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Saleh thanks Afghans, international community for their support following attack

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(Last Updated On: September 10, 2020)

Following the failed assassination attempt on his life, Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh on Thursday thanked his fellow countrymen, the international community, and the security forces for their support and solidarity. 

In a message posted to Twitter early Thursday, Saleh said: “My fellow Afghns, thnks 4 your support & solidarity. Our foreign friends, thnks for standing on the right side of history.”

To the families of the victims who lost their lives in the deadly roadside bombing in Kabul that targeted his convoy, he said: “Grieving families, I owe you all something that can’t be explained by words. I will visit all of you.”

He also thanked the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces and said he “salutes” them for “standing tall and proud”. 

Saleh escaped the explosion with only minor injuries but at least 10 people, mostly civilians, were killed in the explosion and dozens wounded. 

Soon after the attack, Saleh issued a video recording on social media and said: “Me and my younger son, who was also with me, are fine.”

“I have slight burns on my face and hand from the wave of the blast. I don’t have exact details right now, but I apologize to those who suffered casualties and those who lost their property in the attack.”

The attack happened in Taimani, in the heart of Kabul, where many small shops sell gas bottles. 

As a result of the explosion, a number of shops caught fire as gas bottles exploded – causing even further damage to houses and businesses in the area. 

After the attack, President Ashraf Ghani met with Saleh and said that the “terrorists and their foreign backers cannot undermine the people’s strong faith in peace, democracy, and the bright future of our country.”

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed said the explosion “had nothing to do” with the Taliban. 

Saleh, who served as the country’s former intelligence chief, is staunchly patriotic and a vocal critic of the Taliban. He has also survived several attempts on his life. 

But this latest attempt came just one day after Al Arabiya broadcast an interview with the vice president who said in his opinion the Taliban was a deviated group in the context of the country’s history. 

He also said in respect of hoped-for peace talks that the Taliban lacks a manifest and all they know “is a gun in their hand looking at your forehead. The moment they put down that gun, what other skill do they have to be used in society?”

However, late Wednesday, Afghanistan’s acting minister of interior, Massoud Andarabi, said preliminary test results indicate the type of explosive material used in the IED against Saleh’s convoy was commonly used by Haqqani Network. 

Andarabi said reports indicate RDX-HMX + Nitroglycerin was used. 

He said the nature of the material and the attack are similar to other attacks that Haqqani Network has claimed responsibility for in the past.

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CENTCOM chief in midst of ‘detailed planning’ for counterterrorism ops

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday. 

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan. 

He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.

“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said. 

“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”

McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. 

According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.

Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.

On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.

McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.

The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”

“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said. 

“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”

Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.

McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.

“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.

“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.

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Khalilzad wraps up 4-day trip to Turkey ahead of Summit

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(Last Updated On: March 30, 2021)

Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad has wrapped up a four-day visit to Turkey to discuss the upcoming Istanbul Summit on the Afghanistan peace process.

In a statement issued by the US Embassy in Turkey, the planned Istanbul Summit “is meant to help Afghan negotiators accelerate their efforts to end the war in Afghanistan and agree to a political settlement and a permanent ceasefire.”

The conference will complement peace talks currently ongoing in Doha, the statement read.

Khalilzad, who was in Turkey from March 26 to 29, met with a number of Turkish officials during this time, including Presidential Advisor Ibrahim Kalin, and Deputy Foreign Minister Sedat Onal.

According to the embassy’s statement, American and Turkish officials consulted on the timing, format, and overall objectives and agenda of the conference to ensure that it will be well prepared and organized. 

“They agreed that an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned conference, supported by high-level attendance from the international community, provides the best means to accelerate the peace process. 

“They also agreed to urge the Afghan parties to prepare for constructive participation in this conference.”

This comes after Abdullah Abdullah, the chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR), said last week he hopes “tangible progress will be made towards a peace settlement at the Istanbul meeting”.

Speaking to Anadolu Agency in an exclusive interview, Abdullah said the presence of decision-makers expected to attend the meeting needs to be utilized to push to accelerate the settlement of issues in Afghanistan.

“There have been a lot of discussions between both sides in the past few months in Doha. The Doha process will continue and then we have the Istanbul meeting. The Istanbul meeting will be held at a high level.

“There will be top leaders of Afghanistan and Taliban — that’s how it is anticipated,” Abdullah said.

He also urged that the Istanbul opportunity should not be used to give speeches; instead, it should focus on working for tangible progress.

“The final, final, final agreement, of course, it takes time, but we should at least agree on few principles. And an agreement on a ceasefire will be very, very important,” Abdullah added.

Anadolu reported that Abdullah said it’s time to move beyond the US-Taliban deal, which stipulates the May 1 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign troops, and stated it was time to forge an agreement directly between the Afghan government and the Taliban. 

He also stated the Taliban’s readiness to move ahead would be tested in the coming days.

“Eventually, it has to be a comprehensive agreement between us, there is something between the US and the Taliban, but eventually, we need to agree. The readiness of the Taliban remains to be seen. It will be tested before the meeting in Turkey,” Abdullah told Anadolu.

No date for the Istanbul Summit has yet been confirmed but it is widely expected that it will take place early next month. 

 

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Pakistan’s FM to attend Heart of Asia summit

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi will attend the 9th Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process ministerial meeting in Dushanbe, Tajikistan this week. 

According to Pakistan’s foreign office, Qureshi will deliver a statement “highlighting Pakistan’s positive contributions to the Afghan peace process and its support for Afghanistan’s development and connectivity within the regional framework.” 

Qureshi is also expected to hold consultations with regional and international partners, including Tajik leaders. 

The Heart of Asia-Istanbul Process comprises 15 participating countries, 17 supporting countries and 12 supporting regional and international organizations.

Members of the process are Russia, China, India, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Saudi Arabia, UAE, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan and Turkey.

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