Taliban conflict: Afghan fears rise as US ends its longest war

  • 20 October 2020
  • From the section Asia
Afghan army recruits, 19 October 2020 Image copyright Tony Brown/BBC
Image caption Afghan forces face losing crucial US firepower in the air

The Taliban are advancing while peace talks stall. What are the chances for peace once the last US-led Nato forces leave? Lyse Doucet looks at a critical time for Afghanistan.

The simple monument is stark and sharp-edged, a pointed block of black-veined marble memorialising a dark chapter in northern Afghanistan during a momentous history.

At this hour, as America edges closer to ending its longest war, it seemed fitting that a visiting delegation of senior American and Afghan military officers should pause at this spot to acknowledge a 32-year-old CIA officer - the first US casualty in the war to topple the Taliban in 2001.

Image caption The monument to Mike Spann recalls someone who sacrificed his life, as many others have done

Chiselled in Persian script and in English, this marble marker honours Mike Spann, who was killed in a frenzied and bloody battle in November that year: "A hero who sacrificed his life: for freedom; for Afghanistan; for the United States of America."

Nineteen years on, after the deaths of more than 3,500 coalition forces and more than 110,000 Afghans killed, the overriding concern is averting a chaotic conclusion - at worst another descent into civil war - as the countdown gathers pace for the gradual removal of the last US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

'All sides' must reduce violence

Read full article Taliban conflict: Afghan fears rise as US ends its longest war

Afghan-Taliban peace talks: What's next?

  • 23 September 2020
  • From the section Asia
Taliban delegates shake hands during talks with the Afghan government in Doha, Qatar. Photo: 12 September 2020 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption A Taliban spokesman told the BBC it represented "good progress" that both sides were talking rather than fighting

History took a front seat at the table this month when Afghan enemies formally sat face to face for the first time to embark on negotiations to end what is now regarded as the world's deadliest conflict.

"We'll start introductions on the left," suggested Masoom Stanikzai, the grey-bearded chief negotiator of the Afghan government's chosen delegation who only just survived a suicide attack nine years ago by bombers posing as messengers of peace.

Read full article Afghan-Taliban peace talks: What's next?

Yemen: World's biggest humanitarian emergency nears breaking point

Food distribution in Hajjah
Image caption The lives of millions of Yemenis depend on food aid

A crisis within the world's greatest humanitarian emergency could be reaching breaking point over the control of lifesaving aid millions of Yemenis need to survive.

Major donors and some of the world's biggest aid agencies will meet in Brussels on Thursday in an effort to forge a collective response to what is being widely described as unprecedented and unacceptable obstruction by Houthi authorities who hold sway over large swathes of northern Yemen.

Read full article Yemen: World's biggest humanitarian emergency nears breaking point

Yemen's medical air bridge offers rare glimpse of hope

13-year-old Raghad
Image caption Raghad is on a short list of 30 patients set to fly out of Sanaa as part of a "medical air bridge"

Peals of laughter bounced off the bright yellow walls of an inflatable castle, and the click-clack of children playing air hockey pierced the air.

Thirteen-year old Raghad pushed the plastic puck with all the strength she could muster from her delicate frame. The hint of a smile peeked from her protective face mask.

Read full article Yemen's medical air bridge offers rare glimpse of hope

A diplomatic whirl to avoid war in the Gulf

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson (left), French President Emmanuel Macron (centre) and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (right) discuss at the UN General Assembly in New York on 24 September 2019. Image copyright PA Media
Image caption Britain and France among others are pressing for a historic meeting between the US and Iran's President Hassan Rouhani (right)

The annual rush of diplomatic speed dating at the UN General Assembly ended this week without commitments or conclusions from leaders anxious to avoid another Middle East war, as tensions simmer in the strategic waterways of the Gulf.

But this year's stage was packed with matchmakers and mediators - allies eager to ease animosities among enemies.

Read full article A diplomatic whirl to avoid war in the Gulf

The Afghan women determined not to lose out in Taliban talks

  • 19 April 2019
  • From the section Asia
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Media captionOgai Wardak, 18: "If the Taliban come, I will fight them"

When 18-year-old Ogai Wardak came face to face with Taliban fighters, her fear quickly gave way to cautious hope.

"Their faces were scary, but their hearts were kind," she tells me when we meet in the Kabul studios of Zan TV, the only Afghan television channel just for women.

Read full article The Afghan women determined not to lose out in Taliban talks

Israel election: 'Bibi the magician' pulls off another trick

Benjamin Netanyahu and his wife Sara greet Likud supporters at the party's headquarters in Tel Aviv on 10 April 2019 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Benjamin Netanyahu celebrated what he called Likud's "magnificent victory" with his wife Sara

They both won and they both lost.

Before the clock struck midnight on election day, both Benny Gantz, Israel's new political performer, and Benjamin Netanyahu, the old master, triumphantly declared victory.

Read full article Israel election: 'Bibi the magician' pulls off another trick

Shaky truce in key Yemeni port of Hudaydah

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Media captionWhere the fighting in Yemen has stopped... but not the suffering

"If there's peace, we'll protect it. And if not, we're ready for orders to attack," declares Mohammed Salman of the Yemeni army's Third Brigade.

An occasional crackle of gunfire pierces an eerie silence at the Red Sea Mills, a battle-scarred granary on the eastern edge of the strategic port city of Hudaydah.

Read full article Shaky truce in key Yemeni port of Hudaydah

The battle on the frontline of climate change in Mali

Sunset
Image caption Mali is lurching between drought and flood

Everything about Mami exudes exhaustion. Her round brown eyes are pools of sadness, and her bulbous body throbs with pain.

"First, armed groups attacked nearby," she explains in a tired voice as we sit on plastic matting, five young children nestled close to their mother in Mali's fabled city in the sand Timbuktu.

Read full article The battle on the frontline of climate change in Mali

Yemen war: What will the new year hold?

A Yemeni child lies on a bed after receiving treatment for malnutrition at a treatment centre in a hospital in the third city of Taez in the country's southwest on November 21, 2018 Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The war has brought millions in Yemen close to starvation

''I sincerely hope that we are living the beginning of the end of one of the biggest tragedies of the 21st Century,'' reflected a beaming UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres at the end of a week of Yemen peace talks in a secluded Swedish castle.

In front of the world's cameras, Yemeni rivals smiled too, shaking hands, with a bit of help, from the UN chief.

Read full article Yemen war: What will the new year hold?