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US deal with Taliban nothing but a ‘withdrawal pact’, says ex-diplomat

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(Last Updated On: February 6, 2021)

Former Pakistani ambassador to the US, Husain Haqqani, said the agreement between the US and the Taliban has no element of peace and is basically a withdrawal pact for American troops from Afghanistan. 

Speaking during a virtual event titled The Afghan Peace Process: Progress or Peril, which was organized by the Hudson Institute, Haqqani said he sees the February 2020 agreement as nothing short of a withdrawal pact. 

He said the Taliban were made to commit to only one thing – that they would enter intra-Afghan negotiations. He said the Taliban were not made to commit to actually agreeing to peace. 

Haqqani said the definition of peace for the Taliban is very different from the US.

“Taliban’s definition of peace is very different from that of the US or the Afghan government. The Taliban believes that once their Islamic Emirate is restored, peace is restored,” said Haqqani, who is currently the Director for South and Central Asia at Hudson Institute.

The Afghan government and the people of the country would welcome the predictability and discipline that might come with change of administration in the US, he noted.

“When state actors and non-state actors negotiate, usually there is a ceasefire as part of the deal. That hasn’t been done in Afghanistan? I don’t understand what reduction in violence is, does it mean two people instead of 10 being killed or 10 instead of 20?” he asked.

The Trump administration signed the agreement with the Taliban in February last year in Doha and as per the deal, the US agreed to withdraw all its troops from Afghanistan by the end of April this year. 

The Taliban was meant to reduce violence, cut all ties with terrorist organizations including al-Qaeda and enter into peace talks with the Afghan government. 

Bill Roggio, a senior fellow and editor of The Foundation for Defense of Democracies’ Long War Journal, who also participated meanwhile said that to understand what Taliban wants one needs to read their statements.

“The only acceptable outcome is the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan. They have not fought all these years to take a silly ministerial post. What Taliban has been doing in the meantime is hollowing out Afghan civil society. All signs that Taliban is using these talks to run out the clock. It is not going to agree to give up violence,” he said.

“The Taliban promised before 9/11 that they will not host al-Qaeda and they lied. Why should we believe them today?” Roggio asked.

Javid Ahmad, Afghanistan’s Ambassador to the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and a Senior Fellow (non-resident) at the Atlantic Council, meanwhile stated during the event that Afghanistan as a country is complicated.

“The US presence has now effectively become a part of the Afghan power dynamics. Probably will remain so for the foreseeable future,” he said.

“There is a need for clarity in purpose, policy, and approach. We need clarity not just on Afghanistan’s future but also America’s future in Afghanistan. Previous administration drew a moral equivalence between the Taliban and Afghan government and so the outcome was one big mess,” Ahmad said.

According to Ahmad, Pakistan is hoping to dictate the talks and in the process bypass the Afghan government.

“Pakistan’s main audience has been Washington not Kabul. So difficult to come to terms with them on any bilateral agreement. The terms they are pushing for is a direct say in Afghanistan’s foreign and security policy and so Pakistan has traditionally treated us as a half state,” he said.

He did say however that the Afghan government is hoping the new Biden administration will work to redress the balance between the Taliban and the Afghan government so as to ensure that the Taliban “abandons their pursuit of creating their own version of Afghan apartheid” – a minority like rule over the majority of the population.

He said: “That is why I think … the belief of the broader Afghan public is that a US reset is not only warranted but it’s necessary; it’s required and I am really glad that the Biden administration is reviewing the key elements of that deal.”

Ahmad also stated Afghanistan is working very closely with its US partners, who will be sending a team to Kabul soon. 

He said the immediate focus “on our end would be not just on the violence reduction but also on the ceasefire”.

“We’ll also see what the US decides to do in the NATO administration of course in mid-February but none of our NATO partners are in favor of withdrawing its forces by May 1 deadline,” he said – in reference to the NATO defense ministers meeting scheduled for later this month.

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Pakistan seal semi-final T20 World Cup spot after beating Namibia 

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(Last Updated On: November 2, 2021)

Pakistan defeated Namibia by 45 runs on Tuesday night in Abu Dhabi to become the first side to qualify for the semi-finals of the T20 World Cup 2021.

Chasing a formidable target of 190, Namibia gave a good account of their ability and promise and eventually finished with 144-5 as Pakistan collected the two points they needed to go through to the next round.

Pakistan’s total is the second-highest in this tournament, behind Afghanistan’s 190-4 against Scotland in Sharjah.

Afghanistan’s next T20 World Cup match is on Wednesday against India.

 

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US administers over 420 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2021)

The United States has administered 420,657,683 doses of COVID-19 vaccines in the country as of Saturday morning and distributed 518,701,225 doses, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said.

The agency said 221,221,467 people had received at least one dose, while 192,244,927 people were fully vaccinated as of 6am on Saturday.

The CDC tally includes two-dose vaccines from Moderna and Pfizer/BioNTech, as well as Johnson & Johnson’s one-shot vaccine, Reuters reported.

About 17.7 million people have received a booster dose of either Pfizer, Moderna or Johnson & Johnson’s COVID-19 vaccine.

On November 8, the United States is lifting the extraordinary travel restrictions that have barred most non-U.S. citizens who within the last 14 days have been in Britain, the 26 Schengen countries in Europe without border controls, Ireland, China, India, South Africa, Iran and Brazil. 

It is also imposing new rules requiring nearly all foreign adult air visitors to be vaccinated against COVID-19.

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IEA arrests two gunmen after wedding party shooting 

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(Last Updated On: October 31, 2021)

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) deputy minister of information and culture Zabiullah Mujahid confirmed on Sunday that two people have been arrested following the shooting at a wedding party on Friday night. 

Mujahid said in a series of tweets on Sunday that three people, claiming to be IEA members, had arrived at the venue in a village in Nangarhar and ordered them to stop the music, before opening fire on the guests. 

Three people died and several were wounded, he said.

“Two suspects have been arrested in connection with the incident and one has escaped and is being pursued,” Mujahid tweeted.

 Mujahid said that the gunmen were handed over to officials.

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