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US to keep about 650 troops in Afghanistan after withdrawal

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2021)

The United States is expected to keep roughly 650 American troops in Afghanistan to provide security for diplomats after the main US military force completes its withdrawal, which is set to be largely done in the next two weeks, US officials told The Associated Press on Thursday.

In addition, several hundred additional American forces will remain at the Kabul airport, potentially until September, to assist Turkish troops providing security, as a temporary move until a more formal Turkey-led security operation is in place, the officials said.

Overall, officials said the US expects to have American and coalition military command, its leadership and most troops out by July Fourth, or shortly after that, meeting an aspirational deadline that commanders developed months ago.

The officials were not authorized to discuss details of the withdrawal and spoke to AP on condition of anonymity.

AP reported the departure of the bulk of the more than 4,000 troops that have been in the country in recent months is unfolding well before President Joe Biden’s September 11 deadline for withdrawal. And it comes amid accelerating Taliban battlefield gains, fueling fears that the Afghan government and its military could collapse in a matter of months.

In a statement Thursday night, Pentagon press secretary John Kirby said that as Biden has ordered, the US will complete the withdrawal by early September. “Nothing has changed about that goal.” Kirby said.

“The situation is dynamic, and we review our progress daily. Speculation by unnamed sources about potential changes to that timeline should not be construed as predictive.”

On Friday, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah, chair of the High Council for National Reconciliation, are meeting with Biden at the White House. The two Afghan leaders also are to meet at the Pentagon with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and possibly other administration officials, the Pentagon announced.

AP reported that getting most troops out by early July had been in doubt because of complications including an outbreak of COVID-19 at the US Embassy and the push to get Afghan interpreters and others who helped the US out of the country.

Officials said US commanders and NATO allies in Afghanistan have been able to overcome logistical hurdles that might have prolonged the withdrawal process. But they also warned that plans in place for the final stages of the US military withdrawal could change if airport security agreements fall through or there are other major, unforeseen developments.

AP reported that as recently as last week, there was discussion of possibly extending the US troop presence at Bagram Airfield, north of Kabul, but officials said the US presence at the base is expected to end in the next several days.

The roughly 650 US troops that are planned to be a more permanent force presence in Afghanistan will provide security for the US Embassy and some ongoing support at the airport, AP reported.

Officials also said the US has agreed to leave a C-RAM — or Counter-Rocket, Artillery, Mortar system — at the airport, as well as troops to operate it, as part of an agreement with Turkey. The US also plans to leave aircrew for helicopter support at the airport.

According to the officials, Turkey has largely agreed to provide security at the airport as long as it receives support from American forces. U.S. and Turkish military officials are meeting in Ankara this week to finalize arrangements.

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Baradar meets with Bayat chairman to discuss continued investment in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

The deputy prime minister of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) for economic affairs, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, met with Dr Ehsanollah Bayat, the chairman of the Bayat Group and its subsidiary the Bayat Foundation, this weekend to discuss the company’s future plans regarding ongoing investment in the country.

The Bayat Group is Afghanistan’s largest private diversified services company, comprising telecoms, media, energy, technology and other enterprises, while the Bayat Foundation provides life saving aid to Afghans in times of need as well as health services.

In their meeting Saturday, Baradar and Dr Bayat discussed investment possibilities in a number of sectors.

According to Baradar’s office, Dr Bayat said he was ready to invest in Afghanistan in the health, electricity and telecommunications sectors.

In a series of tweets, Baradar’s office noted that the deputy prime minister told Dr Bayat in the meeting: “We appreciate and support all the efforts of businessmen and investors in the economic reconstruction of the country.”

He added: “Anyone who invests in Afghanistan and provides job opportunities for the people, we will support him and assure them of their security in the country.”

Baradar also thanked Dr Bayat for the services being provided by the Bayat Group and by the Bayat Foundation.

From 4G LTE communications to electric power, broadcasting, high speed internet, construction and mobile money, The Bayat Group builds market-leading enterprises that provide Afghans with innovative and popular products and services.

A champion of Afghan-based economic development, The Bayat Group provides employment to more than 10,000 Afghans through its direct operations and employs more than 100,000 other Afghan citizens through its ecosystem of dealers and vendors.

The foundation, which was started in 2006, has meanwhile helped rebuild Afghanistan as well as deliver hope and support to the neediest and most at-risk Afghans.

Involved in building mosques, and in the health care and education sectors, the foundation also answers to calls following natural disasters and times of human suffering.

A key example of the type of assistance provided by the Bayat Foundation was in the aftermath of last week’s earthquake in Paktika and Khost provinces.

Within hours of Wednesday’s quake, the foundation had dispatched not only essential relief including shelter, blankets and food, but also a team of doctors and a mobile clinic with life saving medicines to treat the injured.

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China pledges over $7 million in aid for quake victims

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

China’s ambassador to Kabul Wang Yu met with Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi and said his country would provide emergency aid worth 50 million Yuan ($7.5 million) for victims of last week’s earthquake. 

At a meeting on Saturday in Kabul, Wang also said that MCC Mes Aynak copper mining contractor would provide $200,000 in aid. 

Wang said on Twitter: “Chinese enterprises will definitely fulfill their social responsibilities. The friendship between 2 countries and peoples will be further strengthened.”

Muttaqi thanked the Chinese government and people for the timely assistance and assured Wang that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) authorities would distribute the aid promptly, fairly and transparently, state-run Bakhtar news agency reported. 

Aid provided by China will include tents, sheets, fold up beds, and other items urgently needed by the Afghan people. The first batch of aid is scheduled to arrive by charter flight on Monday, Bakhtar reported.

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Thousands of earthquake victims in need of water and food, at risk of disease

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(Last Updated On: June 26, 2022)

Thousands affected by a deadly earthquake in eastern Afghanistan are in need of clean water and food and are at risk of disease, an Afghan Health Ministry official said on Sunday days after a United Nations agency warned of a cholera outbreak in the region.

At least 1,000 people were killed, 2,000 injured and 10,000 homes destroyed in last Wednesday’s earthquake, after which the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) warned that cholera outbreaks in the aftermath are of particular and serious concern.

“The people are extremely needy for food and clean water,” Afghanistan Health Ministry spokesperson Sharafat Zaman told Reuters, adding that officials had managed medicines for now but handling those who had lost their homes would be a challenge.

“We ask the international community, humanitarian organizations to help us for food and medicine, the survivor might catch diseases because they don’t have proper houses and shelters for living,” he said.

The UN and several countries have rushed aid to the affected areas, with more due to arrive over the coming days.

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