A top leader of a militant group hailing from China was killed during the operation of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces in Northeastern Badakhshan province.
The 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan Military in the North said at least seven militants including two Chinese nationals were killed during the operations. The officials further added that one of the Chinese nationals killed during the operations has been identified as Mustafa who was the deputy leader of a Chinese militant group east Turkistan Islamic Movement.
A spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps Mohammad Hanif Rezayi confirmed that the militants were killed in Jurm district.
Rezayi further added that thirteen militants were also wounded during the operations but the security personnel involved in the operations have not sustained any casualty.
The local residents in Jurm district have also not sustained any casualty during the operations, the Shaheen Corps spokesman added.
The anti-government armed militant groups including Taliban insurgents have not commented regarding the report so far.
Badakhshan is located in the remote part of the country in the Northeast and is among the relatively volatile provinces where the anti-government armed militants are active in some of its districts and often carry out insurgency activities.
President Ashraf Ghani’s latest offer of talks to the Taliban is an opportunity to wrap up the conflict in Afghanistan, says Pakistan’s national security advisor.
All the stakeholders should play their due role in seeking peace in the neighboring country, Nasser Janjua told French Ambassador to Pakistan Marc Barety in Islamabad on Friday.
“This (burden) should not be put on Pakistan alone. Everyone, particularly regional countries, must come forward to seek peace in Afghanistan,” the advisor said.
The French diplomat commended Pakistan’s efforts in the war on terrorism, acknowledging the sacrifices it had rendered. France was willing to strengthen defense and intelligence cooperation with Pakistan, he said.
Both sides recognized that the terror threat, particularly from Daesh, was not yet over and concerted efforts were required to eradicate the menace from the volatile region.
Saudi Arabia has agreed to play a leading role in starting a new peace process in Afghanistan, part of the latest US-led strategy to find a political solution to America’s longest war.
The US and Afghanistan hope that Saudi Arabia can bring the Taliban to the negotiating table and act as guarantors for a possible peace deal, according to officials involved in the process, The Wall Street Journal reported.
The officials said they believe the kingdom can succeed where others have failed due to its religious clout as the birthplace of Islam—and historical ties with the powerful insurgent group. But even Saudi Arabia will have significant obstacles to overcome.
The US National Security Council is spearheading this new four-nation effort, a NSC spokesperson said this week. The group also includes the United Arab Emirates, a close Saudi ally that previously deployed troops to Afghanistan as part of the US-led coalition fighting there.
“On peace and reconciliation, Saudi Arabia is best placed to help Afghanistan,” Afghan national security adviser Hanif Atmar said during a visit to Washington last week. “We are extremely optimistic that this level of cooperation will actually lead to concrete results for peace and reconciliation.”
President Donald Trump’s outgoing national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, hosted the first, hour-long meeting between the four countries on March 23. Mr. Atmar, Saudi and Emirati officials also attended. Mr. Atmar said he also met Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who is in the US on an official visit.
An NSC spokesperson confirmed the details of the meeting and said the four countries discussed ways to “cooperate to support the Afghan government” and “work together to promote a peaceful settlement.”
During the meeting, the four nations agreed to create a working group that would meet regularly to decide on a road map to peace in Afghanistan, officials said.
The new initiative could at a later stage be widened to include other countries, the official said. Officials who participated said the UAE or Saudi Arabia could host future talks.
Mr. Atmar said he believes the Taliban are open to Saudi Arabia’s mediation. He also said Saudi Arabia could help by applying pressure on the Taliban’s longtime patron, Pakistan, where many senior members of the militant groups are based.
But major obstacles to a comprehensive peace settlement remain, notably regional rivalries and major divisions within the Taliban insurgency.
Powerful elements of the Taliban have in recent years grown close to two of the kingdom’s biggest rivals: Iran and Qatar.
The Taliban have nurtured ties with Tehran, though Iran officially denies supporting the group. And the Taliban’s political office, which handles the group’s diplomatic relations and was established with US approval, is based in the Qatari capital, Doha.
Among the topics discussed by Crown Prince Mohammed during a visit to Washington last week was “how to bring stability to Afghanistan,” Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir told reporters. Saudi officials didn’t comment further.
For Riyadh, the NSC initiative presents an opportunity to counter the growing influence in Afghanistan of archrival Iran—a source of motivation that worries the Taliban, who carefully balance their position between rival powers.
Before it can play a key role in the process, Saudi Arabia will first have to prove that it’s an impartial broker and gain the trust of multiple Taliban factions, according to a person familiar with the Taliban’s position in Doha.
The Saudis appear to be trying to sow divisions within the Taliban, the person familiar said, after meeting splinter groups that refuse to recognize the group’s new leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada—who has cultivated ties with Iran.
