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Political parties to present united front at Istanbul Summit

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(Last Updated On: April 10, 2021)

The Afghan Political Parties Committee said Saturday it would present a separate peace plan at the Istanbul summit on the Afghan peace process, which is due to be held next week in Turkey.

The committee includes major Afghan political parties such as Gulbuddin Hekmatyar-led Hizb-e-Islami; Hizb-e-Wahdad Islami led by Former Vice President Mohammad Karimi Khalili; Hizb-e-Wahdad led by Mohammad Mohaqiq; Hizb-e-Jamiat Islami led by Salahuddin Rabbani; Junbish-i-Milli led by Marshal Abdul Rashid Dostum; Hezb-e-Mahaz-e-Mili Islami-e-Afghanistan led by Sayed Hamed Gailani, and Afghan Millat Party led by Anwar al-Haq Ahadi.

Mohammad Homayoun Jarir, a member of Hizb-e-Islami, stated that the parties, as government opposition, would share a joint plan for Afghan peace at the Istanbul conference.

“We have made a separate plan for the parties committee. We will participate in the summit as the opposition. So far we (Hizb-e-Islami party) have not handed over any plan to the High Council for National Reconciliation,” Jarir said.

Meanwhile, Mahiuddin Mehdi, a member of Jamiat Islami party, called on the participants to discuss a federal system for Afghanistan.

“As far as we know, a Presidential Structure has not yielded any results in Afghanistan, and we must terminate the centralized system and reach a result over a decentralized system (federalism),” Mehdi said.

This comes as the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad arrived in Kabul for talks with government leaders, ahead of the Istanbul summit.

According to a source, Khalilzad will discuss the latest developments around the peace process with high-ranking leaders and the peace proposal expected to be shared by the Afghan Republic at the Turkey conference.

Khalilzad is also expected to meet with President Ashraf Ghani.

The US-proposed and UN-led summit will see Afghan government leaders, politicians, and Taliban representatives, along with international stakeholders discuss a roadmap to a political settlement in the country.

No official date has been announced for the summit but some sources have said it could start on April 16.

Ghani, Abdullah, and a number of politicians have meanwhile been working on a peace proposal to be presented at the summit.
Over the past week, the HCNR’s leadership committee worked to combine proposals from various entities so that a single plan can be presented in Istanbul.

In an interview with the BBC on Thursday, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh confirmed the Afghan Republic will present a single plan at the summit.

Saleh said the Republic’s plan, which includes early elections, stipulates that incumbent president Ashraf Ghani will not run for the presidency.

Saleh said the Afghan government also wants regional and international guarantees for peace and assurances that no deals are made that give one group all the power.

Saleh said the Republic’s peace plan is comprehensive.

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Taliban capture key dam in Kandahar province

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

The Taliban has captured Afghanistan’s second-biggest dam after months of fierce fighting in its former bastion of Kandahar, the group and officials said, as the US forces have begun the withdrawal of its troops from the country after 20 years, AFP reported.

The Dahla Dam, which provides irrigation to farmers via a network of canals as well as drinking water for the provincial capital, was now under Taliban control, local officials told AFP news agency on Thursday.

A Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf also confirmed this and said: “We have seized the Dahla Dam in Arghandab.”

Haji Gulbuddin, governor of an adjacent district, confirmed the dam “is now in the control of the Taliban”, AFP reported.

“Our security forces … asked for reinforcements but they failed to get it,” he said.

Kandahar water department chief Tooryalay Mahboobi told AFP the Taliban recently warned Dahla employees not to go to work.

Last month the armed fighters blew up a bridge that connected the dam to adjacent districts, AFP reported.

Dahla was built by the US nearly 70 years ago to provide water for irrigating land in about seven districts of Kandahar.

In 2019, the Asian Development Bank approved a grant of nearly $350m to be used partly to expand the reservoir-style project.

The surrounding district has seen intense fighting in the past six months, but officials announced in April that the area had been cleared.

Before retreating, the Taliban planted explosives across the area – including in residential complexes – officials said.

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Pentagon chief says removal of all contractors from Afghanistan under way

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Thursday the process of removing all contractors from Afghanistan working with the United States was under way as part of President Joe Biden’s withdrawal of forces from the country.

The remarks are the clearest indication yet that Biden’s April order to withdraw all U.S. forces from Afghanistan by Sept. 11 extended to U.S.-funded contractors.

Asked whether the Pentagon had issued orders to withdraw not just American troops but also contractors, Austin said: “We’re going to responsibly retrograde all of our capabilities that we are responsible for and the contractors fall in that realm as well.”

Speaking with reporters, Austin said the contractors could, however, renegotiate their contracts in the future.

As of April, there were nearly 17,000 Pentagon contractors, including about 6,150 Americans, 4,300 Afghans and 6,400 from other countries.

The departure of thousands of contractors, especially those serving the Afghan security forces, has raised concerns among some U.S. officials about the ability of the Afghan government and military to sustain critical functions.

‘NOT A FOREGONE CONCLUSION’

Austin said the drawdown was going according to plan so far.

But Afghan security forces are locked in daily combat with the Taliban, which has waged war to overthrow the foreign-backed government since it was ousted from power in Kabul in 2001.

In just two days, the Taliban captured a second district in the northern province of Baghlan on Thursday.

The Afghan government says the Taliban have killed and wounded more than 50 troops in attacks in at least 26 provinces during the last 24 hours, while its forces killed dozens of Taliban over the same period.

The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said there had been sustained levels of violent attacks against Afghan security forces but none against U.S. and coalition forces since May 1.

Milley, in the same news conference, said it was too early to speculate on how Afghanistan would turn out after the withdrawal of U.S. forces given that Afghanistan had a significantly sized military and police force and the Afghan government was still cohesive.

“It is not a foregone conclusion, in my professional military estimate, that the Taliban automatically win and Kabul falls or any of those dire predictions,” Milley said.

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Power pylons destroyed, leaving Kabul in the dark

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(Last Updated On: May 7, 2021)

Two electricity pylons in the north of the city were blown up early on Friday morning, the main power utility, Da Afghanistan Breshna Sherkat (DABS), said.

The incident happened in Mirzakhil village in Kalakan district of Kabul at around 4:45 am on Friday in which two power pylons that transmit imported 220 kilovolts of power from Uzbekistan to Kabul were destroyed and a third pylon was partly damaged, read DABS statement.

Locals say they woke up to the sound of an explosion, but no one was injured in the area.

“Bomb has been placed near another power pylon in the area, but a team from the Afghan army is in the area to defuse the bomb,” DABS said.

DABS said that its workers will be sent to the area once the area is safe.

So far no group claimed responsibility for the blasts.

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