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Looking back at the Afghan war on the day peace talks start



(Last Updated On: September 12, 2020)

Saturday, September 12, 2020 will be remembered in history as a historic day for Afghanistan as long-awaited peace talks finally get underway between the Afghan government and the Taliban. 

After months of challenges, particularly around the release of Taliban prisoners, negotiating teams from both sides, along with high-ranking foreign officials, including US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, have converged on Doha in Qatar for the opening ceremony – a momentous occasion not only for Afghanistan but for all its international partners and stakeholders. 

It has been a long and treacherous road, leading to this point, but the juncture now has been welcomed by all – Afghans in particular. 

In the past month, much has happened. President Ashraf Ghani called a Loya Jirga, or grand council, to decide on the fate of 400 high-risk Taliban prisoners as their release had been a precondition to the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban in February. 

This agreement had been the first concrete step towards the start of intra-Afghan negotiations. 

In the weeks that followed the Loya Jirga, prisoners were released – except for six that were transferred to Qatar. 

This was seen as the last stumbling block in the way of talks and after Thursday’s sudden move to fly the prisoners to Doha, announcements were made by the US, the Afghan government, the Qatar government and the Taliban that talks would start Saturday. 

With that, all parties to the talks immediately headed for Doha – on the 19th anniversary of the deadly 9/11 attacks in the US. 

Since then, Afghanistan has been at war – with more than 100,000 civilians having been killed. 

Here is a chronology of Afghanistan’s history over the past 19 years. 

Septenber 11, 2001 – US involvement in Afghanistan is triggered by the twin suicide attacks on the United States plotted in Afghanistan by al Qaeda militant leader Osama bin Laden, a Saudi who was there under Taliban protection.

October 7, 2001 – US forces begin air campaign with strikes on Taliban al Qaeda forces. Small numbers of US special forces and CIA agents soon slip into Afghanistan to help direct the bombing campaign and organise Afghan opposition forces.

November 13, 2001 – US-backed Northern Alliance forces enter Kabul as the Taliban withdraw south. Within a month, Taliban leaders have fled from southern Afghanistan into neighbouring Pakistan.

December 2001 – US forces bomb the Tora Bora cave complex in eastern Afghanistan where bin Laden is hiding, but he slips over the border into Pakistan and disappears.

December 22, 2001 – Hamid Karzai, an ethnic Pashtun opponent of the Taliban, is sworn in as interim leader.

May 2, 2003 – US officials declare an end to major combat operations in Afghanistan. 

President George W. Bush turns the US focus to preparing for the invasion of Iraq. This allows the Taliban to gradually return, at first in the south and east.

February 17, 2009 – Barack Obama, in his first major military decision as president, orders 17,000 more combat troops to Afghanistan to tackle an intensifying insurgency. The 17,000 reinforce 38,000 US troops and 32,000 from some 40 NATO allies and other nations already in Afghanistan.

August 20, 2009 – Second Afghan presidential election. Karzai retains power after a dispute with his main rival, Abdullah Abdullah, fuelled by allegations of major election fraud.

May 1, 2011 – Bin Laden is killed in a raid by US forces in Abbottabad, Pakistan.

2011 – The number of US forces in Afghanistan peaks at about 100,000 as part of a surge that involves intensified CIA drone attacks on Taliban and other militants in Pakistan.

December 2011 – US officials say US diplomats have held about half a dozen secret meetings with Afghan Taliban contacts over 10 months, mostly in Germany and Qatar.

December 28, 2014 – The US combat mission is officially concluded after the withdrawal of most combat troops and a transition to an “Afghan-led” war. Nearly 10,000 US troops remain, though, with a focus on training Afghan forces and counter-terrorism.

August 21, 2017 – Eight months after being sworn in, US President Donald Trump announces his administration’s new strategy on Afghanistan following a “comprehensive review”. He says the US “must seek an honorable and enduring outcome” to the longest war in American history. “We will no longer use American military might to construct democracies in faraway lands, or try to rebuild other countries in our own image. Those days are now over.”

September 4, 2018 – Afghan-born US diplomat Zalmay Khalilzad is appointed US special representative to seek negotiations with the Taliban.

October 12, 2018 – Khalilzad is reported to have met Taliban representatives in Doha, where they have set up their political office. There are said to already have been earlier meetings, including US State Department officials meeting insurgent leaders earlier in July to have “talks about talks”.

February 29, 2020 – After months of on-off talks, the United States signs a troop withdrawal agreement in Doha with the Taliban. The deal includes a 14-month timeline for the withdrawal of all US and NATO troops from Afghanistan as well as guarantees from the Taliban that it will prevent militant groups including al-Qaeda from using Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States and its allies.

April 9, 2020 – After initially resisting releasing prisoners demanded by the Taliban on security grounds, the Afghan government releases around 100 of the 5,000 demanded by the insurgent group. Over the following months it continues to release prisoners, but the process stalls at the final 400, who are accused of some of Afghanistan’s greatest crimes.

