04 August 2020

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Monday, August 3, 2020
Kabul (BNA) A ceasefire between the Taliban and Afghan government appears to be holding for the third and final day, as hundreds of the armed group's prisoners are released in a bid to bring peace talks closer.
The government has released 317 Taliban prisoners since the beginning of the three-day Muslim festival of Eid al-Adha on Friday, the country's office of National Security Council said on Twitter on Sunday.
Calm prevailed across much of Afghanistan, with officials not reporting any major clashes between the two sides since the truce began to mark Eid.
President Ghani and the Taliban have both indicated that long-delayed negotiations could begin straight after Eid.
Under a deal signed by the Taliban and the US in February, the "intra-Afghan" talks were slated to start in March, but were delayed amid political infighting in Kabul and as a contentious prisoner swap dragged on.
The deal stipulated that Afghan government would free about 5,000 Taliban prisoners in return for 1,000 Afghan security personnel held captive by the Taliban.
Including the newly released prisoners, the total number of Taliban prisoners freed from Afghan custody has reached 4,917 prisoners, the National Security Council said.
The 317 were among an additional 500 Taliban prisoners that Ghani ordered freed on Friday as a goodwill gesture. However, he said on Friday he had "no authority" under the country's constitution to release the remaining 400 inmates because of their involvement in serious crimes.
He added he would soon call a consultative Loya Jirga - a traditional grand assembly of Afghan elders - to decide their fate.
The Taliban says it has freed all 1,000 Afghan prisoners it had pledged to release in a deal with the US, fulfilling their side of the exchange.
Deadly violence has rocked Afghanistan since the US-Taliban deal was agreed, with more than 3,500 Afghan troops killed in attacks by armed fighters, according to President Ghani.

Monday, August 3, 2020
Kabul (BNA) A high-ranking Afghan government delegation has traveled to Kandahar to investigate the recent clash between Afghan and Pakistani forces at the Chaman crossing in Spin Boldak, said the National Security Council (NSC) in a statement on Sunday.
The delegation is led by the deputy head of the NSC, the statement said, adding that members of the delegation also include representatives from the ministries of foreign affairs, defense and interior, as well as the National Directorate of Security (NDS) and the Independent Directorate of Local Governance (IDLG), the statement said.
The delegation will first meet with provincial officials in Kandahar and “than will visit the area of the incident,” the statement said.
On Saturday, MoFA said that Afghanistan has raised the issue of the recent clash with Pakistan’s embassy in Kabul and the Pakistani ministry of foreign affairs.
Meanwhile, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi has also urged the need for a diplomatic solution to the tensions that emerged in the wake of recent clashes in Spin Boldak district.
The Spin Boldak clash left at least 15 Afghan civilians dead and 80 more wounded. Afghan officials claim the shelling was started by Pakistani forces.
Over the past several years, Pakistan has frequently launched missile attacks on Afghan territory along the Durand Line.

