Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 240.6 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.89 Mn
Washington, Oct 18: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 240.6 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.89 million and vaccinations soared to over 6.61 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Monday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and the total number number of vaccine doses administered stood at 240,658,812, 4,898,374 and 6,617,433,262, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 44,933,336 and 724,317, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 34,067,719 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (21,644,464), the UK (8,488,665), Russia (7,870,529), Turkey (7,630,133), France (7,189,566), Iran (5,784,815), Argentina (5,272,551), Spain (4,984,386), Colombia (4,981,532), Italy (4,717,899), Germany (4,382,019), Indonesia (4,234,758) and Mexico (3,755,063), the CSSE figures showed.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are Brazil (603,282), India (452,124), Mexico (284,321), Russia (219,342), Peru (199,816), Indonesia (142,952), the UK (138,997), Italy (131,541), Colombia (126,865), Iran (124,075), France (118,183) and Argentina (115,666).—(IANS)
Eastern Ladakh Standoff: India, China To Hold Military Talks On Sunday
New Delhi, Oct 9: India and China will hold another round of high-level military talks on Sunday with a focus on making some forward movement in the disengagement process in the remaining friction points in eastern Ladakh, government sources said.
The talks are scheduled to start at 10:30 AM at the Moldo border point on the Chinese side of the Line of Actual Control (LAC) in eastern Ladakh, the sources said on Saturday.
The Indian side is expected to seek disengagement as soon as possible in the remaining friction points besides pressing for resolution of issues in Depsang Bulge and Demchok.
The 12th round of talks had taken place on July 31. Days after the talks, the two armies completed the disengagement process in Gogra, which was seen as a significant forward movement towards the restoration of peace and tranquillity in the region.
The 13th round of talks is taking place in the backdrop of two recent incidents of attempted transgressions by the Chinese troops — one in the Barahoti sector of Uttarakhand and another in the Tawang sector in Arunachal Pradesh.
Indian and Chinese troops were engaged in a brief face-off near Yangtse in the Tawang sector of Arunachal Pradesh last week and it was resolved within few hours following talks between commanders of the two sides as per established protocols, people familiar with the development said on Friday.
Last month, close to 100 soldiers of China”s People”s Liberation Army (PLA) transgressed the LAC in the Barahoti sector.
The transgression took place on August 30, and the Chinese troops returned from the area after spending few hours.
Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravne on Saturday said the military build-up by China in the eastern Ladakh region and new infrastructure development to sustain the large-scale deployment are a matter of concern.
He also said if the Chinese military maintains the deployment through the second winter, then it may lead to an LoC-like situation (Line of Control) though not an active LoC as is there on the western front with Pakistan.
The Indian delegation at Sunday”s talks is to be led by Lt Gen PGK Menon, the Commander of the Leh-based 14 Corps.
The border standoff between the Indian and Chinese militaries erupted on May 5 last year following a violent clash in the Pangong lake areas and both sides gradually enhanced their deployment by rushing in tens of thousands of soldiers as well as heavy weaponry.
As a result of a series of military and diplomatic talks, the two sides completed the disengagement process in the Gogra area in August.
In February, the two sides completed the withdrawal of troops and weapons from the north and south banks of the Pangong lake in line with an agreement on disengagement.
Each side currently has around 50,000 to 60,000 troops along the LAC in the sensitive sector.—(PTI)
Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 229 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.69 Mn
Washington, Sep 21: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 229 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.69 million and vaccinations soared to over 5.93 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Tuesday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and vaccination tally stood at 229,031,974, 4,699,187 and 5,935,372,422, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 42,286,531 and 676,059, respectively, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 33,478,419 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (21,247,667), the UK (7,500,513), Russia (7,189,445), France (7,045,422), Turkey (6,874,917), Iran (5,442,232), Argentina (5,241,394), Colombia (4,942,249), Spain (4,935,534), Italy (4,638,516), Indonesia (4,192,695), Germany (4,155,160) and Mexico (3,569,677), the CSSE figures showed.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are Brazil (590,955), India (445,133), Mexico (271,503), Peru (199,036), Russia (195,438), Indonesia (140,634), the UK (135,588), Italy (130,354), Colombia (125,924), Iran (117,526), France (116,759) and Argentina (114,518).—(IANS)
Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 225.7 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.64 Mn
Washington, Sep 15: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 225.7 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.64 million and vaccinations soared to over 5.74 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Wednesday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and vaccination tally stood at 225,763,017, 4,647,792 and 5,747,547,990, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 41,360,450 and 663,923, respectively, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 33,289,579 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (21,019,830), the UK (7,316,519), Russia (7,072,825), France (7,007,374), Turkey (6,710,636), Iran (5,340,656), Argentina (5,229,848), Colombia (4,932,998), Spain (4,918,526), Italy (4,613,214), Indonesia (4,174,216), Germany (4,102,252) and Mexico (3,516,043), the CSSE figures showed.
