Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: House Passes Legislation Increasing SIV Access; ANDSF to Re-consolidate Around Cities

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  • The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation on Thursday that will increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas available for Afghans who had worked with the United States, broadening eligibility for the program and reducing the threshold of proof required for receipt of the visa. Officials in Tajikistan said Friday that they were preparing to take in as many as 100,000 Afghan refugees, but Uzbekistan officials said that it had no legal basis through which to temporarily host SIV applicants.
  • The U.S. has reportedly carried out “approximately six or seven” strikes in Afghanistan in the past 30 days, most carried out via armed drone, including strikes near Kandahar city over Wednesday night. Pres. Ghani visited Nangarhar on Thursday to review security in the province; Reuters reports that the Afghan military is planning to re-concentrate its forces around Kabul and other major cities, border crossings, and infrastructure.
  • In an AP interview, Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen claimed that the Taliban “do not believe in the monopoly of power”, but said that any ceasefire would need to be preceded by an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans”. Shaheen also claimed that “those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us … were through mediation of the people, through talks”.
  • Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman objected to remarks by his Indian counterpart on the attack on the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad last week.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 1,000,034 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.584 million tests, with at least 22,939 associated deaths; 24.096 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Friday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with India: Speaking at a weekly press briefing on Thursday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry spokesman objected to remarks by his Indian counterpart on the attack on the Afghan ambassador’s daughter in Islamabad last week; Indian spokesman Arindam Bagchi had stated that “since the Pakistan interior minister has dragged India into it, I would only like to say that even by their standards, Pakistan’s denial of the victim’s account is stooping to a new low”. In a separate statement on Friday, the Pakistani foreign ministry called for a UN investigation into Indian use of Israeli spyware to target domestic opposition groups and PM Khan. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Qureshi Departs for China: The Pakistani foreign ministry announced that Foreign Minister Qureshi will depart for China on Friday for two days of talks with his counterpart Foreign Minister Wang Yi. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PM Khan will hold an election rally in Azad Jammu in Kashmir on Friday ahead of legislative assembly elections scheduled for July 25.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Army Chief Visits Family of Slain Soldier in Kurram [ET]
  • Commentary: Pakistan’s Pyrrhic Victory in Afghanistan – “These developments will take Pakistan further away from becoming “a normal country,” perpetuating dysfunction at home and locking it into a foreign policy defined by hostility toward India and dependence on China.” [Husain Haqqani, Foreign Affairs]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Refugee Resettlement: The U.S. House of Representatives voted on Thursday for bipartisan legislation that will increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas available for Afghans who had worked with the United States, broadening eligibility for the program and reducing the threshold of proof required for receipt of the visa. The scheduled for Senate consideration of similar legislation is unclear, and even with reductions in the process to receive visas, clearance for applicants under the new regulations is expected to take as long as a year. U.S. military officials are preparing to house as many as 35,000 SIV applicants and their family members at two bases in Qatar and Kuwait; on Thursday, Uzbekistan’s special envoy for Afghanistan Shavkat Mirzyiyoyev said that Uzbekistan had “no legal basis” to accept a U.S. request to temporarily house some visa applications there. Officials in Tajikistan said Friday that they were preparing to take in as many as 100,000 Afghan refugees. The EU is reportedly considering additional financial assistance to Afghanistan and neighboring countries in the region in an effort to limit or support the outflow of refugees from the country. The NYT reports on efforts by American veterans to help resettle Afghan partners, and parallel efforts by Canadian veterans. [CNN] [Reuters] [TOLO]
  • Attacks and Operations: Speaking at a press briefing on Thursday, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that the U.S. had carried out airstrikes in support of Afghan forces in “the last several days”, but did not provide further details; a Taliban spokesman said that the strikes had been carried out near Kandahar city over Wednesday night, condemning them as a violation of the February 2020 Doha agreement. CNN reports that the U.S. has carried out “approximately six or seven” strikes in Afghanistan in the past 30 days, most carried out via armed drone. On Thursday, Pres. Ghani visited Nangarhar to review security in the province. Reuters reports that the Afghan military is planning to re-concentrate its forces around Kabul and other major cities, border crossings, and infrastructure. TOLO reports that Afghan forces withdrew from the Marjah and Garmser districts in Helmand. The Washington Post reports on the collapse of regular police and army forces in Kunduz and other areas of the country and efforts by Afghan special forces commandos to retake those areas. The ministry of interior alleges that more than a hundred civilians have been killed since the Taliban seized control of the Spin Boldak border crossing in Kandahar. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In an AP interview, Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen claimed that “we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments”. Shaheen also claimed that “those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us … were through mediation of the people, through talks”. He also disputed the legitimacy of the current government and said that it did “not want reconciliation, they want surrendering”, insisting that any ceasefire would need to be preceded by an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans”.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Friday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Russia to Assist in Construction of New Tajikistan Border Outpost [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: 4000 SIV Applicants to Be Relocated to Third Countries; Qureshi to Visit China

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  • The State Department reported Wednesday that approximately 4,000 SIV applicants have been cleared for relocation to third countries with their families to wait for the completion of the visa process, in addition to approximately 750 applicants and their families who will be relocated to Fort Lee, Virginia.
  • On Wednesday, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry reiterated its objections over “the continuation of the unprofessional remarks of the Minister of Interior of Pakistan in connection with the abduction of the daughter of [the] Afghan ambassador in Islamabad”.
  • Pres. Ghani visited the Special Operations Command Corps headquarters on Wednesday, where he reiterated that the Taliban “have no will for peace and we should make decisions based on this”.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi will reportedly visit China on Thursday for talks with his counterpart.
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 998,609 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.559 million tests, with at least 22,928 associated deaths; 24.096 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Thursday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Tensions with Afghanistan: In remarks on Wednesday, Foreign Minister Qureshi called on Afghanistan to review its decision to withdraw its ambassador to Pakistan. Also on Wednesday, Afghanistan’s foreign ministry reiterated its objections over “the continuation of the unprofessional remarks of the Minister of Interior of Pakistan in connection with the abduction of the daughter of [the] Afghan ambassador in Islamabad”; earlier on Tuesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid had denied that the woman had been kidnapped. On Thursday, Pakistan reopened the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing, which was seized by the Taliban on the Afghan side last week.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 998,609 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.559 million tests, with at least 22,928 associated deaths; 24.096 million vaccine doses have been administered.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Sindh Police Deployed as Rival Sects Contest Control of Badin Shrine [Dawn]
  • Karachi Police Charged with Smuggling Cannabis [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Sec. Austin reaffirmed that the U.S. would complete its military withdrawal from Afghanistan by the end of August. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley told reporters that “there’s a possibility of a complete Taliban takeover, or the possibility of any number of other scenarios” and acknowledged that “strategic momentum appears to be sort of with the Taliban”; Milley said that “this is going to be a test now of the will and leadership of the Afghan people, the Afghan security forces and the government of Afghanistan”. Approximately 4,000 SIV applicants have been cleared for relocation to third countries with their families to wait for the completion of the visa process, in addition to approximately 750 applicants and their families who will be relocated to Fort Lee, Virginia; State Department officials say that all flights will take place from Kabul. [Reuters] [Khabarnama]
  • Attacks and Operations: Limited violence was reported across the country on the second day of Eid-ul Adha on Wednesday. Military officials in Kunar say that security checkposts were attacked in the Ghaziabad district on Wednesday morning. Officials in the Kaldar district in Balkh report that the Taliban are collecting taxes in the district.

