Category Archives: Covid 19 News

Desperate Covid-19 patients turn to black market for drugs

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India’s hospitals have been swamped by the country’s second wave of coronavirus

Akhilesh Mishra started getting a fever and a cough last Thursday but he initially thought it was just the flu.

Akhilesh began to worry the next day, when his father Yogendra developed similar symptoms. The two men decided to get Covid RT-PCR tests done and tried to book a slot online but the next available appointment was three days later.

They finally managed to get a slot on Sunday. In the meantime, Yogendra was running a very high fever and his doctor advised him to look for a hospital bed, which turned out to be another daunting task. They were turned away by many private hospitals in the city of Noida and also in the capital, Delhi.

The family finally managed to get a bed for him in a private hospital in Delhi and he is now recovering.

Akhilesh had thought he would lose his father.

“I felt depressed,” he said. “I feared that he was going to die without getting treatment. No son should have to go through what I went through. Everybody should have equal access to care.”

The family’s story is not unique. Accounts of family members struggling to find a bed, or life-saving drugs or oxygen cylinders, are being reported all over India. In some cities, there is a long waiting list at the crematoriums.

People also have to wait for several hours to get tested for Covid-19 at labs in many cities, including Delhi. And results are coming after 48-72 hours.

“I have had symptoms for three days and it’s making me anxious that I have to wait for 2-3 days to get a report,” a 35-year-old man said outside a lab in Noida.

Black-marketing of drugs

In recent days in India, social media has been awash with desperate requests for help finding the drugs remdesivir and tocilizumab. The effectiveness of the two drugs is being debated across the world but some countries, including India, have given emergency use authorisation to both.

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The antiviral drug remdesivir is being prescribed by doctors across the country, and it is in high demand. India has banned exports, but manufacturers are still struggling to meet the demand. India has reported more than 150,000 Covid cases a day for the past three weeks.

People waiting to be screened and tested outside a government-run hospital in Noida.

Hetero Pharma, one of seven firms manufacturing remdesivir in India, said the company was trying to ramp up production. The BBC has found that the shortage in supply is leading to black marketing of the drug in Delhi and several other cities. At least three agents contacted by the BBC in Delhi agreed to supply each 100mg vial of remdesivir for 24,000 rupees ($320; £232) – five times the official price. India’s health ministry recommends six doses of 100mg vials for a patient for one course of the drug, but doctors say up to eight doses are needed in some cases.

That is a lot of money for a middle-class family. “I had to spend so much money to get the drug, said Atul Garg, whose mother was admitted to a private hospital in Delhi. Finding the drug required “hundreds of calls and many anxious hours”, Atul said.

Tocilizumab, a drug normally used to treat arthritis, has been proven to save lives in some clinical trials. But it has almost disappeared from the market in India.

Rajiv Singhal, general secretary of the All India Chemists and Druggists Association, said his phone was ringing through the day as people asked him to help find the drugs.

“The situation is so bad that I can’t even get the drugs for my own family members,” he said. “We are trying to take action against those who are black marketing, but I admit that there are leakages in the system.”

Oxygen, X-rays and Covid tests

The demand for medical oxygen has also soared in several Indian sates. Several hospitals are turning patients away because they lack supplies. Maharashtra state Chief Minister Uddhav Thackeray asked the federal government to send oxygen by army aircraft, as road transportation was taking too long to replenish the supply in hospitals.

The situation is much worse in small cities and towns. When patients are not able to find a hospital bed, doctors advise them to arrange oxygen cylinders at home.

Nabeel Ahmed’s father was diagnosed with Covid on Friday in a small town in northern India. Five days later, he started having difficulty in breathing.

The doctor advised Nabeel to get an oxygen cylinder at home. He had to drive for four hours to another city to pick one up. “It took me eight hours to get a cylinder for my dad while he was struggling to breathe,” he said.

Another major problem patients are facing in smaller towns is that private labs are refusing to conduct chest X-rays and CT scans. Doctors often ask for these tests to assess the progress of the disease.

Yogesh Kumar, who lives in the northern town of Allahabad, said the only way for him to get an X-ray done was to either get admitted to a hospital or to get the test done at a government-run hospital, where the waiting list was too long.

A doctor in Allahabad told the BBC: “It’s unbelievable that I am unable to get X-rays done for my patients. We have to just rely on blood reports to assess the disease in some cases, which is not ideal.”

