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EU condemns ‘atrocious, planned assassinations’ of three TV staffers

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(Last Updated On: March 3, 2021)

The European Union on Wednesday night condemned the killing of three female media workers in Jalalabad on Tuesday and said the targeting of journalists and of women must stop.

According to a statement issued by the EU Spokesperson, the killing of Mursal Wahedi, Shahnaz Raofi and Sadya Sadat “in atrocious, planned assassinations deprives three young individuals of their future, and their families, friends and colleagues of loved ones.”

The three women worked for Enikas TV – the same news channel where slain Malalai Maiwand had worked.

Maiwand was killed, along with her driver, in a targeted assassination in December.

The EU said in its statement that following the killing of Maiwand, these attacks further illustrate the vulnerable and dangerous situation that media workers, especially women, face.

“It also continues a worrying trend of systematic, targeted attacks and killings of journalists, human rights defenders, civil society representatives and civil servants, which cost the lives of 1,200 civilians in 2020, a 45% increase compared to 2019.

“The Taliban remain responsible for the majority of civilian casualties and targeted assassinations, either directly or by opposing a ceasefire. Targeting journalists must stop. Targeting women must stop. The violence in Afghanistan must stop,” read the statement..

The European Union said it expects transparent and thorough investigations of all these attacks and assassinations. “We mourn together with those affected and reiterate the European Union’s resolve to support media and the freedom of speech in Afghanistan.”

Earlier in the day reports emerged that Islamic State (Daesh) had reportedly claimed responsibility for the attack that killed the three women on Tuesday evening.

According to SITE Intelligence group, Daesh said on Tuesday night its fighters had targeted the three female employees of Enikas TV.

However, Interior Minister Massoud Andarabi said later Wednesday that although Daesh has claimed responsibility for the attack, the claim needs to be investigated.

He said a team has been sent from Kabul to Nangarhar to find out which group was behind the killings

Provincial police chief Juma Gul Hemat said on Tuesday night the suspected lead attacker had been arrested and that he was connected to the Taliban.

The three women, aged between 18 and 20, were gunned down while on their way home from work.

However, the Taliban denied the group was involved in the attack.

Tuesday’s tragedy comes amid a wave of attacks against journalists, media workers, civil society activists and government officials.

The Taliban have said they are not responsible but Afghan officials and some foreign powers have blamed the attacks largely on the group.

The US Embassy in Kabul on Tuesday night called the killings “devastating news,” and said these “attacks are meant to intimidate; they are intended to make reporters cower; the culprits hope to stifle freedom of speech in a nation where the media has flourished during the past 20 years. This cannot be tolerated.”

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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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