Even as most countries in the world are absorbed in identifying strategies to combat the novel coronavirus which has claimed over 120,000[i] lives globally, war-ravaged Afghanistan juggles with impediments such as political deadlock, a fragile peace agreement, threat of aid slash and a pandemic – all at the same time. Instead of fully focusing on the measures that can restrict the fast spreading COVID-19 pandemic, Kabul has been busy dealing with the post-accord pulls and pressures. Though it might be premature to forecast the exact impact of this world-wide crisis, one thing is certain, the priority of nations will change. While strategic interests remain the same, the political commitment to address those and the concomitant allocation of resources may reduce. This scenario will impact Afghanistan substantially; the country might experience downscaling of assistance, as well as personnel deployment in near future. In the backdrop of this convoluted scenario, this Special Report attempts to glace through the chain of events that have shaped some of the factors impacting Afghanistan presently.
The Political Pandemonium
The beginning of the current political impasse in Afghanistan can be traced back to late last year, when the preliminary results of the September 28, 2019 elections were declared. The assessment indicated that President Ashraf Ghani was set for a second term after securing 50.64 percent of the votes in an election where the voter turnout out was lowest since the time the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001, with just 1.82 million votes counted. About 9.6 million citizens out of 35 million population of the war torn country had registered to vote for the Afghan Presidential election.[ii] Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Ghani’s chief opponent won 39.52 percent votes- a result which he challenged. It is important to remember, during the 2014 presidential election, the same leaders became embroiled in a long running dispute, which was eventually settled after the Presidential rivals agreed on a power sharing deal whereby Ghani was declared President, while and Abdullah was appointed the Chief Executive as part of the ‘National Unity Government’, which throughout its tenure was hobbled by a tussle for power between two power centres. Then US Secretary of State, John Kerry, who played a key role in settling the political deadlock, called it a triumph of “statesmanship and compromise”.[iii]
Amidst allegations and counter-allegations of the two front runners, the Independent Election Commission in February 2020 announced Ghani as the winner of the 2019 Presidential election- a verdict that Abdullah refused to accept citing fraud and declared that he will form a parallel government. Any possibility of a compromised arrangement was ruled out when the rivals held simultaneous inauguration ceremonies, each packed with their supporters- Ghani in presidential palace and Abdullah’s next door in the Sapedar Palace,[iv] pushing the country towards a political crisis. The existence of two power centers thwarted the creation of a political consensus and raised serious doubts over the credibility of the government in Kabul.Apart from the credibility question, the ethnic undertones in the Ghani-Abdullah political rift complicate the issue further. How that might impact the cohesion of the Afghan army and security forces, at a time when the Western troops pull out is underway in Afghanistan, remains to be seen. According to Prof. Raghav Sharma, Director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies, O.P. Jindal Global University – “Ever since the flawed 2009 Presidential elections, Afghanistan’s nascent democracy has lurched from one political crisis to the next. However, the magnitude of the on–going political imbroglio is amplified by the fact that it comes against the backdrop of a drastically altered ‘balance of power’ on the military and political front to the advantage of the Taliban. These developments will undoubtedly leave an imprint on the cohesiveness of the Afghan state and its institutions. Hence it is imperative for the Afghan elites to forge a political consensus internally which will signal a degree of seriousness in their commitment to defend the republic”.[v]
Fragile Peace Agreement
The timing of the Ghani-Abdullah feud is acutely important. It comes more than a week after the United States (US) and the Taliban signed “The agreement for bringing peace to Afghanistan” (Mowafeqatnamah-e awardan-e saleh be Afghanistan) in the Qatari capital of Doha on 29th February 2020, aimed at ending the longest US war.