August 9, 2020 – President Ashraf Ghani agrees to release the final 400 prisoners after consulting with the Loya Jirga, paving the way to peace negotiations with the Taliban in the Qatari capital, Doha.

– Chronology source: Reuters


Desert Vipers pull off exciting 12-run win over Dubai Capitals to regain top slot



(Last Updated On: January 29, 2023)

Desert Vipers pulled off an exciting 12-run victory over Dubai Capitals in the 20th match of the ILT20 at the Dubai International Stadium on Saturday night to regain the top position in the points table.

While Desert Vipers could post only a moderate total of 149 for 9 through a captain’s knock of 40 off 32 balls with two boundaries and two sixes from Colin Munro, Dubai Capitals were restricted to 137 for 5 in 20 overs through a splendid and accurate bowling by Rohan Mustafa (2 for 27) backed well by Matheesha Pathirana and Tom Curran.
For Dubai Capitals, Adam Zampa playing his first match, bowled brilliantly and took three wickets for 16 to bag the Player of the match award.

Dubai Capitals remain in fifth slot with two victories and four defeats and only five points.

Speaking about their performance, Desert Vipers’ Rohan Mustafa said after the match: “The Dubai Capitals bowled really well towards the end of our innings. Credit to them. It wasn’t an easy wicket to bat on. I thought we had enough on the board at the end of our innings.”

Meanwhile, Dubai Capitals’ Adam Zampa said: “Tom Curran and Matheesha Pathirana bowled impressively for the Vipers. The batting group will talk about what they can do better and think about what they could do if they find themselves in the same situation again.”

Earlier in the day, Rahmanullah Gurbaz played a fantastic innings of 56 runs from 39 balls to help the Sharjah Warriors register a four-wicket victory over Abu Dhabi Knight Riders at the same stadium.

The Warriors restricted the Knight Riders to 149 for four in their 20 overs and then chased down their target in 17 overs.

Speaking about their performance, Sharjah Warriors’ captain Joe Denly said: “Our bowlers set the tone for the whole game. We never let them get away when they were batting. I thought 150 was a very reasonable score. We are a confident group at the moment and we have a couple of days to recharge and then come back strong in Sharjah.”

Meanwhile, Abu Dhabi Knight Riders’ Akeal Hosein said after the match: “I thought we were 15 runs short with the bat. The Warriors got off to a great start in the powerplay, which allowed them to cruise through in the middle period of the game. We’ve had decent performances with bat and ball, but we haven’t put everything together as a team.”

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Desert Vipers secure 7 wicket win against MI Emirates



(Last Updated On: January 25, 2023)

Alex Hales and Sherfane Rutherford’s sparkling unbeaten half centuries and skipper Colin Munro’s cameo knock carried Desert Vipers past MI Emirates in the 15th match of the DP World ILT20 at the Zayed Cricket Stadium on Tuesday night. 

Desert Vipers, through a fine display of intelligent bowling, had also restricted MI Emirates to 169 for 5 despite half centuries from Kieron Pollard and Nicholas Pooran.

Hales hit an unbeaten 62 runs off 44 balls with six boundaries and two sixes while Sherfane Rutherford scored a breezy unbeaten 56 off 29 balls with four boundaries and three sixes to put on an unbeaten 94 off 52 balls for the fourth wicket. 

Desert Vipers’ skipper Colin Munro set the momentum through a fine knock of 41 runs off 22 balls with four boundaries and three sixes. 

Speaking about their performance Desert Vipers’ Sherfane Rutherford said: “I want to keep things simple and just watch the ball. I was just trying to react to the ball. The key was just to use the pace and that worked for me.”

Meanwhile, MI Emirates’ Trent Boult said: “It becomes easier to bat on in the second innings here. I thought they played extremely well. They timed their innings quite nicely. That’s a luxury when you’re chasing 170.”


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Iranian arrested in Germany, suspected of plotting chemical attack



(Last Updated On: January 8, 2023)

A 32-year-old Iranian man has been arrested in Germany on suspicion of planning an attack with deadly chemicals, officials said Sunday.

Police and prosecutors said the man and another person were detained overnight in the town of Castrop-Rauxel, northwest of Dortmund.

In a joint statement they said the man is suspected to have planned a serious attack motivated by Islamic extremism, for which he had allegedly obtained the potent toxins cyanide and ricin, the Associated Press reported.

German news agency dpa reported that specialists wearing anti-contamination suits carried evidence out of the man’s home.

Tabloid newspaper Bild reported that German authorities had received a tip from an allied intelligence agency about the alleged plans for a chemical attack.

Five years ago, German police arrested a Tunisian man and his wife on suspicion of planning to carry out a ricin attack in the name of the Islamic State (ISIS) group. They were later found guilty and sentenced to 10 and eight years’ imprisonment, respectively.

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