In terms of deaths, Brazil comes second with 587,797 fatalities.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are India (443,213), Mexico (267,969), Peru (198,840), Russia (190,793), Indonesia (139,415), the UK (134,773), Italy (130,027), Colombia (125,713), France (116,454), Iran (115,167) and Argentina (113,816).—(IANS)
Strong Quake Hits Near Acapulco, Buildings Sway In Capital
Mexico City, Sep 8: A powerful earthquake struck near the Pacific resort city of Acapulco on Tuesday night, causing buildings to rock and sway in Mexico City nearly 200 miles away.
The US Geological Survey said the quake had a preliminary magnitude of 7.0 and was centred 17 kilometres (about 10 miles) northeast of Acapulco.
There were no immediate reports from the quake zone.
In Mexico City, the ground shook for nearly a minute in some parts of the capital, but was less evident in other parts. Some people evacuated their buildings briefly, but most quickly went back inside on a rainy night.
Mexico City authorities said there were no early reports of significant damage in the city, though they said electricity was knocked out in some neighbourhoods.—(AP)
India Reaches Out To Taliban,Indian Envoy Meets Senior Taliban Leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai In Doha
New Delhi: In the first formal and publicly acknowledged contact, Indian Ambassador to Qatar Deepak Mittal met senior Taliban leader Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai on Tuesday and conveyed India’s concerns that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism.
The Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) said the discussions also focused on the safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and the travel of Afghan nationals, especially members of minority communities to India.
The meeting took place at the Indian embassy in Doha at the request of the Taliban side and came two weeks after the outfit seized control of Kabul.
The MEA said the Taliban representative assured the ambassador that “these issues” would be positively addressed.
“Today, Ambassador of India to Qatar, Deepak Mittal, met Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanekzai, the head of Taliban’s Political Office in Doha. The meeting took place at the Embassy of India, Doha, on the request of the Taliban side,” the MEA said in a statement.
It said the discussions focused on safety, security and early return of Indian nationals stranded in Afghanistan and the travel of Afghan nationals, especially minorities, who wish to visit India also came up.
“Ambassador Mittal raised India’s concern that Afghanistan’s soil should not be used for anti-Indian activities and terrorism in any manner.
People familiar with India’s ties in Afghanistan said it was the first publicly acknowledged contact between the two sides in over at least two decades.
External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi, replying to questions during his weekly briefing in the last few months on whether India has reached out to the Taliban, has been maintaining that New Delhi is in touch with all stakeholders.
It was learnt that India had opened a channel of communication with the Taliban but it was never acknowledged officially.
The meeting between Mittal and Stanekzai took place hours after the US completed the withdrawal of its troops from Afghanistan, ending its 20-year-long military campaign in the country.
The last American aircraft left the Kabul airport in the early hours.
On Saturday, Stanekzai, in a clear overture, described India as an important country in the region and said the Taliban wants to maintain Afghanistan’s trade, economic and political relations with it.
“We attach great importance to our trade, economic and political relations with India and want to maintain that relation,” he had said.
“We also need to keep the air trade open,” the Taliban leader was quoted as saying by Pakistani media outlet Independent Urdu.
He was referring to the air corridor between India and Afghanistan that was established to boost trade between the two countries in view of Pakistan’s denial to allow transit access.
External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on August 20 held talks with his Qatari counterpart Sheikh Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani on the Afghan crisis during a stopover in Doha on his way back home from a four-day visit to the US.
Doha has been the venue for the intra-Afghan peace talks and the Gulf country has emerged as a crucial player in facilitating the Afghan peace process.
Political leaders of the Taliban have been residing in Qatar for years.
In September last year, an Indian delegation attended the inaugural ceremony of the intra-Afghan negotiations featuring various stakeholders including the Afghan government and the Taliban in Doha. Jaishankar had joined it through a video conference.
Meanwhile, a high-level group comprising Jaishankar, NSA Ajit Doval and a number of other senior officials is focusing on India’s immediate priorities in Afghanistan following the drawdown of American forces from the country.
Official sources said that the group has been meeting regularly over the last few days following a direction from Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
COVID-19: DGCA Extends Suspension Of International Commercial Passenger Flights Till Sep 30 2021
New Delhi, August 29: Amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Director-General of Civil Aviation on Sunday extended the suspension on scheduled international commercial passenger flights till September 30, 2021, said a circular by the office of DGCA.
However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis.
This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA, the circular further said .
“In a partial modification on a circular dated June 26, 2021, the competent authority has further extended the validity of the circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger service to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 30th September 2021,” stated the DGCA circular.
“This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA. However, International Scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis,” further stated the circular.
Earlier, the scheduled international flights were suspended until August 31, said the circular issued by the DGCA on July 30, 2021.—(ANI)
Another Attack At Kabul Airport Highly In 24-36 Hours United States President Joe Biden
Aug 29 2021 Washington: President Joe Biden vowed to keep up airstrikes against the Islamic extremist group whose suicide bombing at the Kabul airport killed scores of Afghans and 13 American service members.
Another terror attack, he said, is “highly likely” this weekend as the US winds down its evacuation.
