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Peace talks a way to find ‘political formula’ to end war: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: September 13, 2020)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad said Sunday the  start of the intra-Afghan talks is a new beginning for the Afghan people and a way to “find a political formula for ending the war that could lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire.”

In an interview with Ariana News on the sideline of the long-waited intra-Afghan talks in Doha, Khalilzad said the Afghan and Taliban delegations need to agree on a reduction in violence.

This would then need to lead to a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire enabling the two sides to pursue talks in a peaceful environment, he said.

 “We demand violence be reduced and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire to be reached as soon as possible,” Khalilzad said.

Referring to US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s statement that America has no intention of forcing a political system on other countries, Khalilzad stated that US support for Afghanistan depends on a system in which Afghans can practice democracy.

“If people do not support the future system, if it was not democratic, the rights of the people would not be respected, women would be deprived of their rights, and then we would make our own decision,” he said. 

Regarding the troops drawdown in Afghanistan, the US envoy said that US forces would be reduced to 4,500 until the end of November; “Commander of US Forces said that with these soldiers they can accomplish their responsibilities and until the end of November we will monitor the situation.” 

Many critics have claimed that the urgency involved in withdrawing troops is a campaign move by US President Donald Trump ahead of the November elections. They state this is in keeping with his 2016 election promise of bringing home all American troops. 

Khalilzad meanwhile has been the driving force behind the peace talks process and has worked for two years to get both parties to the talks tables. 

In a briefing ahead of the historic start to the talks on Saturday, he said peace talks was a test for both sides – for the Taliban and for the Afghan government and raised the question of whether the two sides could “reach an agreement despite differences in terms of their visions for the future of Afghanistan?”

He pointed out that the peace talks process had reached an important juncture but that there are difficulties and significant challenges in the way of reaching an agreement.

However, the US was prepared to assist if needed, he said, adding that this phase is a new stage in the diplomacy path to peace. 

Khalilzad stated that from now on the process is Afghan-owned and Afghan-led and that there will be no foreign mediators nor facilitators when the sides hold their talks. 

He also said that in light of upcoming elections in the US, he was hoping that progress would have been made regarding negotiations by that time.

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Cholera cases rising in Takhar

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

Cholera and diarrhea cases are rising among children and adults in Afghanistan’s northern Takhar province, local officials said.

Abdul Qahar Ahadi, provincial health director, said that more than 20,000 patients suffering from various diseases visited public health facilities during the past two months, which is unprecedented.

Takhar’s main hospital meanwhile said that most of the visitors were treated for cholera and diarrhea.

Hayatullah Imami, an official at Takhar hospital, said that 30 percent of patients visiting the facility daily were suffering from diarrhea.

Cholera is an acute diarrheal illness caused by infection of the intestine with Vibrio cholerae bacteria.

People can get sick when they swallow food or water contaminated with the cholera bacteria. The infection is often mild or without symptoms, but can sometimes be severe and life-threatening.

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India records spike in daily COVID cases and 21 deaths in 24 hours

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(Last Updated On: June 27, 2022)

India logged 17,073 new COVID-19 cases early Monday morning, raising its tally to 43,407,046, and 21 deaths in the past 24 hours, the health ministry reported.

The death toll now stands at 525,020.

The national COVID-19 recovery rate was 98.57 percent, the ministry said.

Pakistan’s ministry of health meanwhile reported Monday that it had recorded 382 new cases in the last 24 hours.

This took Pakistan’s COVID-19 total case count to over 1.53 million. Two deaths were also reported in the past 24 hours.

However, experts say Pakistan may potentially witness another COVID-19 wave as the country continues to see an uptick in new cases.

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Polio vaccination campaign rolls out in western Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

More than one million Afghan children are expected to be vaccinated over the next few days in the latest polio vaccination campaign that was launched in western Afghanistan on Sunday.

Officials said the campaign will run for four days and be conducted across four provinces in the western region.

Waheed Rahmani, head of the vaccination campaign, said that 1.1 million children under the age of five are expected to receive the polio drops, including 720,000 in Herat province.

He said that so far there are no obstacles in the way of rolling out the campaign.

Volunteers said that they hope to reach all the children who need to be vaccinated.

“I along with my team will work honestly to make Afghanistan free from polio virus,” said Fina Nezami, a volunteer.

“I hope that Afghanistan becomes polio-free and we are happy to go door to door for vaccinations,” said Yagana Nabizada, another volunteer.

Local health officials have assured the public that all areas will be covered by the campaign.

“We have not forgotten areas, and while planning vaccination programs, all the areas are reviewed and if any area is left out, it will be immediately covered,” said Mohammad Asif Kabir, provincial deputy health director.

Around 728,000 children received polio drops in the previous campaign in Herat. Around 5,000 volunteers are involved in the current campaign in Herat.

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