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NATO chief predicts another tough year ahead for Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: March 16, 2016)

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Head of NATO on Wednesday predicted a difficult fight ahead for Afghanistan as the government continues to battle the Taliban and other militant factions trying to assert their presence in the war-ravaged country.

Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said insurgents will press their fight against Kabul in what is likely to be another tough year for the Afghan government. He spoke to The Associated Press during a two-day visit to Kabul, his second since taking the top NATO role in late 2014.

The Taliban, al-Qaida and the Islamic State group will keep up their attacks across Afghanistan throughout 2016, he said.

“We have seen different terrorist organizations trying to establish themselves in Afghanistan,” he said. “We have seen the presence of al-Qaida, IS, the Taliban and all the groups, and they are still in Afghanistan.”

“There is going to be continued fighting and we have to expect that there are going to be new attacks on the government forces,” he added.

NATO has around 3,000 troops in Afghanistan, in the so-called Resolute Support non-combat mission along with about 9,800 U.S. soldiers. The mission was pared down in 2014, with the departure of most international combat troops, leaving Afghan forces to take on the insurgency largely alone.

For now, the United States will halve troop numbers at the end of this year. Stoltenberg said NATO’s numbers for 2017 are not yet clear. The use of U.S. airstrikes to back Afghan forces has been critical in helping them hold ground and can push Taliban and other insurgent groups out of contested areas.

The Taliban were well-prepared for the end of the U.S.-NATO combat mission and swiftly intensified their insurgency, now in its 15th year. Officials have said that Afghan forces suffered almost 30 percent more deaths and casualties in 2015 than the estimated 5,000 of the year before.

There have been no official figures released on those casualties.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan says more than 11,000 civilians were killed and wounded last year, many of them women and children caught in the crossfire.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani said this week that the extremists from an Islamic State affiliate that had gained a foothold in the east last year, with ambitions to move north toward the Central Asia states, were now “on the run” following military operations.

Analysts, however, dispute that assessment, and also point to the spread in the north by the Taliban and other Islamic militants.

Nevertheless, Stoltenberg was upbeat in his praise for Afghan forces and said NATO efforts would focus on Kunduz in the north and Helmand in the south, where the Taliban are fighting to hold lucrative routes for smuggling men, guns, drugs, alcohol and minerals.

A dire assessment was also expressed by the U.N. mission chief in Afgansiatn, Nicholas Haysom, who on Tuesday told the U.N. Security Council that the Afghan government was fighting for its survival amid surging militants.

Unless the government overcame “five distinct hurdles” it would face “severe consequences,” Haysom said, listing a contracting economy, intensifying insurgency, fractious political environment as well as desperately needed funding from the international community and the need to demonstrate progress toward a sustainable peace.

“For 2016, survival will be an achievement,” Haysom said at the U.N.

Ghani’s government is hoping to draw the Taliban into a dialogue aimed at formal peace talks, but a face-to-face meeting between representatives of both sides that had been expected earlier this month has yet to be set. The Taliban said last week they would not participate.

Meanwhile, violence continues to kill and wound civilians and Afghan security forces. In Kunar province, bordering Pakistan, a woman and three of her children died when a rocket landed on their home in the Ghazi Abad district early Wednesday, the provincial police chief, Faridullah Dehqaan said.

Further south, in Nangarhar province, also bordering Pakistan, an attack by militants loyal to IS left six policemen “killed or wounded,” the provincial governor’s spokesman Ataullah Khogyani said. The attack on their checkpoint took place around 2am Wednesday, he said.

Written by Associated Press

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Jamiat-e-Islami party picks new chairman, remove Salahuddin Rabbani

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

At least 47 members of the Jamiat-e-Islami leadership council on Wednesday voted and removed Salahuddin Rabbani as the executive chairman of the party.

The party elected Enayatullah Shadab as interim chairman of the party to convene the party’s general assembly.

Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e Islami party is apparently divided into two groups. 47 members of the party’s leadership council voted to remove Salahuddin Rabbani from the presidency of the Jamiat-e-Islami and removed him, including Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanuni, Bismillah Mohammadi, Hafiz Mansour, Ismail Khan, and Sattar Murad.

Of the 62 members of the Leadership Council, 47 members appointed Enayatullah Shadab, one of the party’s founders, as interim chairman of the Leadership Council, to prepare for the party’s general assembly after years.

