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US Troop Drawdowns In Afghanistan ‘Not Tied’ to Taliban Deal: Esper

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(Last Updated On: December 3, 2019)

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said on Monday that any future troop drawdowns in Afghanistan were “not necessarily” linked to a deal with Taliban insurgents, suggesting some lowering of force levels may happen irrespective of the ongoing peace push.

The remarks by Esper in an interview with Reuters came on the heels of a Thanksgiving trip last week to Afghanistan by President Donald Trump, who spoke of potential troop reductions and said he believed the Taliban insurgency would agree to a ceasefire in the 18-year-old war.

If honored by all sides, a ceasefire could lead to a significant reduction in violence. But U.S. military commanders would still focus on the threats associated with two other militant groups in Afghanistan: Islamic State and al Qaeda.

Speaking as he flew to London for a NATO summit, Esper said the Trump administration had been discussing potential reductions in troop levels for some time, both internally and with NATO allies.

“I feel confident that we could reduce our numbers in Afghanistan and still ensure that place doesn’t become a safe haven for terrorists who could attack the United States,” Esper said, without offering a figure.

“And our allies agree we can make reductions as well.”

Asked whether such reductions would necessarily be contingent on some sort of agreement with the Taliban insurgency, Esper said: “Not necessarily.”

He did not elaborate.

There are currently about 13,000 U.S. forces in Afghanistan as well as thousands of other NATO troops. U.S. officials have said U.S. forces could drop to 8,600 and still carry out an effective, core counter-terrorism mission as well as some limited advising for Afghan forces.

A draft accord agreed in September before peace talks collapsed would have withdrawn thousands of American troops in exchange for guarantees that Afghanistan would not be used as a base for militant attacks on the United States or its allies.

Still, many U.S. officials privately doubt the Taliban could be relied upon to prevent al Qaeda from again plotting attacks against the United States from Afghan soil.

Esper did not hint at any developments in the coming days or suggest that new troop drawdowns in Afghanistan might figure into NATO discussions this week.

“I don’t think there’s any ‘new’ news right now, if you will. We’ve been discussing this for quite some time,” Esper said, when asked if he would raise the issue in London.

About 2,484 U.S. service members have been killed in the Afghan conflict and many thousands more wounded.

Source: News Agencies

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Ghani orders establishment of new council to empower Afghan women

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2020)

President Ashraf Ghani on Thursday signed a decree to establish is High Council for Women aimed at empowering Afghan women.

“President Ashraf Ghani, in accordance with the national constitution, issued a decree to establish the Women’s High Council,” the president’s office said in a statement.

According to the statement, the Council will be led by Ghani and will focus on “women empowerment ensuring women’s rights.”

“The Council will be led by H.E the President and will focus on women empowerment, ensuring women’s rights, increasing coordination with our international partners, and better policy execution,” the statement said.

Based on the decree 26 representatives from different sectors of society will be members of the Council.

“Based on the decree, including the female deputy provincial governors, women advocates, and civil activists, 26 representatives from governmental entities and non-government organizations will be the members of the Council,” read the statement.

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Historical Takhar school gutted in blaze

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2020)

The historical Abus Osman Taloqani High School in Takhar province was believed to have been intentionally set on fire on Thursday, local officials confirmed.

Abu Osman Taloqani High School, in the provincial capital Taloqan, was destroyed in the blaze.

Currently about 3,000 students are registered at the education facility.

Footage on social media Thursday showed how chairs, desks, documents, and books inside the building were completely destroyed.

Takhar education officials have not yet commented on the incident and no group or individual has claimed responsibility for setting fire to the school.

The Taliban, however, denied any involvement in the incident, saying that the group had nothing to with the fire at the school which is located close to police and NDS headquarters in Taloqan.

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Kapisa police official killed in Taliban attack

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(Last Updated On: August 13, 2020)

Taliban militants gunned down an Afghan police official on Thursday in Parwan province, a local official confirmed.

Abdul Shayiq Shurish, a spokesman for Kapisa police told Ariana News that Suliaman, the battalion commander of Kapisa police brigade, was killed by the Taliban at around 9 a.m. Thursday in Sayad village of Parwan.

Meanwhile, a clash broke out between the Afghan forces and the insurgents in Shaker village in the Tagab district of Kapisa at around 12:30 a.m. Thursday.

Shurish said, at least two local army soldiers were killed and another one was wounded in the battle.

Four civilians including women and children were also injured in the clash, he added.

Shurish claimed that the Afghan forces have inflicted casualties on the Taliban, saying that details yet to be determined.

The Taliban yet to comment on the incidents.

It comes as the intra-Afghan talks are expected to start next week in Doha, where the government and the Taliban delegations would negotiate a political settlement for ending the conflict in the war-weary country.

The government negotiating team is expected to negotiate a comprehensive ceasefire in the first round of talks.

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