The Pentagon said the remaining contingent of US forces at the airport, now numbering fewer than 4,000, had begun their final withdrawal ahead of Biden’s deadline for ending the evacuation on Tuesday.
After getting briefed on a US drone mission in eastern Afghanistan that the Pentagon said killed two members of the Islamic State group’s Afghanistan affiliate early Saturday, Biden said the extremists can expect more.
“This strike was not the last,” Biden said in a statement. “We will continue to hunt down any person involved in that heinous attack and make them pay.” He paid tribute to the “bravery and selflessness” of the American troops executing the hurried airlift of tens of thousands from Kabul airport, including the 13 US service members who were killed in Thursday’s suicide bombing at an airport gate.
The evacuation proceeded as tensions rose over the prospect of another IS attack.
“Our commanders informed me that an attack is highly likely in the next 24-36 hours,” Biden said, adding that he has instructed them to take all possible measures to protect their troops, who are securing the airport and helping bring onto the airfield Americans and others desperate to escape Taliban rule.
The remains of the 13 American troops were on their way to the United States, the Pentagon said. Their voyage marked a painful moment in a nearly 20-year American war that cost more than 2,400 US military lives and is ending with the return to power of a Taliban movement that was ousted when US forces invaded in October 2001.
The remains of troops killed in action overseas are usually flown back to the US via Dover Air Base in Delaware, where fallen troops’ return to US soil is marked by a solemn movement known as the “dignified transfer.”
The White House did not say if Biden would travel to Dover for the troops’ return. Biden’s press secretary, Jen Psaki, said shortly after the attack that the president “would do everything he can to honor the sacrifice and the service” of those killed.
The Pentagon released the names of those killed; 11 Marines, one Navy sailor and one Army soldier. Twelve of them were in the 20s; some were born in 2001, the year America’s longest war began. The oldest was 31.
Another Kabul Attack Likely Before United States Leave Afghanistan Warn National Security Officials
28 Aug 2021: Members of the Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham, a Sunni Islamist militant group, wave the Taliban flags as they celebrate the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan
National security officials warned US President Biden on Friday (local time) that another terrorist attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, is “likely” in the final days of the US military mission in the country.
Biden and Vice President Harris met with Pentagon officials and members of the president’s national security team one day after a suicide bombing outside the Kabul airport attributed to ISIS killed more than a dozen US service members and dozens of Afghan civilians. The Hill reported.
“They advised the president and vice president that another terror attack in Kabul is likely, but that they are taking maximum force protection measures at the Kabul airport,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said in a briefing.
“They reported that even in the face of those threats, our courageous servicewomen and men are continuing to operate a historic evacuation operation,” she added.
“The US military is airlifting out thousands of people every few hours.”
“The next few days of this mission will be the most dangerous period to date,” Psaki said.
Pentagon officials had warned in the aftermath of Thursday’s bombing that another attack, including one using a car bomb or some other device, was still a possibility, The Hill reported.
US Central Command, Marine Corps General Kenneth F McKenzie Jr on Thursday (local time) said that an Islamic State terrorist attack at the Kabul airport killed 12 US troops and injured 15 more.
Four US Marines are among the 35 people who were reportedly killed in twin bomb blasts outside Kabul airport on Thursday.
The first blast was reported at the Abbey Gate in Kabul airport while the second one was near the Baron Hotel.
Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 215 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.48 Mn
Washington, Aug 28: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 214.5 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.48 million and vaccinations soared to over 5.12 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Saturday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and vaccination tally stood at 215,357,973, 4,484,434 and 5,123,427,298, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 38,700,164 and 636,667, respectively, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 32,603,188 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (20,703,906), France (6,778,133), Russia (6,747,681), the UK (6,697,770), Turkey (6,311,607), Argentina (5,167,733), Colombia (4,901,163), Iran (4,869,414), Spain (4,831,809), Italy (4,517,434), Indonesia (4,056,354), Germany (3,925,190) and Mexico (3,291,761), the CSSE figures showed.
In terms of deaths, Brazil comes second with 578,326 fatalities.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are India (436,861), Mexico (256,287), Peru (198,031), Russia (176,904), the UK (132,566), Indonesia (130,781), Italy (129,002), Colombia (124,648), France (114,291), Argentina (111,270) and Iran (105,287).—(IANS)
United States Hits Back At ISIS-K Days After Kabul Attack, Kills Terrorists Planner In Drone Strike In Afghanistan
28 Aug 2021: The US struck back at the Islamic State on Saturday bombing a member of the ISIS-K in Afghanistan, in a retaliatory airstrike days after a bombing claimed by the Islamic State killed as many as 169 Afghans and 13 American service members, news agencies reported.
According to the Pentagon, the drone strikes by the US military targeted a ‘planner’ of the IS outfit. A spokesperson for the US Central Command said the unmanned airstrike occurred in the Nangahar province of Afghanistan. The initial indications hint that the target has been killed, while there have been no civilian casualties, the spokesperson said.
Evacuations Resume After Kabul Bombings As Toll Now Over 100
Kabul, Aug 27: Evacuation flights from Afghanistan resumed with new urgency on Friday, a day after two suicide bombings targeted the thousands of desperate people fleeing the Taliban takeover and killed more than 100.
