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Khalilzad opens up about Ghani and ‘selfish’ political elite

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2021)

Former US special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad said former president Ashraf Ghani’s “intransigence,” the Afghan elite’s “selfishness” and Afghan soldiers’ lack of will to fight was to blame for the rapid takeover of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in August.

On Ghani’s refusal to change his views, or agree to the formation of a new interim government, Khalilzad said: “We were all surprised by the intransigence of President Ghani in insisting on staying in power till his term ended, despite the fact that he had come out re-elected in a fraudulent election that very few Afghans participated in.”

Addressing a webinar organized by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, a Washington think tank, on Wednesday, Khalilzad also acknowledged for the first time publicly that the U.S. had discouraged Afghans from holding the presidential elections that led to Ghani’s winning a second term in office.

According to Khalilzad, the U.S. wanted to establish an interim administration that was acceptable to both sides while Afghan politicians and civil society negotiated a political settlement with the IEA.

Khalilzad said Ghani’s “grand miscalculation” was that he did not believe the U.S. would withdraw from the country.

According to Khalilzad, Ghani thought the U.S. forces and intelligence agencies would stay in Afghanistan as it gave them physical proximity to strategically important countries like China, Russia, Iran and Pakistan.

“I tried to persuade him that President [Donald] Trump was very serious, and he said, ‘No, the intelligence and military told me otherwise,’ ” Khalilzad said.

Khalilzad also stated that Ghani miscalculated his own military’s will to fight.

Once the U.S. announced its decision to withdraw, Ghani told Khalilzad, “now I am free to fight the war the Afghan way. In six months now I will defeat the Taliban because you were fighting it poorly.”

Khalilzad went on to say that the fact that an estimated 300,000-strong Afghan army melted away in front of 60,000 IEA fighters was the result of a lack of morale, corruption and poor treatment of the soldiers on the front lines.

He said this also might have been because the soldiers “didn’t believe” in the cause, while the IEA fighters felt otherwise.

Khalilzad also blasted what he called the Afghan elite’s “selfish, self-centered, corrupt” behavior.

“I am disappointed that the elite that we worked with; they didn’t rise to the occasion; this golden opportunity that the American engagement provided,” he said.

In terms of going forward, Khalilzad advocated a robust diplomatic engagement with the IEA that includes an agreement on a “road map that takes into account the trust or mistrust of each other and the behavior that needs to take place over a time period.”

He also said that many in the US want the IEA to suffer and their government to collapse, because “we did not succeed in defeating them, and that has left a bad taste in people’s mouths.”

But he warned that a collapse of government in Afghanistan would lead to a civil war and a humanitarian catastrophe that would provide space for terrorist groups to flourish.

He said the IEA had shown, in the 18 months after signing the Doha agreement, that they could keep their word by not killing a single American even though U.S. air attacks in defense of Afghan forces killed hundreds or even thousands of Taliban during that period.

Khalilzad also said the IEA could benefit from outside help on how to deal with Daesh in Afghanistan.

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IEA calls on former govt officials and ex-politicians to return home

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) has called on former government officials and members of the political opposition to return to the country.

Deputy Foreign Minister Sher Mohammad Abbas Stanikzai, who officially assumed duties on Sunday, said that former officials have the right to live as normal citizens in Afghanistan.

“We are in touch with all opposition [members]. We have urged them to return as Afghans; but should not expect to be appointed as a minister again,” Stanikzai said.

He has also called on foreign countries to reopen their embassies in Kabul.

“Their (foreign countries) ambassadors [for Afghanistan] are present in Qatar and opened embassies there, they (ambassadors) live in hotels and are in contact with us in order to have negotiations with us on various issues,” he noted.

Meanwhile, a high-level delegation led by Acting Foreign Minister Mawlavi Amir Khan Muttaqi is in Doha for talks with the EU and the United States.

Mohammad Naeem, a spokesman for the IEa’s political office in Qatar, told Ariana News that talks with the US delegation would begin on Monday.

The release of Afghanistan’s frozen assets and the reopening of embassies in Kabul and humanitarian aid are the main topics of the talks.

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New coronavirus variant Omicron keeps spreading, Australia detects cases

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

The new Omicron coronavirus variant kept spreading around the world on Sunday, with two cases detected in Australia, even as more countries tried to seal themselves off by imposing travel restrictions.

