Tag Archives: Afghanistan

Georgia troops return from Afghanistan

Brussels 22.05.2021 Following an end to the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission (RSM), Georgia has started pulling its troops out of Afghanistan. In Tbilisi, the Defence Ministry said on Friday, May 21, that 100 infantrymen of the Western Command’s 3rd Brigade were the first troops returning home. (Image above: illustration).

The unit was stationed under German forces at Camp Marmal in Mazar-i-Sharif, the capital of northern Balkh province, as part of RSM. Upon homecoming, the returnees were given at a welcome ceremony at the Vaziani Military Base near the capital Tbilisi.

Georgian Defence Minister Juansher Burchuladze, Defense Forces Chief Major General Giorgi Matiashvili and Ambassador Hubert Knirsch attended the event. Defense Minister Burchuladze said: “We are proud that Georgia significantly contributed to ensuring world peace in international missions.”

In April, NATO allies decided in to withdraw from the Resolute Support Mission with effect from May 1.

Prior to the withdrawal, Georgia was contributing around 860 servicemen to the mission in Afghanistan.

Kabul: EU condemns girl school attack

Brussels 08.05.2021 “The European Union mourns with those who have lost loved ones in the latest horrendous terrorist attack in Afghanistan. The targeting of civilians, including school children attending the Syed Al-Shahda school for girls in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood of Kabul, in a bomb attack is a blatant and despicable violation of international humanitarian law”, reads the statement by the EEAS spokesperson on the terrorist attack in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighbourhood in Kabul, Afghanistan.

“We condemn this attack in the strongest possible terms. Those responsible must be held to account, and those that support their actions should feel total shame. The attack is an attack not only on the Afghan population, but on all those worldwide that respect the equal rights of women and girls, and on all those that value education and the right of children to forge their futures”.

“The European Union has consistently called for an immediate ceasefire in Afghanistan, in which a lasting peace can be achieved through an inclusive, negotiated political settlement among Afghans. Our priority remains to support a prosperous, stable and secure Afghanistan, where the human rights of all – including women, children and minorities – are protected and respected”.

An explosion outside a girls’ school in Kabul, Afghanistan on Saturday left at least 30 dead and 52 injured, including students, as Ramadan draws to a close and foreign forces accelerate their withdrawal, leaving behind a country torn apart by 20 years of conflict.

EU defence in focus

Brussels 06.05.2021 The EU Foreign Affairs Council (Defence): Remarks by High Representative/Vice-President Josep Borrell at the press conference:

“Well we had three different meetings today, maybe to celebrate that it was our first physical encounter since last August – soon it will be one year. We decided to hold three different meetings.

We started with the Steering Board of the European Defence Agency. It offered the Defence Ministers the possibility to review the state of play in the implementation of the Coordinated Annual Review on Defence (CARD) and to have a look at the recommendations of CARD, looking in particular at collaborative opportunitiesc in capability development, research and technology, which are the basis of the strategic autonomy in the field of defence.

And, certainly, we have a lot of work to do. We have a clear picture of this capability development based on research and technology, but we are very much aware that it takes 10 to 30 years to fully design, develop, and put in the field a usable major military system. This means that we need to take decisions and engage now. The discussion has been interesting, but there is a lot of work to do to go from the theoretical approach to the practical implementation.

Then, we went to our everyday business and, on that, the Sahel took an important place. I briefed Defence Ministers on my recent trip to the Sahel. As you already know, I visited Mauritania, Mali and Chad. The programme of the travel was strongly altered and had to be adapted due to the fact that the President of Chad [Idriss Déby Itno] was killed. The region is facing one of the most important security and development crises of our generation. After I came back, more events happened with the killing of soldiers and civilians, I think that we have to increase our engagement in the region because the stability in the Sahel remains key for European security.

We went on to discuss Russia: Russia’s recent [military] build up in illegally-annexed Crimea and on the Ukrainian border.

We discussed about the de-escalation of the tensions and the implementation of the Minsk agreements as the only way forward for a lasting political solution. But it is unclear that Russia wants to engage fully in this respect and unclear is a mild word.