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Pres. Ghani visited the Special Operations Command Corps headquarters on Wednesday, where he reiterated that the Taliban “have no will for peace and we should make decisions based on this”. The U.S. embassy in Kabul repeated a call on “the Taliban and all parties to immediately end the violence, agree to a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire”. [Ariana News] [Khabarnama]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Thursday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Tajikistan Conducts Military Exercises on Border [Reuters]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Pakistan Says Ambassador’s Daughter Wasn’t Kidnapped; News Orgs Seek Visas for Employees

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  • Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that the daughter of Afghan ambassador Najibullah Alikhil was not kidnapped as reported last week, claiming that “Pakistan is facing an unannounced international hybrid war by elements who want to malign the country and destabilise its relations with China and Afghanistan”.
  • A coalition of U.S. news organizations appealed to Pres. Biden and Congress on Tuesday to expand access to the Special Immigrant Visa program to include former employees of news organizations working in Afghanistan.
  • On Tuesday, state minister for information Farrukh Habib accused Nawaz Sharif of using Israeli spyware technology to hack then-candidate Imran Khan’s phone during the 2018 general elections, alleging that the PML-N had done so with Indian assistance.
  • In remarks at an event on Tuesday, Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov suggested that a Taliban takeover of northern districts bordering Central Asia and other states could increase security, contrasting the group’s domestic focus with the Islamic State or other externally-focused militant groups.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 996,451 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.525 million tests, with at least 22,888 associated deaths; 24.096 million vaccine doses have been administered. Hospitals in Karachi are reportedly nearing capacity as coronavirus case levels surge in the city.
  • As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Wednesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Interior Minister Says Ambassador’s Daughter Not Kidnapped: Speaking at a press conference on Tuesday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid said that the daughter of Afghan ambassador Najibullah Alikhil was not kidnapped as reported last week, claiming that “Pakistan is facing an unannounced international hybrid war by elements who want to malign the country and destabilise its relations with China and Afghanistan”. [Dawn] [Khaama Press]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Eid Celebrated: Pakistani leaders celebrated Eid ul Azha on Wednesday. Saudi Arabia released and repatriated a group of 63 Pakistani prisoners on the occasion. [ET]
  • NSO Spying Program: State minister for information Farrukh Habib accused the PML-N government of using the Israeli NSO Group’s ‘Pegasus’ spyware technology to hack then-candidate Imran Khan’s phone during the 2018 general elections, alleging that Nawaz Sharif had done so with the assistance of PM Modi of India.
  • AJK Elections: More than 43,000 police and paramilitary security personnel will be deployed at polling stations across Azad Jammu and Kashmir for the legislative assembly elections scheduled to take place on July 25.
  • Media Controls: On Wednesday, the Pakistan Telecommunications Authority reimposed a ban on access to the video-sharing application TikTok, citing the “continuous presence of inappropriate content on the platform and its failure to take such content down”.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Express Tribune notes that the Pakistan Bar Council has yet to nominate a replacement member of the Judicial Commission of Pakistan despite a two month gap since the conclusion of the last PBC-nominated member’s term. [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The Punjab provincial government reportedly plans to finalize plans to reinstitute local government bodies in response to a Supreme Court order after Eid. Pres. Alvi signed two bills into law on Tuesday governing women’s property rights and assistance to senior citizens. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 996,451 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.525 million tests, with at least 22,888 associated deaths; 24.096 million vaccine doses have been administered. Hospitals in Karachi are reportedly nearing capacity as coronavirus case levels surge in the city. Dawn reports that some private businesses in Karachi have threatened to suspend salaries for employees who do not get vaccinated.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Editor Arif Nizami Passes Away [Dawn] [ET]
  • Gas Supply to CNG and Industrial Sectors Restored [ET]
  • Commentary: There Are Many Things Pakistan Can Learn from China; One-Party Rule Isn’t One of Them – “The constitution that guarantees the rights of dissenting voices in opposition also set clear limits for those in power. There are many things we can learn from China, but one-party rule isn’t one of them.” [Hamid Mir, WAPO]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: A coalition of U.S. news organizations appealed to Pres. Biden and Congress on Tuesday to expand access to the Special Immigrant Visa program to include former employees of news organizations working in Afghanistan. The AP profiles a chaplain at Dover Air Force Base, where American casualties from the war were repatriated. [Khaama Press]
  • Russian Border Security: In remarks at an event on Tuesday, Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov suggested that a Taliban takeover of northern districts bordering Central Asia and other states could increase security, contrasting the group’s domestic focus with the Islamic State or other externally-focused militant groups. Kabulov also claimed that the Taliban were “ready for a political compromise”. Russia will reportedly deploy 17 additional infantry fighting vehicles to its military base with Tajikistan near the Afghan border. Former Pres. Karzai, who also participated virtually in the event, said that he had urged the U.S. to “engage with Russia and with other major powers in this region so we can have peace”, and criticized what he claimed was an “intention by the United States and some of its allies to create a weakened Afghanistan where there is government in name in Kabul, and then there are splinters of governments or authorities around the country.”
  • Attacks and Operations: Although no official ceasefire was announced by the Taliban, TOLO reports limited or no attacks around the country on Tuesday, the first day of the Eid-ul Adha holidays. The interior ministry announced that a Taliban shadow district governor was killed in an operation in Kapisa’s Nijrab district on Wednesday.  [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: In remarks on Tuesday, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor, who joined a delegation of senior Afghan political leaders led by Abdullah Abdullah for meetings with the Taliban last weekend, said that the Taliban had sought the release of more prisoners and the removal of Taliban leaders from UN blacklists as a “trust-building measure”. Noor rejected that proposal.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Wednesday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Commentary: The Taliban Wants to Rule Afghanistan Again, But the Country Has Changed – “The new more globalized, cosmopolitan and complex Afghan society is looking for a new, more representative politics to match.” [Robert Crews and Wazhmah Osman, WAPO]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Khalilzad Visits Islamabad; Some SIV Applicants to Be Relocated to Virginia Army Base

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  • Amb. Khalilzad met with PM Khan during a visit to Islamabad on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process, urging “tangible steps” in support of the Afghan peace process.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Foreign Minister Qurehsi said that the investigation into last week’s attack on the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan’s daughter was still ongoing and “we are waiting for [Afghan officials] to come and give their point of view”. The Afghan foreign ministry said that it would send a delegation to Pakistan to discuss the incident.
  • A group of approximately 700 Special Immigrant Visa applicants and their immediate family members will be relocated to the U.S. army base at Fort Lee, Virginia while they await the completion of their application process, the State Department and Pentagon said on Monday.
  • Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese ambassador Nong Rong in Rawalpindi on Monday to discuss the attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project.
  • Several rockets struck near the presidential palace in Kabul on Tuesday during a ceremony marking Eid-ul-Adha; no injuries were reported, and the Taliban denied involvement. The Taliban have not announced an Eid ceasefire, but spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tells Reuters that the group is in a “state of defense” during the holiday period.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 993,872 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.484 million tests, with at least 22,848 associated deaths; 22.735 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Tuesday.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghan Ambassador’s Daughter Kidnapping: Speaking at a press conference on Monday, Foreign Minister Qurehsi said that the investigation into last week’s kidnapping and attack on the Afghan ambassador to Pakistan’s daughter was still ongoing and “we are waiting for [Afghan officials] to come and give their point of view”. The Afghan foreign ministry said that it would send a delegation to Pakistan to discuss the incident. Speaking at the same press conference, National Security Advisor Moeed Yusuf said that the incident was “part of an orchestrated campaign of which various fronts have been opened against Pakistan”. Separately, a Taliban spokesman denied involvement. During a phone call with Foreign Minister Atmar on Monday, Qureshi pledged additional security for the Afghan embassy in Islamabad.
  • Chinese Security: Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with Chinese ambassador Nong Rong in Rawalpindi on Monday to discuss the attack on a bus carrying Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project; Bajwa was quoted pledging to “thwart designs of all inimical forces challenging the resolve of Pakistan and China, particularly strategic cooperation between the two sides.”
  • Phone Hacking: PM Khan was reportedly among the targets of a broad global hacking program carried out by the Israel-based NSO group. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • AJK Elections: PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz led a campaign rally in the Haveli district in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Monday. AJK Prime Minister Raja Farooq Haider, a member of the PML-N, threatened to conduct a sit-in protest against the PTI federal government, accusing PM Khan and other cabinet members of interfering in the forthcoming elections. PPP leader also accused the government of transferring voters between constituencies. PM Khan postponed a campaign rally in Muzaffarabad due to weather on Monday. [ET] [The Nation] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Lahore High Court gave the Punjab provincial government a weeklong deadline to present plans to restore local government bodies following an earlier Supreme Court ruling. A former associate of JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehman was granted bail by the Peshawar High Court on Monday after being arrested last September on corruption charges. [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: In a meeting with PTI leaders on Monday, PM Khan directed party leaders to begin preparations for the 2023 general elections. Estranged PTI leader Jahangir Tareen will meet with a group of supporters after Eid to discuss relations with the government. The JUI-F has announced plans for a protest against the Balochistan provincial government after Eid. PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi was sworn in as federal minister for water resources on Monday. [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 993,872 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.484 million tests, with at least 22,848 associated deaths; 22.735 million vaccine doses have been administered. A shipment of 700,000 doses of the Sinopharm coronavirus vaccine was delivered to Pakistan on Tuesday. The Sindh provincial government is considering new health restrictions in response to rising cases in Karachi, where the test positivity rate now exceeds 23%. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • External Borrowing Totals $14.3 Billion in FY2021 [Dawn]
  • Pakistani National Among 10 Eligible for Transfer from Guantanamo Prison [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: A group of approximately 700 Special Immigrant Visa applicants and their immediate family members will be relocated to the U.S. army base at Fort Lee, Virginia while they await the completion of their application process, the State Department and Pentagon said on Monday. There are around 18,000 pending visa applications in total. In remarks on Tuesday, Turkish Pres. Erdogan acknowledged “discomforts” on the part of the Taliban to a proposed Turkish role securing the Kabul airport, but said that “we will discuss these issues with them well and have an agreement because Turkey does not have an opposing side to their beliefs”. Final agreement with the U.S. and NATO over the airport mission appears to still be unresolved. [NYT] [Reuters]
  • Border Security: Russia deployed additional tanks near the Afghan-Tajik border as part of joint military exercises planned for next month, and also announced additional exercises with Uzbekistan near the border. [RFE/RL]
  • Attacks and Operations: Several rockets struck near the presidential palace in Kabul on Tuesday during a ceremony marking Eid-ul-Adha; no injuries were reported, and the Taliban denied involvement. The Taliban have not announced an Eid ceasefire, but spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid tells Reuters that the group is in a “state of defense” during the holiday period. In his remarks at the event on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani said that “the Taliban have no intention and willingness for peace” and criticized the release of Taliban prisoners last year. Afghan forces have reportedly retaken control of the Garmser district in Helmand and the Dara-i-Sawf district in Samangan in operations on Monday. [Ariana News] [Khaama Press] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Amb. Khalilzad met with PM Khan during a visit to Islamabad on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process, urging “tangible steps” in support of the Afghan peace process. In a statement for Eid, Abdullah Abdullah said that “the last opportunities remain for a political settlement and an enduring peace in Afghanistan” and that “the people of Afghanistan are expecting the peace negotiations to be expedited so the opportunity is not missed.” [TOLO] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of this writing, no new coronavirus data has been reported for Afghanistan for Tuesday.

