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US forces leave Kandahar Airfield as drawdown continues

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(Last Updated On: May 14, 2021)

U.S. forces have left Kandahar Airfield, a base that was once one of the largest NATO and coalition installations in the country, Afghan and U.S. officials told Stars and Stripes.

The airfield has been transferred to the Afghan security forces, a U.S. defense official said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the matter.

According to Stripes, one official said coalition personnel may remain in Kandahar for “a day or two” to address security concerns. He did not however say exactly when the base was handed over.

Stripes reported that the NATO Resolute Support press office declined to comment on the airfield’s status Thursday while the Afghan Defense Ministry said earlier this week that the handover wouldn’t occur until sometime after Eid-ul-Fitr.

Stripes also reported the U.S. did not hold a handover ceremony at the base, which housed an estimated 30,000 troops and contractors at the height of the war.

According to Stripes, a spokesman for Afghanistan’s 205th Atal Military Corps Khwaja Yahya Alvi, US forces left the base without coordinating with Afghan forces.

He said the move left Afghan officials uncertain whether the U.S. left Tuesday night or Wednesday morning.

“The Americans have vacated their bases and they have left,” Alvi said.

An Afghan security official at the Kandahar airport confirmed that U.S. troops left this week without a ceremony, reported Stripes.

“They left in the night” and there are no more U.S. forces in Kandahar, “not at this moment,” said General Faqir Qowahi, commander of the military side of Kandahar Airport.

Massoud Pashtoon, the facility’s director of civil aviation, also told Stars and Stripes that U.S. troops had left.

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Female teachers concerned about their future

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

Female teachers for grades seven to 12 say they are uncertain about their future as they have been instructed by the Ministry of Education not to return to work.

Many of these teachers say they are the only breadwinners in their families and have asked to return to teaching.

This comes after the Ministry of Education issued a notice calling on male students and male teachers from grades seven to 12 to return to school.

This came into effect on Saturday.

However, the notice did not make mention of female students and teachers, nor did it give any indication of what would happen in future to the hundreds of thousands of secondary school girls.

Khatara, a Grade 12 Pashto subject teacher at the Bibi Sara Khairkhana school in Kabul, said that the Kabul Education Department had asked her not to return to school until further notice, and that the education process for girls in Grades 7 and above had stopped.

Khatara, who is her family’s only breadwinner, has been a teacher at the school for 15 years. However, she is now struggling financially and has called on education ministry officials to allow female teachers to return to work.

“If an educated woman is not represented in society like a woman doctor, then who would treat women? If this issue is not addressed, there will be an education crisis in the country,” said Khatara, the school teacher.

Family members of Khatara are worried about what their future will entail if the family’s only breadwinner loses her job.

“We call on the Islamic Emirate to allow women to continue their work. Many women are their family’s only breadwinners,” said Basharatullah, Khatara’s brother.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s Cultural Commision at the Ministry of Information and Culture said on Saturday that they are working on a way to resume the process of education for women and girls in the country.

Meanwhile, the United Nations Children’s Fund on Saturday welcomed the move to reopen secondary schools in Afghanistan, but stressed that girls must not be left out

“We are deeply worried, however, that many girls may not be allowed back at this time,” said UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore in a statement.

She said it is critical for all girls to resume their education and that female teachers need to resume work.

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UN chief urges action to prevent economic collapse in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

UN Secretary General Antonio Guterres on Saturday called on the international community to urgently inject some cash into Afghanistan, saying it would be disastrous if the country’s economy collapsed.

In an interview with Al Jazeera, Guterres said currently “millions and millions of people (are) on the verge of dying because of hunger”.

Should the economy collapse, “it would be a total disaster; it would be lots of people dying and I believe a massive outflow into the neighboring countries with horrible consequences for the stability of those countries, so I think it’s very important to avoid that collapse.

“I’ve been saying that humanitarian aid is essential but at the same time it’s necessary, and of course there are ways to do so even in respect for international law, it’s essential to inject some cash to allow the Afghan economy to breathe and to avoid the kind of collapse that would have devastating consequences,” he said.

Guterres’ statement comes amid a cash flow crisis in Afghanistan. Essentially a dollarized nation under the former government, weekly shipments of US dollars stopped the day the Islamic Emirate took over Kabul – on August 15.

Since then, severe weekly limits have been imposed by banks on cash withdrawals for individuals, foreign reserves have been frozen, and the International Monetary Fund and World Bank also stopped loans.

Guterres said: “It’s our duty to do everything possible to support the Afghan people and to help create the conditions for those concerns that everybody has about terrorism, about human rights, about inclusivity, to materialize.”

He also stated that the “situation is unpredictable” but added the UN is working with the Islamic Emirate to allow for humanitarian aid to be distributed to the people.

He said that is would be a “disaster if terrorist organizations could operate again from Afghanistan.”

Guterres also noted that it was important for the Islamic Emirate to “understand the importance of an inclusive government that takes into account the diversity of the different groups [in the country]” and to respect basic human rights.

Asked about what he thought went wrong in Afghanistan, Guterres said the first problem was the “idea that the Afghan people can be ruled from outside.”

He said the British and the former Soviet Union had both tried to do this in the past, but both had failed.

The Afghan people are “very proud and they have lots of problems among themselves but they have even more problems with the idea that they can be dominated from the outside”, he said.

He also said he felt there had been too much “military action and not enough support to building institutions.”

According to him, the former Afghan leaders were divided – singling out the two past elections that had both been contested.

He said the election system adopted for Afghanistan “that was a unitary system was not the most adequate for a country that is so decentralized”.

“The truth is that there was a huge dysfunctionality in the government and we have seen it in relations of the president; and the international community looked at it without any capacity to really allow things to improve and so all these fragilities accumulated and in the end what we had, and we had it in a very chaotic way that nobody was forecasting.

“I don’t know what’s going to happen; as I said the situation is unpredictable but i think that there is at least a part of the leadership of the Taliban (Islamic Emirate) that would like to have Afghanistan as a country recognized by the international community and would be ready to pay a price for that,” he said.

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Saudi FM in India on 3-day visit, expected to discuss Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 19, 2021)

Foreign Minister of Saudi Arabia Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud arrived in India on Saturday on a three-day visit during which he is expected to discuss the situation in Afghanistan with Indian leaders.

According to the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), Al Saud will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar on Sunday and meet with Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Monday.

“H.H. Prince Faisal Bin Farhan Al Saud, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, arrived in New Delhi today evening,” MEA spokesperson Arindam Bagchi tweeted.

People familiar with the visit said Afghanistan is expected to be a major focus of the talks between Jaishankar and Al Saud, NDTV reported.

India’s Chief of Army Staff Gen MM Naravane visited Saudi Arabia in December last in the first-ever visit by a head of the 1.3 million-strong army to the strategically important Gulf nation.

Naravane held extensive talks with senior Saudi military officials in the hope of enhancing bilateral defence cooperation.

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