The Afghan Army kills seven “Taliban” who were preparing a car bomb

Afghan Army servicemen deployed in formation at an Afghan barracks

Afghan Army servicemen deployed in formation at an Afghan barracks
EP

The Afghan Defense Ministry has reported this Thursday that at least seven suspected Taliban were killed on Wednesday by the security forces when were preparing to commit a car bomb attack in Faryab province, in the north of the country.

“The Afghan National Army has prevented a car bombing in the Qaisar district, Faryab province. Seven suicide bombers who were in a car loaded with explosives died as a result of the operation, “the Ministry of Defense has detailed in its official Twitter account.

The Defense portfolio has also reported the release of thirteen civilians and one policeman, who were being held by the Taliban in the Washir district, located in Helmand province, in southern Afghanistan, a region in which a week ago at least 50 insurgents, including a senior rebel commander, were killed during an operation military.

A day earlier, the Army, according to the Defense portfolio, killed another 19 alleged Taliban and another five were injured as a result of a confrontation with the Afghan military in the district of Gizab, in the central province of Uruzgan.

Since the February agreement, the country has once again plunged into a spiral of violence, with the resumption of Taliban attacks on Afghan security forces and civilians, while insurgents accuse the Afghan Army of continuing to attack their positions.

Despite the peace agreement signed with the United States and talks with the Afghan government, the Taliban have continued their campaign of attacks against government forces and have refused to accept a ceasefire to facilitate the peace process.

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Cold, hunger, bombs (daily newspaper Junge Welt)

Children in particular suffer: a refugee boy in front of his accommodation in Kabul on November 23, 2020

The Federal Republic is not losing any time in the new year 2021: On Wednesday morning, another plane with 26 deported Afghans landed in Kabul, like dpa reported. This is the 35th collective deportation since 2016. Almost 1,000 men have been returned to Afghanistan in this way so far.

Those responsible in Berlin will be aware of the catastrophic situation in the country – where the Islamist Taliban control as many areas as they have not since the start of the US attack in 2001. So it can be explained that a spokeswoman for the Federal Ministry of the Interior loudly dpa stressed that 25 of the men deported on Wednesday had been convicted of criminal offenses. According to the Federal Government, they have forfeited their right not to have to live in a country suffering from war.

Because the reports of skirmishes and attacks by jihadists in Afghanistan do not stop. For example, thousands of families are currently on the run because of the ongoing fighting in Kandahar Province, a Taliban stronghold. As the local authorities announced last Thursday, 35,000 people had fled to the provincial capital. Another 10,000 families sought protection elsewhere. In the city of Kandahar, provisional camps have been set up for the refugees, as the head of the agency for the displaced persons of the news agency said AFP explained that food is only available for about 2,000 families.

The onset of winter in Afghanistan also made no impression on those responsible in Berlin. The children in the country in particular suffer from this. The London-based aid organization Save the Children announced at the end of December that more than 300,000 children in Afghanistan without heating and adequately warm clothing were at risk of illness and death this winter. Thousands of them would live in homeless camps because of the destruction in the war. “There they risk starvation, disease including Covid-19 and even death from freezing temperatures.”

The United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) is also sounding the alarm. Despite the ongoing peace talks between the government and the Taliban, the number of civilian casualties remains dramatically high – “with no signs of an end to the fighting.” In its forecast for 2021, UNOCHA assumes that almost half of the country’s 40 million inhabitants will be dependent on humanitarian aid – almost twice as many as last year.

The main reason for this is the social and economic consequences of the corona pandemic. According to UNOCHA, almost 60 percent of households in Afghanistan would have to get by with even less money than in the previous year – in 17 percent of households the situation would become “catastrophic”. In concrete terms, this means that 16.9 million Afghans are expected to struggle with hunger and malnutrition this year. In addition, in times of the pandemic, three quarters of the population in rural areas have no access to clean drinking water and sanitary facilities. Women who are increasingly exposed to domestic violence are particularly affected by the consequences of the corona crisis.