[vi] After a successful “week-long reduction of violence” across Afghanistan, the preliminary agreement was signed that announced “a timeline for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Afghanistan: in return for guarantees from the Taliban that it will prevent the Afghan territory from being used as a launch pad for attacks that threaten “security of the US and its allies”. This was supposed to be followed by an important phase of intra-Afghan negotiations that would ideally lead to a political settlement eventually ending decades of war and conflict in Afghanistan. Among the key components of the agreement, the issue of release of up to 5000 Taliban prisoners in exchange of 1000 Afghan security forces, as goodwill gesture, turned out to be a major stumbling block. The Afghan government, which was not involved in the agreement was reluctant to release captured fighters who might return to violence, leading the Taliban’s refusal to start talks. In the meantime, the spread of COVID-19 also hampered the talks as travels and meetings risked spreading the coronavirus. At a time when it seemed that the agreement has reached a deadlock because of the divergent position held by both sides on the release of prisoners, it was reported[vii] that both sides held a Skype meeting on 22nd March where they spoke for over two hours, managed to generate optimism about the implementation of the peace accord. This optimism, however was short lived, after the Afghan government announced its21-member delegation for intra-Afghan negotiations on 27th March, the Taliban declared that it would not negotiate with the team announced by Kabul as it was not selected in the way that included “all Afghan factions”.[viii] The Taliban claimed that “majority of other sides have rejected the current announced team”.[ix]
It is not surprising that the question of who represents the coalition that supports the idea of ‘Islamic Republic of Afghanistan’ is becoming increasingly complex. It is understandable that Ghani’s government would want to lead the process and his opponents would demand for a broader based delegation. The Taliban interprets the agreements’ reference to other Afghans as “sides” as reinforcing their denial for legitimacy to the government, refusing it any status distinguishing it from other group.[x]Washington, nonetheless found the delegation to be meeting the criterion. In a diplomatic move, Ghani even publicly proposed that the leadership of the peace council be taken over by Abdullah.[xi] Meanwhile, the process of prisoner release just kept getting delayed. After considerable US pressure, an exchange of 100 Taliban for 20 soldiers was decided upon to kick start the process.[xii]The Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen on 7th April, tweeted that the Taliban has decided to halt the talks with the government over prisoner swap - “their (Afghan government) release has been delayed under one pretext or another till now. Therefore, our technical team will not participate in fruitless meetings with relevant sides starting from tomorrow”[xiii]-signaling a virtual collapse of the peace agreement. The Taliban has been demanding the release of 15 senior commanders who were involved in “big attacks”- a reason why the process got delayed.[xiv] Eventually on 8th April, the Afghan government confirmed the release of 100 Taliban prisoners “based on their health condition, age and length of remaining sentence, as part of effort for peace and containment of COVID-19.”[xv]
According to Dr. Mohammad Mirwais Balkhi, Minister of Education of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, the only solution is intra-Afghan negotiations.“Making a peace deal requires enormous efforts but the most difficult part is maintaining peace deal. Therefore, a strong ground needs to be paved for intra-Afghan negotiations.” He added, “Efforts have been made to form the negotiation team on the Afghan government side through consultation with different parties and civil society. Moving the negotiations forward will be sophisticated and would require international support, but it is not an impossible task.”[xvi]
It is important to recognise that the delay has not been one-sided. Additionally, Taliban’s messages to its fighters are making it harder for any opponent to meet its members. Mullah Fazel, a former top Taliban military commander and senior member of the Taliban negotiating team in Doha, in a speech to his supporters in the Pakistani province of Balochistan on March 25, 2020, ruled out any compromise on three issues: naming the Amir, or leader, of any future government; the Islamic emirate form of government; and basing the entire system on Sharia [Islamic Law].[xvii] His speech contained some criticism of past Taliban actions and justified a break with al-Qa’eda though without mentioning it by name but attempted to reassure hardliners. In an interview, Michael Semple (former EU and UN advisor in Afghanistan),a professor at the Queen’s University, Belfast, observed that in Taliban’s current calculations, they do not really need to negotiate peace with other Afghans. He mentioned that “the Taliban have made it clear that they are very keen on this deal, which they have done with the Americans but only for the purposes of allowing US forces to leave the country. They consider themselves to be victorious over the US and believe they somehow have a right or destiny to take on the whole country on the basis of what they say [as] having defeated the Americans.”[xviii]
The peace agreement has been surprisingly silent on the future Afghan government, the country’s constitution, human right and it sharply diverged from Washington’s three preconditions (for any meaningful engagement with the Taliban to translate into a political settlement) namely: respect for Afghan constitution, renouncing arms and denouncing al-Qa’eda. The signed peace accord has already erased the first two conditions, while the Taliban’s commitment for the third remains highly questionable.
