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Afghanistan enforce night curfews across most of the country

The measure is expected to halt the advance of Taliban fighters who have seized dozens of districts in recent months.

An Afghan policeman keeps watch at a hilltop in Kabul, Afghanistan July 23, 2019. (Reuters Archive)

Afghanistan’s government imposed a night-time curfew across 31 of the country’s 34 provinces in a bid to counter the lightening expansion of the Taliban offensive in recent months, the interior ministry said.

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“To curb violence and limit the Taliban movements a night curfew has been imposed in 31 provinces across the country,” except in Kabul, Panjshir and Nangarhar, the interior ministry said in a statement on Saturday.

The move comes as Kabul is struggling to contain the forward march of the insurgents who have made rapid gains in the past couple of weeks.

The Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s district centers.

Ghani get’s another Biden assurance

As the US inches towards completing its troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, President Joe Biden assured Afghan counterpart Ashraf Ghani of US diplomatic and humanitarian support on Friday.

In a phone call, Biden and Ghani “agreed that the Taliban’s current offensive is in direct contradiction to the movement’s claim to support a negotiated settlement of the conflict,” a White House statement said.

Biden has set a formal end to the US military mission in Afghanistan for August 31 as he looks to disengage from a conflict that started after al Qaeda attacked the United States on September 11, 2001.

Biden told Ghani the United States would remain engaged diplomatically “in support of a durable and just political settlement,” the White House said.

The United States is also preparing to begin evacuating thousands of Afghan applicants for special immigration visas (SIVs) who risk retaliation from Taliban insurgents because they worked for the US government.

A depleted Afghan air force

Afghan lawmakers have voiced alarm that their air force have been depleted in the face of a Taliban offensive as they asked the United States to finalise assistance ahead of a troop withdrawal.

In virtual talks this week with the US Congress, an Afghan delegation said it appealed for quick action on aircraft maintenance and munitions supplies as President Joe Biden prepares to end America’s longest-ever war by the end of next month.

“The security situation is really getting terrible,” said senior Afghan MP Haji Ajmal Rahmani, referring to a Taliban offensive.

Rahmani said that one-third of the 150-strong fleet was already grounded due to maintenance issues.

He said the Afghans had also run out of laser-guided munitions as the United States and NATO allies had handled 80 to 90 percent of the armaments and did not leave a supply during hasty pullouts of air assets.

Laser-guided munitions are critical to pinpointing targets and minimising civilian casualties, he said.

“The feedback was that it will take some more time because they have to make the orders and it will take time to produce and ship to Afghanistan,” he told a roundtable of the State Department Correspondents’ Association.

“They are talking of around one year, more or less, until it will reach Afghanistan. This is something very much needed at this critical time.”

Investment over $8B in developing air force

Mir Haider Afzaly, chairman of the parliamentary defense committee, said planes were grounded due to a lack of spare parts, Covid concerns that kept away US technicians and the aging of the fleet.

He said the air force was conducting 70 to 80 flights a day, “not just targeting the Taliban and terrorists but playing a vital role” in supplying areas cut off by land after insurgents gain ground.

The United States has not yet delivered promised Black Hawk helicopters that could help upgrade the air force, Afzaly added.

Washington has invested more than $8 billion in developing Afghanistan’s air force, which was virtually non-existent when the 2001 invasion toppled the Taliban after the September 11 attacks.

The Pentagon confirmed Thursday that the United States in recent days has again used airpower to support Afghan forces against the Taliban, amid fears that the insurgents will make rapid gains or even take over after US troops leave at the end of next month.

Biden argues that the United States can accomplish nothing further militarily after two decades and long ago achieved its goal of eliminating the threat in Afghanistan of Al Qaeda extremists.

Biden authorises $100M in emergency funds for refugees

US President Joe Biden on Friday authorised the use of up to $100 million to address migration emergencies related to the situation in Afghanistan, the White House said.

The statement said the money would come from the Emergency Refugee and Migration Assistance Fund “for the purpose of meeting unexpected urgent refugee and migration needs, victims of conflict, and other persons at risk as a result of the situation in Afghanistan.”

The funds will also support those applying to the State Department program of Special Immigrant Visas (SIVs), under which some 20,000 Afghans who worked as interpreters for the United States during its war in the country and now fear retribution from Taliban insurgents have applied for evacuation.

The funds could be distributed on both a bilateral and multilateral basis through contributions or funding to international organizations, non-governmental groups, governments and US bodies, the statement added.

The United Nations recently estimated half of Afghanistan’s 39 million people are in need of aid, and called on the international community to maintain financial support for the country.

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