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Afghan police rescued three government employees from Taliban

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Police recovered two policemen and an engineer of the Public Works Ministry (MoPW) was rescued from Taliban captivity in an operation by police in Wardak province on Saturday.

Wardak police told media that Taliban abducted two policemen and an engineer from Ghor province when they were on their way to Kabul Jalrez district of Maidan Wardak province.

later Taliban announced to kill them in an open court session but the police timely conducted operation and rescued the abducted people.

Police added that during one insurgent was killed and two others were injured in an operation.

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Trade deficit poses threat to future, says Ghani

KABUL (Pajhwok): President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday said Afghanistan’s trade deficit posed a threat to the country’s future, stressing promotion of domestic products.

Speaking at a ceremony marking the launch of the 4th National Urban Conference here, Ghani said the unfavorable trade balance was a threat to Afghanistan.

The event titled ‘Moving towards Sustainable Cities’ was held at the Presidential Palace.

Ghani, terming promotion of domestic products extremely important, said: “We import food worth $2 billion and building materials and others worth $1 billion. However, none of these goods are needed to be imported from foreign countries.”

Meanwhile, President Ghani called adoption of urban culture as vital for the citizenry, saying: ‘Until we don’t change ourselves into citizens and don’t create the urban culture, we can’t own a city. And balance should be observed in the development of cities across the country.”

President Ghani also informed about ongoing efforts at shifting key government departments to Darul Aman neighborhood of Kabul city. “In early spring, we will witness the construction of a complex in Darul Aman area for relocating key government departments from Kabul city centre.”

The president expressed concern over illegally usurped government land, saying mayors, governors and police chiefs were responsible to reclaim state-owned land and make more efforts in this regard.

He informed about the Chief Justice’s decision regarding establishment of a special court for addressing the land grabbing issue and said the High Council for Rule of Law was seriously pursuing the matter.

“I am not satisfied with the performance of Department of Government Cases at the Ministry of Justice with regard to retaking usurped lands.”

Ghani also said the lack of the country’s water management was a legacy the unity government inherited from the previous administration, saying efforts to resolve the water crisis in Kabul had been ongoing over the past three years and soon work would be launched on a dam to meet Kabul needs.

Speaking on the occasion, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Naderi, the Minister of Urban Development, recalled his ministry’s achievements. Referring to Afghanistan membership of the World Council of Good Urban Governance, he said it was a big achievement.

“Afghanistan’s membership in the council is a good opportunity and Afghanistan can offer its schemes in the field”.


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Explosion hits Kabul as political gathering under way

KABUL (Al Jazeera): A suicide attacker has killed at least nine people, detonating his vest near a political gathering in the Afghan capital, Kabul, officials confirmed.

Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid told Al Jazeera that the attacker was stopped at the entrance of the hall, which is usually used for weddings, where he detonated his weapons to “disrupt a political gathering under way inside”.

“The dead included seven policemen and the rest were civilians,” Mujahid told Al Jazeera.

Supporters of Atta Mohammad Noor, governor of the northern province of Balkh, were holding an event inside the hall at the time of the explosion.

Health ministry spokesman Ismail Kawoosi told Al Jazeera that at least five people were wounded and transferred to the city’s emergency hospital.

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group claimed responsibility for the attack. The Taliban denied involvement.

The explosion was the latest in a wave of violence that has killed hundreds of civilians in Afghanistan in 2017.

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Abdullah Discusses New US Strategy With VP Pence

KABUL (TOLONews): National Unity Government (NUG) Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah held a meeting with US Vice President Mike Pence at the White House in Washington last Friday night and discussed the new war strategy in Afghanistan, the CEO’s office said in a statement on Saturday.

According to the statement during the meeting both sides emphasized the need to expand ties between the two countries. Abdullah also thanked the US government and its people for their aid to Afghanistan.

In a statement he said: “The government and the people of Afghanistan support the announcement of a new strategy, and we consider it a new opportunity for Afghanistan and the region.”

Speaking on the security situation and praising the positive role of US forces in Afghanistan he said: “Now the Afghan Armed Forces are responsible for the independent defense of the country, they have faced many challenges but thwarted the Taliban’s plans, al-Qaeda and Daesh in Afghanistan”.