Irrespective of the fate of the ‘peace’ agreement, the only side that appears to have gained anything is the Taliban.They have clearly emerged as a legitimate actor in Afghanistan’s political landscape whereby the international community has largely demonstrated their eagerness to engage with the group. This led former Indian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Amb. Rakesh Sood to observe that unlike the 1990s; when Taliban first emerged in the scene and was recognised by only Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Pakistan, “today’s Taliban might not have the same dependency for legitimacy on Pakistan as they had in the 1990s.”[xix] Moreover, it managed to extract a deal from the US, which previously refused to see it even as a stakeholder in the conflict. They even made sure that their long-cherished idea of the “Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan” found a place in the text of the peace agreement –which however remained vague about the role of Taliban in the post-withdrawal Afghanistan. Prof. Raghav Sharma, posed certain valid questions in this regard: “What will happen to the Taliban fighters? Will they undergo a de-mobilisation and disarmament process or could they be integrated into the Afghan National Army, the army they have been fighting against all along? If so, what would be the mechanism for doing this?”[xx] He further mentioned about controversial proposals floated in the run up to the peace deal which talked about creation of a joint military command and control structure until the forces are integrated into a single entity, with each side being responsible for security in the areas that they control in the meantime. Nevertheless, with the gained legitimacy, the Taliban has been setting the terms and conditions for the negotiations, and pressuring upon the release of prisoners and the nature of the future political system, while continuing its offensive on security installations. On the other side, the US is in a hurry to move forward, and has retorted to threats to pressurise Kabul to start the Intra-Afghan dialogue that could set the stage for an early pull out.
Threat of aid cut
Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in the US State Department, in a tweet on 5th April 2020, linked all aid to Afghanistan to the formation of an inclusive government in Kabul. In a curt yet clear message meant for the country’s political elite it was made clear that- “It can’t be business as usual for international donors in Afghanistan. International aid requires partnership with an inclusive government and we all must hold Afghan leaders accountable to agree on a governing arrangement.”[xxi] Apart from the political dispensation in Kabul, this, in all likelihood has caught the major international donors to Afghanistan by surprise as well.
It is important to contextualise Wells’s tweet. The electoral dispute between President Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah remain unresolved. Despite US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s visit to Afghanistan in March 2019 amidst the corona outbreak to meet with both the leaders and persuade them to form an ‘inclusive government’, the two sides failed to reach an agreement. As a consequence, the US announced a $ 1 billon reduction of its annual aid this ear and another $1 billion of aid next year as well as to initiate a review of all US-aided programs and projects in that country to identify additional reductions, and to reconsider US pledges on the whole to future donor conferences for Afghanistan.[xxii]Certain reports also claimed that the prospect of complete pull out of US troops from Afghanistan was also mentioned by Pompeo, incase the two leaders failed to resolve their differences and broker a deal with the Taliban[xxiii]. Ghani tried to put up a brave front as he addressed his countrymen and assured them that “the reduction in the assistance of the US will not have direct impact on our (Afghan) key sectors and we will make efforts to fill the gap by adopting austerity measures and by finding alternative sources”[xxiv]. Reality, however, is quite different for a country where 71percent of the budget is financed by foreign aid. During the period 2002-2015, the US and other international donors pumped about $130 billion into Afghanistan, but most of the money came from the US (about $115 billion) — although more than half of it was spent on security. At this juncture it cannot afford to let go of its principal donor. According to Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the Governor of Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan, “reduction of assistance, of course, has impact. Hopefully the US will reverse its policy as the reduction is condition based.” He felt that the aid cut may not have an immediate impact, “but it has a psychological impact on the people and this current political environment.”[xxv]
Education Minister, Dr. Balkhi, however, is optimistic and hopes that there will be no cut in the aid money to Afghanistan and the issue will be resolved through negotiations – “At this critical juncture, Afghanistan needs additional support packages to fight COVID-19, injecting money in the economy is crucial to cater to the rural poor and also for the preparation of peace and integration”.[xxvi] A drastic slash in the US aid will adversely impact investments made ‘in building the Afghan institution necessary to establish democratic norms, protect and the preserve the unity of the country, and promote social and economic advancements and the rights of citizens”.[xxvii]2021 will be an extremely crucial year, as the international aid pledged to Afghanistan will come to an end in 2020.Looking at the financial situation due to COVID-19 other coalition partners such as UK, France, Italy and Germany fighting massive epidemic back home, can be expected to reconsider economic pledges to Afghanistan. Under the given situation, Washington’s threat may have worked- National Security Adviser Hamdullah Mohib in a video conference with ambassadors of troop-contributing nations, said the country is prepared to "move forward on prisoners and peace,” adding that technical teams had "made progress on difficult issues.”[xxviii]This is a crucial development towards bringing a closure to America’s longest war, even more now due to COVID-19.