Health officials in Australia’s most populous state, New South Wales, said two passengers who arrived in Sydney from southern Africa on Saturday evening had tested positive for the Omicron variant of the coronavirus, Reuters reported.

Both people were asymptomatic, fully vaccinated and in quarantine, NSW Health said. Another 12 passengers from southern Africa were also in 14 days of hotel quarantine, while around 260 other passengers and aircrew have been directed to isolate.

The Australian cases were the latest indication that the variant may prove hard to contain. First discovered in South Africa, it has since been detected in Britain, Germany, Italy, Belgium, Botswana, Israel and Hong Kong. Austria was investigating a suspected case on Sunday.

The discovery of Omicron, dubbed a “variant of concern” last week by the World Health Organization, has sparked worries around the world that it could resist vaccinations and prolong the nearly two-year COVID-19 pandemic.

Omicron is potentially more contagious than previous variants, although experts do not know yet if it will cause more or less severe COVID-19 compared to other strains.

Many countries have imposed a wave of travel bans.

In the most far-reaching effort to keep the variant at bay, Israel announced late on Saturday it would ban the entry of all foreigners and reintroduce counter-terrorism phone-tracking technology to contain the spread of the variant.

Prime Minister Naftali Bennett said the ban, pending government approval, would last 14 days. Officials hope that within that period there will be more information on how effective vaccines are against Omicron.

Many countries have imposed or are planning restrictions on travel from southern Africa. The South African government denounced this on Saturday as unfair and potentially harmful to its economy – saying it is being punished for its scientific ability to identify coronavirus variants early.

In Britain, where two linked cases of Omicron identified on Saturday were connected to travel to southern Africa, the government announced measures to try to contain the spread, including stricter testing rules for people arriving in the country and requiring mask wearing in some settings.

The German state of Bavaria also announced two confirmed cases of the variant on Saturday. In Italy, the National Health Institute said a case of the new variant had been detected in Milan in a person coming from Mozambique.

Although epidemiologists say travel curbs may be too late to stop Omicron from circulating, many countries – including the United States, Brazil, Canada, European Union nation

Hanafi says that during 20 years of occupation there are 5 million addicts, among them 1 million are women and children.

Hanafi says that if TAPI project is implemented, Afghanistan will earn annually around $1 billion dollars through its transit rights.

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Cold and without shelter, migrants in northern France have narrow options

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(Last Updated On: November 28, 2021)

NGO workers and independent volunteers tended to migrants in a makeshift camp in Loon-Plage on Saturday, as the cold weather posed greater risks to their health.

Many migrants remained undeterred to cross the English Channel to Britain despite a recent dinghy capsizing that claimed the lives of 27.

“What happened last week, is the result of the pressure on exiled people which makes them take all kinds of risks and try to cross to Britain, whatever the weather. Because living here is simply impossible,” Salam NGO worker Pascaline Delaby told Reuters.

Seventeen men, seven women and three teenagers died on Wednesday (November 24) when their dinghy deflated in the Channel, one of many such risky journeys attempted in small, overloaded boats by people fleeing poverty and war in Afghanistan, Iraq and beyond.

A makeshift camp with tents has formed in Loon-Plage, near the site of a recently dismantled larger encampment in Grande-Synthe. Here, exposed to the elements, migrants gathered around fires, some wrapped in blankets.

When volunteers arrive, they queue for warm clothing, food, or a cup of coffee or tea.

Others received medical care from NGO workers treating wounds stemming from walking over long distances or the bitter cold.

“It’s a great concern to us that it’s getting colder, especially with people being evicted through the winter,” said First Aid Support Team NGO worker Helen Roberts.

She added that the cold weather also increased the risks of diseases such as pneumonia.

French authorities routinely dismantle migrant camps along the coast in an effort to discourage migrants from coming and attempting the crossing to Great Britain.

French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin is convening his counterparts from Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the EU in Calais on Sunday (November 28), to tackle the migrant crisis.

UK Home Minister Priti Patel was disinvited to the meeting, after British Prime Minister Borish Johnson poster on Twitter a letter addressed to French President Emmanuel Macron, in which he insisted that France agree on joint patrols on its shores and consent to taking back the migrants that make it to Britain.

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