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US lawmaker claims Biden looking to keep counter-terrorism troops in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: March 25, 2021)

The Biden administration is reportedly looking to keep U.S. troops in Afghanistan past a May 1 deadline while exploring a deal in which the Taliban would allow a U.S. counter-terrorism force to remain as they confront their Islamic State foes, a top U.S. lawmaker said on Wednesday.

Reuters reported that House of Representatives Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith’s comments provided new details of U.S. President Joe Biden’s possible decision on the exit plan.

Biden has not however made a decision yet on whether all troops will leave Afghanistan by the May 1 deadline. 

In a press conference in Brussels on Monday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken confirmed this and said he was at the NATO foreign ministers meeting (Tuesday and Wednesday) to listen, learn and consult with allies on the issue. 

Biden did however say in a recent interview with NBC News that to meet the May 1 deadline would be “tough”.

The deadline is part of the deal signed in February last year between the US and the Taliban. A deal that Biden inherited from former president Donald Trump. 

Meanwhile, speaking in an online Foreign Policy magazine forum this week, Smith said he spoke to national security adviser Jake Sullivan and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin about the withdrawal.

“I think there’s a general feeling that May 1 is too soon, just logistically,” he said. “We’ve got … closer to 3,500 troops in Afghanistan. Our allies have around 7,000.”

“You cannot pull out 10,000-plus troops in any sort of way in six weeks,” he said. He added the administration’s “job one” is talking to the Taliban about allowing the U.S.-led force to remain for a little longer, Reuters reported.

He noted the Taliban demand that all foreign troops leave. If that remains their position, he said, “I don’t see that we have much choice but to leave,” including counter-terrorism forces.

“What the Biden administration wants to do is negotiate past May 1 and then at least explore the option: has the Taliban changed their mind as they … are fighting ISIS (Daesh) almost as much as they are fighting the Afghan government,” Smith continued.

“Might their position change about a U.S. presence? I doubt it. But I think the administration is thinking it’s worth the conversation,” he said.

While the Taliban has been fighting Daesh in Afghanistan, experts say, Islamic State remains a serious threat.

The Taliban have indicated they will resume attacking foreign forces if Biden fails to meet the May 1 deadline, and some experts doubt they would allow any U.S. force to stay.

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Govt rolls out curfew in 31 provinces to curb Taliban activities

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(Last Updated On: July 24, 2021)

The Afghan government announced Saturday it has imposed a curfew in 31 provinces around the country in a bid to curb Taliban activity.

According to the Ministry of Interior’s deputy spokesman Ahmad Zia Zia, the curfew will come into effect immediately and will be enforced from 10pm to 4am. 

Kabul, Nangarhar and Panjshir provinces are the only three that have been exempt. 

“Based on the security [situation] officials announced a curfew in 31 provinces; the decision was taken to prevent Taliban activities,” said Zia.

Meanwhile, residents of Kapisa province said that a number of families have been displaced due to clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts.

“Due to the war between ANDSF and Taliban in Nijrab, Alasay and Tagab districts, many of the residents of the districts have been displaced. We want to know what government intends to do about this,” said Shamila Mashal, a civil society activist.

In addition to these districts, heavy clashes have been ongoing between ANDSF and Taliban in Ghazni, Wardak, Takhar, Kunduz, Kunar, Laghman, Herat, Helmand and Nimruz provinces.

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Commander of US, NATO forces in Afghanistan is stepping down

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(Last Updated On: July 12, 2021)

The commander of U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan General Scott Miller is stepping down Monday in a move that marks the symbolic end of the U.S. military mission in the country.

Miller has commanded the military coalition in Afghanistan since August 2018, longer than any previous commanding general in that position and will turn over command of U.S. Forces Afghanistan to the commander of U.S. Central Command, Marine General Frank McKenzie.

NBC reported that as the head of CENTCOM, McKenzie already had authority over Afghanistan and many of the neighboring countries. He will continue to work from CENTCOM headquarters in Tampa, Florida, and his forward headquarters at Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar.

Miller is expected to retire, three defense officials said, NBC reported.

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Biden: US military mission in Afghanistan will end Aug 31

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(Last Updated On: July 9, 2021)

The United States’ military mission in Afghanistan will officially end on August 31, US President Joe Biden announced Thursday during an update on the troop withdrawal process.

Biden stated a Taliban takeover of Afghanistan is “not inevitable” because the Afghan military not only outnumbers the Taliban but is much better equipped. 

He also said the US intelligence community’s recent warning that Afghanistan’s government is on the verge of collapse is “wrong”. 

Biden’s remarks during a press briefing at the White House came after he and Vice President Kamala Harris met with national security leaders for an update on the troop withdrawal process.

He also said: “We did not go to Afghanistan to nation-build, and it is the right and the responsibility of Afghan people alone to decide their future and how they want to run their country.” 

Biden announced that the US is implementing an evacuation plan to withdraw Afghans who assisted the American military.

Biden said Washington would begin flights this month to relocate Afghan interpreters and other personnel who aided the US military – as well as their families – to third-party countries while they await expedited visa processing to move to the United States.

“There is a home for you in the United States if you so choose, and we will stand with you just as you stood with us,” Biden said.

He noted that the US has already approved 2,500 special immigrant visas for Afghans who assisted the US military but said that “up until now, fewer than half have exercised their right to do that.”

There are an estimated 18,000 Afghans who qualify for the special immigrant visas.

 

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