The US says further attempted attacks are expected ahead of the Tuesday deadline for foreign troops to leave, ending America”s longest war.
As the call to prayer echoed through Kabul with the whine of departing planes, the anxious crowd outside the airport was as large as ever.
In one location, dozens of Taliban members with heavy weapons about 500 meters from the airport were preventing anyone from venturing forward.
Thursday”s bombings near Kabul”s international airport killed at least 95 Afghans and 13 US troops, Afghan and US officials said, in the deadliest day for US forces in Afghanistan since August 2011.
An official said Friday that the true toll could be higher because other people may have taken bodies away from the scene, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
In an emotional speech, President Joe Biden blamed the Islamic State group”s Afghanistan affiliate, far more radical than the Taliban militants who seized power less than two weeks ago.
“We will rescue the Americans; we will get our Afghan allies out, and our mission will go on,” Biden said. But despite intense pressure to extend Tuesday”s deadline, he has cited the threat of terrorist attacks as a reason to keep to his plan.
The Taliban, back in control of Afghanistan two decades after they were ousted in a US-led invasion following the 9/11 attacks, insist on the deadline. The Trump administration in February 2020 struck an agreement with the Taliban that called for it to halt attacks on Americans in exchange for the removal of all US troops and contractors by May; Biden announced in April he would have them out by September.
While the US on Thursday said more than 100,000 people have been safely evacuated from Kabul, as many as 1,000 Americans and tens of thousands more Afghans are struggling to leave in one of history”s largest airlifts. Gen Frank McKenzie, the US Central Command chief overseeing the evacuation, on Thursday said about 5,000 people were awaiting flights on the airfield.
Yet more were arriving. Thursday”s attacks led Jamshad, who gave just his one name, to come early Friday with his wife and three small children, clutching an invitation to a Western country he didn”t want to name. This was his first attempt to leave, he said: “After the explosion I decided I would try because I am afraid now there will be more attacks and I think now I have to leave.”
“Believe me, I think that an explosion will happen any second or minute, God is my witness, but we have lots of challenges in our lives, that is why we take the risk to come here and we overcome fear,” said Ahmadullah Herawi, also seeking to flee.
The scenes at the airport, with people standing knee-deep in sewage and families thrusting documents and even young children toward US troops behind razor wire, have horrified many around the world as far-flung efforts continue to help people escape.
But those chances are fading fast for many. Some US allies have said they are ending evacuation efforts, in part to give the US time to wrap up its evacuation work before getting 5,000 of its troops out by Tuesday.
Britain said Friday its evacuations from Afghanistan will end within hours, and the main British processing center for eligible Afghans has been closed. Defense Secretary Ben Wallace told Sky News there would be “eight or nine” evacuation flights on Friday, and they will be the last. British troops will leave over the next few days.
The Spanish government said it has ended its evacuation operation. And the French European affairs minister, Clement Beaune, said on French radio Europe 1 that France will end its evacuation operation “soon” but may seek to extend it until after Friday night.
Untold thousands of Afghans, especially ones who had worked with the U.S. and other Western countries, are now in hiding from the Taliban, fearing retaliation despite the group”s offer of full amnesty. The militant group has claimed it has become more moderate since its harsh rule from 1996 to 2001, when it largely confined women to their homes, banned television and music and held public executions.
But Afghans in Kabul and elsewhere have reported that some Taliban members are barring girls from attending school and going door to door in search of people who had worked with Western forces.
No one knows how effective the Taliban will be at combating the Sunni extremists of IS, who have links to the group”s more well-known affiliate in Syria and Iraq and have carried out a series of brutal attacks in Afghanistan, mainly targeting its Shiite Muslim minority.—(AP)
No Proof Of Osama Bin Ladin’s Role In 9/11 Attack On United States, Claims Taliban Leader Zabiullah Mujahid
26 August 2021: The Taliban have claimed that Osama bin Laden, the mastermind behind the September 11 terror attacks on the United States, was not involved in the attacks and it was used as an excuse by the Americans to wage war on Afghanistan.
Speaking to NBC News, Taliban spokesman Zabibullah Mujahid said in an interview, “Even after 20 years of war, there is no evidence of his (Osama bin Laden) involvement (in the September 11, 2001 attacks).”
“There was no justification of this war, it was used as an excuse by the Americans for war,” said Mujahid.
Asked if the Taliban can guarantee Afghanistan will not again become a host to terrorist organisations like the al-Qaeda that carried out the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban spokesperson said that they have repeatedly made promises that terrorism won’t get a safe haven on the Afghan soil.
Zabibullah Mujahid said, “When Laden became a problem for the Americans, he was in Afghanistan. But there was no proof of his involvement and we have now promised that the Afghan soil won’t be used against anyone.”
Asked about the women who are living in fear of losing their rights under the Taliban rule, Mujahid said, “We respect women, they are our sisters. They should not be afraid. The Taliban have fought for the country. The women should be proud of us, not scared.”
