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First task for Afghan forces is to slow Taliban’s momentum: Austin

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(Last Updated On: July 25, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Saturday that the Afghan security forces’ first job was to make sure they could slow the Taliban’s momentum before attempting to retake territory, as Afghan forces plan to consolidate forces around strategically important parts of the country.

Reuters reported that Afghanistan’s military is overhauling its war strategy against the Taliban to concentrate forces around the most critical areas like Kabul and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure.

“They are consolidating their forces around the key population centers,” Austin told reporters during a visit to Alaska.

“In terms of whether or not it will stop the Taliban, I think the first thing to do is to make sure that they can slow the momentum,” Austin said, speaking as the U.S. military is set to end its mission in Afghanistan on Aug. 31, on orders from President Joe Biden.

Austin added that he believed the Afghans had the capability and the capacity to make progress, but “we’ll see what happens.”

The politically perilous strategy appears to be a military necessity as over-stretched Afghan troops try to prevent the loss of provincial capitals, which could deeply fracture the country.

Taliban insurgents are gaining control of more and more territory, which the Pentagon estimated on Wednesday now extends to over half of half Afghanistan’s district centers. The Taliban are also putting pressure on the outskirts of half of the provincial capitals, trying to isolate them.

The Taliban’s swift territorial gains are rattling Afghans just as the United States withdraws from a war that succeeded in punishing al Qaeda following its Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on New York and Washington but failed to deliver anything close to peace for Afghanistan.

The United States has continued to carry out air strikes to support Afghan government forces that have been under pressure from the Taliban as U.S.-led foreign forces carry out the final stages of their withdrawal from the country.

Biden has promised to provide financial assistance to Afghan forces and to redouble diplomatic efforts to revive stalled peace talks.

Biden on Friday authorized up to $100 million from an emergency fund to meet “unexpected urgent” refugee needs stemming from the situation in Afghanistan, including for Afghan special immigration visa applicants.

For years, the U.S. military has been trying to get Afghan troops off of far-flung checkpoints – static positions that can easily be overrun by Taliban forces.

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Civil servants ordered to carry out their duties in line with Sharia

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Mawlavi Hebatullah Akhundzada has ordered all government officials to carry out their duties in accordance with Islamic principles and not to appoint staff based on subjectivity and connections.

In a voice message disseminated by the Ministry of Higher Education, Akhundzada said the Islamic Emirate will not fail to implement the Islamic Sharia and now that the IEA’s security forces are stationed in the cities, they should take effective steps to implement the divine system and guide people towards Sharia.

“Anyone who is appointed and by his appointment harms the people and the Islamic system, must be removed. The appointment of people should be based on the interests of the nation and Islamic Sharia,” said Akhundzada.

He also instructed civil servants not to force staff to resign unless there is a Sharia reason.

A number of experts meanwhile say that new laws need to be drawn up in order to advance governance because the Islamic Emirate has abolished the previous laws.

“Social justice and meritocracy, fair distribution of power and wealth for the citizens of the country is a Sharia and legal principle, a system will stand on its own feet when every specialty is in place,” said Sayed Moqadam Amin, a political analyst.

“Appointing experienced people who can manage government departments can have positive effects on the governance process,” said Abdul Jabar Akbari, another political expert.

“And it even encourages people to work in government offices,” he added.

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Peshawar mosque bombing death toll rises to at least 44

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

Monday’s massive explosion at a mosque in Peshawar has left at least 44 worshipers dead and over 150 injured.

Police said most of the worshipers were police, army and bomb disposal unit members and that a suicide bomber detonated his explosives while inside the mosque.

Hours after the explosion, rescue workers were still digging through rubble in search of survivors after a large section of the double-story building collapsed.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

A senior police officer told local media that the entire roof of the mosque had caved in, and the mosque was likely full as it was the first day of the working week.

While some say the mosque can take a couple of hundred people, Peshawar police said it was likely that about 260 people had been inside the mosque when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

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Turkey deports 139 Afghan migrants

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

A total of 139 Afghan migrants, who entered Turkey illegally, were deported on Saturday, said the head of Turkey’s Migration Management Directorate.

Anadolu Agency reported that in accordance with the country’s Irregular Migration Strategy Document and the National Action Plan, migrants, who do not have valid documents to be in Turkey, are being sent to their home countries by charter flights.

After going through all necessary procedures, including health checks and security-related steps, the migrants were deported to Afghanistan on Saturday, Savas Unlu told reporters in Ankara.

He said Turkey has so far arranged nine charter flights this year. “We have deported 8,571 irregular migrants from our country so far this year. This does not include these 139 migrants.”

Unlu added that as a result of Turkey’s efforts to combat irregular migration, the number of irregular migrants arriving at the country’s borders for illegal entry in 2022 decreased by 38% compared to 2021.

“Since 2016, 2.7 million irregular migrants have been prevented from entering our country illegally,” he said.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

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