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Thursday, September 23, 2021

Afghanistan Taliban Highlights: Ready to stop fighting if Taliban withdraw from Panjshir, says Oppn leader Massoud

Afghanistan Highlights: The Taliban on Sunday said their forces had fought their way into Bazarak, the provincial capital of Panjshir where the opposition forces have been holding out since Kabul's fall three weeks ago, news agency Reuters reported.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: September 6, 2021 9:04:00 am
taliban new government supreme leaderMembers of the Taliban at the airport in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday, Aug. 31, 2021. There are doubts that the group has the expertise or capacity to run the complex hub. (Image/The New York Times)

Afghanistan Highlights: Afghan opposition leader Ahmad Massoud Sunday said he is ready to stop fighting if Taliban withdraw from Panjshir. Welcoming Ulema Religious Council’s proposal for talks end the tussle over the valley where the opposition forces have been holding out since Kabul’s fall three weeks ago, the head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) said, “To reach a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on condition that Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab.”

The Taliban on Sunday said their forces had fought their way into Bazarak, the provincial capital of Panjshir where the opposition forces have been holding out since Kabul’s fall three weeks ago, news agency Reuters reported. The police headquarters and district centre of Rukhah had fallen, and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

However, the claim has not been confirmed yet. Earlier on Sunday, Fahim Dashti, spokesman for the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA), said the Taliban “propaganda machine” was trying to spread distracting messages.

Ariana Afghan Airlines resumed some flights in Afghanistan between Kabul and three major provincial cities on Saturday, the carrier said, after a technical team from Qatar reopened the capital’s airport for aid and domestic services. Flights between Kabul and the western city of Herat, Mazar-i Sharif in northern Afghanistan and Kandahar in the south have started, the airline said in a statement on its Facebook page.

In Panjshir, Taliban and opposition forces battled on Saturday to control the last Afghan province holding out against the militant group. Both sides claimed to have the upper hand in Panjshir but neither could produce conclusive evidence to prove it.

In other news, Taliban sources also told Reuters the group’s co-founder and head of political office Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar would lead the new Afghan government. 

Live Blog

Afghanistan Highlights: Fighting on in Panjshir Valley; top US general warns of civil war; new government to be announced soon. Follow this space for updates on Afghanistan.

22:08 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Ready to stop fighting if Taliban withdraw from Panjshir: Oppn leader Massoud

Afghan opposition leader Ahmad Massoud Sunday said he is ready to stop fighting if Taliban withdraw from Panjshir. Welcoming Ulema Religious Council's proposal for talks end the tussle over the valley where the opposition forces have been holding out since Kabul’s fall three weeks ago, the head of the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan (NRFA) said, "To reach a lasting peace, the NRF is ready to stop fighting on condition that Taliban also stop their attacks and military movements on Panjshir and Andarab."

21:53 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Red Cross head arrives for 3 days in Afghanistan

The head of the International Committee of the Red Cross, or ICRC, has arrived for a three-day visit in Afghanistan. Peter Maurer arrived Sunday and plans to visit medical facilities, rehabilitation centers for victims of violence and disease as well as ICRC staffers. The relief group said in a statement that Maurer also plans to meet with local Afghan authorities. --AP

19:31 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Taliban say they have entered capital of Panjshir

The Taliban on Sunday said their forces had fought their way into Bazarak, the provincial capital of Panjshir where the opposition forces have been holding out since Kabul’s fall three weeks ago, news agency Reuters reported. The police headquarters and district centre of Rukhah had fallen, and opposition forces had suffered numerous casualties, Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said on Twitter.

19:15 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Taliban spokesperson says group wants to establish diplomatic relations with Germany

Taliban spokesperson has told a German newspaper that his group wants to establish diplomatic relations with Germany. Zabihullah Mujahid tells the weekly Welt am Sonntag that "we want strong and official diplomatic relations to Germany". The newspaper reported Sunday that the Taliban also hope for financial support from Germany as well as humanitarian aid and cooperation regarding Afghanistan's health care system, education and agriculture. --AP

18:33 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Taliban suicide bomber blows himself up in Pakistan; 4 killed, 20 injured

A suicide bomber of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan blew himself up in Balochistan province on Sunday, killing at least four security personnel and injuring 20 people, news agency PTI quoted a top police official as saying. The attack targeted a Frontier Corps check post in Quetta, the provincial capital, Deputy Inspector General of Quetta police Azhar Akram said. Akram told reporters that initial investigations showed that the bomber drove an explosive-laden motorcycle into a vehicle carrying Frontier Corps, reported PTI.

