Tolo News – Six Civilians killed in Helmand roadside mine blast

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

Washir district – Helmand – Afghanistan, 29 June 2020. At least six civilians, including women and children, were killed in a roadside mine blast in southern Helmand province on Sunday afternoon, local officials said on Monday.

The incident took place in Washir district after a civilian vehicle struck a roadside mine, said Mohammad Zaman Hamdard, a spokesman for provincial police chief.

“Two other civilians were wounded in the blast and the victims have been taken to a nearby hospital,” he said.

No group, including the Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the blast.

New Report: India’s BJP Scrutinized Over Afghan Sikh Massacre

Kite Fights is likely to raise many eyebrows in New Delhi

Pieter Friedrich – 28 June 2020. There’s more than meets the eye at first glance when one scrutinizes the motive for the massacre of 25 Sikhs at a Kabul, Afghanistan Gurdwara in March 2020, and considers the geo-political realities of neighboring countries with vested ideological and territorial interests in the so-called “graveyard of empires.”

“Kite Fights is likely to raise many eyebrows in New Delhi,” writes Canadian Sikh journalist Gurpreet Singh about the new report co-authored by myself and Bhajan Singh, a humanitarian and businessman known as an activist for minority rights.

“Those who are really concerned with what is happening in South Asia need to take out time to read Kite Fights thoroughly and with an open mind.

One may agree or disagree with interpretation of certain facts, but their authenticity cannot be challenged.”

The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) not only claimed credit for the massacre of Afghan Sikhs but also insisted it was an act of revenge for India’s actions in Kashmir.

Such actions, over the past year, have included scrapping Kashmir’s constitutionally-guaranteed semi-autonomy, stripping it of statehood, mass-arresting the entire civil society, imposing an ongoing lock-down, and deploying tens of thousands of new troops to join the hundreds of thousands already occupying the region.

Terrorism is typically in pursuit of a political goal. The struggle over Kashmir, and who will control it, has certainly provoked much terrorism over the decades.

Yet how did any of the parties involved in the dispute over Kashmir benefit from the slaughter of Sikhs in Afghanistan?

Indian establishment commentators are now declaring the attack was part of a nefarious Pakistani strategy to thwart Indian interests in Afghanistan, a region which is increasingly viewed as a second front and a new battleground in India’s war to thwart Pakistan.

Shishir Gupta, executive editor of the The Hindustan Times, insists the killings were “ordered” by the Taliban “at the behest of Pakistani deep state with the larger motive of driving out India from Afghanistan.”

Gupta claims, “The play is much deeper with Pakistan setting sights on forcing India out of Afghanistan post withdrawal of the US forces from Afghanistan.”

Yet researchers indicate that ISIS is at war with both the Taliban and Pakistan.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, long accused, sometimes correctly, of sponsoring cross-border terrorism against Indian interests, has, in recent years, openly acknowledged that, regretted and denounced it, and pledged a complete reversal of course.

Elements affiliated with India’s ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), on the other hand, are known for not only sponsoring pogroms of minorities but also staging terrorist attacks used to frame Muslims.

“The report points out that the incident came as the right-wing Hindu nationalist BJP government in India was facing international criticism for mistreating religious minorities, particularly Muslims,” writes Gurpreet Singh.

“In all probabilities, the attack was like a god-sent opportunity for the Indian establishment for reasons well explained by Friedrich and Singh.”

War is the health of the state. “Relations between the two countries have never been stable,” says Gurpreet Singh about India and Pakistan. Are there incentives to prevent peace?

Hostile relations with Pakistan, fueled by raging Islamophobia, has always been not so much a policy position as a raison d’être for the BJP.

“Our fight for independence can be deemed to have come to a successful close only when we liberate all those areas now under enemy occupation,” said M S Golwalkar.

The chief of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the fascist paramilitary that birthed the BJP, Golwalkar called for “the hoisting of our flag in Lahore and other parts of Pakistan.”