On Mozambique, Mozambique is a new issue that appears more and more in our agenda. I updated Ministers on our response to Mozambique’s request for European Union assistance to help address the security crisis and the terrorist threat they are facing in the region of Cabo Delgado.

Work is already ongoing. We are considering a potential European Union Training Mission, like the ones we already have in several African countries. We have a few steps ahead of us, but I hope it will be launched as soon as possible. I have given instructions to accelerate the work, because we must respond to Mozambique’s request with a certain sense of urgency that we do not always have.

The main dish of our meeting was the Strategic Compass. It was the most important item in our agenda. Today we focused on one of the baskets of the Strategic Compass, the basket of crisis management.

This analysis that we produced last year shows that we need to be prepared for future crises and to react quickly.

To this end, we have put forward a number of concrete ideas and proposals. Many of them are based on inputs received from the Member States themselves. We want to do that in an interactive way. At the end the Member States, which are responsible, competent for the Foreign and Defence Policy, have to provide their proposals, their input, their analysis. We got a lot of papers and putting all of them together we have to use our own proposal that the Ministers have been discussing. Allow me to summarise the main guidelines of this proposal.

First, the European Union needs to be more effective and take decisions faster. As I said before, we have to react quicker. We need to take decisions faster. And we discussed notably how to launch our missions and operations more quickly, as well as how we could create more incentives to improve the number of personnel, staff and assets deployed under our Common Security and Defence Policy missions and operations.

Second, we need more flexibility. That is what I learned, during my visit to the missions that we are deploying in the Sahel. We need to better adapt our civilian and military missions to the needs of each crisis and each crisis is different from the others. This could also mean more coordination and cooperation with other military operations conducted in ad hoc coalitions by some Member States or other partners. In the Sahel, for example, there are the European Union missions and then there are coalitions ad hoc led by some Member States. We have to converge these European Union activities with the Member States’ activities. More coordination and cooperation.

Third, we need to be prepared. I want to raise the level of our ambition. And when I am saying to be better prepared, it is not just a matter of speed, but it is also a matter of having fully equipped and prepared our staff to react quickly. In this context, we discussed the idea that was present in some of the papers presented by several Member States – but also in our own reflexions – the idea of an initial entry force that could be deployed as a “first responder” in case that we have to face an urgent crisis.

This is just one example of the proposals that could be considered by Member States as part of the ongoing reflections on the Strategic Compass that I hope will be finished by next March. For the time being nothing is cast in stone, there is no agreement on any specific issue. It is a battle of ideas. It is a reflexion, a collective reflexion. There is strong agreement on some issues, the debate is ongoing on others. But this idea of an initial entry force has been widely discussed today.

For Member States’ forces to be ready for future crises and conflicts, we also need to plan and exercise together, by using scenarios not only to determine what we need, but also to train together and improve our planning and conduct structures. Here also I want to be more ambitious. If we want to have the capabilities to deploy on the field, we must have at the Headquarters planning, conduct and structures that for the time being we do not have.

In the weeks to come, the Ministers will have substantive discussions also on the other baskets, or directions, the components of the Compass: capabilities, emerging and disruptive technologies, partnerships and resilience. Some Member States were asking about our partnership with NATO. Our partnership with NATO is something that I take for granted. It will be everywhere, but it has a specific part when we talk about partnerships. And our partnership with NATO is the most important one that we have.

In order to enhance this partnerships we invited to have lunch with us the NATO Secretary General [Jens] Stoltenberg who joined us for an informal lunch. We discussed areas of common interest from the Mediterranean to Afghanistan.

As you can imagine, the situation in Afghanistan has been the most important issue we have been discussing with Jens, the Secretary General of NATO. In light of the US and NATO decisions to withdraw forces as of 1 May, increased communication and coordination between us, NATO and the US and other international partners will be key for ensuring a stable and long-term political solution in Afghanistan. Everybody understands that there is a big risk of increased violence. We want to encourage the peace process, to support the prosperity, security, democracy and human rights in the country. But let us see the events the way they will unfold.

