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Biden still consulting on troop withdrawal issue: White House

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(Last Updated On: April 6, 2021)

With just over three weeks to go before the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Monday that US President Joe Biden has not yet made a decision on the issue and is still in consultations over the matter.

In a press briefing Monday, Psaki said in answer to a question on whether the troops exit will go ahead as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban: “Well, as the president has said before, it will be tough to meet the May 1st deadline for full withdrawal, for logistical reasons.

“We are continuing — he’s continuing to consult internally with his national security team and advisors and, of course, also with our partners and allies.”

She said Biden has “been working on these issues — foreign policy issues, national security issues — for several decades now and, of course, wants to take the time to make the right decision.”

Asked if the expectation could be that troops will stay in Afghanistan after the May 1st withdrawal deadline, Psaki said that Biden “set the expectation it will be tough for a full withdrawal, for logistical reasons, by that timeline.”

She said this is something that has been conveyed clearly to all partners as well. “But in terms of what’s next, you know, he just wants to take the time to make a decision,” she said.

This comes close on the heels of former Afghan president Hamid Karzai’s interview this week with TRT World where he stated that any withdrawal – or extension of troop presence – should be done in a responsible manner.

Karzai said the troop withdrawal must be carried out in a responsible manner so as to make sure it is done in coordination with major powers and countries in the region in order to ensure peace in Afghanistan.

Karzai said: “The US withdrawal or staying in Afghanistan beyond May 1 must be responsible in both cases; if they want to withdraw that withdrawal must be responsible in the sense that it must make sure that Afghanistan is peaceful and that it is done in a broader understanding with major powers and the countries in the region so all together make Afghanistan a place of cooperation rather than competition.”

“Second if they want to stay beyond May 1 that too has to be responsible. The United States cannot be staying in Afghanistan that is in conflict; No!”

“If the US wants to, wishes to stay in Afghanistan, it can only be staying in Afghanistan and be in cooperation with a peaceful Afghanistan, a stable Afghanistan, not in Afghanistan in which the US presence is there, bases are there, but we are dying in a conflict and our children are suffering,” he said. .

Karzai said he is appealing for a responsible exit on the part of the Americans.

“A responsible exit and if they wish to – a very responsible stay which means in a peaceful Afghanistan not like what they did in the past 20 years; No!”

Karzai also said Afghans want “an immediate end to violence by all sides” – all sides being the Afghan government, the Taliban and the United States.

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Officials say troops could be out long before September: New York Times

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

American officials said on Saturday that orders for the remaining US troops to start leaving Afghanistan could be issued in the next few days.

According to the New York Times, the officials, who were not named, said if US troops face no threats from the Taliban, the forces could be completely withdrawn well before the September 11 deadline.

This comes after US President Joe Biden announced last week that all US troops would be out of the country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US officials have not release details on the foreign troops withdrawal schedule except Biden did say last week that the process would start on May 1.

The Boston Globe meanwhile carried an op-ed article on Sunday which stated that there will be a terrible human — and moral — cost to this pullout from Afghanistan, “which is why so many former U.S. officials who have served there have been so depressed and angry during phone interviews this week”.

A former top Pentagon official David Sadney was quoted as saying: “There is a humanitarian disaster coming.”

“The Taliban are taking names, and they will start taking vengeance on women and young people, teachers and their families, who believed in U.S. values. They will be killed and tortured because they bought into a vision the U.S. supported and encouraged, ideas of democracy and free speech.

“I know Afghans who have and will die,” he said.

The article noted that the Biden team tried to accelerate political negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but they got nowhere.

The Taliban made clear that, with U.S. troops leaving, they believed victory was in hand. They opposed any form of constitutional democracy or elections in favor of harsh Islamic rule.

The article also quoted one former US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, as saying: “This is a surrender. Everybody, China and Russia included, is taking note.”

The author of the op-ed Trudy Rubin states the Taliban will crow that they have defeated a superpower – especially since, for some bizarre reason, the final pullout date is set for the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s greatest triumph, the 9/11 attack on the United States.

She writes it would have made more strategic sense for the Biden team to change the narrative and instead of “forever war,” keep around 3,000 troops in the country indefinitely as an insurance policy to prevent a Taliban win until such time as a regional peace could be negotiated.

Rubin points out that after all, the US has kept troops in Germany and South Korea for decades, as a preventative measure.

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Ghani gives Pakistan two choices – friendship or enmity

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday morning that for the first time in decades, a real opportunity for peace has presented itself and that Afghanistan is well prepared for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last week that all foreign troops will be out of the country by September 11.

On Sunday, Ghani said at a 6.30am security meeting at the Presidential Palace (ARG), that “for the first time in modern history, the best opportunity has been provided for Afghanistan. We have been fully prepared for this day for the past two years and for their withdrawal”.

“We are fully prepared to defend our soil and it is time for Afghanistan’s national sovereignty to be fully realized and for Afghanistan to prove its neutrality,” Ghani said.

“One is the republican ranks and the other is the enemy. Those who do not stand in the republican ranks have no place in the state,” Ghani said.

Ghani also said that the Taliban have no religious legitimacy to continue the war, and that Islamic religious scholars from around the world have condemned the war in Afghanistan.

Referring to the review of regional relations with Afghanistan, the president said: “Today is a day of decision for Pakistan. If our country is in turmoil, their country will be in turmoil and if they want our welfare, they will also provide welfare.”

“The choice of friendship and enmity is in their hands and in the case of friendship, Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with Pakistan in increasing cooperation between the countries of the region and the world,” Ghani added.

He also stated that: “Our vision is national sovereignty, republicanism, democracy, prosperity, a free and independent Afghanistan. If the Taliban make peace within this framework, we are open to them and any choice other than that is the Taliban’s pretext for continuing the war.”

“We are a people of determination, not fear,” he added.

Ghani also awarded state medals to 16 members of Kabul’s PD1 security district at Sunday’s meeting.

After presenting the medals to the officials, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh briefed those in attendance on the achievements of the 6.30 am security meetings.
“Promise keeping has become a principle and as a result of continuous efforts, the crime graph in Kabul has dropped dramatically and public satisfaction with government services has increased,” Saleh said.

Ghani lauded officials for their achievements around the 6.30am initiative and said: “You have brought about positive change as a result of group management, you have the capacity, and perseverance and I am your full supporter.”

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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