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Taliban would roll back Afghan women’s rights -U.S. intelligence report

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(Last Updated On: May 5, 2021)

The Taliban “would roll back much” of the progress made in Afghan women’s rights if the Islamist extremists regain national power, according to an assessment released on Tuesday by top U.S. intelligence analysts.

The U.S. National Intelligence Council report likely will reinforce fears that the Taliban will resume the harsh treatment that women and girls suffered under their 1996-2001 rule should the insurgents prevail in a full-blown civil war.

“The Taliban remains broadly consistent in its restrictive approach to women’s rights and would roll back much of the past two decades of progress if the group regains national power,” said the U.S. intelligence community’s top analytical body.

At the same time, the council’s “Sense of the Community Memorandum” said women’s rights likely would be threatened after the U.S.-led military coalition withdraws, a finding reflecting the conservative nature of Afghanistan’s male-dominated society.

“Progress (in women’s rights) probably owes more to external pressure than domestic support, suggesting it would be at risk after coalition withdrawal, even without Taliban efforts to reverse it,” the assessment said.

U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision last month to withdraw the last 2,500 U.S. troops – triggering a pullout of other foreign forces – is fueling fears Afghanistan could plunge into an all-out civil war that could return the Taliban to power.

Those concerns have been stoked by a deadlock in U.S.-backed peace talks, while the Taliban have intensified attacks on government forces after a missed May 1 deadline for the U.S. troop departure.

Before being ousted by the 2001 U.S.-led invasion, the Taliban imposed a harsh version of Islamic rule that included barring girls from school and women from working outside their homes and prohibiting them from being in public without a male relative.

Women who violated those rules often suffered humiliation and public beatings by the Taliban’s religious police.

The new report, however, noted that many of those practices have continued in government-controlled areas and “years of war have left millions of women maimed, widowed, impoverished and displaced.”

Gains made in women’s right have been touted as a major accomplishment during the 20 years that U.S.-led forces have been deployed, although mostly in urban centers.

The Biden administration has pledged to continue civilian assistance after U.S. troops depart, including to women’s programs. But it has warned that Afghanistan would suffer isolation and sanctions if it backslides on human rights.

A February 2020, U.S.-Taliban accord struck by the Trump administration specified a May 1 deadline for completion of a U.S. troop withdrawal from America’s longest war.

Biden, however, decided to complete the withdrawal before the anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, al Qaeda attacks on the United States that triggered the U.S.-led invasion.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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