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Denying Taliban an ‘honorable option’ earlier was a failure, says Atmar 

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(Last Updated On: August 6, 2020)

Afghanistan’s acting foreign minister Haneef Atmar said this week that over the past 19 years, one of Afghanistan’s biggest failures had been to not think about reconciliation earlier and not give the Taliban an “honorable option”. 

Speaking to the US’s former National Security Advisor in a Hoover Institution video interview, Atmar said the “number one issue was not to think about reconciliation early on and to give an option to the Taliban,” he said adding they “wanted to have an honorable option”. 

“Collectively we failed to give them an option of an honorable reconciliation and sometimes we drove them away from Afghanistan. That was a bad policy,” he said adding “it wasn’t a good choice”.

The discussion, on America’s longest war, centered around the situation over the past 19 years and the end result of peace that both the US and Afghanistan have been working towards. 

Atmar in his discussion was adamant about ridding Afghanistan of terrorists and said if the country allowed space for terrorists to take root, the likes of 9/11 could happen again. 

He said anyone who thinks terrorism can be ignored, needs to think again. 

He pointed out that after the fall of the old Soviet Union, the United States felt there was no longer a threat in Afghanistan – but they were wrong, he said. 

“That mistake, that error, should not be repeated again,” he stated.

 Atmar pointed out that Afghanistan was not just fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan but it was also fighting other terror organizations.

There are four groups of transnational terror networks, he said adding there are those that are Afghans, regional terrorists, Pakistan terrorists and international terrorists such as al-Qaeda and Daesh. 

“They all have symbiotic relationships. Not only among themselves but also with transnational organized criminal networks and they benefit from narcotics, and they benefit from organized crime,” he said. 

“They collectively pose a national security threat – collectively to the region and to the world community.”

He said it is a shared responsibility to not get “tired” of fighting terrorism adding that with continued assistance from the international community Afghanistan believes it will succeed. 

“To sum it up, I strongly believe we have a noble reason to continue to stay engaged and continue to protect our people.” 

According to him, disengagement from fighting terrorism would not work but instead “benefit the enemy”. 

He said from his side he could point towards five things that went wrong over the past 19 years. 

He said these failures were related to politics and not to the hard work “of our brave men and women in uniform.”

Atmar stated that the “number one issue was not to think about reconciliation early on and to give an option to the Taliban.”  

The second failure was attributed to Afghanistan’s policies and to not “address the problem of sanctuaries outside Afghanistan, so while the Taliban were driven away from Afghanistan they were also given sanctuary outside Afghanistan and we were never able to this day to address that sanctuary problem outside Afghanistan.”

The third failure was on the Afghan side, he said – “we failed to build the kind of state and governance that the Afghan people deserved”. 

He said corruption and state failure on many fronts were significant and that these were failures that reduced the effectiveness of the combined efforts of the Afghans and the international community. 

Security forces could also meanwhile have been grown to the full extent of their capabilities especially with regards to the type of counter-terrorism Afghanistan is faced with, he stated. 

“We could have done more to develop the Afghan army’s capabilities,” including the development of close air support – which he highlighted. 

The final flaw in Afghanistan’s strategy was losing regional consensus in counter-terrorism efforts, Atmar told McMaster. 

He said until 2006 there had been a great deal of regional and international support but slowly that consensus weakened. This was affected by international issues outside of Afghanistan’s control, including relations between other countries. 

But learning from this, the best way forward is “number one, peace between the Afghan people and the Taliban, the Afghan government and the Taliban,” he said. 

Also “preserving what we have built over the past 19 years and further developing it. Essentially it’s about the preservation of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan that is defined by our commitment to human rights, women’s rights, good governance, political inclusion of our people, rule of law, and all those critical values that modern humanity requires for its functioning.”

Atmar emphasized that “we should not lose them as a result of the peace process. 

“No peace will be lasting if it’s not built on that foundation.  

He said the partnership between the United States and Afghanistan was critical in terms of achieving the end state of peace.

But given ongoing issues regarding Pakistan’s antics towards Afghanistan and rumored claims of bounties by the Russian’s, McMaster asked Atmar what would it take to get regional countries to actually support the country’s peace efforts and recognize that defeating terrorism was also in their interests.

Atmar stated that regional countries along with Afghanistan need to build consensus on their common interests. 

National and security interests have to be the foundation within the region and neighboring countries’ inclusion in the peace process is also needed, he said. 

Asked about intra-Afghan talks, Atmar told McMaster that one key objective with peace is to achieve an end state of Afghanistan not becoming a safe haven for international terrorists.

He also said that agreements made have to be acceptable to the Afghan people and to the region as a whole.  