Pointing to terrorist safe havens with the support of outsiders he said: “The problem of terrorist havens is still a serious problem and we hope that Pakistan will work to dismantle these sanctuaries.”

Meanwhile, Pence said Afghanistan was a rich and historical country and called its people heroic, brave and daring. Pence also praised Afghan forces for fighting terrorism, Taliban, al-Qaeda and Daesh.

Pence said Washington was happy with the new US strategy and that there are positive results and outcomes of the new strategy. He also promised US commitment for the National Unity Government for stability in Afghanistan.

At the meeting both sides discussed Afghanistan’s regional relations, holding transparent elections, the economic situation, reforms in different sectors, and the fight against corruption.

Earlier in the day, Abdullah met with Alice Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian affairs where the two discussed Afghanistan-Pakistan relations and the steps needed to ensure Pakistan stops harboring and supporting Pakistan.

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Taliban denies involvement in Kabul suicide attack

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The Taliban militants group denied any involvement of the group in Kabul suicide attack on Thursday in which 19 people were killed and dozen other were injured.

Zabiullah Mujahid, spokesman of Taliban group told Afghan media that Taliban group has no links with the explosion which was occurred in Khair Khana area of the Afghanistan capital on Thursday.

As per the security official, the suicide bomber detonated his explosives when the people were coming out of the hotel after attending a political gathering and adding that the gathering was organized in support of Balkh Governor, Ata Muhammad Noor.

No individual or group has so far claimed responsibility behind the incident.

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Rocket attacks: Karzai asks Pakistan to stop cross border attacks

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: Former President, Hamid Karzai has asked Pakistan to stop cross border attacks in Afghanistan and blamed Pakistan for attacking the Afghanistan land.

Karzai said this while talking to media persons on Thursday. He added that the presence and treatment of United State has imposed the recent circumstances and adding that the recent situation of the country will not demoralize the Afghan but it will further awakened and sensitive in such situation.

He added that Pakistan and other neighbors of Afghanistan should behave like a good neighbor and assist in the rebuilding of Afghanistan rather to create problems and forwarding their own agenda in Afghanistan with different tactics.

Earlier Afghan officials claimed that Pakistani security forces have been firing heavy artillery shells and rockets into the bordering areas of Kunar province over the past few days. Over 200 families have left their homes in these areas to avoid casualties.

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At least 18 dead in suicide attack outside Kabul wedding hall

KABUL (AFP): A suicide attacker blew himself up outside a wedding hall in Kabul killing at least 18 people, reported TOLO News Thursday, in an apparent attempt to strike a political gathering underway inside.

As a result of the attack, 10 other people were wounded. Eyewitnesses said at least three cars were also destroyed in the incident and surrounding buildings sustained some damage.

The Taliban was quick to deny responsibility for the attack, the latest to hit the war-weary Afghan capital where insurgents have been stepping up assaults in a show of deadly force.

Supporters of Atta Mohammad Noor, the powerful governor of the northern province of Balkh and a vocal critic of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, had been holding an event inside the hall at the time of the blast.

Noor was not at the event, one of his aides told AFP.

The bomber tried to enter the building but was stopped at the security checkpoint where he detonated his device, Kabul police spokesman Abdul Basir Mujahid told AFP.

“A number of our police personnel are among the casualties,” Mujahid added.

Interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish said seven policemen and two civilians had been killed.

“The bomber detonated himself after he was identified by the police at the entrance gate,” Danish said. Another nine were wounded including seven police and two civilians, he added.

‘Chaos and panic’

“After lunch, as we were exiting the hall a huge explosion shook the hall, shattering glass and causing chaos and panic,” Harun Mutaref, who was at the gathering, told AFP.

“I saw many bodies including police and civilians lying in blood.” An AFP photographer said the windows of the wedding hall had been shattered by the force of the blast and a vehicle parked outside was on fire.

Dozens of police and intelligence officers have swarmed the area and blocked access to the public.

Photos posted on Twitter showed multiple bodies of men lying on top of each other in a muddy street and in a drain, and people dragging away the wounded.

Noor, a senior leader of the Tajik-dominated Jamiat-e Islami party, has been an outspoken critic of Ghani and the National Unity Government.

