Kabul Evening News Summary:
16 June 2021 / 26 Khordad 1400
DISCLAIMER: This media compilation is produced under contract for the U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. The information contained in this compilation is from publicly available media sources and has not been verified or endorsed by the U.S. Embassy Kabul or the United States Government.
Taliban Emboldened by U.S. Troop Withdrawal
- Taliban commanders had voiced “exuberance about quickly seizing full control of the country and re-establishing their version of an Islamic state,” AFP wrote, after interviewing a few of them in Ghazni Province. The outlet also noted, after visiting a hospital captured by the Taliban, that, “Away from the frontline, the Taliban are increasingly overseeing civil projects inside their territory.”
- Taliban commander in Ghazni Province, Mullah Misbah said, “The arrogant Americans thought they could wipe the Taliban from the face of the earth. But the Taliban defeated the Americans and their allies, and, God willing, an Islamic regime will be established in Afghanistan now that they are leaving. When the Americans leave they (the government forces) won't survive even for five days.”
- Taliban commander in Qarabagh district, Qari Hafizullah Hamdan said, “You know and everyone else knows that the Americans and their NATO allies and the Kabul administration have been defeated 100 percent.” A Taliban spokesperson was quoted saying, “It’s natural that military commanders want to use force. But decisions are made at the top... so any rulings made by the leadership council will be implemented, and the commanders will follow.”
- A source close to the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) said that a high-level delegation will travel to Qatar in the next couple of days to discuss the peace process with the Taliban. The names were not disclosed but it is most likely that HCNR Chairperson Abdullah and former president Hamid Karzai would be part of the delegation.
- American MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) confirmed it was awarded two separate contracts worth $43.9 million from Army Contracting Command-Redstone supporting the Afghan Air Force’s MD 530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters. MD Helicopters Vice President Aftermarket and Customer Support, Nick Nenadovic said, “While U.S. forces begin the drawdown process in Afghanistan, these contracts allow us to help Afghanistan’s Air Force maintain stability on their own through the continued support of their aircraft.”
- The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) recaptured the center of the Dawlat Abad district in Faryab Province on Wednesday morning. The Army’s 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement that the ANDSF carried out an operation on Tuesday evening with air support and cleared it from the Taliban.
The Ministry of Public Health reported 1,722 cases of COVID-19 and 94 deaths over the last 24 hours. There were 391 recoveries and the country’s total death toll was now 3,842.
'With Masters Defeated, the Slaves Can't Fight': Taliban Eye Victory After US Exit- Agence France-Presse
16 June 2021
With Afghan troops in retreat and soon to lose vital American air support, Taliban commanders are voicing exuberance about quickly seizing full control of the country and re-establishing their version of an Islamic state.
Unprecedented peace talks between the insurgents and Afghan government continue to flutter, and as violence rages across Afghanistan, militants claim to have taken nearly 30 districts since the US began its final troop withdrawal in early May.
With supply lines stretched, Afghan forces have been clobbered by Taliban fighters in recent weeks, forcing the country's military leaders to strategically retreat from a number of rural districts.
"The arrogant Americans thought they could wipe the Taliban from the face of the earth," said Mullah Misbah, an insurgent commander in violence-wracked Ghazni province, during a recent interview with AFP.
"But the Taliban defeated the Americans and their allies, and, God willing, an Islamic regime will be established in Afghanistan now that they are leaving."
In recent weeks, the Taliban have taken two districts in Ghazni, a key province straddling the highway connecting the capital with the former insurgent stronghold of Kandahar to the south.
They are now present in almost every province and are encircling several major cities -- a strategy the militants employed in the mid-1990s when they overran most of Afghanistan until ousted by a US-led invasion after the 2001 September 11 attacks.
"When the Americans leave they (the government forces) won't survive even for five days," said Misbah, who describes himself as a Taliban public health official in Ghazni.
He took AFP on a tour of a hospital in Andar district captured by the militants -- its walls pockmarked with bullet holes.
"When the masters have been defeated, the slaves cannot fight the Islamic Emirate," he said, rattling off a series of orders over the radio.
- 'The Americans are defeated' -
The Taliban's military gains have triggered speculation they are preparing to launch an all-out assault on Afghanistan's cities once the Americans and their international allies leave.
Afghan authorities insisted they are capable of reversing the Taliban's momentum, citing their opponents' lack of heavy weapons and vulnerability to air strikes from Afghan forces.
But the insurgents are confident of success once US troops are fully withdrawn ahead of a September deadline set by President Joe Biden.
"You know and everyone else knows that the Americans and their NATO allies and the Kabul administration have been defeated 100 percent," said Qari Hafizullah Hamdan, a Taliban commander from the nearby district of Qarabagh.
The Ministry of Defence did not respond to a request for comment.
Despite the talk of a swift military victory, a Taliban spokesman said decisions on the war's future course ultimately rested with the leadership.
