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Full Text of Ariana News’ Exclusive Interview with NATO Secretary General

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(Last Updated On: June 7, 2017)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, in an exclusive interview with Ariana News in Brussels, elaborated his views on NATO mission and the alliance troop levels in Afghanistan as well as strengthening the capabilities of Afghan national army and security forces.

The following is the full text of Ariana News’ exclusive interview with Stoltenberg:

What is the outcome of NATO leaders meeting, especially in Afghanistan?

We agreed on an action plan on fighting terrorism and warm element of that plan is that we will sustain our military mission in Afghanistan. As we know it is not a combat mission anymore but is a train, assist and advise mission and all allies pledged to continue to support the mission and some allies also announced that they are ready to provide more forces. This about training the Afghan national security forces to stabilize Afghanistan and to fight Taliban and terrorism. NATO provides support both with our trainers but also with funding and economic support the Afghan national army and security forces.

About the increase of troops, is there any exact number that how many troops will be deployed to Afghanistan?

We are not in the process of deciding the exact number of troops. Currently, is around 13,000 troops,… so likely within not so many weeks, we have decisions on the exact troop levels.  Our military commanders have asked for an increase of a few thousand and that is what we are now looking into, but what is clear, is that we will continue to be in Afghanistan and we are also supporting the roadmap of President Ghani and so we have a more multi-air approach to our presence in Afghanistan, and we have also clearly committed to continue over several years to fund Afghan national army and security forces.

NATO to join Ant-IS Coalition, and as you know IS or Daesh is active in Afghanistan as well, What will be the role of NATO in combat against Daesh in Afghanistan?

What NATO does is that we are training, enabling and supporting the Afghan forces to fight terrorist groups in Afghanistan, so have seen that the Afghan forces are very professional, dedicated and have been able to attack  the terrorist groups including ISIS several times and therefore, ISIS has been forced to reduce their presence in Afghanistan, they are controlling less and less or they are present in very small parts of Afghanistan but it is still something we have to take very seriously. That is part of why NATO continue to support the Afghan armed forces and of course the United States is a NATO ally but outside the NATO mission, the United States also conduct counter-terrorism operations in cooperation with the Afghan army.

Afghan air force is still a big shortage, as you know that they are weak and they are not well equipped. Is there any plan for recruiting the Afghan air forces?

Yes, absolutely, one of the reasons why we have decided to sustain our mission and one of  the issue  stood and that is addressed in what we called it the periodic mission review (the review of our mission), is the importance of strengthening the Afghan air forces and we have some good numbers, we have seen an increase number of air planes, helicopters, and pilots. I met some female pilots Afghan trained in the air force when I visited Afghanistan lost time and NATO will focus on what we can do to further strengthen the Afghan air forces which is a key capacity or capability in the fight against the Taliban and the terrorist groups in Afghanistan.  We are also focusing on strengthening further the special operational forces, they have proven extremely valuable and important in Afghanistan, so we are going to help to train and educate more special operational forces that is actually started already and we are also focusing on the leadership, strengthening the military academies to improve command, control and leadership in the Afghan army which includes the fight against terrorism.

There are some reports about corruption, especially in the ANDSF system of Afghanistan, for example ghost police and ghost army. Are you satisfied from the reforms which are underway inside ANDSF in Afghanistan?

It is extremely important to fight corruption and therefore, welcome the very strong commitment by the National Unity Government, by President Ghani and Chief Executive Abdullah to fight corruption and I welcome also the establishment of  anti corruption center which will be an important tool to address the big problem of corruption which we have to fight and address. I also welcome for instance the introduction of biometric identification which will help us really to address this problem of ghost soldiers. Corruption is really really negative for the capacity of Afghan army and of course in long-run undermines the willingness of the international community to provide financial support.

 Last Question is about the local governors in the north of Afghanistan, who are claiming that Russia is supporting the Taliban, is there any evidence with NATO or what is NATO position here?

I have seen media reports of that kind of support but I haven’t seen any evidence. The important thing now is to focus on the peace process on an Afghan-led and Afghan -owned peace process, and I welcome the initiative by President Ghani to host a meeting in the beginning of June which will be an important contribution to an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace process.

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Pakistan dispatches second consignment of earthquake relief

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif on Friday dispatched eight trucks loaded with relief goods for earthquake victims in Afghanistan.

According to a statement issued by the Pakistan government, the consignment, arranged by the National Disaster Management Authority, has been handed over to Afghan authorities.

The consignment consists of family tents, tarpaulins, blankets and emergency medicines.

“Pakistan is committed to continue supply of relief goods to Afghan brethren,” the statement read.

This comes after Pakistan sent in earthquake aid on Wednesday, just hours after the 6.1 magnitude earthquake hit Afghanistan’s eastern provinces, killing over 1,000 people and destroying thousands of houses.

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Taiwan announces $1 million for Afghan earthquake relief efforts

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

Taiwan will donate $1 million to Afghan earthquake relief efforts in response to a call from the United Nations and others for humanitarian assistance, the government said late on Thursday.

Taiwan’s presidential office said in a statement that the government would donate “based on the spirit of humanitarian care for disaster relief regardless of national borders (and) responding to the United Nations and other humanitarian calls,” Reuters reported.

However Taiwan will not send search and rescue teams after consulting with other countries and considering the difficulty of transportation, office spokesman Xavier Chang added.

Taiwan also lies in a quake-prone zone and regularly sends rescue teams to other disaster areas around the world.

China meanwhile has said it stands ready to provide Afghanistan aid, and on Friday its foreign ministry said that it is “stepping up efforts” to collect cash, tents, bed quilts and other humanitarian aid to deliver to Afghanistan as soon as possible, but did not offer details of the size of the aid package.

Around 1,000 people are already confirmed dead from the quake in a remote part of the country this week.

Earlier, the European Union announced 1 million euros for the earthquake relief efforts in Afghanistan.

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India reopens embassy in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 25, 2022)

India reopened its embassy in Kabul on Thursday, more than 10 months after closing it following the takeover of the city by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA).

Indian media reported that New Delhi has sent a “technical team” of officials to be based in Kabul.

The move comes a few weeks after a team headed by senior Indian foreign ministry official J.P. Singh travelled to Kabul and met with IEA officials.

The Indian embassy will become the 15th mission to open in Kabul under the rule of IEA, along with Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, Turkey, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, European Union and four Central Asian states.

“In order to closely monitor and coordinate the efforts of various stakeholders for the effective delivery of humanitarian assistance and in continuation of our engagement with the Afghan people, an Indian technical team has reached Kabul today and has been deployed in our Embassy there,” Indian foreign ministry said in an announcement, citing India’s “historical and civilizational relationship with the Afghan people” as the reason for the decision.

IEA welcomed India’s move to reopen its embassy in Kabul.

Hafiz Zia Ahmad, deputy spokesman of IEA’s foreign ministry, called on India to continue to provide humanitarian assistance to Afghans.

India meanwhile has sent its first consignment of earthquake relief aid to Afghanistan, where more than 1,000 people have been killed by the disaster.

India’s foreign ministry said the assistance was handed over by the Indian team that travelled aboard an Indian Air Force Ilyushin-76 aircraft, in the first such military, non-commercial transportation since last year.

In a separate development, Afghan Interior Ministry called for Afghan military cadets trained in India and other countries to return to the country and serve their people.

“Afghan cadets trained in India and other countries are a source of our national strength,” the Interior Ministry said on Twitter. “The Interior Ministry of the Islamic Emirate is ready to recruit these graduates according to their education & profession. Hopefully, they will return to the country & serve their people.”

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