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Ugandan guards stranded after being evacuated from base due to COVID-19

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US Army
(Last Updated On: August 25, 2020)

The majority of about 300 Ugandan guards who provide security at entry points to Operating Base Fenty, near Jalalabad in Nangarhar province, have tested positive for coronavirus. 

Stars and Stripes reported Tuesday that the guards, who work for the Triple Canopy private security company, tested positive in June and were evacuated from Operating Base Fenty.

Quoting an American-based attorney, Tara Coughlin, who is representing some of the guards, Stars and Stripes stated: “The outbreak was widespread at Fenty, with a vast majority of those tested.”

However, NATO Resolute Support said in a statement that “appropriate levels of protection” are being maintained at bases across Afghanistan.

Resolute Support did not disclose how many troops or contractors in Afghanistan have tested positive for the virus.

With continued violence and one of the world’s worst health care systems, Afghanistan has struggled to contain the virus, which according to a survey earlier this month has likely infected 10 million people – a third of the population. 

Stars and Stripes reported that most of the guards are still in Afghanistan and are waiting to be repatriated home to Uganda.

However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Uganda’s borders are closed although the company along with the US, Afghan and Ugandan governments have been working at ways to repatriate the guards. 

“The ongoing global COVID-19 pandemic has caused many countries to close their borders, restricting our ability to help the contracting agents facilitate the repatriation of these former contract employees,” Resolute Support said in a statement.

One of the guards who spoke to Stars and Stripes on condition of anonymity said they had told superiors months ago that they were at risk as they had to carry out body searches on everyone entering the base. 

He said nothing was done until the company realized the guards were positive and by June, the majority of the guards had the virus. 

By late June, the last of the infected guards had been evacuated to Bagram base outside Kabul, Stars and Stripes reported. 

The guards said that after regular testing and observation by military medics, they were eventually released from isolation and most have spent over a month in a Kabul hotel, waiting to be repatriated to Uganda.

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Biden plans about a dozen Day One executive actions: aide

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

US President-elect Joe Biden is scheduled to issue a number of executive orders immediately after his inauguration – by using the powers of his new office to push policy changes on housing, student loans, climate change and immigration, a top aide said on Saturday.

Biden, who campaigned on a raft of promises to undo President Donald Trump’s legacy even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the US, will unveil “roughly a dozen” previously promised executive actions on Wednesday, incoming Biden chief of staff Ron Klain said in a memo distributed to reporters, Reuters reported.

The actions to be taken on Wednesday include rejoining the Paris climate accords, reversing a travel ban on several majority Muslim countries, extending a pause on federal student loan payments, halting evictions and foreclosures, as well as mandating masks in inter-state travel and on federal property.

All of the measures were previously announced.

Most of the measures are a reversal of policies Trump pursued and do not require congressional action. But Biden will also unveil a long-expected immigration proposal that would provide a pathway to citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants that does require congressional action, Reuters reported.

That measure, as well as Biden’s recent proposal for $1.9 trillion in spending on COVID vaccinations and economic stimulus, face uphill battles in a Congress narrowly controlled by Biden’s fellow Democrats.

A broader set of Biden’s “Day One” promises will be executed over the following nine days after inauguration, Klain said. Those measures include expanding COVID-19 testing and directing the government to favor American-made goods when it makes purchases.

“President-elect Biden is assuming the presidency in a moment of profound crisis for our nation,” Klain said. “During the campaign, President-elect Biden pledged to take immediate action to start addressing these crises and build back better.”

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‘Digital Silk Road’ on track as Afghanistan and Turkmenistan connect 

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2021)

Thursday marked another milestone in Afghanistan’s modern history when President Ashraf Ghani inaugurated the new fiber optic connection between Turkmenistan and the commercial port of Aqina in Afghanistan’s Faryab province.

Within four months of having signed the memorandum of understanding with government the Afghan Wireless Communication Company (AWCC) had successfully completed the task of connecting the two neighboring countries. 

In a virtual address at the launch, Dr Ehsan Bayat, the founder and chairman of AWCC, said he was “delighted” to celebrate the company’s success in connecting Afghanistan with its friends in Turkmenistan – especially given the past year that has involved unprecedented challenges due to the coronavirus pandemic, which also impacted people’s ability to connect with each other across the globe. 

