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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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UN’s special rapporteur in Afghanistan to assess human rights situation

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(Last Updated On: May 18, 2022)

Richard Bennett, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of Human Rights in Afghanistan is currently in the country and has already met with the IEA’s foreign minister, Amir Khan Muttaqi.

Bennett who is in Afghanistan on a 10-day visit, is expected to engage with Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials, international and national representatives of NGOs and other organizations, members of civil society and other stakeholders to discuss the human rights situation in Afghanistan.

The IEA meanwhile said Bennett provided information on the purpose of his visit to Muttaqi at their meeting and outlined his mission.

Muttaqi briefed Bennett on the religious and cultural values and cultural characteristics of the Afghan people so that he could take this into consideration while assessing the situation.

In a recent statement, ahead of his arrival in Afghanistan, Bennett said he would engage with the authorities and a broad range of stakeholders to assess the situation of human rights, including with regard to the implementation of obligations under international human rights instruments ratified by Afghanistan, and to offer assistance to address and prevent violations and abuses.

The Special Rapporteur is an independent expert appointed by the Human Rights Council. Bennett, who was appointed on April 1, official resumed duties on May 1.

Bennett will also conduct field visits while in Afghanistan and will deliver his findings in a report to the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly later in the year.

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IEA approves working process to bring exiled Afghan politicians home

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(Last Updated On: May 17, 2022)

Organization procedures for the commission tasked with getting Afghan politicians and former government officials living abroad to return home have been approved by the leadership of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan and the commission is expected to start work soon.

It was decided at a recent meeting that the commission’s operational procedures will be announced at a special ceremony in the near future.

“In this commission, all faces, whether women or men, will be contacted, and everyone’s return plan is ready for the patriotic figures to be returned,” said Hassan Haqyar, a close allie of the IEA.

But some political activists have raised questions about the future of any returning exiled Afghans.

The have asked if the politicians for instance will be allowed to carry on with work as previously or whether they will have to give up politics and find another occupation.

The same goes for former government employees.

“We call on the Emirate, in order to implement the plan of this commission, to facilitate the work and activity of these figures again, and there must be a guarantee for everyone who returns, because everyone must see themselves in the mirror of the government,” said Sayed Jawad Hussaine, political analyst.

However, Iran, which hosts a number of former politicians has once again called for the establishment of an inclusive government in Afghanistan.

Recently, Anas Haqqani, a member of the commission, said that about 50 former government officials have so far returned to Afghanistan and that efforts are underway to bring back other political figures.

The meeting of the Commission for the Return of Politicians and Former Government Officials was meanwhile convened shortly after former President Hamid Karzai was ordered to not leave the country.

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India mulls reopening embassy in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: May 17, 2022)

India is exploring the possibility of reopening its embassy in Afghanistan, but without high-level diplomatic representation, an Indian newspaper reported on Tuesday.

A team of Indian security officials visited Kabul in February to assess the situation, the Indian Express reported.

The paper said that the embassy will likely function only with personnel for liaison purposes that may extend to consular services.

India, like many other countries, closed its embassy in Kabul after the Islamic Emirate took over Afghanistan on August 15 last year.

Pakistan, China, Russia and Iran were the only countries that did not close their embassies in Kabul during the takeover.

Some 16 countries have now reopened their embassies in Kabul.

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