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UN: Taliban have not cut ties with al-Qaeda

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(Last Updated On: June 2, 2020)

According to the latest report by the Security Council of the United Nations, the Taliban have not cut ties with al-Qaeda, even after a peace deal with the United States.

The United Nations has said in a report that al-Qaeda in Afghanistan has been secretly conducting military operations in collusion with the Taliban, and that the group has even held several meetings with al-Qaeda leaders lately to strengthen their ties.

In its latest report, the UN Security Council has revealed the Taliban’s close ties to al-Qaeda, even after a peace deal between the United States and the Taliban. According to the report, al-Qaeda is active in 12 Afghan provinces, with an estimated 400 to 600 military personnel.

The United Nations has said that al-Qaeda leaders have met with the Taliban for more than six times over that last 12 months, and Gul Agha Ishaqzai, a former adviser to Mullah Mohammad Omar, has assured al-Qaeda leaders that the Taliban not will cut ties with al-Qaeda at any cost.

The UN report said, “Al-Qaida and the Taliban held  meetings  over  the course  of  2019  and  in  early  2020  to  discuss  cooperation  related  to  operational, training  and  the  provision  by  the  Taliban  of  safe  havens  for Al-Qaida members  inside Afghanistan. Al-Qaida is covertly active in 12 Afghan provinces. Monitoring Team’s estimate is between 400 and 600 armed operatives.”

“According to interlocutors, al-Zawahiri met with members of the Haqqani Network in February 2020. Hafiz Azizuddin Haqqani (not listed) and Yahya Haqqani (TAi.169)19consulted al-Zawahiri over the agreement with the United States and the peace process,” added the statement.

However, Zalmay Khalilzad, the US special envoy for Afghanistan’s peace, has said that the Taliban had pledged to cut their relationships with terrorist groups in exchange for the withdrawal of the US troops.

Khalilzad has said that The United States is monitoring the implementation of the Taliban’s commitment to the peace agreement, and under this agreement the Taliban will in no way host terrorist groups and severe ties with al-Qaeda.

On the other hand, Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban member, said that The United Nations wants to hide its failure by saying that the Taliban is linked to al-Qaeda, noting “I don’t think they have any evidence to prove that.”

The Afghan government has also previously spoken of the Taliban’s close ties to ISIS and other terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda.

The Taliban denied the UN report’s statements regarding the group.

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Thousands of children losing access to education as schools caught in crossfire

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

Save the Children has called for all parties in the escalating conflict in Afghanistan to abide by international humanitarian law and ensure children and schools do not become collateral damage.

In a statement issued by the organization, Save the Children stated that last week in Kandahar, it found about 25 schools damaged in one district alone, potentially preventing almost 28,000 students from returning to their classrooms when they reopen.

While schools are currently closed due to the COVID-19 lockdown in the country, they must be protected as safe spaces for children, Save the Children warned.

A number of schools were burned to the ground in the northern province of Faryab, including a school supported by Save the Children which was destroyed by rockets and stray bullets on 22 June.

Mohammad Moradi, the headmaster of the school, said: “Our school had 947 students and 18 teachers, and Save the Children helped us with textbooks and facilities for hand washing. Unfortunately, our school building is now gone.”

Athena Rayburn, Director of Advocacy and Media at Save the Children Afghanistan said: “Children in Afghanistan have already endured the trauma of war for too long. The destruction of these schools is a violation of Afghan children’s rights and will prevent them from being able to return to school – the only chance they have for a better future.

“Children play no part in conflict and yet, as is too often the case, they are paying the price for this escalating violence. The hopes and dreams of an entire generation of children are being destroyed.

“All parties to the conflict must ensure the protection of children and schools. Children and the places that provide them with safe haven must never become collateral damage.”

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Covid outbreak at US Embassy in Kabul grows to 159 cases

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

The COVID-19 outbreak at the US Embassy in Kabul has grown to 159 cases, according to a diplomatic cable sent Tuesday, CNN reported.

This comes amid a devastating third wave of the deadly disease in Afghanistan.

CNN reported that a source familiar with the cable said it noted that several people at the diplomatic mission are on oxygen or have been medically evacuated from the post, which was put under immediate lockdown last week to try to stem the spread of the coronavirus.

However, the growing outbreak at the embassy has reportedly prompted frustration among some in the diplomatic community over the lack of a vaccine mandate for those posted abroad, which they argue hampers the United States’ ability to conduct effective foreign policy.

CNN reported that an embassy management notice dated June 17 warned that “COVID-19 is surging in the Mission,” noting that there were 114 people with coronavirus and in isolation, one death and several medical evacuations.

“Military hospital ICU resources are at full capacity, forcing our health units to create temporary, on-compound COVID-19 wards to care for oxygen-dependent patients,” the notice said.

CNN reported that according to the embassy notice, “95% of our cases are individuals who are unvaccinated or not fully vaccinated,” and it called for those coming to the embassy to be vaccinated before arrival, noting that “failure to do this puts everyone in the community at risk.”

The surge in cases has fueled tensions in Kabul, sources told CNN, with some pointing the blame at unvaccinated contractors. Most American diplomats, third country nationals and locally employed staff have been vaccinated — the rate is more than 90% of staff in the latter two categories, according to the management notice, CNN reported..

According to an official at a major international security provider for the US in Afghanistan, almost 50% of its American staff in Afghanistan have been vaccinated and nearly all of its non-American staff have been.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price acknowledged the outbreak last week but would not provide specific numbers, saying the embassy had “adjusted its operations to do all we can to ensure the continued safety, security, and health of our staff as they continue to advance U.S. interests and our relationship with the Government and the people of Afghanistan.”

“This includes requiring all staff to telework and to adhere to physical distancing and masking requirements and other applicable regulations,” he said, adding that they “expect that normal embassy operations will resume once embassy leadership is confident that chain of transmission has been broken.”

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130 Taliban members cross sides, join peace process

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(Last Updated On: June 24, 2021)

A group of 130 armed Taliban led by Maulvi Mardan joined the peace process in Herat on Thursday, officials confirmed.

Herat Governor Abdul Sabor Qani said the group had been active in areas of Herat’s Shindand district, and that many villages in the area were under the group’s control.

Local officials in Herat said the group entered the government’s peace program based on the efforts of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the provincial council and tribal elders.

The governor of Herat emphasized that these people will join the security forces in order to maintain security and confront the armed opposition.

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