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Turkey Takes Control Of Schools Linked To Gulen In Afghanistan

Turkey has accused U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen of being behind a coup attempt in July 2016.

Turkey has taken control of 12 schools in Afghanistan run by an organization linked to U.S.-based Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen, whom Ankara blames for a failed coup in 2016.

The Afghan-Turk schools will now be run by Turkey's state educational foundation Maarif, defying opposition by Afghan students and parents.

The move against Afghan Turk CAG Educational NGO (ATCE), the body that runs the schools, appears to be part of Turkey's campaign against followers of Gulen, whom Ankara accuses of being behind a coup attempt in July 2016 aimed at ousting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

ATCE, which says it is an independent organization, has operated schools in several cities including the capital, Kabul, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar, and Herat since 1995.

Turkish Education Minister Ismet Yilmaz and his Afghan counterpart, Mohammad Ibrahim Shinwari, attended a handover ceremony in Kabul on February 26.

In return for control of the schools, Turkey has promised to double the number of Turkish schools in Afghanistan, bring in new, highly qualified teachers, cut student fees, and offer more scholarships to Afghan students, according to the Afghan Education Ministry.

Based on reporting by Tolo News, dpa, and Reuters

Ex-Afghan Lawmaker, Bodyguard Gunned Down In Kabul

Afghan soldiers keep watch at a check point near the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan on February 24.

The Afghan Interior Ministry says a former lawmaker and his bodyguard were gunned down in the capital, Kabul.

Interior Ministry spokesman Najib Danish said Rafiullah Gul Afghan and his bodyguard were shot dead late February 24 when gunmen opened fire on their vehicle in the northern Kabul neighborhood of Khair Khana.

Danish said the attackers escaped the scene of the crime and an investigation had been launched into the killings.

Afghan had served as deputy speaker for the upper house of parliament and most recently was an adviser to Afghan Chief Executive Officer Abdullah Abdullah.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Based on reporting by AP and Khaama

German-Russian, 70, 'Stabs Afghan, Syrian, Iraqi Refugees'

German police say a 70-year-old German-Russian dual national has been arrested and accused of "politically motivated" attempted murder after he attacked three asylum seekers with a knife.

The bloody attack, which occurred outside a church in the western city of Heilbronn on February 17, left a 17-year-old Afghan badly wounded. A 25-year-old Iraqi and a 19-year-old Syrian were also wounded, police said on February 22.

The suspect, who was apparently drunk at the time of the attack, was overpowered with the help of passersby until police arrived and detained him.

He was initially charged with assault and released but on February 21 prosecutors raised the charge to "politically motivated" attempted murder and issued a formal arrest warrant.

The man was rearrested after police had further questioned the victims, witnesses, and the suspect, police said in a statement.

The suspect voiced anger at Germany's asylum policy that brought more than a million refugees and migrants to the country in recent years, police said.

Based on reporting by AFP and AP

At Least 10 Dead After Insurgent Attack, Roadside Blast In Afghanistan

FILE: Afghan policemen inspect the scene of a bomb blast in Ghazni in June 2016.

At least 10 people have been killed in two separate incidents in Afghanistan's southern Ghazni and Zabul provinces, officials say.

"Unfortunately, eight local police were killed and another one was injured," said Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor, after a large number of Taliban militants attacked and overran a police checkpoint in Deh Yak district in Ghazni Province early on February 22.

Security forces also reported inflicting heavy casualties on the insurgents, but could not give precise numbers of dead and wounded.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the attack on Twitter, saying that militants had detained one local police officer and killed nine others.

Separately, two civilians were killed and two were wounded in a roadside bomb blast in Sewray district of Zabul Province, said Gul Islam Sial, a spokesman for the provincial governor.

On February 20, at least 26 Afghan police officers were killed and several others injured in Taliban attacks security checkpoints in Farah and Helmand provinces.

Based on reporting by AP and dpa

HRW Calls For Probe After Reports Afghan Forces Killed 20 Civilians

FILE: Afghan special forces take part in a military exercise in November 2017.

