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Gen. Campbell: US mission in Afghanistan not changing

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(Last Updated On: February 14, 2016)

natoU.S. troops in Afghanistan will not return to an active role fighting the Taliban despite the likelihood of another difficult year of combat, the outgoing commander of international forces, Gen. John Campbell, said on Saturday.

U.S. special forces units assisting Afghan forces have been involved in firefights in the volatile southern province of Helmand, where a Green Beret was killed last month and where the Taliban have put government forces under pressure.

Another 500 U.S. soldiers have been sent down to the province to bolster local forces that have been hard-pressed to hold on to key district centers such as Sangin and Marjah, but their role will remain to advise and assist.

“The mission hasn’t changed,” Campbell told reporters in Kabul in what is likely to be his final news conference before handing over to Lt. Gen. John Nicholson in March. But he said they would be able to defend themselves and call in air support if necessary.

“They’re not actively going out to fight but if they get attacked, they have to be able to provide force protection to themselves,” he said. “That’s where you see Apache helicopters, bombs, drones, those kind of things.”

Afghan forces, which took over combat operations when NATO’s fighting mission ended in 2014, have struggled and are expected to need international assistance for years to come.

Around 9,800 U.S. troops remain in Afghanistan. Under current plans that number is due to fall to 5,500 by the end of 2016.

In addition to training Afghan forces, the U.S. military has stepped up operations against Islamic State fighters, mainly in the east of the country. With troop numbers set to fall, questions have been raised about what changes they will have to make to carry out both missions.

Campbell said he has requested more flexibility in the authorization of force as well as in tactics and procedures used by U.S. forces against the Taliban. Except in very limited circumstances, current rules only allow him to order air strikes or other attacks against the Islamist insurgent movement when U.S. troops are threatened.

In the meanwhile, Campbell said Afghan forces were trying to improve in areas including leadership and recruitment, reducing high rates of desertion and getting more soldiers off ineffective checkpoints and taking on the Taliban.

“The Afghans need to focus on those four, five, six things to make sure that 16 is not like 15,” he said.

Written by: Reuters

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Bayat Foundation provides much needed food parcels to Balkh residents

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Hundreds of poverty-stricken families in Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, were given food parcels on Sunday in a drive by the organization to help desperate families ahead of winter.

Committed to helping the hungry, Bayat Foundation has so far sent hundreds of packages that include rice, flour and oil, to the destitute in Kandahar, Herat and now Balkh.

According to foundation officials, they are working as fast as possible to provide the essential food items to people before winter sets in.

“The Bayat Foundation continues to provide assistance to the deserving and displaced people. We have already distributed aid to people in Kandahar and Herat and today we have distributed in Mazar-e-Sharif,” said Haji Mohammad Ismail, Deputy Chairman of the Bayat Foundation.

Bayat Foundation has carried out comprehensive assessments in these areas to identify recipients in urgent need of help.

“Based on the Bayat Foundation’s survey results, we are distributing foodstuff for really deserving people,” said Yafes Saqeb, Head of Bayat Foundation in Balkh.

Recipients of the food parcels welcomed the foundation’s initiative and said a large percentage of local families are facing serious financial problems.

“People don’t have food. We welcome their assistance and want them to continue their help,” said Abdul Ghafar, a resident.

“In this dangerous time that people are living in, hungry, we really welcome the assistance. We want them to continue with this assistance,” said Mohammad Baqer, another resident.

“There is no work. Women have problems, and can’t leave [their homes]. We are grateful to them and hope they carry on helping us,” said Shakela, another resident.
Bayat Foundation officials have said they will continue to provide food parcels and hope to reach as many people across the country.

Hundreds of thousands of Afghan families are desperate amid a looming humanitarian crisis following the abrupt end to foreign financial aid and the freezing of Afghanistan’s assets by the US.

Families have been hit hard by the unexpected withdrawal of foreign organizations, diplomatic missions as well as the withdrawal of US troops.

Together these entities employed hundreds of thousands of people both directly and indirectly – people who now have no income. In addition to this, the 300,000 former security force members, who were paid by the US, are also now unemployed and penniless.

Afghanistan’s winters are particularly harsh, and given the collapsing economy, Afghans are extremely worried about what lies ahead.

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MoD to form a new, independent national army

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Afghan Ministry of Defense (MoD) officials said Saturday that they will establish a new army that is independent in order to defend Afghanistan’s territory and airspace.

Mullah Mohammad Yaqoob, acting minister of defense and son of Mullah Mohammad Omar, founder of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), said in a voice clip on Sunday that efforts are being made to safeguard Afghanistan’s territory and airspace.

“We intend to create a national and independent army under MoD to defend the country with high values. We will attempt to equip the IEA army with modern weapons. The army should have ground and airspace capabilities,” said Mullah Yaqoob.

The acting minister assured the international community and countries in the region that no one will be allowed to use Afghanistan terrority to carry out attacks against them.

“Countries in the world know that an army is impossible without foreign assistance. The world should help Afghanistan in this regard,” said Mohammad Sarwar Naizai, a military analyst.

The caretaker minister did not however provide further details about how the IEA will finance the army or whether it will include soldiers from the former government.

The previous Western-backed government paid the salaries of the then soldiers with money from the United States. On August 15, when former president Ashraf Ghani and all his top officials fled the country, the US and NATO-trained army and airforce disintegrated within hours.

The same day, IEA forces rolled into Kabul and took over as the new rulers. However, the foreign donor community and the US immediately cut off financial aid to Afghanistan and froze all the central bank’s foreign reserves – cutting off salaries to hundreds of thousands of former soldiers and government workers.

Some IEA officials meanwhile said that former government soldiers will be brought back into the army.

“We have left the way open for those people who were in security institutions in the former government. Some of them have returned already,” said Qari Saeed Khosti, spokesman for the Ministry of Interior Affairs.

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Pakistan denies reports it struck deal with US on Afghanistan operations

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2021)

Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied a media report which claimed that the two countries are “nearing a formalised agreement” to give Washington access to Pakistan’s airspace for operations in Afghanistan.

Pakistan has denied it struck a deal to allow the US to use its airspace for military and intelligence operations in neighboring Afghanistan.

“No such understanding is in place,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Asim Iftikhar said in a statement on Saturday in response to media reports.

“Pakistan and the US have longstanding cooperation on regional security and counterterrorism and the two sides remain engaged in regular consultations.”

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan said earlier this year that “there is no way we are going to allow any bases, any sort of action from Pakistani territory into Afghanistan. Absolutely not.”

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