Golwalkar’s ideological forerunner, V D Savarkar, laid the mosaic floor in the RSS/BJP’s temple of hate.

In 1938, calling Muslims “dangerous to our Hindu nation” and saying they should be watched “with the greatest distrust possible,” he threatened, “If we Hindus in India grow stronger, in time these Muslims, will have to play the part of German Jews.”

Meanwhile, Nazi Germany staged Kristallnacht, the first pogrom against German Jews, thus laying the foundations for the Holocaust.

Savarkar, who articulated “Hindutva” as a religious nationalist political ideology, insisted that the entire Indian subcontinent was “not only a fatherland but a holy land” for Hindus.

“The only geographical limits of Hindutva are the limits of our earth,” he declared.

Golwalkar also presented an “expansive image of our motherland” that stretched from Iran to Singapore and as far south as Sri Lanka, and absolutely included Afghanistan.

Lal Har Dayal, another foundational Hindu nationalist ideologue, insisted that “the future of the Hindu race” required the conquest and conversion of “Afghanistan and the Frontiers.”

He wrote: “Afghanistan and the hilly regions of the frontier were formerly part of India, but are at present under the domination of Islam.

Just as there is Hindu religion in Nepal, so there must be Hindu institutions in Afghanistan and the frontier territory; otherwise it is useless to win Swaraj.

If Hindus want to protect themselves, they must conquer Afghanistan and the frontiers and convert all the mountain tribes.”

For decades, The Republic of India has had a deep footprint in Afghanistan. Today, India views Afghanistan as a “second front” and an “emerging new battleground” in its rivalry with Pakistan.

That foreign policy outlook takes on far more sinister dimensions when New Delhi is dominated by the expansionist and supremacist RSS/BJP.

Meanwhile, the stated motive for the Kabul massacre bursts into flames when exposed to the light of day.

Why would Sikhs be targeted in revenge for India’s acts in Kashmir when they have grown famous for their self-sacrifice for the Kashmiris? As Gurpreet Singh writes:

“Notably, when 40 Indian paramilitary soldiers had died during a suicide attack blamed on Kashmiri insurgents seeking freedom from India in February 2019, BJP goons started targeting innocent Kashmiri Muslims all over India.

This polarization helped the BJP government win its second term, riding on a Hindu nationalist campaign.

“As if this were not enough, the BJP government passed a highly discriminatory Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) that only allows non-Muslim refugees to enter the country from Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Bangladesh.

“Sikhs have stood up for Muslims both in the wake of the February 2019 suicide attack and against the CAA.

They helped Kashmiri Muslims stranded in other parts of India to safely reach their homes and were in the forefront of the protests against CAA.

“The Sikh diaspora also came out to show its solidarity with Kashmiri Muslims during demonstrations held in the USA and Canada.

This has not gone down well with the BJP, which has an agenda to assimilate Sikhs into the Hindu fold.

“It is therefore logical to ask that why would Islamic extremists be targeting Sikhs in Afghanistan?”

So why then were those 25 Sikhs slaughtered in Kabul? There is no satisfactory answer to that question.

The only response is that the incident must be probed by a patient, full, and transparent investigation that treats official accounts with the greatest of skepticism and questions, with the utmost suspicion, those who stand to benefit the most.

Official narratives, ideologies, and authorities must all pass interrogation to be deemed trustworthy and true.

Pieter Friedrich is a South Asian Affairs Analyst who resides in California. He is the co-author of Captivating the Simple-Hearted: A Struggle for Human Dignity in the Indian Subcontinent.

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Hindustan Times – 20 US senators seek emergency refugee protection for Afghan Sikhs, Hindus

Senators called on the state department to prioritise resettlement opportunities under the US Refugee Admissions Programme allocation ceilings for Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities.

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 27 June 2020. As many as 20 US senators have urged the Trump administration to grant emergency refugee protection to Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan facing persecution as religious minorities.

