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Messi calls off contract renewal negotiations and is ready to leave Barca in 2021, according to report

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(Last Updated On: July 7, 2020)

Barcelona captain Lionel Messi has called off negotiations over renewing his contract with the club and is ready to leave the Catalans when his current deal expires in 2021, according to a report by Spanish radio station Cadena Ser on Thursday (July 2).

The report said Messi and his father Jorge had begun discussing renewing his last deal with the club, which was signed in 2017, but that he no longer wishes to stay at the Camp Nou.

The report added that Messi is angry about leaked media reports that appeared to make him seem responsible for events at the club, such as the January sacking of coach Ernesto Valverde, and that he is frustrated about the squad’s lack of quality.

The Argentine’s representatives and Barcelona did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Messi, who turned 33 last month, scored his 700th career goal on Tuesday (June 30) against Atletico Madrid, but the milestone strike ended in disappointment as Barca drew the game 2-2 in the latest blow to their bid to retain the Spanish title.

Barca trail Real Madrid by four points in the title race with five games remaining after Real beat Getafe 1-0 on Thursday.

Previously known for his shy personality off the pitch, Messi has become more vocal in his criticism of the club in the last year.

In January he hit out at sporting director Eric Abidal, who he said had implied players had led to Valverde being sacked.

In a February interview with newspaper Mundo Deportivo, he declared the team were not good enough to win this season’s Champions League.

Then in April, he criticized the board for implying players were not willing to accept a pay-cut to help the team’s financial difficulties during the coronavirus pandemic.

Source: Reuters

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Al-Qaeda gaining strength with help of Taliban: US Treasury report

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(Last Updated On: January 26, 2021)

The US Treasury Department has issued a memo stating al-Qaeda is “gaining strength” in Afghanistan under the Taliban’s “protection”.

In answer to inquiries from the US Department of Defense’s Lead Inspector General on illicit terrorism financing, the US Treasury Deparment also stated that despite the US-Taliban deal signed in February last year that calls for the Taliban to cut ties with al-Qaeda, the two groups were still closely allied.

“As of 2020, al-Qaeda is gaining strength in Afghanistan while continuing to operate with the Taliban under the Taliban’s protection. Al-Qaeda broadly still depends on donations from
like minded supporters, and from individuals who believe that their money is supporting humanitarian or charitable causes,” the report read.

“Al-Qaeda capitalizes on its relationship with the Taliban through its network of mentors and advisers who are embedded with the Taliban, providing advice, guidance, and financial
support.

“Senior Haqqani Network figures have discussed forming a new joint unit of armed fighters in cooperation with and funded by al-Qaeda,” the report stated.

The report also stated that elements of al-Qaeda, including affiliate al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent (AQIS), and terrorist groups targeting Pakistan, such as Tehrik-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP), continue to use the Afghanistan-Pakistan border region as a safe haven.

“AQIS likely receives funding from al-Qaeda senior leadership,” the report stated adding that “as of May 2020, the Taliban and al-Qaeda maintained a strong relationship and continued to meet regularly.”

On the state of ISIS-Khorasan’s (Daesh Afghanistan) finances, the treasury report stated “ISIS-K primarily raises funds through local donations, taxation, extortion, and some financial support from ISIS-core.

“In 2019, Afghan Taliban and Afghan government forces retook ISIS-K’s stronghold in southern Nangarhar, which decreases the amount of money the group could earn exploiting natural resources in this territory.

“As of early 2020, ISIS core was possibly providing some funds to ISIS-K. According to Treasury’s information, ISIS-K retains at least some financial reserves and relies on hawalas, particularly in Kabul and Jalalabad, to transfer funds,” the report read.

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Arghandiwal claims he was sacked after opposing AOP contracts

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2021)

Former finance minister, Abdulhadi Arghandiwal, who was fired last week by President Ashraf Ghani, said on Monday that circles within the Presidential Palace (ARG) worked to have him ousted after he refused to approve contracts.

“Some circles in ARG worked in their personal interests to stop me from working. I asked the President to tell me directly everything, not by other circles,” said Arghandiwal.

This comes two days after Ghani fired Arghandiwal and approved a new acting minister.

According to ARG, the reason for Arghandiwal’s dismissal was the delay in collection of taxes; failure to cooperate with an assessment team investigating illegal appoints at the ministry; poor management’ a lack of commitment to good governance; not abiding by Article 77 of the constitution; and for violating decrees and directions issued by ARG.

Arghandiwal meanwhile said on Monday at a press conference that he had been dismissed because he opposed the procurement of different types of meat at inflated prices for the Administrative Office of the President (AOP) and he had disagreed with officials over an oil contract.

“Ten days ago a session of national procurement was held and I told the session that we can’t approve a contract that has 18 types of meat as our soldiers don’t even have water on the battlefield; President Ghani also rejected it. The second was an oil contract; oil in bazaars is 34 AFNs but on the contract it was 41 AFN. I opposed this,” said Arghandiwal.

This comes after a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Lower House of Parliament) claimed that the AOP had gone ahead and procured 18 types of meat and vegetables worth 30 million AFN, in a move that sparked criticsm.

ARG has not yet commented.

Arghadiwal had been a close ally of Ghani during his previous election campaigns and was recently approved by the Wolesi Jirga as finance minister.

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US to consult with govt after reviewing deal with Taliban

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(Last Updated On: January 25, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani said at a cabinet meeting on Monday that Washington will hold consultations with the Afghan government once the new Biden administration has reviewed the US-Taliban agreement signed in Doha in February last year.

Ghani’s announcement comes a few days after the new US National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan spoke with his Afghan counterpart Hamdullah Mohib over the phone.

After their phone conversation late Friday, Sullivan stated Washington would review the deal.

Ghani meanwhile said on Monday that the discussion between the two NSAs shows the Biden administration recognizes the Afghan government and the Afghan security and defense forces as a strategic counterpart.

“The US will review the Taliban pact quickly and after that will hold consultations with the Afghan government to reach a roadmap,” said Ghani.

Political analysts, meanwhile, said that the increase in violence by Taliban and warnings issued by government are not convincing in terms of securing peace.

“They sit for peace in Qatar but discuss war and violence… they should stop the killing of Afghans,” said Wahid Faqiryar, a political analyst.

“I think the US will tell both sides (Taliban and government) to start peace talks again,” said Tariq Farhadi, another analyst.

On the other hand, close sources to the Taliban say the US will decide on whether to also engage in peace talks.

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