Unprecedented situation is evolving worldwide as the novel coronavirus pandemic outpaces armed conflict as a source of global death and destruction. Such scenario was not anticipated when the peace agreement was signed in Doha in the end February 2020. When the numbers of coronavirus casualties were increasing in the neighbouring Iran, Afghans were absorbed in the political pandemonium. With the return of Afghans in large numbers from Iran and the news of the global spread of the COVID-19, Afghanistan took note of the challenge ahead. Amid the growing positive cases across Afghanistan, the Minister of Public Health in a recent press conference quoted the prediction of World Health Organization (WHO) with “the possibility of 16 million people becoming infected with the virus” and warned that it could kill “110,000 people in Afghanistan.”[xxix]
As of 14th April 2020, authorities have confirmed 665 positive cases and 21 deaths due to the pandemic. Considering the limited opportunity for testing- the available data could be misleading. Ms. Atefa Taqawi, working with Second Vice President of Afghanistan and part of the team of the Health Advisor believes that “a big catastrophe awaits Afghanistan…we have a lot more carriers, available data could very well be a mere tip of the iceberg”. Her apprehension is that “the lack of sufficient facilities, capable personnel, equipment and infrastructure and the low level of public awareness are factors that would make coping with COVID-19 increasingly difficult in Afghanistan”.[xxx]The Ministry of Public Health has said that the testing capacity for the coronavirus is up to 1,000 a day. There are two testing centers in Kabul, one in Balkh, one in Herat and one in Kandahar.[xxxi]
Situation is becoming acutely precarious with the return of Afghans in large numbers from Iran. By 6th April, more than, 200,000[xxxii] Afghans had fled the corona virus outbreak convulsing Iran; despite Afghan government’s plea to restrict border crossing.[xxxiii]Reportedly, Tehran’s refusal to treat Afghan refugees at their hospitals was a trigger behind the cross border movement.[xxxiv]The huge increase in number of Afghans crossing the porous border from Iran, in one of the biggest cross-border movements of the pandemic, has led to mounting fears in the humanitarian community over the potential impact of new infections carried from Iran, which is one of the countries worst affected by the virus.[xxxv]Amnesty International fears that prisoners in overcrowded detention facilities, often where up to five people are squeezed into a single cell in unsanitary conditions and without access to adequate health facilities, are at high risk of infection. The organisationhas urged government toprioritise the release of women prisoners, many of whom have children with them, in efforts to tackle COVID-19.[xxxvi] At the end of March, the Norwegian Refugee Council[xxxvii] warned that : “given the prevalence of Covid-19 in Iran, [the]humanitarian community’s main focus now is on provinces and districts that are considered to be at highest risk due to volume of cross-border movement – “This includes 25 districts that are the primary destinations for returnees from Iran, with Herat, Nimroz, Kabul, Balkh, Faryab being at the highest risk due to their greater connectivity to outbreak provinces in Iran.”
