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Khalilzad meets with Ghani twice in one day over peace proposal

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(Last Updated On: April 10, 2021)

US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad met with President Ashraf Ghani and Abdullah Abdullah Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) on Saturday to discuss the peace process and the upcoming Istanbul summit.

“Khalilzad met with Ghani twice during the day and discussed the upcoming Istanbul summit, the timeframe, finalization of the list of participants, and the preparations for the conference,” the Presidential Palace said.

HCNR Chairman Abdullah stated in a tweet that he and Khalilzad discussed “the Afghan Peace Process, the Doha talks, internal consensus and preparations for the upcoming conference in Turkey.”

“We welcome the acceleration of the process & achieving a comprehensive political settlement,” Abdullah tweeted.

The Istanbul summit is expected to be held on April 16 in Turkey.

In Kabul, the government and Afghan politicians are working on peace plans to be addressed at the Istanbul summit.

Ghani is expected to propose his three-phase peace roadmap at the conference.

Ghani’s roadmap – from an unending war towards a just and lasting peace proposal includes three phases, a political agreement; a peace government; and peacebuilding, state-building, and market-building.

In the first phase, Ghani proposed a political settlement, an internationally monitored ceasefire, a regional and international guarantee of peace as well as continued counter-terrorism efforts, and the convening of a Loya Jirga to approve the agreement.

The second phase will be to hold a presidential election and establish a “government of peace” and implement arrangements to move towards a new political system.

The third phase will involve building a “constitutional framework, security, reintegration of refugees and considering government priorities” for Afghanistan’s development.

On the other hand, the Afghan Political Parties Committee said Saturday it would present a separate peace plan at the Istanbul summit on the Afghan peace process, which is due to be held next week in Turkey.

The committee includes major Afghan political parties such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami; Hizb-e-Wahdad Islami led by Former Vice President Mohammad Karimi Khalili; Hizb-e-Wahdad led by Mohammad Mohaqiq; Hizb-e-Jamiat Islami led by Salahuddin Rabbani; Junbish-i-Milli led by Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum; Hezb-e-Mahaz-e-Mili Islami-e-Afghanistan led by Sayed Hamed Gailani, and Afghan Millat Party led by Anwar al-Haq Ahadi.

Mohammad Homayoun Jarir, a member of Hizb-e-Islami, stated that the parties, as government opposition, would share a joint plan for Afghan peace at the Istanbul conference.

“We have made a separate plan for the parties committee. We will participate in the summit as the opposition. So far we (Hizb-e-Islami party) have not handed over any plan to the High Council for National Reconciliation,” Jarir said.

Meanwhile, Mahiuddin Mehdi, a member of the Jamiat Islami party, called on the participants to discuss a federal system for Afghanistan.

“As far as we know, a Presidential Structure has not yielded any results in Afghanistan, and we must terminate the centralized system and reach a result over a decentralized system (federalism),” Mehdi said.

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Pentagon chief says removal of all contractors from Afghanistan under way

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday the process of removing all contractors from Afghanistan working with the United States was under way as part of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of forces from the country.

The remarks are the clearest indication yet that Biden’s April order to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 extended to U.S.-funded contractors.

Asked whether the Pentagon had issued orders to withdraw not just American troops but also contractors, Austin said: “We’re going to responsibly retrograde all of our capabilities that we are responsible for and the contractors fall in that realm as well.”

Speaking with reporters, Austin said the contractors could, however, renegotiate their contracts in the future.

As of April, there were nearly 17,000 Pentagon contractors, including about 6,150 Americans, 4,300 Afghans and 6,400 from other countries.

The departure of thousands of contractors, especially those serving the Afghan security forces, has raised concerns among some U.S. officials about the ability of the Afghan government and military to sustain critical functions.

‘NOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION’

Austin said the drawdown was going according to plan so far.

But Afghan security forces are locked in daily combat with the Taliban, which has waged war to overthrow the foreign-backed government since it was ousted from power in Kabul in 2001.

In just two days, the Taliban captured a second district in the northern province of Baghlan on Thursday.

The Afghan government says the Taliban have killed and wounded more than 50 troops in attacks in at least 26 provinces during the last 24 hours, while its forces killed dozens of Taliban over the same period.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said there had been sustained levels of violent attacks against Afghan security forces but none against U.S. and coalition forces since May 1.

Milley, in the same news conference, said it was too early to speculate on how Afghanistan would turn out after the withdrawal of U.S. forces given that Afghanistan had a significantly sized military and police force and the Afghan government was still cohesive.

“It is not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls or any of those dire predictions,” Milley said.

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Power pylons destroyed, leaving Kabul in the dark

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

Two electricity pylons in the north of the city were blown up early on Friday morning, the main power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said.

The incident happened in Mirzakhil village in Kalakan district of Kabul at around 4:45 am on Friday in which two power pylons that transmit imported 220 kilovolts of power from Uzbekistan to Kabul were destroyed and a third pylon was partly damaged, read DABS statement.

Locals say they woke up to the sound of an explosion, but no one was injured in the area.

“Bomb has been placed near another power pylon in the area, but a team from the Afghan army is in the area to defuse the bomb,” DABS said.

DABS said that its workers will be sent to the area once the area is safe.

So far no group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

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Australian cricketers flee India for Maldives after IPL abandoned

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(Last Updated On: May 6, 2021)

Australian cricketers playing in this year’s IPL fled COVID-ravaged India for the Maldives Thursday, but New Zealand’s top stars are stuck in Delhi until May 11, the earliest they can secure exemptions to enter England where they are due to play a Test series.

AFP reports that cricket authorities have been rushing to evacuate players and support staff after the Indian Premier League was abandoned this week.

India reported 3,980 deaths and more than 412,000 new coronavirus cases in the past 24 hours.

While most overseas-based players headed home, the Australians, including Steve Smith, David Warner and Pat Cummins, are unable to do so after Canberra closed its borders and threatened anyone entering from India with jail time.

They must wait until at least May 15, when the travel ban will be reviewed.

In the meantime, the 37 players, coaches, officials and TV commentators left for the Maldives, reportedly on a charter flight arranged and paid for by the Board of Control for Cricket in India.

“Cricket Australia and the Australian Cricketers’ Association can confirm Australian players, coaches, match officials and commentators have been safely transported from India and are en route to the Maldives,” Cricket Australia said in a statement.

“The Australians will remain in the Maldives until the conclusion of the travel pause pertaining to flights from India to Australia.”

They are likely to be chartered back to Australia once the ban has been lifted, again with the help of the BCCI.

But Chennai Super Kings batting coach Mike Hussey was not among the travelling party, forced to remain in isolation after testing positive to the virus.

Cricket Australia said he was “experiencing mild symptoms” and would remain in the care of the Super Kings until it was safe for him to return to Australia.

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