Posts Tagged ‘Ashraf Ghani’

Taliban vow to attack Afghan security forces during elections

October 8, 2018

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The Taliban on Monday vowed to target government security forces in upcoming parliamentary elections, as US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad met with Afghan leaders to discuss ways to end the 17-year war.

Describing the polls as a “malicious American conspiracy”, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the militants would pull no punches to disrupt the long-delayed ballot scheduled for October 20.

“People who are trying to help in holding this process successfully by providing security should be targeted and no stone should be left unturned for the prevention and failure” of the election, Mujahid said in a statement published in English.

© AFP/File | The October 20 parliamentary election is seen as a crucial dry run for next year’s presidential vote and has already been marred by deadly violence

The Taliban — Afghanistan’s largest militant group that was toppled from power in the 2001 US-led invasion — typically issue inflammatory and hyperbolic statements about the Afghan government and its international backers.

But this latest declaration comes just days before the parliamentary election, which is seen as a crucial dry run for next year’s presidential vote and has already been marred by deadly violence.

It also comes as Khalilzad meets with Afghan leaders for the first time since his appointment last month to steer peace efforts with the militants.

Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Afghanistan’s equivalent of prime minister, welcomed the visit by Afghanistan-born Khalilzad in televised remarks on Monday.

“We believe if more attention is paid to the (peace) process, there is a good chance of success,” Abdullah said.

Khalilzad — a high-profile former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations — is on a 10-day regional trip that also includes Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

He met with President Ashraf Ghani and other top leaders on Sunday night to discuss “an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process”, Ghani’s office said in a statement.

Afghan and international players have been ratcheting up efforts to hold talks with the Taliban.

An unprecedented ceasefire in June followed by talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July fuelled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to the fighting.

But a wave of violence involving the Taliban and the Islamic State group in recent months has poured cold water on the nascent optimism.

AFP

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US peace envoy arrives in Kabul as Taliban ramp up attacks

October 7, 2018

Senior US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad has arrived in Kabul for talks with Afghan leaders, an official said Sunday, in his first trip to the Afghan capital since being appointed to lead peace efforts with the Taliban.

The visit by Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, comes as the Afghan government and international community intensify efforts to end the 17-year war.

A spokesman for Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said Khalilzad would have dinner with Ghani and other officials on Sunday. He would not provide further details about Khalilzad’s visit.

© AFP/File | The visit by Zalmay Khalilzad, a former US ambassador to Kabul, Baghdad and the United Nations, comes as the Afghan government and international community intensify efforts to end the 17-year war

The US embassy in Kabul did not immediately respond to AFP’s request for comment.

Khalilzad is also scheduled to visit Pakistan, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia and Qatar as part of a 10-day trip to “coordinate and lead US efforts to bring the Taliban to the negotiating table”, the US State Department said last week.

His arrival comes as the Taliban and the Islamic State group ramp up attacks across the country ahead of this month’s long-delayed parliamentary elections that are seen as a dry run for next year’s presidential vote.

In the latest incident, Taliban fighters killed 14 members of the security forces in a district in eastern Afghanistan that straddles the strategic Kabul-Kandahar highway linking the Afghan capital and the group’s southern strongholds.

The Sayedabad district police chief was among those killed in the heavy fighting overnight, Wardak provincial governor spokesman Abdul Rahman Mangal told AFP.

Another seven were wounded, deputy interior ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said in a statement.

The Taliban also suffered “heavy casualties”, Rahimi added. The group claimed its fighters had killed dozens of security forces.

An electricity cable was destroyed in the battle, severing power to Wardak, Ghazni, Logar and Paktia provinces, power utility Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat said in a statement.

The attack on Sayedabad district, which is less than two hours’ drive from Kabul, came shortly after militants destroyed several bridges along the same highway in neighbouring Ghazni province, forcing its temporary closure.

A major Taliban assault on Ghazni’s provincial capital in August triggered five days of fighting with security forces that left hundreds dead.

