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US blames Taliban for high level of violence in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 25, 2021)

US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie on Thursday said the United States and NATO’s decision to withdraw troops will depend on conditions on the ground.

McKenzie also said that US and NATO in Afghanistan continue to support a negotiated settlement as the best possible outcome between the government and the Taliban going forward.

Speaking at a virtual Beirut Institute summit McKenzie said that the US still continues to see levels of violence that are way too high.

“I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie also stressed that there is no sign that the Taliban had severed ties with al-Qaeda.

“In my clear judgment rests largely on the Taliban; we also continue to … look for signs of a Taliban break with al-Qaeda and I have not at this point seen any definitive signs that would lead to believe they’re prepared to or able to honor their obligations,” McKenzie added.

Meanwhile, a member of the negotiating team of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan said the path to peace in Afghanistan is difficult because the Taliban have always relied on war and violence and see it as an effective way to gain power.

“Taliban strategy is still focused on war, targeted killings and assassinations take place in cities as part of the same strategy,” said Amin Ahmadi, member of the Republic’s negotiating team.

On the other hand the German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported Thursday that the new draft mandate still needs the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

“The people of Afghanistan and the government are committed to peace, only those who are not committed to peace are fighting, the Taliban want to come to power through explosions and suicide,” said Shah Mahmood Miakhil, defense deputy minister.

However, the Interior Minister said the only way left for the Taliban is peace, otherwise they will be suppressed.

“The only way left for the Taliban is to make peace, otherwise they will be suppressed everywhere in the country,” said Massoud Andarabi, the interior minister.

Although talks between Afghans have resumed over the last three days, no results have been achieved so far.

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Afghan journalists launch center to preserve freedom of speech

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

A number of Afghan media officials and journalists Saturday officially launched the Afghanistan Center for Freedom of Speech, which is aimed at supporting the values of free speech, the media, and journalists.

During an event to mark the official launch in Kabul, media workers called for an immediate end to the targeted assassinations of journalists and urged the government to prosecute those responsible.

Addressing guests attending the event, Sharif Hassanyar, Head of News for Ariana News stated: “As we enter a crucial phase [in the country] I think the existence of this organization and defending the values of freedom of speech is a must.”

The new center has been funded by the European Union and the Ministry of Information and Culture and will represent the rights and values of the media community in the country.

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt also addressed guests and called on warring parties to stop targeting journalists and media workers.

“Mursal Wahidi, Shahnaz Raufi, Sadia Sadat, Ilyas Dayee, and Samim Faramarz were all murdered because of their profession,” he said.

“These targeted attacks not only deprived the victims of their future but they can also be qualified as war crimes,” Von Brandt noted.

“The EU is not only protecting free speech, the EU is the foremost, the world’s largest and the most successful experiment in peacemaking,” he said.

“I stand here to testify that understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed, but all this needs of course is compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions.”

“The EU stands ready to help [Afghanistan],” he said.

Meanwhile, in support of journalists, the center on Saturday also awarded Afghan female journalist Anisa Shahid with their inaugural journalist of the year award.

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Afghan swimmer makes waves in World Para Series in Texas

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

Afghan swimmer Abbas Karimi won a silver medal at the World Para Swimming Series tournament in Texas on Friday evening in the men’s 50m butterfly S5 category.

Posting the news on his Facebook page, Karimi said: “I won this medal for 80 million refugees in the world.”

The Afghan-born swimmer is competing as part of his bid to get into the Refugee Para Athletes Team for the Tokyo Olympics.

He made history at the 2017 World Championships in Mexico City when he became the first refugee to win a medal at a major Para-swimming event. In 2018 he also won gold at the World Series in Indianapolis.

On Saturday, Karimi said about his latest win: “This medal is cool but I want Paralympic medals [from Tokyo].”

More than 100 swimmers have come together in Louisville, Texas for this year’s major swimming contest.

Karimi has so far secured first place in 50m and 100m freestyle and 50m butterfly heats in his category, and second place in the 200m freestyle heat.

Karimi is also expected to take part in the 50m backstroke event in his category on Sunday.

“Thank you so much, everyone, who’s been supporting and praying for me,” Karimi wrote.

Should Karimi make it to the Tokyo Paralympics, he will be the first Afghan to do so.

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EU envoy urges Taliban to attend Istanbul peace conference

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(Last Updated On: April 17, 2021)

EU Ambassador to Kabul Andreas Von Brandt has called on the Taliban to engage in serious negotiations with the Afghan government.

Addressing the inauguration of the “Afghanistan Free Speech Hub” by a group of Afghan journalists and media officials in Kabul, Von Brandt said that the Taliban should not miss opportunities for maintaining peace in Afghanistan.

“As we entered in the holy month of Ramadan I still hope that the Taliban will not miss this opportunity offered to them in Istanbul,” he said.

“There is actually no time to waste,” Von Brandt stressed.

“If the Taliban want to be part of a government in Afghanistan, benefit from our development assistance from our trade, from our humanitarian aid, from the international exposure they better start seriously negotiating,” the EU diplomat said.

This comes after US President Joe Biden and NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg on Wednesday announced that a full withdrawal of troops would start from May 1 and end by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attack on the United States.

EU Ambassador stated that the organization would continue its mission in Afghanistan beyond foreign troop withdrawal.

“Let one thing be clear the EU delegation will continue to be here and continue to do its work,” Von Brandt said.

He, meanwhile, called on the warring parties to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“Understanding between hereditary enemies is actually possible and peaceful transitions can be managed,” Von Brandt said.

“It is an example…how the blood on the battlefield can be exchanged for patience at the negotiating table, how horrific conflicts and wars can be ended through joint institutions.”

“But all these needs of course compromise and the readiness for each side to make concessions,” he added.

He emphasized that if war continues or intensifies “everybody will lose terribly”.

“Of course we are strong supporters to an inclusive peace process that reflects the concerns of the people of Afghanistan that includes women, war victims, civil society, and of course all groups of the population,” he said.

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