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US Lawmakers Want Answers From Khalilzad About Deal With Taliban

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(Last Updated On: September 6, 2019)

The Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives has called on the Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad to brief the lawmakers on details of the peace deal he negotiated with the Taliban in Doha, the capital of Qatar.

The Committee’s Chairman Eliot Engel in a letter to Khalilzad on Thursday called on him to testify in September on the proposed peace plan with the Taliban on U.S. troop pullout from Afghanistan.

“I am calling this hearing so that Congress and the American people will have the long-overdue opportunity to understand the contours of your negotiations with the Taliban and the potential risks and opportunities that may result,” Engel said the letter.

Engel added that the U.S. Envoy’s agreement with the Taliban has “been disseminated among officials in the Trump Administration and shared with President Ghani’s government.”

The letter further said the Americans and Afghan people deserve to know what the U.S. diplomatic “strategy is for Afghanistan,” adding that the U.S. wants to make sure that it is “negotiating a peace and not simply a withdrawal.”

“Given the challenges this Committee has faced in getting information from the Trump Administration on this issue, I want to be clear: I do not consider your testimony at this hearing optional,” Engel wrote. “If this letter is insufficient to secure your attendance, I will consider other options that would ensure this hearing takes place in a timely manner.”

It is been the third time that the committee is requesting Khalilzad to appear at the U.S. House of Representatives for the questioning.

Engel and ranking member Representative Michael McCaul issued an invitation in February and Democrat members of the committee had also asked Khalilzad to appear in April.

COVID-19

Coronavirus cases in Afghanistan hike to 32,022

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

The Ministry of Public Health said Thursday that 33 Coronavirus patients have died in the past 24 hours in Afghanistan as the country recorded 186 new cases.

The record of new cases shows a declined in the number of infections in the country.

Meanwhile, 436 patients have been discharged from hospitals in the last 24 hours after receiving treatment.

“In the past 24 hours out of 341 samples 186 people were tested positive for the Coronavirus, 33 patients died and 436 others have recovered,” said Deputy spokesperson for the Ministry of Public Health Masoma Jafari.

The cases were registered in Kabul 61, Herat 34, Daikundi 31, Kunduz 16, Balkh 14, Logar 7, Parwan 6, Kandahar 6, Baghlan 3, Laghman, Maidan Wardak and Paktia 2 in each, and Helmand and Nangahar witnessed 1-1 case in each.

It brings the total infections to 32022 with 806 deaths and 16607 recoveries in Afghanistan.

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30 Taliban militants killed in Helmand, Maidan Wardak, Balkh clashes

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

At least 30 Taliban militants were killed in clashes with the Afghan forces in Helmand, Maidan Wardak, and Balkh provinces.

The Defense Ministry said Thursday that the militants stormed security outposts of the Afghan forces in Grishk and Nadali districts on Wednesday night.

At least 13 Taliban fighters were killed in Sarband and Yakhchal areas in Grishk and five more were killed in the Nahr-e Bughra area of Nadali in the counterattack, the ministry said, adding that five Taliban dead bodies have remained on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, the Taliban attacked Afghan forces in the Mohammad Quli area in Jaghatu district of Maidan Wardak province which faced “fierce resistance” by Afghan forces.

The Ministry of Defense added, as a result, 9 Taliban militants were killed and a vehicle and a motorbike of the group were destroyed.

In a separate incident, the Taliban militants attacked a convoy of the Afghan security and defense forces in the Shulgera district of Balkh province.

The Defense Ministry confirmed, adding that three insurgents were killed and four others wounded in the incident.

The ministry, however, did not provide further details about the casualties of the Afghan forces.

The Taliban yet to make a comment on the matter.

It comes as the United Nations in a statement on Thursday urged all warring parties to reduce violence and attacks against each other. 

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UN urges civilians protection, reduced violence ahead of intra-Afghan talks

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) urges parties to redouble efforts at protecting civilians from harm and de-escalating the conflict in order to save lives and create a conducive environment for the upcoming intra-Afghan talks in Doha, the capital of Qatar. 

The peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban are expected to start this month.

In a statement released on Thursday, the UNAMA said that it is particularly concerned by a recent spate of violent incidents in which members of Afghanistan’s civil society have been targeted.

“Deliberate attacks against religious leaders, healthcare workers, members of the judiciary, civil society activists, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and journalists are both shocking and criminal,” UNAMA said it seeks to the authorities to bring the perpetrators to account, emphasizing its determination to continue support to Afghanistan’s flourishing civil society sector.

“It’s taken enormous work and some brave decisions for Afghans to reach the point of being on the eve of unprecedented intra-Afghan negotiations,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. “I encourage parties to lay the necessary foundation for the talks by showing their commitment to peace through immediate and concrete actions to protect civilians and reduce violence.”

“There are spoilers who do not wish to see an end to war,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA. “No matter what tactics they employ to de-rail the peace process, they cannot be allowed to succeed.”

In the first six months of 2020, preliminary figures indicate more than 800 civilians were killed and injured in deliberate attacks against civilians. UNAMA attributed responsibility for approximately half of these civilian casualties to the Taliban.

UNAMA remains particularly concerned by the deliberate targeting of religious leaders, with 18 incidents verified this year (six in June); healthcare personnel, with 13 incidents verified this year (two in June); judiciary members, with 11 incidents verified this year (three in June); civil society activists, with six incidents verified this year; NGOs, with five incidents verified this year (one in June); and journalists, with three incidents verified this year.

June incidents that require further verification include that of 22 June in Kabul, when armed men on a motorbike opened fire on a vehicle, killing all five passengers inside, including one prosecutor, working in the Bagram detention facility; and the 27 June incident also in the capital, when an Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission staff member and driver were killed by an IED when they were traveling to work.

The United Nations reiterates that attacks deliberately targeting Afghanistan’s civilian population are serious violations of international humanitarian law that may amount to war crimes.

UNAMA draws attention to the continued harm to civilians from the use of indirect fire during ground engagements in civilian-populated areas that have caused roughly 25 percent of civilian casualties in the second quarter of 2020. On 29 June, in Sangin district, Helmand province, dozens of civilian casualties resulted from mortars fired by the Afghan National Army in response to Taliban fire when the mortars missed the intended target and landed in a busy marketplace, according to UNAMA’s preliminary findings.

“Verification of civilian harm remains ongoing and UNAMA will provide updated civilian casualty figures in its midyear protection of civilians report in July,” the organization said.

In addition, there has been a recent increase in civilian casualties from the Taliban’s use of pressure-plate IEDs; in the week following the Eid ceasefire, these victim-activated devices were the leading cause of civilian casualties.

The Mission’s continued call for an end to violence is also immediately linked to the need for all parties to provide the necessary focus and resources to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious threat to everyone in Afghanistan.

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