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Afghanistan worst place in the world for women and children: UN

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(Last Updated On: September 4, 2020)

The Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), Deborah Lyons, said Thursday Afghanistan remains the worst country for women and children.

“Despite significant progress in the last two decades, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places in the world to be a woman, and one of the worst to be a child,” she briefed the Security Council on the situation in Afghanistan.

She said that the level of violence on the battlefield remains deeply worrying.

“The last few weeks have seen near-record numbers of security incidents, including egregious attacks by spoilers targeting civilians involved in the peace process.”

Deborah calls on all warring parties to reduce the level of violence.

It comes as the main obstacle, the prisoner swap process between the Afghan government and the Taliban, ahead of the intra-Afghan talks has been removed.

National Security Council spokesman Javid Faisal said Thursday the prisoner release process has almost ended and peace talks can now start.

He said: “It is imperative that intra-Afghan peace talks begin as soon as possible.

“The Islamic Republic of Afghanistan has received our commandos held hostage by the Taliban, after which the government released the remaining 400 convicts, except the few for which our partners have reservations. Diplomatic efforts are ongoing. We expect direct talks to start promptly,” he said.

Meanwhile, Deborah Lyons urged the two sides to consider a humanitarian ceasefire as one of the first items on the agenda of Intra- Afghan negotiations.

“For Afghanistan’s most vulnerable people, the stakes could not be higher. I urge all member states to amplify this call as the negotiations begin. And the negotiations will begin,” she noted.

“After four decades of war, the people of Afghanistan have more reason than ever to hope that this devastating conflict may come to an end,” UN envoy said.

Deborah Lyons also emphasized the need for women’s participation in the coming Intra-Afghan negotiations that could pave the way to end the long-term war in the war-weary country.

“We all know that talking will not be enough. Women’s rights are already emerging as one of the most difficult issues confronting the conflict parties as they enter negotiations, and one where any compromises could pose, will pose, a difficult dilemma for member states,” she said.

“The issue will be more central, this issue of women’s rights will be more central in the Afghan peace process than we have ever seen in any other peace negotiation in recent memory.”

She noted that it is women’s representation at the peace table that offers the best opportunity to ensure that their own rights are upheld and that their vision for elements of a peaceful Afghanistan is reflected in all aspects of the talks.

“I commend the women members of the Islamic Republic negotiating team and other peace structures for their energetic outreach and substantive preparations for intra-Afghan talks.”

“As of this moment, we are not yet aware of any women’s representation on the Taliban side, but we remain hopeful that they, too, will find a way of meaningfully including women, the other 50 percent of the population, in their negotiation team,” Lyons added.

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Passenger flights between Iran and Afghanistan resume

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Iran has resumed regular commercial flights to neighboring Afghanistan following a month-long hiatus, Iran’s state run al-Alam TV channel reported.

An Iranian Mahan Air aircraft landed in Kabul on Wednesday with 19 passengers onboard after departing from the northeastern Iranian city of Mashhad.

“At present, this airliner is returning to Mashhad with passengers,” the semi official Fars news agency later reported.

Regular passenger services between the two countries stopped after the Islamic Emirate gained power in Afghanistan a month ago.

Previously, Mahan Air – the second-largest Iranian airline – had operated two flights per week between Mashhad and Kabul.

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Army chief warns against ‘defending American democracy’

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(Last Updated On: September 16, 2021)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Chief of Army Staff Qari Fasihudin Fitrat said Wednesday a strong and orderly army would soon be established to independently defend Afghan territory.

Fitrat also stated that the Islamic Emirate would suppress anyone who tried to defend gains made in the past 20 years and American democracy.

He warned that “such people are violating public order and leading the country towards a civil war.”

“We will not allow anyone to disrupt the security of the people in the name of ethnicity, fear and defending the achievements of the last 20 years and American democracy,” Fitrat stated.

Afghanistan had around 300,000 active military personnel in its security forces that disintegrated on August 15 as the former government collapsed.

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Ghani’s escape derailed latest Taliban deal: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the country last month shattered a last-minute deal with the Islamic Emirate that was designed to negotiate a political transition.

In an interview with the Financial Times, his first since the US pulled out of Afghanistan, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said according to the plan, Ghani would have remained in his post until an agreement was reached on a future government – even as the Islamic Emirate’s forces were at the gates of Kabul.

However, Khalilzad said the power vacuum left by Ghani’s unexpected escape on August 15 led to the fall of his government and the takeover by the Islamic Emirate.

He said this, in turn, sparked a chaotic evacuation of civilians and troops and effectively ended the talks in Doha.

“Even in the end, we had an agreement with the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to [them] not go into Kabul,” Khalilzad told the Financial Times adding that at no time did this include Ghani fleeing the country.

Khalilzad’s comments echo those made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told US lawmakers this week that he had received assurances from Ghani on the eve of his escape that he agreed with Washington’s plan.

Kabul’s security forces disbanded at the news of Ghani’s disappearance, Khalilzad said.

“There were public order issues in Kabul after Ghani’s flight. . . The Taliban (Islamic Emirate) [then]. . . say, ‘Are you going to take responsibility for the security of Kabul now? . . . And then you know what happened, we were not going to take responsibility,” he said, adding that he attended a pre-arranged meeting that day with the US regional military commander, General Frank McKenzie, and senior Islamic Emirate leaders in Doha.

Khalilzad rejected claims of a tacit or explicit agreement that allowed the Islamic Emirate to enter the presidential palace in Kabul on August 15.

“We didn’t give them any kind of green light or anything like that. What we said is what the mission of the US forces was,” he told the Financial Times, referring to the evacuation of the airport.

Khalilzad first discussed the agreement with the Kabul government on August 12 and reached an agreement with the Islamic Emirate two days later to safeguard the integrity of the city, Financial Times reported, citing US officials.

However, Ghani was unlikely to have been part of any future government because his resignation was a precondition set by the Islamic Emirate, FT reported.

On August 13, Islamic Emirate forces were surrounding Kabul after taking control of most of the country.

According to Ghani, he fled the country as his life was in danger and to “avoid bloodshed” in Kabul.

Responding to criticism of Washington’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Khalilzad said: “The fact that they didn’t [negotiate peace] or one side disintegrated, that is not the responsibility of the United States. It is not my responsibility.”

Khalilzad said, however, that he regretted the failure to reach a political agreement with the Islamic Emirate years earlier.

“There will be a lot of introspection,” he said.

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