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Top US envoys caution against ‘irresponsible’ early troop withdrawal

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(Last Updated On: October 10, 2020)

A group of high-ranking US envoys, including previous ambassadors to Afghanistan, on Saturday, called on the United States government not to withdraw all troops by Christmas, saying it would tip the balance in the Taliban’s favor and have a “terrible impact on Afghan women”. 

In an article written by the group and published on the Atlantic Council’s website, the group of six said: “We urge that US troops not be withdrawn by Christmas or until conditions on the ground assure that US security objectives in Afghanistan are guaranteed through a political settlement and a sustainable peace – a peace that honors the sacrifice of America’s brave men and women.”

This comes after US President Donald Trump’s unexpected tweet this week saying that all US troops will return from Afghanistan by Christmas.

The Atlantic Council article meanwhile also stated that this move threatens the prospects for success in the current intra-Afghan negotiations in Doha, Qatar. 

“If confirmed, a premature US withdrawal would tip the balance toward the Taliban, who are still waging war across Afghanistan. It would undermine our Afghan partners and have a terrible impact on Afghan women.

“US national security would be undermined leaving the United States with less leverage to assure that the Taliban will keep commitments – especially their promise to prevent al-Qaeda and other international terrorists from using Afghanistan to attack the United States,” read the article.

The authors stated that Trump’s tweet also undercuts the credibility of the US with partners and allies and appears to have been made without prior consultation with allies fighting alongside the US. 

This comment appears to have been reflected in an apparent response to Trump’s tweet by  NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg who said on Friday: “We decided to go into Afghanistan together, we will make decisions on future adjustments together, and when the time is right, we will leave together.”

The authors of the Atlantic Council article stated Saturday that Trump’s tweet also suggests the US “would abandon agreements made abroad for short-term domestic political calculations. It would badly damage the international support which the United States has worked so hard to build around a sustainable Afghan peace process.”

Reiterating that the US agreement with the Taliban, signed in February, is conditions-based, the article pointed out that numerous public statements by the secretaries of state and defense and the US’ special peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad have underscored that the US will “not withdraw from Afghanistan until the Taliban has demonstrated its good faith by abiding by the terms of the agreement.”

The authors of the article also pointed out that US administration officials have admitted in Congressional testimony that the Taliban is not yet fully compliant with its counterterrorism commitments. “Yet, remarkably, the president’s tweet seems to have the United States rushing to withdraw troops without achieving its stated goals and well ahead of the final May 2021 deadline.”

They also stated that an accelerated withdrawal will effectively mean abandoning the fruits of two years of determined US diplomacy with the Taliban, Afghan partners in Kabul, US allies, and regional and international partners to get the Afghan parties to the negotiating table. 

They stated that despite Trump’s persistent interest in quickly pulling out of Afghanistan, many in and out of the US government have worked to persuade him to stay the course and assure a sustainable peace. 

These top diplomats meanwhile pointed out that the impact in Afghanistan of Trump’s surprise tweet should not be doubted. 

“As one Afghan official wrote privately to one of us: ‘people were talking about waking up to a tweet like this … How serious is this? Is it a decision or not? How was the decision made? Was there any consultation? It does undermine the conditionality and will impact the dynamics in Doha’…”, they stated.

According to them, a speedy withdrawal of troops would be highly irresponsible especially as peace negotiators in Doha are still grappling with the initial issues in order to lay the foundation for actual peace talks. 

“After decades of fighting, it is not realistic to believe that these issues will be resolved quickly or without the ability of the United States and other partners to exert leverage in Afghanistan,” they said. 

Pointing out that a key element in the US-Taliban agreement is a commitment to reducing violence, when in fact, they said, “the Taliban has so far ignored this commitment and in the past several months has actually heightened the tempo and intensity of its military campaign against the Afghan security forces.”

“At present, there is no indication of a serious Taliban interest in implementing a ceasefire,” they said.