About 36,000 Afghans have returned from neighbouringPakistan through the Torkham border in the Nangarhar Province of Afghanistan.[xxxviii] Shah Mahmood Miakhel, the Governor of that province mentioned that Pakistan had sealed border on 16th March 2020, however after information about many Afghans being stranded in Pakistan because of the closure of the Torkham, it was decided that the border will be opened between 7-9 April, specifically for people who need immediate attention. –“they told us about 3000 people will return back , accordingly we established camps with coronavirus checking facilities in Torkham for 3000 people. On 7th, about 1100 people came, so we could check them properly and released them subsequently. The following day, the Government of Pakistan accumulated about 10,000 people, opened main transit gate and allowed them to enter this side of crossing point without exit visas. It was not good but anyhow, we did our best to manage the crowd and about 80% could be checked.”[xxxix]
Several provinces have instituted measures to limit the exposure of residents to COVID-19. Kabul and Herat initially began with “measured lockdowns” which resulted in closures of sections of each city and/or limit on the number of people travelling together. Elsewhere – such as in Farah City, Jalalabad, Kandahar Province, Uruzgan Province, Zabul Province, Helmand Province, Mazar City, Khost, Ghazni City, Panjshir and Nimroz Province – measures have primarily centered on limiting crowds and closing large venues where people gather, although reports suggest that enforcement has varied.[xl]Dr. Balkhi, informed that “the schools in the country are closed for a month for now and it may be extended for a quarter depending on how the situation may evolve. Ministry of Education has prepared a response plan for continuing children education through alternative pathways”.[xli]From 28th March, government ordered21-day lockdown of Kabul and Herat province – which has emerged as the epicenter of outbreak in Afghanistan. While the lockdown seemed necessary, many fear that it could leave people struggling even harder to survive in the impoverished, war-torn country. Health Minister, Ferozuddi Feroz said that “estimates show that more than 25 million people could become infected in Afghanistan, with at least 16 million showing symptoms. But the spread can be prevented if measures are implemented.”[xlii]
Meanwhile, Afghan government unveiled “corona.asan.gov.af” software to spread awareness about the disease.[xliii] Afghans with access to internet can do an internal evaluation of their health situation with the help of the software. Recently, a coronavirus testing facility was inaugurated in Kandahar province.[xliv]In Nangarhar province an “Anti-Coronavirus Committee” was established for taking vital decisions to control the spread, based on their recommendations, major cities of the province including Jalalabad, have closed all the shops except for that of essential commodities. Some of the other initiatives taken by Nangarhar administration include creation of the Nangarhar Corona Fund Account, a food bank and opening of an isolation center for 200 people.[xlv]
With respect to the measures being taken, Ms. Masouda Zafari, Public Policy and Good Governance Expert in Kabul, mentioned about the formation of the “Combating Coronavirus Committee” under the Chairmanship of the Second Vice President, along with the Ministry of Public Health are adopting measures to check the spread of the virus and are trying to offer vital facilities to the Afghans in these trying times.”Zafari feels that the fragile health infrastructure in Afghanistan is just not ready to combat an epidemic of this magnitude- “we need extensive guidance and material support from international humanitarian organisations at this point, but I am not sure if we will get that.”[xlvi] The report about the presence of only 300 ventilators to treat CODIV-19 patients only emphasises her point.[xlvii] Reportedly, the government had to shut down Amiri Medical Complex in Kabul after a doctor at the hospital died of the coronavirus.[xlviii]With limited resources and frail health infrastructure, the government has been trying to respond to this crisis; but the response has been hobbled by the political deadlock in the country. Several political and civil society figures warn that if the coronavirus fight is exploited politically, the country will face dire consequences.[xlix]
The political crisis, fragile peace agreement, aid cut and coronavirus – are among the many factors responsible in complicating the pursuit of “peace” in Afghanistan. The ongoing violence amidst the pandemic only reinforces that. It is imperative for various stakeholders in Afghanistan to cease hostilities and work together in addressing the challenges the country face presently. If the fragile peace accord collapses now, other states might not be able to tackle the crisis given their preoccupation with the COVID-19 back home. The possibilities that emerge from such a scenario are daunting. Among other things, this can lead to yet another wave of Afghan migrants carrying coronavirus all over the region and beyond. If the US is going to leave Afghanistan only one option is left to stop Taliban from destroying the achievements of the past two decades: a strong unified Afghan front, which can safeguard the interest of all sections of the Afghan society in the intra-Afghan dialogue. Moreover, being a party to the ‘peace’ agreement, the Taliban should cease attacks on the Afghan security forces. Its fighters are killing dozens of Afghans while tens of thousands on all sides will soon die of the pandemic. In light of the current scenario in Afghanistan, eminent experts Sultan Barakat and Bernette R Rubin have written that “The longer that violence and disputes delay negotiations, the more likely it becomes that the conflict is Afghanistan will deteriorate into a battle over who gets to bury the dead rather than who sits around the table.”[l]
*Dr. Anwesha Ghosh, Research Fellow, Indian Council of World Affairs.
