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Blinken urges cooperation and unity in letter to Ghani

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(Last Updated On: March 7, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he is concerned that a withdrawal of all American troops could impact the security situation in Afghanistan and lead to the Taliban making serious gains but also said the US does not intend to “dictate terms to the parties”. 

In a letter to President Ashraf Ghani, of which Ariana News obtained a copy, Blinken said that proposals currently on the table reflect some of the ideas under consideration but “even with the continuation of financial assistance from the United States to your forces after an American military withdrawal, I am concerned that the security situation will worsen and that the Taliban could make rapid territorial gains.”

Blinken also called on Ghani to “positively consider” the proposal that US peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad will share with him and that the Afghan president works with the Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah, former president Hamid Karzai and Adbul Rasul Sayyaf, an Afghan politician. 

On this note, he said such a “group of four” would present a united front. 

Blinken also stated that Washington intends to ask the United Nations to convene a meeting for Foreign Ministers and envoys from Russia, China, Pakistan, Iran, India and the US to discuss a unified approach to supporting peace in Afghanistan. 

“It is my belief that these countries share an abiding common interest in a stable Afghanistan and must work together if we are to succeed.”

He said Khalilzad has been asked to prepare and share with Ghani and the Taliban leaders written proposals aimed at accelerating discussions on a negotiated settlement and ceasefire. 

However, he pointed out that although Washington has “not yet completed our review of the way ahead, we have reached an initial conclusion that the best way to advance our shared interest is to do all we can to accelerate peace talks and to bring all parties into compliance with their commitments”.

He said the roadmap outlined for the peace process will enable the Republic and the Taliban to develop the foundational principles that will guide Afghanistan’s future constitutional and governing arrangements; a roadmap to a new and inclusive government; and the terms of a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. 

He said to Ghani: “I urge you to develop constructive positions on these written proposals to discuss with Ambassador Khalilzad.”

Blinken also stated that Washington will ask Turkey to host a senior-level meeting of both sides in the coming weeks to finalize a peace agreement. 

“I urge you or your authoritative designees to join other representatives of the Islamic Republic in this meeting,” he said to Ghani.

Blinken did however say that Washington shares Ghani’s view that every effort must be made to reduce the violence in Afghanistan. He said these high levels of violence “are exacting an unacceptable toll on the Afghan people and deeply undermining efforts to achieve peace.”

“We have prepared a revised proposal for a 90-day Reduction-in-Violence, which is intended to prevent a Spring Offensive by the Taliban and to coincide with our diplomatic efforts to support a political settlement between the parties.

“I urge you to positively consider the proposal…” he said. 

Blinken went on to state in his letter to Ghani that unity and inclusivity on the Republic’s side was essential for the “difficult work that lies ahead”.

“As you and your countrymen know all too well, disunity on the part of Afghan leaders proved disastrous in the early 1990s and must not be allowed to sabotage the opportunity before us,” he said in reference to the devastating civil war. 

He said to Ghani that his “work together with Chairman Abdullah and your engagements with former President Karzai and professor Sayyaf show promise toward building a more united Afghan front for peace.

“I ask that you work together to further broaden this consultative group of four such that Afghans regard it as inclusive and credible; to build consensus on specific goals and objectives for a negotiation with the Taliban about governance, power-sharing and essential supporting principles; and to agree on overall tactics and public messaging that will demonstrate unity of effort and purpose.”

He then said: “We will strongly support all efforts taken to make this united front work.”

In conclusion, he told Ghani: “I am making this clear to you so that you understand the urgency of my tone regarding the collective work outlined in this letter.”

Transitional government proposed

The letter coincides with the emergence of Washington’s plan for a transitional government – which the Taliban confirmed Sunday. 

In an interview with Ariana News, Taliban spokesman Mohammad Naeem said the plan was being considered by the Taliban’s leadership in Doha and that “a final decision has yet to be made in this regard.”

Naeem stated that the plan includes a transitional government, an Ankara, Turkey summit, and a ceasefire.

The Afghan government has also received US President Joe Biden’s proposed plan for the formation of a transitional government which would include the Taliban.

The plan consists of three key points; a principled guideline for the future of Afghanistan, a transitional government, and a permanent ceasefire.

According to a section of the plan that Ariana News read, a President of Afghanistan would be elected at the end of the transitional government period.

According to the plan, Islam will be considered the official religion of the country, and all Afghan citizens are granted immunity as “Afghanistan is a common home of all ethnicities and religions.”

A transitional government would consist of the following three main cornerstones:

The executive administration, including a president, deputies, ministers, and independent directorates

The legislature, which includes the Senate and Parliament, in which the Taliban will be represented and;

The judiciary, which would also include the Independent High Council of Islamic Jurisprudence and the Commission for Drafting a New Constitution.

According to the plan, the High Council of Islamic Jurisprudence would be composed of 15 members including seven Taliban members, seven members of the Afghan government, and a person would be chosen by the president of the government.

The council would be tasked to prepare Islamic guidance for social and cultural affairs.

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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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Afghan swimmer makes waves in World Para Series in Texas

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi won a silver medal at the World Para Swimming Series tournament in Texas on Friday evening in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 category.

Posting the news on his Facebook page, Karimi said: “I won this medal for 80 million refugees in the world.”

The Afghan-born swimmer is competing as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for the Tokyo Olympics.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para-swimming event. In 2018 he also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, Karimi said about his latest win: “This medal is cool but I want Paralympic medals [from Tokyo].”

More than 100 swimmers have come together in Louisville, Texas for this year’s major swimming contest.

Karimi has so far secured first place in 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly heats in his category, and second place in the 200m freestyle heat.

Karimi is also expected to take part in the 50m backstroke event in his category on Sunday.

“Thank you so much, everyone, who’s been supporting and praying for me,” Karimi wrote.

Should Karimi make it to the Tokyo Paralympics, he will be the first Afghan to do so.

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EU envoy urges Taliban to attend Istanbul peace conference

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt has called on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations with the Afghan government.

Addressing the inauguration of the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub” by a group of Afghan journalists and media officials in Kabul, Von Brandt said that the Taliban should not miss opportunities for maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

“As we entered in the holy month of Ramadan I still hope that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them in Istanbul,” he said.

“There is actually no time to waste,” Von Brandt stressed.

“If the Taliban want to be part of a government in Afghanistan, benefit from our development assistance from our trade, from our humanitarian aid, from the international exposure they better start seriously negotiating,” the EU diplomat said.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday announced that a full withdrawal of troops would start from May 1 and end by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

EU Ambassador stated that the organization would continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond foreign troop withdrawal.

“Let one thing be clear the EU delegation will continue to be here and continue to do its work,” Von Brandt said.

He, meanwhile, called on the warring parties to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“Understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed,” Von Brandt said.

“It is an example…how the blood on the battlefield can be exchanged for patience at the negotiating table, how horrific conflicts and wars can be ended through joint institutions.”

“But all these needs of course compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions,” he added.

He emphasized that if war continues or intensifies “everybody will lose terribly”.

“Of course we are strong supporters to an inclusive peace process that reflects the concerns of the people of Afghanistan that includes women, war victims, civil society, and of course all groups of the population,” he said.

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