In the NBC interview, when asked about the thousands of Afghans who are leaving the country fearing the Taliban regime, Mujahid said, “We don’t want our countrymen to leave the country. Whatever they have done in the past, we have given them amnesty. We need our country people, the young and educated folks for the nation. But if they want to live, it’s their choice.”
Afghanistan fell to the Taliban blitz on August 15 after the Talibs swept through almost the entire nation. Thousands of desperate Afghans have since been trying to flee the country and are waiting outside the Kabul airport.
United Kingdom Will Work With Taliban If Necessary: Boris Johnson
LONDON: British Prime Minister Boris Johnson has said the UK’s diplomatic efforts to find a solution in Afghanistan remain ongoing, which leaves open the prospect of working with the Taliban “if necessary”.
Speaking to the media after an emergency Cabinet Office Briefing Rooms (COBRA) meeting to discuss the crisis in the region on Friday, Johnson said “formidable” challenges remain around the evacuation of British nationals and supporters from Kabul airport but the situation was getting “slightly better”.
“What I want to assure people is that our political and diplomatic efforts to find a solution for Afghanistan, working with the Taliban, of course if necessary, will go on and our commitment to Afghanistan is lasting,” Johnson said.
“The situation is getting slightly better and we are seeing a stablisation at the airport. So yesterday [Thursday] we were able to get out about 1,000 people and today [Friday] another 1,000 people; a lot of those UK eligible persons coming back to this country and a lot of them people coming back under the Afghanistan Resettlement and Assistance Programme (ARAP) interpreters and others to whom we owe debts of gratitude and honour,” he said, adding that the operation will continue at a fast pace.
“So the operation is becoming faster, but I’m not going to pretend that it’s easy. The logistical challenges are formidable and they are doing an outstanding job in very difficult circumstances,” he said.
Johnson also defended his Foreign Secretary, Dominic Raab, who has come under fire from the Opposition over a missed phone call with his Afghan counterpart in the now fallen Ashraf Ghani government at the peak of the crisis last weekend.
Pressed on whether he believed suggestions from the new Taliban regime in charge that it may be more moderate in the future, Johnson said that it was important to take “people at face value”.
“We hope they mean what they say. But again, as I said in the House of Commons, and I think that this is the position of everybody from the President of the United States, President Macron of France, [German Chancellor] Angela Merkel, everybody that I talked to everybody is agreed that we will judge them on their actions, and that is the important thing,” he said.
Since last Saturday, the UK says has evacuated 1,615 people, including 399 British nationals and their dependants, 320 embassy staff, and 402 Afghan nationals who worked for the UK government in Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, the government has announced 5 million pounds for local councils in England, Scotland and Wales offering to house Afghans who have arrived under the ARAP programme.
Under the scheme, Afghans who face threats from the Taliban having worked for the UK in Afghanistan, have been allowed to come to Britain. PTI
Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 211.3 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.42 Mn
Washington, Aug 22: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 211.3 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.42 million and vaccinations soared to over 4.89 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Sunday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and vaccination tally stood at 211,304,126, 4,422,259 and 4,898,302,934, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 37,667,889 and 628,276, respectively, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 32,393,286 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (20,556,487), Russia (6,633,521), France (6,682,952), the UK (6,491,529), Turkey (6,177,660), Argentina (5,130,852), Colombia (4,883,932), Spain (4,770,453), Iran (4,640,695), Italy (4,478,691), Indonesia (3,967,048), Germany (3,870,095) and Mexico (3,197,108), the CSSE figures showed.
In terms of deaths, Brazil comes second with 574,209 fatalities.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are India (433,964), Mexico (252,080), Peru (197,752), Russia (172,257), the UK (131,909), Italy (128,728), Indonesia (125,342), Colombia (124,023), France (113,472), Argentina (110,217) and Iran (101,354).—(IANS)
Ashraf Ghani Is A Total Crook, Never Had Full Confidence In Him: Donald Trump
AUG 20: Former United States president Donald Trump, who has emerged as one of the strongest critics of the current US administration over the worsening situation in Afghanistan after the Taliban’s takeover, hit out at former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani.
Ghani, who fled Afghanistan on August 15 after the Taliban took over the capital city of Kabul, has been facing global criticism for abandoning the people of his country.
A slew of allegations has surfaced against him, including fleeing Kabul with four cars and a helicopter full of cash and stealing $169 million from state coffers.
Donald Trump, who was giving an interview to Fox News on Tuesday night, said he “never had full confidence in Ashraf Ghani”. “I said that openly and plainly I thought he was a total crook.
He spent all his time wining and dining our senators,” Trump said, adding the senators were always in Ghani’s pockets.
The Republican leader accused Ghani of getting away with murder in many, many different ways. However, he didn’t elaborate on what these ways were.
Trump also echoed the above allegations against Ghani and said that he suspected that the former Afghan president did leave Kabul on Sunday with cash.