Disclaimer: The views expressed are that of the Researcher and not of the Council.
[ii] “Voter turnout falls sharply in the Afghan Presidential Election”.Aljazeera, September 29, 2019. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2019/09/voter-turnout-falls-sharply-afghan-presidential-election-190929073943812.html (Accessed on 19.4.2020)
[iii]“John Kerry praises Abdullah and Ghani as Afghanistan’s struggles continue”.TheGuardian,September 27, 2014. Available at:https://www.theguardian.com/world/2014/sep/27/john-kerry-afghanistan-abdullah-ghani-power-money (Accessed on 6.4.2020)
[iv] “Dueling Afghan leaders both declare themselves President”.TheDiplomat,March 10, 2020. Available at:https://thediplomat.com/2020/03/dueling-afghan-leaders-both-declare-themselves-president/ (Accessed on 6.4.2020)
[v]Raghav Sharma, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies at the School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University, in discussion with the author, April 10,2020.
[vi]“Agreement for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”. US Department of State, February 29,2020. Available at:https://www.state.gov/agreement-for-bringing-peace-to-afghanistan/?fbclid=IwAR07KIQXZ_-hL_34ppgpUGHIOyLgqithW7HXpXvq3DV0gDHZBia7grnB7vk (Accessed on 7.4.2020)
[viii]“Taliban refuses to talk to newly-formed Afghan government team”. Al Jazeera, March 28, 2020.Avialble at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/taliban-refuses-talk-newly-formed-afghan-government-team-200328141120875.html (Accessed on 29.3.2020)
[ix]Tahir Khan,”Taliban delegation reaches Kabul for prisoners’ release”. Daily Times, April 1, 2020. Available at:https://dailytimes.com.pk/586703/taliban-delegation-reaches-kabul-for-prisoners-release/ (Accessed on 7.4.2020)
[x]Sultan Barakat and Barnett Rubin, “Start the negotiations, end the Afghan War now”.Texas National Security Review, March 31, 2020. Available at:https://warontherocks.com/2020/03/start-the-negotiations-end-the-afghan-war-now/?fbclid=IwAR0z2eVv5TTHayNfD688o4USmJX23mBc_CuguyiEvSAFCIhr7NQXzh6Cwtc (Accessed on 7.4.2020)
[xi] “Ghani proposes Abdullah leads the Peace Process”. Tolo News, April 4, 2020. Available at:https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/ghani-proposes-abdullah-leads-peace-process?fbclid=IwAR2t1CJnSOx_4FPllgwgjdPul0B83Kc6ES6dpI0H2A-Or1o6CXucEhA4cSs
[xii] Afghan Govt, Taliban set to swap the first batch of prisoners.”Tolo News, April1, 2020. Available at: https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/afghan-govt-taliban-set-swap-first-batch-prisoners(Accessed on 6.4.2020)
[xiii] “Taliban to end talks with Afghan government over prisoner swap”. Al Jazeera, April 7, 2020. Available at:https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/taliban-talks-afghan-government-prisoner-swap-200407042703850.html (Accessed on 7.4.2020)
[xv]MassoudAnsar, “Afghan Government releases 100 Taliban prisoners”. Tolo News, April 8, 2020. Available at:https://tolonews.com/index.php/afghanistan/afghan-govt-releases-100-taliban-prisoners
[xvi]Dr. Mohammad MirwaisBalkhi, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in a interview with the author,12th April 2020.
