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US special envoy says dialogue with IEA has been ‘honest and productive’

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US Special Representative for Afghanistan, Thomas West has said discussions with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) have been productive and that talks on ISIS (Daesh) have been more candid.

Speaking at the US Institute for Peace, West described discussions with the IEA as “relatively honest and productive” and that conversations regarding counterterrorism and Daesh have “become more honest and more candid”.

“I believe that the Taliban (IEA) are sincere in their efforts to contain [ISIS-Khorasan Province],” West said.

West also stated that “the Taliban (IEA) has no interest in co-operating with the United States when it comes to fulfilment of their commitments to the Doha agreement”, which required the group to cut ties with Al Qaeda.

In addition, he acknowledged “positive statements from Taliban (IEA) leaders about a readiness to see the enrolment of women and girls at all levels across large swaths of the country after [the holiday of] Nowruz” next month. However he cautioned that “statements are not enough”.

Still, he said it is “encouraging that the Taliban (IEA) have said they will support an independent verification mechanism” to ensure girls and women are actually enrolled in educational institutions in the country.

“The Taliban (IEA) will make the decision to enrol women and girls at all levels not out of a response to international pressure at all,” said West adding that “this is a genuine domestic Afghan demand and a basic human right that we hear from across the country.”

West also said he had discussed the issue of the frozen reserves and US President Joe Biden’s decision with several Afghan economists as well as officials who had served in the central bank and finance ministry under the defunct US-backed government.

“The consistent opinion that I hear is that it would be not a good use of these resources to channel them through the United Nations and for humanitarian assistance,” said West.

“Rather, this $3.5bn represents the potential recapitalization of a future central bank, and that is recognized, and the future recapitalization of the financial system.”

He noted the Taliban (IEA) will have no input in deciding how to use the money, but said “professional Afghans” would be involved in the decision-making process.

The freeze on federal reserves has prompted Afghan banks to limit withdrawals, further compounding the cash crisis and driving up the cost of food and consumer goods amid a drought.

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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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NRC chief calls for donors’ diplomatic presence in Kabul

Earlier, Hugh Bayley, a commissioner for the official UK aid watchdog, also called for a British diplomatic presence in Kabul to support Afghan women and monitor aid.

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Jan Egeland, head of Norwegian Refugee Council, said on Friday that donor countries should send diplomats back to Kabul and join in the fight for women’s rights, girls’ education and minority protection.

Earlier, Hugh Bayley, a commissioner for the official UK aid watchdog, also called for a British diplomatic presence in Kabul to support Afghan women and monitor aid.

“Yes, the UK and other donors should send diplomats back to Kabul and join us there to fight for women’s rights, girls education and minority protection,” Egeland said on X. “As humanitarian groups we are too alone, underfunded and overstretched among the 40 million civilians NATO left behind in 2021.”

With the takeover of Afghanistan by the Islamic Emirate in August 2021, Western countries pulled their diplomats out of the country.

No state recognises the Islamic Emirate as the Afghan government, although countries including Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and India have opened diplomatic missions in Kabul.

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