Separately, the defence ministry is investigating reports of “possible civilian casualties” during clashes in Paktia province on Saturday, spokesman Ghafoor Ahmad Jawed said.

Provincial police chief Raz Mohammad Mandozai told AFP that 10 civilians were killed and 20 were wounded in an air strike on Garda Serai district.

Other local sources said at least 10 people had been wounded in the aerial bombardment.

US Forces, which is the only international force known to conduct air strikes in Afghanistan, denied it carried out the attack.

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AFP

Rockets hit Afghan city during President Ashraf Ghani visit

September 27, 2018

Multiple rockets hit the Afghan city of Ghazni on Thursday during a visit by President Ashraf Ghani, according to officials and residents of the city, which is still struggling to return to normal after it was overrun by Taliban fighters last month.

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FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

At least two rockets landed within 300 meters (yards) of the governor’s compound, where Ghani was meeting local officials, while a third struck further off, said Ahmad Khan Sirat, spokesman for Ghazni police.

There was no word on any casualties but light and heavy weapons fire could be heard, he said.

Ghazni, on the main highway between the capital Kabul and southern Afghanistan, still bears the scars of days of heavy combat last month when hundreds of Taliban fighters stormed the city and overran large parts of the center.

The attackers were eventually driven off with heavy losses by Afghan forces backed by U.S. air strikes but the assault caused shock across Afghanistan, underlining the insurgents’ ability to mount large scale attacks on major cities.

Ghani’s visit to Ghazni, accompanied by his wife, was aimed at assessing the security situation in the city.

Reporting by Mustafa Andalib; Editing by Kim Coghill

Reuters

Mattis makes unannounced visit to Afghanistan

September 7, 2018

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis landed in Kabul on Friday for an unannounced visit to war-torn Afghanistan, where he will meet President Ashraf Ghani and the new US commander for American and NATO forces.

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His trip comes a little more than a year after President Donald Trump unveiled a revamped strategy for Afghanistan that saw him commit thousands of additional US forces to the country on an open-ended basis.

US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis landed in Kabul at a sensitive time in the 17-year Afghanistan war. (AFP)

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Mattis, on his second visit to the country in recent months, arrives in Kabul at a sensitive time in the 17-year war.

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The grinding conflict has seen little progress by Afghan or US forces against the Taliban, Afghanistan’s largest militant group.

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Afghan and international players have been ratcheting up efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban, which was toppled from power by US-led forces in 2001.

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An unprecedented ceasefire in June followed by talks between US officials and Taliban representatives in Qatar in July fueled hopes that negotiations could bring an end to the fighting.

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But a recent spate of attacks by the Taliban and the smaller but potent Daesh group that left hundreds of security forces and civilians dead has severely dented that optimism.

AFP

 

U.S. Official Tells Pakistan: There’s no question we need Pakistan’s help with the Taliban

August 31, 2018

The US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, Randall G Schriver, said on Wednesday, during at an event organised by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington, that there is no question Pakistan’s help is needed to deal with the Taliban.

During a conversation with moderator Ashley Tellis from Carnegie, when asked regarding the triangular relationship between India, the US and Pakistan, Schriver responded by saying that the Trump administration wants to “give the new prime minister [Imran Khan] and the new government of Pakistan space to explore where there may be opportunities to improve relations with India”.

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US Assistant Secretary of Defense for Asian and Pacific Security Affairs, Randall G Schriver, with Ashley Tellis from Carnegie

Upon Tellis’ inquiry as to how that relates to the issue of Afghanistan and shared interests, he unequivocally said: “There’s no question we need Pakistan’s help in encouraging, persuading, pressuring Taliban to come to the negotiating table.”

Appreciating Ghani’s offer for a ceasefire which he considered was pulled off successfully, Schriver said that there is a definite interest to “talk about a future where the Taliban are included not through force but a political process”.

He said that while the administration had decided on “curbing assistance and putting constraints on Pakistan as a means to try to persuade them to adopt that course and use their influence on the Taliban”, it was something that was still being evaluated.

