The Latest: UN says rural Afghans have critical need for aid

UNITED NATIONS — A U.N. official says 4 million Afghans are facing “a food emergency,” with the majority in rural areas where there is a critical need for funding for planting winter wheat, feed for livestock and cash assistance for vulnerable families, elderly and disabled.

The director of the Food and Agriculture Organization’s Office of Emergencies and Resilience said Tuesday in a video briefing from Kabul says 70% of Afghans live in rural areas and agriculture is indispensable to the Afghan population.

Rein Paulson says it represents just over 25% of Afghanistan’s GDP, directly employs 45% of the work force, “and most importantly it provides livelihood benefits for fully 80% of the Afghan population.”

He says a severe drought is affecting 7.3 million people in 25 of the country’s 34 provinces and rural communities also have been hurt by the pandemic. He says 4 million Afghans are facing a humanitarian emergency characterized by “extreme gaps in food consumption, very high levels of acute malnutrition and excess mortality.”

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MORE ON AFGHANISTAN:

— UN seeks $606 million for Afghanistan after Taliban takeover

— Once inmates, Taliban now in charge in a Kabul prison

— Taliban: Women can study in gender-segregated universities

— Kabul flag shop that started in Soviet era retools yet again

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HERE’S WHAT ELSE IS HAPPENING:

WASHINGTON — American intelligence officials say al-Qaida could begin to threaten the homeland from Afghanistan within one to two years, echoing warnings that were issued prior to the U.S. withdrawal ending its 20-year war.

Lt. Gen. Scott Berrier, who leads the Defense Intelligence Agency, gave that estimated timeframe Tuesday while speaking at the Intelligence & National Security Summit.

David Cohen, deputy director of the Central Intelligence Agency, said the U.S. already had detected “some of the indications of some potential movement of al-Qaida to Afghanistan.”

Experts have long said the Taliban still maintains ties to al-Qaida, which took sanctuary in Afghanistan prior to the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

Counterterrorism experts estimated prior to the withdrawal that al-Qaida had several hundred fighters in Afghanistan.

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KABUL, Afghanistan — The foreign minister in Afghanistan’s new Taliban-run Cabinet says the government remains committed to its promises not to allow militants to use its territory to attack others.

In his first press conference since the Taliban formed an interim government a week ago, Amir Khan Mutaqi on Tuesday would not give a timeframe for how long the government would be in place or whether it would eventually be opened up to other factions, minorities or women.

When asked about the possibility of elections, Mutaqi demanded other countries not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal issues.

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ROME — Italian Premier Mario Draghi says how Europe treats refugees from Afghanistan will test the continent’s integration process.

In remarks Tuesday to an interfaith gathering in Bologna of participants from the Group of 20 made up of representatives of industrial and emerging-market nations, Draghi referred those who recently fled Afghanistan.

“The European Union must not ignore the drama of these persons, nor the historic dimension of these events,” he said.

The European Union for years “has been incapable of building a common approach on the migratory theme, and in particular on the distribution of who arrives and seeks asylum,” the Italian leader said.

Italy, where hundreds of thousands of asylum-seekers have arrived via traffickers’ boats launched from Libya, has largely lobbied its EU partners in vain for years to take in many of the migrants.

Some EU countries have indicated they wouldn’t accept Afghans who flee their homeland beyond those they evacuated in the final days of the U.S. military presence in Kabul.

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ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s prime minister and Russian President Vladimir Putin have discussed the latest situation in neighboring Afghanistan in a phone call.

Imran Khan, who received the call Tuesday from Putin, also exchanged views about bilateral cooperation and collaboration in the Shanghai Cooperation Organization. That’s a security pact dominated by Russia and China that also includes the ex-Soviet Central Asian countries.

According to a government statement, Khan “underscored the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan for regional security and prosperity.”

It said Khan emphasized the urgent need for humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan and the imperative of averting an economic crisis. The statement said Khan also underlined the need for the international community to remain engaged in Afghanistan.

It said Khan stressed that close coordination and consultations between Pakistan and Russia on the evolving situation in Afghanistan were of crucial importance.

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