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Ghani: another 500 Taliban prisoners will be released soon

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(Last Updated On: July 31, 2020)

The President of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, Mohammad Ashraf Ghani, on Friday after the Eid al-Adha prayers at Arg said that the Afghan government will soon release another 500 Taliban prisoners, stressing that these prisoners are separate from the list provided by the Taliban.

In addition to the President, Dr. Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High National Reconciliation Council, Amrullah Saleh, First Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, Second Vice President, former President Hamid Karzai, and other officials were present at the Eid prayer ceremony held at Arg.

Referring to the restrictions on this year’s Hajj, President Ghani lamented the non-participation of Afghans in this year’s Hajj due to the outbreak of Coronavirus, saying that the risk of the pandemic spreading has not yet been eliminated. He called on Afghans to take the Ministry of Health’s health advice seriously during Eid.

President Ghani also said that despite the fact that the Afghan government had no commitment in the US peace agreement with the Taliban, it had released 4,600 prisoners so far, according to the Taliban’s requested list, so that negotiations begin soon.

President Ghani said: “In response to the Taliban’s ceasefire, as a symbol of goodwill, and in order to speed up the peace process, I will release another 500 Taliban prisoners by the fourth day of Eid in addition to the list provided by the Taliban.”

Regarding the 400 detainees listed by the Taliban, Ghani said that he is not entitled to their release under the constitution and the penal code.

He added that for the release of these prisoners, the people of Afghanistan should be consulted and called for a consultative jirga.

It comes as Suhail Shaheen, spokesman for the Taliban’s political office in Doha, said on Thursday the group has released 82 prisoners of the Afghan government from its captivity.

Shaheen noted that it has completed the process of releasing Afghan government prisoners, reaching a total released of 1000 inmates.

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Saleh rejects SIGAR claims of cash being smuggled out through airport

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2021)

Amrullah Saleh, First Vice President has rejected the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction’s (SIGAR) report over the smuggling of cash from the Hamid Karzai International Airport.

In his daily 6:30 am meeting, Saleh stated: “However a massive amount of foreign currency does exit Afghanistan’s porous land borders by cross-border networks.

“The report on the flight of foreign currency from Kabul airport is not correct and substantiated,” said Saleh.

Saleh added that a large amount of cash was flowing out of the country to Pakistan.

“The strict anti-money laundering regulations have created a dark parallel market. Let’s be real,” he emphasized.

Last week, SIGAR reported that the unchecked flow of cash out of Afghanistan still exits at the Kabul airport due to poor screening procedures.

According to the report, cash counting machines, which were funded by the US government, are not being used for the purposes intended and the only cash counting machine confirmed to be working is in the arrival entrance, instead of the departure area where strict cash controls are most needed to help prevent cash smuggling.

In addition, the machines lack connectivity to the Internet, which in turn prevents Afghan investigative authorities from tracking currency suspected of being laundered.

“The absence of fully functional and strategically positioned cash counting machines, and declaration forms in the VIP section along with the limited screening of VIP passengers – who are most likely to have large amounts of cash – severely limits the Afghan government’s ability to fully implement its anti-money laundering laws at the airport,” John F. Sopko, Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction stated in the report.

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Taliban delegation in Iran for ‘talks’

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2021)

The Taliban’s head of its political office, Mullah Baradar Akhand and an accompanying delegation arrived in Iran on Monday for talks with Iranian officials.

The Taliban’s spokesman Mohammad Naeem said they would discuss relations between the two countries; the issue of Afghan refugees in Iran; and the current political and security situation in Afghanistan.

Iran’s foreign ministry also confirmed the trip and said in a statement that a Taliban political delegation had arrived in Tehran.

Iran’s foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said the trip was a pre-arranged visit.

“This delegation arrived in Tehran this morning based on arrangements already made and upon the invitation of the Foreign Ministry of the Islamic Republic of Iran, and was welcomed by foreign ministry officials,” he said.

“During their stay in Tehran, the Taliban’s political delegation will have meetings with Iranian officials, including the respected foreign minister and Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan, and discuss the peace trend in Afghanistan as well as relevant issues and topics,” he said.

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Al-Qaeda gaining strength with help of Taliban: US Treasury report

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2021)

The US Treasury Department has issued a memo stating al-Qaeda is “gaining strength” in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s “protection”.

In answer to inquiries from the US Department of Defense’s Lead Inspector General on illicit terrorism financing, the US Treasury Deparment also stated that despite the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year that calls for the Taliban to cut ties with al-Qaeda, the two groups were still closely allied.

“As of 2020, al-Qaeda is gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under the Taliban’s protection. Al-Qaeda broadly still depends on donations from
like minded supporters, and from individuals who believe that their money is supporting humanitarian or charitable causes,” the report read.

“Al-Qaeda capitalizes on its relationship with the Taliban through its network of mentors and advisers who are embedded with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance, and financial
support.

“Senior Haqqani Network figures have discussed forming a new joint unit of armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by al-Qaeda,” the report stated.

The report also stated that elements of al-Qaeda, including affiliate al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and terrorist groups targeting Pakistan, such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), continue to use the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as a safe haven.

“AQIS likely receives funding from al-Qaeda senior leadership,” the report stated adding that “as of May 2020, the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintained a strong relationship and continued to meet regularly.”

On the state of ISIS-Khorasan’s (Daesh Afghanistan) finances, the treasury report stated “ISIS-K primarily raises funds through local donations, taxation, extortion, and some financial support from ISIS-core.

“In 2019, Afghan Taliban and Afghan government forces retook ISIS-K’s stronghold in southern Nangarhar, which decreases the amount of money the group could earn exploiting natural resources in this territory.

“As of early 2020, ISIS core was possibly providing some funds to ISIS-K. According to Treasury’s information, ISIS-K retains at least some financial reserves and relies on hawalas, particularly in Kabul and Jalalabad, to transfer funds,” the report read.

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