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NATO signals support for keeping troops in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: May 19, 2016)

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The U.S. military’s new top officer in the war in Afghanistan met with military chiefs from NATO nations Wednesday, offering in a closed-door meeting his assessment of a conflict that is nearly 15 years old.

Army Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr.’s presented his assessment behind closed doors to dozens of senior military officers, including Marine Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and Army Gen. Curtis “Mike” Scaparrotti, the new supreme allied commander of NATO. Nicholson did not appear at a news conference afterward, but Scaparrotti said that after hearing the war commander’s plan, Scaparrotti is in favor of an approach that would remove additional forces only as conditions on the ground allow.

“It’s a means to realize our objective of a stable and secure Afghanistan that is not a haven for terrorists any longer,” Scaparrotti said. “I think that’s what I take away from General Nicholson’s report, and I think it’s important that the [military chiefs] also heard it today.”

Scaparrotti declined to characterize Nicholson’s plan. But his comments, coupled with troubles by the Afghan government in quelling a bloody uprising in which the Taliban has seized territory in numerous parts of the country, appear to signal support for leaving U.S. troops in Afghanistan longer than planned. President Obama has been grappling with whether to deviate from his plan to cut the number of American troops there again before he leaves office.

Obama announced last fall that he was keeping a force of about 9,800 troops deployed through most of 2016, with 5,500 into 2017. But military officials and national security analysts believe that the president may be open to keeping more there longer in a limited role that continues to focus on the Afghan military weaknesses, including building a fledgling air force that has few trained pilots and mechanics and growing abilities to better manage budgets, logistics and intelligence.

Gen. Petr Pavel, a Czech officer who serves as chairman of the NATO military committee, said Wednesday that there is general acknowledgment among most NATO allies involved in Afghanistan that it would be wise to leave the “same amount of participation” there now because they believe the conditions are not yet met for us to withdraw.” He called Afghan troops “essential to the stability of the Afghan state and a critical component in building the confidence of the Afghan people in their society.”

The NATO mission in Afghanistan, Operation Resolute Support, currently includes about 12,800 troops, including some 6,900 Americans, according to statistics released by the coalition. The majority of the other 2,900 U.S. troops are devoted to a separate but related mission, Freedom’s Sentinel, that focuses heavily on counterterrorism.

The military chiefs were meeting ahead of a larger NATO summit in Warsaw in July. Many U.S. officials believe the president could make a decision on troop numbers before then. Pavel said Wednesday that the military chiefs would focus heavily on preparing for the summit.

“Our discussions today provide an opportunity to establish a common understanding of recent developments in our constantly evolving security environment,” the Czech general said. “We will identify the most important advice for our ministers and heads of state and government as NATO prepares for the Warsaw Summit.”

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Gailani calls for Afghans to unite under the umbrella of Islam 

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(Last Updated On: October 20, 2020)

After weeks of waiting for progress around the Afghan peace talks that are currently underway in Doha, Hamid Gailani, the leader of the Mahaz-e-Milli Islami Afghanistan party on Tuesday called on all parties to the conflict to unite as Muslims and to form an interim government. 

Gailani called on both government and the Taliban to take steps consistent with what “the mighty Allah has said about peace”. Citing the Holy Quran, Gailani said “and peace is good”  and that “we should do good for the people.”

“We are both Afghan and Muslim and it is the Afghans and Muslims who are suffering on both ends, people who die or get wounded from any of the sides are both Afghan and Muslim.

“Brothers, let’s be united, jointly and with understanding and for the sake of Allah, get rid of this sedition and take steps toward peace, which has been favored by Allah,” said Gailani, who is the son of the late politician and respected religious leader Pir Sayed Ahmed Gailani. 

In reference to negotiations, Gailani suggested a shift in dynamics and said: “Both sides are plaintiff. In every (traditional) negotiation, religion/Sharia, national traditions, and international law, there is always a need for a third side in conflict resolution. Therefore, as I see it we have no option for solving the issue other than the formation of an interim administration, in which all sides will have representation and agreed by all, and steps towards peace be taken in light of it.”

“Then a national government, according to the wishes of people and with the participation of all sides based on national consensus, be formed so that the seditious war comes to an end.”

Gailani is yet another voice calling for an end to the ongoing war – a war that has lasted for almost 40 years and one which the majority of stakeholders, including foreign partners and neighboring countries agree that there is no military solution. 

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Pompeo to meet with Armenian and Azeri foreign ministers

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2020)

Armenia and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers will meet US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Washington on Friday in a bid to end the conflict that erupted between the two countries last month. 

Reuters reported on Tuesday that Armenia and Azerbaijan had both confirmed the meeting. 

The US State Department did not immediately comment but the planned meetings suggest Washington is stepping up efforts to calm a conflict that has killed hundreds of people since September 27. 

Russia has tried to mediate over the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute but two ceasefires brokered in Moscow this month have not ended the fighting. 

Reuters stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed intense fighting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh on Tuesday and that fears have been raised that regional powers Turkey and Russia could be sucked into a wider conflict. 

 

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Rashid Khan appeals for more Tests against cricket’s elite

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(Last Updated On: October 20, 2020)

Star cricketer Rashid Khan has appealed to cricket bodies to give Afghanistan the chance to play more tournaments against leading cricket teams in order to improve their game. 

“To become a big player you have to play against the best,” Rashid told the TMS does the IPL podcast on Tuesday.

“When I came to the IPL at 17, I saw the players, their workouts and fitness, the net sessions and I realized how much work I needed to do to be much better and more consistent.

“We have played against Australia twice in five years – in the two World Cups – and it’s the same with England and New Zealand.

“Hopefully we get some games against them and the rest of the players get the same opportunity to get better.”

Rashid also said that Afghanistan’s rise into cricket’s top tier took him by surprise but said how proud he was.

“I feel so proud, coming from Afghanistan and being on this stage. It’s a dream for me, sometimes I think where I was five or six years ago and where I am now, it’s something very special for me,” Rashid said.

“When I was watching other leg-spinners a few years back, I would never dream that sometime in the future I will be someone else’s role model,” he said.

Since being afforded full membership to the ICC and associated Test status, Afghanistan has played just four Test matches, against the West Indies, Ireland and Bangladesh. 

Australia, England, South Africa and New Zealand, the first four members of the Test cricket family, are yet to welcome Afghanistan into the fold in competition.

 

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