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Wednesday, 25 March 2020 07:54

25 Taliban Fighters Perished in Balkh

Wednesday March 25, 2020
Kabul (BNA) At least 25 anti-government militias were killed during clashes with Afghan security forces in northern Balkh province the other day.
Mohammad Hanif Rezayee spokesman of 209 Shaheen army corps told BNA correspondent, the insurgents have been targeted by Afghan security forces after they carried out attacks on security checkpoints in Balkh, Dawlatabad and Chamtal districts of the province.
Several local commanders of Taliban group were among the dead, Rezayee added.
More than 33 armed oppositions including Mullah Raihan and Qari Janat two local commanders of Taliban were wounded following the attacks, Rezayee further added.
Meanwhile, several villages have been cleared from being of Taliban members in Balkh district of Balkh province as well.

Friday, 20 March 2020 12:01

Nowruzi, Eidi Old Traditions

Friday March 20, 2020 Kabul (BNA) Supply of Nowrozi and Eidi are particular traditions of Afghans. With approaching of New year’s day, the families whose their sons’ are engaged take gift packages to their next daughter-in-law’s house that include fruits, fish, Jilibi, ring, clothes…. Khoshbo a resident of Kabul city in an interview with The Kabul Times said, Nowrozi is one of the accepted traditions in Afghanistan which are even famous outside the country as an old Afghan culture. In my opinion it is not a bad tradition otherwise if we underestimate or ignore it, it would be slowly and gradually forgotten. Masoud who has been engaged since one year now, said, I came with my sister and fiancée to purchase and take Nowrozi. I will buy a pair of clothes, quantity of jewelries, fish, Jilibi and fruits. I also plan to marry after the Nowroz but a number of shopkeepers increased prices of their goods. Touching to advent of peace, he added, we hope the situation will be improved and we would manage to organize our engagement, wedding parties in a peaceful atmosphere and spend rest of our life in security and without war and violence. Tamanna fiancée of Masoud said, despite of economic impacts on families, Masoud has decided to observe this tradition. I also decided not to select expensive goods in order to prevent economic blow on his family. Yasemin a housewife expressing opinion on Nowrozi tradition said, I know that its an old tradition but it is at the same time an extra expense and our families should give up expensive traditions and think about their son’s or girl’s future prosperity. She added large number of boys have low income and don’t dare to marry due to expensive wedding parties. A number of families unfortunately impose additional expenses on boy’s families that boy’s families don’t afford to meet them, for example they select expensive wedding halls, jewelries, high dowry, henna night and etc that cause headache to boy’s family. The boy’s family has to loan money to meet unacceptable demands of girl’s family and have to compensate their loans after wedding for many years. This situation sometimes causes hostility between the two families instead of friendship and even result in their separation and divorce. Karima Malikzada Ansari
Friday March 20, 2020 Kabul (BNA) The United States is urging Afghanistan to release Taliban prisoners as committed under prospective peace talks, warning that the detainees were at risk due to the spread of the new coronavirus. U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said in a series of tweets Wednesday that Washington "would like to see prisoner releases begin as soon as possible in line with the U.S.-Taliban agreement." The historic deal was reached late last month as a planned precursor to direct negotiations between the government and Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan but as Khalilzad said, "No prisoners have been released to date despite the commitment to do so expressed by both sides." "Coronavirus makes prisoner releases urgent; time is of the essence. We are committed to do our part and after consultation with all relevant sides," Khalilzad wrote, before listing three points the U.S. "understands" moving forward. These points included meetings between technical teams, face-to-face conversations due to coronavirus, avoiding "provocative media statements" and that the "Taliban commit that released prisoners will abide by the commitments made in the peace agreement and not return to the battlefield." "The time has come to move forward on prisoner releases," the diplomat said. Recently re-elected Afghan President Ashraf Ghani issued a decree last week ordering the release of 1,500 Taliban prisoners, who presidential spokesperson Sediq Sediqqi said on Twitter would be followed by 500 additional prisoners freed every two weeks to reach a total of 5,000 prisoners on the condition that the intra-Afghan dialogue progressed. The following day, Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen rejected the move as a violation of the U.S.-Taliban framework, which calls for up to 5,000 Taliban prisoners and 1,000 other prisoners under Taliban captivity to be "expeditiously" released as talks began on March 10. The year-long, Qatar-based series of negotiations between Washington and Taliban officials that produced the agreement did not include Kabul, which remains skeptical of its foe's intentions. "We proposed a mechanism for the peace process to move forward," Afghan National Security Council spokesperson Javid Faisal wrote Saturday on Twitter. "Taliban will have to work with us to find a solution, get their prisoners released and push for peace. The ball is in their court now to decide on whether to remain part of the problem or become part of the solution." But Afghanistan, the venue for the longest war in U.S. history, now faces a completely new issue that's rocked even the world's most powerful countries. COVID-19 has stricken more than 210,000 people across the globe, about 83,200 of whom have recovered and more than 8,700 of whom have died. The Afghan Health Ministry placed the number of national COVID-19 cases on Wednesday at 22, and one patient recovered and was sent home that same day. Shaheen said Tuesday that the Taliban's rival health commission "assures all international health organizations and WHO of its readiness to cooperate and coordinate with them in combatting the Corona virus [sic]." "Similarly, the Islamic Emirate urges world's humanitarian and health organizations to pay special attention to the health of thousands of our prisoners," Shaheen said. A separate statement released Wednesday by Taliban spokesperson Zabihullah Mujahid described the coronavirus as "a disease ordained by God Almighty that may have been brought about due to human disobedience, sins of mankind or other reasons." It recommended religious activities such as reading the Quran, as well as following the guidelines of medical professionals. As part of the U.S.-Taliban agreement, the hardline Islamist organization has vowed to battle the local branch of the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) and prevent any other forces from using Afghanistan. to launch attacks against the U.S. or its allies. In return, foreign forces will withdraw for the first time since the 2001 invasion that followed the 9/11 attacks orchestrated by Al-Qaeda. The groups allied in the wake of the CIA-backed mujahideen insurgency that ousted a Soviet intervention in the 1980s but Washington has sought to separate the two forces. Still, Al-Qaeda leadership welcomed the U.S.-Taliban peace deal as a "victory." Newsweek Ansari
