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Atta Noor asks India to ‘engage with Taliban without giving them legitimacy’

Ariana News

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2020)

As parties to the Afghan peace talks process in Doha stall over preliminary issues, Atta Mohammad Noor, CEO of Jamiat Party and former governor of Balkh province has called on New Delhi to help by playing a more proactive role in the dialogue and hold talks with the Taliban. 

Noor, who is currently in India, is the fourth prominent Afghan leader to visit India in the past few weeks to discuss the peace talks process – after visits by Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation; former Afghan vice-president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum and Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, an Afghan politician and former Mujahideen Leader.

In an interview with ThePrint in Delhi this past week, Noor, who picked up a weapon in 2016 to save the lives of Indian diplomats during an attack on their consulate in Balkh province, said he was there to try to garner India’s support. 

“The situation in Afghanistan is currently quite complicated. That’s the reason I am here in India. I really hope that India will be more proactive because India has got power, it has got leverage, and it has got influence in the region,” Noor said.

“If India does not do that, then this will give more ground to the Pakistanis. As the Americans are leaving, the Pakistanis are finding more space in Afghanistan,” Noor said.

Until now, however, India’s policy has been that it will not engage with the Taliban, as it continues to see the fundamentalist group as being aided by Pakistan.

Recounting his experience in Mazar-e-Sharif four years ago, Noor told ThePrint it had been a rainy winter day in January of 2016 when the consulate was attacked. 

Noor said he reached the site of the consulate attack in 12 minutes and “started shooting the Taliban and other terrorists from Kashmir with my M4 sniper rifle”.

“I put my life at risk but I had to protect the diplomats and Indian friends. I felt we should give it back in return of what India did for us when we faced difficulties. There were some insurgents who had come from Kashmir as well. I reached there in 12 minutes, took up my arms and left for the consulate to defend it,” he added. 

“I was the governor at that time and more than 10,000 soldiers were under my control. But I deemed it my personal responsibility to defend my brothers who were stuck there,” he said.

According to him, insurgents tried to enter the consulate but were held off from doing so by security forces but managed to gain entry into a building nearby where they started shooting. 

The siege lasted 24 hours, with consulate staff having had to take refuge in safe rooms throughout the attack. 

“I started shooting with my people and continued shooting till the morning so that they cannot attack back. I am sure it was me who killed the first person and finally gunned all of them down. With their blood, they wrote Kashmir and Afzal on the wall,” he said.

Atta Noor at the scene of the attack on the Indian Consulate in Mazar-e-Sharif in 2016

 

Noor also got helicopters to bring in reinforcement soldiers and said he managed to guide the pilots as well.

As External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar said in a tweet after their meeting earlier this week, Noor is regarded as a “long-standing friend of India”.

But Noor has pointed out that he is concerned Afghanistan might return to what it was during the Taliban’s regime and said India has the capability to become a “facilitator” of the peace talks and join other countries who are playing the same role.

“The peace talks going on in Qatar have not yielded any results yet. And the Taliban are being more aggressive. It seems they are being supported by others … India is a big and strong country and should be one of the facilitators (in the peace talks),” he said.

Otherwise, he said, there may come a situation where some of the Taliban leaders come to power and become part of the government while others continue to wage attacks, ThePrint reported.

“If that happens, we will get back to what happened in 1996. The situation can be worse than that,” he added. Being an important stakeholder in the development process there, India cannot afford to let that happen, he said. “I really hope India can be more proactive. India has more nationalist and strategic friends in Afghanistan.”

Noor also pointed out that the current peace talks can throw up very different results, each with consequences for India.

“There can be two situations arising out of the current peace talks. Either it will conclude and there will be a new government or the peace talks will fail and the fighting will continue. If the new government comes in, India will have its strategic partners in the new government, as always, by defusing all the plots hatched by other countries,” he said.

“Both countries are fighting terrorism … We do not want to drag the feet of India in a prolonged war. But India should engage with the Taliban … I want India to engage with the Taliban but not give them legitimacy.”

He said China is playing its role in the peace talks “aggressively” and so are the Russians and the Iranians.

Noor asked Jaishankar Wednesday to begin negotiations with the Taliban, something that the Afghan government has also reportedly been asking New Delhi to do but he said if the talks fail, the insurgents will have an “upper hand” and this will give more leeway to Pakistan.

“At that time, we would need to stand by the Afghan government … We will have a united resistance against the Taliban if the situation becomes so,” Noor said.

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Afghan Republic’s team agrees ‘in principle’ to peace talks procedures 

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

The Afghanistan Republic’s peace negotiating team said on Saturday night that both sides have agreed in principle to the rules and procedures regarding talks going forward but that this does not mean the framework has been finalized. 

“The negotiation teams of both sides have ONLY agreed in principle to the 21 articles of the rules & procedures, with the exception of the introduction because it requires further discussion & clarification. Therefore in the joint meeting on Nov 17, 2020 in the presence … of the host country, it was decided that the rules & procedures will only be considered final once it is presented to the general meeting of both delegations & approved there,” the Afghan Republic’s statement read. 