Monday, August 3, 2020
Kabul (BNA) President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani had phone conversations with Presidents of Iran and Uzbekistan here yesterday, a statement said.
In conversation with Shavkat Mirziyoyev of Uzbekistan, the two sides exchanged Eid al-Adha greetings, sincerely wishing the fraternal peoples of the two countries peace, harmony and prosperity.
The Presidents noted with deep satisfaction the steadfast consolidation of late of the Afghan-Uzbek relations built on robust bonds of friendship and traditional good-neighborliness, common history, traditions and customs.
The telephone conversation has served to discuss pressing issues in the bilateral cooperation, primarily the enhancement of practical interaction in the economy, energy, transport and communications. President Ghani and President Shavkat Mirziyoyev and exchanged views also on critical aspects of the regional agenda.
The two leaders expressed full support for the decisive measures taken in both countries to counter the spread of coronavirus infection and control the epidemiological situation. The importance of minimizing the pandemic’s negative impact and maintaining the dynamics of trade and economic relations was emphasized.
The Presidents attached specific significance on intensifying the efforts designed to promote priority infrastructure and investment projects towards Afghanistan’s sustainable development and its active engagement in regional economic processes. In particular, it is the creation of a modern trade and logistics infrastructure in the border areas, implementation of major projects concerning the construction of power line Surkhan – Pul-e-Khumri and efficient transport corridors in Afghanistan, including with active involvement of international financial institutions and donor nations.
The heads of state considered issues of peaceful settlement of the Afghan crisis and expressed full support for the efforts undertaken on the soonest launch of inter-Afghan negotiations.
Meanwhile, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani highlighted the historic role of the March 2018 Tashkent International Conference on Afghanistan, which resulted in significant progress in the political resolution of the Afghan conflict.
Towards the end of the phone talk, the leaders of Uzbekistan and Afghanistan stressed their commitment to furthering the multilayered partnership in the interests of the two countries and the Central Asian region as a whole.
Meanwhile in another conversation with Iranian president, the two sides described peace in Afghanistan as peace and stability for the entire region, with Iranian leaders saying "The Islamic Republic of Iran has always stood by the people and government of Afghanistan for peace and stability, and the role of the Afghan government in international efforts with the aim of achieving peace is important for Iran".
In this telephone conversation, the President of Afghanistan Mohammad Ashraf hani congratulated Eid al-Adha, and appreciated the goodwill, cooperation and support of the Islamic Republic of Iran to the people and government of Afghanistan, including medical and health services to Afghan refugees in Iran in fighting coronavirus, adding, "Some studies in Afghanistan show the process of controlling the outbreak of coronavirus in Afghanistan, which I hope will be the case".
Stating that the private sectors of the two countries have well known the way of interaction with each other, the President of Afghanistan said, "Chabahar Port is developing at a good pace and I hope that the economic relations between Iran and Afghanistan will develop further by using this capacity".
President Ghani appreciated the Islamic Republic of Iran's position in supporting the system of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan on the topic of peace and the efforts and cooperation of the foreign ministers of the two countries in this regard and emphasized, "I hope Iran's support for the peace process brings about more peace and security to the region and the world".
Speaking in a telephone conversation with the President of Afghanistan Ashraf Ghani on Saturday evening, Dr. Hassan Rouhani felicitated Afghan president on Eid al-Adha, and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran is determined to always deepen relations with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan based on historical and cultural common grounds and strengthening these relations by taking advantage of economic, trade and transit capacity between the two countries".
Rouhani expressed hope that the comprehensive document on Iran-Afghanistan cooperation would be completed soon, adding, "If the situation caused by the outbreak of coronavirus allows, we can hold an important meeting in the coming months".
"In addition to signing a comprehensive document on cooperation between the two countries in Tehran, we can also record the operation of the Khaf-Herat railway as two historic events in the long list of friendly interactions between the two sides," he continued.
Expressing satisfaction with the establishment of a temporary ceasefire in Afghanistan and expressing hope for the continuation and strengthening of the ceasefire and reduction of violence in the country, the President said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported the peace process led by the Afghan government and we hope that intra-Afghan talks pivoting around the legitimate government all political groups in Afghanistan and the Taliban will yield results according to the constitution".
Rouhani expressed satisfaction with the Afghan President's remarks on the results of studies that show the process of controlling the outbreak of coronavirus in the country, and said, "The Islamic Republic of Iran has been alongside the people and government of Afghanistan in fighting coronavirus, and will not spare any effort in this regard".

