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US troops begin packing up gear ahead of withdrawal

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(Last Updated On: April 22, 2021)

The U.S. military has begun shipping equipment and winding down contracts with local service providers ahead of the May 1 start of the final phase of its military pullout from Afghanistan, a U.S. Defense Department official said Thursday, The Associated Press reported.

Currently, 2,500 U.S. soldiers and about 7,000 NATO forces are still in Afghanistan.

In February last year, the U.S. military began closing its smaller bases. In mid-April, the Biden administration announced that the final phase of the withdrawal would begin May 1 and be completed before September 11.

Since then, the military has been shipping equipment and winding down local contracts for services such as trash pickup and maintenance work, the U.S. official told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with briefing regulations.

While preparations are under way, troops likely won’t begin to depart for a few weeks, he said, adding that “we won’t see a coming down of the (troop) numbers” until remaining bases close.

There have been indications that the pullout could be completed well before September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

On Wednesday, Germany’s Defense Ministry said discussions are underway among military planners with the NATO-led Resolute Support Mission in Kabul for a possible withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan as early as July 4.

AP reported in the short term, America will likely increase its troop presence in Afghanistan. The additional troops would be in Afghanistan over the coming weeks and months to help with the herculean task of wrapping up 20 years of war.

While much of the equipment headed back to the U.S. will be shipped by air, the military will also use land routes through Pakistan and north through Central Asia, the Defense Department official told AP.

The U.S. equipment that is neither shipped back to America nor given to the Afghan National Security forces will be sold to contractors, who will, in turn, sell it in the local markets.

“You’ll most likely start seeing it eventually showing up in bazaars as scrap,” said the official.

The Taliban, meanwhile, were non-committal when asked by AP whether the insurgents would attack departing U.S. and NATO troops. “It’s too early for these issues, nothing can be said about the future,” said Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem.

In a deal the Taliban signed last year with former President Donald Trump, the final U.S. withdrawal deadline was set as May 1. Under the agreement, the Taliban promised not to attack U.S. and NATO troops but they also later promised “consequences” if Washington defied the May 1 deadline.

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Peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential: Erdogan

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday highlighted the importance of peace and stability in Afghanistan, saying it is essential in terms of threats and risks.

“Peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential in terms of common threats and risks, beyond our humanitarian duty for our Afghan brothers,” Erdogan said in a joint press conference with Pakistan’s prime minister in Ankara.

Erdogan said Turkey and Pakistan will continue to work together to “eliminate the effects of the humanitarian crisis faced by the Afghan people.”

The Turkish leader also commented on the situation in Afghanistan as he said establishing “peace and stability in Afghanistan is essential in terms of common threats and risks, beyond our humanitarian duty for our Afghan brothers.”

He said they will continue to work together to “eliminate the effects of the humanitarian crisis faced by the Afghan people.”

Erdogan also pointed to the solidarity and mutual cooperation between Turkey and Pakistan and reiterated Ankara’s support for Islamabad’s counter-terrorism efforts.

“We have always seen Pakistan’s pain as our pain, its joy as our joy and its success as our success,” he said.

For his part, Pakistani PM Shahbaz Sharif proposed extending the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), inviting Turkey to join the multi-billion-dollar project.

“China and Pakistan are great friends and we are experiencing and enjoying the benefits of the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor under the Belt and Road Initiative of (Chinese) President Xi (Jinping). I would suggest let this be a cooperation between China, Pakistan, and Türkiye,” Sharif said, calling it a “wonderful joint cooperation.”

Sharif also said such cooperation among the three nations “will bring prosperity and progress in this entire region.”

“This will help the alleviation of poverty and unemployment. This will promote education and this is how we can really meet the challenges of today,” the Pakistani prime minister said.

Sharif said he will be “very happy” to talk to his “Chinese friends.”

“If we can move in this direction, I think, this would be a wonderful opportunity to really capitalise” he added.

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UN, Uzbekistan discuss Int’l Group to negotiate with IEA government

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

Deputy head of UNAMA and Uzbekistan’s foreign minister have discussed implementing an initiative to set up an International Group to negotiate with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government.

“We discussed situation in Afghanistan, implementing initiative to set up an International Group to negotiate with Afghan government to agree algorithm for the earliest fulfilling of mutual obligations of the parties,” Uzbekistan’s Foreign Minister Vladimir Norov said on Twitter Friday.

Meanwhile, UNAMA said on Friday its deputy head Markus Potzel concluded his series of meetings with government officials in Tajikistan and Uzbekistan on additional regional support to the Afghan people.

“UNAMA will continue its work with all regional actors to assist efforts for a meaningful peace in Afghanistan,” UNAMA said on Twitter.

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UN rights agency’s remarks on floggings an insult to Islam: IEA

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2022)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) on Friday condemned remarks by a spokesperson of the UN Human Rights Office on floggings and said the comments were an insult to Islam.

Ravina Shamdasani, a spokesperson for the UN Human Rights Office, in a statement on Friday said the agency was “appalled by mass floggings in public by the de facto authorities of 14 people in Logar province on Wednesday, and calls for this abhorrent form of punishment to cease immediately.”

The statement added that corporal punishment constitutes a form of “cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, which is prohibited under both the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.”

The statement noted that Afghanistan is a State party to both.

Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for IEA, reacted and said that the remarks were an “insult to Islam and violation of international principles.”

“Countries and organizations should not allow self-interested people to make irresponsible and provoking remarks on Islam and its rules on their behalf,” Mujahid said on Twitter.

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