“It’s certainly not where we want it to be but its something I think we’ll stick with. The end state should be one we can all agree on.”

Schriver said that it was a matter of dealing with suspicions and distrust between all the regional players.

“If we can get some momentum behind this, the second ceasefire offer, and have that lead to some political dialogue, I think that would go a long way in reducing suspicions among all these other actors and players,” he concluded.

Dawn

https://www.dawn.com/news/1429924/theres-no-question-we-need-pakistans-help-with-the-taliban-us-assistant-secretary-of-defense

Afghanistan president rejects resignation of three top security officials

August 26, 2018

Afghanistan’s President Ashraf Ghani rejected on Sunday resignations tendered a day earlier by three senior security officials, the government said.

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FILE PHOTO: Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan July 15, 2018. REUTERS/Mohammad Ismail

The ministers of defense and interior, as well as a senior security chief, sent their resignations to the president’s palace on Saturday, soon after Afghanistan’s national security adviser also resigned.

Government spokesman Haroon Chakansuri said in a statement Ghani had asked the three officials to continue with their duties and “work toward the betterment of the security situation”.

Reuters

Suicide bomb attack kills two in eastern Afghanistan

August 25, 2018

An suicide bomb blast outside killed at least two people Saturday outside an election commission office in the eastern Afghan city of Jalalabad, officials said.

The latest attack in the war-torn country targeted a protest camp outside the building in Nangarhar province, where a group of people were rallying in support of a candidate disqualified from parliamentary elections due in October.

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FILE photo: Bombing of Afghan city of Jalalabad, July 10, 2018. Credit Parwiz/Reuters

“It killed two people, and four others were wounded,” provincial governor spokesman Attaullah Khogyani told AFP, adding that a suicide attacker was responsible for the explosion.

Provincial health director Najib Kamawal confirmed the two deaths.

An eyewitness said the blast was caused by a suicide bomber who detonated explosives near a tent full of protesters outside the election commission’s office in Jalalabad, sending people fleeing as security forces cordoned off the area.

“It was very big blast and it shook our home,” said witness Mirza Amin, who added she lived 50 metres (160 feet) from the site of the explosion.

The blast comes nearly a week after President Ashraf Ghani offered a conditional three-month ceasefire to the Taliban, a move welcomed by the United States and NATO after nearly 17 years of war.

The Taliban have yet to provide an official response to the offer.

AFP

Afganistan: Eid al-Adha Begins With Mortar and Rocket Attacks in Kabul

August 21, 2018

Militants have fired mortars at the diplomatic quarter of the Afghan capital Kabul during a speech by the president to mark a Muslim holiday.

President Ashraf Ghani was speaking live on television to celebrate Eid al-Adha when explosions were heard near the presidential palace.

A combat helicopter later fired on a building where militants are believed to have taken up position.

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Mr Ghani’s call for an Eid ceasefire was rejected by Taliban militants.

As troops secured the area targeted, it was still not clear who had fired the mortars or if there were casualties.

Militants from both the Taliban and so-called Islamic State have carried out attacks in Afghanistan this month that left hundreds of people dead.

Where were the mortars launched from?

A Kabul police chief told the BBC that three attackers armed with a heavy machine gun and a mortar had broken into a building behind Kabul’s Id Gah Mosque.

According to the police chief, the attackers first used the mortar against the presidential palace.

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A number of explosions were heard in the background as President Ghani was delivering his Eid message.

Security forces are fighting the militants in the building, which was rocketed by the helicopter.

Security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from [Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press]
Security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from [Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press]

BBC News

https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-45256161?intlink_from_url=https://www.bbc.com/news/topics/c8nq32jw5r5t/afghanistan&link_location=live-reporting-story

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Taliban walk as they celebrate ceasefire in Ghanikhel district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan June 16, 2018

Afghanistan: Rockets hit Kabul diplomatic area

August 21, 2018

Multiple rockets hit near capital’s diplomatic area, police say, as security forces and fighters clash in old quarter.

