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Five climbers die in snowstorm on Russia’s Mount Elbrus

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(Last Updated On: September 24, 2021)

Five climbers died after they got caught in a sudden snowstorm on Russia’s Mount Elbrus, the highest mountain in Europe, officials said.

The other 14 members of the party were rescued on the peak in the Caucasus Mountains in high winds and low visibility amid temperatures of minus -20 Celsius (-4 Fahrenheit), the regional emergency ministry said.

The group of Russian climbers sent out a mayday call just after 5 p.m. (1400 GMT) on Thursday, the ministry added. Eleven of the survivors were taken to hospital.

One woman fell ill and died in the arms of one of the guides, Denis Alimov, who helped organise the climb, told TASS news agency.

Another climber broke his leg as he was coming down and the party decided to split into three groups depending on who could go fastest, Alimov told TASS.

“As they descended, two more people died in one of the groups. But the decision to split up was the right one, otherwise there might have been more casualties.”

Guides with the group suffered frostbite and other injuries, Alimov was quoted as saying.

Mount Elbrus, which rises to 5,642 metres (18,510 feet) just north of the border with Georgia, is infamous for sudden changes in weather and climbing conditions.

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China to build outpost for Tajikistan special forces near Afghan border

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

China will finance the construction of an outpost for a special forces unit of Tajikistan’s police near the Tajik-Afghan border, the Central Asian nation’s parliament said on Thursday.

The post will be located in Tajikistan’s eastern Gorno-Badakhshan Autonomous Province in the Pamir mountains, which border China’s Xinjiang province as well as the northeastern Afghan province of Badakhshan.

No Chinese troops will be stationed at the facility, a parliament spokesperson said.

The plan to build the post comes amid tension between the Dushanbe government and Afghanistan’s new Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) rulers, Reuters reported.

Tajik President Emomali Rakhmon has refused to recognise the IEA government, calling for a broader representation of Afghanistan’s ethnic groups – of which Tajiks are the second-biggest.

Kabul, in turn, has warned Dushanbe against meddling in its domestic affairs, Reuters reported.

According to Russian media, the IEA have struck an alliance with an ethnic Tajik militant group based in northern Afghanistan which seeks to overthrow Rakhmon’s government, Reuters reported.

A Russia-led regional security organisation held exercises last week near the Tajik-Afghan border, designed to demonstrate that Moscow stands ready to protect Dushanbe in the event of an incursion from the south.

China is a major investor in Tajikistan and Beijing has also acted as a donor on several occasions, handing over, for example, a new parliament building free of charge.

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Khalilzad opens up about Ghani and ‘selfish’ political elite

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said former president Ashraf Ghani’s “intransigence,” the Afghan elite’s “selfishness” and Afghan soldiers’ lack of will to fight was to blame for the rapid takeover of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August.

On Ghani’s refusal to change his views, or agree to the formation of a new interim government, Khalilzad said: “We were all surprised by the intransigence of President Ghani in insisting on staying in power till his term ended, despite the fact that he had come out re-elected in a fraudulent election that very few Afghans participated in.”

Addressing a webinar organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, on Wednesday, Khalilzad also acknowledged for the first time publicly that the U.S. had discouraged Afghans from holding the presidential elections that led to Ghani’s winning a second term in office.

According to Khalilzad, the U.S. wanted to establish an interim administration that was acceptable to both sides while Afghan politicians and civil society negotiated a political settlement with the IEA.

Khalilzad said Ghani’s “grand miscalculation” was that he did not believe the U.S. would withdraw from the country.

According to Khalilzad, Ghani thought the U.S. forces and intelligence agencies would stay in Afghanistan as it gave them physical proximity to strategically important countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

“I tried to persuade him that President [Donald] Trump was very serious, and he said, ‘No, the intelligence and military told me otherwise,’ ” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad also stated that Ghani miscalculated his own military’s will to fight.

Once the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw, Ghani told Khalilzad, “now I am free to fight the war the Afghan way. In six months now I will defeat the Taliban because you were fighting it poorly.”

Khalilzad went on to say that the fact that an estimated 300,000-strong Afghan army melted away in front of 60,000 IEA fighters was the result of a lack of morale, corruption and poor treatment of the soldiers on the front lines.

He said this also might have been because the soldiers “didn’t believe” in the cause, while the IEA fighters felt otherwise.

Khalilzad also blasted what he called the Afghan elite’s “selfish, self-centered, corrupt” behavior.

“I am disappointed that the elite that we worked with; they didn’t rise to the occasion; this golden opportunity that the American engagement provided,” he said.

In terms of going forward, Khalilzad advocated a robust diplomatic engagement with the IEA that includes an agreement on a “road map that takes into account the trust or mistrust of each other and the behavior that needs to take place over a time period.”

He also said that many in the US want the IEA to suffer and their government to collapse, because “we did not succeed in defeating them, and that has left a bad taste in people’s mouths.”

But he warned that a collapse of government in Afghanistan would lead to a civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe that would provide space for terrorist groups to flourish.

He said the IEA had shown, in the 18 months after signing the Doha agreement, that they could keep their word by not killing a single American even though U.S. air attacks in defense of Afghan forces killed hundreds or even thousands of Taliban during that period.

Khalilzad also said the IEA could benefit from outside help on how to deal with Daesh in Afghanistan.

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Muttaqi meets envoys from 14 countries in Doha to discuss crisis

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi attended a meeting in Doha on Wednesday evening with representatives and ambassadors of 14 countries to discuss the relationship between the new Afghan government and the international community.

During the meeting Muttaqi called on the international community to urge the United States to release Afghanistan’s national reserves.

Muttaqi said that for the first time in 40 years, Afghanistan is now a “sovereign and responsible system and [the IEA] has met all conditions to be recognized as a government”.

During the meeting, foreign ambassadors and special envoys in turn expressed satisfaction with the Afghan delegation’s remarks, ministry of foreign affairs spokesman Abdul Qahar Balkhi tweeted.

In addition to this, Muttaqi also met with US mission chief for Afghanistan in Doha, Ian McCary and a seven-member delegation in Doha on Wednesday where he had in-depth discussions on bilateral issues, Balkhi said.

As a follow up of previous bilateral meetings, both sides held detailed discussions and exchanged views about US-Afghan relations and other related issues, Balkhi added.

Meanwhile, here in Kabul, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhwa, acting Minister of Information and Culture, told Ariana News that these meetings were beneficial to the Islamic Emirate (IE) and said that through these meetings, the international community has pledged to help Afghanistan.

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