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US media outlets lobby Biden, Congress for visas for Afghan journalists

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(Last Updated On: July 22, 2021)

A coalition of US news organisations on Tuesday wrote two separate letters to the US President Joe Biden and Congress calling on them to grant special immigration visas (SIVs) to Afghan journalists and support staff who worked for American media organizations.

The letters were jointly sent by twenty four American media outlets, who called for SIVs to be approved for Afghan journalists, translators, support staff, and their families.

“We are doing what we can as a private organization to support our current and former colleagues in Afghanistan, but without US government assistance the people are facing grave harm in Afghanistan,” one letter stated.

“They and their families face the same threat of retaliation from the Taliban, which views the American press as a legitimate target. The Taliban has long conducted a campaign of threatening and killing journalists,” the letter read, as reported by Axios.

“Without the assistance of the U.S. Government, many of these Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lent their labor and skills to making certain the world knew what was going on in their country while U.S. troops were there for the past twenty years.”

Arab News meanwhile reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) drafted joint letters with numerous media outlets on Wednesday to urge the US government to provide emergency visas to Afghans who assisted American forces during the past two decades of war.

The steady exodus of US and NATO troops over the past few months has increased fears that the Taliban will take power again leaving Afghan interpreters, journalists, contractors, and support staff, who were previously protected by US and NATO forces, susceptible to retaliation.

The CPJ letters were addressed to Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Arab News reported.

“The need for action is urgent,” the letters said. “Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lending their labor and skills to make certain the world knew what was going on in their country. US troops have been there for the past 20 years.”

Last week, Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from India, who worked for Reuters, was killed while covering the clashes between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces near the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan.

On Tuesday, the US Pentagon said it has completed more than 95 percent of the entire withdrawal process. Approximately 17,000 pieces of equipment that will not be left to the Afghan military have been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The US has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military, including Bagram Air Base.

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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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