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Trump was ‘absolutely wrong’ to negotiate with Taliban: McMaster

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(Last Updated On: September 29, 2020)

The Trump administration has been “absolutely wrong” in its negotiations with the Taliban in Afghanistan, former US national security adviser HR McMaster said Monday night.

Appearing on CNN International’s Amanpour show, McMaster was asked by host Christiane Amanpour about the White House’s talks with the Taliban as the administration works towards a complete troop withdrawal by April next year.

She asked whether McMaster believes “to fulfill a promise to pull all American forces from overseas that cozying up to the Taliban is a national security sensible thing for the United States to do right now.”

“I think that the Trump administration policy has been absolutely wrong since the negotiations began with the Taliban,” McMaster replied.

“What I think is paradoxical about this, regrettable about it, is the Trump administration has replicated almost precisely the fundamental flaws in the Obama administration approach to Afghanistan,” he said, “and that is this flawed assumption, this belief, that there’s this bold line between the Taliban and al-Qaeda.”

There is a tendency, he said, toward “strategic narcissism — defining the world as we would like it to be and then assuming what we do is decisive to the outcome, and in this case, creating the enemy we would prefer.”

McMaster said what worries him is what “power-sharing with the Taliban” looks like? 

“Is that mass executions in the soccer stadium every other Saturday? Is that every other girls’ school bulldozed?” he said. “So I’m very concerned that this negotiation process made too many concessions.”

“Forcing the Afghan government to release 5,000 of the most heinous people on earth who could form the backbone of a rejuvenated terrorist infrastructure as well as cutting a deal,” saying simply “just don’t plot against the United States,” he said.

He said there are brave Afghans fighting daily to preserve the freedoms that they have achieved since the end of the Taliban regime in 2001, implying Trump’s policy was going against everything the Afghan nation has been fighting for.

“About 30 Afghan soldiers and police give their lives every day” to protect the Afghan population against “these terrorists who commit mass murder of innocent people as their principle tactic in a war against all humanity.”

He said the Trump administration’s policy towards the Taliban “is a disaster” and “it’s something I hope can be reversed.”

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Key Taliban fighter killed in Helmand operation

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

At least 38 Taliban militants, including the group’s shadow district governor for Nad Ali were killed in an operation by the Afghan forces in battle-weary Helmand province.

The provincial media office said in a statement on Wednesday night that Mullah Shawali, the Taliban’s shadow district governor for Nad Ali, was killed during a clearance operation on the Lashkargah-Nad Ali road.

The Defense Ministry (MoD), however, stated that Shawali was killed in an airstrike in the Nad Ali district of Helmand on Wednesday.

According to the ministry, Shawali was leading the clashes against the Afghan forces in Chah Anjir and Babaji area in the province.

Meanwhile, the Defense Ministry stated that the route was cleared of the Taliban.

The Taliban has not yet commented on the death of Shawali. 

The clearance operation was launched on Monday to push back the Taliban who had taken control of a number of areas in the past two weeks.

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EU says ‘killings and peace talks cannot go hand in hand’

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

The European Union said Wednesday the high level of civilian casualties in the conflict in Afghanistan is “unacceptable.”

According to a statement, the EU repeated its stance on “the central role of International Humanitarian Law in an armed conflict to protect civilians.”

The EU said that despite the high levels of violence taking place against the backdrop of ongoing peace negotiations, “killings and peace talks cannot go hand in hand.”

“Therefore, the European Union joins the Afghan people longing for peace by reiterating its call for an immediate, comprehensive, nationwide and unconditional ceasefire respected by both parties.”

The EU’s statement comes in response to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) new report published on Tuesday that documented 5,939 civilian casualties (2,117 killed and 3,822 injured) from 1 January to 30 September 2020.

In its report, the mission said: “High levels of violence continue with a devastating impact on civilians, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.”

UNAMA stated that while the number of civilian casualties documented is the lowest in the first nine months of any year since 2012, “the harm done to civilians remains inordinate and shocking.”

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Afghans protest in Kabul against Macron’s Islamaphobic remarks

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(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

Kabul residents took to the streets of Kabul on Wednesday in protest against French President Emmanuel Macron’s controversial remarks about Islam. 

The protest, outside the French Cultural Center in Kabul city drew cries such as “death to France” and “death to Macron”.

Kabul high school students also protested against Macron’s remarks. 

Wednesday’s demonstration comes amid a standoff between France and Muslim countries after Macron reacted to the beheading of a French schoolteacher who had shown his class cartoons of the Prophet Mohammed during a lesson about freedom of speech. 

On Monday, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan added his voice to calls for a boycott of French goods.

Erdogan has led the charge against  Macron and said on Monday: “Never give credit to French-labelled goods, don’t buy them.”

French goods have already been pulled from supermarket shelves in Qatar and Kuwait, among other Gulf states, and in Syria people have burned pictures of Macron and French flags have been torched in the Libyan capital Tripoli.

The Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) meanwhile has called on France to revise its separatist policies that target Islam and offend over 1.5 billion Muslims in the world. In a statement, the OIC has said: “We condemn the constant systematic attack on the feelings of Muslims by insulting the religious symbols represented by the person of the Prophet Muhammad.”

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