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As US prepared exit, Taliban protected foreign bases, but killed Afghans

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(Last Updated On: May 1, 2021)

Taliban fighters have protected western military bases in Afghanistan from attacks by rival, or rogue Islamist groups for over a year under a secret annex to a pact for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces by May 1, three Western officials with knowledge of the agreement told Reuters.

The U.S. State Department gave no immediate response to Reuters over the existence of any such document. Nor did it have any immediate comment on what the three officials described as a “Taliban ring of protection”.

Since United States struck a deal with the Taliban in February 2020, paving the way for America to end its longest war, there have been no U.S. combat deaths, and there have been only isolated attacks on U.S. bases, Reuters reported.

Instead, the Taliban intensified attacks on Afghan government forces, and civilian casualties have spiralled.

Peace talks between the militants and the government, begun in September, have made no significant progress, and a U.N. report said civilian casualties were up 45% in the last three months of 2020 from a year earlier.

Testing Taliban patience, U.S. President Joe Biden served notice that the U.S. withdrawal would overshoot the May 1 deadline agreed by the previous U.S. administration, while giving an assurance that it would be completed by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the al Qaeda attacks on the United States.

When the deadline passes on Saturday, around 2,000 U.S. troops will still be in Afghanistan, according to a western security official in Kabul. The commander of foreign forces in Afghanistan, U.S. Army General Scott Miller earlier this week said an orderly withdrawal and the handing over of military bases and equipment to Afghan forces had begun.

Afghan soldiers left manning those bases could need plenty of firepower to resist any offensive by Taliban fighters who have been occupying strategic positions in surrounding areas, Reuters reported.

In the past two weeks alone, the militants have killed more than 100 Afghan security personnel in a surge of attacks that followed Biden’s announcement that a U.S. withdrawal would take a few months more.

Two of the Western officials said Washington had accepted the Taliban’s offer to shield the western military bases from attacks by the likes of Islamic State (Daesh).

Reuters reported the officials said the Taliban had wanted to demonstrate good faith by meeting a commitment to ensure Afghan soil was not used for attacks on U.S. interests – a key U.S. demand in the February agreement.

“They provided a layer of cover, almost like a buffer and ordered their fighters to not injure or kill any foreign soldier in this period,” said one western diplomat involved in the process.

The western officials said it was also important for the Taliban to show its ability to control the more recalcitrant factions in its movement, like the Haqqani network, which has often followed its own agenda, though its leader Sirajuddin Haqqani is the second-highest ranking commander in the Taliban.

A Kabul-based western security official said that militants had kept their side of the bargain.

“The Taliban swiftly responded to even minor attacks conducted by the Haqqani network and Islamic State fighters around the bases,” he said.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid declined to comment on the so-called “ring of protection” agreement.

More broadly, he said no security guarantee has been given to the United States beyond Saturday’s deadline, but talks were underway among the group’s leadership and with the U.S. side.

“So far our commitment of not attacking the foreign forces is until May 1, after that whether we will attack or not is an issue under discussion,” said Mujahid.

Mullah Baradar, the Taliban’s deputy political chief, held talks with U.S. envoy Zalmay Khalilzad to discuss the peace process on Thursday, another militant spokesman, Suhail Shaheen, said in a Twitter post.

Clearly having the militants holding positions around Western bases presents a danger if no understanding is reached, Reuters reported.

“They’ve definitely moved ever closer to a lot of Afghan and foreign bases,” said Ashley Jackson, co-director of the Centre for the Study of Armed Groups at Overseas Development Institute, a London-based think-tank.

“Encircling U.S., NATO, and Afghan bases seems like the Taliban strategy to poise themselves to take over when foreign forces leave.”

Afghan defence ministry spokesman Fawad Aman said the Taliban had ramped up violence against the Afghan people and their government, while holding fire against foreign forces.

More than 3,000 Afghan civilians were killed and almost 5,800 were wounded in 2020, according to a United Nation report.

“By not attacking the foreign forces but continuously targeting the Afghan security forces and civilians, the Taliban have shown that they are fighting against the people of Afghanistan,” Aman said.

Michael Kugelman, deputy director of the Asia Programme at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, sympathised with that view, saying: “they have every right to lambaste a U.S.-Taliban agreement for failing to bring a semblance of relief to Afghans themselves.”

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IEA officials should communicate with the people: Stanikzai

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) Political Deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, has called on officials not to isolate themselves and instead communicate with the people in order to help resolve problems.

Introducing the new governor of Kabul at a ceremony on Thursday, Stanikzai said that every Afghan has the right to participate in politics, economy and other affairs of the country.

“Whenever a ruler, governor, minister, prime minister… are in contact with the people, they can solve people’s problems and provide justice,” said Stanikzai.

He once again emphasized the need to reopen girls’ schools and said that progress in the country is not possible without the acquisition of knowledge and education.

“For now, the people are our nation; people need our kindness and love; we must improve people’s economy and remove poverty and open the gates of education to them,” he said.

He also asked the political opponents of the Islamic Emirate who are abroad to return to the country because, he stated, every Afghan has the right to participate in political and economic processes.

Meanwhile, a number of officials of the Islamic Emirate called the appointments and changes in the system “a principle of governance” and said that Mohammad Qasim Khalid was appointed to the position of governor of Kabul based on the suggestion of the leader of the Islamic Emirate.

“This is a very big responsibility and I ask the officials of the Islamic Emirate to help me in advancing this position,” said Khalid.

In less than three months, this is the second governor to be appointed to the post. Previously, Khalid was the deputy minister of Refugees and Repatriation.

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Kabul municipality defends enlarged map on model globe

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2022)

The Kabul Municipality has defended its decision to “zoom in” on the map of Afghanistan in its newest city showpiece – a model globe of the earth.

In a video message, the municipality said it was a wholly service delivery facility and was totally non-political.

This comes after widespread criticism was launched against the municipality for having enlarged the map of Afghanistan on the globe – thereby covering borderlines of neighboring countries.

Critics accused the municipality of not respecting the borders.

The Municipality of Kabul however said the globe was not meant to be anything other than a feature.

“Our goal for it has been to make the map of Afghanistan slightly “zoomed in” and prominent. There is no political goal in this regard.” Kabul Municipality said.

“Such criticism definitely cannot question the will of Kabul Municipality to beautify the city and implement development plans,” the institution said.

The model globe was recently erected in the Dahan-e-Bagh area of Kabul.

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Yaqoob Mujahid calls on ‘all Afghans’ to help develop the country

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2022)

On Wednesday, the 4th day of his visit to the UAE, the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s defense minister, Mawlavi Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, met with a group of Afghans in Dubai and after listening to their problems, said the IEA would try to resolve their issues with the local authorities.

Speaking at a gathering of Afghans in the UAE, Mujahid said Afghanistan is the common home of all Afghans and every Afghan should take responsibility for developing their homeland at this critical juncture.

Senior IEA member Anas Haqqani, who was also at the event in Dubai, said that colonial propaganda has divided Afghans.

“As a result of colonial propaganda, foreigners had separated us & you, but we & you are members of the same being, we are not separated,” Haqqani told the participants.

Haqqani added “Let’s accept each other, neutralize the conspiracies of foreigners & join hands for the prosperity & progress of the country”.

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