The authors of the article went as far as to say that should the United States accelerate its departure, the Taliban “will be even more tempted to just wait, by stalling the talks until the United States completes its withdrawal.

“Once the United States and its allies have departed, the Taliban is likely to further intensify its military campaign and potentially seek a military victory,” the article read.

“In addition to undermining US security, those who will pay the biggest price for a premature US withdrawal and effective abandonment of the nascent peace process are the women of Afghanistan and the millions of younger Afghans who have grown up over the last nineteen years. They are the ones who will suffer terribly with a Taliban victory.”

In conclusion, they stated that the “United States should not undermine the important progress that the combination of US diplomacy and military steadfastness, working with allies and friends, has yielded in getting Afghans to the negotiating table and putting the Taliban on the spot to become a more responsible actor against terrorism.”

The authors of the Atlantic Council article are as follows:

Ambassador James Cunningham was US deputy ambassador to Afghanistan in 2011 and US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2012-2014. He is also a nonresident senior fellow with the Atlantic Council’s South Asia Center.

Ambassador John Negroponte was US deputy secretary of state from 2007-2009 and director of national intelligence from 2005-2007.

Ambassador Ronald E. Neumann was the US ambassador to Afghanistan from 2005-2007.

Ambassador Hugo Llorens was US assistant chief of mission in Afghanistan from 2012-2013 and charge d’affaires from 2016-2017.

Ambassador Richard Olson was US special representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan (2015-2016) and previously served at the US Embassy in Afghanistan (2011-2012) as well as US ambassador to the UAE and to Pakistan.

Ambassador Earl Anthony Wayne, was US deputy ambassador to Afghanistan and coordinating director for development from 2009-2011. He is also a nonresident senior fellow in the Atlantic Council’s Global Business and Economics Program.

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Afghanistan demolishes Scotland by 130 runs in World Cup match

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2021)

Afghanistan thrashed Scotland in their first T20 Super 12 World Cup match in Sharjah on Monday night, after Mujeeb Ur Rahman propelled Afghanistan to a commanding 130-run victory. 

Among the flood of social media messages congratulating the team on their win was one from Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid who said in a tweet: “Congratulations to all Afghans on the victory of the Afghan team in the ongoing World Cup Twenty20.

“Congratulations to the team and wish them more success in the future,” he tweeted.

Other senior IEA members, including Anas Haqqani also congratulated the team. 

Afghanistan’s spinners ripped through Scotland’s batting line-up as Mujeeb Ur Rahman, Rashid Khan and company spun their side to a 130-run win in Sharjah, Afghanistan’s biggest margin of victory in T20 internationals.

Youngster Mujeeb was the star of the show with the ball, taking three in an over and finishing with a five-for, the best ever return for a bowler on T20 World Cup debut.

Earlier Najibullah Zadran top-scored with a sparkling 59 as his side reached 190/4, Afghanistan’s highest T20 World Cup score.

Afghanistan got off to a fast start after winning the toss and opting to bat, with openers Hazratullah Zazai and Mohammad Shahzad finding the boundary repeatedly in a 54-run partnership through the Powerplay.

Zazai’s dangerous knock came to an abrupt end at the midway point of the Afghanistan innings, as he failed to connect well with a swipe across the line and was bowled by Mark Watt for 44 off 30.

Rahmanullah Gurbaz and Najib picked up where the openers left off, with the teenager Gurbaz in sparkling form, hitting four sixes in his 46 off 37.

Gurbaz’s aggressive knock was finally halted by Josh Davey in the penultimate over, but Najib and skipper Mohammad Nabi went big at the death, with the captain hitting 11 off just four balls.

And Najib fell to the final ball of the innings, caught on the boundary for 59 off just 34 balls.

Left-arm spinner Watt finished the pick of the bowlers for Scotland, with his wicket coming at the cost of just 23 runs in four overs, with Safyaan Sharif also impressive with 2-33.