But even if all of this is known to those responsible in Berlin: the next deportation flight is certainly already being planned.

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban negotiate their return to power

REPORTAGE – After a three-week hiatus, peace talks between Afghan government and Taliban delegations resumed Wednesday in Doha, Qatar.

Special envoy to Kabul

Since their start on September 12, negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban movement have not produced any significant progress. They began in slow motion, mired in fruitless deliberations over the form of negotiations, which Islamic system to consider, and other practical details. After a three-week hiatus, talks resumed Wednesday in Doha, Qatar.

On December 2, the parties announced that they had finally reached an agreement on the points to be addressed when negotiations resumed. A roadmap has been drawn up: three pages of injunctions, listed in 12 points, which are similar to a code of conduct for negotiators who are asked to “respect the opposite side“. Objective: to make the progress of the negotiations more cordial, while, according to observers who followed the progress of the meetings on the spot, the Taliban, in a position of strength on the ground, were particularly arrogant.

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A dam against Islamism (neue-deutschland.de)

Armed police and soldiers in Paris

Photo: AP | Kamil Zihnioglu

The draft law, which the Council of Ministers agreed on Wednesday and which will be discussed in parliament from January, is directed against separatism and radical Islamism. This is what President Emmanuel Macron announced weeks ago in a speech on the subject of republic and integration, which he deliberately gave in the Paris suburb of Mureaux, where there is a strong concentration of French people of North African origin and social problems.

But in the current draft law, the words separatism and Islamism do not appear at all. The government obviously wants to avoid any impression of Islamophobia. The law “To strengthen the republican principles” is not directed against any religion, not even Islam, Prime Minister Jean Castex emphasized to the press after the Council of Ministers meeting. “On the contrary, it is a law on freedom, protection and emancipation against religious fundamentalism and similar ideologies,” added the head of government. It is about “ensuring social cohesion and equal opportunities in accordance with the values ​​of the republic.”

It is certainly no coincidence that the text was passed by the government on December 9th, as this was the anniversary of the entry into force of the law of 1905 on the separation of church and state. All currently discussed topics must be measured against this basic principle of secularism. How difficult it is to make laicism understandable can be seen, for example, in the polemics in the major US newspapers, where freedom of religion and expression are paramount and where President Macron is accused of militant anti-clericalism. When Egyptian President Abd al-Fattah al-Sisi visited Paris earlier this week, he said at a press conference on a question about the Muhammad cartoons that religion is the highest and therefore inviolable. Macron couldn’t leave that unanswered. “Man is the highest,” he said, and the republic is based on it.

In order to make it clear that Islam in France also has to subordinate itself to the laws of the republic and not stand above them, some rules for the exercise of the faith are redefined or specified in the draft law. Because the associations that support the nationwide 2,400 mosques are often too poor to maintain them or to build new ones, donations come from Saudi Arabia, Turkey or the Maghreb countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia.

While the majority of all mosques today are supported by donations from their own believers, 30 percent are dependent on foreign funds and are thus exposed to the influence of the donor countries. They provide and pay 300 imams – 30 are from Morocco, 120 from Algeria and 150 from Turkey. Some of them do not speak French, ignore the country’s laws, and preach radical Islam.

In future, donations of over 10,000 euros must be reported and their source disclosed. The foreign imams have to preach in French, and anyone who takes radical views will be expelled. Imams are trained at French universities, and the country’s Islamic organizations are then asked to evaluate and approve these imams. In order to counter the trend among radical Islamic families not to send their children to public school, the right to “home schooling” is restricted and more strictly controlled. In the past, around 30,000 children across the country were educated by their parents, today there are already 60,000, and all too often they are not taught at home but at illegal Koran schools set up in mosques.