The Mediterranean is the other area in our immediate neighbourhood and there are still pending issues like, for example, the cooperation between our operations, [Operation] Irini and [NATO] Sea Guardian. We asked the Secretary General of NATO to continue working in order to have the same level of cooperation with Operation Irini that we had with the previous Operation Sophia.

And, finally, we had the Board [meeting] at the Ministerial level of the European Union Satellite Centre based in Torrejón at the outskirts of Madrid. It is the first time in almost 30 years that the Board of the European Union Satellite Centre meets at a political level and I had the honour and the pleasure to chair this meeting.

For me, the Satellite Centre is a very important asset for our institutions and agencies, for Member States, for our missions and operations, because it provides us with a critical geopolitical intelligence analysis.

It also provides [support] to our partners such as the OSCE [in] Ukraine or the United Nations in Libya with an invaluable view of what is happening on the ground.

The Ministers adopted the participation of Canada, Norway and the US in the first PESCO project shared with non-Member States. Finally we have non-Member States participating in PESCO projects, in particular in this one on military mobility in the European continent, in which for sure the US, Canada and Norway is also interested. I think it is an important step for PESCO. We have been discussing about it for months, but finally our Common Security and Defence Policy cooperation with partners in the area of defence and for European and transatlantic security has grown one step further. Good news.

Taliban versus U.S.troops

Brussels 15.04.2021 International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials said, a move that could escalate tensions with the Taliban demanding full withdrawal.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter. “And with the new U.S. administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The administration of then-President Donald Trump signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

NATO2030: Foreign ministers focus on future

Brussels 01.12.2020 NATO Foreign Ministers met virtually on Tuesday, December 1, 2020 to discuss key issues for the Alliance. They include an outside expert panel report on how to further adapt NATO for the future, Russia’s military build-up and NATO’s training mission in Afghanistan.

“We have just concluded the first session of this meeting of NATO Foreign Ministers. We had a good, constructive exchange. And I am looking forward to when I can once again welcome all the ministers here in Brussels, in person. We discussed NATO2030 and how to further adapt our Alliance for the future. We also addressed Russia. And the situation in Afghanistan.

NATO supports the Afghan peace process. And as part of that, we have adjusted our presence. While United States has decided to further reduce its troop numbers to 2,500, NATO’s training mission continues. And over half of our forces are, now, non-US. Ministers made clear that all Allies remain committed to the mission. And to supporting Afghan security forces in the fight against terrorism.As we continue to assess the situation in Afghanistan, it is clear that we will face a turning point early next year.

If we stay, we risk continued fighting. And an even longer-term engagement.
If we leave, we risk Afghanistan once again becoming a safe haven for international terrorists. And the loss of the gains made with such sacrifice.

So there is a price for staying longer. But there is also a price for leaving too soon. We will have to take some hard decisions when NATO defence ministers meet next February. But whatever we decide, we must do it in a coordinated and orderly way.

We also discussed Russia’s continued military build-up in our neighbourhood. As well as arms control. We see Russia violating and undermining treaties. And deploying new weapons. Ministers expressed support for preserving limitations of nuclear weapons. And for developing a more comprehensive arms control regime. We all know that the New START treaty will expire next February, so time is running out. We welcome the dialogue between the United States and Russia to find a way forward. Because we should not find ourselves in a situation where there is no agreement regulating the number of nuclear warheads. We are adapting NATO’s deterrence posture to address Russia’s destabilising actions. At the same time, we all agree that we must continue to pursue dialogue with Russia.

We also addressed the situation in the Eastern Mediterranean. Working together here at NATO, we recently developed a military de-confliction mechanism between Greece and Turkey. A hotline between the two Allies. And the cancellation of specific military exercises. I am committed to strengthening this mechanism further, to build more comprehensive confidence-building measures.

We also discussed the NATO2030 project on how we can make our strong Alliance even stronger. Earlier this year, I appointed a group of experts to support my work on NATO’s continued adaptation. The group, led by co-chairs Thomas de Maizière and Wess Mitchell, has now finalised its work. Today the co-chairs briefed Ministers on their findings. And we have just made their report public. I want to thank all the members of the group for their efforts and dedication.