[xvii]Sultan Barakat and Barnett Rubin, “Start the negotiations, end the Afghan War now”.Op.cit
[xviii]Abubakar Siddique,”Are the Taliban committed to negotiating Peace in Afghanistan?”Gandhara, March 31, 2020. Available at:https://gandhara.rferl.org/a/are-the-taliban-committed-to-negotiating-peace-in-afghanistan-/30520521.html
[xix] “The real reason behind Trump’s Afghan Bombshell” Interview with Amb. Rakesh Sood and Amb. GautamMukhopadhayaby The Wire, Sep 13, 2019. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DrN8CWD34Zc&t=531s (Accessed on 10th February 2020)
[xx]Raghav Sharma, Associate Professor and Director of the Centre for Afghanistan Studies at the School of International Affairs, O.P. Jindal Global University. in discussion with the author, April 10,2020.
[xxi]Alice Wells, the Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Bureau of South and Central Asian Affairs in the US State Department, Tweeted on April 5, 2020. Available at:https://twitter.com/State_SCA/status/1246617694553747460?ref_src=twsrc%5Egoogle%7Ctwcamp%5Eserp%7Ctwgr%5Etweet (Accessed on 6.4.2020)
[xxii]“US cuts Afghan aid by $1bn after Pompeo fails to end impasse.”Al Jazeera, March 24,2020. Available at:https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/cuts-afghan-aid-1bn-pompeo-fails-impasse-200324015906774.html(Accessed on 6.4.2020).
[xxiii]Carol E. Lee, C.Kune, A. Mitchell and Dan De Luce, “Pompeo to Afghan Leaders: Make a deal with the Taliban or risk full US troop withdrawal. NBC News, April 7, 2020. Available at:https://www.nbcnews.com/news/world/pompeo-afghan-leaders-make-deal-taliban-or-risk-full-u-n1174161?fbclid=IwAR3cuFnjT1or87b3u4QAvQq3Jg-_xGi5KDO0WpFe67fVrUDkxr2moIRsCM0 ( Accessed on 8.4.2020)
[xxiv]“President Ghani’s message on recent political and global developments”- Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, March 24, 2020. Available at:https://president.gov.af/en/president-ghanis-message-on-recent-political-and-global-developments/( Accessed on 8.4.2020)
[xxv]Shah Mahmood Miakhel, Governor of Nangarhar Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in an interview with the author,11th April 2020.
[xxvi]Dr. Mohammad MirwaisBalkhi, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in an interview with the author,12th April 2020.
[xxvii] Joint Declaration between Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the United States of America for Bringing Peace to Afghanistan”. US Department of State, February 29, 2020. Available at: https://www.state.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/02/02.29.20-US-Afghanistan-Joint-Declaration.pdf (Accessed on 7.4.2020)
[xxviii]“Afghan Government releases 100 Taliban prisoners”. Tolo News, Op.cit.
[xxix]“Coronavirus could kill 110,000 people in Afghanistan, warns public health minister.”TheKaama Press, March 24,2020 Available at:https://www.khaama.com/coronavirus-could-kill-110000-people-in-afghanistan-warns-public-health-minister-04556/ (Accessed on 8.4.2020).
[xxx]Ms. AtefaTaqawi, Assistant to the Health Advisor, Second Vice President’s Office, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in an interview with the author, April 8, 2020.
