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Khalilzad reflects on fall of Kabul govt and military

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(Last Updated On: September 30, 2021)

US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said this week that many questions remain unanswered on why former president Ashraf Ghani fled the country unexpectedly and why the Afghan military forces dissolved within just a few hours.

He also stated that in his opinion, the leadership of the former government made a “grand miscalculation” – that the US would never withdraw its troops.

In an interview with Foreign Policy on Tuesday, Khalilzad said: “Why did President Ghani do what he did? Why did the forces behave the way they did? The question is, you know, we invested so much in this force. The numbers were impressive on paper, the capabilities were there, internal weapons, air power – especially special forces of the military, which we thought was quite significant and capable and dedicated, some of them, that perform extremely courageously as individuals, as units.

“There were forces at work for our various other agencies that were all there. What happened?,” he asks.

He said while the US did not have information yet on the issue it does seem the security forces were left fighting for a government they didn’t want to defend.

“We haven’t done enough work to say what definitively happened in terms of that. But that’s what it looks like,” he said.

“And there have been some quick assessments of why, even as districts were falling, people saying that many commanders were changed. There are others who say, you know, people didn’t think this thing was worth fighting for.

“Could it be the standing of the government changed with the soldiers because of corruption and perceptions of corruption? I don’t know; we don’t know. This will take a lot more time,” he said.

Khalilzad also said many Afghans complain that the US pushed Ghani too hard, while others have said Ghani should have been pushed harder on the negotiations.

He said he thinks Ghani may have been “ill advised” but that no one, except some individuals, expected the military and government to collapse so quickly.

“People thought it might take years if it happens. Then as these districts started to fall, some people shrank the time that it might take.

“But Ghani, whenever I saw him and when the secretary (of state Antony Blinken) spoke to him the night before all of this happened, he was of the view that even after our departure (troops withdrawal), sometimes he would say it was a blessing.”

Khalilzad said he had many conversations with Ghani in the lead up to the collapse of the former government, but the former president was “of the view that the Talibs (IEA members) would not be able to win militarily.

“He believed that very, very passionately and strongly until, I think, they (the IEA) were surrounding Kabul.”

He said in reference to the Doha talks between the US and the IEA, which led to the Doha deal in February last year, that he “respects those who say we shouldn’t have negotiated with the Talibs (IEA) without the government being there.”

He said commentators “don’t deal with the underlying forces or balance that caused us to do that which was that we were losing ground”.

“Since after (former U.S. President Barack Obama’s) surge, each year we were losing ground to the Talibs (IEA), meaning Talibs (IEA) were taking more territory. So unless we agreed to another surge, time was not on our side.”

“I think that the grand miscalculation of the Afghan leadership was this: that we were not going to leave.”

He said putting a condition in place with the IEA that troops would be withdrawn only once an agreement was in place between the IEA and the former government, “could have been an option”.

“But there was a lot of pessimism here, whether the Afghans could ever come to an agreement with each other. And therefore, if you made it a tight condition; You’d never leave; in a sense, you’re saying you’re going to stay”

Khalilzad stated that in his opinion Ghani was reluctant to forge an agreement with the IEA as a new government would mean he might lose power.

“This new government idea meant that perhaps he wouldn’t have led the government. It took us a long time to get him to even appoint an inclusive delegation to go to Doha.

Khalilzad also said however that the IEA played a key role in ending ISIS-K’s (Daesh) foothold in Afghanistan.

“I think on ISIS, they played a vital role in ending the territory of ISIS in Afghanistan. We will watch that closely. We are, this is obviously of vital importance, we hold them to their commitments on terrorism, including al Qaeda.

Khalilzad said that the US has made some achievements in Afghanistan over the past 20 years.

“People live longer, are more educated, wealthier. The physical face of Afghanistan, of Kabul, changed fundamentally. On the building of a vision – that of a democratic, self-sufficient, secure Afghanistan – I think we fell short together. And you have to learn from what happened.

“Could we have done things differently? Was there a problem of ends and means that our ambitions were too large compared to the strategy and resources?

“How we built the [armed] forces? Could it have been done differently to make it more resilient and more self-reliant and motivated to fight? Should we have pushed harder for a political settlement earlier? Yes, I reflect on those, and I will reflect on them for some time to come,” he said.

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Afghanistan announces aid for quake-hit Turkey and Syria

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) on Tuesday announced AFN 15 million (approx. $166,000 USD) in humanitarian aid for people affected by recent earthquakes in Turkey and Syria.

Of the total, AFN 10 million (approx. $111,000) will be for Turkey, and AFN 5 million (approx. $55,000) will be for Syria.

The Foreign Ministry in a statement said that IEA stands in solidarity with its brothers and sisters in this time of hardship.

It added that the aid is on the basis of “shared humanity and Islamic brotherhood.”

The statement also said that IEA emergency response and health teams stand ready to participate in rescue operations to assist the affected people if called upon.

The ministry instructed its diplomatic mission in Turkey to not spare any efforts in assisting the victims, and urged Turkey-based Afghan citizens to help with the relief efforts.

Thousands have been killed in Monday’s earthquakes in Turkey and Syria. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has announced a three-month state of emergency across 10 provinces worst affected by the earthquakes.

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28 million Afghans are in dire need of humanitarian aid: UNICEF

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has announced that Afghanistan needs immediate humanitarian aid.

UNICEF Deputy Executive Director Omar Abdi on Monday said that Afghanistan is experiencing the worst period over the past two decades.

Abdi said on Twitter that humanitarian needs are felt now more than ever before in Afghanistan, and has warned that disruptions of aid will lead to a humanitarian catastrophe in the war-torn country, already plagued with critical challenges.

“Some 28 million Afghans are in dire need of humanitarian aid, which needs the immediate attention of the international community, partners, and Taliban’s caretaker government,” Abdi said.

During his visit with Afghanistan’s Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore reiterated that the organization is committed to carrying on its much-needed operations in the areas of education, healthcare, and children’s vaccinations in Afghanistan.

Previously, UNICEF announced that Afghanistan is among the eight most hunger-hit countries in the world.

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Iran’s top security official leaves for Russia to attend Afghanistan meeting

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(Last Updated On: February 7, 2023)

The Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani has left the country for Russia to attend a summit that will focus on the political, economic and security situation in Afghanistan.

Shamkhani will join top security officials from Central Asian countries, Pakistan, India and China for a meeting planned for Wednesday in the Russian capital Moscow as part of the fifth round of the multilateral talks on Afghanistan.

The previous edition of the conference had been held in Tajikistan’s capital Dushanbe in May 2022.

Indian capital of New Delhi had hosted the third round of the initiative in 2021 two years after it was launched in Tehran.

Shamkhani is also scheduled to hold meetings with his counterparts from other countries, including Russia’s top security official.

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