Political infighting has been intensifying ahead of next year’s long-delayed district and parliamentary elections, which would pave the way for the 2019 presidential ballot.

Noor has previously hinted that he may run for the country’s highest office.

On Wednesday Ghani – who is a Pashtun, the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan– sacked the Independent Election Commission chief Najibullah Ahmadzai after technical and political bungling, fuelling speculation the vote will not go ahead.

That came after the recent firing of Education Minister Asadullah Hanafi Balkhi, who was considered a close ally of Noor, and one of Ghani´s advisers Ahmadullah Alizai.

Noor has recently called for the return of Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, a powerful ethnic Uzbek warlord who fled to Turkey in May after he was accused of raping and torturing a political rival in 2016.

Earlier this year Noor met with Deputy Chief Executive Mohammad Mohaqiq, a senior figure in the mainly Hazara ethnic community, and Dostum in Turkey to form the “Coalition for the Salvation of Afghanistan”.

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NATO’s renewed pledges come at proper time: Mattis

WASHNGTON (Pajhwok): US Defense Secretary James Mattis has said NATO’s renewal of commitments with Afghanistan came at a proper time and sent a clear message to the Talibanand their allies.

Mattis expressed these views during a meeting with Chief Executive Office (CEO) Abdullah in the Pentagon. Abdullah thanked the US for its support to the Afghan security forces in the fight against terrorism.

The CEO termed the new US strategy “an important step” for Afghanistan and the region. He expressed the hope the New US strategy would further increase cooperation between Afghanistan and the US and the region would move towards stability.

During the meeting, the two leaders conferred on the security situation in Afghanistan, international commitments and future regional strategy.

The CEO expressed satisfaction with security support of NATO countries and the US and said most of Afghans acknowledged the effectiveness of this support.

The two sides also talked about the Afghan peace process and ways to reach durable peace in Afghanistan, co-existence and mutual acceptance in the political system

Separately, the CEO met with USAID Chief Bamak Green and thanked the organization for its work and cooperation in Afghanistan. Abdullah also stressed continued US support for Afghanistan, according to a statement from the CEO office.

The CEO and USAID chief stressed free and fair elections in Afghanistan and th latter said his organization was ready to assist the war-torn country in holding transparent election.

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At least 50 Taliban fighters killed in deadly airstrikes

Monitoring Desk

HEART: Ministry of Defense (MoD) has claimed that at least 50 Taliban fighters were killed and more than 42 others were injured in the airstrikes carried in Shindand district of Herat in the past 24 hours.

MoD issued a statement on Thursday that deadly airstrikes targeted the Taliban hideouts and leaving scores of militants dead or wounded in the past 24 hours and adding that at least 50 militants were killed and 42 others were injured in the airstrikes.

Mod claimed that local leader of the Taliban group identified as Rasool was also killed and five vehicles of militants were also destroyed in the airstrikes. Forces also arrested one Taliban fighter.

Similarly, operations against gunmen were conducted in Shajoi district of Zabul and Tagab district of Kapisa province in which four militants were killed and three others were injured.

The Taliban militants also suffered heavy casualties in the operations in Bala Bolok district to Farah where 40 militants were killed and around 38 others were wounded, MoD said, adding that 5 militants were killed in another operation in Maiwan district of Kandahar.

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Opium cultivation increases to 87% in Afghanistan in 2017: UNODC

Monitoring Desk

KABUL: The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) has said in its report that cultivation of opium increases to 87 percent in Afghanistan as compared to last data.

The UNODC report added that this year rapid increase of opium cultivation was recorded in 2017 and in most of the country, people cultivated poppies.

The report further added that because of insurgency in the country most likely the terrorist group is likely to promote opium cultivation and later smuggle it to the other parts of the world and report added that this is one of the reason of increased in opium cultivation in the country.

UNODC report also revealed that despite the efforts of the provincial governments of eradicating of opium from 750 hectares of land, but in current year the cultivation hit a record of 328,000 hectares which is more than 60 percent from last year.

The UN office says the farm gate value off the opium for the year has been estimated at $1.4 billion which shows a 50 per cent increased as compared to last year.