Meanwhile, Ashraf Ghani, who is currently in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) with his family on ‘humanitarian grounds’, said that he is currently in talks to come back home. Releasing a video statement on Wednesday, Ghani said he was forced to leave Afghanistan “with one set of traditional clothes, a vest and the sandals”, adding he also left the country in an attempt to avoid bloodshed.
The former president also dismissed allegations of fleeing Kabul with suitcases full of cash by calling them baseless. “Do not believe whoever tells you that your president sold you out and fled for his own advantage and to save his own life,” he said in the video statement.
UN Human Rights Council To Fiscuss Afghanistan Issue On August 24 2021
Geneva [Switzerland], August 18 (ANI): The United Nations Human Rights Council will hold a special session on Afghanistan on August 24, to address the “serious human rights concerns” following the Taliban takeover of the war-torn country.
request of Afghanistan, Pakistan and coordinator of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, to address “serious human rights concerns” over the situation in Afghanistan, a statement said. The request has been supported by 89 nations so far. Most of the delegation will address the session via a video link, it added.
The Taliban took control of Afghanistan on Sunday when President Ashraf Ghani fled and the insurgents walked into Kabul with no opposition. Earlier on Tuesday, the Taliban had announced a “general amnesty” for all Afghan government officials and urged them to return to work, including women corresponding with Sharia law. The Taliban leaders are discussing future government plans in Doha and are in touch with the international community and intra-Afghan parties to make government in Afghanistan. The world is closely watching the unfolding situation in Afghanistan as the countries have scrambled to evacuate its citizen from Afghanistan in an attempt to secure their people. (ANI)
Biden Warns Taliban Of Swift And Forceful Response If US Personnel Are Attacked
Washington: US President Joe Biden on Monday warned the Taliban of swift and forceful response from the US if they attack American personnel or disrupt their operations in Afghanistan.
He said if the Taliban interfered with the US military’s evacuation operations in Afghanistan, the US would respond with devastating force.
“As we carry out this departure, we have made it clear to the Taliban, if they attack our personnel or disrupt our operation, the US presence will be swift, and the response will be swift and forceful,” Biden said in his address to the nation.
“We will defend our people with devastating force if necessary. Our current military mission was short in time, limited in scope, and focused on its objectives: get our people and our allies as safely and as quickly as possible,” he said.
He vowed to complete the planned withdrawal of US military troops in Afghanistan.
“And once we have completed this mission, we will conclude our military withdrawal. We’ll end America’s longest war after 20 long years of bloodshed. The events we’re seeing now are, sadly, proof that no amount of military force would ever deliver a stable, united, secure Afghanistan. As known in history, it’s the graveyard of empires,” he said.
Biden said what’s happening now could just as easily happen five years ago or 15 years in the future.
“You have to be honest. Our mission in Afghanistan is taking many missteps, made many missteps over the past two decades. I’m now the fourth American president to preside over the war in Afghanistan, two Democrats and two Republicans, he said.
“I will not pass this responsibly down to a fifth president. I will not mislead the American people by claiming that just a little more time in Afghanistan will make all the difference, nor will I shrink from my share of responsibility for what we are today and how we must move forward from here,” he said.
The US president said he is saddened by the current situation in Afghanistan, but does not regret his decision to withdraw American troops.
“I am president of the United States of America, and the buck stops with me. I’m deeply saddened by the facts we now face, but I do not regret my decision to end America’s warfighting in Afghanistan and maintain a laser focus on our counterterrorism mission there and other parts of the world. Our mission to degrade the terrorist threat of al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and kill Osama bin Laden was a success,” he said.
Biden said he will not ask his troops to fight on endlessly in another country’s civil war, taking casualties, suffering life-shattering injuries, leaving families broken by grief and loss.
“This is not in our national security interest. It is not what the American people want. It is not what our troops, who have sacrificed so much over the past two decades deserve. I made a commitment to the American people when I ran for president that I would bring America’s military involvement in Afghanistan to an end,” he said.
Kabul Situation Better Under Taliban Than It Was Under Ghani: Russia
KNN/17 Aug 2021: Russia’s ambassador to Afghanistan Dmitry Zhirnov has praised the Taliban’s conduct describing their approach as “good, positive and business-like” and said the hardline Islamist group had made Kabul safer in the first 24 hours than it had been under the previous authorities. “The situation is peaceful and good and everything has calmed down in the city. The situation in Kabul now under the Taliban is better than it was under (President) Ashraf Ghani,” Zhirnov said while speaking to Moscow’s Ekho Moskvy radio station, according to Reuters.
There was a feeling of disorder, a power vacuum, and looters came out on the streets,” Zhirnov said, reported Reuters. Ghani fled on Sunday as the Taliban seized control of the country with lightning speed stunning countries across the world. The Afghan president said he left the country as he wanted to prevent bloodshed. There is no official confirmation of his whereabouts.
India sets up Afghanistan cell to coordinate repatriation amid chaos in Kabul
Russia’s state news agency RIA Novosti reported that the Russian embassy in Kabul alleged on Monday that Ghani fled from Kabul with four cars and a helicopter full of cash. “The collapse of the regime … is most eloquently characterised by how Ghani escaped from Afghanistan: four cars were filled with money, they tried to shove another part of the money into a helicopter, but not everything fit. And some of the money was left lying on the tarmac,’ embassy spokesman Nikita Ishchenko was quoted saying in the report.
