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Taliban reject direct talks with Afghan government

The Taliban said on Sunday they will not hold direct talks with Afghan government and rejected a statement from a senior minister about plans to hold the meeting within the next two weeks, a senior Taliban official said. “Intra-Afghan talks will start only after a foreign force withdrawal is announced,” said Suhail Shaheen, a spokesman for the Taliban’s political office ... Read More »

Taliban to visit Pakistan on formal invitation

The Afghan Taliban on Thursday said that they were willing to visit Pakistan and meet Prime Minister Imran Khan if they are extended a formal invitation. The Taliban’s announcement comes in response to PM Imran Khan’s statement during his recent visit to Washington, where he said that he would meet the Taliban and convince them for a meeting with Afghan ... Read More »

Bowe Bergdahl pleads guilty in desertion case

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in Afghanistan. He is accused of endangering fellow soldiers who searched for him after he walked off his post. US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl , 31, who spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan after being taken by the Islamist Taliban, on Monday admitted leaving his post in Afghanistan's Paktika province in June 2009, but said he never wanted to put anyone at risk. "I was captured by the enemy against my will," he told the court in Fort Bragg in the US state of North Carolina. "At the time I had no intention of causing search and recovery operations. ... It's very inexcusable." He said he got lost 20 minutes after leaving the combat outpost, and was captured by the Taliban two or three hours later. In a podcast in 2015, he had said that he left his post to draw attention to "leadership failure" in his unit. He has, however, also previously rejected any notion that he sympathized with his captors, and said he was kept in a small cage for most of the time he was in captivity. Life sentence possible After Bergdahl entered his guilty pleas to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy, which the judge accepted, the prosecutor, Major Justin Oshana, told the judge that there was no pretrial agreement between the two sides. The charge of misbehavior before the enemy carries a possible life sentence. Bergdahl was freed from Taliban captivity in 2014 after a prisoner swap arranged by the Obama administration — an exchange that was vehemently criticized by Republicans. Current US President Donald Trump also derided Bergdahl himself while on the campaign trail last year, calling him "a no-good traitor who should have been executed." Bergdahl's lawyers have argued that such comments make it impossible for him to have a fair trial. The judge decided in June to allow evidence of serious wounds to fellow soldiers who searched for Bergdahl at the sentencing phase, something that could weigh heavily against the accused. The official search for him lasted for 45 days, with two soldiers wounded in firefights that the judge said they would not have become involved in if they hadn't been looking for Bergdahl.

US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl has pleaded guilty to desertion and misbehavior before the enemy in Afghanistan. He is accused of endangering fellow soldiers who searched for him after he walked off his post. US Army Sergeant Bowe Bergdahl , 31, who spent five years in captivity in Afghanistan after being taken by the Islamist Taliban, on Monday admitted leaving ... Read More »

Red Cross ‘dramatically’ scales back mission in Afghanistan

Since February seven workers for the humanitarian group have been killed in escalating violence. The charity says it has no choice but to scale backs its programs in the country's north. The Red Cross will dramatically scale back its operations in Afghanistan amid security concerns, it announced on Monday. The International Committee of the Red Cross will close two offices in northern Faryab and Kunduz provinces and reduce activities in northern Balkh province after several deadly attacks on its workers, it said. Since December, six local employees and one foreign worker have been killed in attacks in the country's north, where Taliban and "Islamic State" militants have intensified their assaults on police and troops. Three other workers were abducted and later released. "We have no choice but to drastically reduce our presence and activities in Afghanistan," Monica Zanarelli, the ICRC head in Afghanistan, told reporters. "Exposure to risk has become our greater challenge in Afghanistan, and we know that zero risk doesn't exist and we are not aiming at that, but our security has to be guaranteed by every party," she said. Three decades of work The humanitarian group has been working in Afghanistan for more than three decades, employing 1,800 staff including 120 international aid workers. The charity helps wounded and disabled people, supports hospitals, visits prisons and helps prisoners maintain contact with their families. In the country's tumultuous north they were often the only organization providing such services. "We understand the consequences of stopping our activities in the north, but we have no choice," Zanarelli added. Nine other ICRC offices in Afghanistan will remain open. The US military estimates the Afghan government controls no more than 60 percent of the country, with the balance in the control of the Taliban and other insurgent groups.

Since February seven workers for the humanitarian group have been killed in escalating violence. The charity says it has no choice but to scale backs its programs in the country’s north. The Red Cross will dramatically scale back its operations in Afghanistan amid security concerns, it announced on Monday. The International Committee of the Red Cross will close two offices ... Read More »

