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US ‘deeply troubled’ by attacks on civilians as Taliban sweep across Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: July 28, 2021)

The United States said on Wednesday it was deeply troubled by reports of escalating attacks on civilians as the Taliban sweep across Afghanistan and Washington pulls out its last remaining troops and ends its longest war.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken, on a visit to India, said the only path to peace in Afghanistan was through negotiations, which all parties must take seriously.

Taliban insurgents have captured districts across Afghanistan and seized vital border control points in recent weeks, as Washington withdraws its last troops after 20 years. The Pentagon now estimates that the fighters control more than half of Afghanistan‘s district centres.

The surge has raised the prospect that the militants could return to power. Millions of people fled their extreme violence during their last period of rule from 1996-2001, when they staged public executions of their foes, banned women from work and education and hosted Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda network.

The Taliban say they will treat civilians well if they return to power, and will not allow the country to be used as a base for international terrorism.

Describing reports of attacks on civilians as “deeply, deeply troubling”, Blinken said: “An Afghanistan that commits atrocities against its own people would become a pariah state.

“There’s only one path, and that’s at the negotiating table, to resolve the conflict peacefully.”

The United Nations reported this week that civilian casualties had been surging in recent weeks, with as many killed in May-June as in the previous four months. The report did not cover casualties in July, when fighting has intensified further.

Afghans in government-held areas have been alarmed by domestic media reports in recent days of abductions and killings of civilians in areas where the Taliban have advanced. The Taliban deny they are carrying out revenge killings.

U.S. President Joe Biden has ordered all U.S. troops out of the country, fulfilling a policy pledge made by his predecessor Donald Trump, despite warnings from American generals of the potential for renewed civil war without foreign troops to protect the Kabul government.

Peace talks between the government and the Taliban in Qatar have largely stalled, with the Taliban showing little interest in negotiating while they are gaining on the battlefield.

CHINA HOSTS TALIBAN DELEGATION

Taliban delegations have visited neighbouring countries in recent weeks, gaining international standing for a movement that had been treated as outcasts and banned as terrorists for most of the past two decades.

The latest regional power to host them was China, whose Foreign Minister Wang Yi met a nine-person delegation led by Taliban deputy leader Mullah Baradar Akhund in the northern Chinese city of Tianjin during a two-day visit.

Wang said the Taliban were expected to “play an important role in the process of peaceful reconciliation and reconstruction in Afghanistan“, according to a readout of the meeting from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Taliban delegations have also visited Iran and Russia in recent weeks. The group has an office in Qatar.

“Politics, economy and issues related to the security of both countries and the current situation of Afghanistan and the peace process were discussed in the meetings,” Taliban spokesperson Mohammed Naeem tweeted about the China visit.

“(The) delegation assured China that they will not allow anyone to use Afghan soil against China,” Naeem said. “China also reiterated its commitment of continuation of their assistance with Afghans and said they will not interfere in Afghanistan‘s issues but will help to solve the problems and restoration of peace in the country.”

Moscow, which fought for a decade in Afghanistan in the 1980s, said it was beefing up the combat capabilities at its military base in Tajikistan, a small former Soviet republic that borders Afghanistan.

Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu, visiting Tajikistan on Wednesday, said the security situation had rapidly deteriorated in Afghanistan during a “hasty” U.S. withdrawal.

Shoigu said Islamic State fighters were moving into Afghanistan from countries including Syria and Libya, describing their arrival as “quite seriously organised”.

“We are paying increased attention to strengthening the combat capabilities of our base and refining plans to jointly repel possible insurgent infiltration,” he said.

A senior Russian diplomat has said Moscow views Taliban gains in northern Afghanistan as having a security upside because the group is hostile to what Russia regards as more dangerous Islamist extremists.

Russia is set to hold military drills on Aug. 5-10 near Tajikistan’s Afghan border, involving more than 1,000 Russian soldiers as well as Uzbek and Tajik forces.

