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Biden calls on Afghans to ‘decide their future’ as withdrawal nears end

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2021)

U.S. President Joe Biden met Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and High Council for National Reconciliation chairman Abdullah Abdullah on Friday at the White House where he called on Afghans to decide the future of their country as the last U.S. troops pack up after 20 years of war and government forces struggle to repel Taliban advances.

Biden, seated beside Ghani and Abdullah in the Oval Office, called them “two old friends” and said U.S. support for Afghanistan was not ending but would be sustained despite the U.S. pullout, Reuters reported.

“Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want,” said Biden, saying the “senseless violence has to stop.”

Ghani said Afghan security forces had retaken six districts on Friday. He said he respected Biden’s decision and that the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan is entering a new phase.

“We are determined to have unity, coherence,” he said.

Speaking with reporters after the meeting, Ghani said the United States’ decision to withdraw troops was a sovereign one and it was Kabul’s job to “manage consequences.”

He added that Biden had clearly articulated that the U.S. embassy would continue to operate and security aid would continue and in some cases move on an accelerated schedule, Reuters reported.

Abdullah said in a Reuters interview after the Biden meeting that stalled intra-Afghan talks on a political settlement to decades of strife should not be abandoned unless the insurgents themselves pull out.

“I think we shouldn’t shut the door unless it’s completely shut by the Taliban,” Abdullah said. “We can’t say no to talks despite a lack of progress or in spite of what’s happening on the ground.”

The Oval Office meeting could be as valuable to Ghani for its symbolism as for any new U.S. help because it will be seen as affirming Biden’s support for the beleaguered Afghan leader as he confronts Taliban gains, bombings and assassinations, a surge in COVID-19 cases and political infighting in Kabul.

“At a time when morale is incredibly shaky and things are going downhill, anything one can do to help shore up morale and shore up the government is worth doing,” said Ronald Neumann, a former U.S. ambassador to Kabul. “Inviting Ghani here is a pretty strong sign that we’re backing him.”

Biden’s embrace, however, comes only months after U.S. officials were pressuring Ghani to step aside for a transitional government under a draft political accord that they floated in a failed gambit to break a stalemate in peace talks.

Biden has asked Congress to approve $3.3 billion in security assistance for Afghanistan next year and is sending 3 million doses of vaccines there to help it battle COVID-19, Reuters reported.

U.S. officials have been clear that Biden will not halt the American pullout – likely to be completed in the coming weeks -and he is unlikely to approve any U.S. military support to Kabul to halt the Taliban’s advances beyond advice, intelligence, and aircraft maintenance.

Earlier, the Afghan leaders met for a second day on Capitol Hill, where Biden’s withdrawal decision met objections from many members of both parties.

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi, welcoming Ghani to a bipartisan leadership meeting, said she looked forward to hearing about what more can be done with U.S. humanitarian aid, especially for women and girls.

Many lawmakers and experts have expressed deep concerns that the Taliban – if returned to power – will reverse progress made on the rights of women and girls, who were harshly repressed and barred from education and work during the insurgents’ 1996-2001 rule.

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Pakistan envoy says trade between Islamabad and Kabul continues to grow

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

Mansoor Ahmad Khan, Pakistan’s ambassador to Kabul, said Sunday that cooperation has expanded between Islamabad and Kabul in the areas of trade and transit, and that imports and exports between the two nations have increased.

Speaking on the sidelines of an event at the embassy in Kabul, to mark the 75th anniversary of independence, Ahmad Khan said Islamabad has collaborated with Kabul in resolving its problems during the last year, adding that Pakistan is committed to continuing cooperation with Afghanistan.

He also added that border tensions between the two countries have been resolved.

“Our relationship with Afghanistan is very good and we tried to make it good. In the past year, there were many problems for Afghanistan, but Pakistan helped and cooperated with Afghanistan, and these cooperations were in the areas of evacuation, humanitarian aid and creating facilities at the borders. Also, in the transit and trade sector, our cooperation has increased, exports and imports have also increased and we are committed to always cooperating with Afghanistan,” said Ahmad Khan.

He however emphasized that despite challenges the IEA had over the past year, it did not have satisfactory performances.

He has also said that education is the basic right of all people and women who make up 50 percent of the society should have access to education.

“Education is considered an important part of the country, in the same way, women make up 50 percent of the society. The current government of Afghanistan also says that it is working on the education of women in Afghanistan,” he added. “They are working on a process so that girls can continue their education according to Islamic conditions and according to Afghan culture.”

Moreover, this Pakistani official considers the fight against terrorism as a common goal in the region and added that the war against terrorism is currently underway.

The ambassador of Pakistan in Kabul also emphasized that the problem of issuing Pakistani visas will be completely resolved in the coming days.

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More than 600,000 Afghans return home in past year

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

The Ministry of Refugees and Repatriation said Sunday that in the last year, more than 600,000 Afghans have returned to the country.

Mohammad Arsala Kharoti, Deputy Minister of Refugees and Repatriation Affairs said at a press conference, as part of the IEA’s accountability program: “622,800 Afghans returned to Afghanistan from Pakistan, Iran and other countries under the rule of the Islamic Emirate, and 116,868 returnees in the border provinces have received humanitarian aid.”

