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Karzai calls on Taliban to embrace the ‘new Afghanistan’

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(Last Updated On: April 6, 2021)

As the May 1 deadline for the US troop withdrawal nears, and efforts to secure a peace deal are ramped up, former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said the country is asking the Taliban to embrace today’s Afghanistan, a progressive modern Republic with democratic institutions.

In an interview with TRT World, on Monday, Karzai said: “We (Afghans) are asking the Taliban to become [open to progress]; we have examples of Muslim countries that are doing extremely well, that are deeply Muslim, deeply believing, yet very progressive, quite in touch with the rest of the world, quite in competition positively with the rest of the world.”

“Turkey is one such example and perhaps the best example. Look at the mosques in Turkey, it’s full of people when the prayer time comes, and look at the modernity and the industrial and cultural and economic output that Turkey gives to itself and to the rest of the world. It is a great model for Afghanistan.”

“We also have other examples in the Muslim world but the best for us is Turkey. We have Indonesia, we have Malaysia, we have others therefore yes it is possible for a Muslim individual for a Muslim society to be deeply believing, practicing Muslim and yet progressive, enlightened and futuristically oriented.”

On the issue of the withdrawal of US and foreign troops by May 1, or an extension of their stay, Karzai said this must be carried out in a responsible manner so as to make sure it is done in coordination with major powers and countries in the region in order to ensure peace in Afghanistan.

Karzai said: “The US withdrawal or staying in Afghanistan beyond May 1 must be responsible in both cases; if they want to withdraw that withdrawal must be responsible in the sense that it must make sure that Afghanistan is peaceful and that it is done in a broader understanding with major powers and the countries in the region so all together make Afghanistan a place of cooperation rather than competition.”

“Second if they want to stay beyond May 1 that too has to be responsible. The United States cannot be staying in Afghanistan that is in conflict; No!”

“If the US wants to, wishes to stay in Afghanistan, it can only be staying in Afghanistan and be in cooperation with a peaceful Afghanistan, a stable Afghanistan, not in Afghanistan in which the US presence is there, bases are there, but we are dying in a conflict and our children are suffering,” he said. .

Karzai said he is appealing for a responsible exit on the part of the Americans.

“A responsible exit and if they wish to – a very responsible stay which means in a peaceful Afghanistan not like what they did in the past 20 years; No!”

On the Taliban’s inference that there will be consequences if the US extends its stay in Afghanistan, Karzai said: “The Taliban have said that but we would ask the Taliban to think; they must also think more responsibly towards Afghanistan and towards the safety and security and well-being of the Afghan people.

“Whenever that is done by us the Afghans, by the Americans or our friends in the international community, it must be towards an end of violence in Afghanistan and the return of peace to Afghanistan,” he said.

On the US-proposed peace deal, which includes an interim government and President Ashraf Ghani stepping aside, Karzai said “the best would be that the Taliban agree to power sharing with the current government; the easiest would be that that they share power, that they come and join the current government as Afghan citizens and make peace and accept President Ghani,” until his term of office ends, in accordance with the country’s Constitution.

He said any amendments to the Constitution could then be done in order for steps to be taken forward.

“If that is not possible, if the Taliban don’t want to do that under any circumstances for whatever reason in their mind, then for the Afghan people peace is the priority; so peace must be our top priority and then for peace we must do what is necessary for it.

“That can be an arrangement … or that can be a new arrangement. But whatever the arrangement is, the future of that arrangement, the foresight of that arrangement, has to be a country in which its citizens enjoy the rights of choosing their own government with their own free will, through the will of the Afghan people and expressed through the vote of the Afghan people is the foundation of a strong Afghanistan and I hope the Taliban and everyone else will recognize and agree to that,” he said.

Karzai also stated in his interview that the Taliban are Afghans and also belong to Afghanistan. “They’re Afghan people,” he said adding that a change has to be made by all sides.

“Yes the Taliban must change, yes the Taliban must accept the new realities in Afghanistan, they must accept that the Afghan people want progress, they must accept that Afghan people want a better life, they must accept without a question that the role of women in Afghan society is one in which there cannot be a compromise and that people need to be educated, in that we need to have good relations with the rest of the world and a good economy,,” he said.

However he added that there has to be some give-and-take on both sides and that all Afghan saids must be adaptable to change in order to secure peace.

