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Pakistan Launches Military Operation Against Islamic State in Tribal Areas  

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(Last Updated On: July 17, 2017)

Pakistan’s military has launched a large scale operation against the Islamic States in its volatile tribal areas, bordering Afghanistan, Reuters reported.

Pakistani Military Spokesman, Lieutenant General Asif Ghafoor claimed that Islamic State (Daesh) was growing in strength inside Afghanistan, prompting Pakistan to launch an operation in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).

“This operation was necessary because Daesh is getting established there and we have to stop the influence of Daesh spreading into Pakistani territory through the Rajgal valley,” Ghafoor said, referring to a valley surrounded by mountains reaching up to 14,000 feet.

He said that the “Khyber 4” operation, which would include the Pakistan air force, would focus on the border areas inside the Khyber Agency area, which is part of FATA.

Ghafoor said across the Khyber border there are safe havens for multiple “terrorist” organizations that are linked to recent attacks in Pakistan, including the Parachinar assault.

It comes as Pakistan has long denied Islamic State has a foothold inside the country despite a series of attacks claimed by the group over the past two years, including a bombing in the northern town of Parachinar last month that killed 75.

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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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