Friday March 20, 2020 Kabul (BNA) Since the outbreak of coronavirus in neighboring Iran, over 100,000 Afghans were deported or returned voluntarily to their war-ravaged country, the UN migration agency said on Wednesday. In a fresh report, the International Organization of Migration noted that due to coronavirus transmission fears in Iran, spontaneous returns from Iran over the past week have reached new record weekly totals. It said a total of 53,069 undocumented Afghans returned from Iran through the Milak (Nimroz) and Herat (Islam Qala) borders between March 8-14, representing a 171% increase. It further said since Jan. 1 2020, the total number of undocumented returnees from Iran is 136,186 individuals -- including unaccompanied migrant children, single parent families, physically disabled person and elders. Sharing concerns over the spillover of coronavirus from Iran, Health Ministry spokesman Wahidullah Mayar told Anadolu Agency the situation has not reached to the level of epidemic in Afghanistan. “So far, all suspected and positive cases of the coronavirus are traced back to Iran, we fear for the worst case scenario when it might enter second stage of local transmission, which would be beyond control,” Mayar said. In a televised address to the nation, President Ashraf Ghani vowed on Tuesday to utilize all available resources to fight the pandemic. With the fragile health system, Afghanistan woke up to face the grim challenge posed by COVID-19 at least three months after the virus was first detected in China in December 2019. The eminent threat eventually forced Afghan authorities to act when neighboring Iran announced its first case in February. Public Health Minister Ferozuddin Feroz confirmed the first case in Afghanistan on Feb. 24. Till March 18, 2020, Afghanistan had 22 confirmed cases of the coronavirus pandemic. Worldwide, out of over 200,000 confirmed cases, the death toll now exceeds 8,200, while more than 82,000 patients have recovered, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University in the U.S. The World Health Organization has declared Europe the new epicenter of the virus, after first emerging in Wuhan, China last December. Yenisafak Ansari
Friday March 20, 2020 Kabul (BNA) Although previous attempts to reach an agreement between the Taliban and the US have proven futile, this time around the agreement might hold but only if the Islamic group keeps its word to stay away from terror and open a dialogue with the Afghan government. It's been three weeks since Washington signed an historic agreement with the Afghan political movement and military organisation, the Taliban, aimed at ending a 19-year conflict in the nation. According to the deal, the US will start gradually withdrawing its 12,000 troops stationed in the war-torn country until their final removal within a period of 14 months. Until then, American soldiers are expected to continue their counter terrorism activity against such groups as al-Qaeda and Daesh* and will continue to support the Afghan government and their security forces, who have been fighting the Taliban for years. Apart from the gradual pullout, the agreement also stipulates a prisoner swap between the Taliban and Afghan security forces and presupposes that troops will only be removed in exchange for the Taliban's commitment to maintaining stability in the region as well as their entering into a round of peace talks with the Afghan government. "We have noted the agreement but [we also] have concerns about it", said Javid Faisal, spokesman for the Afghanistan Security Council. "There are areas of [the deal] that we don’t agree with but we hope that Taliban won’t turn back to violence and fulfill their promises". The Taliban has a history of not sticking to their word. In September 2019, amid peace talks with Washington, Taliban operatives killed an American soldier and injured 11 others, prompting US President Donald Trump to pull out of negotiations and call off a planned visit by Taliban officials to the American capital. This time too, days after the historic agreement was signed, the Taliban attacked an Afghan national defence and security checkpoint, leading to a "defensive" strike by the US. Divisions within the Taliban are yet another reason for concern. While the political branch, which is mostly based in neighbouring Pakistan, is supportive of the agreement, the military wing, operational on the ground in Afghanistan, is not and that means orders and instructions given by one branch will not necessarily be implemented by another. This as well as "persuasive intelligence" led the US government to believe that the Taliban had no intention of honouring promises given during the signing of the agreement in Doha. While the Taliban denied these allegations, estimates are that the group's real intention is to establish full control over Afghanistan once US troops are out. The Taliban had goverened Afghanistan since 1996 and established strict Sharia Law across the areas it controlled, but was dealt a severe blow in 2001 when American troops invaded in an effort to crack down on the group for harbouring al-Qaeda, a terrorist organisation that carried out the deadly 9/11 attacks in the US. But while the Taliban's base has since been shattered, their intention to return to earlier times never wavered. In battles that erupted shortly after the invasion, the US lost some 2,400 soldiers with 20,000 others wounded. The 19-year war has also cost the US some $2 trillion, forcing Washington to recalculate its routes. It was for these reasons that President Trump has been pushing for withdrawal. But there is a political reason too. With US elections less than a year away, Trump wants to show off some achievements and wants to prove to voters that he is a man of his word. Yet, he realises that US withdrawal might not bring about the much-needed stability in the region: the American pullout from Iraq in 2007 only caused more tensions, subsequently paving the way for the creation of Daesh. The American back-out from Kurdish-administered areas of northern Syria in October 2019 has also led to bloodshed prompting battles between Syrian government forces and the Turkish Army, who rushed to fill the void once US forces were gone. Javid Faisal is aware of what a pullout might entail. "A withdrawal itself does not guarantee peace in Afghanistan but a crackdown on terrorists’ safe havens, their sanctuaries, and financial sources does. We would like to negotiate with the Taliban, as we believe that it will give us peace". "At the same time, the Taliban must remember that the withdrawal is conditional. If they don't commit to what they promised, it will have negative impacts on this entire region", he summed up. Sputniknews Ansari

