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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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IEA approves committee to regulate, improve and advance Hajj affairs

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2022)

Enamullah Samangani, Deputy Spokesman of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said Saturday that cabinet has approved a plan to establish a National Hajj Committee to regulate, improve and advance Hajj-related issues.

Samangani wrote on his Twitter page: “The committee is chaired by Mawlawi Abdul Salam Hanafi, Deputy Prime Minister, and the Ministries of Guidance, Hajj and Endowments, Transport and Aviation, Justice, Finance, Foreign Affairs, Public Health and Interior ministry, the general directorate of intelligence (GDI), and the chamber of commerce are its members.”

According to Samangani, in order to regulate, improve and advance Hajj affairs in the provinces, a committee chaired by the deputy governor with the participation of delegates from the departments of Hajj and Endowments, airport, police headquarters, intelligence and public health should be established.

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UN envoy says Afghanistan’s new rulers have no clear plan for good governance

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2022)

The UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons says the new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government has an unclear strategy in terms of leading the political and economic situation.

In an interview with CNN, Lyons said the IEA does not have a clear plan for good governance and its economic plan is unclear.

She said she has met separately with the leaders of the new government, but no specific plans have been put forward so far.

“We have tried to find out what their views are on Afghanistan, how they want to develop this country, so far they do not have a clear definition in this regard, so far there is no plan to determine how they want to lead the country, if they have an economic plan, what is that?

“We are still working in separate meetings with the leaders to find out what the plans are for the future and overcoming the problems. We are currently acting as a bridge between Afghanistan and the international community,” said Lyons.

According to her, some leaders of the IEA agree that girls should go to school, but not everyone has yet reached a common decision.

“In my meeting with the leaders of the incumbent government, I found that some of them know that this issue is very important for the international community and they are in favor of reopening schools for girls, but others have the opposite view, a single position has not yet been formed.

“Afghanistan is the only country in the world where girls are not allowed to go to school,” said Lyons.

At the same time, former President Hamid Karzai has welcomed the IEA’s desire to have good diplomatic relations with the United States and other international countries, but said he hopes the new rulers decide as soon as possible on the reopening of girls’ schools.

“Sirajuddin Haqqani spoke of the government’s willingness to have good diplomatic relations with the United States and the international community which is in the interest of Afghanistan. He [Haqqani] also said that the girls would return to school soon, which I hope would happen as soon as possible,” said Karzai.

Speaking to CNN, Karzai said the issue of hijab was clear. “Afghanistan is an Islamic country and the issue of women’s hijab is very clear in Islam,” he said.

Afghan women already wore hijab, covering the face is not a hijab, covering the face by female media workers who appear on TV is also not a hijab; this is not Afghan culture, he said.

He called on the IEA to scrap the decision that women must cover their faces. On the issue of teenage girls not going to school, Karzai stated that girls need to return to school as soon as possible.

“I denounce it in the strongest words and want the Taliban (IEA) to allow girls to go back to school as soon as possible,” he said.

Karzai also confirmed a recent report by a US watchdog organization that the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan led to the military collapse of the republic.

According to Karzai, a number of other issues also contributed to this including, the Doha Agreement, and the more than 3,000 US airstrikes a year.

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World Bank pays over $150 million to boost Afghanistan’s health sector

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(Last Updated On: May 21, 2022)

The World Bank recently provided $150 million to the Afghan Ministry of Public Health to help pay for medicine, medical equipment and salaries, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials said this week.

According to the ministry the assistance was provided by the World Bank in accordance with a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) signed on February 7 in Switzerland, by Dr. Qalandar Ebad, acting Minister of Public Health, and his accompanying delegation.

The money is to be used for primary health care in 34 provinces, including the payment of salaries and training of health workers, the provision of medicine, medical equipment, the fight against diseases, and the strengthening of oversight of health services, said the health ministry.

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