"It's natural that military commanders want to use force," said the spokesman.
"But decisions are made at the top... so any rulings made by the leadership council will be implemented, and the commanders will follow."
Away from the frontline, the Taliban are increasingly overseeing civil projects inside their territory.
Misbah and his troops have run their hospital for two years, where they distribute medicine to nearby residents and treat wounded jihadists and civilians alike.
Injured Taliban fighters are often moved in and out of the hospital, however, to avoid air strikes.
The facility also hosts first aid classes conducted by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), which also offers similar courses to government forces in Ghazni.
"With this training we can help the wounded on the battlefield," said Taliban fighter Hafizullah, as ICRC medics passed on instructions to militants nearby.
The ICRC often works with both sides in conflict zones in order to have access to civilian populations.
- 'There is no security here' -
During AFP's tour of the insurgent hospital in Andar district, government forces were not visible for several miles around the facility.
Misbah said that most patients there were civilians injured in bombings by enemy forces, but offered little evidence to support his claim.
Both the Taliban and government regularly exaggerate casualties inflicted on their adversaries, while also accusing each other of overseeing rights violations, including the targeting of civilians.
Sporting long beards and turbans, Taliban fighters armed with machine guns were seen outside the hospital and across the countryside, mingling with villagers carrying out their daily chores as women in burqas worked the fields.
The single mud track that connects Andar district with the provincial capital is lined with mud houses and farms, some with solar panels to power water pumps.
The Taliban's growing presence nearby has spurred fears that the insurgents are close to launching another bloody assault on Ghazni city -- as they did in 2018, torching the main bazaar and killing scores of civilians.
"The Taliban are at the edge of Ghazni city," said local businessman Ahmad Rahim.
"There is no security here."
The city continues to buzz with busy markets and traffic jams, but by sunset most shops are shuttered as the sound of gunfire and mortar shells reverberate across the countryside.
"In a short time, Afghans will experience joy and full freedom," said commander Hamdan.
Peace and Reconciliation:
Saudi Cabinet Lauds Afghan, Pakistani Religious Scholars - Pajhwok Afghan News
16 June 2021
The Saudi cabinet has appreciated the role of senior Afghan and Pakistani scholars in promoting the peace process in Afghanistan.
Ulema from Afghanistan and Pakistan recently signed the Declaration of Peace in Afghanistan following a meeting in Saudi Arabia.
The Saudi Press Agency reported the summit was held recently in the holy city of Makkah with the support of the oil-rich Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The declaration called for the warring parties to pave the ground for resolving the crisis in Afghanistan through negotiations and rejection of violence and extremism in all forms and manifestations.
Development, Humanitarian Affairs, Economy & Trade
COVID-19 Cases Drop 60 Percent Worldwide - Pajhwok
16 June 2021
KABUL (Pajhwok): The third wave of coronavirus is spreading rapidly in Afghanistan but the number of Covid-19 patients has dropped by 60 percent in the world.
So far 177 million people have been infected with Covid-19 worldwide and three million and 838,000 people have died and 161 million have recovered.
According to reports, the third wave of the disease started three months ago in April in several countries and hit India the hardest.
According to the Health Department of India, when the third wave was at its peak, up to 40,000 people would infected a day and an average of 5,000 people would die every day.
But now the third wave in India is coming to an end and 70000 people a day are infected with the Covid-19 and 3,000 die.
The third wave is coming to an end in Pakistan, where quarantine measures have been softened and schools and universities reopened.
According to international sources, at the height of the third wave of the Covid-19, around 9, 0000 people worldwide would get infected and 15,000 would die every day.
World Health Organization (WHO) chief Dr Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus has welcomed the reduction in the number of Covid-19 patients worldwide.
Unfortunately, the death toll in some African countries is still high, he said in a statement. He added that the death toll in other countries has also dropped slightly.
The World Health Organization says there is a high rate of illness and death in areas where people are not vaccinated against Covid-19.
Afghanistan Reports 94 COVID-19 Deaths in 24 Hours - Pajhwok
16 June 2021
By Azizullah Hamdard
KABUL (Pajhwok): Nearly 1,722 new Covid-19 cases and 94 deaths have been recorded in Afghanistan in the last 24 hours, the Ministry of Public Health said on Wednesday — the highest single day figures.
The ministry said 5,053 tests were conducted across the country in the past 24 hours and the virus was detected in 1,722 people, bringing Afghanistan's overall tally to 96,531.
Of the fresh cases, 396 were recorded in Kabul, 148 in Nangarhar, 125 in Kandahar, 110 in Balkh, 89 in Kapisa, 78 in Herat, 68 in Kunduz, 67 in Maidan Wardak, 65 in Badghis, 62 in Ghazni, 60 in Nimroz, 55 in Logar, 54 in Faryab, 41 in Helmand, 40 in Zabul, 39 in Ghor, 38 in Takhar, 36 in Paktia, 24 in Samangan, 22 each in Panjsher and Daikundi, 21 in Kunar, 17 in Laghman, 15 in Badakhshan, 13 in Sar-i-Pul, 10 in Khost and seven in Bamyan.