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has demanded a joint investigation by the Afghan government and U.S. military into alleged summary executions by special forces linked with Kabul's intelligence service, a statement by the watchdog said February 21.

Members of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) killed 20 civilians in an operation in the southern Kandahar Province last month, HRW said in its statement.

The watchdog reported that special forces shot and killed civilians who were fleeing U.S. air strikes against insurgents in the Band-e Timor area of the Maiwand district and the Reg area of the Panjwai district.

An eyewitness who spoke to HRW by phone said the security forces shot people as they "were running away" when the airplanes came.

The watchdog also alleged security force members "dragged some men from their homes and then shot them."

Fifty Taliban members were also killed, the report said.

HRW said the killings might be in retaliation for recent attacks by the Taliban throughout the country, including two strikes in Kabul last month that killed scores of people.

HRW said the operation was led by the police chief of Maiwand who reports to Kandahar police chief General Abdul Raziq, who has been accused of human rights violations in the past.

A United Nations annual report on civilian casualties released last week said operations by the NDS special forces caused 61 civilian deaths and 25 injuries in 12 months.

The UN has warned that special forces appear to operate outside the NDS chain of command, "resulting in a lack of clear oversight and accountability."

With reporting by dpa

Bodies Found Of Nine People Abducted Last Year In Afghanistan

Afghan soldiers look on from a vehicle during an ongoing an operation against Islamic State (IS) militants in Kot district of Nangarhar province on February 16.

The bodies of nine civilians abducted by militants early last year have been found in Afghanistan's eastern province of Nangarhar, an Afghan official and tribal elders said on February 19.

Sayed Rahman Mohmand, the governor of Kot district, said the bodies, including three of tribal leaders, were found dumped in a common grave over the weekend.

Mohmand said locals found the bodies in the neighboring Achin district.

The nine were abducted by militants in Kot and nothing was known about their fate till now.

Tribal elders confirmed the discovery of the bodies and said funerals for the deceased will be held on February 19.

Mohmand said the Islamic State group was behind the abduction and the killings, though the militant group has not claimed responsibility for the deaths.

Both the Taliban and IS are active in eastern Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by AP and tolonews.com

Iran, India Vow To Do More To Stabilize Afghanistan

Iranian President Hassan Rohani waves to supporters after his arrival at Begumpet Airport in Hyderabad on February 15.

Iran and India have vowed to step up cooperation to restore peace and stability in war-wracked Afghanistan.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi made the announcement after talks with visiting Iranian President Hassan Rohani in New Delhi on February 17.

Modi said the two countries aimed to improve energy security and regional transport links to reach landlocked Afghanistan and Central Asia by developing Iran's Chabahar Port as well as road and rail routes.

Rohani said Iran and India "are prepared for joint ventures in the gas and petroleum sectors."

Rohani’s three-day visit to India, which ended on February 17, was aimed at drumming up business.

He said Afghanistan must be "a vivacious and secure country," adding that Iran and India would also cooperate in dealing with the situations in Iraq, Syria, and Yemen.

India is helping Iran develop Chabahar Port on the Gulf of Oman for trade with Afghanistan and Central Asia, bypassing Pakistan, which has refused to provide New Delhi access through a land route.

India committed up to $500 million for the development of Chabahar.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

Afghanistan’s Herat Province 'Cleared Of Landmines'

The project, run by a British organization, has made 40 million square meters of agricultural land safe to farm in Herat.

The HALO Trust demining group says it has cleared Afghanistan's Herat Province of landmines as part of a 10-year project funded by the British government.

The organization said on February 15 that its Afghan staff had cleared more than 600 minefields in the western province, an effort it said has had a "major impact" on Herat’s potential for economic development.

"Around 75 percent of the population of the province is rural, and millions of square meters of prime agricultural land were unavailable because of the fear of landmines," the group said.

"With UK funding, HALO has made 40 million square meters of agricultural land safe to farm, and in doing so has improved food security for farming families."

It said schools, businesses, and railway infrastructure have been built on land cleared under the project.

British officials said about 125 people a year were killed or injured by mines in Herat until clearance started in 2008.