“We have a 50 percent share of the government, and we can’t ignore it because one person decides individually,” said Basir Salangi, a member of the leadership council of the Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan. “Out of 62, 47 were with us. 35 and the rest via video said that we were with you.”

Salahuddin Rabbani did not want to be a partner in a participatory government, but 47 members of the Leadership Council see themselves as partners in the government from Abdullah Abdullah’s team and have the prospect of playing a prominent role alongside Mr. Abdullah in the peace process.

“There is no reason for us to be in opposition. It is wise to strengthen the government that is in the political campaign with the Taliban to prevent the Taliban from entering politically and militarily,” said Hafiz Mansour, a member of Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami leadership.

A section other than the Supreme Leader’s Council is with Salahuddin Rabbani. Mr. Rabbani accused some members of the Islamic Jamiat of compromising two weeks ago.

Salahuddin Rabbani said on June 18: “A number of senior members of the Islamic Jamiat have acted against their own decisions and the leadership’s decision and their fundamental values. The result is that today we are begging the legitimate demands of our people.”

In response to the act of 47 members of the leadership council, the Jamiat-e-Islami led by Salahuddin Rabbani suspended the membership of Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanuni, Kaleemullah Naqibi, Abdul Hafiz Mansour, Waqif Hakimi, Sayed Enayatullah Shadab and Abdul Sattar Murad.

Ahmad Zia Massoud, deputy head of the Islamic Jamiat, said Salahuddin Rabbani is still the head of the Jamiat-e-Islami, and the government, in collusion with some members of the party’s leadership, had paved the way for the Jamiat-e-Islami split after intensive negotiations.

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Taliban still has ties with Al-Qaeda affiliate: Pentagon

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

Pentagon says in a new report that Al-Qaeda-linked regional groups have close ties to the Taliban and have sustained interests in attacking the US forces and other countries.

While the Taliban has pledged to no longer allow Al-Qaeda to operate from Afghan soil, Pentagon says that the group colluding with al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent.

A report by the US Department of Defense to Congress on the security situation in Afghanistan shows that al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent regularly cooperates with bottom level members of the Taliban to weaken the Afghan government.

“We believe the Taliban still have ties to a network like Haqqani and dozens of other networks operating in Afghanistan. What the Pentagon findings are, our security agencies have the same report,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan president.

The Pentagon has also reported that Russia is actively working with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan to speed up the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, as the US Secretary of State has spoken to his Russian counterpart about the matter.

“They have an objective there too. To reduce the risk of terrorism there. So yes, maybe not every time. But with great frequency, when I speak to my Russian counterparts, we talk about Afghanistan. We talk about the fact that we don’t want them engage in this,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Pentagon says that despite recent progress in the peace process, al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent maintains close ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan, possibly for protection and training.

“The enemy of al-Qaeda is the United States, and it is very clear that the relationship with the Taliban will not be cut, and that it will continue to lead to war,” said Zahir Azimi, a retired militant.

Politician Rahmatullah Bizhanpour said: “The United States wants to repeat the game in Afghanistan or start a new round of games, as the US is taking different stances against the Taliban and then directly another force called ISIS will appear in the region.”

The report regarding Iran said that Iran pursues its goals in Afghanistan by providing calculated support to the Taliban and by engaging in efforts to strengthen relations with the Afghan government.

The Taliban, however, in a statement rejected the report, calling it “propaganda and unsubstantiated.”

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Khalilzad sees Afghan peace in favor of Central Asian countries

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Peace in Afghanistan, said that peace and stability in Afghanistan are critical for “regional peace, security, and prosperity in Central Asia.”

Khalilzad discussed the Afghan peace process with Foreign Ministers of the Central Asian countries on Wednesday.

“A stable and prosperous Afghanistan is critical for regional peace, security, and prosperity in Central Asia; a Central Asia made up of sovereign and independent states working together with Afghanistan bridging to South Asia is in the interest of the region and of the US,” Khalilzad wrote on his Twitter after the C5+1 meeting.

The US official discussed investments in each country and cross-border opportunities with the Central Asian ministers, “We also explored what a pooled, regional development fund might look like.”

During his recent visit to the region, Zalmay Khalilzad is working to create a regional consensus on peace in Afghanistan.

The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan began his new trip a few days ago. He also met with Pakistani officials yesterday to discuss peace in Afghanistan. This time, Zalmay Khalilzad will speak to Afghan officials via video conference.

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