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New Bill By U.S Senators Seek Congressional Oversight of Afghan Peace Process

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(Last Updated On: November 25, 2019)

Two Members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Thursday introduced a new bipartisan legislation that would provide congressional oversight of the Afghanistan peace process, according to a statement from U.S. Senator Todd Young.

“The Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019,” introduced by the committee’s top ranking Democrat Sen. Bob Menendez from New Jersey and his Republican colleague Sen. Todd Young from Indiana, would require congressional oversight “For U.S. diplomatic efforts to achieve a political solution to the conflict in Afghanistan and any agreement that emerges from that process.”

According to Senator Menendez, the new legislation is an effort to ensure that Afghanistan would not descend in to chaos as U.S. draws down its military operation in the country.

“This bipartisan effort is in line with the Administration’s goals to achieve a political end to the war in a responsible manner, and also seeks to protect the hard fought gains made for the rights of Afghan women and minorities,” Senator Menendez said. “Afghanistan can never again become a platform for terrorist attacks against the United States or our allies. This is exactly why Congress must assert its oversight authority in the event that the Trump administration restarts negotiations with the Taliban,” Senator Menendez said.

Moreover, Senator Young said, “Unfortunately, like other war powers discussions, Congress has taken a backseat in the debate over the future of our mission in Afghanistan”, adding that as Afghanistan conflict is moving toward a stalemate and U.S. is pursuing negotiations with Taliban, “Congress must be a part of the process to ensure that our mission is brought to a responsible end.”

Based on the statement, The Ensuring a Durable Afghanistan Peace Act of 2019 if enacted would:

  • Expresses support for pursuing a peace deal with the Taliban to bring an end to the conflict in Afghanistan.
  • States that any action to curtail or remove U.S. military forces from Afghanistan include regular consultation with Congress.
  • Expresses support for the social, economic, and political progress the Government and people of Afghanistan have achieved since 2001.

Transmission of Agreements to Congress

  • Requires that the administration transmit the final agreement with the Taliban to Congress, to include a description of counterterrorism assurances, U.S. troop withdrawal, the status of direct Afghan negotiations and progress towards reaching a comprehensive ceasefire.
  • Requires an initial verification assessment report, not later than 60 days after finalizing an agreement with the Taliban, that assesses:
    • The extent to which the Secretary of State can verify that the Taliban are complying with their obligations and commitments under the peace agreement;
    • Whether the Taliban and Haqqani Network have transparently and verifiably broken ties with al-Qaeda;
    • An assessment of the viability of the intra-Afghan governing agreement; and,
    • An assessment as to whether the terms of ceasefire are being met by all sides in the conflict.

Reporting on Verification and Compliance

  • Requires a quarterly report assessing whether the key tenets of the peace deal are being honored, including:
    • Assessment of terrorist activity in Afghanistan, Taliban actions with respect to the counterterrorism guarantees, and threats against the United States homeland;
    • Assessment as to whether the Taliban are in compliance with their commitments under the peace agreement;
    • Updated assessment of the intra-Afghan agreement, and whether the terms of the ceasefire are being met by all parties of the conflict;
    • Description of the status of human rights, including the rights of women and minorities and their access to education, justice and economic opportunities following a peace deal; and,
    • A description of the rule of law, governance structures, freedoms of press and media, and civil society’s operating space following a peace deal.
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Three killed in clash with Taliban over rape accusation

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

At least three civilians were killed and three more wounded in a clash between residents and Taliban militants in Khwaja Ghar district of northeastern Takhar province.

Khalil Asir, a spokesman for Takhar police, told Ariana News that the clash broke out after local residents stormed a Taliban prison on Monday afternoon.

According to Asir, members of the community attempted to get access to Taliban insurgents who allegedly raped two girls in the district two weeks ago.

He said the militants opened fire on the residents which resulted in the death of three people. Three more were wounded.

Two weeks ago, a resident of Khwaja Ghar claimed that Taliban fighters raped two of his teenage daughters.

The local Taliban reportedly denied any wrongdoing.

The Taliban has not commented on the incident.

