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Stoltenberg says NATO will face dilemma over Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 6, 2021)

NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said on Wednesday evening at a press conference that 2021 will be a “pivotal year for NATO because we need to decide on our presence in Afghanistan.”

Stoltenberg said next month defense ministers will meet to decide but that the organization will face a dilemma. He said it was critical to make sure that Taliban break all ties with international terrorists, including al-Qaeda.

He said the organization welcomed the peace talks taking place between the Taliban and Afghan Republic but added: “There are many challenges, and many uncertainties, but of course, the peace talks are the only path to peace, the only way forward to a peaceful negotiated solution.

“We support those efforts, but at the same time we know that we will be faced with a very difficult dilemma,” he said.

“Next month, NATO’s defence ministers will meet, and they need to decide whether to remain, whether to stay in Afghanistan with our military presence, and then risk being engaged in a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan, or whether to leave, but then risk that Afghanistan once again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

On the issue of a conditions-based withdrawal and whether the Taliban had indeed met those conditions, set out in accordance with the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year, Stoltenberg said: “The more important thing is that we need to make sure that Afghanistan doesn’t once again become a safe haven for international terrorists.

“We have to understand that the reason why we went in to Afghanistan back in almost 20 years ago was the attack on a NATO ally, the 9/11 against the United States, and Taliban has committed in the agreement with the United States to make sure that they don’t work with, they don’t support, they don’t help in any way provide any framework support for international terrorists.

“So the most important condition is to make sure that Taliban meets that requirement, that they break all ties with international terrorists, including al-Qaeda.

“We will of course assess the situation on the ground, we will assess the development in the peace talks and then make our decision,” he said.

But he stated that NATO will “have to be honest and say that that will be a dilemma, it will be difficult. It is, of course, a challenge to stay.

“We have been there for almost 20 years.

“To continue to be militarily involved in Afghanistan is challenging, it has a price and we need to be prepared to stay in a difficult military operation.

“On the other hand, if we leave, then we risk that the gains we have made over the last years, preventing Afghanistan from becoming a safe haven for international terrorists, that those gains are lost,” he said.

Stoltenberg pointed out that withdrawing will be a “very difficult decision” but its one that all the alliance nations need to make together “because whatever we do, we need to do it in a coordinated and well-planned way.”

He then singled out Germany and thanked them for their strong commitment to the mission in Afghanistan.

“Germany leads the NATO presence in the north, and Germany really understands that our presence in Afghanistan is about protecting ourselves, our own countries against terrorist attacks.”

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Religious groups can observe their ceremonies freely in Afghanistan: Stanikzai

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

All religious groups including non-Muslims can observe their ceremonies freely in Afghanistan, Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, deputy foreign minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said on Monday.

Stanikzai said this while speaking at a ceremony in Kabul to celebrate Ashura which falls on the 10th day of the lunar calendar month of Muharram and commemorates the martyrdom in 680 AD of Imam Hussain Ibn Ali, one of the grandsons of the Prophet Mohammad.

“Based on the policy of the Islamic Emirate, all religious groups in Afghanistan are free to celebrate religious days and observe their ceremonies. There is no problem. Even non-Muslim minorities are free in this regard,” Stanikzai said.

He said that some countries see their interest in Afghanistan to be unstable and people should support the current government against such conspiracies.

“They don’t want to build Afghanistan and they see their interest in how Afghanistan has been. It is our duty to build our country,” Stanikza said.

Referring to civil war in Afghanistan post-Soviet withdrawal, Stanikzai said that some Afghans destroyed the country only to ensure their own interests.

“Our country couldn’t enjoy the pleasure of Soviet defeat. Some Afghans fought each other for power or out of personal grudge and destroyed our country,” Stanikzai said.

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Hekmatyar rejects claims that al-Qaeda leader was killed in Kabul drone strike

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-e-Islami, on Monday blasted the United States for violating Afghanistan’s national sovereignty and territory by conducting a drone strike in Kabul and said Washington’s claims of having killed al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri were false. 

Hekmatyar said the strike was a “terrorist act” and that there was no evidence of al-Zawahiri having been killed in the Sherpur house in Kabul. 

He also said despite the US having withdrawn from Afghanistan, Washington still wanted to continue the war and carried with it a “sense of revenge”. He said this was clear in statements and words expressed by American political and military officials. 

Hekmatyar also said that the US operation against the leader of al-Qaeda shows that the US still has intelligence activities in Afghanistan. 

US President Joe Biden claimed last week that the US had killed al-Zawahiri in a drone strike while he was standing on a balcony at his house in Kabul. 

However, until now, no evidence of al-Zawahiri’s death has yet been provided. 

Radio Azadi meanwhile quoted the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid as having said no body was found at the scene of the strike. 

He said an investigation was launched into the strike and that “everything was destroyed, but we did not find a body there.” he said.

The IEA also said last week that they had no knowledge of al-Zawahiri having been in the country as claimed by the US.

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IEA leaders meet with Shia Ulema, ‘share grief’ after bombings

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(Last Updated On: August 8, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s acting third deputy prime minister Mawlavi Mohammad Abdul Kabir met with members of the Shia Ulema on Sunday to discuss the recent spate of bombings in Kabul against the community during Muharram. 

Kabir “shared his grief with the families of the victims due to the martyrdom and wounding” of members of the community, a statement issued by ARG read. 

Javad Salehi, the deputy head of the Shia Ulema Council, and Ustad Akbari, one of the Shia elders, attended the meeting and thanked the security forces for their attempts to maintain security leading up to Ashura.

The meeting came after at least two explosions, over consecutive days, that targeted the Shia community in Kabul. 

According to the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), at least 120 people were killed or wounded in the blasts. 

ISIS claimed responsibility for the bombings in the western part of Kabul city on Friday and Saturday.

On Sunday, there were unconfirmed reports of an attack for the third consecutive day in Kabul city.

The attacks came as Shia Muslims, a religious minority in the country, prepare for Ashura, which commemorates the martyrdom of Imam Hussein, the grandson of the Prophet Mohammad.

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