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Ghani tells BBC his biggest mistake was trusting foreign partners

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(Last Updated On: December 30, 2021)

Former President Ashraf Ghani said on Thursday that his biggest mistake had been to trust the United States and Afghanistan’s other foreign partners.

In his first interview since fleeing the country in mid-August, the former president told BBC Radio 4 that leaving Afghanistan had not been planned and that only after takeoff in a helicopter did this course of action become clear.

Ghani has been heavily criticized and accused of abandoning the country but he defended his decision to flee.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) seized power in August after taking control of Kabul – just hours after Ghani fled the country.

Ghani told BBC that when he woke up on 15 August he had “no inkling” it would be his last day in Afghanistan.

In a conversation with General Sir Nick Carter, the UK’s former Chief of the Defence Staff, who was guest-editing BBC Radio 4’s Today program on Thursday, Ghani said IEA fighters had agreed not to enter Kabul – “but two hours later, this was not the case”.

“Two different factions of the Taliban (IEA) were closing in from two different directions,” Ghani said. “And the possibility of a massive conflict between them that would destroy the city of five million and bring havoc to the people was enormous.”

He said he agreed to let his national security adviser and wife leave Kabul, but then the “terrified” chief of presidential security came to him to say that if he took a stand, “they will all be killed”.

“He did not give me more than two minutes,” Ghani said. “My instructions had been to prepare for departure for [the city of] Khost. He told me that Khost had fallen and so had Jalalabad.

“I did not know where we will go. Only when we took off, it became clear that we were leaving [Afghanistan]. So this really was sudden.”

Ghani was widely criticized for having fled the country, also by his vice-president Amrullah Saleh, who called it “disgraceful”.

Many people, who were privy to talks at the time, have said in the past few months that Ghani’s sudden secret departure on 15 August scuppered a deal to secure a more orderly transition.

Ghani, who is living in the UAE, said in conversation that he misread US politics and the situation on the ground at the time.

Allegations of him having taken vast amounts of money also emerged following his departure and just this week was he named as one of the most corrupt people in the world.

Ghani however denied this and said he would welcome an international investigation into the allegations so that he can clear his name.

“I want to categorically state, I did not take any money out of the country,” he said, adding: “My style of life is known to everyone. What would I do with money?”

He did however acknowledge that mistakes were made, including “assuming that the patience of the international community would last”.

However, he pointed to the agreement made between the IEA and the US under then-President Donald Trump, which paved the way for the events leading to 15 August.

“Instead of a peace process, we got a withdrawal process,” Ghani said. The way the deal was done “erased us”, said Ghani.

Ghani said that what happened on August 15 was “a violent coup, not a political agreement, or a political process where the people have been involved”.

The same day Ghani left Kabul, the IEA took control. Since then, the country has been thrown into a humanitarian and economic crisis, exacerbated by the removal of donor support and foreign aid as well as the freezing of over $9 billion of Afghanistan’s foreign reserves.

Four months later, Ghani says he is willing to take the blame for some things which led to the fall of Kabul – like trusting “in our international partnership”.

He told BBC that his “life work has been destroyed. My values had been trampled on. And I have been made a scapegoat.”

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US to provide $55 million in additional aid for immediate earthquake assistance: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

In response to the deadly earthquake that struck eastern Afghanistan last Wednesday, the United States, through the US Agency for International Development (USAID), will provide nearly $55 million in immediate humanitarian assistance to meet urgent needs of people affected. 

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Tuesday the United States would provide the additional funds for immediate humanitarian assistance. 

The new funding brings total US humanitarian assistance to over $774 million in the last year, Blinken added.

According to a statement issued by USAID on Tuesday, this additional assistance includes support for USAID partner the International Organization for Migration (IOM) to continue to reach earthquake-affected people with urgently needed shelter materials, water, sanitation, and hygiene supplies, and other relief items. 

