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17 bodies of drowned Afghan refugees returned home from Turkey to date: MoFA

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: July 30, 2020)

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday that the bodies of 17 Afghan migrants who drowned in Lake Van in Turkey have been repatriated so far. 

The Ministry identified 34 Afghan citizens who drowned along with dozens of migrants after their boat capsized in the lake last month. 

The Ministry said, so far, 61 bodies in total have been recovered from the lake. 

Giran Hiwad, a spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said that five victims have been buried in Van city in Turkey, adding that the remains of six other victims had also been buried but exhumed and will return to Kabul on Thursday at the request of relatives. 

Six more bodies were currently in mortuaries in Istanbul in Turkey and will also be sent back to Kabul, said Hiwad. 

According to reports, around 80 migrants mostly from Iran and Afghanistan were crossing Van Lake on a fishing boat from Iran, trying to avoid police checkpoints on the highways, on their way to Turkey. 

Turkey, which is a key crossing point for migrants attempting to reach Europe, hosts about 3.7 million Syrian refugees.


Gov’t calls for end to Afghan peace talks ‘censorship’

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

The Ministry of Information and Culture on Wednesday spoke out against the lack of information coming out of the Doha peace talks and said the Afghan media should also have a place at the talks table. 

Addressing a press conference in Kabul Abdul Manan Shiway-e Sharq, the Deputy Minister of Information and Culture said in order to preserve post-Taliban regime achievements,  representatives of the Afghan media should have an active role in the Afghan Peace Negotiations (APN). 

Sharq also called on government and the Taliban to not censor the process.

Very few details have been revealed in the past 10 days – since the start of the talks – and only occasional snippets of information are released to the media by both sides.

 “According to the Right to Information Act, as the Access to Information and Commission exists, and according to mass media code, censorship is against the law,” Sharq said.

He said government is committed to upholding freedom of speech, “therefore, we demand both the leadership of Afghanistan as well as the negotiators of the Taliban in Doha determine the position of the Afghan media in the peace talks.”

Even living in the age of digital technology, Sharq stated that what happens behind closed doors must not be censored and that Afghan journalists should also be allowed to cover the process.

“Media is considered and regarded as the fourth estate of democracy and democratic society,” he said.

“The Ministry of Information and Culture’s position is that censorship must be put aside, the media should have the right to cover anything that happens during the negotiations and representatives of the Afghan media should have an active presence around the negotiations table so that they preserve their rights.”

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Abdullah to visit Pakistan, says both sides have ‘grievances’

Ariana News



(Last Updated On: September 23, 2020)

Chairman of the High Council for Afghanistan Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah said he will visit Pakistan within the next few days – the first time since 2008 – and implied issues between the two countries need to be ironed out. 

He said there is a “lot of mistrust, founded or unfounded,” and that there are “lots of grievances on both sides”, adding that the two countries need to work together as there have been many missed opportunities over the past 40 years. 

Addressing a virtual conference of the US Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday, Abdullah also said some of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners freed over the past two months have returned to the battlefield, which is in violation of the US-Taliban agreement signed in February. 

He did say however that he did not know how many ex-prisoners had taken up arms again, but did not think it was the majority.

“But I do know that some have returned to the battlefield, which is a violation of the agreement that they had made. I do know that this has happened. I have examples in some areas, and these people have started insurgency in those – in those areas once they left. But I would say that the majority have not returned to the battlefield. That might be – that might be the right assessment. But some have.”

He also pointed out the current level of violence in the country is very high.

“At the moment, unfortunately, the level of violence is very high. The number of security incidents initiated by the Taliban in different parts of the country has increased, not decreased.

“And it’s important – and that was part of my message yesterday in the – in the Universal Day for Peace – that while the negotiations continue and we assume that both sides have participated in good faith in those negotiations, it’s critical that we see a reduction in violence in order to be able to maintain the popular support for the peace process on the ground. Otherwise, the people of Afghanistan will not – will not understand.”

Abdullah also explained that no one expects or anticipates a comprehensive peace deal to be signed with the Taliban within a “few days”. 

“We know that it will take time. But at the same time, since the aim of this is to achieve peace and stability throughout the country, we need to prove it in practice as well that what we can do is reduction – significant reduction in violence.”

He stated the Afghan government’s position on the need for a reduction in violence was very clear. 

“But unfortunately, so far the level of violence is very high and to a level that is not acceptable for the people.”

Again he repeated his call to the Taliban and to all partners who have leverage over the Taliban to reiterate the need for less violence. 

“But the way forward is to realize that these extremist terrorist elements which are taking advantage of the situation, like al-Qaeda and ISIS, or any other terrorist organization, are not serving any country’s interest. They’re only after the opportunities. 

“And when the war ends, these groups will not have a foothold. Otherwise, they will turn against any other – any country that they want, of their choice. They will choose it for themselves. That is – that is what we need to focus on and that will be the focus of our get-together – or my visit to Pakistan, which will be official visit, and I’ll see what the leadership in Pakistan and the leaders of the institutions there [say],” he said.

Differences Clear

On the current talks underway in Doha, Abdullah said they had “started well” and the atmosphere between the two teams, considering their differences, is healthy. 

He said the Afghan team senses a “willingness” on the part of the Taliban to take advantage of the opportunity and to contribute. 

“Nobody can ignore all the complexities involved…both sides come from two different worldviews – views about the life, about rights of citizens, about the – our vision of our own country, and all of that. 

“And at the same time, we have come together with all those differences to find a way to live in peace with one another and maintain our differences of views and let the people decide about it in the future, but at the same time put an – put an end to the misery of the people which have continued for so long,” he said. 

He stated there “will be spoilers around. There will be people which may worry about certain things. But as a whole, I can say that the people of Afghanistan are hopeful. At the same time, they have concerns. Do we go back to the old days? What happens to the – to the gains of the people of Afghanistan, which is as a result of too many sacrifices here from us Afghans and our friends and partners? 

“And can we – can we get to a point where, while maintaining our views and way of life, agree to live in peace within a country – a sovereign country without allowing terrorist groups, without resorting to violence, and then compete for our ideas peacefully and politically?”

He said the flip side of the coin was if the two sides don’t reach an agreement, then the “continuation of the agony, misery, suffering, migration, and all sorts of other situations that we have been through. That will continue.”

So it’s a moment of being hopeful, but at the same time one shouldn’t lose sight of all those risks which are involved, he said adding that “eventually and ultimately, the absolute majority of our people are for a dignified, durable peace, a country which is unified and does not harbor terrorist groups and respects the rights of its own citizens and contributes to the wellbeing of its own people.”

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US peace envoy: Taliban have not complied with their commitments

Ariana News



(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. 


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