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Kabul Had No Role in Taliban Prisoners Exchange: Sources

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(Last Updated On: November 26, 2019)

The Afghan government had no role in the exchange of three Taliban prisoners for two foreign professors, a source close to Taliban told Ariana News on Wednesday.

According to sources close to the Taliban, the prisoner swap was agreed between the Taliban and the government of the United States.

“The negotiations took place between Taliban and Americans. A number of army soldiers who are under Taliban custody in Helmand will be released in the coming days,” said Abdul Shakoor Mutmaeen, a former Taliban official.

Meanwhile, concerns rise that with the release of Taliban’s high-profile officials, violence may increase in the country.

Fazel Rahman Orya, a political analyst, said that he believes the presence of Anas Haqqani and two other Taliban officials will accelerate the U.S.-Taliban talks which in turn will open the way for the launch of intra-Afghan talks.

However, Najia Anwari, a spokesperson of the State Ministry for Peace Affairs, said the Taliban militants were released as a goodwill gesture to build confidence and pave the way for direct talks.

This comes a day after the U.S. officials confirmed the release of American Kevin King, 63, and Australian Timothy Weeks, 50. Both individuals, professors at The American University of Afghanistan (AUAF), were abducted by the Haqqani Network in Kabul in 2016.

In a statement, Taliban also confirmed the release of Anas Haqqani, Mali Khan, and Hafiz Abdul Rashid, calling it a step forward in “good-will” and “confidence-building measures” that can help the Afghan peace process.

The group further said that they have released ten Afghan soldiers in addition to the two AUAF professors.

By Hesamuddin Hesam

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Swiss court upholds life ban for former Afghan football boss

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(Last Updated On: July 15, 2020)

The Court of Arbitration for Sport (CAS) has upheld the life ban imposed last year on the former president of the Afghanistan Football Federation (AFF) by the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA). 

CAS issued its decision in the appeal arbitration procedure between Karim and FIFA on Tuesday.

A statement issued by the court stated that the CAS panel dismissed the appeal and confirmed the decision taken by the Adjudicatory Chamber of FIFA Ethics Committee on June 8 last year.

At the time, Karim was found to have breached Article 23 (Protection of physical and mental integrity) and article 25 (Abuse of position) of the FIFA Code of Ethics and sanctioned him with a life ban from all football-related activities at both national and international level, and ordered him to pay a US$1 million fine.

The FIFA Ethics Committee investigation into Karim came after complaints were lodged by female Afghan football players accusing him of sexual abuse between 2013 and 2018.

During the CAS hearing, several players of the AFF women’s national team stated that they had been sexually and physically abused by Karim.

According to the court statement: “The players testified from a secured place, by telephone, using a voice scrambler to protect their identity.

“The Panel in charge of this matter underlined that, unlike bribery and match-fixing which damage the integrity of the sport, the offenses committed by Keramuddin Karim violated basic human rights and damaged the mental and physical dignity and integrity of young female players.

“With his appalling acts, he had destroyed not only their careers but severely damaged their lives.

“The Panel determined that Keramuddin Karim should get the most severe sanction possible available under the FIFA Code of Ethics, i.e. a life ban and a fine of (Swiss Francs) CHF 1 million (US$1 million).

FIFA meanwhile welcomed the Swiss court’s decision and said in a statement that it confirms the importance of its “zero-tolerance policy against physical, mental and sexual abuses at all levels of football.”

The organization also praised “the bravery of those victims who, under dreadful personal circumstances in their home country, have come forward and allowed for justice to be served.”

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NATO calls for prisoner release issue to be resolved urgently

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(Last Updated On: July 15, 2020)

NATO has called on the Afghanistan government and the Taliban to “urgently resolve issues related to prisoner releases,” and to enter into intra-Afghan peace talks. 