“These vital supplies include emergency shelter kits, cooking pots, jerry cans for water collection and storage, blankets, solar lamps, clothing, and other household items. In addition, this support will provide hygiene kits, menstrual hygiene supplies, and water treatment kits. 

“Given that the area impacted by the earthquake was already experiencing an acute watery diarrhea outbreak, this relief will help mitigate a larger waterborne disease outbreak in the aftermath of this disaster, when there is greater risk given the lack of access to safe water,” the statement read. 

The US response came just hours after the United Nations launched an emergency appeal for $110 million to provide lifesaving assistance to more than 360,000 Afghans who were affected by last week’s earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said early Tuesday that the new appeal is part of this year’s Humanitarian Response plan, which calls for $4.4 billion, but is massively underfunded at just over one third.

“We and our partners are borrowing supplies, personnel, and resources from other humanitarian programmes,” UNOCHA said in a statement.

Wednesday’s earthquake killed over a thousand people and destroyed or damaged hundreds of homes in Paktika and Khost provinces.

“I’m appealing to the world — please help. We need money. We need funding. We need support to resolve this tragedy,” Ramiz Alakbarov, UN resident relief coordinator for Afghanistan, said in a video message while visiting an area in Paktika province.

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IEA to hold ‘Grand Assembly’ in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is scheduled to hold a Loya Jirga, or grand assembly, for three days starting Wednesday, and will bring together almost 3,000 mainly religious scholars from across all 34 provinces. 

According to IEA officials, the participants, which include two religious scholars and one further representative from every district, are expected to present suggestions to the leadership of the IEA on ways to resolve challenges currently facing the country.

The assembly will be held in the Loya Jirga hall in Kart-e-Mamourin in Kabul city.

So far the agenda of this Loya Jirga has not been announced officially but according to sources, a number of issues will be tabled including that pertaining to matters of national importance, and maybe the issue of reopening girls’ schools.

“In such gatherings we can solve many problems and the participation of women is essential to address their rights and problems; girls’ schools must be reopened and the current crisis in all sections must be solved,” said Dewa Patang, a women’s activist. 

The main agenda will reportedly focus on finding solutions to current crises in the country, sources said.  

“Based on the information that I have, all participants who are invited to this gathering are scholars and patriots who are committed to their country and Islam,” said Toryali Hemat, a political analyst.

Members of the public meanwhile feel the Loya Jirga members should present possible solutions to resolving problems in the country – both economic and social – in order to draw a clear road map for the future of the country. 

Historically, a Loya Jirga has been convened in order to elect a new head of state, approve a new constitution or resolve critical issues.

Loya jirgas have reportedly been organized since the rise to power of the Hotak dynasty in the early 18th century. 

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Pakistan to pay for imported coal from Afghanistan in rupees

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(Last Updated On: June 28, 2022)

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has approved the import of coal from Afghanistan in rupees instead of US dollars, saying the move will help the country save precious foreign exchange.

Sharif on Monday chaired a meeting on improving the transportation system of coal imported from Afghanistan in the country, the Express Tribune reported.

He expressed deep concern over the rising price of coal on the international market, saying it was the main reason for generating expensive electricity from coal-fired power plants in the country.

“The coal imported from Afghanistan in rupee terms will not only generate cheap electricity but also help save the country’s precious foreign exchange,” Sharif said.

The prime minister was informed that import of coal from Afghanistan would save more than $2.2 billion annually.

Sharif also directed the Ministry of Railways to take all necessary steps to ensure prompt delivery of coal imported from Afghanistan to power plants.

The PM ordered the formation of a committee of all officials concerned headed by the defence minister to expedite the import process.

Esmatullah Burhan, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s Ministry of Mines and Petroleum, told a press conference on Tuesday that Pakistan was a good market for coal exports, which should not be lost.

He said that revenue from coal exports under IEA rule were far higher than under the last government.

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, finance ministry spokesman, said tax on coal exports was increased to 30% from 20%.

The official said that until now coal was being sold at $90 per ton, but from now on it will be sold at $200 per ton.

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