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Pentagon’s Acting Chief Makes Unannounced Visit to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2019)

Acting U.S. Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan landed in Afghanistan for an unannounced visit Monday amid a push for peace with the Taliban, the U.S. media reported.

Shanahan, who will meet U.S. troops and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, said he had so far not received any direction to reduce the nearly 14,000 U.S. troops in Afghanistan.

The United States has important security interests in the region, he told a small group of reporters traveling with him on the unannounced trip.

Thus far the Taliban have refused to negotiate with the Afghan government, calling it illegitimate. Washington is trying to break that impasse.

“It is important that the Afghan government is involved in discussions regarding Afghanistan,” Shanahan said as quoted by Reuters. “The Afghans have to decide what Afghanistan looks like in the future. It’s not about the U.S., it is about Afghanistan.”

Shanahan took over from Jim Mattis, who quit in December over policy differences with U.S. President Donald Trump.

He said he could not make any guarantees because U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad was leading the talks.

He also said his goal on the trip was to get an understanding of the situation on the ground from commanders and then to brief Trump on his findings.

It comes as the U.S. envoy Khalilzad left Washington on Sunday on yet another peace mission that includes talks in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Qatar.

The U.S. State Department said Ambassador Khalilzad and his interagency delegation would also consult officials in Belgium, Germany, and Turkey before arriving in the region for further talks. The trip, which began on Sunday, will continue till Feb 28, when the chief US negotiator is expected back in Washington for consultations.

The State Department said the trip “is part of an overall effort to facilitate a peace process that protects U.S. national security interests and brings all Afghan parties together in an intra-Afghan dialogue through which they can determine a path for their country’s future”.

Khalilzad will meet “our allies and partners to discuss mutual efforts to advance that goal and will consult with the Afghan government throughout the trip”, the statement noted.

With Inputs from Reuters

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Jamiat-e-Islami party picks new chairman, remove Salahuddin Rabbani

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

At least 47 members of the Jamiat-e-Islami leadership council on Wednesday voted and removed Salahuddin Rabbani as the executive chairman of the party.

The party elected Enayatullah Shadab as interim chairman of the party to convene the party’s general assembly.

Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e Islami party is apparently divided into two groups. 47 members of the party’s leadership council voted to remove Salahuddin Rabbani from the presidency of the Jamiat-e-Islami and removed him, including Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanuni, Bismillah Mohammadi, Hafiz Mansour, Ismail Khan, and Sattar Murad.

Of the 62 members of the Leadership Council, 47 members appointed Enayatullah Shadab, one of the party’s founders, as interim chairman of the Leadership Council, to prepare for the party’s general assembly after years.

“We have a 50 percent share of the government, and we can’t ignore it because one person decides individually,” said Basir Salangi, a member of the leadership council of the Jamiat-e-Islami Afghanistan. “Out of 62, 47 were with us. 35 and the rest via video said that we were with you.”

Salahuddin Rabbani did not want to be a partner in a participatory government, but 47 members of the Leadership Council see themselves as partners in the government from Abdullah Abdullah’s team and have the prospect of playing a prominent role alongside Mr. Abdullah in the peace process.

“There is no reason for us to be in opposition. It is wise to strengthen the government that is in the political campaign with the Taliban to prevent the Taliban from entering politically and militarily,” said Hafiz Mansour, a member of Afghanistan’s Jamiat-e-Islami leadership.

A section other than the Supreme Leader’s Council is with Salahuddin Rabbani. Mr. Rabbani accused some members of the Islamic Jamiat of compromising two weeks ago.

Salahuddin Rabbani said on June 18: “A number of senior members of the Islamic Jamiat have acted against their own decisions and the leadership’s decision and their fundamental values. The result is that today we are begging the legitimate demands of our people.”

In response to the act of 47 members of the leadership council, the Jamiat-e-Islami led by Salahuddin Rabbani suspended the membership of Atta Mohammad Noor, Younus Qanuni, Kaleemullah Naqibi, Abdul Hafiz Mansour, Waqif Hakimi, Sayed Enayatullah Shadab and Abdul Sattar Murad.

Ahmad Zia Massoud, deputy head of the Islamic Jamiat, said Salahuddin Rabbani is still the head of the Jamiat-e-Islami, and the government, in collusion with some members of the party’s leadership, had paved the way for the Jamiat-e-Islami split after intensive negotiations.

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Taliban still has ties with Al-Qaeda affiliate: Pentagon

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

Pentagon says in a new report that Al-Qaeda-linked regional groups have close ties to the Taliban and have sustained interests in attacking the US forces and other countries.

While the Taliban has pledged to no longer allow Al-Qaeda to operate from Afghan soil, Pentagon says that the group colluding with al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent.

A report by the US Department of Defense to Congress on the security situation in Afghanistan shows that al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent regularly cooperates with bottom level members of the Taliban to weaken the Afghan government.

“We believe the Taliban still have ties to a network like Haqqani and dozens of other networks operating in Afghanistan. What the Pentagon findings are, our security agencies have the same report,” said Sediq Sediqqi, a spokesman for the Afghan president.

The Pentagon has also reported that Russia is actively working with the Taliban and other groups in Afghanistan to speed up the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan, as the US Secretary of State has spoken to his Russian counterpart about the matter.

“They have an objective there too. To reduce the risk of terrorism there. So yes, maybe not every time. But with great frequency, when I speak to my Russian counterparts, we talk about Afghanistan. We talk about the fact that we don’t want them engage in this,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.

The Pentagon says that despite recent progress in the peace process, al-Qaeda’s branch in the Indian subcontinent maintains close ties with the Taliban in Afghanistan, possibly for protection and training.

“The enemy of al-Qaeda is the United States, and it is very clear that the relationship with the Taliban will not be cut, and that it will continue to lead to war,” said Zahir Azimi, a retired militant.

Politician Rahmatullah Bizhanpour said: “The United States wants to repeat the game in Afghanistan or start a new round of games, as the US is taking different stances against the Taliban and then directly another force called ISIS will appear in the region.”

The report regarding Iran said that Iran pursues its goals in Afghanistan by providing calculated support to the Taliban and by engaging in efforts to strengthen relations with the Afghan government.

The Taliban, however, in a statement rejected the report, calling it “propaganda and unsubstantiated.”

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Khalilzad sees Afghan peace in favor of Central Asian countries

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2020)

Zalmay Khalilzad, the US Special Envoy for Peace in Afghanistan, said that peace and stability in Afghanistan are critical for “regional peace, security, and prosperity in Central Asia.”

Khalilzad discussed the Afghan peace process with Foreign Ministers of the Central Asian countries on Wednesday.

“A stable and prosperous Afghanistan is critical for regional peace, security, and prosperity in Central Asia; a Central Asia made up of sovereign and independent states working together with Afghanistan bridging to South Asia is in the interest of the region and of the US,” Khalilzad wrote on his Twitter after the C5+1 meeting.

The US official discussed investments in each country and cross-border opportunities with the Central Asian ministers, “We also explored what a pooled, regional development fund might look like.”

During his recent visit to the region, Zalmay Khalilzad is working to create a regional consensus on peace in Afghanistan.

The US special envoy for peace in Afghanistan began his new trip a few days ago. He also met with Pakistani officials yesterday to discuss peace in Afghanistan. This time, Zalmay Khalilzad will speak to Afghan officials via video conference.

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