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Pompeo sees Loya Jirga as ‘historic opportunity’ for peace

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(Last Updated On: August 7, 2020)

US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo on Thursday night called on President Ashraf Ghani and all delegates attending Friday’s Loya Jirga to “to take advantage of this historic opportunity for a peace that benefits all Afghans and contributes to regional stability and global security.”

In a statement issued by the US State Department, Pompeo said the United States understands that the Loya Jirga delegates will decide on the speedy release of the remaining Taliban prisoners from their list, the last obstacle to the start of intra-Afghan negotiations.  

He said once these prisoners have been released the Taliban have committed to enter talks with the Afghan government. 

“The Taliban have also committed to significantly reduce violence and casualties during the talks where the parties will decide on a political roadmap to end the long and brutal war and agree on a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. 

“The United States intends to hold the Taliban to these commitments,” he said.

Noting that the issue of the release of the remaining 400 prisoners was of concern, he said “this difficult action will lead to an important result long sought by Afghans and Afghanistan’s friends: reduction of violence and direct talks resulting in a peace agreement and an end to the war.”

“After 40 years of war and bloodshed and destruction, the parties are ready to embark on a political process to reach a negotiated settlement.”

He also said the US remains committed to its partnership with Afghanistan and that terrorist threats emanating from Afghanistan should never again pose a threat to the United States and its allies. 

“As ever, the United States seeks a sovereign, unified, and democratic Afghanistan that is at peace with itself and its neighbors,” he said adding that at the same time “we are committed to reducing the burden on the US taxpayer and the risk to US troops.”

Meanwhile in a series of tweets, the top US peace broker, Zalmay Khalilzad, said the Loya Jirga – the highest consultation body made up of Afghan elders – was a “historic opportunity” to remove the last hurdle to direct peace talks.

“A positive outcome will mean a reduction in violence and Afghans immediately coming together at the negotiating table,” said the US special representative for Afghanistan reconciliation.

“We wish the Jirga participants success in their discussions and urge them not to allow those who prefer the status quo and seek to complicate the path to peace to manipulate the process.”

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Two former US defense secretaries advise against pulling out all troops

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(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

Two former US defense secretaries have both said they would advise President Joe Biden against withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.

This comes amid the Biden administration’s ongoing review of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago in Doha, which stipulates the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country by May 1.

However, in an interview with Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution, former defense secretary Mark Esper said the withdrawal deal negotiated with the Taliban was always contingent on conditions to be met by the Taliban.

“We implemented our side of it in good faith, but it’s fair to say the Taliban have not,” Esper said, noting the Taliban have not delivered on any of their key promises, namely a reduction in violence, good faith negotiations with the Afghan government, and a full break with al-Qaeda.

Esper said he would have opposed Trump’s post-election order to reduce U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,500, which he says has effectively undercut any leverage the U.S. had over the Taliban.

“I made this clear when I was in the administration at the end, I thought we should hold it 4,500 until the conditions on the ground were met.”

Esper said Trump has put Biden in a tough situation and said: “We have to make sure that again, Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorism. And I say that as somebody who wants to get out of there as badly as anyone else.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the Washington Post, Robert Gates, who served under former president Barak Obama, said the “least bad option’ is for the U.S. to stay until the Taliban get the message that the U.S. won’t leave until they get serious about peace.

“My view is that I think the steps the president has taken in terms of hinting that we might not pull the rest of our troops out on the first of May is exactly right. I think that we do need to take into consideration the possibility of having a presence in Afghanistan at roughly the current level, or maybe even slightly more, along with our NATO allies.”

“We have about 2,500 troops there now,” Gates says, and they need to stay, he argues, “for an indefinite period of time, at a minimum until that presence forces the Taliban to realize that they can’t just take all the marbles once we leave.”

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Kabul University lecturer killed in IED explosion 

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(Last Updated On: February 18, 2021)

A university lecturer was killed in a targeted IED explosion in Kabul city late Thursday morning.

Police confirmed the incident, which happened at about 11.25 am in PD3, close to Kabul University and said another person was also killed in the incident. 

The victim, Mubasher Muslimyar, was a lecturer in Islamic studies at the university.

Muslimyar was killed while driving in a Toyota Corolla which was targeted in a magnetic IED attack. 

No group has yet claimed responsibility for the explosion.  

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Biden says he will never hesitate to use force to protect America

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(Last Updated On: February 11, 2021)

In a visit to the Pentagon on Wednesday, US President Joe Biden said he would never hesitate to use force to defend America but also promised to work with leaders around the world to bring an end to wars that have dragged on “for far too long”. 

“As your commander in chief, I will never hesitate to use force to defend the vital interest of America, the American people and our allies around the world when necessary,” Biden said adding that the “central indispensable mission of the Department of Defense is to deter aggression from our enemies, and if required to, fight and win wars to keep America safe.”

He told DoD staff present at the event that the US Defense Department is essential for the work State Department diplomats do around the world.

Biden promised to work with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and world leaders “to bring a responsible end to wars that have dragged on for far too long, while continuing to ensure that terrorist threats cannot endanger the security of the American people.”

Biden did not however give any indication as to what his decision is yet on the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline. 

An agreement signed in February 2020 by the Trump Administration and the Taliban notes that all US troops are supposed to be gone by May this year. 

So far, indications are that the withdrawal of troops will be based on conditions on the ground, opposed to a calendar date. 

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