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Khalilzad back on track with talks as he heads for region

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(Last Updated On: March 1, 2021)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has embarked on another trip to Germany, Afghanistan and regional countries, aimed at strengthening the Afghan peace process, sources said.

Khalilzad was on Sunday in Germany and is expected to travel to Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, UAE and a number of other regional countries in the coming days, sources added.

“He will resume discussions on the way ahead with the Islamic Republic and Afghan leaders, Taliban representatives, and regional countries whose interests are best served by the achievement of a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” the US State Department said in a statement on Sunday.

This comes as negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban peace teams resumed last week after more than a month of delays.

Meanwhile, the Afghan State Ministry for Peace Affairs is optimistic about Khalilzad’s trip to the region.

“We welcome the US Special Envoy’s trip. The United States is a good strategic partner for Afghanistan and we hope this trip will be more effective in facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan,” State Minister for Peace, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Nader said.

The Taliban urged Washington to uphold its part of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago Sunday and stated the release of remaining prisoners and the end of blacklists have yet to be implemented.

The Taliban meanwhile issued a statement Sunday that urged the US to uphold its commitments as part of the agreement. 

The group stated that “the release of remaining prisoners and end of blacklists are part of the agreement that have yet to be implemented.”

Khalilzad, a Republican, brokered a deal with the Taliban on behalf of the US last year and was asked to stay on in the position by US President Joe Biden for the sake of continuity. 

The move is not typical, as traditionally incoming administrations replace politically appointed officials with their own team, particularly in foreign policy matters.

In late January, new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We’ve asked him to continue the vital work that he’s performing.” 

Khalilzad is a veteran of Republican administrations and served as US ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan under former President George W Bush.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration then tasked Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, with negotiating with the Taliban.

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Issue of girls’ education raised at gathering of religious scholars in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2022)

At least one participant at a major gathering of religious scholars in Kabul on Thursday called for secondary schools for girls to reopen.

“They will learn and will be a good guide for their children in society,” said Sayed Nasrullah Waizi, from central Bamiyan province, as he called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to reopen girls’ schools.

He said that education will help prevent moral and administrative corruption.

IEA’s Acting Prime Minister Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund meanwhile said in his speech at the gathering that the meeting was aimed at addressing challenges and strengthening the administration.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is trying to solve all problems … this government has been reached after a lot of sacrifice, we should work together to strengthen it,” Akhund said.

Around 3,500 religious scholars and tribal leaders are at the event which is expected to run for three days.

It comes as Afghanistan is in a deep economic crisis as billions in central bank reserves have been frozen and international sanctions enforced on the banking sector after the IEA seized power.

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Pakistan-administered Kashmir gives 100 million rupees for Afghan quake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2022)

Prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir has approved 100 million rupees ($484,000) for last week’s earthquake victims in Afghanistan, it was reported Thursday.

Kashmir’s cabinet and top bureaucracy also donated one month’s salary for the relief of the people of Afghanistan, Pakistani newspaper The News reported.

Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said that the people of Pakistan and Kashmir are saddened by the loss of life and property caused by the recent earthquake in Afghanistan.

He said, in this hour of sorrow, the people of Pakistan and Kashmir stand with their brothers.

He said that a delegation representing the government of Kashmir will go to Afghanistan to deliver aid.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the 6.1-magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Paktika and Khost on June 22. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.

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Pakistan minister calls for easing sanctions on Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2022)

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has called for an easing of Western sanctions against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), saying the basic functioning of the Afghan economy must not be endangered.

The IEA takeover last year prompted foreign governments, led by the United States, to cut development and security aid, and the strict enforcement of sanctions has debilitated the country’s banking sector.

In an interview with Germany’s Welt newspaper published on Thursday, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said isolating Afghanistan economically was pushing the country into economic collapse, Reuters reported.

“If the country remains locked out of international banking and its foreign assets remain frozen, then that is what will happen. We must not promote famine,” she added,

Khar said the Western troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which Germany was also involved, had serious repercussions because it was not preceded by a negotiated solution, calling on Germany to play an active political role in easing sanctions.

“In the current situation, it is not a good idea to continue to starve Afghanistan and risk an economic implosion in the country,” she said, adding that economic support was necessary to help the Afghan people.

“How is it that we spent $3 trillion on the war, but today don’t even have $10 billion on Afghan survival? I don’t understand this behavior,” she added.

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