“The IRoA (Islamic Republic of Afghanistan) has shared our understanding of the elements of the introduction with the other side (Taliban),” read the statement.

This statement followed soon after Naeem Wardak, the Taliban’s spokesman in Doha posted on Twitter that the “procedure” to take the intra-Afghan negotiations forward was finalized between the two sides on November 15. 

In a series of tweets Naeem said: “The procedure of Intra-Afghan negotiations between the negotiating teams was completed and finalized in 21 articles on the 15th of November 2020.”

He said this framework was then interpreted in the presence of the “host/facilitator country”, that being Qatar, two days later – on November 17. 

“A copy of it was handed over to the host/facilitator country after it was approved by both negotiating teams,” he tweeted.

This comes after reports first emerged around November 23 that there had been a breakthrough in stalled talks in Doha, which officially started on September 12. 

Sources said early this week that Afghanistan Republic’s chief negotiator Massoom Stanikzai and presidential peace advisor Salam Rahimi were in Kabul to discuss progress with President Ashraf Ghani. 

But both parties to the talks remained tight-lipped about any progress.

In fact, Presidential Palace spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said at a press conference on Wednesday that no progress had been made in Doha regarding peace talks.

Sediqqi said the Taliban’s demands contradict the Afghan Constitution but he did confirm that Stanikzai had been in Kabul.

Seddiqi said the republic’s negotiating team will hold discussions with the Taliban in respect of the Afghan Constitution and on the advice of the peace consultative Jirga.

Wednesday’s denial comes after some sources told Ariana News on condition of anonymity that Afghan leaders had approved some points that had been contested – leading to a breakthrough in the talks.

 

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Khamenei promises retaliation for killing of Iranian scientist

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday Tehran would retaliate over the killing of the country’s top nuclear scientist, who the West claimed was heading up a secret nuclear weapons program for Iran. 

Khamenei said in a statement scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh had been killed “by brutal mercenaries”. 

“Two important issues should be seriously put on the agenda by all those involved, first, the pursuit of this crime and the definitive punishment of its perpetrators and commanders, and second, the pursuit of the martyr’s (Fakhrizadeh) scientific and technical efforts in all the areas in which he was involved. 

Khamenei who has said Tehran never sought nuclear arms and pledged in his statement to continue the work of Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who died on Friday after gunmen ambushed him in his car near Tehran.

Reuters reported that the killing, which Iran’s president was swift to blame on Israel, threatens to spark a new Middle East confrontation in the final weeks of US President Donald Trump’s term.

It could also complicate any efforts by President-elect Joe Biden to revive a detente with Tehran that was forged when he was in Barack Obama’s administration. Trump pulled Washington out of the 2015 international nuclear pact agreed with Tehran.

Israel’s N12 news channel meanwhile said Israeli embassies around the world had been put on high alert after the Iranian threats of retaliation. 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani told a televised cabinet meeting that Iran would respond “at the proper time.”

“Once again, the evil hands of Global Arrogance and the Zionist mercenaries were stained with the blood of an Iranian son,” he said, using terms officials employ to refer to Israel.

Israel has declined to comment on the killing. The White House, Pentagon, US State Department and CIA also declined to comment, as did Biden’s transition team, Reuters reported.

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Kabul doctor arrested for raping 10-year-old boy 

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said Saturday morning that a Kabul doctor has been arrested and charged with sexual assault after allegedly raping a 10-year-old boy. 

Saleh said in his daily report on Facebook, after the 6.30am security meeting, that he has discussed the issue with the Ministry of Public Health and requested the doctor’s license to practice be revoked. 

Saleh said the doctor, named Sifat Assadullah, son of Azizullah, had worked at the Zulfiqar Hospital but that he will be barred from ever practicing medicine again. 

Saleh also said Kabul police had arrested three kidnappers in the Karte Parwan area in Kabul. He said the gang had kidnapped a 55-year-old man and had demanded ransom money for his return. 

However, the hostage was killed. He said the victim’s family had asked for privacy in the wake of the man’s death and that no further details be released. 

Saleh also reported that in the past forty-eight hours, Kabul’s National Security Directorate (NDS) had 11 members of the Taliban and ISIS groups, including an 11-year-old boy. 

“Among these 11 people is an under-age young man named Idris, who was encouraged and groomed by the Taliban to be a suicide bomber. 

“Fortunately, a disaster was prevented. Idris’s father was also arrested for hiding his son’s affiliation with the Taliban.” He said the family lives in PD5 of Kabul. 

In a report back on the Kabul University attack earlier this month, Saleh said the NDS has asked for more time for their investigations. 

Saleh indicated he was not withholding information on the case but said: “My commitment to the people of Afghanistan is that from now on, the cases that are completed are no longer private and will be given to the people uncensored. 

“People have the right to access basic information about terrorism and the crimes committed by Taliban and others.”

Saleh’s meetings with security chiefs take place every morning at 6.30am where the First Vice President is addressed on progress being made in open cases and of arrests and other achievements by security forces in the preceding 24 hours. 

These meetings are part of Saleh’s plan to clean up Kabul and rid the city of criminals and terrorists. 

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