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Govt’s Negotiating Team Members: ‘We Are Not Aware of the Selection’

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2018)

Some members of the government’s negotiating team for peace talks with the Taliban say they are not aware of their selection, insisting that the President’s Office has not consulted them in this regard yet.

It has been a week since the list of government’s 12-member negotiating team has been shared with the people.

The team includes:  Ghani’s chief of staff Abdul Salam Rahimi, Mohammad Mirwais Balkhi, Minister of Education, Hasina Safi, Minister of Information and Culture, Abdul Tawab Balakarzai, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Alema, Deputy Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, General Ebadullah Ebad, Deputy of National Directorate of Security, Shahgul Rezaee, Member of Wolesi Jirga, Attaullah Ludin, Member of Ulema Council, Shamim Katawazai, governor of Paktia province, Abdullah Attai, Member of Supreme Court, Tooryali Ghiasi, Director of Cultural Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Abdul Hakim Muneeb, Deputy Minister of Haj and Religious Affairs

However, some members of the formulated team expressed “unawareness” regarding the issue.

“We have been included in the team, but we are not even aware of our selection so far,” said Abdul Munib who is also the head of Islamic Revolution Movement of Afghanistan. “We have not been consulted in this regard.” 

The negotiating team was announced by President Ashraf Ghani on the second day of the two-day Geneva Conference where he also revealed the formation of a new advisory board.

The board is comprised of nine committees including Political Leaders Committee, Political Parties Committee, Youth Affairs Committee, Women’s Affairs Committee, Ulema Committee, Provincial Leaders Committee, Civil Society and Cultural Committee and Private Sector Committee and Refugees and Diaspora Committee.

However, some political parties said that the negotiating team should have been comprised of representatives from political parties, civil society, and tribal elders.

“Over the last 17 years, they [the Taliban] refuse to negotiate with the government. The team which has been introduced should have had representatives of political parties, civil society, and tribal elders,” said Abdul Satar Murad, a member of Jamiat-e-Islami party.

This comes as the Taliban has rejected the government’s negotiating team and insisted on having direct talks with the United States.

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US closes 10 bases as part of ‘murky’ withdrawal process

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

The United States has closed at least 10 military bases across Afghanistan as part of a withdrawal process “so murky” that many officials say they are uncertain of what’s to come despite a fast-approaching deadline, the Washington Post reported Saturday. 

Washington’s drawdown started after the US signed a deal with the Taliban in February which did stipulate that the US had 135 days in which to close five bases as well as a full foreign military withdrawal by May next year. 

Speaking to the Washington Post on condition of anonymity, Afghan and US officials confirmed that 10 bases had however been shut down. 

Little is known about what remains of the bases – many of which are in the more volatile provinces in Afghanistan. 

It is also unclear how much equipment — more difficult to move than people — is left at each of the closed installations, the Post reported.

In addition to the closure of bases, Afghan and US officials also stated that there was still uncertainty around the drawdown plans. Trump’s administration has said that troop levels will be reduced to about 2,500 by January 15, from around 4,000 currently. 

One official told the Washington Post that there are ongoing discussions around the drawdown and that details are still being worked through on what equipment — ranging from spare vehicle parts to ammunition — needs to be sent back to the United States and what can be turned over to the Afghan government.

However, another official told the Post that despite the drawdown in people and closure of bases, the US will retain the ability to carry out airstrikes against the Taliban in defense of Afghan forces. 

US troops will also remain able to carry out some counterterrorism strikes against the IS-K (Daesh) in Afghanistan.

Another US official said a number of significant decisions will be made over the next two weeks, including which other bases will close and what equipment will be turned over to the Afghan military. 

He told the Washington Post these decisions will be made in consultation with NATO allies and with the Afghan government. 

Speaking to the Post, Ashley Jackson, an expert on the Taliban, with the Overseas Development Institute said the closing of US bases is handing Taliban fighters symbolic and tangible victories.

“It’s the best propaganda [the Taliban] could ever have,” Jackson said, citing contacts she has close to the Taliban. “It’s the psychological effect that they are watching.”

And, as the United States closes smaller outposts that helped government forces hold territory, Jackson said the Taliban would probably move in and expand its reach.

The Washington Post meanwhile cited analysts and Afghan officials as having said further closures show that the United States is collapsing its forces in Afghanistan back into its bigger military installations to save on the large number of troops needed to secure the perimeter of multiple small outposts.

The move also brings US troops closer to medical facilities as the American footprint in Afghanistan shrinks, and would make it easier to evacuate the country rapidly if security disintegrates, the article stated.

The initial bases closed this year were Tarin Kowt in Uruzgan province, Bost in Helmand, Gamberi in Laghman and Lightning in Paktia. Others closed this year include Jones in Kunduz, DeAlencar in Nangarhar, Shaheen in Balkh, Bishop in Kabul, Maymana in Faryab, and Qalat in Zabul.

It is unclear how many bases remain open in Afghanistan, in part because the total number of military sites has not been made public. 

But a senior adjunct fellow with the Center for a New American Security, who served in Afghanistan, Jason Dempsey, told the Washington Post that Trump’s decision to continue withdrawing troops from Afghanistan is “clearly such an ego and timeline-driven mood.”

Dempsey, who has frequently criticized the US military’s efforts in Afghanistan, said he believes the Afghan government is being “hung out to dry” by the US administration with the manner in which it is withdrawing.

“I don’t think we have a path to solid victory,” he said. “But I’d like to think that we had an obligation as we withdrew to our Afghan partners to at least leave them in the best position possible.”

 

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Seven wounded in two separate IED explosions in Kabul city

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2020)

Kabul police confirm that seven people have been wounded in two separate early morning explosions in the Afghan capital on Saturday morning.

Three people were wounded in a magnetic IED explosion in Omid Sabz Township, PD6, police said. The device had been attached to a vehicle before being detonated.

Four others were wounded in a separate IED explosion, targeting a Landcruiser, in PD11 of Kabul.
No group has claimed responsibility for the explosions so far.
This comes amid a dramatic increase in IED explosions in Kabul – specifically magnetic IED that are attached to vehicles.

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Tehran blames Israel for the killing of Iranian scientist

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(Last Updated On: November 27, 2020)

Iran’s Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, in a tweet blamed Israel for the killing of a senior Iranian nuclear scientist.

Mohsen Fakhrizadeh was killed in an ambush near Tehran on Friday, Reuters reported.

“This cowardice – with serious indications of Israeli role – shows desperate warmongering of perpetrators,” Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted. “Iran calls on int’l community – and especially EU – to end their shameful double standards and condemn this act of state terror.”

The military adviser to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed to strike back against the Fakhrizadeh’s killers, who died of gunshot wounds in hospital after armed assassins opened fire on his car, state media reported.

Israel did not comment on reports of the attack.

According to a Reuters report Fakhrizadeh has long been described by Western countries as a leader of a covert atomic bomb programme halted in 2003, which Israel and the United States accuse Tehran of trying to restore in secret. Iran has long denied seeking to weaponise nuclear energy.

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