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Afghan Ambassador’s Daughter Attacked in Islamabad; Abdullah and Taliban Meet in Doha

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  • The daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan was kidnapped and beaten in an attack in Islamabad on Friday evenings. On Sunday, the Afghan foreign ministry announced the recall of Amb. Najibullah Alikhil and other senior diplomats from its embassy “until all security threats are addressed including the arrest and trial of the perpetrators of abduction”. On Sunday evening, Pakistan recalled its own ambassador from Kabul for consultations. At a press conference on Sunday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid blamed “a conspiracy planned by [the Indian intelligence service] RAW” for the attack.
  • Taliban negotiators and members of a delegation from Kabul headed by Abdullah Abdullah met in Doha for two days of talks; in a joint statement on Sunday they agreed to “continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached” but announced no further details. In a statement attributed to Taliban movement leader Haibatullah Akhunzada issued on Sunday ahead of Eid-ul-Adha, Haibatullah said that “in spite of the military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country, and every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system.” In a joint statement on Monday, fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan called on the Taliban to “lay down their weapons for good and show the world their commitment to the peace process”.
  • In remarks at a conference in Uzbekistan on Friday, Pres. Ghani blamed Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Taliban and alleged that more than ten thousand Taliban fighters had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan in the past month.
  • Anonymous Pakistani security officials tell the NYT that the blast that killed a group of nine Chinese engineers and four Pakistanis near the Dasu dam project last week was caused by a suicide car bombing, not a gas cylinder explosion as initial reports suggested. Chinese investigators visited the attack site on Saturday.
  • Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reported that Pres. Putin offered to allow the U.S. to use Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for intelligence surveillance of Afghanistan when Putin met with Pres. Biden in mid-June; no U.S. response was reported.
  • On Friday, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan agreed to form a new quadrilateral “diplomatic platform” to discuss regional connectivity projects and the Afghan peace process.
  • The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission barred federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur from participating in election events, concluding that he had violated the electoral code of conduct in speeches and rallies in the runup to the elections on July 25. PM Khan led his first rallies of the campaign over the weekend.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 991,727 COVID-19 cases, out of 15.443 million tests, with at least 22,811 associated deaths; 22.735 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of Sunday, the most recent day for which data is available as of this writing, Afghanistan reports 141,499 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 6,213 deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghan Ambassador’s Daughter Attacked: The daughter of Afghanistan’s ambassador to Pakistan was kidnapped and beaten in an attack in Islamabad on Friday evenings, officials announced; the AP reports that she had suffered broken blows and injuries to the head. The circumstances of her release are unclear. On Sunday, the Afghan foreign ministry announced the recall of Amb. Najibullah Alikhil and other senior diplomats from its embassy “until all security threats are addressed including the arrest and trial of the perpetrators of abduction”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry said that the withdrawal was “unfortunate and regrettable”; on Sunday evening, Pakistan recalled its own ambassador from Kabul for consultations. Earlier on Sunday Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid pledged to investigate the incident and said that police had questioned a group of taxi drivers in connection to the incident; he blamed “a conspiracy planned by [the Indian intelligence service] RAW” for the attack and suggested that the woman had not in fact been kidnapped. Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke by phone with Foreign Minister Atmar on Monday to discuss the incident, and reportedly expressed concern over “unprofessional comments and premature judgements” by Interior Minister Rashid. [TOLO] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Tensions with Afghanistan: In a statement on Friday, the Pakistani foreign ministry announced the postponement of a planned conference for Saturday on the Afghan peace process that it had announced the day prior; Pres. Ghani is reported to have objected to the conference in a meeting with PM Khan at a summit in Tashkent on Thursday, and the event also conflicted with meets in Qatar between a delegation headed by Abdullah Abdullah and the Taliban. In his public remarks at the Tashkent conference, Pres. Ghani blamed Pakistan for failing to crack down on the Taliban and alleged that more than ten thousand Taliban fighters had crossed into Afghanistan from Pakistan in the past month. A Pakistani foreign ministry readout of Ghani and Khan’s meeting said that Khan had called for an “immediate reduction in violence” and had reiterated Pakistani support for a peace process. In an interview on Saturday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar attributed a recent increase in attacks targeting Pakistani forces to militants based in Afghanistan, who he said were operating with the support of Indian intelligence. Pakistan reopened the Chaman-Spin Boldak border crossing on Saturday. The Express Tribune reports that the Pakistani government is considering a proposal to seek $2.2 billion in international assistance to support a potentially influx of 500,000-700,000 additional Afghan refugees this year. [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Dasu Blast: Anonymous Pakistani security officials tell the NYT that the blast that killed a group of nine Chinese engineers and four Pakistanis near the Dasu dam project last week was caused by a suicide car bombing, not a gas cylinder explosion as initial reports suggested. Chinese investigators visited the attack site on Saturday; Dawn reports that the team concluded its visit on Sunday. Foreign Minister Qureshi and Chinese Ambassador Nong Rong met with victims of the attack at a hospital in Rawalpindi on Sunday. No claim of responsibility has been reported for the attack. [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Azad Jammu and Kashmir Elections: The Azad Jammu and Kashmir Election Commission barred federal minister Ali Amin Gandapur from participating in election events, concluding that he had violated the electoral code of conduct in speeches and rallies in the runup to the elections on July 25. Paramilitary soldiers have begun deploying to provide security at polling stations. Maryam Nawaz led campaign rallies for the PML-N on Saturday and Sunday, reiterating allegations that the PTI government was planning to convert the territory to provincial status and warning against election rigging by the government.  Aseefa Bhutto led a PPP rally on Saturday. PM Khan led his first rallies of the campaign in Bagh on Saturday and Bhimber on Sunday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The Peshawar High Court overturned a set of 2019 boundary changes to around a dozen provincial assembly constituencies in Khyber Paktunkhwa, accepting a complaint from a group of petitioners arguing they had been denied their right to comment on the proposed changes. Former Lyari gang leader Uzair Baloch was acquitted in two additional cases for lack of evidence on Saturday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: The Sindh provincial government has appointed government spokesman and advisor to the chief minister Murtaza Wahab as administrator for the Karachi Metropolitan Corporation. Opposition lawmakers staged a walkout in protest on Friday after the government further extended two presidential ordinances for an additional 120 days governing the Higher Education Commission and electricity distribution. Mumtaz Ali Bhutto, a cousin of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who split from the PPP to found his own party in 1989, passed away on Sunday at age 94. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, Pakistan reports 991,727 COVID-19 cases, out of 15.443 million tests, with at least 22,811 associated deaths; 22.735 million vaccine doses have been administered. A shipment of 1.2 million additional AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccines provided by the international Covax donor alliance was delivered to Islamabad on Saturday. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Pakistan Protests Remarks by Indian Foreign Minister on FATF Listing [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Textbooks Featuring Malala Yousafzai Removed from Bookstores in Pakistan [NYT]
  • Khyber Paktunkhwa Government Plans to Prioritize Police Spending [Dawn]
  • Pakistan Proposes Formation of SCO Development Bank [The Nation]
  • Six Karachi Policemen Arrested on Charges of Selling Seized Drugs [Dawn]
  • LPG Industry Threatens Strike; Gas Supplies to Industry Diverted [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: CNN reports that the U.S. intelligence community has assessed that the Taliban offensive across Afghanistan is “accelerating at an accelerating pace” and are near the point of being able to cut off imports to the capital. Russia’s Kommersant newspaper reports that Pres. Putin offered to allow the U.S. to use Russian military bases in Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan for intelligence surveillance of Afghanistan when Putin met with Pres. Biden in mid-June; no U.S. response was reported. The U.S. transferred ten UH-60 Blackhawk helicopters to the Afghan Air Force last week. The Washington Post reports on the challenges facing the U.S. diplomatic personnel who are set to remain in country after the withdrawal of U.S. military forces; European diplomatic sources say they expect that “all embassies will reduce or fully withdraw”. Politico interviews and profiles former U.S. commander Gen. Scott Miller. [AP]
  • Militia Mobilization: The NTY interviews local militiamen in Mazar-e-Sharif. Speaking to supporters by phone on Friday from Turkey, Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum called on the government to provide additional support to his forces; separately former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor called on militia forces to remain outside the Mazar city center.
  • Attacks and Operations: A Taliban offensive targeting the Takhar provincial police headquarters in Taloqan was repelled on Saturday. Since Friday, the ministry of defense has claimed to have retaken control of the Saighan and Kahmard districts in Bamiyan, the Sheikh Ali and Surkh Parsa districts in Parwan, the Malistan district in Ghazni, and the Dara-I Suf Bala district in Samangan; control of the Chakhansur district in Nimroz reportedly traded back and forth in fighting over the weekend. The deputy provincial governor of Kapisa was killed while visiting frontline forces in the Nijrab district on Friday. An Afghan Air Force pilot was reportedly killed in a shooting on Friday evening in the Bagram district in Parwan province. Pres. Ghani visited Herat on Monday to review security in the province, and met with former governor Ismail Khan. [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama] [KabulNow] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Taliban negotiators and members of a delegation from Kabul headed by Abdullah Abdullah met in Doha on Saturday; in his remarks, Abdullah stressed that “peace requires flexibility from both sides” and “the Afghan people are victims of the senseless waves of violence”. The two sides met again on Sunday, and in a joint statement agreed to “continue negotiations at a high level until a settlement is reached”.  Amb. Khalilzad also met with both groups; former Pres. Karzai did not join the Afghan delegation. In a statement attributed to Taliban movement leader Haibatullah Akhunzada issued on Sunday ahead of Eid-ul-Adha, Haibatullah said that “in spite of the military gains and advances, the Islamic Emirate strenuously favors a political settlement in the country, and every opportunity for the establishment of an Islamic system.” In a joint statement on Monday, fifteen diplomatic missions and the NATO senior civilian representative in Afghanistan called on the Taliban to “lay down their weapons for good and show the world their commitment to the peace process”. [Reuters] [TOLO] [TOLO] [TOLO] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Ariana News] [Khaama Press]
  • Regional Diplomacy: In a joint statement issued on Saturday, the United States, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan vowed to oppose the imposition of a new government in Afghanistan by force and said that “terrorists and third-party forces must never be allowed to use Afghan territory to threaten or attack the C5+1 countries or any other country.” On Friday, the US, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Uzbekistan agreed to form a new quadrilateral “diplomatic platform” to discuss regional connectivity projects and the Afghan peace process. Speaking at the Tashkent conference on Friday, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov warned of “real risks of instability spilling into neighboring countries” and blamed the “hasty withdrawal of the U.S. and NATO contingents”. Iran is reportedly planning to hold another virtual conference on the Afghan peace process at an unspecified future date. The Guardian notes efforts by UK military chief Gen. Nick Carter to broker talks between Pakistan and Afghanistan. [The Hindu]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Ministry of Finance Submits Draft Mid-Year Budget Document to Parliament [Khabarnama]
  • Commentary: The Taliban Take More District Centers Across Afghanistan – “In a detailed new map published today, the Taleban’s apparent strategy becomes clearer: an initial push in the north, where resistance to their rule in the late 1990s/early 2000s was strongest, a focus on border crossings and other lucrative locations, and an avoidance so far of provincial capitals and of eastern areas which border Pakistan.” [AAN]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Regional Leaders Meet in Tashkent; CPEC Meeting Postponed After Dasu Blast

