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Archive for Afghanistan

Newsline: Expensive airfares harm U.S. embassy operations in Afghanistan and Iraq

An airline set up to support U.S. embassies in Afghanistan and Iraq has begun charging such high fares that it is hampering some diplomatic operations, according to a report released by the State Department Inspector General. A 7-minute helicopter trip with Embassy Air in Afghanistan costs nearly $1,500, while a 1-hour plane journey in Iraq is priced at nearly $4,800, the report said. (https://www.stripes.com/news/middle-east/report-expensive-airfares-harm-embassy-operations-in-afghanistan-and-iraq-1.600300) Tenuous security means embassy staff almost always have to travel within each country by air rather than road, and some bureaus have been unable to afford the prices on Embassy Air, said the report. The Embassy Air program was established in 2009 to support the diplomatic missions in Kabul and Baghdad. High ticket prices have forced some offices to use other means of transportation, such as military or commercial airlines, and have forced officials to cancel visits to government project sites, the IG found in an audit of the airline, which maintains fleets of several planes and about two dozen helicopters in the two countries. The $1,500 ticket price for a 7-minute helicopter trip from the U.S. Embassy in Kabul to nearby Camp Alvarado near the airport represents a nearly 400% increase from the price four years ago, the audit found. A 1-hour flight from the Baghdad Diplomatic Support Center to the southern Iraq city of Basra, where the U.S. has a consulate, is priced at nearly $4,800, a 770% increase, it said. The increases stem from a move by the board that oversees funding of the Embassy Air program to cover a larger share of operational costs through ticket sales instead of congressionally appropriated funds. But, as ticket prices rose, ridership fell, and the IG audit found that officials did not routinely adjust the frequency of flights or the number of aircraft to align with changing demand. As a result, the State Department “will continue to pay for significant costs associated with Embassy Air operations that are underused in addition to paying the costs associated with alternative modes of transportation,” the report said. For fiscal year 2019, the total cost of Embassy Air services was more than $320 million.


Newsline: Taliban claims suicide attacks near US embassy and president’s rally

A explosion rocked Massoud Square near the Embassy of the United States in Kabul on September 17, a spokesperson for Afghanistan’s Ministry of the Interior said. (https://www.mcclatchydc.com/news/nation-world/world/article235169342.html) The blast was caused by a suicide bomber, say Officials at the Ministry of Interior.

Newsline: Pakistan summons Afghan, Indian diplomats

Pakistan has summoned diplomats from Afghanistan and India after several shooting incidents along two different borders killed four Pakistani soldiers and a civilian woman. Accusations of firing by both sides across the Afghan-Pakistani border, and by both Indian and Pakistani forces across an old ceasefire line dividing their areas in the Muslim-majority region of Kashmir are common. (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-pakistan-afghanistan-india/pakistan-summons-afghan-indian-diplomats-after-soldiers-civilian-killed-idUSKBN1W004J) The latest incidents come at an especially tense time between Pakistan and India, and as talks between the United States and the Afghan Taliban have broken down. Pakistan’s Foreign Office summoned an Afghan diplomat to account for what it said was firing into Pakistan by militants in Afghanistan, a spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said in a statement. The militants shot and killed a Pakistani soldier on patrol in one incident late on Friday. In a second incident, Pakistani forces fencing a section of the border were attacked and three were killed, the ministry said on Saturday. Both incidents occurred in Pakistan’s northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

Newsline: Rocket fire hits complex near U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan

An explosion and thick smoke were seen early Wednesday near the U.S. Embassy in Afghanistan, on the day the United States remembered the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks 18 years ago. (https://www.upi.com/Top_News/World-News/2019/09/11/Rocket-fire-hits-complex-near-US-Embassy-in-Afghanistan/7021568213495/?ur3=1) Witnesses said the strike appears to have been a rocket attack, which hit the Afghan defense ministry near the U.S. embassy grounds in Kabul, setting off a warning alarm. No injuries were reported, and no group has claimed responsibility for the attack. The blast occurred days after Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said the United States would regret abandoning peace talks aimed at withdrawing U.S. troops from Afghanistan, where they have had a constant presence since late 2001.

Newsline: 12 killed in Taliban suicide attack near U.S. Embassy in Kabul

An American service member was among at least a dozen people killed in a Taliban suicide car bomb near the U.S. Embassy in the Afghan capital of Kabul on Thursday. The U.S. soldier, along with a Romanian soldier and at least 10 Afghan civilians were killed in the attack. Another 42 people wounded in the explosion that rocked the busy diplomatic district. (https://www.foxnews.com/world/taliban-suicide-bomb-us-embassy-afghanistan) It was the second such attack this week, seemingly underscoring the government warnings that a preliminary U.S.-Taliban deal on ending America’s longest war is moving dangerously quickly. Both the U.S. and the Taliban have stepped up attacks on one another amid the U.S.-led peace talks that attempt to end nearly two decades of war, officials say. Thursday’s bombing took place following a ninth round of peace talks Sunday.

Newsline: Representative of Romanian Embassy dies in Kabul after Taliban attack

A representative of the Romanian Embassy in Afghanistan died after a terrorist attack on a compound in the capital Kabul inhabited mostly by foreigners. Another Romanian citizen was severely wounded in this attack, the Foreign Affairs Ministry announced. The head of Romania’s diplomatic mission in Afghanistan and the Embassy’s head of security were evacuated to a nearby military base. (https://www.romania-insider.com/romanian-dead-kabul-attack-september-2019) Romania’s president Klaus Iohannis and prime minister Viorica Dancila both condemned the Kabul attack and reaffirmed Romania’s commitment to continue fighting terrorism. The Taliban suicide attack took place on Monday night, September 2, and killed at least 16 people, injuring over 100 others. The attack took place just hours after the US said it would withdraw 5,000 troops from Afghanistan after talks with Taliban representatives in Qatar. A tractor rigged with explosives hit the compound’s wall damaging the houses in the vicinity.

Newsline: Afghan Ambassador To Spain Injured In Barcelona Mugging

The Afghan ambassador to Spain has been mugged in Barcelona, police and diplomatic sources say, the latest in a string of high-profile robberies in Spain’s northeastern Mediterranean port. The assailants attacked Humayoon Rasaw on a street in the center of the city on August 18, throwing him to the ground to steal his watch, a police spokeswoman said. Rasaw, who was in Barcelona for celebrations marking Afghanistan’s national day, suffered a leg injury but “is fine,” an Afghan Embassy source said in Madrid. (https://www.rferl.org/a/afghan-ambassador-to-spain-injured-in-barcelona-mugging/30118958.html) Rasaw’s watch was worth 17,000 euros ($18,850), Spanish newspaper El Periodico reported. Rasaw’s mugging comes as Barcelona, one of Europe’s most visited cities, has seen a sharp rise in crime, including several involving foreigners that have made global headlines. In late June, Hyewon Kim, a South Korean woman who was part of an official government delegation, died after her purse was snatched, when she fell and seriously injured her head.