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US forces and NDS target al-Qaeda in Helmand and Nimroz

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(Last Updated On: December 8, 2020)

US forces and Afghan National Directorate of Security (NDS) launched two raids against al-Qaeda in Helmand and Nimroz provinces over the past several days, killing at least eight operatives and capturing three more, the Long War Journal reported.

According to the report, the US military launched an airstrike on Thursday that targeted a Taliban meeting in Nad Ali district in Helmand province.

At least 40 insurgents were reportedly killed or wounded during the airstrike, including Abdullah Baloch, the Taliban’s purported shadow governor of Farah province.

Eight members of al-Qaeda are also said to have been killed in the Nad Ali airstrike, the Long War Journal reported.

US intelligence officials meanwhile told Long War Journal that Baloch is what is known as a “dual hatted” commander: he leads members of both the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Meanwhile, on Sunday, the NDS captured three al-Qaeda leaders during an operation in the southwestern province of Nimroz. The NDS identified the al-Qaeda leaders as Mustafa, the leader of al-Qaeda’s Amar Bil Marof Affairs, or its prevention of virtue and vice committee, Hafiz Abdul Aziz, and Hayatullah, the Long War Journal reported.

All three are Afghan citizens and have been involved with attacks on the Kamal Khan Dam as well as Zaranj City, the capital of Nimroz province.

According to the NDS, Mustafa and Hafiz Mohammad recently lived in Iran, and carried out terrorist attacks under the leadership of Hafiz Ghulamullah, deputy intelligence head of al-Qaeda in Nimroz.

Long War Journal stated that al-Qaeda leaders and operatives are known to shelter in Iran, and often cross the border to operate inside Afghanistan.

Israel recently killed Abu Mohammad al Masri (Adbullah Ahmed Abdullah), al-Qaeda’s second in command who was wanted by the US government, in an ambush in Tehran, Iran.

Long War Journal reported that despite repeated targeting, killing, and capturing of al-Qaeda leaders and operatives, the Taliban maintains that the terror group does not operate in Afghanistan. The Taliban maintains that al-Qaeda left Afghanistan after the US invasion in 2001.

The Taliban maintains this lie because the February agreement with the United States stipulates that al-Qaeda cannot plot attacks against the West. In exchange, the US agreed to withdraw all forces by April 2021, Long War Journal reported.

The US government has not held the Taliban to account for its support of al-Qaeda.

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Two former US defense secretaries advise against pulling out all troops

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(Last Updated On: March 2, 2021)

Two former US defense secretaries have both said they would advise President Joe Biden against withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan.

This comes amid the Biden administration’s ongoing review of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago in Doha, which stipulates the withdrawal of all foreign troops from the country by May 1.

However, in an interview with Michael O’Hanlon from the Brookings Institution, former defense secretary Mark Esper said the withdrawal deal negotiated with the Taliban was always contingent on conditions to be met by the Taliban.

“We implemented our side of it in good faith, but it’s fair to say the Taliban have not,” Esper said, noting the Taliban have not delivered on any of their key promises, namely a reduction in violence, good faith negotiations with the Afghan government, and a full break with al-Qaeda.

Esper said he would have opposed Trump’s post-election order to reduce U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan to 2,500, which he says has effectively undercut any leverage the U.S. had over the Taliban.

“I made this clear when I was in the administration at the end, I thought we should hold it 4,500 until the conditions on the ground were met.”

Esper said Trump has put Biden in a tough situation and said: “We have to make sure that again, Afghanistan doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorism. And I say that as somebody who wants to get out of there as badly as anyone else.”

Meanwhile, speaking to the Washington Post, Robert Gates, who served under former president Barak Obama, said the “least bad option’ is for the U.S. to stay until the Taliban get the message that the U.S. won’t leave until they get serious about peace.

“My view is that I think the steps the president has taken in terms of hinting that we might not pull the rest of our troops out on the first of May is exactly right. I think that we do need to take into consideration the possibility of having a presence in Afghanistan at roughly the current level, or maybe even slightly more, along with our NATO allies.”

“We have about 2,500 troops there now,” Gates says, and they need to stay, he argues, “for an indefinite period of time, at a minimum until that presence forces the Taliban to realize that they can’t just take all the marbles once we leave.”

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Govt refusing to fall victim to Taliban’s extortion tactics

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(Last Updated On: March 1, 2021)

The Presidential Palace (ARG) stated Monday that neither the Afghan government nor independent sources that fund development projects or provide aid will fall victim to Taliban extortion tactics.

According to ARG, the decision not to pay bribes to Taliban in insecure areas across the country was discussed at a national procurement session on Sunday.

ARG said some villages are being deprived of aid because of the Taliban’s habit of demanding bribes.

ARG also stated that it is not prepared to give Taliban money that is meant to alleviate the plight of the people.

According to ARG out of 11,000 villages across the country that were identified to benefit from government-assisted projects, only 10,000 villages benefitted.

ARG’s statement came on the heels of a Facebook post by First Vice President Amrullah Saleh early Monday who raised the issue after his daily 6.30am security meeting.

He stated that sources of funding for these villages will not be held to ransom by the Taliban in order to gain access to insecure areas.

“This anti-human performance by the Taliban has left a number of villages in the country deprived of aid,” said Saleh.

He said 1,000 villages have not received the necessary aid as government has “faced a security problem and we are not ready to share the bread of the people with blackmail terrorists.”

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Women playing key role in peace talks: Fatima Gailani

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(Last Updated On: March 1, 2021)

Fatima Gailani, a member of the Afghan Republic’s peace negotiating team said on Sunday women play a key role in achieving and sustaining peace and have through history helped with conflict resolution.

Addressing an online panel discussion on ‘Inclusivity and Diversity in the Afghanistan Peace Process’, organized by the Afghan Women’s Educational Center (AWEC) and the UN Women, Gailani said studies conducted in the field of peacebuilding would open a clear window for everyone to better understand the situation and capacities in the country.

The discussion started with the introduction of a study on the active role of women, especially local women, in the Afghanistan peace process and peacebuilding efforts.

Referring to the activities of female members of the negotiating team on working committees, Gailani said the role of these women has been influential and important.

Gailani praised women’s resilience in the face of problems they face and said that through history, Afghan women have played a role in conflict resolution.

According to the State Ministry for Peace, Gailani stressed the important role of women in Islamic countries in the Afghanistan peace process and the importance of their support of Afghan women.

“Peace makes sense with the active presence of women, as human rights and women’s rights, war victims’ and minorities’ rights must be acceptable to all parties and should be preserved in the process.”

She also said the support of the international community was extremely important and valuable for Afghan women.

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