In a bipartisan letter addressed to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, the senators called on the state department to prioritise resettlement opportunities under the US Refugee Admissions Programme allocation ceilings for Afghan Sikh and Hindu communities.

The population of Hindus and Sikhs in Afghanistan has plummeted markedly due to years of persecution by the Taliban and more recent terrorist actions perpetrated by ISIS Khorasan (ISIS-K), they said.

“This administration has repeatedly highlighted protecting religious freedom as a top foreign policy priority,” the senators wrote.

‘Existential threat to Hindus and Sikhs’

“Sikh and Hindu communities in Afghanistan face an existential threat from ISIS-K because of their religion. To protect religious freedom, we urgently ask that you take these essential steps to defend these threatened religious minorities,” they said in the letter.

The letter also calls on Pompeo to offer additional support to members of the Sikh and Hindu communities that choose to remain in Afghanistan, and to ensure that Afghan religious minorities benefit from the USD 20.6 million in American aid already provided to address Covid-19.

“Ensuring that religious minorities receive US Covid-19 assistance should be a priority in all countries where protection of religious minorities is a challenge,” the senators added.

The letter was written by senator Robert Menendez, ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer, and senators Thom Tillis, Dick Durbin, Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Kirsten Gillibrand, Tim Kaine, Kamala Harris, Bob Casey, Chris Van Hollen, Bernie Sanders, Patty Murray, Chris Coons, Ed Markey, Tammy Duckworth, Jack Reed, Mark Warner, Ben Cardin, and James Lankford.

“ISIS-K targets religious minorities in Afghanistan and poses an existential threat to Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities in particular,” the letter said.

The Sikh and Hindu communities once numbered around 2,50,000 people but now have fewer than 1,000 individuals due to decades of persecution, they added.

The communities continue to face discrimination in access to housing and employment, and the Taliban has previously mandated that Sikhs and Hindus wear yellow armbands or patches as a marker of their religious status, the senators wrote.

In recent years, a new threat to Afghanistan’s Sikh and Hindu communities has emerged: terrorist attacks from ISIS-Khorasan.

In March, ISIS-Khorasan launched an attack on a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul that killed 25 worshippers, and later carried out an explosion during a funeral service for those victims.

“As ISIS-Khorasan continues to attack civilians and international troops draw down in Afghanistan, Sikhs and Hindus are likely to face more violence,” they wrote.

I of course completely agree with the above, but I am disappointed that the Shia Hazaras are again left out. They have been and still are, just like Hindus and Sikhs, repeatedly targeted by ISIS-Khorasan . They are both a visible ethnic minority and Shias which puts them in the same despised category as Hindus and Sikhs.

The Hindu – Taliban says it will punish kidnappers of Afghan Sikh, denies role in abduction

Kallol Bhattacherjee

New Delhi – India, 25 June 2020. Nedan Singh was kidnapped in Chamkani district of Paktia province in Afghanistan on June 22 in the second such incident in recent months

The Taliban was not involved in the kidnapping of a leader of the Sikh community who was abducted by unknown persons in Paktia province of Afghanistan and his abductors would face justice from the group, the Afghan Taliban said on Thursday.

The statement from the outfit came three days after Nedan Singh was kidnapped in Chamkani district of Paktia in the second such incident in recent months.

“As a policy, we don’t kidnap any one, nor have we kidnapped this gentleman. Our goal is clear, that is putting an end to the [foreign] occupation. No question, if we find his kidnappers, we will send them to our courts to punish them as per the law,” Suhail Shaheen, spokesman of the political office of the Taliban, said in a message to The Hindu.

The statement is aimed at putting to rest speculations about the group’s involvement in the incident. The relatives of Mr Singh had received phone calls from Afghanistan and the callers claimed that they were part of the Taliban.

But Mr Shaheen said the kidnappers were not part of the group and had committed a crime.

The spokesman had earlier said the Taliban remained “committed to minority rights” and blamed the Islamic State fighters for the 25 March attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul which left at least 25 persons dead.

