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‘Desperate situation’ for Ghani as his power is undermined: NYT

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(Last Updated On: April 11, 2021)

A senior Afghan military official said this week that if the US pulls out without a political settlement having been reached between government and the Taliban, the country will be in “deep trouble”.

Speaking to the New York Times this week, the security official said: “If the US pulls out, and there is no political agreement, then we are in deep trouble.”

“Militarily, we don’t have much hope,” he said. “If we don’t get something, the Taliban are going to march. It’s going to be a severe battle.”

One Western diplomat in Kabul said the country’s military position is deteriorating. Each day brings news of security force members blown up or gunned down.

“They can’t keep doing that,” said the diplomat, commenting on the steady loss of military strength. “The toll on the government, and the credibility and legitimacy it has, it’s not sustainable.”

The New York Times reported that this comes at a time where President Ashraf Ghani has few remaining allies, the Taliban are gaining militarily and his international supporters are impatient with him and the stumbling peace process.

The article questions how much control Ghani actually has over his country’s future and his own – questions that have, according to the NYT, been largely resolved by politicians, analysts and citizen: Not much!

NYT reports Ghani is dependent on the counsel of a handful of people and is unwilling to even watch television news – also that he is losing allies fast.

This, the NYT reports, spells trouble for a country where a hard-line insurgency has the upper hand militarily, where nearly half the population faces hunger at crisis levels, where the majority of government money comes from donors and where weak governance and widespread corruption are endemic.

This, meanwhile, is all taking place as Washington is preparing to pull out its last remaining troops, “a prospect expected to lead to the medium-term collapse of the Afghan forces they now support,” the report read.

Former National Directorate of Security chief Rahmatullah Nabil told the NYT: “He (Ghani) is in a desperate situation.”

“We’re getting weaker. Security is weak, everything is getting weaker, and the Taliban are taking advantage.”

The NYT reported that many are fed up with what they see as Ghani’s obstinacy in refusing to make concessions to adversaries, or his condescending style and that a recent letter to him from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken was so harsh that even Afghans critical of Ghani found it insulting.

The letter used the phrase “I urge you” three times while Blinken also said “I must also make clear to you, Mr. President … that as our policy process continues in Washington, the United States has not ruled out any option.”

The NYT stated that the unspoken subtext was clear: Your influence is minimal.

Hekmat Khalil Karzai, the head of an Afghan think tank reacted to this and said: “As an Afghan, a sense of humiliation comes over you.”

“But I also feel Ghani deserves it,” Karzai said. “He’s dealing with the kiss of death from his own closest partner.”

This comes as US President Joe Biden continues to “review” the agreement signed with the Taliban in February last year – which stipulates Washington pulls out all its troops by May 1 – a deadline that is just three weeks away.

It also comes amid a flurry of meetings between leaders of countries in the region, of US officials and Afghan politicians.

The key issue currently is the US proposal of an interim government followed by elections – an interim government that would include Taliban participation.

As pointed out by the NYT, such a move could require Ghani to step down – something he has until now repeatedly refused to consider.

Ghani has his own plan, which includes early elections but the NYT states, both Washington’s plan and Ghani’s could fall flat as the Taliban have never said they would agree to elections, nor have they indicated that they would go along with any sort of government plan or be content with power-sharing.

“From what we’re seeing, they want absolute power, and they are waiting to take power by force,” Ghani’s national security adviser, Hamdullah Mohib, said in an interview.

Visions of September 1996, when the Taliban rolled into Kabul virtually unopposed and proceeded to establish their harsh regime, haunt the capital, the NYT stated.

Meanwhile some former officials criticized Ghani as being compelled to micromanage all ministries and departments, including that of military matters.

Karzai said: “He likes that, because he feels he’s the only one [competent to make serious decisions].”

But Mohib called the micromanagement accusation “a huge exaggeration,” saying that the president had not attended a security meeting “in weeks,” adding that “he is aware of the strategic picture.”

When contacted by the NYT for an interview, Ghani’s communications office refused, while a senior aide did not respond to an interview request.

A Western diplomat meanwhile told the NYT that the consequences of Ghani’s isolation is not good for Afghan unity and that these divisions spread from Kabul into the country’s fractious regions, where independent militias and other longstanding power-brokers have either rearmed themselves or are preparing to do so.

One example cited by the NYT is the low-intensity fight between government forces and the militia of a minority militia commander, Alipour, which has been smoldering for months.