At least 391 individuals recovered from the pandemic during the period, pushing up the number of total recoveries to 62,397.
A statement from MoPH said 94 people died of the virus in the past 24 hours, pushing the overall death toll to 3,842.
The global infection tally reached 177 million, with 161 million recovering and over 3.8 million losing their lives to the pandemic.
Afghan Forces Retake Center of Faryab's Dawlat Abad District - TOLOnews
16 June 2021
Afghan security forces retook the center of Dawlat Abad district in northern Faryab province on Wednesday morning, the Army's 209 Shaheen Corps said in a statement.
Security forces launched a clearing operation on Tuesday night with air support in the center of the district and cleared it of Taliban, the statement said.
The statement did not provide further details about the operation or about casualties sustained by the security forces or Taliban.
The center of the district fell to the Taliban a week ago after heavy fighting.
The Taliban has not yet commented on the operation.
3 of a Family Shot Dead, 11 Wounded in Herat Attack - Pajhwok Afghan News
16 June 2021
By Storai Karimi
Unidentified gunmen have shot dead three members of a family and wounded 11 others in western Herat province, security officials said on Wednesday.
Police spokesman Abdul Ahad Walizada told Pajhwok Afghan News a number of families were on picnic in a garden in the Nawabad village of Injil district.
Unidentified gunmen opened fire on them while they were having dinner at around 10pm on Tuesday night, the police official said.
Walizada added two women and one child were killed and 11 others wounded, including women and children. The wounded were evacuated to hospital by police.
The police spokesman said the motive behind the killings was no yet known but police had launched investigations inton the case.
Herat Zonal Hospital Director Arif Jalali said three dead bodies and 11 wounded people, including women and children, were brought to the hospital.
Jalali added one of the wounded was in critical condition.
Plant-Based Meth From Afghanistan Is Turning Up All Over the World - Vice News
16 June 2021
By Niko Vorobjov
From Cape Town to Melbourne, a new breed of organic meth has become an export bonanza for the world's biggest opium producer.
In the run-down township of Khayelitsha in Cape Town, South Africa a group of men are sitting in a living room as one of them holds a small baggy of white, crystalline powder to the computer screen on a WhatsApp video link.
"We've been smoking tik for years here. But this is the new stuff," says long-term meth user Maninja, who is using a false name for fear of arrest. Giving the packet a little shake, he continues: "The price is the same, but the buzz is different. The other one makes you more hyperactive, while this one makes your body numb."
Tik is local slang for crystal meth, which has been prevalent in South Africa since the 1990s. Since the 2010s, high-quality meth produced in Nigeria assisted by Mexican narcos has been the dominant product. But now there is a new product in town, arriving from 14,000 km away in Afghanistan, marking a shift in the meth market that is contributing to record levels of use of the drug worldwide.
Better-known for its vast poppy fields supplying up to 90 percent of the world's heroin, Afghanistan's new plant-based meth – which is cheaper and easier to produce for locals than making it from scratch in a lab – is turning up all over the world: in southern and eastern Africa; Iran, Iraq and Turkey in the Middle East; in Pakistan, India and Sri Lanka, Indonesia and Australia.
With meth now emerging as another major Afghan drug export, fuelling spiralling use across the world, it has created a windfall for international crime syndicates and corrupt officials in a war-ravaged country that, amid the chaos of the West's military withdrawal, is becoming a turbo-charged narco-state like no other.
Ephedra, or oman, was considered a practically worthless mountain shrub until the discovery that it could be used to bypass the complicated and expensive meth-making process of acquiring and cooking with pseudoephedrine, which had to be extracted from over-the-counter (OTC) medicines. The shift to using ephedra from around 2017 allowed Afghan drug producers to shift the quantity and quality they produce.
"Afghans had to import all these medicines, ship to remote areas; the cost was very large, to the point they're making a loss," said David Mansfield, a researcher who has been conducting fieldwork into Afghanistan's narco-economy for 30 years. "Using ephedra more than halved their production costs. As a consequence, it has become a cottage industry. A farmer in a desert area, in addition to growing poppy, has a side business buying ephedra, which he makes into ephedrine and sells in the bazaar or onto the labs."
Mansfield's team has counted 448 ephedrine labs in just two districts in Afghanistan, Bakwa and Khash Rod. "Potential production, according to our interviewees, is a thousand tonnes per year. In terms of meth, the country has the potential to compete on a global scale; made at a tenth of the cost in Southeast Asia, but selling at the same price.
Because ephedra is a wild mountain shrub and not an imported chemical, rather than squeezing out the opium farmers, the nascent meth business has allowed Afghanistan's drug producers to weather the storm of poor poppy harvests and the pandemic. "The ephedrine industry has been a life raft for them," said Mansfield.
