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U.S. to Provide $29m for Afghan Presidential Elections

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(Last Updated On: July 17, 2019)

The United States Embassy in Kabul has welcomed the finalization of a budget for the presidential election on Wednesday.

In a statement released on Wednesday, the U.S. Ambassador to Kabul, John R. Bass said, “We are pleased the election budget has finally been finalized. That enables the United States to provide up to $29 million to support operations.

Bass said that Conduct of the elections will also be funding independently Afghan domestic observers’ efforts so people have confidence in the way the election is conducted and in the results.

At the same time, although the budget is an important step, there are many more steps the commission and the relevant ministries need to take to ensure elections occur when scheduled, the statement said.

“We need to see the additional staff hired and trained by the commission. We need to see the voters lists published,” said Bass adding, “We all need to see finalization of procurement and training on the biometric verification devices. All of that will be essential to conduct the election.”

At the same time, we have strong expectations as do all Afghans, I think, to see all of the candidates respecting Afghan law that prohibits government officials or people with access to government officials from using government resources to benefit their campaign, the U.S. Ambassador added.

“We expect all the candidates, whether they are currently in government positions or not, to refrain from trying to use government resources, whether that’s money, whether that’s the power to appoint people, whether that’s simply going about their business in ways that is intended to benefit their campaign,” Bass noted.

“We expect to see everyone respect Afghan law, and we expect that because the Afghan people expect that. And as a last point, I’d note that it’s quite important that the electoral commission be communicating with the public about its activities,” He added.

The Afghan public understand the preparations that are underway and that progress is being made to prepare for these important elections, the statement concluded.

It comes as, on Monday, the Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan (IEC) confirmed that a budget of $149 million has been approved for the upcoming presidential elections.

The presidential election is expected to be held on September 28, 2019.

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Taliban under pressure from US for failing to stick to deal: Envoy

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

Ross Wilson, US Chargé d’Affaires to Afghanistan said Monday that the US will put pressure on the Taliban as the group has failed to act in accordance with the US-Taliban agreement and has not reduced violence in Afghanistan.

In an interview with Ariana News, Wilson said the increase in violence across the country is unacceptable and that the Taliban has not heeded calls by the United States or the international community for a reduction in violence.

He also accused the Taliban of being involved in targeted killings and said the group “is complicit in a culture of violence”.

“The Taliban are not meeting the commitments they made with us in concluding US-Taliban agreement in February. We have repeatedly called on the Taliban to reduce the violence.

“Unfortunately, our efforts, our advocacy, and advocacy by many of Afghanistan’s other friends. the efforts of the United Nations did not succeed. And we are putting pressure on the Taliban. This is important for the success of the peace process and for the success of this country,” said Wilson.

Questions around the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan and the foreign policy of the incoming US president, Joe Biden, on Afghanistan were also raised in the interview.

However, Wilson did not comment on the foreign policy but did say the withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan was conditions-based.

“US forces and coalition forces remain substantial. We are actively defending the Afghan Defense and Security Forces. The issue of withdrawal, which was previously announced by the United States, will be based on conditions,” Wilson added.

Wilson also said the United States is working with the Afghan government to recover money embezzled by corrupt individuals.

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Cross-border markets will be up-and-running in February

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

Pakistan said Monday that one of the 12 Joint Border Trade Markets, that is to be established along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, will be launched by February 2021.

In a statement released on Monday, the Embassy of Pakistan in Kabul stated that the market would be operational at Shaheedano Dand in Kurram Agency of Pakistan.

“The Joint Border Trade Markets are believed to promote the wellbeing of the people living on both sides of the border, rehabilitate those affected by anti-smuggling drive, economically integrate the neglected areas, formalize bilateral trade and transform local economies of people living across Pak-Afghan border,” Pakistan Embassy in Kabul said in a statement on Monday.

According to the statement, Pakistan has prepared a draft Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on the establishment of the markets with Afghanistan.

The statement noted that the MoU has covered “all the modalities including the proposed list of items to be traded in these markets and locations where the border markets are to be established, the composition of Border Market Management Committees, which will oversee the smooth working of the markets, the medium of exchange and dispute settlement.”

“Once, formally established, the people friendly initiative of JBTMs of Prime Minister of Pakistan is expected to uplift the economic and social wellbeing of the people living across Pak-Afghan border,” the statement read.

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NATO facing difficult dilemma on whether to leave or stay: Stoltenberg

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(Last Updated On: November 30, 2020)

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said Monday that “no one wants to stay in Afghanistan longer than necessary.”

Addressing an online press conference ahead of the NATO Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting, Stoltenberg stated the organization’s training mission continues despite the US’ decision to further reduce troop levels in Afghanistan.

This comes after outgoing US President Donald Trump decided to further reduce American forces in Afghanistan from around 4,000 to 2,500, as part of the Doha deal which was signed between the US and the Taliban in February.

Stoltenberg, meanwhile, stated that the alliance forces would assess their presence in Afghanistan in the next few months.

“In the months ahead, we will continue to assess our presence based on conditions on the ground,” he noted.

“We face a difficult dilemma, whether to leave and risk that Afghanistan becomes once again a safe haven for international terrorists. Or stay, and risk a longer mission, with renewed violence,” he said.

According to the Doha deal, the US should pull all its troops out of Afghanistan by May.

But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told Fox News last week that the full withdrawal remains based on a set of conditions on the ground.

“That was what we’d agreed to. We have made some progress. We’ve had significant prisoner releases. We have violence levels that have reduced risks to Americans significantly over this time period since February of last year,” Pompeo stated.

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