Scotland’s chase got off to a lightning start as George Munsey reverse swept Nabi for four off the second ball, reverse sweeping for six the very next delivery.

But Scotland’s hopes of reaching the daunting 191 to win all but disappeared in the fourth over, when Mujeeb removed Kyle Coetzer and Calum MacLeod in consecutive deliveries, before picking up Richie Berrington with the last ball of the over.

Scotland were five wickets down before Rashid Khan even got the ball in his hand, and the Afghanistan talisman bagged his first wicket with his third delivery, trapping Michael Leask plumb in front.

The magnificent Mujeeb finished with figures of 5/20 off his four overs, while Rashid rounded it off in style, taking 4/9 off just 14 balls, ICC reported.

 

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Ariana Television secures rights to broadcast T20 World Cup 2021

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

Afghan cricket fans will be pleased to know that Ariana Television Network (ATN) has secured the rights to broadcast the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 matches for the duration of the tournament. 

The World Cup kicked off on Sunday and, co-hosted by Oman and the UAE, the tournament will run through until November 14. 

Oman got celebrations underway on Sunday with a comprehensive 10-wicket win over Papua New Guinea in the opening match.

Afghanistan, which has enjoyed an astounding rise up the international cricket ladder in recent years, has high hopes of making their mark at this year’s event. 

Familiar with the conditions in the UAE where they have played the majority of their cricket, the national team might make a deep run in the tournament, and spring a major surprise or two along the way, cricket experts have said. 

Ever since their tournament debut at the 2010 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean, it has been a story of constantly striving for improvement. 

While some of the old faces remain, new stars have emerged, forging the side into a steely unit, capable of competing with the best that international cricket has to offer, the ICC reported in its team preview.

The 2021 edition in UAE and Oman will be another parameter where Afghanistan will gauge their current standing in the global game while charting their progress in international cricket. 

The national team’s opening fixture is scheduled for Monday, October 25. 

With the conditions in UAE expected to be conducive for the spinners, Afghanistan has the perfect attack to exploit them to the maximum. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi will form a fearsome spin trio, with two of them being able to make handy contributions with the bat as well.   

Hazaratullah Zazai, Najibullah Zadran and the returning Mohammad Shahzad will also provide some explosiveness in the batting order. 

The Squad

Rashid Khan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Naveen ul Haq, Hamid Hassan, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Qais Ahmed

Reserves: Afsar Zazai, Farid Ahmed Malik

This week’s broadcasting schedule for matches live on Ariana Television (Kabul time) are as follows: 

Wednesday:

2.30pm – Namibia vs the Netherlands 

6.30pm – Sri Lanka vs Ireland

Thursday: 

2.30pm – Bangladesh vs Papua New Guinea

6.30pm – Oman vs Scotland

Friday:

2.30pm – Namibia vs Ireland

6.30pm – Sri Lanka vs the Netherlands

Saturday:

2.30pm – Australia vs South Africa

6.30pm – England vs West Indies 

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Colin Powell has died of COVID complications

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state and top military officer, died on Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19.

In a statement posted to Facebook, his family said, “We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Powell was the one most notable Black figure in Washington for decades. A Vietnam vet, he rose to become an army four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War.

In 1996 he considered running for president, but was dissuaded by his wife who worried for his safety.

He later served as Secretary of State under George W. Bush. It was in that capacity that he famously stood before the United Nations and made the case for invading Iraq based on the claim that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The evidence proved wrong. No weapons were found. Powell later admitted that his presentation was rife with inaccuracies provided by others in the Bush administration. He called a “blot” that would always be a part” of his record.

Powell was known as a moderate Republican and pragmatist. He broke with the GOP to endorse Barack Obama’s candidacy and would criticize his party’s shift toward anti-immigrant and isolationist policies.

The Powell family says he was fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Colin Powell was 84 years old.

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