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U.S. military days away from completing Afghan withdrawal – sources

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(Last Updated On: June 30, 2021)

The U.S. military appears just days away from completing its withdrawal from Afghanistan, well ahead of the Sept. 11 deadline set by President Joe Biden to end America’s longest war, U.S. officials told Reuters on Tuesday, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The withdrawal of troops and equipment from Afghanistan would not include forces that will remain to protect diplomats at the U.S. embassy and potentially assist securing Kabul airport.

U.S. officials have told Reuters that embassy presence could be around 650 troops.

The U.S. military stopped publicly detailing the pace of its withdrawal after it was more than 50 percent complete earlier in June.

The disclosure of the brisk pace of the U.S. withdrawal comes as the Taliban insurgency ramps up its offensive throughout the country. The Pentagon now estimates the Taliban control 81 of the country’s 419 district centers.

Peace talks in Qatar, meanwhile, have failed to make significant progress.

The Pentagon said earlier on Tuesday that the U.S. withdrawal would not necessarily signify the end of NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan, but referred further queries to NATO.

The withdraw of U.S.-led NATO forces has raised concerns that the country could erupt in full-scale civil war, potentially providing al Qaeda space in which to rebuild and plan new attacks on U.S. and other targets.

A United Nations report in January said there were as many as 500 al Qaeda fighters in Afghanistan and that the Taliban maintained a close relationship with the Islamist extremist group. The Taliban denies al Qaeda has a presence in Afghanistan.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is expected on Wednesday to meet his Germany counterpart at the Pentagon. Germany, which had the second largest contingent of troops after the United States in Afghanistan, announced on Tuesday that it had concluded its withdrawal from Afghanistan.

It was unclear if the pace of the U.S. withdrawal would still allow first for a planned evacuation of thousands of vulnerable Afghan interpreters and their families, something that had been expected before the U.S. pullout.

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IEA reject claims of ex-security forces being killed

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

A spokesman for the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) foreign ministry has denied Western allegations that IEA forces have killed members of the former Afghan government’s security forces.

Abdul Qahar Balkhi’s remarks came a day after the United States and a number of Western nations condemned reports of the alleged deaths of former Afghan security forces and called for an immediate investigation.

“The Mujahideen are fully committed to the implementation of the amnesty decree and the employees of the previous administration will not be coerced by the previous opposition.”

Balkhi said that if any member of the Islamic Emirate violates the amnesty decree, “he will be punished”.

Balkhi also said that “incidents are being thoroughly investigated but unproven rumors are not credible”.

This comes after the United States, the European Union, the United Kingdom, Japan and a number of other countries said in a statement recently that there were reports of IEA forces killing members of the former Afghan government’s security forces.

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Democracy should be used to benefit people, not for decoration: CMG president

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Democracy should not be used for decoration since the true function of it is to improve people’s well-being, Reuters quoting Shen Haixiong, president of the China Media Group (CMG), while addressing the International Forum on Democracy in Beijing on Saturday.

Dignitaries and intellectuals from over 120 countries, regions, and more than 20 international organizations participated in the event.

“We have an old saying in China that ‘oranges grown south of the Huai River are true oranges; once transplanted to the north of the river, they become trifoliate oranges.’ Whether one’s shoes fit, only the wearer himself or herself knows. Over the years, the U.S. has ignored the huge differences in history and national conditions of different countries, and tried to impose the ‘U.S.-style of democracy’ in other regions, causing great harm to world peace and stability,” said Shen.

The various social problems and divisions faced by the U.S. have dented America’s image as a beacon for global democracy, Shen noted.

“From the Jan. 6 Capitol riot to the death toll from COVID-19 hitting new records again and again, the U.S. halo as a beacon for global democracy has markedly faded, and the U.S.-style democracy is clearly ailing,” the CMG president said.

Shen also said CMG’s reports on the Afghanistan situation have exposed the hypocrisy of the U.S.-style democracy, Reuters reported.

“In the reports of the recent Afghanistan situation, the exclusive video news released by the China Global Television Network under China Media Group (CMG) have become a major source of information for the global media. These videos have revealed the truth of the indiscriminate killing of innocent civilians by the U.S. army and the endless pain brought to the Afghan people. CMG has delivered objective and true first-hand information to the world,” said Shen.

He pointed out that democracy should really work for the people, otherwise it would be useless no matter how good its facade is.

“Now, more and more people with insights around the world have come to realize whether a country is a democracy or not should be judged by its own people, not by a few outsiders. Democracy is not an ornament used for decoration. What really matters is that it actually works. If it can’t truly put people first and improve people’s well-being, no matter how delicate the ornament is or how exquisite the rhetoric is, this kind of democracy is just bragging and deceiving oneself as well as others. Can people like George Floyd enjoy the ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights’ as claimed by U.S. politicians?” said Shen.

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Kabul’s air pollution a serious ‘threat to life’, say doctors

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(Last Updated On: December 5, 2021)

Doctors warned Sunday that the air pollution level in Kabul is dangerously high and that it was threatening the lives of many people.

One doctor Mohammad Hashim Wahaj, who spoke to Ariana News, said: “Air pollution is a serious and dangerous problem in Kabul.”

Doctors and resident’s called on government to take measures to stop people from burning fuels such as plastic and rubber and get them to rather use gas or electricity.

“People burn coal and other materials that produce smoke. That should be stopped,” said Mohammad Rasoul, a Kabul resident.

“People should use gas and electricity if they can afford it and avoid burning plastic and coal,” said Sohrab, another Kabul resident.

Kabul Municipality meanwhile said efforts are being made to reduce the air pollution level and that they have closed down a number of bathhouses, that burn fuel to heat the water.

Naimatullah Barakzai, the municipality’s head of public awareness and publications department, said that among the central heating systems used in the city are two that run on gas.

According to him there are at least 1,100 other types but these run on coal and wood.

Barakzai said while the municipality would like more people to use gas furnaces and heaters, most of them are not able to afford it.

He said if the people had the money they would rather use “modern equipment”.

Kabul’s air pollution levels increase dramatical each winter as people make fires to keep warm. But, poverty-stricken residents often resort to burning toxic materials such as plastic, car tyres and coal to heat their homes.

In addition to this, the city lies in a valley surrounded by towering Hindu Kush mountain peaks, which reduces the mixing of air, particularly in winter when temperature inversions regularly form and with little rain to remove the pollution from the atmosphere, this accumulates during winter.

Afghanistan documented nearly 5,000 deaths attributed to air pollution in 2020 – deaths due to respiratory and heart diseases that were considered to be caused by air pollution, a health official said in January.

Kabul meanwhile was also considered the world’s worst polluted city last year and is on track to remain among the most polluted cities in 2021.

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