Mr Singh went missing on 22 June from Chamkani, Paktia, where he was a regular visitor as the caretaker of the Sri Guru Nanak Sahib Gurdwara which is considered special because of historic and religious reasons.

It is believed that the founder of Sikhism, Guru Nanak, had visited the region during his tour of Afghanistan in the 15th century.

India had described the incident as a “matter of grave concern”, saying Delhi was in contact with the government of Afghanistan to ensure “safety, security and well-being of the minority community in Afghanistan.

We believe the government of Afghanistan would be able to secure safe and early release of Mr. Nedan Singh”.

Afghan Voice Agency – Afghan Sikh Abducted in Paktia

Tsamkani district – Paktia – Afghanistan, A Sikh man, identified as Nidhan Singh – was abducted from Paktia’s Tsamkani district four days ago, confirmed the Afghan Sikh community living in the USA

Nidhan Singh worked as a helper at the local gurdwara.

The Afghan Sikhs living in the USA once again appealed to the Indian government to help in the resettlement of over 600 Sikhs living in Afghanistan and provide a safe haven.

Narinder Singh, a Sikh member of the Afghan parliament, has assured the community that he will help to find the abducted man. He has also reached out to the Taliban leaders.

Leaders of the Afghan Sikh community have also reached out to the Indian government asking to be evacuated in the Vande Bharat Mission repatriation flights. – Gurdwara’s sewadar abducted in Afghanistan

Sikh24 Editors

Chandigarh – Panjab – India, 22 June 2020. An Afghan Sikh named Nidhan Singh Sachdeva was reportedly abducted from Paktia province in eastern Afghanistan four days ago and his whereabouts are still unknown.

He was serving as a helper in a local Gurdwara Sahib of Tsamkani district in the Paktia province.

Paramjit Singh Bedi, who heads the Afghan Sikh community, has confirmed the abduction of Nidhan Singh.

“I have talked to the Taliban leaders and they have assured me to make efforts to ensure the safe return of Nidhan Singh,” he told the media in New Jersey.

Meanwhile, SGPC president Gobind Singh Longowal strongly condemned the abduction of Nidhan Singh while dubbing this abduction as a big attack on the Sikh community.

“The Indian government should take up this issue with the Afghanistan government to ensure the safety of Sikhs,” he said while adding that the Afghan Sikh families aspirant of returning back to India should be immediately rescued.

“Sikhs have been living a fearful life in Afghanistan for the last few years. They have been attacked many times by the radical groups.

This time, a Gursewak working in Afghanistan Gurdwara Sahib, Nidhan Singh was abducted from Paktia province in Eastern Afghanistan 4 days ago and no action has been taken to rescue him.

In the wake of increasing atrocities on Minorities in Afghanistan, we urge Harsimrat Kaur Badal Ji to take up this issue with Dr S Jaishankar Ji,” Manjinder Singh Sirsa wrote from his Facebook wall.

Kyle Orton’s Blog – Islamic State Celebrates the Murderer of Sikhs in Afghanistan

Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton)

UK, 20 June 2020. The Islamic State (IS) released the 239th edition of its newsletter, Al-Naba, on 18 June. Pages 9 and 10 of this twelve-page document were given over to a profile of Abu Khaled al-Hindi, the jihadist elsewhere named as Mohammad Sajid Kuthirummal who massacred twenty-five worshippers at a Sikh gurdwara in Kabul three months ago, on 25 March 2020, during an hours-long siege.

The details of Abu Khaled’s life, finding IS after being repelled by “nationalist” jihadist groups, fighting while injured, his obedience to IS’s leaders, and thirst for “martyrdom”, are relatively standard hagiography from IS.

What is really worth noting is that such an extensive focus on him, and through him on Afghanistan, underlines the importance IS has placed on its Afghan branch, Wilayat Khorasan.

