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US and IEA delegates to resume talks in Doha

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(Last Updated On: November 24, 2021)

US special envoy for Afghanistan Thomas West will return to Doha next week for talks with Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) officials, the US State Department said on Tuesday.

Addressing a press briefing, State Department spokesman Ned Price said talks between the two parties will focus on a number of issues including counterterrorism, humanitarian aid, and the economic situation in the country.

“I can confirm that next week Special Representative for Afghanistan Tom West – he’ll return to Doha for two weeks of meetings with Taliban (IEA) leaders there.

“They’ll discuss, as I said before, our vital national interest when it comes to Afghanistan. That includes counterterrorism, that includes safe passage for U.S. citizens and for Afghans to whom we have a special commitment, and that includes humanitarian assistance and the economic situation of the country.”

West recently took over as special envoy after Zalmay Khalilzad resigned from the post.

“Tom West has been on the job now for I think some six weeks, and in that time he has already been busy. Just before he was named to this role, as you recall, he traveled to Doha to meet directly with the Taliban (IEA) as part of an interagency delegation.

“He not all that long ago traveled to Europe and Russia and India to discuss the way forward on Afghanistan with our allies and partners. In many of those conversations, we discussed those issues that are of core national interest to us – counterterrorism, safe passage. But again, a key theme was humanitarian assistance and what the United States, together with the international community, might do to alleviate the humanitarian plight that now confronts the people of Afghanistan,” said Price.

He also said that the US has spoken of the humanitarian assistance that the United States has pledged to Afghanistan – $474 million in this year alone – and what Washington is doing to facilitate the provision of humanitarian aid and assistance to the people of Afghanistan.

He said: “To make clear that humanitarian assistance to the people of Afghanistan is something that we strongly support.”

Price also stated that the US is committed to countering ISIS-K (Daesh) and ensuring that Afghanistan never again becomes a safe haven for terrorism.

“We’re working with our international partners, including under the auspices of the Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS, to deny the group, as you saw the other day, access to financing; to disrupt, to deter foreign terrorist fighters from reaching Afghanistan and the region, as – just as we are continuing using multiple tools to counter ISIS-K’s pernicious ideology.

“We are committed to disrupting illicit financing, limiting their abilities to conduct further attacks against civilians, and supporting our partners in counterterrorism and disrupting terrorism finance.”

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Putin discusses Afghanistan with Modi in Delhi

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met Russian President Vladimir Putin in New Delhi on Monday, with trade and the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan both on the agenda.

“The fight against terrorism is also a fight against drug trafficking and organised crime,” Putin said in introductory remarks broadcast by Indian media.

“In that regard, we are concerned about developments of the situation in Afghanistan,” he said.

The visit by Putin and several top Russian officials comes amid increasingly strained relations between Russia and the United States, also a key Indian ally.

Earlier on Monday, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said a deal to supply India with S-400 air defense missile systems was being implemented despite what he said were U.S. efforts to undermine the accord.

India and Russia are expected to cement several trade and defense pacts at the summit.

“The relation between India and Russia is truly a unique and reliable model,” Modi said.

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COVID-19: Afghan officials warn of possible fourth wave

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Officials at the Afghan-Japan hospital in Kabul on Monday warned that another surge in COVID-19 cases in Afghanistan was expected after 620 new cases were reported in the past three weeks.

They said that 350 people out of the 620 have been hospitalized.

According to doctors, 10 people have died of the virus in this time.

“The problem is the lack of salaries and lack of equipment. If the virus comes from neighboring countries, we will face a major crisis,” said Tariq Ahmad Akbari, head of the Afghan-Japan hospital.
Sources have also said laboratory screening is being done privately due to the lack of supplies in hospitals.

“We do some of the [laboratory] tests outside that cost 1,600 [AFG]. We are happy with the staff at the Afghan-Japan hospital. Treatment is good here,” said Tajudin, a relative of one of the patients.

The Ministry of Public Health meanwhile said that they do not have the capacity to tackle a fourth wave of COVID-19.

“After the Islamic Emirate takeover, there have been problems. The World Bank supported the hospital financially. Because of this we don’t have the budget for Coronavirus and health staff and patients are facing problems,” said Dr Abdul Bari Omar, deputy minister of public health.

Some concerned citizens have however voiced concern about people not wearing masks in public and breaking social distancing rules.

Public awareness campaigns have also stopped.

This comes after a new variant of COVID-19 was detected in South Africa last month.

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Afghans urge IEA to preserve historical sites

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(Last Updated On: December 6, 2021)

Afghans have called on the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) to help preserve the country’s rich heritage of historical sites which they say could attract thousands of foreign tourists a year.

Dozens of historical sites are dotted around the country, including the famous Bamiyan Buddha niches. However, many of these have fallen into disrepair after years of conflict.

One local tourist, who was visiting Bamiyan, said he decided to visit the province following the take over of the IEA and the improved security situation.

“We came to see the area where the statues of Bamiyan are located, as a historical place. Security in the country has improved since the Taliban (IEA) came to power. People can easily travel from one place to another which was not the case before,” said Amanullah Mahmoodzai.

Another local tourist visiting the Buddhas was Hussainullah who also urged the IEA to restore sites. He said the local Bamiyan residents would then benefit from an increase in tourism.

“This is a historical place worth visiting. If it is repaired, more tourists will come and help the people of the area,” he said.

Another wellknown site is the UNESCO World Heritage listed minaret of Jam in Ghor province.

The 65-metre high minaret was built around 1190 entirely of baked bricks and is famous for its intricate brick, stucco and glazed tile decoration.

Since 2002, the minaret has remained on the list of World Heritage in Danger as it is under serious threat of erosion and for the past seven years, experts have warned that it is in imminent danger of collapse.

But recently, the IEA assigned a team of 30 people to safeguard the structure.

After the IEA’s takeover, UNESCO Director-General Audrey Azoulay issued a statement calling “for the preservation of Afghanistan’s cultural heritage in its diversity, in full respect of international law, and for taking all necessary precautions to spare and protect cultural heritage from damage and looting.”

Afghanistan’s cultural heritage is vast as for millennia, it was a crossroads of many civilisations that left a remarkable legacy, from the Medes to the Mongols, Mughals and Durrani, to the kingdom and the long period of conflict that started in 1979.

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