17:07 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Italy to transfer its Afghanistan embassy to Qatar: Minister

Italy plans to move its Afghan embassy to Doha, in Qatar, Italian Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio said on Sunday, the latest indication of Western diplomats setting up permanently outside Afghanistan in the wake of the Taliban takeover.The announcement follows earlier signals that Western countries and the European Union, which have closed their missions in Kabul, may use the Gulf state as an offshore hub for their diplomatic relations with Afghanistan.Many diplomats flew to the Gulf state, which has hosted the Taliban's political office since 2013, after evacuating the Afghan capital late last month. --Reuters

17:06 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Pope says he hopes many countries take Afghan refugees

Pope says he hopes many countries take Afghan refugees and that the young who remain in the country receive education

15:37 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Will support govt based on will of Afghan people: Iranian President

Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi says his country wants peace and stability in Afghanistan and will support a government based on the will of the Afghan people.

15:13 (IST)05 Sep 2021
China seeks common stand with Iran on Afghanistan under Taliban

A wary China is seeking to strike a common position with Afghanistan's key neighbour Iran to firm up its growing role in the war-torn country as it waits for the Taliban to form an "open and inclusive" government that makes a "clean break" from all terrorist groups. China is already coordinating its evolving policy on Afghanistan with its "all-weather ally" Pakistan and Russia which also share borders with Afghanistan. Beijing, which has kept its Embassy open in Kabul along with Pakistan and Russia, is awaiting the formation of a government by the Taliban to decide on recognising it amidst firm indications by the US, the UK and other western countries that they will not be in a hurry to endorse the new government. --PTI

14:45 (IST)05 Sep 2021
US lawmaker urges Blinken to clear private evacuation flights out of Afghanistan

US Representative Mike Waltz has called on the State Department to work with non-governmental organisations that he said are trying to clear charter flights to evacuate Americans and at-risk allies still hiding in several Afghan cities.

In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Saturday, the Republican lawmaker and former White House official said he had been told by several NGOs that there were manifested charter flights "available, funded, and ready to fly" people out. Groups of American citizens, legal permanent residents, and Afghans eligible for special visas were hiding near airports waiting for clearance to depart the country, Waltz, a decorated veteran, said. (Reuters)

14:20 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Taiban to announce government next week

A Taliban source said the announcement of a new government would be pushed back to next week.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, reported by some Taliban sources to be in line to lead the new government, said in remarks on Qatar's Al Jazeera channel that the new administration will include all factions of Afghans.

"We are doing our utmost efforts to improve their living conditions. The government will provide security, because it is necessary for economic development," he said. (Reuters)

12:56 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Some domestic flights resume at Kabul airport

Some domestic flights have resumed at Afghanistan's international airport in Kabul, with the state-run Ariana Afghan Airline operating flights to three provinces.

Shershah Stor, the airline's station manager at the airport, told The Associated Press on Sunday that the flights took place Saturday to western Herat, southern Kandahar and northern Balkh provinces. He said the flights were conducted without a functioning radar system at the airport.

Stor said three more flights are scheduled Sunday to the same provinces. A team of Qatari and Turkish technicians arrived in Kabul last week to help restart operations at the airport, which the UN says is crucial to providing the country with humanitarian assistance. It remains to be seen, however, whether any commercial airlines will be willing to offer service. (AP)

11:51 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Threats and fear cause Afghan women’s protections to vanish overnight

It took years for Women for Afghan Women to build up Afghanistan’s largest network of women’s protection services — 32 safe houses, family guidance centers and children’s homes in 14 provinces, growing by word-of-mouth and driven by the intense need for their services.

They started closing their doors in a matter of days as the Taliban began their lightning advance through Afghan cities on Aug. 6. Most of the shelter directors grabbed or burned records, packed a few belongings and fled with their clients as word arrived that the Taliban were coming.

A woman walks through Kabul, Afghanistan, July 2, 2021. (Jim Huylebroek/The New York Times)

A very few safe-house directors — not only those affiliated with Women for Afghan Women, but also with a handful of other long-established shelters — opted to stay where they were, but went silent, fearful that anything they said could bring harm to the women in their care. No one is accepting new cases. (Read more)

11:03 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Top US general warns of civil war in Afghanistan

US General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, underscored the tenuous situation in Afghanistan.

"My military estimate is, is that the conditions are likely to develop of a civil war. I don't know if the Taliban is going to be able to consolidate power and establish governance," Milley said.

Speaking to Fox News from Ramstein Air Base in Germany, Milley said if they cannot that will "in turn lead to a reconstitution of Al Qaeda or a growth of ISIS or other myriad of terrorist groups" over the next three years. (Reuters)

10:16 (IST)05 Sep 2021
As Taliban factions bicker, ISI chief in Kabul to find berths for Haqqanis

Demonstrating its clout over the Taliban leadership and anxious to find berths in the new Kabul regime for people it had nurtured over the years, Pakistan sent ISI chief Lt General Faiz Hameed to Kabul on Saturday.

The Pakistani spy chief landed in the city amid hectic negotiations within the Taliban on the governance structure. The announcement of the governing council, expected on Saturday, has been delayed because of back-channel negotiations.

