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US media outlets lobby Biden, Congress for visas for Afghan journalists

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(Last Updated On: July 22, 2021)

A coalition of US news organisations on Tuesday wrote two separate letters to the US President Joe Biden and Congress calling on them to grant special immigration visas (SIVs) to Afghan journalists and support staff who worked for American media organizations.

The letters were jointly sent by twenty four American media outlets, who called for SIVs to be approved for Afghan journalists, translators, support staff, and their families.

“We are doing what we can as a private organization to support our current and former colleagues in Afghanistan, but without US government assistance the people are facing grave harm in Afghanistan,” one letter stated.

“They and their families face the same threat of retaliation from the Taliban, which views the American press as a legitimate target. The Taliban has long conducted a campaign of threatening and killing journalists,” the letter read, as reported by Axios.

“Without the assistance of the U.S. Government, many of these Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lent their labor and skills to making certain the world knew what was going on in their country while U.S. troops were there for the past twenty years.”

Arab News meanwhile reported that the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) drafted joint letters with numerous media outlets on Wednesday to urge the US government to provide emergency visas to Afghans who assisted American forces during the past two decades of war.

The steady exodus of US and NATO troops over the past few months has increased fears that the Taliban will take power again leaving Afghan interpreters, journalists, contractors, and support staff, who were previously protected by US and NATO forces, susceptible to retaliation.

The CPJ letters were addressed to Biden, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, and US Congressional leaders such as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Arab News reported.

“The need for action is urgent,” the letters said. “Afghans face grievous harm and death for having done nothing more than lending their labor and skills to make certain the world knew what was going on in their country. US troops have been there for the past 20 years.”

Last week, Danish Siddiqui, a Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist from India, who worked for Reuters, was killed while covering the clashes between Afghan security forces and Taliban forces near the Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan.

On Tuesday, the US Pentagon said it has completed more than 95 percent of the entire withdrawal process. Approximately 17,000 pieces of equipment that will not be left to the Afghan military have been handed over to the Defense Logistics Agency for destruction. The US has officially handed over seven facilities to the Afghan military, including Bagram Air Base.

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IEA excluded from Tehran meeting on Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries, plus Russia, is scheduled to start Wednesday in Tehran without the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA), which has not been invited.

A spokesman for Iran’s foreign minister has said that Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi will give an opening address and that foreign ministers of Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and Pakistan will attend the meeting in person, and the foreign ministers of China and Russia will attend the meeting virtually.

On Monday an IEA official said they had asked Iran for details on the meeting but had so far not received anything.

According to IRNA news agency, the UN Secretary General António Guterres will also issue a message to this meeting.

Foreign ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh said at a press conference on Tuesday: “The meeting of foreign ministers of Afghanistan’s neighboring countries will be held tomorrow with the participation of six neighboring countries, plus Russia.”

He also said that the ambassadors of the participating countries will be present.

Khatibzadeh said a statement would be made once consensus among neighboring countries has been reached.

“Tomorrow, the focus will be on fulfilling the will of the Afghan people and the future of this country,” Khatibzadeh added.

Bahadar Aminian, Iranian ambassador in Kabul said Monday that economic and security problems and establishing an inclusive government will be discussed at the Tehran meeting.

“Countries in the region in Tehran meeting will emphasize responsibility about security, economic stability and an inclusive government,” said Aminian.

The Iranian envoy added that participants will also discuss sending humanitarian aid for Afghans and talk about development projects in Afghanistan.

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US was losing war to IEA so it turned to negotiations: Khalilzad

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(Last Updated On: October 26, 2021)

The United States was losing the war to the Taliban (IEA) so it chose negotiations as an alternative, said the former US special representative for Afghanistan Zalmay Khalilzad in an interview with CBS News.

According to him, Washington tried many times to strengthen its position on the battleground but it failed.

“We did not defeat them. In fact, they were making progress on the battlefield even as we were negotiating with them. And the reason we negotiated with them was because militarily things were not going as well as we would have liked. We were losing ground each year,” he said.

Khalilzad blamed former Afghan president Ashraf Ghani for the disintegration of Afghanistan’s security sector, saying his escape triggered the chaos i seen in Kabul as the US withdrew its troops.