Friday March 9, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Nooria Najafi was one of 24 female coaches from Asia who came to Japan in February for the second session of the Road to Tokyo 2020 workshop to help boost their para sports program through their National Paralympic Committees (NPC).
Originally from Nahor, Ghazni Province in Afghanistan, but now living in the capital city Kabul, Nooria lost her hand as a three-year-old during the Civil War. Her impairment however didn’t stop her from playing sports. She has been a table tennis player since she was a child, but it wasn’t until ninth grade that she started to specialize in the sport.
The 23-year-old is ranked as one of the top female table tennis players in Afghanistan for athletes with an impairment and who are able-bodied. Unfortunately, Afghanistan have no para table tennis team. Despite this setback, Nooria had dreams of representing Afghanistan at Tokyo 2020 in both the Olympic and Paralympic Games.
She had been competing in a number of international table tennis competitions - in both para table tennis and ITTF table tennis - where she holds a ranking of 604 as of March 2020.
However, just over a year ago Nooria made the decision to start playing and coaching para badminton; one of the two new para sports to be introduced in the Tokyo 2020 Paralympic Games. Her international para badminton debut came in early 2019 at the International Wheelchair and Amputee Sports Federation (IWAS) World Games after receiving her first international classification earlier that week.
As a participant in the para badminton Road to Games workshop, Nooria said the program would not only help her own development but others in her country too.
“It's very interesting for me because in Afghanistan we don't have badminton coaches, so I came here and got a lot of information about badminton and players especially for people with impairments,” she said.
In fact, Afghanistan have only ever sent six athletes to the Paralympics since making their debut at Atlanta 1996 with only one female athlete making the team.
Unfortunately, female athletes and those with impairments in Afghanistan have many barriers to participating in sports, from not being able to access training facilities to limited coaching, harassment and an overall a lack of support. It’s something Nooria knows all too well.
With women’s sport continuing to grow and evolve around the world, organizations including Agitos Foundation and the International Paralympic Committee (IPC) have committed to 50 per cent participation from females across all para sports as well as in leadership positions.
“We believe that in order to have more female athletes, it is important to train more female coaches,” Agitos Foundation Development Senior Manager Jose Cabo said.
“Statistics show that only 17 per cent of the coaches that participated in Rio 2016 were females.”
“Some countries have a lot of barriers to participating, we believe that this kind of strategy, while it's not going to solve all the problems affecting woman's participation, will help. So that's why we are trying to get 50 per cent [women’s participation] in all the courses we deliver.”
For Nooria, who is passionate about all sports and who has played everything from table tennis to swimming, there had been times when she struggled to receive the training she needs to continue her development as a player.
“I [use to] play table tennis but because in Afghanistan, girls didn’t get accepted into these classes so I couldn’t wait to attend this class. I'm going to get a lot of information,” the graduate from a Bachelor of Physical Education said.
With the Olympic and Paralympic Games quickly approaching, when asked if Nooria would like to come back to Tokyo for one of the biggest sporting events in the world, she replied “Inshallah” [“God willing”].
With a steady growth of women in sport and new initiatives providing equal opportunities at all levels, Road to Tokyo plays a vital role in encouraging more women and coaches like Nooria to play an ever-important role in elevating the Paralympic movement globally.



