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Khalilzad in Kabul for Revival of Peace Talks: Reuters

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(Last Updated On: December 4, 2019)

U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul on Wednesday to meet Afghan president Ashraf Ghani to discuss ways of resuming peace talks, Reuters reported citing an Afghan government official.

Khalilzad’s trip comes days after U.S. President Donald Trump’s surprise Thanksgiving visit to U.S. forces at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan where he met President Ghani and announced that peace talks have restarted with the militant group.

The Afghan government, however, says it is ready for resuming the talks, but only if it is given a seat at the table and the Taliban agrees to a ceasefire.

“In Kabul, Special Representative Khalilzad will meet with Afghan government representatives and other Afghan leaders to follow up on President Trump’s recent visit and to discuss how best to support accelerated efforts to get all parties to intra-Afghan negotiations,” the US Department of State said in a statement. 

In Doha, Ambassador Khalilzad will rejoin talks with the Taliban to discuss steps that could lead to intra-Afghan negotiations and a peaceful settlement of the war, specifically a reduction in violence that leads to a ceasefire.

“The U.S. and Afghan presidents agreed on the resumption of peace negotiations but with close participation and coordination with the Afghan government,” the official told Reuters.

“Our precondition is a reduction of violence leading to a ceasefire, and that is what U.S. want too.”

If talks are resumed, the source added that Khalilzad’s previous format of holding separate negotiations with the Taliban as a preliminary step to later talks between Afghan participants in the conflict cannot be repeated.

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Cross-border markets will be up-and-running in February

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

Pakistan said Monday that one of the 12 Joint Border Trade Markets, that is to be established along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, will be launched by February 2021.

In a statement released on Monday, the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul stated that the market would be operational at Shaheedano Dand in Kurram Agency of Pakistan.

“The Joint Border Trade Markets are believed to promote the wellbeing of the people living on both sides of the border, rehabilitate those affected by anti-smuggling drive, economically integrate the neglected areas, formalize bilateral trade and transform local economies of people living across Pak-Afghan border,” Pakistan Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Monday.

According to the statement, Pakistan has prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the markets with Afghanistan.

The statement noted that the MoU has covered “all the modalities including the proposed list of items to be traded in these markets and locations where the border markets are to be established, the composition of Border Market Management Committees, which will oversee the smooth working of the markets, the medium of exchange and dispute settlement.”

“Once, formally established, the people friendly initiative of JBTMs of Prime Minister of Pakistan is expected to uplift the economic and social wellbeing of the people living across Pak-Afghan border,” the statement read.

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NATO facing difficult dilemma on whether to leave or stay: Stoltenberg

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that “no one wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary.”

Addressing an online press conference ahead of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting, Stoltenberg stated the organization’s training mission continues despite the US’ decision to further reduce troop levels in Afghanistan.

This comes after outgoing US President Donald Trump decided to further reduce American forces in Afghanistan from around 4,000 to 2,500, as part of the Doha deal which was signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, stated that the alliance forces would assess their presence in Afghanistan in the next few months.

“In the months ahead, we will continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground,” he noted.

“We face a difficult dilemma, whether to leave and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists. Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence,” he said.

According to the Doha deal, the US should pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by May.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last week that the full withdrawal remains based on a set of conditions on the ground.

“That was what we’d agreed to. We have made some progress. We’ve had significant prisoner releases. We have violence levels that have reduced risks to Americans significantly over this time period since February of last year,” Pompeo stated.

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Wolesi Jirga votes in favor of six ministers and head of NDS

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

The Lower House of Parliament (Wolesi Jirga) Monday voted in favor of six nominated ministers and Head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) but rejected two nominees proposed by the government.

The MPs voted for eight nominated ministers and NDS Chief during a general session of Parliament.

Ahmad Zia Saraj received 220 votes of confidence as Head of the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Anwar ul-Haq Ahadi got 189 votes as Minister of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock, Mahmud Karzai got 154 votes of confidence for the position of the Minister of Urban Development and Housing, Haroon Chakhansuri secured 154 votes as Minister of Mines and Petroleum, Qudratullah Zaki secured 165 votes as Minister of Transport, Noor Rahman Akhlaqi secured 176 votes as Minister of Refugees and Repatriation, and Najibullah Yamin got 149 votes of confidence for the position of Public Works Minister.

Meanwhile, two nominated ministers – Tahir Zahir for Minister of Information and Culture received 78 votes, and Hasina Safi got 144 out of 244 votes – failing to receive a vote of confidence by the MPs.

Parliament urged the government to introduce other nominees for the two ministries.

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