“But I believe the biggest difficulty was that President Ghani and a few other Afghan leaders did not believe that we were serious about withdrawal for a long time, and they liked the status quo compared to a political settlement in which they might not have the jobs that they had and- and the resources that the US was providing would not be there.

“They preferred the status quo to a political settlement. And then when it became clear that the U.S. was leaving, then they- they miscalculated the effects of-of the continuing war. They were not serious about the political settlement,” he said.

and did not take into account the real situation in the country.

Khalilzad believes that the US counterterrorism mission in the country succeeded as “the terrorist threat from Afghanistan is not what it used to be” and al-Qaeda has been “devastated.”

He said the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) is living up to its agreement regarding al-Qaeda stating “we are convinced that they are not allowing- they are not allowing plotting and planning operations by al-Qaeda against the United States.

“We always would like to see more from the Taliban (IEA), from almost any country that we deal with on this issue. We would like them to do more. We would like to expel- to- to get them to expel any al-Qaeda member who was there.”

“We should press them to do more on the issue of terrorism,” he added.

Asked if he knew where the leader of al-Qaeda, Ayman al-Zawahiri was, Khalilzad said: “Well, the [UN] report that I have seen indicates he could be in Afghanistan or adjacent territories.”

However, he said the IEA members he negotiated with in Doha said they did not know where al-Zawahiri was.

He went on to say he did not necessarily believe this and said: “That’s why it’s very important not to take their word for it, in terms of what they say or what they commit to. That’s why we are saying there has to be over the horizon monitoring of the commitments on terrorism and the ability to strike if we see plotting and planning going on.”

On October 18, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced that Khalilzad had stepped down as a special envoy for Afghanistan.

Khalilzad said that he made the decision to resign at a time when Washington is beginning a new phase of policy toward Kabul following the withdrawal from Afghanistan in August.

“I was representing the United States to carry out the president’s direction. But I believe the biggest difficulty was that President Ghani and a few other Afghan leaders did not believe that we were serious about withdrawal for a long time, and they like the status quo compared to a political settlement in which they might not have the jobs that they had and- and the resources that the US was providing would not be there.

“They preferred the status quo to a political settlement, he said.

Khalilzad also stated that he would have liked to have seen a negotiated settlement but implied that Ghani did not give this a chance.

He said Afghanistan was close to his heart, especially as he had been born in the country.

“I was born there, and I have spent a lot of my life on behalf of the United States focused on Afghanistan. I helped them with their constitution. I helped them with their first election. I established an American university in-in Afghanistan.

“I was very encouraged by the first years, the enthusiasm, the hopefulness that I observed there,” he said adding that the “political elite of the country made terrible mistakes”.

He said they “allowed corruption, misused elections, democracy, and didn’t treat their security forces perhaps the way they should have been treated.

“And we faced the- the circumstances we did.”

In conclusion he said: “Now it’s time for the Afghans to take ownership with non-military assistance, unless we are threatened, then our military should be in play. But we should not abandon Afghanistan, turn our back on it — use our influence as a country with enormous capability and influence to encourage the emergence of an Afghanistan that the Afghans aspire for.”

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Iranian embassy confirms meeting, outlines agenda

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(Last Updated On: October 25, 2021)

Bahadar Aminian, Iranian ambassador in Kabul said Monday that economic and security problems and establishing an inclusive government will be discussed at the Tehran meeting on Afghanistan.

This comes as Iran prepares to host a meeting on Afghanistan on Wednesday.

Aminian said that foreign ministers from Iran, Pakistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan and China will attend the meeting.

“Countries in the region in Tehran meeting will emphasize responsibility about security, economic stability and an inclusive government,” said Aminian.

The Iranian envoy added that participants will also discuss sending humanitarian aid for Afghans and talk about development projects in Afghanistan.

“Not only is aid necessary for Afghans, but long term projects for development are also important for Afghans to preserve their independence,” he added.

China’s foreign minister will deliver an online speech, while Russia has confirmed it will be present.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) said that they asked Iran for details but have not received any so far.

“In the past decades, rulers of the country [Afghanistan] have not taken responsibility for independence, dignity and security. We hope that the current people in Afghanistan will solve the problems,” said Aminian.

This comes after the former government accused Iran of interfering in Afghanistan’s internal affairs. Now however the Iranian envoy criticized the former government and called on the IEA to be more responsible.

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