A woman is consoled by her children in Delhi after her husband died from the coronavirus

Busy crematoriums

Crematoriums in many badly affected cities are running day and night. In some cases, families have to wait for several hours to cremate the deceased. A recent report said that the metal structure of the furnaces inside a crematorium in the western Indian city of Surat had started melting because it had been running day and night without any break.

A short video clip went viral recently showing dozens of funeral pyres burning in the northern city of Lucknow in the middle of the night.

Many staff members at crematoriums are working without a break. They are getting exhausted. Many around India are asking if these situations were avoidable.

“We did not learn lessons from the first wave. We were aware that the second wave was coming but we didn’t plan to avoid unfortunate incidences like shortages of drugs, beds and oxygen,” said epidemiologist Dr Lalit Kant.

“We didn’t even learn from other countries which faced similar circumstances,” he said.

Some names have been changed on request.

Read more stories by Vikas Pandey

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COVID-19 vaccine passports sound innocuous until you think about the consequences

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How China Passed Up a Vaccine Opportunity and Fell Behind

(Bloomberg) — The call came early in the Covid-19 pandemic. Drew Weissman, an infectious diseases professor at the University of Pennsylvania and an expert in messenger RNA, received a query from a Chinese company interested in using the new technology to make a vaccine against the coronavirus.mRNA, which effectively turns the body’s cells into tiny vaccine-making factories, has since become the breakout star of the Covid era, underpinning shots made by Moderna Inc. and the Pfizer Inc./BioNTech SE partnership which have been among the most effective in fighting the disease. Before Covid hit, though, the experimental science had yet to receive regulatory approval for use against any illness — let alone against the mysterious respiratory infection.“They wanted to develop my technology in their company in China,” said Weissman, a leader in the field because of his work with research partner Katalin Karikó on discovering mRNA’s disease-fighting potential. “I told them I was interested.”Then, nothing happened.“I never heard from them again,” Weissman said.It was one of the missed opportunities that have disadvantaged the country’s Covid vaccine push and left Chinese companies playing catch-up on a technology set to revolutionize everything from flu shots to oncology drugs.As the coronavirus spread globally last year, New York-based Pfizer raced to partner with Germany’s BioNTech, an mRNA frontrunner that had hired Kariko as a senior vice president. Massachusetts-based Moderna, meanwhile, had $2.5 billion in funding from the U.S. government.China SetbackBy contrast, several Chinese companies focused on older technologies that have proved far less potent. At a conference on April 10, the head of the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, George Fu Gao, said Chinese vaccines “don’t have very high protection rates,” local media reported.As the comments caused a stir on social media, Gao backtracked, telling Communist Party-backed newspaper Global Times that he was just referring to ways to improve vaccine efficiency. But no amount of damage control can obscure the fact that no Made-in-China mRNA vaccines have been approved yet.For more, read: Are China’s Covid Shots Less Effective? Experts Size Up SinovacThat’s a setback for President Xi Jinping’s ambition to make the country a healthcare innovation powerhouse. mRNA’s effectiveness with Covid vaccines is opening up a new frontier for the technology, with researchers looking at ways to use it to fight cancer, tuberculosis and many other diseases, according to Surbhi Gupta, a healthcare and life sciences analyst with consultancy Frost & Sullivan.“mRNA technology has the potential to be a game changer,” she said.For decades, vaccines have been made using inactive versions of viruses, but mRNA shots use genetic material to instruct the body to create the spike protein the coronavirus uses to enter cells. That in turn trains the body to fight potential infection.Old-school Chinese-made Covid vaccines now in use from Sinovac Biotech Ltd. and China National Biotec Group Co. rely on particles from inactivated viruses and have protection rates much lower than the mRNA vaccines’ more than 90% effectiveness in preventing infections.Sinovac’s vaccine has an efficacy rate of a little over 50% in protecting against symptomatic Covid-19, according to studies conducted in Brazil, just meeting the minimum threshold required by global drug regulators.State-owned China National Biotec, a unit of Sinopharm Group Co., has said its two inactivated vaccines are 73% and 79% effective in preventing symptomatic Covid but has not published data to support that assertion. Sinopharm’s Hong Kong-listed shares jumped on Thursday, a day after the company said that there had been no severe side effects related to its inactivated-virus vaccines.Meanwhile, China’s CanSino Biologics Inc. has produced a viral-vector vaccine which, like those made by AstraZeneca Plc’s and Johnson & Johnson, uses a genetically modified virus to fight off infection. The Tianjin-based company has reported 66% efficacy in preventing symptomatic Covid-19 in its final stage trial.A New Generation of Vaccines Is Coming, Some With No NeedlesChina’s government has pushed aggressively to close the gap with the West and become an alternative pharmaceutical and biotech power. It allowed controversial treatments with stem cells and gene therapy, despite concerns elsewhere about safety and efficacy. Yet China didn’t make mRNA vaccines a priority.