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US and NATO partners will exit Afghanistan ‘together’: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: March 29, 2021)

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Sunday that American forces will only withdraw from Afghanistan in coordination with their NATO allies.

“We’ve been very clear, and NATO has been very clear, that the approach that we’re taking to this is we went in together, we’ve adapted to circumstances together and we will come out together when the time is right,” Blinken said in an interview with CNN.

“And what we’re focused on now is looking at the May 1 deadline.”

“One of the things that was important was not only to share our thinking as we’re going through this review, including the May 1 deadline but to listen, to hear from our partners who are so invested: their ideas, their thoughts, their analysis.”

With only weeks away from the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline, signed between the US and Taliban in Doha last year, Washington is still reviewing the deal although President Joe Biden said on Wednesday at a press conference that the date would be “hard to meet” for “tactical reasons”.

However, he also said that he does not expect US troops to remain in Afghanistan beyond 2022.

The US currently has a reported 2,500 troops in the country but the New York Times said in a recent article that the figure was closer to 3,500. NATO meanwhile has about 7,000 troops stationed in Afghanistan, bringing the total number of foreign troops to around 10,000. 

Blinken told CNN: “There are actually more European forces in Afghanistan right now than there are American, so they’re deeply invested in this with us, and they’ve been shoulder to shoulder with us from the very start.” 

“It was also very important to try to accelerate the diplomacy because ultimately everyone recognizes that there is no military solution to Afghanistan,” he said.

“There has to be some kind of political settlement, and it has to be a settlement reached by the Afghans themselves.”

This comes after the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad departed for Turkey on Thursday to resume negotiations on the peace process.

“Ambassador Khalilzad will build on recent efforts by regional and international partners to encourage two Afghan parties to accelerate their negotiations to end the conflict,” the State Department said.

“He will engage the two sides on their preparatory efforts for talks on a political settlement that produces a permanent ceasefire and a durable and just peace.

“He will also meet with stakeholders to discuss how the region and international community can facilitate talks between the sides.”

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Ariana Television secures rights to broadcast T20 World Cup 2021

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(Last Updated On: October 19, 2021)

Afghan cricket fans will be pleased to know that Ariana Television Network (ATN) has secured the rights to broadcast the ICC Men’s T20 World Cup 2021 matches for the duration of the tournament. 

The World Cup kicked off on Sunday and, co-hosted by Oman and the UAE, the tournament will run through until November 14. 

Oman got celebrations underway on Sunday with a comprehensive 10-wicket win over Papua New Guinea in the opening match.

Afghanistan, which has enjoyed an astounding rise up the international cricket ladder in recent years, has high hopes of making their mark at this year’s event. 

Familiar with the conditions in the UAE where they have played the majority of their cricket, the national team might make a deep run in the tournament, and spring a major surprise or two along the way, cricket experts have said. 

Ever since their tournament debut at the 2010 ICC Men’s T20 World Cup in the Caribbean, it has been a story of constantly striving for improvement. 

While some of the old faces remain, new stars have emerged, forging the side into a steely unit, capable of competing with the best that international cricket has to offer, the ICC reported in its team preview.

The 2021 edition in UAE and Oman will be another parameter where Afghanistan will gauge their current standing in the global game while charting their progress in international cricket. 

The national team’s opening fixture is scheduled for Monday, October 25. 

With the conditions in UAE expected to be conducive for the spinners, Afghanistan has the perfect attack to exploit them to the maximum. Rashid Khan, Mujeeb Ur Rahman and Mohammad Nabi will form a fearsome spin trio, with two of them being able to make handy contributions with the bat as well.   

Hazaratullah Zazai, Najibullah Zadran and the returning Mohammad Shahzad will also provide some explosiveness in the batting order. 