In a statement issued by the organization on Tuesday, NATO said: “An Afghan-owned and led peace process aimed at finding a political resolution that ends decades of conflict is the only way to deliver sustainable peace to the Afghan people and to ensure Afghanistan’s long-term security and stability.

The organization said it was committed to contributing to an environment conducive to this outcome.

“We call on all sides to rapidly resolve the remaining issues still precluding the start of inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations,” the statement read.

According to them, the “current level of violence – driven especially by Taliban attacks against Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, remains unacceptably high, causing instability and undermining confidence in the peace process.”

They pointed out that during the 2018 and 2020 Eid al-Fitr ceasefires and the period of reduced violence leading up to the signing of the US-Taliban agreement and the issuance of the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration, all sides demonstrated the political will and capacity to stop the fighting.

The statement went on to point out that given the impact of COVID-19, “we echo the call of the United Nations for the Taliban to agree to a humanitarian ceasefire that applies to all sides. Both sides must also urgently resolve issues related to prisoner releases.”

NATO pointed out that the military presence of the Alliance and its partners in the Resolute Support Mission in Afghanistan is conditions-based.

“We will continue to consult and, if conditions allow, to adjust our military presence to support the peace process, initiated by the US-Taliban agreement and the US-Afghanistan Joint Declaration.

“We urge the Government of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Taliban to fulfill their commitments, including entering into intra-Afghan negotiations and ensuring terrorists never again find safe haven on Afghan soil.

Highlighting recent attacks, NATO stated that these “heinous attacks targeting civilians, including women, children, civil society members, religious figures, and health care workers throughout Afghanistan underscore the urgency of fulfilling these critical commitments.”

In conclusion, the statement noted that NATO reaffirms its longstanding commitment to Afghanistan, the Afghan people, and the Afghan security forces through the Resolute Support Mission.

“We expect intra-Afghan negotiations to lead to an enduring and comprehensive peace agreement that puts an end to violence, safeguards the human rights of all Afghans, including women and children, upholds the rule of law, and ensures that Afghanistan never again serves as a safe haven for terrorists.”

On Tuesday night, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg tweeted: “The level of violence in Afghanistan driven by Taliban attacks, undermines confidence in the peace process. We call on all sides to rapidly start intra-Afghan talks. NATO Allies will continue to consult on our military presence to support peace process.”

This statement comes after a disagreement over about 600 prisoners from a total of 5,000 the Taliban want released prevented the launch of US-brokered peace talks.

Although prisoner releases by both sides have taken place, the Afghan government has said it does not want to release some prisoners for security reasons and its Western allies also object to some of them being set free.

The United States and the Taliban struck a landmark agreement in February on the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for Taliban security guarantees.

As part of the pact, the Taliban agreed to open power-sharing talks with the Afghan government.

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Ghani meets with top US general to discuss peace process

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(Last Updated On: July 15, 2020)

President Ashraf Ghani met with US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie on Tuesday in Kabul for talks on security issues. 

According to the Presidential Palace, ARG, Ghani, and McKenzie discussed the peace process, the security situation, support for the Afghan security and defense forces and strengthening of the joint security partnership.

McKenzie also reassured Ghani of the US’s continued support and cooperation.

“I am here to reassure you and the people of Afghanistan that the support and cooperation of the United States is in place for the peace, development, and security of Afghanistan, and we will continue to support you,” he said.

He also said the US would not let Afghanistan become a safe haven for insurgent groups.

This comes after McKenzie said in June that the US military was ahead of a timetable to bring the total number of troops in Afghanistan down to about 8,600, as negotiated with the Taliban.

However, he said he did not see the second part of the drawdown schedule being on time.

He said at the time: “We also agreed that in May of 2021, if conditions will allow, we’re prepared to go to zero,” adding that those conditions would depend on whether the US could be assured that attacks against the United States will not be generated in Afghanistan.

“Frankly, if you were to ask me my opinion, those conditions have not been fully met. So we’ll continue to work that,” McKenzie said last month.

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