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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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Kabul jolted by powerful explosion

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

A powerful explosion tore across Kabul on Tuesday night in what appears to have been a targeted attack on a convoy of vehicles belonging to the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

The incident happened just before 10pm on the Airport Road in the city.

According to sources, the convoy was targeted in PD15 in Charahi Shahid on Airport Road.

There have been no reports of casualties so far but damage was caused to buildings in the area.

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CENTCOM chief in midst of ‘detailed planning’ for counterterrorism ops

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

Carrying out airstrikes against terrorist hideouts in Afghanistan without a US troop presence in the country will be difficult but “not impossible”, the commander of US Central Command General Frank McKenzie said on Tuesday. 

Speaking to the House Armed Services Committee, McKenzie said he is in the midst of “detailed planning” for options for so-called “over the horizon” forces, or forces positioned elsewhere in the region that could continue counterterrorism strikes in Afghanistan. 

He said he plans to give Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin those options by the end of the month.

“If you leave Afghanistan and you want to go back in to conduct these kinds of operations, there are three things you need to do: you need to find the target, you need to fix the target, and you need to be able to finish the target,” McKenzie said. 

“The first two require heavy intelligence support. If you’re out of the country, and you don’t have the ecosystem that we have there now, it will be harder to do that. It is not impossible to do that.”

McKenzie’s testimony comes almost a week after President Joe Biden announced he was withdrawing all US troops from Afghanistan and that they would all be home by September 11 – the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks on the United States. 

According to The Hill, Biden’s decision came despite repeated statements from US military officials that the Taliban was not yet upholding its end of a deal made during the Trump administration to reduce violence and break from al-Qaeda, as well as warnings about the potential for chaos in Afghanistan that could allow an al-Qaeda resurgence should US troops withdraw.

Meanwhile, McKenzie’s comments about the difficulty of intelligence gathering without a troop presence echo comments last week from CIA Director William Burns, who told senators the ability to collect intelligence on threats in Afghanistan will “diminish” with a US military withdrawal, the Hill reported.

On Tuesday, McKenzie also said he continues to have “grave doubts” about the Taliban’s reliability in upholding its commitments under the deal signed last year.

McKenzie declined to tell lawmakers how he advised Biden as the president deliberated the withdrawal, but said he had “multiple opportunities” to provide Biden with his perspective.

The Hill reported that speaking broadly about options to continue strikes once US troops leave, McKenzie said surveillance drones could be positioned in a place where they can reach Afghanistan “in a matter of minutes” or ”perhaps much further away.”

“We will look at all the countries in the region, our diplomats will reach out, and we’ll talk about places where we could base those resources,” he said. 

“Some of them may be very far away, and then there would be a significant bill for those types of resources because you’d have to cycle a lot of them in and out. That is all doable, however.”

Right now, McKenzie added, the United States does not have any basing agreements with Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan or other countries surrounding Afghanistan.

McKenzie also said there are a “variety of ways” to strike targets, including long-range precision fire missiles, manned raids or manned aircraft.

“There are problems with all three of those options, but there’s also opportunities with all three of those options,” he said.

“I don’t want to make light of it. I don’t want to put on rose-colored glasses and say it’s going to be easy to do. I can tell you that the U.S. military can do just about anything. And we’re examining this problem with all of our resources right now to find a way to do it in the most intelligent, risk-free manner that we can.”

US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley are also scheduled to brief the full House and Senate behind closed doors later Tuesday on Biden’s plan for Afghanistan.

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Ghani launches major development program of 1,000 projects

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(Last Updated On: April 20, 2021)

President Ashraf Ghani on Tuesday officially launched the start of construction of 1,000 infrastructure projects across the country.

Addressing an event to mark Good Governance and Human Resources Week, Ghani stated that the projects would be implemented in Herat, Kandahar, Balkh, and Nangarhar provinces at a cost of 5.7 billion AFN.

According to Ghani, development projects such as the construction of dams, roads, and bridges are crucial for improving the lives of people.

“Completion of these 1,000 projects is important for the trust of people and will be implemented across Afghanistan. Every citizen has a fundamental right to have access to services so that we can fulfill the government’s commitments to meet the challenges of the people,” Ghani said.

Highlighting the increasing violence in Afghanistan, Ghani claimed that the Taliban still continue to destroy infrastructure in Afghanistan.

According to him, the group has damaged infrastructure in Afghanistan worth $1 billion.

“The Taliban has destroyed dozens of bridges and culverts,” he said.

Ghani called on the Taliban to plant “flowers” instead of detonating mines.

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