Their report shows that NATO is agile. It recognises that in recent years we have been able to adapt, both militarily and politically. The report also demonstrates that political consultation and decision-making work at NATO. So we build on solid foundations. he group’s work concludes today, and is one input into NATO2030.

I will continue to consult with civil society, parliamentarians, young leaders, the private sector, and of course with Allies. I will then prepare my recommendations for NATO Leaders when they meet next year. The goal is to keep NATO as a strong military Alliance. Make it more united politically. And with a more global approach”

“Donors have pledged more than $ 3 billion for the first year of the upcoming four-year plan,” running from 2021 to 2024, “with annual pledges expected to remain at that same level year after year, this is expected to add up to $ 12 billion dollars over four years, ” Ville Skinnari, Finnish Minister for Development Cooperation and Foreign Trade said. Afghanistan will receive up to $ 12 billion in aid from donor countries by 2024, under certain conditions, the Finnish Minister of Cooperation said on Tuesday after a two-day conference in Geneva and by video conference on November 24.

Taliban launches multiple attacks

Widespread fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban was reported in 18 provinces across Afghanistan on September 12 while the delegates from representing the state and militants started the peace negotiation talks in Doha, Qatar. (Image above: illustration, MoD Afghanistan courtesy).

The Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) confirmed that the Taliban launched attacks on Afghan security forces in 18 provinces since last night.

However the majority of the assaults were reported from Balkh, Jawzjan, Faryab, Ghor, Badghis, Herat, Ghazni and Uruzgan provinces.

Meanwhile, the Taliban in a statement said that as part of a goodwill gesture, they have on released 22 Afghan soldiers in Helmand province.

Local officials in northern Afghanistan said that last night the Taliban launched attacks in Balkh and Jawzjan provinces.

Fighting was also reported in Faryab:

“The Taliban today attacked the security forces in Shireen Tagab district, but no casualties were sustained by the security forces. In recent days, the Taliban had no military victories on the battlefield,” said Naqibullah Fayeq, the governor of Faryab province.

“The Taliban want to show their military power during the negotiations, they want to show that if you do not accept our demands, then we have the capacity to attack at any time and at any place,” said Lotufullah Mashal, a former spokesman for the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

The Taliban also launched attacks in the following provinces: Ghor, Badghis and Herat.

“Over the past 24 hours, the Taliban group launched attacks on Afghan security and defense forces in over 15 provinces of the country, but the Afghan security and defense forces repelled the Taliban’s attacks and inflicted heavy losses on the group,” said Rohullah Ahmadzai, a spokesman for the Ministry of Defense.

Attacks were also reported in provinces Uruzgan, Kunduz and Helmand.

“The armed opponents launched attacks on the security and defense forces, but the Taliban were repelled by the Afghan Air Force, which resulted in the killing of at least five Taliban fighters,” said Riaz Rabbani, the head of the Kunduz provincial council.

“Armed opponents launched attacks, but the Afghan security and defense forces repelled the attacks,” said Zargai Ebadi, a spokesman for the Uruzgan governor.

Afghan civilians sincerely hope that a ceasefire is announced in the intra-Afghan talks.

The opening ceremony for intra-Afghan talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents began in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday, September 11, launching the start of negotiations aimed at ending two decades of war. The ceremony began at 9 a.m. (0600 GMT) with a recitation from the Quran, followed by opening comments by Qatar’s foreign minister. 

Major players in the process, including Afghanistan’s peace council chairman Dr. Abdullah Abdullah and Taliban leader Mullah Baradar Akhund, and U.S. Secretary of State Pompeo are also scheduled to speak. The opening ceremony for talks between the Afghan government and Taliban insurgents began in Qatar’s capital Doha on Saturday, September 12, marking the start of negotiations aimed at ending two decades of war that has killed tens of thousands of combatants and civilians. The 19-year conflict is also the United States’ longest overseas military action, vexing three successive presidents. President Trump administration invests a lot of efforts in achieving the peace agreement between the Afghan government and Taliban before November 3 elections in the United States.

