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Gen McKenzie to recommend post-withdrawal plan for Afghanistan



(Last Updated On: May 20, 2021)

General Frank McKenzie, the Middle East commander of US Central Command (CENTCOM) said Wednesday he will make recommendations to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in early June on how to monitor and fight terrorist groups in Afghanistan from beyond its borders after all American forces withdraw.

McKenzie said negotiations with Afghanistan’s neighbors for overflight rights and troop basing are “moving forward” but will take time.

As a result, he said, the way the United States keeps an eye on the terrorist threat and aids the Afghan military will evolve as agreements are reached or security conditions on the ground change, The Associated Press reported.

He cautioned that this will be a “taxing time” for the Afghan military and “the risk is high.”

Speaking to reporters from The Associated Press and ABC News traveling with him to the Middle East, McKenzie declined to provide details about the recommendations he will make to Austin.

He said he will also provide cost estimates for keeping surveillance aircraft over Afghanistan regularly enough to keep track of terrorist groups after the U.S. pullout is completed.

McKenzie has made it clear that without any bases in neighboring countries, it will require far more aircraft to keep watch over Afghanistan because they will have to fly for four hours to six hours from other U.S. military installations in the Middle East.

The flight distance severely limits the amount of time the aircraft can spend in the air over Afghanistan, AP reported.

Military leaders are grappling with how best to carry out President Joe Biden’s order to withdraw all American troops from Afghanistan by September while still providing support to the Afghan forces and monitoring the threat that prompted the U.S. invasion of the country after the attacks of September 11, 2001.

Commanders have said they will monitor threats from “over the horizon,” to ensure that terrorists cannot again use Afghanistan as a base to launch attacks against the U.S. But they have acknowledged that the U.S. does not yet have any agreements for basing or overflights from any of the neighboring countries.

McKenzie said he is confident the U.S. will get the access it needs. But as yet, there are no firm solutions or decisions.

At the same time, Pentagon leaders and Congress members have expressed concerns that once the U.S. leaves, the Afghan government and its military will be quickly overrun by the Taliban.

The Afghan military, particularly its air force, has been heavily dependent on the U.S. for maintenance and training, as well as for combat air support when its troops are under attack. McKenzie said he believes the Afghans have a “fighting chance” to be successful and defend themselves.

“It’s time for the Afghan military to stand up and show that they can fight alone,” said McKenzie.

“I think it’s going to be a very taxing time for them. I think certainly there is a path for them to preserve what they have now. The risk is high. I don’t want to minimize that.”

He said that while the Taliban have not been attacking the U.S. or coalition troops, the violence against the Afghan people and the country’s military forces has been very high.

U.S. lawmakers have said they believe there is no chance the Taliban will abide by the commitments their leaders made in a February 2020 agreement with the Trump administration, which included engaging in sustained peace negotiations and severing all forms of cooperation with and support for al-Qaeda. Members of Congress also worry that al-Qaeda and the Islamic State group (Daesh) will take advantage of the chaos and regroup, with a goal of attacking the U.S. again.

McKenzie said that both al-Qaeda and IS have been degraded, AP reported.

“Our concern would be that ungoverned spaces open in Afghanistan and they are able to reassert themselves,” he said. “This would not be immediate. I don’t think anybody (thinks) this is something that will happen next month or even in the next six months. But eventually they will gather their strength again and they’ll be a threat to our homeland.”

Washington’s special envoy to Afghanistan, Zalmay Khalilzad, told a House hearing Tuesday that it is unduly pessimistic to predict that the Kabul government or Afghan military will be quickly overrun by the Taliban once U.S. and coalition forces withdraw.

He said the Taliban have reason not to push for a military victory and instead pursue a negotiated political settlement that could give them international legitimacy and removal from certain American and United Nations sanctions. He recently met with Taliban representatives in Doha, Qatar, as part of a round of consultations with interested parties.

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Muttaqi calls on international community to recognize IEA government



(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

Afghanistan’s Foreign acting Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi accused the international community on Friday (October 15) of “violating the rights of Afghan people” by not recognizing the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government.

Speaking to Reuters on the second day of a two-day visit to Turkey’s capital of Ankara, Muttaqi said he discussed the recognition of the IEA’s government with Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu as well.

“The fact that all of them are recognized and the new Islamic government of Afghanistan is not recognized is an injustice and oppression of the Afghan people… Afghanistan wants positive relations with the world and the world must respond positively to this message,” he said.

Almost two months after the former Western-backed government collapsed and IEA forces swept into Kabul, the IEA administration has pushed to build relations with other countries to help stave off a catastrophic economic crisis.

But the IEA has so far refused to give ground on allowing girls to return to high school, one of the key demands of the international community after a decision last month that schools above the sixth grade would only reopen for boys.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said on Thursday he had conveyed Turkey’s recommendations regarding the inclusion of women in the workforce and education of girls.
Meanwhile, Cavusoglu reiterated the importance of government inclusiveness for Afghanistan’s unity.

“We once again explained the importance of including people from all ethnic and religious groups, besides the Taliban (Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan), in the administration. Especially in these difficult times, this is important in terms of establishing unity and solidarity within the country,” Cavusoglu said.

NATO member Turkey maintained its embassy in Kabul after Western countries withdrew following the fall of the U.S.-backed Afghan government and have urged those countries to increase engagement.

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Blast targets mosque in Kandahar



(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

A large explosion ripped through a mosque in the southern Kandahar province on Friday afternoon.

The blast happened at the Shi’ite Fatimiya mosque during Friday prayers, causing heavy casualties.

Sources said at least 34 people were killed and 69 others wounded in the explosion. Afghan officials have not confirmed the casualties so far.

Qari Saeed Khosti, a spokesman for the Ministry of Interior, has told Reuters that authorities were collecting details of the explosion.

The blast took place days after a suicide bomb attack claimed by Islamic State on a Shi’ite mosque in the northern city of Kunduz that killed and wounded more than 200 people.

So far, no group or individual has claimed responsibility for the attack.

The blast, coming so soon after the Kunduz attack underlined the increasingly uncertain security in Afghanistan as the Islamic State has stepped up operations following the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan victory over the Western-backed government in Kabul in August.

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Turkey underlines need for inclusive Afghan government



(Last Updated On: October 15, 2021)

In talks with the delegation of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), Turkey on Thursday reiterated the importance of government inclusiveness for Afghanistan’s unity, Reuters reported.

Turkey repeated its advice to the visiting IEA delegation on girls’ education and women’s employment in business life, Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a news conference following a meeting with Afghanistan’s acting Foreign Minister Amir Khan Muttaqi in Ankara.

Muttaqi led an IEA delegation for an official visit to Turkey to discuss bilateral issues as well as cooperation on the future of Afghanistan.

The IEA officials have pledged to provide the utmost support to Afghan refugees who want to return to the country from Turkey, added Cavusoglu.

He also underlined that the IEA delegation conveyed requests to Turkey during the meeting, especially on humanitarian aid and continued investment in Afghanistan.

Last month, Cavusoglu said Turkey has contributed to stabilization and development efforts in Afghanistan, including on the education of girls and empowerment of women since the 1920s, adding that Ankara continues providing humanitarian aid through the Turkish Red Crescent.

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