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UK troops should stay until peace talks are over: House of Lords

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

A House of Lords committee on Tuesday recommended that British troops should stay in Afghanistan until peace talks with the Taliban are over and urged the British government to shape its own policy rather than simply follow the United States.

Releasing their report on “The UK and Afghanistan”, the International Relations and Defence Committee criticizes the lack of clarity on UK policy towards Afghanistan, expresses concern over the premature withdrawal of troops by the US, and says the British government will have to carefully consider its approach to the Taliban if a power-sharing agreement is reached at the peace talks.

While only around 850 UK troops are currently stationed in Afghanistan, the UK is the third largest bilateral donor to Afghanistan, providing £167 million in official development assistance in 2020–21.

The Committee’s report comes after their inquiry which explored the UK’s diplomatic, military and aid strategy for Afghanistan, including scrutiny of the new Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), and the Ministry of Defence (MoD).

It also considered the UK’s work with international partners such as the US, NATO, and the Afghan government.

Commenting on the report, Baroness Anelay of St Johns, Chair of the Committee, said:
“Afghanistan’s relative prioritisation as a UK national security issue has slipped since 2010, but the scale of the challenges facing the country, and their potential impact on UK interests, have not diminished.

“The Afghan state remains very fragile, while the Taliban’s insurgency continues, and terrorist groups, including al-Qaeda and Islamic State Khorasan Province (Daesh), operate in the country. Afghanistan is the source of 95 percent of heroin on UK streets.

“This is a critical time for Afghanistan, with peace talks in Qatar having resumed over the weekend and an unacceptably high level of violence continuing to afflict an already poor and unstable country.

“The (British) Government must engage urgently with the incoming Biden Administration on the strategy for Afghanistan, and emphasise to the US and to NATO Allies the importance of their ongoing presence in Afghanistan until a peace deal is reached. The Government should be front and centre in calling for a multinational approach to Afghanistan within NATO, addressing regional stability, counter-terrorism and countering narcotics production and trafficking,” she said.

As a major aid donor to Afghanistan, she said the Committee was concerned that the British Government’s decision to renege on its commitment to spend 0.7 percent of gross national income on aid from 2021 could have a disproportionately negative impact on Afghanistan.

The report meanwhile found that the UK has shown little inclination to exert an independent voice on policy on Afghanistan and has followed the lead of the US.

The Committee stated it also found few traces of a coherent UK policy approach to Afghanistan and urged the British government to call for a multi-national approach to Afghanistan within NATO – focusing on the UK’s objectives of regional stability, counter-terrorism and countering narcotics production and trafficking.

The report stated that the ongoing presence of US and NATO troops in Afghanistan is essential to the Afghan government’s military strength and negotiating position at the talks in Doha and emphasised the urgency of UK engagement with the incoming Biden Administration on Afghanistan.

“The UK must make clear to the US and NATO allies the crucial role they play in maintaining the Afghan government’s leverage in the peace talks,” the report read.

The inquiry also found that the Taliban has not demonstrated that it has changed, and “it is ideologically opposed to the progress on human rights made since 2001.”

According to the report, while the Taliban “is engaging with the peace talks, its commitment to a negotiated settlement and to power-sharing remains unclear.

“The Committee concludes the Government should carefully consider how it will handle its future relationship with the Taliban in the event of the peace talks resulting in an agreement, in the context of future UK security assistance and aid to an Afghan government with Taliban representation.” the report read.

Human rights were also found to be an issue, particularly the rights of women and minorities, which the Committee found to be in danger of being a casualty of the Afghan peace talks.
“The Committee welcomes the UK’s enduring commitment to human rights, but regrets that the UK is unlikely to have sufficient leverage to ensure these rights are protected.”

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Civil servants ordered to carry out their duties in line with Sharia

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Supreme Leader Mawlavi Hebatullah Akhundzada has ordered all government officials to carry out their duties in accordance with Islamic principles and not to appoint staff based on subjectivity and connections.

In a voice message disseminated by the Ministry of Higher Education, Akhundzada said the Islamic Emirate will not fail to implement the Islamic Sharia and now that the IEA’s security forces are stationed in the cities, they should take effective steps to implement the divine system and guide people towards Sharia.

“Anyone who is appointed and by his appointment harms the people and the Islamic system, must be removed. The appointment of people should be based on the interests of the nation and Islamic Sharia,” said Akhundzada.

He also instructed civil servants not to force staff to resign unless there is a Sharia reason.

A number of experts meanwhile say that new laws need to be drawn up in order to advance governance because the Islamic Emirate has abolished the previous laws.

“Social justice and meritocracy, fair distribution of power and wealth for the citizens of the country is a Sharia and legal principle, a system will stand on its own feet when every specialty is in place,” said Sayed Moqadam Amin, a political analyst.

“Appointing experienced people who can manage government departments can have positive effects on the governance process,” said Abdul Jabar Akbari, another political expert.

“And it even encourages people to work in government offices,” he added.

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Peshawar mosque bombing death toll rises to at least 44

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

Monday’s massive explosion at a mosque in Peshawar has left at least 44 worshipers dead and over 150 injured.

Police said most of the worshipers were police, army and bomb disposal unit members and that a suicide bomber detonated his explosives while inside the mosque.

Hours after the explosion, rescue workers were still digging through rubble in search of survivors after a large section of the double-story building collapsed.

Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) claimed responsibility.

A senior police officer told local media that the entire roof of the mosque had caved in, and the mosque was likely full as it was the first day of the working week.

While some say the mosque can take a couple of hundred people, Peshawar police said it was likely that about 260 people had been inside the mosque when the suicide bomber detonated his explosives.

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Turkey deports 139 Afghan migrants

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(Last Updated On: January 30, 2023)

A total of 139 Afghan migrants, who entered Turkey illegally, were deported on Saturday, said the head of Turkey’s Migration Management Directorate.

Anadolu Agency reported that in accordance with the country’s Irregular Migration Strategy Document and the National Action Plan, migrants, who do not have valid documents to be in Turkey, are being sent to their home countries by charter flights.

After going through all necessary procedures, including health checks and security-related steps, the migrants were deported to Afghanistan on Saturday, Savas Unlu told reporters in Ankara.

He said Turkey has so far arranged nine charter flights this year. “We have deported 8,571 irregular migrants from our country so far this year. This does not include these 139 migrants.”

Unlu added that as a result of Turkey’s efforts to combat irregular migration, the number of irregular migrants arriving at the country’s borders for illegal entry in 2022 decreased by 38% compared to 2021.

“Since 2016, 2.7 million irregular migrants have been prevented from entering our country illegally,” he said.

Turkey has been a key transit point for asylum seekers aiming to cross into Europe to start new lives, especially those fleeing war and persecution.

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