Joe Biden defends US exit from Afghanistan amid Taliban takeover
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, Zamir Kabulov, said on Monday Ghani’s flight from Kabul was ‘disgraceful,’ and that the Afghan president ‘deserves to be brought to justice and held accountable by the Afghan people.’
Will decide on recognising Taliban govt based on ‘conduct’: Russian envoy
Zhirnov said initially unarmed Taliban units had entered the capital and asked government and US forces to surrender their weapons and their main armed units entered later once Ghani fled and imposed a curfew. The Russian ambassador added the Taliban have already taken control of the security perimeter of the Russian embassy, which has over 100 staff. He said he would hold detailed security talks with the Taliban on Tuesday.
The Taliban had promised, in line with earlier agreements, to protect Russian diplomats, he said. He said schools in Kabul, including those for girls, had started functioning again.
Implications of US move for the world
Russia has reached out to the Taliban in recent years and hosted its representatives in Moscow several times, most recently last month. The country once tried and failed to control the hardline Islamist group before the Soviet Union withdrew its last forces in 1989.
Kabulov said on Monday that Moscow’s long campaign to build ties with the Taliban appeared now to be paying off. “It’s not for nothing that we’ve been establishing contacts with the Taliban movement for the last seven years. We saw that this force would in the end if not completely come to power would play a leading role in the future of Afghanistan in any case,” Kabulov told Ekho Moskvy.
Kabulov said Russia would decide on recognising the new Taliban government based “on the conduct of the new authorities” and that his country “established working contacts with representatives of the new authorities”.
Kabul, Aug 15: Taliban have started entering Kabul from all sides as they have the city entirely surrounded, the Afghan Interior Ministry has said on Sunday.
Taliban ordered fighters to refrain from acts of violence in Kabul and to allow safe passage to anyone who chooses to exit the city, according to a Taliban leader in Doha, Qatar.
They have also requested women to head to protected areas in Kabul.
Fewer than 50 US officials will stay in Kabul, as core US team members in Kabul are working from Kabul Airport. In addition, several UN staff members moved to an undisclosed, safer location in Kabul, according to a North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) official—(REUTERS)
Taliban Seize Jalalabad, Cut Off Afghan Capital From East
KABUL, Aug 15: The Taliban seized the city of Jalalabad early Sunday, cutting off Afghanistan’s increasingly isolated capital Kabul to the east as the insurgents’ blitz across the country continued as the U.S. and NATO prepare to withdraw from the country after two decades of war.
The militants posted photos online early Sunday showing them in the governor’s office in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province.
Abrarullah Murad, a lawmaker from the province told The Associated Press that the insurgents seized Jalalabad after elders negotiated the fall of the government there.
The seizure Sunday comes amid rapid gains by the Taliban over the last week, pressuring Afghanistan’s central government as U.S., British and Canadian forces rush troops in to help their diplomatic staffs still there. Thousands have poured into Kabul to flee the Taliban advance.
The fall Saturday of Mazar-e-Sharif, the country’s fourth largest city, which Afghan forces and two powerful former warlords had pledged to defend, hands the insurgents control over all of northern Afghanistan.
On Saturday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani delivered a televised speech, his first public appearance since the recent Taliban gains. He vowed not to give up the “achievements” of the 20 years since the U.S.-led invasion toppled the Taliban after the 9/11 attacks.
The U.S. has continued holding peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar this week, and the international community has warned that a Taliban government brought about by force would be shunned. But the insurgents appear to have little interest in making concessions as they rack up victories on the battlefield.
“We have started consultations, inside the government with elders and political leaders, representatives of different levels of the community as well as our international allies,” Ghani said. “Soon the results will be shared with you,” he added, without elaborating further.–(AP)
Global Covid-19 Caseload Tops 206.6 Mn, Deaths Surge To More Than 4.35 Mn
Washington, Aug 15: The global coronavirus caseload has topped 206.6 million, while the deaths have surged to more than 4.35 million and vaccinations soared to over 4.64 billion, according to the Johns Hopkins University.
In its latest update on Sunday morning, the University’s Center for Systems Science and Engineering (CSSE) revealed that the current global caseload, death toll and vaccination tally stood at 206,659,550, 4,353,037 and 4,645,940,785, respectively.
The US continues to be the worst-hit country with the world’s highest number of cases and deaths at 36,631,893 and 621,209, respectively, according to the CSSE.
In terms of infections, India follows in the second place with 32,156,493 cases.
The other worst countries with over 3 million cases are Brazil (20,350,142), France (6,471,262), Russia (6,490,421), the UK (6,270,667), Turkey (6,039,827), Argentina (5,080,908), Colombia (4,864,629), Spain (4,693,540), Italy (4,435,008), Iran (4,389,085), Germany (3,824,546), Indonesia (3,833,541) and Mexico (3,068,329), the CSSE figures showed.