On the issue of the upcoming US-proposed peace summit in Turkey, Karzai said he has “tremendous hopes. I’m sure Turkey will do all to make certain and certain that the Afghan talks in Turkey, the intra-Afghan talks in Turkey are successful in bringing peace to Afghanistan. That trust we have in Turkey.”

“Holding peace talks in Turkey is a great opportunity for a long term solution,” Karzai said.

In conclusion Karzai said he was confident in the current process and that peace would come to Afghanistan – especially as it was the “will of the Afghan people” to live in peace.

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Officials say troops could be out long before September: New York Times

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

American officials said on Saturday that orders for the remaining US troops to start leaving Afghanistan could be issued in the next few days.

According to the New York Times, the officials, who were not named, said if US troops face no threats from the Taliban, the forces could be completely withdrawn well before the September 11 deadline.

This comes after US President Joe Biden announced last week that all US troops would be out of the country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US officials have not release details on the foreign troops withdrawal schedule except Biden did say last week that the process would start on May 1.

The Boston Globe meanwhile carried an op-ed article on Sunday which stated that there will be a terrible human — and moral — cost to this pullout from Afghanistan, “which is why so many former U.S. officials who have served there have been so depressed and angry during phone interviews this week”.

A former top Pentagon official David Sadney was quoted as saying: “There is a humanitarian disaster coming.”

“The Taliban are taking names, and they will start taking vengeance on women and young people, teachers and their families, who believed in U.S. values. They will be killed and tortured because they bought into a vision the U.S. supported and encouraged, ideas of democracy and free speech.

“I know Afghans who have and will die,” he said.

The article noted that the Biden team tried to accelerate political negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but they got nowhere.

The Taliban made clear that, with U.S. troops leaving, they believed victory was in hand. They opposed any form of constitutional democracy or elections in favor of harsh Islamic rule.

The article also quoted one former US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, as saying: “This is a surrender. Everybody, China and Russia included, is taking note.”

The author of the op-ed Trudy Rubin states the Taliban will crow that they have defeated a superpower – especially since, for some bizarre reason, the final pullout date is set for the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s greatest triumph, the 9/11 attack on the United States.

She writes it would have made more strategic sense for the Biden team to change the narrative and instead of “forever war,” keep around 3,000 troops in the country indefinitely as an insurance policy to prevent a Taliban win until such time as a regional peace could be negotiated.

Rubin points out that after all, the US has kept troops in Germany and South Korea for decades, as a preventative measure.

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Ghani gives Pakistan two choices – friendship or enmity

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday morning that for the first time in decades, a real opportunity for peace has presented itself and that Afghanistan is well prepared for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last week that all foreign troops will be out of the country by September 11.

On Sunday, Ghani said at a 6.30am security meeting at the Presidential Palace (ARG), that “for the first time in modern history, the best opportunity has been provided for Afghanistan. We have been fully prepared for this day for the past two years and for their withdrawal”.

“We are fully prepared to defend our soil and it is time for Afghanistan’s national sovereignty to be fully realized and for Afghanistan to prove its neutrality,” Ghani said.

“One is the republican ranks and the other is the enemy. Those who do not stand in the republican ranks have no place in the state,” Ghani said.

Ghani also said that the Taliban have no religious legitimacy to continue the war, and that Islamic religious scholars from around the world have condemned the war in Afghanistan.

Referring to the review of regional relations with Afghanistan, the president said: “Today is a day of decision for Pakistan. If our country is in turmoil, their country will be in turmoil and if they want our welfare, they will also provide welfare.”

“The choice of friendship and enmity is in their hands and in the case of friendship, Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with Pakistan in increasing cooperation between the countries of the region and the world,” Ghani added.

He also stated that: “Our vision is national sovereignty, republicanism, democracy, prosperity, a free and independent Afghanistan. If the Taliban make peace within this framework, we are open to them and any choice other than that is the Taliban’s pretext for continuing the war.”

“We are a people of determination, not fear,” he added.

Ghani also awarded state medals to 16 members of Kabul’s PD1 security district at Sunday’s meeting.

After presenting the medals to the officials, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh briefed those in attendance on the achievements of the 6.30 am security meetings.
“Promise keeping has become a principle and as a result of continuous efforts, the crime graph in Kabul has dropped dramatically and public satisfaction with government services has increased,” Saleh said.

Ghani lauded officials for their achievements around the 6.30am initiative and said: “You have brought about positive change as a result of group management, you have the capacity, and perseverance and I am your full supporter.”

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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