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India’s Modi tells UNGA Afghanistan cannot be used to spread terrorism

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

At the United Nations General Assembly annual meeting Saturday, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi said it was crucial that Afghanistan not be used to spread terrorism globally, and he called on world leaders to help minorities in the country, including women and children.

“It is important to ensure that the land of Afghanistan is not used to spread terrorism and perpetuate terrorist attacks,” Modi said.

“We also have to be alert that no nation should be able to misuse the delicate situation in Afghanistan for their own selfish motives like a tool,” Modi added in an apparent reference to Pakistan, locked between Afghanistan and India.

His comments came after Pakistan’s Prime Minister Imran Khan urged the international community to help the people of Afghanistan in a pre-recorded message to the United Nations General Assembly on Friday.

“There’s a huge humanitarian crisis looming ahead and this will have serious repercussions not just for the neighbors of Afghanistan, but it will have repercussions everywhere if a destabilized, chaotic Afghanistan again becomes a safe haven for international terrorists,” he said.

“We must strengthen this current government, stabilize it for the sake of the people of Afghanistan,” he said.

U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said last week that Afghanistan is on “the verge of a dramatic humanitarian disaster” and has decided to engage the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) in order to help the country’s people.

Khan said Guterres had “taken bold steps. I urge you to mobilize the international community and move in this direction.”

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UN agency warns of ‘imminent’ famine in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

Afghanistan is at risk of “imminent hunger” with winter approaching and services disrupted by the return to power of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), a UN official warned in an interview with AFP.

Natalia Kanem, director of the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), said via video that the situation in the country was dire.

“It would not be an exaggeration to say” that at least a third of Afghanistan’s population of around 33 million is affected by “imminent hunger,” Kanem warned.

Harsh winters, disrupting the ability to transport supplies to isolated areas of the mountainous country, plus the coronavirus pandemic will aggravate an already complicated situation, she added.

“There is a lot of anxiety over how we’re going to deliver health care, where the next meal is going to come from,” Kanem said.

She also warned that women and girls would bear the worst of it.

“It is urgent, for women and girls in particular who were already suffering. This is one of the countries with the highest death during childbirth and pregnancy rates.

“We cannot underscore enough that even during a transitional period, women and girls have human rights and these are to be respected,” she said.

Kanem repeated calls made by the international community to the IEA and said: “The women of Afghanistan have made clear over years that they want their education, they want their health care, and that they’re also ready, willing and able to design programs and to be able to lead in their communities,” she said.

IEA leaders have assured the international community that they are more moderate than when they ruled previously.

They have promised to change, saying they will respect women’s rights within the framework of Sharia law.

Kanem pointed out that in a country ravaged by decades of conflict, many women, particularly in areas most affected by violence, are the sole breadwinners.

“We’re all anxiously hoping that there will be regularity and ability of delivery of goods” to people in small communities where many of the UNPFA’s staff are women, she said.

“We have said that we want to be able to maintain a functioning health system.

“(It’s) pretty challenging right now with the airport having been closed, with certain professionals who have left the country,” Kanem added.

She warned that if the health system breaks down, that’s going to spell “complete disaster,” but added that for the most part the agency’s family health centers have remained open.

The UN on Wednesday released $45 million in emergency aid to support Afghanistan’s health system.

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IEA calls for foreign airlines to resume flights into Kabul

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(Last Updated On: September 26, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said on Sunday all technical issues at the Kabul Airport have been resolved and foreign airlines can now resume commercial flights into the city.

In a statement issued by the spokesman for the ministry of foreign affairs, Abdul Qahar Balkhi, the IEA stated: “The recent political changes in Afghanistan caused a series of technical issues within the aviation sector due to which international flights to Afghanistan were suspended and many Afghan citizens were stuck outside and unable to return to their homeland.”

“As the problems at Kabul International Airport have been resolved and the airport is fully operational for domestic and international flights, the IEA assures all airlines of its full cooperation and expects all airlines and countries that had previously flown to Kabul to resume their flights as before,” the statement read.

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs once again assures full cooperation on its part.”

This comes after all international commercial flights into Kabul were canceled following the take over of Kabul by the IEA.

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