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US may let Tajikistan hold on to Afghan aircraft

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(Last Updated On: June 21, 2022)

The United States may let Tajikistan hold on to Afghan military aircraft donated by the US that sought shelter in the Central Asian country following the US withdrawal from Kabul in August last year, a US military commander said.

US-trained Afghan pilots flew dozens of military planes and helicopters to Tajikistan and Uzbekistan as they fled the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) take over. 

The IEA has demanded that the two countries return the aircraft.

US Central Command commander Gen. Michael Kurilla visited Tajikistan over the weekend and said: “We are grateful to the Armed Forces of the Republic of Tajikistan for continuing to secure the aircraft that the Afghan Air Force flew into the country last August.” 

“The United States is working with the Tajik government to determine the best way to effectively use and maintain the aircraft,” Kurilla said.

According to Reuters, Kurilla said the aircraft would definitely not be returned to Afghanistan “because they do not belong to the Taliban (IEA)”.

“Our hope is to be able to hand over some or all of the aircraft to the Tajik government. I do not have a timeline on when this will occur, but we are working hard to make this happen,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

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Pakistan-administered Kashmir gives 100 million rupees for Afghan quake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2022)

Prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir has approved 100 million rupees ($484,000) for last week’s earthquake victims in Afghanistan, it was reported Thursday.

Kashmir’s cabinet and top bureaucracy also donated one month’s salary for the relief of the people of Afghanistan, Pakistani newspaper The News reported.

Sardar Tanveer Ilyas, the prime minister of Pakistan-administered Kashmir, said that the people of Pakistan and Kashmir are saddened by the loss of life and property caused by the recent earthquake in Afghanistan.

He said, in this hour of sorrow, the people of Pakistan and Kashmir stand with their brothers.

He said that a delegation representing the government of Kashmir will go to Afghanistan to deliver aid.

More than 1,000 people were killed in the 6.1-magnitude earthquake in Afghanistan’s eastern provinces of Paktika and Khost on June 22. Thousands of homes were damaged or destroyed.

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Pakistan minister calls for easing sanctions on Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2022)

Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs has called for an easing of Western sanctions against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), saying the basic functioning of the Afghan economy must not be endangered.

The IEA takeover last year prompted foreign governments, led by the United States, to cut development and security aid, and the strict enforcement of sanctions has debilitated the country’s banking sector.

In an interview with Germany’s Welt newspaper published on Thursday, Pakistan’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs Hina Rabbani Khar said isolating Afghanistan economically was pushing the country into economic collapse, Reuters reported.

“If the country remains locked out of international banking and its foreign assets remain frozen, then that is what will happen. We must not promote famine,” she added,

Khar said the Western troop withdrawal from Afghanistan, in which Germany was also involved, had serious repercussions because it was not preceded by a negotiated solution, calling on Germany to play an active political role in easing sanctions.

“In the current situation, it is not a good idea to continue to starve Afghanistan and risk an economic implosion in the country,” she said, adding that economic support was necessary to help the Afghan people.

“How is it that we spent $3 trillion on the war, but today don’t even have $10 billion on Afghan survival? I don’t understand this behavior,” she added.

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IEA, US meet in Doha to discuss freeing of Afghanistan’s frozen assets

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(Last Updated On: June 29, 2022)

A senior Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) delegation, led by Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi, headed to Qatar on Wednesday to hold talks with US officials to release some of the $9 billion of frozen reserves. 

According to a Washington Post report, US officials have tried to set up a system for assets to be managed, while simultaneously erecting safeguards to ensure the funds are not siphoned off for misuse by the IEA.

One option discussed by those close to the talks involves having a third party trust fund administer the money, according to the report.

Bloomberg also reported that the discussion will center around “creating a mechanism for releasing the frozen Afghan reserves.” 

Ahmad Wali Haqmal, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s finance ministry told Bloomberg: “We’re expecting this would be a serious round of talks.”

US officials have expressed optimism about the progress on talks but cautioned that several obstacles to the deal remain.

“It would be accurate to say negotiations are underway,” said Shah Mehrabi, an economics professor at Montgomery College in Maryland and a senior member of  Afghanistan’s central bank board since 2002. 

“We are in the process of trying to come up with a mechanism that will allow the transfer of reserves to the central bank of Afghanistan,” he said.

Mehrabi said food costs have skyrocketed by 18 percent in the past several months. Basic household goods rose in cost by 35 percent during the first few months of the year; in May, inflation for household goods hit 42 percent, Mehrabi said.

“These reserves belong to the Afghan people; they are needed to stabilize prices,” he said. “The faster it is delivered to the central bank of Afghanistan, the sooner we will see the impact of the reduction in prices that are critical to enable ordinary Afghans to afford food, cooking oil, and sugar and fuel. Now, they can’t do that.”

The delegation includes central bank Governor Mohammad Idris and Deputy Finance Minister Nazir Kabiri. They will meet with the US Special Envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West and officials from the treasury department, Haqmal said.

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