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Red Cross and Red Crescent reach 35-year milestone of serving communities in need

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(Last Updated On: March 3, 2021)

After 35 years of humanitarian assistance in Afghanistan, the Afghan Red Crescent Society (ARCS), the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) on Tuesday reconfirmed their commitment to continue jointly providing lifesaving assistance to communities affected by war and violence.

In the 35 years of joint cooperation, the movement has reconnected thousands of families separated by disasters or violence; provided vital health care particularly for communities living in remote parts of the country; clarified the fate of the dead and worked to return the remains of the deceased to their families; and restored water and shelter among other vital humanitarian activities.

ARCS has also mobilized all teams and facilities in the COVID response effort over the past year and continues its engagement, including for the COVID vaccine rollout.

In a statement issued by the movement on Wednesday, they said that ARCS is present and active in all 34 provinces in Afghanistan through a wide network of local branches, volunteers and health facilities.

Every year, ARCS reaches more than 10 percent of the Afghan population through principled humanitarian action, the statement read.

“It has built trust and acceptance across the lines of conflict and with Afghan communities they belong to. ARCS has also the privilege to belong to the Red Cross and Crescent Movement which has been standing on its side always to support its development, meet the needs of people affected by disasters and crises and contribute to build more resilient Afghan communities,” said Nilab Mobarez, the Secretary General of Afghanistan Red Crescent Society, at a news conference.

“Although the shape of conflict and violence may have changed over the last decades, our commitment to protect civilians and promote respect for international humanitarian law has been constant. We’re proud of this and honoured to continue to work with the Red Cross and Red Crescent Movement to provide humanitarian assistance,” said Juan Pedro Head of Delegation for ICRC in Afghanistan.

“In the face of protracted vulnerabilities, including to climate change, the magnitude and intensity of the needs across the country call for enhanced cooperation of Red Cross Red Crescent partners to deepen our support to ARCS’ principled and nation-wide footprint, and to maximise our collective contribution and impact,” said Pierre Kremer, Head of Delegation for IFRC.

Against the backdrop of this milestone, the movement has signed an MoU and a Movement Coordination Agreement setting out their agreement to jointly deliver humanitarian assistance.

“This event aims to ensure a partnership of quality and mutual responsibility that seeks to achieve the highest humanitarian impact. The agreement sets a standard framework for administration, reporting and accountability, within which individual projects and initiatives can take place,” the statement read.

The ICRC and ARCS have worked in partnership since 1986 in addressing the conflict related needs of the Afghan population. The ICRC and ARCS’s commitment to neutral, independent, impartial humanitarian action (NIIHA), enable both partners to respond to emergencies and provide services where others cannot.

ARCS has worked to reduce suffering for people affected by disasters, conflict and violence since its creation in 1934.

The cooperation between ARCS and the ICRC stretches back further to the recognition of ARCS as a national society by movement in 1954 continuing to the present day with adaptations based on evolving humanitarian landscape, needs of the victims and other vulnerable persons as well as the institutional development of the ARCS and the operational ambitions of the ICRC in Afghanistan.

The Federation has had a constant presence in Afghanistan since 1990, to support ARCS and its humanitarian activities.

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Officials say troops could be out long before September: New York Times

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

American officials said on Saturday that orders for the remaining US troops to start leaving Afghanistan could be issued in the next few days.

According to the New York Times, the officials, who were not named, said if US troops face no threats from the Taliban, the forces could be completely withdrawn well before the September 11 deadline.

This comes after US President Joe Biden announced last week that all US troops would be out of the country by September 11, the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

US officials have not release details on the foreign troops withdrawal schedule except Biden did say last week that the process would start on May 1.

The Boston Globe meanwhile carried an op-ed article on Sunday which stated that there will be a terrible human — and moral — cost to this pullout from Afghanistan, “which is why so many former U.S. officials who have served there have been so depressed and angry during phone interviews this week”.

A former top Pentagon official David Sadney was quoted as saying: “There is a humanitarian disaster coming.”

“The Taliban are taking names, and they will start taking vengeance on women and young people, teachers and their families, who believed in U.S. values. They will be killed and tortured because they bought into a vision the U.S. supported and encouraged, ideas of democracy and free speech.

“I know Afghans who have and will die,” he said.

The article noted that the Biden team tried to accelerate political negotiations between the Taliban and the Afghan government, but they got nowhere.

The Taliban made clear that, with U.S. troops leaving, they believed victory was in hand. They opposed any form of constitutional democracy or elections in favor of harsh Islamic rule.

The article also quoted one former US ambassador to Kabul, Ryan Crocker, as saying: “This is a surrender. Everybody, China and Russia included, is taking note.”

The author of the op-ed Trudy Rubin states the Taliban will crow that they have defeated a superpower – especially since, for some bizarre reason, the final pullout date is set for the anniversary of al-Qaeda’s greatest triumph, the 9/11 attack on the United States.

She writes it would have made more strategic sense for the Biden team to change the narrative and instead of “forever war,” keep around 3,000 troops in the country indefinitely as an insurance policy to prevent a Taliban win until such time as a regional peace could be negotiated.

Rubin points out that after all, the US has kept troops in Germany and South Korea for decades, as a preventative measure.

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Ghani gives Pakistan two choices – friendship or enmity

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(Last Updated On: April 18, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani said on Sunday morning that for the first time in decades, a real opportunity for peace has presented itself and that Afghanistan is well prepared for the withdrawal of foreign troops.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg announced last week that all foreign troops will be out of the country by September 11.

On Sunday, Ghani said at a 6.30am security meeting at the Presidential Palace (ARG), that “for the first time in modern history, the best opportunity has been provided for Afghanistan. We have been fully prepared for this day for the past two years and for their withdrawal”.

“We are fully prepared to defend our soil and it is time for Afghanistan’s national sovereignty to be fully realized and for Afghanistan to prove its neutrality,” Ghani said.

“One is the republican ranks and the other is the enemy. Those who do not stand in the republican ranks have no place in the state,” Ghani said.

Ghani also said that the Taliban have no religious legitimacy to continue the war, and that Islamic religious scholars from around the world have condemned the war in Afghanistan.

Referring to the review of regional relations with Afghanistan, the president said: “Today is a day of decision for Pakistan. If our country is in turmoil, their country will be in turmoil and if they want our welfare, they will also provide welfare.”

“The choice of friendship and enmity is in their hands and in the case of friendship, Afghanistan is ready to cooperate with Pakistan in increasing cooperation between the countries of the region and the world,” Ghani added.

He also stated that: “Our vision is national sovereignty, republicanism, democracy, prosperity, a free and independent Afghanistan. If the Taliban make peace within this framework, we are open to them and any choice other than that is the Taliban’s pretext for continuing the war.”

“We are a people of determination, not fear,” he added.

Ghani also awarded state medals to 16 members of Kabul’s PD1 security district at Sunday’s meeting.

After presenting the medals to the officials, First Vice President Amrullah Saleh briefed those in attendance on the achievements of the 6.30 am security meetings.
“Promise keeping has become a principle and as a result of continuous efforts, the crime graph in Kabul has dropped dramatically and public satisfaction with government services has increased,” Saleh said.

Ghani lauded officials for their achievements around the 6.30am initiative and said: “You have brought about positive change as a result of group management, you have the capacity, and perseverance and I am your full supporter.”

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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