Born in Kerala in southern India, Al-Naba says that Abu Khaled saw with his own eyes the hatred of “the polytheists” (al-mushrikeen), the Hindus and Sikhs, towards Muslims, and their “aggression” against Muslims in India and Kashmir.

Such sectarian persecution narratives are common within the IS cannon. Devoutly religious, Abu Khaled had been unable to find a jihadist group he agreed with, Al-Naba claims.

Abu Khaled had been to Malaysia and Dubai, learning the Malay and English languages, alongside the Hindi and Malayalam he had learned at home.

Abu Khaled then moved to Saudi Arabia, where he did the pilgrimage and studied the Qur’an in Mecca, while working in commerce and obviously attending mosque regularly.

“Initially, he joined a ‘local group’ (jamaat mahalaya) in his hometown, which claimed to be seeking to uphold the rights of Muslims in India, where he obtained some physical and military training, and participated with them in some attacks against the infidels”, Al-Naba says.

“But he soon left when he found they were far away from monotheism (tawhid) and the Sunna,” and were instead slaves to nationalism.

“When God almighty enabled the mujahideen of the Islamic State on the ground, and the Islamic caliphate was restored [in June 2014], [Abu Khaled] declared his support for it and invited other people to join and fight in its cause.”

Abu Khaled’s open advocacy for IS and its caliphate project caused him serious trouble with those around him. His family tried to stop him going down this path.

Rather than listening to his relatives, however, Abu Khaled tried to convert them to IS’s version of Islam, to remove from them the suspicions of IS instilled by “the people of aberration and error/delusion” (ahl al-zaygh wal-dalal), as Al-Naba has it.

Thwarted in trying to get to Syria or Iraq, Abu Khaled went to Afghanistan and joined Wilayat Khorasan.

At the time, fighting was raging in a number of areas between IS-Khorasan (ISK) and its opponents: in Wazir in the Nangarhar province, in the Ismail Khel area of Khost province, and in Tora Bora, says Al-Naba.

Immediately after arriving at the training camps, Abu Khaled requested to go to the “hot fronts” (al-jabhat al-sakhanat), and he was soon granted this right.

Abu Khaled joined Katibat al-Fatah (The Battalion of Conquest) and went to the frontlines, where he was injured by a mortar shell that threw a piece of shrapnel into him in the village of Zawa.

By Al-Naba’s account, Abu Khaled insisted on staying on the battlefield, despite severe injury, and demanded the brothers allow him to continue fighting until he was dead.

This they did not do. During his recovery, Al-Naba says Abu Khaled continued to serve the jihadists, but his emir had to station somebody in his house to prevent him leaving and fighting while injured.

Abu Khaled was injured a second time in a clash with the Taliban and helped lead an ISK detachment in breaking out of a siege by their enemies at another point, according to Al-Naba.

Abu Khaled al-Hindi, Al-Naba 239

Al-Naba is insistent on Abu Khaled’s religious devotion, his continuation of religious practices even under bombing and disorder, and his desire to learn more about the faith.

Abu Khaled was apparently particularly inspired by Abu al-Dahdah, the companion of the Prophet Muhammad, not Imad Yarkas, one of the old Syrian Muslim Brotherhood hands who fled to Spain after Hama, where he joined Al-Qaeda and conspired in the 9/11 massacre.

Al-Naba stresses that Abu Khaled obeyed his emir, and encouraged others to do the same.

“Abu Khaled, was keen to obtain martyrdom”, says Al-Naba, and “registered his name early on the lists” kept by the IS emirs of those who wanted to be suicide bombers.

Al-Naba claims that Abu Khaled travelled long distances several times, sometimes for days on foot, when the chance for a “martyrdom operation” came up, but it was not to be until “Abu Khaled was chosen to execute an inghimasi attack on the Hindu [sic] temple” by ISK’s leadership.

By Al-Naba’s account, Abu Khaled plunged into the middle of the Sikh worshippers, killing dozens of them, then clashed with Afghan security forces as they reacted to the attack, before blowing himself up, ultimately “killing and wounding about sixty” people.

