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Biden says ‘May 1 deadline’ is hard in terms of tactical reasons

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(Last Updated On: March 26, 2021)

U.S. President Joe Biden on Thursday at the first formal White House news conference of his presidency said that it would be “hard” to withdraw the last U.S. troops from Afghanistan by a May 1 deadline, but he added that he did not think they still would be there next year, Reuters reported.

Biden comments come as his administration strives to build international pressure on the Taliban and U.S.-backed Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s government to reach a peace agreement and a ceasefire before the deadline.

According to Reuters report peace talks, however, are stalled and by suggesting U.S. troops would be gone next year, Biden risked weakening Ghani’s bargaining hand and encouraging the Taliban, who U.S. officials say have stepped up violence in their quest to oust him, to play for time, some analysts said.

During the news conference Biden said it would be hard to meet the May 1 deadline to withdraw the last 3,500 U.S. troops “just in terms of tactical reasons.”

“It’s gone be hard to meet May 1 deadline in terms of tactical reasons hard to get those troops out,” Biden told reporters.

He apparently was referring to the enormous logistical challenges of pulling out the roughly 10,000 American and foreign troops and their equipment within the next six weeks.

Biden was asked if it was possible that there still would be U.S troops in Afghanistan next year. “I can’t picture that being the case,” he responded.

The Taliban have indicated they could resume attacks on foreign troops if Biden does not meet the May 1 deadline.

The deadline was set in a February 2020 deal struck with the Taliban under former President Donald Trump.

It called for a phased conditions-based drawdown of U.S. troops from America’s longest war. The Taliban were required to prevent Islamist militant groups such as al Qaeda from using Afghanistan as a base from which to attack U.S. and allied targets.

Trump, however, ordered the drawdown to proceed even though violence escalated, U.S. officials said the Taliban had failed to cut ties with al Qaeda and disputes delayed the start of the intra-Afghan talks on a ceasefire and a settlement to decades of strife.

Washington, meanwhile, has yet to act on its commitment to have U.N. and U.S. sanctions on senior Taliban leaders lifted.

The Taliban deny they are responsible for the surge in bloodletting or that there are al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan.

Biden noted that Secretary of State Antony Blinken has been in Europe meeting with U.S. allies that have troops in Afghanistan and “if we leave, we are going to do so in a safe and orderly way.”

“The question is how and in what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump to leave under a deal that looks like it’s not being able to be worked out to begin with,” Biden said.

“We will leave. The question is when we leave,” he added.

U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who negotiated the withdrawal deal for Trump and was kept on by Biden, has circulated a U.S.-drafted peace proposal that would replace Ghani’s government with an interim power-sharing administration.

Ghani repeatedly has rejected stepping aside, saying any transfer of power would have to take place through elections as required by the constitution. Taliban officials have said they would not participate in an interim government, but would recommend members.

Biden comments comes after former US National Security Advisor HR McMaster said on Wednesday night he is very concerned about the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan and felt it could result in a “catastrophe” for the Afghan people and for the region.

Speaking at a Hoover Institute debate, McMaster said this “so-called responsible end of the war in Afghanistan, which I think could be catastrophic not only for the Afghan people but for the people of the region, for Europe; and also result in increased risk from Jihadist terrorist organizations”.

McMaster said he would like to ask President Joe Biden about the “resurrection of the language of responsible end of the war”. He said this term was last used in 2011 regarding the Iraq withdrawal.

“Of course we know what happened a couple of years later with the rise of ISIS there,” he said adding whether Biden was, as such, concerned “about replicating that experience in Afghanistan in a way that creates a humanitarian catastrophe.”

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IEA’s reclusive supreme leader addresses Ulema gathering in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

The reclusive supreme leader of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Haibatullah Akhundzada, hailed the IEA’s takeover of Afghanistan during a meeting in Kabul on Friday. 

The meeting of religious leaders from around the country was called to forge national unity. 

IEA spokesmen confirmed that Akhundzada, who is based in the southern city of Kandahar, had come to Kabul for the gathering of some 3,000 participants.

After receiving pledges of allegiance from participants raising their hands, Akhundzada praised the IEA’s victory last August. 

“The success of the Afghan jihad is not only a source of pride for Afghans but also for Muslims all over the world,” he said. 

In his speech he said justice needs to prevail, that oppression needs to be prevented and corruption in government must be stamped out. 

He also discussed the need for the implementation of divine law, especially in respect of retribution. He said this decree of Allah has not yet been implemented and once it is, it will spark reaction. 

He also told participants that the people should not wait for foreign aid to rebuild the country. He called on Afghans living abroad to return home and invest in the future of their country. 

Akhundzada did not mention the reopening of girls’ schools. 

On Afghanistan’s foreign policy, he said it was an independent country and that he did not want to negotiate with any country on Islamic issues. 

He called on the world not to interfere in Afghanistan’s domestic issues and said Afghanistan is no longer in the hands of foreigners. 

Akhundzada stated that while the enemy was defeated on the battlefield, the IEA must not allow discord within its ranks especially as the enemy is trying to conduct propaganda campaigns. 

“Thank God, we are now an independent country. (Foreigners) should not give us their orders, it is our system and we have our own decisions,” he said. 

“We have a relationship of devotion to one God, we cannot accept the orders of others who God does not like,” he said.

He reassured neighboring countries that the IEA harbors no ill will towards them. 

In conclusion he called on political figures abroad to return home and to stop waging an anti-IEA campaign. 

The Kabul gathering began on Thursday under tight security.

Deputy Taliban chief and acting interior minister Sirajuddin Haqqani also addressed the meeting on Friday, saying the world was demanding inclusive government and education, and the issues needed time.

“This gathering is about trust, interaction, we are here to make our future according to Islam and to national interests,” he said.

IEA spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said that they would respect the decisions of those at the meeting but the final say on girls’ education was up to the supreme leader.

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Turkey awaits IEA response to Kabul airport offer: Erdogan

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

President Tayyip Erdogan said on Thursday that Turkey had offered to operate Kabul airport in Afghanistan with Qatar and the United Arab Emirates and was awaiting the response of the Islamic Emirate to the proposal.

He was speaking at a news conference at the end of a NATO summit in Madrid.

Turkey and Qatar have been negotiating with Islamic Emirate officials for months to manage Afghanistan’s international airfields.

In May, IEA signed an agreement with a UAE company on ground operations at the Kabul, Kandahar, and Herat airports and the deal had a contract period of one-and-a-half years.

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India delivers six tons of medical aid to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 1, 2022)

The Indian government delivered a consignment of six tons of essential medicines to Afghanistan on Thursday, as part of its ongoing humanitarian assistance, New Delhi said.

The consignment was handed over to the Indira Gandhi Hospital in Kabul, Indian foreign ministry said in a statement.

The assistance follows urgent appeals made by the United Nations to assist the Afghan people.

India has, so far, supplied 20 tons of medical assistance in seven batches, which includes essential life-saving medicines, anti-TB medicines, 500,000 doses of COVID vaccine, etc. These medical consignments have been handed over to the World Health Organization (WHO) and Indira Gandhi Children Hospital, Kabul, Indian foreign ministry said.

In order to ensure food security in Afghanistan, India has provided food assistance of 35,000 metric tons of wheat. Moreover, in the wake of recent tragic earthquake, India supplied almost 28 tons of earthquake relief assistance in two relief flights.

Furthermore, India is in the process to ship more medical and wheat assistance to Afghanistan in coordination with the UN agencies on ground.

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