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US and NATO welcome Eid ceasefire, call for urgent intra-Afghan talks 

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(Last Updated On: July 29, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad on Wednesday welcomed the Taliban’s announcement of a three-day ceasefire over Eid and the Afghan government’s response to a reciprocal truce. 

Khalilzad wrote on Twitter: “On the occasion of Eid ul Adha, Gen Miller, Amb Wilson, & I wish the Afghan people a peaceful holiday. Eid ul Adha is a time of charity & fellowship. Our hope is this Eid brings all Afghans together in understanding & mutual respect and one step closer to a sustainable peace.

“We welcome the Taliban announcement of an Eid ceasefire and the Afghan government’s reciprocal announcement,” he said. 

“We wish the Afghan national security forces continued honor in the service of the Afghan people and thank them for their commitment to Afghanistan. Eid Mubarak,” Khalilzad said.

This comes after Tuesday night’s announcement by the Taliban that they would observe a three-day ceasefire over the Eid al-Adha holidays. 

In a statement, the Taliban said it had ordered its fighters not to carry out any attacks against the Afghan security forces. 

Soon after, President Ashraf Ghani announced that government would observe the ceasefire and not conduct any operations. 

NATO also welcomed the announcement by both parties and said: “It is an important step in the Afghan peace process that must lead to the earliest possible start of intra-Afghan negotiations. Afghan people deserve peace now & NATO stands with them.”

The US’s acting ambassador to Afghanistan Ross Wilson also responded and said on Twitter: “I welcome the announcements of an Eid ceasefire. Afghans deserve to celebrate the holiday in peace. I look forward to both sides fulfilling their commitments and moving quickly to intra-Afghan negotiations.”

UNAMA meanwhile also welcomed the move.

In their Twitter message the organization said: “UNAMA welcomes the Eid ceasefire announcement by the Taliban and the reciprocity from the Govt of Afghanistan.  Further prisoner releases and reductions in violence should now pave the way for a quick start to intra-Afghan negotiations.”

This latest development came just hours after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani called on the group to commit to a ceasefire over Eid.

He said a “commitment to a ceasefire during the coming Eid will be an indication of things to come.”

Addressing the fourth Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul on Tuesday, Ghani said that to demonstrate the government’s commitment to peace, they would soon complete the release of 5,000 Taliban prisoners in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha earlier this year.

Ghani said that “with this action we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time.”

He also called on the Taliban to join the government at the negotiating table and to call for a “permanent and comprehensive ceasefire.”

A “commitment to a ceasefire during the coming Eid will be an indication of things to come,” he added.

Within hours of Ghani having said this, the Taliban issued their statement on Twitter announcing the three-day ceasefire over Eid al-Adha, while government responded with a reciprocal truce.

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Afghanistan ranked number 1 on Global Terrorism Index 

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

According to Global Terrorism Index 2020 Afghanistan remains the country most impacted by terrorism and was subjected to 26 of the world’s 50 worst terrorist attacks last year. 

The report stated that while terrorism deaths in the country declined in 2019 for the first time in three years, the Taliban remained the world’s deadliest terrorist group.

The annual Global Terrorism Index, now in its eighth year, is developed by leading think tank the Institute of Economics and Peace (IEP) and provides the most comprehensive resource on global terrorism trends.

“Whether the peace talks in Afghanistan have a substantial impact on terrorist activity remains to be seen,” read the report.

According to the report, the global economic impact of terrorism in 2019 amounted to US$26.4 billion, a fall of 25 percent from 2018 but Afghanistan was the country with the highest economic impact, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Just ten countries accounted for over 80 percent of all deaths from terrorism in 2019, the most deaths in a single country were recorded in Afghanistan, accounting for 41 percent of all deaths. 

This represents a slight improvement from 2018 when Afghanistan accounted for 45 percent of global terrorism deaths.

“The fall in deaths in Afghanistan is particularly noticeable given its recent history,” read the report. 

“Since the peak of violence in 2018, deaths have fallen by just over 22 percent in a year. This reduction was driven by a decline in terrorist deaths attributed to the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter of the Islamic State (IS-K) which fell by 18 and 61 percent respectively.”

The report stated that IS-K has faced significant territorial losses in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces following attacks by coalition forces but despite the fall in terrorism deaths, 2019 was still the second deadliest year on record for Afghanistan.

