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In peace talks move, Ghani appoints 48 as reconciliation council members 

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(Last Updated On: August 30, 2020)

In a major step towards kick-starting intra-Afghan peace talks, President Ashraf Ghani on Saturday approved 48 candidates as members of the High Council for National Reconciliation. 

Ghani signed a decree to this effect and included a cross-sector of the Afghan society, including former president Hamid Karzai, Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, former mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, former vice president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum, former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor and other well known Afghan figures. 

The high council is led by former CEO Abdullah Abdullah and will be directly involved in dealing with peace talks. However, the body will only facilitate talks and is not a decision-making body. 

Ghani’s decree comes just days after Abdullah announced that talks could start in Doha this week. 

However, no details have yet been released nor has a confirmed date been announced. 

The talks hit a stumbling block earlier this month after Ghani held back on releasing the final 320 Taliban prisoners – a precondition set in the Doha agreement between the US and Taliban in February. 

This agreement, which was reportedly not sanctioned by the Afghan government, set out conditions that the Taliban should release 1,000 Afghan government personnel and the Afghan government should release 5,000 Taliban prisoners before talks could start. 

Over the past few months, Ghani has released more than 5,000 prisoners but has been hesitant to free 320 on the Taliban’s list. Considered hardcore, many of these prisoners have masterminded some of the worst attacks in Afghanistan while others are drug kingpins. 

However, Ghani’s latest move indicates that preparations could be underway to pave the way for the start of intra-Afghan talks. 

The names released in Saturday’s decree are as follows:

The leadership of the council is made up of 10 members including the chairman Abdullah Abdullah. 

Three deputies include Abdul Salam Rahimi, Enayatullah Farahmand, and Asadullah Saadati, deputy chairman. 

The rest are Zuhra Mutahari, former deputy governor of Paktia; member of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council Atta-Ur-Rahman Salim; head of Hizb-e-Islami Nawin Din Mohammad; political figure Akram Khpulwak; head of the negotiation team Mohammad Masoom Stanekzai; and special presidential envoy Noor-Ul-Haq Olumi.

Other members are: Former president Hamid Karzai; former mujahideen leader Abdul Rasul Sayyaf; Hizb-e-Islami leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar; former vice president Mohammad Karim Khalili; former deputy chief executive Mohammad Mohaqiq; former vice president Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum; former vice president Mohammad Yunus Qanooni; former foreign minister Salahuddin Rabbani; former mujahideen leader and ex-minister of energy and water Mohammad Ismalil Khan; former Balkh governor Atta Mohammad Noor; head of Maaz-e-Milli party Sayed Hamid Gailani; Zabihullah Mujaddedi; Sayed Mansoor Nadery; Enayatullah Shahrani; Mohammad Khan; head of Afghanistan’s Ulema Council Sadiq Modabir; Mohammad Ismail Ghazanfar and Mawlawi Khodaidad Saleh. 

Government representatives are: First Vice President Amrullah Saleh; Second Vice President Mohammad Sarwar Danesh; Acting Foreign Minister Mohammad Haneef Atmar; National Security Advisor Hamdullah Mohib; Meshrano Jirga Speaker Fazl Hadi Muslimyar; Wolesi Jirga Speaker Mir Rahman Rahmani; presidential adviser Almas Zahid; presidential advisor Mawlawi Jora Tahiri.  An additional member, the state minister for peace affairs, will also be appointed a member once the position has been filled. 

Women will also be represented and eight have been appointed to the council. 

They are: Civil society activist Safia Sediqqi; former MP Najiba Ayubi; a member of the Afghan Women’s Network Mari Akrami; civil society activist Zia Gul Rezaee; member of the Independent Administrative Reform and Civil Service Commission Alia Yulmaz; former higher education minister Farida Mohmand; chairperson of medical council of Afghanistan Nasrin Oryakhil and civil society activist Zarqa Yaftali. 

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Kabul University lecturer killed in IED explosion 

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(Last Updated On: February 18, 2021)

A university lecturer was killed in a targeted IED explosion in Kabul city late Thursday morning.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened at about 11.25 am in PD3, close to Kabul University and said another person was also killed in the incident. 

The victim, Mubasher Muslimyar, was a lecturer in Islamic studies at the university.

Muslimyar was killed while driving in a Toyota Corolla which was targeted in a magnetic IED attack. 

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.  

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Biden says he will never hesitate to use force to protect America

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

In a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would never hesitate to use force to defend America but also promised to work with leaders around the world to bring an end to wars that have dragged on “for far too long”. 

“As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary,” Biden said adding that the “central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”

He told DoD staff present at the event that the US Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world.

Biden promised to work with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and world leaders “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”

Biden did not however give any indication as to what his decision is yet on the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline. 

An agreement signed in February 2020 by the Trump Administration and the Taliban notes that all US troops are supposed to be gone by May this year. 

So far, indications are that the withdrawal of troops will be based on conditions on the ground, opposed to a calendar date. 

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Facebook to temporarily reduce political content in some countries

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

Facebook Inc said on Wednesday it would temporarily reduce political content appearing on New Feeds for some users in Canada, Brazil and Indonesia this week and in the United States within the coming weeks, Reuters reported.

Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg said in January that he wanted to “turn down the temperature” of political conversations on the social networking site because “people don’t want politics and fighting to take over their experience on our services.”

Reuters reported that the world’s largest social network, which has received flack for not doing enough to remove hateful content from the platform, last month said it would stop recommending civic and political groups to users.

Reducing the frequency of political content will mark initial steps to explore different ways to rank such content in people’s feeds using different signals and understand their preferences, the company said in a blog post.

Facebook will exempt content from official government agencies and services, as well as COVID-19 information from health organizations from the drill, Reuters reported.

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