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Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after May deadline: NATO sources

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2021)

International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials told Reuters.

The move could however escalate tensions with the Taliban which is demanding a full withdrawal.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“And with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The former Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

Trump hailed the accord – which did not include the Afghan government – as the end of two decades of war. He reduced US troops to 2,500 by this month, the fewest since 2001.

Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources told Reuters.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September in Doha, but violence has remained high.

Reuters reported that Kabul and some foreign governments and agencies say the Taliban has failed to meet conditions due to escalated violence and a failure to cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which the Taliban denies.

The new US administration under Joe Biden has launched a review of the US-Taliban deal but a Pentagon spokesman said the Taliban have not met their commitments.

However, Washington remained committed to the process and had not decided on future troop levels, the Pentagon stated this week.

A State Department representative said Biden was committed to bringing a “responsible end to the ‘forever wars’… while also protecting Americans from terrorist and other threats.”

Afghanistan’s presidential palace did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, two Taliban sources said the group has become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the possibility that Washington might change aspects of the agreement and keep troops in the country beyond May.

“We conveyed our apprehensions, but they assured us of honouring and acting on the Doha accord. What’s going on, on the ground in Afghanistan, is showing something else. And that’s why we decided to send our delegations to take our allies into confidence,” a Taliban leader in Doha told Reuters.

A Taliban delegation this week visited Iran and Russia, and the leader said they were contacting China.

Although informal meetings have been taking place between negotiators in Doha, progress has stalled in recent weeks after an almost one-month break, according to negotiators and diplomats.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters the insurgents remained committed to the peace process.

“No doubt that if the Doha deal is not implemented there will be consequences, and the blame will be upon that side which does not honour the deal,” he said.

“Our expectations are also that NATO will think to end this war and avoid more excuses for prolonging the war in Afghanistan.”

NATO and Washington will have a challenge getting the Taliban to agree to an extension beyond May.

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Instability in Afghanistan is not in Pakistan’s interest: US

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2022)

The US State Department says that it is not in Pakistan’s interest to see instability and violence in Afghanistan and that Washington and Islamabad continue to work closely on counter-terrorism threats.

Marking the 75th anniversary of US-Pakistan relations in Washington Monday, the US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Pakistan has also made similar commitments as the commitments of the new leaders of Afghanistan, especially in the fight against terrorism with the US.

“We continue to work closely on counter-terrorism threats; we have a shared stake in Afghanistan’s future after two decades of war,” said Blinken.

“We have had our differences (Pakistan and US) that is no secret but we share a common objective, a more stable, a more peaceful and free future for all of Afghanistan and for those across the border region.”

The US Department Spokesperson Ned Price meanwhile said that it was not in Pakistan’s interest if there be insecurity and instability in Afghanistan.

“It was not in Pakistan’s interest to see instability and violence in Afghanistan; the support for the people of Afghanistan is something we discuss regularly with our Pakistani partners; our efforts continue to improve the lives, livelihoods and humanitarian conditions of the Afghan people,” Price added.

“And see to it that the Taliban (IEA) live up to the commitments that they have made and of course Pakistan is implicated in many of the same commitments.”

At the same time, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Pakistan’s foreign minister, also expressed his satisfaction with the return of friendly diplomacy with the United States, which was strained last year due to the anti-American statements of Imran Khan, the former prime minister of this country.

“I fully agree that great goals can be achieved through joint cooperation, the relations between Pakistan and the United States have not only strengthened and gained strength, but also proved the historical relations of the two countries that whenever we work together, we will achieve great goals,” said Zardari.

However, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, in response to the statements of the Foreign Minister of Pakistan, said that Pakistan wanted to sacrifice the people of Afghanistan due to economic problems and by allowing the American drones [so as] to get millions of dollars from its soil.

“With each drone (being used against the soil of Afghanistan) millions of dollars are made; don’t trade with the lives of these poor people,” said Stanikzai. “If you (Pakistan) don’t have food or water, look for another solution to meet your needs.”

Stanikzai warned that the IEA will not remain silent over the statements of Pakistani officials and that the US violation of the Doha Agreement is not acceptable to them either.

He also condemned Shehbaz Sharif’s recent statements about the existence of terrorist groups in Afghanistan and said that they will not remain silent if such statements continue.

