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To reach a peace deal, Taliban say Ghani must go

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(Last Updated On: July 23, 2021)

The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolize power, but insist there will only be peace in Afghanistan once President Ashraf Ghani has been removed from power and a new government is in place.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in the country.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last U.S. and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan.

This week, the top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Shaheen told AP that the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone.

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment.

“So we do not want to repeat that same formula,” he said.

But he was also uncompromising on the continued rule of Ghani, calling him a war monger and accusing him of using his Tuesday speech on the Islamic Holy day of Eid-al-Adha to promise an offensive against the Taliban, AP reported.

Shaheen dismissed Ghani’s right to govern, resurrecting allegations of widespread fraud that surrounded Ghani’s 2019 election win. After that vote, both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves president. After a compromise deal, Abdullah is now No. 2 in the government and heads the reconciliation council, AP reported.

Shaheen meanwhile called last week’s talks in Doha a good beginning. But he said the government’s repeated demands for a ceasefire while Ghani stayed in power were tantamount to demanding a Taliban surrender.

“They don’t want reconciliation, but they want surrendering,” he said.

Before any ceasefire, there must be an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans,” he said. Then “there will be no war.”

Shaheen said under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf. He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls, AP reported.

Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals. But he warned they could, given the weapons and equipment they have acquired in newly captured districts, AP reported. He contended that the majority of the Taliban’s battlefield successes came through negotiations, not fighting.

“Those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us … were through mediation of the people, through talks,” he said. “They (did not fall) through fighting … it would have been very hard for us to take 194 districts in just eight weeks.”

AP reported that the Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, and while they have yet to capture any of the 34 provincial capitals

On the issue of a possible civil war, Shaheen told AP: “You know, no one no one wants a civil war, including me.”

Shaheen also repeated Taliban promises aimed at reassuring Afghans who fear the group and said they had nothing to fear from the Taliban and denied threatening them.

But, he added, if some want to take asylum in the West because Afghanistan’s economy is so poor, “that is up to them.”

He also denied that the Taliban have threatened journalists and Afghanistan’s civil society, which has been targeted by dozens of killings over the past year, AP reported.

While Daesh has taken responsibility for some attacks, the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for most of the killings while the Taliban in turn accuse the Afghan government of carrying out the killings to defame them.

Shaheen said journalists, including those working for Western media outlets, have nothing to fear from a government that includes the Taliban.

“We have not issued letters to journalists (threatening them), especially to those who are working for foreign media outlets. They can continue their work even in the future,” he said.

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New Delhi hosts India-Central Asia meeting of NSAs

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2022)

India’s National Security Adviser (NSA) Ajit Doval on Tuesday said that connectivity with Central Asian countries remains India’s key priority and that security and prosperity is a common goal for the region.

Speaking at the first India-Central Asia meeting of the National Security Advisers, in New Delhi, Doval said the security situation in Afghanistan was an important issue concerning “us all”.

This is the first time India is hosting a meeting of top security officials from Central Asian countries including Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Participants are focussing on the evolving security situation in Afghanistan and ways to deal with the threat of terrorism they said is emanating from the country.

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Japan gives over $106 million in aid to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2022)

Japan announced Tuesday that it has decided to give an additional $106.7 million in assistance to Afghanistan to help combat the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the country.

In a statement issued by the Japanese Embassy in Kabul, the mission said: “Pleased to announce that Japan has decided additional 106.7 million USD assistance for Afghanistan, enabling implementation of humanitarian and basic human needs assistance projects. We truly hope these projects will help bring many smiles of Afghan people!”

The mission said these projects will be implemented by UN agencies, international organizations and NGOs, all aiming for the betterment of livelihoods through multiple approaches.

With the upcoming $106.7 million, the cumulative Japanese assistance to Afghanistan since August 2021 will amount to $335 million, the statement read.

This comes just days after US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West has held talks with Japanese officials in Tokyo on humanitarian needs and human rights issues in Afghanistan.

“Japan has been a friend of the Afghan people and our partner there for over 20 yrs, and we deeply appreciate Japan’s active diplomacy and continued generosity today,” West said on Saturday.

“We are always stronger, on every challenge, when we act together with allies. True in Afghanistan – we’ll continue to need Japan’s expertise and diverse contributions,” West said.

The envoy also said that he got “sage advice” from Tadamichi Yamamoto, a Japanese who served as UN envoy for Afghanistan during 2016-2020.

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UN Security Council temporarily lifts travel ban on senior IEA official

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2022)

The UN Security Council has lifted the travel ban on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) acting Minister of Information and Culture, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhah, for a period of 10 days, so he can attend an event in Russia, officials in Afghanistan stated.

The UN Security Council failed to extend a travel ban exemption on Khairkhah along with other IEA officials two months ago.

This latest temporary travel ban exemption is said to have come into effect on December 1 and will run through until December 10, allowing Khairkhah to travel to Kazan, the capital of the Russian Federation’s Republic of Tatarstan.

Khairkhah was formerly imprisoned in Guantanamo and was released in 2014 in exchange for an American soldier.

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