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US peace envoy: Taliban have not complied with their commitments



(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

In his testimony before the House Oversight and Reform Subcommittee on National Security  US peace envoy, Zalmay Khalilzad said the Taliban have not fully complied with their commitments under the February agreement with the US. 

As part of the agreement, the Taliban need to cut ties with al-Qaeda but according to Khalilzad, although the Taliban have made some progress in this respect the group still has more to accomplish. 

Khalilzad said: “With regard to terrorism and al-Qaeda, in this setting, what I can say is the Talibs have taken some steps, based on the commitment they have made, positive steps, but they have some distance still to go. … [W]e are in the middle of the process.  The picture is one of progress but it’s not completed.” 

The Subcommittee also heard testimony from David F. Helvey, who is performing the duties of Assistant Secretary of Defense for Indo-Pacific Security Affairs at the Department of Defense. He also said the Taliban has not yet fulfilled its end of the deal. 

“[S]o far, they are not fully compliant, so we have work to be done there. I think we know that [and] the Taliban knows it.”

As part of the deal, the US agreed to withdraw its troops by April next year – and have since February gradually reduced its numbers in Afghanistan. 

Already down from 13,000 to 8,600 a further troop withdrawal to 4,500 is expected by November. 

Both Khalilzad and Helvey testified that the path to a sustainable reconciliation agreement between Afghanistan and the Taliban will be complicated, and high levels of violence remain an obstacle to peace.

Khalilzad stated: “While we have reasons to be hopeful, we are under no illusions about the challenges ahead. The conflict in Afghanistan is especially complex, and negotiators will have to overcome personal interests and political differences while representing diverse constituencies.  We expect that there will be setbacks and obstacles.”  

He also stated: “The Afghan people will suffer if there is no peace agreement.”

 Helvey testified: “Taliban violence, quite frankly, has been unacceptably high for too long.”  

He also said that terrorist groups such as the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria Khorasan (ISIS-K) and al-Qaeda still aspire to threaten US national security interests and that “a strong and capable ANDSF [Afghan National Defense and Security Forces] focused on combating terrorist threats and defending the Afghan people is going to be our best chance at supporting and defending US interests.”

In his summary to the House, Khalilzad said the US’ strategy going forward is twofold. 

“One, continue holding the Taliban to the commitments they made in the February 29 agreement, including on combatting international terrorism and discussing a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire at Afghanistan Peace Negotiations. 

“Two, adjust our force posture consistent with the agreement and conditions in Afghanistan. We are on a path to reduce troop levels to between 4,000 and 5,000 and with further reductions possible based on conditions. 

“I want to assure this committee that we will always maintain the ability to protect the United States, but staying in Afghanistan is not an end in and of itself. Our goal for Afghanistan is a nation at peace — with itself and its neighbors — and firmly aligned with the United States and our allies against international terrorism.”

Khalilzad reiterated that the conflict in Afghanistan is especially complex, and negotiators will have to overcome personal interests and political differences while representing diverse constituencies. 

“We expect that there will be setbacks and obstacles. This task has required a diverse and dynamic team, made up of State Department Foreign Service Officers, civil servants, and detailees from across the US government. We have also partnered closely and effectively with the Department of Defense, especially General Scott Miller, the commanding general of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan. 

“This whole-of-government effort reflects the best of American diplomacy,” he said. 

Khalilzad was appointed as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation in September 2018, with a mandate to find a diplomatic formula to bring an end to America’s longest war, reduce the burden on the US military and taxpayer, provide the best chance for a unified and representative Afghanistan at peace and to ensure terrorists can never us Afghan soil to threaten the security of the United States or its allies again. 

After 18 months of intense diplomacy, two milestones have been achieved – the US-Taliban agreement in February and the start of Afghan peace talks which are currently underway in Doha. 



Elon Musk begins Twitter poll on reinstating Trump’s account



(Last Updated On: November 19, 2022)

Twitter owner Elon Musk launched a poll Friday on the social media platform asking if former US President Donald Trump should be allowed back on the platform.

“Reinstate former President Trump,” Musk wrote in a post which garnered more than 4.4 million impressions at the time of publication, Anadolu Agency reported.

More than 55% of users voted “yes,” while 44% said “no.”

Hours earlier, the American billionaire implied that he was mulling whether to reinstate Trump’s Twitter account.

“Trump decision has not yet been made,” tweeted Musk, as he announced three high-profile reinstatements of accounts that were banned by the social media giant.

“Kathie Griffin, Jorden Peterson & Babylon Bee have been reinstated,” said Musk.

Trump had about 88.8 million followers when Twitter permanently suspended the former US president’s account in January 2021, citing his role in the Jan. 6 riot at the US Capitol and the potential for more violence.

Musk had forecast a Trump return in May when he called the expulsion “morally wrong and flat-out stupid.”

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IEA says it has eradicated war and corruption in Afghanistan



(Last Updated On: November 17, 2022)

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhund, said at a meeting on Wednesday with officials from the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war and administrative corruption in the country and pave the ground for progress and development.

He said that the Organization of Islamic Cooperation has created an aid fund for Afghanistan and they will help Afghanistan in health, education, and other fields in addition to humanitarian aid.

An OIC official meanwhile said it will stand by Afghanistan and we will continue its cooperation with Afghanistan in the areas of prosperity, stability, and development.

The Prime Minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, Mullah Muhammad Hassan Akhund, meanwhile welcomed the delegation of the OIC, and said, “You will see the real facts and the efforts of the Islamic Emirate in various sectors.”

He said that the Islamic Emirate has been able to eliminate war, insecurity, murder, destruction, and corruption in the country.

In conclusion, the IEA will not allow anyone to use Afghanistan soil against other countries, he said. 


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Explosion in busy Istanbul street leaves at least 4 dead



(Last Updated On: November 13, 2022)

An explosion on Istanbul’s popular pedestrian Istiklal Avenue on Sunday afternoon has left at least four people dead and a number of people injured, a senior official told Associated Press.

Istanbul Governor Ali Yerlikaya tweeted that the explosion occurred at about 4:20 p.m. Istanbul time and that there were deaths and injuries, but he did not say how many. The cause of the explosion was not clear.

Al Jazeera also reported at least four people were killed and 38 others injured.

However, according to the Associated Press, Turkey’s media watchdog imposed a temporary media ban on reporting of the explosion, which means broadcasters cannot show videos of the moment of the blast or its aftermath. 

The Supreme Board of Radio and Television has imposed similar bans in the past, following attacks, accidents and some political issues.

Footage on social media showed ambulances, fire trucks and police at the scene. Social media users said shops were shuttered and the avenue closed down.

Broadcaster CNN Turk meanwhile reported 11 people were injured. 

The avenue is a crowded thoroughfare popular with tourists and locals, lined by shops and restaurants.

Turkey was hit by a string of deadly bombings between 2015 and 2017 by ISIS (Daesh) and outlawed Kurdish groups.


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