Monday, 09 March 2020 20:29

Peace, Prosperity for Afghans

Friday March 9, 2020
Kabul (BNA) The State of Qatar has emerged as one of the world’s most active neutral peacemakers, mediating in many regional and intra-national conflicts in the Middle East, Africa and Asia. The country has established itself as a successful and honest broker interested in bringing peace and stability. Its mediation in Lebanon, Yemen, border conflicts between Eritrea and Djibouti, and in Sudan’s Darfur and East Sudan, and US-Taliban deals are some of the most prominent in its mediation record. Qatar’s diplomacy is well aware that the way to peace is long and hard, therefore its patience, quiet and persistent efforts lasted for more than 10 years, which yesterday, resulted in the signing of a historic agreement between the US and the Taliban movement.
According to the Doha accord, the two parties announced the end of the 19-year-war in the nation, which is a crucial move towards achieving a comprehensive peace in Afghanistan. People in Afghanistan, who suffered from this war since 2001, celebrated the peace even before signing the agreement, showing their strong desire and eagerness to restore peace and stability in the country.
The deal was signed by US special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad and Taliban political chief Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar in the presence of Qatar’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs H E Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani and US Secretary of State H E Mike Pompeo and Foreign Ministers of Turkey, Pakistan and Oman and scores of diplomats. This historic deal is a step toward a comprehensive peace encompassing all Afghans and, at the same time, paving the way for a full withdrawal of all US and coalition forces from Afghanistan over the next 14 months. There is no winner in a peace deal except the entire nation of Afghanistan, as the US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated, “victory for Afghans will only be achieved when they can live in peace and prosper” and what the parties have done is that they seized “the best opportunity for peace in a generation," Pompeo added.
Afghan government and many countries in the region and NATO member countries have welcomed the peace deal, promising to exert efforts in good-faith to ensure its success and help prevail permanent peace in the nation. The deal is victory for all parties, as no one loses from peace, but will remain an outstanding achievement for Qatar as a peacemaker. The fact that Qatar passed 1,000 days under the unjust blockade imposed by its neighbors, coinciding with the day the US and Taliban signed the peace deal in capital Doha deserves a special mention.


