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Key to war and peace lies with Pakistan: Karzai

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(Last Updated On: May 23, 2021)

Former Afghan president Hamid Karzai said Afghans are being used against each other by external forces and that Pakistan wants to exert strategic influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban.

In an interview with Germany’s weekly news magazine Der Spiegel, Karzai said: “I realized early into my tenure as president that this war is not our conflict, and we Afghans are just being used against each other – the republic against the Taliban and the Taliban against us.

“Both the Afghan Republic and the Taliban are victims of these external forces. That is why we are suffering,” he said.

Giving background on the events of the past 20 years, Karzai said that after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the U.S., Washington took the historic opportunity to pursue its global ambitions in Afghanistan.

“Just look at our position on the map. Afghanistan is the most strategically important place in today’s global contest for supremacy. At the same time, Pakistan started using the Taliban to further its own agenda in Afghanistan.”

He noted that there are local and regional conflicts, but according to him what is of key importance is “geostrategic domination”.

Karzai said a key moment for him had been during a meeting with senior U.S. policymakers in Washington in 2013, including former president Jimmy Carter’s now-deceased national security adviser, Zbigniew Brzezinski.

“When I asked whether it was true that America was deliberately promoting radical Islamist forces in Afghanistan and the region, Brzezinski said, yes, they wanted to create as many conflict zones around the USSR as possible, a so-called ‘arc of crisis’, and that the Soviet invasion was a good opportunity to carry this out.

“I replied that Islamist extremism had been gravely strengthened as a result and had grown into the danger it is today. Brzezinski replied that from a historical perspective, the rise of a few Islamists was ‘irrelevant’ compared to the failure of communism,” he said.

Explaining what this contest of world powers has to do with the Taliban, Karzai said: “When things started to go wrong in Afghanistan – around 2005, 2006, when the extremist terrorist attacks started – we talked to the U.S. about the different causes of the violence. We knew that these attacks were being organized by intelligence in Pakistan and carried out by the Taliban.

“The U.S. confirmed this independently, telling us: Yes, the violence is coming from Pakistan, and yes, the Taliban’s sanctuaries are there. But instead of investigating the root cause of the violence and going after it, Washington started to fund Pakistan’s military,” he said.

Karzai said the U.S. was supporting both sides of the conflict at the same time.

“It was dropping bombs on Afghan villages in order to fight the Taliban, while at the same time, funding the very country accused of organizing Taliban terror campaigns.

“Former U.S. President Donald Trump once announced that America had paid $35 billion to Pakistan over these past 19 years. This contradictory policy cost thousands of Afghan lives – troops and civilians alike. Tell me, how was Afghanistan supposed to come to peace?,” he asked.

Asked how the U.S. responded to his take on this, Karzai said there has never been a satisfactory answer.

“Either the U.S. has really miscalculated strategically, or Pakistan, which is so closely linked to China and Great Britain, is simply more important than we are for achieving Washington’s global goals,” he said.

Karzai stated that Pakistan wants to exert strategic influence in Afghanistan through the Taliban adding that this traces back to fears related to the legacy of British colonial rule in the region.

He said however that Afghans want strong relations with Pakistan but that this can only exist if there is peace and stability in Afghanistan and “if the trust deficit is eliminated, and if Pakistan shows itself to be a good neighbor”.

On the disputed border issue – the Durand Line – between the two countries, Karzai said: “We want an open exchange between people on both sides, without border controls, and with freedom of movement, similar to what Europeans have achieved today between Germany and France.”

He went on to state that Pakistan would like Afghanistan to break off relations with India.

“That is impossible. If we give in to this, we would give up our sovereignty and independence. If we want to send our police or our army or our boys and girls to India for training because it is good for our country, we should do so. Conversely, India should not complain if we have friendly relations with Pakistan,” he said.

Asked why Pakistan should give up its fight now, Karzai said: “The Pakistani offensive is in full swing right now. There is fighting going on. But Pakistan must know that it cannot win by force.

“They may kill us. They may send us bombs, they may send us extremists, but that does not kill our spirit. Dominating Afghanistan from the outside has never worked. It didn’t work for the British, it didn’t work for the Soviets, and it didn’t work for the United States, even with all of its resources.

“And the Pakistanis will not succeed either. Right now, we are closing ranks in Afghanistan and organizing resistance. So my appeal to Pakistan is: Let’s be reasonable. Let’s start a civilized relationship between our two countries,” he said.

“We would welcome such a proposal with the utmost interest. At the same time, we have high hopes for the so-called Troika plus, a diplomatic initiative launched by Russia, which also includes China and the United States,” he said.

Karzai said however that both sides need to stop claiming to have the right to represent the Afghan people while holding the guns of a foreign power in their hands.

“My advice is this: Let the Taliban come back. Let them participate and prove themselves in public, whether in the Loya Jirga – the traditional representation of the people – in elections or in a referendum, as is customary around the world. Only then will it become clear who truly represents the people,” he said.

He also pointed out that after the Taliban’s agreement with the U.S. last year, there is no longer any religious or patriotic legitimacy for them to attack their own countrymen or to instigate conflict in Afghanistan.