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Topline

  • Pres. Ghani and PM Khan attended a conference on Tashkent on Thursday and Friday along with other regional leaders. In an address to the summit on Friday, Khan insisted that “we have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement”. Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that it would host a conference of Afghan political leaders from July 17-19. Meanwhile, a delegation of senior Afghan leaders is set to travel to Doha on Friday.
  • PM Khan spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Friday to discuss the blast that killed nine Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project earlier this week; Li described the incident as a “terrorist attack” and called on Pakistan to “use all necessary measures” to investigate the incident”. The Joint Coordination Committee meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which had been scheduled for Friday, has been postponed.
  • Afghan forces launched an operation to retake control of the Spin Boldak border crossing in Kandahar on Friday; Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photojournalist embedded with an Afghan special forces unit, was killed in the fighting on Friday. Earlier on Thursday, VP Saleh alleged that Pakistan had warned Afghan security forces against trying to retake the crossing; the Pakistani foreign ministry rejected that allegation in a statement on Friday.
  • As of Friday, Pakistan reports 983,719 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.286 million tests, with at least 22,720 associated deaths; 22.222 million vaccine doses have been administered. A University of Karachi survey from July 12-13 found that Delta variant cases comprised 69% of a random sample of 94 coronavirus vases.
  • As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 140,226 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 6,098 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Dasu Incident: PM Khan spoke by phone with his Chinese counterpart Li Keqiang on Friday to discuss the blast that killed nine Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project earlier this week; Li described the incident as a “terrorist attack” and called on Pakistan to “use all necessary measures” to investigate the incident”. Reversing an earlier statement from the foreign ministry, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry on Thursday said that “terrorism cannot be ruled out” as the cause of the blast, and said that “traces of explosives” had been detected at the site of the blast. The WSJ reports that China will send an investigation team to Pakistan. The Joint Coordination Committee meeting of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor project, which had been scheduled for Friday, has been postponed. [ET]
  • Kurram Operation: The military confirmed earlier reports on Friday that two soldiers had been killed in an operation in the Kurram district earlier this week to rescue a group of five telecommunications workers that were kidnapped near the Afghan border last month. Dawn reports that a local Islamic State-affiliated commander was involved in the kidnapping.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: PML-N leaders denounced reports that Punjab anti-corruption investigators had cleared senior PTI leaders of any wrongdoing in an investigation into the Rawalpindi Ring Road project. The Islamabad High Court granted Maryam Nawaz an exemption from court appearances on Thursday. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: Speaking during a campaign rally in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Thursday, Maryam Nawaz alleged that her father had faced a conspiracy to kill him while he was imprisoned, but did not elaborate further. Punjab government officials tell Dawn that the restoration of local government bodies ordered by the Supreme Court in March may take at least another one to two months.