“Before Covid, a lot of people still had reservations” about the technology, said Lusong Luo, senior vice president at BeiGene Ltd., a Beijing-based biotech pioneer and leading producer of oncology drugs. “It’s new, it’s at the cutting edge.”When Sinovac began working on a vaccine, it focused on a familiar method in order to develop a shot quickly, after efforts at exploring other alternatives didn’t yield promising results.“For us the strategy is really to use the more mature platform and technology to solve the problem,” CEO Yin Weidong told Bloomberg News in an interview last May.Now, with the success seen by Pfizer and Moderna, Chinese companies are jumping into the fray — but their efforts will take time to pay off. China may not have mRNA vaccines until the end of 2021, according to Feng Duojia, president of the China Association of Vaccines, China Global Television Network reported on April 11.For more, read: China’s Bid to Ramp Up Vaccinations Hindered by Supply ShortagesBeiGene in January announced an agreement to cooperate with Strand Therapeutics Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts on an mRNA treatment for tumors. “Now people realize that mRNA vaccines really work, it will be a lot easier,” Luo said.China’s Walvax Biotechnology Co. began construction in December on a facility to make mRNA vaccines, while CanSino struck a deal in May last year with Vancouver-based Precision NanoSystems Inc. to develop an mRNA vaccine. Contract manufacturer WuXi Biologics Cayman Inc. has said it is devoting over $100 million to mRNA-related vaccines, biologics discovery, development and manufacturing.While China has largely contained the spread of the coronavirus within its borders, more effective vaccinations and a wider take-up among its population would enable the country to reopen sooner, reducing the need for quarantines and lockdowns. China risks losing the edge gained by stamping out the virus if its inoculation drive is less effective than places where mRNA shots are the backbone of rollouts.In Israel, where nearly 60% of the population has received the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine, Covid cases, hospitalizations and deaths are plunging. As more adults get their shots in the U.S., which also relies largely on mRNA vaccines, President Joe Biden has predicted Americans will be celebrating July 4th with backyard barbecues once again.The Best and Worst Places to Be as Global Vaccinations Take OffChina isn’t the only country that missed the boat with mRNA. While companies in Japan, India and Australia are significant players in fighting diseases like flu and polio, no company in the Asia-Pacific region now makes mRNA shots. “Basically, mRNA was put in the ‘too-hard’ basket for many years,” said Nigel McMillan, Program Director for Infectious Diseases & Immunology at Griffith University in Southport, Australia.In March this year, Takeda Pharmaceutical Co., Moderna’s local partner for Japanese trials of its Covid vaccine, signed a deal with New Jersey-based Anima Biotech on mRNA treatments for Huntington’s and other neurological diseases. Another big Japanese drug maker, Daiichi Sankyo Co., announced on March 22 the start of an early-stage trial of its own mRNA Covid vaccine.In Thailand, Bangkok-based Chulalongkorn University has enlisted Penn’s mRNA pioneer Weissman to help it develop mRNA capability.As they try to catch up, Chinese developers and others in Asia can take advantage of the lower barriers to entry for mRNA vaccine and drug development. In addition to the market leaders Moderna and BioNTech, there are other Western startups that invested in mRNA and are ready to license their technology.Making mRNA vaccines and drugs also doesn’t require large capital expenditures on expensive bioreactors and other equipment, said Archa Fox, an associate Professor at the University of Western Australia’s School of Human Sciences and School of Molecular Sciences.That bodes well for China’s ability to recover from not focusing on mRNA sooner, according to Weissman.“They are going to hire the best scientists they can find,” he said. “Anybody can get in the game if they’ve got good people and money.”(Updates with added details)For more articles like this, please visit us at bloomberg.comSubscribe now to stay ahead with the most trusted business news source.©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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UN warns COVID-19 is ‘roaring back’ as Yemen faces famine

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UNITED NATIONS — The UN humanitarian chief warned Thursday that the world’s largest humanitarian crisis in Yemen is getting even worse with the COVID-19 pandemic “roaring back” in recent weeks as the Arab world’s poorest country faces a large-scale famine.