Friday March 9, 2020
Kabul (BNA) The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has called for the inclusion of women in the peace talks with the Taliban, the mission said here on Sunday on the occasion of the International Women's Day.
The UNAMA said in a statement that with anticipation building that the door for intra-Afghan peace talks will open, women's advocacy groups and activists across Afghanistan have focused on developing strategies to protect and advance the gains they have made in social, political, civic and economic life.
"These strategies, backed by the United Nations and coupled with the growing recognition that women must be included in any formal peace negotiations, are expected to yield results: country-wide and community-level ownership, along with the full and meaningful participation in political decision-making among all members of society," the statement said.
The UN mission in Afghanistan marks International Women's Day under the global theme of "I Am Generation Equality: Realizing Women's Rights" to leverage individual and collective efforts to make gender equality and women's rights a living reality, the statement said.
"To create a peaceful and inclusive society, it is essential that Afghan women have access to education, healthcare and decent work, and that they are fully represented in all areas of political decision-making, from parliament to the peace table," Tadamichi Yamamoto, special UN envoy and head of UN mission, was quoted in the statement as saying.
"While we have seen significant progress on women's rights in Afghanistan, including formal legislation and national action plans, we continue to see powerful social and political pushback," he said.
"This situation must change for Afghan women, and for the benefit of Afghanistan as a nation," Yamamoto noted.
Recognizing that Afghanistan will be more resilient in the face of conflict when gender equality is prioritized, the UN will continue to support all efforts toward gender equality and all opportunities for women to reclaim their rightful place in all areas of society, the statement said.
The US and the Taliban signed an agreement on February 29 in Doha, Qatar with the stated aim of "bringing peace to Afghanistan" more than 18 years after American forces pushed the group out of power.

Friday March 9, 2020
Kabul (BNA) "I heard from people and the internet that the source of this virus comes from an atomic bomb that has leaked somehow," said Abdul Qader in a narrow alley of Kabul's busy Bird Street market while a crowd that has gathered around him nods.
In Afghanistan the education system has been gutted by four decades of conflict.
Literacy is below 32 percent, so the government knows countering novel coronavirus misinformation is an uphill battle, though it is trying.
Posters that rely heavily on visual cues have been plastered on walls around the country.
Television ads also inform people how to avoid coronavirus and halt its spread while in rural areas, where there is little television coverage, the message is relayed through radio. 
Hospitals wings have also been made ready across the country in case a major outbreak occurs.
"We have made preparations for 100 patients and in case of an increase we are prepared for more," said Dr. Mohammad Khan Hedayat, head of COVID-19 case management at Kabul's Afghan-Japan Hospital.
The government hospital normally treats HIV, tuberculosis and malaria patients, who have been transferred to other clinics so the entire complex can be on standby for coronavirus.
"Apart from here we have another hospital with a capacity of 150 patients. That's for plan B and even if the second hospital won't be enough then we have a third hospital in our plan," Dr. Hedayat said.
Coronavirus has been reported in Herat, near the border in Iran, which is battling a significant outbreak and also now in the capital Kabul.
The government has closed the land border with Iran, the country hardest hit by the coronavirus outside of China, with about 6,000 cases.
Afghanistan has also canceled all flights in and out of Iran, though it is estimated about 3,000 people cross the border illegally every day.
The Afghan-Japan Hospital, which was established with funding and equipment from Japan, has one of only two laboratories in Afghanistan capable of testing for coronavirus.
"Right now the testing standard is 10 to 12, more that 12 is too tough," explained laboratory specialist Dr. Zabihullah as he stands next to the new equipment that will greatly expand that capability.
Dr. Zabihullah lifted the red Perspex lid of one of the new machines.
"We can put samples from 96 patients in at the same time. We give the command through the computer to this and it does its work automatically, going step by step, analyzing one sample at a time."
It will greatly expand testing capacity, though it would still mean that Afghanistan falls well short of countries like China and South Korea that can test thousands of people every day.
Back on Bird Street people are worried, and not just about strange things people have read on the internet. 
Abdul Qader may have some unique ideas about how the virus first began, but he, like all Afghans, is aware that after four decades of endless war the country's broader healthcare system is in tatters.
"Of course, the concerns of people are high about this virus because Afghanistan doesn't have the capacity to take measures for a cure. We don't have enough hospitals and facilities to take care of this. Many people live in Afghanistan, and I believe that if more people come to Afghanistan the threat will get higher and many people will die," he said.

Friday March 6, 2020
Kabul (BNA) At least 27 people including women and children lost their lives and 55 others were wounded during gunfire on a gathering in Kabul city today.
Nasrat Rahimi spokesman for ministry of interior told, the gunfire had erupted at 11:20 am this morning from a construction site near the ceremony in Dasht Barchi area, west of Kabul city. 
At least 27 people including women and children lost their lives and 55 others were wounded during the attack, Rahimi added.
"Soon after the attack, police forces and police Special Forces units rushed to the scene, Rahim further added.
The Taliban immediately denied responsibility for the attack.
Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Mohammad Mohaqiq, Abdul Karim Khalili and number political figures were present in the rally.

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