UN Monitoring Team, which is tasked with tracking security threats in Afghanistan, paints a bleak picture of the security outlook, CNN reported.

The UNSC report comes half way through the US and foreign troops withdrawal from Afghanistan – a retrograde expected to be finished by September 11.

According to the agreement, signed last year between the US and the Taliban, the insurgent group pledged to cut ties with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda.

But the UN Monitoring Team says the Taliban remains “closely aligned” with al-Qaeda — which has threatened “war on all fronts” against the US.

The two groups “show no indication of breaking ties,” even if they have temporarily tried to mask their connections, according to the report, although it notes that the Taliban calls this “false information.”

According to the UN report, 2020 was the “most violent year ever recorded by the United Nations in Afghanistan.”

Security incidents have risen over 60% in the first three months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020.

The UN team says that the Taliban is “reported to be responsible for the great majority of targeted assassinations that have become a feature of the violence in Afghanistan and that appear to be undertaken with the objective of weakening the capacity of the government and intimidating civil society.”

The report also indicates that part of the Taliban leadership has no interest in the peace process, saying that “both deputy leaders of the Taliban, Mullah Mohammad Yaqub Omari and Sirajuddin Haqqani are reported by Member States to oppose peace talks and favour a military solution.”

Haqqani is the commander of the Haqqani network, a powerful semi-autonomous force within the Taliban structure. According to the UN, Mullah Yaqub, son of the late Taliban founder Mullah Omar, was appointed as head of the Taliban’s Military Commission in May 2020.

The UN Monitors assess that the “security situation in Afghanistan remains as tense and challenging as at any time in recent history,” with member states reporting that the “Taliban have been emboldened to sustain attacks for longer periods while also exercising greater freedom of movement. This has allowed the Taliban to mass forces around key provincial capitals and district centres, enabling them to remain poised to launch attacks,” CNN reported.

The UN monitors added that many believe the Taliban are “seeking to shape future military operations when levels of departing foreign troops are no longer able to effectively respond.”

According to the UN report, member states assess that the Taliban “contest or control an estimated 50 to 70 percent of Afghan territory outside of urban centers, while also exerting direct control over 57 percent of district administrative centers.”

Asfandyar Mir, South Asia security analyst at Stanford University, says the Taliban appears ready to go on the offensive against the Afghan government. “Taliban is starting to put major pressure in provinces adjacent to Kabul — including, worryingly, in neighboring Laghman, which saw substantial Afghan security forces defections to the Taliban,” Mir told CNN.

“In the south of the country, the Taliban is poised to put more pressure on provincial capitals.”

The report assesses that, despite twenty years of warfare, Taliban numbers remain “robust” and “recruitment has remained steady” — with estimates of the insurgent group’s fighting strength ranging from 58,000 to 100,000, CNN reported.

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20 killed, 18 wounded in two separate traffic accidents in Laghman

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

Officials said Saturday 20 people including women and children were killed and 18 others wounded in two separate traffic accidents on the Kabul-Jalalabad highway, Laghman provincial officials said.

Asadullah Dawlatzai, spokesman for the Laghman governor confirmed the accidents and said the first one happened on Friday night when two vehicles collided in Naranj Bagh area of Qarghayi district.

Eight people died and 10 were injured in this accident.

According to Dawlatzai, 12 other people were killed and eight injured in another traffic incident in Qarghayi district of the province on Saturday morning.

He said both accidents were caused by driver negligence.

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Czechs approve program to help Afghan translators

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2021)

The Czech government on Friday approved a program of help for Afghans who worked with Czech troops during their deployment in NATO missions, AP reported.

Defense Minister Lubomir Metnar said the help meant for Afghan interpreters and their families includes their relocation, an offer of asylum and financial aid.

Metnar said the goal of the program is to ensure safe and decent living conditions for them after NATO troops pull out of Afghanistan, AP reported.

The government’s move came days after the Czech veterans, current service members, human rights organizations and others urged the government to help resettle the Afghans because of the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan, AP reported.

President Milos Zeman asked his government on Thursday to approve the program without any delay because of fears that Afghans who worked with the Czech military could be killed by the Taliban.

The Defense Ministry declined to provide further details about the program, which is classified in order to protect its recipients, AP reported.

The number of Afghans wasn’t given.

The last Czech service members pulled out from Afghanistan in June.

Since 2002, a total of 11,500 Czech soldiers were deployed in Afghanistan, AP reported.

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UN office attacked in Herat, at least one guard killed

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Friday that its main compound in western Herat province was attacked by “anti-government elements,” killing at least guard and other officers injured.

In a statement issued on Friday, UNAMA condemned in the “strongest terms” today’s attack.

“The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces,” the statement read. 

The UN added that it is urgently seeking to establish a full picture of the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” Lyons stated.

 According to the statement, no UN personnel was hurt in the incident, in which entrances were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account,” said Lyons.

 “Attacks against civilian UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes,” the UN noted.

Immediately, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sources, however, told Ariana News that at least six people – including two security guards of UNAMA, three policemen, and a member of the public uprising forces – were killed and 19 others were wounded in clashes with the Taliban militants in the Guzara, Anjel and Karokh districts at the outskirts of Herat city on Friday.

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