Many of the landmines were laid during the 1980s when local fighters battled the Soviet Union and in the 1990s when domestic fighters battled each other.

A HALO spokesman said nearly 80 percent of the minefields in the country had been cleared in the past 30 years.

HALO said landmine-clearing efforts are made difficult because of continued fighting between government forces and extremist groups, including the Taliban and Islamic State (IS).

A U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power after an invasion in 2001 and it has backed Kabul's efforts to hold power against the extremist groups.

With reporting by The Telegraph and Reuters

Taliban Letter Addresses 'American People,' Urges Talks

FILE: Taliban fighters react to a speech by their senior leader in the Shindand district of Herat province in May 2016.

In a letter, the Taliban has urged the "American people" to press their government to withdraw from Afghanistan, reminding them that the Afghan war is the longest conflict in which they have been involved -- and at a cost of "trillions of dollars."

The more-than-3,000-word letter was addressed on February 14 to "the American people, officials of independent nongovernmental organizations, and the peace-loving Congressmen."

The letter reiterated the Taliban's long-standing offer of direct talks with the United States, which Washington has repeatedly refused, stating that peace negotiations should be between the militants and the Afghan government.

The letter promises a more inclusive regime, education and rights for all, including women, but it appears to rule out power-sharing, saying the militants have the right to form a government.

The letter assails U.S. President Donald Trump's strategy announced in August 2017 that called for military force to bring a more compliant Taliban to the negotiation table.

Based on reporting by AP

Afghan Ensemble, Metallica Share 2018 Polar Music Prize

FILE: Afghan Negina Khpalwak (R), the first female orchestra conductor in Afghanistan, during a rehearsal at the Afghanistan National Institute of Music in Kabul in January 2017.

The Afghan National Institute of Music (ANIM) and its founder have won the 2018 Polar Music Prize, a Swedish award, in recognition of "how this inspirational organization has used the power of music to transform young people’s lives."

The award panel said on February 14 that the music institute and its "visionary" founder and director are sharing the prize with U.S. heavy metal band Metallica.

"ANIM, a decade on, flourishes and is committed to preserving Afghanistan’s rich musical heritage and to providing a safe learning environment to hundreds of boys and girls," it said in a statement.

The two laureates will each receive 1 million Swedish kronor ($125,000) at a gala in the Swedish capital, Stockholm, on June 14 in the presence of King Carl XVI Gustaf.

Sarmast said he was "very excited, honored, and privileged" to win the prize.

WATCH: The Afghan National Institute of Music is training a new generation to carry on Afghanistan's musical traditions. At least half its students come from underprivileged backgrounds, including orphanages or the streets of Kabul.

Disadvantaged Afghan Kids Find Home At Music Institute
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The Polar Music Prize was established in 1989 by the late Stig Anderson, the manager of Swedish superstars ABBA, and selects two laureates each year.

The prize's stated goal is to "break down musical boundaries by bringing together people from all the different worlds of music."

Previous laureates include Sting and Bob Dylan.

With reporting by AFP

Tillerson: Islamic State Yet To Suffer 'Enduring Defeat'

U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (file photo)

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has called on members of the U.S.-led coalition fighting against the extremist group Islamic State (IS) in Iraq and Syria to commit to the complete defeat of the militants.

"The end of major combat operations does not mean we have achieved the enduring defeat" of the IS group, Tillerson told a gathering of members of the coalition in Kuwait on February 13.

He said that IS fighters had lost most of the area they once controlled in Syria and Iraq, but he added that the militia "remains a serious threat to the stability of the region, our homelands, and other parts of the globe."

In Iraq and Syria, the extremist group was "attempting to morph into an insurgency," he said, adding that "in places like Afghanistan, the Philippines, Libya, West Africa, and others it is trying to carve out and secure safe havens."

Tillerson also said Washington had decided to provide $200 million of aid to stabilize liberated areas in Syria and that the United State will continue training local forces in the war-torn country.

More than 70 countries have joined the coalition formed in 2014 after IS fighters took over large swaths of territories in Iraq and Syria.

Also on February 13, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said that the military alliance was ready expand its training mission in Iraq.

