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Biden tells Congress US will continue to support Afghanistan and its peace process

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(Last Updated On: June 9, 2021)

US President Joe Biden said in a letter to Congress on Tuesday that Washington will continue to fully support peace talks between the Afghan government and Taliban and will encourage other nations in the region, especially Pakistan, to do more to support stability in Afghanistan.

In his letter he stated that over the past few decades, the United States and its partners have trained hundreds of thousands of Afghan troops and that the US will with the support of Congress, “continue to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces”.

“We will also continue to support the rights of Afghan women and girls and to maintain significant humanitarian and development assistance to Afghanistan.

“We will continue to pursue diplomacy and fully support peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and the Taliban, facilitated by the United Nations. And we will encourage other nations in the region, especially Pakistan, to do more to support Afghanistan and to support stability in the country,” Biden stated in the letter.

“But we will not allow United States troops to be a bargaining chip between warring parties in other countries. That is a recipe for staying indefinitely in Afghanistan,” he said.

He also stated the US will withdraw responsibly, deliberately, and safely, from Afghanistan, in full coordination with its allies and partners.

“Our NATO allies and operational partners, who have stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us for almost 20 years and who have also made great sacrifices, will now withdraw alongside our forces as we stand by our enduring principle of ‘in together, out together’.”

Giving background on his decision to leave Afghanistan, Biden stated that he reached this conclusion “after conducting a rigorous policy review process and consulting closely with our allies and partners, with our military leaders and intelligence personnel, with our diplomats and our development experts, with the Congress and the Vice President, and with the President of Afghanistan and many other leaders around the world.”

He noted however that over the last 20 years, the terrorist threat to the United States has become more dispersed around the globe and that keeping thousands of troops concentrated on the ground in Afghanistan “no longer makes sense as the most effective counterterrorism strategy when the threat has metastasized across the Middle East, Africa, and Asia.”

“Our focus and posture need to adapt accordingly,” he said.

But according to him, the US will not take its eye off the terrorist threat in Afghanistan.

“The United States will reorganize our counterterrorism capabilities and assets in the region to prevent the reemergence of a terrorist threat in Afghanistan.

“We will hold the Taliban and the Afghan government accountable to their commitments not to allow terrorists to threaten the United States or its allies from Afghan soil. And we will refine our national strategy to monitor and disrupt terrorist threats wherever they arise,” he said to Congress.

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Abdullah quashes rumors of districts being abandoned intentionally

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

Following the collapse of a number of districts across Afghanistan in the past six weeks, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah stated that “the abandonment of these districts (by security forces) was unplanned”.

So far, at least 33 districts have fallen to the Taliban since May 1.

In the most recent development, Anar Dara district in Farah province; Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan province; and Gosfandi and Sayyad districts of Sar-e-Pul province were captured by the militants in the last 24 hours.

Sources told Ariana News that at least 40 members of the Afghan forces have been killed in Sar-e-Pul alone in the last week.

Abdullah, however, stated that there had been no plans ahead of time by security forces to abandon the districts. This comes after rumors started circulating a few days ago that security forces have intentionally planned to hand over districts to the Taliban.

Addressing a meeting with Friedrich Ebert Foundation members on Tuesday, Abdullah said: “The consecutive abandonment of the districts by the security forces is not part of an orderly plan.”

“It is not true that the districts are being handed over to the Taliban based on a plan,” Abdullah added.

Abdullah also called on people to support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) amid a surge in clashes across the country.

“We know the situation is bad, but it is the responsibility of all of us to carry the burden and to come up with [support for] the current situation,” he stated.

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Taliban captures another 4 districts bringing total to 33

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

Taliban militants have captured another four districts in four provinces in the last 24 hours, sources confirmed.

According to the sources, Anar Dara district in Farah province; Khas Uruzgan district of Uruzgan province; and Gosfandi and Sayyad districts of Sar-e-Pul province were captured by the militants, bringing the number of fallen districts to 33 since May 1.

Afghan officials, however, stated that Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have “tactically retreated” from the districts.

In Farah, the Taliban blew up the government compound after capturing the center of Anar Dara district.

Police said the compound was completely destroyed in the explosion.

In Uruzgan, the insurgents captured the government compound, police headquarters, provincial NDS headquarters, and a number of public facilities on Tuesday morning.

This comes after First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Monday called the advancement of the Taliban a “narrow line” and warned that the paths into the districts will be turned into a mass graveyard for the militants.

In a statement issued on Monday, Saleh said: “Those who know how to fight with the Taliban, know that this narrow line will become the mass graveyard of this group of terror and ignorance.”

Saleh, meanwhile, stated that the Taliban militants have not changed the way they treat the people of Afghanistan.

“Do not be deceived by [Taliban’s] propaganda. Resisting the Taliban is defending human values and dignity. Taliban has no message for the people of this country other than demanding obedience as a slave life,” Saleh said.

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U.N. readies for more displaced Afghans after troop withdrawal

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(Last Updated On: June 15, 2021)

The United Nations is preparing for a likely further displacement of civilians in Afghanistan after U.S. and international troops leave the country in September, U.N. refugee chief Filippo Grandi told Reuters on Monday.

Violence has been rising as foreign forces begin withdrawing and efforts to broker a peace settlement between the Afghan government and insurgent Taliban have slowed.

Grandi pointed to a deadly attack last week on an international demining organization in northern Afghanistan, which killed 10 people.

“This is a tragic indicator of the type of violence that may be resurfacing in Afghanistan and with the withdrawal of the international troops this is possibly or likely going to become worse,” Grandi said.

“Therefore we are doing contingency planning inside the country for further displacement, in the neighboring countries in case people might cross borders,” he said, without offering details of those plans.

There are currently some 2.5 million registered refugees from Afghanistan globally, while another 4.8 million have been displaced within the country, according to the U.N. refugee agency UNHCR, which Grandi heads.

After 20 years, the United States has started a withdrawal of its remaining 2,500 troops in Afghanistan and aims to be completely out of the country by Sept. 11. Around 7,000 non-U.S. forces from mainly NATO countries – along with Australia, New Zealand and Georgia – are also planning to leave by Sept. 11.

Grandi said strong international support was needed for peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.

“It’s political action that should substitute conflict but, of course, the risk (of further displacement) is there and we need to be prepared,” he added.

U.S.-backed Afghan forces toppled the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

“What’s needed is a high level of economic support for Afghanistan humanitarian assistance to maximize the chance the Afghan authorities have to stabilize the situation,” U.N. aid chief Mark Lowcock told Reuters on Monday.

“There’s been very good and constructive outreach from the Biden administration, from the White House down, and we have actually had very productive discussions with them on that,” added Lowcock, who steps down from his role this month.

Earlier this month, the United States announced more than $266 million in new humanitarian aid for Afghanistan, bringing to nearly $3.9 billion the total amount of such aid it has provided since 2002.

Some 18.4 million people, almost half the country’s population, need humanitarian help, according to the United, Nations, which has appealed for $1.3 billion in funding for 2021. So far it has only received about 23% of that.

Lowcock said that until a few years ago there had been a lot of international attention in Afghanistan. That has “dissipated and weakened and that is a sort of problem when it comes to drawing attention to the needs of Afghanistan and getting support for them.”

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