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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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Tajikistan says hosting Afghans awaiting U.S. visas not on agenda

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

Tajikistan has no plans to temporarily house thousands of Afghans awaiting U.S. immigrant visas after having worked for American forces now pulling out of the country, Tajik Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin said on Tuesday.

Washington has asked Uzbekistan, Kazakhstan and Tajikistan to house some 9,000 Afghans who now risk being targeted by Islamist Taliban militants for cooperating with Western forces.

The security situation has deteriorated in Afghanistan in recent weeks, with fighting in its provinces as U.S.-led foreign troops complete their withdrawal and the Taliban launch major offensives, seizing districts and border crossings.

“This matter is not on the bilateral agenda,” Muhriddin told a briefing when asked about the United States’ request.

Uzbekistan – which like Tajikistan shares a border with Afghanistan – has also indicated it is unlikely to comply with Washington’s request, saying there were no legal grounds to house at-risk Afghans in the country.

Kazakhstan has so far declined to comment on the U.S. request.

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Pakistan reopens Afghanistan border crossing held by Taliban

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

Pakistan on Monday reopened a major southwestern border crossing with Afghanistan that is currently under Taliban control on the Afghan side, Pakistani customs officials said, allowing over 100 trucks carrying goods to cross into Afghanistan.

The Chaman-Spin Boldak crossing, a key port for landlocked Afghanistan, had been closed by Pakistan for commercial traffic since fierce fighting for control of the crossing erupted between Taliban insurgents and Afghan security forces earlier this month, Reuters reported.

“Pakistan has opened its border with Afghanistan at Chaman today and resumed Afghan Transit Trade which was suspended since the last one month,” Arif Kakar, a senior official of the Chaman border district, told Reuters.

He said it would remain open six days a week.

Two Pakistani customs officials, requesting anonymity, told Reuters that Spin Boldak and the border town of Wesh were still under Taliban control, and they did not know what arrangements were in place across the border or who was clearing the goods through customs.

They said Pakistani officials were under pressure by traders to let trucks pass through as the goods they were carrying would otherwise perish, Reuters reported.

Afghanistan’s interior and finance ministries, and the Taliban spokesman, did not respond to requests for comment.

U.S. Marine General Kenneth McKenzie, head of U.S. Central Command, which oversees American forces in Afghanistan, told reporters in Kabul on Sunday that Spin Boldak was a “contested space” and the Afghan government was looking to regain control of it.

Relations between neighbours Afghanistan and Pakistan have taken a sharp downturn in recent weeks, particularly over repeated allegations by Kabul that Pakistan is backing the Taliban – a charge Islamabad denies, Reuters reported.

The Taliban has escalated its offensive since the United States announced in April that it would withdraw its troops by September, ending a 20-year foreign military presence.

Reeling from battlefield losses, Afghanistan’s military is overhauling its war strategy to concentrate forces around critical areas such as Kabul and other cities, and border crossings.

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U.S. issues new flight restrictions over Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 27, 2021)

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) said on Monday it has imposed new flight restrictions over Afghanistan for U.S. airlines and other U.S. operators in response to the changing security environment.

The FAA, in an emergency order effective Sunday, said flights operating below 26,000 feet are prohibited in the Kabul Flight Information Region, which largely covers Afghanistan, unless operating in and out of Hamid Karzai International Airport, citing the risk “posed by extremist/militant activity.”

The restrictions do not apply to U.S. military operations.

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