Stoltenberg said that he expected NATO defense ministers to agree to start planning for a bigger mission at their meeting in Brussels on February 14-15, with a final decision expected at an alliance summit July.

"Years of experience from Afghanistan have taught us that strengthening local forces is one of our best tools in the fight against terrorism," the NATO chief added.

The NATO Training Mission-Iraq was established in 2004 to help the country create effective security forces. The mission has trained more than 5,000 Iraqi military personnel and 10,000 police officers, according to the alliance.

With reporting by Rikard Jozwiak in Brussels, dpa, and Reuters

'Chelsea Bomber' Gets Two Life Sentences In New York Court

Ahmad Khan Rahami

A man convicted of planting bombs in New York City's Chelsea neighborhood in September 2016 has been sentenced to life in prison.

A Manhattan federal court on February 13 handed down two life sentences to Ahmad Khan Rahami for engineering an explosion that injured 30 people. A second bomb failed to detonate.

Rahimi, known to many as the "Chelsea bomber," is a 30-year-old U.S. citizen born in Afghanistan who grew up in New Jersey.

He was convicted in October on all eight counts brought against him, including the use of a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a public place.

District Judge Richard Berman said that Rahimi offered no explanation for his actions that would warrant imposing less than the two life sentences.

Rahimi told the court that he does not "harbor hate for anyone.”

"But through life experience, I have learned to understand why there's such frustration between the Muslim community overseas and the American people," he added.

He also said that he had been "harassed" by authorities while traveling because of his Muslim appearance.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo said in a statement that "justice has been served," adding that the sentencing “sends a strong message that we will not tolerate those who seek to sow fear, hate, and violence."

Investigators said Rahimi left his home in New Jersey on the morning of September 17, 2016, with several homemade bombs.

He allegedly placed a small pipe bomb on the route of a charity running race in New Jersey, which exploded without injuring anyone, and then planted the two bombs in Chelsea.

Other devices were left in a rubbish bin at a train station in New Jersey.

Rahimi still faces charges in New Jersey over the first bombing and for shooting at police before being captured two days after the bombings.

Based on reporting by AP, Reuters, and the BBC

Sixteen Afghan Pro-Government Fighters Killed In Taliban Attack

FILE: A U.S. Marine watches Afghan National Army (ANA) soldiers during a training in Helmand province, in July 2017.

Afghan officials say a Taliban attack has killed 16 members of a pro-government militia force in the southern province of Helmand.

The officials said a checkpoint belonging to the militiamen in Gareshk district was targeted during the night of February 10.

Some reports said a Taliban infiltrator who had worked with the militia for months turned his gun on the militiamen before fleeing with their guns and ammunition.

“We know that a Taliban fighter killed 16 militiamen fighting alongside government forces, but who these forces belong to, we don’t know yet," said Omar Zwak, spokesman for the provincial governor.

He added that an investigation was under way.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, with spokesman Qari Yusouf Ahmadi saying two Taliban fighters involved in the attack managed to escape.

The Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the Taliban and other militant groups since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

After the pullback, Taliban fighters seized a sizable amount of territory, especially in Helmand, with local officials estimating that the extremists controlled some 85 percent of the poppy-growing province early last year.

In recent weeks, Kabul has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

U.S. President Donald Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.

Based on reporting by AP and Reuters

U.S. Forces Target Taliban, Chinese Militants In Afghanistan

A U.S. Marine watches Afghan soldiers during training in Helmand Province.

U.S. forces in Afghanistan have recently conducted air strikes against Taliban and Chinese militants in northern Afghanistan, the NATO-led mission said.

James B. Hecker, commander of NATO’s Air Command in Afghanistan, told reporters via satellite on February 7 that U.S. air strikes destroyed Taliban training camps that supported the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM).

The strikes were conducted in Badakhshan, a remote and mountainous province in northeastern Afghanistan along the border with China and Tajikistan.

"ETIM enjoys support from the Taliban in the mountains of Badakhshan, so hitting these Taliban training facilities and squeezing the Taliban's support networks degrades ETIM capabilities," Hecker said.

