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NATO facing difficult dilemma on whether to leave or stay: Stoltenberg

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that “no one wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary.”

Addressing an online press conference ahead of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting, Stoltenberg stated the organization’s training mission continues despite the US’ decision to further reduce troop levels in Afghanistan.

This comes after outgoing US President Donald Trump decided to further reduce American forces in Afghanistan from around 4,000 to 2,500, as part of the Doha deal which was signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, stated that the alliance forces would assess their presence in Afghanistan in the next few months.

“In the months ahead, we will continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground,” he noted.

“We face a difficult dilemma, whether to leave and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists. Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence,” he said.

According to the Doha deal, the US should pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by May.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last week that the full withdrawal remains based on a set of conditions on the ground.

“That was what we’d agreed to. We have made some progress. We’ve had significant prisoner releases. We have violence levels that have reduced risks to Americans significantly over this time period since February of last year,” Pompeo stated.

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Central Bank staff once again targeted in IED explosion

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

A senior official of De Afghanistan Bank, (the Central Bank) was targeted in an IED explosion in Kabul early Sunday morning, the bank confirmed.

The bank said in a statement that Abdullah Dawrani, the head of the Financial Dispute Resolution Commission, was the target in an IED explosion at around 8.15 am this morning.

According to the statement, Dawrani was wounded and his bodyguard was killed in the blast.

The bank stated that another person was also injured in the explosion, which occurred in the Shah Shaheed area of PD8 of the city but did not reveal the person’s identity.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attack.

This is the second targeted attack against Central Bank employees.

In November last year, Yama Siavash, a former TV news anchor, and an employee of the Central Bank, was killed in an IED explosion in PD9 in Kabul.

Meanwhile, an IED blast rattled Jalalabad city in eastern Nangarhar province on Sunday morning.

The blast happened in PD4 of the city, police confirmed.

Farid Khan, a spokesman for Nangarhar police told Ariana News that at least three civilians were wounded in that explosion.

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SpaceX delays launch of 143 satellites due to bad weather

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

SpaceX is expected to launch 143 satellites into space on a single Falcon 9 rocket on Sunday after having to postpone its launch day of Saturday at Cape Canaveral Space Force Station in Florida due to bad weather.

The decision to postpone came just six minutes before blast off, Space.com reported.

“Weather is looking a little dicey for our current liftoff time,” SpaceX production supervisor Andy Tran said about seven minutes before the rocket was scheduled to blast off, citing electrical fields.

Space.com reported that less than a minute later, the SpaceX team made the call to postpone the launch attempt entirely, not waiting for the clock to run out.

Electrical fields are a risk to rocket launches because they can prompt lightning formation during liftoff.

The Transporter-1 launch will be SpaceX’s first dedicated rideshare mission, carrying 133 assorted small satellites and 10 of the company’s Starlink internet satellites. When it launches, the mission will hold the record for most satellites deployed from a single rocket, Tran said.

The launch will be the fifth flight for the Falcon 9 first-stage booster. Its previous flights, all in 2020, include the company’s first-ever crewed launch, called Demo-2, in May 2020, which sent two NASA astronauts to the International Space Station for a two-month stay.

The booster also launched a military communications satellite for South Korea, a Cargo Dragon resupply ship to the station for NASA and a separate Starlink mission.

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Atmar urges Taliban to fulfill its commitments, agree to ceasefire

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(Last Updated On: January 24, 2021)

Afghan Minister of Foreign Affairs Haneef Atmar said the Taliban has to agree to a ceasefire if the group wants to exonerate itself of being responsible for the high levels of violence across Afghanistan.

In an interview with the Asharq Al-Awsat, an Arabic international newspaper, Atmar called on the Taliban to comply with its obligations and fulfill the commitments it made at the time of signing the US-Taliban deal in Doha last year.

Atmar stated that the Afghan government has met its obligations and has “released over 6,000 detainees and met all the demands made by the Taliban.”

He said that now the Taliban has to prove its “good intentions” in bringing peace to the country.

“Now the Taliban must prove to the Afghan people and the international community that they are fulfilling the promises and obligations they signed,” Atmar told Asharq Al-Awsat.

“The Afghan government sees that a ceasefire agreement would serve as the best evidence of the Taliban not seeking violence and that they are not responsible for the current level of violence in the country,” Atmar stated.

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