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Taliban carry out strategic attacks close to three key cities

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(Last Updated On: May 4, 2021)

Taliban militants have made worrying progress towards the gates of three provincial capitals in the country in the past 24 hours, Afghan officials said.

According to officials, Taliban gains across territory came after they launched coordinated attacks in Helmand, Ghazni, and Zabul provinces in this time.

In Helmand, Taliban fighters carried out attacks on the outskirts of the provincial capital Lashkargah city just two days after the US forces withdrew from a local base. However, some sources claim clashes are ongoing inside the city.

Officials from the provincial public hospital said on Tuesday that at least 30 wounded people including five women were taken to the hospital in the past 24 hours.

In addition, hundreds of families have been displaced due to ongoing clashes in the city, local officials said.

“The Taliban’s latest terror attacks on Helmand must not be ignored. Their leaders in Doha must be asked why despite of freeing 6000 Taliban prisoners, foreign troops withdrawal, and meetings of foreign officials with Taliban in Doha, they continue to kill and maim the Afghans!?,” said Sediq Sediqqi, Deputy Minister of Interior Affairs for Strategy and Policies.

“The situation in Helmand is concerning. The government needs to take action as people have been displaced,” MP Farhad Bawari said.

However, Afghan commando forces have been deployed to Lashkargah to push back the Taliban, but MP Shegofa Noorzai stated that Helmand is on the verge of collapse.

“However, government forces have put in their efforts but if the Afghan forces do not take immediate action, the province will collapse,” she said.

Meanwhile, militants overran a military base on the outskirts of Ghazni city this week.

MP Arif Rahmani warned that the Taliban wants to capture Ghazni city once again.

“The situation in Ghazni is worrying. The Taliban wants to take control of Ghazni city before Eid-ul-Fitr. The group said they want to perform Eid prayers in Ghazni,” Rahmani said.

Moreover, the group reportedly has security forces under siege in the Qarabagh district of the province. The provincial officials, however, have not commented yet.

“Unfortunately, the Taliban have intensified clashes in parts of the country. The conflicts do not mean that the Afghan security forces will not respond to them; in Ghazni, Helmand, and Kandahar the group suffered heavy casualties,” Fawad Aman, deputy spokesman for the Defense Ministry said.

Meanwhile, sources have said clashes are also underway close to Qalat city in Zabul province.

Officials have not yet commented about this.

In addition to this, reports Tuesday indicated that at least 22 members of the al-Qaeda terrorist group were killed in recent clashes in Helmand. Reports also indicate that dozens of security forces were also killed in the skirmish.

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U.S. warns of possible North Korean nuclear or missile test during Biden Asia trip

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2022)

U.S intelligence shows there could be a North Korean nuclear test, or missile test, or both, before, during or after President Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea and Japan starting this week, the U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan, said on Wednesday.

“We are preparing for all contingencies, including the possibility that such a provocation would occur while we are in Korea or in Japan,” Sullivan told a White House briefing.

Sullivan said the United States was coordinating closely with South Korea and Japan on the issue and had also discussed North Korea with his Chinese counterpart Yang Jiechi about North Korea in a phone call on Wednesday.

“We’ve indicated in quite clear terms that our intelligence does reflect a genuine possibility that there will be either a further missile test, including long-range missile test, or a nuclear test, or frankly both, in the days leading into, on, or after the president’s trip to the region,” Sullivan said.

He said the United States was prepared to make both short and longer term adjustments to its military posture as necessary “to ensure that we are providing both defense and deterrence to our allies in the region and that we’re responding to any North Korean provocation.”

White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told the same briefing Biden would not visit the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) that divides North and South Korea during his visit to South Korea, which begins on Friday.

The White House said last week Biden was considering such a trip.

“He will he will not visit the DMZ … not on this trip,” Jean-Pierre said.

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SIGAR finds single key factor to ANDSF collapse was withdrawal of US troops

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

The United States’ Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) has found that the single most important factor behind the Afghan National Defense and Security Force’s (ANDSF) collapse in August last year was the US’ decision to withdraw military forces and contractors from Afghanistan.

This decision was taken after the US signed an agreement in February 2020, under former president Donald Trumps administration, with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) – an agreement adhered to by President Joe Biden.

In their latest report, SIGAR stated that due to the ANDSF’s dependency on US military forces, these events destroyed ANDSF morale.

The ANDSF had long relied on the US military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries.

The US-IEA agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population, SIGAR reported.

The agreement set in motion a series of events crucial to understanding the ANDSF’s collapse, SIGAR stated.

Among those included a drop in the number of US airstrikes; the fact that ANDSF remained reliant on the US military, especially as “the United States designed the ANDSF as a mirror image of US forces.

“This created long-term ANDSF dependencies. The United States created a combined arms military structure that required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership,” SIGAR stated adding that the ANDSF had stockpiles of US-provided weapons and supplies, but did not have the logistics capabilities to move these items quickly enough to meet operational demands and had to rely on a thinly-stretched Afghan Air Force to do so.

“As a result, ANDSF units complained that they did not have enough ammunition, food, water, or other military equipment to sustain military engagements against the Taliban (IEA).

“Additionally, the Afghan government failed to develop a national security strategy and plan for nationwide security following the withdrawal of US forces,” SIGAR stated adding that instead, former president Ashraf Ghani frequently changed ANDSF leaders and appointed loyalists, while marginalizing well-trained ANDSF officers aligned with the United States.

The constant turnover weakened military chains of command, trust, and morale in the ANDSF. “Young, welltrained, educated, and professional ANDSF officers who grew up under US tutelage were marginalized and their ties to the U.S. became a liability.”

SIGAR also stated that the United States created more long-term dependencies by providing the ANDSF with advanced military equipment that they could not sustain and that required a US military or contractor presence and that the US lacked any real way to measure the ANDSF’s development.

“The metrics DOD used were inconsistent and unable to measure the development of ANDSF capabilities and capacities over time,” SIGAR stated.

SIGAR also stated that while ANDSF members have either left Afghanistan, or are in hiding, there are those who “have joined extremist groups in Afghanistan.”

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IEA confirms mediation talks between Pakistan govt and TTP held in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

Talks were held in Kabul between the government of Pakistan and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), acting as mediator, spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid tweeted.

Good progress has been made in the talks and both sides agreed to a short-term ceasefire, Mujahid tweeted.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, in good faith, strives for a successful negotiation process and expects both sides to be tolerant and flexible,” Mujahid said.

This comes after reports circulated in news outlets that a Pakistani delegation led by Lt General Faiz Hameed, former director of the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI), visited Kabul and reportedly held talks with representatives of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).

However, there was no official confirmation from either side about the development but reports suggested that it was part of a renewed push by the IEA in Afghanistan to broker some kind of a deal between Pakistan and the TTP, The Express Tribune report said.

TTP members and official sources in Kabul also confirmed to VOA that Gen Faiz was in Kabul for talks with the TTP.

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