Security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from [Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press]
Security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from [Rahmat Gul/The Associated Press]

At least nine rockets hit near the diplomatic area of the Afghan capital, Kabul, where President Ashraf Ghani was delivering a speech to mark the beginning of the Eid al-Adha holiday.

Afghan officials on Tuesday said fighting broke out between security forces and armed groups in the city’s old quarter, in which at least two people were wounded.

The first rocket landed near the presidential palace where Ghani interrupted his speech after hearing a loud thud to say: “If they are thinking the rocket attack will keep the Afghans down, they are wrong.”

The second hit near the site of a NATO compound and the US Embassy, according to police official Jan Agha.

Military helicopters fired at fighters holed up near the Eidgah Mosque in the capital’s Reka Khana district, where smoke was rising as clashes were under way, according to AFP news agency.

There was no immediate claim of responsibility for the attack, while Afghan police officials said the Taliban was behind the clashes.

“This morning a group of terrorists took over a building in Reka Khana and fired several rockets towards Kabul,” Najib Danish a spokesman for the interior ministry told AFP.

Afghan security forces bombed a house where they believe the rockets were fired from, destroying the building.

The attack comes as the Taliban rejected a conditional ceasefire offer from the Afghan government on Monday, saying they would persist with their attacks.

Earlier on Monday, Taliban fighters ambushed three buses carrying nearly 200 passengers travelling for Eid in the northern Kunduz region.

Reuters news agency reported that 160 of them were later released, while at least 20 remain captive.

“More than 160 civilians have reached home safely but at least 20 soldiers and policemen have been taken to an undisclosed location by the Taliban,” Ghulam Rabani Rabani, a provincial council member in Kunduz, told Reuters.

Wave of attacks

Two Taliban commanders said their supreme leader rejected Ghani’s Sunday offer of a three-month ceasefire, beginning with this week’s Eid, Reuters reported.

In June, the Taliban observed a government ceasefireover the three-day Eid al-Fitr festival, leading to unprecedented scenes of government soldiers and Taliban fighters embracing on front lines, and raising hopes for talks.

READ MORE

‘We won’t survive’: Residents speak of ongoing battle in Ghazni

But one of the Taliban commanders said the June ceasefire had helped US forces, who the Taliban are trying to drive out of the country.

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhunzadarejected the new offer on the grounds that it too would only help the American-led mission.

The Taliban have launched a wave of attacks in recent weeks, including storming the city of Ghazni, where more than 100 people have been killed in the fighting.

Can the Afghan army defeat the Taliban?
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SOURCE: NEWS AGENCIES

Multiple rockets hit Afghan capital Kabul, clashes underway

August 21, 2018

Multiple rockets hit near the diplomatic area in the Afghan capital Kabul early Tuesday, as officials said fighting had broken out between security forces and militants in the city’s old quarter.

It was not immediately clear who was responsible for the attack, which came just days after Afghan President Ashraf Ghani offered the Taliban a three-month ceasefire.

Military helicopters were firing above the Eidgah Mosque in Reka Khana district, where smoke was rising as police and the interior ministry said clashes were underway, amid a heavy security presence near the Kabul Stadium.

© AFP | Map locating attacks on Kabul on August 21

“This morning a group of terrorists took over a building in Reka Khana and fired several rockets towards Kabul,” interior ministry spokesman Najib Danish told AFP.

“Two people have been wounded. Security forces are fighting the terrorists.”

Kabul police spokesman Hashmat Stanikzai confirmed that fighting was underway near the mosque, and said he could not confirm casualties yet.

“Police have cordoned off the area,” he said.

Ghani unveiled the government’s latest ceasefire gambit during an Independence Day address late Sunday, saying security forces would observe the truce beginning this week — but only if the militants reciprocated.

The truce offer was welcomed by the United States and NATO after nearly 17 years of war, but the Taliban have yet to respond.

The move followed an extraordinarily violent week in Afghanistan that saw that Taliban storm the provincial capital of Ghazni — just a two-hour drive from Kabul — and press the fight against security forces across the country, with estimates suggesting hundreds of people may have been killed.

AFP