“Saudi Arabia is not on good terms with the Taliban,” the person said, adding that Iran would likely object to the kingdom’s new role. “First of all, they have to work to close the existing gap in trust.”
The Taliban haven’t commented publicly on the NSC’s new strategy, which comes as the Trump administration pushes allies like Saudi Arabia to play a bigger role in the Muslim world and alleviate America’s burden in pursuing shared goals.
Taliban insurgents have set six mobile phone towers on fire in central Uruzgan province, a source revealed on Saturday.
A telecommunications and information technology official, whishing anonymity, told Pajhwok Afghan News the antennas of Afghan Wireless, Roshan and Etisalat companies were torched in Tirinkot and Dehrawood district.
Dost Mohammad Nayab, the governor’s spokesman, confirmed that three towers belonging to the Afghan Wireless Network, two of Etisalat and one of Roshan had been set alight.
He said the towers had been inactive over the past two years. Pajhwok tried to contact the telecom firms for comment, but failed. The Taliban have not yet spoken on the issue.
Several hunger strikers taking part in a rare sit-in peace protest in Helmand have been taken to hospital for treatment, officials and protesters said Saturday.
The week-long demonstration in Lashkar Gah, which has involved up to several dozen men, women and children, began the day after a car bomb attack rocked the city on March 23, killing at least 13 people and wounding dozens more.
Some of the protesters began a hunger strike on Thursday after their demands for a ceasefire between Afghan security forces and the Taliban were not met.
Four were taken to hospital for treatment on Friday night, including two who were "in a terrible condition", Helmand provincial public health director Aminullah Abed told AFP.
Two men wearing oxygen masks and hooked up to saline drips were seen lying in their hospital beds when an AFP photographer visited on Saturday.
"I was unconscious when I was brought to the hospital otherwise I didn't want this saline drip," Qais Hashemi, 27, said.
"If they save my life today, tomorrow I will die in a suicide attack."
Another hunger striker still at the sit-in protest lay on the ground attached to a saline drip on Saturday. He was surrounded by men and children holding signs reading "Without peace it is impossible to live".
Iqbal Khaibar, one of the organizers, said around 50 people had joined the hunger strike.
"As long as our demands are not met we will continue," Khaibar said.
The protesters, including civil society activists and relatives of victims killed in violence, had planned to march more than 100 kilometers (60 miles) to Taliban strongholds in the province and try to convince the militants to stop fighting.
But the Taliban has told them to take their protest to US military bases -- and warned it would not be responsible for their safety.
"Demand that they put an end to the ongoing war and occupation," the Taliban said in a WhatsApp message to journalists.
"If something were to happen then responsibility will be placed squarely on your shoulders because you understand that we are at war."
The withdrawal of US-led NATO combat troops at the end of 2014 enabled the Taliban to regain control of opium poppy-rich Helmand which has been the scene of some of the fiercest fighting of the 16-year war.
Much of it remains controlled or contested by the militants.
The sit-in protest comes amid growing calls for the Taliban to take up President Ashraf Ghani's offer last month of peace talks. His proposal received renewed international support at a conference in the Uzbek capital Tashkent on Tuesday.
So far the Taliban have not directly responded to the offer.
Some members of Wolisi Jirga or the lower house of parliament accuse government of attempting to engineer upcoming election, saying interim administration is necessary for transparency in parliamentary election, Did Press reported.
Members of parliament (MPs) say in order to prevent government from interference in election and holding transparent and fair voting an interim government must be formed.
“The National Unity Government (NUG) plans to embed its loyalists into parliament by engineering election,” Mawlawi Shahzada Shahid, a representative of eastern Kunar province in the house, said in an interview with a newspaper, according to Did Press. “Therefore, the people of Afghanistan will not accept the outcome of the parliamentary and district council elections, and the presidency cannot impose the result of the voting on the people.” He added. According to him, a temporary government should be established to win the people’s confidence and hold a transparent and fair election.
Meanwhile, a number of delegates criticized the performance of the Independent Election Commission in preparing voters’ list and setting polling stations.
“The government of Afghanistan does not have control over many provinces of the country only five kilometers away from the province center, so how it can provide the ground for the people of the country to turnout,” said Usman Farahi, another MP.
Though the Independent Election Commission recently announced that it will start voter registration on April 14, still some political parties and civil society activists casting suspensions on government political well to hold election.
The US Defense Secretary James Mattis met with Indonesia's Minister of Foreign Affairs Retno Marsudi at the Pentagon on Monday, according to the Associated Press.
At the meeting, Mattis praised Indonesia for its efforts to promote stability and peace with its neighbors and its support for reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan.
