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First group of Afghan Sikhs expected to leave the country on Sunday

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(Last Updated On: July 26, 2020)

Eleven Afghan Sikhs are expected to leave Kabul on Sunday for India, after being granted visas by the Indian government. 

Chhabol Singh, a community leader in Kabul, told India’s Sunday Express that among those leaving Sunday was Nidan Singh Sachdeva, who was kidnapped in Paktia last month before being freed, and the 15-year-old girl who was recently rescued by police after also allegedly being abducted. 

“We have received six-month visas for 11 persons, including Nidan Singh who is still unwell after being tortured in captivity. He will be accompanied by a relative. 

“The families of the two brothers, who were killed in the Kabul attack (in March), will also leave. The daughter of one of them was recently rescued after an attempt to marry her forcefully,” said Chhabol Singh, who is a member of the managing committee of the Gurdwara in Karte Parwan in Kabul.

These latest developments come after the March attack on a Gurdwara in Kabul – an attack claimed by Daesh – that resulted in the death of at least 25 Sikhs.

Since then concerns have increased over the safety of the minority group in Afghanistan especially in view of negotiations expected between the Afghan government and Taliban over a possible peace agreement. 

Sunday’s move comes after the Afghan Sikh community made multiple appeals to the Indian Embassy in Kabul and wrote to India’s Home Minister Amit Shah seeking immediate evacuation and rescue after the attack on March 25.

The process stalled however due to the coronavirus outbreak and the grounding of international flights, the Sunday Express reported.

But earlier this month, the World Sikh Organization (WSO) also came out in support of the Afghan Sikhs and Hindus and updated the public on their efforts to have the Canadian government create a Direct Sponsorship Program for the group. 

Balpreet Singh, the spokesman for the WSO, said in a video posted on their Twitter page that the organization has been lobbying the Canadian government to allow the Afghan Sikhs to settle in Canada directly “without having to go to an intermediary country”. 

During the 1980s the Sikh and Hindu community numbered more than 80,000 but most left the country when the Soviet Union was ousted in 1992. 

Some returned to Afghanistan after the Taliban were ousted from power in the hope that things would improve. 

The Afghan government had encouraged their return but the community has faced vicious attacks claimed by Daesh during the past few years. Today, less than 700 live in their home country.

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Trump’s former NSA says Afghan peace talks are ‘doomed to fail’

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(Last Updated On: September 21, 2020)

President Donald Trump’s former national security adviser HR McMaster said on Monday intra-Afghan negotiations are doomed to end in failure and warned the risk of another 9/11 type attack in the US was “very high”. 

Speaking to USA TODAY following the launch of his new book “Battlegrounds: The Fight to Defend the Free World”, McMaster expressed concern about a “destructive cycle” in American politics that has weakened the country. 

In his book, he offers a thoughtful critique of US foreign policy and an assessment of Trump’s approach to North Korea, Afghanistan and other global hotspots. 

McMaster makes it clear he disagreed with some of Trump’s decisions, such as negotiating with the Taliban, which, he told USA TODAY, was based on a “fantasy” and “wishful thinking” that the militant group would renounce its ties to al-Qaeda, which orchestrated the 9/11 attacks.

In February,  the US signed a deal with the Taliban agreeing to a troop withdrawal from Afghanistan. In exchange, the Taliban agreed to break ties with al-Qaeda. 

But McMaster said the US deal will simply allow the Taliban to expand its territory and establish an Islamic caliphate and a terrorist training ground. 

He also ridiculed the idea of a power-sharing agreement between the Afghan government and the Taliban and said it will pave the way for the Taliban to reimpose its repressive laws on the Afghan people – particularly women.

 “What (does) power-sharing with the Taliban look like?” he asked. “Does that look like … every other girls’ school bulldozed? Or does it look like mass executions in the soccer stadium every other Saturday?”

” … We’ve created this idea that the Taliban can be partners for peace when in fact, they’re determined to establish an Islamic caliphate in Afghanistan and to use that Islamic caliphate as a base for expansion,” McMaster said. 

USA TODAY reported McMaster predicts the peace talks effort will result in failure and leave the US increasingly vulnerable – not just to al-Qaeda but to ISIS (Daesh) and other anti-American terrorist groups. 

The threat is wider now, he said, and those groups are more capable.

In the book, he recounts Trump’s off-handed comment about the war in Afghanistan. “I could win that war in a week. I just don’t want to kill 10 million people.”

 McMaster says that created a misunderstanding about the conflict and “cheapened” the sacrifices made by both American and Afghan soldiers who lost their lives in the war.

The USA TODAY interview follows last week’s discussion with CBS News, where the retired lieutenant general, who left the White House in March 2018, claimed that Trump with his new policy is “partnering with the Taliban against the Afghan government.”

“I think what [Trump] did with this new policy, is he, in effect, is partnering with the Taliban against, in many ways, the Afghan government. And so, I think that it’s an unwise policy. And I think what we require in Afghanistan is a sustained commitment to help the Afghan government,” McMaster told CBS.

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US imposes sanctions on Iran’s Defense Ministry

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(Last Updated On: September 21, 2020)

The United States on Monday slapped new sanctions on the Iranian defense ministry and others involved in Iran’s nuclear and weapons program to support its assertion that all UN sanctions against Tehran are now restored.

The move, disputed by key European allies as well as US adversaries such as Russia and China, was announced on Monday evening by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

Pompeo also told reporters the United States put new sanctions on Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, who has deepened ties between Caracas and Tehran, Reuters reported. 

Earlier Monday, Iranian oil minister Bijan Zanganeh said that the United States was waging a war against Iran by imposing sanctions on the Islamic Republic’s crude exports.

“Today Iran is still fighting a war. America has waged a war against Iran with no blood,” Zanganeh was quoted as saying by the oil ministry’s news agency SHANA.

“No matter who you are, if you violate the UN arms embargo on Iran, you risk sanctions,” Pompeo said. 

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Rescue workers search for survivors after Mumbai building collapses

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(Last Updated On: September 21, 2020)

Indian officials confirmed late Monday that at least 10 people died in a building collapse earlier in the day. 

The four-story residential building, on the outskirts of Mumbai, collapsed in the early hours of Monday morning while people were asleep. 

Search and rescue teams are still working to find survivors trapped in the rubble. 

During the June-September monsoon season, when heavy rains weaken the foundations of buildings that are poorly constructed or old, India experiences frequent structure collapses.

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