“We still have heroes who are standing in line and if we order them, they can advance even 10,000 kilometers in any direction; it is that Afghanistan from one point of which the sun would rise and at the other end it would set; it is the same Afghanistan whose borders were extended 10,000 kilometers toward east and west,” Stanikzai warned.

In addition, Stanikzai stated that the US has repeatedly violated the Doha Agreement despite having promised that it would not interfere in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. He said Washington’s current interventions in Afghanistan will have unfortunate consequences.

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No terrorist groups present in Afghanistan: Interior Ministry

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2022)

There are no terrorist groups present in Afghanistan, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday.

Speaking at a press conference Abdul Nafi Takoor said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) will not “allow them to have presence. We will never allow anyone to pose a threat from Afghanistan to other countries.”

On Monday, a quarterly report on Afghanistan issued by the UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres noted growing security concerns in Afghanistan, saying foreign terrorist groups continue to have a presence in the country.

“The security situation reveals a worrisome trend in recent months, particularly the series of attacks by ISIL-K, recurring armed opposition clashes with Taliban (IEA) de facto security forces and the continuing presence of foreign terrorist groups in Afghanistan,” the report said.

The report also said that the announcement by the US of the death of the leader of Al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri, in Kabul “brought to the fore the continuing ties between the terrorist group and the Taliban (IEA), which would be contrary to the latter’s counter-terrorism commitments.”

The report highlighted that the overall number of conflict-related security incidents and civilian casualties decreased significantly between 22 May and 16 August compared with the same period in 2021.

The United Nations recorded 1,642 security-related incidents, a 77.5 per cent decrease from the 7,314 incidents recorded during the same period in 2021

Armed clashes decreased by 97 per cent, from 4,620 to 129 incidents; air strikes fell by 99.5 per cent, from 564 to 3; detonations from improvised explosive devices decreased by 87 per cent, from 590 to 76; and assassinations decreased by 70 per cent, from 294 to 88, according to the report.

As a result of the deteriorating economic and humanitarian situation, crime-related security incidents remained consistently high, with 373 such incidents reported between 22 May and 16 August, compared with 300 reported during the same period in 2021, the report said.

Attacks claimed or attributed to ISIL-K decreased. Between 22 May and 16 August, the United Nations recorded 48 attacks by the group in 11 provinces, compared with 113 attacks in 8 provinces during the same period in 2021.

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Stanikzai says no Islamic reason for girl’s school’s to remain closed

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(Last Updated On: September 27, 2022)

A year after the closure of high schools for girls in Afghanistan, the political deputy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) once again called for the opening of girls’ schools in all of Afghanistan.

Speaking at a meeting on the occasion of “Tourism Day” on Tuesday in Kabul Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai said that no one can deny the righteousness of education and according to him, all people want schools reopened.

Stanikzai also said that there is no legitimate reason for closing schools for girls and insisted that all the scholars of Afghanistan agree that education should be provided as soon as possible.

“I have said this many times, now I say it again with clear words that this education is an obligation for men and women. The most important thing is that education and training should be open. It should be open to men and women without discrimination. There are scholars, no one can deny this obligation, and it is an obligation on men and women. As soon as possible, the doors of madrassas and schools in Afghanistan should be opened for everyone,” said Stanikzai.

According to Stanikzai there should be no excuses and everyone must go to school.

“All of them must go, without any discrimination. If we want to establish national unity, we must open the doors of education to all and provide education to all freely,” Stanikzai added.

After one year of IEA rule in Afghanistan, girls’ classes from the 6th grade have been closed in this country, which has provoked strong reactions at home and abroad.

Meanwhile, in response to Pakistan’s recent remarks to the UN, Stanikzai said that Pakistan is using the situation in Afghanistan to borrow money from the world.

He said that he understands Pakistan’s problems, but this country should not take advantage of Afghanistan and its situation.

“Pakistani authorities violate the modesty of speech in the international arena to please Westerners,” said Stanikzai.

According to Stanikzai, Pakistan has done business using Afghanistan’s situation for forty years and “that’s enough”.

Without referring to Pakistan, he stated that the IEA have evidence of where the drones are coming from.

These statements of the political deputy of the IEA’s Foreign Ministry come while Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif said at the 77th session of the United Nations General Assembly that Afghanistan has become a save heaven for terrorist groups.

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