In a grim update to the UN Security Council, Mark Lowcock said tens of thousands of people already are starving to death, with another 5 million just a step behind.

Lowcock added that March was also the deadliest so far this year for civilians, with more than 200 killed or injured as a result of hostilities — a quarter of the casualties in the oil-rich central province of Marib where Houthi rebel forces are pressing a military offensive. In March, nearly 350 private homes were also damaged or destroyed, he said.

To stop the “unfolding catastrophe,” Lowcock called for urgent action on protecting civilians, access for humanitarian aid, funding, support for Yemen’s economic and progress toward peace.

Because of funding cuts, the UN is now able to help only 9 million people a month, down from nearly 14 million a year ago, he said. A pledging conference on March 1 got promises of $1.7 billion, less than half of what’s needed, he said and “more money for the UN response plan is the fastest, most efficient way to save millions of lives.”

In 2014, Iranian-backed Shiite Houthi rebels overran the capital, Sanaa and much of Yemen’s north, driving the government of President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi into exile. A US-backed, Saudi-led coalition intervened the following year against the Houthis to try and restore Hadi’s rule.

UN special envoy Martin Griffiths called for a nationwide cease-fire and urged the warring parties to agree on a specific time to launch political talks aimed at ending the six-year conflict. He pointed to COVID-19 unleashing itself again on the Yemeni people, “the urgent humanitarian situation,” and continuing violence especially in the oil-rich central province of Marib.

The Houthis launched an offensive in Marib to try to take the ancient desert city, where about 1 million Yemenis have fled since 2015 to get away from fighting elsewhere. Griffiths said “fighting in the area is showing dangerous signs of escalating once again,” with displaced people “in the line of fire.

The UN envoy said he is also “alarmed by reports of multiple drone and ballistic missile attacks” carried out by the Houthis against Saudi territory during the past week, including against civilian facilities.

Griffiths said fighting has also increased in Taiz, which like many areas of the country has been hit “by an alarming resurgence of COVID-19 cases.” Key roads in Taiz have been closed for several years, he said, “inflicting terrible social and economic consequences on the people.”

Lowcock, the humanitarian chief, warned that if the fighting continues in Marib, Taiz and Hodeida where the country’s main port is located, “we expect tens of thousands — at least — more people will be forced to move and that will be very dangerous as we see the latest COVID spike.”

On the political front, Griffiths said he has recently visited Oman, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Berlin and “there is a convergence of diplomatic voices in favor of an end to the war and its successful political resolution.”

“There is reason for hope: the way to end the war is known and its principal elements frequently discussed with the parties,” he said. “All we need now … is for the parties to agree to this deal,” Griffiths said. “That’s all.”

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Idaho sees big day-to-day drop in COVID-19 cases, also shows positivity rate decline

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A spike in coronavirus cases on Wednesday proved to be a blip for Idaho.

The Department of Health and Welfare reported only 210 new cases Thursday, just about half the total of the day before, but the state did add nine COVID-19-related deaths. This week saw Idaho reach 2,000 deaths during the pandemic, and the total number now stands at 2,015.

There was good news on the state’s positivity rate, with the latest data showing that it dropped to 4.8% for the week of April 4-10. The rate indicates the percentage of COVID-19 tests that come back positive, and health experts target a rate of less than 5% to show good control over coronavirus spread. For the week of March 28-April 3, Idaho’s rate had risen to 5.6%, the highest percentage since early February.

The state has now recorded 184,557 coronavirus cases in the year since the pandemic reached Idaho. Ada County again added the most Thursday (77 new, 50,513 total), accounting for roughly a third of the state’s count.

The counties adding deaths Thursday were Bingham (1 new, 72 total), Bonner (1 new, 39 total), Bonneville (1 new, 168 total), Canyon (1 new, 291 total), Jefferson (2 new, 24 total), Kootenai (2 new, 201 total) and Madison (1 new, 24 total). According to Eastern Idaho Public Health, the death in Bonneville County was a male in his 60s; Madison County, male in his 60s; and Jefferson County, male in his 90s and female in her 80s.

