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India reiterates support for Afghan peace process

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(Last Updated On: October 9, 2020)

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the National Reconciliation Council met with Indian External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar on Friday in Delhi to discuss the Afghan peace process, bilateral ties, and regional support for peace efforts.

In a Twitter post on Friday, Abdullah said: “As always pleased to meet HE S. Jaishankar, the External Affairs Minister of India.”

“We exchanged views on the Afghan Peace Process, bilateral relations, and regional support for peace efforts,” Abdullah tweeted. 

Jaishankar has also reassured Abdullah of India’s full support for peace in Afghanistan.

He stated that “peace in Afghanistan means peace in the region” and India would continue its assistance to Afghanistan by supporting the Afghan-led and Afghan-owned peace efforts.

Meanwhile, Abdullah stated that peace in Afghanistan is in favor of the regional countries.

Abdullah, who is currently on a five-day official visit to India, has met with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Thursday and briefed him on the ongoing talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban delegations in Doha.

The Prime Minister reiterated India’s commitment towards sustainable peace and prosperity in Afghanistan and welcomed efforts towards a comprehensive and permanent ceasefire in Afghanistan, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement.

“National Security Advisor Shri Ajit Doval called on Dr. Abdullah Abdullah on October 7 and discussed the Afghan peace process and related issues, including increased levels of violence across Afghanistan and peace and security in the region,” the statement read.

Meanwhile, speaking about the future of Afghanistan at the defense think tank “Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA)” in Dehli on Thursday, Abdullah stated “We need better relations with all countries. It is not our policy to decide the policies that other countries pursue each other, but we believe that peace in Afghanistan is in everyone’s interest.” 

Abdullah said mistakes had been made in the past, even by Afghanistan’s international partners but that there were lessons to be learned through this. 

He also stated that he hopes there has been a change in the Taliban’s attitude and said he was optimistic about this but added that only time will tell as to who is committed to the peace process. 

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Interior ministry claims Taliban still enjoy close ties with al-Qaeda

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

Masoud Andarabi, Interior Minister says the Taliban have kept up a close relationship with “international terrorists” despite having promised to cut ties with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda.

Andarabi and top security officials visited Arghandab district, in Kandahar, where heavy clashes are ongoing between the Afghan forces and the Taliban – and have intensified over the past two months. 

During his visit to Arghandab, Andarabi stated the Taliban has not fulfilled its Doha commitments – which state the group must break relations with terrorist groups including al-Qaeda.

Andarabi said that foreign militants were fighting alongside the Taliban. This comes after officials stated last week that foreigners had joined the ranks of the Taliban to fight the Afghan National Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

“In the operation that is underway in Arghandab, many foreign Taliban and a foreign terrorists have participated in the clashes alongside the Taliban. The commandos witnessed the tactics they (Taliban) used, the way they dug tunnels, and planted mines, all these indicate a strong relation between international terrorism and the Taliban,” Andarabi said.

Meanwhile, security officials claimed that at least 600 militants including foreign nationals have been killed in the clashes over the past two months.

This comes a few days after the Taliban ordered its fighters not to include foreign militants in their ranks, nor shelter them, and stated if fighters fail to adhere to the order they face dismissal.

The group’s military commission said in a statement seen by Ariana News last week that should this happen the responsible cell will also be disbanded.

“All authorities and Mujahidin are directed that no one is allowed to arbitrarily let foreign groups into their ranks or give shelter to them.”

“If anyone commits such an act and the provincial authorities are notified, they (fighters) will be immediately dismissed,” the statement read.

“Their groups will be disbanded and referred to the military commission for further punishment,” the statement concluded.

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Arrival of ‘sticky bombs’ in Indian Kashmir sets off alarm bells

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

Security forces battling a decades-long insurgency in Indian-controlled Kashmir have raised concerns about the recent arrival in the disputed region of small, magnetic bombs that have wreaked havoc in Afghanistan.

“Sticky bombs”, which can be attached to vehicles and detonated remotely, have been seized during raids in recent months in the federally administered region of Jammu and Kashmir, three senior security officials told Reuters.

“These are small IEDs and quite powerful,” said Kashmir Valley police chief Vijay Kumar, referring to improvised explosive devices (IEDs). 

“It will certainly impact the present security scenario as volume and frequency of vehicular movements of police and security forces are high in Kashmir Valley,” Reuters quoted him as saying.

The Indian government flooded Kashmir, already one of the world’s most militarised regions, with more troops in August 2019, when it split the country’s only Muslim-majority state into two federally administered territories.

According to Reuters, the arrival of the sticky bombs in India-controlled Kashmir – including 15 seized in a February raid – raises concerns that an unnerving tactic attributed to the Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan could be spreading to the India-Pakistan conflict.

Afghanistan in recent months has seen a series of sticky-bomb attacks targeting security forces, judges, government officials, civil society activists and journalists. The attacks – some as victims sat in traffic – have sown fear, while avoiding substantial civilian casualties.

Reuters reported that none of the devices seized in Kashmir was produced there, a senior security official said, suggesting they were being smuggled from Pakistan. “All of them have come via drone drops and tunnels,” he said.

Kashmir has long been a flashpoint between nuclear-armed neighbours India and Pakistan, which each claim all of the Himalayan region but rule only parts of it.

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Khalilzad back on track with talks as he heads for region

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has embarked on another trip to Germany, Afghanistan and regional countries, aimed at strengthening the Afghan peace process, sources said.

Khalilzad was on Sunday in Germany and is expected to travel to Qatar, Afghanistan, Pakistan, UAE and a number of other regional countries in the coming days, sources added.

This comes as negotiations between the Afghan government and the Taliban peace teams resumed last week after more than a month of delays.

Meanwhile, the Afghan State Ministry for Peace Affairs is optimistic about Khalilzad’s trip to the region.

“We welcome the US Special Envoy’s trip. The United States is a good strategic partner for Afghanistan and we hope this trip will be more effective in facilitating the peace process in Afghanistan,” State Minister for Peace, Sayed Sadat Mansoor Nader said.

The Taliban urged Washington to uphold its part of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago Sunday and stated the release of remaining prisoners and the end of blacklists have yet to be implemented.

The Taliban meanwhile issued a statement Sunday that urged the US to uphold its commitments as part of the agreement. 

The group stated that “the release of remaining prisoners and end of blacklists are part of the agreement that have yet to be implemented.”

Khalilzad, a Republican, brokered a deal with the Taliban on behalf of the US last year and was asked to stay on in the position by US President Joe Biden for the sake of continuity. 

The move is not typical, as traditionally incoming administrations replace politically appointed officials with their own team, particularly in foreign policy matters.

In late January, new US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: “We’ve asked him to continue the vital work that he’s performing.” 

Khalilzad is a veteran of Republican administrations and served as US ambassador to the United Nations, Iraq and Afghanistan under former President George W Bush.

Former President Donald Trump’s administration then tasked Khalilzad, who was born in Afghanistan, with negotiating with the Taliban.

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