And the ISI chief, according to sources in Delhi, has gone to Afghanistan to smoothen the process of government formation among various groups. Photographs of Lt General Hameed having tea with Pakistan’s ambassador Mansoor Ahmad Khan at the Serena hotel in Kabul did the rounds of social media. (Read more)

10:00 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Panjshir update: Taliban claims control over 4 of 7 provinces; resistance front refutes it

Taliban spokesman Bilal Karimi said the districts of Khinj and Unabah had been taken, giving Taliban forces control of four of the Panjshir province's seven districts.

"The Mujahideen (Taliban fighters) are advancing toward the centre (of the province)," he said on Twitter.

But the National Resistance Front of Afghanistan, grouping forces loyal to local leader Ahmad Massoud, said it surrounded "thousands of terrorists" in Khawak pass and the Taliban had abandoned vehicles and equipment in the Dashte Rewak area.

Front spokesman Fahim Dashti added "heavy clashes" were going on.In a Facebook post, Massoud insisted Panjshir "continues to stand strongly." (Reuters) 

09:53 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Taliban fighters crush a women’s protest amid flickers of resistance

Taliban fighters violently suppressed a women’s protest Saturday in Kabul, while 70 miles to the north ex-Afghan army and militia members battled the Islamist group in Panjshir province, as pockets of anti-Taliban resistance continued to flare up.

Several of the women, who were demanding inclusion in the yet-to-be named Taliban government, said they were beaten by Taliban fighters — some of the first concrete evidence of harsh treatment of women by the group.

Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul. (AP)

A 24-year-old participant said in a telephone interview that the Taliban tried to rout the gathering of about 100 women using tear gas, rifle butts and metal clubs or tools. She said she received five stitches to close a head wound after she was knocked unconscious with a blow from one of the metal objects. (Read more)

09:11 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Over 24 hours in Kabul: brutality, trauma, moments of grace

Bone-tired like everyone else in Kabul, Taliban fighters spent the last moments of the 20-year Afghanistan war watching the night skies for the flares that would signal the United States was gone. From afar, US generals watched video screens with the same anticipation.

Relief washed over the war’s winners and the losers when the final US plane took off.

Taliban fighters in Kabul fire their guns in celebration. (Representational image via Victor J. Blue/The New York Times)

For those in between and left behind — possibly a majority of the allied Afghans who sought US clearance to escape — fear spread about what comes next, given the Taliban’s history of ruthlessness and repression of women. And for thousands of US officials and volunteers working around the world to place Afghan refugees, there is still no rest. (Read more)

08:08 (IST)05 Sep 2021
'Everything will be Okay': ISI chief during visit to Afghanistan

Pakistan's powerful intelligence chief Lieutenant General Faiz Hameed, who dashed to Kabul on an unannounced visit amidst efforts by the Taliban to finalise a government in Afghanistan, on Saturday expressed confidence that "everything will be okay" in the war-weary country.

A delegation of senior Pakistani officials led by Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Director General Lieutenant General Hameed arrived in Kabul to conduct discussions with the incoming Taliban government, the Pakistan Observer newspaper reported. In a short video clip circulated in the media, Hameed is seen trying to respond to questions by a journalist who asked: "Will you be meeting senior people in the Taliban?"

"No, I'm not clear," the ISI chief said and looked towards Pakistan ambassador to Kabul Mansour Ahmad Khan, who was standing by his side, to respond to the question. (PTI)

07:37 (IST)05 Sep 2021
Afghan women filmmakers plead at Venice

Afghan female filmmakers who fled the Taliban are begging the world to not forget the Afghan people and to support its artists. The women spoke at a panel discussion at the Venice Film Festival to warn that a country without culture will eventually lose its identity.

Sahraa Karimi, the first female president of the Afghan Film Organisation, choked up in telling reporters all that had been lost after the Taliban completed their takeover of the country. She cited numerous films in pre-and-post production, filmmaking workshops, insurance policies that had all ground to a halt, and film archives that are now in the hands of the Taliban.

"Imagine a country without artists, a country without filmmakers. How can they defend its identity?" she said. (AP) 

Women gather to demand their rights under the Taliban rule during a protest in Kabul, Afghanistan, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021.  (AP Photo/Wali Sabawoon)

Inside the Afghan evacuation: Rogue flights, crowded tents, hope and chaos

On the last day of August, when President Joe Biden called the airlift of refugees from Kabul an “extraordinary success,” senior diplomats and military officers in Doha, Qatar, emailed out a daily situation report marked “sensitive but unclassified.”

The conditions in Doha, according to their description, were getting worse. Almost 15,000 Afghan refugees were packed into airplane hangars and wedding-style tents at al-Udeid air base, home to the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing and nearby Camp As Sayliyah, a U.S. Army base in the Persian Gulf nation.

Two hundred and twenty-nine unaccompanied children were being held near the base, including many teenage boys who repeatedly bullied younger children. There were a “large number of pregnant women,” some of whom needed medical attention, and increasing reports of “gastrointestinal issues” among the refugees.

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