In a message on Twitter, U.S. Forces Afghanistan said that the February 4 air strikes involved two B-52s.

On February 8, Faqir Mohammad Jowzjani, the police chief of the northern province of Jowzjan, told the AP news agency that an ETIM fighter and three Uzbek militants were killed in the joint U.S. and Afghan air strikes in the province.

ETIM is made up of members of China's Uyghur minority, a Muslim Turkic-speaking people who inhabit the Xinjiang region in China's far west.

The United States and the United Nations have designated ETIM as a terrorist group.

With reporting by AP and Reuters

New Security Plan In Kabul After Deadly Attacks

People attend the funeral of one of the victims of a suicide bomb attack in Kabul on January 28.

The Afghan government has approved a new security plan for the capital, Kabul, following a series of deadly militant attacks there.

Interior Ministry spokesman Nasrat Rahimi said on February 7 that the new plan will be implemented in the next two weeks.

Rahimi said more than 100 streets leading into the center of Kabul will be put under heavy surveillance as part of the plan.

He said it includes as many as 52 measures, most of which will not be revealed to the public.

The plan is due to be implemented in three phases, with the first focused on areas most threatened, he said.

The Western-backed government in Kabul is under growing public pressure to improve security in the capital following a series of attacks claimed by Taliban and Islamic State militants.

Since January 20, militants in the capital have attacked a luxury hotel, bombed a crowded street, and carried out a deadly raid on a military compound -- killing more than 130 people.

President Ashraf Ghani has sacked seven army officers, including two generals, for "professional negligence" over the attack on the military compound.

Based on reporting by dpa and Tolo News

Afghan Army Officers Fired For Negligence Over Kabul Attack

Afghan soldiers guard the site of an attack near the Marshal Fahim Military Academy in Kabul on January 29.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani says seven Afghan army officers, including two generals, have been dismissed for "professional negligence" during a recent deadly attack on a Kabul military base.

Ghani announced the firings in a Twitter message on February 6, saying that all seven officers had been "referred for further investigations."

At least five attackers, including gunmen and suicide bombers, launched the predawn raid against the base on January 29 -- killing 11 soldiers and wounding 16.

The attack on the Afghan National Army base was claimed by Islamic State (IS) extremist militants.

Ghani's U.S.-backed government is under growing public pressure to improve security in Kabul after a series of attacks that have shown the ability of the Taliban and IS militants to strike at the Afghan capital.

Since January 20, militants in Kabul have attacked a luxury hotel, bombed a crowded street, and carried out the raid on the military compound -- killing more than 130 people.

Kabul remains on high alert for more attacks.

Afghanistan's National Directorate of Security on February 6 seized a truck that the spy agency said was carrying 2 tons of materials that could be used to make bombs.

With reporting by AFP and dpa

Seven Suspects Arrested Over Beating Of Afghan Woman

Video Shows Mob Beating Afghan Woman
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Afghan officials say seven men have been arrested on suspicion of involvement in the beating of a woman since a video of the incident appeared on social media last week.

The men are relatives of the victim, a spokesman for the governor of Takhar province told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan on February 5.

The beating reportedly occurred in December in a remote village in the Chah Aab district of the northeastern province.

The video shows a woman clad in a blue burqa kneeling as she is shouted at and insulted by a crowd of men that is said to have included family members.

As she kneels, she receives heavy blows to her head, back, arms, and shoulders by several, stick-wielding men.

"The men [who were arrested] are relatives of the woman, who is now in a safe house in the center of the province," the regional governor's spokesman Sunatullah Temor said.

Witnesses have claimed that the 22-year-old woman was being punished on the orders of local clerics who had decided she was guilty of having an extramarital affair while her husband was away in Iran.

The woman’s ordeal is not uncommon in Afghanistan. In recent years there have been several reports of women facing public punishment for alleged moral crimes.

The most prominent was the violent death of 27-year-old Farkhunda Malikzada, who was beaten to death by a mob in Kabul after being falsely accused of burning a copy of the Koran.

Her death in March 2015 prompted a national outcry and an outpouring of anger in the country.

