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U.S. Stuck in Political, Military Stalemate in Afghanistan: Former U.S. Envoy

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(Last Updated On: August 28, 2017)

The United States is stuck in a political and military stalemate in Afghanistan, and it is unclear whether President Donald Trump’s new strategy in the war-torn country will resolve it, a former U.S. envoy to NATO said, ABC News reported.

“If our goal is stalemate, we’ve achieved it,” former NATO Ambassador Douglas Lute told ABC News in an interview that also included Zalmay Khalilzad, who served as U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan and the United Nations under U.S. President George W. Bush.

Lute was responding to Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments Tuesday about the administration’s new strategy in Afghanistan, when he said, “This entire effort is intended to put pressure on the Taliban to have the Taliban understand: You will not win a battlefield victory. We may not win one, but neither will you.”

“We have not only a stalemate on the security situation, but a threefold stalemate on the political front,” said Lute, a retired Army lieutenant general who served as an adviser on Afghan policy under both President Bush and President Obama.

 “We have a political stalemate in Kabul. We have a political stalemate in the region, and we have a political stalemate with regards to trying to enter talks between the Afghan government and the Taliban.”

Khalilzad, however, believes the stalemate “has been shifting in favor of the Taliban in recent weeks and months.”

“They have been gaining ground,” he said. “So why should they negotiate for peace if they think they’re going to win the war?”

But Khalilzad said an important change in President Trump’s new strategy is its “sharp focus” on Pakistan, particularly its assistance to U.S. enemies in the region.

“This has been in my judgment the single most important factor, the Pakistan problem, for prolonging the war,” Khalilzad said, adding that he believes the United States has leverage over the country to Afghanistan’s south and west.

“We have the leverage of cutting off assistance,” he said. “We have the leverage of putting … individuals who support groups such as the Taliban on a blacklist,” he added.

Lute was less sanguine. “I’m actually skeptical that we have sufficient leverage against Pakistan to change their strategic calculus,” he said.

“We don’t have to accept [Pakistan’s] perspective, but understanding it is the start point,” Lute said. “And that start point begins with their view that their tension, that their competition with India is existential, and everything flows through that lens.”

Lute and Khalilzad agreed that more details are needed to fully assess Trump’s Afghanistan strategy.

“We heard a lot about what it is we want to accomplish,” Lute said. “We heard very little on how.”

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Saleh lashes out over Kabul blast, says ‘rotten ideology’ must be rooted out

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2020)

Afghanistan’s First Vice President Amrullah Saleh said on Saturday night that ISIS Afghanistan (IS-K) and the Taliban share the same “ideological gene” and that the “rotten ideology” needs to be rooted out. 

Reacting to the deadly bombing earlier Saturday evening in a suburb of Kabul, Saleh tweeted: “The suicide attack at a private learning center in West of Kabul killed 11 and maimed many young hopefuls. The rotten ideology of quest for false heaven has to be rooted out. Talibs & IS-K share the same ideological gene. They are together at tactical level now. Future ?!”

Within half an hour of Saleh’s tweet, the death toll in the suicide bombing had however risen to 13. 

Saleh was one of many who condemned the incident and questioned the high levels of violence despite ongoing peace talks in Doha. 

Patricia Gossman, Associate Asia director for Human Rights Watch, posted on Twitter and said: “Yet another senseless, cruel attack in Kabul. Civilians going about ordinary activities—walking down the street, sitting in lessons, or getting care in a hospital—continue to suffer sudden and terrifying violence. Why are their stories not told in the peace talks?”

Abdullah Abdullah, Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, also  condemned the attack and labeled it a “terrorist attack” that was “against Islamic and human values.” 

EU special representative for Afghanistan Roland Kobia also slammed the high levels of violence and said: “This and other recent attacks on provincial capitals illustrate the so-called ‘Reduction in Violence’. Enough. There must by full unity of the international community, + massive pressure for an immediate ceasefire asked by all Afghans.”

The attack came in an area of west Kabul that is home to many from the Shia community, a minority in Afghanistan that has been targeted by groups such as the Islamic State (IS-K) in the past.

Saturday’s incident happened when a suicide bomber tried to enter an education center but was prevented from doing so by the guards. He then detonated his explosives in a narrow alley. 

In the past, the area has witnessed deadly explosions that have killed dozens of people over the years. 

In 2018 dozens of students were killed in an explosion at another education center and in May this year, 24 people including mothers, babies and expectant mothers were killed when gunmen attacked a maternity ward at a hospital in the area. 

The Taliban meanwhile was quick to distance themselves from Saturday’s attack but no other group has yet accepted responsibility for the explosion.

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At least 13 killed in suicide bombing outside a Kabul college 

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2020)

At least 13 people have been killed in a suicide bombing in a densely populated area of Kabul city. 

Ministry of Interior spokesman Tariq Arian confirmed Saturday evening that the death toll stands at 13 and about 30 others were wounded. 

He also stated that a suicide bomber had tried to enter the Kawsar-e Danish Training Center but was prevented from doing so by the guards at the gate. 

The suicide bomber then detonated his explosives in the alley, Arian said. 

Soon after the explosion, the Taliban’s spokesman distanced the group from the incident and stated they were not behind the attack. 

In a message on Twitter, Zabihullah Mujahid said “the Taliban was not responsible for the explosion in Pul-e Khoshk area [of Kabu].”

Videos posted on social media painted a grim picture of blood and bodies lying in the alley immediately after the incident. Local residents also frantically covered the victims with blankets while others carried the wounded to vehicles so they could be transported to hospital. 

No other group has yet claimed responsibility for the incident.

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Civilians killed in Kabul city explosion

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(Last Updated On: October 24, 2020)

A number of people have been killed in an explosion that ripped through a densely built-up area in Pul-e-Khushk in Kabul city on Saturday evening.

The incident happened at about 5 pm local time.

Videos posted to social media show local residents frantically calling for blankets to cover bodies lying in a narrow lane while others assist the wounded. 

The exact number of people killed has not yet been confirmed. 

Early reports also indicate the explosion targeted an education facility in the area. 

Details to follow.

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