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US lawmaker claims Biden looking to keep counter-terrorism troops in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: March 25, 2021)

The Biden administration is reportedly looking to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past a May 1 deadline while exploring a deal in which the Taliban would allow a U.S. counter-terrorism force to remain as they confront their Islamic State foes, a top U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Reuters reported that House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith’s comments provided new details of U.S. President Joe Biden’s possible decision on the exit plan.

Biden has not however made a decision yet on whether all troops will leave Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline. 

In a press conference in Brussels on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed this and said he was at the NATO foreign ministers meeting (Tuesday and Wednesday) to listen, learn and consult with allies on the issue. 

Biden did however say in a recent interview with NBC News that to meet the May 1 deadline would be “tough”.

The deadline is part of the deal signed in February last year between the US and the Taliban. A deal that Biden inherited from former president Donald Trump. 

Meanwhile, speaking in an online Foreign Policy magazine forum this week, Smith said he spoke to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the withdrawal.

“I think there’s a general feeling that May 1 is too soon, just logistically,” he said. “We’ve got … closer to 3,500 troops in Afghanistan. Our allies have around 7,000.”

“You cannot pull out 10,000-plus troops in any sort of way in six weeks,” he said. He added the administration’s “job one” is talking to the Taliban about allowing the U.S.-led force to remain for a little longer, Reuters reported.

He noted the Taliban demand that all foreign troops leave. If that remains their position, he said, “I don’t see that we have much choice but to leave,” including counter-terrorism forces.

“What the Biden administration wants to do is negotiate past May 1 and then at least explore the option: has the Taliban changed their mind as they … are fighting ISIS (Daesh) almost as much as they are fighting the Afghan government,” Smith continued.

“Might their position change about a U.S. presence? I doubt it. But I think the administration is thinking it’s worth the conversation,” he said.

While the Taliban has been fighting Daesh in Afghanistan, experts say, Islamic State remains a serious threat.

The Taliban have indicated they will resume attacking foreign forces if Biden fails to meet the May 1 deadline, and some experts doubt they would allow any U.S. force to stay.

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UN Security Council to meet over situation in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

The United Nations Security Council (UNSC) is scheduled to hold a meeting on Tuesday that will focus on the current situation in Afghanistan.

UNSC members are expected to discuss economic, humanitarian and security concerns.

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) spokesman Bilal Karimi said the IEA welcomed meetings that are held with the aim of cooperating with the government and people of Afghanistan.

He also said that Afghans expect cooperation and that such meetings must be held in accordance with international laws and principles.

However, the IEA still does not have a designated UN representative – one year after taking control of the country.

Instead, Naseer Ahmad Faiq, who assumed leadership of the Afghan mission to the UN in December last year, will address the security council members.

The IEA does not however recognize him as the legitimate envoy to the UN.

In a series of tweets on Monday, Faiq said that he would address the security council meeting and speak on behalf of Afghans.

“On behalf of Afghans, in this important meeting, like always, I would like to raise the voice of my nation,” he said.

In September last year, the IEA asked the UN to accredit Suhail Shaheen, the head of the IEA’s political office in Qatar, as the new ambassador.

But in December, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution in which it indefinitely delayed a decision over the rival claims to the representative seat for Afghanistan.

At the time, the IEA criticized the UN’s failure to decide on this issue, saying it was ignoring the rights of the Afghan people.

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Influential Muslim cleric al-Qaradawi dies at 96

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

Senior Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, who was based in Qatar, died on Monday, according to a post on his official Twitter account.

The cleric was an Egyptian Islamic scholar and was chairman of the International Union of Muslim Scholars.

He was best known for his programme al-Sharīʿa wa al-Ḥayāh (“Sharia and Life”), broadcast on Al Jazeera, which has an estimated audience of 40–60 million worldwide.

He is also known for IslamOnline, a website he helped to found in 1997 and for which he served as chief religious scholar.

Al-Qaradawi published more than 120 books, and received eight international prizes for his contributions to Islamic scholarship, and is considered one of the most influential Islamic scholars today.

Al-Qaradawi has long had a prominent role within the intellectual leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political organization, although he repeatedly stated that he was no longer a member. He has over the years been critical of Egypt’s President Abdel Fatah al-Sisi.

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US spy satellite launched into orbit from California

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2022)

A classified satellite for the U.S. National Reconnaissance Office launched into orbit aboard a United Launch Alliance Delta 4 Heavy rocket on Saturday.

The NROL-91 spy satellite lifted off at 3:25 p.m. from Vandenberg Space Force Base in California’s Santa Barbara County, AP reported.

It was the last launch of a Delta 4 from the West Coast. Additional launches are planned from Florida before the Deltas are replaced by ULA’s next-generation Vulcan Centaur rockets.

The Delta IV Heavy configuration first launched in December 2004. This was the 387th flight of a Delta rocket since 1960 and the 95th and final launch from Vandenberg.

The National Reconnaissance Office is the government agency in charge of developing, building, launching and maintaining U.S. spy satellites that provide intelligence data to policymakers, the intelligence community and Defense Department.

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