Connect with us

Latest News

Peace won’t be found in silence or fear, says AIHRC chair 

Ariana News

Published

 on

(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

One year ago today – February 28 – Afghans were buoyed by the signing of the US-Taliban agreement in Doha, which they hoped would bring peace. Instead, today, a year later, targeted killings have spiked leaving thousands of civil society activists, government officials, journalists and even doctors fearing for their lives. 

Shaharzad Akbar, the chair of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), wrote in an op-ed piece, published in the Washington Post, that “every night, I lie awake wondering who will be next. I think of a colleague whose teenage son checks his car every morning for magnetic bombs. A husband saying goodbye to his wife as she leaves for work, wondering if today will be the day she is killed on her way to the office.”

She said that a year after the deal was signed, instead of ushering in peace “one of the most tangible changes has been an increase in targeted killings, mostly unclaimed, that have created an environment of terror and fear. 

“There were nearly three times the number of such attacks in 2020 compared with 2019; the casualties include the deaths of 11 human rights defenders and media workers in the past five months,” she wrote. 

Akbar pointed out that some of Afghanistan’s most important gains, its activists, community leaders and scholars, are being silenced at a time when, after the US-Taliban deal, Afghans had hoped for a reduction in violence and for inclusive intra-Afghan negotiations.

“While the Taliban denies involvement in most targeted attacks, it benefits from the environment of fear and hopelessness around the peace process and the lack of critical voices demanding an inclusive peace. 

“This reign of terror for Afghan civilians must end in order for a real peace process to begin,” Akbar wrote. 

She also pointed out that as the United States reviews its Afghanistan policy, it still has leverage — including the existing UN sanctions on the Taliban, the Taliban’s desire for international recognition and legitimacy, and the presence of international forces in Afghanistan — to help stop these attacks and encourage a ceasefire and an inclusive peace process.

She stated that her AIHRC colleagues know what it is to feel terror as the organization has lost three of its staff members in the past 18 months.

Akbar pointed out that these high levels of violence are forcing families to flee the country. 

“Every day I hear of another friend, journalist, academic, women’s rights activist or businessperson leaving the country. Their departures are creating an absence that will take another generation to fill. Those who can’t leave feel silenced by fear and have little chance of influencing the peace process,” she wrote.

Akbar also noted that it has been years since the last mass demonstration by Afghans – “for fear of attacks”. 

She also said that following the recent wave of assassinations, public debate has closed down, even in the virtual sphere. “This is even more true beyond Kabul, in rural areas where conflict has been the most savage.”

Akbar stated that while US President Joe Biden’s team has signaled that it will withdraw its last troops as per the agreement with the Taliban, if the group reduces violence. she said: “This is welcome but not enough. Even with overall violence levels down, targeted killings are silencing the voices needed to build pressure for peace.”

“The United States does not want Afghanistan to collapse into a catastrophic civil war as soon as it withdraws, after 20 years of assistance. But the narrow focus of the US-Taliban deal ignored the wider needs of the peace process, including the importance of civic space and the protection of civilians. This approach should be urgently reconsidered in Biden’s review,” she said.

Akbar stated that public participation is not a bonus that is “nice to have” but rather an inclusive process that builds momentum for peace and boosts the credibility of the process. 

Bringing traditional and nontraditional civil society voices to the table from across Afghanistan will bring a sense of urgency and bottom-up pressure on the parties.

She also stated that public participation can best be guaranteed through a ceasefire and that the US and its allies should utilize their leverage with both sides and the region to continue to push for an interim and immediate ceasefire that will create an opportunity for national engagement. 

“An immediate end to targeted killings, a ceasefire and the restoration of civic space will allow for broader inclusion in the talks, reviving hope and confidence in the process,” she said.

Akbar stated that the US can encourage the Taliban and the Afghan government to create this enabling environment for peace. Afghans could then force hope back onto the table.

“We will not find peace in silence and fear,” Akbar stated.

Latest News

CENTCOM chief says Washington still mulling embassy safety plans

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

Commander of the US Central Command (CENTCOM) said this weekend that he has provided plans to secure the US embassy in Afghanistan with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who is still deciding.

In an interview with Military Times, McKenzie said: “We’re in a back-and-forth process, refining them, so unfortunately right now, because of that, there’s not much more I can share with you about the development of those plans.

He went on to state that the US knows “with a high degree of certainty, that al-Qaeda and ISIS, and the version of ISIS that’s in Afghanistan — ISIS Khorasan is what we call it — they both have aspirations to attack the United States”.

“Long-standing, very public track record of wanting to attack our homeland, and the homelands of our partners as well in Europe and in other places. So, this is well established and well-documented from their own mouths.

“We believe that what has prevented these attacks from being developed, both from Afghanistan and from Syria as well over the last few years, is the pressure that’s been put on these groups.

“And so in Syria, for example, we and our SDF partners work very hard to keep that pressure on them so they don’t have — particularly ISIS — the ability to generate those attack plans because they’re busy scrambling around for their own survival,” he said.

“Sort of the same thing occurs in Afghanistan. So, what would concern me the most in the long term would be a future situation in Afghanistan where there wasn’t adequate pressure kept on these groups, because we know left unmolested that they are certainly going to rebuild, restrengthen themselves, and we have no reason to doubt they don’t mean what they say when they say, repeatedly and earnestly over the past few years, that they want to attack us in our homeland,” he said.

