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World Bank approves $97 million grant to increase food security

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(Last Updated On: February 17, 2021)

The World Bank has approved a grant of $97.50 million, from the International Development Association (IDA), to provide regular and predictable cash support to Afghans affected by drought and COVID-19 and improve food and nutrition security.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the World Bank stated that the grant will also help build Afghanistan’s drought early warning and response systems.

“The grant will help finance the Drought Early Warning, Early Finance, and Early Action Project (ENETAWF),” the statement said.

According to the statement, the project will complement regular humanitarian relief efforts and provide unconditional cash support and cash-for-work benefits to about 2.2 million Afghans in the 78 districts most affected by food insecurity and drought.

“The project will provide regular targeted financial assistance to households to build resilience and scale-up support across the country before and during droughts. It will also support the Government of Afghanistan to deliver critical weather, water, and climate information services, disseminate early warnings, and strengthen disaster preparedness within communities,” the statement read.

“The IDA grant complements grants of $115 million from the Afghanistan Reconstruction Trust Fund, a multi-donor trust fund managed by the World Bank on behalf of 34 donors, plus $8 million from the Global Risk Financing Facility, and $2 million from the program for Asia Resilience to Climate Change Multi-donor Trust Fund.”

“Afghanistan is one of the countries most affected and vulnerable to climate change and natural disasters, and its weak response system has further contributed to this vulnerability,” said Henry Kerali, World Bank Country Director for Afghanistan.

“This new financial assistance will help the Government of Afghanistan lessen drought impacts that have displaced millions of Afghans and pushed them into poverty. The project’s support to Afghan rural households will contribute to overall poverty reduction and economic recovery,” Kerali added.

The organization stated that Afghanistan is highly vulnerable to intense and recurring droughts, which further undermine its growth and stability.

“Natural disasters have spurred displacement, poverty, and food insecurity among rural Afghans, which the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated. Rural households, dependent on subsistence agriculture in drought-prone, rainfed areas, are especially vulnerable to food and nutrition insecurity,” the World Bank said.

The World Bank noted that the project will be implemented by the Minister of Rural Rehabilitation and Development, under which the National Emergency Operations Center in the disaster management agency will be strengthened.

“In addition, a Disaster Risk Management Resource Center will be established at the ministry.”

“In line with the World Bank Group’s institutional strategy on Fragility, Conflict, and Violence, the investments outlined in this project will seek to mitigate drivers of fragility by addressing some of its root causes and it will seek to strengthen the institutions necessary to transition the country out of fragility,” the statement concluded.

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Pakistan to increase number of flights to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) announced Thursday it will increase the number of international flights to Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, and Uzbekistan.

According to the PIA, the national flag-carrier will increase its flights to Afghanistan from four to five a week.

“Expanding our network in Afghanistan by increasing weekly flights from 4 to 5. Best service & most comfortable aircraft on this scenic route,” PIA said in a tweet Thursday.

PIA also stated it will launch direct flights to Azerbaijan’s Baku from March 14. The flights will be operated twice a week from Lahore city of Pakistan

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German cabinet agrees to extend Afghanistan mission by 10 months

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

The German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported Thursday that the new draft mandate still needs the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

The current mandate is set to expire at the end of March.

Under the draft agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet, German troops would be able to stay in the country until January 31, 2022, Deutsche Welle reported. .

Government spokesperson Steffen Seibert said the new date “takes account appropriately of the complex situation in Afghanistan and also makes possible the flexibility necessary to be able to react if the volatile security and threat situation there changes.”

With over 1,100 troops, Germany has the second-largest contingent after the United States in the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

Seibert said that the maximum limit of 1,300 German troops will remain unchanged in the new mandate.

This comes after NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that no final decision had been made on the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan – despite the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline.

Stoltenberg acknowledged that the military alliance is facing “many dilemmas” over its continued engagement in the country.

US President Joe Biden is reviewing Donald Trump’s 2020 deal with the Taliban, which sets May 1 as the deadline for a total US troop withdrawal.

Last week, German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said the decision to withdraw troops should not be rushed, rather than being “slavishly” bound to the May deadline. Instead, the drawback of troops should be linked to slow-paced peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban, he has said.

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Pakistan won’t support any attempt by Taliban to recapture power: ISPR general

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

Pakistan’s Director General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Babar Iftikhar said Wednesday that Pakistan has done what it can to promote peace efforts in Afghanistan and that Islamabad will not support the Taliban in any attempt to “recapture Kabul”.

Speaking to journalists on Wednesday, Iftikhar said: “Even Afghan leaders are admitting that Pakistan has done utmost for peace in Afghanistan.”

Pakistan’s The News International quoted him as saying that it is for the citizens and the government of Afghanistan to determine the future of their country, and how the negotiating process would progress.

“We only aim for a long-lasting peace in Afghanistan,” he said.

On a question on NATO forces’ likely drawdown and a possible return of the Taliban, he said: “Afghanistan now is not what it was in ’90s and the state infrastructure cannot be trounced easily, and Pakistan also has changed.

“It’s impossible for the Taliban to recapture Kabul and that Pakistan would support them. It isn’t going to happen,” he said.

The News reported that he maintained the policy of the Pakistan government to extend a hand of peace to the neighbours was very clear.

This comes just days after Russia’s special envoy for Afghanistan Zamir Kabulov visited Islamabad to encourage Pakistan’s support for a meeting in Moscow to help facilitate the stalled Afghan peace process.

Kabulov told Russian news agency Sputnik that his “leadership has set the task of finding ways that will facilitate the start of inter-Afghan negotiations through consultations within the framework of the enlarged troika. We agreed on such a meeting with the American special envoy [Zalmay] Khalilzad. It can happen in Moscow.”

The “enlarged troika” was in reference to what Kabulov said was a group that evolved over the last two years, including countries with the most influence on the Afghan peace processes – the United States, China, Iran, Pakistan and Russia.

VOA reported that the Moscow format was a Russian initiative to organize regional stakeholders involved in the Afghan peace process. Its second meeting in 2018 brought the Taliban to an international forum for the first time. The U.S. sent representatives to observe.

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