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US to present honorary IWOC Award to slain Afghan women

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(Last Updated On: March 5, 2021)

The US State Department will award an honorary International Women of Courage (IWOC) Award to seven Afghan women leaders and activists, who were assassinated in 2020 for their “dedication” to improving the lives of Afghans.

The US Department of State said in a statement that US Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken will host the annual International Women of Courage (IWOC) Awards virtual ceremony on March 8, to honor a group of extraordinary women from around the world.

The First Lady of the United States, Dr. Jill Biden will deliver remarks to recognize the courageous accomplishments of these women.

“In addition to the individual IWOC awards that will be presented on March 8, Secretary Blinken will also present an honorary IWOC award to a group of seven Afghan women who were assassinated in 2020 while serving their communities during a pivotal moment in Afghanistan’s history,” the statement read.

“These tragic murders underscore the alarming trend of increased targeting of women in Afghanistan and the United States condemns these acts of violence,” the statement said.

The Afghan slain women leaders and activists are:  

Fatema Natasha Khalil, an official with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission who was killed, along with her driver, in June 2020 by an IED in Kabul, on her way to her office.

General Sharmila Frough, the head of the Gender Unit in the National Directorate of Security (NDS) was one of the longest-serving female NDS officers, having served as chief of the anti-kidnapping division and working undercover combating criminal networks. General Frough was assassinated in an IED explosion targeting her vehicle in March 2020 in Kabul.

Maryam Noorzad, a midwife who served remote locations in Wardak and Bamyan provinces before working for Médecins Sans Frontières Kabul PD13 hospital. On May 12, 2020, three gunmen attacked the maternity ward of the hospital, but Maryam refused to leave her patient, who was in labor. Maryam, her patient, and the newborn baby were killed in the delivery suite.

Fatima Rajabi, a 23-year-old police officer originally from Ghazni province and a member of the anti-narcotics division. She was traveling to her home village in Jaghori district in a civilian minibus in July 2020 when the Taliban stopped the vehicle and took her captive. Two weeks later, the Taliban killed her and sent her remains, which had gunshot wounds and signs of torture, to her family.

Freshta, daughter of Amir Mohamed, a 35-year-old prison guard with the Office of Prison Administration. She was walking from her residence in Kandahar City to a taxi on her way to work when she was murdered by an unknown gunman on October 25, 2020.

Malalai Maiwand, a reporter at Enikas Radio and TV, was shot and killed, along with her driver, by a gunman on December 10, 2020, in an attack on her vehicle in Jalalabad. Malalai was not the first in her family to be targeted. Five years earlier, her mother, an activist, was also killed by unknown gunmen.

Freshta Kohistani, a 29-year-old women’s rights, and democracy activist was assassinated by unknown gunmen near her home in Kapsia province on December 24, 2020. Kohistani regularly organized events advocating for women’s rights in Afghanistan and used social media as a platform for her messaging.

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Germany will not abandon Afghan staff, minister says

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

Germany will not let down its Afghan staff as the international military mission in the country, Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer pledged on Sunday.

“I feel it is Germany’s sincere duty to not leave these people without protection now that we will permanently withdraw,” the defence ministry in Berlin said on Twitter, quoting extracts from an interview with German news agency DPA.

U.S. President Joe Biden and NATO on Wednesday announced that they would withdraw the roughly 10,000 foreign troops still in Afghanistan by Sept. 11. Germany is the second-largest contingent with about 1,100 troops.

The withdrawals have raised concerns that Afghanistan could erupt into full-scale civil war, providing al Qaeda space in which to rebuild and plan new attacks on U.S. and other targets.

The German forces currently employ about 300 Afghans as interpreters and in other jobs, according to the defence ministry in Berlin.

Since 2013 Germany has admitted nearly 800 Afghans at risk in their own country after working for the foreign military, as well as about 2,500 family members.

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Two policemen killed in Taliban group attack in Baghlan

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

At least two policemen were killed and six others were wounded in a Taliban group attack in Baghlan province on Sunday night, police said Monday.

Police said the Taliban attacked Fabreka Qand Township in the Baghlan-e-Markazi district.

According to them, at least six Taliban insurgents were also killed and eight more were wounded in the ensuing clash between the insurgents and Afghan security forces.

“Afghan forces responded strongly to the Taliban’s attacks and pushed them back,” said Jawed Basharat, spokesman for Baghlan police.

Sayed Kamal Wardak, district governor for Baghlan Markazi district told Ariana News that the clash started on Sunday night at around midnight and lasted until 5am on Monday.

“At least one police Humvee burnt out and another one was seized by the Taliban,” said Wardak.

Police chief Sayed Ashraf Sadat along with other reinforcements are in the area and said the Taliban suffered heavy casualties but he did not provide further details.

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Ghani says Taliban no longer has an ‘excuse’ to continue the war

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(Last Updated On: April 19, 2021)

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani on Sunday rejected any military parallels with the US war in Vietnam and dismissed concerns that his country would collapse after American forces are withdrawn.

In an interview with CNN, Ghani said it was time Afghanistan regained its sovereignty after 20 years of American and international presence.

“In the past two years, Afghan defence and security forces have been carrying out over 90 per cent of the operations,” he said.

Ghani said the US announcement of troop withdrawal has been a game changer but it’s now time the Taliban and Pakistan make a choice.

“Will they opt for peace or chaos?” he asked.

Ghani said the Taliban no longer has an excuse to carry on the war now that the international forces are withdrawing and they have no religious justification for the war. He said a political settlement is a must but that the ball is “clearly” in the Taliban’s court.

According to him he has never stood in the way of peace but was used as the Trump administration’s scapegoat. He said he was accused of being an “obstacle in the way of peace”.

This was not the case he said, adding that he was clear about wanting the Trump team to deal directly with the Afghan government and not with the Taliban on the troop withdrawal issue last year.

On what the Taliban might do in future, Ghani said he would like the group to “seize the new context” and reach a political settlement where a government of peace ending in an election can be formed.

He also said that Pakistan’s leaders have all “verbally” said they do not want the Taliban to rule, and that they would like to see a peaceful, stable, democratic government in Afghanistan. He added however that Afghanistan is “key to their prosperity”.

According to him, Pakistan has two choices – share in the benefits of a peaceful Afghanistan or “opt for chaos”. He said Pakistan would be the country most affected by a civil war in Afghanistan.

Ghani also stated that Pakistan could become an anchor for regional stability. On China, he said he did not believe Beijing would get “involved” in regional conflict and stated that Afghanistan does not want “a replacement” for US troops once they have withdrawn.

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