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Loya Jirga on fate of Taliban prisoners to convene Friday in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2020)

The Afghan government will convene a Consultative Loya Jirga on Friday in Kabul to decide the fate of the remaining 400 Taliban prisoners who are on the group’s list.

For this Jirga, the Presidential Palace is yet to release details but officials have said the expected participants would be the same as those who participated in the last Peace Jirga along with members of the High Council for National Reconciliation.

“Loya Jirga will be held on August 7th. It is in continuation of the Consultative Jirga for Peace. Members are the same from the previous Jirga which will be divided into different categories such as civil society, media, and people’s council … the commission that is tasked for convening the Jirga will provide further details by tomorrow,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Presidential Palace.

A Loya Jirga is a mass national gathering that brings together representatives from the various ethnic, religious, and tribal communities in Afghanistan.

The Jirga, or “grand council” is a centuries-old tradition that is convened at times of a national crisis or to settle a national issue.

Historically, it has been used to approve a new constitution, declare war, choose a new king, or to make sweeping social or political reforms.

A question that’s been raised however is why did the government not convene a Loya Jirga on the release of the other 4,600 Taliban prisoners – who have already been freed.

Some lawyers believe however that this latest move, to hold a Loya Jirga, is purely symbolic and holds no legal authority.

Nasrullah Stanikzai, a law expert, said: “No one is authorized to forgive the Taliban prisoner. The Loya Jirga doesn’t have legal status. Its decisions don’t have a legal base. How can they resolve a legal issue? Political pressure has made the government release 4,500 Taliban prisoners. This Jirga, which is scheduled on Friday, is a symbolic and political move.”

In addition to this, the government has called for the Jirga – which will bring together scores of people – amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In April last year, a peace Jirga brought together more than 3,200 delegates.

The Ministry of Public Health does not, however, see this as an issue and feels participants should simply adhere to precautionary measures and health guidelines.

“Undoubtedly, we will consider all precautionary measures, and based on the health directives, it will not be a problem to hold a Loya Jirga,” said Mohammad Jawad Osmani, the Acting Health Minister.

Meanwhile, the Second Vice President, Sarwar Danesh, has told the US Deputy Ambassador to Kabul that holding the Jirga on the fate of the 400 controversial Taliban prisoners is a positive move toward intra-Afghan talks.

So far, the release of the 5,000 Taliban prisoners, as per the Doha agreement between the US and the Taliban, has been a stumbling block in the way of talks.

However, over 4,500 prisoners have already been released but 400 are still behind bars.

Some Afghan government officials and Western allies have in the past few weeks raised concerns over at least 200 of these prisoners. Many of them are said to have been the masterminds behind serious attacks over the past few years.

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Taliban infiltrators arrested in Kunduz: MoD

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

The Ministry of Defense (MoD) said Tuesday that a number of Taliban infiltrators were arrested in northern Kunduz province amid a sharp increase in Taliban attacks across the country.

The MoD said in a statement that the infiltrators – under the guise of tribal elders – had spoken to the Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) to hand over a security checkpoint to the Taliban without any clash.

The suspects were arrested in the Kala Gaw area of the provincial capital Kunduz city.

Earlies the Ministry of Interior (MoI) warned that the tribal elders who act as mediators to negotiate between government forces and the Taliban for handing over outposts to the militants will be arrested.

Tariq Arian, a spokesman for the MoI, stated that “indeed, the act of them (elders) is a direct cooperation with the Taliban.”

“The Afghan Security and Defense Forces (ANSDF) have already been directed to arrest anyone who [acts as mediator],” Arian tweeted last week.

This comes as the Taliban insurgents have launched coordinated attacks to capture centers of the districts across the country.

Security sources told Ariana News that the Chora district of Uruzgan; Maiwand district in Kandahar; Nahrin district and Unit 20 of Afghan forces in the Chashma-i-Shir area in Baghlan province; Chahar Dara district and Sher Khan Port in Kunduz; and the Shah Joi district of Zabul province were fallen to the Taliban in the last 24 hours.

The Afghan forces, however, have retaken the Balkh district in Balkh provinces; the Doshi district of Baghlan province; and the Khanabad district in Kunduz province in the same period.

According to reports, dozens of districts have been captured by the Taliban since the militants intensified clashes across the country.

