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Australia agrees on increased US air deployments in Australia

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(Last Updated On: September 17, 2021)

Australia and the United States have reached new force posture agreements that will see greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia, Australian Defense Minister Peter Dutton said on Thursday.

Speaking at a joint news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Dutton said the two sides would be “significantly enhancing our force posture cooperation, increasing interoperability and deepening alliance activities in the Indo-Pacific.”

“This will include greater air cooperation through rotational deployments of all types of U.S. military aircraft to Australia,” he said.

“We’ve also established combined logistics sustainment and capability for maintenance to support our enhanced activities, including logistics and sustainment capability for our submarines and surface combatants in Australia.”

U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said the meeting had endorsed “major force posture initiatives that will expand our access and presence in Australia.”

Dutton and Austin spoke a day after the United States and Britain said they would provide Australia with the technology and capability to deploy nuclear-powered submarines.

China on Thursday denounced the new Indo-Pacific security alliance between the United States, Britain, and Australia, saying such partnerships should not target third countries and warning of an intensified arms race in the region.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Thursday said France was a “vital partner” in the Indo-Pacific region and that Washington would continue to cooperate with Paris, comments that appeared aimed at calming French anger after the United States, Australia, and the United Kingdom clinched the historic defense export contract to supply Australia with submarines.

The three countries announced on Wednesday they would establish a security partnership for the Indo-Pacific that will help Australia acquire U.S. nuclear-powered submarines and scrap the $40 billion French-designed submarine deal.

France has reacted angrily to the loss of the deal, calling it a “stab in the back.”

Speaking at a news conference after meetings between the U.S. and Australian foreign and defense ministers in Washington, Blinken said Washington had been in touch with its French counterparts before the announcement of the submarine deal.

In 2016 Australia had selected French shipbuilder Naval Group to build a new submarine fleet worth $40 billion to replace its more than two-decades-old Collins submarines.

The United States and its allies are looking for ways to push back against China’s growing power and influence, particularly its military buildup, pressure on Taiwan and deployments in the contested South China Sea.

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Karzai says Pakistan must not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

Former Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai said the current Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) government in needs internal legitimacy in order for it to gain international recognition and that Pakistan should not interfere in Afghanistan’s affairs.

In an interview with VOA, Karzai said that internal legitimacy could only be achieved through the expression of the will of the Afghan people, either in the form of elections or holding the Loya Jirga, a traditional grand council.

He said that Afghanistan is at a critical juncture in its history and Afghans have a responsibility to “unite” and create a government premised on “the expression of the will of the Afghan people.”

“Legitimacy within our own country for this government (IEA) or for any other government is the foundation of recognition by countries and the international community,” Karzai said.

Pakistani leaders, including Prime Minister Imran Khan and Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Quresh, have advocated for the IEA and have urged the international community to work with the new government in Kabul.

“If we neglect Afghanistan right now, there’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead, and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere,” Imran Khan told the U.N. General Assembly in September.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it, for the sake of the people of Afghanistan. What have the Taliban (IEA) promised? They will respect human rights, they will have an inclusive government, they will not allow this soil to be used by terrorists,” Khan added.

Karzai told VOA that Pakistan is not the representative of the Afghan people.

“My message to Pakistan, our brotherly country, is that they should not try to represent Afghanistan. On the contrary, the country should try to establish a civil relationship with our country,” he said.

“We have deep people-to-people relations with Pakistan. … Our hope from Pakistan is that the country should not try to maintain its relations with us through interference, the encouragement of extremism and terrorism or by force, but rather establish relations with Afghanistan through civil principles and principles of international relations, and we will happily maintain that relationship with them,” he added.

Karzai also voiced concerns about the Islamic State (Daesh) terror group’s uptick in violence in Afghanistan and deemed it a threat to both Afghanistan and the region.

The militant group’s local branch, known as the Islamic State Khorasan, has claimed responsibility for several vicious attacks in recent weeks in Kabul, Kunduz and Kandahar provinces, where more than 100 civilians have been killed and many others wounded.

“As proven by the unfortunate bomb blasts — rather, suicide attacks in the mosque in Kabul two weeks ago, then in Kunduz last week, and then in Kandahar yesterday (October 15) — this has proven that Daesh is a threat to Afghanistan and to the life and livelihood of the Afghan people,” Karzai said.

Karzai showed optimism that the region will support Afghanistan in its fight against Daesh because it could pose a threat to their security. In addition, he said he hopes that regional powers would seek common ground in Afghanistan,.

He said it is Afghanistan’s responsibility to work with other countries in the region in a way that results in peace and stability.

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U.S. Secretary of State Blinken discusses Afghanistan with Qatar

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has discussed the situation in Afghanistan with Qatari Foreign Minister Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani, thanking Qatar for helping with evacuations from Kabul, US State Department Spokesperson Ned Price says.

“Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken spoke today with Qatari Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al-Thani about Afghanistan. Secretary Blinken thanked Qatar for its strong partnership on regional security issues and assistance to safely transit U.S. citizens, Lawful Permanent

The readout of the call released by the State Department did not given any details, except that Blinken acknowledged Qatar’s assistance to transit U.S. citizens and Afghans at risk.

On Wednesday, Qatar’s foreign minister proposed creating a unified platform for international cooperation on Afghanistan.

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Russia-led bloc holds large-scale drills near Tajik-Afghan border

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

A Russia-led post-Soviet security bloc started its largest military drills near the Tajik-Afghan border in years on Monday amid cross-border tensions ahead of talks between Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders and major regional powers, Reuters reported.

Unlike Afghanistan’s other northern neighbours who have de facto acknowledged the IEA leadership and started building working relationships with Kabul, Tajikistan has refused to recognise the IEA and there are reports of troop build-ups on both sides of the border.

According to the report the exercise carried out by the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) will involve over 5,000 servicemen, more than half of them Russian soldiers, Russia and Tajikistan’s defence ministries said.

The six-day drills follow a series of smaller-scale exercises held in the vicinity of the Afghan border by Russia and its Central Asian allies in August and September.

Russia is worried about the possibility of Islamist militants infiltrating the former Soviet republics of Central Asia, which Moscow views as its southern defensive buffer, Reuters reported.

Moscow operates a military base in the former Soviet republic and has reassured Dushanbe it would assist it in the event of any cross-border intrusion.

A high-level IEA delegation is set to visit Moscow this week for talks that will also involve China, Pakistan, India and Iran, although a senior Russian official has been reported as saying he did not expect any breakthrough.

Zamir Kabulov, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative on Afghanistan, also said officials from Russia, the United States, China and Pakistan would meet separately in Moscow on Tuesday to come up with a united position on the changing situation in Afghanistan.

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