The counties adding new cases Thursday, in addition to Ada, were: Bannock (10 new, 8,571 total), Bear Lake (1 new, 376 total), Benewah (1 new, 660 total), Bingham (3 new, 4,769 total), Blaine (6 new, 2,330 total), Boise (1 new, 336 total), Bonner (8 new, 3,178 total), Bonneville (19 new, 14,581 total), Boundary (1 new, 855 total), Canyon (20 new, 26,035 total), Caribou (3 new, 681 total), Cassia (1 new, 2,923 total), Elmore (3 new, 1,836 total), Franklin (2 new, 1,166 total), Fremont (3 new, 1,116 total), Jefferson (3 new, 2,934 total), Kootenai (15 new, 17,445 total), Latah (6 new, 3,015 total), Madison (3 new, 7,084 total), Nez Perce (1 new, 3,524 total), Payette (2 new, 2,493 total), Shoshone (3 new, 1,062 total), Twin Falls (10 new, 9,303 total), Washington (5 new, 1,211 total).

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Vaccine doses administered in Idaho: 913,106, according to Health and Welfare. Of those, 389,095 people have been fully vaccinated.

Overall hospitalizations: Health and Welfare reports that there have been 7,937 hospitalizations of people with COVID-19, 1,362 admissions to the ICU and 10,279 health care workers infected. Hospital and health care numbers are based on cases with completed investigations into contacts, not the full number of positives.

St. Luke’s Health System: As of April 14, the health system was reporting 36 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 458 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 5%.

Saint Alphonsus Health System: As of April 14, the health system was reporting 33 patients in its hospitals with confirmed COVID-19 out of 346 patients overall. The health system reported a 14-day coronavirus test positivity rate of 8.7%.

Boise School District: Reported confirmed cases since April 13: Boise High (1), Borah High (2), Capital High (2), Hillside Jr. High (1), Longfellow Elementary (1).

West Ada School District: Reported confirmed cases for April 1-April 14: Centennial High (1), Eagle High (9), Mountain View High (4), Rocky Mountain High (1), Star Middle (1), Victory Middle (1), Cecil D. Andrus Elementary (1), Chaparral Elementary (5), Siena Elementary (1), Star Elementary (1), Ustick Elementary (1).

Total COVID-19 cases by county (confirmed + probable): Ada 50,513, Adams 333, Bannock 8,571, Bear Lake 376, Benewah 660, Bingham 4,769, Blaine 2,330, Boise 336, Bonner 3,178, Bonneville 14,581, Boundary 855, Butte 206, Camas 71, Canyon 26,035, Caribou 681, Cassia 2,923, Clark 59, Clearwater 1,033, Custer 243, Elmore 1,886, Franklin 1,166, Fremont 1,116, Gem 1,742, Gooding 1,295, Idaho 1,180, Jefferson 2,934, Jerome 2,556, Kootenai 17,445, Latah 3,015, Lemhi 519, Lewis 386, Lincoln 498, Madison 7,084, Minidoka 2,319, Nez Perce 3,524, Oneida 353, Owyhee 1,050, Payette 2,493, Power 651, Shoshone 1,062, Teton 1,188, Twin Falls 9,303, Valley 828, Washington 1,211.

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Iran to purchase 60 million COVID-19 vaccines from Russia

