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Foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan after May deadline: NATO sources

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(Last Updated On: January 31, 2021)

International troops plan to stay in Afghanistan beyond the May deadline envisaged by the insurgent Taliban’s deal with the United States, four senior NATO officials told Reuters.

The move could however escalate tensions with the Taliban which is demanding a full withdrawal.

“There will be no full withdrawal by allies by April-end,” one of the officials told Reuters.

“Conditions have not been met,” he said on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the matter.

“And with the new US administration, there will be tweaks in the policy, the sense of hasty withdrawal which was prevalent will be addressed and we could see a much more calculated exit strategy.”

The former Trump administration signed an agreement with the Taliban early last year calling for the withdrawal of all foreign troops by May in return for the insurgents fulfilling certain security guarantees.

Trump hailed the accord – which did not include the Afghan government – as the end of two decades of war. He reduced US troops to 2,500 by this month, the fewest since 2001.

Plans on what will happen after April are now being considered and likely to be a top issue at a key NATO meeting in February, the NATO sources told Reuters.

Peace talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban began in September in Doha, but violence has remained high.

Reuters reported that Kabul and some foreign governments and agencies say the Taliban has failed to meet conditions due to escalated violence and a failure to cut ties with militant groups such as Al Qaeda, which the Taliban denies.

The new US administration under Joe Biden has launched a review of the US-Taliban deal but a Pentagon spokesman said the Taliban have not met their commitments.

However, Washington remained committed to the process and had not decided on future troop levels, the Pentagon stated this week.

A State Department representative said Biden was committed to bringing a “responsible end to the ‘forever wars’… while also protecting Americans from terrorist and other threats.”

Afghanistan’s presidential palace did not respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

Meanwhile, according to Reuters, two Taliban sources said the group has become increasingly concerned in recent weeks about the possibility that Washington might change aspects of the agreement and keep troops in the country beyond May.

“We conveyed our apprehensions, but they assured us of honouring and acting on the Doha accord. What’s going on, on the ground in Afghanistan, is showing something else. And that’s why we decided to send our delegations to take our allies into confidence,” a Taliban leader in Doha told Reuters.

A Taliban delegation this week visited Iran and Russia, and the leader said they were contacting China.

Although informal meetings have been taking place between negotiators in Doha, progress has stalled in recent weeks after an almost one-month break, according to negotiators and diplomats.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Reuters the insurgents remained committed to the peace process.

“No doubt that if the Doha deal is not implemented there will be consequences, and the blame will be upon that side which does not honour the deal,” he said.

“Our expectations are also that NATO will think to end this war and avoid more excuses for prolonging the war in Afghanistan.”

NATO and Washington will have a challenge getting the Taliban to agree to an extension beyond May.

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IEA faces serious challenges that need to be addressed: Mullah Yaqoob

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2021)

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob Mujahid, acting defense minister, on Wednesday said that the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is facing serious challenges which need to be addressed.

Addressing an event at the Sardar Mohammad Daud Khan 400 bed Military hospital in Kabul, Mullah Yaqoob said Afghans have suffered for 40 years.

“These serious problems have been ongoing for many years. There are problems. There is chaos, everything is not good,” said Mullah Yaqoob.

In his first appearance before the media, he also called on businessmen to invest in the country’s health sector.

“Traders should invest in the health sector, so Afghans don’t have to go to other countries for treatment,” he added.

The acting minster of public health meanwhile, called on the world to continue providing humanitarian aid to Afghanistan.

“In the health sector, deep reforms should be brought,” said Qallandar Abad, acting minster of public health.

Some doctors meanwhile called on the IEA to take the needs of health workers into consideration.

“We urge the minister of public health to not exclude our military doctors from their lists to receive money for salaries and medical equipment,” said Tahir Ahrar, a military commander.

This comes amid serious warnings by health officials that the country’s health sector is on the verge of collapse.

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Iran urges support for Afghanistan to ward off threat of terrorism

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2021)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Hossein Amir Abdollahian said on Wednesday evening after the meeting on Afghanistan that humanitarian and economic support should be provided to Afghanistan so that insurgent groups do not use the current crisis to recruit soldiers.

Addressing a press conference after the foreign minister’s meeting on Afghanistan in Tehran, Abdollahian said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is a reality and they are running the interim government and should be encouraged to work towards the establishment of an inclusive government.

Abdollahian said delegates attending the meeting insisted that Afghanistan’s central bank assets be released for the sake of the country’s economy.

The UN Secretary-General António Guterres, meanwhile told delegates he was “deeply concerned” about human rights abuses and attacks in Afghanistan since the IEA took control.

In a pre-recorded video message, the UN Secretary-General said that Afghanistan was facing a growing humanitarian crisis that needed immediate action.

Guterres recalled the UN’s engagement with the IEA to provide humanitarian assistance to the Afghan people.

Moscow meanwhile has consistently advocated for the creation of an inclusive government in Afghanistan and has no plans to impose its recommendations on the country, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said in a video address.

“Russia is not inclined to impose its advice or recommendations on anyone. Moreover, history itself offers effective ways to solve problems. It’s vital to take the interests of the country’s major ethnic and political forces into account to the fullest extent possible,” he said.

“This is why we have been firmly and consistently supporting the creation of a truly inclusive Afghan government,” he stated.

“The people need to be sure that their rights and legitimate aspirations will be implemented through action, not just words, and will also be protected by law, certainly based on respect for local traditions and customs,” Lavrov explained.

On the other hand, Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi stated that IEA officials want efficient engagement with the international community.

The people of Afghanistan are facing a severe economic situation, and their money should be released by other countries, he added.

In addition, Qureshi stressed that there must be a joint fight against terrorism at the regional level because the activities of terrorist groups are a threat to the region.

Meanwhile, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said that IEA officials are eager to have dialogue with the rest of the world, and the international community should help Afghanistan with its development.

In an address delivered by video link to conference participants, Wang said Beijing was ready to host further talks between Afghanistan and its neighbours on the country’s future.

“The Taliban (IEA) are eager to have dialogue with the world … China will host the third Neighbours of Afghanistan meeting at the appropriate time,” Wang said in comments broadcast live by Iranian state TV.

The meeting of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries was attended in person by the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and China and Russia participated by video link.

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IEA eager for dialogue with the world: China’s Wang Yi

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(Last Updated On: October 27, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials are eager to have dialogue with the rest of the world, and the international community should help Afghanistan with its development, China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi said on Wednesday.

In an address delivered by video link to a conference in Iran on Afghanistan, Wang said Beijing was ready to host further talks between Afghanistan and its neighbours on the country’s future.

“The Taliban (IEA) are eager to have dialogue with the world … China will host the third Neighbours of Afghanistan meeting at the appropriate time,” Wang said in comments broadcast live by Iranian state TV.

The meeting of Afghanistan and neighbouring countries was attended in person by the foreign ministers of Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and China and Russia participated by video link.

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