The law also stipulates that all associations – not just religious – must undertake in writing to respect the principles of the republic, and that if they are violated, they will be dissolved. In future, it will not only be for teachers, but for all members of the public service, to demonstrate their affiliation to a religion in clothing and behavior. On the other hand, any denigration, hostility or threat on the Internet that is directed against public servants is prosecuted. Polygamy, the forced marriage of children and the requirement of doctors to issue a “maidenhood certificate” to a future bride after examination are also criminalized.

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Afghan government and Taliban reach agreement

Dhe months of negotiations between the Afghan government and the radical Islamic Taliban have made a key step forward. For the first time since the outbreak of war 19 years ago, both sides said they had signed a written agreement. The preliminary agreement sets out the way forward for further talks on more specific topics, such as a ceasefire.

“This breakthrough should be a stepping stone to achieve the peace that all Afghans want,” wrote United Nations envoy to Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons, on Twitter on Wednesday. US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said the agreement shows “that the negotiating parties can agree on difficult issues”.

Both sides have held talks in Qatar’s capital Doha for months while the war raged on in Afghanistan. The Taliban refused to agree to a cease-fire in this preparatory phase of the negotiations. They only wanted to address the issue when it was clear what the next phase of the talks should look like. The agreement that has now been reached clears the way for this.

In the three-page agreement, both sides set “rules and procedures for their negotiations on a political roadmap and a comprehensive ceasefire,” said Khalilzad.

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USA reduce troops in Afghanistan (neue-deutschland.de)

Photo: Kay Nietfeld / dpa

Berlin. It is an election promise made in 2016 that the US president intends to keep at least partially shortly before the end of his term in office. Donald Trump has ordered the withdrawal of further US troops from Afghanistan and Iraq. On Tuesday (local time), US Secretary of Defense Christopher Miller announced at the Pentagon that the US would reduce the number of soldiers to around 2500 by January 15. The partial withdrawal would be implemented immediately before the inauguration of President-elect Joe Biden on January 20.

According to the US media, 4500 US soldiers are currently stationed in Afghanistan and 3000 in Iraq. Miller said the US was entering a new phase in the fight against international terrorism. He had informed international allies, including NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and Afghan President Aschraf Ghani. Its spokesman said the head of state had spoken to Miller about continued meaningful US military support for the Afghan security forces.

In the United States and abroad, the announcement caused criticism, but also relief. Democratic Senator Jack Reed accused Trump of adopting a cynical, chaotic approach that could “lead to more chaos and violence in Afghanistan.” The Democratic MP Adam Smith, however, spoke of a right decision. Ultimately, the Afghans themselves have to find a way to peace.

It was only in February of this year that the USA signed an agreement with the Islamist Taliban that promises the gradual withdrawal of all US and NATO armed forces by the end of April 2021. The Taliban committed to peace talks with the government in Kabul, which began in September and are currently stalling. The Taliban welcomed the withdrawal of more US soldiers from Afghanistan. “This is a good step and in the interests of the people in both countries,” Taliban spokesman Sabihullah Mujahid told the AFP news agency.

NATO allies, however, are concerned. Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said with a view to the Bundeswehr stationed in the country: “Of course we are examining the effects that this has for our soldiers in Afghanistan extremely intensively.” Troop withdrawal is now on Germany and the Bundeswehr. “Germany should have implemented the withdrawal of the Bundeswehr on its own long ago and not just as a reaction to US policy,” said Hansel. With agencies

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Afghanistan kills Al-Qaida number two in Taliban fiefdom

The Afghanistan National Security Directorate announced the death of Husam Abd al Rauf, considered the number two of Al-Qaida (AQ), responsible for the organization’s operations in the Indian subcontinent and a close associate of Osama Bin Laden and his successor, Ayman Al Zawahiri. On a day marked by the attack on an educational center in Kabul, the operation against Al Rauf, whose nom de guerre was Abu Muhsin al Masri, once again put on the table that AQ is present in the country and its high command continues to enjoy the shelter from the Taliban.

His death occurred in Kunsaf, a village in Ghazni province located about 150 kilometers from Kabul and under Taliban control. This is a compromising operation since, according to the points agreed between the Islamist insurgency and the United States in Qatar, the Taliban agree “not to cooperate with groups or individuals who threaten the security of the United States and its allies,” groups such as AQ.