On what an end state actually meant, Atmar said it was for a sovereign, democratic Afghanistan committed to human and women’s rights along with other important values. 

He said killing people under any pretext is not acceptable and to date, the Taliban has argued that it’s continued violence is based on the US’s presence in the country. 

He said the Taliban need to stop the violence and although they are no longer fighting the US, they are fighting the Afghan security forces. He said there was no justification for this.  

On how intra-Afghan talks would proceed, he said they would be led by a team of 21 people, including women and key would be to discuss a humanitarian ceasefire. 

Atmar stated that currently, the people of Afghanistan are dealing with a double-edged sword – COVID-19 and the Taliban. 

Included in intra-Afghan talks would be the topic of an end state in terms of what Afghanistan wants to achieve as well as the reintegration of refugees and Taliban fighters. 

He also said that other terrorist groups need to leave Afghanistan and that peace talks only relate to the Taliban.

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Kazakhs told to leave streets to avoid ‘anti-terrorist actions’

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(Last Updated On: January 8, 2022)

A statement broadcast on Kazakh TV on Friday told Almaty residents to stay inside during the security operation in the city.

Video obtained by Reuters showed the broadcast statement, which said: “Respectable Inhabitants of Almaty! A counter-terrorist operation to destroy bandit groups is going on in Almaty. The main goal is to stop terrorists and safeguard the security of the city. If anti-terrorist activity takes place where you live, it is recommended you do not go near by windows or get out in the street. Hide in a safe place, do not leave children or the elderly without supervision.”

Almaty, Kazakhstan’s main city, has seen days of violence, with demonstrations that began as a response to a fuel price hike swelling into a broad movement against the government and ex-leader Nursultan Nazarbayev, 81, the longest-serving ruler of any former Soviet state.

Security forces appeared to have reclaimed the streets of Kazakhstan’s main city on Friday after days of violence, and the Russian-backed president said he had ordered his troops to shoot to kill to put down a countrywide uprising.

A day after Moscow sent paratroopers to help crush the insurrection, police were patrolling the debris-strewn streets of Almaty, although some gunfire could still be heard, Reuters reported.

President Kassym-Jomart Tokayev said foreign-trained terrorists were responsible for the unrest, and the interior ministry said 26 “armed criminals” had been “liquidated”, while 18 police and members of the national guard had been killed, figures that appeared not to have been updated since Thursday. State television reported more than 3,700 arrests.

 

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Japan pledges $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighbors to ‘address crisis’

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(Last Updated On: December 21, 2021)

The Japanese government has pledged to donate a total of approximately $109 million to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries “to address the humanitarian crisis” in the country.

In a statement issued on Tuesday, the Japanese Foreign Ministry said that Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in Afghanistan and its neighboring countries including Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.

“The Government of Japan will provide assistance to directly address humanitarian needs in areas such as healthcare, food, and nutrition, protection, water, and sanitation, as well as livelihood improvement to Afghanistan and its neighboring countries,” the statement read.

According to the statement the assistance would be provided through 16 international organizations to improve the humanitarian crisis.

“The Government of Japan will continue to provide support and stand with the people of Afghanistan, and play an active role to realize stability in the region,” the statement added.

According to the statement, $100 million will be allocated for Afghanistan; $4.01 million to Iran; $3.72 million to Pakistan; $0.99 million to Tajikistan; and $0.43 million to Uzbekistan.

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COVID-19

Unvaccinated COVID patients flood French ICUs as cases surge

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(Last Updated On: December 18, 2021)

Pressure on French hospitals has been steadily mounting over the past few weeks as France battles a fifth wave of COVID-19 infections, which has been filling up ICUs with unvaccinated patients.

Of the 20 COVID patients of the Mulhouse hospital ICU, only three are vaccinated while the youngest is aged 19 years old, head of the Emile Muller hospital ICU, doctor Khaldoun Kuteifan, told Reuters on Thursday.

“The Mulhouse hospital ICU is currently at full capacity as patients have been coming in for the past 20 days. Seventy percent of the ICU patients are positive COVID cases.”

France had recorded 60,866 new cases over the past 24 hours on Thursday night, while 78.1% of French people have received at least one dose of a COVID vaccine, according to the French Health Ministry website.

“The waves keep coming and hitting us, and the more it goes on, the more tired we get,” nurse Aurelie Multhaupt told Reuters.

French government spokesman Gabriel Attal said on Wednesday that the government expects to see around 4,000 patients in intensive care with COVID-19 by the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported.

Attal said new decisions on the reinforcement of border rules, the acceleration of the vaccination campaign and travel recommendations for the holidays could be announced in the coming days.

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