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, Pakistan reports 983,719 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.286 million tests, with at least 22,720 associated deaths; 22.222 million vaccine doses have been administered. A University of Karachi National Institute of Virology survey from July 12-13 found that Delta variant cases comprised 69% of a random sample of 94 coronavirus vases. [Dawn]
  • Energy Pricing: On Thursday, the government announced an increase in petroleum and diesel product prices by approximately half of the level recommended by the Oil and Gas Regulatory Authority. Separately, The Nation reports that the National Accountability Bureau and the government are reviewing the 2002 agreement with Independent Power Producers. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Hydropower Diversion in Kashmir Leaves Muzaffarabad Hot and Bothered [Reuters]
  • Planning Commission Says National Logistics Cell ‘Beyond its Control’ [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • Kandahar Border Clashes: Afghan forces launched an operation to retake control of the Spin Boldak border crossing in Kandahar on Friday; Danish Siddiqui, a Reuters photojournalist embedded with an Afghan special forces unit, was killed in the fighting on Friday. Earlier on Thursday, VP Saleh alleged that Pakistan had “issued [an] official warning to the Afghan Army and Air Force that any move to dislodge the Taliban from Spin Boldak area will be faced and repelled by the Pakistan Air Force”. The Pakistani foreign ministry rejected that allegation in a statement on Friday, saying that it had “acknowledged the Afghan government’s rights to undertake actions on its sovereign territory” and “took necessary measures within its territory to safeguard our own troops and population.” Dawn reports that Pakistan briefly reopened the Chaman border crossing on Thursday to allow stranded individuals on both sides to return to their respective home countries. [WAPO] [ET] [TOLO]
  • Other Attacks and Operations: A spokesman for the Taliban denied reports from the Badghis provincial governor that they had agreed to a ceasefire in the provincial capital of Qala-e-Naw following mediation by local elders, but confirmed that they had “left the city to avoid civilian casualties”. Fighting continued in the Jahori and Nawur districts in Ghazni on Thursday; NDS paramilitary soldiers were deployed to Ghazni city on Thursday. Approximately 240 Taliban prisoners have been relocated from Kandahar to Kabul as the Taliban have encroached on Kandahar city. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Uzbekistan Conference: Pres. Ghani met with his Uzbek counterpart Shavkat Mirziyoyev in a meeting in Tashkent on Thursday; he also met with Amb. Khalilzad and U.S. homeland security advisor Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, who headed the American delegation to the conference. In a joint press conference with Mirziyoyev on Thursday, PM Khan of Pakistan, who also attended the Tashkent summit, said that Afghanistan’s neighboring countries “will try and help facilitate a peace process in Afghanistan”. In an address to the summit on Friday, Khan said that “to blame Pakistan for what is going on in Afghanistan is extremely unfair” and insisted that “we have made every effort, short of taking military action against the Taliban in Pakistan, to get them on the dialogue table and to have a peaceful settlement”. Khan and Ghani held bilateral talks on Friday; Pakistan’s foreign ministry confirmed on Thursday that it would host a conference of Afghan political leaders from July 17-19. Separately, the NYT notes growing Chinese concerns over Afghan stability following the U.S. withdrawal. [AP] [Guardian] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Doha Talks: High Council for National Reconciliation deputy head Assadullah Saadati tells TOLO that a delegation of at least eight senior Afghan political leaders — including Abdullah Abdullah, Hamid Karzai, Salahuddin Rabbani, Babur Farahmand, Karim Khalili, and Mohammad Mohaqiq, and presidential envoy Salam Rahimi — will travel to Doha on Friday to hold new talks with Taliban representatives. [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Friday, Afghanistan reports 140,226 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 6,098 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported. CNN reports that the State Department is now mandating vaccinations for all contractors working at the embassy in Kabul, following a major outbreak last month that shut down embassy operations.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UN Appeals for $850 in Humanitarian Aid for Afghanistan [AP]
  • Report: The Risk of Doing the Wrong Thing Perfectly – “We found that agencies placed far more emphasis on tracking program activities and outputs than on assessing outcomes and impacts. Although M&E processes generally evolved and improved over time in response to widespread concerns about corruption and a lack of reconstruction progress, M&E systems that existed on paper were not always put into practice.” [SIGAR (pdf)]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: US to Begin Evacuation Flights for SIV Applicants; Imran and Ghani Visit Uzbekistan

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Topline

  • White House officials announced plans to begin flights to evacuate Afghans who worked with U.S. forces and are seeking Special Immigrant Visas to the United States before the end of July.
  • PM Khan and Pres. Ghani have both traveled to Uzbekistan on Thursday to participate in a conference of regional leaders. Pakistan has announced plans to invite some Afghan political leaders, including former Pres. Karzai, to a conference that may take place later this week. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the visiting Tajikistan defense minister in Rawalpindi on Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan border security concerns.
  • In a statement on Thursday, Foreign Minister Qureshi said that preliminary investigations into a blast on Wednesday that led to the deaths of nine Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project had concluded that the cause was accidental and not an attack.
  • Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, government negotiator Nader Nadery said that Taliban representatives in Qatar had proposed a three-month ceasefire agreement in exchange for the release of an additional 7,000 Taliban prisoners by the government and the removal of Taliban leaders from the UN sanctions blacklist.
  • The Badghis provincial governor announced on Thursday that local elders had mediated a ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of Taliban fighters from the provincial capital of Qala-e-Naw; the Taliban have not commented on the report. Afghan government and Taliban officials each claim to hold control of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar
  • As of Thursday, Pakistan reports 981,392 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.248 million tests, with at least 22,689 associated deaths; 21.66 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of Thursday, Afghanistan reports 139,051 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 6,072 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghanistan Concerns: Pres. Alvi visited ISI headquarters in Islamabad on Thursday for a security briefing on the situation in Afghanistan, the president’s office announced. Foreign Minister Qureshi met with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan on Wednesday to discuss bilateral relations and the Afghan peace process. Chief of Army Staff Bajwa met with the visiting Tajikistan defense minister in Rawalpindi on Wednesday to discuss Afghanistan border security concerns. PM Khan spoke by phone with former Pres. Karzai on Wednesday and has invited him and other senior Afghan political leaders to a conference in Pakistan, which Khaama Press reports may take place July 17-19; a final date has not been announced. [ET] [ET] [Dawn]
  • Dasu Blast Investigation: Foreign Minister Qureshi met with Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi on the sidelines of the SCO summit in Tajikistan on Wednesday; in a statement, Qureshi said that preliminary investigations into a blast on Wednesday that led to the deaths of nine Chinese engineers near the Dasu dam project had concluded that the cause was accidental and not an attack. [Reuters]
  • Balochistan Bombing: Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in a roadside bombing in the Pasni district in Balochistan on Thursday; no claim of responsibility was reported, but the Pakistani military blamed “inimical elements, backed by hostile intelligence agencies”. [ET]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • PM Khan Visits Uzbekistan: PM Khan arrived in Uzbekistan on Thursday for a two-day visit, during which he addressed a business forum and will meet with local leaders. [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Punjab anti-corruption investigators have reportedly cleared Chief Minister Usman Buzdar and other PTI federal cabinet members of wrongdoing in an investigation into the Rawalpindi Ring Road project. In a statement on Thursday, the National Accountability Bureau disputed remarks by Finance Minister Shaukat Tareen in which Tareen had suggested that civil service bureaucrats were “not working due to fear of NAB”. [ET] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz continued campaign rallies in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Wednesday, where she vowed to oppose any change in the territory’s status to become a province. The Punjab local government department has proposed the formation of “transition teams” to implement a Supreme Court order mandating the restoration of local government bodies. [The Nation] [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Former Pres. Mamnoon Hussain Passes Away [Dawn]
  • Religious Affairs Ministry Opposes Restricting Religious Conversion Before Age 18 [Dawn]
  • State Bank Reserves Reach 5-Year High of $18.2 Billion [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: The Biden administration will begin flight operations to evacuate Afghans who worked with U.S. forces and are seeking Special Immigrant Visas to the United States before the end of July. Details are limited, but Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said that some could be temporarily housed at U.S. military bases in the Gulf or Europe, or U.S. territories such as Guam. Reuters reports approximately 2,500 people would be transported as part of the initial evacuation. Meanwhile, the AP reports that U.S. diplomats are continuing talks with neighboring Central Asian states about the potential redeployment of some U.S. counterterrorism capabilities, but that they are being “met with more doubts” from local leaders, and opposition warnings from Russia and the Taliban. Anonymous Turkish defense officials speaking to the BBC downplayed a Taliban threat against their presence in a Kabul airport security mission. Elsewhere, former U.S. commander Gen. Austin Miller met with Sec. Austin in Washington on Wednesday after concluding his deployment. [AP] [CNN]
  • Attacks and Operations: The Badghis provincial governor announced on Thursday that local elders had mediated a ceasefire agreement and the withdrawal of Taliban fighters from the provincial capital of Qala-e-Naw; the Taliban have not commented on the report. Afghan government and Taliban officials each claim to hold control of the Spin Boldak-Chaman border crossing with Pakistan in Kandahar, which Pakistan closed on Wednesday following the Taliban offensive in the area. [AP] [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [KabulNow] [Khabarnama]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Speaking at a press conference on Thursday, government negotiator Nader Nadery said that Taliban representatives in Qatar had proposed a three-month ceasefire agreement in exchange for the release of an additional 7,000 Taliban prisoners by the government and the removal of Taliban leaders from the UN sanctions blacklist; Nadery countered that previous Taliban prisoner releases “did not help the situation and even escalated the violence”. Pres. Ghani reportedly plans to chair a meeting of senior Afghan political leaders on Thursday before the group departs for talks in Doha with Taliban representatives. [Khaama Press]
  • Regional Diplomacy: Pres. Ghani will travel to Uzbekistan on Thursday for a summit with other regional leaders; on Wednesday, the foreign ministers meeting at the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan called for “all sides involved in the conflict in Afghanistan to abstain from using force or taking action that may lead to destabilization and unpredictable consequences in the areas of Afghanistan’s borders”. [Reuters] [Ariana News] [Khabarnama] [Khabarnama]
  • Governor Appointments: A plane carrying newly appointed Daikundi governor Murad Ali Murad was diverted to Bamiyan on Thursday before he arrived and took office; a member of parliament traveling with Murad tells TOLO that Murad had reportedly received a different appointment, but no further details were reported.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Chinese Good Shipment Arrives at Hairatan Railway Port [Khabarnama]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Chinese Engineers Killed Near Dasu Dam; Abdullah to Lead Delegation to Doha

