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Militant groups could pose threat to US in two years from Afghanistan: Pentagon

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(Last Updated On: June 18, 2021)

Top U.S. military leaders said on Thursday that international militant groups like al Qaeda could pose a threat from Afghanistan to the U.S. homeland and American allies in two years.

President Joe Biden’s decision to withdraw troops completely from Afghanistan by September has raised concerns that the country could erupt in full-scale civil war, providing al Qaeda space in which to rebuild and plan new attacks on U.S. and other targets.

“It would take possibly two years for them to develop that capability,” U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a congressional hearing.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley said he agreed with the timeline and said there was a medium risk at the moment.

“If there was a collapse of the government, or a dissolution of the Afghan security forces, that risk would obviously increase,” Milley said.

The comments are some of clearest signs of concern in the military and intelligence community about the threat militant groups could pose from Afghanistan and the risks of a complete withdrawal.

A United Nations report in January said there were as many as 500 al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and that the Taliban maintained a close relationship with the Islamist extremist group. The Taliban denies al Qaeda has a presence in Afghanistan.

The United States has completed more than half of its military withdrawal from Afghanistan, which is expected to be finished well before September, nearly 20 years after al Qaeda’s attacks on the United States triggered the war.

Biden has said the United States has the ability to keep an eye on any resurgence of al Qaeda in Afghanistan without keeping a military footprint, but his administration is still trying to negotiate basing agreements in the region.

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Iran resumes issuing visas to Afghans in Herat

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2023)

Local officials in Herat say that the process of issuing Iranian visas to Afghans has resumed in the province after a pause of two months.

A private company has been authorized as Iranian visa application center in Herat, but travel agencies which used to offer services to the applicants criticize the move.

They say that this process was put out to tender and seven companies were selected to offer visa services, but this process has been given exclusively to one company.

“We used to do this for 150 afghanis, but this company charges 350 afghanis,” said Abdul Waheed Amiri, the manager of a travel agency in Herat.

Currently, more than 300 travel agencies are operating in Herat city.

Local officials in Herat say that the company that is authorized as Iranian visa application center is an Iran-linked agency.

“Iran has set agents for itself in three parts of Herat city. The agency of the diplomatic mission of Iran operates here,” said Naeemulhaq Haqqani, the head of Herat’s information and culture department.

The process of issuing Iranian visas resumed in Herat since three days ago, but visa applicants are not satisfied with this process and say that they wait day and night for their visas to be issued.

“We have been visiting here for three days. The Islamic Emirate says that the visa is suspended, but it will be opened when we leave here. People are not taken care of,” said Fraidoon, a visa applicant.

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Muttaqi tells Pakistan to stop blaming Afghanistan for its insecurity

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2023)

Referring to Pakistan’s concerns about terrorism threats emanating from Afghanistan, Amir Khan Muttaqi, Foreign Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), on Wednesday called on Islamabad to stop blaming Afghanistan for insecurity.

Speaking at a ceremony to inaugurate a drug addiction treatment center in Kabul, Muttaqi said that the root of Pakistan’s security problems is in the country itself and should not be attributed to Afghanistan.

He suggested the government of Pakistan do more investigations into Monday’s mosque bombing in Peshawar, especially due to the extent of damage. He said it doesn’t look like it was a suicide bomber or an IED.

Muttaqi said that Afghanistan is not a terrorist haven.

“If someone says that Afghanistan is the haven of terrorism, they also say that terrorism knows no boundaries. If terrorism was in Afghanistan, it would spread to China, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan and Iran. Today, all these countries are safe. Afghanistan is also safe,” Muttaqi said.

The event was also addressed by Interior Minister Sirajuddin Haqqani who suggested that the international community is exercising double standards over humanitarian aid.

“You claim day and night that you are supporters of human rights. If you can’t provide three billion [dollars] in aid to these people (addicts), provide at least one billion,” Haqqani said.

The administrative deputy of the prime minister also criticized the regional and Islamic countries for not cooperating with Afghanistan in finding alternative crops for poppy cultivation.

“In providing alternative crops to farmers, neither the neighboring countries, nor the Islamic countries, nor the countries of the world, have provided any kind of assistance to the Afghan people and the Afghan government until today,” Abdul Salam Hanafi said.

Thousands of addicts are expected to be treated in the newly inaugurated facility called “Aghoosh.”

Abdulhaq Hamkar, deputy interior minister for counternarcotics, said that the establishment of the facility has cost about 75 million afghanis.

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US envoy, Pakistan officials discuss IEA ban on women

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(Last Updated On: February 1, 2023)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Thomas West, who visited Pakistan on January 30-31, discussed terrorism and Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s ban on girls education with top officials including army chief General Syed Asim Munir.

In a tweet from his official account on Tuesday, the US envoy appreciated Pakistan’s hospitality over two days of productive meetings related to Afghanistan.

West said he held meetings with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff General Asim Munir, Ambassador Muhammad Sadiq and Foreign Secretary Asad Majeed Khan.

During the meetings, the envoy said they discussed terrorism and security situations, “need for international unity and dangerous impact of Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan) edicts on millions of Afghans’ access to vital aid and education”.

The US envoy said he also urged support for important work of the UN and implementers to secure reversal of the IEA’s ban on women aid workers and female education.

“Met courageous Afghan women and heard critical demands and observations: Women-headed households in Afghanistan are suffering, and int’l community must prioritise their needs,” he added.

West said women and girls confined to home are experiencing extreme mental and psychological stresses, “without ability to move freely, get educated”.

“Reviewed with UNHCR and World Bank robust support for Afghan refugees and millions of basic human needs of millions of Afghans.”

He also conveyed his profound condolences for the loss of so many innocent lives in Peshawar after the horrific terrorist attack. “We stand with Pakistan in condemning this senseless assault.”

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