Commander of US Central Command General Kenneth F. McKenzie said on Tuesday he is developing concepts that will preserve the US’s ability to ensure Afghanistan does not again become a safe haven for terrorist attacks against the United States.
He said these concepts will help enhance America’s “ability to strike terrorists and capitalize on partnerships elsewhere in the region.”
He said his headquarters is also working closely with that of U.S Forces Afghanistan and the NATO-led Resolute Support mission “to ensure that we withdraw our forces from Afghanistan in a deliberate synchronized manner that protects our personnel.
He said the U.S will continue to provide security assistance to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces on a bilateral basis.
“The department [of defense] is working through how we will manage this effort without personnel in Afghanistan, to manage security assistance, we’re also steadfastly supporting ongoing diplomatic efforts to resolve Afghanistan’s long war while holding the Taliban to their part of the February 2020 commitment that they will end their relationship with al-Qaeda and prevent the use of Afghanistan by any group or individual against the security of the United States and its allies,” he said.
McKenzie’s comments coincided with a US Senate Foreign Relation Committee hearing on Tuesday, which saw lawmakers raise concerns about the future of Afghanistan post troop withdrawal.
“How we withdraw and what political arrangement is left in our wake matters deeply,” US Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez said.
“If the Taliban were to come back to power, the reality for Afghanistan’s women and girls, I think, would be devastating.”
Menendez said that he doesn’t “believe under any circumstances that the United States Senate will support assistance for Afghanistan, especially under the World Bank’s program which provides budget support, if the Taliban has taken a governing role that ends civil society advances and rolls back women’s rights.”
But US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said any future support of a government that included the Taliban would be conditional.
“If they do want US assistance, they want international acceptance … those things will be all affected by how they treat their own citizens, first and foremost the women of Afghanistan, children and minorities,” Khalilzad said at the hearing.
“We should all remain concerned that those rights could suffer,” he said.
Asked if the US would keep any leverage to protect those rights once its troops are gone, Khalilzad said aid and other types of diplomatic support “would be not available if they did not respect the human rights of Afghan women or others.”
Senator Jim Risch said the US military withdrawal should proceed only with safeguards for the gains the US has made in Afghanistan.
“I have deep concerns about the administration’s rush for the exits in Afghanistan,” Risch said.
“I hope I’m wrong, but I’m concerned that the administration’s decision may result in a Taliban offensive that topples the government.”
But Khalilzad said that he doesn’t “believe the (Afghan) government is going to collapse or the Taliban is going to take over.”
“The choice that the Afghans face is between a negotiated political settlement or a long war,” he added.
China regrets UN Doha meeting’s failure to have dialogue with IEA
China’s special envoy for Afghanistan, Yue Xiaoyong, on Saturday regretted that the United Nations’ meeting in Doha on Afghanistan earlier this week failed to have dialogue with the Islamic Emirate.
Yue said on X that the meeting was useful for exchange of views and it made a call for more pragmatic engagement and dialogue with Afghanistan.
“Pity is Doha Afghanistan meeting again failed to have dialogu with Afghan interim government or DFA (IEA) as China and regional countries have been calling,” Yue said.
The envoy said that China called more humanitarian assistance, moderate governance, and women and girls’ education.
China also called on US take major responsibility for Afghanistan’s reconstruction, unfreeze Afghanistan’s overseas assets and lift unilateral sanctions.
China also stressed that it is ready to work harder with UN and regional partners especially through Afghanistan’s nonboring countries foreign ministerial meeting and other platforms to enhance engagement with Afghanistan to help for its peace, stability, reconstruction and common prosperity.
The UN had extended an invitation for IEA officials to participate, following their exclusion from the first meeting in May.
However, the Kabul government said they would not participate in the talks unless they could be the sole representative of Afghanistan at the meetings — to the exclusion of civil society groups.
Latest World Bank decision will support millions of Afghans: IRC
The International Rescue Committee (IRC) has welcomed the latest move by the World Bank to use International Development Association (IDA) funds to scale up support to Afghanistan and expand the scope of its programs, saying these funds will support the delivery of services and access to jobs for Afghans who are continuing to endure a major humanitarian crisis as a result of decades of conflict, climate change and economic turmoil.
IRC in a statement said that the focus of Approach 3.0 of the World Bank includes the delivery of livelihoods support which will support Afghanistan to at least maintain the current trajectory of low-level economic growth.
“This will be critical to maintaining and stabilizing the Afghan economy, while ensuring the survival of businesses and sources of income for millions. However, Afghanistan’s economic crisis remains the primary driver of the high level of humanitarian needs across the country,” the statement said.
IRC stated that although the announcement of Approach 3.0 represents a new milestone for meeting basic needs in Afghanistan, IRC urges other donors to recognise their role in continuing to contribute to both the delivery of basic services through the World Bank’s Afghanistan Resilience Trust Fund (ARTF) and to the humanitarian response.
All contributions are vital to sustaining support for Afghans, and the international community must continue to provide funding to sustain basic services and prevent the humanitarian crisis from worsening, it added.
A week ago, the World Bank Group announced that its executive board endorsed a new approach to aiding Afghanistan that will deploy some $300 million from the bank’s International Development Association fund for poor countries through United Nations agencies and other international organizations.
The shift marks the first time that the World Bank’s own funds would be sent to Afghanistan since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) seized power in August 2021.
UN Doha meeting reinforced that world remains united on Afghanistan: US envoy
The recent UN-sponsored meeting on Afghanistan reinforced that the international community remains largely united and committed to supporting the Afghan people, U.S. Special Envoy for Afghan Women, Girls, and Human Rights, Rina Amiri, said on Saturday.
Amiri said on X that the meeting also reinforced that the international community remains committed to supporting Afghans’ struggle for economic stability, security and respect for their rights, particularly addressing the plight of Afghan women and girls.
She added that Afghan civil society representatives remained unified in their calls on the international community to factor in the “dire situation” of Afghan women when assessing the security situation in Afghanistan and the importance of including Afghan women and civil society in deliberations on Afghanistan.
The UN-sponsored meeting of countries’ special envoys on Afghanistan was held earlier this week in Doha, the second such meeting since May last year.
US special envoy for Afghanistan, Thomas West, has also said that there remains a strong consensus on collective interests in Afghanistan.
“No country wants to see emergence of terrorism threat from Afghanistan. All want to see women and girls return to secondary school, university, work and public life,” West said on X.
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