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Topline

  • At least thirteen people, including nine Chinese engineers working on the Dasu dam hydropower project, were killed when an explosion drove their bus off the road into a ravine on Wednesday. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported, and some local officials suggest that the cause of the incident may have been accidental; Chinese officials described it as an attack and called on Pakistan to investigate.
  • A delegation of senior Afghan political leaders will visit Doha later this week in an attempt to jump-start talks with the Taliban; TOLO reports that Abdullah Abdullah, former Pres. Karzai, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and other leaders will be among the group.
  • In remarks on Tuesday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia had conveyed to the U.S. that the redeployment of U.S. military forces to neighboring Central Asian states was “unacceptable”.
  • In an interview with the Daily Telegraph, UK defense minister Ben Wallace said that Britain could engage with an Afghan government that includes the Taliban, saying “whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK government will engage with it”; he stressed however that “you have to be a partner for peace otherwise you risk isolation”.
  • Following clashes near the Spin Boldak border crossing over Tuesday night, Pakistan has closed its Chaman crossing side of the border with Kandahar; Afghan officials say they retain control of the area.
  • On Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the PTI government had approved a proposal for a further 15% increase in salaries for members of the armed forces, above a ten percent increase approved in the new fiscal year budget last month.
  • As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 978,847 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.199 million tests, with at least 22,642 associated deaths; 21.076 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of Wednesday, Afghanistan reports 137,853 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 5,983 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Chinese Engineers Killed in Bombing: At least thirteen people, including nine Chinese engineers working on the Dasu dam hydropower project, were killed when an explosion drove their bus off the road into a ravine on Wednesday. Dozens more are reported to have been injured. No immediate claim of responsibility was reported, and some local officials suggest that the cause of the incident may have been an exploding gas cylinder rather than a deliberate attack; the provincial police chief tells Reuters that it “looks like sabotage”, but the Pakistani foreign ministry attributed the incident to a gas leak resulting from “mechanical failure”. Chinese officials described the incident as an attack and called on Pakistan to conduct an investigation of the incident. [NYT] [WSJ] [ET]
  • US Counterterrorism Cooperation: An anonymous senior Western diplomat tells The News that the U.S. has “at no stage or at any level even asked” Pakistan to provide access to military bases for counterterrorism operations following the withdrawal of military forces from Afghanistan, saying that Pakistani public rejection of the idea has “left everyone scratching their heads” and that the U.S. has expressed “reservations” to Pakistan over the “self-sponsored” demand for basing access.
  • Kurram Operation: Two Pakistani soldiers were killed in an operation in the Kurram district on Tuesday; district police officials say that they were targeting an Islamic State group that had kidnapped a group of cell phone engineers last week.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • SCO Talks: Foreign Minister Qureshi met with his Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan counterparts on Tuesday on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan to discuss the Afghan peace process and other issues. PM Khan reportedly plans to visit Uzbekistan on Thursday.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Akbar Babar, the complainant and former party member seeking investigations into alleged illegal overseas fundraising by the PTI, released a report on Tuesday detailing allegations that the party had collected Rs 2.2. billion in illegal funds between the 2009-2013 period. The Judicial Commission of Pakistan has recommended the appointment of Balochistan High Court chief justice Jamal Khan Mandokhail to the Supreme Court, and his replacement as chief justice by judge Naeem Afghan. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Other Political Activity: PML-Q leader Moonis Elahi was appointed federal minister for water resources on Tuesday, the second ministry position allocated to the PML-Q. PM Khan has reportedly tasked Law Minister Farogh Naseem with reviewing the government’s electoral reform legislation, which the government pushed through in a national assembly session in June. The Azad Jammu and Kashmir election commission has ordered a new inquiry into violations of the electoral code of conduct by federal minister Ali Ameen Gandapur. [ET] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • Military Salaries: Following a federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry announced that the government had approved a proposal for a further 15% increase in basic pay salaries for members of the armed forces, above a ten percent increase approved in the new fiscal year budget last month; Chaudhry said the measure would cost an additional Rs 38 billion per year.
  • Foreign Borrowing: The Express Tribune reports that the government has rescheduled 31 foreign loans totaling $1.68 billion with G20 member countries as part of a loan deferral agreement begun last year. Speaking at a UN conference on Tuesday, PM Khan called on higher income countries to provide additional development funding to poorer countries and for further debt restructuring. The State Bank of Pakistan reported Tuesday that remittances to Pakistan totaled $29.4 billion for the 2020-21 fiscal year. [ET]
  • COVID Crisis: As of Wednesday, Pakistan reports 978,847 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.199 million tests, with at least 22,642 associated deaths; 21.076 million vaccine doses have been administered. On Wednesday, the Sindh provincial government announced the suspension of classes starting Friday, along with restrictions on indoor dining and other health measures; provincial health officials have reported at least 35 cases of the Delta coronavirus variant in Karachi since the start of July. [ET] [ET]

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Shahzain Bugti Meets with Finance Minister to Discuss Balochistan Development [Dawn] [Dawn]
  • Bajaur Elders Protest Withdrawal of Security [Dawn]
  • Peshawar Police Disperse Protesting Civil Servants [Dawn]
  • Man Accused of Blasphemy Injured in Multan [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: In a statement on Tuesday, US Central Command said that the withdrawal of U.S. military forces was “more than 95%” complete. In remarks on Tuesday, Russian deputy foreign minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia had conveyed to the U.S. that the redeployment of U.S. military forces to neighboring Central Asian states was “unacceptable”. In an interview with Deutsche Welle, former Pres. George W. Bush criticized the decision to withdraw U.S. forces, saying “the consequences are going to be unbelievably bad.” [WSJ] [TOLO]
  • Border Control: Following clashes near the Spin Boldak border crossing over Tuesday night, Pakistan has closed its Chaman crossing side of the border with Kandahar. TOLO reports that the Taliban have resumed customs collection at the Torghundi and Sheikh Abu Nasr Farahi border crossings with Turkmenistan and Iran.
  • Attacks and Operations: Speaking during a visit to Balkh on Tuesday, Pres. Ghani vowed that “the Taliban’s backbone will be broken” and claimed that security across the country would improve within the next three months. Militia forces affiliated with former Herat governor Ismail Khan have deployed around Herat city; Khan tells TOLO that his group is coordinating its activities with the uniformed security services. The NYT interviews Kunduz residents who express apprehension as the Taliban have encircled the city and extended their presence to four out of nine municipal districts. Taliban fighters attacked the Ghazni city prison facility over Tuesday night, but were repelled by Afghan security forces. A prisoner was killed and ten wounded in a riot at the Kandahar prison on Tuesday evening. Four civilians were killed and 11 wounded in a bombing in Kabul on Tuesday. CNN reports on video showing a group of Afghan special forces commandos being killed as they attempted to surrender to Taliban fighters in the Dawlat Abad district in Faryab last month. [Reuters] [Khabarnama]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: A delegation of senior Afghan political leaders will visit Doha later this week in an attempt to jump-start talks with the Taliban; TOLO reports that Abdullah Abdullah, former Pres. Karzai, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, and other leaders will be among the group. Taliban officials have not commented on the possibility of a meeting. In a statement on Wednesday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan appealed for an Eid ceasefire. In an interview on Wednesday, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar called on the Taliban to “shun violence since it only kills innocent Afghans”. In an interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, UK defense minister Ben Wallace said that Britain could engage with an Afghan government that includes the Taliban, saying “whatever the government of the day is, provided it adheres to certain international norms, the UK government will engage with it”; he stressed however that “you have to be a partner for peace otherwise you risk isolation”. [AP] [Khaama Press] [Khabarnama]
  • Regional Relations: Foreign Minister Atmar met with Pakistani Foreign Minister Qureshi on the sidelines of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit in Tajikistan on Tuesday; Qureshi voiced support for a “negotiated political settlement at the earliest”. Qureshi also said that Pakistan would not accept further refugees from Afghanistan. In separate remarks, Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that “with the United States and NATO leaving Afghanistan, the Afghan people have a new opportunity to take the destiny of their country and their people into their own hands”. In an interview, Russian special envoy Zamir Kabulov called on the Afghan government to “start proper negotiations” with the Taliban, saying their proposals to date were “an attempt to close their eyes to the reality which exists and these are empty words”. [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • France Urges Citizens to Leave Afghanistan [AP]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Taliban Warn Against Turkish Airport Security Mission; Pakistan Looking to Regional Talks