He highlited that the US was withdrawing from Afghanistan and that the only thing that will remain, “if we can protect it”, will be the US embassy and its diplomats.

Despite withdrawing, he again noted that Washington plans to the Afghan military from just over the horizon.

“We’re still going to support them with funding. We’re going to try very hard to support the Afghan air force over the horizon; some things will come out of the country to be worked on.

“We will do some televised remote advising with them as we go forward. All those things, we will continue to do that. I don’t want to minimize this, because I think they’re going to be tested, but we will continue to support them, just not in the way we are supporting them now.”

Continue Reading

Featured

Khalilzad says US ‘not leaving Afghanistan’ despite troop pullout

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

The US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has said the United States will not abandon the war-torn country even after the withdrawal of its forces.

Addressing a press conference during his visit to Kazakhstan’s capital, Nur-Sultan on Sunday, Khalilzad said: “Our forces are leaving Afghanistan, but the United States is not leaving Afghanistan. We will work hard for peace and reconciliation in Afghanistan.”

“We will continue our security assistance, and we will continue our economic and humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan,” he added.

This comes as concerns continue to grown around the uncertainty in Kabul amid a spike in violence and stalled peace talks between the Taliban and the Afghan Republic.

In Nur-Sultan, Khalilzad said he regularly discusses Afghanistan with his Russian counterpart, President Vladimir Putin’s special representative Zamir Kabulov, RFE\RL reported Monday.

“Russia and the United States are working well together in promoting peace in Afghanistan,” according to him.

Khalilzad is currently on a visit to the region in a drive to muster support for the peace process ahead of the US and NATO troops withdrawal, which is expected to be finalized by September 11.

Continue Reading

Featured

Stoltenberg says many decisions will be taken at NATO Summit

Ariana News

Published

on

(Last Updated On: June 14, 2021)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday he was looking forward to welcoming all NATO leaders to the day’s summit and said the decisions that will be made will send a strong message of unity, of resolve and that “we are making NATO stronger in an age of global competition.”

Stoltenberg laid out a number of key decision areas for the Summit, including strengthening political consultations, reinforcing collective defense, and enhancing resilience for infrastructure and supply chains.

Stoltenberg also said that Afghanistan, Russia, and support for Ukraine and Georgia will feature in the day-long event. 

“NATO is the most successful alliance in history because, for more than seventy years, we have changed as the world changes”, the Secretary-General said.  

“At our Summit on Monday, we will have far-ranging discussions, and take substantial decisions to make our strong Alliance even stronger and keep our one billion people safe”.

Stoltenberg said despite the withdrawal of NATO troops from Afghanistan, the organization will continue to support Afghans and provide support to the security forces. 

“We will continue to provide funding for Afghan security forces, that is a commitment that all Allies have made. And then we’re also now working on how we can provide out-of-country training for the Afghan security forces.”

He said NATO is also working on how to maintain and support critical infrastructure, including the airport. 

“NATO is planning to provide support and also some NATO Allies are now in direct dialogue, including the United States and Turkey and others, on how to make sure that we can maintain an international airport in Kabul.”

“This is, of course, important for NATO Allies, but it’s also important for the whole international community for diplomatic presence, and also for continued development aid. 

“So, in essence, we have been there for almost 20 years. The intention was never to be there forever. We are clear-eyed about the risks that the decision to end our military presence entails, but at the same time, we will continue to support the Afghans,” he said.

US President Joe Biden, who has already arrived in Brussels for the summit is meanwhile expected to hold talks on the sidelines of the event with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Erdogan said on Sunday his country would be the “only reliable” country left to stabilize Afghanistan after the US pulls out its troops.

Speaking to journalists at an Istanbul airport before leaving for Brussels, Erdogan said he would discuss the issue in his first face-to-face meeting with Biden.

“America is preparing to leave Afghanistan soon and from the moment they leave, the only reliable country to maintain the process over there is obviously Turkey,” Erdogan said. 

This comes after reports emerged last week that Turkey had offered to keep troops in Afghanistan to protect the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul once US and NATO forces have left. 

Concerns among the foreign community have been growing over this issue as the Kabul airport is the main entry and exit point for diplomats and aid workers.

According to AFP, Erdogan said on Sunday that Turkish officials had informed their American counterparts about Ankara’s plans in Afghanistan after the US troop pullout, without providing details.

They are “pleased and happy. We will be able to discuss the Afghanistan process with them,” he said.

AFP meanwhile quoted a Turkish official as having said Turkey’s troops could remain “as long as certain conditions including legal and financial are met.”

“If Turkey is to stay it will do so under which frame: under NATO umbrella or bilateral terms? And if it will be under NATO auspices, under which authorization?” asked the official, who wished to remain anonymous.

The official also confirmed that Western powers were willing to let Turkey stay and protect the Kabul airport.

But, the official added, “why should Turkey try hard if nobody is going to give support? These issues need to be clarified.”

Following last week’s reports on Turkey’s offer, the Taliban on Saturday issued a statement warning against this. 

According to the group, should any foreign country decide to keep some troops in Afghanistan, be it for safeguarding embassies or the airport, they will be considered “invaders”.

 

Continue Reading

Trending

Copyright © 2021 Ariana News. All rights reserved!