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Ghani’s escape derailed latest Taliban deal: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: September 15, 2021)

Former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani’s decision to flee the country last month shattered a last-minute deal with the Islamic Emirate that was designed to negotiate a political transition.

In an interview with the Financial Times, his first since the US pulled out of Afghanistan, US Special Envoy Zalmay Khalilzad said according to the plan, Ghani would have remained in his post until an agreement was reached on a future government – even as the Islamic Emirate’s forces were at the gates of Kabul.

However, Khalilzad said the power vacuum left by Ghani’s unexpected escape on August 15 led to the fall of his government and the takeover by the Islamic Emirate.

He said this, in turn, sparked a chaotic evacuation of civilians and troops and effectively ended the talks in Doha.

“Even in the end, we had an agreement with the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) to [them] not go into Kabul,” Khalilzad told the Financial Times adding that at no time did this include Ghani fleeing the country.

Khalilzad’s comments echo those made by US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who told US lawmakers this week that he had received assurances from Ghani on the eve of his escape that he agreed with Washington’s plan.

Kabul’s security forces disbanded at the news of Ghani’s disappearance, Khalilzad said.

“There were public order issues in Kabul after Ghani’s flight. . . The Taliban (Islamic Emirate) [then]. . . say, ‘Are you going to take responsibility for the security of Kabul now? . . . And then you know what happened, we were not going to take responsibility,” he said, adding that he attended a pre-arranged meeting that day with the US regional military commander, General Frank McKenzie, and senior Islamic Emirate leaders in Doha.

Khalilzad rejected claims of a tacit or explicit agreement that allowed the Islamic Emirate to enter the presidential palace in Kabul on August 15.

“We didn’t give them any kind of green light or anything like that. What we said is what the mission of the US forces was,” he told the Financial Times, referring to the evacuation of the airport.

Khalilzad first discussed the agreement with the Kabul government on August 12 and reached an agreement with the Islamic Emirate two days later to safeguard the integrity of the city, Financial Times reported, citing US officials.

However, Ghani was unlikely to have been part of any future government because his resignation was a precondition set by the Islamic Emirate, FT reported.

On August 13, Islamic Emirate forces were surrounding Kabul after taking control of most of the country.

According to Ghani, he fled the country as his life was in danger and to “avoid bloodshed” in Kabul.

Responding to criticism of Washington’s chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan, Khalilzad said: “The fact that they didn’t [negotiate peace] or one side disintegrated, that is not the responsibility of the United States. It is not my responsibility.”

Khalilzad said, however, that he regretted the failure to reach a political agreement with the Islamic Emirate years earlier.

“There will be a lot of introspection,” he said.

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India’s Modi tells UNGA Afghanistan cannot be used to spread terrorism

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

At the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, including women and children.

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

His comments came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan in a pre-recorded message to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“There’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere if a destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Afghanistan is on “the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster” and has decided to engage the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in order to help the country’s people.

Khan said Guterres had “taken bold steps. I urge you to mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”

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UN agency warns of ‘imminent’ famine in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem said.

She also warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the IEA and said: “The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

IEA leaders have assured the international community that they are more moderate than when they ruled previously.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

Kanem pointed out that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.

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IEA calls for foreign airlines to resume flights into Kabul

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Sunday all technical issues at the Kabul Airport have been resolved and foreign airlines can now resume commercial flights into the city.

In a statement issued by the spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the IEA stated: “The recent political changes in Afghanistan caused a series of technical issues within the aviation sector due to which international flights to Afghanistan were suspended and many Afghan citizens were stuck outside and unable to return to their homeland.”

“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation and expects all airlines and countries that had previously flown to Kabul to resume their flights as before,” the statement read.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again assures full cooperation on its part.”

This comes after all international commercial flights into Kabul were canceled following the take over of Kabul by the IEA.

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