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Blinken says US is not planning to lift existing sanctions

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

The United States said Tuesday that it will not lift existing sanctions on the Islamic Emirate but it will continue sending humanitarian aid to vulnerable people in Afghanistan.

Testifying before Congress on the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken emphasized that humanitarian aid would flow through NGOs and UN agencies in Afghanistan.

“We’ll continue to support humanitarian aid to the Afghan people. Consistent with sanctions, this aid will not flow through the government, but rather through independent organizations like NGOs and UN agencies,” Blinken said.

Blinken’s remarks came on the heels of comments made by the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Acting Foreign Minister Mawlawi Amir Khan Muttaqi, who called for sanctions to be lifted.

Muttaqi said urgent global help is needed to help deal with the “major humanitarian crisis” currently gripping the country.

Addressing a press conference in Kabul on Tuesday evening, Muttaqi called on Afghan expats to return home to help develop the country and appealed to those in the country to stay and not migrate.

He said the government is doing everything it can to provide job opportunities.

In Blinken’s address to Congress, he said however that sanctions would remain in place but that aid would be sent to Afghanistan.

“There are significant sanctions from the United Nations on the Taliban (Islamic Emirate); there are travel restrictions on the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) and the idea that if the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) is in violation of the Security Council Resolution that we established, it will get any relief just on that alone, the UN sanctions or travel restrictions, I think that’s pretty clear that that won’t happen, that’s just one point of leverage,” Blinken said.

“We want to make sure that assistance continues to flow; humanitarian assistance, including assistance that’s directed at special needs of women and girls; we’re doing that consistent with our sanctions and we’re able to do that by working through NGO’s and the UN agencies.”

Muttaqi meanwhile said on Tuesday that security is being maintained around the country and called on foreign businesses to invest in Afghanistan.

He said the country is currently facing many problems including a brain drain. “Afghanistan is in dire need of help,” he said.

Reiterating his calls for global support, Muttaqi said the Islamic Emirate is willing to work with all countries including the United States but made it clear they “will not be dictated to”.

Calling for sanctions to be lifted against the Islamic Emirate, Muttaqi added “we can not allow any sanctions or embargoes” to be imposed on Afghanistan.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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CSTO to take anti-drug trafficking measures at Afghanistan border

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

The Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) will hold a three-phase anti-drug trafficking operation at the border with Afghanistan, the organization’s Secretary General Stanislav Zas told Russia-24 news outlet.

He said the CSTO has a range of activities planned for 2022, including military security and the fight against terrorism, Russia-24 reported.

“These are measures of fighting against the illegal circulation of narcotics. This subject is especially important on the backdrop of the recent events in Afghanistan. Here we plan three stages of anti-drug trafficking measures,” Zas said.

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