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US Secretary of State’s press statement on Afghanistan political impasse

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(Last Updated On: March 24, 2020)

The United States Secretary of State expressed in a press statement, 23rd March 2020, that the US deeply regretted that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah had informed Secretary Pompeo that they had been unable to agree on an inclusive government.

The statement in its opening note says, “The United States is proud of our partnership with the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan and the Afghan people, and admires what Afghanistan has achieved since 2001. We have forged a deep bond, especially with Afghan security forces, through shared sacrifice in responding to threats to international peace and security since 2001.”

The statement underlines that the national priority the United States attaches to help bring about a political settlement to forty years of the devastating war, Secretary Pompeo came to Kabul Monday with an urgent message and spoke to the nation’s leaders to impress upon them the need to compromise for the sake of the Afghan people.

“The United States deeply regrets that Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and former Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah have informed Secretary Pompeo that they have been unable to agree on an inclusive government that can meet the challenges of governance, peace, and security, and provide for the health and welfare of Afghan citizens. The United States is disappointed in them and what their conduct means for Afghanistan and our shared interests. Their failure has harmed U.S.-Afghan relations and, sadly, dishonors those Afghan, Americans, and Coalition partners who have sacrificed their lives and treasure in the struggle to build a new future for this country,” the statement writes.

The statement further says, “Because this leadership failure poses a direct threat to U.S. national interests, effective immediately, the U.S. government will initiate a review of the scope of our cooperation with Afghanistan. Among other steps, we are today announcing a responsible adjustment to our spending in Afghanistan and immediately reducing assistance by $1 billion this year. We are prepared to reduce by another $1 billion in 2021. We will also initiate a review of all of our programs and projects to identify additional reductions and reconsider our pledges to future donor conferences for Afghanistan. We have made clear to the leadership that we will not back security operations that are politically motivated, nor support political leaders who order such operations or those who advocate for or support the parallel government.”

It is also said in the statement, “The United States remains convinced that a political settlement is the only solution to the conflict. We note that Afghan leaders are acting inconsistently with their commitments under the Joint Declaration, chiefly failing to establish an inclusive national team to participate in intra-Afghan negotiations or take practical steps to facilitate prisoner releases by both sides as a confidence-building measure to reach a political settlement and achieve a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire. We are proceeding with the conditions-based withdrawal of our forces in accordance with the U.S.-Taliban agreement.”

The statement, however, highlights that the United States is prepared to support these efforts and revisit the reviews initiated today if Afghan leaders choose to form an inclusive government that can provide security and participates in the peace process.

“The United States is not abandoning our partnership with Afghanistan, or our commitment to support the Afghan security forces, but reviewing the scope of our cooperation given the irresponsible actions of Afghan leaders. To illustrate America’s steadfast commitment to the Afghan people, the United States will be providing $15 million in assistance to help combat the spread of the coronavirus in Afghanistan,” the statement concludes.

Source: https://www.state.gov/on-the-political-impasse-in-afghanistan/

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American troops down to 2,500: US acting defense secretary

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

The number of US forces in Afghanistan has dropped to 2,500, US acting Defense Secretary Christopher Miller announced on Friday in a statement released by the US Department of State.

“Today, US force levels in Afghanistan have reached 2,500. Directed by President (Donald) Trump, and as I announced on November 17, this drawdown brings US forces in the country to their lowest levels since 2001,” Miller said in the statement.

Miller also welcomed ongoing peace talks in Doha.

“Today, the United States is closer than ever to ending nearly two decades of war and welcoming in an Afghan-owned, Afghan-led peace process to achieve a political settlement and a permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” Miller added.

According to Miller, the remaining troops with commanders will have the duty to keep the US, Americans, and their interests safe.

Miller said that the United States will continue its mission in Afghanistan and will continue supporting Afghan forces to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor terrorists.

“Working alongside our NATO allies and partners, the United States will continue to execute both our counterterrorism mission and the train, advise and assist mission in support of Afghan Security Forces working to secure peace in their country. Continued fulfillment of these two complementary missions seeks to ensure that Afghanistan is never again used to harbor those who seek to bring harm to the United States of America,” said Miller.

Miller also said that the force reduction is an indication of the United States’ continued support towards the Afghan peace process and commitments made in both the US -Taliban agreement and the US -Afghanistan Joint Declaration.

According to Miller the further reduction of US troop levels to zero by May of 2021, remains conditions-based.

Miller also called on both the Afghan government and the Taliban to demonstrate their commitment to advance the peace process.

The United States will continue to take any action necessary to ensure the protection of our homeland, our citizens, and our interests, Miller said.

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Powerful earthquake in Indonesia kills at least 3, injures 24

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

At least three people have died and 24 others wounded after a 6.2-magnitude earthquake hit Indonesia early Friday, the country’s National Disaster Mitigation Agency (BNPB) said.

The earthquake occurred at 1:28 am local time in Indonesia’s Sulawesi island and was followed by several aftershocks that rattled Majene city in the province.

The quake epicenter was six kilometers (3.73 miles) of the city at a depth of 10 kilometers.

The Indonesian Antara News agency reported that around 62 houses and a public health center have been damaged.

According to the report, the earthquake also triggered three landslides along the Majene-Mamuju road in the Sulawesi province.

Earthquakes regularly hit various parts of Indonesia since the country lies on the Circum-Pacific Belt, also known as the Ring of Fire, where several tectonic plates meet and cause frequent volcanic and seismic activities.

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WHO team in Wuhan to probe Coronavirus origin

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(Last Updated On: January 15, 2021)

The World Health Organization (WHO) has sent a team of scientists to China’s Wuhan, the epicenter of the Covid-19 pandemic, to probe the origins of the Coronavirus, WHO confirmed.

The WHO stated in a tweet a 13-member team of expert has arrived in Wuhan on Thursday. 

“The international team of 13 scientists examining the origins of the virus that causes COVID19 arrived in Wuhan, China, today,” WHO tweeted.

The organization stated that the experts will begin their work immediately during the two weeks quarantine protocol for international travelers.

The WHO added that 13 team members have arrived in Wuhan, but two others have been tested positive for Covid-19 before leaving Singapore to China.

“Two scientists are still in Singapore completing tests for COVID-19. All team members had multiple negative PCR and antibody tests for COVID-19 in their home countries prior to traveling,” the organization said.

“They were tested again in #Singapore and were all negative for PCR. But two members tested positive for IgM antibodies. They are being retested for both IgM and IgG antibodies.”

In early 2020, the virus spread in the city of Wuhan in China’s Hubei province, and soon the virus spread worldwide.

China has sought to keep information about the spread of the virus under tight control. The country has also punished people for publishing information. The Chinese officials allowed the international team to Wuhan after months of diplomatic disputing.

In December last year, a Chinese journalist Zhang Zhan was sentenced to four years in jail for reporting the spread of the virus from Wuhan. 

Zhang Zhan, 37, was found guilty of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble,” a charge used by the Chinese government against the critics.

According to a tally by the Johns Hopkins University, so far, 93,075,435 people around the world have been infected with the virus and 1,993,164 people have died of the virus.

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