“Additionally, we cannot preserve the achievements of the last 20 years without the full participation of Afghan women. I am particularly proud and happy about their return to public life, by the way, and so are the Afghan people. We cannot allow Afghan girls not to go to school. The Taliban know that,” he said.

In conclusion he said ultimately, the Taliban are also Afghans, and that he hopes they will stand up to foreign influences where necessary, such as in Pakistan.

“My appeal to Afghans, including the Taliban, is that we come together and finally take our fate into our own hands against all foreign powers,” he said.

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UN office attacked in Herat, at least one guard killed

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said Friday that its main compound in western Herat province was attacked by “anti-government elements,” killing at least guard and other officers injured.

In a statement issued on Friday, UNAMA condemned in the “strongest terms” today’s attack.

“The area around Herat where the compound is located witnessed fighting today between the Taliban and government forces,” the statement read. 

The UN added that it is urgently seeking to establish a full picture of the attack and for this purpose is in contact with the relevant parties.

“This attack against the United Nations is deplorable and we condemn it in the strongest terms,” said Deborah Lyons, the United Nations Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan. 

“Our first thoughts are with the family of the officer slain and we wish a speedy recovery to those injured,” Lyons stated.

 According to the statement, no UN personnel was hurt in the incident, in which entrances were attacked by rocket-propelled grenades and gunfire.

“The perpetrators of this attack must be identified and brought to account,” said Lyons.

 “Attacks against civilian UN personnel and compounds are prohibited under international law, and may amount to war crimes,” the UN noted.

Immediately, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sources, however, told Ariana News that at least six people – including two security guards of UNAMA, three policemen, and a member of the public uprising forces – were killed and 19 others were wounded in clashes with the Taliban militants in the Guzara, Anjel and Karokh districts at the outskirts of Herat city on Friday.

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Four killed as wildfires sweep Turkey, villages evacuated

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)

The death toll from wildfires on Turkey‘s southern coast has risen to four and firefighters were battling blazes for a third day on Friday after the evacuation of dozens of villages and some hotels.

More than 70 wildfires have broken out this week in provinces on Turkey‘s Aegean and Mediterranean coasts as well as inland areas, President Tayyip Erdogan said, adding that 14 were still burning.

Planes from Russia and Ukraine helped battle the flames and another from Azerbaijan was joining them. “As of midday, with the arrival of the planes, we are turning in a positive direction,” Erdogan told reporters after Friday prayers.

Forestry Minister Bekir Pakdemirli said fires raged on in six provinces and officials promised to bring to account anyone found responsible for starting them.

Villages and some hotels have been evacuated in tourist areas and television footage has shown people fleeing across fields as fires closed in on their homes.

Pakdemirli said fires were still blazing in the Mediterranean resort region of Antalya and the Aegean resort province of Mugla.

“We were hoping to contain some of the fires as of this morning but while we say cautiously that they are improving, we still cannot say they are under control,” he said.

Wildfires have broken out elsewhere in the region, with more than 40 in Greece in the last 24 hours, fanned by winds and soaring temperatures, authorities said. On Tuesday, a blaze tore through a pine forest north of Athens, damaging more than a dozen homes before it was brought under control.

Fires also burned large swathes of pine forest in the mountainous north of Lebanon this week, killing at least one firefighter and forcing some residents to flee.

In Turkey, firefighters on the ground and in helicopters were fighting a blaze that killed three people in Manavgat, 75 km (45 miles) east of Antalya. Urbanisation Minister Murat Kurum said 27 neighbourhoods were evacuated there.

One person was found dead on Thursday in Mugla’s Marmaris area, 290 km west of Manavgat. The blaze continued in Marmaris but residential areas were not at risk, Pakdemirli said.

Erdogan said at least five planes, 45 helicopters, drones, and 1,080 firefighting vehicles were involved in firefighting efforts at 1,140 sites.

Istanbul governor’s office banned entry to forest areas until the end of August as a precaution against fires.

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20 villages cleared of Taliban, 4 militants arrested in Takhar operation

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(Last Updated On: July 30, 2021)
The Interior Ministry said Friday that more than 20 villages in Taloqan city, the capital of Takhar province, were cleared of the Taliban in a joint operation by the Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF).

The Ministry said in a statement that the ANSDF and the public uprising forces launched a clearance operation in the center of the city on Friday morning.

The operation was conducted in the PD1 and PD4 areas of Taloqan city.

According to the Ministry, dozens of militants were killed and wounded during the raids.

Security officials said the militants stormed the Qara Parcho, Abdal, Salakhi Qishlaq, Khaskapa, and Chob Bor villages of Taloqan on Thursday night.

According to the officials, at least 13 Taliban fighters were killed and 16 others were wounded in the counter-attacks by Afghan forces.

Three members of the uprising forces were also wounded in the skirmish, sources said.

Meanwhile, Takhar police told Ariana News that the Afghan forces arrested four Taliban insurgents during the operation.

The Taliban has not commented in this regard so far.

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