Meth is being exported using established heroin smuggling routes out of Afghanistan. "There seems to be a lot of overlap between traditional heroin import syndicates and the recent inflow of Afghan meth. They appear to be diversifying their commodity portfolios," said Jason Eligh, author of a report published in March this year which tracked the spread of Afghan meth across the Indian Ocean into southern and eastern Africa. "We can see this in the brokers involved in this new meth traffic, and more directly, we can see this by the frequency of meth and heroin shipments moving in the same vessels."
The main export route out of Afghanistan lies westward, through Iran. Between 2019 and 2020, the amount of meth found in Iran more than doubled, which officials blamed on a flood of Afghan crystal. Closer to Europe, Turkish authorities too have been intercepting larger quantities of meth.
Another route travels south to Pakistan's Makran coast, where it's packed onto ships and sailed across the Indian Ocean, landing on the east African shores of Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique, from where it's transported overland to the biggest drug market in the region, South Africa.
"Meth is cheap here," said Shaun Shelly, who started South Africa's first harm reduction project in Cape Town, Durban and Pretoria in 2014. "If you're a regular and buy five grams at a time, that's about R150 per gram [£8]. Maximum price is about R300 per gram [£16]."
Even though it isn't their own product, it seems that Nigerian drug lords have such a reach in the South African dope business that they're supplying the Afghan meth too. "This new stuff I have, with the ephedra base, that's what I have now, since last year. I got it from the Nigerian guy," said Maninja. "He's looking for new clients, so he told me to give some away."
Although Pakistan is mainly a transit point for Afghan meth, it is also being increasingly used there, with its high availability causing prices to tumble to £2.30 a gram. And in April, Indonesian police shot dead a suspect and arrested 17 others in an operation which netted 2½ tonnes of Afghan methamphetamine. Several suspects were already on death row, allegedly orchestrating the enterprise from their cells.
Afghan meth has popped up in Australia, too. Known as "ice", meth has long been popular in Australia and New Zealand, and has traditionally been imported from China and Southeast Asia – and more recently from the Netherlands. Once in Australia it is distributed nationwide by outlaw biker gangs (known as "bikies"). But last year, Australian customs found a huge shipment of liquid meth hidden inside bottles of mineral water. Forensic analysis proved the meth was produced using a natural form of ephedrine, suggesting Afghan origin.
Australia is a tempting target for smugglers because of the huge mark-up from Asia to Oceania. Meth made in Afghanistan is often smuggled via Iran, with criminals sometimes duping law-abiding members of Australia's Iranian community into receiving bottles of "hand sanitiser" or "shampoo" to be picked up by their associates.
The meth business has enriched Afghanistan's already massive narco-economy, providing jobs for those harvesting ephedra to transporters, traders, millers, lab workers and smugglers, as well as corrupt officials and the Taliban, who all take a cut of the profits. While the profit margins within Afghanistan for a kilo of meth are relatively low, the real money made from meth comes to those who can move the product abroad.
Once it reaches Iran or Pakistan, meth's value begins to rise. "There are big costs associated with cross border smuggling, but there are significant economic gains to be made for those who can move significant volume, particularly those operating multi-car convoys to Baramchar on the Pakistan border," said Mansfield, the narco researcher.
Right now, the United Nation's latest World Drug Report suggests the chief manufacturers of methamphetamine on a global scale are the Mexican cartels, followed by the Chinese, Iranian and Afghan producers. But Eligh and Mansfield believe that – due to the low cost of its production methods, a competitive edge over other major methamphetamine-producing countries given its plentiful supply of a wild ephedra and almost complete absence of law enforcement – Afghanistan may soon become one of the world's leading sources of the drug.
"The reality is that anywhere you find flows of Afghan heroin, you should also be looking for Afghan meth," said Eligh. "A wider international flow of Afghan meth is not something that's coming in the future. Our research shows that this is happening already."
Rohani Baba District Police Chief Killed - Pajhwok
16 June 2021
By Shakor Kamran
GARDEZ (Pajhwok): Police chief of Rohani Baba district in south eastern Paktia province has been killed during a clash with the Taliban, a well-placed security source said on Wednesday.
The source said 2nd Lt. Mohammad Islam and three other policemen were killed during a fire fight with the Taliban on Tuesday night but officials did not disclose the news.
Abdul Jalil, the resident of Rohani Baba district said heavy fighting underway between security forces and the Taliban in the past few days. District Police Chief Mohammad Islam was killed during a clash, he added.
Paktia Police Headquarters also confirmed the incident and said situation under control currently.
Allies 'Sprinting To Keep Up' During Biden's Europe Trip as US Accelerates Afghanistan Withdrawal - The Washington Examiner
16 June 2021
By Katherine Doyle
Joe Biden's decision to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by Sept. 11, his first major foreign policy decision, has left allies playing catch up even after the U.S. president sat down with EU and NATO officials this week.
