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Khalilzad opens up about Ghani and ‘selfish’ political elite

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said former president Ashraf Ghani’s “intransigence,” the Afghan elite’s “selfishness” and Afghan soldiers’ lack of will to fight was to blame for the rapid takeover of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August.

On Ghani’s refusal to change his views, or agree to the formation of a new interim government, Khalilzad said: “We were all surprised by the intransigence of President Ghani in insisting on staying in power till his term ended, despite the fact that he had come out re-elected in a fraudulent election that very few Afghans participated in.”

Addressing a webinar organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, on Wednesday, Khalilzad also acknowledged for the first time publicly that the U.S. had discouraged Afghans from holding the presidential elections that led to Ghani’s winning a second term in office.

According to Khalilzad, the U.S. wanted to establish an interim administration that was acceptable to both sides while Afghan politicians and civil society negotiated a political settlement with the IEA.

Khalilzad said Ghani’s “grand miscalculation” was that he did not believe the U.S. would withdraw from the country.

According to Khalilzad, Ghani thought the U.S. forces and intelligence agencies would stay in Afghanistan as it gave them physical proximity to strategically important countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

“I tried to persuade him that President [Donald] Trump was very serious, and he said, ‘No, the intelligence and military told me otherwise,’ ” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad also stated that Ghani miscalculated his own military’s will to fight.

Once the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw, Ghani told Khalilzad, “now I am free to fight the war the Afghan way. In six months now I will defeat the Taliban because you were fighting it poorly.”

Khalilzad went on to say that the fact that an estimated 300,000-strong Afghan army melted away in front of 60,000 IEA fighters was the result of a lack of morale, corruption and poor treatment of the soldiers on the front lines.

He said this also might have been because the soldiers “didn’t believe” in the cause, while the IEA fighters felt otherwise.

Khalilzad also blasted what he called the Afghan elite’s “selfish, self-centered, corrupt” behavior.

“I am disappointed that the elite that we worked with; they didn’t rise to the occasion; this golden opportunity that the American engagement provided,” he said.

In terms of going forward, Khalilzad advocated a robust diplomatic engagement with the IEA that includes an agreement on a “road map that takes into account the trust or mistrust of each other and the behavior that needs to take place over a time period.”

He also said that many in the US want the IEA to suffer and their government to collapse, because “we did not succeed in defeating them, and that has left a bad taste in people’s mouths.”

But he warned that a collapse of government in Afghanistan would lead to a civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe that would provide space for terrorist groups to flourish.

He said the IEA had shown, in the 18 months after signing the Doha agreement, that they could keep their word by not killing a single American even though U.S. air attacks in defense of Afghan forces killed hundreds or even thousands of Taliban during that period.

Khalilzad also said the IEA could benefit from outside help on how to deal with Daesh in Afghanistan.

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IEA, US meet in Doha to discuss freeing of Afghanistan’s frozen assets

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

A senior Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, headed to Qatar on Wednesday to hold talks with US officials to release some of the $9 billion of frozen reserves. 

According to a Washington Post report, US officials have tried to set up a system for assets to be managed, while simultaneously erecting safeguards to ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the IEA.

One option discussed by those close to the talks involves having a third party trust fund administer the money, according to the report.

Bloomberg also reported that the discussion will center around “creating a mechanism for releasing the frozen Afghan reserves.” 

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s finance ministry told Bloomberg: “We’re expecting this would be a serious round of talks.”

US officials have expressed optimism about the progress on talks but cautioned that several obstacles to the deal remain.

“It would be accurate to say negotiations are underway,” said Shah Mehrabi, an economics professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and a senior member of  Afghanistan’s central bank board since 2002. 

“We are in the process of trying to come up with a mechanism that will allow the transfer of reserves to the central bank of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mehrabi said food costs have skyrocketed by 18 percent in the past several months. Basic household goods rose in cost by 35 percent during the first few months of the year; in May, inflation for household goods hit 42 percent, Mehrabi said.

“These reserves belong to the Afghan people; they are needed to stabilize prices,” he said. “The faster it is delivered to the central bank of Afghanistan, the sooner we will see the impact of the reduction in prices that are critical to enable ordinary Afghans to afford food, cooking oil, and sugar and fuel. Now, they can’t do that.”

The delegation includes central bank Governor Mohammad Idris and Deputy Finance Minister Nazir Kabiri. They will meet with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West and officials from the treasury department, Haqmal said.

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‘If Putin was a woman’ he would not have invaded Ukraine: UK PM

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

Russian President Vladimir Putin would not have invaded Ukraine if he were a woman, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson said on Tuesday.

“If Putin was a woman, which he obviously isn’t, but if he were, I really don’t think he would’ve embarked on a crazy, macho war of invasion and violence in the way that he has,” Johnson said in an interview to German broadcaster ZDF.

Putin’s invasion of Ukraine is “a perfect example of toxic masculinity”, he said, calling for better education for girls around the world and for “more women in positions of power”.

The British prime minister acknowledged that “of course people want the war to end”, but for the moment “there’s no deal available. Putin isn’t making an offer of peace”.

Johnson’s comments come ahead of a NATO meeting where allies will discuss how to respond to future threats.

Western allies must support Ukraine to enable it to be in the best possible strategic position in the event that peace negotiations with Moscow do become possible, Johnson said.

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Grand assembly to discuss ways to improve economic, social conditions: Hanafi

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

The grand assembly of religious scholars, scheduled to begin Thursday, is expected to discuss ways to improve economic and social conditions, Abdul Salam Hanafi, deputy prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Wednesday.

Hanafi said people from various ethnic groups and with different views will sit for discussion, which is a positive step in maintaining stability and strengthening national unity in the country.

 “After years, Afghans from various sections and ethnic groups and with different views sit with each other for discussion without foreign interference,” Hanafi said in an interview to RTA. “It is in itself a positive and valuable step for maintaining stability and strengthening national unity.”

He said that more than 3,000 people will participate in the gathering under the mega Loya Jirga tent in Kabul.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the IEA, also said that the gathering will be held under tight security measures.

He said that all technical preparations have been finalized and there will be several committees discussing key issues.

It will be the largest gathering in Kabul after the IEA took over in August last year. 

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