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Afghan forces need US assistance to combat Taliban: Special Ops General

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(Last Updated On: March 26, 2021)

General Richard Clarke, chief of US Special Operations Command, said on Thursday that the Afghan security forces need US assistance to successfully counter the Taliban and other threats Afghanistan faces.

Addressing the Senate Armed Services Committee, Clarke said: “The capabilities that the US provides for the Afghans to be able to combat the Taliban and other threats that reside in Afghanistan are critical to their success.

According to Military Times, Clarke declined to provide any details of possible options he has outlined to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on how he could provide needed counterterrorism troops or capabilities if special operations forces are not physically in Afghanistan.

Clarke noted that no decision has been made about the withdrawal, adding that “we will always provide options” to deter or defeat al-Qaeda, Daesh or other terrorism threats.

Referring to his recent visit to Afghanistan, Clarke said: “Progress has been made and I found a very capable commander.”

Violence by the Taliban and other insurgent groups like al-Qaeda has remained high in the country despite peace efforts, which include the signing of the US-Taliban deal in Doha in February last year and the September start of peace talks between the Afghan Republic’s team and the Taliban. .

After coming into power, the new Biden administration announced it was reviewing the deal signed by former president Donald Trump’s administration.

Biden has stated despite the looming May 1 troop withdrawal deadline that this agreement is still under review.

With only five weeks to go before the deadline, speculation has been mounting that Biden will seek to extend the troop presence and to leave counterterrorism troops in the country.

On Thursday, Biden said it will be hard to meet the May 1 deadline for getting all troops out of Afghanistan for “tactical reasons.”

“We will leave–the question is when we leave,” he said.

Asked if he envisioned US troops in Afghanistan a year from now, Biden said, “I can’t picture that being the case.”

According to a Reuters report the US Secretary of State Tony Blinken is meeting with NATO allies in Brussels this week. Biden also referred to the Afghanistan visit of US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.

There’s an UN-led process that’s beginning shortly on how to end this war, he said.

“It is not my intention to stay there for a long time. But the question is how and on what circumstances do we meet that agreement that was made by President Trump, But we are not staying a long time,” Biden said.

Reuters also reported that Germany has decided to extend its military mission in Afghanistan beyond the May 1 deadline. .

According to Reuters, German lawmakers approved late on Thursday a new mandate which allows the German military to keep up to 1,300 troops in Afghanistan as part of a NATO mission until Jan 31, 2022.

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Public Works on track with new road linking Badakhshan to China

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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

The Ministry of Public works said Tuesday that construction of a road, connecting Afghanistan’s Badakhshan province to China, is underway and 15 percent of the project has been completed.

The Ministry said in a statement, the construction of a 49.7km unpaved road has started from Bozhai Gonbad Khord Pamir in Badakhshan and extends to the end of the Wakhan corridor close to the border with China.

The Ministry stated that the project is part of the government’s future plan for boosting regional transit that “brings Afghanistan steps closer to regional connectivity and economic policy.”

The project, at a cost of more than 369 million AFN, will be funded by the government, the statement said.

According to the statement, the impassable mountainous Wakhan corridor, which is a narrow strip of territory in Badakhshan province that extends to China and separates Tajikistan from Pakistan and Kashmir, would be connected to China via the road.

The Ministry of Public Works stated that the road, which will eventually be paved, will be the Wakhan Route and will “not only be a shortcut between China and Afghanistan…but will also help tourists reach Wakhan National Park.”

Historically, Badakhshan is a region comprising parts of what is now north-eastern Afghanistan, eastern Tajikistan, and the Tashkurgan county in China. However, the name is retained by Afghanistan in Badakhshan Province.

Located in northeastern Afghanistan, Badakhshan is bordered by Tajikistan, Pakistan and China.

Most of the province is occupied by the Hindu Kush and Pamir mountain ranges.

Once Badakhshan was a stopover on the ancient Silk Road trading path but the Wakhan corridor has been closed to regular traffic for over a century as there is no modern road.

There is a rough track for a few dozen kilometers that was built in the 1960s, but for much of the way, to the Chinese border, there are only rough paths.

The remoteness of the region has meant that, despite the long-running wars of Afghanistan since the late 1970s, the region has remained virtually untouched by conflict and many locals, who are mostly composed of ethnic Pamir and Kyrgyz, are not aware of wars in the country.

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US destroys unwanted gear and sells it as scrap

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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

Angry scrapyard owners in Afghanistan have spoken out about the US military destroying equipment as they pack up ahead of the final withdrawal.

Inside one scrapyard, owned by Baba Mir, close to Bagram Air Base, lies the twisted remains of several all-terrain vehicles, The Associated Press (AP) reported.

Alongside these lie smashed shards that were once generators, tank tracks and mountains of tents that have been reduced to sliced up fabric.

Anything they are not shipping home or giving to the Afghans, the Americans are destroying.

Officials have said in the past that they are destroying the equipment so it does not fall into militant hands.

But, according to AP, Mir and other scrap sellers around Bagram have said it is an infuriating waste.

“What they are doing is a betrayal of Afghans. They should leave,” said Mir. “Like they have destroyed this vehicle, they have destroyed us.”

AP reports that as the last few thousand US and NATO troops withdraw, they leave behind many Afghans who are frustrated and angry.

They feel abandoned to a legacy they blame at least in part on the Americans — a deeply corrupt US-backed government and growing instability that could burst into a brutal new phase of civil war.

AP reported that the scrapyard owners are angry in part because they could have profited more from selling intact equipment.