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Topline

  • In a press conference on Monday, the State Department said that talks with Turkey on the mission to secure the Kabul airport were still “ongoing”; responding to remarks last week by Pres. Erdogan indicating that an agreement had been reached, the Taliban warned in a statement on Tuesday that “the decision of Turkish leadership is ill-advised, a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity and against our national interests”.
  • Amb. Khalilzad met with the Qatari foreign minister and members of the Afghan government negotiating team in Qatar on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process. In a press conference on Tuesday, former Pres. Karzai called on the government and Taliban to resume “serious negotiations on peace”.
  • A spokesman for the Afghan ministry of finance announced on Monday that the government had halted procurement and spending for development projects due to a reduction in revenues and increase in security costs.
  • Anonymous Pakistani officials tell the Express Tribune that “Pakistan is not hopeful that the US would play a constructive role in bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan” and that “Pakistan is now looking for alternative options to prevent a civil war in Afghanistan”, including outreach to China, Iran, and Russia.
  • As many as 7,200 paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Corps soldiers will be deployed for the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced on Monday.
  • As of Tuesday, Pakistan reports 976,867 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.152 million tests, with at least 22,618 associated deaths; 20.54 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of Monday, the most recent day for which data is available as of this writing, Afghanistan reports 135,889 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 5,849 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghanistan Concerns: Foreign Minister Qureshi met with his Tajikistan counterpart on Monday to discuss bilateral relations and the situation in Afghanistan on the sidelines of a Shanghai Cooperation Organization summit. Anonymous Pakistani officials tell the Express Tribune that “Pakistan is not hopeful that the US would play a constructive role in bringing about peace and stability in Afghanistan” and that “Pakistan is now looking for alternative options to prevent a civil war in Afghanistan”, including outreach to China, Iran, and Russia. At a press conference on Monday, Information Minister Fawad Chaudhry said that “in case of new refugees [from Afghanistan”, appropriate steps would be initiated to handle them in a systematic manner”, saying that refugees would not be allowed to re-settle in Pakistani cities. [ET]
  • TLP Ban: A federal cabinet meeting on Tuesday will review the continued detention of Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leader Saad Rizvi. [Dawn]

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • AJK Elections: As many as 7,200 paramilitary Rangers and Frontier Corps soldiers will be deployed for the Azad Jammu and Kashmir elections, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid announced on Monday. PML-N leader Maryam Nawaz continued to lead campaign rallies in AJK on Monday.
  • Bilawal Visits US: PPP leader Bilawal Bhutto Zardari arrived in New York on Sunday, and is reportedly traveling to Wyoming for a private conference.
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: The National Accountability Bureau is reportedly preparing to file charges against former finance minister Abdul Hafeez Sheikh and several Federal Board of Revenue officials on charges of misuse of authority. The FBR filed a Supreme Court appeal on Monday against an earlier order quashing its investigations against Judge Qazi Faez Isa. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • Other Political Activity: On Monday, the senate passed legislation that formally bans and criminalizes the practice of torture. Speaking at a press conference on Monday, PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif criticized the government’s management of the power sector, and said that the PML-N had been “targeted for serving the nation”; PTI ministers countered with their own press conference afterwards, blaming the PML-N for built-up circular debts and disputing allegations of unscheduled load-shedding. Senate opposition lawmakers in the committee on parliamentary affairs objected to the government’s electoral amendment bill, focusing particularly on proposals to increase the role of NADRA in voter registration. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Grenade Attack Targets Girls School in North Waziristan [Dawn]
  • Petroleum Ministry Declines Azeri LNG Proposal [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: US and NATO commander Gen. Austin Miller formally transferred command of the remaining U.S. forces in Afghanistan to CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie at a ceremony in Kabul on Monday; Miller had served the longest tenure of any American commander during the war. In his remarks McKenzie pledged continued support for the Afghan security forces, saying that “we are confident you have what it takes to protect your country.” The NYT reports that the Pentagon has formed a new team to coordinate military assistance with the State Department; another NYT report indicates that the embassy in Kabul resumed processing visa applications last week. In a press conference on Monday, the State Department said that talks with Turkey on the mission to secure the Kabul airport were still “ongoing”; responding to remarks last week by Pres. Erdogan indicating that an agreement had been reached, the Taliban warned in a statement on Tuesday that “the decision of Turkish leadership is ill-advised, a violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity and against our national interests”. [WSJ] [Ariana News] [TOLO] [Khaama Press]
  • Attacks and Operations: Pres. Ghani visited Balkh on Tuesday to review security in the province; anonymous Afghan security officials tell the Guardian that they warned Ghani and other government officials last fall of the need to retrench Afghan positions in advance of the U.S. withdrawal. On Monday, Ghani announced plans to merge the 777th Special Forces brigade of the Afghan Air Force under the Afghan special forces command. More than 5,600 families have been displaced from their homes by fighting around the country over the past 15 days, the ministry of refugees and repatriation tells the AP. Heavy fighting is reportedly still underway in parts of Kandahar and Ghazni cities. Military officials in Sar-e-Pul say they repelled attacks in the Balkhab district. Three security personnel and an employee of the Supreme Court were killed in separate shootings in Kabul on Tuesday. [TOLO] [KabulNow]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Amb. Khalilzad met with the Qatari foreign minister and members of the Afghan government negotiating team in Qatar on Monday to discuss the Afghan peace process. In a press conference on Tuesday, former Pres. Karzai called on the government and Taliban to resume “serious negotiations on peace”, insisting that “the war in Afghanistan is a foreign war” and calling on former employees of the U.S. and international militaries not to flee the country. [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Governors Appointed: On Tuesday, the Independent Directorate of Local Governance announced the appointment of General Murad Ali Murad as governor of Daikundi province and minister of information Mohammad Taher Zaheer as governor for Bamiyan.

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • Development Budget Halted: A spokesman for the ministry of finance announced on Monday that the government had halted procurement and spending for development projects due to a reduction in revenues and increase in security costs; civil service salary payments and the provision of passport and national ID cards will continue.
  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, the most recent day for which data is available as of this writing, Afghanistan reports 135,889 confirmed COVID-19 cases, with at least 5,849 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • Finland to Halt Deportations to Afghanistan [Reuters]
  • Ten Foreign Nationals Granted Citizenship [Ariana News]

Pakistan-Afghanistan Update: Gen Miller to Step Down from Command; Punjab Extends TLP Chief’s Detention

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Topline

  • US and NATO commander Gen. Austin Miller will formally relinquish his command in a ceremony on Monday, which will be transferred to CENTCOM. In remarks on Friday, Turkish Pres. Erdogan said that Turkey had reached an agreement to provide security at Kabul airport following the withdrawal of NATO forces, but did not provide details.
  • Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke with Sec. Blinken on Friday to discuss the Afghan peace process; Qureshi will participate in a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization that will include talks on the situation in Afghanistan.
  • A Taliban delegation visited Turkmenistan on Friday to discuss concerns over Taliban seizure of border crossings and the risk of refugee outflows. Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen said that the group would maintain and keep open the crossings it seized in Herat and other parts of the country over the last week.
  • Following an earlier Lahore High Court order for his release, on Saturday the Punjab provincial government issued a new order detaining Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leader Saad Rizvi for another ninety day period.
  • Special Envoy Khalilzad returned to the region, visiting Doha on Saturday in an effort to “try and help the sides find a path to ending this war”. A spokesperson for the Afghan state ministry for peace said that Taliban and Afghan government negotiators had held talks over the past week in Qatar.
  • The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government has withdrawn police security details for 29 political figures, most from the opposition parties.
  • As of Monday, Pakistan reports 975,092 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.103 million tests, with at least 22,597 associated deaths; 19.883 million vaccine doses have been administered.
  • As of Sunday, the most recent day for which data is available, Afghanistan reports 134,653 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and at least 5,791 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported.

Pakistan — Security

  • Afghanistan Relations: Foreign Minister Qureshi spoke with Sec. Blinken on Friday to discuss the Afghan peace process; Qureshi departed for a meeting of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization on Sunday that will include talks on the situation in Afghanistan. In an interview on Saturday, Pakistani military spokesman Maj. Gen. Babar Iftikhar said that Pakistan was a “facilitator of this peace process [in Afghanistan], we are not guarantors.” Speaking to reporters on Sunday, Interior Minister Sheikh Rashid voiced support for the peace process and suggested that “new, civilized Afghan Taliban” were supportive of talks. Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial police chief Moazaam Ansari told reporters at a press conference in Peshawar on Saturday that the police were “watching the changing situation in Afghanistan and are mindful of its possible impact here”. [ET]
  • TLP Chief’s Detention Extended: Following an earlier Lahore High Court order for his release, on Saturday the Punjab provincial government issued a new order detaining Tehreek-e-Labbaik Pakistan leader Saad Rizvi for another ninety day period. The Supreme Court will hear an appeal by Rizvi and his family on Monday.
  • Politicians Security: The Khyber Paktunkhwa provincial government has withdrawn police security details for 29 political figures, most from the opposition parties; ANP leader Asfandyar Wali Khan, one of those affected, accused the government of attempting to silence them as the party faces increased threats from the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan.

Pakistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • AJK Elections: Speaking at election rallies in Azad Jammu and Kashmir on Friday and Saturday, Maryam Nawaz accused PM Khan of trying to buy votes and of conceding to Indian control of the Kashmir valley. PTI federal minister for Kashmir affairs Ali Ameen Gandapur is facing allegations of distributing development funds to local party activists as part of the PTI’s campaign for the legislative assembly elections scheduled to take place July 25. Aseefa Bhutto Zardari will lead the PPP’s election campaign in AJK after her brother Bilawal departed for a trip to the United States on Sunday. [ET] [ET] [ET]
  • Corruption Investigations and Other Legal Battles: Dawn and the Express Tribune provide additional reporting on details of the PTI government’s appeal against the Supreme Court registrar’s rejection of its appeal against the court’s quashing of an earlier Federal Board of Revenue investigation against Judge Qazi Faez Isa’s assets. PML-N leader Shehbaz Sharif accused the Federal Investigation Agency of harassment during a court appearance on Saturday. The Supreme Judicial Council is meeting on Monday to consider whether it has jurisdiction to hear a misconduct complaint against National Accountability Bureau chairman Javed Iqbal. [ET] [Dawn] [Dawn] [The Nation]
  • Other Political Activity: Syed Zahoor Ahmed Agha took the oath of office as the new Balochistan governor on Friday. PM Khan met with representatives of the Balochistan Awami Party in Islamabad on Friday to discuss outreach proposals for dissident Baloch groups. In an interview on Sunday, BNP-M leader Akhtar Mengal expressed skepticism over the government’s outreach plans. Speaking to reporters during a visit to Mansehra on Sunday, JUI-F leader Fazlur Rehamn claimed that the opposition was gathering momentum to oust the PTI government. [Dawn] [Dawn] [Dawn]

Pakistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Monday, Pakistan reports 975,092 confirmed COVID-19 cases, out of 15.103 million tests, with at least 22,597 associated deaths; 19.883 million vaccine doses have been administered. On Friday, the National Command and Operation Center announced air travel restrictions on unvaccinated individuals starting August 1. [Dawn] [Dawn] [ET]
  • CPEC Project: Chinese ambassador to Pakistan Nong Rong met with Chief of Army Staff Bajwa on Friday to discuss the CPEC project and other issues. At a press conference on Saturday, CPEC Authority chairman Asim Bajwa said that the Joint Coordination Committee for the project would meet on July 16.

Pakistan — Remainders

  • Planning Minister Umar May Reportedly Be Removed from Cabinet Committee on Energy [ET]
  • Three Policemen Injured in Bannu Bombing [The Nation]
  • Sindh Calls for Judicial Investigation Into Water Dispute [Dawn]
  • Sindh Opposition Parties Hold Protest in Mithi Against Laborer’s Death [Dawn]
  • Government Plans Tax Concessions for Liquefied Petroleum Gas [Dawn]

Afghanistan — Security

  • US and Allied Withdrawal: US and NATO commander Gen. Austin Miller will formally relinquish his command in a ceremony on Monday, which will be transferred to CENTCOM. CENTCOM chief Gen. Frank McKenzie, who arrived in Kabul on Monday, told reporters while en route that Afghanistan’s “provincial capitals are at risk, and we’ll see how that shakes out over the next few weeks”. In remarks on Friday, Turkish Pres. Erdogan said that Turkey had reached an agreement with US and NATO officials to provide security at Kabul airport following the withdrawal of NATO forces; he did not provide details. Politico reports on the challenges facing the Afghan Air Force after the withdrawal of the majority of contractors providing maintenance and support to their fleet. The Afghan ministry of defense announced additional security deployments around the Bagram airbase following the U.S. withdrawal from the facility. Reuters reports that 17 Republican and Democratic senators have joined as co-sponsors on draft legislation from Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) that would increase the number of Special Immigrant Visas and accelerate their issuance. [WAPO] [Ariana News] [TOLO]
  • Regional Security Concerns: The Washington Post reviews reactions to the U.S. withdrawal across the Central Asian states and Russia and from Iran. A Taliban delegation visited Turkmenistan on Friday to discuss concerns over Taliban seizure of border crossings and the risk of refugee outflows. The WSJ reports that the Taliban have sought to assuage Chinese concerns over their offensive in Badakhshan, which borders Xinjiang province.
  • Diplomatic Security: The WSJ reports that the U.S. embassy in Kabul is considering downsizing the number of contractors stationed at the facility. India reportedly evacuated approximately 50 diplomats and security personnel from its consulate in Kandahar on Saturday; a spokesman for the ministry of external affairs confirmed that “personnel have been brought back for the time being” but said that the facility had not closed and that local staff remained in place.
  • Mujahadeen Veterans Mobilize: In remarks on Friday, former Herat governor Ismail Khan announced plans to re-arm a “public resistance movement” to confront Taliban advances in the province. In an AP interview, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor blamed the Afghan government for failing to maintain Afghan security forces’ morale and said that the U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan had been “irresponsible”, expressing concern over a “real possibility of a civil war”; Noor earlier announced his own plans to mobilize militia forces. Enayatullah Babur Farahmand, an aide to Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, tells TOLO that the government is neglecting requests for military equipment for his militia forces. [Ariana News]
  • Attacks and Operations: Taliban fighters entered parts of Kandahar city in fighting on Friday, the NYT reports; the provincial governor tells TOLO that the Taliban offensive was repelled and downplayed the scale of the attack. Taliban attacks on the Badghis provincial capital of Qala-e-Naw and in Ghazni city also continued. TOLO interviews Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid, who claims that the group has captured control of 125 districts across the country, largely through the surrender of Afghan soldiers. Taliban spokesman Sohail Shaheen said that the group would maintain and keep open border crossings it seized in Herat and other parts of the country over the last week; the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce reports that the Taliban have captured seven major border crossings in total. Afghan military officials announced that they had retaken control of the Yaftali Payeen district in Badakhshan and the Ali Abad district in Kunduz; the Taliban are reported to have overrun the Taiwara and Pasaband districts in Ghor. Two civilians were killed and four wounded in a bombing in Kabul on Saturday morning; an Afghan security officer was also killed in a shooting in Kabul on Saturday evening, and a prison guard was killed in an attack on Sunday morning. Reuters reports that at least seven Afghan pilots have been assassinated over the past several months; a Taliban spokesman confirmed intentions to target AAF pilots “because all of them do bombardment against their people.” Three civilians were killed in a roadside bombing in the Helmand provincial capital of Lashkar Gah on Monday. In a statement on Monday, VP Saleh called for national support for the Afghan security forces. [TOLO] [Khabarnama] [KabulNow] [Ariana News]

Afghanistan — Politics and Diplomacy

  • Peace Talks: Special Envoy Khalilzad returned to the region, visiting Doha on Saturday in an effort to “try and help the sides find a path to ending this war”. A spokesperson for the Afghan state ministry for peace said that Taliban and Afghan government negotiators had held talks over the past week in Qatar. On Sunday, Abdullah Abdullah met with a delegation headed by former Vice Pres. Younus Qanooni, who had met with a Taliban delegation in Tehran last week. Speaking during a visit to Khost on Saturday, Pres. Ghani reiterated calls for the Taliban to negotiate with the government. [TOLO] [Khaama Press]

Afghanistan — Economics and Development

  • COVID Crisis: As of Sunday, the most recent day for which data is available, Afghanistan reports 134,653 confirmed COVID-19 cases, and at least 5,791 associated deaths; no total testing data was reported. The US delivered a consignment of 1.48 million doses of Johnson and Johnson vaccines to Afghanistan on Friday.

Afghanistan — Remainders

  • UNAMA Appeals for Humanitarian Aid for Afghanistan [Khaama Press] [Ariana News]
  • Commentary: The People We Leave Behind in Afghanistan – “It’s unclear whether interpreters like Fareed, who worked for foreign media companies or nonprofit groups, will qualify for a special visa. It’s also unclear what will happen to Afghanistan if its most educated and Western-leaning citizens flee.” [Farah Stockman, NYT]