Attack on German consulate in Afghanistan planned for months: report

A bomb attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif had been planned six months in advance in Pakistan, according to a media report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast which killed six and wounded 128. The deadly attack on the German consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month was planned further in advance than previously believed, according to a German newspaper report on Sunday. At least six people died and another 128 people were wounded when attackers drove an explosives-laden truck into the German consulate compound on November 10. One attacker died while another was taken into police custody. The blast was claimed by the Taliban who said they carried out the attack as retaliation for Germany's support of a US airstrike in Kunduz in early November that killed 30 Afghan civilians. However, a report from the German "Bild am Sonntag" newspaper provides a different timeline than the one suggested by the Taliban. The sole surviving attacker admitted in police questioning that the Taliban recruited him along with a group of other men in Pakistan around six months prior to the bomb attack, "Bild am Sonntag" reported, citing diplomatic sources. The Taliban gave the group firearms and bomb-making training in preparation for the consulate attack, the man said as cited by the paper. "Bild am Sonntag" also said that more German soldiers took part in the rescue operation than had previously been reported. Shortly after the truck blast, German air force and members of the German army's Special Forces Command (KSK) rushed to the consulate. The KSK troops "cleared" the building while others secured the diplomats, the newspaper reported. Later, the whole group moved outside, supported by US combat helicopters and Bundeswehr surveillance drones. According to eye witnesses, the consulate was later searched by German specialists who destroyed sensitive documents, the newspaper reported, adding that such a practice is usual in such cases.

A bomb attack on the German consulate in Mazar-i-Sharif had been planned six months in advance in Pakistan, according to a media report. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the blast which killed six and wounded 128. The deadly attack on the German consulate in the Afghan city of Mazar-i-Sharif earlier this month was planned further in advance than previously believed, ... Read More »

Taliban capture district in Kunduz province

Security forces are said to be planning a counterattack to retake the district of Khan Abad in Kunduz province. The Afghan government is battling Taliban militants in 15 of the country's 34 provinces. Taliban militants overran a district in the northeastern Kunduz province Saturday morning. The militants launched a multipronged predawn attack that forced government troops to retreat from the district of Khan Abad to the provincial capital, also named Kunduz, about 19 miles (30km) away. The governor of Khan Abad, Hayatullah Amiri, said his local forces could not hold off the militants without state help. "The Taliban attacked the district from different positions, and we resisted for hours but we received no support," Amiri said. "The district fell to the Taliban." Security forces are planning a counteroffensive to retake Khan Abad, according to Mohammadullah Bahej, a spokesman for the provincial police chief. Local resident Abdul Satar said hundreds had fled their homes amid the fighting. "The residents of the city are worried about their lives and safety," he said. "People are fleeing their homes and they have left their shops." Mohammad Yusouf Ayubi, head of the Kunduz provincial council, confirmed that hundreds of residents have fled the fighting. But where they are going is uncertain, as roads to the neighboring provinces are closed. He warned the government not to ignore Kunduz, saying "if the central government does not pay attention to Kunduz, the Taliban will overrun Kunduz city as they did last year." Overrun by the Taliban The provincial capital, Kunduz, was briefly overrun by the Taliban in 2015, and held for nearly two weeks before the militants were forced out by government forces, backed up by US air power and NATO troops. It marked the first time since 2001 that the militants had succeeded in capturing a major city. The episode underscored the Taliban's growing strength and the security forces' lack of readiness. They are now pretty much on their own since most international combat troops ended their mission in 2014. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid confirmed that the militants captured the district, along with weapons and military vehicles. The Taliban also seized a district in neighboring Baghlan province, just south of Kunduz province, last week, and heavy fighting is ongoing in the southern Helmand and eastern Nangarhar provinces. Meanwhile, in the capital, Kabul, a soldier was killed early Saturday by a sticky bomb placed on his vehicle, Kabul police said. All told, Afghanistan's security forces are fighting the Taliban in at least 15 of the country's 34 provinces, according to the Defense Ministry. US and Afghan officials maintain they will not allow another urban center to be taken by militants after the battle for Kunduz. But the militant's presence in the north of the country represents a worrying new trend for the government and its Western allies. Since 2001 the Taliban insurgency had been confined to the southern part of the country.

Security forces are said to be planning a counterattack to retake the district of Khan Abad in Kunduz province. The Afghan government is battling Taliban militants in 15 of the country’s 34 provinces. Taliban militants overran a district in the northeastern Kunduz province Saturday morning. The militants launched a multipronged predawn attack that forced government troops to retreat from the ... Read More »

Huge truck bomb rocks foreign compound in Afghan capital of Kabul

A massive truck bomb has exploded outside a guesthouse popular with foreigners in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that left at least four people dead. A powerful truck bomb exploded near the Northgate Hotel in Kabul in the early hours of Monday morning, security officials said. A police officer was killed and the three attackers were dead after a seven-hour gunbattle. "The operation is over now," Kabul Police Chief Abdul Rahman Rahimi told reporters. "One policeman lost his life and three others were wounded but none of the hotel staff or guests were hurt." The Taliban gunmen had stormed the upscale hotel, which is located close to the US-run Bagram airbase and houses international contractors. The Northgate is a heavily-guarded facility with blast walls and watchtowers. The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying it targeted the hotel because it was a place of "debauchery and obscenity for foreign invaders." NATO special forces oversaw the operation near the scene of the attack, as heavy gunfire and blasts echoed throughout the district Monday morning. Previous attacks Foreign guesthouses have been a frequent target of Taliban attacks in the past. The Northgate has been attacked by insurgents at least once before, in July 2013. The blast comes a week after a suicide attack on a demonstration by members of Afghanistan's Hazara community killed at least 80 people and wounded more than 230. The self-styled "Islamic State" group claimed responsibility for that attack.

