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Khalilzad urges diplomacy to stave off ‘economic and state collapse’

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(Last Updated On: November 23, 2021)

Former special envoy for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad has warned the situation in Afghanistan is so bad that if the economy collapses, the state will collapse.

In an interview with TRT World, broadcast this week, Khalilzad said should this happen, the Afghan people would face huge suffering and “millions might leave”.

Speaking to TRT World, on the sidelines of last week’s Middle East Peace and Security Forum (MEPS) in Duhok, in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq,
Khalilzad said that in his opinion the current situation in Afghanistan might not be completely “desirable” but it’s also not a return to the situation in the 1990’s under the previous Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) government.

He also said that following the takeover by the IEA, “things could have been a lot worse” and that there could have been gunfights in the streets and mass killings.

He said while there have been “specific instances that are negative, it isn’t a return to the 90s,” adding that the IEA does however have a long way to go to meet standards to “be accepted as a member of the international community”.

On a question about reported factionalism within the IEA, Khalilzad said that during the Doha talks, in the lead up to the signing of the agreement in February last year, the US had been concerned about this issue.

However, the US “tested them” and came to the conclusion that the talks delegation did in fact represent the core IEA, he said. He also pointed out that while there is factionalism within the IEA, the US had to deal with this same issue during the former Ashraf Ghani government.

“Factionalism is a part of life; it’s a reality but when you negotiate with the Talibs (IEA) you negotiate it in writing; it’s in detail; they’re a very deliberative organization and they discuss things among themselves
for a long time before they finalize an agreement.”

Khalilzad said moving forward a road map needs to be worked out as both the international community and the IEA have concerns.

He said the IEA wants political normalcy, they want frozen assets released, names removed from the blacklist and help with development projects.

“We need to put all those things on the table and get a road map agreed
to that and if they take this step the international community will take that step.”

“I think the situation is so bad that if the economy collapses the state collapses; there will be such huge suffering on the part of the Afghan people; millions might have to leave; there could be more ungoverned spaces; back to conflict.

“None of that is in the interest of Afghanistan or the international community,” he said.

Khalilzad stated that the US and the international community cannot turn their backs on Afghanistan and that now is the time for diplomacy to shape the way forward so both sides can reach an agreement in order to remove sanctions.

He said without such a plan, it would not be in the US’ interest to have the state of Afghanistan collapse.

“Finances, monies have to be made available so that the state doesn’t collapse because the alternative … is not in our interest in my view and it doesn’t serve our values. But our job is not done there yet; we need to keep working it rather than turning our back because we’re angry that the Talibs (IEA) came to power.”

He said it was in the US’ interest to help shape, influence, and engage so as to help get Afghanistan on a better trajectory.

Khalilzad also pointed out that before the US troops’ withdrawal and the IEA take over, Afghanistan was “not in a good shape” – having suffered over 18 years of war.

He said however that it would be unfair to say the IEA has not changed, noting that the new government wants to be accepted by the international community and wants assistance in rebuilding the country.

On the issue of the Islamic State’s Afghanistan affiliate (ISIS-K/Daesh), which has conducted a number of deadly attacks in Kabul in recent months, Khalizad said the IEA has the “willingness” to tackle the militant group. He said the question is whether the IEA has the capability to eradicate the group.

“There is no question or doubt that they are fighting Daesh,” he said.

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Putin discusses Afghanistan with Modi in Delhi

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday, with trade and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan both on the agenda.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said in introductory remarks broadcast by Indian media.

“In that regard, we are concerned about developments of the situation in Afghanistan,” he said.

The visit by Putin and several top Russian officials comes amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a deal to supply India with S-400 air defense missile systems was being implemented despite what he said were U.S. efforts to undermine the accord.

India and Russia are expected to cement several trade and defense pacts at the summit.

“The relation between India and Russia is truly a unique and reliable model,” Modi said.

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COVID-19: Afghan officials warn of possible fourth wave

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Officials at the Afghan-Japan hospital in Kabul on Monday warned that another surge in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan was expected after 620 new cases were reported in the past three weeks.

They said that 350 people out of the 620 have been hospitalized.

According to doctors, 10 people have died of the virus in this time.

“The problem is the lack of salaries and lack of equipment. If the virus comes from neighboring countries, we will face a major crisis,” said Tariq Ahmad Akbari, head of the Afghan-Japan hospital.
Sources have also said laboratory screening is being done privately due to the lack of supplies in hospitals.

“We do some of the [laboratory] tests outside that cost 1,600 [AFG]. We are happy with the staff at the Afghan-Japan hospital. Treatment is good here,” said Tajudin, a relative of one of the patients.

The Ministry of Public Health meanwhile said that they do not have the capacity to tackle a fourth wave of COVID-19.

“After the Islamic Emirate takeover, there have been problems. The World Bank supported the hospital financially. Because of this we don’t have the budget for Coronavirus and health staff and patients are facing problems,” said Dr Abdul Bari Omar, deputy minister of public health.

Some concerned citizens have however voiced concern about people not wearing masks in public and breaking social distancing rules.

Public awareness campaigns have also stopped.

This comes after a new variant of COVID-19 was detected in South Africa last month.

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Afghans urge IEA to preserve historical sites

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Afghans have called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help preserve the country’s rich heritage of historical sites which they say could attract thousands of foreign tourists a year.

Dozens of historical sites are dotted around the country, including the famous Bamiyan Buddha niches. However, many of these have fallen into disrepair after years of conflict.

One local tourist, who was visiting Bamiyan, said he decided to visit the province following the take over of the IEA and the improved security situation.

“We came to see the area where the statues of Bamiyan are located, as a historical place. Security in the country has improved since the Taliban (IEA) came to power. People can easily travel from one place to another which was not the case before,” said Amanullah Mahmoodzai.

Another local tourist visiting the Buddhas was Hussainullah who also urged the IEA to restore sites. He said the local Bamiyan residents would then benefit from an increase in tourism.

“This is a historical place worth visiting. If it is repaired, more tourists will come and help the people of the area,” he said.

Another wellknown site is the UNESCO World Heritage listed minaret of Jam in Ghor province.

The 65-metre high minaret was built around 1190 entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration.

Since 2002, the minaret has remained on the list of World Heritage in Danger as it is under serious threat of erosion and for the past seven years, experts have warned that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

But recently, the IEA assigned a team of 30 people to safeguard the structure.

After the IEA’s takeover, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay issued a statement calling “for the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage in its diversity, in full respect of international law, and for taking all necessary precautions to spare and protect cultural heritage from damage and looting.”

Afghanistan’s cultural heritage is vast as for millennia, it was a crossroads of many civilisations that left a remarkable legacy, from the Medes to the Mongols, Mughals and Durrani, to the kingdom and the long period of conflict that started in 1979.

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