German Prosecutors Seek Life Sentence For Muslim Accused Of Killing Converted Woman

FILE: The defendant, an Afghan asylum seeker, repeatedly stabbed the 38-year-old Afghan woman in front of two of her children.

German prosecutors have demanded a sentence of life in prison for an Afghan asylum seeker accused of killing a woman after she converted to Christianity.

The man repeatedly stabbed the 38-year-old Afghan woman in front of two of her children, aged 5 and 11, in April 2017, public prosecutor Oliver Moessner told the court in the southern German city of Traunstein on February 5.

Moessner likened the killing to a public execution,saying that it took place outside a supermarket in the southern town of Prien am Chiemsee.

Homicide carries a life term under German law, although convicts are usually released after 15 years.

The suspect had reportedly confessed to killing the woman, but just before the start of the trial he claimed he could no longer remember it.

Based on reporting by dpa, AFP, and dw.com

Afghan President Calls Pakistan 'Center Of The Taliban'

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has called neighboring Pakistan the “center of the Taliban” and urged Islamabad to take action against the militant group.

In an address to the nation on February 2, Ghani said his country has provided Pakistani authorities with a “complete list” of insurgents.

“We are waiting for action. Talks and process are only words on paper. Afghanistan's people demand actions and clear actions,” he said.

Ghani’s comments come after a number of deadly attacks in the capital, including a massive January 27 suicide car bombing that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

“Eleven suspects have been arrested and their roots have been identified. Their roots are known. The Taliban has claimed the responsibility, of course,” Ghani said, referring to the attack.

Islamabad denies harboring militant groups that carry out attacks in Afghanistan.

Earlier this week, dozens of angry protesters gathered outside the Pakistani Embassy in Kabul, chanting slogans such as "Death to Pakistan" and burning flags of the country.

With reporting by RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan and Tolonews

'Dozens' Of Taliban Militants Killed In Southern Afghanistan

FILE: Afghan security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack at a police compound in Maiwand district of Kandahar province on December 22.

An Afghan security official says 83 Taliban fighters were killed during an operation by intelligence forces in the southern province of Kandahar late on January 31.

The head of military operations in Maiwand district, Sultan Mohammad, told RFE/RL on February 1 that dozens of the militants' vehicles and motorcycles were also destroyed in the operation, which he said was supported by air strikes.

"The group of insurgents were gathered to launch coordinated attacks on Afghan forces check posts in Panjwai and Maiwand districts of Kandahar Province," Mohammad said.

He didn't say whether there were any casualties among Afghan forces.

The Taliban did not immediately comment on the operation, which comes as the Western-backed government in Kabul has been struggling to fend off the militants since the withdrawal of most NATO troops in 2014.

In recent weeks, Kabul has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

U.S. President Donald Trump in August unveiled his new strategy for the South Asia region, under which Washington has deployed 3,000 more troops to Afghanistan to train, advise, and assist local security forces, and to carry out counterterrorism missions.

The United States currently has around 14,000 uniformed personnel in the country.

Trump: 'We Don't Want To Talk With The Taliban'

U.S. -- U.S. President Donald Trump delivers remarks after participating in the swearing-in ceremony for the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar at the White House in Washington, U.S., January 29, 2018

U.S. President Donald Trump says Washington does not want to negotiate with the Taliban, comments that follow a series of deadly attacks in Afghanistan.

"We don't want to talk with the Taliban," Trump said at a January 29 luncheon with representatives of the UN Security Council. "There may be a time, but it's going to be a long time."

Kabul in recent weeks has been hit by several deadly assaults, including a massive suicide car bombing in a crowded central area on January 27 that killed more than 100 people and was claimed by the Taliban.

Following that attack, Trump called for "decisive action" by all countries against the Taliban, saying in a statement that the "murderous attack renews our resolve and that of our Afghan partners."

Speaking at the White House on January 29, Trump said, "We're going to finish what we have to finish" in Afghanistan.

He added that "innocent people are being killed left and right," including children, and that "there's no talking to the Taliban."