The presidential palace in Kabul issued a statement to alert about this death that “proves that the threat of terrorism and the relations between the Taliban and the terrorists are still valid.” A direct message for the envoys of the Government and the insurgent group who are in Qatar trying to start the peace process between Afghans. These negotiations are proceeding in a climate of increasing violence as the Taliban have stopped their actions against international troops, but have tightened operations against national security forces.

Al Masri was of Egyptian origin, was 62 years old and joined the jihad as a mujahideen during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, years in which the mujahideen had the military backing of the United States and were described as “freedom fighters” by Washington. Things changed radically after the departure of the USSR and the coming to power of the Taliban. “Their withdrawal from the battlefield represents a great setback for a terrorist organization that for some time now has not stopped suffering strategic losses thanks to the collaboration of the United States and its allies,” said the director of the National Center against Terrorism of United States, Chris Miller, who confirmed the news from Afghan intelligence.

Former head of communication

According to the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, the organization does not have more than two hundred troops on Afghan soil, but some like Al Masri are symbols of a whole generation of jihadists. For years he was the true press officer of the group, the one in charge of disseminating statements through audio messages and writing articles to justify AQ’s actions. A work that is now being followed and modernized by groups like the Islamic State (IS) thanks to the use of social networks and new technologies.

In the past year, the United States has intensified its hunt for AQ members, and Al Masri is the last major name on a list opened by Hamza Bin Laden, the son of the group’s founder whose death was announced by Donald Trump. This month marks 19 years since the start of the US military operation in Afghanistan, whose first objective was to destroy the Taliban by sheltering those responsible for planning the 9/11 attacks. Almost two decades later, militants like Al Masri operate in a country from which US troops are in full retreat.

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Left struggles with Islam position (neue-deutschland.de)

Left MPs disagree on dealing with Islam and Muslims.

Photo: dpa / Axel Heimken

The left-wing parliamentary group postponed the resolution of a motion entitled “Countering anti-Muslim racism and discrimination against Muslims in Germany” on Tuesday afternoon. The “nd” found out about this from parliamentary groups. The religious policy spokeswoman for the parliamentary group, Christine Buchholz, was not particularly happy about this. Among other things, she supported the application with members of Working Group V, which is responsible for civil rights and domestic politics. Buchholz said that there had been no agreement at the meeting on whether the timing for adopting the paper was a happy one or not. In addition to the Islamist attacks in Paris and Nice, the background to these considerations was the attack in Vienna, which killed four people. The assassin was shot dead by the police. He was a supporter of the terrorist militia “Islamic State”.

“I would have seen the adoption of the motion as an important signal that such a terrible attack as in Vienna must not be used for racism,” Buchholz told “nd”. Ultimately, however, what matters is not when the decision is made, but rather that it comes. In this regard, progress is being made in the Bundestag faction, according to Buchholz. On Monday the parliamentary group’s executive committee talked about the paper and made some small changes. According to Buchholz, the current version of the text is also supported by the parliamentary group chairmen Amira Mohamed Ali and Dietmar Bartsch. “I assume that we will decide on this in the coming week of the session,” said Buchholz. She added: “The Bundestag must position itself against anti-Muslim racism – as a signal to those affected, but also because the enemy image of Islam is used for right-wing mobilization.”

The core of the draft proposal is that Islamophobic crimes, violence and stigmatization are condemned. The federal government is called upon to act here. Islamist violence is also criticized, but the security authorities are accused of stoking general suspicion against Muslims.

