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To reach a peace deal, Taliban say Ghani must go

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(Last Updated On: July 23, 2021)

The Taliban say they don’t want to monopolize power, but insist there will only be peace in Afghanistan once President Ashraf Ghani has been removed from power and a new government is in place.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Taliban spokesman Suhail Shaheen, who is also a member of the group’s negotiating team, laid out the insurgents’ stance on what should come next in the country.

The Taliban have swiftly captured territory in recent weeks, seized strategic border crossings and are threatening a number of provincial capitals, as the last U.S. and NATO soldiers leave Afghanistan.

This week, the top U.S. military officer, General Mark Milley, told a Pentagon press conference that the Taliban have “strategic momentum,” and he did not rule out a complete Taliban takeover. But he said it is not inevitable. “I don’t think the end game is yet written,” he said.

Shaheen told AP that the Taliban will lay down their weapons when a negotiated government acceptable to all sides in the conflict is installed in Kabul and Ghani’s government is gone.

“I want to make it clear that we do not believe in the monopoly of power because any governments who (sought) to monopolize power in Afghanistan in the past, were not successful governments,” said Shaheen, apparently including the Taliban’s own five-year rule in that assessment.

“So we do not want to repeat that same formula,” he said.

But he was also uncompromising on the continued rule of Ghani, calling him a war monger and accusing him of using his Tuesday speech on the Islamic Holy day of Eid-al-Adha to promise an offensive against the Taliban, AP reported.

Shaheen dismissed Ghani’s right to govern, resurrecting allegations of widespread fraud that surrounded Ghani’s 2019 election win. After that vote, both Ghani and his rival Abdullah Abdullah declared themselves president. After a compromise deal, Abdullah is now No. 2 in the government and heads the reconciliation council, AP reported.

Shaheen meanwhile called last week’s talks in Doha a good beginning. But he said the government’s repeated demands for a ceasefire while Ghani stayed in power were tantamount to demanding a Taliban surrender.

“They don’t want reconciliation, but they want surrendering,” he said.

Before any ceasefire, there must be an agreement on a new government “acceptable to us and to other Afghans,” he said. Then “there will be no war.”

Shaheen said under this new government, women will be allowed to work, go to school, and participate in politics, but will have to wear the hijab, or headscarf. He said women won’t be required to have a male relative with them to leave their home, and that Taliban commanders in newly occupied districts have orders that universities, schools and markets operate as before, including with the participation of women and girls, AP reported.

Shaheen said there are no plans to make a military push on Kabul and that the Taliban have so far “restrained” themselves from taking provincial capitals. But he warned they could, given the weapons and equipment they have acquired in newly captured districts, AP reported. He contended that the majority of the Taliban’s battlefield successes came through negotiations, not fighting.

“Those districts which have fallen to us and the military forces who have joined us … were through mediation of the people, through talks,” he said. “They (did not fall) through fighting … it would have been very hard for us to take 194 districts in just eight weeks.”

AP reported that the Taliban control about half of Afghanistan’s 419 district centers, and while they have yet to capture any of the 34 provincial capitals

On the issue of a possible civil war, Shaheen told AP: “You know, no one no one wants a civil war, including me.”

Shaheen also repeated Taliban promises aimed at reassuring Afghans who fear the group and said they had nothing to fear from the Taliban and denied threatening them.

But, he added, if some want to take asylum in the West because Afghanistan’s economy is so poor, “that is up to them.”

He also denied that the Taliban have threatened journalists and Afghanistan’s civil society, which has been targeted by dozens of killings over the past year, AP reported.

While Daesh has taken responsibility for some attacks, the Afghan government has blamed the Taliban for most of the killings while the Taliban in turn accuse the Afghan government of carrying out the killings to defame them.

Shaheen said journalists, including those working for Western media outlets, have nothing to fear from a government that includes the Taliban.

“We have not issued letters to journalists (threatening them), especially to those who are working for foreign media outlets. They can continue their work even in the future,” he said.

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India’s Modi tells UNGA Afghanistan cannot be used to spread terrorism

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

At the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, including women and children.

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

His comments came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan in a pre-recorded message to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“There’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere if a destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Afghanistan is on “the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster” and has decided to engage the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in order to help the country’s people.

Khan said Guterres had “taken bold steps. I urge you to mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”

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UN agency warns of ‘imminent’ famine in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem said.

She also warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the IEA and said: “The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

IEA leaders have assured the international community that they are more moderate than when they ruled previously.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

Kanem pointed out that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.

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IEA calls for foreign airlines to resume flights into Kabul

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Sunday all technical issues at the Kabul Airport have been resolved and foreign airlines can now resume commercial flights into the city.

In a statement issued by the spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the IEA stated: “The recent political changes in Afghanistan caused a series of technical issues within the aviation sector due to which international flights to Afghanistan were suspended and many Afghan citizens were stuck outside and unable to return to their homeland.”

“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation and expects all airlines and countries that had previously flown to Kabul to resume their flights as before,” the statement read.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again assures full cooperation on its part.”

This comes after all international commercial flights into Kabul were canceled following the take over of Kabul by the IEA.

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