According to AP, US officials are being secretive about what stays and what goes. Most of what is being shipped home is sensitive equipment never intended to stay behind, say US Defense and Western officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Other equipment including helicopters, military vehicles, weapons and ammunition will be handed over to Afghanistan’s National Defense and Security Forces and some bases will be given to them as well.

One of those most recently handed over was the New Antonik base in Helmand province, where Taliban are said to control roughly 80% of the rural area.

AP reports that destined for the scrap heap are equipment and vehicles that can neither be repaired nor transferred to Afghanistan’s security forces because of poor condition.

This is not however the first time this has happened. The same was done in 2014, when thousands of troops withdrew as the US and NATO handed Afghanistan’s security over to Afghans.

More than 176 million kilograms of scrap from destroyed equipment and vehicles was sold to Afghans for $46.5 million, a spokeswoman for the military’s Defense Logistics Agency in Virginia said at the time.

The Associated Press reported that last month, around the time President Joe Biden announced that America was ending it’s “forever war,” Mir paid nearly $40,000 for a container packed with 70 tons of trashed equipment.

He’ll make money, he told AP, but it will be a fraction of what he could have made selling the vehicles if they’d been left intact, even if they weren’t in running condition.

The parts would have been sold to the legions of auto repair shops across Afghanistan, he said. That can’t happen now. They’ve been reduced to mangled pieces of metal that Mir sells for a few thousand Afghanis.

Sadat, another scrap dealer in Bagram, says similar scrap yards around the country are crammed with ruined US equipment.

“They left us nothing,” he said. “They don’t trust us. They have destroyed our country. They are giving us only destruction.”

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US indicates Daesh might have been behind deadly school bombing

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(Last Updated On: May 11, 2021)

The US State Department said Monday ISIS (Daesh) could possibly have been behind the deadly school bombing in Kabul that left over 80 people, mostly schoolgirls, dead.

In a press briefing, the department’s spokesman Ned Price said there are some indications that Daesh was behind the attack.

“We are still looking into what or who is responsible, but I would note that ISIS has been responsible for similar attacks on Shia communities in Kabul in the past,” he said.

“We note the Taliban has denied involvement in the attack, and we welcome their announcement of a three-day ceasefire over the upcoming Eid holiday.

“We call on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to engage seriously in the ongoing peace process to ensure the Afghan people enjoy a future free of terrorism and of senseless violence,” he said.

He went on to say that although the United States is withdrawing its troops, America is not disengaging from Afghanistan. He said Washington “will continue to use our diplomatic, economic, and humanitarian toolset to ensure that the gains of the past 20 years, particularly those made by women, girls, and minorities, are preserved.”

Price pointed out that in leaving Afghanistan, it was only “a military withdrawal”.

Quoting US President Joe Biden, Price said: “As the President has said, we will be withdrawing our military forces, except those required for the protection of our embassy in Kabul. And that’s the other important point: We are going to retain an embassy in Kabul precisely though – so that we can continue to partner and to provide support for not only the Government of Afghanistan, but the people of Afghanistan.

He stated that the circumstances of the bombing at the school on Saturday “are not yet crystal clear. As I said before, there are some indications that this may have been attributable to ISIS and not the Taliban.”

Price also stated that Washington has “long been concerned about the growth of ISIS in Afghanistan”.

“As you know, we have had a military presence in Afghanistan to see to it that the country could not be used as a staging ground to attack the United States, to propel force beyond – well beyond Afghanistan’s borders. We have been able to accomplish that goal.

“We continue to have important humanitarian goals when it comes to Afghanistan. We will continue to carry out and to move forward with those objectives, even as our military withdraws from the country,” he said.

Special Immigrant Visa Program

Price also noted that as the US withdraws, they will keep “adequate resources in the region and over-the-horizon capacity should threats emerge that require us to leverage the use of force.”

On the issue of visas for interpreters who have worked for the US military, Price said that serious attention was being given to the Special Immigrant Visa Program.

He said Washington has “added resources to help process the special immigrant visa applicants, knowing that as the United States, we have a special responsibility to those who have helped us along the way, who have helped the US military, who have helped the US government, oftentimes placing themselves in harm’s way.

“Our commitment to these people, to these individuals will continue, and we are doing all we can to process them as expeditiously as we can,” he said.

In answer to a question, Price added: “We have been acting with the utmost urgency knowing that, again, we have a special responsibility to the women and men who have, in many cases, placed themselves in harm’s way to assist the US government over the years.”

He said additional resources, including augmenting domestic staff in Washington to process applications, has already been put in place. In addition, the US has approved a temporary increase in consular staffing at the embassy in Kabul in order to conduct interviews and process visa applications,” Price said.

“And we’ll continue to do that contingent on the security situation in the country. We will continue to look for ways to speed up this process, to facilitate the processing of – for these brave individuals.”

Welcoming the three-day ceasefire announced by the Taliban for the Eid holidays, Price said they “urge the Taliban to extend the ceasefire and order a significant reduction in violence.

“We all know that a return to violence would be senseless as well as tragic. We remind the Taliban that engaging in violence will not afford it legitimacy or durability. That has been our point all along. Engaging in serious negotiations to determine a political roadmap for Afghanistan’s future that leads to a just and durable settlement will,” he said.

He said it was in no one’s interest for Afghanistan to once again devolve into civil war. “It’s not in the Taliban’s interests, it’s not in the Government of Afghanistan’s interests, it’s not in the interests of Afghanistan’s neighbors, and it’s certainly not in the interests of the people of Afghanistan.”

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