The Squad

Rashid Khan, Rahmanullah Gurbaz, Hazratullah Zazai, Usman Ghani, Asghar Afghan, Mohammad Nabi, Najibullah Zadran, Hashmatullah Shahidi, Mohammad Shahzad, Mujeeb ur Rahman, Karim Janat, Gulbadin Naib, Naveen ul Haq, Hamid Hassan, Sharafuddin Ashraf, Dawlat Zadran, Shapoor Zadran, Qais Ahmed

Reserves: Afsar Zazai, Farid Ahmed Malik

This week’s broadcasting schedule for matches live on Ariana Television (Kabul time) are as follows: 

Wednesday:

2.30pm – Namibia vs the Netherlands 

6.30pm – Sri Lanka vs Ireland

Thursday: 

2.30pm – Bangladesh vs Papua New Guinea

6.30pm – Oman vs Scotland

Friday:

2.30pm – Namibia vs Ireland

6.30pm – Sri Lanka vs the Netherlands

Saturday:

2.30pm – Australia vs South Africa

6.30pm – England vs West Indies 

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Colin Powell has died of COVID complications

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(Last Updated On: October 18, 2021)

Colin Powell, the first Black U.S. secretary of state and top military officer, died on Monday at the age of 84 due to complications from COVID-19.

In a statement posted to Facebook, his family said, “We want to thank the medical staff at Walter Reed National Medical Center for their caring treatment. We have lost a remarkable and loving husband, father, grandfather and a great American.”

Powell was the one most notable Black figure in Washington for decades. A Vietnam vet, he rose to become an army four-star general and chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under President George H.W. Bush during the 1991 Gulf War.

In 1996 he considered running for president, but was dissuaded by his wife who worried for his safety.

He later served as Secretary of State under George W. Bush. It was in that capacity that he famously stood before the United Nations and made the case for invading Iraq based on the claim that Saddam Hussein was pursuing weapons of mass destruction.

The evidence proved wrong. No weapons were found. Powell later admitted that his presentation was rife with inaccuracies provided by others in the Bush administration. He called a “blot” that would always be a part” of his record.

Powell was known as a moderate Republican and pragmatist. He broke with the GOP to endorse Barack Obama’s candidacy and would criticize his party’s shift toward anti-immigrant and isolationist policies.

The Powell family says he was fully vaccinated against coronavirus. Colin Powell was 84 years old.

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Children evacuated from schools as violence breaks out in Beirut

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(Last Updated On: October 14, 2021)

Children were evacuated from schools and the military was deployed to the streets of Beirut on Thursday afternoon as violence broke out during a protest rally in the Lebanese capital.

By late Thursday afternoon the death toll climbed to four, including a woman who died from a bullet wound in her house, a military source said.

Lebanese Shi’ite parties Hezbollah and Amal said armed groups had fired at protesters from rooftops in Beirut on Thursday, aiming at their heads in an attack they said aimed to drag the country to strife.

In a statement, the parties called on the army to intervene quickly to detain the perpetrators and called on their supporters to remain calm, Reuters reported.

Bursts of gunfire were heard for several hours, along with several explosions which appeared to be rocket propelled-grenades fired into the air, Reuters witnesses said.

Video footage from Lebanese TV station Al Jadeed showed plumes of smoke rising from the streets, as flames burned in the aftermath of an explosion.

The Lebanese army said in a statement the gunfire had targeted protesters as they passed through a traffic circle located in an area dividing Christian and Shi’ite Muslim neighborhoods.

As Prime Minister Najib Mikati called for calm, a military source told Reuters two people had been killed and seven more wounded.

The shooting began from the Christian neighborhood of Ain el-Remmaneh before spiraling into an exchange of fire, the source added.

Hezbollah’s al-Manar TV said “two martyrs” and a number of wounded had been taken to a hospital in the Shi’ite southern suburbs, indicating that the casualties were Shi’ites.

The Lebanese army deployed heavily in the area and said it would open fire against any armed person on the road.

Political tensions over the probe into the port explosion have been building, with the heavily armed, Iran-backed Hezbollah leading calls for Bitar’s removal, accusing him of bias.

The explosion, in August last year, killed more than 200 people and devastated swathes of Beirut.

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