The Afghan military said at least 234 Taliban militants have been killed and 103 others wounded in clashes in Logar, Nangarhar, Paktika, Khost, Kandahar, Zabul, Faryab, Balkh, Samangan, Helmand, Takhar, Baghlan, Parwan, Kunduz, and Kabul provinces.

The Taliban, however, has not commented in this regard so far.

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Indian officials meet with Taliban in Doha: Report

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

A senior Qatari official said Indian officials made a “quiet visit” to Doha where they met with the Taliban’s political leadership.

India Today reported Tuesday that speaking at a virtual event, ‘Looking Towards Peace in Afghanistan after the US-NATO Withdrawal’, organised by Arab Center Washington DC, Qatar’s Special Envoy of the State of Qatar for Counterterrorism and Mediation of Conflict Resolution Mutlaq bin Majed Al Qahtani said, “There has been a quiet visit by Indian officials to speak with the Taliban. Why? Because not everybody is believing that the Taliban will dominate and take over because the Taliban is a key component or is going to be a key component of the future of Afghanistan.”

Al Qahtani’s comment comes after India’s External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met with Qatari leadership twice on June 9 and June 15. During these meetings he met with the Qatari Foreign Minister and the National Security Advisor, as well as US Special Representative on Afghanistan reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad.

Responding to a question by an Indian journalist about his meetings with the Qatari leadership, US Special envoy Zalmay Khalizad and the role of India in Afghanistan, Mutlaq Al Qahtani said, “I see the reason behind the talks or dialogue or reaching out to all parties in Afghanistan. It is important to keep in mind that we are in a critical stage at this time and if any meeting is going to take place, it should be for one main reason, which is to encourage the parties to solve their differences by peaceful means.”

India Today reported that the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), however, declined to comment on Al Qahtani’s statement. There has been no official word or confirmation by the MEA on any engagement with the Taliban leadership since the Doha talks began or even before, India Today reported.

Asked whether talks between India and Pakistan were being discussed as part of the Afghanistan reconciliation process, the Qatari special envoy said, “Should not allow Afghan soil to be used as proxy among any countries. It is in the interest of Pakistan to have a more stable Afghanistan. It is in the interest of India, of course, to have a more stable Afghanistan. We understand Pakistan as a neighbouring country and India as country that assisted a lot economically in Afghanistan and want Afghanistan to be peaceful and stable.”

While India has not officially engaged the Taliban, Indian representatives have attended key Afghan processes, including the inauguration ceremony for the Doha talks.

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US military continually assessing withdrawal progress: Kirby

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(Last Updated On: June 22, 2021)

US leaders are continually assessing the progress of the retrograde from Afghanistan and the state of operations in the country and adjust accordingly, Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said on Monday.

Addressing a press briefing, Kirby said US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has said the retrograde from Afghanistan is on pace but that “it is a dynamic situation in the nation”.

This comes amid a sharp increase of attacks by the Taliban against Afghan security forces’ installations and district centers, especially in the north of the country.

Kirby stated that Austin and military leaders in the Pentagon, at US Central Command and in Afghanistan, “are constantly looking at the pace we’re going at, and the capabilities we have, and the capabilities that we’re going to need throughout to complete the withdrawal.”

Kirby said. “So as we said, from the very beginning; while there is a schedule, we are mindful that that schedule could fluctuate and change, as conditions change.”

Kirby also said there are only two aspects of the Afghanistan retrograde that will not change: “The first is the US military will withdraw all US forces from the country, and the second is the withdrawal will be finished by the September deadline set by President Joe Biden.”

He added, however that some troops would stay behind to protect American diplomatic missions.

Other aspects of the Afghan situation are still being studied, Kirby said.

Commanders at many levels are wrestling with what over-the-horizon counterinsurgency and over-the-horizon logistics will look like, he said but added the US military can already provide the over-the-horizon support that the Afghan government will need.

“[People] tend to forget that we already do have over-the-horizon capability when it comes to the counterterrorism threat in Afghanistan,” he said. “Is it robust enough? Is it sustainable for the long term? Well, that’s what we’re looking at.”

Kirby also said that planners continue to look at ways to provide contractual support to Afghan forces once the retrograde is completed.

“There’s a range of options that we’re looking at for how to continue to provide contractual support … specifically the Afghan Air Forces,” he said.

“We’re very actively working our way through that right now. We’re looking at a range of options.”

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