The fight was recently fueled by the downing of an Afghan forces helicopter in March by Alipour’s men.

The NYT reported that Ghani and his aides have taken an active role in managing the conflict, to the dismay of the Afghan military.
“This is what we wanted to avoid. We are already stretched,” said a senior Afghan security official. “And here, you want to start another war?”

In conclusion, the NYT article noted that the upcoming talks in Turkey, the Istanbul Summit, could well end up like the recent ones in Moscow and Dushanbe, Tajikistan — with bland communiqués deploring violence and hoping for peace.

The American idea — to substitute new talks in a new locale for the old talks in Qatar that have gone nowhere — is not necessarily a winning bet and that early signs are not promising, with Ghani once again rejecting preliminary American proposals, and the Taliban aggressively noncommittal about the ideas currently on the table, the NYT reported.

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Sanctions undermine supply of vital aid to Afghanistan: ICRC

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

Sanctions imposed on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) have undermined the supply of vital humanitarian aid to the country, Martin Schuepp, director of operations of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), said.

“For the moment we are continuing to operate. I think one of the important challenges is indeed the sanctions that have been imposed. For example, the banking sector, and that makes our operations more difficult for us,” Schuepp told Xinhua.

Following the withdrawal of the US-led forces, Afghanistan’s assets worth more than $9 billion were frozen by the United States as part of its sanctions on the new rulers of the country.

“It is key that all sanctions have humanitarian exemptions, which allows humanitarian organizations such as the ICRC to operate and to be able to reach people in need,” Schuepp said.

The ICRC official made the remarks amid increasing poverty and high rate of unemployment in Afghanistan.

Schuepp also said that poverty had led to an increase in the cases of pneumonia and malnutrition among children.

“So, overall, we continue to operate throughout the country. We continue to implement our activities, and actually to increase our activities in the country,” the official said.

“Also, one of our main programs is supporting hospitals … around the country to make sure that all Afghans in need receive care.”

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Pakistani delegation meets IEA officials, mutual interests discussed

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

A meeting was held between visiting Pakistani delegation led by Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hinna Rabbani Khar and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials on Tuesday, where various issues were discussed including the matter of Afghans in Pakistani prisons.

The meeting took place at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and was chaired by the IEA’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Also part of the Pakistani delegation was the Special Representative for Afghanistan Mohammad Sadiq Khan, Pakistan’s Chargé d’Affaires in Kabul Obaidur Rehman Nizamani and other Pakistani officials.

Muttaqi welcomed the visiting delegation and said good relations between the two countries were beneficial to the people of both countries and the region.

Muttaqi also raised the issue of Afghan prisoners in Pakistan, as well as the need to facilitate travel to and from the country, and the need to improve trade and transit relations, read a ministry statement.

Muttaqi expressed his willingness to restart TAPI, TAP, the railway line and other big projects. He further expressed the Islamic Emirate’s position on political relations, economic growth and security.

The Ministry said that the Pakistani delegation promised to cooperate with regards to the treatment of refugees in the country and that they would try to resolve other problems in terms of travel routes and visas.

The Pakistani delegation also stated it would work to strengthen and develop trade and transit ties with Afghanistan.

“Since Afghanistan and Pakistan are two neighboring Muslim countries and have cultural commonalities, the governments of both countries should cooperate with each other and protect mutual public interests,” Khar said during the meeting.

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US envoy Karen Decker attends Herat Security Dialogue in Tajikistan

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(Last Updated On: November 29, 2022)

US Charge D’affaires to Afghanistan Karen Decker on Tuesday confirmed she will attend the two-day Herat Security Dialogue in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, where views will be exchanged on the security situation in the country.

Decker tweeted that the dialogue provides a “great opportunity” to exchange views on the situation in Afghanistan. According to her, representatives from Afghanistan, Tajikistan, regional countries, and the EU, will attend the conference.

“I am here to listen, but I will be prepared to reiterate America’s strong support for the Afghan people and for an Afghanistan at peace with itself and its neighbors,” she said.

According to a statement by the Afghan institute of strategic studies, the main discussion topics will be on the need for an inclusive political system for Afghanistan.

Farhad Salim, Deputy Foreign Minister of Tajikistan meanwhile said that Tajikistan’s policy is to support the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan that can lead to the end of the half-century conflict in Afghanistan and the achievement of social justice.

This is the 10th Herat Security Dialogue – which was initiated in 2012 to focus on peace and security topics relating to Afghanistan.

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