The Taliban were the deadliest terrorist group for the second consecutive year while IS-K was the second deadliest group in the country.

The Taliban ruled Afghanistan until 2001 when US Forces and NATO toppled the regime, which was thought to be harboring Al-Qaeda. After the regime was overthrown, the Taliban regrouped across the border in Pakistan and has since led an insurgency against the government of Afghanistan and the US-led Resolute Support Mission. 

But, as highlighted by the report, the Taliban has steadily regained territory across Afghanistan. 

As of January 2019, it was estimated that the Taliban controlled territory home to approximately 10 percent of the population.

The report states that the Taliban is active solely in Afghanistan but that the Taliban’s Pakistani affiliate group, Tehrik-i Taliban Pakistan (TTP), was responsible for 73 deaths and 30 attacks in Pakistan in 2019, demonstrating a Taliban-related presence outside of Afghanistan.

“In January 2019, the Taliban committed their deadliest terror attack of the year when a suicide bomber and armed assailants targeted a National Directorate for Security (NDS) base in Maydan Shahr district, Wardak, Afghanistan,” the report read. 

At least 129 people were killed and 54 people were injured in the attack.

Despite a decline in terrorist deaths from 2018 to 2019, Afghanistan remains the country most impacted for the second consecutive year.

Afghanistan accounted for 41 percent of deaths from terrorism globally, with the Taliban being responsible for 87 percent of these fatalities. 

The report stated that during 2019, deaths from terrorism declined by 22 percent, falling to 5,725. 

“While this reduction in the number of deaths provides some optimism, it is the second-highest number of deaths recorded from terrorism in Afghanistan since the 2001 US-led invasion.”

In 2019, terrorism was widespread in Afghanistan with terrorist incidents recorded in all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, and deaths recorded in every province except Panjshir. The largest number of deaths from terrorism were recorded in Kunduz province with the majority of deaths attributed to the Taliban. 

In 2019, there were 500 deaths in Kunduz province, a 77 percent increase from the prior year.

According to the report, recent losses of territory and fighters, IS-K is believed to still have sleeper cells in cities such as Kabul and Jalalabad.

“The presence of the Khorasan Chapter continues to challenge the Taliban. In 2019, the Khorasan Chapter was active in seven provinces, compared to the Taliban who conducted terror attacks across all of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces. 

“Sixteen clashes were recorded between the Taliban and the Khorasan Chapter in 2019, mostly in Kunar and Nangarhar provinces,” which are located along the Afghanistan and Pakistan border and have served as operational bases for the IS-K since the group’s inception in 2015.

In 2019, Afghanistan was not only the country most affected by terrorism it also had the highest economic cost of terrorism, equivalent to 16.7 percent of its GDP, read the report. 

No other country in 2019 experienced a cost of terrorism greater than four percent of its GDP.

For the full report CLICK HERE

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Football legend Maradona dies from heart attack

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2020)

Diego Maradona has died from a heart attack less than a month after turning 60.

The Argentinian football legend died at home, his lawyer said, just three weeks after having surgery on a blood clot in his brain.

Maradona – known by millions around the world – won the World Cup with Argentina in 1986, after knocking England out of the tournament by scoring what is widely considered one of the greatest goals ever.

Regarded as one of the greatest players of all-time on the pitch, his life off the pitch was equally notorious – amid battles with drug and alcohol addiction.

Argentina’s president Alberto Fernandez decreed three days of mourning following Maradona’s death.  

“You took us to the top of the world. You made us immensely happy. You were the greatest of all,” the Argentine leader tweeted.

“Thanks for having existed, Diego. We will miss you for a lifetime.”

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Pakistan invites Afghan cricket team on official tour

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2020)

Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) has invited Afghanistan’s national cricket team on an official tour for the first time, officials said Tuesday.

This historic move follows the recent visit to Kabul by Prime Minister Imran Khan – one of the game’s greatest players.

“We’ll try to look for a possible window for this tour – and if not 2021, we’ll definitely try to plan a series in 2022 season,” said PCB chief executive Wasim Khan.

“A cricket series between Pakistan and Afghanistan could be a harbinger of love and peace between the two countries,” he told AFP.

An Afghan national side toured Pakistan in May 2011 but they only played a second-string side and matches were not given first-class status.

The two countries have played only a single official one-day match and one Twenty20 international – both in the United Arab Emirates.

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