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US rejects claims its pushing for interim government in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: January 13, 2021)

US Chargé d’Affaires to Kabul Ross Wilson said Wednesday afternoon that the United States has not advocated for an interim government nor is it advocating for one.

“We have not advocated, and the United States is not advocating, an interim government,” Wilson tweeted.

He said the United States is committed to bringing about an end to conflict in Afghanistan through a political settlement that ensures the country remains sovereign, unified and democratic, is at peace with itself and its neighbors and can preserve gains made over the last 19 years.

He stated that the first phase of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations in Doha constituted an important step forward, “but much remains to be done”.

“The United States remains firm in its call for an immediate reduction of violence and ceasefire,” he said.

Wilson also stated that he had spoken with the US Special Representative for Afghanistan Reconciliation Zalmay Khalilzad and that he has “and will continue to talk with Afghans about the need to accelerate the talks in Doha and solicited from those we have met their ideas, as well as their concerns.”

“The outcomes of Afghanistan Peace Negotiations are up to Afghans and we believe those outcomes should reflect the wishes and aspirations of the Afghan people,” he said.

Mention was first made about an interim government early last week when sources stated President Ashraf Ghani refused to meet with Khalilzad in Kabul for this very reason.

Sources stated that Khalilzad was urging a shift to an interim government but that Ghani was opposed to the idea.

On Sunday some Afghan politicians said that Ghani has cultivated new “friendships” with some of his critics in order to avoid an interim government and to stay in power.

This comes after Ghani appointed Mohammad Mohaqiq, head of the Wahdat-i-Islami Party, as his senior political and military adviser and introduced Rahila Dostum as a member of the Wolesi Jirga (Upper House of Parliament).

Mohaqiq’s appointment comes after a reported “cold shoulder” in the past after not having been invited to the Presidential Palace for any meetings.

“All political parties think that an interim government should be established. If Ghani thinks that he will be in power for four years it may be a reason for the appointments,” said Sattar Murad, a leading member of Jamayat-e-Islami party.

Sources close to Mohaqiq said that the move to appoint him was based on his abilities and role in the peace process.

The Presidential Palace on Saturday vowed to retain Afghanistan as a republic and only hand over power to an elected successor.

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Magnitude 5.6 quake hits western Afghanistan, killing more than 20

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

An earthquake rocked western Afghanistan on Monday, killing more than 20 people and destroying hundreds of homes, local authorities said.

The 5.6 magnitude tremor shook the western province of Badghis, bordering Turkmenistan, in the afternoon, reducing brick homes to rubble, according to photos shared by local authorities, Reuters reported.

“Unfortunately, our initial reports show that 26 people, including five women and four children, have been killed and four others injured,” said Baz Mohammad Sarwari, the director of Information and Culture of the Badghis provincial administration.

“The Mujahideen have reached to some of the affected areas, but Badghis is a mountainous province, the number of casualties might go up,” he added, referring to Taliban fighters, and adding that heavy rain was also lashing the area.

Mullah Janan Saeqe, head of the Emergency Operations Centre of the Ministry of State for Emergency Affairs, confirmed the death toll and said more than 700 houses had been damaged, Reuters reported.

Sanullah Sabit, the head of the nursing unit at the main hospital in Badghis’ capital said they had received five patients injured in the quake, mostly with broken bones and fractures.

The quake was at a depth of 30 km (18.64 miles), according to the European-Mediterranean Seismological Centre.

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Pakistan fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan: officials

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(Last Updated On: January 18, 2022)

Military officials in the eastern zone told Ariana News on Monday that clashes broke out between Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan (IEA) and Pakistani forces on Sunday night in the Sarkano district of Kunar province, close to the Durand Line.

Officials said that Pakistani forces fired 21 rockets towards Afghanistan, but that no casualties were reported.

Hamdullah Hamdard, the spokesman for the 1st Border Battalion of the Eastern Zone, said that IEA forces also fired several rockets back at Pakistani forces.

“Clashes erupted between Taliban (IEA) and Pakistani forces in Sarkano district of Kunar province. The clashes continued until 9:00 pm. The cause of the clashes was because of the attack by Pakistani forces. In response, Taliban (IEA) forces also fired rockets towards them, and maybe they suffered casualties. Our forces and people did not suffer casualties,” added Hamdard.

IEA officials said recently they are establishing 32 new check posts along the Durand Line to counter Pakistani attacks.

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China’s birthrate falls to lowest level in 61 years

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(Last Updated On: January 17, 2022)

China’s birthrate has fallen to its lowest level in six decades, barely outnumbering deaths in 2021 despite major government efforts to increase population growth and stave off a demographic crisis.

Across China, 10.62 million babies were born in 2021, a rate of 7.52 per thousand people, the national bureau of statistics said on Monday.

In the same period 10.14 million deaths were recorded, a mortality rate of 7.18 per thousand, producing a population growth rate of just 0.34 per thousand head of population, the Guardian reported.

The rate of growth is the lowest since 1960, and adds to the findings of last May’s once-a-decade census, which found an average annual rise of 0.53%, down from 0.57% reported from 2000 to 2010.

China, like much of east Asia, is in the grip of a population crisis, with lowering birthrates, and predictions of imminent negative population growth and an ageing population. Monday’s figures showed the proportion of over-60s in China rose from 18.7% in 2020 to 18.9%.

Beijing has announced major reforms to address the decline, including raising the retirement age. A three-child policy has replaced the two-child policy that was introduced in 2016 and had sparked a slight increase in births before falling again.

The high cost of living, delayed marriages and lack of social mobility are frequently cited as contributing factors to young Chinese people’s reluctance to have children.

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