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Pakistan rejects reports of new US military base on its soil

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(Last Updated On: May 25, 2021)

Islamabad on Monday rejected reports of the US military setting up a base inside Pakistan as it withdraws troops from Afghanistan.

“There is no US military or air base in Pakistan, nor is any such proposal envisaged. Any speculation on this account is baseless and irresponsible and should be avoided,” Pakistan’s Foreign Office spokesperson said in a press release.

He further said Pakistan and the US have a framework of cooperation in terms of air lines of communication (ALOC) and ground lines of communication (GLOC) in place since 2001. “No new agreement has been made in this regard,” he stated.

This comes after reports emerged this week that Pakistan has allowed the US to use its airspace and ground access.

David F Helvey, Assistant Secretary of Defence for Indo-Pacific Affairs, told the US Senate Armed Services Committee last week that the United States would continue its conversation with Pakistan because it had a critical role in restoring peace to Afghanistan.

“Pakistan has played an important role in Afghanistan. They supported the Afghan peace process. Pakistan also has allowed us to have overflight and access to be able to support our military presence in Afghanistan,” Helvey had told the committee.

“We will continue our conversations with Pakistan because their support and contribution to the future of Afghanistan, to future peace in Afghanistan, is going to be critical,” he had added.

Sources meanwhile, told Ariana News on Monday that US forces have begun construction of a large military base across the Durand Line.

According to the sources, the base is being built at the Shalozan Kurram Agency area in the Tribal Area inside Pakistan – in the Zazai Aryub district which borders Paktia province in Afghanistan.

Members of the Paktia provincial council told Ariana News that the base is under construction 8km from the Durand Line inside Pakistan and “supplies are being delivered via air and ground every day.”

Colonel Sonny Legget, a spokesman for the US Forces in Afghanistan, however, rejected these reports.

Meanwhile, the National Security Advisers of Pakistan and the United States met in Geneva on Monday.

The meeting between Pakistan NSA Moeed Yusuf and his American counterpart Jake Sullivan is the first in-person high-level contact between the two countries since the Biden administration assumed office in January.

“Both sides had a positive conversation on a range of bilateral, regional, and global issues of mutual interest and agreed to advance practical cooperation on these issues,” Pakistan’s Daily Times reported.

In a tweet, NSA Yusuf said he was “pleased to meet US NSA @JakeSullivan46”, adding that the Pakistan and US delegations had held positive discussions on a range of issues.

The NSAs’ meeting comes days after Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi told US lawmakers that Pakistan was seeking a broad-based, strategic partnership with America, which would also cover Afghanistan.

In virtual meetings with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, the foreign minister invited a group of 15 US lawmakers to visit Pakistan in June for consultations with their Pakistani counterparts and officials on how to improve bilateral relations.

On Monday, however, US Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin had a phone conversation with Pakistan’s Chief of Army Staff, General Qamar Javed Bajwa.

According to a US Defense Department statement issued by Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby, Austin and Bajwa discussed shared regional interests and objectives.

“During the call, Secretary Austin reiterated his appreciation for Pakistan’s support for Afghanistan Peace Negotiations and expressed his desire to continue to build on the U.S. – Pakistan bilateral relationship,” the statement read.

“Secretary Austin and General Bajwa discussed regional dynamics and our shared interest in security and stability in the region,” read the statement.

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Public support gathers momentum in favor of Afghan security forces

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

Calls by President Ashraf Ghani and other politicians for the public to rise up against the Taliban and support the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) is gathering momentum as people raise their voices against the insurgent group.

Overnight, Herat residents took to the streets and to roof tops chanting slogans, including Allahu Akbar (God is Great) in support of the Afghan security forces.

In the wake of this a wide-spread social media campaign was launched Tuesday calling on Kabul residents to do the same.

Posts on social media, including Twitter and Facebook, have called on Kabul residents to also take to their rooftops and streets and chant words of encouragement to the Afghan troops. According to posts, this will start at 9pm.

Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman, also took to Twitter to announce the plan. He said: “Tonight in Kabul; Everyone will chant “God is Great” in support of the Afghan Security Forces”.

Following the encouraging show of support for security forces in Herat on Monday night, former Afghan President Hamid Karzai said he sees the “resounding shout of the honorable people of Herat as a clear sign of the Afghan people’s disgust with the foreign imposed war in the country”.

Karzai also called on the Taliban to take this spontaneous movement of the people as a serious warning and to stop the war, killing and destroying the houses, villages and infrastructure of the Afghan people and to ensure peace in this ancient land. “Let our oppressed begin to live in peace with dignity.”

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Ebrahim Raisi, Iran’s new president, steps into power

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei formally endorsed on Tuesday (August 3) the presidency of Ebrahim Raisi, a hardline cleric who is under U.S. sanctions for human rights abuses.

The inauguration ceremony in Tehran was attended by Khamenei, Raisi, Iran’s outgoing president Hassan Rouhani and other Iranian officials.

Raisi’s victory in the country’s June presidential election might aggravate the revival of Tehran’s 2015 nuclear pact with world powers.

Raisi, like Iran’s supreme leader, has backed the indirect U.S.-Iranian negotiations in Vienna.

Raisi succeeds pragmatist Hassan Rouhani, having secured victory at a June 18 election marked by voter apathy over economic hardships and political restrictions.

Rights groups have criticised the election of Raisi in a vote in which prominent rivals were barred from standing.

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Herat residents chant from their roofs in support of security forces

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(Last Updated On: August 3, 2021)

As battles raged across Herat city on Monday night, amid a barrage of attacks by the Taliban, thousands of residents stood on the roofs of their houses and shouted out words of encouragement to the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces who were battling the insurgent group.

After President Ashraf Ghani’s appeal to members of parliament on Monday to mobilize their people in support of the security forces, Herat residents took to the streets and climbed on their roofs chanting slogans including “Allahu Akbar” (God is Great).

On Tuesday, Ghani responded in a tweet by saying that with the chanting of “Allahu Akbar” by Herat residents, this “showed in a loud voice what this phrase truly represents.”

This mobilization coincided with the launch of an operation in Herat against the Taliban – an operation that clearly has the support of the public.

Ismail Khan, a former jihadi leader and leader of the Popular Resistance Front, which is leading the fight by public uprising forces against the Taliban in Herat city, called on the people, including women, to show their support of the security forces.

“It is the duty of every woman and the people of Herat to save themselves from this army of ignorance (the Taliban). The Taliban are more ignorant than in the past, and if they enter the city of Herat with this ignorance, they will torment the people in such a way that everyone will regret not having risen up against the Taliban.”

Herat officials meanwhile announced on Monday that a large-scale operation against the Taliban had been launched in several parts of Herat city.

Herat Governor Abdul Sabour Qani said Tuesday the western part of Herat has been cleared of Taliban and security forces are continuing operations in the southern part of the city.

According to sources, clashes continue in the south of the city, about two kilometers from the city center.

The governor of Herat said that with the arrival of reinforcements from Kabul, the Taliban’s advance on the city of Herat has been stopped and ground and air operations against the group’s fighters are continuing.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of National Defense reports that more than 40 Taliban insurgents have been killed in recent clashes in the city of Herat and that several parts of the city have been cleared of Taliban.

The ministry did not comment on whether security forces had sustained any casualties.

The Taliban have not yet commented on the group’s casualties in clashes with government forces.

Meanwhile, a widespread social media campaign has been launched in Afghanistan calling on Kabul residents in the capital to also climb onto their roofs and chant words of encouragement to the security forces. Social media posts indicate the start of this is scheduled for 9pm Tuesday.

Fawad Aman, a defense ministry spokesman, even took to Twitter to announce the plan. He said: “Tonight in Kabul; Everyone will chant “God is Great” in support of the Afghan Security Forces”

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