On his first trip abroad as president, Biden had one important mission: to differentiate himself on the world stage from former President Donald Trump. Where Trump spurned the security alliance, lambasting members publicly and throwing into question Washington's commitment to the group, Biden has pitched his arrival as a wholesale return to diplomatic norms.
"We are committed. We never fully left, but we're reasserting that fact that it's overwhelmingly in the interest of the United States of America to have a great relationship with NATO," Biden said Tuesday ahead of a summit with European Union leaders. "I have a very different view than my predecessor."
But Biden's decision to end the 20-year war, though telegraphed by the new commander in chief on the campaign trail, and preceded by a Trump administration-brokered U.S.-Taliban deal, still left many allies surprised.
"I think the Biden administration was a little bit more communicative but not very much," said Adam Weinstein, a research fellow at the Quincy Institute and a U.S. Marine deployed to Afghanistan in 2012, noting how the Trump administration left NATO allies out of the loop during the negotiation of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, and in the aftermath.
"Some of these countries … sent, for them, a significant number of troops," Weinstein said. "One way they sold the Afghanistan mission to a domestic European audience was: 'We're doing this to help women, to help support human rights and to build infrastructure, and to really improve the lives of Afghans.' And so, to leave, and risk, all of that being undone is a difficult sell to the domestic audience."
For NATO and European partners, who entered the post-9/11 conflict under Article 5, the alliance's mutual defense pact, "their main concern wasn't necessarily terrorism," he said. "Sometimes, we forget when we build these coalitions that they all have domestic politics, too. It's not just the United States."
Announcing the decision in April, Biden said the U.S. secured its objectives in the country when U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden in 2011. Since then, "our reasons for staying have become increasingly unclear," he said.
The U.S. pullout is now ahead of schedule. American troops have already begun withdrawing following Biden's order to leave the country by mid-September, an effort that, according to U.S. Central Command, is more than 50% complete.
"Some of our partners ... are sprinting to keep up," said Bradley Bowman, senior director of the Center on Military and Political Power at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.
Bowman criticized what he said was a focus on a symbolic timeline-based withdrawal, with a deadline of Sept. 11.
"This was clearly a political decision," Bowman said. "If you and I were going to sit at a table and say, 'OK, and in six months, we're going to make an announcement about withdrawing from Afghanistan, what are the things we need to have in place before we make that announcement?' You and I would put the following things on that list."
"We'd say we need to have a plan for conducting counterterrorism," he added, saying such a plan would include these questions: "Where are we going to base those aircraft and drones? Have we approached those governments? Do we have basing agreements? What's our plan for providing maintenance and logistical support to the Afghan security forces? How are we going to secure Kabul airport so diplomats can get in and out to the embassy so we can maintain a diplomatic presence there? How are we going to maintain the security of our diplomats and our development professionals? What are the scenarios for us coming back?"
According to White House officials, these security challenges were the focus of discussions with partners this week in Europe, but the group stood behind Biden's decision to withdraw.
"Many of the significant troop-contributing countries" backed Biden's withdrawal plan, a senior administration official told reporters on a press call previewing Biden's EU summit.
"They understood that the time had come," this official said. "The real focus" of the assembled leaders "was on how we work together as an alliance to continue to provide support to the Afghan National Security Forces, the Afghan government, and the Afghan people," and not on whether to stay or go in 2021.
The danger, Bowman said, is the potential for a return to violence on the ground.
"What makes it tragic is that this really is a repeat of the mistake the Obama administration made in 2011 in Iraq. That, too, was a conditions-ignoring, advice of commanders on the ground-ignoring, timeline-based withdrawal," Bowman said. "And what do you know, and by 2014, we were right back in Iraq."
The senior official said partners were focused on a host of security and economic issues inside Afghanistan in discussions this week.
The official added: "This question of support or nonsupport for the drawdown from Afghanistan ... is not the vibe in the room today. And, you know, it is — there is an incredible amount of warmth and unity around the entire agenda, including the 'in together, out together' aspect of the Afghanistan drawdown."
Bowman said he has "no doubt that the Pentagon, that CENTCOM is working to answer these, but it just demonstrates that this was a political decision made first, and then all the details are being worked out after the fact."
For Jonathan Cristol, author of The United States and the Taliban before and after 9/11, Biden could avoid further harm by determining a plan to help resettle Washington's Afghan partners, many of whom risked there lives to aid the U.S.
"We should be working with our partners on a coordinated effort to get those people out," Cristol said. "Instead, what we've seen is that the U.K. has a plan for people who helped them that seems to be moving along reasonably well — France, same thing. As time runs out, I become less confident that we will do the right thing in that regard. And I think this will be extremely damaging to the legacy of the administration."
Afghanistan Forces Retake Dawlat Abad District in Northern Faryab Province - Khaama Press
16 June 2021
The Afghanistan 209 Saheen Corps have announced the Afghan forces have retaken Dawlat Abad district in northern Faryab province of Afghanistan and have cleared the area from Taliban militants.
