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US still mulling type of footprint needed to secure airport and embassy

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(Last Updated On: May 26, 2021)

Pentagon Press Secretary John F. Kirby said in a press conference on Tuesday that discussions are still being held on the type of U.S. footprint needed in Afghanistan in order to protect American diplomats in the country.

In answer to a question about security at the Hamid Karzai International Airport in Kabul in order to keep an embassy presence for not only the United States but also for other countries after withdrawal, Kirby said the U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin “recognizes the key hub that is the airport there in Kabul and the impact that will have not just (on) the United States but other nations in terms of their decisions about their own diplomatic presence.”

“So it is certainly a factor that is being brought into discussions and deliberations inside our government about what kind of a footprint would be required to help protect the work of our diplomats.

“The president (Joe Biden) has been clear that we will maintain a diplomatic presence in Afghanistan going forward. And again, as I said, that means having that airport be accessible and open. And we’re just not there yet in terms of what that looks like going forward,” he said.

While no decision had yet been taken, he said “clearly a measure of security at the Kabul Airport will be an important factor as we, again, pursue this new bilateral relationship with Afghanistan.”

Meanwhile, reacting to Republican Mitch McConnell criticizing the withdrawal of troops decision, Kirby said Biden has been very clear that our troops accomplished the mission for which they were sent to Afghanistan.

“And that was to prevent that country from being used a safe haven for terrorist attacks on our homeland and there hasn’t been another attack on the homeland emanating from Afghanistan since 9/11.

“So, the president believes the mission has been completed and he’s given us a new one. And that is to conduct a safe and orderly deliberate withdrawal from Afghanistan and that’s what we’re focused on right now. And so, the enemy at play here are terrorist attacks and terrorist groups that would do us harm.

“And again, the terrorist threat emanating from Afghanistan has been diminished. Not extinguished by any means but diminished. And that is also why the president has directed us to make sure that we can put in place an over the horizon capability so that we can continue to protect Americans from terrorist attacks emanating from that country and we’re going to do that, we’re working hard on that.”

Asked again by the number of troops in Afghanistan, Kirby said the U.S. could not reveal that information for security reasons stating “we are no longer talking about specific numbers in Afghanistan for all the reasons that I’ve covered with you guys before and that’s to maintain a measure of operational security.

“And so, we have definitely curtailed the delivery of some data with respect to Afghanistan for those reasons.”

Meanwhile, asked to clarify the term over-the-horizon counterterrorism capability, Kirby said the U.S. was “still putting the pieces together of exactly what” this would mean.

“I will add that — and you heard the secretary say this in Brussels, we already do have some over-the-horizon counter terrorism capabilities just by dent of forces we already have in the region, and other long-range capabilities that we have outside the region.

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World leaders call for peace, stability in Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

On day 2 of the UN General Assembly, world leaders called for peace and stability in Afghanistan and voiced their concerns about attacks being launched from Afghanistan.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez said in his address to the general assembly that the international community needs to work with Afghanistan’s neighbors in order to prevent instability in the region.

“Regarding Afghanistan, we’ll have to start working with neighbouring countries in this new context to face the humanitarian crisis and prevent more instability in the region.

“We cannot lower our guard in the face of a terrorist menace (Daesh) that is real and that already has delivered a heavy blow in the midst of the evacuation operations.

“Afghanistan cannot turn into a shelter for terrorists. Spain is firmly committed to find maximum international security,” said Sanchez.

Leaders attending the 76th General Assembly, also called for achievements made over the past 20 years to be preserved.

“As the UN Global Advocate for Every Woman Every Child, it makes me sad that the progress seen during the past two decades in Afghanistan could be reverted so quickly,” said Kersti Kaljulaid, President of Estonia.

Indonesia, which has the highest Muslim population of any country in the world, called on the international community to support the call for rights for women and minorities and for stability in Afghanistan.

 “The COVID-19 pandemic reminds us of the importance of diversification of vaccine production centers across the world.

“We must be stern in fighting intolerance, conflicts, terrorism and war. Peace in diversity and the protection of women’s and minority rights must be upheld. Concerns on the marginalization of women and violence in Afghanistan, Palestine’s elusive independence and the political crisis in Myanmar must be our common agenda,” said Joko Widodo, president of Indonesia.