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The Daily Beast

Taliban Promises ‘Nightmare’ for U.S. Troops in Final Afghanistan Stretch

NOORULLAH SHIRZADA/AFP via Getty ImagesThe Taliban never kept secret what their reaction would be if the Biden administration delays the withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, and now that it’s happened, U.S. forces may have to deal with a new, unbridled wave of violence and bloodshed in the months leading up to the new September pull-out deadline.Hours after news broke on Tuesday that following a “rigorous policy review,” President Joe Biden is planning to have all U.S. troops out of Afghanistan by Sept. 11—a break away from the previously agreed May 1 deadline—Taliban military leaders sat down for a policy review of their own. The group then announced it would be boycotting peace talks unless “all foreign forces completely withdraw from our homeland.”Speaking to The Daily Beast on Wednesday, Mullah Salih Khan, a Taliban group commander from Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, said that the insurgent group is “very much prepared to strike,” against U.S. and Afghan government forces, warning that the militants will turn Afghanistan “into a nightmare” for them.Mullah Mujahid Rahman, a Taliban subcommander from the Ghazni province, added that the U.S. has “proven they can’t be trusted after retreating from the May 1 deadline,” and that the group is willing to “fight till the end” of the U.S. presence in Afghanistan.“We have the pride of defeating about 100,000 invaders from [different] countries in Afghanistan. A few thousand won’t be a problem at all,” he said, referring to the 3,500 American troops still stationed in the country.Taliban Boycotts Key Peace Talks After U.S. Pull-Out DelayExperts say this reaction shouldn’t come as a surprise.“Afghanistan will likely see an unrestricted fighting season, with attacks on Afghan provincial capitals as well as against foreign forces,” Andrew Watkins, Crisis Group’s Senior Analyst for Afghanistan, told The Daily Beast. “It is hard to say if the talks have been entirely halted, but it’s also difficult to see any reason for the Taliban to continue, if, as they seem to suggest so far, the Doha deal has been broken by the U.S.”There were signs of the violence-to-come even before U.S. officials shared news of the extended deadline, when rumors of a seemingly inevitable delay were swirling both domestically and abroad.Most dramatic among them was one video shared across their social media platforms last week, portraying what appears to be the Taliban’s training facility, somewhere between the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. The 50-second clip, made in English for the benefit of international parties, shows an assortment of 50 odd young men—part of the Taliban’s martyrdom-seeking forces of suicide bombers and fighters—dressed in military fatigues and with their faces covered.Wearing a jacket with the initials “I.E.A”, an acronym for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan—the Taliban’s self-given name—one of them issues a warning against the Americans: “God willing, if they do not abide by the agreement they will be responsible for the killing in the next war,” he said, adding that the martyrdom forces are “waiting the order of the Emir and the establishment of the Islamic system all around the world.”“It seems clear from the Taliban’s response that even if they privately celebrate the news of a U.S. withdrawal, the primary mood is mistrust, and they reject the announcement as an abrogation of the U.S.-Taliban deal,” said Watkins, adding that while the Taliban may resume talks with Americans, “there is very little chance of the Taliban committing to real compromise in peace talks with other Afghan stakeholders.”Other stakeholders believe that the seeming disintegration of the peace process might not entirely be on Biden, but can also be attributed to developing fractures within the Taliban’s insurgency.“Not all of the Taliban have been in favor of power-sharing, inclusive governments. Many among them want a monopoly over everything,” Rahmatullah Nabil, a former Afghan spy chief, told The Daily Beast.He was referring to the many recent proposals made public that detail a potential deal between the Taliban and the Afghan government. One such proposal from the U.S. recommended a power-sharing agreement between the warring parties and has been criticized by the members of the U.S. Congress.Biden Desperate for Last-Ditch Afghan Deal Before Admitting He’ll Miss Trump’s Withdrawal DeadlineNabil continues to maintain strong intelligence networks and had previously warned of the Taliban’s lack of commitment to the process and the U.S.-facilitated deal, which seems to have emboldened the insurgent group.“The Taliban is consulting with their leaders in Pakistan… but with no actual pressure on the Taliban’s main backers like the Pakistani military and ISI, we will plunge into another crisis if the peace process collapses and Americans withdraw,” he warned.Hekmatullah Azamy, deputy director of the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies, an Afghan think tank closely observing the political and security developments, gave a similar assessment.“The Taliban’s military wing feels compelled to teach the Americans a lesson for not abiding with their promised deadline, and as such, they will restart the violence. Unfortunately, the political wing that is conducting the negotiations is unable to convince them otherwise,” Azamy told The Daily Beast.In any case, an increase in violence seems inevitable.“Such units are already prepared for battle,” Azamy said, referring to the information gathered by his organization. “They understand that it won’t be easy, and the U.S. is fully equipped to respond to their attacks. But many among them are willing to engage in conflict anyway.”Meanwhile, Afghan government officials are opting to remain optimistic, as the U.S.’s extended stay in Afghanistan gives them a little more time to develop diplomatic and political pressure on the Taliban to agree to a possible ceasefire.“I think the U.S.’s extension on troop withdrawal could be a good thing for Afghanistan. It will force the Taliban to reconsider their stance,” a senior Afghan security official told The Daily Beast. But the official was less certain that the Taliban would actually escalate violence against the U.S. right away: “They have gained so much, it is unlikely that they will risk it all,” he said.Some in the Taliban, however, continue to promise otherwise.“We never paused our Jihad after the U.S.-Taliban deal,” said Mullah Salih Khan, one of the Taliban commanders who spoke to The Daily Beast. “There is nothing for the Taliban to lose, but the puppet Afghan government will lose everything.”Read more at The Daily Beast.Get our top stories in your inbox every day. Sign up now!Daily Beast Membership: Beast Inside goes deeper on the stories that matter to you. Learn more.

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