Tolo News – MSF Ends Activities and Withdraws from Dasht-e-Barchi, Kabul

MSF continues to run medical programs in the Afghan provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz.

Faridullah Hussainkhail

Kabul – Afghanstan, 15 June 2020. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) on Monday in a press release officially announced that they were ending their activities in the Dasht-e-Barchi neighborhood in western Kabul where they had run a maternity ward providing care to pregnant mothers and their infants.

In 2019 the program saw the delivery of over 16,000 babies, and it was one of MSF’s largest international programs, according to the statement.

MSF said that the decision was made after the attack on the maternity ward on May 12 in which 24 were killed and 16 others were wounded.

“Following the attack on the maternity wing of Dasht-e-Barchi hospital in mid-May, MSF announces their withdrawal and ended activities at the hospital,” read the statement.

According to MSF, while no information has emerged about the perpetrators or motive of the assault, the mothers, babies and health staff were the deliberate targets of the attack, and so the organization has determined that similar attacks could occur in the future.

“While we are looking at ways to provide support, the attack and our withdrawal leaves women in the area without comprehensive maternity care services,” MSF said in the statement.

MSF said that during the attack 16 mothers were “systematically shot dead” as well as an MSF midwife, two children aged 7 and 8, and six other people present.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack and the Taliban denied involvement.

Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF’s director general, said that the organization never expected such an attack against women about to give birth.

“We were aware that our presence in Dasht-e-Barchi carried risks, but we just couldn’t believe that someone would take advantage of the absolute vulnerability of women about to give birth to murder them and their babies,” says Thierry Allafort-Duverger, MSF director general. “But it did happen.”

MSF said that the decision has been shared with their staff, the national health authorities and other partners.

Despite the decision to stop activities in the hospital in the west of Kabul but yet MSF said we are looking into ways to support local initiatives aimed at improving access to healthcare.

“By pushing us to close our activity in the hospital, the assailants have also left women and babies without access to essential medical care, in a country where maternal and neo-natal mortality remain high,” read the MSF statement.

MSF said their program had been operating in Dasht-e-Barchi in collaboration with the Ministry of Public Health since November 2014, providing free-of-charge maternity and neonatal care in one of the most densely populated areas of Kabul.

According to the MSF, over the past 16 years 70 MSF staff and patients in MSF healthcare programs have been killed in Afghanistan.

MSF continues to run medical programs in the Afghan provinces of Helmand, Herat, Kandahar, Khost and Kunduz, with activities covering a broad range of health issues. MSF first started working in the country in 1980.

Tolo News – Death of Afghans in Iran sparks widespread reaction

Afghan activists said the incident requires a thorough investigation and should not be ignored.

By Tamim Hamid

Kabul – Afghanistan, 07 June 2020. Public outcry in Afghanistan is growing over an incident in Iran in which three Afghan nationals were burned to death after their vehicle crashed into a guardrail in Yazd province after being reportedly shot at by Iranian police.

Five other passengers were wounded, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs confirmed.

Afghan activists started a hashtag “bring me some water I am dying,” and called on Afghan and Iranian officials to address the issue.

Other activists criticized a photo shared by Afghan Ambassador Ghafoor Lewal’s office showing him chatting with one of the wounded Afghans who was handcuffed to a bed in an Iranian hospital.

The activists called for justice, saying that illegal migrants should not be treated this way.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs has yet to complete its investigation into the incident but vowed that the issue will be handled thoroughly.

The ministry confirmed that the vehicle was shot at by Iranian police, citing Iranian officials.

Speaking during the Mehwar show on TOLOnews, Ghafoor Lewal, Afghanistan’s ambassador to Tehran, confirmed that the vehicle was fired at by Iranian police.

“The (Iranian) officials admitted that it (the vehicle) was fired at,” the envoy said.