This comes as few days back, the Taliban fighters had conquered the district from the Afghan forces.
Amrullah Saleh, the first vice president of Afghanistan reacted to the recent clashes between Taliban and Afghan forces, saying places taken by the Taliban are narrow in size and will become the grave of the Taliban fighters soon.
At the same time, Naim Wardak a spokesperson to Taliban negotiating team in Doha has announced that the contract group of the Afghan negotiating team and the Taliban group had a meeting last evening to discuss about points of agenda for a meeting.
According to a close source at High National Council for Reconciliation, a high delegation from Afghanistan side is going to travel to Doha in next couple of days to discuss peace process with the Taliban leaders in Doha.
The names of the delegation members have not yet been disclosed by the Afghan government, but most likely Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman for HNCR and the former president Hamid Karzai will be part of the delegation.
US Speeds Up Visas for Vulnerable Afghans - Ariana News
16 June 2021
As the U.S. military completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan in the coming weeks, the Biden administration says it is adding staff to hurry up the visa process for Afghans who worked for the U.S. government and want to flee to avoid Taliban reprisals, Reuters reported.
Afghans who worked for the United States during America's longest war fear the insurgency will target them and their families, retribution for helping foreign forces, Reuters reported.
With the final pullout expected as early as mid-July, there appears to be a mismatch between the expectations of refugee advocates and what the Biden administration says is realistic given the legal and practical requirements to process special immigrant visas.
The administration says it has already doubled the number of staff processing cases in Kabul and tripled personnel reviewing petitions at U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.
It also plans a five-fold increase in the number of staff in the State Department working on the visas in Washington, a senior administration official told Reuters.
"All of these changes have resulted in, over the last couple of months, the largest number of cases processed in the history of the program in any 60-day period," the official said, speaking about the plans on condition of anonymity.
The plan is to process at least 1,000-1,400 visa applications for Afghans who worked for the United States, not including their families, every month. By contrast, the U.S. government says, it issued only 237 such visas in the last three months of 2020.
But even with the new effort, the administration says there's a limit to how fast a 14-step, multiple-agency process can move without changes to legislation. If all goes well, a visa could be processed in nine to 12 months, Reuters reported.
The administration supports legislation in Congress that would allow Afghans to do a medical check upon arriving in the United States, instead of in Afghanistan. It is also supports legislation eliminating the requirement for a specific petition at the Department of Homeland Security.
"That would be another two months that we could shave off," the first official said.
But as the clock ticks down, Afghans who have applied for visas are becoming increasingly concerned.
Senator Patrick Leahy, recalling the chaos in Vietnam after the fall of Saigon in 1975 when he was a junior senator, said the matter was urgent.
"They're going to have a target on their back," Leahy said.
MDHI Secures $43.9M in Contracts To Support Afghan Air Force - Ariana News
16 June 2021
American MD Helicopters, Inc. (MDHI) has confirmed it has been awarded two separate contracts worth $43.9 million from Army Contracting Command-Redstone supporting the Afghan Air Force's MD 530F Cayuse Warrior light attack helicopters.
In a statement issued by the company, MDHI stated the first contract, a six-month extension worth $14.5 million, continues MDHI's longstanding efforts to provide program management, and contractor logistics support services, material, and remote operations to support the Afghan fleet.
Work will take place in Mesa, Arizona in the US; Kabul, Afghanistan; and Al-Ain, United Arab Emirates. The contract was awarded on May 28, 2021, MDHI stated.
The second contract, worth $29.4 million, modifies MDHI's original maintenance capabilities support contract.
Under this six-month contract, MD Helicopters will provide continued maintenance, repairs, updates, and overhauls of the Afghan Air Force's MD 530F Cayuse Warrior helicopters in Mesa, Kabul, and Al-Ain. The contract was awarded on June 10, 2021.
"While U.S. forces begin the drawdown process in Afghanistan, these contracts allow us to help Afghanistan's Air Force maintain stability on their own through the continued support of their aircraft," said Nick Nenadovic, MD Helicopters Vice President, Aftermarket and Customer Support.
"This further highlights the value our government and the Afghan Air Force put on the MD 530F. It is with tremendous pride we can continue providing the highest level of support for both our government and allies."
The enhanced MD 530F Cayuse Warrior is a light armed attack helicopter respected for its power, safety, speed, agility, and unparalleled confined area capabilities.
The aircraft supports a wide range of training and operational missions, providing safe, efficient multi-mission support with an increased performance profile.
'The Taliban Will Kill Us': Afghans Who Helped Foreign Forces At Risk Of Reprisals After Withdrawal - Radio Free Europe
16 June 2021
By Frud Bezhan
The Taliban has vowed for years that it will kill any Afghans who have worked for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, branding them "traitors."
With all foreign troops leaving the country by September, the tens of thousands of Afghans who have worked in support roles are gripped by fear and panic.