A massive truck bomb has exploded outside a guesthouse popular with foreigners in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack that left at least four people dead. A powerful truck bomb exploded near the Northgate Hotel in Kabul in the early hours of Monday morning, security officials said. A police officer was killed and the three attackers were ... Read More »

Taliban announces start of ‘spring offensive’ in Afghanistan

The insurgents have announced the start of the annual 'fighting season.' This year's campaign is expected to be especially violent. The Afghan Taliban made the announcement on Tuesday in an email sent to media organizations around the world. Every year the insurgent group declares the beginning of its "spring offensive" - the warm-weather fighting season - although this year the Taliban continued fighting in winter without a seasonal break. This year's offensive, which began at 5 a.m. local time (0030 UTC), has been named "Operation Omari" in honor of the late Taliban founder Mullah Mohammad Omar. In the emailed announcement, the insurgents promised to "employ large-scale attacks on enemy positions across the country," including suicide bombings. New wave of attacks The Taliban also threatened to carry out attacks on Afghan police and soldiers, whom they referred to as "stooges" of the West. On Monday, the Taliban carried out one such attack when a suicide bomber detonated himself on a bus carrying Afghan army recruits in the eastern city of Jalalabad. That attack came just days after US Secretary of State John Kerry paid a visit to Afghanistan, where he pledged his support for the government's security forces. The Taliban has been waging its insurgency since the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001. It has made the departure of all foreign occupied forces a precondition for resuming peace talks with Kabul.

The insurgents have announced the start of the annual ‘fighting season.’ This year’s campaign is expected to be especially violent. The Afghan Taliban made the announcement on Tuesday in an email sent to media organizations around the world. Every year the insurgent group declares the beginning of its “spring offensive” – the warm-weather fighting season – although this year the ... Read More »

Afghan civilian casualties hit new high: UN

The United Nations says civilian casualties in Afghanistan's conflict have hit a record high for the seventh year running. Children made up a large proportion of the dead and wounded. The United Nations reported on Sunday that 11,002 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in 2015, a 4 percent rise in comparison with the year before. It said that 3,545 of these were fatalities. "The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable," said Nicholas Haysom, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. The annual report attributed the rise in casualties to a surge in fighting between Western-backed government forces and insurgent groups encouraged by the withdrawal of most international troops from the country. Taliban most dangerous Insurgent groups such as the Taliban were blamed for 62 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries, with investigators accusing the rebels of operations that "deliberately or indiscriminately" put civilans at risk. Children and women were particularly hard hit. One in every four casualties was a child - a rise of 14 percent - and one in ten a woman - a 37 percent increase, according to the report. The worst-affected regions were those in the north and south, where Afghan security forces are struggling to combat Taliban offensives in Kunduz and Helmand provinces in particular. The United Nations has recorded nearly 59,000 civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan since 2009, when it began systematically documenting non-military casualties.

The United Nations says civilian casualties in Afghanistan’s conflict have hit a record high for the seventh year running. Children made up a large proportion of the dead and wounded. The United Nations reported on Sunday that 11,002 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in 2015, a 4 percent rise in comparison with the year before. It said that ... Read More »

Taliban bomber attacks Kabul police station, kills 20

An attack in Kabul has killed at least 20 people, most of them civilians. The Taliban bombing comes ahead of proposed peace talks between the insurgents and the government. At least 20 people lost their lives on Monday when a suicide bomber attacked a police building in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which injured at least 29 more near the headquarters of the National Civil Order Police force. Police spokesman Basi Mujahid told the press that the attacker pretended to join the line of civilians waiting to enter the headquarters after the break for lunch and midday prayers. After being spotted outside the gate, he set off the explosives. "Unfortunately the majority of the killed and wounded are civilians," Mujahid said, adding that two police officers had died while a third was among the injured. President Ashraf Ghani lamented the "unforgiveable crimes against civilians" in a statement, adding that the government "will never have talks with those groups who kill innocent civilians, women and children. Instead the Afghan security forces will mobilize in their fight against them." Ghani's statement came ahead of a third round of talks planned for Saturday between Afghanistan, Pakistan, the United States and China with the aim of laying the tracks for a direct dialogue between the Taliban and Kabul after 15 years of conflict. Ghani has vowed to wipe out militants who refuse to participate in the peace process. The attack coincided with a visit from German Interior Minister Thomas de Maizière, who was in the Afghan capital to discuss the recent influx of refugees from Afghanistan into Germany.

An attack in Kabul has killed at least 20 people, most of them civilians. The Taliban bombing comes ahead of proposed peace talks between the insurgents and the government. At least 20 people lost their lives on Monday when a suicide bomber attacked a police building in Kabul. The Taliban has claimed responsibility for the attack, which injured at least ... Read More »

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