According to officials, 272,925 internally displaced families were identified in the past year, 78,421 families were transferred to their native provinces and 860,640 families received humanitarian aid.

In addition, education has been provided for 8,400 returnees and internally displaced persons, and 1,600 Afghans has been stopped from leaving the country illegally.

According to the ministry, the management of the transfer and distribution of humanitarian aid from China, Kyrgyzstan, Qatar and Pakistan, the distribution of aid to 7,000 flood victims in Helmand and Kandahar, the distribution of emergency aid to the victims of Jawzjan, Badakhshan, Badghis, Khost and Paktika, the transfer of 36,000 displaced families from Kabul, fair distribution of humanitarian aid from Al-Khidmat Institute in Paktika, collecting aid for 1,000 families in Panjshir, organizing vocational training courses and distributing equipment to 160 families, are some of the actions of this ministry in the past year.

Officials said due to the follow-up efforts of the leadership of this ministry, during the current year, 250 Afghan immigrants living in Pakistan and Iran were able to perform Hajj.

According to the officials, the necessary arrangements have been made with Pakistan, China, Iran and Turkey regarding the handling of the situation of Afghan immigrants, the provision of services and the establishment of an orphanage with a capacity of 20 thousand people, and in order to provide emergency services, distribute aid and create economic opportunities 47 memorandums of understanding have been signed with partner institutions and organizations.

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Karzai says despite the onset of ‘peace’, Afghanistan is facing immense hardships

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(Last Updated On: August 14, 2022)

Former president Hamid Karzai said this week that despite the tumultuous past year, Afghans are “happier” that there is no longer a large-scale war being waged in their country.

He said the conflict, which caused loss of Afghan lives on both sides, was “fortunately over” but that Afghanistan is facing “immense difficulties”.

In an interview with India Today, to coincide with the one year anniversary of the take over by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) Karzai said “Afghanistan is facing immense difficulties” economically. He said this was compounded by the loss of skilled Afghans who migrated.

Karzai said however, that the ruling IEA was still a way off from winning the trust of the international community in terms of being recognized as the new government.

He said that many of the IEA leaders agree “with an Afghanistan that’s inclusive, with an Afghanistan that has girls going to school, and an Afghanistan that is working hard towards well-being and a better economy.”

“With regard to recognition by the international community it is based on two fundamental conditions to be fulfilled. One is the fulfilling of the needs of the Afghan people, the education of girls is one such issue, and then inclusivity is another such issue,” he said.

“Once this is fulfilled and the Afghan people see that the country is moving in the direction that’s in the interests of the people, and the country of course, automatically the question of international recognition will be resolved.”

Karzai also emphasized that “the people of Afghanistan have been victims of terrorism for a long long time,” adding that he feels with certainty that the people of Afghanistan “are the greatest victims of terrorism and extremism.”

“Unfortunately at the same time, the Afghan people are also victims of the fight against terrorism; so we have suffered both from terrorism and from the consequences of the fight against terrorism,” he said.

He also stated that Afghans do not want terrorists in their country, whether it be groups or individuals, but at the same time Afghans do not want their sovereignty violated in the name of the fight against terrorism.

Regarding the US’s claims that it killed the al-Qaeda leader al-Zawahiri in a drone strike in Kabul last month, Karzai pointed out that the IEA said at the time that it was not aware of his presence in the country but that they would carry out an investigation into the claims and incident.

Emphasizing the dire economic situation, exacerbated by the mass migration of skilled workers, Karzai said: “One of the greatest losses of our country in the past one year has been the leaving of our educated and capable people from our own country; the loss of this educated part of the Afghan population is an immense irreparable loss and our effort is exactly this to have an Afghanistan where all the Afghan people can come back, where all the Afghan people can be working in and participating in, where all the Afghan people find their country to be belonging to all of us; this is our effort and this has to succeed for the well- being of all including for the current government.”

He said it is up to the current government, the IEA, to make sure that those Afghans return and that they find place in their own country and respect in their own country
and an environment where they can work and grow and prosper together with all the Afghan people.

“The Taliban (IEA) and all other Afghans belong to this country and we need to work together for a better Afghanistan; that is imperative for us to be independent, strong and growing,” he said.

On Afghan-Indian relations, he called on New Delhi to reopen its embassy in Kabul “in full strength” and to allow Afghan students to return to India for study purposes.

Karzai said he was confident the IEA would do its best to provide security to the Indian embassy should it reopen in Kabul.

He also stated that he wants Afghanistan “to be a place of cooperation between our neighbors and big powers,” adding that Afghanistan’s relations with India are historic and go back centuries”.

In conclusion he said: “I have hopes for Afghanistan; very very good hopes for Afghanistan. This country will be fine, this country will do well; I’m also hopeful that things will change for the better in Afghanistan.

“Definitely there is a need for certain changes in the policies of the current government, the issue of girls going to school is extremely important; that must change, and those schools must reopen immediately; and inclusivity and so many other issues that have to be addressed, that we are working on.

But on the whole, he said Afghanistan is a very old country and that temporary setbacks and difficulties “will not stop it from the long march towards a better future.”

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