Borrell welcomes intra-afghan talks

“The European Union welcomes the launch of the direct Intra-Afghan Negotiations between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban mouvement” said the EU top diplomat Josep Borrell. He described the talks which started in Doha, capital of Qatar, as a “ground-breaking moment”.

It marks the start of a genuine peace process, which should lead to the peace that the people of Afghanistan deserve and have long demanded.

“As the European Union, we urge the parties to accompany the start of the peace talks with an immediate, comprehensive, nationwide and unconditional ceasefire.

“With this new chapter opening, a mere reduction of violence is no longer enough. Now all preconditions are fulfilled, nothing should prevent a ceasefire from being accepted and implemented by both parties” the head of the European diplomacy continued.

“This process must now be truly owned and led by Afghans. International partners must respect Afghanistan’s sovereignty and independence when supporting these negotiations.

It must preserve and build on the political, economic and social achievements of the citizens of Afghanistan since 2001, especially on women’s rights” Borrell said.

“To achieve this, the European Union is working with all parties. We want to ensure that peace negotiations are inclusive and respectful of the wish of Afghans to live in a peaceful, secure and prosperous country. A country with economic development and growth, providing new opportunities for its citizens, where rights are upheld and vulnerable groups are protected”.

“Let the start of these negotiations be the much-needed and long overdue beginning of a new and more peaceful chapter for Afghanistan”.

However, the experts say that assembling all groups involved in the conflict at the negotiating table doesn’t necessarily mean they all believe a mutually acceptable political settlement. It can be tactical for all sides to demonstrate that the situaiton is evolving, and for the government in Kabul to show to the international community the progress they have achieved.

The success of peace negotiations depends directly on the resources of the groups involved and their capablities to continue fighting. However it also depends on them changing their perception of the conflict which in almost two decades has shown that neighter of the sides is capable of the definitive victory.

While all parties express their willingness to end the prtotracted conflict, there are doubts whether the peace efforts could have got this far without US pressure for intra-Afghan negotiations to begin. In spite of the the US diplomatic involvement aimed at the end of the violence, and Trump administration insistance to reach the deal before the US election on November 3, the perspectives of implementing it is not guaranteed.

The talks could be concluded with a de jure peace agreement being imposed on Afghanistan, however there are doubts in sincere will of the envolved parties to respect it on long term, while Taliban has never renounced its ambition to ascend power in Kabul. In some areas the differences are still remarkable: the administration of the President Ashraf Ghani is seraching for preservation of numerous rights, namely women’s rights. Among the delegation of the 21 government negociators, who came to Doha, four are women, while among Taliban they are none.

The Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, said that “Afghan society doesn’t have a deadline”. Taking into consideration the massive human cost of the two decades of war, these peace efforts must be given a genuine chance – along with the necessary time and space to succeed, the experts conclude.

Jalalabad: IS prisoners at large

A gunbattle between militants and Afghan security forces raged at a prison in the eastern city of Jalalabad on August 3, Monday, with at least 24 people killed after the overnight assault led to a mass jailbreak.

The attack began on August 2, Sunday evening with car bomb detonated at the prison gate, and there were numerous other blasts heard as the attackers gunmen opened fire on security guards.

Some 30 militants involved in the attack on the prison, where some 2,000 prisoners were held, according to Sohrab Qaderi, a lawmaker in the capital of Nangarhar province.

Three militants were killed during the initial attack and gunbattle overnight, while at least 21 civilians and members of security forces died in the fighting, and 43 were wounded, Attaullah Khugyani, a spokesman for the governor said.

Police were forced to divert manpower to recapture escaped prisoners amid the chaos, and by noon on Monday, August 3, around 1,000 had been caught, Qaderi said, without elaborating on how many were still at large.

Afghan special forces arrived to support police, according to officials, and civilians were being evacuated from areas surrounding the prison, where Taliban and IS prisoners were being held along with ordinary criminals.

Meanwhile the city was in lockdown.

“The whole city of Jalalabad is under curfew, shops are closed,” Qaderi said. “Jalalabad is completely empty.”

