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US peace envoy condemns Herat airstrikes, calls for investigation

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(Last Updated On: July 23, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation, Zalmay Khalilzad, condemned this week’s airstrike by Afghan forces and said in a tweet early Thursday morning that the incident needs to be investigated. 

In his tweet, Khalilzad said: “The last 24 hours have been very violent in Afghanistan with many losing their lives.

“In Herat, photos and eyewitness accounts suggest many civilians including children are among the victims of an Afghan airstrike. We condemn the attack and support an investigation.”

He stated that the Afghan people want an immediate start of peace negotiations and a settlement that is in their best interest.

“More graves will not bring negotiations forward,” he said.

Khalilzad went on to say that “rather than setting the process back, we urge all sides to contain the violence, protect civilians, and show necessary restraint as the start of intra-Afghan negotiations is so close.”

Khalilzad’s comments were in response to an air raid in the Adraskan district of Herat Province that killed at least 40 people.

Officials have said key Taliban members were targeted in the raid but reports have since emerged that civilians were also among the dead.

Afghanistan’s defense ministry said it was investigating allegations of civilian casualties in attacks by Afghan forces in the area.

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Bayat Foundation provides much needed aid to flood and conflict victims

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

Afghan charity organization, the Bayat Foundation, this week delivered urgent aid packages to flood victims and conflict-affected families in Maidan Wardak province. 

Bayat Foundation said the food packages include flour, rice, cooking oil and pasta. 

Haji Mohammad Ismail, deputy head of the Bayat Foundation, said: “We have provided aid when needed and today we are distributing food supplies including flour, rice, cooking oil, and pasta to vulnerable, flood-affected people in Maidan Wardak.”

“A few days ago we helped Parwan people and today we are in Maidan Shahr to distribute aid to people who came from Behsood, Nirkh, Chak, and Sayed Abad districts,” said Ahsanullah Arianzai, an advisor to the Afghanistan relief organization.

Both officials stated that the Bayat Foundation would continue helping people in need across the country.

Maidan Wardak is a volatile province where insurgent groups have a strong foothold – resulting in a spike in violence in recent weeks. 

Recipients of the aid are also victims of the recent floods – which hit numerous provinces around the country earlier this month. Over 100 people died in the floods which also damaged and destroyed hundreds of homes, leaving thousands without proper shelter. 

Meanwhile, Maidan Wardak officials and recipients of the food packages welcomed Bayat Foundation’s gesture. Officials also called on other organizations to help vulnerable communities who need urgent help. 

“I thank the Bayat Foundation for providing aid and helping the poor people in Maidan Wardak,” said Mohammad Yaqub Wolesmal, financial director of the province.

In late August, the Foundation provided relief supplies to flood victims in northern Parwan Parwan province.

Since 2006, the Bayat Foundation has helped rebuild Afghanistan and deliver hope and support to the neediest and most at-risk Afghans. 

By providing food and clothing; maternity care for women before and during childbirth and to newborn babies; orphan care and education; competitive sports to challenge the youth; and entrepreneurship programs for widows, women and youth, the Foundation’s goal is to rekindle a healthy and hopeful base so that all Afghans have the opportunity to prosper.

One key initiative is food distribution during the holy month of Ramadan and providing winter aid packages consisting of items such as flour, oil, blankets, and clothing to needy families across the country. Disaster relief packages are also quickly distributed when needed. 

The Foundation has also worked tirelessly to not only help needy families but it has also built schools, hospitals, and clinics in different provinces.

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Gov’t calls for end to Afghan peace talks ‘censorship’

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

The Ministry of Information and Culture on Wednesday spoke out against the lack of information coming out of the Doha peace talks and said the Afghan media should also have a place at the talks table. 

Addressing a press conference in Kabul Abdul Manan Shiway-e Sharq, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture said in order to preserve post-Taliban regime achievements,  representatives of the Afghan media should have an active role in the Afghan Peace Negotiations (APN). 

Sharq also called on government and the Taliban to not censor the process.

Very few details have been revealed in the past 10 days – since the start of the talks – and only occasional snippets of information are released to the media by both sides.

 “According to the Right to Information Act, as the Access to Information and Commission exists, and according to mass media code, censorship is against the law,” Sharq said.

He said government is committed to upholding freedom of speech, “therefore, we demand both the leadership of Afghanistan as well as the negotiators of the Taliban in Doha determine the position of the Afghan media in the peace talks.”

Even living in the age of digital technology, Sharq stated that what happens behind closed doors must not be censored and that Afghan journalists should also be allowed to cover the process.

“Media is considered and regarded as the fourth estate of democracy and democratic society,” he said.

“The Ministry of Information and Culture’s position is that censorship must be put aside, the media should have the right to cover anything that happens during the negotiations and representatives of the Afghan media should have an active presence around the negotiations table so that they preserve their rights.”

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Three-day expo of Iranian goods and services underway in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

Iran is hosting a three-day trade exhibition in Kabul in the hope of strengthening bilateral trade ties with Afghanistan. 

Speaking at the event, Iran’s Ambassador to Afghanistan Bahador Aminian said the exhibition aims to promote trade and share technical “know-how” with Afghanistan. 

Iran’s Commercial Consular in Kabul Javanmard Qassab said the exhibition will last for three days in an effort to introduce Iranian products to Afghan customers.

He said the embassy was hoping to sign agreements between Iranian and Afghan businesses. 

Trade value between the two countries has now topped $1.5 billion, with Iran exporting a large amount of goods to its neighbor annually. 

Afghan traders are also showcasing their products to Iranian businesses.

 Representatives of 21 Iranian companies that offer services within the municipal sector are participating along with 54 other Iranian companies. 

These companies are from a cross-sector of the commercial industry including technical and engineering services, along with electricity, energy and telecommunications providers.

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