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US supports political settlement in Afghanistan: Blinken

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(Last Updated On: February 21, 2021)

Antony Blinken, US Secretary of State, said that US supports a political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire in Afghanistan.

This comes aftet Blinken and Abdullah Abdullah, head of the High Council for National Reconciliation (HCNR) had a phone conversation about Afghan peace process on Saturday.

“The U.S. supports progress toward a just and durable political settlement and permanent and comprehensive ceasefire,” tweeted Blinken.

Abdullah said that Afghanistan’s situation and the acceleration of Afghan peace process was discussed in this conversation.

“We exchanged views on the #AfghanPeaceProcess, the 2nd round of the peace talks, the US review of the situation in AFG, & ways of accelerating & supporting the peace process,” tweeted About Abdullah.

“Blinken reiterated US’s continued support for expediting the efforts for achieving a lasting and durable peace in Afghanistan,” added Abdullah.

Abdullah also thanked US and people of the county for its support in the Afghan peace process.

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Taliban warns Washington against violating Doha agreement

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

The Taliban urged Washington to uphold its part of the US-Taliban agreement signed a year ago Sunday and stated the release of remaining prisoners and end of blacklists have yet to be implemented.

In a statement issued Sunday to mark the one-year anniversary of the signing of the deal – which the Afghan government was not party to – the Taliban also stated that the implementation of the agreement “must be utilized to improve the situation and pushing it in the wrong direction must be avoided.”

“Practical steps must be undertaken to expedite the ongoing intra-Afghan dialogue process,” the group said.

The Taliban said it is committed to its obligations within the agreement but made it clear in the statement that the implementation of the contents of the agreement is “the sole effective tool for resolving the Afghan issue and establishing peace, that shall be realized under the shade of an Islamic system.”

“The release of remaining prisoners and end of blacklists are part of the agreement that have yet to be implemented,” the statement.

“The Doha agreement has created a practical framework for bringing peace and security to Afghanistan. If any other pathway is pursued as a replacement, then it is already doomed to failure.”

Claiming to have “significantly reduced the level of operations in line with the Doha agreement,” the Taliban stated that “the other side has not fulfilled its obligations in this regard as bombardments, drone strikes, raids and offensive operations that were all prohibit on the basis of the agreement are still continuing, which is mostly causing civilian harm and increasing the levels of violence.”

The Taliban also distanced itself for the wave of targeted attacks and assassinations that have gripped the country over the past few months.

According to the group, “some circles with their interests tied to foreign actors have recently launched a wave of targeted attacks especially against civilians with the aim of showing the situation as teetering on the brink of a crisis, and to create excuses for the continuation of occupation and war.”

The Taliban’s statement comes just three days after US Central Command chief, General Kenneth F. McKenzie said the US still continues to see levels of violence that are way too high.

“I place a large measure of the blame on the Taliban who have continued to mount offensive operations and targeted killings of Afghan officials but the excessive violence has led the government to launch their own defensive operations to protect themselves – the violence while too high on both sides,” McKenzie said.

McKenzie also stressed that there is no sign that the Taliban had severed ties with al-Qaeda, as called for in the US-Taliban agreement.

“In my clear judgment rests largely on the Taliban; we also continue to … look for signs of a Taliban break with al-Qaeda and I have not at this point seen any definitive signs that would lead to believe they’re prepared to or able to honor their obligations,” McKenzie added.

On Tuesday, the UN Assistance Mission Afghanistan (UNAMA) meanwhile stated there had been an increase in civilians killed and injured in Afghanistan since the start of peace talks in September.

In the latest report on civilian casualties, UNAMA said despite the rise in casualties since September the overall numbers for 2020 were down due to lower civilian casualty rates prior to the start of talks.

The Taliban however, reacted to the report and said: ”We reject such incomplete reports based on incorrect information.”

For a seventh consecutive year, UNAMA documented more than 3,000 civilians killed in a single year, with Afghanistan remaining among the deadliest places in the world to be a civilian.

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German Defense Minister not ruling out more troops to Afghanistan

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(Last Updated On: February 28, 2021)

German Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer said if the security situation worsens drastically in Afghanistan, Germany would not rule out sending in more troops if necessary.

Speaking to Deutsche Welle, she said should the situation deteriorate “we would have to talk about a completely new mandate.”

She told DW however that the current mandate ceiling of 1,300 soldiers should be sufficient for the next few months.

The German defense minister arrived in Afghanistan early Friday morning for an unannounced visit to Mazar-e-Sharif, the capital of Balkh province, where the majority of German troops are stationed.

Her visit comes after the German government on Wednesday agreed to extend its military mandate in Afghanistan by at least another 10 months.

Germany’s Deutsche Welle reported that the new draft mandate still needs the approval of the Bundestag, the lower house of parliament.

The current mandate is set to expire at the end of March.

Under the draft agreed by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Cabinet, German troops would be able to stay in the country until January 31, 2022, Deutsche Welle reported.

During her visit, Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that Afghanistan “urgently needs a settlement between the opposing groups of its society.”

She said German soldiers cannot replace these reconciliation processes, but they were “making an important contribution together with allies, especially in the north of the country,” she said.

“We stand ready to continue to support the peace process. The protection of our soldiers has a very high priority in view of the security situation, and all necessary measures are taken together with our partners,” Kramp-Karrenbauer added.

Kramp-Karrenbauer stated that Berlin’s goal remained an orderly withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan.

NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said last week that no final decision had been made on the future of foreign troops in Afghanistan – despite the May 1 troop withdrawal deadline.

Stoltenberg acknowledged that the military alliance is facing “many dilemmas” over its continued engagement in the country.

With over 1,100 troops, Germany has the second-largest contingent after the United States in the NATO’s Resolute Support mission in Afghanistan.

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Unemployment spikes in Kandahar as conflict intensifies

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(Last Updated On: February 27, 2021)

Kandahar officials said on Saturday that the local unemployment rate is estimated to be at 80 percent due to the ongoing conflict that has raged for the past four months between the Taliban and the Afghan security forces in the province.

“Job opportunities decreased during war without any doubt. If we say that 80 percent of youths are jobless it is correct,” said Habibullah Jailani, head of Kandahar labor and social affairs department.

According to Jailani, they have been forced to appeal to international organizations for help for destitute people.

“We want to distribute humanitarian assistance to them including foodstuff… and to keep them warm,” added Jailani.

Officials, meanwhile, stated that more than 20,000 families have been displaced in the province due to the war.

Residents said that they are suffering enormously, not only because of no work but also because they are being forced to seek shelter in the city.

“War has increased in recent days; we have come here (to Kandahar city) from Dand district,” said Raza Khan, a displaced resident.

“We have come here due to the war, the war has intensified, work opportunities are also less,” said Mohammad Daud, another displaced person.

Kandahar officials have not however provided updated information about the current security situation in the southern province.

Kandahar was where the Taliban originated and where its power base was located until the fall of the city in 2001, which signaled the end of organized Taliban control of Afghanistan.

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