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US panel postpones meeting to hold Blinken in contempt over Afghanistan

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken has agreed to provide a congressional committee with documents it sought about the 2021 U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, according to the panel chairman who had threatened to hold Blinken in contempt, Reuters reported.

The House Foreign Affairs Committee on Thursday postponed a meeting where it had been due to consider holding Blinken in contempt of Congress for not providing the documents, said the panel’s Republican chairman, Representative Michael McCaul.

McCaul said he spoke with Blinken Wednesday night and received assurances the material would be provided.

“These documents will provide crucial information for our investigation,” McCaul said in a statement.

McCaul said last week the panel would meet on March 7 to consider a resolution recommending that Blinken be held in contempt “for his continued refusal to comply with a subpoena served by the committee in July.”

A State Department spokesperson responded that it was in touch with the House committee and trying to resolve the issue, read the report.

The committee has been seeking more information from the State Department for months over the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August 2021. Republicans – and some Democrats – say there has never been a full accounting of the chaotic operation, in which 13 U.S. service members were killed at Kabul’s airport.

The State Department says it has turned over thousands of pages of documents to the committee and made witnesses available for transcribed interviews.

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Iran’s new president says strengthening ties with neighbors is his priority

“Under my administration, we will prioritize strengthening relations with our neighbors. We will champion the establishment of a “strong region” rather than one where a single country pursues hegemony and dominance over the others,” said Pezeshkian.

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Iran’s new president Masoud Pezeshkian has said in an article entitled “My message to the new world” that he prioritizes relations with neighboring countries and will support the establishment of a strong region.

“Under my administration, we will prioritize strengthening relations with our neighbors. We will champion the establishment of a “strong region” rather than one where a single country pursues hegemony and dominance over the others. I firmly believe that neighboring and brotherly nations should not waste their valuable resources on erosive competitions, arms races, or the unwarranted containment of each other. Instead, we will aim to create an environment where our resources can be devoted to the progress and development of the region for the benefit of all,” Pezeshkian said in the article published on Friday.

Meanwhile, the Islamic Emirate also emphasizes expanding good relations with Iran and asks that the country’s new government should further strengthen its political and economic ties with Afghanistan.

“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan also emphasizes relations with the Islamic Republic of Iran. We ask the new government of Iran to work on strengthening the diplomatic and economic relations between the two countries,” said Hamdullah Fitrat, deputy spokesman for the IEA.

Some experts, however, believe that Iran seeks to restore its relations with some countries, especially Arab countries.

According to them, Iran plays an important role in regional issues and expanding relations between Kabul and Tehran can benefit both sides.

Iran’s new president also stressed that he intends to pursue an opportunistic policy that is consistent with national interests, economic development, and the need of peace and security in the region and the world by balancing relations with all countries.

 

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Al-Qaeda cells operating in multiple Afghan provinces: UN

The report said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains the largest terrorist group in Afghanistan, with an estimated strength of 6,000–6,500 fighters

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Al-Qaeda cells are operating in multiple provinces of Afghanistan, mainly in south-east of the country, UN sanctions monitors said in a new report.

The report by the UN Analytical Support and Sanctions Monitoring Team said that despite a reduced profile, Al-Qaeda disseminates propaganda to increase recruitment while working to rebuild its operational capability.

“Several Member States noted that facilities with Al-Qaida associations are mainly for training local fighters along with TTP operatives, with newly reported training base locations and safe houses in various Afghan provinces, including former camps in Jalalabad and in Kandahar Province, and in Kunar, Nuristan and Takhar Provinces,” the report said.

The report said that Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) remains the largest terrorist group in Afghanistan, with an estimated strength of 6,000–6,500 fighters

It added that the group continues to operate on a significant scale in Afghanistan and to conduct terrorist operations into Pakistan from there, often utilizing Afghans.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), however, rejects the report.

Hamdullah Fitrat, deputy spokesperson of IEA, emphasizes that no terrorist group is present in Afghanistan, and the Islamic Emirate will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan’s soil against other countries.

According to the UN report, member States credit IEA’s efforts to counter the threat from Daesh but question the IEA’s counter-terrorism capabilities and have concerns about continued Daesh recruitment and dispersal.

 

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More than 350,000 people sign petition asking IEA to respect human rights: Amnesty

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Amnesty International announced on Friday that 354,847 people worldwide have signed a petition asking the authorities of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to respect and guarantee protection of human rights.

“In a powerful show of global solidarity, 354,847 signatures have been collected calling on the Taliban de-facto authorities (IEA) to respect and protect human rights in Afghanistan,” Amnesty International South Asia said on X. “As the catastrophic human rights situation persists, we must continue our joint demand for accountability and justice in Afghanistan.”

International organizations have repeatedly expressed concern about restrictions on women and girls in Afghanistan.

However, the Islamic Emirate has said that it is committed to ensuring women’s rights in accordance with the Sharia law, insisting that is an internal issue of Afghanistan.

 

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