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U.S. Congressional Delegation Makes an Unannounced Visit to Kabul

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2019)

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and a high-level bipartisan Congressional delegation made an unannounced visit to Afghanistan on Sunday, her office said in a statement.

According to the statement, Pelosi met with President Ashraf Ghani, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, Defense Secretary Mark Esper, top U.S. military commanders and diplomats, senior Afghan government officials and civil society leaders.

“Our delegation received briefings from Ambassador John Bass and other top diplomats on reconciliation efforts with the Taliban, which has been responsible for violent attacks in Afghanistan,” said the statement. “We also heard more about the still-pending status of results from the Afghanistan presidential election in September, which we all hope will be available soon.”

The U.S. delegation discussed security issues, improving governance and economic development with the Afghan leaders.

“Our delegation emphasized the central importance of combating the corruption which endangers security and undermines the Afghan people’s ability to achieve a stable and prosperous future,” Pelosi’s office said. “We underscored that the women of Afghanistan must be at the table for reconciliation talks.”

The delegation also met with civil society leaders including Afghan women.

“While Afghan women have made some progress in some areas, more work is need to ensure their security and durable economic and educational opportunities for women and girls in Afghanistan,” the statement noted.

It comes as the U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper also made an unannounced visit to Kabul on Sunday, where he met with President Ghani and U.S. troops.

According to the media reports, Esper has told reporters traveling with him that he believes the U.S. can reduce American forces in Afghanistan to 8,600.

But he said any pullout would happen as part of a peace agreement with the Taliban insurgent group.

Currently, the U.S. has about 14,000 troops in Afghanistan.

This comes after reports emerged that U.S. and Taliban representatives are discussing the resumption of peace talks.

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MIT-designed robot disinfects warehouse floor in 30 minutes

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(Last Updated On: July 4, 2020)

Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) has designed a robot that can disinfect a floor of a 4,000-square foot warehouse in 30 minutes, and it can be used to clean grocery stores or schools one day, CNN reported.

MIT’s Computer Science and Artificial Intelligence Laboratory (CSAIL) in cooperation with Ava Robotics — a company that focuses on creating telepresence robots — and the Greater Boston Food Bank (GBFB) developed a robot which can disinfect surfaces and neutralize aerosolized forms of the Coronavirus using a custom UV-C light.

CNN said, “Development on this project began in early April, and one of the researchers said that it came in direct response to the pandemic. The results have been encouraging enough that the researchers say that autonomous UV disinfection could be done in other environments such as supermarkets, factories, and restaurants.”

Covid-19 mainly spreads via airborne transmission, and it is capable of remaining on surfaces for several days. An autonomous robot capable of quickly and efficiently cleaning large areas such as warehouses or grocery stores could prove to be essential.

UV-C light has proven effective at killing bacteria and viruses on surfaces, the researchers said. However, it is harmful to humans. The robot was built to be autonomous without the need for any direct supervision or interaction.

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Afghan gov’t to decide on remaining Taliban prisoners

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(Last Updated On: July 4, 2020)

The Afghan government said that it will decide the release of the remaining Taliban prisoners on Sunday, a step advancing to the commencement of intra-Afghan negotiations

Sources in the government say that the decision about the release of hundreds of Taliban prisoners will be taken on Sunday, to begin Intra-Afghan Talks soon.

Sources say the Afghan government opposes the release of about 100 Taliban prisoners involved in deadly attacks and organized crime, however, the full prisoner release was set as a precondition to the start of Intra-Afghan talks by the Taliban.

“Many of those released are not nice people. They clearly were at least in warfare against the Afghan people, so the government has been forthcoming courageous in trying to take these steps and actions as a way to build confidence,” said Ross Wilson, the US Chargé d’Affaires in Afghanistan. 

Meanwhile, sources associated with the Afghan government say that a decision will be made tomorrow Sunday to release several hundred more Taliban prisoners. According to these sources, the decision will be taken to start the Intra-Afghan talks as soon as possible.

“The Afghan government has taken all the necessary steps to start negotiations between the Afghans. We expect the Taliban to enter into direct talks with the Afghan government by reducing violence,” said Najia Anwari, a spokesman for the Ministry of Peace.

According to Afghan government statistics, nearly 4,000 Taliban prisoners have been released so far. The Taliban have also said they have released more than 700 government-affiliated prisoners.

“If the agreement is not reached, the Taliban will not take part in the Afghan talks,” said Sayed Akbar Agha, a former Taliban commander.

Negotiations between Afghans are expected to take place in Doha this month, but the escalation of violence by the Taliban and the government’s failure to release some Taliban prisoners are seen as a barrier to the talks. The United States has called on the Afghan government and the Taliban to take immediate action against the ongoing Afghan conflict.

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COVID-19; Ghazanfar’s body laid to rest in Balkh

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(Last Updated On: July 4, 2020)

Mohammad Yousuf Ghazanfar, the President’s Special Envoy for development, economic, commercial, and alleviation of poverty affairs has died of Coronavirus. 

The Presidential Palace issued a statement called the death of Ghazanfar as a great loss for the country; saying he had “served the country.”

Yousuf Ghazanfar’s body was laid to rest in Mazar-e-Sharif in a special ceremony attended by a number of government officials.

The presidential palace says that Mohammad Yusuf Ghazanfar’s was a “pious, benevolent and nationalist figure” who was always striving for progress and development in Afghanistan.

Meanwhile, the Chamber of Commerce considers Yousuf Ghazanfar’s functions to be very valuable for economic development in the country.

Yousuf Ghazanfar was under treatment in Turkey after contracting the coronavirus.

The funeral ceremony for Ghazanfar was held at the Presidential Palace as well while his corpse was being buried in Balkh on Saturday evening.

The ceremony was attended by President Ashraf Ghani, the First Vice President Amrullah Saleh, a number of cabinet ministers, high-ranking government officials, and a number of prominent figures of the country.

The President and other participants paid tribute and prayed for the soul of the late Yousuf Ghazanfar and wished the deceased a happy paradise.

Ghazanfar died of coronavirus at a hospital in Ankara, Turkey on Friday evening.

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