In terms of deaths, Brazil comes second with 568,788 fatalities.
Nations with a death toll of over 100,000 are India (430,732), Mexico (247,414), Peru (197,279), Russia (166,795), the UK (131,210), Italy (128,413), Colombia (123,356), Indonesia (116,366), France (112,705) and Argentina (108,936).—(IANS)
Biden Increases US Deployment To Afghanistan, Warns Taliban
Washington, Aug 15: President Joe Biden on Saturday doubled down on his decision to withdraw US forces from Afghanistan despite the Taliban’s rapid advances, but pledged to send more troops to evacuate civilians and warned the insurgents not to threaten that mission.
After consultations with his national security team, Biden said a total of “approximately 5,000” US soldiers — up from 3,000 — will now help organize evacuations and the end of the US mission after 20 years on the ground.
He warned the Taliban that any action “that puts US personnel or our mission at risk there, will be met with a swift and strong US military response.”
Biden’s announcement came after Taliban insurgents captured the main northern holdout city of Mazar-i-Sharif and continued their rapid march towards the capital Kabul.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani pledged Saturday not to let the “imposed war on people cause more deaths,” and said consultations were taking place to try to help end the war, without offering details.
US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who was part of the team that conferred with Biden, spoke by telephone with Ghani on Saturday, his spokesman said.
“They discussed the urgency of ongoing diplomatic and political efforts to reduce the violence,” spokesman Ned Price said.
Blinken was also expected to “engage with key regional stakeholders” on the escalating Taliban march on Kabul, Biden said.
Earlier, US Central Command said more American military personnel had arrived in Kabul to ensure the safe evacuation of American embassy employees and Afghan civilians who worked for US forces.
The Pentagon estimates it will need to evacuate about 30,000 people before it completes its withdrawal from Afghanistan by August 31, a deadline set by Biden.
Biden’s decision to pull troops out of Afghanistan has come under increased scrutiny given the implosion of the country’s armed forces, but he said he had no other choice — and laid some of the blame at the feet of Donald Trump.
“When I came to office, I inherited a deal cut by my predecessor… that left the Taliban in the strongest position militarily since 2001 and imposed a May 1, 2021, deadline on US forces,” Biden said.
“I faced a choice — follow through on the deal, with a brief extension to get our forces and our allies’ forces out safely, or ramp up our presence and send more American troops to fight once again in another country’s civil conflict,” he added.
“I was the fourth president to preside over an American troop presence in Afghanistan — two Republicans, two Democrats. I would not, and will not, pass this war onto a fifth,” Biden said—(AFP)
Taliban Take Over Radio Station After Capturing Afghan City
Kabul :14 August 2021, The Taliban seized a radio station in Kandahar and took to the airwaves Saturday after capturing much of southern Afghanistan in a rapid offensive that has raised fears of a full takeover less than three weeks before the US is set to withdraw its last troops.
The Taliban have captured much of northern, western and southern Afghanistan in recent weeks, leaving the Western-backed government in control of a smattering of provinces in the centre and east, as well as the capital, Kabul, and the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.
The withdrawal of foreign forces and the swift retreat of Afghanistan’s own troops despite hundreds of billions of dollars in US aid over the years has raised fears the Taliban could return to power or the country could be plunged into civil war.
The first Marines from a contingent of 3,000 arrived on Friday to help partially evacuate the US Embassy. The rest are set to arrive by Sunday, and their deployment has raised questions about whether the administration will meet its August 31 withdrawal deadline.
The Taliban released a video in which an unnamed insurgent announced the takeover of the city’s main radio station, which has been renamed the Voice of Sharia, or Islamic law. He said all employees were present and would broadcast news, political analysis and recitations of the Quran, the Islamic holy book. It appears the station will no longer play music.
It was not clear if the Taliban had purged the previous employees or allowed them to return to work. Most residents of Kandahar sport the traditional dress favoured by the Taliban. The man in the video congratulated the people of Kandahar on the Taliban’s victory.
The Taliban have operated mobile radio stations over the years, but have not operated a station inside a major city since they ruled the country from 1996-2001. At that time, they also ran a station called Voice of Sharia out of Kandahar, the birthplace of the militant group. Music was banned.
The US invaded shortly after the 9/11 attacks, which al-Qaida planned and carried out while being sheltered by Taliban. After rapidly ousting the Taliban, the US shifted toward nation-building, hoping to create a modern Afghan state after decades of war and unrest.
Earlier this year, President Joe Biden announced a timeline for the withdrawal of all US troops by the end of August, pledging to end America’s longest war. His predecessor, President Donald Trump, had reached an agreement with the Taliban to pave the way for a US pullout.
Biden’s announcement set the latest offensive in motion. The Taliban, who have long controlled large parts of the Afghan countryside, moved quickly to seize provincial capitals, border crossings and other key infrastructure. They are now within 80 kilometres (50 miles) of Kabul.
Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes, with many fearing a return to the Taliban’s oppressive rule. The group had previously governed Afghanistan under a harsh version of Islamic law in which women were largely confined to the home. (AP)