Their worries are well grounded. The Taliban has killed hundreds of Afghans who have worked for foreign military forces and their family members over the years.
Those fears have been exacerbated by intensifying violence and Taliban gains on the battlefield in recent months.
Since the start of the withdrawal on May 1, the militant group has seized dozens of districts, military bases, and besieged towns and cities, fueling fears that it could topple the Western-backed Afghan government.
The United States and some countries with troops departing Afghanistan have created special immigration programs to help endangered Afghan workers leave Afghanistan.
But many Afghans who have applied complain that they have been left in a no-man's-land after not hearing back -- sometimes for years -- from foreign immigration authorities. Advocacy groups say the programs are proceeding too slowly and may not cover all former Afghan employees who may be at risk.
An estimated 300,000 Afghan civilians have worked for international forces in some capacity since the U.S.-led invasion in 2001, including as cooks, cleaners, manual laborers, mechanics, interpreters, and security guards.
"We are in grave danger," says Abdul Wakil, who worked as a security guard from 2004 to 2008 at Bagram Airfield, the U.S. military's largest base in Afghanistan. "Not just us, but also our families. The Taliban will kill us."
"With foreign troops leaving, the Taliban could take over the country again," says Wakil. "In that case everyone would be in danger, but especially us."
Around 300 Afghans who worked for the U.S. military or their family members have been killed since 2016, according to No One Left Behind, a U.S. nongovernmental organization that works with Afghan interpreters to help them relocate to the United States.
The group estimates that on average two interpreters a month have been killed this year. The death toll increased to five during May.
Afghan interpreters working for foreign forces have been particularly susceptible to militant attacks. They are often sought out by militants, who have labeled them "spies" for acting as the eyes and ears of the foreign "occupiers."
The Taliban on June 7 issued a statement assuring Afghans who worked with international troops in the past that they will not be targeted if they "show remorse for their past actions and…not engage in such activities in the future that amount to treason against Islam and the country."
But there is widespread mistrust of the Taliban's assurances of safety.
"The Taliban is growing stronger every day," says Abdul Karim, a 28-year-old interpreter who has worked for the U.S. military since 2015. "That means our lives are becoming more perilous every day."
The militant group has long targeted civilians it accuses of working for the Afghan government or foreigners.
In January, the Taliban killed an Afghan who had worked for the U.S. military for some 12 years and had been waiting for a visa to relocate to the United States.
Other former Afghan interpreters say they have received death threats from the Taliban.
Bogged Down In Bureaucracy
Advocacy groups and rights watchdogs have urged Western nations to accelerate programs to resettle former Afghan employees who are increasingly at risk from the Taliban.
Around 18,000 Afghan applicants are still awaiting a decision on their U.S. Special Immigrant Visa (SIV) applications. The SIV program was created in 2009 and is modeled on a similar scheme for Iraqis.
Afghans must prove an ongoing threat and at least one year's employment by the American government to get a visa.
The Pentagon has said it is developing options to possibly evacuate Afghans considered at risk from the Taliban because of their work with American troops. But the White House has yet to authorize any expedited plans.
U.S. lawmakers have called for the thousands of Afghans to be evacuated before international troops pull out, fearing they could be "slaughtered by the Taliban." Lawmakers say processing visas could take more than two years to complete, possibly subjecting former Afghan staff to revenge attacks by the Taliban.
Britain started expediting the relocation of Afghan staff on April 1.
British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said on May 31 that it was "only right we accelerate the relocation of those who may be at risk of reprisals," adding that the country owed "a debt of gratitude" to local staff employed by British forces.
More than 1,360 former Afghan employees and their families have already been relocated to Britain. But thousands of applications have yet to be processed.
The government has loosened requirements for applicants.
But the Sulha Alliance, a group campaigning for Afghan interpreters working for Britain's military, said London's policy of rejecting applicants who had been fired, many of them for minor offenses, was a point of concern.
Other countries that have had troops fighting in Afghanistan, such as Australia and Germany, have not expedited resettlement.
"The countries now withdrawing from Afghanistan have been far too slow in developing evacuation, relocation, and resettlement plans for their former Afghan employees," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
"They should recognize that normal pathways will be too slow and that expedited timetables are needed for Afghans and their families who could be hunted down because of their work for coalition forces."
Afghans who have worked for foreign forces usually hide their identities and keep a low profile. But many have vented their frustration in public recently.
Hundreds have staged rallies in the capital, Kabul, in recent weeks, demanding those Western nations they worked for relocate them outside of Afghanistan.
Many of them are angry and feel betrayed, having risked their lives to help their foreign allies. They also complain that the process of attaining visas is overly complicated and places an unrealistic burden on applicants to prove they face a risk.
"We helped the Americans and now we want them to help us," says Baryalai Rahimi, an Afghan interpreter who worked with U.S. Special Forces.