A critic of the paper is the foreign policy expert Sevim Dagdelen. “I advocate that we on the left take a clear position against Islamist ideology as group-related misanthropy and a threat to democracy, as well as against any general suspicion and discrimination against Muslims,” ​​she told the “nd”. Dagdelen demanded that the left faction should stand by the side of the secular Muslims instead of the side of reactionary Islamic associations. “The present proposal breathes the spirit of reactionary Islamic associations,” said Dagdelen. She accused the supporters of the application of making uncritically positive reference to religiously charged clothing regulations even for girls in elementary schools. In her hometown of Duisburg, she experienced how political Islam took hold of more and more space and secular Muslims were marginalized and discriminated, said Dagdelen. Islamists and German rights are responsible for this.

From their point of view, Islamism is being played off against racism. The draft proposal criticizes the fact that in the report on the protection of the constitution the word Islamism appears 137 times and the word Islamophobia only once in the foreword. “The other way around, it becomes a shoe. Islamists are also racists, as can currently be observed in France again, «said Dagdelen. She recalled that on the eve of the Islamist terrorist act in Nice, supporters of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan roared through the streets near Lyons shouting “Allahu akbar” and shouting “Where are you Armenians?” Previously, peaceful Armenian demonstrators were attacked with a hammer and knives and seriously injured. “It is not enough just to condemn Islamist violence but to remain silent about Islamism, the misanthropic ideology,” complained Dagdelen.

The debates between the different camps should continue in the next group meeting.

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Primeval forests in Austria’s Kalkalpen National Park

Ein rumble can be heard, as if from a great distance. It will be a thunderstorm, not worrying. But suddenly everything happens very quickly. A roar and roar fills the valley, and two mighty tree trunks rumble almost directly in front of our feet, swirling up the earth and stones and splintering. We look at each other, incredulous: where have we got to? If we’d hiked a little briskly, that’s going through our minds. Then we quickly chase the thought away.

That’s how it should be in the wild. And that’s exactly where we want to go: into the wilderness of the forgotten forests – into the heart of the Kalkalpen National Park. More than twenty thousand hectares of protected nature in the south of Upper Austria, on the border with Styria and Lower Austria. A karst region full of underground lakes, caves and shafts, with vertically sloping walls and jagged pinnacles and prongs in the Sengsengebirge, the refuge of chamois, golden eagles and ravens. A little east of it the Reichraminger Hintergebirge, densely greened up to the peaks.

Where forests are still real forests

The five other Austrian national parks present the highest mountains, the widest rivers, the deepest gorges. The Limestone Alps are trying to keep up: two hundred kilometers of unspoilt streams, more than eight hundred springs, two hundred karst caves, seventeen thousand animal species, a thousand different flowering plants, mosses and ferns. But the real treasure is behind a rather inconspicuous number. There are more than thirty forest communities here, from alluvial forests to snow heather and pine forests to larch and stone pine forests, a good half of them are classified as endangered on the Red List of Biotope Types. They are forests that are still real forests, where trees do not have to stretch themselves in rows towards the light, but are allowed to unfold as they please – or as the plan of creation provides: beyond all principles of economy and order, which man imposes on them. Trees are not felled, they die of natural causes, collapse and gradually decompose. Deadwood, removed elsewhere as annoying and visually repulsive, becomes a habitat for white-backed woodpeckers, scarlet flat beetles and alpine salamanders and attracts pioneering plants. Until it disappears as humus in the soil. His legacy: growing biodiversity.


An inconspicuous record: there are more than thirty forest communities in the Limestone Alps, from the alluvial forest to the snow heather-pine forest to the larch-stone pine forest.
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Bild: Picture-Alliance

The old beech forests of the Limestone Alps with the remains of a primeval forest, which have been declared a World Heritage Site by Unesco, are especially precious in this cycle of becoming, being and passing away. For centuries, if not longer, no human being has set foot in it, fauna and flora have been able to develop undisturbed. An almost magical stretch of land, left to itself.