Wednesday, July 29, 2020
Kabul (BNA) Addressing a meeting in Kabul, President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday portrayed a grim picture of the situation in Afghanistan, saying that between February 29 and July 21 up 10,708 members of the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANDSF) have been killed and wounded. “Between February 29, 2020, and July 21, 2020, ANDSF losses have been 10,708, with 3560 martyred, 6781 wounded and the rest kidnapped, imprisoned or unaccounted for,” said Ghani while speaking at the Senior Officials Meeting (SOM) in Kabul. He said that the Afghan civilian losses during this period have been 3073, with 775 killed, 1609 wounded and 689 kidnapped. Ghani also said that rocket attacks during his provincial visits have become routine. On Taliban-Al Qaeda ties, president Ghani said:
“There is no evidence that the Taliban have severed their ties with Al Qaeda and other terrorist organizations nor have they socialized peace among their commanders and fighters.” President Ghani said that to ensure that the window remains open for peace in the country, the Afghan government has offered proof of its commitment and moral courage by the release of Taliban prisoners. “
To ensure that the window remains open, we have offered proof of our commitment and moral courage by the release of Taliban prisoners, a move without precedent in the annals of peace-building,” he said. On the controversy over the release of the Taliban’s 5,000 prisoners, president Ghani said: “To demonstrate the government’s commitment to peace, the Islamic Republic will soon complete the release of 5000 Taliban prisoners as part of the exchange with ANDSF prisoners. With this action, we look forward to the start of direct negotiations with the Taliban in a week’s time.
We call on the Taliban to join us at the negotiating table and to concluding promptly there a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. Commitment to a ceasefire during the coming 'Eid will be an indication of things to come.” On Tuesday evening the Taliban called a three-day ceasefire for Eid. "Our condemnation of senseless violence and strong voice in support of a humanitarian ceasefire, and the start of direct negotiations between us and the Taliban, is reassuring to our people and the ANDSF, who have displayed immense restraint in the face of a Taliban campaign of violence," President Ghani said. Anti-corruption: "There is a national outrage against corruption and a demand for accountability and sufficient capacity in the accountability, rule of law, and security organizations and the active engagement of the media, the Ulema and civil society organizations have created the enabling conditions to have a comprehensive strategy to make measureable and sustained progress against corruption," president Ghani said. The president also added: We are determined to complete all the remaining benchmarks of our current anti-corruption strategy and to enforce the decisions of the Attorney General on those found guilty by the end of October. “We invite all our bilateral and multilateral partners to join the people and government of Afghanistan in identifying key drivers of corruption and bad governance through a mutual accountability framework based on UNCAC and governing the norms of conduct and accountability of all parties engaged in allocation, distribution, and management of resources for Afghanistan. Dealing explicitly with “special treatment” granted to some individuals and organizations will be essential. Even more essential will be to make anticorruption an integral component of the political agreement with the Taliban,” president Ghani said.
The president also highlighted some mutual accountability items: Reform of revenue, grants and aid in terms of OECD standards and tools, Welcome robust conditionality on policy, Welcome strict criteria on outcomes of programs and projects, Welcome third party evaluation and monitoring, Thanks to sustained work by bi-lateral and multi-lateral organizations, scholars, and international civil society networks, there is a range of tools addressing the questions of what to do, how to do it, and how to measure it.
We request a core group from you to work with us online and in-person to help us reform and strengthen our accountability and rule of law institutions and organizations by tailoring an approach suited to our complex context." Afghanistan’s economic situation:
In the speech, president Ghani also defended his economic policies and portrayed an optimistic picture of Afghan exports. “We expect to export 6,090 (metric) tons through the air corridor in 2020. Our exports through the dry port of Zarang alone, however exceeded 6k tons up until now, underlining the crucial role of regional connectivity in the generation of prosperity. Thanks to President Aliyov and Birdie Muhammadov for the recent virtual summit on trade, transit and investment along the Lapis Lazuli corridor.
Thanking Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan for the rail corridor as well as power transmission line. A contract for 1,000 megawatts at 5 cents for 10 years is an important signal, as well as USAID’s support for private sector investment in renewables,” said president Ghani. “Revenue projection has been reduced from Afs 208.9 billion to Afs 175.8 billion, amounting to 12% instead of 13.7% of the GDP. As of July 27, we have collected 54% of the revised target and expect to meet the target by the end of the year. We expect to spend 93% of the development budget by the end of 2020,” he said.
President Ghani thanked SOM members for their continued support of Afghanistan. “Heartful thanks for your continued interest, support, and partnership for the government and people of Afghanistan, women, and men who are striving to lead meaningful, peaceful, and productive lives in a democratic polity and tolerant society,” said president Ghani.

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