“When Afghan Wireless embarked on the journey to build Afghanistan’s largest nationwide fiber network, we did so with the goal of realizing President Ghani’s vision to transform the country into a hub of digital data connectivity for Central Asia. 

“Today marks an important milestone in the building of a digital silk road across the region with Afghanistan at its center; a road that will connect millions of Afghans to the digital economy.

He said the latest optical fiber connection, between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, is the country’s fifth and sixth international border connections. Others include Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan. 

“From Mazar to Jalalabad, and from Kabul to Kandahar to Kunduz, communities across the country are benefiting from high-speed connectivity. And now our connection to Turkmenistan through Torghundi and Aqina will enable Herat and western cities to become Afghanistan’s next major bridge for digital transformation,” he said.

However, Bayat stated that the impact of AWCC’s project should not be measured in kilometers of fiber laid, or megabytes of data transmitted, or even money invested but instead, it should be measured by the industries revitalized, the local businesses boosted, the jobs created, the pace of economic development and the enhancement to critical services in health, education, commerce and finance.

“This project could not be delivered without Afghanistan and Turkmenistan working together. 

“Afghan Wireless’ optical fiber connection between the two countries that we are celebrating today is a powerful testament that when we work hand in hand with our neighbors, not only do we strengthen our countries individually, but we also strengthen our region together,” he said.

The Turkmenistan to Aqina cable has the capacity to transfer 2,500 megabits of the Internet and can therefore provide high quality and cheap Internet to Faryab province.

According to the Ministry of Communications and Information Technology, a fiber-optic network is the result of the rapid development of telecommunications and information technology, which has become an integral part of modern life.

The ministry states that along with the progression of technology and innovation, the shape and quality of tools have also changed to a great extent.

At the beginning of the invention of the telephone, copper cables were used to transmit information and sound, but today, with the advancement of technology and increasing human needs, these cables have been replaced by a new generation of signal conductors or fiber optics.

Because of the need for fast and cheap digital connectivity in the country, Government has already connected a total of 25 provinces in the country with the national fiber-optic network.

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Taliban drones bomb 217 Pamir Military Corps in Kunduz

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

Two Taliban drones hovered over 217 Pamir Corps in Kunduz for about half an hour on Friday and fired off a number of mortar rounds, officials said.

The corps commander General Murad Ali Yazdani said the Taliban drones had flown over the base for about half an hour and had fired off mortar rounds that landed on the football field. No casualties were reported, he said.

Military personnel are investigating the incident and trying to track where the drone was launched.

In addition to this attack, at least 12 soldiers were killed, five others were wounded and 10 soldiers captured in two separate attacks in Kunduz – one on an army base and another on a police base.

“For some time now, security in the whole city of Kunduz has deteriorated. People have become displaced and the local government must pay attention,” said Mohammad Yousof Ayoubi, provincial head council.

Meanwhile, at around 3 am on Friday, a Humvee tank loaded with explosives was detonated prematurely in Ghazni.

One civilian was killed and seven soldiers were wounded, officials said.

“At least one truck driver passing the area was killed. The wounded soldiers are in good condition now,” said Wahidullah Jumazadah, Ghazni governor spokesman.

Security forces in Ghazni said after the Humvee exploded, clashes between security forces and the Taliban broke out.

They said at least eight Taliban fighters were killed but with the help of air support the Taliban attack was repelled.

“The Taliban carried out large-scale attacks on security and defense forces in the center and districts of the province last night in five strongholds, but were repulsed by security forces,” said Fawad Aman, defense ministry spokesman.

In the past week, the Taliban has attacked several security and defense checkpoints in different parts of the country.

Experts believe that with the start of peace talks, the Taliban is changing its approach to war in order to gain more credit.

“The Taliban has changed the tactics of war; if the security teams are a little careful, they should bring this change themselves to prevent casualties,” said former chief of army staff Sher Mohammad Karimi.

The Taliban are also said to have attacked several security checkpoints in the Darqad district of Takhar last week; in the Akbar Bai district of Takhar; and in the Jurm district of Badakhshan – inflicting heavy casualties on the military.

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