Several Americans were killed and injured earlier this month in the 13-hour siege of a Kabul hotel by the Taliban.

Based on reporting by Reuters, AFP, AP, and RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan

Six Afghan Children, One Adult Killed By Rocket

FILE: Suspected Taliban militants patrol after they reportedly took control of Ghazni's Waghaz district in May 2017.

Afghan officials say six children and an adult civilian were killed when a rocket hit their home in Ghazni Province on January 26.

State authorities and Taliban militants blamed each other for the deaths.

Arif Noori, a spokesman for the provincial governor, said the rocket was fired by the Taliban after security forces launched an operation against the militant group in the Qara Baghi area, south of the provincial capital.

"The children were between 1 and 12 years old,” Noori said. He said that one adult was killed and three other people were injured.

Police in the province southwest of Kabul also said that the rocket was fired by the Taliban.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, denied it. He said the militants did not fire the rocket and accused the government of killing the civilians in an air strike.

Noori said the Afghan Air Force killed 20 Taliban fighters but no civilians.

Based on reporting by AP, dpa, and tolonews.com

Afghan Governor Quits, Citing Region's Worsening Security

Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan, the governor of Farah Province, has resigned, citing the security situation in the region.

The governor of the western Afghan province of Farah has resigned, citing worsening security in the region that he blamed on political interference and corruption among security forces.

"I have resigned from my post because of the worsening security situation in Farah," Mohammad Aref Shah Jahan told reporters on January 25, citing "interference in my responsibilities from various individuals."

The province, one of the poorest in the country, is situated on the border with Iran in the far west of Afghanistan.

Farah has experienced months of fighting, with some people accusing the security forces of collusion with Taliban militants involved in cross-border smuggling and drug trafficking.

On January 24, hundreds of people took to the streets of Farah, the provincial capital, protesting about the lack of security and calling on provincial leaders to resign. Six people were reportedly injured in the protests.

Some local officials have accused Iran of providing insurgents with funds, weapons, and explosives -- allegations that Iran denies.

"Farah has been suffering from a lot of internal issues for a long time," said Farid Bakhtawar, the head of the provincial council.

"Security forces are there but involved in corruption and selling their outposts, weapons, and fuel to the Taliban," he added.

Based on reporting by Reuters and Tolo News

U.S. Puts Taliban Members With Pakistan Links On Terror Blacklist

Supporters of militants group Al-Badar, which has ties with Afghan militant group Haqqani network, in 2015

The United States has designated as terrorists six individuals accused of supporting the Taliban and the Haqqani network in Afghanistan and is stressing their links to Pakistan.

The six include senior members of the former Taliban government in Afghanistan -- among them former Central Bank Governor Abdul Samad Sani and others said to have provided financing and weapons for militants involved in attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces.

Senior Treasury Department official Sigal Mandelker says the sanctions imposed on January 25 support President Donald Trump's strategy in South Asia. That policy is intended to turn around the 17-year war in Afghanistan.

Mandelker says Pakistan must work with Washington to deny the militants sanctuary and to aggressively target their fund-raising.

Those blacklisted are forbidden to hold U.S. property and U.S. persons are prohibited from dealing with them.

Based on reporting by AP and AFP

'I'm Not Buried Yet,' Says Ukraine's Afghan Envoy

Reports of Viktor Nikityuk's demise in Kabul were premature. (file photo)

Russia's state-run Rossia TV has erroneously reported that Ukraine's ambassador to Tajikistan and Afghanistan was among the dozens of people killed in a terrorist attack in Kabul last week.

The channel's Vesti program said on its website on January 24 that seven Ukrainian citizens, including Ambassador Viktor Nikityuk, had died in the Taliban assault.

However, Nikityuk told the Dushanbe-based Asia-Plus news agency later in the day that he was not in the Afghan capital when the attack took place.

"I have not read the report that already buried me," he also said, adding that he was doing well.

On January 20, Taliban gunmen dressed in army uniforms stormed a luxury hotel in Kabul, killing at least 30 people including 14 foreigners.

Ukrainian officials said seven of them were Ukrainians.

Based on reporting by Asia-Plus

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