"We also appreciate Indonesia's support for reconciliation efforts in Afghanistan. We welcome your initiative to host a trilateral meeting of Afghan, Pakistani and Indonesian religious leaders. In light of your nation's multiethnic society, your voice in denouncing theological violence and your endorsement of the peace process shows the path to a lasting peace in Afghanistan, a country which has suffered far too long from war,” he said.
This comes ahead of the Ulema meeting in Indonesia between religious scholars from Afghanistan, Pakistan and Indonesia.
The meeting is expected to be held in Jakarta in the near future.
The religious scholars are expected to discuss the ongoing war in Afghanistan and the campaign against terrorism, according Afghan officials.
The war on terrorism and the ongoing turmoil in Afghanistan will dominate the agenda at the conference, said officials from the High Peace Council (HPC).
The HPC strongly supports the involvement of Indonesia for peace in Afghanistan and the timeframe for the conference will be announced by Indonesian officials sometime in the near future, according to officials.
Historically, Indonesia has been well-regarded for its quiet but decisive mediation role in conflict resolution processes in Cambodia the 1980s, as well as for its actions in achieving peaceful resolutions to internal religious conflicts in Ambon and Aceh.
Pakistan’s Charge d’Affaires in Kabul was summoned in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Afghanistan amid persistent artillery shelling on eastern parts of Afghanistan by the Pakistani military.
The Ministry of Foreign Affiars (MoFA) in a statement said the artillery shelling in eastern parts of Afghanistan along the Durand Line continues despite the Afghan government has repeatedly shared its concerns in this regard with Pakistani side.
The statement further added that the shelling has resulted in the death of a number of civilians while some others have sustained injuries.
According to MoFA, the shelling has also inflicted financial losses to the local residents.
MoFA believes that such incursions may have a goal to help enhance the area for the activities of the terrorist groups.
Statement of the ministry read that the Afghan government and people strongly condemns the act by Pakistan and calls a serious breach of the international norms.
The statement also added that the Charge d’Affaires of Pakistan was summoned in the ministry in this regard on Monday to convey the serious concerns of the Afghan government.
The ministry also added that the Charge d’Affaire of Pakistan was asked to convey the Afghan government’s concerns to the relevant authorities and immediate steps must be taken to halt the incursions.
Dozens of women from Helmand province, a volatile region in the south of Afghanistan, joined the Peace Convoy on Tuesday by setting up a sit-in camp alongside the men’s camp at a stadium in the provincial capital Lashkargah city.
The sit-in protest was launched on Monday following a deadly suicide car bombing near Ayub Khan Stadium on Saturday evening when spectators were leaving a wrestling match. At least 16 people were killed and almost 50 others were wounded in the explosion.
The women activists said the Peace Convoy will visit a Taliban stronghold on Thursday to carry a message of peace to the group.
“We are suffering because of violence and war,” said Hasina Ehsas, a female activist in Helmand. “We have lost our relatives and we are standing alongside our brothers in this movement.”
“We want peace in our province and our country. War is enough. We have lost our relatives. Now we request you (the Taliban) to join peace,” said Shazia another female activist in the province.
These women said the Peace Convoy will travel to Nad Ali district, in the north east of Lashkargah City, to carry the message of peace to the Taliban.
“We are happy if peace comes and both sides stop the bloodshed because this war is not our war; it belongs to other countries. Our homes and properties have been destroyed,” said Zarghona a protester.
“If someone wants war then they must go and fight foreigners. Stop making us widows and making us cry over the death of our children,” said Wak Anara, a resident of Helmand.
The movement is the first of its kind for peace.
On Monday, the Peace Convoy drove through the city of Lashkargah, brandishing posters carrying messages calling for peace.
Chinese ambassador to Afghanistan Liu Jingson on Monday said his country would increase assistance with the war-hit country in education, infrastructure projects and preservation of historic monuments of central Bamyan province.
The Chinese ambassador, who arrived in Bamyan City, told reporters that the People's Republic of China and Afghanistan had a long-standing relationship.
He emphasized his country was determined to expanding its relations with Afghanistan in various fields.
He said currently two infrastructure projects -- Dara Sub road construction and Shakari valley of Bamyan, were being implemented with China’s help.
Liu expressed his satisfaction with security situation of Bamyan and added his country would focus more on various investments in the province in future.
He said his country would support a stable, prosperous and developed Afghanistan and would work more for increased people to people contact between the two countries in future.
The Chinese envoy said he discussed with Bamyan governor the preservation of historic monuments and improvement of higher education in Bamyan and would send the message of the governor and the people of Bamyan in this regard to his government.
Bamyan governor Mohammad Tahir Zuhir appreciated Chinese government’s aid and urged the ambassador to continue their assistance to the province.
He said the people of Bamyan wanted Chinese government to create a Chinese language department in the province and as well construct school buildings.