Some news agencies refer to IS claim of responsibility for the attack, which came a day after the Afghan intelligence agency said special forces had killed a senior commander of the group near Jalalabad, the provincial capital of Nangarhar.

Local officials in Nangarhar province said Monday that 21 have died and 43 have been wounded in the attack on a prison in PD4 of Jalalabad city that began on Sunday evening and is still ongoing.

The governor’s spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told TOLOnews that the clash is still ongoing close to the prison in PD4 in Jalalabad city and has continued for so long because attackers “use shopping malls as cover.”

The attack has continued for 13 hours, at the time of this report.
According to Khogyani, so far 21 civilian’s dead bodies and 43 wounded people have been transferred to the provincial hospital, and the wounded people are in stable condition.
So far three attackers were killed in the clash, and the total number of attackers is unknown, Khogyani said. But the remaining attackers will also be taken out “soon,” he said.

An Afghan commando in Jalalabad said the number of attackers may be “over twenty.”
Another credible source confirmed that the clash inside the prison is still ongoing and said that 700 inmates who fled the prison have been re-captured. A total of 1,500 inmates were in the prison originally, the source said.

A suicide bomber detonated a vehicle full of explosives at the entrance gate of the prison in PD4 of Jalalabad city at 6:44 pm on Sunday.

Emal Neyazi, Nangarhar’s police chief, confirmed on August 2, Sunday, to a TOLOnews reporter in the area that 2 blasts occurred inside the prison.

Eyewitnesses say that the attack began with a car bomb exploding at the prison entrance gate, and the way was opened for the attackers and they clashed with the security forces.

Local media reports say Daesh has claimed responsibility, but this is unconfirmed.
The Taliban denies involvement in the attack.

The attack began on the last day of the Eid ceasefire between the Taliban and the Afghan government.

Afghanistan: explosion at Helmand market

A car bombing and mortar shells fired at a crowded market in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province on Monday, Juin 29, killed 23 people, including children, a statement from a provincial governor’s office said.

The attack could not be independently confirmed as the Taliban controlled area, is remote and inaccessible to reporters. At present both the Taliban and the Afghan military blamed each other for the killings of the civilians.

The statement from the office of the Helmand province governor, General Mohammad Yasin, did not provide further details and there was no claim of responsibility for the bombing.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, denied the insurgents were involved in the attack. The Taliban claimed the military fired mortars into the market while the military said that on contrary it was a car bomb and mortar shells fired by the insurgents targeted the civilians.

The army said there was no military activity in the area on Juin 29 and that two Taliban fighters were also killed when the car bomb detonated at the marketplace. Animals brought for sale – sheep and goats – were also killed.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani strongly condemned the “brutal and inhumane act.”

“The government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan once again calls on the Taliban to refrain from war and violence and to accept the will of the Afghan people, which is the end of the war and the start of negotiations,” Ghani’s statement said.

Kabul explosion killed imam

Kabul bomb explosion inside a mosque killed two people, including the imam, and wounding two others an official of Afghanistan government said.

No one immediately claimed responsibility for the attack, but the Islamic State (Daesh) has been active in Kabul in recent weeks and has in the past carried out attacks inside mosques in Afghanistan.

Taliban insurgents insist they have never carried out an attack inside of a mosque.

Mullah Mohammad Ayaz Niazi was one of the two people killed in June 2 attack, Arian said. He was seriously wounded in the explosion and died later at a hospital.

Niazi was a well known cleric who was active as Friday prayer leader at the mosque. Next to his religious convictions he carried out duties as Kabul University professor in the Islamic Law department.

Tariq Arian, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Interior Ministry, said the bomb targeted the Wazir Akber Khan Mosque at around 7:25 p.m., when worshippers had gathered for evening prayers. The mosque is located in a high-security diplomatic area near the offices of several international organizations and embassies.

Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, tweeted that the government strongly condemned the attack, saying it “reveals the brutality and inhumanity of those who purposefully perpetrate violence against our Ulema and innocent people.”

Attacks against worshippers have increased in Afghanistan: Last month, an unknown number of attackers stormed a mosque in northern Parwan province, killing 11 and wounding several others.

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