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Austin extols value of US-Mid East partnership at Manama Dialogue

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(Last Updated On: November 21, 2021)

US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said on Saturday the United States and its partners will keep up its focus on counterterrorism even as they shift their approach to an over-the-horizon concept in Afghanistan.

Speaking at the annual International Institute for Strategic Studies Manama Dialogue in Bahrain, Austin said: “We do crucial work together with our friends in this region – to deter aggression from any quarter, to disrupt terrorist networks, and to maintain freedom of navigation in some of the world’s most important waterways.”

He said the US and its Middle East allies have for decades worked side-by-side and that their forces have trained together, planned together, and worked together, making “us stronger together”.

Austin said this was evident during Operation Allies Refuge, the withdrawal and evacuation of troops and foreigners from Afghanistan in August.

“As we wound down the 20-year war in Afghanistan, the world witnessed again the power of our network of partnerships.

“When America asked for help, our friends stood up. And leadership from this region helped us to evacuate 124,000 people from Afghanistan, and to provide safe transit for them in the Gulf and beyond.”

He also said America’s network of allies and partners in the Middle East and beyond “is a huge force multiplier. It’s a vast strategic advantage.

“It is unmatched. It is unparalleled. And it is unrivaled.”

The conference brings together defense ministers, chiefs of defense, and other high-ranking government officials from across the Middle East.

Outside of the conference, Austin also met with with Crown Prince Salman bin Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa in Manama and underscored the strength and importance of the U.S.-Bahrain relationship.

He also thanked the Crown Prince for Bahrain’s cooperation on critical priorities including maritime security and promoting enhanced regional security cooperation.

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Islamic countries to meet on Afghanistan crisis on Dec. 19

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2021)

Pakistan’s foreign minister called on Saturday for a fresh effort to stop neighboring Afghanistan sliding further into crisis as he announced an extraordinary meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) later this month. 

The meeting of foreign ministers from Islamic countries will be held in Islamabad on Dec. 19, with delegations from the European Union and the so-called P5 group of the United States, Britain, France, Russia and China also invited.

“To abandon Afghanistan at this stage would be a historic mistake,” Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Hussain Qureshi told a news conference in Islamabad, warning that half the country was facing the risk of starvation that could trigger further chaos.

“Instability could give way to renewed conflict, it could trigger an exodus of refugees,” he said.

There have been growing warnings of the humanitarian crisis facing Afghanistan since international aid was abruptly cut following the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover on Aug. 15 and fears of disaster if the situation is not brought under control.

However, getting help in has been hindered by sanctions on dealing with the IEA, the U.S. decision to freeze billions of dollars of central bank reserves held outside Afghanistan and the collapse of much of the country’s banking system.

Pakistan recently agreed to allow 50,000 tonnes of wheat to transit through its territory from India to help Afghanistan but aid agencies have warned that much more help is urgently needed.

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Pakistan to let Afghan trucks transport wheat from India to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2021)

Pakistan’s has allowed India to transport 50,000 metric tonnes of wheat and life-saving medicines through Wagah as humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan, the Pakistani government said in a statement Saturday.

“With a view to further facilitate Pakistan’s decision to allow transportation of 50,000 MT of wheat and life-saving medicines from India to Afghanistan via Wagah border on an exceptional basis for humanitarian purposes, it has been decided to also allow the use of Afghan trucks for transportation from Wagah border to Torkham,” read the statement.

“This demonstrates the commitment and seriousness of the Government of Pakistan to facilitate the proposed humanitarian assistance.”

The statement noted that the decision was conveyed to the Charge d’ Affaires of India on Saturday at the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs adding that “the Indian government was also urged to proceed quickly to take necessary steps to expeditiously undertake the delivery of the humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan.”

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France, Europeans working to open joint mission in Afghanistan: Macron

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2021)

Several European countries are working on opening up a joint diplomatic mission in Afghanistan that would enable their ambassadors to return to the country, French President Emmanuel Macron said on Saturday.

Western countries have been grappling with how to engage with the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) after they took power in Afghanistan in mid-August.

The United States and other Western countries shut their embassies and withdrew their diplomats when the previous government collapsed, following which the IEA declared an interim government whose top members are under U.S. and U.N. sanctions.

“We are thinking of an organisation between several European countries… a common location for several Europeans, which would allow our ambassadors to be present,” Macron told reporters in Doha before heading to Jeddah in Saudi Arabia, Reuters reported.

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