[xxxi] “COVID Cases in Afghanistan rise to 521”Tolo News, April 10, 2020. Available at:https://tolonews.com/health/covid-19-cases-afghanistan-reach-521 (Accessed on 10.4.2020)
[xxxii]“Corona outbreak fears in Afghanistan, amid influx from Iran”. Al Jazeera, April 6, 2020. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/04/coronavirus-outbreak-fears-afghanistan-influx-iran-200406111308646.html(Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xxxiii]MujibMashal, AsadullahTimory and Najim Rahim, “In Afghanistan, Coronavirus complicates war and peace”. The NewYork Times, March 16, 2020. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/01/afghanistan-braces-for-coronavirus-surge-as-migrants-pour-back-from-iran ((Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xxxiv]“Hospitals in Iran refuse to treat Afghans amid coronavirus pandemic”. The Khaama Press, March 21, 2020. Available at: https://www.khaama.com/hospitals-in-iran-refuse-to-treat-afghans-amid-coronavirus-pandemic-04533/ (Accessed on 6.4.2020).
[xxxvi] Afghanistan: Government should prioritise the release of women prisoners in efforts to tackle COVID-19”.Amnesty International, April 10, 2020. Available at:https://www.amnesty.org/en/latest/news/2020/04/afghanistan-should-prioritize-release-of-women-prisoners/ (Accessed on 10.4.2020)
[xxxvii] Roald Hovring “Displaced people in Kabul at risk”. Norwegian Refugee Council in Afghanistan. March 29, 2020 Available at:https://www.nrc.no/perspectives/2020/displaced-people-in-kabul-are-at-risk/ (Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xxxviii]Shah Mahmood Miakhel, Governor of Nangarhar Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in a interview with the author,11th April 2020
[xl] “Afghanistan Brief-COVID-19” World Health Organization, Report Number 21, March 29, 2020. Available at: https://reliefweb.int/sites/reliefweb.int/files/resources/daily_brief_covid-19_29_march_2020.pdfAccessed on? (Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xli]Dr. Mohammad Mirwais Balkhi, Minister of Education, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in a interview with the author,12th April 2020.
[xlii] Stefanie Glinski, ‘No profit, no food’: lockdown in Kab,ul prompts hunger fears”.The Guardian, April 1, 2020. Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2020/apr/01/no-profit-no-food-lockdown-in-kabul-prompts-hunger-fears (Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xliii]“Afghan Ministries Launch Coronavirus Tracking App”,Tolo News, 10.4.2020, Available at:https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/afghan-ministries-launch-coronavirus-tracking-app(Accessed on 10.4.2020)
[xliv] “Cononavisrus Testing Lab opens in Kandahar: Officials”.Tolo News, 8.4.2020, Available at:https://tolonews.com/health/coronavirus-testing-lab-opens-kandahar-officials (Accessed on 10.4.2020)
[xlv]Shah Mahmood Miakhel, Governor of Nangarhar Province, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in a interview with the author,11th April 2020.
[xlvi]Ms. MasoudaZafari, Public Policy and Good Governance Expert, Second Vice President’s Office, Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, in an interview with the author, April 7, 2020.
[xlvii] Zahra Rahimi, “Only 300 Ventilators in Afghanistan to treat CoVID-19: MoPH”,Tolo News, April 8, 2020. Available at: https://tolonews.com/afghanistan/only-300-ventilators-afghanistan-treat-covid-19-moph (Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xlviii]“Kabul Clinic shuts down after doctor dies of COVID-19”, Tolo News, April 8, 2020. Available at: https://tolonews.com/health/amiri-medical-complex%E2%80%99s-activities-suspended-health-ministry (Accessed on 9.4.2020)
[xlix]Ali M Latifi& Roya Heydari, “Cononavirus: Herat emerges as Afghanistan’s epicenter”. Al Jazeera, March 26,2020. Available at: https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2020/03/coronavirus-herat-emerges-afghanistan-epicentre-200325032420910.html (Accessed on 9. 4.2020)
[l]Sultan Barakat and Bernett R Rubin, “Start the negotiations, end the war now”.Texas National Security Review. March 31, 2020. Available at: https://warontherocks.com/2020/03/start-the-negotiations-end-the-afghan-war-now/?fbclid=IwAR0z2eVv5TTHayNfD688o4USmJX23mBc_CuguyiEvSAFCIhr7NQXzh6Cwtc (Accessed on 9.4.2020)