And that’s exactly how it has to be, say Franz Sieghartsleitner, the initiator of the National Park from the very beginning, and Christian Fuxjäger, zoologist and wildlife officer. The two of them accompany us on tours through forests as we have never seen them before, two careful, knowledgeable and interested men. Of course, they say that signposted paths are regularly paved and exposed. Because something can always happen, you have to reckon with it. If it has rained heavily for two days like last time and the logs lying on the ground are soaked with water, they slip easily and fall down the steep slopes. At worst, on a hiking trail. But that happens extremely seldom, as Franz Sieghartsleitner and Christian Fuxjäger assure, while we grope our way into the wilderness together. They defend the phenomena of weather and climate. Thunderstorms, storms, falling rocks or mudslides are not bad in themselves – as long as nobody is harmed. The ecological cycle is only renewed through such external influences, when flora and fauna react to disasters and make space for new or displaced living beings and plants. A dynamic process, a form of self-healing in nature and in it a return to a balance that promotes biodiversity.

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In Afghanistan, the Taliban are stepping up the pressure

By welcoming the opening of historic negotiations between the Taliban and representatives of the Afghan government on September 12 in Doha (Qatar), the President of the Afghan High Council for Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah hoped that the protagonists would seize this “Exceptional opportunity” to put in place, during the talks, a humanitarian ceasefire.

→ REPORT. Peace negotiations in Afghanistan, the population resigned

The following weeks, however, saw the fighting grow increasingly fierce. A month and a half after the arrival of the delegations, negotiations are stalled, and the Afghan Ministry of Defense says it is facing the Taliban in 26 of the country’s 34 provinces.

The reports that emerge periodically offer a glimpse of the violence of the clashes. On October 22, around 20 members of the Afghan security forces perished in Nimrôz province. The day before, an ambush in Takhar province claimed the lives of 55 police officers. In Helmand province, tens of thousands of civilians fled the Taliban’s advance on the town of Lashkar Gah.

Protocol issues

For many observers, the offensives launched by the Taliban are intended to increase pressure on the Afghan government to negotiate from a position of strength. But some fear that the violence of the clashes will break the fragile dialogue, at a time when negotiations drag and continue to stumble on thorny questions of protocol. In particular, the Taliban insist that the conflicts to emerge during the talks be settled in accordance with Islamic law.

→ MAINTENANCE. “Donald Trump hands over the keys to Afghanistan to the Taliban, but keeps a duplicate”

They also demand that the agreement signed by the United States and the Taliban in February, which provides in particular for the withdrawal of American troops, be recognized as the basis for these negotiations. This agreement paved the way for major prisoner exchanges and current negotiations. A particularly difficult condition for the Afghan government to accept.

“The government fears giving the impression of ratifying this agreement if its negotiators recognize it as a basis for discussion, which in their eyes would give too much legitimacy to the Taliban”, comments Asfandyar Mir, researcher at Stanford University.

→ EXPLANATION. In Afghanistan, government releases Taliban prisoners

A sensitive issue of legitimacy, when the two parties must now talk to each other. “Neither the Afghan government nor the Taliban want to recognize the opposing side”says Thomas Ruttig, co-director of the Afghanistan Analysts Network. “This is why the Taliban are not negotiating with the Afghan government, but with“ a delegation from the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan ”, which includes members from outside the government. “ Circumlocutions that do not help the progress of the debates, and all the more so as time is playing in favor of the Taliban whose offensives are damaging the morale of the Afghan troops.

Kill time

“The Taliban do not seem in any hurry to want to end this war”, confided Sunday a delegate of the government part to Washington Post. “They don’t listen to anyone. All they do is kill time and kill people. “ A statement made on October 25 by 2,000 religious gathered in Kabul calling for the differences to be resolved through negotiation failed to calm the situation. The day before, the spokesperson for the Taliban reaffirmed his vision that anyone linked to the Afghan authorities or their foreign supporters deserved death.

The two parties remain present around the table in Doha for the time being. According to the information site Tolonews, government negotiators and the Taliban have reportedly accepted Qatar’s mediation to try to move forward. However, violence remains daily. On Tuesday, October 27, a violent attack on a police base in the east of the country left at least five dead and 33 injured. That same day, in Kabul, three civilians were killed in a car bomb attack.

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