Mohammad Wasel, a 32-year-old from the northern province of Kapisa, says he has a medal of commendation from a U.S. commander for whom he worked. But he says he does not know why his application has been rejected.
"We have helped [the foreign forces], we have risked our lives, and now they are leaving," says Wasel, who worked as an interpreter for U.S. forces from 2009 to 2012. "It's their turn to help us."
16 June 2021
Ben Roberts-Smith 'traumatised' by allegations he murdered unarmed civilians, court hears - The Guardian
By Ben Doherty
Ben Roberts-Smith has told a court that public allegations he murdered unarmed civilians in Afghanistan and hit a woman during an argument in Australia, left him contemplating suicide: "I started to think that my life was over."
Fighting back tears in the witness box as he concluded his evidence-in-chief Wednesday morning, the accused soldier said that since a series of newspaper articles in 2018 alleged he was a war criminal, "I've had moments in my life in the last three years that I just didn't think it was worth it."
"I have so much respect for the Victoria Cross and what it stands for, [and] for the Australian defence force. I love my family, I love my children. That keeps me going to set the record straight. That's why I'm here."
The Victoria Cross recipient is expected to begin what is likely to be several days of cross-examination Thursday.
An emotional Roberts-Smith said his life had been ruined by the allegations made against him, published in the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times in 2018.
"I feel traumatised by it because I was sent to Afghanistan at the government's behest to be part of the Australian military. I did everything I was supposed to do and I followed the rules.
"I saw things in Afghanistan and did things in Afghanistan – like having to engage adolescents – that I'm not proud of. And I live with that."
Earlier in his evidence, Roberts-Smith told the court that in 2010, during the action in Tizak that earned him his Victoria Cross, he was forced to single-handedly storm two machine gun posts to save his life and the lives of his comrades. He told the court the second machine-gunner he killed "was, at best, 15 years old".
He said the conflict in Afghanistan had been deeply traumatising, an anguish compounded by stories he said were "demonstrably false".
"It's something that just crushes me. Crushes my soul."
The court heard further evidence about Roberts-Smith's reaction to the newspaper articles, first published in June 2018, that alleged a soldier – given the pseudonym Leonidas – committed war crimes, including kicking an unarmed, handcuffed Afghan civilian off a cliff and ordering him shot.
Roberts-Smith said, despite the pseudonym, the article clearly identified him because it identified the soldier's "impeccable connections up the chain of command" in the military – taken to be Roberts-Smith's VC – his Spartan-inspired tattoos, and his height.
The soldier asked a friend of his wife to buy two "burner" phones to communicate with other former members of the SAS because he feared his phone was being monitored, he has told a court, saying he wanted to talk to comrades in a way "that wasn't going to be compromised".
He denied to the court he used the phones to communicate about the ongoing investigation by the inspector general of the ADF into the war crimes allegations.
Roberts-Smith said he was anonymously mailed USB drives containing photographs and operational reports from Afghanistan. He does not know where the USBs came from.
He said the USBs were never – as reported – buried in the back yard of his family home, but were left in a drawer of his desk. He said his estranged wife had access to the USBs "for many months". The USBs contained pictures of SAS soldiers drinking in the unauthorised "Fat Ladies Arms" at the Australian's Tarin Kowt base – including images of soldiers drinking from a prosthetic leg taken from an Afghan man shot by Roberts-Smith.
Roberts-Smith said he threw away the USBs after consolidating them on to his laptop computer. He told the court he sent all of the information from them to his lawyers and then wiped his laptop, because he was trading it in. The court earlier heard that Roberts-Smith erased the laptop's hard drive despite having been told by lawyers, five days prior, not to destroy any evidence.
Roberts-Smith said after the articles were published he received several phone calls of support, including from then head of the Australian War Memorial Brendan Nelson, Channel Seven chairman Kerry Stokes, and former AFP commissioner Mick Keelty.
He said after the publication of the articles, his entire "family life became untenable", but that he was most concerned for his two young daughters.
"I was worried about my children, physically and emotionally, what people might say to them, what people might do to them.
"Other children would often reference things in the paper to my children, or things they'd heard from their parents. Negative things about me having done the wrong thing, or bad things, that I'm in trouble, things you would typically get from eight-, nine-, 10-year-olds."
Through tears, Roberts-Smith said their treatment made him feel, "like I couldn't protect my kids".
Roberts-Smith is suing the Age, the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times for defamation over a series of reports published in 2018 that he alleges are defamatory because they portray him as someone who "broke the moral and legal rules of military engagement" and committed war crimes including murder.
The 42-year-old has consistently denied the allegations, saying they are "false", "baseless" and "completely without any foundation in truth". The newspapers are defending their reporting as true.
DISCLAIMER: This media compilation is produced under contract for the U.S. Embassy Kabul, Afghanistan. The information contained in this compilation is from publicly available media sources and has not been verified or endorsed by the U.S. Embassy Kabul or the United States Government.