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Andarabi claims new Daesh leader is a Haqqani member

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

Masoud Andarabi, the acting minister of interior, said Monday night that Shahab al-Muhajir, the newly appointed leader of Daesh in Afghanistan, was in fact a member of the Haqqani Network.

Commenting on Twitter, Andarabi said: “Haqqani and the Taliban carry out their terrorism on a daily basis across Afg and when their terrorist activities does not suit them politically they rebrand it under ISKP (Daesh Afghanistan).”

Andarabi’s tweet came just hours after security forces brought an end to the Jalalabad prison siege in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

The attack started on Sunday night shortly after 6.30 pm and carried on throughout the night and most of Monday.

Soon after militants detonated a car bomb at the gates of the prison, and gunmen stormed the facility, Daesh claimed responsibility for the attack.

Sunday was also the final day of a three-day Eid ceasefire that had been called by both the Taliban and the Afghan government.

However, the prison siege resulted in the death of at least 30 people, including civilians, security force members, and prisoners.

In addition, prisoners escaped during the chaos but security forces said they rounded hundreds of them up.

The attack came just a day after the Afghan intelligence agency, the National Security Directorate (NDS), killed a senior Daesh group commander near Jalalabad.

A statement late Saturday by the National Directorate of Security said the slain militant was Assadullah Orakzai, an intelligence leader for the IS affiliate (Daesh) in Afghanistan. The statement said he was killed near Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province. IS has its headquarters in the province.

Orakzai was suspected of being involved in several deadly attacks against both military and civilian targets in Afghanistan.

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Trump expects only ‘4,000 to 5,000’ troops in Afghanistan by November

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(Last Updated On: August 4, 2020)

US President Donald Trump said in an interview broadcast on Monday night that by November election day troop levels in Afghanistan will be down to between 4,000 and 5,000.

Trump told Axios he will reduce American troop levels in Afghanistan down to about 4,000 “very soon”. 

He said: “We are largely out of Afghanistan”. 

“We’ll be down in a very short period of time to 8,000, then we’re going to be down to 4,000, we’re negotiating right now”, he said adding that the US had “been there now for 19 years and we will be getting out.”

Refusing to give a date as to when the additional drawdown of troops would be done, he was then asked how many US troops would still be in Afghanistan on election day in November.

Trump said “anywhere between four and five thousand.”

Questioned about long-standing rumors of Russia supplying the Taliban with weapons, Trump said he had “heard that but again it’s never reached my desk”. 

He also said “Russia doesn’t want anything to do with Afghanistan” and stated the old Soviet Union had gone bankrupt because of its involvement in Afghanistan. 

“The last thing that Russia wants to do is to get too much involved in Afghanistan. They tried that once and it didn’t work out too well,” he said. 

This comes after reports emerged in June of Russia offering bounty payments to the Taliban to kill US troops. 

Last month the top US general overseeing operations in the Middle East and Afghanistan told CNN that the intelligence concerning Russian operatives offering bounties to the Taliban was “very worrisome” but that the information wasn’t solid enough to hold up in a court of law.

General Frank McKenzie, the commander of US Central Command, also said he was not convinced that the Russian bounty program was directly responsible for the deaths of US personnel.

But former US officials have said whether or not bounties were paid, Moscow has been a thorn in Washington’s side for years with regards to Afghanistan. 

Referring to the issue of supplying weapons to the Taliban, the then-defense secretary James Mattis said in 2017: “We’re going to have to confront Russia.”

General John Nicholson, the top US commander in Afghanistan from 2016 to 2018, also accused Russia of “arming belligerents” in 2017 and in 2018 said, “Clearly, they are acting to undermine our interests.”

Other former officials have in the past told NBC News that although Russia has professed support for planned peace negotiations, Moscow also cultivated ties and provided aid to the Taliban.

Douglas London, a former CIA official who worked on Afghanistan matters before he retired in late 2018, told NBC that US officials closely tracked Russian support to the Taliban. 

He also said that reports of the Russians paying the Taliban to “incentivize” American deaths is “not inconsistent with our understanding of Moscow’s efforts to be a disruptive force and inflict harm on our people and interests.”

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