US rules out direct negotiations with the Taliban group

Ambassador Alice Wells, the senior bureau official for South and Central Asian Affairs, has said the United States government is prepared to support, facilitate, and participate in direct negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

In an official testimony before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, Ambassador Wells said “Our desired outcomes for any peace process are clear and have not changed. The Taliban must renounce violence, break ties with al-Qaida, and accept the Afghan Constitution – including its protections for women and minorities.”

“There have been signs that the Taliban’s Pakistan-based leaders are debating the merits of joining a peace process; however, the group has not responded to President Ghani’s offer of unconditional talks,” she added.

This comes as the Taliban group leadership has been emphasizing on direct talks with the US officials in a bid to end the ongoing conflict in Afghanistan.

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SIGAR finds only 15% of Qaysar-Laman road complete after 12 years

The Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said in a new report released on Thursday that after more than 12 years and over $249 million spent, only 15 percent of the Qasyar to Laman road, between Faryab and Badghis, has been completed. 

The report said that from July 2005 through to September 2017, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) approved four grants totaling $571 million to complete the section of the Ring Road from Qeysar in northern Faryab province to Laman in western Badghis province.

“Most of those funds were for financing contracts between the Afghan Ministry of Public Works (MoPW) and construction, engineering, and security providers to complete the 233-kilometer road segment,” according to the report.

However, the project has been plagued by security challenges, poor contractor performance, and a lack of capacity within the MoPW to manage large construction contracts.

“Those issues led to repeated failed efforts and to the termination of two contracts for the construction of the road. As of September 2017, construction had been stalled for two and a half years,” it said, adding that “by that time, ADB and MoPW had spent $249 million on the project only 15 percent of the construction was actually completed.”

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Climate change will take a serious toll on Afghanistan by 2050

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Wednesday warned that climate change will take a serious toll on Afghanistan by 2050.

Speaking at an international water management summit in Tajikistan he promised that his country will remain a good partner in terms of water management.

“Afghanistan will experience an increase of approximately 1.5 degrees Celsius in mean temperature and a doubling of population by 2050,” Abdullah said in his address to delegates.

Participants at the Sustainable Development conference said political, religious, linguistic and ethnic divisions need to be put aside in order for the world to maintain and manage its water resources properly.

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Ghani pledges to ‘conditionally’ extend ceasefire with Taliban by one year

President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday welcomed the Helmand peace convoy in Kabul who have arrived in the capital Kabul after crossing some 700kilometters on foot, calling an end to the nearly 17-year-old war in the country.

In the meeting with the president which was held outside the Presidential Palace, the peace activists run through a list of demands including the extension of ceasefire between the government and the Taliban, a venue for peace talks and a “joint system” that could preserve the interests of all citizens.

Head of the convoy Iqbal Khyber said that once peace and stability have been maintained in the country, foreign troops must withdraw from Afghanistan and that thereafter, the international community should support the country.

The activists also said that they will continue their move until their demands were addressed.

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IEC starts review of election nominations

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) on Tuesday started the massive task of assessing documents of nominated candidates for parliamentary and district council elections after the registration process wrapped up this week.

According to the commission, 2,580 individuals have been nominated for parliamentary elections and 4,650 people for district council elections.

The IEC said 6,625,952 people have registered to vote across the country.

Deputy head of finance and administration of the IEC Maazullah Dawlati said over 400 candidates for parliamentary elections are women, 15 are Kochis and one is a Sikh.

“The documents of the nominated candidates from Kabul will be assessed first and other provinces from the central zone are next,” he said.

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During three-day ceasefire 2,500 Taliban members entered Kabul

The Ministry of Defense says during the three-day ceasefire as many as 2,500 Taliban members have entered capital Kabul, insisting that around half of them have stayed in the city.

The Taliban fighters headed into cities across  the country over the weekend as they celebrated their Eid with feasts, hugs and selfies.

The Defense Ministry said that about half of the Taliban members who have entered the cities have not gone back.

“We have received reports that half of them [the Taliban members] have stayed, they said they are tired of war and want to join peace process,” said Mohammad Radmanish, Deputy Spokesman of the Defense Ministry.

In addition, the Interior Ministry Spokesman Najib Danish said that they were watchful of the activities of armed oppositions in the cities.

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58 people arrested on charges of forgery in voter registration process

At least 58 people have been arrested on charges of forgery in voter registration process for the upcoming parliamentary and district councils elections.

A spokesman for the Attorney General’s Office Jamshid Rasuli told reporters that investigations are underway regarding the 24 cases of alleged forgery in the voters registration process.

Rasuli further added that 58 people have been arrested on forgery charges including using fake national identity cards/Tazkiras and  sale of national identity cards.

According to Jamshedi, an employee of the independent election commission has also been arrested in connection to the alleged forgery.

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Government releases over 190 Hezb-e-Islami prisoners

The Afghan government on Thursday released more than 190 Hizb-e-Islami Afghanistan (HIA) members that had been imprisoned in Pul-e-Charkhi and Bagram prisons, officials confirmed.

The prisoners were released in accordance with the peace agreement between the government and Hizb-e-Islami last year.

Col. Shah Mir Ahmad Por, prison communication in-charge, said the inmates were released, following the presidential order, adding that cases of other HIA prisoners will be also reviewed in next few days.

Meanwhile, Nasrullah Safari, head of the joint commission on government-HIA peace agreement said that freed inmates had been imprisoned for their involvement in internal and external security issues.

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Taliban, civilians, security personnel suffer heavy casualties in Nangarhar blast

A deadly blast ripped through a gathering in eastern Nangarhar province as dozens of Taliban group members, civilians, and security personnel were celebrating Eid Al-Fitr and the historic ceasefire.

The incident took place at around 5:30 pm local time in the vicinity of Rodat district.

Provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani confirmed the incident and said at least twenty people including Taliban members, civilians, and security personnel were killed in the blast.

He said several others have also sustained injuries during the incident but did not elaborate further regarding the exact number.

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Ghani extends duration of ceasefire with the Taliban group

President Mohammad Ashraf Ghani on Saturday announced the extension of the period of ceasefire with the Taliban group until an unspecified time.

In his televised speech to the nation, President Ghani said the decision has been taken in consideration with the available consensus on government level as well as the Taliban ranks and on international community level.

He said Afghans want peace and pointed towards the Eid prayers offered jointly by the Taliban and government personnel as a good example of the available consensus for peace.

President Ghani further added that the environment was completely changed during Eid prayers in the mosques across the country, including Logar, Kandahar, Faryab, Kunduz, Zabul, Maidan Shahr, Nangarhar, and Laghman, with the Ulemas focusing and emphasizing on the value, importance, and the need of peace from the perspective of Islam.

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