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Acting foreign minister upbeat about future trade and diplomatic relations

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) acting foreign minister Amir Khan Muttaqi says he is working to build strong economic ties with regional nations and countries around the world.

Speaking at a ceremony to introduce the new acting minister of commerce and industry, Nooruddin Aziz, Muttaqi said he is focused on developing the country’s economic sector.

Muttaqi also said that Afghanistan’s economic relations with regional countries would soon be regulated, which would have a positive impact on trade.

“We have selected a minister from the private sector for the ministry of commerce and industry so as to ensure the smooth running of the private sector and economic activities. We hope that the private sector will also play an active role in the country’s economy,” Muttaqi said at the ceremony.

Aziz meanwhile said he will also work to expand economic ties with all countries, both regionally and globally, in order to get Afghanistan to a point where it is financially self-sufficient.

“We strive to make Afghanistan a self-sufficient and economic-free country and to maintain relations with regional and neighboring countries; also the United States, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, and a number of other countries,” said Aziz.

Private sector representatives said they will support the new ministers and work with them to grow the country’s economy.

“Security is crucial for economic development and the fight against corruption. So far the (security) problem has been solved. We will expand our activities,” said Khan Jan Alkozai, Vice President of Afghan Chamber of Commerce & Industries.

“Unless we speed up our efforts to develop industry and domestic production in the country, economic growth may not be possible. We call on the Islamic Emirate to make efforts to develop domestic production,” said Sherbaz Kaminzada, head of the chamber of mines and industries.

Officials of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan have assured members of the private sector that the security of domestic investors will be maintained and that more opportunities for economic development will be provided.

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Afghanistan faces severe medicine shortage amid Forex restrictions

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(Last Updated On: September 23, 2021)

Afghanistan is now faced with medicine shortage due to disrupted border crossings and limited operation of banks.

Almost all medicine in Afghanistan is imported from neighboring countries, such as Pakistan, India, Bangladesh, Iran and Turkey.

However, the border crossings between Afghanistan and its neighbors were disrupted in the lead-up to the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan’s (IEA) takeover, and normal operations are yet to resume.

Worse still, wholesalers have been unable to complete transactions due to the limited operation of banks.

“Yes, since the takeover, banks are closed [for international transactions]. As the banks are closed, we can’t transfer payments to suppliers. If we don’t transfer money to the suppliers legally, they will not be able to deliver us the medicine and prices will definitely rise. When demand is high, and supply is low, the prices naturally go up. We are facing a shortage in supply of essential medicine,” said Rohullah Alokozay, President of GPS Pharma, Reuters reported.

Officials said the number of visitors at government hospitals has increased since the change of regime. The good news is that international donors have increased their focus towards government hospitals.

“In fact, we have even more visiting patients. Fortunately, we got more attention from UNICEF and the WHO, especially, towards our hospital which is a children’s hospital. They didn’t have enough focus in the last few years, but in the last month they increased our medical supply,” said Noor ul Haq Yousufzai, president of Indira Gandhi Institute for Children’s Health.

In fact, the government hospitals didn’t have enough medical facilities in the past three to four years due to lengthy procurement processes and the problem of corruption.

Government hospitals were not able to provide medicines to patients despite the continued funding in the previous regime.

“On one hand, prices have increased, while on the other hand, the people have become poorer. This has affected the doctors, patients and the society. Even in the former regime, patients used to buy their medicine at the market. We used to prescribe the medicine. Patients were not provided even with a single pill from the hospital,” said Dr. M. Fayaz Safi, Head of Medical Doctors’ Association in Afghanistan.

Many of the problems in the health sector have been left over from the previous regime. Wahid Majrooh, former acting minister of public health in the previous government said the former Afghan authorities had tried to solve the issues in coordination with stakeholders, but efforts were unsuccessful.

“And it led us to having few or no supplies, and most of our health facilities including essential medicine, fuel, oxygen, staff salary. We have been trying to work with different stakeholders to see if we can fulfil the urgent needs, but we haven’t been able to do it successfully,” said Majrooh.

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