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Top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad steps down

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

Top U.S. envoy to Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad is stepping down, the State Department said on Monday, less than two months after the chaotic U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan and the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan [IEA] takeover of the country, Reuters reported.

Khalilzad will be replaced by his deputy, Tom West, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement, noting that West will work closely with the U.S. embassy, which is now based in Doha, on U.S. interests in Afghanistan, read the report.

According to the report a person familiar with the matter said on condition of anonymity that Khalilzad submitted his resignation on Friday.

His departure follows his exclusion from the Biden administration’s first formal talks with the IEA after the U.S. pullout, held in Doha earlier in October.

Khalilzad did not immediately respond to a request for comment, Reuters reported.

Khalilzad, born in Afghanistan, held the post since 2018 and spearheaded the negotiations with the IEA that led to the February 2020 agreement for the withdrawal of U.S. forces this year.

He then pressed the IEA and the Western-backed government of former Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to negotiate a political settlement to decades of strife.

In mid-August, the government collapsed as the IEA swept through the country and marched into the capital, Kabul, unopposed.

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Turkish, US foreign ministers hold bilaterals on NATO summit sidelines

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and his US counterpart Antony Blinken met on the sidelines of NATO summit in Latvian capital Riga on Wednesday Two foreign ministers held bilateral talks at the Atta Center, where the NATO Foreign Ministers summit was underway.

Before the meeting, Cavusoglu said Turkey is in contact with Ukraine and Russia to ease tensions, adding that sanctions on Moscow will not solve the crisis.

Ukrainian and Western officials say Moscow has massed forces on the border with Ukraine, which is battling Russia-backed separatists who control part of its territory to the east, and Kyiv on Wednesday urged NATO to prepare sanctions on Russia.

Cavusoglu and Blinken were expected to discuss latest developments in the region, including Ukraine, Libya and Afghanistan.

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Three Russian aircraft with humanitarian aid arrive in Kabul

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

Three Russian aircraft landed in Kabul on Wednesday carrying 36 tonnes of humanitarian aid, Russia’s TASS news agency reported.

All three Russian Ilyushin Il-76 aircraft, involved in delivering humanitarian aid to Afghanistan would also evacuate Russian citizens, as well as citizens of the Collective Security Treaty Organization member states, Russia’s Defense Ministry, said in a statement.

“Some three Ilyushin Il-76 strategic airlifters of the Russian Defense Ministry have delivered humanitarian aid to the Kabul airport and are boarding evacuees for departure from Afghanistan,” the statement read.

A total of over 380 Russians, citizens of the CSTO member states (mainly Kyrgyzstan), and Afghan students from Russian universities will fly out on the departing planes, the ministry said.

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India considers re-opening mission in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: December 1, 2021)

As countries slowly start reopening their embassies in Kabul, India is also reportedly considering the possibility of re-staffing its mission in Afghanistan.

So far, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Russia, China, Iran, Pakistan, Qatar, Turkey, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan all have a diplomatic presence in the country.

Japan and the EU have also discussed the possibility of returning to Afghanistan.

One senior Indian official told The Hindu on Wednesday that “establishing a presence in Afghanistan has nothing to do with recognition [of the IEA government]. It simply means that you would like to have people on the ground dealing with the new regime, to continue engagement with the people.”

He said the Modi government is not convinced about the need to re-open its mission, but that discussions are continuing on what India’s strategy should be, The Hindu reported.

At present, the Indian Embassy in Kabul, which was evacuated within two days of the IEA talking control, is intact and being guarded by IEA forces.

While calls from within the country to reopen grow, officials told The Hindu that much depends on what India’s other partners and friendly countries choose to do.

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