On the same day, Saturday, some Iranian media outlets aired an interview by the Afghan ambassador in which he called for deepening the ties between Kabul and Tehran.

“The cause of the incident are the driver and the human traffickers. Legislative organizations are aware that the driver should be arrested and punished,” Lewal told Iranian media.

Meanwhile, a group of Helmand civil society activists in a protest on Sunday burned an Iranian flag and called for a thorough investigation into the incident.

“Last time, 50 people were martyred and were drowned in the river. Now, they have torched the Afghans’ vehicle,” said Abdulhaq Zwakman, a civil society activist in Helmand, referring to an incident at the beginning of May when Afghan migrants crossing into Iran were allegedly detained, tortured and thrown into a river by Iranian police, causing many to drown.

“A teenager (from Afghanistan) was saying ‘I am burning, give me water’ and he was not given water,” said Abdulwali Patial, a civil society activist in Helmand.

Former president Hamid Karzai in a statement called for an investigation into the incident by Tehran and said its result should be shared with Kabul. Afghan MP Atiq Ramin, who heads the foreign affairs committee of the parliament, said the incident needs proper investigation.

“The drowning of 57 Afghans and the shooting at the vehicle of our dear countrymen who were martyred in Yazd city in Iran should not be ignored,” he said.

“We call on the Afghan government to summon its ambassador because such ‘incapable’ people cannot represent Afghans in other countries,” said Hekmatullah Shahbaz, a university professor.

Tolo News – Taliban Continues to Back Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan: UN

The UN report says, “the Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the US.”

A UN report released on Friday states that the Taliban has failed to fulfill one of the core parts of the US-Taliban agreement, namely that it would break ties with al-Qaeda.

The agreement was signed in February in Doha, Qatar, after months of negotiations.

Al-Qaeda has 400 to 600 operatives active in 12 Afghan provinces and is running training camps in the east of the country, according to the report.

“The Taliban regularly consulted with Al-Qaeda during negotiations with the United States and offered guarantees that it would honor their historical ties,” the report states.

Al-Qaeda has “reacted positively” to the agreement, with statements from its adherents “celebrating it as a victory for the Taliban’s cause and thus for global militancy,” the UN report said.

The US-Taliban agreement stated that the Taliban “will not allow any of its members, other individuals or groups, including al-Qaida, to use the soil of Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States and its allies,” and would not “cooperate with groups or individuals threatening the security of the United States and its allies” and would prevent such groups “from recruiting, training, and fundraising.”

The senior leadership of al-Qaeda remains present in Afghanistan, the report says, as well as hundreds of armed operatives, al-Qaida in the Indian Subcontinent, and groups of foreign terrorist fighters aligned with the Taliban.

A number of significant al-Qaeda figures were killed in Afghanistan during the reporting period, the report says.

Relations between the Taliban, especially the Haqqani network and al-Qaeda “remain close, based on friendship, a history of shared struggle, ideological sympathy and intermarriage,” said the report.

The report also highlights Daesh’s subversive activities in the country, saying that the UN monitoring team now estimates that Daesh numbers are as low as 2,200 in Afghanistan.

The report says that Daesh “remains capable of mounting attacks in various parts of the country, including Kabul,” but some of those attacks claimed “may have arisen wholly or partly from a tactical accommodation with the Haqqani network.”

The authors of the report argue that the Taliban’s credibility as a counter-terrorism partner for the international community will “rest on their success in countering the threat from Daesh’s Khorasan branch,” in addition to their handling of any threat posed by al-Qaeda, the report says.

According to the report, the number of foreign terrorist fighters “in search of a purpose and livelihood” in Afghanistan, including “up to 6,500 Pakistanis,” will “render this a complex challenge,” which will require careful monitoring.

The report come as the Afghan government has expedited its efforts for peace by continuing to release Taliban prisoners from its prisons to move forward towards the intra-Afghan negotiations that Abdullah Abdullah, the head of the High Council for National Reconciliation, said he hopes will begin in the next week.