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U.S. forces leave Bagram base in Afghanistan – official

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(Last Updated On: July 2, 2021)

American troops pulled out of their main military base in Afghanistan on Friday, a U.S. defence official said, under an agreement with the Taliban allowing for the withdrawal of all U.S. forces from the country after a two-decade war.

“All American soldiers and members of NATO forces have left the Bagram airbase,” said the senior U.S. security official on condition of anonymity.

The U.S. military has coordinated its air war and logistical support for its Afghan mission from the Bagram airbase, about 60 km (40 miles) north of Kabul, and the withdrawal of the forces symbolises the end of the U.S. military involvement in the country.

The base is being handed over to the Afghan government as its armed forces face a surging war with the Taliban and questions swirl about their prospects.

An Afghan official said the base would be officially handed over to the government at a ceremony on Saturday.

The U.S. defence official said General Austin Miller, the top U.S.commander in Afghanistan “still retains all the capabilities and authorities to protect the force” that are stationed in the capital, Kabul.

Two other U.S. security officials said this week the majority of U.S. military personnel would most likely be gone by July 4, with a residual force remaining to protect the embassy.

Last month, U.S. President Joe Biden told his Afghan counterpart, Ashraf Ghani, that “Afghans are going to have to decide their future, what they want”.

Ghani said his job was now to “manage the consequences” of the U.S. withdrawal.

The agreement with the Taliban on the U.S. pull-out was struck under the administration of President Donald Trump.

In exchange for the U.S. withdrawal, the Taliban, fighting to expel foreign forces and oust the U.S.-backed government, have vowed to prevent any international terrorism from Afghan soil.

They also made a commitment to enter into talks with their Afghan rivals but little progress has been made in negotiations.

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Allies have the capabilities to strike from afar against terrorist threats: NATO

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said on Thursday allies will discuss Afghanistan during Friday’s defence ministers meeting, which will be “the first opportunity for the ministers to engage in the lessons learnt process” launched by the organization.

NATO defense ministers are meeting Thursday and Friday in Brussels to chart the course for the alliance as it modernizes and adapts to a world dominated by strategic competition.

However, the discussions will also include Afghanistan, Stoltenberg said during a press conference Thursday. According to him “we are in the midst of the lessons learned process, I think it’s a bit early to draw final conclusions.”

He said the decision to withdraw all troops from Afghanistan had been “a very difficult dilemma” but after extensive rounds of consultations among all allies, “we agreed together to end our military presence in Afghanistan”.

Stoltenberg said the lesson learned process has to focus on both what did not work, but also what worked, and he said “we should recognize that we actually made significant achievements”.

“Our mission was not in vain. We prevented Afghanistan from being a safe haven for international terrorists, and prevented any attack against any NATO ally over 20 years.

“Now we will stay vigilant and preserve those gains. Not least by holding, using the leverage we have on the new Taliban (Islamic Emirate) regime to make sure that they live up to their commitments on terrorism, on human rights, and safe passage.”

“The international community has economic and diplomatic leverage over the Taliban (Islamic Emirate),” he said.

“Looking ahead, we must continue to stand together in the fight against international terrorism,” he said. “And in the margins of this ministerial, we will hold a meeting of the Global Coalition to Defeat Daesh [or the Islamic State group],” he said.

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IEA calls on US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) leaders called on the US to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets during a news conference in Moscow on Wednesday night saying that the money is for the Afghan people.

“All countries, with almost one voice, called on the US to end its financial prohibitions on Afghanistan and to unfreeze Afghanistan’s assets because this money is for the Afghan people and they were receiving their salaries from it, and therefore the US has no right to freeze these funds,” acting IEA Minister of Information and Culture, Khairullah Khairkhwa, said.

Pakistan, China, Iran, India and former Soviet Central Asian states joined IEA officials at the Moscow meeting. The United States stayed away, citing technical reasons.

Acting Deputy Prime Minister Abdul Salam Hanafi meanwhile said at the meeting that the IEA would create conditions for women to work within the framework of Sharia law.

He also emphasized that the IEA does not represent a threat to any other country.

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UN sets up trust fund for ‘people’s economy’ in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 21, 2021)

The United Nations said on Thursday it had set up a special trust fund to provide urgently-needed cash directly to Afghans through a system that would tap into donor funds frozen since the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) takeover in August.

Achim Steiner, the UN Development Programme’s (UNDP) administrator, said that Germany, a first contributor, had pledged 50 million euros ($58 million) to the fund, and that it was in touch with other donors.

“Discussions over the last few weeks have focused on how we do find a way to be able to mobilise these resources in view of the economic implosion that is now unfolding and the international community’s repeated commitment not to abandon the people of Afghanistan,” he told a news briefing.

This comes after US Deputy Treasury Secretary Wally Adeyemo said on Tuesday he sees no situation where the IEA would be allowed access to Afghan central bank reserves, which are largely held in the United States.

The IEA has called for the United States to lift a block on more than $9 billion of Afghan central bank reserves held outside the country as the government struggles to contain a deepening economic crisis.

“We believe that it’s essential that we maintain our sanctions against the Taliban (IEA) but at the same time find ways for legitimate humanitarian assistance to get to the Afghan people. That’s exactly what we’re doing,” Adeyemo told the Senate Banking Committee.

Washington and other Western countries are grappling with difficult choices as a severe humanitarian crisis looms large in Afghanistan. They have been trying to work out how to engage with the IEA without granting them legitimacy, while ensuring humanitarian aid flows into the country.

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